UniqueThis 's Entries

107 blogs
  • 12 Jul 2011
    Habit #7 in Steve Covey’s The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People is called “Sharpen the Saw.” Covey uses the common analogy of a woodcutter who is sawing for several days straight and is becoming less and less productive. The process of cutting dulls the blade. So the solution is to periodically sharpen the saw. I’ve found that in practice, however, most people fail to understand what sharpening the saw really means. If you’re overworking yourself and your productivity begins to fall off, common wisdom says to take a break, maybe even go on vacation. However, that isn’t sharpening the saw — that’s putting the saw down. When you put down a dull blade for a while, the blade will still be dull when you pick it up again. Sharpening the saw is actually an activity, just as the analogy suggests. Think about what it would mean to sharpen the saw of your life. Here are some saw-sharpening ideas: Exercise Improve your diet Educate yourself (read, listen to audio programs, attend a seminar) Learn a new skill Join a club Meditate Write in your journal Have a deep conversation with someone Set some new goals or review/update your old goals Organize your home or office Go out on a date Clear out a bunch of little tasks that you’ve been putting off Read this blog Now the woodcutter can’t just alternate between cutting wood and sharpening the saw indefinitely. Downtime is needed too, but it isn’t the same as sharpening the saw. The woodcutter can become even more productive by sharpening the blade, studying new woodcutting techniques, working out to become stronger, and learning from other woodcutters. Forgetting to intentionally sharpen the saw can lead to a feeling of burnout. If you merely alternate between productive work and downtime, your production capacity will drop off. You’re still working hard, but you don’t feel as productive as you think you should be. When you sharpen yourself regularly, you’ll find that you can flow along at a steady pace week after week without getting burnt out. Whenever I feel burnt out or overwhelmed, taking a day or two off helps a little, but not very much. What yields a much greater benefit for me is attending a weekend seminar, reading an inspiring book, or having an interesting conversation. It’s common to see people return from a conference with a notable spike in motivation that lasts for weeks. But this isn’t really a break or a vacation — going to a conference is an activity, but it’s the kind that often increases energy and motivation. How are your various blades doing? Your skills, your knowledge, your mind, your physical body, your relationships, your motivation, your commitment, your capacity for enjoyment, your emotions — are all of them still sharp? If not, which ones are dull, and what can you do to sharpen them?
    842 Posted by UniqueThis
  • Habit #7 in Steve Covey’s The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People is called “Sharpen the Saw.” Covey uses the common analogy of a woodcutter who is sawing for several days straight and is becoming less and less productive. The process of cutting dulls the blade. So the solution is to periodically sharpen the saw. I’ve found that in practice, however, most people fail to understand what sharpening the saw really means. If you’re overworking yourself and your productivity begins to fall off, common wisdom says to take a break, maybe even go on vacation. However, that isn’t sharpening the saw — that’s putting the saw down. When you put down a dull blade for a while, the blade will still be dull when you pick it up again. Sharpening the saw is actually an activity, just as the analogy suggests. Think about what it would mean to sharpen the saw of your life. Here are some saw-sharpening ideas: Exercise Improve your diet Educate yourself (read, listen to audio programs, attend a seminar) Learn a new skill Join a club Meditate Write in your journal Have a deep conversation with someone Set some new goals or review/update your old goals Organize your home or office Go out on a date Clear out a bunch of little tasks that you’ve been putting off Read this blog Now the woodcutter can’t just alternate between cutting wood and sharpening the saw indefinitely. Downtime is needed too, but it isn’t the same as sharpening the saw. The woodcutter can become even more productive by sharpening the blade, studying new woodcutting techniques, working out to become stronger, and learning from other woodcutters. Forgetting to intentionally sharpen the saw can lead to a feeling of burnout. If you merely alternate between productive work and downtime, your production capacity will drop off. You’re still working hard, but you don’t feel as productive as you think you should be. When you sharpen yourself regularly, you’ll find that you can flow along at a steady pace week after week without getting burnt out. Whenever I feel burnt out or overwhelmed, taking a day or two off helps a little, but not very much. What yields a much greater benefit for me is attending a weekend seminar, reading an inspiring book, or having an interesting conversation. It’s common to see people return from a conference with a notable spike in motivation that lasts for weeks. But this isn’t really a break or a vacation — going to a conference is an activity, but it’s the kind that often increases energy and motivation. How are your various blades doing? Your skills, your knowledge, your mind, your physical body, your relationships, your motivation, your commitment, your capacity for enjoyment, your emotions — are all of them still sharp? If not, which ones are dull, and what can you do to sharpen them?
    Jul 12, 2011 842
  • 12 Jul 2011
    In an article I wrote a few years ago called Do It Now, I explained some time management techniques that allowed me to finish college more quickly than usual. What I probably didn’t make clear in the article was that I didn’t overwhelm myself like a workaholic to pull it off. I had a great deal of leisure time every week, including taking at least one full day off each week. I stole time for doing extra homework mainly from the inefficiencies of school itself, not from my personal time. Some classes require concentration for the entire duration, but at least 80% of them don’t. How much cumulative time during a typical one-hour class are you fully engaged in listening, writing, or doing some kind of mental or physical activity? For me it was probably about 10-15 minutes per hour on average. The other 45 minutes would be spent waiting for the professor to show up, waiting for the teacher to finish the opening babble-talk, pointless administrative and announcement talk that could have been eliminated with a handout, hearing further examples and explanations for a concept I had already grasped, hearing students ask questions for which I already knew the answer, and lots of digressions into the professor’s nostalgia for the 60s (or worse, the 70s). So during a one-hour lecture, I would put this wasted time to good use by doing schoolwork for other classes, whereas my other classmates would spend a lot of time looking bored and not be fully engaged most of the time. So one of my greatest discoveries was that I could reclaim this wasted time during classes themselves and put it to good use. Instead of sitting there bored, I kept myself working. And this worked so well that I actually did most of my homework during classes, so I didn’t have to do much extra work outside of class. See any similarities to corporate meetings? What percentage of meeting time are you truly 100% engaged? My guess would be 15-20% on average, but the exact number doesn’t matter. But let’s generalize this a bit more. What percentage of your day are you fully 100% engaged in whatever it is you’re doing? (I borrow the term “fully engaged” from the book The Power of Full Engagement.) Ask yourself, “Am I fully utilizing all my available personal resources right now?” Think of your brain and body together as a factory where your goal is to maximize output (you’re free to define output however you wish). So you want to keep the machines running as efficiently as possible. If you have machines sitting idle that could be put to good use, you’re operating below capacity. Now the goal isn’t to push yourself until the veins are bursting out of your forehead. By all means enjoy your downtime. But if you’re going to do some kind of work, then it seems logical to work at full capacity. When you work, really work. The work time will pass anyway whether you’re working at 15% capacity or 95%. But you’ll experience a huge increase in output if you can fully engage yourself. Children are a great model for seeing full engagement in action. When I watch my 4-year old daughter Emily, she’s always fully 100% engaged in what she’s doing. When she’s playing, she’s 100% playing. When she’s eating, she’s 100% playing. When she’s napping, she’s 100% playing. Sometimes being fully engaged means focusing on one task or project and tuning out everything else. If you’re giving a presentation at work, there’s no room for multitasking. But if you’re preparing a meal or driving to work or cleaning up your office, you can also be listening to audio books at the same time. If you work at full capacity for a while and get tired, then take a break — a real 100% break. Literally shut your brain off for a while, such as by taking a nap or meditating, or just close your eyes at your desk and breathe deeply for 15 minutes. Many of the greatest achievers of all time were nappers, including Thomas Edison. Acknowledge that you’re switching from fully working to fully taking a break. Don’t remain stuck in that haze of not quite working and not quite resting, such as by doing web surfing for a while and then returning to work at 20% capacity. If you feel mentally tired and can’t work anywhere near 100%, don’t grind yourself into the ground. Stop for a while. Switch off your mental factory, do the required maintenance, and then get it back to 100%. Finding blocks of time where you aren’t fully engaged and upgrading your usage of this time to fully engage yourself is a great way to squeeze more productivity out of your life without becoming overloaded. When you watch TV, are you fully engaged? Not even close. Even while watching TV, you could be cleaning up, exercising, or giving your significant other a foot massage. Now there’s nothing wrong with just relaxing either, but often you’ll find you do have the energy to be more fully engaged in tasks if you push yourself a bit. I have a home gym where I do weight training, and I need to rest briefly between sets. My muscles need these breaks, but my brain doesn’t. So I often read articles from magazines or newsletters during these minutes. Or I’ll listen to an audio book during the whole session. So I turn a sporadically engaged activity into a fully engaged one. Now you might think that taking all your 20% engaged periods of the day and upgrading them to near 100% will have the effect of exhausting you more quickly. But most likely you’ll experience the opposite effect. When you fully engage yourself, you gain an obvious short-term boost in output, and this has the effect of boosting your energy and self-esteem as well. When you look back on your day and know you only worked at around 20% of capacity, you’ll often feel lousy about it. You know you could have done better and just wasted a lot of time, and years of this behavior tend to be very draining and de-motivating. But when you fully engage yourself, you tend to feel really great about your performance. You’ll still make mistakes, but they won’t be due to lack of effort. When you go to bed, you’ll be thinking, “Wow, I really did my best today. I couldn’t have done it better.” Being fully engaged isn’t just about doing. It’s also about being. How often have you been off somewhere else mentally? Yesterday I went for a 2-hour walk through various casinos along the Las Vegas Strip (Treasure Island, the Mirage, Caesar’s Palace, Bally’s, and Paris). It was crowded due to the holiday weekend, and I saw a lot of people with vacuous expressions who clearly weren’t fully engaged. People were sitting at the blackjack tables looking utterly bored. Yet occasionally I’d see someone having the time of their life, regardless of whether they were winning or losing. Now it could have been the free alcohol. But at the very least, these people were fully engaged in what they were doing. They were totally present and enjoying themselves. Those who weren’t fully engaged were clearly wandering mentally… thinking about work or other problems or just zoning out completely. Such a sad way to spend a vacation. Fully engage yourself in the present moment. When you work, get yourself completely into work mode. When you play, forget about work and enjoy yourself. Squeeze the maximum productivity out of your work, the maximum fun out of your play, the maximum connection out of your conversations. If you can’t seem to focus, take 15 minutes to put your complete attention on thinking about whatever is distracting you, and then let it go. If you feel anxious, then give yourself some 100% dedicated worry time, during which you get all your worrying out of the way. Incidentally, this site is now averaging about 500-600 visitors per day with less than 1% coming from search engines (and 75% of those SE hits are just searches on my name). That’s wonderful for a site that’s only 8 weeks old. I’m seeing a lot of hits coming from various web mail servers, which implies people are learning about this site primarily by word of mouth, or possibly someone announced this site in an email newsletter. Either way, thanks for spreading the word! Have a fully engaged day!
    819 Posted by UniqueThis
  • In an article I wrote a few years ago called Do It Now, I explained some time management techniques that allowed me to finish college more quickly than usual. What I probably didn’t make clear in the article was that I didn’t overwhelm myself like a workaholic to pull it off. I had a great deal of leisure time every week, including taking at least one full day off each week. I stole time for doing extra homework mainly from the inefficiencies of school itself, not from my personal time. Some classes require concentration for the entire duration, but at least 80% of them don’t. How much cumulative time during a typical one-hour class are you fully engaged in listening, writing, or doing some kind of mental or physical activity? For me it was probably about 10-15 minutes per hour on average. The other 45 minutes would be spent waiting for the professor to show up, waiting for the teacher to finish the opening babble-talk, pointless administrative and announcement talk that could have been eliminated with a handout, hearing further examples and explanations for a concept I had already grasped, hearing students ask questions for which I already knew the answer, and lots of digressions into the professor’s nostalgia for the 60s (or worse, the 70s). So during a one-hour lecture, I would put this wasted time to good use by doing schoolwork for other classes, whereas my other classmates would spend a lot of time looking bored and not be fully engaged most of the time. So one of my greatest discoveries was that I could reclaim this wasted time during classes themselves and put it to good use. Instead of sitting there bored, I kept myself working. And this worked so well that I actually did most of my homework during classes, so I didn’t have to do much extra work outside of class. See any similarities to corporate meetings? What percentage of meeting time are you truly 100% engaged? My guess would be 15-20% on average, but the exact number doesn’t matter. But let’s generalize this a bit more. What percentage of your day are you fully 100% engaged in whatever it is you’re doing? (I borrow the term “fully engaged” from the book The Power of Full Engagement.) Ask yourself, “Am I fully utilizing all my available personal resources right now?” Think of your brain and body together as a factory where your goal is to maximize output (you’re free to define output however you wish). So you want to keep the machines running as efficiently as possible. If you have machines sitting idle that could be put to good use, you’re operating below capacity. Now the goal isn’t to push yourself until the veins are bursting out of your forehead. By all means enjoy your downtime. But if you’re going to do some kind of work, then it seems logical to work at full capacity. When you work, really work. The work time will pass anyway whether you’re working at 15% capacity or 95%. But you’ll experience a huge increase in output if you can fully engage yourself. Children are a great model for seeing full engagement in action. When I watch my 4-year old daughter Emily, she’s always fully 100% engaged in what she’s doing. When she’s playing, she’s 100% playing. When she’s eating, she’s 100% playing. When she’s napping, she’s 100% playing. Sometimes being fully engaged means focusing on one task or project and tuning out everything else. If you’re giving a presentation at work, there’s no room for multitasking. But if you’re preparing a meal or driving to work or cleaning up your office, you can also be listening to audio books at the same time. If you work at full capacity for a while and get tired, then take a break — a real 100% break. Literally shut your brain off for a while, such as by taking a nap or meditating, or just close your eyes at your desk and breathe deeply for 15 minutes. Many of the greatest achievers of all time were nappers, including Thomas Edison. Acknowledge that you’re switching from fully working to fully taking a break. Don’t remain stuck in that haze of not quite working and not quite resting, such as by doing web surfing for a while and then returning to work at 20% capacity. If you feel mentally tired and can’t work anywhere near 100%, don’t grind yourself into the ground. Stop for a while. Switch off your mental factory, do the required maintenance, and then get it back to 100%. Finding blocks of time where you aren’t fully engaged and upgrading your usage of this time to fully engage yourself is a great way to squeeze more productivity out of your life without becoming overloaded. When you watch TV, are you fully engaged? Not even close. Even while watching TV, you could be cleaning up, exercising, or giving your significant other a foot massage. Now there’s nothing wrong with just relaxing either, but often you’ll find you do have the energy to be more fully engaged in tasks if you push yourself a bit. I have a home gym where I do weight training, and I need to rest briefly between sets. My muscles need these breaks, but my brain doesn’t. So I often read articles from magazines or newsletters during these minutes. Or I’ll listen to an audio book during the whole session. So I turn a sporadically engaged activity into a fully engaged one. Now you might think that taking all your 20% engaged periods of the day and upgrading them to near 100% will have the effect of exhausting you more quickly. But most likely you’ll experience the opposite effect. When you fully engage yourself, you gain an obvious short-term boost in output, and this has the effect of boosting your energy and self-esteem as well. When you look back on your day and know you only worked at around 20% of capacity, you’ll often feel lousy about it. You know you could have done better and just wasted a lot of time, and years of this behavior tend to be very draining and de-motivating. But when you fully engage yourself, you tend to feel really great about your performance. You’ll still make mistakes, but they won’t be due to lack of effort. When you go to bed, you’ll be thinking, “Wow, I really did my best today. I couldn’t have done it better.” Being fully engaged isn’t just about doing. It’s also about being. How often have you been off somewhere else mentally? Yesterday I went for a 2-hour walk through various casinos along the Las Vegas Strip (Treasure Island, the Mirage, Caesar’s Palace, Bally’s, and Paris). It was crowded due to the holiday weekend, and I saw a lot of people with vacuous expressions who clearly weren’t fully engaged. People were sitting at the blackjack tables looking utterly bored. Yet occasionally I’d see someone having the time of their life, regardless of whether they were winning or losing. Now it could have been the free alcohol. But at the very least, these people were fully engaged in what they were doing. They were totally present and enjoying themselves. Those who weren’t fully engaged were clearly wandering mentally… thinking about work or other problems or just zoning out completely. Such a sad way to spend a vacation. Fully engage yourself in the present moment. When you work, get yourself completely into work mode. When you play, forget about work and enjoy yourself. Squeeze the maximum productivity out of your work, the maximum fun out of your play, the maximum connection out of your conversations. If you can’t seem to focus, take 15 minutes to put your complete attention on thinking about whatever is distracting you, and then let it go. If you feel anxious, then give yourself some 100% dedicated worry time, during which you get all your worrying out of the way. Incidentally, this site is now averaging about 500-600 visitors per day with less than 1% coming from search engines (and 75% of those SE hits are just searches on my name). That’s wonderful for a site that’s only 8 weeks old. I’m seeing a lot of hits coming from various web mail servers, which implies people are learning about this site primarily by word of mouth, or possibly someone announced this site in an email newsletter. Either way, thanks for spreading the word! Have a fully engaged day!
    Jul 12, 2011 819
  • 12 Jul 2011
    If you work really hard to achieve your goals but don’t enjoy the journey, you’re delaying the essence of life. Committing to your goals doesn’t mean you slave away at work you dislike, celebrating only the destination. A real abiding commitment means that you love what you do each day. You are at least as passionate about the path as you are about the results. If you love the path you’re on, your passion motivates you to keep taking the next step. But passion alone isn’t enough. Passion requires focused direction, and that direction must come from three other areas: your purpose, your talents, and your needs. First, purpose and passion go hand in hand. If you don’t know your life purpose, your passion won’t be guided by conscience. Many criminals go this route — they are very passionate about certain actions, but those actions aren’t motivated by a higher purpose. When passion and purpose point in the same direction, it means you fall in love with the path of service. You love what you do, and it also contributes positively to the world. A synergy is created whereby your passion is increased manyfold, a natural consequence of doing something you love to do AND which you know is making a difference. Secondly, passion must be blended with talent. Passion can get you pretty far, but there are plenty of people who are passionate and incompetent, and their passion isn’t sufficient to save them. Have you ever known anyone who got really excited about an idea but couldn’t follow through? The good news is that your talent can be developed — you can educate yourself to learn new knowledge and skills. But the ultimate goal here is to discover where your greatest talents lie. What talents, if you were to fully develop them, could be extremely strong for you? You may come up with several answers, but which ones overlap with your passion? When you do what you love to AND you become really good at doing it, your passion will increase, and your results will be amplified. Thirdly, passion must be blended with need. At the very least, you have to direct your passion in such a way that you’ll be able to feed yourself. But if you master the blending of passion, purpose, and talent, it will not be too difficult to satisfy your needs… even to achieve financial abundance. The key to fulfillment is to work from your greatest strengths, with passion, in the service of purpose. Doing what you’re best at ensures that you’re working efficiently. Being passionate about what you do means that you’ll work hard at it. And serving a purpose means that you’re contributing and making a real difference in others’ lives. When you do all three, you’re contributing the maximum value you possibly can, and if you can’t generate a fantastic income doing that, you won’t be able to generate a better one doing anything else. This is the very definition of value. It is precisely what people will be eager to pay you for. I believe that everyone can find an area where the circles of passion, purpose, talent, and need overlap. The best place to start is with purpose by listening to your conscience. Once you know that, then move on to passion and talent — each of these will likely contain many possibilities. There are probably several things you love to do and several things you can become really good at. List them out for each category. Then take time to reflect on possible areas of overlap between purpose, passion, and talent. Remember that the talent circle can be moved with additional education and skill-building. When you find the area of overlap between purpose, passion, and talent, the need area tends to be fairly easy to fulfill. The first three areas will suggest potential careers. Here’s another way of thinking about it: Need = what you must do Talent = what you can do Passion = what you love to do Purpose = what you should do Many people see these 4 areas as inherently in conflict. How many times have you heard people spout limiting beliefs such as, “you can’t make money (need) doing what you love (passion)?” Nonsense. I believe that everyone can find a path on which all four of these areas are in harmony. You can find a way to work from your greatest strengths, doing what you love to do, in the service of purpose, and taking care of all your basic needs — even achieving abundance. But the first step is to simply decide to do it. Decide that your life is worth enough to you to get all four of these areas working together. You don’t have to go broke doing what you love. You don’t have to work at a job you hate. You don’t have to see meaningful contribution as something out of sync with your everyday reality. Take some time to reflect on what kind of career, what kind of life, would allow you to put these four areas in harmony — all of them pointing in the same direction. No conflict. It can be done.
    878 Posted by UniqueThis
  • If you work really hard to achieve your goals but don’t enjoy the journey, you’re delaying the essence of life. Committing to your goals doesn’t mean you slave away at work you dislike, celebrating only the destination. A real abiding commitment means that you love what you do each day. You are at least as passionate about the path as you are about the results. If you love the path you’re on, your passion motivates you to keep taking the next step. But passion alone isn’t enough. Passion requires focused direction, and that direction must come from three other areas: your purpose, your talents, and your needs. First, purpose and passion go hand in hand. If you don’t know your life purpose, your passion won’t be guided by conscience. Many criminals go this route — they are very passionate about certain actions, but those actions aren’t motivated by a higher purpose. When passion and purpose point in the same direction, it means you fall in love with the path of service. You love what you do, and it also contributes positively to the world. A synergy is created whereby your passion is increased manyfold, a natural consequence of doing something you love to do AND which you know is making a difference. Secondly, passion must be blended with talent. Passion can get you pretty far, but there are plenty of people who are passionate and incompetent, and their passion isn’t sufficient to save them. Have you ever known anyone who got really excited about an idea but couldn’t follow through? The good news is that your talent can be developed — you can educate yourself to learn new knowledge and skills. But the ultimate goal here is to discover where your greatest talents lie. What talents, if you were to fully develop them, could be extremely strong for you? You may come up with several answers, but which ones overlap with your passion? When you do what you love to AND you become really good at doing it, your passion will increase, and your results will be amplified. Thirdly, passion must be blended with need. At the very least, you have to direct your passion in such a way that you’ll be able to feed yourself. But if you master the blending of passion, purpose, and talent, it will not be too difficult to satisfy your needs… even to achieve financial abundance. The key to fulfillment is to work from your greatest strengths, with passion, in the service of purpose. Doing what you’re best at ensures that you’re working efficiently. Being passionate about what you do means that you’ll work hard at it. And serving a purpose means that you’re contributing and making a real difference in others’ lives. When you do all three, you’re contributing the maximum value you possibly can, and if you can’t generate a fantastic income doing that, you won’t be able to generate a better one doing anything else. This is the very definition of value. It is precisely what people will be eager to pay you for. I believe that everyone can find an area where the circles of passion, purpose, talent, and need overlap. The best place to start is with purpose by listening to your conscience. Once you know that, then move on to passion and talent — each of these will likely contain many possibilities. There are probably several things you love to do and several things you can become really good at. List them out for each category. Then take time to reflect on possible areas of overlap between purpose, passion, and talent. Remember that the talent circle can be moved with additional education and skill-building. When you find the area of overlap between purpose, passion, and talent, the need area tends to be fairly easy to fulfill. The first three areas will suggest potential careers. Here’s another way of thinking about it: Need = what you must do Talent = what you can do Passion = what you love to do Purpose = what you should do Many people see these 4 areas as inherently in conflict. How many times have you heard people spout limiting beliefs such as, “you can’t make money (need) doing what you love (passion)?” Nonsense. I believe that everyone can find a path on which all four of these areas are in harmony. You can find a way to work from your greatest strengths, doing what you love to do, in the service of purpose, and taking care of all your basic needs — even achieving abundance. But the first step is to simply decide to do it. Decide that your life is worth enough to you to get all four of these areas working together. You don’t have to go broke doing what you love. You don’t have to work at a job you hate. You don’t have to see meaningful contribution as something out of sync with your everyday reality. Take some time to reflect on what kind of career, what kind of life, would allow you to put these four areas in harmony — all of them pointing in the same direction. No conflict. It can be done.
    Jul 12, 2011 878
  • 12 Jul 2011
    Do you tend to compartmentalize all the different areas of your life? Career goes there, relationship goes here, spirituality fits there, and health … well, that’s neither here nor there. Or maybe your compartmentalizing is temporal instead of spatial in your thinking. During the workday you do what you must, this evening you’ll do what you love and have some fun, and on Sunday you’ll think about what it means. Or perhaps you experience a feeling of compartmentalizing thought vs. action: “I’m spending X% of my time thinking and Y% of my time acting.” When you view your life as a series of different compartments, each with different rules, then life gets pretty complicated. Trying to achieve balance is very difficult because you constantly feel the need to task switch. My relationship needs attention. Oh no, I’ve been neglecting my health. I need to work harder. I’ve got to stop thinking so much and take more action. The different “bins” of your life are all fighting for your time. And the longer you neglect one of those bins, the louder it gets and the harder it will fight for attention. Put off your health for too long, and you’ll crash with an illness. Put off your relationship for too long, and a breakup may be the result. Put off your work, and your career and income will suffer. This is a paradigm that many people share. Keep all your balls in the air. Keep all those plates spinning. Don’t let your spiritual beliefs interfere with your work. But I think it’s a broken paradigm. Let’s consider a different way of thinking…. What if your life had only one bin, one ball to juggle, one plate to spin. Just one. No need to deal with 10 different areas of your life and keep them all balanced. Just one. How is this possible? It’s possible if all of those different areas of your life are congruent, if they all follow the same rules. Then thought and action are one, both pointing in the same direction. They’re on the same path. Your work is congruent with your most deeply held spiritual beliefs — you don’t have to take your spirituality offline when you go to work. Improving your health improves your relationship. Increasing your income increases your service. This means moving from a paradigm of the different parts of your life being in conflict to a new paradigm where they all cooperate. Instead of seeing each part of your life as independent, you begin to see them as interdependent. And isn’t this a more accurate model anyway? Can you truly isolate each part of your life as something separate? Can you abuse your health and think it won’t affect your career or your relationships? Do you think your feelings about your relationship won’t affect your financial situation? Can you ignore your spiritual beliefs when making business decisions and expect no negative consequences? It seems obvious that all the different parts of your life are deeply interconnected. But a common way to treat problems is to try to isolate them. If there’s a problem with your health, you need to diet and exercise. If there’s a problem in your career, it’s time to work harder. But this isolation protocol doesn’t work well because there’s too much overlap between all the different parts of your life, no matter how much you try to isolate the problem areas and go to work on them. It’s often the case that the obvious cause of the problem isn’t the true source. If you feel lonely because you haven’t been able to find the right relationship, and you keep trying harder and harder to find a relationship, you may get nowhere. The problem may be that you work at a career you aren’t passionate about, and you project this lack of passion to everyone you meet. And still a deeper issue may be that your spiritual beliefs tell you that service to others is very important, but you don’t feel you’re doing that. Then you change careers to do what you love, and it aligns with your spiritual beliefs because now you feel you’re contributing and serving. Then out of nowhere, you meet your future spouse, who is attracted to your passion about your work and the contribution you’re making. And the encouragement you experience from this relationship in turn helps you advance your career, increase your income, and free up more time to spend with your new spouse. Your stress goes down, and your health improves too. Your inner spiritual conflict was the real source of your inability to find the right relationship. Everything is deeply interconnected. Although it seems that each part of your life follows different rules, they all follow the same rules. You may have different values for each part of your life, but the rules that govern those areas don’t change. An example of an unchanging rule is kindness. The concept of kindness should resonate with your spiritual beliefs. You can be kind to your body, and your health will improve. You can be kind to your co-workers, and your relationships with them will improve. You can be kind to your spouse, and your marriage will grow stronger. You can be kind to a stranger, and your self-esteem will increase. It doesn’t matter to which area of your life you apply the principle of kindness. Its application is universal. Another universal rule is being proactive, assuming personal responsibility for results and taking positive action. It doesn’t matter where you apply this rule: health, relationships, emotions, spiritual beliefs, career, business, money, etc. Being responsible works no matter where you apply it. Cheating is another universal principle. No matter where you apply it, the long-term results are negative. Cheat your health, and pay the price of sickness. Cheat in your relationship, and the cost is a loss of intimacy. Cheat in your education, and your income suffers. But more powerful than these intra-area effects, there’s the rippling effect due to the interrelatedness of all areas. So if you apply a universal principle in one area, either positively or negatively, it ripples into all other areas. If you cheat your health, then in the long run this will hurt your career, your relationships, your finances, your emotional state, and your sense of spiritual connectedness. You can’t cheat in one area of your life without suffering the consequences in ALL areas. Similarly, be kind to your body, and your increased positive energy will positively affect your relationships, your work, your finances, your emotions, etc. Be proactive about building a career you enjoy, and your passion will spread to every other area. If you violate a universal principle, it negatively impacts all areas of your life. If you follow a universal principle, it positively impacts all areas of your life. Universal principles don’t compartmentalize. So the key then is figuring out these universal principles and aligning your thoughts and actions with them. This is how you achieve congruence between all the different parts of your life. So what are the universal principles? Stephen Covey claims that the 7 Habits of Highly Effective People are based on universal principles. I tend to agree, and that’s a good place to start. But I think all of these principles can be reduced to just one: to love. Not the passive squishy emotional feeling of love, but “to love” — the action verb. To love your body translates into proper diet and exercise. To love your mind equates with learning. To love others is service. To love your work is to do it passionately and enthusiastically. To love your feelings means to respect and honor the messages they send you. This verb translates into different specific actions for each area, but the underlying principle is the same. Depending on the situation, “to love” may mean to listen, to serve, to work, to relax, to touch, and so on. When you start injecting universal principles into every area of your life, alignment will gradually occur. The parts of your life will be transformed such that all these different pieces assemble themselves into one congruent whole. You won’t feel like these different parts of your life are in competition for your time and attention. Instead you’ll feel a sense of internal cooperation. You will have a sense that exercising your body is the best thing for your health and your relationship and your career and your spirituality. Within each area you’ll either adapt your current circumstances to align with universal principles, or you’ll let go of all the misaligned pieces and start fresh. So your career may shift slightly as you adapt, or you may switch to a whole new career. Your old relationships may transform, or they may end while you seek out new ones. It just depends on how well the external parts of your life are able to align with who you are. Alignment comes down to working on these four questions until they all produce the same answer: What do you want to do? (desire) What can you do? (ability) What should you do? (purpose) What must you do? (need) When these four areas are aligned, motivation occurs automatically. Thought and action are automatically balanced because you are living your purpose consciously. You won’t feel like you should be thinking when you’re acting or acting when you’re thinking. The line between thought and action will disappear. Being and doing will become the same thing. When you experience misalignment between these four areas/questions, the natural tendency is to slow down… sometimes to a crawl. You’ll feel like you have all these ideas pulling you in different directions, but you aren’t fully satisfying any of them. Your mind knows that continuing to work hard is likely to be futile and won’t solve the real problem of incongruence. It knows it’s time for you to stop, ask directions, and choose the path of alignment. I went through this while running my games business. While I had many projects to grow the business, I knew deep down that I didn’t want to run that business for another decade. I was containerizing everything: my health over here, my relationship there, my work here, and my spirituality there. Each part of my life felt like it had its own set of rules. Eventually I started questioning whether this was the best way to live. Are we supposed to live like a collection of parts or as an integrated whole? I wondered whether it would be possible to live in such a way where there was only one set of rules governing all areas, essentially meaning that I followed my deepest spiritual beliefs in all matters. This line of questioning led me to discover just how it might be possible for all these different parts of my life might become a single, integrated whole. This would mean that my business and my conscience and my interpersonal relationships were all one. There would be no sense of separation. In order to go through this process, I had to transform certain parts of my life while totally shifting others. I tried to transform my career initially from within, but the disconnect was big enough that it required a more dramatic shift. Other parts of my life were able to adapt more flexibly. The main reason for my shift away from my games business was that it wasn’t a strong enough outlet for service for me. I think that given enough time, the original business could have been shifted, but that wasn’t the best route for me too take. It was faster and simpler to build a new business from scratch with the goal of congruence in mind than to try to refactor the existing business. I must say that this push for congruence in all areas turned out beautifully. I don’t feel that sense of separation between the different parts of my life anymore. My purpose says I’m here to serve and help people. My ability says I can do it through writing and speaking and running a web site. My needs say I must support myself doing it. And my passion says it’s what I love doing most. I don’t have to separate supporting myself with a job and then having fun on the weekends and thinking about spirituality at other times. Work = play = love. When you live congruently, it’s as if all the different parts of your life lock into new positions to form a new whole that’s greater than all the individual pieces. Everything grows stronger: health, relationships, motivation, actions, results, etc. I know that as a practical matter, it seems as though different rules often govern in different areas. Separating your spiritual beliefs from your work is very common. A lot of businesses seem to operate on the assumption that universal principles don’t exist. I don’t buy that at all. There are non-universal principles that apply just within their own domains (the rules of nutrition apply to your health but not to your work, for instance), but universal principles apply to all areas. I think that one’s spiritual beliefs are the single most important factor in choosing a career or a company to work for. If you have a deeply held belief that you hold sacred, you cannot violate it in any area of your life without suffering the consequences in all areas. You must be true to your inner self at all times. That’s the only way to be congruent and to live as a whole person instead of merely as a bag of competing parts. When you live congruently, a quantum leap will occur in each of these four areas. Desire becomes passion. Purpose becomes mission. Need becomes abundance. Ability becomes talent. And it becomes almost ridiculously easy to achieve fulfillment in every area then because all the parts are working together in the same direction.
    787 Posted by UniqueThis
  • Do you tend to compartmentalize all the different areas of your life? Career goes there, relationship goes here, spirituality fits there, and health … well, that’s neither here nor there. Or maybe your compartmentalizing is temporal instead of spatial in your thinking. During the workday you do what you must, this evening you’ll do what you love and have some fun, and on Sunday you’ll think about what it means. Or perhaps you experience a feeling of compartmentalizing thought vs. action: “I’m spending X% of my time thinking and Y% of my time acting.” When you view your life as a series of different compartments, each with different rules, then life gets pretty complicated. Trying to achieve balance is very difficult because you constantly feel the need to task switch. My relationship needs attention. Oh no, I’ve been neglecting my health. I need to work harder. I’ve got to stop thinking so much and take more action. The different “bins” of your life are all fighting for your time. And the longer you neglect one of those bins, the louder it gets and the harder it will fight for attention. Put off your health for too long, and you’ll crash with an illness. Put off your relationship for too long, and a breakup may be the result. Put off your work, and your career and income will suffer. This is a paradigm that many people share. Keep all your balls in the air. Keep all those plates spinning. Don’t let your spiritual beliefs interfere with your work. But I think it’s a broken paradigm. Let’s consider a different way of thinking…. What if your life had only one bin, one ball to juggle, one plate to spin. Just one. No need to deal with 10 different areas of your life and keep them all balanced. Just one. How is this possible? It’s possible if all of those different areas of your life are congruent, if they all follow the same rules. Then thought and action are one, both pointing in the same direction. They’re on the same path. Your work is congruent with your most deeply held spiritual beliefs — you don’t have to take your spirituality offline when you go to work. Improving your health improves your relationship. Increasing your income increases your service. This means moving from a paradigm of the different parts of your life being in conflict to a new paradigm where they all cooperate. Instead of seeing each part of your life as independent, you begin to see them as interdependent. And isn’t this a more accurate model anyway? Can you truly isolate each part of your life as something separate? Can you abuse your health and think it won’t affect your career or your relationships? Do you think your feelings about your relationship won’t affect your financial situation? Can you ignore your spiritual beliefs when making business decisions and expect no negative consequences? It seems obvious that all the different parts of your life are deeply interconnected. But a common way to treat problems is to try to isolate them. If there’s a problem with your health, you need to diet and exercise. If there’s a problem in your career, it’s time to work harder. But this isolation protocol doesn’t work well because there’s too much overlap between all the different parts of your life, no matter how much you try to isolate the problem areas and go to work on them. It’s often the case that the obvious cause of the problem isn’t the true source. If you feel lonely because you haven’t been able to find the right relationship, and you keep trying harder and harder to find a relationship, you may get nowhere. The problem may be that you work at a career you aren’t passionate about, and you project this lack of passion to everyone you meet. And still a deeper issue may be that your spiritual beliefs tell you that service to others is very important, but you don’t feel you’re doing that. Then you change careers to do what you love, and it aligns with your spiritual beliefs because now you feel you’re contributing and serving. Then out of nowhere, you meet your future spouse, who is attracted to your passion about your work and the contribution you’re making. And the encouragement you experience from this relationship in turn helps you advance your career, increase your income, and free up more time to spend with your new spouse. Your stress goes down, and your health improves too. Your inner spiritual conflict was the real source of your inability to find the right relationship. Everything is deeply interconnected. Although it seems that each part of your life follows different rules, they all follow the same rules. You may have different values for each part of your life, but the rules that govern those areas don’t change. An example of an unchanging rule is kindness. The concept of kindness should resonate with your spiritual beliefs. You can be kind to your body, and your health will improve. You can be kind to your co-workers, and your relationships with them will improve. You can be kind to your spouse, and your marriage will grow stronger. You can be kind to a stranger, and your self-esteem will increase. It doesn’t matter to which area of your life you apply the principle of kindness. Its application is universal. Another universal rule is being proactive, assuming personal responsibility for results and taking positive action. It doesn’t matter where you apply this rule: health, relationships, emotions, spiritual beliefs, career, business, money, etc. Being responsible works no matter where you apply it. Cheating is another universal principle. No matter where you apply it, the long-term results are negative. Cheat your health, and pay the price of sickness. Cheat in your relationship, and the cost is a loss of intimacy. Cheat in your education, and your income suffers. But more powerful than these intra-area effects, there’s the rippling effect due to the interrelatedness of all areas. So if you apply a universal principle in one area, either positively or negatively, it ripples into all other areas. If you cheat your health, then in the long run this will hurt your career, your relationships, your finances, your emotional state, and your sense of spiritual connectedness. You can’t cheat in one area of your life without suffering the consequences in ALL areas. Similarly, be kind to your body, and your increased positive energy will positively affect your relationships, your work, your finances, your emotions, etc. Be proactive about building a career you enjoy, and your passion will spread to every other area. If you violate a universal principle, it negatively impacts all areas of your life. If you follow a universal principle, it positively impacts all areas of your life. Universal principles don’t compartmentalize. So the key then is figuring out these universal principles and aligning your thoughts and actions with them. This is how you achieve congruence between all the different parts of your life. So what are the universal principles? Stephen Covey claims that the 7 Habits of Highly Effective People are based on universal principles. I tend to agree, and that’s a good place to start. But I think all of these principles can be reduced to just one: to love. Not the passive squishy emotional feeling of love, but “to love” — the action verb. To love your body translates into proper diet and exercise. To love your mind equates with learning. To love others is service. To love your work is to do it passionately and enthusiastically. To love your feelings means to respect and honor the messages they send you. This verb translates into different specific actions for each area, but the underlying principle is the same. Depending on the situation, “to love” may mean to listen, to serve, to work, to relax, to touch, and so on. When you start injecting universal principles into every area of your life, alignment will gradually occur. The parts of your life will be transformed such that all these different pieces assemble themselves into one congruent whole. You won’t feel like these different parts of your life are in competition for your time and attention. Instead you’ll feel a sense of internal cooperation. You will have a sense that exercising your body is the best thing for your health and your relationship and your career and your spirituality. Within each area you’ll either adapt your current circumstances to align with universal principles, or you’ll let go of all the misaligned pieces and start fresh. So your career may shift slightly as you adapt, or you may switch to a whole new career. Your old relationships may transform, or they may end while you seek out new ones. It just depends on how well the external parts of your life are able to align with who you are. Alignment comes down to working on these four questions until they all produce the same answer: What do you want to do? (desire) What can you do? (ability) What should you do? (purpose) What must you do? (need) When these four areas are aligned, motivation occurs automatically. Thought and action are automatically balanced because you are living your purpose consciously. You won’t feel like you should be thinking when you’re acting or acting when you’re thinking. The line between thought and action will disappear. Being and doing will become the same thing. When you experience misalignment between these four areas/questions, the natural tendency is to slow down… sometimes to a crawl. You’ll feel like you have all these ideas pulling you in different directions, but you aren’t fully satisfying any of them. Your mind knows that continuing to work hard is likely to be futile and won’t solve the real problem of incongruence. It knows it’s time for you to stop, ask directions, and choose the path of alignment. I went through this while running my games business. While I had many projects to grow the business, I knew deep down that I didn’t want to run that business for another decade. I was containerizing everything: my health over here, my relationship there, my work here, and my spirituality there. Each part of my life felt like it had its own set of rules. Eventually I started questioning whether this was the best way to live. Are we supposed to live like a collection of parts or as an integrated whole? I wondered whether it would be possible to live in such a way where there was only one set of rules governing all areas, essentially meaning that I followed my deepest spiritual beliefs in all matters. This line of questioning led me to discover just how it might be possible for all these different parts of my life might become a single, integrated whole. This would mean that my business and my conscience and my interpersonal relationships were all one. There would be no sense of separation. In order to go through this process, I had to transform certain parts of my life while totally shifting others. I tried to transform my career initially from within, but the disconnect was big enough that it required a more dramatic shift. Other parts of my life were able to adapt more flexibly. The main reason for my shift away from my games business was that it wasn’t a strong enough outlet for service for me. I think that given enough time, the original business could have been shifted, but that wasn’t the best route for me too take. It was faster and simpler to build a new business from scratch with the goal of congruence in mind than to try to refactor the existing business. I must say that this push for congruence in all areas turned out beautifully. I don’t feel that sense of separation between the different parts of my life anymore. My purpose says I’m here to serve and help people. My ability says I can do it through writing and speaking and running a web site. My needs say I must support myself doing it. And my passion says it’s what I love doing most. I don’t have to separate supporting myself with a job and then having fun on the weekends and thinking about spirituality at other times. Work = play = love. When you live congruently, it’s as if all the different parts of your life lock into new positions to form a new whole that’s greater than all the individual pieces. Everything grows stronger: health, relationships, motivation, actions, results, etc. I know that as a practical matter, it seems as though different rules often govern in different areas. Separating your spiritual beliefs from your work is very common. A lot of businesses seem to operate on the assumption that universal principles don’t exist. I don’t buy that at all. There are non-universal principles that apply just within their own domains (the rules of nutrition apply to your health but not to your work, for instance), but universal principles apply to all areas. I think that one’s spiritual beliefs are the single most important factor in choosing a career or a company to work for. If you have a deeply held belief that you hold sacred, you cannot violate it in any area of your life without suffering the consequences in all areas. You must be true to your inner self at all times. That’s the only way to be congruent and to live as a whole person instead of merely as a bag of competing parts. When you live congruently, a quantum leap will occur in each of these four areas. Desire becomes passion. Purpose becomes mission. Need becomes abundance. Ability becomes talent. And it becomes almost ridiculously easy to achieve fulfillment in every area then because all the parts are working together in the same direction.
    Jul 12, 2011 787
  • 12 Jul 2011
    A reader suggested I write about this topic: Explore the tension between being satisfied with what you have and your accomplishments vs. the desire to do better. Being too complacent would yield suboptimal results because you’re drifting and not getting close to your true potential. But push too hard, and you may never enjoy what you have and may burn yourself out. So it would seem the optimal solution lies somewhere in the middle between the extremes. On the one hand, you have complacency. Think of this in positive terms as enjoying what you have and being at peace with your current situation. And on the other hand, we have ambition and effort, the desire to keep moving and to improve yourself. The perceived conflict comes about as a choice between here and there. Stay put or move on. Which is better? Is a perpetual balance between these two extremes the right answer? Like 50% complacency and 50% ambition? Let’s try a perspective shift … one that eliminates the problem entirely. This problem arises from the assumption of a static view of life — that every moment is the same as every other, that if being ambitious is the right choice now, it will still be the right choice tomorrow. Life isn’t static though. When you take a snaphot “here is where I am now” view of your life, you reinforce a flawed view of reality. Life is always in motion. Look at the cells in your body. If they ever go into a static state and stop moving, you’re dead. They’re doing different things at different times. Sometimes your body must shut down to fight illness; other times it’s happy to move around and get some exercise. There’s no single right thing for your cells to be doing at all times. Movement and change are integral to life itself. In life there’s no status quo. Think about the momentum of different areas of your life right now. What’s expanding? What’s contracting? Instead of thinking of complacency vs. ambition as some percentage mixture in the present, think of long-term cycles of expansion vs. contraction. Cycles of ebb and flow are a natural part of life. Notice what type of cycle you’re in right now. If you’re in an expansion cycle, then push your ambition as far as it will take you, and forget about complacency. If you’re in a contraction cycle, then take a break from ambition and spend time on your inward development. Sometimes these cycles last for years. From about mid-2004 onward, I’ve been in a massive expansion phase — trying new things, meeting new people, starting a new business. Before that I was in a contraction phase for many months, thinking and contemplating, doing lots of reading, turning inward, reassessing my priorities. There are even cycles within cycles, like periods of short-term contraction during a long-term expansion period. It’s like the stock market. You have long-term bull and bear markets and short-term bull and bear days and weeks. At the time of this posting, it appears we’re having some bear days in an otherwise bull market. Cycles within cycles. So just as a stock investor needs to know when to buy and sell, you must listen to the signals from your own life (both internal and external) to learn when it’s time to expand or contract. Every day is different. Sometimes buying/expansion is right, and other times selling/contraction is right. You don’t balance the two. You cycle between them. One of my favorite treatments of this subject can be found in the Bible in Ecclesiastes 3:1-8. The whole book of Ecclesiastes is an interesting story about a man searching for the ultimate source of joy in life, eventually succeeding by identifying it as the fulfillment that comes from hard work. To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven: A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted; A time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up; A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance; A time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing; A time to get, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away; A time to rend, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak; A time to love, and a time to hate; a time of war, and a time of peace. Life is constantly cycling through expansion and contraction phases. Sometimes we’re able to go out and do no wrong. Other times we run home licking our wounds. By recognizing what kind of cycle you’re in, you can flow with it instead of fighting it. In a contraction phase, this means spending a lot of time thinking and journaling, reading, working on personal development to build your skills, going to school, spending lots of time with family. In an expansion phase, it means taking on some ambitious projects and stretching yourself, joining new clubs, meeting new people, taking on new responsibilities, enjoying new experiences. What happens in your life when your decisions are out of phase with your current cycle? What happens to a stock investor whose decisions are out of phase with the market? Problems also occur when we get stuck in one phase for too long. A prolonged contraction phase can lead to depression (both in the stock market and in your personal life). A prolonged expansion phase can build stress and anxiety. Life requires cycles of exertion and rest — that’s what makes us stronger. What is your life calling for right now? Should you be contracting or expanding? Is this the time to reinvent yourself in private or express yourself in public?
    827 Posted by UniqueThis
  • A reader suggested I write about this topic: Explore the tension between being satisfied with what you have and your accomplishments vs. the desire to do better. Being too complacent would yield suboptimal results because you’re drifting and not getting close to your true potential. But push too hard, and you may never enjoy what you have and may burn yourself out. So it would seem the optimal solution lies somewhere in the middle between the extremes. On the one hand, you have complacency. Think of this in positive terms as enjoying what you have and being at peace with your current situation. And on the other hand, we have ambition and effort, the desire to keep moving and to improve yourself. The perceived conflict comes about as a choice between here and there. Stay put or move on. Which is better? Is a perpetual balance between these two extremes the right answer? Like 50% complacency and 50% ambition? Let’s try a perspective shift … one that eliminates the problem entirely. This problem arises from the assumption of a static view of life — that every moment is the same as every other, that if being ambitious is the right choice now, it will still be the right choice tomorrow. Life isn’t static though. When you take a snaphot “here is where I am now” view of your life, you reinforce a flawed view of reality. Life is always in motion. Look at the cells in your body. If they ever go into a static state and stop moving, you’re dead. They’re doing different things at different times. Sometimes your body must shut down to fight illness; other times it’s happy to move around and get some exercise. There’s no single right thing for your cells to be doing at all times. Movement and change are integral to life itself. In life there’s no status quo. Think about the momentum of different areas of your life right now. What’s expanding? What’s contracting? Instead of thinking of complacency vs. ambition as some percentage mixture in the present, think of long-term cycles of expansion vs. contraction. Cycles of ebb and flow are a natural part of life. Notice what type of cycle you’re in right now. If you’re in an expansion cycle, then push your ambition as far as it will take you, and forget about complacency. If you’re in a contraction cycle, then take a break from ambition and spend time on your inward development. Sometimes these cycles last for years. From about mid-2004 onward, I’ve been in a massive expansion phase — trying new things, meeting new people, starting a new business. Before that I was in a contraction phase for many months, thinking and contemplating, doing lots of reading, turning inward, reassessing my priorities. There are even cycles within cycles, like periods of short-term contraction during a long-term expansion period. It’s like the stock market. You have long-term bull and bear markets and short-term bull and bear days and weeks. At the time of this posting, it appears we’re having some bear days in an otherwise bull market. Cycles within cycles. So just as a stock investor needs to know when to buy and sell, you must listen to the signals from your own life (both internal and external) to learn when it’s time to expand or contract. Every day is different. Sometimes buying/expansion is right, and other times selling/contraction is right. You don’t balance the two. You cycle between them. One of my favorite treatments of this subject can be found in the Bible in Ecclesiastes 3:1-8. The whole book of Ecclesiastes is an interesting story about a man searching for the ultimate source of joy in life, eventually succeeding by identifying it as the fulfillment that comes from hard work. To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven: A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted; A time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up; A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance; A time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing; A time to get, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away; A time to rend, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak; A time to love, and a time to hate; a time of war, and a time of peace. Life is constantly cycling through expansion and contraction phases. Sometimes we’re able to go out and do no wrong. Other times we run home licking our wounds. By recognizing what kind of cycle you’re in, you can flow with it instead of fighting it. In a contraction phase, this means spending a lot of time thinking and journaling, reading, working on personal development to build your skills, going to school, spending lots of time with family. In an expansion phase, it means taking on some ambitious projects and stretching yourself, joining new clubs, meeting new people, taking on new responsibilities, enjoying new experiences. What happens in your life when your decisions are out of phase with your current cycle? What happens to a stock investor whose decisions are out of phase with the market? Problems also occur when we get stuck in one phase for too long. A prolonged contraction phase can lead to depression (both in the stock market and in your personal life). A prolonged expansion phase can build stress and anxiety. Life requires cycles of exertion and rest — that’s what makes us stronger. What is your life calling for right now? Should you be contracting or expanding? Is this the time to reinvent yourself in private or express yourself in public?
    Jul 12, 2011 827
  • 12 Jul 2011
    The hard work vs. laziness productivity blog showdown between myself and Fred Gratzon continues at Slacker Manager. Today we tackle the following questions: 1) The money and the passion… You both seem to encourage paying less attention to how much money you make, and pay more attention to what you’re passionate about. With that in mind, please address the following: a. What if your passion IS money? b. What should I do if my passion requires money, and in order to make money, I need to work a whole bunch of hours per week at a job I’m not passionate about, leaving no time for my passion? c. Conversely, what should I do if I know that my passion is staying home with my family (or similar non-paying passion), but doing that won’t pay the bills? How can I reconcile being away from my family/passion in order to “just” make money? Here is my response, and here is Fred’s. What can I say about Fred’s answers? I totally agree with him. I think our answers are extremely congruent — we each addressed the questions on different levels though. Fred tackled them on the level of belief and attitude, whereas I gave more “how to” answers. We both agree that you shouldn’t remain stuck in a situation where you aren’t loving life. Fred writes: “I don’t believe any passion is non-paying. You can always find a way.” I agree. Too many people are held back by the limiting belief that you can’t make money doing what you love. But I think that a lot of people don’t feel comfortable challenging that assumption until they can mentally envision a safe path for themselves from where they are now to where they want to go. This is why I outlined a decision-making process to help people understand exactly how to do that. Once you can envision a path and believe it will work, then it’s a lot easier to drop limiting beliefs and get moving. You don’t have to blindly dive into pursuing your passion and risk it all — that certainly works for some people, but it’s very risky and has a high failure rate too. It will take some courage no matter what path you take, but it doesn’t require a blind leap of faith in my opinion. I think it’s important to consider how you’re going to pay your rent and support your family and whether you can actually make a living from your passion… before you make your move. For example, when I wanted to transition to my new career in speaking and writing, I outlined a plan to navigate the transition that would keep in balance my needs (like paying my mortgage), abilities (do I have the talent and skills to pull this off?), passion (will I be doing what I love?), and conscience (will I be contributing and making a meaningful difference in the world?). This included cutting some of my expenses to keep my cashflow needs reasonable, keeping my old business running on the side, and planning to build a new high-traffic web site with lots of free content and eventually info products for sale; developing my speaking skills via Toastmasters and competing in speech contests; spending the majority of my time doing work I love (like writing and speaking); and doing work that I believed was truly helping people. It was easier to get moving when I could see on paper just how this transition was going to work AND convinced myself that it would work. Even with all this planning, it still took courage to commit to this transition and get started, and I certainly met a lot of resistance from those who preferred to see me stay put, but I knew it was just a matter of overcoming inertia until the momentum would carry me forward (as it’s doing now). Fred and I both agree that passion is critical. If you overemphasize passion though, especially as you make the transition to living with more passion, then you risk neglecting your needs, failing to upgrade your skills, and building a career that’s devoid of meaning. And these factors will ultimately degrade your passion if you don’t address them. Your passion will only magnify if you achieve abundance instead of scarcity, if you become ever more skilled at doing what you love, and if you’re making a meaningful contribution.
    784 Posted by UniqueThis
  • The hard work vs. laziness productivity blog showdown between myself and Fred Gratzon continues at Slacker Manager. Today we tackle the following questions: 1) The money and the passion… You both seem to encourage paying less attention to how much money you make, and pay more attention to what you’re passionate about. With that in mind, please address the following: a. What if your passion IS money? b. What should I do if my passion requires money, and in order to make money, I need to work a whole bunch of hours per week at a job I’m not passionate about, leaving no time for my passion? c. Conversely, what should I do if I know that my passion is staying home with my family (or similar non-paying passion), but doing that won’t pay the bills? How can I reconcile being away from my family/passion in order to “just” make money? Here is my response, and here is Fred’s. What can I say about Fred’s answers? I totally agree with him. I think our answers are extremely congruent — we each addressed the questions on different levels though. Fred tackled them on the level of belief and attitude, whereas I gave more “how to” answers. We both agree that you shouldn’t remain stuck in a situation where you aren’t loving life. Fred writes: “I don’t believe any passion is non-paying. You can always find a way.” I agree. Too many people are held back by the limiting belief that you can’t make money doing what you love. But I think that a lot of people don’t feel comfortable challenging that assumption until they can mentally envision a safe path for themselves from where they are now to where they want to go. This is why I outlined a decision-making process to help people understand exactly how to do that. Once you can envision a path and believe it will work, then it’s a lot easier to drop limiting beliefs and get moving. You don’t have to blindly dive into pursuing your passion and risk it all — that certainly works for some people, but it’s very risky and has a high failure rate too. It will take some courage no matter what path you take, but it doesn’t require a blind leap of faith in my opinion. I think it’s important to consider how you’re going to pay your rent and support your family and whether you can actually make a living from your passion… before you make your move. For example, when I wanted to transition to my new career in speaking and writing, I outlined a plan to navigate the transition that would keep in balance my needs (like paying my mortgage), abilities (do I have the talent and skills to pull this off?), passion (will I be doing what I love?), and conscience (will I be contributing and making a meaningful difference in the world?). This included cutting some of my expenses to keep my cashflow needs reasonable, keeping my old business running on the side, and planning to build a new high-traffic web site with lots of free content and eventually info products for sale; developing my speaking skills via Toastmasters and competing in speech contests; spending the majority of my time doing work I love (like writing and speaking); and doing work that I believed was truly helping people. It was easier to get moving when I could see on paper just how this transition was going to work AND convinced myself that it would work. Even with all this planning, it still took courage to commit to this transition and get started, and I certainly met a lot of resistance from those who preferred to see me stay put, but I knew it was just a matter of overcoming inertia until the momentum would carry me forward (as it’s doing now). Fred and I both agree that passion is critical. If you overemphasize passion though, especially as you make the transition to living with more passion, then you risk neglecting your needs, failing to upgrade your skills, and building a career that’s devoid of meaning. And these factors will ultimately degrade your passion if you don’t address them. Your passion will only magnify if you achieve abundance instead of scarcity, if you become ever more skilled at doing what you love, and if you’re making a meaningful contribution.
    Jul 12, 2011 784
  • 12 Jul 2011
    Given previous posts on Levels of Consciousness and Raising Your Consciousness, several people have asked me what “practical” relevance this has to personal growth. A valid question — here’s my answer: Certainly your actions will produce results in your life, but which actions should you take? Logic and reason can help you decide how to get things done, and they can help you break large projects into small steps. If you know the questions, logical thinking can help you find the answers. But logic and reason have no context for deciding which questions to ask. Your reason cannot tell you why one question is any more or less important than another. Try proving with logic that having more money is better than having less. Prove that treating people with kindness is better than manipulating them. Prove that a career in medicine is better than a career in law. Seemingly intelligent, practical people don’t see eye to eye on these things. How are you making the biggest decisions of your life? What career should you choose? Should you marry? Should you have children, and if so, how many? What’s most important to you in life? Don’t kid yourself into thinking you’re making these decisions based on what’s most practical. Ultimately you’re forced to go with intuition. No matter how practical you feel you are, you’re still making the biggest decisions of your life from a context that transcends rationality. Ultimately it all comes down to a gut feeling. What provides this overall context for how to live? What’s giving you the questions to ask? Those are coming from your consciousness. Your level of consciousness will determine the big questions and answers in your life. Everything else trickles down from there. Your intellect exists only to serve your intuition, no matter how practical you think you are. So what does it mean to become more effective or productive? If you get better and better at doing what you’re doing but never raise your level of consciousness, are you really being effective? Are you getting optimal results? Does it make sense to become better and better at doing things if you’re stuck at the level of anger … or pride? If you’re a human living the life of an ape, does it make sense to invest your time to become a better ape, or is it worth the effort to try to wake up to your human side? What if everyone else around you seems content with living like apes? It’s so easy to fall into the trap of avoiding these kinds of questions, but you’ll never know true happiness until you summon the courage to ask. What if your whole life has been a mistake? How would you know? What if you’ve spent your whole life up to this point with all the big decisions being made at a much lower level of consciousness than you’re capable of? What if you’ve been making the big decisions out of fear because you didn’t know how to exercise your true courage? What experiences are constantly denied you because your consciousness operates at too low a level? If you had no fear, would you still live your life as you do now? If not, what would you change? Higher levels of consciousness mean access to greater rewards. You don’t have to settle for bananas as the highlight of your day. Instead of being alone, you can enjoy wonderful relationships. Instead of working at a dull job, you can adopt a career that fulfills you deeply. Instead of feeling frustrated or stressed, you can experience pervasive inner peace. If your level of consciousness is too low, these rewards will always be denied you, and it will seem like a mystery why others are able to attract them so easily but not you. Running on your current life treadmill will only get you so far. But what if it’s the wrong treadmill? Avoiding that question and throwing yourself into the act of going further and further along the same treadmill lowers your consciousness. It drives you deeper into fear and away from courage. Even if you’ve become deeply invested in your current treadmill, you still have to ask what else is out there. Just asking that question will bring your fears to the surface, where you can begin dealing with them consciously. And conquering fear is the essence of raising your consciousness. No matter how incredible your current treadmill, there’s always a better one. Living consciously means learning to feel comfortable moving from treadmill to treadmill without becoming overly attached to any of them. That is the essence of personal growth. Who is at a higher level of consciousness — the person who has everything but is deathly afraid of losing it or the person who has very little but has no fear of loss? Who will be happier? Who will be able to attract and nurture the most loving relationships? Who will be at peace? The more attached you are to your current treadmill, the less conscious — the less free — you are. And with greater freedom comes far greater personal growth because you’ll gain access to new experiences that you’d otherwise be too fearful to attempt. Ask the big questions. Then face down all the “what if” fears that surface with as much courage as you can muster. When you do that, you become more conscious.
    817 Posted by UniqueThis
  • Given previous posts on Levels of Consciousness and Raising Your Consciousness, several people have asked me what “practical” relevance this has to personal growth. A valid question — here’s my answer: Certainly your actions will produce results in your life, but which actions should you take? Logic and reason can help you decide how to get things done, and they can help you break large projects into small steps. If you know the questions, logical thinking can help you find the answers. But logic and reason have no context for deciding which questions to ask. Your reason cannot tell you why one question is any more or less important than another. Try proving with logic that having more money is better than having less. Prove that treating people with kindness is better than manipulating them. Prove that a career in medicine is better than a career in law. Seemingly intelligent, practical people don’t see eye to eye on these things. How are you making the biggest decisions of your life? What career should you choose? Should you marry? Should you have children, and if so, how many? What’s most important to you in life? Don’t kid yourself into thinking you’re making these decisions based on what’s most practical. Ultimately you’re forced to go with intuition. No matter how practical you feel you are, you’re still making the biggest decisions of your life from a context that transcends rationality. Ultimately it all comes down to a gut feeling. What provides this overall context for how to live? What’s giving you the questions to ask? Those are coming from your consciousness. Your level of consciousness will determine the big questions and answers in your life. Everything else trickles down from there. Your intellect exists only to serve your intuition, no matter how practical you think you are. So what does it mean to become more effective or productive? If you get better and better at doing what you’re doing but never raise your level of consciousness, are you really being effective? Are you getting optimal results? Does it make sense to become better and better at doing things if you’re stuck at the level of anger … or pride? If you’re a human living the life of an ape, does it make sense to invest your time to become a better ape, or is it worth the effort to try to wake up to your human side? What if everyone else around you seems content with living like apes? It’s so easy to fall into the trap of avoiding these kinds of questions, but you’ll never know true happiness until you summon the courage to ask. What if your whole life has been a mistake? How would you know? What if you’ve spent your whole life up to this point with all the big decisions being made at a much lower level of consciousness than you’re capable of? What if you’ve been making the big decisions out of fear because you didn’t know how to exercise your true courage? What experiences are constantly denied you because your consciousness operates at too low a level? If you had no fear, would you still live your life as you do now? If not, what would you change? Higher levels of consciousness mean access to greater rewards. You don’t have to settle for bananas as the highlight of your day. Instead of being alone, you can enjoy wonderful relationships. Instead of working at a dull job, you can adopt a career that fulfills you deeply. Instead of feeling frustrated or stressed, you can experience pervasive inner peace. If your level of consciousness is too low, these rewards will always be denied you, and it will seem like a mystery why others are able to attract them so easily but not you. Running on your current life treadmill will only get you so far. But what if it’s the wrong treadmill? Avoiding that question and throwing yourself into the act of going further and further along the same treadmill lowers your consciousness. It drives you deeper into fear and away from courage. Even if you’ve become deeply invested in your current treadmill, you still have to ask what else is out there. Just asking that question will bring your fears to the surface, where you can begin dealing with them consciously. And conquering fear is the essence of raising your consciousness. No matter how incredible your current treadmill, there’s always a better one. Living consciously means learning to feel comfortable moving from treadmill to treadmill without becoming overly attached to any of them. That is the essence of personal growth. Who is at a higher level of consciousness — the person who has everything but is deathly afraid of losing it or the person who has very little but has no fear of loss? Who will be happier? Who will be able to attract and nurture the most loving relationships? Who will be at peace? The more attached you are to your current treadmill, the less conscious — the less free — you are. And with greater freedom comes far greater personal growth because you’ll gain access to new experiences that you’d otherwise be too fearful to attempt. Ask the big questions. Then face down all the “what if” fears that surface with as much courage as you can muster. When you do that, you become more conscious.
    Jul 12, 2011 817
  • 12 Jul 2011
    Here’s what I’ve done so far this year: Physical - completed a 30-day challenge to kick start a new exercise program - revised exercise program to six days per week, mixture of running and weight training - gradually extended distance runs to 8 miles (will probably hold off on distance running til after summer, since it’s 107 degrees outside right now, and I don’t want to become a puddle) - worked on posture correction with a chiropractor for a few months, which totally eliminated knee pain during distance running - increased my normal running speed by about one minute per mile - lost 8.8 pounds and 2.0 percentage points body fat - established the habit of getting up at 5am every morning, now sleeping about 90 minutes less than I used to but with more energy - found a really nice hiking trail in Red Rock Canyon that leads to a natural spring (great place to meditate) - maintained ability to do 20-30 push ups (not my personal best, but adequate) Work/Career - wrote a 2005 business plan - started writing my first book (detailed outline and several chapters done, but not close to finishing yet) - increased StevePavlina.com traffic by 600% (June 2005 vs. December 2004) - hit my Q2 goal for total newsletter subscribers (to the exact number on June 30) - made dozens of new blog posts, including a six-part series on self-discipline and another on the meaning of life - saw a couple blog posts take off via word of mouth: How to Become an Early Riser and How to Give Up Coffee - added a few new articles to the articles section - made many minor improvements to the site/blog - did some new marketing for the site/blog (without spending a dime) - published a new game for my games business - put together a workable plan to go from free to fee as a professional speaker - saw a few more of my articles translated to other languages (mostly Russian) - did an interview for an article in a major magazine with about 5 million readers (won’t be out til Q4) - found a local professional speaker to mentor me in going from free to fee - began developing topics to speak on professionally Toastmasters/Speaking - earned my CTM award (Competent Toastmaster, for doing 10 speeches) - 30% of the way towards earning my ATM-B (Advanced Toastmaster Bronze, for doing 10 more speeches) - earned my CL award (Competent Leader, for serving as a club officer 6+ months and doing two presentations on leadership) - awarded 2004 Spark Plug of the Year for my club - awarded 2004 Toastmaster of the Year for my area - served as club Treasurer (since July 2004) - elected club VP of Membership for next term while continuing to serve as club Treasurer - joined a second advanced Toastmasters club for people who want to go pro (had to earn my CTM to be eligible) - competed in 2005 International Speech Contest (1st place in club, 1st place in area, 3rd place in division) - gave a 30-minute speech on self-discipline for a local business incubator - gave presentations on goal setting & planning, delegation - had a letter to the editor published in Toastmaster magazine Mental/Skill-Building - read about two dozen new books and listened to several audio programs - read a few hundred articles and blog posts, mainly on personal development, productivity, and blogging - attended a 3-day personal development seminar - saw live speeches by Mark Victor Hansen, Jack Canfield, Les Brown, Stephen Covey, and many other top speakers - made improvements to my Personal Accountabilty System that helped increase focus and clarity - improved my communication and leadership skills via Toastmasters - studied ancient Greek philosophy - learned some new vocabulary words - attended a humor workshop - practiced what I learned from the humor workshop on my wife Social - made more local friends/contacts via Toastmasters - made more internet friends/contacts, mostly via blog - participated in a meeting of the Las Vegas Futurists - went with family to “Family Fun Day” with the Greater Las Vegas Jaycees, won first place in the water balloon toss with my wife (then put the winning water balloon to good use) - had dinner and some fun on the Strip with an old high school friend in from out of town - built up a decent social calendar, averaging a couple outings per week (right about where I want it) Financial - wife and I bought a new house in January, which has already appreciated 10-15% - began generating income from StevePavlina.com via Google Adsense; through tweaking and traffic building, earned more in June than in Feb, Mar, Apr, and May combined (not enough to live off but enough to matter) - reduced expenses to provide more of a cushion as I work on building an income from speaking/writing Personal/Home - moved into our new house - completed serious amount of purging, packing, and unpacking - setup internet phone service and modified home wiring so all phone jacks would route through it - did lots of minor home repair/improvement projects (I think the house is about 50% spackle now) - converted a lot of my CDs to MP3s, so I can listen on my new iPOD Shuffle when I go running Family - saw my daughter graduate from preschool (OK, I can’t really take credit for this) - saw my son take his first steps and taught him to play catch (I will take credit for this; ignore whatever my wife says) - taught my son to say the word “yes” - learned that the secret to taming my wife is a foot massage (she is pretty well pwned now) - setup a workable daily routine with my wife to balance work time and child care - helped my wife setup/upgrade her own blog Fun/Interesting - gave a speech inside the paw of the Sphinx at the Luxor Hotel - saw the Blue Man Group at the Luxor with my wife, half-price for Vegas locals (a most bizarre experience — I can’t believe they TP’d the entire audience) - got a professional massage (I should do this more often) - met Dr. Barbara DeAngelis in person and talked one-on-one for 10-15 minutes - beat my wife at air hockey while pulling a man-in-black vs. Inigo Montoya (I’m left-handed but played right-handed w/o telling her) - played blackjack (100% session win rate) and poker (50% session win rate) a few times with a net win overall (I learned card counting at age 21 and poker at age 18) - went to a fun joint meeting with another Toastmasters club and moderated a two-person Table Topics (impromptu speaking) based on The Apprentice, with me playing the role of Donald Trump and the two speakers acting as members of the team who got called into the boardroom to explain their miserable failure; then I mock-fired one of them (for spurious reasons to be consistent with the show) - went to the Guggenheim Hermitage Museum at the Venetian and learned about ancient Egypt as narrated by Jeremy Irons - went to the newly opened Atomic Testing Museum in Las Vegas and learned to stop worrying and love the bomb Overall, I’d give myself a 9 out of 10. I didn’t achieve all my goals for Q1 and Q2, but I overachieved in some areas that more than compensated for the deficiencies. I’m not as far along with my book as I wanted to be by this time, but I greatly surpassed my web traffic goals, and I’d rather have the traffic than have the book if I had to choose one or the other — writing the book is more under my direct control, and I’m glad to have the riskier traffic goal behind me.
    828 Posted by UniqueThis
  • Here’s what I’ve done so far this year: Physical - completed a 30-day challenge to kick start a new exercise program - revised exercise program to six days per week, mixture of running and weight training - gradually extended distance runs to 8 miles (will probably hold off on distance running til after summer, since it’s 107 degrees outside right now, and I don’t want to become a puddle) - worked on posture correction with a chiropractor for a few months, which totally eliminated knee pain during distance running - increased my normal running speed by about one minute per mile - lost 8.8 pounds and 2.0 percentage points body fat - established the habit of getting up at 5am every morning, now sleeping about 90 minutes less than I used to but with more energy - found a really nice hiking trail in Red Rock Canyon that leads to a natural spring (great place to meditate) - maintained ability to do 20-30 push ups (not my personal best, but adequate) Work/Career - wrote a 2005 business plan - started writing my first book (detailed outline and several chapters done, but not close to finishing yet) - increased StevePavlina.com traffic by 600% (June 2005 vs. December 2004) - hit my Q2 goal for total newsletter subscribers (to the exact number on June 30) - made dozens of new blog posts, including a six-part series on self-discipline and another on the meaning of life - saw a couple blog posts take off via word of mouth: How to Become an Early Riser and How to Give Up Coffee - added a few new articles to the articles section - made many minor improvements to the site/blog - did some new marketing for the site/blog (without spending a dime) - published a new game for my games business - put together a workable plan to go from free to fee as a professional speaker - saw a few more of my articles translated to other languages (mostly Russian) - did an interview for an article in a major magazine with about 5 million readers (won’t be out til Q4) - found a local professional speaker to mentor me in going from free to fee - began developing topics to speak on professionally Toastmasters/Speaking - earned my CTM award (Competent Toastmaster, for doing 10 speeches) - 30% of the way towards earning my ATM-B (Advanced Toastmaster Bronze, for doing 10 more speeches) - earned my CL award (Competent Leader, for serving as a club officer 6+ months and doing two presentations on leadership) - awarded 2004 Spark Plug of the Year for my club - awarded 2004 Toastmaster of the Year for my area - served as club Treasurer (since July 2004) - elected club VP of Membership for next term while continuing to serve as club Treasurer - joined a second advanced Toastmasters club for people who want to go pro (had to earn my CTM to be eligible) - competed in 2005 International Speech Contest (1st place in club, 1st place in area, 3rd place in division) - gave a 30-minute speech on self-discipline for a local business incubator - gave presentations on goal setting & planning, delegation - had a letter to the editor published in Toastmaster magazine Mental/Skill-Building - read about two dozen new books and listened to several audio programs - read a few hundred articles and blog posts, mainly on personal development, productivity, and blogging - attended a 3-day personal development seminar - saw live speeches by Mark Victor Hansen, Jack Canfield, Les Brown, Stephen Covey, and many other top speakers - made improvements to my Personal Accountabilty System that helped increase focus and clarity - improved my communication and leadership skills via Toastmasters - studied ancient Greek philosophy - learned some new vocabulary words - attended a humor workshop - practiced what I learned from the humor workshop on my wife Social - made more local friends/contacts via Toastmasters - made more internet friends/contacts, mostly via blog - participated in a meeting of the Las Vegas Futurists - went with family to “Family Fun Day” with the Greater Las Vegas Jaycees, won first place in the water balloon toss with my wife (then put the winning water balloon to good use) - had dinner and some fun on the Strip with an old high school friend in from out of town - built up a decent social calendar, averaging a couple outings per week (right about where I want it) Financial - wife and I bought a new house in January, which has already appreciated 10-15% - began generating income from StevePavlina.com via Google Adsense; through tweaking and traffic building, earned more in June than in Feb, Mar, Apr, and May combined (not enough to live off but enough to matter) - reduced expenses to provide more of a cushion as I work on building an income from speaking/writing Personal/Home - moved into our new house - completed serious amount of purging, packing, and unpacking - setup internet phone service and modified home wiring so all phone jacks would route through it - did lots of minor home repair/improvement projects (I think the house is about 50% spackle now) - converted a lot of my CDs to MP3s, so I can listen on my new iPOD Shuffle when I go running Family - saw my daughter graduate from preschool (OK, I can’t really take credit for this) - saw my son take his first steps and taught him to play catch (I will take credit for this; ignore whatever my wife says) - taught my son to say the word “yes” - learned that the secret to taming my wife is a foot massage (she is pretty well pwned now) - setup a workable daily routine with my wife to balance work time and child care - helped my wife setup/upgrade her own blog Fun/Interesting - gave a speech inside the paw of the Sphinx at the Luxor Hotel - saw the Blue Man Group at the Luxor with my wife, half-price for Vegas locals (a most bizarre experience — I can’t believe they TP’d the entire audience) - got a professional massage (I should do this more often) - met Dr. Barbara DeAngelis in person and talked one-on-one for 10-15 minutes - beat my wife at air hockey while pulling a man-in-black vs. Inigo Montoya (I’m left-handed but played right-handed w/o telling her) - played blackjack (100% session win rate) and poker (50% session win rate) a few times with a net win overall (I learned card counting at age 21 and poker at age 18) - went to a fun joint meeting with another Toastmasters club and moderated a two-person Table Topics (impromptu speaking) based on The Apprentice, with me playing the role of Donald Trump and the two speakers acting as members of the team who got called into the boardroom to explain their miserable failure; then I mock-fired one of them (for spurious reasons to be consistent with the show) - went to the Guggenheim Hermitage Museum at the Venetian and learned about ancient Egypt as narrated by Jeremy Irons - went to the newly opened Atomic Testing Museum in Las Vegas and learned to stop worrying and love the bomb Overall, I’d give myself a 9 out of 10. I didn’t achieve all my goals for Q1 and Q2, but I overachieved in some areas that more than compensated for the deficiencies. I’m not as far along with my book as I wanted to be by this time, but I greatly surpassed my web traffic goals, and I’d rather have the traffic than have the book if I had to choose one or the other — writing the book is more under my direct control, and I’m glad to have the riskier traffic goal behind me.
    Jul 12, 2011 828
  • 12 Jul 2011
    Several readers have informed me they’re experiencing tremendous difficulty with the issue of selfishness vs. selflessness. Deep down they want to live lives of greater service to others (STO), but they note that their current lives are designed almost entirely around service to self (STS). This in turn often leads to feelings of guilt, but usually the guilt isn’t enough to spur action. There are abundant belief systems which set STS and STO in conflict with each other, usually favoring one over the other. First there’s the STO-favoring side. Serving others requires the “death of the self.” The ego is seen as something which must be transcended. In order to become enlightened, one must sacrifice one’s own needs to serve the greater good. Many societies hold people who seem to fit this model in high esteem. On the other hand, we have the STS side. People are inherently selfish and cannot be expected to act against their own self interest. Selfishness is rooted in our biology, even encoded into our genes. We’re ultimately Pavlovian stimulus-response machines driven by pleasure and pain. Those who seem to serve the greater good only do so because on some level it gives them pleasure, or they’d feel pain if they didn’t. I think both viewpoints are dysfunctional. They assume STS and STO are in conflict. But are they really? Where does STS ultimately lead? What would happen if you were to fully embrace the STS path and take it as far as you possibly could? What would be the most selfish life you could possible imagine? What’s the greatest pleasure you can think of? Would you become like Hitler and want to conquer the world and put everyone and everything under your control? Ok, so imagine you’ve just become the supreme leader of the planet. Then what? What would you do with all that power? If you didn’t have to keep struggling to maintain it, you’d probably get bored after a while. For many people the STS path is rooted in fear. The more money, control, and power you achieve, the more fearful you become of losing it. The pursuit of greater power is endless. Your situation is never totally secure. But what if you could somehow master this path and achieve total, absolute security? What would you do then? What would you do if you had no fear? Perhaps you’d want to contribute something… make some kind of difference… leave a legacy. If fear and security ceased to motivate you, then what would step in to take its place? I think the pursuit of STS, if you think it through far enough and imagine yourself succeeding at every step, will eventually lead you to some form of STO. Where does STO ultimately lead? But what if you start from STO? What if you put others entirely above yourself? What if you aspire to make the greatest possible contribution you can, whatever the cost to you personally? Where will that lead you? Imagine you succeed massively at serving others. You’ve cured every known disease, rebalanced the ecosystem, ended poverty and suffering, and maxed out everyone’s self-esteem. You’ve solved all the problems of humanity. No one even needs your help anymore. What will you do then? Enjoy it? Work on yourself for a while? Won’t this eventually lead you back to STS? Synergy between STS and STO Now I’m well aware that you’re not going to be able to max out the STS or the STO path within the span of a human lifetime. There will always be more to do on either side. But this line of thinking got me curious — if maxing out one side leads you back around to the other side, then what does that mean? To me this indicated that STS and STO both lie on the same path. When you travel to the end of one, you hit the beginning of the other. Perhaps STS and STO are far more twisted together, like a giant Mobius strip. Biologically this made sense to me. In order for humans to survive, STS and STO must be in balance. If we became totally STS but not STO, we wouldn’t care for our young (among other problems), and we’d eventually die off. If we became totally STO but not STS, we’d fail to take care of our basic needs and would probably die from neglecting our health. In order to be optimally STS, you must be at least partially STO. And in order to be optimally STO, you must be at least partially STS. Sometimes being selfish is the most selfless thing you can do, and vice versa. If you want to serve the greater good, you have to serve your own needs. You have to take care of your health, your financial needs, your education, etc. If you want to serve your own interests, you need to support the community around you which will help you succeed. At the very least you may do this financially, by buying products and services from other people. Diagnosing congruency problems STS and STO must remain in balance. It isn’t a matter of choosing one path over the other. You need both. But what about situations when they’re in conflict? Certainly I don’t deny such situations exist. But rather than spending lots of time trying to figure out when to choose STS and when to choose STO, I suggest trying to work on your life path itself to bring STS and STO into greater harmony. For example, suppose you’re in a situation where your job is almost entirely STS. You do it for the money or for other perks or for a feeling of security, but your work doesn’t serve the greater good in any meaningful way. Suppose your company manufactures junk food, the kinds of products that are only going to harm people’s health in the long run. But your company (and you) get paid to do it. Then in your off time, you do volunteer work, spend lots of time with your family, and so on. In your personal life you try to be a lot more STO. STS and STO are in conflict. They’re not in balance. How many companies do you know like this? The work they do is almost entirely STS, serving the needs of the company and its investors, but then they also dabble in community service projects and slap a cutesy mission statement over the whole thing. Internally they’re driven by one set of values (mostly greed), while externally they project a different set of values (mostly service). This is pure schizophrenia. If you find yourself in a situation like this, you can start by getting clear about where you’re overly STS and where you’re overly STO. Where are you being driven too much by self-interest and damaging others in the process? And where are you sacrificing too much and hurting yourself? No cheating When many people find themselves in an unbalanced situation, they try to cheat. They attempt to redefine STS or STO to fit their current situation. For example, a greed-driven corporation may try to come up with a cutesy mission statement that casts an STO light on its business goals. But no one buys it. It’s nothing but a whitewash and has no real power to motivate people. Most of the corporate mission statements I’ve seen from Fortune 500 companies fall into this pattern. They’re written with such fuzzy, imprecise language so as to say nothing of substance. I’d give them more credit if their mission statements began with, “Our mission is to make our investors filthy rich and to squash our competition.” I think that would be a more accurate statement of purpose than what makes it through the PR filter. What happens to individuals who find themselves in an overly STS situation is that they try to rationalize some STO components. They try to find the good in what they do. Hey, at least I’m paying my taxes. If I don’t do this job, then someone else will. I’m just being a good provider. Don’t lie to yourself. You know the truth. Finding the path where STS and STO are congruent It’s not easy to find a path where STS and STO are congruent. But it is possible. On such a path, greed and service are both pointing you in the same direction. While you’ll still need to manage minor conflicts between them, the big picture is balanced. You’ll be able to see that pursuing STS and STO will take you down the same path. What is the greediest path you can take? I think if you answer this question deeply enough, you’ll find that it’s also a path filled with service. What is the path of greatest service? Is it not also a path marked by great pleasure? I hit the incongruency wall as I built up my games business. Parts of my work were STS (like sales and marketing). Other parts were STO (like writing free articles and coaching other developers). But each part seemed to be separate. I’d usually either be doing STS work or STO work. I’d even try to balance my time between the two of them. After several years of that, I began seeing that this manner of living was nuts. So I opted to define a new way of working where I could spend the majority of my time doing work that is both STS and STO. The greediest thing I do for myself is to work on my own personal growth. Growth is my driving force, my greatest STS. The most service oriented work I do is to help others grow. If I can give someone a perspective shift or teach them a new skill, it has the potential to change them for life. And then they may go out and use it to do more STO work. Well, it wasn’t hard for me to imagine the kind of work where I could have my cake and eat it too. I realized that there would be tremendous synergy between working on my own growth (greed) and helping others to grow (service). The more I work on my own growth, the greater my capacity for service. And the greater my service, the more it feeds back into my own growth. This was how I ideally imagined things working, but now that I’m about nine months down this path, I have to say that it’s working. For example, my decision to write this blog entry is motivated both by STS and STO reasons. On the STO side, hopefully this blog entry will benefit someone who reads it. It might have no effect, or it might help a lot of people. Also, this blog entry will help generate more traffic to this site, which will hopefully benefit even more people. And there’s tons of free content here now, so it’s very accessible to a wide audience. I have no doubt that this web site is doing people some good. Every week I get feedback to that effect. Many readers have told me about multiple shifts they’ve experienced and how dramatically their results have improved. Then there’s the STS side. Writing this blog entry helps me clarify my own ideas. It will generate feedback that will help me see what I’ve written from other perspectives. People may poke holes in some of it. This may in turn help me to re-evaluate my own thinking, which means that I’ll grow. The ideas from this blog post may also end up in a future book, speech, or seminar, which means that people who read it today are helping me beta-test these ideas. Also, each new blog post helps generate more traffic, which means more ad clicks (immediate revenue) and more newsletter sign-ups and RSS subscribers. That means a bigger audience to buy info products down the road — books, audio programs, seminars. It also means more people who might hire me as a speaker or who might attend a seminar of mine 5-10 years from now. And that ultimately means more income, which means that new growth experiences become accessible to me. New growth experiences for me means more ideas I can share with others, which feeds back into STO. So what I do is driven both by greed and service. To me they’re the same thing. Serving others is being greedy. Ongoing conflict resolution Whenever I encounter conflict between STS and STO, I look at the big picture. I try to figure out why the conflict is occurring and engineer it out of existence. It’s not easy, but I feel that the more I do this, the more harmonious my life becomes. For example, what if some mega-corporation offered to pay me an insane amount of money to give a motivational speech to their sales staff? And suppose this corporation’s purpose is totally incongruent with my values, so by helping their salespeople to sell more, I’d be contributing to a greater problem. Maybe the company has a hideous environmental record. This seems like a conflict between STS and STO. Do I take the money and give the best speech I can? Do I take the money and give the salespeople bad advice that will do them more harm than good? Do I decline the offer? Given my values this kind of situation is one that could very well occur (although the above example is a bit exaggerated). I have no interest in helping companies make money in a destructive manner, regardless of pay. But at the same time, I do want to help the people who work at such companies, and corporations hire enormous numbers of speakers each year, so it isn’t a market I want to write off entirely. My decision was to focus on the kinds of speech topics that would allow me to still speak for certain corporations without compromising my values. I won’t speak on business-growth topics like sales or marketing to corporations which I’d rather not see grow. But I am open to speaking to their people about topics like living consciously, the kinds of topics that could plant the seed for change. That may seriously reduce the number of people who’d be willing to hire me as a speaker, but the extra money is not worth the damage to my integrity. When you work on a task where STS and STO are both aligned, motivation skyrockets. Having worked like this for nine months now, I’m simply not willing to lose one side or the other. There’s a good chance you find yourself in a situation where STS and STO are in conflict. Maybe it’s your work, your relationship, or your family. Take some time to think about how you could set these two powerful forces in harmony. Instead of having them work against each other, set them both after the same goal. Allow your greed to fuel your service and your service to fuel your greed. Accept and integrate both the selfish and the selfless parts of you. Learn to use both the dark and the light sides of your nature.
    912 Posted by UniqueThis
  • Several readers have informed me they’re experiencing tremendous difficulty with the issue of selfishness vs. selflessness. Deep down they want to live lives of greater service to others (STO), but they note that their current lives are designed almost entirely around service to self (STS). This in turn often leads to feelings of guilt, but usually the guilt isn’t enough to spur action. There are abundant belief systems which set STS and STO in conflict with each other, usually favoring one over the other. First there’s the STO-favoring side. Serving others requires the “death of the self.” The ego is seen as something which must be transcended. In order to become enlightened, one must sacrifice one’s own needs to serve the greater good. Many societies hold people who seem to fit this model in high esteem. On the other hand, we have the STS side. People are inherently selfish and cannot be expected to act against their own self interest. Selfishness is rooted in our biology, even encoded into our genes. We’re ultimately Pavlovian stimulus-response machines driven by pleasure and pain. Those who seem to serve the greater good only do so because on some level it gives them pleasure, or they’d feel pain if they didn’t. I think both viewpoints are dysfunctional. They assume STS and STO are in conflict. But are they really? Where does STS ultimately lead? What would happen if you were to fully embrace the STS path and take it as far as you possibly could? What would be the most selfish life you could possible imagine? What’s the greatest pleasure you can think of? Would you become like Hitler and want to conquer the world and put everyone and everything under your control? Ok, so imagine you’ve just become the supreme leader of the planet. Then what? What would you do with all that power? If you didn’t have to keep struggling to maintain it, you’d probably get bored after a while. For many people the STS path is rooted in fear. The more money, control, and power you achieve, the more fearful you become of losing it. The pursuit of greater power is endless. Your situation is never totally secure. But what if you could somehow master this path and achieve total, absolute security? What would you do then? What would you do if you had no fear? Perhaps you’d want to contribute something… make some kind of difference… leave a legacy. If fear and security ceased to motivate you, then what would step in to take its place? I think the pursuit of STS, if you think it through far enough and imagine yourself succeeding at every step, will eventually lead you to some form of STO. Where does STO ultimately lead? But what if you start from STO? What if you put others entirely above yourself? What if you aspire to make the greatest possible contribution you can, whatever the cost to you personally? Where will that lead you? Imagine you succeed massively at serving others. You’ve cured every known disease, rebalanced the ecosystem, ended poverty and suffering, and maxed out everyone’s self-esteem. You’ve solved all the problems of humanity. No one even needs your help anymore. What will you do then? Enjoy it? Work on yourself for a while? Won’t this eventually lead you back to STS? Synergy between STS and STO Now I’m well aware that you’re not going to be able to max out the STS or the STO path within the span of a human lifetime. There will always be more to do on either side. But this line of thinking got me curious — if maxing out one side leads you back around to the other side, then what does that mean? To me this indicated that STS and STO both lie on the same path. When you travel to the end of one, you hit the beginning of the other. Perhaps STS and STO are far more twisted together, like a giant Mobius strip. Biologically this made sense to me. In order for humans to survive, STS and STO must be in balance. If we became totally STS but not STO, we wouldn’t care for our young (among other problems), and we’d eventually die off. If we became totally STO but not STS, we’d fail to take care of our basic needs and would probably die from neglecting our health. In order to be optimally STS, you must be at least partially STO. And in order to be optimally STO, you must be at least partially STS. Sometimes being selfish is the most selfless thing you can do, and vice versa. If you want to serve the greater good, you have to serve your own needs. You have to take care of your health, your financial needs, your education, etc. If you want to serve your own interests, you need to support the community around you which will help you succeed. At the very least you may do this financially, by buying products and services from other people. Diagnosing congruency problems STS and STO must remain in balance. It isn’t a matter of choosing one path over the other. You need both. But what about situations when they’re in conflict? Certainly I don’t deny such situations exist. But rather than spending lots of time trying to figure out when to choose STS and when to choose STO, I suggest trying to work on your life path itself to bring STS and STO into greater harmony. For example, suppose you’re in a situation where your job is almost entirely STS. You do it for the money or for other perks or for a feeling of security, but your work doesn’t serve the greater good in any meaningful way. Suppose your company manufactures junk food, the kinds of products that are only going to harm people’s health in the long run. But your company (and you) get paid to do it. Then in your off time, you do volunteer work, spend lots of time with your family, and so on. In your personal life you try to be a lot more STO. STS and STO are in conflict. They’re not in balance. How many companies do you know like this? The work they do is almost entirely STS, serving the needs of the company and its investors, but then they also dabble in community service projects and slap a cutesy mission statement over the whole thing. Internally they’re driven by one set of values (mostly greed), while externally they project a different set of values (mostly service). This is pure schizophrenia. If you find yourself in a situation like this, you can start by getting clear about where you’re overly STS and where you’re overly STO. Where are you being driven too much by self-interest and damaging others in the process? And where are you sacrificing too much and hurting yourself? No cheating When many people find themselves in an unbalanced situation, they try to cheat. They attempt to redefine STS or STO to fit their current situation. For example, a greed-driven corporation may try to come up with a cutesy mission statement that casts an STO light on its business goals. But no one buys it. It’s nothing but a whitewash and has no real power to motivate people. Most of the corporate mission statements I’ve seen from Fortune 500 companies fall into this pattern. They’re written with such fuzzy, imprecise language so as to say nothing of substance. I’d give them more credit if their mission statements began with, “Our mission is to make our investors filthy rich and to squash our competition.” I think that would be a more accurate statement of purpose than what makes it through the PR filter. What happens to individuals who find themselves in an overly STS situation is that they try to rationalize some STO components. They try to find the good in what they do. Hey, at least I’m paying my taxes. If I don’t do this job, then someone else will. I’m just being a good provider. Don’t lie to yourself. You know the truth. Finding the path where STS and STO are congruent It’s not easy to find a path where STS and STO are congruent. But it is possible. On such a path, greed and service are both pointing you in the same direction. While you’ll still need to manage minor conflicts between them, the big picture is balanced. You’ll be able to see that pursuing STS and STO will take you down the same path. What is the greediest path you can take? I think if you answer this question deeply enough, you’ll find that it’s also a path filled with service. What is the path of greatest service? Is it not also a path marked by great pleasure? I hit the incongruency wall as I built up my games business. Parts of my work were STS (like sales and marketing). Other parts were STO (like writing free articles and coaching other developers). But each part seemed to be separate. I’d usually either be doing STS work or STO work. I’d even try to balance my time between the two of them. After several years of that, I began seeing that this manner of living was nuts. So I opted to define a new way of working where I could spend the majority of my time doing work that is both STS and STO. The greediest thing I do for myself is to work on my own personal growth. Growth is my driving force, my greatest STS. The most service oriented work I do is to help others grow. If I can give someone a perspective shift or teach them a new skill, it has the potential to change them for life. And then they may go out and use it to do more STO work. Well, it wasn’t hard for me to imagine the kind of work where I could have my cake and eat it too. I realized that there would be tremendous synergy between working on my own growth (greed) and helping others to grow (service). The more I work on my own growth, the greater my capacity for service. And the greater my service, the more it feeds back into my own growth. This was how I ideally imagined things working, but now that I’m about nine months down this path, I have to say that it’s working. For example, my decision to write this blog entry is motivated both by STS and STO reasons. On the STO side, hopefully this blog entry will benefit someone who reads it. It might have no effect, or it might help a lot of people. Also, this blog entry will help generate more traffic to this site, which will hopefully benefit even more people. And there’s tons of free content here now, so it’s very accessible to a wide audience. I have no doubt that this web site is doing people some good. Every week I get feedback to that effect. Many readers have told me about multiple shifts they’ve experienced and how dramatically their results have improved. Then there’s the STS side. Writing this blog entry helps me clarify my own ideas. It will generate feedback that will help me see what I’ve written from other perspectives. People may poke holes in some of it. This may in turn help me to re-evaluate my own thinking, which means that I’ll grow. The ideas from this blog post may also end up in a future book, speech, or seminar, which means that people who read it today are helping me beta-test these ideas. Also, each new blog post helps generate more traffic, which means more ad clicks (immediate revenue) and more newsletter sign-ups and RSS subscribers. That means a bigger audience to buy info products down the road — books, audio programs, seminars. It also means more people who might hire me as a speaker or who might attend a seminar of mine 5-10 years from now. And that ultimately means more income, which means that new growth experiences become accessible to me. New growth experiences for me means more ideas I can share with others, which feeds back into STO. So what I do is driven both by greed and service. To me they’re the same thing. Serving others is being greedy. Ongoing conflict resolution Whenever I encounter conflict between STS and STO, I look at the big picture. I try to figure out why the conflict is occurring and engineer it out of existence. It’s not easy, but I feel that the more I do this, the more harmonious my life becomes. For example, what if some mega-corporation offered to pay me an insane amount of money to give a motivational speech to their sales staff? And suppose this corporation’s purpose is totally incongruent with my values, so by helping their salespeople to sell more, I’d be contributing to a greater problem. Maybe the company has a hideous environmental record. This seems like a conflict between STS and STO. Do I take the money and give the best speech I can? Do I take the money and give the salespeople bad advice that will do them more harm than good? Do I decline the offer? Given my values this kind of situation is one that could very well occur (although the above example is a bit exaggerated). I have no interest in helping companies make money in a destructive manner, regardless of pay. But at the same time, I do want to help the people who work at such companies, and corporations hire enormous numbers of speakers each year, so it isn’t a market I want to write off entirely. My decision was to focus on the kinds of speech topics that would allow me to still speak for certain corporations without compromising my values. I won’t speak on business-growth topics like sales or marketing to corporations which I’d rather not see grow. But I am open to speaking to their people about topics like living consciously, the kinds of topics that could plant the seed for change. That may seriously reduce the number of people who’d be willing to hire me as a speaker, but the extra money is not worth the damage to my integrity. When you work on a task where STS and STO are both aligned, motivation skyrockets. Having worked like this for nine months now, I’m simply not willing to lose one side or the other. There’s a good chance you find yourself in a situation where STS and STO are in conflict. Maybe it’s your work, your relationship, or your family. Take some time to think about how you could set these two powerful forces in harmony. Instead of having them work against each other, set them both after the same goal. Allow your greed to fuel your service and your service to fuel your greed. Accept and integrate both the selfish and the selfless parts of you. Learn to use both the dark and the light sides of your nature.
    Jul 12, 2011 912
  • 12 Jul 2011
    There’s a nice article in Fast Company about the ongoing quest for meaning in one’s work and career:  What Should I Do With My Life? This part of the article certainly resonates with my own musings on career: Those who are lit by that passion are the object of envy among their peers and the subject of intense curiosity. They are the source of good ideas. They make the extra effort. They demonstrate the commitment. They are the ones who, day by day, will rescue this drifting ship. And they will be rewarded. With money, sure, and responsibility, undoubtedly. But with something even better too: the kind of satisfaction that comes with knowing your place in the world. We are sitting on a huge potential boom in productivity — if we could just get the square pegs out of the round holes. Of course, addressing the question, What should I do with my life? isn’t just a productivity issue: It’s a moral imperative. It’s how we hold ourselves accountable to the opportunity we’re given. Most of us are blessed with the ultimate privilege: We get to be true to our individual nature. Our economy is so vast that we don’t have to grind it out forever at jobs we hate. For the most part, we get to choose. That choice isn’t about a career search so much as an identity quest. Asking The Question aspires to end the conflict between who you are and what you do. There is nothing more brave than filtering out the chatter that tells you to be someone you’re not. There is nothing more genuine than breaking away from the chorus to learn the sound of your own voice. Asking The Question is nothing short of an act of courage: It requires a level of commitment and clarity that is almost foreign to our working lives.
    819 Posted by UniqueThis
  • There’s a nice article in Fast Company about the ongoing quest for meaning in one’s work and career:  What Should I Do With My Life? This part of the article certainly resonates with my own musings on career: Those who are lit by that passion are the object of envy among their peers and the subject of intense curiosity. They are the source of good ideas. They make the extra effort. They demonstrate the commitment. They are the ones who, day by day, will rescue this drifting ship. And they will be rewarded. With money, sure, and responsibility, undoubtedly. But with something even better too: the kind of satisfaction that comes with knowing your place in the world. We are sitting on a huge potential boom in productivity — if we could just get the square pegs out of the round holes. Of course, addressing the question, What should I do with my life? isn’t just a productivity issue: It’s a moral imperative. It’s how we hold ourselves accountable to the opportunity we’re given. Most of us are blessed with the ultimate privilege: We get to be true to our individual nature. Our economy is so vast that we don’t have to grind it out forever at jobs we hate. For the most part, we get to choose. That choice isn’t about a career search so much as an identity quest. Asking The Question aspires to end the conflict between who you are and what you do. There is nothing more brave than filtering out the chatter that tells you to be someone you’re not. There is nothing more genuine than breaking away from the chorus to learn the sound of your own voice. Asking The Question is nothing short of an act of courage: It requires a level of commitment and clarity that is almost foreign to our working lives.
    Jul 12, 2011 819
  • 12 Jul 2011
    Lately I’ve been trying a promising new method for managing my time. It’s similar to timeboxing, except that instead of allocating a certain amount of time for a specific activity, I divide my total work time between three different classes of activities. Here’s how it works… First, I define three different classes of activities based on the time period in which I expect them to pay off. Classes of Tasks A tasks are expected to yield significant benefits over a 5-year time span and beyond. This could include starting a new business, writing a book, changing my diet, adding a new passive income stream, etc. It’s perfectly fine for an A task to start producing benefits in a shorter period of time, but the idea is that I expect such tasks to still be having a lasting impact 5+ years from now. This has to be a genuinely realistic expectation, not just wishful thinking. B tasks are expected to yield benefits over a 2-year timespan or less. This class may include writing a new series of articles or blog entries, selling an advertising package, or training to run a marathon. While there could be long-term benefits that extend for many years, the general expectation is that the benefits will be fully realized sometime within the first two years, and there won’t be much additional payoff beyond that. Think of these as one-shot projects. You do them once, gain the benefit, and move on. C tasks are expected to make a difference only in the timespan of 90 days or less. Most likely I won’t even remember the task or see evidence of its benefits beyond that time. This includes routine actions like answering email, paying bills, returning phone calls, and filing. If these tasks aren’t done, it might create problems down the road, but doing them well isn’t likely to yield a significant long-term payoff. There’s certainly some ambiguity in these definitions, but I’m OK with that because it allows for flexibility around the edges. The 50-30-20 for Time Allocation The 50-30-20 rule says that I spend 50% of my work time on A tasks, 30% on B tasks, and 20% on C tasks. For example, if I work 8 hours per day, that would mean 4 hours on A tasks, 2:24 on B tasks, and 1:36 on C tasks. The time boundary for C tasks is an upper limit. This means that I don’t spend more than 20% of my work time on C tasks; if I run out of time, I carry remaining C tasks over to the next day. The A task boundary is a lower limit, which means I must spend at least 50% of my work time on A tasks. The B class absorbs the slack if I go over 50% on A or under 20% on C. I’ve only been doing this for a few days now, and I can already see that it has a lot of potential. It’s similar to other task allocations like Stephen Covey’s four-quadrant approach, but it actually specifies how much time to invest in each type of activity. Although this can be done weekly, I find it best to make the time allocations daily when possible. But if I get overloaded with C tasks one day, I may do virtually none the next day to keep the right weekly balance. At first I found it very uncomfortable to spend so little time on C tasks, especially when I felt driven to check them off and get them off my task list. But I could see I was spending too much time on C tasks relative to their worth, while high priority A tasks were being sacrificed. When I look at a task and see that it will have virtually no impact beyond the current week or month, it helps me see that relatively speaking, the task is a waste of time. I don’t have time to complete every single task on my to do list, so I have to sacrifice a lot of good tasks in order to invest sufficient time in the best ones. Simply doing what comes up each day is incredibly suboptimal — I know because I’ve tried it. As previously mentioned I’ve been getting a lot of email lately due to the increase in traffic this year, more than I can personally answer. However, virtually all email falls into the C class. It’s often urgent but rarely anywhere near the importance of A tasks. If I were to respond appropriately to all the email I get, it would consume most of my working hours. Whether I do a great job of answering email or a lousy job, it’s not going to make that much difference in where I’ll end up 5 years from now. Spending more time on email won’t help me accomplish my most important goals except through luck or chance. So I steal time from this area and reallocate it to A and B tasks, since those tasks are actually likely to have a significant long-term impact. One of my current A tasks is setting new goals for 2006. This could have a significant long-term impact based on which goals I choose. I’ll be spending at least a couple hours on this task today. Writing a blog entry like this falls into my B class. I’m sure visitors will still be reading this blog entry beyond 90 days, but I can’t predict in advance whether this entry will have a significant impact beyond five years. It’s the long-term strategy of writing and content development (A task) that makes the difference in this time span. The longer the time perspective, the less important any individual blog post becomes. Processing today’s email is one of my C tasks for today. I probably won’t spend more than 15 minutes total on email. This means that I’ll only have enough time to respond to perhaps 1-2 emails out of every 10 (not counting spam). I’m still able to read it all and extract ideas and suggestions, but my writing time is better spent producing articles to be seen by thousands of people rather than individual emails to be seen by only one person. Sacrificing the Urgent for the Important Sometimes it’s hard to sacrifice those C tasks. I’ve been using email since 1989, and this is really the first year where I’ve had to triage my email so ruthlessly in order to free up time for higher priority tasks. It isn’t easy to follow, but I like that this system helps me stay focused on tasks which have significant long-term potential instead of those that will merely be forgotten. By limiting my C tasks to a certain amount of time each day, I create plenty of space for my A tasks. If you find yourself not getting ahead after years of hard work, perhaps it’s because too much of your time is focused on short-term C tasks like answering email, attending meetings, and filling out paperwork. Maybe you could afford to spend less time on those activities in order to reinvest it in what matters most. Otherwise those little tasks will crowd out the more important ones; the time pressure of C tasks will see to that. The ratio of 50-30-20 ratio is arbitrary, but it feels about right for me. It gives me enough time to stay on top of the truly urgent, while I’m still putting a lot of time behind the scenes into projects I expect will make a real difference down the road. You may wish to vary these percentages based on the nature of your work and your goals. What’s important is that we remain consciously aware of how our time is being invested. Rebalancing Your Time Portfolio If you’re familiar with stock investing, think of this model as your portfolio allocation across different levels of risk. Your A tasks are your high risk, high return investments that may see a lot of short-term volatility, but in the long run, you expect they’ll pay off better than any other type of investment. These are your aggressive growth stocks. The C tasks are your safe, secure investments like a bank savings account. And the B tasks fall in the mid-range. If you haven’t been paying attention to your portfolio for a while, it’s a good idea to go back and rebalance your allocations. The reason to invest in A tasks is to capitalize on long-term opportunities. These are the whale projects that could make an enormous positive difference in your life. Examples from my life are starting my businesses, getting married, and going vegan. It’s hard to spend too much time on these types of tasks. Ideally we want to invest as much time here as we can manage. The reason to invest in C tasks is to prevent problems. C tasks keep you out of trouble. You should spend only a minimal amount of time on them… just whatever is necessary to prevent serious problems. This includes paying your bills on time, doing your taxes, and doing a reasonable job of keeping up on your communication. In most cases there’s no real benefit to doing a great job vs. doing an adequate job — the time difference would be better reallocated to A and B tasks. B tasks usually fall between A and C tasks. They help keep you out of trouble, but they also help you get ahead slightly. They entail moderate risk and offer moderate rewards. They often help reduce the need for C tasks and free up more time for A tasks. Organizing and optimizing would usually fall into the B class. B tasks help put you in a position to capitalize on bigger A task opportunities. Reading this blog entry is probably a B-class activity for you. You might find one good idea now and then which will help put you into a position to do more A tasks and fewer C tasks. Outside of my work time activities, I also have a personal tasks list. This includes family and home activities. I haven’t yet tried prioritizing those according to the 50-30-20 rule, but if it works well for my business, I might also try it for my personal life. If you want to try this system for a week, simply divide your to do list by putting an A, B, or C next to each task on your to do list. Then grab a scrap of paper, and make three columns or boxes for tracking how much time you spend on A, B, and C. Estimate how much time you expect to work each day (breaks don’t count), and then calculate the time limits for each class. If you want to use a ratio other than 50-30-20, feel free. As you go through your workday, use a stopwatch to time each activity, and then record the elapsed time in your A, B, or C columns. At the end of the day, add up the times, and then calculate your percentages to see how you did. The first day or two you may want to just measure your current ratio without actually trying to change anything. Most likely you’ll find an imbalance you’d like to correct. For example, if you see your actual ratio is something like 10-10-80, you know you’re just spinning your wheels and aren’t going to make much progress in your career. So you might want to look at those C tasks and see which ones can be reduced, delayed, or cut in order to free up more time for A and B tasks. Even the mere act of measuring will raise your awareness of where your time is going. The more time you’re spending on A tasks, the better. If you find that you’re overwhelmed with C tasks, steal as much time as you can from them and devote it to B tasks. Use your B time to become more organized and effective, such that you aren’t as urgency driven. Then you can devote some of that savings to A tasks. It’s perfectly OK to change your ratio over time. If you’re at 10-10-80, you may not be able to jump straight over to 50-30-20. You might need to first attempt 5-40-55 and then 20-50-30 to get those C tasks tamed. In the long run, it’s the A tasks that make or break us. If we don’t do them, we essentially let our potential go to waste. Who wants to devote the bulk of their lives to answering email and paying bills? We need to keep such tasks from taking over our lives, so we have time to tackle the truly great challenges that can make a real difference to us… and to the world.
    705 Posted by UniqueThis
  • Lately I’ve been trying a promising new method for managing my time. It’s similar to timeboxing, except that instead of allocating a certain amount of time for a specific activity, I divide my total work time between three different classes of activities. Here’s how it works… First, I define three different classes of activities based on the time period in which I expect them to pay off. Classes of Tasks A tasks are expected to yield significant benefits over a 5-year time span and beyond. This could include starting a new business, writing a book, changing my diet, adding a new passive income stream, etc. It’s perfectly fine for an A task to start producing benefits in a shorter period of time, but the idea is that I expect such tasks to still be having a lasting impact 5+ years from now. This has to be a genuinely realistic expectation, not just wishful thinking. B tasks are expected to yield benefits over a 2-year timespan or less. This class may include writing a new series of articles or blog entries, selling an advertising package, or training to run a marathon. While there could be long-term benefits that extend for many years, the general expectation is that the benefits will be fully realized sometime within the first two years, and there won’t be much additional payoff beyond that. Think of these as one-shot projects. You do them once, gain the benefit, and move on. C tasks are expected to make a difference only in the timespan of 90 days or less. Most likely I won’t even remember the task or see evidence of its benefits beyond that time. This includes routine actions like answering email, paying bills, returning phone calls, and filing. If these tasks aren’t done, it might create problems down the road, but doing them well isn’t likely to yield a significant long-term payoff. There’s certainly some ambiguity in these definitions, but I’m OK with that because it allows for flexibility around the edges. The 50-30-20 for Time Allocation The 50-30-20 rule says that I spend 50% of my work time on A tasks, 30% on B tasks, and 20% on C tasks. For example, if I work 8 hours per day, that would mean 4 hours on A tasks, 2:24 on B tasks, and 1:36 on C tasks. The time boundary for C tasks is an upper limit. This means that I don’t spend more than 20% of my work time on C tasks; if I run out of time, I carry remaining C tasks over to the next day. The A task boundary is a lower limit, which means I must spend at least 50% of my work time on A tasks. The B class absorbs the slack if I go over 50% on A or under 20% on C. I’ve only been doing this for a few days now, and I can already see that it has a lot of potential. It’s similar to other task allocations like Stephen Covey’s four-quadrant approach, but it actually specifies how much time to invest in each type of activity. Although this can be done weekly, I find it best to make the time allocations daily when possible. But if I get overloaded with C tasks one day, I may do virtually none the next day to keep the right weekly balance. At first I found it very uncomfortable to spend so little time on C tasks, especially when I felt driven to check them off and get them off my task list. But I could see I was spending too much time on C tasks relative to their worth, while high priority A tasks were being sacrificed. When I look at a task and see that it will have virtually no impact beyond the current week or month, it helps me see that relatively speaking, the task is a waste of time. I don’t have time to complete every single task on my to do list, so I have to sacrifice a lot of good tasks in order to invest sufficient time in the best ones. Simply doing what comes up each day is incredibly suboptimal — I know because I’ve tried it. As previously mentioned I’ve been getting a lot of email lately due to the increase in traffic this year, more than I can personally answer. However, virtually all email falls into the C class. It’s often urgent but rarely anywhere near the importance of A tasks. If I were to respond appropriately to all the email I get, it would consume most of my working hours. Whether I do a great job of answering email or a lousy job, it’s not going to make that much difference in where I’ll end up 5 years from now. Spending more time on email won’t help me accomplish my most important goals except through luck or chance. So I steal time from this area and reallocate it to A and B tasks, since those tasks are actually likely to have a significant long-term impact. One of my current A tasks is setting new goals for 2006. This could have a significant long-term impact based on which goals I choose. I’ll be spending at least a couple hours on this task today. Writing a blog entry like this falls into my B class. I’m sure visitors will still be reading this blog entry beyond 90 days, but I can’t predict in advance whether this entry will have a significant impact beyond five years. It’s the long-term strategy of writing and content development (A task) that makes the difference in this time span. The longer the time perspective, the less important any individual blog post becomes. Processing today’s email is one of my C tasks for today. I probably won’t spend more than 15 minutes total on email. This means that I’ll only have enough time to respond to perhaps 1-2 emails out of every 10 (not counting spam). I’m still able to read it all and extract ideas and suggestions, but my writing time is better spent producing articles to be seen by thousands of people rather than individual emails to be seen by only one person. Sacrificing the Urgent for the Important Sometimes it’s hard to sacrifice those C tasks. I’ve been using email since 1989, and this is really the first year where I’ve had to triage my email so ruthlessly in order to free up time for higher priority tasks. It isn’t easy to follow, but I like that this system helps me stay focused on tasks which have significant long-term potential instead of those that will merely be forgotten. By limiting my C tasks to a certain amount of time each day, I create plenty of space for my A tasks. If you find yourself not getting ahead after years of hard work, perhaps it’s because too much of your time is focused on short-term C tasks like answering email, attending meetings, and filling out paperwork. Maybe you could afford to spend less time on those activities in order to reinvest it in what matters most. Otherwise those little tasks will crowd out the more important ones; the time pressure of C tasks will see to that. The ratio of 50-30-20 ratio is arbitrary, but it feels about right for me. It gives me enough time to stay on top of the truly urgent, while I’m still putting a lot of time behind the scenes into projects I expect will make a real difference down the road. You may wish to vary these percentages based on the nature of your work and your goals. What’s important is that we remain consciously aware of how our time is being invested. Rebalancing Your Time Portfolio If you’re familiar with stock investing, think of this model as your portfolio allocation across different levels of risk. Your A tasks are your high risk, high return investments that may see a lot of short-term volatility, but in the long run, you expect they’ll pay off better than any other type of investment. These are your aggressive growth stocks. The C tasks are your safe, secure investments like a bank savings account. And the B tasks fall in the mid-range. If you haven’t been paying attention to your portfolio for a while, it’s a good idea to go back and rebalance your allocations. The reason to invest in A tasks is to capitalize on long-term opportunities. These are the whale projects that could make an enormous positive difference in your life. Examples from my life are starting my businesses, getting married, and going vegan. It’s hard to spend too much time on these types of tasks. Ideally we want to invest as much time here as we can manage. The reason to invest in C tasks is to prevent problems. C tasks keep you out of trouble. You should spend only a minimal amount of time on them… just whatever is necessary to prevent serious problems. This includes paying your bills on time, doing your taxes, and doing a reasonable job of keeping up on your communication. In most cases there’s no real benefit to doing a great job vs. doing an adequate job — the time difference would be better reallocated to A and B tasks. B tasks usually fall between A and C tasks. They help keep you out of trouble, but they also help you get ahead slightly. They entail moderate risk and offer moderate rewards. They often help reduce the need for C tasks and free up more time for A tasks. Organizing and optimizing would usually fall into the B class. B tasks help put you in a position to capitalize on bigger A task opportunities. Reading this blog entry is probably a B-class activity for you. You might find one good idea now and then which will help put you into a position to do more A tasks and fewer C tasks. Outside of my work time activities, I also have a personal tasks list. This includes family and home activities. I haven’t yet tried prioritizing those according to the 50-30-20 rule, but if it works well for my business, I might also try it for my personal life. If you want to try this system for a week, simply divide your to do list by putting an A, B, or C next to each task on your to do list. Then grab a scrap of paper, and make three columns or boxes for tracking how much time you spend on A, B, and C. Estimate how much time you expect to work each day (breaks don’t count), and then calculate the time limits for each class. If you want to use a ratio other than 50-30-20, feel free. As you go through your workday, use a stopwatch to time each activity, and then record the elapsed time in your A, B, or C columns. At the end of the day, add up the times, and then calculate your percentages to see how you did. The first day or two you may want to just measure your current ratio without actually trying to change anything. Most likely you’ll find an imbalance you’d like to correct. For example, if you see your actual ratio is something like 10-10-80, you know you’re just spinning your wheels and aren’t going to make much progress in your career. So you might want to look at those C tasks and see which ones can be reduced, delayed, or cut in order to free up more time for A and B tasks. Even the mere act of measuring will raise your awareness of where your time is going. The more time you’re spending on A tasks, the better. If you find that you’re overwhelmed with C tasks, steal as much time as you can from them and devote it to B tasks. Use your B time to become more organized and effective, such that you aren’t as urgency driven. Then you can devote some of that savings to A tasks. It’s perfectly OK to change your ratio over time. If you’re at 10-10-80, you may not be able to jump straight over to 50-30-20. You might need to first attempt 5-40-55 and then 20-50-30 to get those C tasks tamed. In the long run, it’s the A tasks that make or break us. If we don’t do them, we essentially let our potential go to waste. Who wants to devote the bulk of their lives to answering email and paying bills? We need to keep such tasks from taking over our lives, so we have time to tackle the truly great challenges that can make a real difference to us… and to the world.
    Jul 12, 2011 705
  • 12 Jul 2011
    There’s been a lot of writing about New Years’ resolutions in the blogosphere lately.  That isn’t a bad thing; however, there are a couple problems with the way most people make New Years’ resolutions. First, most people treat their NYRs as mere wishes, not as actual resolutions.  They don’t resolve or commit to anything, and you can sense that lack of commitment in the language they use and the (lack of) actions they take.  You might see someone take a half-step like signing up for a gym membership, but an over the top commitment is rare. Secondly, resolutions are something you should feel free to make at any time, not just at the start of a new year.  It’s funny that people will think about their NYRs in mid-December and then wait until Jan 1st to get started.  If you conceive of a resolution in mid-December, then begin it then.  Don’t wait for some arbitrary date to occur.  If it’s worth doing, it’s worth doing now. Despite these common drawbacks, NYRs can be very effective if you make a big commitment to them.  One of the most effective for me has been committing to take a certain measurable action every single day for the whole year — no exceptions.  For example, in 1997 I made an NYR to exercise aerobically a minimum of 25 minutes every single day.  No excuses.  The most vivid memory of that commitment was when I was out late all day and had to go running at 3am in the rain while I had a cold and was very sleepy.  Funny how I still remember that run almost nine years later.  I succeeded in keeping that resolution, and with each day it became harder to quit.  Because the resolution was so binary (either I exercised 25 minutes or I didn’t), I couldn’t justify any kind of slip.  It was also very achievable.  If I could exercise 25 minutes one day, I could do it the next day.  In actuality I exercised even more than this, since I was taking Tae Kwon Do classes at the time too, and I didn’t count those towards the resolution.  There were many times I could have made excuses to skip exercise, but my commitment was more important to me. Often a brainless, repetitive action like exercising 25 minutes every day will produce better results than a more complicated plan, especially if the latter never gets properly implemented.  Keep in mind that you can always do more.  You can always add complexity later.  But having a brainless default strategy is a great fallback to avoid fooling yourself. An approach I like better than NYRs is to think openly about what kind of year I’d like to have.  I do this at all times of year, not just on Jan 1st.  I take time to develop clarity about the nature of the road ahead.  Journaling about my thoughts and perceptions is especially helpful. For example, in October 2004 when I started this new web site, I knew my primary focus for the rest of that year and for 2005 would be making the transition away from game publishing and getting my new business running smoothly.  This meant creating lots of content, building web traffic, expanding my network of contacts, and generating new income streams.  The main goal was to reach the point of sustainable profitability. But now that I’ve reached that point, my primary aim has shifted.  I’ve taken a look around, assessed this new location, and from here I can see that it’s time to take a few months to work on my clarity, vision, and inner development.  I’m going to be spending more time working on myself these next few months vs. working directly on the business.  Partly this is also a time for me to celebrate and enjoy the new reality I’ve created.  This is a time for meditation, reading books on spirituality and philosophy, long walks, massages, journaling, trying new recipes, stimulating conversations, decluttering, spending time with family and friends, playing games, going out and having fun, vacationing, imagining, visualizing, pondering, etc.  I’ll be taking some time to allow the results of the past year to sink in, to incubate some new ideas to achieve greater clarity, and to work on my inner development so I can become capable of taking those next steps. Even though most people wouldn’t consider this to be “work” in the traditional sense, I don’t define my career in traditional terms.  I define hard work as doing what challenges me, not as difficult labor.  Slowing down and taking time to work on my own inner development has been a real challenge for me, which is why I’m making that my main focus right now.  I need a period of saw-sharpening and personal renewal.  To me this is a very appropriate part of my purpose.  It’s not really a time of rest per se — that would mean putting the saw down.  It’s a shift in focus from working on my outer world to working on my inner one. Spiritually I think of this period as a time of releasing and purging low-awareness energies from my life in order to allow myself to become more receptive to higher-awareness ones.  That’s a new agey way of describing it, but the same idea can be translated into any spiritual belief system.  I just happen to like the new agey terms. Fortunately I designed my business to be very easy to maintain.  I’ll still be blogging during this time, although perhaps with a more relaxed pacing.  If I wanted to though, I could basically do nothing for the next few months and still enjoy a positive cashflow.  That’s a wonderful place to be, and I plan to take advantage of it.  I love the fact that while I was out with my family having fun on Monday, this web site was still actively serving thousands of people around the world and generating plenty of cash to cover my expenses. After this incubation period, I expect to set some new goals, much grander than anything I’ve previously set for myself, and then go after them with a renewed passion and energy.  But before doing that I want to become even more clear about my purpose and how I’m going to manifest it. The most important part of this process is trusting my intuition.  Often my logical mind wants to keep going in the same direction while my intuitive sense is signaling a turn.  My logical mind looks at my to do list and wants me to go even faster, but my intuition is clear that it’s time to slow down and focus on inner development.  Otherwise I risk being internally unprepared for what lies ahead. What kind of year do you want to have?  What do you intuitively feel is the right direction for you?  Do you feel great about your current direction, or is your intuition signaling a turn? Even if you don’t feel you can heed its guidance, at least take some time to listen to what your intuition is telling you.  Journal about it.  How would you intuitively like to spend the next few months?  What kind of year do you want to have?  If you choose to ignore your intuition, that’s your choice.  But make a written record of your intuitive guidance today, so you can look back on it later once you’ve seen the results of your decision.  If you don’t have a journal, just create a text file on your computer, type up what you feel your intuition is telling you, save it, and then put a note on your calendar six months from now to go back and re-read it.  When you look back with hindsight, was your intuition correct? When you do this a few times and see that your intuition was often correct in the long run (even when it contradicted your logical mind), you’ll be more likely to trust it.  And this will create a bridge between your logic and intuition, so that instead of giving you different signals, they’ll begin to communicate more openly.  Your logical mind will turn its attention towards understanding your intuition and will actually develop a respect for it.  Then when you have a conflict, your logical mind might even say, “Well, I think we should do X, but she thinks we should do Y, so you should probably listen to her.”
    676 Posted by UniqueThis
  • There’s been a lot of writing about New Years’ resolutions in the blogosphere lately.  That isn’t a bad thing; however, there are a couple problems with the way most people make New Years’ resolutions. First, most people treat their NYRs as mere wishes, not as actual resolutions.  They don’t resolve or commit to anything, and you can sense that lack of commitment in the language they use and the (lack of) actions they take.  You might see someone take a half-step like signing up for a gym membership, but an over the top commitment is rare. Secondly, resolutions are something you should feel free to make at any time, not just at the start of a new year.  It’s funny that people will think about their NYRs in mid-December and then wait until Jan 1st to get started.  If you conceive of a resolution in mid-December, then begin it then.  Don’t wait for some arbitrary date to occur.  If it’s worth doing, it’s worth doing now. Despite these common drawbacks, NYRs can be very effective if you make a big commitment to them.  One of the most effective for me has been committing to take a certain measurable action every single day for the whole year — no exceptions.  For example, in 1997 I made an NYR to exercise aerobically a minimum of 25 minutes every single day.  No excuses.  The most vivid memory of that commitment was when I was out late all day and had to go running at 3am in the rain while I had a cold and was very sleepy.  Funny how I still remember that run almost nine years later.  I succeeded in keeping that resolution, and with each day it became harder to quit.  Because the resolution was so binary (either I exercised 25 minutes or I didn’t), I couldn’t justify any kind of slip.  It was also very achievable.  If I could exercise 25 minutes one day, I could do it the next day.  In actuality I exercised even more than this, since I was taking Tae Kwon Do classes at the time too, and I didn’t count those towards the resolution.  There were many times I could have made excuses to skip exercise, but my commitment was more important to me. Often a brainless, repetitive action like exercising 25 minutes every day will produce better results than a more complicated plan, especially if the latter never gets properly implemented.  Keep in mind that you can always do more.  You can always add complexity later.  But having a brainless default strategy is a great fallback to avoid fooling yourself. An approach I like better than NYRs is to think openly about what kind of year I’d like to have.  I do this at all times of year, not just on Jan 1st.  I take time to develop clarity about the nature of the road ahead.  Journaling about my thoughts and perceptions is especially helpful. For example, in October 2004 when I started this new web site, I knew my primary focus for the rest of that year and for 2005 would be making the transition away from game publishing and getting my new business running smoothly.  This meant creating lots of content, building web traffic, expanding my network of contacts, and generating new income streams.  The main goal was to reach the point of sustainable profitability. But now that I’ve reached that point, my primary aim has shifted.  I’ve taken a look around, assessed this new location, and from here I can see that it’s time to take a few months to work on my clarity, vision, and inner development.  I’m going to be spending more time working on myself these next few months vs. working directly on the business.  Partly this is also a time for me to celebrate and enjoy the new reality I’ve created.  This is a time for meditation, reading books on spirituality and philosophy, long walks, massages, journaling, trying new recipes, stimulating conversations, decluttering, spending time with family and friends, playing games, going out and having fun, vacationing, imagining, visualizing, pondering, etc.  I’ll be taking some time to allow the results of the past year to sink in, to incubate some new ideas to achieve greater clarity, and to work on my inner development so I can become capable of taking those next steps. Even though most people wouldn’t consider this to be “work” in the traditional sense, I don’t define my career in traditional terms.  I define hard work as doing what challenges me, not as difficult labor.  Slowing down and taking time to work on my own inner development has been a real challenge for me, which is why I’m making that my main focus right now.  I need a period of saw-sharpening and personal renewal.  To me this is a very appropriate part of my purpose.  It’s not really a time of rest per se — that would mean putting the saw down.  It’s a shift in focus from working on my outer world to working on my inner one. Spiritually I think of this period as a time of releasing and purging low-awareness energies from my life in order to allow myself to become more receptive to higher-awareness ones.  That’s a new agey way of describing it, but the same idea can be translated into any spiritual belief system.  I just happen to like the new agey terms. Fortunately I designed my business to be very easy to maintain.  I’ll still be blogging during this time, although perhaps with a more relaxed pacing.  If I wanted to though, I could basically do nothing for the next few months and still enjoy a positive cashflow.  That’s a wonderful place to be, and I plan to take advantage of it.  I love the fact that while I was out with my family having fun on Monday, this web site was still actively serving thousands of people around the world and generating plenty of cash to cover my expenses. After this incubation period, I expect to set some new goals, much grander than anything I’ve previously set for myself, and then go after them with a renewed passion and energy.  But before doing that I want to become even more clear about my purpose and how I’m going to manifest it. The most important part of this process is trusting my intuition.  Often my logical mind wants to keep going in the same direction while my intuitive sense is signaling a turn.  My logical mind looks at my to do list and wants me to go even faster, but my intuition is clear that it’s time to slow down and focus on inner development.  Otherwise I risk being internally unprepared for what lies ahead. What kind of year do you want to have?  What do you intuitively feel is the right direction for you?  Do you feel great about your current direction, or is your intuition signaling a turn? Even if you don’t feel you can heed its guidance, at least take some time to listen to what your intuition is telling you.  Journal about it.  How would you intuitively like to spend the next few months?  What kind of year do you want to have?  If you choose to ignore your intuition, that’s your choice.  But make a written record of your intuitive guidance today, so you can look back on it later once you’ve seen the results of your decision.  If you don’t have a journal, just create a text file on your computer, type up what you feel your intuition is telling you, save it, and then put a note on your calendar six months from now to go back and re-read it.  When you look back with hindsight, was your intuition correct? When you do this a few times and see that your intuition was often correct in the long run (even when it contradicted your logical mind), you’ll be more likely to trust it.  And this will create a bridge between your logic and intuition, so that instead of giving you different signals, they’ll begin to communicate more openly.  Your logical mind will turn its attention towards understanding your intuition and will actually develop a respect for it.  Then when you have a conflict, your logical mind might even say, “Well, I think we should do X, but she thinks we should do Y, so you should probably listen to her.”
    Jul 12, 2011 676
  • 12 Jul 2011
    One of the most basic ways to grow as a human being is to try something new. Do something you’ve never done before. New situations challenge us. Our brains have to work at full capacity to understand new patterns instead of just rerunning old ones. In completely new situations, we’re like fish out of water. It may feel uncomfortable and awkward, and our performance will probably be lousy. But this is a terrific way to grow. This is the kind of challenge our neural nets were made for. How much newness do you experience in your life? Are you frequently meeting new people, finding yourself in new situations, and getting out of your comfort zone? Are you doing things that make you feel awkward? One of my favorite expressions is: There never was a winner who wasn’t at some point a beginner. I first heard it from Denis Waitley. This is a great reminder that if we wish to grow, we have to endure that awkward beginner phase. I remember the first speech I gave in Toastmasters in the Summer of 2004. I thought it was a pretty good speech. Now I look back on it and shudder at how bad it was, at least compared to what I’m capable of doing now. I was not a natural at speaking. I had to work very hard to become decent at it. I’ve invested hundreds of hours on developing my speaking skills since then, and I still have a lot more work to do. The 90-minute workshop I delivered on Monday took me about 30 hours to prepare. That’s a lot of time to invest in a presentation that will only be delivered once for free, but I did it mainly for the experience and to help other people stretch themselves as well. People in Toastmasters who compete at the top level of the International Speech Contest will frequently spend hundreds of hours refining a single 7-minute speech. I’ve gotten many compliments on my writing, especially this year, but I wasn’t born a good writer. I remember my first writing assignment as a freshman in high school English. I thought I did a pretty good job on it, and I was shocked when it came back with a C+. I had always gotten As and Bs in elementary school. But my high school English teacher had much higher standards. I had him for two years, and I had to work really hard to earn an A in his class, but that’s where I really learned to write. In high school I was far more interested in computers than I was in writing. Even then I knew I wanted to be a computer programmer. But I thought it might be good to develop my writing skills too, just in case. Instead of telling myself, “I’m never going to use this,” I thought, “This might come in handy some day.” That attitude helped me earn As in every class, and I took every honors class that was offered. I also served as captain of my school’s first Academic Decathlon team and President of the Math Club because I thought some leadership experience might be useful to me later, and that turned out to be true as well. Instead of saying, “I’m never going to use this,” say to yourself, “This might come in handy some day.” I’ve found ways to combine skills in ways I never anticipated at the time I first learned them. For example, I taught myself to juggle when I was a teenager. Juggling takes a lot of practice to learn, but once you learn it, it’s like riding a bicycle — it becomes a skill you’ll always have. Last year I was giving a speech that opened with a story about juggling different parts of our lives, so I juggled some tennis balls as I told the story. It went over well and gave the story a stronger impact. Two of my most well-developed skills are writing and computer programming. I can communicate equally well with both humans and computers, and I’m just as comfortable typing in English as I am in PHP or C++. I can write about technology and programming, and I can also use my programming skills to create the vehicle for my writing (this web site). Plus I’ve been using the Internet since 1989, long before the days of the web, so I have lots of experience with online technology. Together these skills allow me to do things that would be much harder or more costly to achieve if I focused on only one primary skill set. Sometimes I almost randomly pick something I don’t know much about and then just dive in and learn it. If it doesn’t hold my interest, I’ll stop after learning the basics and move onto something else. But if I like it, I’ll stick with it for a while. It’s possible to learn very quickly if you can get past the fear of being a beginner. I give myself permission to completely suck for a while whenever I try something new. By making it OK to be a beginner, I remain open to learning. No matter how good my skills get in any area of life, I never allow myself to think of myself as too much of an expert on anything. I don’t let my ego get wrapped up in my results. Ego just gets in the way of learning. When you tell yourself you’re an expert, you close your mind to many learning experiences. Some of the things I’ve learned (to various degrees of skills) include: Tae Kwon Do, feng shui, wine tasting, tennis, distance running, weight training, raw gourmet cooking, French, game design & programming, computer animation, database design, web site development, search engine optimization, marketing, selling, intellectual property law, optimization, leadership, planning, organizing, advanced math, physics, philosophy, relationships, investing, humor, public speaking, meditation, podcasting, sound effects editing, business, nutrition, first aid & CPR, camping, archery, model rocketry, RC car racing, wilderness survival, mythology, role-playing, electrical engineering, and obviously personal development. I’m insatiably curious. I’m going to an improv comedy show tonight, and if I like what I see, I’ll sign up to take some improv comedy classes. When I see a show like Whose Line Is It Anyway? I’m amazed at how those people can come up with funny things to say off the top of their heads, especially in front of an audience. We did some improv exercises in Toastmasters (since a couple members belong to the Vegas improv group), and I found them very challenging. Imagine having to make up a song in front of an audience in a matter of seconds. I figure that if I can learn to do that, everything else I do with respect to public speaking will seem much easier. When you keep branching out and learning new things, especially those that are a real stretch for you, you also develop the skill of learning itself. And that’s an extremely potent skill to have. I’ve been through this process so many times that I’m able to learn new things very quickly now. No matter what I attempt, I’m never any good when I first start out. My initial performance is no better than anyone else’s, and sometimes it’s horrific. I don’t seem to be a natural at anything. But I try to move quickly in the beginning and get those first several attempts out of the way. This gives me a long list of things I need to correct. I go to work on those elements via private practice until I feel I’ve just risen above the level of total idiot. Then more performing, more feedback, and more private practice. The faster I cycle, the sooner I develop some basic competence. Ego has no place in this process. It’s perfectly OK to be bad at something. If you aren’t doing things you suck at, you aren’t challenging yourself enough. Go out and have some fun failing. What I enjoy about failing in group activities is that I get to watch other people succeed. I revel in other people’s talents. For example, while I’m almost certainly going to stink at improv comedy when I first attempt it, at least I’ll enjoy a lot of laughs from watching the other skilled performers. When I was a yellow belt in Tae Kwon Do and just learning to spar, I got to watch some wonderful matches between black belts. When I first joined Toastmasters, I got to see some great speeches, even when my own were rather dull. So if you’re going to stink for a while, perhaps you can at least be entertained. I love watching talented people perform at their best. They serve as an inspiration for me to do better. If there’s one thing I want to be the best in the world at, it would be growth itself. I’m excited by all the new things I’ve yet to experience on this planet. Some of the things I’d love to try but have never done include skydiving, parasailing, bungee jumping, scuba diving, race car driving, and rock climbing. I hope my insurance agent isn’t reading this. Don’t allow yourself to become complacent. Complacency is a horrible thing to do with a human life. As Earl Nightingale said, we humans shouldn’t be settled. We need to keep things stirred up. All it takes to get started with something new is a phone call or an email. Just think of someone you know who’s doing something remotely interesting, and tell that person, “I’d love to give X a try. Can you help me get started?” Don’t put it off. Pick up the phone or start typing an email right now. What you decide to try isn’t as important as that you simply try something. Try anything. There’s more to life than your cubicle. Don’t be a Dilbert. Leave the comfort of your cozy bear cave every now and then. Soak up some sun.
    708 Posted by UniqueThis
  • One of the most basic ways to grow as a human being is to try something new. Do something you’ve never done before. New situations challenge us. Our brains have to work at full capacity to understand new patterns instead of just rerunning old ones. In completely new situations, we’re like fish out of water. It may feel uncomfortable and awkward, and our performance will probably be lousy. But this is a terrific way to grow. This is the kind of challenge our neural nets were made for. How much newness do you experience in your life? Are you frequently meeting new people, finding yourself in new situations, and getting out of your comfort zone? Are you doing things that make you feel awkward? One of my favorite expressions is: There never was a winner who wasn’t at some point a beginner. I first heard it from Denis Waitley. This is a great reminder that if we wish to grow, we have to endure that awkward beginner phase. I remember the first speech I gave in Toastmasters in the Summer of 2004. I thought it was a pretty good speech. Now I look back on it and shudder at how bad it was, at least compared to what I’m capable of doing now. I was not a natural at speaking. I had to work very hard to become decent at it. I’ve invested hundreds of hours on developing my speaking skills since then, and I still have a lot more work to do. The 90-minute workshop I delivered on Monday took me about 30 hours to prepare. That’s a lot of time to invest in a presentation that will only be delivered once for free, but I did it mainly for the experience and to help other people stretch themselves as well. People in Toastmasters who compete at the top level of the International Speech Contest will frequently spend hundreds of hours refining a single 7-minute speech. I’ve gotten many compliments on my writing, especially this year, but I wasn’t born a good writer. I remember my first writing assignment as a freshman in high school English. I thought I did a pretty good job on it, and I was shocked when it came back with a C+. I had always gotten As and Bs in elementary school. But my high school English teacher had much higher standards. I had him for two years, and I had to work really hard to earn an A in his class, but that’s where I really learned to write. In high school I was far more interested in computers than I was in writing. Even then I knew I wanted to be a computer programmer. But I thought it might be good to develop my writing skills too, just in case. Instead of telling myself, “I’m never going to use this,” I thought, “This might come in handy some day.” That attitude helped me earn As in every class, and I took every honors class that was offered. I also served as captain of my school’s first Academic Decathlon team and President of the Math Club because I thought some leadership experience might be useful to me later, and that turned out to be true as well. Instead of saying, “I’m never going to use this,” say to yourself, “This might come in handy some day.” I’ve found ways to combine skills in ways I never anticipated at the time I first learned them. For example, I taught myself to juggle when I was a teenager. Juggling takes a lot of practice to learn, but once you learn it, it’s like riding a bicycle — it becomes a skill you’ll always have. Last year I was giving a speech that opened with a story about juggling different parts of our lives, so I juggled some tennis balls as I told the story. It went over well and gave the story a stronger impact. Two of my most well-developed skills are writing and computer programming. I can communicate equally well with both humans and computers, and I’m just as comfortable typing in English as I am in PHP or C++. I can write about technology and programming, and I can also use my programming skills to create the vehicle for my writing (this web site). Plus I’ve been using the Internet since 1989, long before the days of the web, so I have lots of experience with online technology. Together these skills allow me to do things that would be much harder or more costly to achieve if I focused on only one primary skill set. Sometimes I almost randomly pick something I don’t know much about and then just dive in and learn it. If it doesn’t hold my interest, I’ll stop after learning the basics and move onto something else. But if I like it, I’ll stick with it for a while. It’s possible to learn very quickly if you can get past the fear of being a beginner. I give myself permission to completely suck for a while whenever I try something new. By making it OK to be a beginner, I remain open to learning. No matter how good my skills get in any area of life, I never allow myself to think of myself as too much of an expert on anything. I don’t let my ego get wrapped up in my results. Ego just gets in the way of learning. When you tell yourself you’re an expert, you close your mind to many learning experiences. Some of the things I’ve learned (to various degrees of skills) include: Tae Kwon Do, feng shui, wine tasting, tennis, distance running, weight training, raw gourmet cooking, French, game design & programming, computer animation, database design, web site development, search engine optimization, marketing, selling, intellectual property law, optimization, leadership, planning, organizing, advanced math, physics, philosophy, relationships, investing, humor, public speaking, meditation, podcasting, sound effects editing, business, nutrition, first aid & CPR, camping, archery, model rocketry, RC car racing, wilderness survival, mythology, role-playing, electrical engineering, and obviously personal development. I’m insatiably curious. I’m going to an improv comedy show tonight, and if I like what I see, I’ll sign up to take some improv comedy classes. When I see a show like Whose Line Is It Anyway? I’m amazed at how those people can come up with funny things to say off the top of their heads, especially in front of an audience. We did some improv exercises in Toastmasters (since a couple members belong to the Vegas improv group), and I found them very challenging. Imagine having to make up a song in front of an audience in a matter of seconds. I figure that if I can learn to do that, everything else I do with respect to public speaking will seem much easier. When you keep branching out and learning new things, especially those that are a real stretch for you, you also develop the skill of learning itself. And that’s an extremely potent skill to have. I’ve been through this process so many times that I’m able to learn new things very quickly now. No matter what I attempt, I’m never any good when I first start out. My initial performance is no better than anyone else’s, and sometimes it’s horrific. I don’t seem to be a natural at anything. But I try to move quickly in the beginning and get those first several attempts out of the way. This gives me a long list of things I need to correct. I go to work on those elements via private practice until I feel I’ve just risen above the level of total idiot. Then more performing, more feedback, and more private practice. The faster I cycle, the sooner I develop some basic competence. Ego has no place in this process. It’s perfectly OK to be bad at something. If you aren’t doing things you suck at, you aren’t challenging yourself enough. Go out and have some fun failing. What I enjoy about failing in group activities is that I get to watch other people succeed. I revel in other people’s talents. For example, while I’m almost certainly going to stink at improv comedy when I first attempt it, at least I’ll enjoy a lot of laughs from watching the other skilled performers. When I was a yellow belt in Tae Kwon Do and just learning to spar, I got to watch some wonderful matches between black belts. When I first joined Toastmasters, I got to see some great speeches, even when my own were rather dull. So if you’re going to stink for a while, perhaps you can at least be entertained. I love watching talented people perform at their best. They serve as an inspiration for me to do better. If there’s one thing I want to be the best in the world at, it would be growth itself. I’m excited by all the new things I’ve yet to experience on this planet. Some of the things I’d love to try but have never done include skydiving, parasailing, bungee jumping, scuba diving, race car driving, and rock climbing. I hope my insurance agent isn’t reading this. Don’t allow yourself to become complacent. Complacency is a horrible thing to do with a human life. As Earl Nightingale said, we humans shouldn’t be settled. We need to keep things stirred up. All it takes to get started with something new is a phone call or an email. Just think of someone you know who’s doing something remotely interesting, and tell that person, “I’d love to give X a try. Can you help me get started?” Don’t put it off. Pick up the phone or start typing an email right now. What you decide to try isn’t as important as that you simply try something. Try anything. There’s more to life than your cubicle. Don’t be a Dilbert. Leave the comfort of your cozy bear cave every now and then. Soak up some sun.
    Jul 12, 2011 708
  • 12 Jul 2011
    After seeing my results over the past 16 months, my wife was inspired to start her own web site and blog. She recently launched ErinPavlina.com. Her site just has a few articles right now, but with the time she’s been putting into it, I don’t think it will be long before she has an abundance of content. And like this site, it’s all free. Erin’s purpose is “to help people increase their awareness and remember where they came from so that we can reconnect with ourselves and other people to create love, peace, and harmony on our planet.” So her web site is centered around the realization of this purpose. Many of her topics overlap with what I address here, but she has a very different way of approaching them. She takes a more intuitive/emotional approach to personal growth, whereas mine is more mental/logical. She’s even thought about promoting herself as, “the softer side of Steve.” Erin has been running VegFamily.com since 1999. VegFamily is a free online magazine dedicated to supporting people who’ve chosen to follow a vegan lifestyle (it isn’t designed to convert people to veganism). She’s also had two books published. But since that’s a fairly tight topic with a niche audience, Erin wanted to branch out with a new site that could reach more people and allow her to share more of her real self. She’s going through a similar shift that I went through when I decided to transition away from game publishing. Fortunately, she has a staff of people to keep VegFamily running as she spends more time writing for her new site. Some of the things she plans to include on ErinPavlina.com are: A free articles section. She’s already written a few articles and recommends starting with “Pick a side, any side.” A blog with an RSS feed. She may also do some podcasting down the road, since we already have the equipment for it. In fact she just did a podcast on lucid dreaming with me for this site. Paranormal topics like astral projection, channeling, lucid dreaming, life after death, life before life, speaking to our higher selves, etc. Social commentary on the death penalty, homelessness, poverty, animal rights, etc. How can we as individuals help fix the major social, political, and environmental problems we face today? Fictional stories and parables to help expand our awareness. An “Ask Erin” section to submit your own questions, which she’ll answer in her blog. A free newsletter, including exercises to help you reconnect with your true self, to connect more deeply with other people, and to increase your awareness. Possibly some channeled messages and thoughts from higher consciousness. As you can see, being weird runs in the family. What motivated Erin to create her new site wasn’t the income or the traffic potential. It was the opportunity to help people and to make a difference. She’s seen the fantastic results of the work I’ve been doing, and it opened her eyes to the possibilities of what she could do if she followed a similar strategy. I’m thrilled that she finally decided to create ErinPavlina.com, since I’ve been mercilessly badgering patiently encouraging her to do it for the past several months. Erin’s site will probably attract a different demographic than mine, but many people will enjoy reading both of our sites. Whereas I’m a typical Aries (fire sign), Erin is very much a Cancer (water sign) and almost my opposite in many respects. Together we create steam. Go check out ErinPavlina.com, and let her know what you think.
    787 Posted by UniqueThis
  • After seeing my results over the past 16 months, my wife was inspired to start her own web site and blog. She recently launched ErinPavlina.com. Her site just has a few articles right now, but with the time she’s been putting into it, I don’t think it will be long before she has an abundance of content. And like this site, it’s all free. Erin’s purpose is “to help people increase their awareness and remember where they came from so that we can reconnect with ourselves and other people to create love, peace, and harmony on our planet.” So her web site is centered around the realization of this purpose. Many of her topics overlap with what I address here, but she has a very different way of approaching them. She takes a more intuitive/emotional approach to personal growth, whereas mine is more mental/logical. She’s even thought about promoting herself as, “the softer side of Steve.” Erin has been running VegFamily.com since 1999. VegFamily is a free online magazine dedicated to supporting people who’ve chosen to follow a vegan lifestyle (it isn’t designed to convert people to veganism). She’s also had two books published. But since that’s a fairly tight topic with a niche audience, Erin wanted to branch out with a new site that could reach more people and allow her to share more of her real self. She’s going through a similar shift that I went through when I decided to transition away from game publishing. Fortunately, she has a staff of people to keep VegFamily running as she spends more time writing for her new site. Some of the things she plans to include on ErinPavlina.com are: A free articles section. She’s already written a few articles and recommends starting with “Pick a side, any side.” A blog with an RSS feed. She may also do some podcasting down the road, since we already have the equipment for it. In fact she just did a podcast on lucid dreaming with me for this site. Paranormal topics like astral projection, channeling, lucid dreaming, life after death, life before life, speaking to our higher selves, etc. Social commentary on the death penalty, homelessness, poverty, animal rights, etc. How can we as individuals help fix the major social, political, and environmental problems we face today? Fictional stories and parables to help expand our awareness. An “Ask Erin” section to submit your own questions, which she’ll answer in her blog. A free newsletter, including exercises to help you reconnect with your true self, to connect more deeply with other people, and to increase your awareness. Possibly some channeled messages and thoughts from higher consciousness. As you can see, being weird runs in the family. What motivated Erin to create her new site wasn’t the income or the traffic potential. It was the opportunity to help people and to make a difference. She’s seen the fantastic results of the work I’ve been doing, and it opened her eyes to the possibilities of what she could do if she followed a similar strategy. I’m thrilled that she finally decided to create ErinPavlina.com, since I’ve been mercilessly badgering patiently encouraging her to do it for the past several months. Erin’s site will probably attract a different demographic than mine, but many people will enjoy reading both of our sites. Whereas I’m a typical Aries (fire sign), Erin is very much a Cancer (water sign) and almost my opposite in many respects. Together we create steam. Go check out ErinPavlina.com, and let her know what you think.
    Jul 12, 2011 787
  • 12 Jul 2011
    Silly beliefs sometimes steer people away from the pursuit of spiritual development and higher awareness.  One of those is the belief that the pinnacle of spiritual evolution is to become a hermit-like cave guru who’s completely withdrawn from active participation in the world and basically does nothing but meditation and fasting. While some spiritual seekers eschew the modern world and withdraw into solitude, there’s no reason you must share this type of lifestyle if you choose to pursue higher awareness.  Personally I think withdrawing from the world like that is a cop-out.  How spiritually advanced are you if you can only experience bliss in complete isolation?  I’d give a lot more credit to someone who could feel complete oneness on a Manhattan street corner. I consider myself a deeply spiritual person, but I have no interest in cave life.  In fact, I absolutely love living in Las Vegas.  You might think Sin City is about as unspiritual as you can get, but I actually find it’s just the opposite.  Just go to one of the casinos and look at all the people praying for the right cards and dice to come up.  Actually it may surprise you that Vegas has more churches per capita than any city in America.  Perhaps they’re counting all the wedding chapels. A fun element of pursuing spirituality in Vegas is that you have virtually every human vice all in one place.  Gambling is ubiquitous even outside the smoky casinos — even the grocery stores and restaurants have slot machines, and the Vegas airport is full of them.  Free alcohol flows 24 hours a day.  And of course there are the gluttonous buffets, the topless dancers, the strip clubs, and the call girls.  It’s hard to ignore the presence of the casinos, since the Strip is visible from just about anywhere in the city.  I can look outside my bedroom window and see the Luxor Hotel’s powerful light beam shooting off into outer space; when driving at night, it even acts as a navigational beacon.  But with so much excess, there’s an honesty about it.  Nothing is bad or wrong — it’s all just a choice.  If you want to drink, gamble, and watch naked women all day, no one is going to stop you or judge you for it.  The doors are wide open.  And strangely I find that this open shamelessness makes Vegas a very conscious place to live.  With fewer social inhibitions, fear is somewhat removed from the equation, so what you’re left with is a more pure form of free choice. I find Vegas to be a truly amazing place in which to pursue spiritual development.  With such an abundance of energy here, it’s a very vibrant place to live.  The vast majority of my local friends chose to move here at some point — very few were actually born here.  And because there was a conscious choice involved (both for those who live here and those who visit each year), somehow I feel this elevates the consciousness of the whole place. Almost immediately after my wife and I moved here in January 2004, we noted that the people behaved differently than their counterparts in Los Angeles.  This was especially true of service personnel like grocery clerks, waiters, and salespeople.  I’m referring to the non-tourist residential part of town, miles away from the Strip.  At first we thought we were just experiencing some kind of new resident syndrome, but after several trips back to L.A., we confirmed the difference.  The typical Vegas dwellers we met seemed a lot happier and even more aware than people who worked similar jobs in L.A. I actually feel the vibrant energy of this place has enhanced my spiritual pursuits.  Vegas has been the fastest growing city in the USA for years now, so with all this fresh energy flowing into the city, I think there’s more motivation for people to reach out and make new social connections.  And this greater desire for social connection is something I find has greatly enhanced my spiritual growth.  I found it extremely easy to make new friends here, and this social connection helps drive my spiritual development.  While it’s possible to pursue spiritual development in isolation, I think it’s even better to pursue it through interaction with other people.  If we’re all spiritually connected anyway, then why not explore that connection through direct interaction with other human beings?  As my wife likes to say, “Everyone holds their own piece to the puzzle.” Personal relationships can be a tremendous source of spiritual growth.  While it’s possible for us to fall out of touch with reality if we spend too much time alone, that’s less likely with abundant social interaction.  If we become too impractical in our thinking, the people around us will tell us we’ve gone off the deep end. My opinion is that the pursuit of spirituality is really the pursuit of accuracy, where our goal is to develop the most accurate model of reality we can.  If we fail to include other human beings in this model, we toss away too much potentially valid information, so our model will be doomed to inaccuracy.  Spirituality is really understanding.  The more accurate your understanding of reality, the more spiritual I would say you’ve become. If the pursuit of spirituality causes you to lose the ability to function in the modern world, then I’d say you’ve taken a wrong turn.  Genuine spirituality should be immensely practical.  If your model of reality is accurate, then you shouldn’t have to escape reality to feel whole and complete.  You should be able to function even better than the average person, especially when confronted with modern day challenges. It isn’t necessary to pursue spiritual development in isolation.  Yes, quiet reflection now and then is wonderful, as is meditation.  But this should be combined with abundant social interaction.  Allow yourself to gain spiritual lessons both from your inner world and your outer world.  Sometimes your answers will come from silence; other times they’ll come from communication.  Listen to both channels.
    1188 Posted by UniqueThis
  • Silly beliefs sometimes steer people away from the pursuit of spiritual development and higher awareness.  One of those is the belief that the pinnacle of spiritual evolution is to become a hermit-like cave guru who’s completely withdrawn from active participation in the world and basically does nothing but meditation and fasting. While some spiritual seekers eschew the modern world and withdraw into solitude, there’s no reason you must share this type of lifestyle if you choose to pursue higher awareness.  Personally I think withdrawing from the world like that is a cop-out.  How spiritually advanced are you if you can only experience bliss in complete isolation?  I’d give a lot more credit to someone who could feel complete oneness on a Manhattan street corner. I consider myself a deeply spiritual person, but I have no interest in cave life.  In fact, I absolutely love living in Las Vegas.  You might think Sin City is about as unspiritual as you can get, but I actually find it’s just the opposite.  Just go to one of the casinos and look at all the people praying for the right cards and dice to come up.  Actually it may surprise you that Vegas has more churches per capita than any city in America.  Perhaps they’re counting all the wedding chapels. A fun element of pursuing spirituality in Vegas is that you have virtually every human vice all in one place.  Gambling is ubiquitous even outside the smoky casinos — even the grocery stores and restaurants have slot machines, and the Vegas airport is full of them.  Free alcohol flows 24 hours a day.  And of course there are the gluttonous buffets, the topless dancers, the strip clubs, and the call girls.  It’s hard to ignore the presence of the casinos, since the Strip is visible from just about anywhere in the city.  I can look outside my bedroom window and see the Luxor Hotel’s powerful light beam shooting off into outer space; when driving at night, it even acts as a navigational beacon.  But with so much excess, there’s an honesty about it.  Nothing is bad or wrong — it’s all just a choice.  If you want to drink, gamble, and watch naked women all day, no one is going to stop you or judge you for it.  The doors are wide open.  And strangely I find that this open shamelessness makes Vegas a very conscious place to live.  With fewer social inhibitions, fear is somewhat removed from the equation, so what you’re left with is a more pure form of free choice. I find Vegas to be a truly amazing place in which to pursue spiritual development.  With such an abundance of energy here, it’s a very vibrant place to live.  The vast majority of my local friends chose to move here at some point — very few were actually born here.  And because there was a conscious choice involved (both for those who live here and those who visit each year), somehow I feel this elevates the consciousness of the whole place. Almost immediately after my wife and I moved here in January 2004, we noted that the people behaved differently than their counterparts in Los Angeles.  This was especially true of service personnel like grocery clerks, waiters, and salespeople.  I’m referring to the non-tourist residential part of town, miles away from the Strip.  At first we thought we were just experiencing some kind of new resident syndrome, but after several trips back to L.A., we confirmed the difference.  The typical Vegas dwellers we met seemed a lot happier and even more aware than people who worked similar jobs in L.A. I actually feel the vibrant energy of this place has enhanced my spiritual pursuits.  Vegas has been the fastest growing city in the USA for years now, so with all this fresh energy flowing into the city, I think there’s more motivation for people to reach out and make new social connections.  And this greater desire for social connection is something I find has greatly enhanced my spiritual growth.  I found it extremely easy to make new friends here, and this social connection helps drive my spiritual development.  While it’s possible to pursue spiritual development in isolation, I think it’s even better to pursue it through interaction with other people.  If we’re all spiritually connected anyway, then why not explore that connection through direct interaction with other human beings?  As my wife likes to say, “Everyone holds their own piece to the puzzle.” Personal relationships can be a tremendous source of spiritual growth.  While it’s possible for us to fall out of touch with reality if we spend too much time alone, that’s less likely with abundant social interaction.  If we become too impractical in our thinking, the people around us will tell us we’ve gone off the deep end. My opinion is that the pursuit of spirituality is really the pursuit of accuracy, where our goal is to develop the most accurate model of reality we can.  If we fail to include other human beings in this model, we toss away too much potentially valid information, so our model will be doomed to inaccuracy.  Spirituality is really understanding.  The more accurate your understanding of reality, the more spiritual I would say you’ve become. If the pursuit of spirituality causes you to lose the ability to function in the modern world, then I’d say you’ve taken a wrong turn.  Genuine spirituality should be immensely practical.  If your model of reality is accurate, then you shouldn’t have to escape reality to feel whole and complete.  You should be able to function even better than the average person, especially when confronted with modern day challenges. It isn’t necessary to pursue spiritual development in isolation.  Yes, quiet reflection now and then is wonderful, as is meditation.  But this should be combined with abundant social interaction.  Allow yourself to gain spiritual lessons both from your inner world and your outer world.  Sometimes your answers will come from silence; other times they’ll come from communication.  Listen to both channels.
    Jul 12, 2011 1188
  • 12 Jul 2011
    Arrogance (too hot) Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall.  – Proverbs 16:18 Arrogance is overbearing pride that attempts to juxtapose others as inferior to yourself.  Although this quality is considered honorable among Klingons, it tends to annoy human beings. Arrogance makes genuine socialization difficult because it paints others into a competitive position.  By treating others as inferior to yourself, you invite them to respond to your opening move with a reactive countermove.  Most likely they’ll either react submissively or challenge your authority with an aggressive stance of their own.  Arrogance treats socialization as a competition rather than a cooperative endeavor.  It reduces us to baser animal-like behavior instead of more conscious human behavior. Timidity (too cold) To be modest in speaking truth is hypocrisy.  – Kahlil Gibran In the sense I’m using it here, timidity is a sense of self-denial to the point of being false.  I’m stretching the definition a bit, so think of this as excessive self-effacement or overly submissive modesty. As opposed to arrogance which creates an overinflated self-imagine, timidity yields an underinflated one.  While genuine modesty and humility are typically seen as admirable qualities, when taken to the extreme, they have just as much potential to inhibit intelligent socialization as arrogance.  By painting others as superior to you, once again you compel them to react to your opening move with a countermove, which could involve taking advantage of your submissiveness with an attempt at dominance, or it may involve them becoming even more submissive in an attempt to prop up your apparently weak self-esteem.  On the other hand, excessive timidity could even be viewed as a form of arrogance, such as if Leonardo da Vinci were to describe the Mona Lisa as, “just a side project I whipped up over the weekend.” Honesty (just right) Where is there dignity unless there is honesty?  – Cicero Honesty occupies a thin line between arrogance and timidity, and in my experience honesty is indeed the best policy.  The form of honesty I’m referring to here is the kind that really matters.  Don’t confuse it with the socially polite custom of excuse-making to turn down an insignificant invitation. No matter how carefully you choose your words, it’s virtually guaranteed you’ll fall on one side of perfect honesty or the other.  Do your best anyway.  People will not always react the way you’d like, but that’s largely out of your control.  Take responsibility for your own words, and do your best to speak the truth.  Neither be so arrogant as to think you have complete control over others’ reactions nor so timid as to think you have none.  People will react in accordance with their own biases, which may not agree with yours.  That is not a failing in your communication; it is merely a part of human existence that must be accepted. A breakthrough in my own social growth occurred when I learned the importance of balancing the two sides of human communication.  I learned to assume 100% responsibility for my own words while allowing others to retain 100% responsibilty for their response.  Being responsible means being truthful, regardless of the receiver.  I find that this not only serves me well, but it also serves the best interests of those with whom I communicate. Honesty serves your own self interest because it keeps your understanding of reality from becoming too corrupted by inaccuracy.  Arrogance and timidity are both lies which introduce errors into your self-image.  It is like feeding a computer inaccurate data.  The software may still function, but it will produce erroneous output.  Hence the expression, “Garbage in, garbage out.”  Arrogance and timidity both produce garbage input, making it impossible for you to produce intelligent output.  The practical result is that you become stuck, and your growth rate slows to a crawl.  Inaccurate feedback can have extremely negative personal and professional consequences.  It can serve to turn an otherwise capable person into a suicidal wreck, or it can place a criminal in charge of a Fortune 500 company. If you want to accelerate your rate of personal growth, work on becoming as honest as possible, both with yourself and others.  The more honest you become, the more accurate will be your model of reality.  And this will dramatically improve the success rate of your decisions and actions.  Overconfidence and underconfidence are equally problematic, so strive for accuracy instead. Honesty also serves others well because it reflects their own nature back to them.  An honest person functions like a good mirror.  Imagine a real mirror such as you might find in your bathroom.  If your hair is messy, your mirror will reflect it.  As you brush your hair, the mirror gives you immediate and accurate feedback on your progress, allowing you to make subtle corrections to your strokes and thereby achieve the desired result of a well-groomed head.  But what if your mirror produces an inaccurate reflection?  It would take you much longer to brush your hair, and you might not achieve the desired outcome at all.  Consequently, you’d frequently suffer bad hair days.  Your relationship to personal growth is no different.  With too much inaccurate feedback (both from yourself and others), you’ll suffer the equivalent of a bad hair day, meaning that even though you may take a lot of strokes, your efforts will largely be wasted. My wife is possibly the most honest person I’ve ever met.  Her ability to reflect back to me who I really am has served my own growth immeasurably.  If I’m not living up to my potential, she gives me a gentle kick in my complacency (I call it whining).  If I’m becoming too overconfident, she takes me down a notch.  If she were to err on the side of feeding my arrogance or timidity, it would compound my errors instead of correcting them. Simply be honest, and let others react as they will Consider the statement, “I am eligible to join Mensa.”  Some people will react to this statement neutrally (“Okay”) or positively (“Congratulations”), but others will respond negatively (“Oh, you think you’re better than me, do you?”), claiming that it’s arrogant or boastful to say such a thing.  The reality, however, is that this is simply a statement of fact.  Mensa is open to anyone who takes a qualfied I.Q. test and scores in the top 2%.  I’ve taken multiple qualified tests and scored in the top 1% each time, so according to their criteria I’m eligible to join.  So even though I’m merely stating a fact, people will react to it differently based on their own pre-existing biases. Now consider the statement, “I have a permanent visual impairment.”  If believed, this statement may evoke a neutral reaction (“Okay”) or possibly one of sympathy or pity (“I’m sorry to hear that.”).  Others may poke fun at it (“That explains why you’re so clumsy.”).  But once again this is merely a statement of fact.  I was born colorblind, and at present I’m unaware of any real cure (there are tinted contact lenses that can help a little, but they don’t correct the underlying condition).  My visual world consists of a subset of colors that people with normal vision take for granted.  On a computer monitor, bright green (RGB 0, 255, 0) and yellow (RGB 255, 255, 0) look identical to me.  Even when placed side by side, I cannot see the border between them.  My two-year old son, however, can name these colors with ease.  (For those who are curious about it, see my previous post on colorblindness, which includes a link to some images that will show you how I see the world.) A simple statement of fact such as in the above examples will often receive different responses from different people.  You may say something that you perceive as completely neutral, yet the other person may offer a reaction that seems to pin your statement at a seemingly random point along the arrogance-honesty-timidity spectrum. Even when you strive to be honest and your intentions are honorable, you will not always get a reaction that seems appropriate.  Others will often react as if you’re being either arrogant or timid.  But in such cases their reaction is usually more about them than it is about you.  Stay the middle course and focus on being as honest as possible while allowing others to retain full ownership of their reactions.  Free yourself from the fear of an undesirable response, and simply accept whatever response you get.  Truthfulness, both with yourself and others, is the best way to honor the noble spirit of human communication.
    663 Posted by UniqueThis
  • Arrogance (too hot) Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall.  – Proverbs 16:18 Arrogance is overbearing pride that attempts to juxtapose others as inferior to yourself.  Although this quality is considered honorable among Klingons, it tends to annoy human beings. Arrogance makes genuine socialization difficult because it paints others into a competitive position.  By treating others as inferior to yourself, you invite them to respond to your opening move with a reactive countermove.  Most likely they’ll either react submissively or challenge your authority with an aggressive stance of their own.  Arrogance treats socialization as a competition rather than a cooperative endeavor.  It reduces us to baser animal-like behavior instead of more conscious human behavior. Timidity (too cold) To be modest in speaking truth is hypocrisy.  – Kahlil Gibran In the sense I’m using it here, timidity is a sense of self-denial to the point of being false.  I’m stretching the definition a bit, so think of this as excessive self-effacement or overly submissive modesty. As opposed to arrogance which creates an overinflated self-imagine, timidity yields an underinflated one.  While genuine modesty and humility are typically seen as admirable qualities, when taken to the extreme, they have just as much potential to inhibit intelligent socialization as arrogance.  By painting others as superior to you, once again you compel them to react to your opening move with a countermove, which could involve taking advantage of your submissiveness with an attempt at dominance, or it may involve them becoming even more submissive in an attempt to prop up your apparently weak self-esteem.  On the other hand, excessive timidity could even be viewed as a form of arrogance, such as if Leonardo da Vinci were to describe the Mona Lisa as, “just a side project I whipped up over the weekend.” Honesty (just right) Where is there dignity unless there is honesty?  – Cicero Honesty occupies a thin line between arrogance and timidity, and in my experience honesty is indeed the best policy.  The form of honesty I’m referring to here is the kind that really matters.  Don’t confuse it with the socially polite custom of excuse-making to turn down an insignificant invitation. No matter how carefully you choose your words, it’s virtually guaranteed you’ll fall on one side of perfect honesty or the other.  Do your best anyway.  People will not always react the way you’d like, but that’s largely out of your control.  Take responsibility for your own words, and do your best to speak the truth.  Neither be so arrogant as to think you have complete control over others’ reactions nor so timid as to think you have none.  People will react in accordance with their own biases, which may not agree with yours.  That is not a failing in your communication; it is merely a part of human existence that must be accepted. A breakthrough in my own social growth occurred when I learned the importance of balancing the two sides of human communication.  I learned to assume 100% responsibility for my own words while allowing others to retain 100% responsibilty for their response.  Being responsible means being truthful, regardless of the receiver.  I find that this not only serves me well, but it also serves the best interests of those with whom I communicate. Honesty serves your own self interest because it keeps your understanding of reality from becoming too corrupted by inaccuracy.  Arrogance and timidity are both lies which introduce errors into your self-image.  It is like feeding a computer inaccurate data.  The software may still function, but it will produce erroneous output.  Hence the expression, “Garbage in, garbage out.”  Arrogance and timidity both produce garbage input, making it impossible for you to produce intelligent output.  The practical result is that you become stuck, and your growth rate slows to a crawl.  Inaccurate feedback can have extremely negative personal and professional consequences.  It can serve to turn an otherwise capable person into a suicidal wreck, or it can place a criminal in charge of a Fortune 500 company. If you want to accelerate your rate of personal growth, work on becoming as honest as possible, both with yourself and others.  The more honest you become, the more accurate will be your model of reality.  And this will dramatically improve the success rate of your decisions and actions.  Overconfidence and underconfidence are equally problematic, so strive for accuracy instead. Honesty also serves others well because it reflects their own nature back to them.  An honest person functions like a good mirror.  Imagine a real mirror such as you might find in your bathroom.  If your hair is messy, your mirror will reflect it.  As you brush your hair, the mirror gives you immediate and accurate feedback on your progress, allowing you to make subtle corrections to your strokes and thereby achieve the desired result of a well-groomed head.  But what if your mirror produces an inaccurate reflection?  It would take you much longer to brush your hair, and you might not achieve the desired outcome at all.  Consequently, you’d frequently suffer bad hair days.  Your relationship to personal growth is no different.  With too much inaccurate feedback (both from yourself and others), you’ll suffer the equivalent of a bad hair day, meaning that even though you may take a lot of strokes, your efforts will largely be wasted. My wife is possibly the most honest person I’ve ever met.  Her ability to reflect back to me who I really am has served my own growth immeasurably.  If I’m not living up to my potential, she gives me a gentle kick in my complacency (I call it whining).  If I’m becoming too overconfident, she takes me down a notch.  If she were to err on the side of feeding my arrogance or timidity, it would compound my errors instead of correcting them. Simply be honest, and let others react as they will Consider the statement, “I am eligible to join Mensa.”  Some people will react to this statement neutrally (“Okay”) or positively (“Congratulations”), but others will respond negatively (“Oh, you think you’re better than me, do you?”), claiming that it’s arrogant or boastful to say such a thing.  The reality, however, is that this is simply a statement of fact.  Mensa is open to anyone who takes a qualfied I.Q. test and scores in the top 2%.  I’ve taken multiple qualified tests and scored in the top 1% each time, so according to their criteria I’m eligible to join.  So even though I’m merely stating a fact, people will react to it differently based on their own pre-existing biases. Now consider the statement, “I have a permanent visual impairment.”  If believed, this statement may evoke a neutral reaction (“Okay”) or possibly one of sympathy or pity (“I’m sorry to hear that.”).  Others may poke fun at it (“That explains why you’re so clumsy.”).  But once again this is merely a statement of fact.  I was born colorblind, and at present I’m unaware of any real cure (there are tinted contact lenses that can help a little, but they don’t correct the underlying condition).  My visual world consists of a subset of colors that people with normal vision take for granted.  On a computer monitor, bright green (RGB 0, 255, 0) and yellow (RGB 255, 255, 0) look identical to me.  Even when placed side by side, I cannot see the border between them.  My two-year old son, however, can name these colors with ease.  (For those who are curious about it, see my previous post on colorblindness, which includes a link to some images that will show you how I see the world.) A simple statement of fact such as in the above examples will often receive different responses from different people.  You may say something that you perceive as completely neutral, yet the other person may offer a reaction that seems to pin your statement at a seemingly random point along the arrogance-honesty-timidity spectrum. Even when you strive to be honest and your intentions are honorable, you will not always get a reaction that seems appropriate.  Others will often react as if you’re being either arrogant or timid.  But in such cases their reaction is usually more about them than it is about you.  Stay the middle course and focus on being as honest as possible while allowing others to retain full ownership of their reactions.  Free yourself from the fear of an undesirable response, and simply accept whatever response you get.  Truthfulness, both with yourself and others, is the best way to honor the noble spirit of human communication.
    Jul 12, 2011 663
  • 12 Jul 2011
    One of the most important personal development principles is that your weakest area will limit your ability to take advantage of your strongest area.  The various parts of our lives — physical, mental, social, spiritual — are deeply interwoven, and we cannot simply consider each part in isolation. People often identify themselves with their strongest area:  I’m an athlete (physical).  I’m a geek (mental).  I’m a party animal (social).  I’m a Christian (spiritual).  But then they may fall into the trap of allowing their other areas to lag behind. While capitalizing on your strengths is good advice, your ability to do that will largely be determined by how you handle your weaknesses.  A dumb, unfocused athlete is unlikely to do as well as a smart one.  An anti-social athlete will miss out on the chance to be part of a team.  And an athlete who experiences spiritual chaos may lapse into drugs, steroid use, or immoral behavioral that ultimately hurts his/her body. Consider each possible pairing of physical, mental, social, and spiritual and notice how each element can help or hinder any of the others. It’s tempting to continue working on our strengths while ignoring our weaknesses.  Our most important results will often come from our strengths — that’s true.  However, the best way to improve those results is often to work on our weakest areas.  This helps us in two ways:  First, by shoring up our weak areas, we prevent them from getting in the way of our strengths.  Secondly, if we take it far enough, we can turn those weak areas into secondary strengths that augment our primary strength. For example, let’s assume that my primary strength is in the mental area and that I make a living through my writing.  That’s an oversimplification, but it will suit us for now.  If I focus all my energy on writing and identify myself as being predominantly mental, I might do OK for a while.  Some good writers treat their physical body as if it’s a hunk of useless garbage.  However, the body and mind are very connected, and neglecting the body will prevent the mind from achieving its full potential.  A good writer might become a great one by taking better care of his/her physical equipment.  I recall that as I switched to a vegan diet many years ago and started exercising regularly, the most significant benefits I experienced were mental, not physical.  My concentration improved dramatically, I felt far more clear-headed, and I also perceived an increase in my ability to think more deeply about complex subjects.  It was like getting a mental upgrade.  Many people tell me that my writing is very deep, and I largely credit that to diet and exercise.  I can sit for hours at a time totally absorbed by a single topic without being distracted and without feeling physically uncomfortable.  Moreover, my physical activities also provide source material for my writing, such as martial arts, running, yoga, various diets, weight training, etc.  Similarly, most physical activities work the mind too, helping thoughts to become more focused and less chaotic.  So there’s a synergistic interplay between the mental and physical. What about social?  If I’m a writer, doesn’t that mean that social development must lag behind?  Not at all.  If I become a recluse, I won’t have nearly as much to write about.  I’m very active in Toastmasters, I frequently give speeches, and I recently started doing improv comedy.  Plus with a wife and two young kids, I’m rarely alone in the house.  My rich social activities challenge me mentally, keep me from becoming dark and brooding, and give me abundant writing ideas.  And because of my writing, I find it easy to socialize with people because I always have something interesting to talk about.  The mental and social parts of my life enjoy a mutual flow of energy and ideas.  If either side were to lag behind, the other side would be crippled as well. And finally there’s the spiritual.  This means different things to different people.  I consider this area equally important for atheists, Christians, and Buddhists alike.  What’s your purpose in life?  What is your model of how the universe works?  Are your beliefs accurate?  By striving to develop an accurate and empowering belief system, I generate a lot of interesting ideas to write about.  In fact, this has been a source of many of my most popular articles, such as The Meaning of Life Series.  Also, by writing about these topics publicly, I receive a lot of feedback that helps me greatly in my own spiritual growth.  I don’t pretend to have all the answers, but I do my best to keep asking the questions. And of course we could go on and do all the other pairings, but I think you get the point.  Each area of your life has a powerful effect on every other area.  If you allow any one area to lag too far behind, it’s like attaching a lead weight to all the others.  You’ll experience drag.  No matter how hard you continue to work on your strengths, it will feel like you’re getting out a lot less than you’re putting in. It’s rare that all of these areas are in perfect balance.  That certainly isn’t the case for me, despite working on this consciously.  At different times in my life, at least one area is always lagging behind.  Two years ago when I moved from L.A. to Vegas, my social area dropped because I didn’t know anyone here.  So for that first year, I put a lot of effort into building a local social network.  Now it’s one of my strongest areas.  But in the process of doing lots of writing and expanding my social activities, I didn’t exercise as much as I used to, so recently I’ve recommitted to the physical and have been hitting the gym every morning.  While putting more energy into that area, some other areas may slip a little.  It’s an ongoing process of shoring up the weakest area, so that I can extract the maximum value from the strongest. Some slippage is OK, as long as the choice is made consciously.  I’m OK with letting my spiritual area slide a bit while I work on improving my physical conditioning.  I probably won’t meditate as often as I used to, but I can always return to that later.  Whenever a weak area falls too far behind and needs several months (or years) of focus to bring it back into balance, you may have to divert resources from the strong areas.  But this is temporary. One simple technique I use is to rate each of these areas on a scale of 1-10.  Then look at your strongest area and your weakest area and understand the connection between them.  How would your strongest area improve if your weakest area went from a 2 to an 8?  Yes, it may take some time to reach that 8, maybe even a few years, but the time is going to pass anyway, so why not emerge with an 8 instead of a 2? If your physical area is lagging behind, you can improve your diet and exercising habits.  If your mental area is your worst, begin reading a book a week, and listen to audio programs or podcasts that make you think.  If your social area lags behind, join a club (keep trying until you find one you like).  And if your spirtual area has been neglected, read some books in this field, begin keeping a journal, and try meditation. What if all your areas are down in the dumps?  In that case I recommend you start with the physical.  Repairing those other areas will require lots of energy.  If you get yourself into good physical condition, it will help you feel better emotionally too.  And that physical and emotional energy will serve you well in making changes across the board.  If you’re really fat and out of shape, this is especially crucial.  Your body is with you all the time, and carrying around too much extra weight will slow you down and wear you out.  Plus you’re not as likely to feel good about yourself when you look in the mirror.  There’s no need to worry about becoming a fitness model, but make basic physical fitness a priority in your life.  Turn off the TV, and hit the gym instead. If you want to go deeper, you can expand this 4-part model into a 12-part one: Work Financial Relationship Home & Family Physical Health Mental Social Emotional Spiritual Character Contribution Fun & Adventure For more detail on how to analyze your current performance in these 12 areas, listen to Podcast #2. You can’t make all 12 or even the basic 4 areas your top priority at the same time.  You have to pick your primary training area and let the others slide a bit.  Don’t neglect the importance of training though.  It’s obvious that proper training can tranform a person’s physical body, but it can produce gains just as powerful in any other area of your life too. I think you will find as I do that by training your weakest area up to an acceptable level, you get even better results than if you continued to focus only on your strengths. Work from your strengths.  Train up your weaknesses.  And always be training.
    744 Posted by UniqueThis
  • One of the most important personal development principles is that your weakest area will limit your ability to take advantage of your strongest area.  The various parts of our lives — physical, mental, social, spiritual — are deeply interwoven, and we cannot simply consider each part in isolation. People often identify themselves with their strongest area:  I’m an athlete (physical).  I’m a geek (mental).  I’m a party animal (social).  I’m a Christian (spiritual).  But then they may fall into the trap of allowing their other areas to lag behind. While capitalizing on your strengths is good advice, your ability to do that will largely be determined by how you handle your weaknesses.  A dumb, unfocused athlete is unlikely to do as well as a smart one.  An anti-social athlete will miss out on the chance to be part of a team.  And an athlete who experiences spiritual chaos may lapse into drugs, steroid use, or immoral behavioral that ultimately hurts his/her body. Consider each possible pairing of physical, mental, social, and spiritual and notice how each element can help or hinder any of the others. It’s tempting to continue working on our strengths while ignoring our weaknesses.  Our most important results will often come from our strengths — that’s true.  However, the best way to improve those results is often to work on our weakest areas.  This helps us in two ways:  First, by shoring up our weak areas, we prevent them from getting in the way of our strengths.  Secondly, if we take it far enough, we can turn those weak areas into secondary strengths that augment our primary strength. For example, let’s assume that my primary strength is in the mental area and that I make a living through my writing.  That’s an oversimplification, but it will suit us for now.  If I focus all my energy on writing and identify myself as being predominantly mental, I might do OK for a while.  Some good writers treat their physical body as if it’s a hunk of useless garbage.  However, the body and mind are very connected, and neglecting the body will prevent the mind from achieving its full potential.  A good writer might become a great one by taking better care of his/her physical equipment.  I recall that as I switched to a vegan diet many years ago and started exercising regularly, the most significant benefits I experienced were mental, not physical.  My concentration improved dramatically, I felt far more clear-headed, and I also perceived an increase in my ability to think more deeply about complex subjects.  It was like getting a mental upgrade.  Many people tell me that my writing is very deep, and I largely credit that to diet and exercise.  I can sit for hours at a time totally absorbed by a single topic without being distracted and without feeling physically uncomfortable.  Moreover, my physical activities also provide source material for my writing, such as martial arts, running, yoga, various diets, weight training, etc.  Similarly, most physical activities work the mind too, helping thoughts to become more focused and less chaotic.  So there’s a synergistic interplay between the mental and physical. What about social?  If I’m a writer, doesn’t that mean that social development must lag behind?  Not at all.  If I become a recluse, I won’t have nearly as much to write about.  I’m very active in Toastmasters, I frequently give speeches, and I recently started doing improv comedy.  Plus with a wife and two young kids, I’m rarely alone in the house.  My rich social activities challenge me mentally, keep me from becoming dark and brooding, and give me abundant writing ideas.  And because of my writing, I find it easy to socialize with people because I always have something interesting to talk about.  The mental and social parts of my life enjoy a mutual flow of energy and ideas.  If either side were to lag behind, the other side would be crippled as well. And finally there’s the spiritual.  This means different things to different people.  I consider this area equally important for atheists, Christians, and Buddhists alike.  What’s your purpose in life?  What is your model of how the universe works?  Are your beliefs accurate?  By striving to develop an accurate and empowering belief system, I generate a lot of interesting ideas to write about.  In fact, this has been a source of many of my most popular articles, such as The Meaning of Life Series.  Also, by writing about these topics publicly, I receive a lot of feedback that helps me greatly in my own spiritual growth.  I don’t pretend to have all the answers, but I do my best to keep asking the questions. And of course we could go on and do all the other pairings, but I think you get the point.  Each area of your life has a powerful effect on every other area.  If you allow any one area to lag too far behind, it’s like attaching a lead weight to all the others.  You’ll experience drag.  No matter how hard you continue to work on your strengths, it will feel like you’re getting out a lot less than you’re putting in. It’s rare that all of these areas are in perfect balance.  That certainly isn’t the case for me, despite working on this consciously.  At different times in my life, at least one area is always lagging behind.  Two years ago when I moved from L.A. to Vegas, my social area dropped because I didn’t know anyone here.  So for that first year, I put a lot of effort into building a local social network.  Now it’s one of my strongest areas.  But in the process of doing lots of writing and expanding my social activities, I didn’t exercise as much as I used to, so recently I’ve recommitted to the physical and have been hitting the gym every morning.  While putting more energy into that area, some other areas may slip a little.  It’s an ongoing process of shoring up the weakest area, so that I can extract the maximum value from the strongest. Some slippage is OK, as long as the choice is made consciously.  I’m OK with letting my spiritual area slide a bit while I work on improving my physical conditioning.  I probably won’t meditate as often as I used to, but I can always return to that later.  Whenever a weak area falls too far behind and needs several months (or years) of focus to bring it back into balance, you may have to divert resources from the strong areas.  But this is temporary. One simple technique I use is to rate each of these areas on a scale of 1-10.  Then look at your strongest area and your weakest area and understand the connection between them.  How would your strongest area improve if your weakest area went from a 2 to an 8?  Yes, it may take some time to reach that 8, maybe even a few years, but the time is going to pass anyway, so why not emerge with an 8 instead of a 2? If your physical area is lagging behind, you can improve your diet and exercising habits.  If your mental area is your worst, begin reading a book a week, and listen to audio programs or podcasts that make you think.  If your social area lags behind, join a club (keep trying until you find one you like).  And if your spirtual area has been neglected, read some books in this field, begin keeping a journal, and try meditation. What if all your areas are down in the dumps?  In that case I recommend you start with the physical.  Repairing those other areas will require lots of energy.  If you get yourself into good physical condition, it will help you feel better emotionally too.  And that physical and emotional energy will serve you well in making changes across the board.  If you’re really fat and out of shape, this is especially crucial.  Your body is with you all the time, and carrying around too much extra weight will slow you down and wear you out.  Plus you’re not as likely to feel good about yourself when you look in the mirror.  There’s no need to worry about becoming a fitness model, but make basic physical fitness a priority in your life.  Turn off the TV, and hit the gym instead. If you want to go deeper, you can expand this 4-part model into a 12-part one: Work Financial Relationship Home & Family Physical Health Mental Social Emotional Spiritual Character Contribution Fun & Adventure For more detail on how to analyze your current performance in these 12 areas, listen to Podcast #2. You can’t make all 12 or even the basic 4 areas your top priority at the same time.  You have to pick your primary training area and let the others slide a bit.  Don’t neglect the importance of training though.  It’s obvious that proper training can tranform a person’s physical body, but it can produce gains just as powerful in any other area of your life too. I think you will find as I do that by training your weakest area up to an acceptable level, you get even better results than if you continued to focus only on your strengths. Work from your strengths.  Train up your weaknesses.  And always be training.
    Jul 12, 2011 744
  • 12 Jul 2011
    Yesterday’s post on strengths and weaknesses generated some interesting follow-up questions.  Much of it can be reduced to the following question, which certainly deserves an intelligent answer: Isn’t it a bad idea to work on a weak area that you aren’t very good at?  Shouldn’t we spend more time working on our strengths and just accept our weaknesses? In general, yes, as long as the weakness can be isolated and doesn’t detract from your strengths.  You’ll often derive more benefit from continuing to boost your strengths than you will from working on your weaknesses.  But this doesn’t hold true when we’re talking about universal human qualities that affect all areas of our lives, which was the subject of yesterday’s post. For example, I’m not particularly good at music.  When I was a teenager, my brother tried to teach me guitar in exchange for me teaching him computer programming.  Neither of us got very far.  We were both happier and more successful sticking with our individual strengths.  Consequently, he went on to become a musician (he lives in Japan and even sings in Japanese), and I became a programmer.  I’m still no good at music, and he isn’t much of a programmer. A skill-based weakness like music, automotive repair, or swimming can be isolated from the other areas of your life.  It needn’t diminish your ability to capitalize on your primary strength.  My inability to do an oil change won’t prevent me from writing about philosophy, unless of course I want to write a book like Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance.  But the original article wasn’t about skill-based weaknesses.  That article was about universal areas of human existence:  physical, mental, social, and spiritual.  We all have physical bodies, minds, relationships with other people, and beliefs about reality.  A weakness in any one of these areas can affect all parts of our lives.  They cannot be so easily isolated. If I fail to develop my music skills, it’s not going to hurt my writing.  But if I neglect my health, it most certainly will affect my writing.  I can ignore the fact that I have a piano in my house.  But I can’t ignore the fact that I have a physical body. If I learn to master the piano, it’s unlikely to improve my writing much.  (You could say that music is a language, and that learning a new language could improve my prose, but that’s stretching the analogy a bit.)  But if I master good health habits, that can have major benefits on my writing.  I’ll concentrate better, I’ll have more energy for writing, and I’ll probably live longer. Your body, mind, relationships, and beliefs are too significant to ignore.  A weakness in any one of these areas matters a great deal.  Just as shooting, passing, and rebounding are fundamentals in basketball, these are the fundamentals of personal development.  Neglect any one of them, and your overall performance in the game of life will suffer. Even if you ignore all the fancy stuff and just focus on these fundamentals, you can spend a lifetime working on them.  Imagine a person who has mastered these four areas, achieving vibrant health, an efficient intellect, loving relationships, and accurate and empowering beliefs.  That’s about as good as human beings get. By all means keep working on your strengths, but don’t neglect the fundamentals:  physical, mental, social, and spiritual.  Your particular situation may not give you a very fair shot at across-the-board mastery, but do the best you can.  Stephen Hawking may never become an athlete, but he can still make healthy food choices.  Most people reading this can do better than to spend their whole lives as a dumb jock, an overweight geek, or a reclusive guru.  Boost your performance in the fundamentals, and your ability to capitalize on your strengths will improve dramatically.
    1206 Posted by UniqueThis
  • Yesterday’s post on strengths and weaknesses generated some interesting follow-up questions.  Much of it can be reduced to the following question, which certainly deserves an intelligent answer: Isn’t it a bad idea to work on a weak area that you aren’t very good at?  Shouldn’t we spend more time working on our strengths and just accept our weaknesses? In general, yes, as long as the weakness can be isolated and doesn’t detract from your strengths.  You’ll often derive more benefit from continuing to boost your strengths than you will from working on your weaknesses.  But this doesn’t hold true when we’re talking about universal human qualities that affect all areas of our lives, which was the subject of yesterday’s post. For example, I’m not particularly good at music.  When I was a teenager, my brother tried to teach me guitar in exchange for me teaching him computer programming.  Neither of us got very far.  We were both happier and more successful sticking with our individual strengths.  Consequently, he went on to become a musician (he lives in Japan and even sings in Japanese), and I became a programmer.  I’m still no good at music, and he isn’t much of a programmer. A skill-based weakness like music, automotive repair, or swimming can be isolated from the other areas of your life.  It needn’t diminish your ability to capitalize on your primary strength.  My inability to do an oil change won’t prevent me from writing about philosophy, unless of course I want to write a book like Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance.  But the original article wasn’t about skill-based weaknesses.  That article was about universal areas of human existence:  physical, mental, social, and spiritual.  We all have physical bodies, minds, relationships with other people, and beliefs about reality.  A weakness in any one of these areas can affect all parts of our lives.  They cannot be so easily isolated. If I fail to develop my music skills, it’s not going to hurt my writing.  But if I neglect my health, it most certainly will affect my writing.  I can ignore the fact that I have a piano in my house.  But I can’t ignore the fact that I have a physical body. If I learn to master the piano, it’s unlikely to improve my writing much.  (You could say that music is a language, and that learning a new language could improve my prose, but that’s stretching the analogy a bit.)  But if I master good health habits, that can have major benefits on my writing.  I’ll concentrate better, I’ll have more energy for writing, and I’ll probably live longer. Your body, mind, relationships, and beliefs are too significant to ignore.  A weakness in any one of these areas matters a great deal.  Just as shooting, passing, and rebounding are fundamentals in basketball, these are the fundamentals of personal development.  Neglect any one of them, and your overall performance in the game of life will suffer. Even if you ignore all the fancy stuff and just focus on these fundamentals, you can spend a lifetime working on them.  Imagine a person who has mastered these four areas, achieving vibrant health, an efficient intellect, loving relationships, and accurate and empowering beliefs.  That’s about as good as human beings get. By all means keep working on your strengths, but don’t neglect the fundamentals:  physical, mental, social, and spiritual.  Your particular situation may not give you a very fair shot at across-the-board mastery, but do the best you can.  Stephen Hawking may never become an athlete, but he can still make healthy food choices.  Most people reading this can do better than to spend their whole lives as a dumb jock, an overweight geek, or a reclusive guru.  Boost your performance in the fundamentals, and your ability to capitalize on your strengths will improve dramatically.
    Jul 12, 2011 1206
  • 12 Jul 2011
    How do you balance self-acceptance vs. the drive to grow and improve yourself?  On the one hand, it’s a good idea to accept yourself for who you are… faults and all, right?  But on the other hand, isn’t it also a good idea to set goals and aim for something even better than what you already experience now?  How do you resolve this conflict? Is compromise really the best solution? I believe most people simply compromise.  They don’t fully accept themselves as they are, but nor are they fully comitted to lifelong growth.  I think that’s a lame solution though.  Why not have both?  Why not fully accept yourself as you are and also be totally committed to lifelong growth?  Can’t you enjoy both?  Is there a way around this apparent conflict? I often receive feedback, both publicly and privately, that suggests that because I’m so openly committed to personal growth (which should be obvious to anyone who spends more than a few minutes perusing this site), that therefore I must not like and accept who I am right now.  It’s assumed that since I keep pushing myself to grow in new ways that I must be sacrificing the self-acceptance side. The linear mindset Why does there seem to be a conflict between self-acceptance and growth anyway?  I think the conflict is actually a result of a particular mindset.  I’ll refer to it as the linear mindset. The linear mindset says that your life is like a point moving down a line segment.  Your life is a journey through time.  The end points represent your birth and death.  The points behind you are your past.  The points ahead of you are your future.  And your present moment is a little dot on that timeline, slowly inching its way towards your death. Every point on your life line can also be said to have a certain quality.  You can look at any point on the line and measure your instantaneous state at that point.  On any particular day of your life (past, present, or future), you can pose questions like:  Where do I live?  What’s my job?  What’s my net worth?  Who are my friends?  What’s my relationship status?  How much do I weigh? Self-acceptance vs. personal growth Within this paradigm it’s only natural that the conflict between self-acceptance and growth should arise.  Once you start labeling some points of your life as being of “higher” or “lower” quality than others, then you have the means to compare any point to any other.  How does your life today compare with your life five years ago?  Are you richer?  Happier?  Healthier? Now you have to decide how much you want to push things to improve in quality as you progress through life.  You can accept your current position as adequate and opt to simply maintain it, or you can strive to achieve something greater.  You can also adopt the belief that your life is largely out of your control, in which case your best bet would be to learn to accept whatever outcomes you experience, regardless of how you might rate their level of quality. The more you accept where you are, the less motivation there is to grow.  And the more you push yourself to grow, the less satisfaction you derive from your current position.  You might end up oscillating back and forth along this spectrum, sometimes being very complacent and other times being very driven. Limitations of the linear mindset The linear mindset is very common, especially in the Western world.  We love to measure things and assign them grades and ratings.  Which car is the most fuel-efficient this year?  Is company X more profitable than it was last year?  How fit and healthy am I? And that mindset certainly has value, especially in business.  I’m not suggesting that it’s an inherently undesirable paradigm. However, there are areas where this model works, and there are areas where it doesn’t.  And one of those areas where it doesn’t work so well is your self-image. Trying to apply the linear mindset to your self-image creates the conflict between self-acceptance and growth.  Instead of merely measuring various aspects of your life and noting how they change over time, you identify with them.  I am richer than I was last year.  I am more depressed than I used to be.  I went from being a telemarketer to being a sales manager. When you identify with the positional aspects of your life, you pull your ego into the picture.  Your sense of self then becomes dependent on your particular position. If you primarily think about life in terms of hitting new highs, such as better health, greater net worth, or a more anal job title, then what happens when you experience a setback in your position, maybe even a big one like being charged with a felony? We all experience setbacks.  It’s only a matter of time.  If your self-esteem is based on your position, then you’ll suffer greatly when your position declines.  What would it do to your self-esteem if you lost all your money?  What if you gained 50 lbs?  What if your life mate dumped you?  If you lose your position, will you lose your sense of self? Even more problematic than a real loss is worrying about the possibility of a loss in advance.  You may hold yourself back because you fear becoming too dependent on a certain position.  If you stay low, you don’t have far to fall when things go bad.  Gaining a few pounds over the holidays isn’t as painful when you’re already 50 lbs overweight.  Going broke isn’t so terrible when you only have $1000 to your name vs. if you’re a multi-millionaire.  And how much worse can your relationship situation get if it’s already lousy (or nonexistent)? Perhaps by setting up camp in mediocre land and staying far away from super-achiever, you’re protecting your ego from inevitable setbacks.  You know that even the most successful people in the world experience setbacks, so why would you risk subjecting yourself to such dramatic highs and lows?  What goes up must come down, right? The underlying problem is that by rooting your sense of self in something that will fluctuate, like the current position of any measurable part of your life, you’re going to suffer in one way or another.  Either you’ll push yourself to achieve, achieve, achieve, and then suffer emotionally when things take a turn for the worse, or you’ll become attached to outcomes to an unhealthy degree, such that you may sacrifice your ethics to maintain your position.  Or you’ll settle for much less than you’re capable of achieving and probably give yourself regular beatings for being too lazy and for over-procrastinating – you’ll always be haunted by the knowledge that you could be doing better.  Or lastly you may decide to withdraw from society in order to escape/transcend this whole punishing process; but still your contribution is far below your potential. Beyond the linear mindset This whole situation is basically win-lose, isn’t it?  You have to compromise somewhere.  You can’t play the positional growth game full out and still accept and enjoy every moment along the way, right? Or can you? Let me suggest an alternative paradigm. Instead of rooting your sense of self in your position, which is changeable, what would happen if you rooted your sense of self in something permanent and unchangeable?  Stop identifying yourself with any form of positional status, and pick something invulnerable instead… like a pure concept that nothing in this world can touch.  Examples include unconditional love, service to humanity, faith in a higher power, compassion, nonviolence, and so on. I’m certainly not the first person to suggest something like this.  Stephen Covey wrote about this in the 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.  He refers to it as true north. When you root yourself in unchangeable ”true north” principles, you may still measure the various metrics of your life and notice how they change over time, but you won’t make them part of your identity.  Hence, you keep your self-esteem separate from your particular circumstances. This isn’t easy to do.  Covey himself has admitted how difficult it is for him personally.  But you don’t have to be perfect to get results from this paradigm.  Even a small move in this direction will reduce the conflict between self-acceptance and growth.  Essentially you’ll gain the best of both worlds.  Separating position from identity By rooting yourself in the permanent, your position detaches from your identity.  This makes it possible to unconditionally accept yourself as you are while still courageously playing the positional growth game, regardless of the outcome.  Self-acceptance and growth are no longer in conflict because now they don’t apply to the same thing.  You’ve separated your identity (self-acceptance) from your position (growth). Covey’s true north principles are based on effectiveness.  Mine are based on fulfillment, so they’re slightly different, but there’s certainly a lot of overlap between them.  For example, one of my principles is service to the highest good of all.  This is close to Covey’s principle of thinking win-win.  Either version of this principle is independent of position.  You can be homeless and forgotten, or you can be rich and famous, and you can still do your best to serve the highest good of all and to think win-win.  These principles do not depend on circumstances; circumstances only affect the manner in which you’d apply them. Detaching ego from outcomes If I were to look at a snapshot of my life right now, I’d rate it as excellent in terms of its positional (i.e. growth-related) aspects.  Last week three of my articles were featured on the popular list on del.icio.us (one of them in the #1 spot), two were picked up by reddit, two got digg‘d, one got fark‘d, one got furl‘d, and one got spurl‘d.  I received 320,000 visitors and 664,000 page views that week, and I topped my one-day Adsense record too ($330.69 on April 12).  On Thursday I did a magazine interview, on Friday I did a nationally syndicated radio interview, and on Saturday I joined the Las Vegas National Speakers Association and went to my first meeting (Lou Heckler was the guest speaker).  Later today my family and I will enjoy an Easter picnic in the park with some friends, and I’ll spend the rest of the day having fun and relaxing.  Positionally everything is wonderful.  Lots of higher highs. But if I let my self-esteem and my identity get too wrapped up in these external outcomes, I’ll be setting myself up for ultimate failure.  When the pendulum swings the other way, and of course it eventually will, I’ll get frustrated with my less than stellar performance.  And from there it’s a slippery slope into the realm of ego-driven attachment to outcomes.  What will happen when my traffic or income takes a nosedive at some point?  I’ll either resist accepting my present situation, or I’ll withdraw into a shell and settle for mediocrity for a while, or I’ll put on a fake front and pull an Enron.  None of those are good solutions. The solution is upstream… to keep identity and position as separate as possible.  I find that a couple practices help a lot with this:  journaling and meditation.  I’ve been doing both for many years, and these practices help me keep my internal compass aligned with true north principles that aren’t going to change within my lifetime.  I keep my sense of self rooted in permanent concepts like service, awareness, and peace.  Those concepts don’t change, so my deepest sense of self remains fairly fixed.  That makes it easier to fully accept who I am in every moment.  But on the positional side, I’m still able to enjoy the pursuit of positional growth and play full out without settling for underachievement. If I stray from these practices for too long (more than a few weeks), I gradually fall out of alignment with true north.  I eventually get sucked back into the prevailing social climate that loves to identify people with their positions.  For example, while I was doing my polyphasic sleep experiment, some people started identifying me with polyphasic sleep.  And that’s OK until they start becoming too attached to that person-position pairing.  Positions are always temporary, so it’s best not to become overly attached to them… whether in yourself or others.  It would have been problematic if I fell into the trap of letting my ego become overly attached to my position as a polyphasic sleeper.  The ego resists positional changes it perceives as negative — it doesn’t like to be wrong.  So I might have clung to polyphasic sleep even when it didn’t serve me as well as monophasic sleep. Have you fallen into any person-position pairing in your own life?  Do you derive your sense of self from things that are changeable and vulnerable, such as your income, your job title, your relationships, or any other form of status?  How much energy are you investing in defending those positions out of fear? When you loosen your attachment to positions, you don’t have to defend them.  I disliked when people started giving me labels like “the internet king of polyphasic sleep” (not my words)… because if you’re a king, then you’ve got a kingdom to defend.  People like to attack kings simply because of their position as kings.  I’d rather not be perceived as a king of anything positional, since I don’t want to spend my time defending temporary positions that are eventually going to crumble anyway.  Trying to defend your position as if it were the real you is a losing battle.  None of the positional aspects of your life are going to endure, so it’s best not to become too attached to them.  Enjoy them while they last, but don’t seek your self in them. When you root your self in something permanent, then your sense of self is effectively untouchable.  Your position can be attacked, and you can still defend it if you like, but you won’t feel irrationally compelled to defend it out of fear.  You won’t feel you’re being personally attacked when your position becomes vulnerable. Enjoying inner peace What I’m really getting at here is inner peace.  When you keep your sense of self away from third-dimensional positions, your position can rollercoaster all over the place, and you can still be at peace on the inside no matter what happens.  You don’t have to withdraw and be totally passive.  You can enjoy being an ambitious overachiever and set and achieve goals like a maniac — and have a great time doing it.  But meanwhile you don’t seek your identity in those fluctuating outcomes. If you find yourself succumbing to the ego-position trap, add some practices to your life like meditation, journaling, time with kids, time in nature, and so on.  This will help you reconnect with what’s most sacred to you (your own version of true north principles) and keep your identity separate from your position.  Then you can experience drive without attachment, ambition without ego, and peace without passivity. 
    818 Posted by UniqueThis
  • How do you balance self-acceptance vs. the drive to grow and improve yourself?  On the one hand, it’s a good idea to accept yourself for who you are… faults and all, right?  But on the other hand, isn’t it also a good idea to set goals and aim for something even better than what you already experience now?  How do you resolve this conflict? Is compromise really the best solution? I believe most people simply compromise.  They don’t fully accept themselves as they are, but nor are they fully comitted to lifelong growth.  I think that’s a lame solution though.  Why not have both?  Why not fully accept yourself as you are and also be totally committed to lifelong growth?  Can’t you enjoy both?  Is there a way around this apparent conflict? I often receive feedback, both publicly and privately, that suggests that because I’m so openly committed to personal growth (which should be obvious to anyone who spends more than a few minutes perusing this site), that therefore I must not like and accept who I am right now.  It’s assumed that since I keep pushing myself to grow in new ways that I must be sacrificing the self-acceptance side. The linear mindset Why does there seem to be a conflict between self-acceptance and growth anyway?  I think the conflict is actually a result of a particular mindset.  I’ll refer to it as the linear mindset. The linear mindset says that your life is like a point moving down a line segment.  Your life is a journey through time.  The end points represent your birth and death.  The points behind you are your past.  The points ahead of you are your future.  And your present moment is a little dot on that timeline, slowly inching its way towards your death. Every point on your life line can also be said to have a certain quality.  You can look at any point on the line and measure your instantaneous state at that point.  On any particular day of your life (past, present, or future), you can pose questions like:  Where do I live?  What’s my job?  What’s my net worth?  Who are my friends?  What’s my relationship status?  How much do I weigh? Self-acceptance vs. personal growth Within this paradigm it’s only natural that the conflict between self-acceptance and growth should arise.  Once you start labeling some points of your life as being of “higher” or “lower” quality than others, then you have the means to compare any point to any other.  How does your life today compare with your life five years ago?  Are you richer?  Happier?  Healthier? Now you have to decide how much you want to push things to improve in quality as you progress through life.  You can accept your current position as adequate and opt to simply maintain it, or you can strive to achieve something greater.  You can also adopt the belief that your life is largely out of your control, in which case your best bet would be to learn to accept whatever outcomes you experience, regardless of how you might rate their level of quality. The more you accept where you are, the less motivation there is to grow.  And the more you push yourself to grow, the less satisfaction you derive from your current position.  You might end up oscillating back and forth along this spectrum, sometimes being very complacent and other times being very driven. Limitations of the linear mindset The linear mindset is very common, especially in the Western world.  We love to measure things and assign them grades and ratings.  Which car is the most fuel-efficient this year?  Is company X more profitable than it was last year?  How fit and healthy am I? And that mindset certainly has value, especially in business.  I’m not suggesting that it’s an inherently undesirable paradigm. However, there are areas where this model works, and there are areas where it doesn’t.  And one of those areas where it doesn’t work so well is your self-image. Trying to apply the linear mindset to your self-image creates the conflict between self-acceptance and growth.  Instead of merely measuring various aspects of your life and noting how they change over time, you identify with them.  I am richer than I was last year.  I am more depressed than I used to be.  I went from being a telemarketer to being a sales manager. When you identify with the positional aspects of your life, you pull your ego into the picture.  Your sense of self then becomes dependent on your particular position. If you primarily think about life in terms of hitting new highs, such as better health, greater net worth, or a more anal job title, then what happens when you experience a setback in your position, maybe even a big one like being charged with a felony? We all experience setbacks.  It’s only a matter of time.  If your self-esteem is based on your position, then you’ll suffer greatly when your position declines.  What would it do to your self-esteem if you lost all your money?  What if you gained 50 lbs?  What if your life mate dumped you?  If you lose your position, will you lose your sense of self? Even more problematic than a real loss is worrying about the possibility of a loss in advance.  You may hold yourself back because you fear becoming too dependent on a certain position.  If you stay low, you don’t have far to fall when things go bad.  Gaining a few pounds over the holidays isn’t as painful when you’re already 50 lbs overweight.  Going broke isn’t so terrible when you only have $1000 to your name vs. if you’re a multi-millionaire.  And how much worse can your relationship situation get if it’s already lousy (or nonexistent)? Perhaps by setting up camp in mediocre land and staying far away from super-achiever, you’re protecting your ego from inevitable setbacks.  You know that even the most successful people in the world experience setbacks, so why would you risk subjecting yourself to such dramatic highs and lows?  What goes up must come down, right? The underlying problem is that by rooting your sense of self in something that will fluctuate, like the current position of any measurable part of your life, you’re going to suffer in one way or another.  Either you’ll push yourself to achieve, achieve, achieve, and then suffer emotionally when things take a turn for the worse, or you’ll become attached to outcomes to an unhealthy degree, such that you may sacrifice your ethics to maintain your position.  Or you’ll settle for much less than you’re capable of achieving and probably give yourself regular beatings for being too lazy and for over-procrastinating – you’ll always be haunted by the knowledge that you could be doing better.  Or lastly you may decide to withdraw from society in order to escape/transcend this whole punishing process; but still your contribution is far below your potential. Beyond the linear mindset This whole situation is basically win-lose, isn’t it?  You have to compromise somewhere.  You can’t play the positional growth game full out and still accept and enjoy every moment along the way, right? Or can you? Let me suggest an alternative paradigm. Instead of rooting your sense of self in your position, which is changeable, what would happen if you rooted your sense of self in something permanent and unchangeable?  Stop identifying yourself with any form of positional status, and pick something invulnerable instead… like a pure concept that nothing in this world can touch.  Examples include unconditional love, service to humanity, faith in a higher power, compassion, nonviolence, and so on. I’m certainly not the first person to suggest something like this.  Stephen Covey wrote about this in the 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.  He refers to it as true north. When you root yourself in unchangeable ”true north” principles, you may still measure the various metrics of your life and notice how they change over time, but you won’t make them part of your identity.  Hence, you keep your self-esteem separate from your particular circumstances. This isn’t easy to do.  Covey himself has admitted how difficult it is for him personally.  But you don’t have to be perfect to get results from this paradigm.  Even a small move in this direction will reduce the conflict between self-acceptance and growth.  Essentially you’ll gain the best of both worlds.  Separating position from identity By rooting yourself in the permanent, your position detaches from your identity.  This makes it possible to unconditionally accept yourself as you are while still courageously playing the positional growth game, regardless of the outcome.  Self-acceptance and growth are no longer in conflict because now they don’t apply to the same thing.  You’ve separated your identity (self-acceptance) from your position (growth). Covey’s true north principles are based on effectiveness.  Mine are based on fulfillment, so they’re slightly different, but there’s certainly a lot of overlap between them.  For example, one of my principles is service to the highest good of all.  This is close to Covey’s principle of thinking win-win.  Either version of this principle is independent of position.  You can be homeless and forgotten, or you can be rich and famous, and you can still do your best to serve the highest good of all and to think win-win.  These principles do not depend on circumstances; circumstances only affect the manner in which you’d apply them. Detaching ego from outcomes If I were to look at a snapshot of my life right now, I’d rate it as excellent in terms of its positional (i.e. growth-related) aspects.  Last week three of my articles were featured on the popular list on del.icio.us (one of them in the #1 spot), two were picked up by reddit, two got digg‘d, one got fark‘d, one got furl‘d, and one got spurl‘d.  I received 320,000 visitors and 664,000 page views that week, and I topped my one-day Adsense record too ($330.69 on April 12).  On Thursday I did a magazine interview, on Friday I did a nationally syndicated radio interview, and on Saturday I joined the Las Vegas National Speakers Association and went to my first meeting (Lou Heckler was the guest speaker).  Later today my family and I will enjoy an Easter picnic in the park with some friends, and I’ll spend the rest of the day having fun and relaxing.  Positionally everything is wonderful.  Lots of higher highs. But if I let my self-esteem and my identity get too wrapped up in these external outcomes, I’ll be setting myself up for ultimate failure.  When the pendulum swings the other way, and of course it eventually will, I’ll get frustrated with my less than stellar performance.  And from there it’s a slippery slope into the realm of ego-driven attachment to outcomes.  What will happen when my traffic or income takes a nosedive at some point?  I’ll either resist accepting my present situation, or I’ll withdraw into a shell and settle for mediocrity for a while, or I’ll put on a fake front and pull an Enron.  None of those are good solutions. The solution is upstream… to keep identity and position as separate as possible.  I find that a couple practices help a lot with this:  journaling and meditation.  I’ve been doing both for many years, and these practices help me keep my internal compass aligned with true north principles that aren’t going to change within my lifetime.  I keep my sense of self rooted in permanent concepts like service, awareness, and peace.  Those concepts don’t change, so my deepest sense of self remains fairly fixed.  That makes it easier to fully accept who I am in every moment.  But on the positional side, I’m still able to enjoy the pursuit of positional growth and play full out without settling for underachievement. If I stray from these practices for too long (more than a few weeks), I gradually fall out of alignment with true north.  I eventually get sucked back into the prevailing social climate that loves to identify people with their positions.  For example, while I was doing my polyphasic sleep experiment, some people started identifying me with polyphasic sleep.  And that’s OK until they start becoming too attached to that person-position pairing.  Positions are always temporary, so it’s best not to become overly attached to them… whether in yourself or others.  It would have been problematic if I fell into the trap of letting my ego become overly attached to my position as a polyphasic sleeper.  The ego resists positional changes it perceives as negative — it doesn’t like to be wrong.  So I might have clung to polyphasic sleep even when it didn’t serve me as well as monophasic sleep. Have you fallen into any person-position pairing in your own life?  Do you derive your sense of self from things that are changeable and vulnerable, such as your income, your job title, your relationships, or any other form of status?  How much energy are you investing in defending those positions out of fear? When you loosen your attachment to positions, you don’t have to defend them.  I disliked when people started giving me labels like “the internet king of polyphasic sleep” (not my words)… because if you’re a king, then you’ve got a kingdom to defend.  People like to attack kings simply because of their position as kings.  I’d rather not be perceived as a king of anything positional, since I don’t want to spend my time defending temporary positions that are eventually going to crumble anyway.  Trying to defend your position as if it were the real you is a losing battle.  None of the positional aspects of your life are going to endure, so it’s best not to become too attached to them.  Enjoy them while they last, but don’t seek your self in them. When you root your self in something permanent, then your sense of self is effectively untouchable.  Your position can be attacked, and you can still defend it if you like, but you won’t feel irrationally compelled to defend it out of fear.  You won’t feel you’re being personally attacked when your position becomes vulnerable. Enjoying inner peace What I’m really getting at here is inner peace.  When you keep your sense of self away from third-dimensional positions, your position can rollercoaster all over the place, and you can still be at peace on the inside no matter what happens.  You don’t have to withdraw and be totally passive.  You can enjoy being an ambitious overachiever and set and achieve goals like a maniac — and have a great time doing it.  But meanwhile you don’t seek your identity in those fluctuating outcomes. If you find yourself succumbing to the ego-position trap, add some practices to your life like meditation, journaling, time with kids, time in nature, and so on.  This will help you reconnect with what’s most sacred to you (your own version of true north principles) and keep your identity separate from your position.  Then you can experience drive without attachment, ambition without ego, and peace without passivity. 
    Jul 12, 2011 818
  • 12 Jul 2011
    What does the mindset of Subjective Reality have to do with personal development? Your own path of personal development will proceed in accordance with your thoughts and beliefs.  It can proceed no other way.  Hence, you will enjoy and experience the most growth if you choose to hold the most empowering beliefs you can in this particular present moment.  If you expect to grow rapidly, to grow peacefully, and to enjoy the process, then that will be your experience.  If you expect this web site to help you grow, then it will. As you endeavor to grow then, it is important to pay attention to two things: 1) You can grow by honoring your expectations. It makes no sense to take any action that you expect will produce a negative result.  If you expect that reading this web site will be a waste of your time, then you should not read it.  Never read a book just because you feel you should if you honestly don’t expect to benefit from it.  Never go to a party you expect you won’t enjoy.  Do not attend a class if you expect you won’t learn anything.  Honor your expectations. Avoid resisting your negative expectations, but do follow the path of your most positive expectations.  If you expect that reading a particular book or web site will help you a lot, then by all means do so.  If you expect that joining a certain organization will help you, do it.  If you expect that asking for a very desirable date will yield a yes, then ask for the date.  Again, honor your expectations. Make your behavior congruent with your expectations.  Don’t fight your own manifestation.  That would be utterly pointless and will only yield frustration. 2) You can grow by changing your expectations. In addition to honoring your expectations, you can also grow by changing your expectations.  The Subjective Reality Q&A 3 post explained how to do that. Take control over your thoughts, and consciously change what you are manifesting. Use #1 and #2 as guideposts on your path to growth.  When you feel that working in accordance with your expectations is yielding wonderful results, follow method #1.  When you start running into walls because you keep manifesting what you don’t want, switch to #2 and change what you are manifesting.  In this manner you alternative between manifesting and experiencing what you’ve manifested, which ultimately yields the most growth and the richest life experience.
    837 Posted by UniqueThis
  • What does the mindset of Subjective Reality have to do with personal development? Your own path of personal development will proceed in accordance with your thoughts and beliefs.  It can proceed no other way.  Hence, you will enjoy and experience the most growth if you choose to hold the most empowering beliefs you can in this particular present moment.  If you expect to grow rapidly, to grow peacefully, and to enjoy the process, then that will be your experience.  If you expect this web site to help you grow, then it will. As you endeavor to grow then, it is important to pay attention to two things: 1) You can grow by honoring your expectations. It makes no sense to take any action that you expect will produce a negative result.  If you expect that reading this web site will be a waste of your time, then you should not read it.  Never read a book just because you feel you should if you honestly don’t expect to benefit from it.  Never go to a party you expect you won’t enjoy.  Do not attend a class if you expect you won’t learn anything.  Honor your expectations. Avoid resisting your negative expectations, but do follow the path of your most positive expectations.  If you expect that reading a particular book or web site will help you a lot, then by all means do so.  If you expect that joining a certain organization will help you, do it.  If you expect that asking for a very desirable date will yield a yes, then ask for the date.  Again, honor your expectations. Make your behavior congruent with your expectations.  Don’t fight your own manifestation.  That would be utterly pointless and will only yield frustration. 2) You can grow by changing your expectations. In addition to honoring your expectations, you can also grow by changing your expectations.  The Subjective Reality Q&A 3 post explained how to do that. Take control over your thoughts, and consciously change what you are manifesting. Use #1 and #2 as guideposts on your path to growth.  When you feel that working in accordance with your expectations is yielding wonderful results, follow method #1.  When you start running into walls because you keep manifesting what you don’t want, switch to #2 and change what you are manifesting.  In this manner you alternative between manifesting and experiencing what you’ve manifested, which ultimately yields the most growth and the richest life experience.
    Jul 12, 2011 837
  • 12 Jul 2011
    Many years ago an old friend and I were discussing the meaning of life.  He said, “I don’t think the point of life is to accomplish a certain level of external success.  I believe we’re actually here to acquire and enjoy experiences.” That conversation took place about 15 years ago, and this idea has remained with me ever since.  It’s a Zen-like philosophy because experiences imply living in the present while accomplishments dwell in the past or future.  Reading this particular article is an experience, but you probably wouldn’t consider it an accomplishment… although reading some of my longer articles might qualify.  We’ve been socially conditioned to value accomplishments and events more than everyday experiences.  Graduation day is more important than some random Tuesday in the middle of the semester.  The day you get hired or promoted is more important than an uneventful work day.  Your wedding day is more important than the day you saw a forgettable movie. Accomplishments and events are certainly experiences too, but most experiences don’t qualify as either.  You’ll likely spend most of your life experiencing non-events.  It would be amazing if your accomplishments amounted to even 1% of your experiences.  Saturation tends to reduce the occurrence of salient events.  The time you spoke your first intelligible word was a major accomplishment, but speaking that same word isn’t such a grand achievement today.  Regardless of how much you accomplish in your lifetime, you’ll probably still perceive most of your days as typical, normal, or routine. If you’re going to spend most of your time experiencing rather than accomplishing, then perhaps it makes sense to focus on the quality of your daily experiences and not merely on the heights of your accomplishments.  It’s nice to have a truly fantastic day where you accomplish something wonderful, but what about your normal days? When you realize most of your life will be consumed by normal days rather than extraordinary ones, you may feel motivated to raise the overall quality of these normal days. In the pursuit of a better normal day, here are ten changes I made that yielded strong positive results.  Hopefully this list will trigger some ideas you’ll be able to apply as well.  The overall concept is far more important than my particular menu of habits. 1. Getting an early start.  Last year I successfully conditioned the habit of getting up at 5:00am every morning.  Later I experimented with polyphasic sleep but stopped after 5.5 months when I felt it wasn’t serving me well enough.  Today I get up at 4:15am every morning, including weekends.  I used to be a night owl, but I love the positive effect that rising early has had on my life.  As you can imagine, the initial adaptation was very challenging, but like most ingrained habits, it’s trivially easy to maintain.  Getting an early start to every day makes me feel energetic, alert, and productive.  I have the time and energy to do things I couldn’t previously do.  This has been one of the most empowering changes I’ve ever made because it yields tangible rewards every single day.  If I could go back in time and install a new habit in my early 20s, this would be it.  If this habit interests you, be sure to read How to Become an Early Riser and How to Get Up Right Away When Your Alarm Goes Off. 2. Physical exercise.  I’ve gone through a variety of different workout patterns over the years.  My current pattern is to hit the gym for 60-90 minutes first thing in the morning.  I do three days of cardio workouts and four days of weight-training each week.  If I feel burnt out or if my progress slows to a crawl (symptoms of overtraining), I might take a day or two off or substitute a long walk instead.  This habit yields massive benefits.  Perhaps the most noticeable is that my mental clarity is much greater, and I can concentrate deeply for hours at a time.  I think the minimum recommendation of exercising 20 minutes 3x per week is way too little.  For me the major benefits don’t really kick in until I do at least 150 minutes of aerobic/cardio exercise per week — below that level I tend to stagnate instead of seeing my fitness level improve.  This habit combines nicely with being an early riser, since I return home from my workouts before most people are awake. 3. Audio learning.  While exercising I normally listen to personal development audio programs and podcasts.  Sometimes I also listen while doing routine physical tasks like cooking or driving.  I started this habit during college, and it has served me well for the past decade and a half.  It doesn’t consume any extra time to do this, and it makes physical tasks more enjoyable.  I use an iPod Nano, a major improvement over the Walkman cassette player I used in college.  I also bought a $30 FM transmitter last year, so I can play my iPod on my car radio too.  By listening to inspirational and educational material every day, especially during my morning workout, I not only learn new ideas I can apply, but I also feel more positive throughout the day. 4. Meditation.  After my morning workout and shower, I usually meditate for about 30 minutes.  I prefer active visualization as opposed to trying to turn off all thought, although I sometimes enjoy the latter too.  If the kids are already waking up when I get home, I delay the meditation until later in the morning, but I almost always do it before starting my workday.  I get some of my best ideas while meditating, and I also use this time to visualize my goals and intentions.  Plus I enjoy it.  I don’t recall having any illnesses in the past year, so perhaps the combo of daily exercise and meditation keeps my immune system strong (both are known to be significant immune boosters).  The rest of my family has gone through a few illnesses that haven’t touched me. 5. Relaxing workspace.  Since I spend the bulk of each workday in my home office, I’ve fashioned it into a peaceful and enjoyable place to work.  With its trickling fountain, bamboo plants, scented candles, and new age music, it serves as my private sanctuary.  When I start work each day, I go through a 60-second ritual of turning on the fountain, lighting a few candles, and playing some music.  I typically feel very relaxed and peaceful throughout the day, regardless of the type of work I’m doing.  Transform your workspace into your favorite place to be, and watch the positive effect it has on your productivity.  I’ve designed mine primarily for relaxation and focus, but you can design it around any state you wish.  Use trial and error to see how various changes make you feel, and keep the ones that produce positive results.  The basic idea is that when you feel good, you’ll be more productive.  For details on how to improve your workspace, read Creating a Productive Workspace. 6. Self-employment.  I have to credit self-employment as a major factor in the quality of my normal days.  Being in control of my time is wonderful, and I can’t imagine ever wanting a regular job.  If you think about it logically, isn’t it a bit silly that people think having a job is more secure than owning your own business?  Maybe that’s true when you’re just launching the business, but once the business is stable and profitable, there’s no comparison.  I can’t be fired or laid off, and I start out at the top, so there’s no need to worry about promotions.  If I ever need money fast, there are plenty of short-term value-producing ideas I can implement in a weekend to generate extra cash.  I can work on whatever interests me without having to request permission from some authority figure.  Earning money based on your results is much more flexible and less risky than earning money based on your time.  The biggest risk isn’t going broke; if you go broke, you’ll recover soon enough — that’s really no big deal.  The far greater risk is that you’ll miss opportunities, and that’s what most employees do every single day; their ripest value-generating ideas die on the vine.  No one benefits when that happens.  Even if you’re an employee, I highly recommend starting your own small business.  It’s important to have an outlet where you can fully express your greatest value and get paid fairly for it too.  For specific advice on how to do that, listen to Podcast #006 – How to Make Money Without a Job and Podcast #009 – Kick-start Your Own Business.  If you visit the audio section of the site, you can play them directly through your browser. 7. Effective communication management.  Due to the popularity of this web site and the personal nature of its topic, the sheer volume of feedback I receive can be overwhelming at times.  At first I diligently kept on top of it, believing that every query deserved a response, but soon I questioned the wisdom of that approach.  My long-term goals started to fall by the wayside as the influx of communication became dominant.  I had to decide where my primary loyalty should be:  with the individual readers who request help or with my ultimate vision.  It became clear that I couldn’t justify spending hours every day processing email.  I know some people run their lives through their email inbox, but through trial and error I’ve learned that approach doesn’t work for me because excessive communication inhibits my ability to concentrate and knocks me off course too easily.  Consequently, I severely limit the amount of time I spend on email.  Helping someone via email is a good use of my time, but it’s definitely not the best.  In order to write this article you’re reading now, dozens of emails I’ve received will go unanswered, but this article will be seen by thousands.  But more importantly I’ve noticed that when I limit the influx of external communication, I’m better able to hear the subtle guidance of my inner voice.  If you have a problem with focus and clarity in your life, could it be that you’re getting bounced around by an overload of communication? 8. Reading.  The simple habit of reading every day keeps my self-education moving forward.  It’s one of the reasons I’m able to churn out article after article without experiencing writer’s block.  I favor books because the quality and organization is usually superior to what’s found online.  9 out of 10 books I read are non-fiction, but occasionally I enjoy a good fiction book too.  I quite enjoyed Piers Anthony’s Incarnations of Immortality series. 9. Deep conversation.  My wife and I have daily conversations about topics such as spirituality, the meaning of life, and the best ways for us to serve the greater good.  Since we work from home on weekdays and often go out on weekends, we have no shortage of time together.  I enjoy talking to my wife more than anyone else, and I feel fortunate to have found a woman who shares my passion for learning and exploration.  While many people aren’t into questioning what lies beyond the physical world on a daily basis, I find this practice extremely worthwhile.  It keeps me from getting sucked back into the socially conditioned patterns of fear and worry.  It doesn’t have to be your spouse, but I highly recommend finding a partner with whom you can discuss your most important life issues in an intelligent and supportive manner.  Many people crave this deep connection, but they allow fear to hold them back. 10. Journaling.  I’ve written about this previously in Journaling as a Problem-Solving Tool.  I keep two kinds of journals.  First, I use a computer journal to do long-term planning, problem-solving, and asking and answering personal development questions.  Sometimes my personal journal entries become seeds for future articles.  Thanks to its search capabilities, I can quickly look up solutions to previous problems I’ve encountered.  Secondly, I use a spiral notebook as my daily work journal.  I write my daily to-do lists in that journal, and I make notes throughout the day as I work.  About once a week, I process the paper journal items back into my master to-do list.  This ensures that ideas I get throughout the day are considered in light of my long-term goals, so I don’t let great ideas fall through the cracks, but nor do I get knocked off course by random thoughts throughout the day.  Both forms of journaling allow me to see what real progress I’m making in my personal and business growth. The pattern to these habits is that they serve to keep me conscious.  They empower me with the energy, resources, and awareness to pursue my greatest aspirations without slipping into low-awareness living.  This framework enables me to choose how I spend each day instead of having those decisions made by forces outside my control.  None of these practices are particularly complicated, but most of them took a serious effort to install.  However, once they’ve been conditioned, they run on autopilot.  Now I just take them for granted as my current baseline. Decide now to install just one new habit that will change your life for the better.  Then immediately begin a 30-day trial to condition it, and do whatever it takes to make it to day 30.  If your past efforts have fizzled, then use the strategy of Overwhelming Force to ensure that you succeed this time.  The ultimate payoff for this temporary effort is enormous.  Once you install several new habits, your normal days will become far more extraordinary.
    637 Posted by UniqueThis
  • Many years ago an old friend and I were discussing the meaning of life.  He said, “I don’t think the point of life is to accomplish a certain level of external success.  I believe we’re actually here to acquire and enjoy experiences.” That conversation took place about 15 years ago, and this idea has remained with me ever since.  It’s a Zen-like philosophy because experiences imply living in the present while accomplishments dwell in the past or future.  Reading this particular article is an experience, but you probably wouldn’t consider it an accomplishment… although reading some of my longer articles might qualify.  We’ve been socially conditioned to value accomplishments and events more than everyday experiences.  Graduation day is more important than some random Tuesday in the middle of the semester.  The day you get hired or promoted is more important than an uneventful work day.  Your wedding day is more important than the day you saw a forgettable movie. Accomplishments and events are certainly experiences too, but most experiences don’t qualify as either.  You’ll likely spend most of your life experiencing non-events.  It would be amazing if your accomplishments amounted to even 1% of your experiences.  Saturation tends to reduce the occurrence of salient events.  The time you spoke your first intelligible word was a major accomplishment, but speaking that same word isn’t such a grand achievement today.  Regardless of how much you accomplish in your lifetime, you’ll probably still perceive most of your days as typical, normal, or routine. If you’re going to spend most of your time experiencing rather than accomplishing, then perhaps it makes sense to focus on the quality of your daily experiences and not merely on the heights of your accomplishments.  It’s nice to have a truly fantastic day where you accomplish something wonderful, but what about your normal days? When you realize most of your life will be consumed by normal days rather than extraordinary ones, you may feel motivated to raise the overall quality of these normal days. In the pursuit of a better normal day, here are ten changes I made that yielded strong positive results.  Hopefully this list will trigger some ideas you’ll be able to apply as well.  The overall concept is far more important than my particular menu of habits. 1. Getting an early start.  Last year I successfully conditioned the habit of getting up at 5:00am every morning.  Later I experimented with polyphasic sleep but stopped after 5.5 months when I felt it wasn’t serving me well enough.  Today I get up at 4:15am every morning, including weekends.  I used to be a night owl, but I love the positive effect that rising early has had on my life.  As you can imagine, the initial adaptation was very challenging, but like most ingrained habits, it’s trivially easy to maintain.  Getting an early start to every day makes me feel energetic, alert, and productive.  I have the time and energy to do things I couldn’t previously do.  This has been one of the most empowering changes I’ve ever made because it yields tangible rewards every single day.  If I could go back in time and install a new habit in my early 20s, this would be it.  If this habit interests you, be sure to read How to Become an Early Riser and How to Get Up Right Away When Your Alarm Goes Off. 2. Physical exercise.  I’ve gone through a variety of different workout patterns over the years.  My current pattern is to hit the gym for 60-90 minutes first thing in the morning.  I do three days of cardio workouts and four days of weight-training each week.  If I feel burnt out or if my progress slows to a crawl (symptoms of overtraining), I might take a day or two off or substitute a long walk instead.  This habit yields massive benefits.  Perhaps the most noticeable is that my mental clarity is much greater, and I can concentrate deeply for hours at a time.  I think the minimum recommendation of exercising 20 minutes 3x per week is way too little.  For me the major benefits don’t really kick in until I do at least 150 minutes of aerobic/cardio exercise per week — below that level I tend to stagnate instead of seeing my fitness level improve.  This habit combines nicely with being an early riser, since I return home from my workouts before most people are awake. 3. Audio learning.  While exercising I normally listen to personal development audio programs and podcasts.  Sometimes I also listen while doing routine physical tasks like cooking or driving.  I started this habit during college, and it has served me well for the past decade and a half.  It doesn’t consume any extra time to do this, and it makes physical tasks more enjoyable.  I use an iPod Nano, a major improvement over the Walkman cassette player I used in college.  I also bought a $30 FM transmitter last year, so I can play my iPod on my car radio too.  By listening to inspirational and educational material every day, especially during my morning workout, I not only learn new ideas I can apply, but I also feel more positive throughout the day. 4. Meditation.  After my morning workout and shower, I usually meditate for about 30 minutes.  I prefer active visualization as opposed to trying to turn off all thought, although I sometimes enjoy the latter too.  If the kids are already waking up when I get home, I delay the meditation until later in the morning, but I almost always do it before starting my workday.  I get some of my best ideas while meditating, and I also use this time to visualize my goals and intentions.  Plus I enjoy it.  I don’t recall having any illnesses in the past year, so perhaps the combo of daily exercise and meditation keeps my immune system strong (both are known to be significant immune boosters).  The rest of my family has gone through a few illnesses that haven’t touched me. 5. Relaxing workspace.  Since I spend the bulk of each workday in my home office, I’ve fashioned it into a peaceful and enjoyable place to work.  With its trickling fountain, bamboo plants, scented candles, and new age music, it serves as my private sanctuary.  When I start work each day, I go through a 60-second ritual of turning on the fountain, lighting a few candles, and playing some music.  I typically feel very relaxed and peaceful throughout the day, regardless of the type of work I’m doing.  Transform your workspace into your favorite place to be, and watch the positive effect it has on your productivity.  I’ve designed mine primarily for relaxation and focus, but you can design it around any state you wish.  Use trial and error to see how various changes make you feel, and keep the ones that produce positive results.  The basic idea is that when you feel good, you’ll be more productive.  For details on how to improve your workspace, read Creating a Productive Workspace. 6. Self-employment.  I have to credit self-employment as a major factor in the quality of my normal days.  Being in control of my time is wonderful, and I can’t imagine ever wanting a regular job.  If you think about it logically, isn’t it a bit silly that people think having a job is more secure than owning your own business?  Maybe that’s true when you’re just launching the business, but once the business is stable and profitable, there’s no comparison.  I can’t be fired or laid off, and I start out at the top, so there’s no need to worry about promotions.  If I ever need money fast, there are plenty of short-term value-producing ideas I can implement in a weekend to generate extra cash.  I can work on whatever interests me without having to request permission from some authority figure.  Earning money based on your results is much more flexible and less risky than earning money based on your time.  The biggest risk isn’t going broke; if you go broke, you’ll recover soon enough — that’s really no big deal.  The far greater risk is that you’ll miss opportunities, and that’s what most employees do every single day; their ripest value-generating ideas die on the vine.  No one benefits when that happens.  Even if you’re an employee, I highly recommend starting your own small business.  It’s important to have an outlet where you can fully express your greatest value and get paid fairly for it too.  For specific advice on how to do that, listen to Podcast #006 – How to Make Money Without a Job and Podcast #009 – Kick-start Your Own Business.  If you visit the audio section of the site, you can play them directly through your browser. 7. Effective communication management.  Due to the popularity of this web site and the personal nature of its topic, the sheer volume of feedback I receive can be overwhelming at times.  At first I diligently kept on top of it, believing that every query deserved a response, but soon I questioned the wisdom of that approach.  My long-term goals started to fall by the wayside as the influx of communication became dominant.  I had to decide where my primary loyalty should be:  with the individual readers who request help or with my ultimate vision.  It became clear that I couldn’t justify spending hours every day processing email.  I know some people run their lives through their email inbox, but through trial and error I’ve learned that approach doesn’t work for me because excessive communication inhibits my ability to concentrate and knocks me off course too easily.  Consequently, I severely limit the amount of time I spend on email.  Helping someone via email is a good use of my time, but it’s definitely not the best.  In order to write this article you’re reading now, dozens of emails I’ve received will go unanswered, but this article will be seen by thousands.  But more importantly I’ve noticed that when I limit the influx of external communication, I’m better able to hear the subtle guidance of my inner voice.  If you have a problem with focus and clarity in your life, could it be that you’re getting bounced around by an overload of communication? 8. Reading.  The simple habit of reading every day keeps my self-education moving forward.  It’s one of the reasons I’m able to churn out article after article without experiencing writer’s block.  I favor books because the quality and organization is usually superior to what’s found online.  9 out of 10 books I read are non-fiction, but occasionally I enjoy a good fiction book too.  I quite enjoyed Piers Anthony’s Incarnations of Immortality series. 9. Deep conversation.  My wife and I have daily conversations about topics such as spirituality, the meaning of life, and the best ways for us to serve the greater good.  Since we work from home on weekdays and often go out on weekends, we have no shortage of time together.  I enjoy talking to my wife more than anyone else, and I feel fortunate to have found a woman who shares my passion for learning and exploration.  While many people aren’t into questioning what lies beyond the physical world on a daily basis, I find this practice extremely worthwhile.  It keeps me from getting sucked back into the socially conditioned patterns of fear and worry.  It doesn’t have to be your spouse, but I highly recommend finding a partner with whom you can discuss your most important life issues in an intelligent and supportive manner.  Many people crave this deep connection, but they allow fear to hold them back. 10. Journaling.  I’ve written about this previously in Journaling as a Problem-Solving Tool.  I keep two kinds of journals.  First, I use a computer journal to do long-term planning, problem-solving, and asking and answering personal development questions.  Sometimes my personal journal entries become seeds for future articles.  Thanks to its search capabilities, I can quickly look up solutions to previous problems I’ve encountered.  Secondly, I use a spiral notebook as my daily work journal.  I write my daily to-do lists in that journal, and I make notes throughout the day as I work.  About once a week, I process the paper journal items back into my master to-do list.  This ensures that ideas I get throughout the day are considered in light of my long-term goals, so I don’t let great ideas fall through the cracks, but nor do I get knocked off course by random thoughts throughout the day.  Both forms of journaling allow me to see what real progress I’m making in my personal and business growth. The pattern to these habits is that they serve to keep me conscious.  They empower me with the energy, resources, and awareness to pursue my greatest aspirations without slipping into low-awareness living.  This framework enables me to choose how I spend each day instead of having those decisions made by forces outside my control.  None of these practices are particularly complicated, but most of them took a serious effort to install.  However, once they’ve been conditioned, they run on autopilot.  Now I just take them for granted as my current baseline. Decide now to install just one new habit that will change your life for the better.  Then immediately begin a 30-day trial to condition it, and do whatever it takes to make it to day 30.  If your past efforts have fizzled, then use the strategy of Overwhelming Force to ensure that you succeed this time.  The ultimate payoff for this temporary effort is enormous.  Once you install several new habits, your normal days will become far more extraordinary.
    Jul 12, 2011 637
  • 12 Jul 2011
    Some people claim they work well in a high-stress environment.  I’m not one of them.  My productivity is highest when I’m fully relaxed.  With inspiring goals I still feel a positive urging to get my work done, but the pressure to work stems from passion instead of fear. Last year I made changes to my home office to better relaxify it (I know relaxify isn’t a word, but it should be).  I enjoy being in my workspace, and I can work productively for many hours without feeling like I’ve lost my humanity. When considering changes to your workspace, here’s rule #1:  If it feels right to you, it is right.  That rule is primary; my specific suggestions are secondary. With that in mind, here are 10 suggestions for creating a more relaxing workspace: 1. Make your workspace look attractive to you. When I walk through a typical corporate office building, I see the most dreadfully sterile workspaces.  It doesn’t look remotely human.  Do people get hired to work there… or assimilated? Must a professional workspace be a sterile sea of beige and gray?  Remember that where you work, you also live.  Given the amount of time you’ll be living in your workspace over the course of your lifetime, it makes sense to add some visual appeal. The first time you see your workspace each day, you should feel good about it.  It should be attractive to you.  Really it should be your favorite place in the entire building, house, or campus.  If you’re in your workspace right now, please step outside for a minute, and then re-enter it while paying close attention to your sense impressions.  What’s the very first emotional response you can detect?  Do you feel stressed?  Overwhelmed?  Bored?  Apathetic?  Focused?  Peaceful?  Is this an emotion you experience often while working? Now choose the emotion you want to feel, and experiment with different visual elements to see how they alter your feelings.  Try new furniture, photos, posters, mirrors, flowers, knick knacks, toys, statues, rugs, artwork, crystals, etc.  If you have the necessary control, you can also tweak the lighting in your workspace to create the right type of mood.  I know a programmer who works in a completely dark room with no windows, he loves it. 2. Clear out the clutter. One look at a cluttered workspace, and you get a sense that the person working there is stressed, overwhelmed, and disorganized.  Years ago I read about a study that concluded most managers will not promote a person with a messy workspace into a position of responsibility.  It’s assumed that if you can’t organize your physical environment, you’re probably incompetent to a certain degree and can’t be trusted.  And if layoffs happen, you can imagine who the most obvious targets are. But even more critical is the effect a cluttered workspace has on your focus.  It’s difficult to feel centered when you’re surrounded by unfinished tasks that constantly remind you of what you haven’t done yet.  Ideally the only paper items on your desk should be directly related to the current task at hand.  Store everything else in drawers, shelves, or cabinets.  Many people notice a dramatic improvement to their productivity when they try this. For how-to tips on organizing your workspace, be sure to read Getting Organized. 3. Add plants. Plants are a wonderful way to add life to a lifeless workspace.  Use only living, oxygen-generating plants, not lifeless fake ones.  Water them as needed to keep them healthy.  Over time you’ll find that your plants begin to resonate with you and become a reflection of you.  Dying plants = dead career.  Fake plants = appears successful but empty on the inside.  Healthy plants = healthy career.  Lots of plants = abundance.  Bring yourself back to nature by adding some plants to your workspace, and you’ll find yourself enjoying the environment much more. I currently have three plants in my office, and I’ll soon add more.  Two are lucky bamboo plants.  Are they really lucky?  Since I bought them last year, the income I receive from this site has increased by about a factor of 100, so who knows?  I added a small mirror behind them as well, which doubles their visual presence without taking up extra space.  Maybe that doubles my luck too.  4. Make it smell good. Australian dentist Paddy Lund has his staff bake fresh muffins for his patients daily.  Think about how a dentist’s office usually smells.  Now imagine walking into one that smells of blueberry muffins.  Along with other changes, this reportedly helped Lund increase his income by a factor of 10.  I’m not suggesting you add a Holly Hobby Easy Bake Oven to your workspace, but there are plenty of practical ways to make it smell better than cleaning supplies. A while back I read that certain scents have a measurable effect on productivity.  If I recall correctly, lemon and lavender produced the most significant positive results. Personally I love scented candles, especially the 3″x6″ pillars.  They not only make my office smell good, but the colorful candles and decorative candle holders add visual appeal as well.  My favorites aromas are vanilla and lemon.  I have almost a dozen scented candles in my office at any one time.  I find it worthwhile to pay for good quality candles.  I’m no candle expert, but I’ve noticed that the cheapest ones tend to burn unevenly, become terribly misshapen as they burn down, and don’t produce a very rich aroma. Occasionally I’ll burn some Tahitian vanilla incense, but I use that very sparingly and wouldn’t recommend it in a corporate environment because you’ll stink up the whole building.  I burn it right next to an open window, which dilutes the scent and keeps the room from becoming smoky. If you don’t like candles, there are other options for improving the smell of your office.  You can get a diffuser and fill it with essential oil, add some potpourri, or even try sliced lemons.  Be careful when considering chemical air fresheners though, as there are reports they can pose health risks. 5. Play relaxing music. Experiment with different types of music to see what effect they have on your stress level and productivity.  Use headphones if you need to keep from disturbing others. I prefer total silence when I do certain types of work, but for everyday tasks I like listening to music.  I use the free WinAmp player and listen to streaming music from Digitally Imported.  After listening to DI’s free streams for years, I finally bought a subscription ($60 for a year).  The subscription streams are higher quality, more reliable (no time-outs or disconnects so far), and commercial-free.  My favorite streams are Vocal Trance and New Age. 6. Get a decent chair. Most likely you’ll use your chair more than any other object in your workspace, so consider investing in a good one.  Today there’s an assortment of oddities you can sit on, including knee chairs, balls, and more.  Head to an office supply store and find something that suits you.  If your company won’t get you a decent chair, then consider buying your own. I don’t own a super-expensive chair (I think it was $200 originally), but it works for me.  It keeps my spine straight, and I can sit for hours without pain or discomfort.  I tested dozens of different chairs before picking this one.  It’s about 10 years old now though, so this would probably be a good time for me to take another look to see if I can find an even better one.  I’ve heard really good things about the Aeron desk chairs.  On the other hand, it might be more fun to upgrade to a throne.  7. Add a portable fan. Even with good air conditioning, you might have periods where you just want to feel a little cooler, or maybe you’d like a bit of air circulation.  Use a small portable fan to keep your comfort level right where you want it to be. Today’s high in Las Vegas is 105 F, and later this week it’s supposed to hit 110.  Mid-summer temperatures can exceed 120 degrees.  Even with the air conditioning on, it can still get a little warm in my home office during the summer.  A portable fan is a nice addition to my workspace.  The Vornado fans are really good.  They’re a little more expensive but well worth it – they run quiet and circulate the air nicely. 8. Add a fountain. If you find the sounds of running water soothing, consider adding a small fountain to your workspace.  You can get a basic one for under $20. Last year I added an illuminated rock garden fountain to the corner of my home office.  I plugged the power supply into the same power base I use for my PC equipment, so I can simply flip a switch in front of me to turn it on.  I probably run it about eight hours a day on average, and I add water about once every three days.  When I hear the fountain running low, I’m reminded to water my plants too. 9. Personalize your space. Does your workspace look like an automaton works there, or does it include elements that are uniquely you?  Remember that your workspace is your living space for much of your day, so make it livable and not just workable.  A good way to accomplish this is by adding items that hold emotional significance for you. Photographs are an easy way to personalize your space.  I have some typical family photos in my office and the requisite wedding picture, but there’s one particular photo from when my wife and I first met that was taken by my (now deceased) grandfather that’s very special to me.  I like being able to see it when I work.  It also reminds me that I’m not alone — my wife and I are sharing a wonderful path together, and I’ve seen plenty of signs that my grandfather is watching over us. 10. Establish uninterruptible periods. Negotiate a period of time each day where you turn off all outside communication, and encase yourself in a cocoon of concentration.  Put up a “Do Not Disturb” sign, turn off your phone, disable your instant messenger, and don’t check email either.  Use this time to work on the tasks that would cause you the greatest stress or which require your utmost concentration.  It’s easier to relax and focus when you know you won’t be interrupted. Some jobs obviously require more solo concentration time than others.  A computer programmer may need a lot, while a receptionist may need virtually none.  Determine how much you need to be productive, and do whatever is necessary to get it. When I really need to concentrate, I usually lock my office door.  My family sometimes objects to these communication blackouts, but with two kids at home on summer vacation now, I find it necessary to enforce some boundaries in order to get my work done.  I’m not particularly friendly or compassionate when I get interrupted while writing, so this is largely for their own safety.  Now go do it! Take a moment to survey your workspace and jot down a few changes you’d like to make.  How can you make your workspace even more relaxing, livable, and attractive?  If cash is tight, set a budget for how much you’d like to spend on relaxifying your workspace.  Maybe you can even get your employer to pay for some of it, especially if it’s likely to boost your productivity.  What if your employer rejects the changes you’d like to make?  Some changes are certainly negotiable because of their side effects.  Your coworkers may not appreciate the scent of jasmine wafting through their workspaces.  But if your employer is downright ogre-like and won’t permit you a plant or a family photo, well… I’d recommend getting a new employer.  Your work should support your preferred lifestyle, not squash it. Think about the most relaxing places you know of.  What is it about those places that makes you feel good?  What are the sights, sounds, and smells?  How can you modify your workspace to create a similar feel?  You might not be able to duplicate the feeling perfectly, but you can always get close.  If you don’t have time for a complete workspace makeover, then just make one little change each week.  Add a photo.  Buy a plant.  Clean up the junk pile.  Relaxify and enjoy.
    854 Posted by UniqueThis
  • Some people claim they work well in a high-stress environment.  I’m not one of them.  My productivity is highest when I’m fully relaxed.  With inspiring goals I still feel a positive urging to get my work done, but the pressure to work stems from passion instead of fear. Last year I made changes to my home office to better relaxify it (I know relaxify isn’t a word, but it should be).  I enjoy being in my workspace, and I can work productively for many hours without feeling like I’ve lost my humanity. When considering changes to your workspace, here’s rule #1:  If it feels right to you, it is right.  That rule is primary; my specific suggestions are secondary. With that in mind, here are 10 suggestions for creating a more relaxing workspace: 1. Make your workspace look attractive to you. When I walk through a typical corporate office building, I see the most dreadfully sterile workspaces.  It doesn’t look remotely human.  Do people get hired to work there… or assimilated? Must a professional workspace be a sterile sea of beige and gray?  Remember that where you work, you also live.  Given the amount of time you’ll be living in your workspace over the course of your lifetime, it makes sense to add some visual appeal. The first time you see your workspace each day, you should feel good about it.  It should be attractive to you.  Really it should be your favorite place in the entire building, house, or campus.  If you’re in your workspace right now, please step outside for a minute, and then re-enter it while paying close attention to your sense impressions.  What’s the very first emotional response you can detect?  Do you feel stressed?  Overwhelmed?  Bored?  Apathetic?  Focused?  Peaceful?  Is this an emotion you experience often while working? Now choose the emotion you want to feel, and experiment with different visual elements to see how they alter your feelings.  Try new furniture, photos, posters, mirrors, flowers, knick knacks, toys, statues, rugs, artwork, crystals, etc.  If you have the necessary control, you can also tweak the lighting in your workspace to create the right type of mood.  I know a programmer who works in a completely dark room with no windows, he loves it. 2. Clear out the clutter. One look at a cluttered workspace, and you get a sense that the person working there is stressed, overwhelmed, and disorganized.  Years ago I read about a study that concluded most managers will not promote a person with a messy workspace into a position of responsibility.  It’s assumed that if you can’t organize your physical environment, you’re probably incompetent to a certain degree and can’t be trusted.  And if layoffs happen, you can imagine who the most obvious targets are. But even more critical is the effect a cluttered workspace has on your focus.  It’s difficult to feel centered when you’re surrounded by unfinished tasks that constantly remind you of what you haven’t done yet.  Ideally the only paper items on your desk should be directly related to the current task at hand.  Store everything else in drawers, shelves, or cabinets.  Many people notice a dramatic improvement to their productivity when they try this. For how-to tips on organizing your workspace, be sure to read Getting Organized. 3. Add plants. Plants are a wonderful way to add life to a lifeless workspace.  Use only living, oxygen-generating plants, not lifeless fake ones.  Water them as needed to keep them healthy.  Over time you’ll find that your plants begin to resonate with you and become a reflection of you.  Dying plants = dead career.  Fake plants = appears successful but empty on the inside.  Healthy plants = healthy career.  Lots of plants = abundance.  Bring yourself back to nature by adding some plants to your workspace, and you’ll find yourself enjoying the environment much more. I currently have three plants in my office, and I’ll soon add more.  Two are lucky bamboo plants.  Are they really lucky?  Since I bought them last year, the income I receive from this site has increased by about a factor of 100, so who knows?  I added a small mirror behind them as well, which doubles their visual presence without taking up extra space.  Maybe that doubles my luck too.  4. Make it smell good. Australian dentist Paddy Lund has his staff bake fresh muffins for his patients daily.  Think about how a dentist’s office usually smells.  Now imagine walking into one that smells of blueberry muffins.  Along with other changes, this reportedly helped Lund increase his income by a factor of 10.  I’m not suggesting you add a Holly Hobby Easy Bake Oven to your workspace, but there are plenty of practical ways to make it smell better than cleaning supplies. A while back I read that certain scents have a measurable effect on productivity.  If I recall correctly, lemon and lavender produced the most significant positive results. Personally I love scented candles, especially the 3″x6″ pillars.  They not only make my office smell good, but the colorful candles and decorative candle holders add visual appeal as well.  My favorites aromas are vanilla and lemon.  I have almost a dozen scented candles in my office at any one time.  I find it worthwhile to pay for good quality candles.  I’m no candle expert, but I’ve noticed that the cheapest ones tend to burn unevenly, become terribly misshapen as they burn down, and don’t produce a very rich aroma. Occasionally I’ll burn some Tahitian vanilla incense, but I use that very sparingly and wouldn’t recommend it in a corporate environment because you’ll stink up the whole building.  I burn it right next to an open window, which dilutes the scent and keeps the room from becoming smoky. If you don’t like candles, there are other options for improving the smell of your office.  You can get a diffuser and fill it with essential oil, add some potpourri, or even try sliced lemons.  Be careful when considering chemical air fresheners though, as there are reports they can pose health risks. 5. Play relaxing music. Experiment with different types of music to see what effect they have on your stress level and productivity.  Use headphones if you need to keep from disturbing others. I prefer total silence when I do certain types of work, but for everyday tasks I like listening to music.  I use the free WinAmp player and listen to streaming music from Digitally Imported.  After listening to DI’s free streams for years, I finally bought a subscription ($60 for a year).  The subscription streams are higher quality, more reliable (no time-outs or disconnects so far), and commercial-free.  My favorite streams are Vocal Trance and New Age. 6. Get a decent chair. Most likely you’ll use your chair more than any other object in your workspace, so consider investing in a good one.  Today there’s an assortment of oddities you can sit on, including knee chairs, balls, and more.  Head to an office supply store and find something that suits you.  If your company won’t get you a decent chair, then consider buying your own. I don’t own a super-expensive chair (I think it was $200 originally), but it works for me.  It keeps my spine straight, and I can sit for hours without pain or discomfort.  I tested dozens of different chairs before picking this one.  It’s about 10 years old now though, so this would probably be a good time for me to take another look to see if I can find an even better one.  I’ve heard really good things about the Aeron desk chairs.  On the other hand, it might be more fun to upgrade to a throne.  7. Add a portable fan. Even with good air conditioning, you might have periods where you just want to feel a little cooler, or maybe you’d like a bit of air circulation.  Use a small portable fan to keep your comfort level right where you want it to be. Today’s high in Las Vegas is 105 F, and later this week it’s supposed to hit 110.  Mid-summer temperatures can exceed 120 degrees.  Even with the air conditioning on, it can still get a little warm in my home office during the summer.  A portable fan is a nice addition to my workspace.  The Vornado fans are really good.  They’re a little more expensive but well worth it – they run quiet and circulate the air nicely. 8. Add a fountain. If you find the sounds of running water soothing, consider adding a small fountain to your workspace.  You can get a basic one for under $20. Last year I added an illuminated rock garden fountain to the corner of my home office.  I plugged the power supply into the same power base I use for my PC equipment, so I can simply flip a switch in front of me to turn it on.  I probably run it about eight hours a day on average, and I add water about once every three days.  When I hear the fountain running low, I’m reminded to water my plants too. 9. Personalize your space. Does your workspace look like an automaton works there, or does it include elements that are uniquely you?  Remember that your workspace is your living space for much of your day, so make it livable and not just workable.  A good way to accomplish this is by adding items that hold emotional significance for you. Photographs are an easy way to personalize your space.  I have some typical family photos in my office and the requisite wedding picture, but there’s one particular photo from when my wife and I first met that was taken by my (now deceased) grandfather that’s very special to me.  I like being able to see it when I work.  It also reminds me that I’m not alone — my wife and I are sharing a wonderful path together, and I’ve seen plenty of signs that my grandfather is watching over us. 10. Establish uninterruptible periods. Negotiate a period of time each day where you turn off all outside communication, and encase yourself in a cocoon of concentration.  Put up a “Do Not Disturb” sign, turn off your phone, disable your instant messenger, and don’t check email either.  Use this time to work on the tasks that would cause you the greatest stress or which require your utmost concentration.  It’s easier to relax and focus when you know you won’t be interrupted. Some jobs obviously require more solo concentration time than others.  A computer programmer may need a lot, while a receptionist may need virtually none.  Determine how much you need to be productive, and do whatever is necessary to get it. When I really need to concentrate, I usually lock my office door.  My family sometimes objects to these communication blackouts, but with two kids at home on summer vacation now, I find it necessary to enforce some boundaries in order to get my work done.  I’m not particularly friendly or compassionate when I get interrupted while writing, so this is largely for their own safety.  Now go do it! Take a moment to survey your workspace and jot down a few changes you’d like to make.  How can you make your workspace even more relaxing, livable, and attractive?  If cash is tight, set a budget for how much you’d like to spend on relaxifying your workspace.  Maybe you can even get your employer to pay for some of it, especially if it’s likely to boost your productivity.  What if your employer rejects the changes you’d like to make?  Some changes are certainly negotiable because of their side effects.  Your coworkers may not appreciate the scent of jasmine wafting through their workspaces.  But if your employer is downright ogre-like and won’t permit you a plant or a family photo, well… I’d recommend getting a new employer.  Your work should support your preferred lifestyle, not squash it. Think about the most relaxing places you know of.  What is it about those places that makes you feel good?  What are the sights, sounds, and smells?  How can you modify your workspace to create a similar feel?  You might not be able to duplicate the feeling perfectly, but you can always get close.  If you don’t have time for a complete workspace makeover, then just make one little change each week.  Add a photo.  Buy a plant.  Clean up the junk pile.  Relaxify and enjoy.
    Jul 12, 2011 854
  • 12 Jul 2011
    Let’s say you’ve set some goals for yourself, and now you want to map out a basic plan for how you’ll achieve them.  How do you do this? Obviously there are many ways to plan your action steps, but as a generalization it seems intelligent to aim for a plan that you estimate will consume the least time and resources.  All else being equal, if Plan A takes three months and Plan B takes six months, you’ll go with Plan A.  This is just common sense, right?  You essentially look for the shortest path from your current position to your goal. It’s OK if your estimates aren’t accurate — the point is simply that most of us would consider a shorter path to be more intelligent than a longer path.  This is particularly true in business.  A direct path to an objective is considered more intelligent than a circuitous route.  Time is money, and delays can be costly. The myth of the shortest path As intelligent as this logic may seem, I happen to disagree with it (go figure!).  While I think such an approach to optimization is fine for machines, it’s suboptimal for human beings. Why? The problem appears during implementation of the plan.  What do you actually experience during the action phase?  Do you implement your plan like a machine, completing task after task in order?  Or does something entirely different occur? Personally I’ve never met a human being who worked like this, and I’ve never seen a business do it either.  Plans often fall by the wayside during the implementation stage.  Some would say it’s because people are bad at implementation, but is that really true?  Or was the plan flawed from the beginning because it failed to accurately account for human nature? I’ve produced some beautiful step-by-step plans on paper.  But my implementation has usually been less than stellar.  I’ll get off to an OK start for a little while, maybe a day or two.  Then I stumble.  Sometimes I get distracted.  Other times I feel the actions are just too tedious, and I find subtle ways to procrastinate.  And other times I feel lazy and unmotivated to work on them.  Even though I really want the results, I usually reach a point where I just don’t want to complete the next action.  Sometimes I find a way to push through my resistance.  Other times I rework the plan or move onto something else that seems more interesting (often repeating the cycle once again). Have you ever experienced this pattern yourself? Planning vs. implementation At first I figured I just needed to keep working on my self-discipline.  That did help, but it only encouraged me to set bigger goals, so I still eventually ran into the same problems on a larger scale.  After failing to get the results I wanted, I considered that the problem might be upstream.  Maybe my implementation was poor because my plans were flawed to begin with. That wasn’t an easy conclusion for me because planning is supposed to be one of my key psychological strengths.  According to the Myers-Briggs test, I’m an ENTJ, aka the Field Marshall (a good tactical and strategic thinker).  And the test from the book Now, Discover Your Strengths (which I highly recommend) showed that my #1 strength is strategic thinking.  So the last thing I would have suspected was that my planning was flawed.  But I wasn’t getting results by pushing myself to become better at implementing, so I figured I had nothing to lose by honing my planning skills. I bought fancy project management software, studied various planning methods, and learned how to break everything down into intelligently prioritized actionable steps.  But to my chagrin this investment didn’t pay off the way I wanted.  My plans looked better than ever, but I was still no better at implementing them. Of course some people are better doers while some people are better thinkers, and I definitely enjoy creating plans more than implementing them myself, but I’m not presently surrounded by a team of willing doers, and there are some projects that can’t be delegated easily, particularly in the realm of personal development.  I’m certainly capable of taking massive action under the right conditions — I just needed a way to create those conditions more frequently. Planning for optimal enjoyment I put this problem aside for a while, and one day when I was journaling, a different approach came to me.  Instead of trying to plan the most efficient path to my goal, what would happen if I tried to plan the most enjoyable path? My initial reaction was, “Nah, that wouldn’t work.  It would consume too much time and too many resources.  The most enjoyable path would probably be terribly slow.”  But as I gave it more thought, I had to admit my current approach was taking way longer than I’d planned anyway, so maybe an approach that appeared longer would actually take less time than the seemingly optimal one.  Hmmm…. This “most enjoyable path” began to reveal some interesting possibilities.  If I planned a very lengthy and resource-intensive route to my goal, a tediously slow path wouldn’t likely be the most enjoyable one.  So I figured the most enjoyable path couldn’t be too suboptimal. I wondered what such a plan would look like in comparison to its supposedly more efficient cousin.  I thought about some of the changes I’d make to craft a thoroughly enjoyable plan: Select interesting projects.  Favor projects I enjoy implementing vs. only looking to the end result. Add variety.  Break up long stretches of repetitive work.  Work in different locations.  Take field trips. Improve balance.  Blend solo time with social time.  Balance physical work with mental work. Create a pleasing work environment.  Relaxify my workspace so I enjoy spending time there. Involve others.  Find a way to get friends involved.  Form a mastermind group.  Involve my wife. Solve problems creatively.  Favor creative off-the-wall methods when the obvious solution is too dull or tedious. Enjoy plenty of downtime.  Keep motivation high by avoiding overwork.  Take vacations.  Enjoy rewards for achieving mini-milestones. Avoid the unpleasant.  If a step can’t be done enjoyably, find a way to delegate, outsource, or eliminate it. Use intention-manifestation.  Focus intentions to gain assistance from the Law of Attraction. Design for flexibility.  Allow daily choice making where order of task completion isn’t critical. As I began to understand what an enjoyable plan would look like in comparison with an efficient one, I realized it was a very different way of working.  It’s congruent with the Emotional Guidance System concept from the book Ask and It Is Given because the idea is to remain in a state of joy throughout the entire project.  So you still have a specific goal in mind, but along the way your focus is on enjoying the journey rather than reaching the destination quickly.  Instead of planning the steps that will allow you to achieve your goal as efficiently as possible, you plan the route that you’ll enjoy the most. Technically I began working with this paradigm in 2004 when I retired from the computer gaming industry and started this personal development site.  That immediately enabled me to begin selecting projects I enjoyed more.  Although I liked running my games business, I enjoy this personal development business a great deal more.  After working so long with the efficiency-based model, it’s been a real challenge to let it go.  I am getting there though because I find that the enjoyment-based model produces better results for me, both in terms of enjoyment and efficiency.  At least for me, the most enjoyable path may well be the most optimal one. Consider testing this planning model to see what results you get with it.  You spend your entire life in the present moment, so it makes sense to ensure that in this very moment, you’re in a state of joy.  Clearly you won’t accomplish that by planning to spend your life completing tasks that you find tedious, painful, boring, or pointless.  The switch to an enjoyment-based paradigm can fill your daily reality with creativity, joy, and fulfillment.  Ultimately all those present moments add up to your entire life.  If you enjoy your present moments, you’ll enjoy your life as a whole.
    710 Posted by UniqueThis
  • Let’s say you’ve set some goals for yourself, and now you want to map out a basic plan for how you’ll achieve them.  How do you do this? Obviously there are many ways to plan your action steps, but as a generalization it seems intelligent to aim for a plan that you estimate will consume the least time and resources.  All else being equal, if Plan A takes three months and Plan B takes six months, you’ll go with Plan A.  This is just common sense, right?  You essentially look for the shortest path from your current position to your goal. It’s OK if your estimates aren’t accurate — the point is simply that most of us would consider a shorter path to be more intelligent than a longer path.  This is particularly true in business.  A direct path to an objective is considered more intelligent than a circuitous route.  Time is money, and delays can be costly. The myth of the shortest path As intelligent as this logic may seem, I happen to disagree with it (go figure!).  While I think such an approach to optimization is fine for machines, it’s suboptimal for human beings. Why? The problem appears during implementation of the plan.  What do you actually experience during the action phase?  Do you implement your plan like a machine, completing task after task in order?  Or does something entirely different occur? Personally I’ve never met a human being who worked like this, and I’ve never seen a business do it either.  Plans often fall by the wayside during the implementation stage.  Some would say it’s because people are bad at implementation, but is that really true?  Or was the plan flawed from the beginning because it failed to accurately account for human nature? I’ve produced some beautiful step-by-step plans on paper.  But my implementation has usually been less than stellar.  I’ll get off to an OK start for a little while, maybe a day or two.  Then I stumble.  Sometimes I get distracted.  Other times I feel the actions are just too tedious, and I find subtle ways to procrastinate.  And other times I feel lazy and unmotivated to work on them.  Even though I really want the results, I usually reach a point where I just don’t want to complete the next action.  Sometimes I find a way to push through my resistance.  Other times I rework the plan or move onto something else that seems more interesting (often repeating the cycle once again). Have you ever experienced this pattern yourself? Planning vs. implementation At first I figured I just needed to keep working on my self-discipline.  That did help, but it only encouraged me to set bigger goals, so I still eventually ran into the same problems on a larger scale.  After failing to get the results I wanted, I considered that the problem might be upstream.  Maybe my implementation was poor because my plans were flawed to begin with. That wasn’t an easy conclusion for me because planning is supposed to be one of my key psychological strengths.  According to the Myers-Briggs test, I’m an ENTJ, aka the Field Marshall (a good tactical and strategic thinker).  And the test from the book Now, Discover Your Strengths (which I highly recommend) showed that my #1 strength is strategic thinking.  So the last thing I would have suspected was that my planning was flawed.  But I wasn’t getting results by pushing myself to become better at implementing, so I figured I had nothing to lose by honing my planning skills. I bought fancy project management software, studied various planning methods, and learned how to break everything down into intelligently prioritized actionable steps.  But to my chagrin this investment didn’t pay off the way I wanted.  My plans looked better than ever, but I was still no better at implementing them. Of course some people are better doers while some people are better thinkers, and I definitely enjoy creating plans more than implementing them myself, but I’m not presently surrounded by a team of willing doers, and there are some projects that can’t be delegated easily, particularly in the realm of personal development.  I’m certainly capable of taking massive action under the right conditions — I just needed a way to create those conditions more frequently. Planning for optimal enjoyment I put this problem aside for a while, and one day when I was journaling, a different approach came to me.  Instead of trying to plan the most efficient path to my goal, what would happen if I tried to plan the most enjoyable path? My initial reaction was, “Nah, that wouldn’t work.  It would consume too much time and too many resources.  The most enjoyable path would probably be terribly slow.”  But as I gave it more thought, I had to admit my current approach was taking way longer than I’d planned anyway, so maybe an approach that appeared longer would actually take less time than the seemingly optimal one.  Hmmm…. This “most enjoyable path” began to reveal some interesting possibilities.  If I planned a very lengthy and resource-intensive route to my goal, a tediously slow path wouldn’t likely be the most enjoyable one.  So I figured the most enjoyable path couldn’t be too suboptimal. I wondered what such a plan would look like in comparison to its supposedly more efficient cousin.  I thought about some of the changes I’d make to craft a thoroughly enjoyable plan: Select interesting projects.  Favor projects I enjoy implementing vs. only looking to the end result. Add variety.  Break up long stretches of repetitive work.  Work in different locations.  Take field trips. Improve balance.  Blend solo time with social time.  Balance physical work with mental work. Create a pleasing work environment.  Relaxify my workspace so I enjoy spending time there. Involve others.  Find a way to get friends involved.  Form a mastermind group.  Involve my wife. Solve problems creatively.  Favor creative off-the-wall methods when the obvious solution is too dull or tedious. Enjoy plenty of downtime.  Keep motivation high by avoiding overwork.  Take vacations.  Enjoy rewards for achieving mini-milestones. Avoid the unpleasant.  If a step can’t be done enjoyably, find a way to delegate, outsource, or eliminate it. Use intention-manifestation.  Focus intentions to gain assistance from the Law of Attraction. Design for flexibility.  Allow daily choice making where order of task completion isn’t critical. As I began to understand what an enjoyable plan would look like in comparison with an efficient one, I realized it was a very different way of working.  It’s congruent with the Emotional Guidance System concept from the book Ask and It Is Given because the idea is to remain in a state of joy throughout the entire project.  So you still have a specific goal in mind, but along the way your focus is on enjoying the journey rather than reaching the destination quickly.  Instead of planning the steps that will allow you to achieve your goal as efficiently as possible, you plan the route that you’ll enjoy the most. Technically I began working with this paradigm in 2004 when I retired from the computer gaming industry and started this personal development site.  That immediately enabled me to begin selecting projects I enjoyed more.  Although I liked running my games business, I enjoy this personal development business a great deal more.  After working so long with the efficiency-based model, it’s been a real challenge to let it go.  I am getting there though because I find that the enjoyment-based model produces better results for me, both in terms of enjoyment and efficiency.  At least for me, the most enjoyable path may well be the most optimal one. Consider testing this planning model to see what results you get with it.  You spend your entire life in the present moment, so it makes sense to ensure that in this very moment, you’re in a state of joy.  Clearly you won’t accomplish that by planning to spend your life completing tasks that you find tedious, painful, boring, or pointless.  The switch to an enjoyment-based paradigm can fill your daily reality with creativity, joy, and fulfillment.  Ultimately all those present moments add up to your entire life.  If you enjoy your present moments, you’ll enjoy your life as a whole.
    Jul 12, 2011 710
  • 12 Jul 2011
    This is a specific example of a particular area of my life that I’m currently struggling with, as a continuation of this post from the “Ask Steve” series. Another area of my life that’s challenging me is parenting.  Again, I see this as a question of coming up with the right paradigm that fits the realities of my situation as well as my personal values. Erin and I have two kids, a 6-year old daughter, Emily, and a son who will turn 3 next month, Kyle.  Our family situation is relatively uncomplicated, since Erin and I have only been married to each other, and both kids are our own biological offspring… no exes or stepchildren in the picture. Erin and I work from home, managing several businesses between us.  We would seem to have many advantages as parents, since we enjoy abundant income and set our own hours.  However, our work isn’t just a job to us.  It’s a mission, and as such it’s not the kind of work we can easily disengage from at the end of the day.  Consequently, we’re challenged with figuring out how to integrate the kids into our lives and define our role as parents.  Much of the time our family seems to operate at 2+2 instead of 4. While she was in kindergarten, Emily made it clear to her teachers that she intends to go her own way in life.  She’s very headstrong and refuses to do assignments she thinks are pointless or boring.  She doesn’t accept blind authority unless the “reasons why” she should go along are explained to her in detail and she agrees with them.  If she agrees she’ll cooperate.  If not, she’ll ignore you and do her own thing.  She’s virtually immune to discipline, regardless of who and how it’s administered.  She’ll accept her punishment and then go right on doing what got her in trouble the first place, as if to say, “Go ahead and punish me if you must, but I know I’m right, and I’m going to listen to my inner voice no matter what.”  The most common note we’d get from her teacher would be “Not following directions.”  One time the principal of the school admitted to us that they didn’t know how to handle Emily because Emily kept outsmarting them.  She didn’t react the way other kids did because the offer of mundane activities was no reward, and the threat of punishment was no deterrent for her. I can’t hold anything against Emily for being this way though.  My life could easily earn a “not following directions” note too.  Actually, when I see Emily breaking systems by doing her own thing, my true reaction is, “That’s my girl!”  She’s a systems buster just like her dad, an endless source of frustration to the status quo. Our son Kyle isn’t far behind.  While his personality is different than Emily’s, he’s very intelligent for his age.  We had him professionally evaluated, and he’s about a year ahead cognitively.  He’s still in that “terrible twos” phase, so I’m curious to see what he’s like when he’s older. I think both of our kids have tremendous potential, and I don’t want to squash these qualities by subjecting them to a standard American education.  My wife went to public school, and I went to religious private school, but neither of those options appeals to me, especially since the Las Vegas educational system is short on qualified teachers.  Home schooling wouldn’t be a viable option either, since neither Erin nor I are willing to sacrifice enough of our work time to manage it. The best option might be some kind of private tutoring, similar to home schooling except that Erin and I wouldn’t be doing it ourselves.  We can certainly afford that.  But what would be the curriculum?  Do we give the kids a standard education, filling their heads with useless trivia?  No, that’s out.  Or do we give them a practical education, like showing them how to set up their own Internet businesses and generate income from them, so they’ll never need to get a regular job to support themselves?  There are lots of possibilities for where we could take this. I don’t want to push my own values on my kids either.  My parents did that to me with Catholicism, and of course it didn’t work.  By age 17 I’d had enough brainwashing and opted to find my own way, immune to the backlash of counter-pressure.  I want to expose my kids to the larger spectrum of options and let them find their own path, even if it’s vastly different than mine.  For example, we explained to Emily why we’re vegan, and it seemed to resonate with her even more than I expected.  If she sees her grandparents eating meat, she’ll sometimes yell at them, “Don’t eat animals because it makes the animals say, ‘Ow!’”  But if Emily someday changed her mind and wanted to try eating animals, I’m fine with that (although I know many vegans wouldn’t be).  I want her to learn to make her own conscious choices, just as I encourage everyone else to do. I always thought of parenting as the act of raising children, but sometimes I wonder who’s raising whom.  I often think my kids are teaching me patience and forgiveness.  A couple days ago, I asked Emily, “What are you here to teach me, Muffin?”  (Muffin is my pet name for her.)  She looked up, smiled at me, and said, “Playing!” My challenge is to define my role as a father.  On the one hand, I have this larger mission.  And on the other hand, I have two children to raise (and to be raised by them).  I often feel like I’m sacrificing one for the other, falling into win-lose or lose-win.  When I’m writing I’m neglecting my role as a father.  And when I’m playing with the kids, I’m neglecting my mission.  Is there a third alternative? I think the ideal solution would involve finding a way to integrate my role as a father with my mission.  But I don’t yet see how that would work.  Is there an AND solution instead of just an EITHER-OR?  This entry is part of the “Ask Steve” series.  See the original Ask Steve post for details, or view the Archives (July 2006) to peruse the entire series.
    756 Posted by UniqueThis
  • This is a specific example of a particular area of my life that I’m currently struggling with, as a continuation of this post from the “Ask Steve” series. Another area of my life that’s challenging me is parenting.  Again, I see this as a question of coming up with the right paradigm that fits the realities of my situation as well as my personal values. Erin and I have two kids, a 6-year old daughter, Emily, and a son who will turn 3 next month, Kyle.  Our family situation is relatively uncomplicated, since Erin and I have only been married to each other, and both kids are our own biological offspring… no exes or stepchildren in the picture. Erin and I work from home, managing several businesses between us.  We would seem to have many advantages as parents, since we enjoy abundant income and set our own hours.  However, our work isn’t just a job to us.  It’s a mission, and as such it’s not the kind of work we can easily disengage from at the end of the day.  Consequently, we’re challenged with figuring out how to integrate the kids into our lives and define our role as parents.  Much of the time our family seems to operate at 2+2 instead of 4. While she was in kindergarten, Emily made it clear to her teachers that she intends to go her own way in life.  She’s very headstrong and refuses to do assignments she thinks are pointless or boring.  She doesn’t accept blind authority unless the “reasons why” she should go along are explained to her in detail and she agrees with them.  If she agrees she’ll cooperate.  If not, she’ll ignore you and do her own thing.  She’s virtually immune to discipline, regardless of who and how it’s administered.  She’ll accept her punishment and then go right on doing what got her in trouble the first place, as if to say, “Go ahead and punish me if you must, but I know I’m right, and I’m going to listen to my inner voice no matter what.”  The most common note we’d get from her teacher would be “Not following directions.”  One time the principal of the school admitted to us that they didn’t know how to handle Emily because Emily kept outsmarting them.  She didn’t react the way other kids did because the offer of mundane activities was no reward, and the threat of punishment was no deterrent for her. I can’t hold anything against Emily for being this way though.  My life could easily earn a “not following directions” note too.  Actually, when I see Emily breaking systems by doing her own thing, my true reaction is, “That’s my girl!”  She’s a systems buster just like her dad, an endless source of frustration to the status quo. Our son Kyle isn’t far behind.  While his personality is different than Emily’s, he’s very intelligent for his age.  We had him professionally evaluated, and he’s about a year ahead cognitively.  He’s still in that “terrible twos” phase, so I’m curious to see what he’s like when he’s older. I think both of our kids have tremendous potential, and I don’t want to squash these qualities by subjecting them to a standard American education.  My wife went to public school, and I went to religious private school, but neither of those options appeals to me, especially since the Las Vegas educational system is short on qualified teachers.  Home schooling wouldn’t be a viable option either, since neither Erin nor I are willing to sacrifice enough of our work time to manage it. The best option might be some kind of private tutoring, similar to home schooling except that Erin and I wouldn’t be doing it ourselves.  We can certainly afford that.  But what would be the curriculum?  Do we give the kids a standard education, filling their heads with useless trivia?  No, that’s out.  Or do we give them a practical education, like showing them how to set up their own Internet businesses and generate income from them, so they’ll never need to get a regular job to support themselves?  There are lots of possibilities for where we could take this. I don’t want to push my own values on my kids either.  My parents did that to me with Catholicism, and of course it didn’t work.  By age 17 I’d had enough brainwashing and opted to find my own way, immune to the backlash of counter-pressure.  I want to expose my kids to the larger spectrum of options and let them find their own path, even if it’s vastly different than mine.  For example, we explained to Emily why we’re vegan, and it seemed to resonate with her even more than I expected.  If she sees her grandparents eating meat, she’ll sometimes yell at them, “Don’t eat animals because it makes the animals say, ‘Ow!’”  But if Emily someday changed her mind and wanted to try eating animals, I’m fine with that (although I know many vegans wouldn’t be).  I want her to learn to make her own conscious choices, just as I encourage everyone else to do. I always thought of parenting as the act of raising children, but sometimes I wonder who’s raising whom.  I often think my kids are teaching me patience and forgiveness.  A couple days ago, I asked Emily, “What are you here to teach me, Muffin?”  (Muffin is my pet name for her.)  She looked up, smiled at me, and said, “Playing!” My challenge is to define my role as a father.  On the one hand, I have this larger mission.  And on the other hand, I have two children to raise (and to be raised by them).  I often feel like I’m sacrificing one for the other, falling into win-lose or lose-win.  When I’m writing I’m neglecting my role as a father.  And when I’m playing with the kids, I’m neglecting my mission.  Is there a third alternative? I think the ideal solution would involve finding a way to integrate my role as a father with my mission.  But I don’t yet see how that would work.  Is there an AND solution instead of just an EITHER-OR?  This entry is part of the “Ask Steve” series.  See the original Ask Steve post for details, or view the Archives (July 2006) to peruse the entire series.
    Jul 12, 2011 756
  • 12 Jul 2011
    Could you recommend some of your all-time favorite books? Sure. Since the early 90s I’ve been reading about a book a week, so that adds up to quite a few books.  I’ll scan my office bookshelves to recall which ones had a meaningful impact on me after I read them. Here are some of my personal favorites in no particular order: Edit 8/22/06:  A more complete version of this list, conveniently sorted into categories, can be found here:  personal development books. Power vs. Force by David Hawkins (levels of consciousness) The Celestine Prophecy by James Redfield (wisdom) The Prophet by Kahlil Gibran (wisdom) As You Think aka As a Man Thinketh by James Allen (power of thought) The Seven Spiritual Laws of Success by Deepak Chopra (manifesting intentions) Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill (wealth) Tao Te Ching by Lao Tsu (wisdom) Ask and It Is Given by Esther Hicks (manifesting intentions) The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey (personal effectiveness) The Art of War by Sun Tzu (slaughtering your enemy efficiently) The 48 Laws of Power by Robert Greene (ensuring your enemy doesn’t slaughter you first) Way of the Peaceful Warrior by Dan Millman (inner peace, no slaughtering) Chaos and Genius by James Gleick (chaos science and fractals; Richard Feynman bio) Unlimited Power and Awaken the Giant Within by Tony Robbins (achievement and NLP) Maximum Achievement and Time Power by Brian Tracy (time management) The Egoscue Method of Health Through Motion by Pete Egoscue (pain-free structural alignment) Using Your Brain for a Change by Richard Bandler (NLP) Learned Optimism by Martin Seligman (optimism, duh) The Power of Now and A New Earth by Eckhart Tolle (consciousness and awareness) Diet for a New America and The Food Revolution by John Robbins (health and ethical food choices) Mad Cowboy by Howard Lyman (why a cattle rancher won’t eat meat) Too Good to Leave, Too Bad to Stay by Mira Kirshenbaum (awesome book on diagnosing relationship issues) Atlas Shrugged and The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand (philosophy in 1000 pages) The Psychology of Winning by Denis Waitley (victory) Lucid Dreaming and Exploring the World of Lucid Dreaming by Stephen LaBerge (lucid dreaming) Far Journeys by Robert Monroe (astral projection) Cosmic Trigger Vol I, Vol II, and Vol III by Robert Anton Wilson (“weird” doesn’t begin to describe it) Anatomy of an Illness by Norman Cousins (laughter as medicine) Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl (finding meaning in the Holocaust) Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank (Holocaust story) Brain Building in Just 12 Weeks by Marilyn vos Savant (becoming a smarty pants) Built to Last and Good to Great by Jim Collins (business) Incarnations of Immortalityby Piers Anthony (awesome fiction series): On a Pale Horse (Death) Bearing an Hourglass (Time) With a Tangled Skein (Fate) Wielding a Red Sword (War) Being a Green Mother (Nature) For Love of Evil (Satan) And Eternity (God) The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin by Benjamin Franklin (personal effectiveness) The Disappearance of the Universe by Gary Renard (awareness and forgiveness) A Course in Miracles by the Foundation for Inner Peace (what the Bible meant to say) Bringers of the Dawn by Barbara Marciniak (channeled teachings of the Pleiadians) Inspiration by Wayne Dyer (finding your purpose) Creative Visualization by Shakti Gawain (visualization) The Millionaire Course by Marc Allen (wealth, read my interview with Marc Allen) Getting Things Done by David Allen (workflow and productivity) A Child Called It, The Lost Boy, and A Man Named Dave by Dave Pelzer (abuse and recovery) Organizing From the Inside Out by Julie Morgenstern (getting organized) Rich Dad, Poor Dad by Robert Kiyosaki (wealth advice with fake stories) How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie (social skills) The China Study by T. Colin Campbell (health, read my book review) Code Complete and Rapid Development by Steve McConnell (software development) The Self-Publishing Manual by Dan Poynter (self-publishing) I guess I have a lot of favorite books.  This entry is part of the “Ask Steve” series.  See the original Ask Steve post for details, or view the Archives (July 2006) to peruse the entire series.
    814 Posted by UniqueThis
  • Could you recommend some of your all-time favorite books? Sure. Since the early 90s I’ve been reading about a book a week, so that adds up to quite a few books.  I’ll scan my office bookshelves to recall which ones had a meaningful impact on me after I read them. Here are some of my personal favorites in no particular order: Edit 8/22/06:  A more complete version of this list, conveniently sorted into categories, can be found here:  personal development books. Power vs. Force by David Hawkins (levels of consciousness) The Celestine Prophecy by James Redfield (wisdom) The Prophet by Kahlil Gibran (wisdom) As You Think aka As a Man Thinketh by James Allen (power of thought) The Seven Spiritual Laws of Success by Deepak Chopra (manifesting intentions) Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill (wealth) Tao Te Ching by Lao Tsu (wisdom) Ask and It Is Given by Esther Hicks (manifesting intentions) The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey (personal effectiveness) The Art of War by Sun Tzu (slaughtering your enemy efficiently) The 48 Laws of Power by Robert Greene (ensuring your enemy doesn’t slaughter you first) Way of the Peaceful Warrior by Dan Millman (inner peace, no slaughtering) Chaos and Genius by James Gleick (chaos science and fractals; Richard Feynman bio) Unlimited Power and Awaken the Giant Within by Tony Robbins (achievement and NLP) Maximum Achievement and Time Power by Brian Tracy (time management) The Egoscue Method of Health Through Motion by Pete Egoscue (pain-free structural alignment) Using Your Brain for a Change by Richard Bandler (NLP) Learned Optimism by Martin Seligman (optimism, duh) The Power of Now and A New Earth by Eckhart Tolle (consciousness and awareness) Diet for a New America and The Food Revolution by John Robbins (health and ethical food choices) Mad Cowboy by Howard Lyman (why a cattle rancher won’t eat meat) Too Good to Leave, Too Bad to Stay by Mira Kirshenbaum (awesome book on diagnosing relationship issues) Atlas Shrugged and The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand (philosophy in 1000 pages) The Psychology of Winning by Denis Waitley (victory) Lucid Dreaming and Exploring the World of Lucid Dreaming by Stephen LaBerge (lucid dreaming) Far Journeys by Robert Monroe (astral projection) Cosmic Trigger Vol I, Vol II, and Vol III by Robert Anton Wilson (“weird” doesn’t begin to describe it) Anatomy of an Illness by Norman Cousins (laughter as medicine) Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl (finding meaning in the Holocaust) Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank (Holocaust story) Brain Building in Just 12 Weeks by Marilyn vos Savant (becoming a smarty pants) Built to Last and Good to Great by Jim Collins (business) Incarnations of Immortalityby Piers Anthony (awesome fiction series): On a Pale Horse (Death) Bearing an Hourglass (Time) With a Tangled Skein (Fate) Wielding a Red Sword (War) Being a Green Mother (Nature) For Love of Evil (Satan) And Eternity (God) The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin by Benjamin Franklin (personal effectiveness) The Disappearance of the Universe by Gary Renard (awareness and forgiveness) A Course in Miracles by the Foundation for Inner Peace (what the Bible meant to say) Bringers of the Dawn by Barbara Marciniak (channeled teachings of the Pleiadians) Inspiration by Wayne Dyer (finding your purpose) Creative Visualization by Shakti Gawain (visualization) The Millionaire Course by Marc Allen (wealth, read my interview with Marc Allen) Getting Things Done by David Allen (workflow and productivity) A Child Called It, The Lost Boy, and A Man Named Dave by Dave Pelzer (abuse and recovery) Organizing From the Inside Out by Julie Morgenstern (getting organized) Rich Dad, Poor Dad by Robert Kiyosaki (wealth advice with fake stories) How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie (social skills) The China Study by T. Colin Campbell (health, read my book review) Code Complete and Rapid Development by Steve McConnell (software development) The Self-Publishing Manual by Dan Poynter (self-publishing) I guess I have a lot of favorite books.  This entry is part of the “Ask Steve” series.  See the original Ask Steve post for details, or view the Archives (July 2006) to peruse the entire series.
    Jul 12, 2011 814
  • 12 Jul 2011
    Skepticism is the mindset that says, “I’ll believe it when I see it… and even then I’ll still have doubts.”  In practical terms skeptics need to see a reasonable degree of external proof before they’ll believe anything out of the ordinary. The idea behind skepticism is fine.  It keeps people from being too gullible and being taken advantage of.  It also contributes to the advancement of certain thought lines.  No problem there. The basic idea of skepticism is that you should doubt that for which you’ve seen little or no evidence.  Apparently it’s cool to be a doubter these days.  Plus it’s always easy to poke holes in someone else’s beliefs from the outside looking in. Doubting skepticism The problem with most skeptics though is that they don’t take skepticism far enough.  If you want to be a true skeptic, then you also need to be skeptical about skepticism.  You wouldn’t want to be so gullible as to swallow a whole thought system without proof, would you? If we truly live in an objective universe, then skepticism is an intelligent choice.  If external reality is completely independent of our thoughts, then we can safely study it from a position of doubt.  Our bias may be more negative than necessary, but at least we won’t take any flying leaps into falsehood or stupidity. On the other hand, if the universe is subjective and is influenced even partially by our thoughts, then skepticism poses a serious problem.  We can no longer safely study the external world from a position of doubt.  If we harbor thoughts of doubt, and they manifest in some way through the physical world, then we will end up co-creating a reality that is far more limited and confusing than necessary.  And when we go to study it, we’ll merely be observing the results of our skeptical attitude rather than what’s really out there. The ultimate skeptic I was a hardened skeptic (and a sworn atheist) for many years, and I can attest that during that time, I never saw any evidence of what I doubted to be true.  I had no experience of anything non-physical — no astral projection, no communication with spirits, no clairvoyant flashes, no unexplainable surges of synchronicities, etc.  Plus my intuition was so lame I’d never seriously trust it.  I was strictly a math and science guy. Ironically my skepticism contained the seed of its own destruction.  Eventually I became curious about the true nature of reality, and I started questioning my beliefs.  I realized that if the universe was actually subjective, I’d never recognize it as such if I believed it was objective, since I’d simply manifest an objective universe.  It would be like finding a genie in a bottle and using my first of three wishes to wish that I never found the bottle.  If the universe was truly influenced by my thoughts, but I believed it wasn’t, then I’d be using subjectivity to manifest objectivity.  So I had to know – was the universe really objective, or was I manifesting the illusion of objectivity in a subjective universe? The only way to find out was to test.  But this was a tall order.  In order to test the subjectivity of the universe, I had to drop a ton of potentially limiting beliefs — anything that would conflict with the possibility of a subjective universe.  And I had to condition new beliefs in the subjectivity of the universe.  This meant that I had to leave skepticism behind as well.  Otherwise, how could I subjectively manifest what I didn’t actually believe? Testing for subjectivity Unfortunately, testing for subjectivity is an oxymoron.  You can’t actually test for a subjective universe.  The whole idea of testing implies doubt, and doubt will corrupt the test if the universe really is subjective.  So I had to drop the mindset of testing.  Testing is an objective reality concept that has no equivalent in subjective reality.  Dropping this mindset hasn’t been easy to do, but I’m getting there. In subjective reality you don’t test anything.  You experience it.  This is something that confused people about the Million Dollar Experiment.  In the English language, the word experiment has multiple definitions.  One is “a controlled test.”  Another is “an innovative act.”  The MDE is the latter.  It’s an experience, not a test.  Of course if you’re coming from an objective reality mindset, then for you it is a test, but that mindset will only corrupt your results on the experiential side.  If I were starting the MDE today, I would name it the Million Dollar Experience instead.  My personal intention for the MDE isn’t to test whether or not I can manifest a million dollars.  My intention is to experience the unfolding manifestation.  Why?  Because it’s a fun, rewarding, and enriching experience. A self-fulfilling prophecy If our beliefs are just a self-fulfilling prophecy, then the prophecy of skepticism is a lame one to fulfill.  All you manifest is evidence that causes you to continue doubting.  It would be hard to manifest a more boring reality than that. If we live in a subjective reality, then you’re free to manifest whatever the heck you want.  If you spend a lot of time observing external reality, then you’re intending continuity.  You’ll simply manifest more of the same.  However, if you imagine something totally different, then you’ll manifest a discontinuity now and then.  Your experience of reality will twist and turn in exciting new ways. The trap of skepticism Ultimately skepticism is rooted in fear.  Fear of making a mistake.  Fear of being gullible.  Fear of living foolishly.  From a subjective reality standpoint, skepticism is a mental adaptation that occurs after you’ve made the choice to live in a fear-based objective universe.  Once you’ve objectified your universe, skepticism is the next step. You can’t really escape skepticism if you believe in an objective universe.  And you wouldn’t want to anyway.  It makes sense to fear and doubt that which you cannot control. Once objectivity has been chosen, a skeptic will regard a non-skeptic as reckless, foolhardy, gullible, or misguided.  From the emails I’ve received, I can see it really bothers some skeptics that I don’t believe in an objective universe, yet I’m still able to function just fine in the world (probably better than most skeptics in fact).  I would think that if I believed in a subjective universe, and the universe was really objective, then my ability to function should decrease.  But from any measurable standpoint, the opposite occurred when I adopted a subjective mindset. As previously noted though, if you take skepticism far enough, it eventually leads you to question the nature of reality, and that’s where it finally self-destructs.  Most skeptics don’t go nearly this far, however. An alternative to skepticism What would be an intelligent alternative to skepticism that isn’t rooted in fear?  The alternative is to experience and embrace reality openly instead of worrying about your potential missteps.  Reality is something you experience and enjoy, not something you test.  You can experience it as a test if you so choose, but that is only one possibility among many.  Why not remain open to the broader scope of all possible experiences instead of limiting yourself to just a narrow band? A skeptic is concerned about the probabilities of success vs. failure in any endeavor.  For example, before a skeptic starts his/her own business, lots of questions must be answered to alleviate fear and doubt.  How well are other people doing in this industry?  Do I have enough money?  How will I support myself?  What if it doesn’t work?  Am I good enough?  What are my chances of success? A non-skeptic doesn’t see life this way at all.  If such a person were to start his/her own business, it would be with an experiential attitude.  There wouldn’t be so much attachment to specific outcomes.  When I started my personal development business, I didn’t ask all these skeptical questions because I wasn’t thinking in terms of success vs. failure.  I just wanted to experience its unfolding.  It made no difference what level of success others were having.  I was simply going to dive in and experience it in my own unique way.  With such an attitude, there’s no success or failure.  There’s only the unfolding experience. When you seek to experience life instead of doubting and fearing it, joy becomes your natural state of being.  It doesn’t matter what outcome you get because your attitude is always, “What a fascinating experience!”
    754 Posted by UniqueThis
  • Skepticism is the mindset that says, “I’ll believe it when I see it… and even then I’ll still have doubts.”  In practical terms skeptics need to see a reasonable degree of external proof before they’ll believe anything out of the ordinary. The idea behind skepticism is fine.  It keeps people from being too gullible and being taken advantage of.  It also contributes to the advancement of certain thought lines.  No problem there. The basic idea of skepticism is that you should doubt that for which you’ve seen little or no evidence.  Apparently it’s cool to be a doubter these days.  Plus it’s always easy to poke holes in someone else’s beliefs from the outside looking in. Doubting skepticism The problem with most skeptics though is that they don’t take skepticism far enough.  If you want to be a true skeptic, then you also need to be skeptical about skepticism.  You wouldn’t want to be so gullible as to swallow a whole thought system without proof, would you? If we truly live in an objective universe, then skepticism is an intelligent choice.  If external reality is completely independent of our thoughts, then we can safely study it from a position of doubt.  Our bias may be more negative than necessary, but at least we won’t take any flying leaps into falsehood or stupidity. On the other hand, if the universe is subjective and is influenced even partially by our thoughts, then skepticism poses a serious problem.  We can no longer safely study the external world from a position of doubt.  If we harbor thoughts of doubt, and they manifest in some way through the physical world, then we will end up co-creating a reality that is far more limited and confusing than necessary.  And when we go to study it, we’ll merely be observing the results of our skeptical attitude rather than what’s really out there. The ultimate skeptic I was a hardened skeptic (and a sworn atheist) for many years, and I can attest that during that time, I never saw any evidence of what I doubted to be true.  I had no experience of anything non-physical — no astral projection, no communication with spirits, no clairvoyant flashes, no unexplainable surges of synchronicities, etc.  Plus my intuition was so lame I’d never seriously trust it.  I was strictly a math and science guy. Ironically my skepticism contained the seed of its own destruction.  Eventually I became curious about the true nature of reality, and I started questioning my beliefs.  I realized that if the universe was actually subjective, I’d never recognize it as such if I believed it was objective, since I’d simply manifest an objective universe.  It would be like finding a genie in a bottle and using my first of three wishes to wish that I never found the bottle.  If the universe was truly influenced by my thoughts, but I believed it wasn’t, then I’d be using subjectivity to manifest objectivity.  So I had to know – was the universe really objective, or was I manifesting the illusion of objectivity in a subjective universe? The only way to find out was to test.  But this was a tall order.  In order to test the subjectivity of the universe, I had to drop a ton of potentially limiting beliefs — anything that would conflict with the possibility of a subjective universe.  And I had to condition new beliefs in the subjectivity of the universe.  This meant that I had to leave skepticism behind as well.  Otherwise, how could I subjectively manifest what I didn’t actually believe? Testing for subjectivity Unfortunately, testing for subjectivity is an oxymoron.  You can’t actually test for a subjective universe.  The whole idea of testing implies doubt, and doubt will corrupt the test if the universe really is subjective.  So I had to drop the mindset of testing.  Testing is an objective reality concept that has no equivalent in subjective reality.  Dropping this mindset hasn’t been easy to do, but I’m getting there. In subjective reality you don’t test anything.  You experience it.  This is something that confused people about the Million Dollar Experiment.  In the English language, the word experiment has multiple definitions.  One is “a controlled test.”  Another is “an innovative act.”  The MDE is the latter.  It’s an experience, not a test.  Of course if you’re coming from an objective reality mindset, then for you it is a test, but that mindset will only corrupt your results on the experiential side.  If I were starting the MDE today, I would name it the Million Dollar Experience instead.  My personal intention for the MDE isn’t to test whether or not I can manifest a million dollars.  My intention is to experience the unfolding manifestation.  Why?  Because it’s a fun, rewarding, and enriching experience. A self-fulfilling prophecy If our beliefs are just a self-fulfilling prophecy, then the prophecy of skepticism is a lame one to fulfill.  All you manifest is evidence that causes you to continue doubting.  It would be hard to manifest a more boring reality than that. If we live in a subjective reality, then you’re free to manifest whatever the heck you want.  If you spend a lot of time observing external reality, then you’re intending continuity.  You’ll simply manifest more of the same.  However, if you imagine something totally different, then you’ll manifest a discontinuity now and then.  Your experience of reality will twist and turn in exciting new ways. The trap of skepticism Ultimately skepticism is rooted in fear.  Fear of making a mistake.  Fear of being gullible.  Fear of living foolishly.  From a subjective reality standpoint, skepticism is a mental adaptation that occurs after you’ve made the choice to live in a fear-based objective universe.  Once you’ve objectified your universe, skepticism is the next step. You can’t really escape skepticism if you believe in an objective universe.  And you wouldn’t want to anyway.  It makes sense to fear and doubt that which you cannot control. Once objectivity has been chosen, a skeptic will regard a non-skeptic as reckless, foolhardy, gullible, or misguided.  From the emails I’ve received, I can see it really bothers some skeptics that I don’t believe in an objective universe, yet I’m still able to function just fine in the world (probably better than most skeptics in fact).  I would think that if I believed in a subjective universe, and the universe was really objective, then my ability to function should decrease.  But from any measurable standpoint, the opposite occurred when I adopted a subjective mindset. As previously noted though, if you take skepticism far enough, it eventually leads you to question the nature of reality, and that’s where it finally self-destructs.  Most skeptics don’t go nearly this far, however. An alternative to skepticism What would be an intelligent alternative to skepticism that isn’t rooted in fear?  The alternative is to experience and embrace reality openly instead of worrying about your potential missteps.  Reality is something you experience and enjoy, not something you test.  You can experience it as a test if you so choose, but that is only one possibility among many.  Why not remain open to the broader scope of all possible experiences instead of limiting yourself to just a narrow band? A skeptic is concerned about the probabilities of success vs. failure in any endeavor.  For example, before a skeptic starts his/her own business, lots of questions must be answered to alleviate fear and doubt.  How well are other people doing in this industry?  Do I have enough money?  How will I support myself?  What if it doesn’t work?  Am I good enough?  What are my chances of success? A non-skeptic doesn’t see life this way at all.  If such a person were to start his/her own business, it would be with an experiential attitude.  There wouldn’t be so much attachment to specific outcomes.  When I started my personal development business, I didn’t ask all these skeptical questions because I wasn’t thinking in terms of success vs. failure.  I just wanted to experience its unfolding.  It made no difference what level of success others were having.  I was simply going to dive in and experience it in my own unique way.  With such an attitude, there’s no success or failure.  There’s only the unfolding experience. When you seek to experience life instead of doubting and fearing it, joy becomes your natural state of being.  It doesn’t matter what outcome you get because your attitude is always, “What a fascinating experience!”
    Jul 12, 2011 754
  • 12 Jul 2011
    Recently I took a 3-week course on financial planning offered through UNLV.  The most important topic covered was asset allocation.  Asset allocation refers to how you allocate the money you have available to invest.  What percentage of your money goes into your secure, moderate growth, and aggressive growth baskets? You have many options for where to invest your money, and every option has a different risk/reward ratio.  You can put all your money in the high risk/reward basket, such as aggressive growth stocks, and you may enjoy great gains, but you’ll also suffer huge losses when things go badly.  On the other hand, you can put all your money in the low risk/reward basket and keep your assets secure, but then your gains will be very modest.  If your gains are taxable, you need to make about 7% just to stay even, since you have to cover inflation + taxes (based on typical USA figures). The point of intelligent asset allocation is to enjoy strong gains without taking on too much risk of losing your entire principal and having to start over from scratch.  So you want to have some money in the aggressive growth bucket, so you have the potential to enjoy some big wins when things go well.  But you also want to keep some money in your secure bucket, so you have backup funds to get back in the game if your aggressive investments go bust.  Asset allocation involves determining how much to put in each bucket. I’ve made mistakes on both sides.  As a young adult, I kept all my money in a regular savings account, earning minimal interest while the market was soaring.  Then in my late 20s, I put most of my money in stocks that lost 70-80% of their value during the dotcom bust, and it took me a while to rebuild those cash reserves.  Both of these were good lessons for me. A financial investment example As an interesting illustration from the course, consider this hypothetical example.  Suppose Erin and I are each going to invest $100,000 for 25 years, and we want to maximize our returns. I decide to play it safe and stick the whole $100K in a fairly secure investment that yields 7% per year. Erin decides to split her money into $20K chunks and invests in five different vehicles, which perform as follows: $20K is lost completely $20K returns 0%, so you only get the original $20K back $20K is invested at 5% $20K is invested at 10% $20K is invested at 12% Who gets the better total return?  Let’s see how the numbers add up: My 7% investment turns that $100K into $572,542 after 25 years. Erin’s returns are as follows: $20K lost = $0 $20K @ 0% = $20K $20K @ 5% = $69,626 $20K @ 10% = $241,139 $20K @ 12% = $395,769 So Erin’s grand total is $726,534.  That’s $153,992 more than what my 7% investment earned.  It’s interesting that 40% of her initial investment returned zero or negative returns, and another 20% underperformed my 7% return.  But those higher returns of 10% and 12% really pay off.  Even though most of Erin’s picks were poor performers, being right just 40% of the time was all she needed. By diversifying her investments, Erin was able to participate in the big winners while not being wiped out by the losers.  Of course it would have been great if she could have invested the whole amount at 12% or more, but this example assumes she did her best to pick five potential winners. To optimize your long-term investment gains, you need to optimize your asset allocation.  Maybe you start with 1/3 of your money in safe investments like municipal bonds, another 1/3 in growth funds, and the last 1/3 in aggressive growth stocks.  Over time these percentages will drift as each bucket grows at a different rate, so you need to rebalance them. When your riskier investments lose money, rebalancing means transferring money out of your secure bucket to get back in the game and try again.  And when your riskier investments pay off big, rebalancing means transferring money back to your secure bucket to lock in your gains.  This strategy allows you to continue enjoying some big investment payoffs without taking on too much risk. Beyond financial planning After the financial planning course I realized that the strategy of asset allocation can be applied to other areas of life, such as work, relationships, and health. Consider how you allocate your time.  You can think of your time as consisting of several buckets, each having a different risk/reward ratio.  If you have a full-time job that pays a flat salary, then most of your time is allocated to the security bucket, so you might want to shift some of that time to the entrepreneurial bucket to participate in the game for much greater gains.  Maybe your job pays $20/hour, and you have the option of trying to make $50/hour doing consulting on the side, but your consulting efforts don’t always pay off.  Some hours you make $50, but others you make $0.  And as you slide the risk/reward ratio further, you may put yourself in the game for some of those delightful $10,000 hours. You can also use non-monetary criteria for each bucket.  With physical exercise you could have different buckets for allocating your time to aerobic conditioning, endurance training, strength training, stretching, sports, and fitness education.  Each of these buckets will have a particular impact on your physical health.  You would then allocate a certain percentage of your available exercise time to each of these buckets in accordance with your fitness goals.  I remember when I started exercising regularly, all I did was running (aerobics).  Then I got into distance running (endurance).  Today I do about 40% aerobics, 45% strength training, and 15% disc golf (sports).  I had the most balanced allocation when I trained in Tae Kwon Do, which was a great blend of everything. It’s up to you to decide what particular allocation works best for you, whether you’re trying to get better returns on your money, your time, your energy, your goals, or something else.  Working like a monomaniac on any one thing for too long will unbalance you, as will neglecting a key area for too long.  Intelligent asset allocation can help you consciously determine the right mix that keeps you in the sweet spot of balancing risk vs. reward, work vs. leisure, strength vs. flexibility, solo time vs. social time, and so on.
    644 Posted by UniqueThis
  • Recently I took a 3-week course on financial planning offered through UNLV.  The most important topic covered was asset allocation.  Asset allocation refers to how you allocate the money you have available to invest.  What percentage of your money goes into your secure, moderate growth, and aggressive growth baskets? You have many options for where to invest your money, and every option has a different risk/reward ratio.  You can put all your money in the high risk/reward basket, such as aggressive growth stocks, and you may enjoy great gains, but you’ll also suffer huge losses when things go badly.  On the other hand, you can put all your money in the low risk/reward basket and keep your assets secure, but then your gains will be very modest.  If your gains are taxable, you need to make about 7% just to stay even, since you have to cover inflation + taxes (based on typical USA figures). The point of intelligent asset allocation is to enjoy strong gains without taking on too much risk of losing your entire principal and having to start over from scratch.  So you want to have some money in the aggressive growth bucket, so you have the potential to enjoy some big wins when things go well.  But you also want to keep some money in your secure bucket, so you have backup funds to get back in the game if your aggressive investments go bust.  Asset allocation involves determining how much to put in each bucket. I’ve made mistakes on both sides.  As a young adult, I kept all my money in a regular savings account, earning minimal interest while the market was soaring.  Then in my late 20s, I put most of my money in stocks that lost 70-80% of their value during the dotcom bust, and it took me a while to rebuild those cash reserves.  Both of these were good lessons for me. A financial investment example As an interesting illustration from the course, consider this hypothetical example.  Suppose Erin and I are each going to invest $100,000 for 25 years, and we want to maximize our returns. I decide to play it safe and stick the whole $100K in a fairly secure investment that yields 7% per year. Erin decides to split her money into $20K chunks and invests in five different vehicles, which perform as follows: $20K is lost completely $20K returns 0%, so you only get the original $20K back $20K is invested at 5% $20K is invested at 10% $20K is invested at 12% Who gets the better total return?  Let’s see how the numbers add up: My 7% investment turns that $100K into $572,542 after 25 years. Erin’s returns are as follows: $20K lost = $0 $20K @ 0% = $20K $20K @ 5% = $69,626 $20K @ 10% = $241,139 $20K @ 12% = $395,769 So Erin’s grand total is $726,534.  That’s $153,992 more than what my 7% investment earned.  It’s interesting that 40% of her initial investment returned zero or negative returns, and another 20% underperformed my 7% return.  But those higher returns of 10% and 12% really pay off.  Even though most of Erin’s picks were poor performers, being right just 40% of the time was all she needed. By diversifying her investments, Erin was able to participate in the big winners while not being wiped out by the losers.  Of course it would have been great if she could have invested the whole amount at 12% or more, but this example assumes she did her best to pick five potential winners. To optimize your long-term investment gains, you need to optimize your asset allocation.  Maybe you start with 1/3 of your money in safe investments like municipal bonds, another 1/3 in growth funds, and the last 1/3 in aggressive growth stocks.  Over time these percentages will drift as each bucket grows at a different rate, so you need to rebalance them. When your riskier investments lose money, rebalancing means transferring money out of your secure bucket to get back in the game and try again.  And when your riskier investments pay off big, rebalancing means transferring money back to your secure bucket to lock in your gains.  This strategy allows you to continue enjoying some big investment payoffs without taking on too much risk. Beyond financial planning After the financial planning course I realized that the strategy of asset allocation can be applied to other areas of life, such as work, relationships, and health. Consider how you allocate your time.  You can think of your time as consisting of several buckets, each having a different risk/reward ratio.  If you have a full-time job that pays a flat salary, then most of your time is allocated to the security bucket, so you might want to shift some of that time to the entrepreneurial bucket to participate in the game for much greater gains.  Maybe your job pays $20/hour, and you have the option of trying to make $50/hour doing consulting on the side, but your consulting efforts don’t always pay off.  Some hours you make $50, but others you make $0.  And as you slide the risk/reward ratio further, you may put yourself in the game for some of those delightful $10,000 hours. You can also use non-monetary criteria for each bucket.  With physical exercise you could have different buckets for allocating your time to aerobic conditioning, endurance training, strength training, stretching, sports, and fitness education.  Each of these buckets will have a particular impact on your physical health.  You would then allocate a certain percentage of your available exercise time to each of these buckets in accordance with your fitness goals.  I remember when I started exercising regularly, all I did was running (aerobics).  Then I got into distance running (endurance).  Today I do about 40% aerobics, 45% strength training, and 15% disc golf (sports).  I had the most balanced allocation when I trained in Tae Kwon Do, which was a great blend of everything. It’s up to you to decide what particular allocation works best for you, whether you’re trying to get better returns on your money, your time, your energy, your goals, or something else.  Working like a monomaniac on any one thing for too long will unbalance you, as will neglecting a key area for too long.  Intelligent asset allocation can help you consciously determine the right mix that keeps you in the sweet spot of balancing risk vs. reward, work vs. leisure, strength vs. flexibility, solo time vs. social time, and so on.
    Jul 12, 2011 644
  • 12 Jul 2011
    Once you discover and embrace your life purpose, are you set for the rest of your life?  Do you keep fulfilling that same purpose until you die?  Or can your purpose change over time? Truthfully I think the answer is a little of both.  There is a permanent, unchanging aspect of my purpose, and that aspect is growth.  I have an undeniably strong sense that I’m here to grow, and that sense has never wavered.  I imagine that conscious growth will always be part of my purpose. On the other hand, there are aspects of my purpose I consider temporary.  Those aspects are things like writing articles and giving speeches.  Those will undoubtedly change and evolve over time.  Thinking of myself as primarily a blogger, writer, or speaker would mean confusing the medium with the message.  The message of growth may be permanent, but the current medium of expression is temporary. In a way you have two purposes then:  your message and your medium.  Your message is the primary contribution you’re here to make.  Your message is who you are.  If you can connect with your higher self, you know your message.  Your message doesn’t really change, but your depth of understanding will change over time.  In a general way I can say that my message is growth.  Or I can get more specific and say it’s to help people live more consciously and courageously.  This message doesn’t really change; only my understanding of it does. Your medium is the specific expression of your message.  This is how you express your contribution to the world.  You can have a really wonderful and empowering message, but if you choose a lousy form of expression, you won’t have much impact.  Running a computer games business was a weak fit for my message, while blogging is a much better medium for it. You have many choices for a medium that fits your message.  Suppose you recognize that your message is to heal people.  You could be a doctor, a massage therapist, a holistic healer, a teacher, a musician, a nutritionist, a chef, a speaker, a counselor, etc.  All of these are good outlets for healing. Picking the right medium to express your message can be a real challenge, so let me give you some advice on how to do it intelligently.  As I wrote in the article Living Congruently, a purpose-centered life requires finding the overlap between the answers to four questions: What do I need to do? What do I want to do? What can I do? What should I do? So in order to choose an intelligent way to express your purpose (i.e. your career), you must consider your needs, desires, abilities, and your potential for contribution.  For example, if your message is healing, but you get queasy at the sight of blood, then you probably wouldn’t want to be a heart surgeon.  On the other hand, you might make a great massage therapist.  It can take a while to find a career that satisfies these four criteria and expresses your true message, but it’s well worth the effort. Since any of the above four factors can change, your medium must be flexible as well.  A rigid medium will fall out of sync with reality too quickly.  Even though your message may not change, you could easily go through many different careers as you express it.  In fact, that’s to be expected. Unfortunately many career-oriented people are totally clueless about their message.  They have an outlet for expression, but they aren’t aware of what they want to express.  Consequently, they run around in circles, not feeling terribly ambitious or passionate about their work, often having the suspicion they should be doing something else but never being quite sure what that something is. These hollowed-out people are easy to find.  When you watch one of them work, it’s like looking at a soulless automaton.  They go through the motions, but there’s no passion or drive behind their eyes.  The lights are on, but no one’s home.  To such people work is just something you do to pay the bills, not an outlet for creative expression.  And because these people treat their work this way, it’s no wonder their employers treat them the same, like replaceable cogs that serve only the bottom line. By creatively expressing your message to the world, you can make a significant contribution.  In terms of total impact, some outlets are more effective than others.  For example, if I were to be a classroom teacher, I could still make a meaningful contribution with my message, but I’d have far less impact than I can as a blogger.  Blogging allows me to reach more people in a day than I’d reach in my entire career as a classroom teacher. Your choice of medium will also affect the resources that flow to you.  It’s natural for more resources to flow to those who would use them to enhance their contribution.  A teacher who teaches a class of 20 students doesn’t normally get paid much.  But a professional speaker who speaks to an audience of 2000 people can be very well paid.  Top speakers get paid more for a single speech than teachers get paid in a whole year.  Now the teacher may have a powerful message and great skill at delivering it, but the resources aren’t flowing abundantly because the medium of expression doesn’t support it.  Give the teacher 10x more resources, and s/he probably won’t teach 10x more people.  But give more resources to the speaker, and it could mean doing more seminars and having a bigger impact. I see this as being part of the Law of Attraction at work.  When you choose a medium that allows you to increase your contribution over time, meaning that you’re delivering your message to more people, you’ll naturally attract the resources to help you do that. The value you deliver to the world is a combination of your message and your medium.  Both are critical to your success.  If you have one but not the other, very little value gets delivered.  For example, I know a lot of new bloggers who are excited about trying to duplicate my financial results as a blogger, but only a small fraction of those who are trying seem likely to succeed.  Most give up within the first few weeks.  And the reason for failure is that either (1) they don’t know their message, so they’re blogging just to blog; or (2) the medium of blogging isn’t a good fit for them because it doesn’t suit their needs, desires, abilities, and/or potential for contribution.  Either way the value doesn’t get delivered, so neither does the income. It’s also important that you adapt your medium of expression to the situation at hand.  I presently see blogging as a terrific outlet for me to contribute.  But if the day comes when I sense I’m better off contributing some other way, I’ll switch to a different medium.  The ultimate long-term goal remains the same:  create value by delivering my message to as many people as possible. Erin’s message is about compassion and connection, so blogging is a great medium for her as well.  And her intuitive readings enable her to have a deeper impact on individuals by showing them just how connected we are.  Web consulting was a weak fit for her message, so she dropped that outlet earlier this year. Knowing your message helps you stay grounded.  In this fast-changing world, it’s important to stay connected to something permanent.  Whenever Erin and I experience a sometimes too rapid rate of change in our lives, we reconnect to what we’re here to do.  This makes it easier to re-engage with the fluctuating expression of that message without feeling overwhelmed.  Even in times of stress, I’m able to stay focused just by reconnecting with the simple idea that I’m here to express and share conscious growth. Expressing your purpose can be a lot of fun too.  I enjoy all the different options I have to creatively express the message of living consciously.  I can write an article.  I can record a podcast.  I can deliver a speech or workshop.  I can have a conversation.  I can participate in a discussion group.  I can answer an email.  All I’m really doing though is expressing who I am.  The fun part is finding creative new ways to do that each day.  I wake up each morning thinking, “How am I going to express growth today?” The most rewarding part of this is knowing that you’ve taken that powerful, positive message within you and given it away.  You don’t need a complicated message to help people.  Conscious growth is not a complicated message.  Nor is compassion.  Your message is undoubtedly simple, probably something you can reduce to a single word:  joy, connection, love, forgiveness, acceptance, peace, reason, honor, sensuality, passion, relaxation, nonviolence, curiosity, synergy, justice… whatever.  Find that one concept you most identify with, and spend your days creatively expressing it.  Make that your career.  Then dump everything else that doesn’t resonate with your message.  In my opinion this is the most rewarding way to live as a human being.
    739 Posted by UniqueThis
  • Once you discover and embrace your life purpose, are you set for the rest of your life?  Do you keep fulfilling that same purpose until you die?  Or can your purpose change over time? Truthfully I think the answer is a little of both.  There is a permanent, unchanging aspect of my purpose, and that aspect is growth.  I have an undeniably strong sense that I’m here to grow, and that sense has never wavered.  I imagine that conscious growth will always be part of my purpose. On the other hand, there are aspects of my purpose I consider temporary.  Those aspects are things like writing articles and giving speeches.  Those will undoubtedly change and evolve over time.  Thinking of myself as primarily a blogger, writer, or speaker would mean confusing the medium with the message.  The message of growth may be permanent, but the current medium of expression is temporary. In a way you have two purposes then:  your message and your medium.  Your message is the primary contribution you’re here to make.  Your message is who you are.  If you can connect with your higher self, you know your message.  Your message doesn’t really change, but your depth of understanding will change over time.  In a general way I can say that my message is growth.  Or I can get more specific and say it’s to help people live more consciously and courageously.  This message doesn’t really change; only my understanding of it does. Your medium is the specific expression of your message.  This is how you express your contribution to the world.  You can have a really wonderful and empowering message, but if you choose a lousy form of expression, you won’t have much impact.  Running a computer games business was a weak fit for my message, while blogging is a much better medium for it. You have many choices for a medium that fits your message.  Suppose you recognize that your message is to heal people.  You could be a doctor, a massage therapist, a holistic healer, a teacher, a musician, a nutritionist, a chef, a speaker, a counselor, etc.  All of these are good outlets for healing. Picking the right medium to express your message can be a real challenge, so let me give you some advice on how to do it intelligently.  As I wrote in the article Living Congruently, a purpose-centered life requires finding the overlap between the answers to four questions: What do I need to do? What do I want to do? What can I do? What should I do? So in order to choose an intelligent way to express your purpose (i.e. your career), you must consider your needs, desires, abilities, and your potential for contribution.  For example, if your message is healing, but you get queasy at the sight of blood, then you probably wouldn’t want to be a heart surgeon.  On the other hand, you might make a great massage therapist.  It can take a while to find a career that satisfies these four criteria and expresses your true message, but it’s well worth the effort. Since any of the above four factors can change, your medium must be flexible as well.  A rigid medium will fall out of sync with reality too quickly.  Even though your message may not change, you could easily go through many different careers as you express it.  In fact, that’s to be expected. Unfortunately many career-oriented people are totally clueless about their message.  They have an outlet for expression, but they aren’t aware of what they want to express.  Consequently, they run around in circles, not feeling terribly ambitious or passionate about their work, often having the suspicion they should be doing something else but never being quite sure what that something is. These hollowed-out people are easy to find.  When you watch one of them work, it’s like looking at a soulless automaton.  They go through the motions, but there’s no passion or drive behind their eyes.  The lights are on, but no one’s home.  To such people work is just something you do to pay the bills, not an outlet for creative expression.  And because these people treat their work this way, it’s no wonder their employers treat them the same, like replaceable cogs that serve only the bottom line. By creatively expressing your message to the world, you can make a significant contribution.  In terms of total impact, some outlets are more effective than others.  For example, if I were to be a classroom teacher, I could still make a meaningful contribution with my message, but I’d have far less impact than I can as a blogger.  Blogging allows me to reach more people in a day than I’d reach in my entire career as a classroom teacher. Your choice of medium will also affect the resources that flow to you.  It’s natural for more resources to flow to those who would use them to enhance their contribution.  A teacher who teaches a class of 20 students doesn’t normally get paid much.  But a professional speaker who speaks to an audience of 2000 people can be very well paid.  Top speakers get paid more for a single speech than teachers get paid in a whole year.  Now the teacher may have a powerful message and great skill at delivering it, but the resources aren’t flowing abundantly because the medium of expression doesn’t support it.  Give the teacher 10x more resources, and s/he probably won’t teach 10x more people.  But give more resources to the speaker, and it could mean doing more seminars and having a bigger impact. I see this as being part of the Law of Attraction at work.  When you choose a medium that allows you to increase your contribution over time, meaning that you’re delivering your message to more people, you’ll naturally attract the resources to help you do that. The value you deliver to the world is a combination of your message and your medium.  Both are critical to your success.  If you have one but not the other, very little value gets delivered.  For example, I know a lot of new bloggers who are excited about trying to duplicate my financial results as a blogger, but only a small fraction of those who are trying seem likely to succeed.  Most give up within the first few weeks.  And the reason for failure is that either (1) they don’t know their message, so they’re blogging just to blog; or (2) the medium of blogging isn’t a good fit for them because it doesn’t suit their needs, desires, abilities, and/or potential for contribution.  Either way the value doesn’t get delivered, so neither does the income. It’s also important that you adapt your medium of expression to the situation at hand.  I presently see blogging as a terrific outlet for me to contribute.  But if the day comes when I sense I’m better off contributing some other way, I’ll switch to a different medium.  The ultimate long-term goal remains the same:  create value by delivering my message to as many people as possible. Erin’s message is about compassion and connection, so blogging is a great medium for her as well.  And her intuitive readings enable her to have a deeper impact on individuals by showing them just how connected we are.  Web consulting was a weak fit for her message, so she dropped that outlet earlier this year. Knowing your message helps you stay grounded.  In this fast-changing world, it’s important to stay connected to something permanent.  Whenever Erin and I experience a sometimes too rapid rate of change in our lives, we reconnect to what we’re here to do.  This makes it easier to re-engage with the fluctuating expression of that message without feeling overwhelmed.  Even in times of stress, I’m able to stay focused just by reconnecting with the simple idea that I’m here to express and share conscious growth. Expressing your purpose can be a lot of fun too.  I enjoy all the different options I have to creatively express the message of living consciously.  I can write an article.  I can record a podcast.  I can deliver a speech or workshop.  I can have a conversation.  I can participate in a discussion group.  I can answer an email.  All I’m really doing though is expressing who I am.  The fun part is finding creative new ways to do that each day.  I wake up each morning thinking, “How am I going to express growth today?” The most rewarding part of this is knowing that you’ve taken that powerful, positive message within you and given it away.  You don’t need a complicated message to help people.  Conscious growth is not a complicated message.  Nor is compassion.  Your message is undoubtedly simple, probably something you can reduce to a single word:  joy, connection, love, forgiveness, acceptance, peace, reason, honor, sensuality, passion, relaxation, nonviolence, curiosity, synergy, justice… whatever.  Find that one concept you most identify with, and spend your days creatively expressing it.  Make that your career.  Then dump everything else that doesn’t resonate with your message.  In my opinion this is the most rewarding way to live as a human being.
    Jul 12, 2011 739
  • 12 Jul 2011
    This is a very unusual post because it’s being written in the middle of a live workshop for the Las Vegas National Speakers Association. I previously mentioned this NSA workshop last month, and I’m happy to say there are about 50 attendees in the room, several of whom flew in from out of town. Presently Erin and I are standing at the front of a conference room at the Imperial Palace Hotel on the Las Vegas Strip. After doing a morning presentation on blogging as a business, we’re writing this post as a live demonstration of the power of blogging, in order to give the audience the opportunity to experience it firsthand. Right now we are posing this question to the audience members: If you could pass on one valuable lesson to the world before you die, what would it be? Here are their responses: “You always have choices.” – Janine Freeman “Goodness is all there is.” – Janice “Spend your time with admirable, successful people.” – Loren Ekroth “You create whatever you’re focusing on.” – Julie Donnelly “Trust your intincts.” – Toni Reiser “Trust your vibrations.” – Denise Marshall “The day is going to be excruciatingly long, but the time is short.” – Victor Andrijauskas “Communicate your life lessons through your children.” – Judith August “Never wrestle with a pig because you both get dirty and one of you likes it.” – Judi Moreo “You create and co-create your own life’s truth.” – Steva Giles “When you realize what beliefs imprison you, you will find the key to your freedom.” – Ayesha Ashley “Feelings are the lights on the dashboard of life.” – Cherie Carter-Scott “Be realistic, plan for a miracle.” – Vicki Kallman “After the age of 50, you will discover that your greatest trophies in life are your children.” – Rod LeGrande “Power to change.” – Anonymous “A lesson is repeated until learned.” – Michael Pomije “There are no ordinary moments.” – Mark Valentine “Travel as much as possible.” – Sandra “Successful people give more than they receive.” – Greg Bruce “It takes one to know one, all others must guess.” – Daniel Braisted “Confront your fears. Overcoming them reaps rich rewards.” – Robin Jay “Don’t fret about the weather; change the entire climate.” – Peter Pizor “Forgive everyone and everything, including yourself.” – Scott Desgrosseilliers “The things you own end up owning you.” – Joey Vaux “Never buy anything you can’t sell at a garage sale.” – John Kinde “Act as if everything you do has an impact; it does.” – Leslie Stambaugh “Effective communication involves more than talent. It involves trust, respect, understanding, empathy, and resolution. It is an art.” – David Rohlander “Happiness is a choice.” – Samuel Peery “Live simple.” – Bill Paetzke “Three things you can’t change: the weather, your past, and other people.” – Jim Jackson “Focus on being of extraordinary value.” – Hector G. Diaz “Taking even a small step toward something you really want is enormously powerful.” – Lynn Brem “De Oppresso Liber” (free the oppressed) – Michael Lugiai How would you answer this question? What wisdom would you like to pass on to others?
    746 Posted by UniqueThis
  • This is a very unusual post because it’s being written in the middle of a live workshop for the Las Vegas National Speakers Association. I previously mentioned this NSA workshop last month, and I’m happy to say there are about 50 attendees in the room, several of whom flew in from out of town. Presently Erin and I are standing at the front of a conference room at the Imperial Palace Hotel on the Las Vegas Strip. After doing a morning presentation on blogging as a business, we’re writing this post as a live demonstration of the power of blogging, in order to give the audience the opportunity to experience it firsthand. Right now we are posing this question to the audience members: If you could pass on one valuable lesson to the world before you die, what would it be? Here are their responses: “You always have choices.” – Janine Freeman “Goodness is all there is.” – Janice “Spend your time with admirable, successful people.” – Loren Ekroth “You create whatever you’re focusing on.” – Julie Donnelly “Trust your intincts.” – Toni Reiser “Trust your vibrations.” – Denise Marshall “The day is going to be excruciatingly long, but the time is short.” – Victor Andrijauskas “Communicate your life lessons through your children.” – Judith August “Never wrestle with a pig because you both get dirty and one of you likes it.” – Judi Moreo “You create and co-create your own life’s truth.” – Steva Giles “When you realize what beliefs imprison you, you will find the key to your freedom.” – Ayesha Ashley “Feelings are the lights on the dashboard of life.” – Cherie Carter-Scott “Be realistic, plan for a miracle.” – Vicki Kallman “After the age of 50, you will discover that your greatest trophies in life are your children.” – Rod LeGrande “Power to change.” – Anonymous “A lesson is repeated until learned.” – Michael Pomije “There are no ordinary moments.” – Mark Valentine “Travel as much as possible.” – Sandra “Successful people give more than they receive.” – Greg Bruce “It takes one to know one, all others must guess.” – Daniel Braisted “Confront your fears. Overcoming them reaps rich rewards.” – Robin Jay “Don’t fret about the weather; change the entire climate.” – Peter Pizor “Forgive everyone and everything, including yourself.” – Scott Desgrosseilliers “The things you own end up owning you.” – Joey Vaux “Never buy anything you can’t sell at a garage sale.” – John Kinde “Act as if everything you do has an impact; it does.” – Leslie Stambaugh “Effective communication involves more than talent. It involves trust, respect, understanding, empathy, and resolution. It is an art.” – David Rohlander “Happiness is a choice.” – Samuel Peery “Live simple.” – Bill Paetzke “Three things you can’t change: the weather, your past, and other people.” – Jim Jackson “Focus on being of extraordinary value.” – Hector G. Diaz “Taking even a small step toward something you really want is enormously powerful.” – Lynn Brem “De Oppresso Liber” (free the oppressed) – Michael Lugiai How would you answer this question? What wisdom would you like to pass on to others?
    Jul 12, 2011 746
  • 12 Jul 2011
    One obstacle that traps a lot of highly conscious people is what Erin and I call Lightworker Syndrome.  This is what happens when someone wakes up to a higher level of consciousness, but they can’t figure out how to live on purpose and feed themselves at the same time.  Such people have a lot of trouble staying connected to higher levels of consciousness while also remaining solidly grounded in the physical world.  Many of them get so frustrated with the experience they become depressed and have feelings of wanting to give up and just “go home” (i.e. return to the nonphysical world). Spiritual connectedness vs. physical groundedness These troubled lightworkers often feel they must compromise:  either stay connected up top and be totally ungrounded, or lose that higher connection and become more grounded.  But this is a really tough compromise, so many of them oscillate back and forth, never quite sure which is the right way to go. Consequently, these lightworkers either do empty work they don’t enjoy but which pays OK, or they do purpose-centered work that hardly pays anything.  They end up sacrificing either their purpose or their income, since it’s very, very challenging to satisfy both at the same time.  But this either-or decision takes a toll in the long run.  It’s hard to stay on purpose if you’re worried about paying the rent, and it’s hard to generate good income if your work doesn’t inspire you. The real trap is the either-or belief itself.  It’s a mistake to think you can’t attract abundant resources doing what you love.  It’s also a mistake to think that staying broke is the best way to help other people.  Many lightworkers are so sensitive to the idea of sacrificing their purpose for money that they figure it’s better to have no money at all… or barely enough to get by.  As is typical of other lightworkers, I’m very sensitive to the idea of making money “the wrong way.”  I have a strong disinclination — I would actually call it total disgust — of violating my values to generate income.  However, when you’re faced with financial scarcity and have to pay the rent or lose your home, it’s really tough to maintain integrity because under stress you’ll likely lower your vibration and bring your awareness down.  You effectively become a different person.  When your survival and stability are threatened, those become your priority.  Fortunately I haven’t been in this situation for a long time, but I certainly know what it’s like.  It’s pretty darn hard to think about serving others when you’re behind on your rent, deep in debt, and you discover a 3-day pay-or-quit notice taped to the door of your apartment. I’m not going to tell you the solution is to choose between your higher connection and your groundedness.  As you can probably guess, the solution is that you need both.  But you won’t be able to get there until you understand why you don’t already have both right now. Fearing your own power The reason you can’t maintain your stable connection to Source AND remain grounded at the same time is that you’re afraid of what it will mean if you succeed. There’s a good chance you won’t agree with that statement — I wouldn’t have agreed with it a few years ago — but please keep an open mind while I explain why this is so. First of all, it is possible to stay connected to Source and be grounded at the same time.  This isn’t just some new agey concept — it’s downright practical. On the one hand, I have my purpose, my spiritual beliefs, and my feeling of connection to everyone.  When I resonate with those thoughts, I’m motivated to serve and help people all day long.  On the other hand, I also live in the physical world.  I need to provide the basic needs for myself and my family, which in practical terms means I need an income.  So I can’t be too airy-fairy if it means I don’t have a place to live.  I have to stay properly grounded. Connectedness + groundedness = synergy At their core these two sides aren’t really in conflict.  They may be different energies, but they’re not inherently opposed to each other.  In fact, they serve to support each other.  The spiritual side provides abiding motivation.  When I feel connected up top, I’m driven.  I’m passionate.  I’m energized.  And I’m also peaceful.  That’s powerful motivation to do some kind of work — work that could very well help me become more grounded simply by generating some income.  And on the other side, when I’m more grounded, more physically and financially stable, I have more freedom.  I have a greater capacity.  I don’t have to worry about paying the bills.  And that lends itself to the spiritual side because I have the capacity to devote more time to spiritual pursuits.  So these two energies are naturally complementary.  When they work together, they work synergistically. Truthfully I can say to you that this is what I experience in my life as my normal state of being.  I feel I have a great balance of conscious connectedness and physical world grounding.  I attend to both sides. This did not happen by accident though.  It happened by conscious choice.  I really had to stop and do a total life redesign to make it work.  That happened in 2004 before I made the decision to start this web site. What will happen if you succeed? Now this may sound a bit strange, but for me the decision wasn’t as balanced as I probably just made it sound.  I know a lot of would-be lightworkers are concerned they can’t make a living pursuing their purpose.  I didn’t have that problem though.  I felt confident I could make a living at it somehow.  What really held me back was whether I felt comfortable doing it at all.  My real fear was:  What’s going to happen if this actually works?  What if I succeed? Only after I achieved a stable balance between connectedness and groundedness did I begin to recognize this same pattern in other lightworkers.  At first I figured it was unique to me, but I was wrong about that.  I see the same pattern everywhere now.  Whenever I see a broke lightworker, I invariably see an underlying fear of success.  If I confront the person about it, they will usually resist the notion, which I completely understand, but the pattern is so strong that once you see it, it’s undeniable. The real barrier to achieving the connectedness-groundedness balance is the limiting beliefs you may have about what will happen after you achieve this balance.  What will realistically happen when you’re honoring your life’s purpose and making more than enough money to sustainably do it for the rest of your life? Well, I can tell you what will happen because I’ve already turned that page.  Here’s what’s likely to happen.  You’re going to succeed in a big way.  When you’re doing what you love and generating plenty of income from it, it creates a positive spiral.  Those two sides support each other.  Your purpose drives your actions, your actions drive your results, and your results produce income.  Your income gives you more freedom and more fuel for your purpose.  And the whole thing just keeps going because once achieved, it’s a stable pattern. With great power comes great responsibility This might sound like a good thing.  And truthfully it is a good thing.  But I’m sure you’ve heard the expression, “With great power comes great responsibility.”  And that is exactly what lightworker syndrome sufferers fear most.  They fear that if they actually succeed, they’ll have a lot of responsibility on their shoulders. That fear is what kills their income.  The best way to increase your income is to help more people.  In practice it’s not that difficult to do — IF your beliefs will let you.  The desire to reach out and help more people is what drove me to build so much web traffic.  I’ve met many lightworkers who are able to provide genuine value to others, but they’re doing so on a very limited basis.  When I toss out a few simple suggestions on how they could fairly easily double their income (or more) by doubling the number of people they help (without working harder or longer), the usual response is resistance and excuse-making.  I can see the real answer in their eyes though — they fear what will happen if they actually succeed.  So they keep themselves in a position where they make just enough to maintain the status quo, but not enough to get ahead.  And if they do somehow make lots of money, they’ll keep themselves so busy they won’t have the time to seriously think about their true purpose for being here. Overcoming fear of responsibility I ran this exact pattern for many years.  The only way I escaped it was to confront those fears head-on.  I admitted to myself that I had the internal resources to be doing much better, but I was holding myself back.  I knew I wasn’t doing my best, but why not?  I wasn’t doing my best because I wasn’t ready to accept the consequences of doing my best. If I really did my best, I’d have a bigger impact.  I’d draw a lot of people to me.  I’d end up with a lot of responsibility.  Scary. Well, guess what.  Those fears were accurate.  I do have a lot of responsibility.  Once I achieved the connectedness-groundedness balance and got that positive spiral going, my results took off.  They’re still taking off.  This web site is now getting about 200,000 page views a day.  I’m generating way more income than I need to cover my basic needs… more than $1000 per day, whether I work or not.  I fully expect this increase will continue spiraling for a long time to come.  But I didn’t reach this point by focusing on getting more and more for myself.  That kind of motivation would have been too weak.  My real motivation comes from a deep desire to make a positive difference in the world.  My passion comes from my purpose, not my income. However, I couldn’t tap into that motivation until I first overcame my fear of success.  I had to first accept that if I did my very best and succeeded, I was going to end up with far more responsibility.  I had to become a “vibrational match” for that scenario; otherwise I’d never be able to attract it and maintain it. I had to answer those tough questions:  Who am I to reach the point of influencing thousands of people a day, even while I’m sleeping?  Who am I to tell people how to improve their lives?  Who am I to try to make a difference? Subconsciously I couldn’t handle those questions, so for years I just maintained my status quo position as a seemingly contented computer game developer.  Occasionally I would journal about them though, but it wasn’t enough to get me past the underlying fear of success. Position vs. power What eventually allowed me to break that pattern was when I looked at the situation from a different angle.  I was thinking about the idea, “With great power comes great responsibility,” and I noticed I’d been assuming that my power would increase if I really did my best.  In other words I equated power with position.  As my position increased, so would my power… and thereby so would my responsibility. At that point I had a revelation that threw me for a loop.  What if power didn’t come from position?  If I have the potential to achieve a greater position, but I’m not pursuing it, doesn’t that mean I actually do have the power?  If I don’t exercise my power, it doesn’t mean I’m powerless.  It just means I’m inactive. I thought to myself, “Crap!  I’ve been thinking all this time that I’m staving off power (and thus responsibility) by declining to act.  But all I’m really doing is giving up control.  If I have the potential, then I have the power, which means I have the responsibility too, whether I act on it or not.”  Failure to act does NOT relieve one of responsibility. It was then that I had an epiphany.  I realized I could never escape responsibility by failing to act.  The only thing I could escape was control.  This is why I say you can give up control but never responsibility.  Responsibility is a given. That realization gave me a good kick in my complacency.  Even though I felt like I was in a relatively powerless position on the outside, in that moment I finally accepted my inner power.  That included accepting responsibility for that power.  And of course by the law of attraction, once I began resonating with that inner power, it was only a matter of time before the outer world reflected it.  If you’ve been following this web site for a year or more, then you’ve seen that manifestation unfolding before your eyes, and you’ll see that process continue over the next year as well. Responsibility is a privilege That thinking process got me out of my ego and past my fear of success.  When I realized I couldn’t escape responsibility no matter what my external position looked like, it made sense to just accept it.  My fear wasn’t at some distant point in the future — it was already here and now. You see… even though my external position may seem more burdened by responsibility than yours, in truth you have just as much responsibility as I do.  And that’s because you have great inner power just as I do.  Maybe you’ve accepted it, and maybe you haven’t, but the power is there, and the responsibility it bestows is inescapable. Even though we’ve probably never met, I feel a deep sense of responsibility towards you right now.  I feel honor-bound to do the best I can to help you grow — because I can.  It may seem like my position gives me the power to do that, but that isn’t accurate.  Power doesn’t come from position.  Position comes from power.  Because I have the power to help you grow, I must help you grow.  You may not accept my help, but that doesn’t make me feel any less responsible to you.  I feel responsible to everyone. That feeling of responsibility, however, isn’t the burden I once feared it would be.  When I accepted my inner power, responsibility became a privilege.  I’m truly grateful to have the opportunity to help so many people each day, even while I’m sleeping. Overcoming Lightworker Syndrome So what does all of this have to do with overcoming Lightworker Syndrome?  Lightworker Syndrome is a lack of acceptance of one’s power.  That lack of acceptance is what manifests the apparent conflict between connectedness to Source and groundedness in physical reality.  As within, so without.  Your inner conflict manifests in your external reality.  In truth you are simply getting what you’re intending.  You fear your real power, so you silently intend it to remain dim.  This manifests a never-ending series of distractions to keep you preoccupied enough that you don’t have to think about what you’re really doing — keeping yourself small because you’re afraid of too much responsibility. If you recognize you’re suffering from Lightworker Syndrome right now, I have a lot of compassion for you.  Having gone through it myself, I know how hard it is.  But you must recognize you’ll never solve this problem at the same level of thinking that created it.  Realize you’re the one who’s manifesting the annoying health problems, the “unexpected” financial crisis that suddenly wipes out your savings just when you start to get ahead, the unfulfilling relationship, etc.  You’re manifesting all of it because you’re resonating with fear — it’s one giant distraction.  You can hack at the branches all you want, but you’ll only be spinning your wheels.  Whenever you’re ready, you have the power to turn off those petty problems and stop manifesting them, but once you do that, you’re going to have to deal with the real issue of why you’re here.  Deep down you know that’s the truth, don’t you? The major turning point for me occurred when I finally surrendered and said, “Enough already!  I’m done with living small.  I’m tired of dealing with one pointless crisis after another.  I know this isn’t what I came here to do.  I don’t know if I can handle what might happen if I tap into my real potential, but I can’t accept going my whole life without finding out.  So I’m going for it.  If I go broke, I go broke.  But if I go this route in good faith, the universe had damned well better back me up.” I have to credit the results of the past two years to that decision.  That’s what cured me of Lightworker Syndrome.  Once I experienced the inner shift, I entered that positive spiral where my connectedness and groundedness supported each other beautifully.  Attracting more money and a larger audience just means I have a greater capacity to give.  And I’m always finding new ways for my connectedness and groundedness to move into better harmony with each other. Embracing your inner light If you consider yourself a lightworker, understand that your real work is to accept and embrace your inner light.  You are meant to shine, not to be snuffed out.  If you feel that life in this physical universe is dragging you down, it’s because you aren’t yet in vibrational harmony with your light.  The more you fear it, the more you’ll attract distracting problems that have little or nothing to do with your purpose.  But whenever you’re ready, you can say to the universe, “OK.  I’m ready.  I’m going to pursue my purpose with all my heart and soul, and you’d better back me up.”  Once you make a committed decision, you’ll attract all the help and resources you need.  You’ll be shocked at just how easy it is. You came here to do some serious good for this planet, so get busy and go do it.  You’re not fooling anyone by standing still.  You’re responsible to do what you came here to do whether you do it or not.  And if you’re going to be responsible, you might as well accept and embrace the power to do something about it.  Staying small serves no one, least of all you.  This planet needs you now, not tomorrow… not someday.  Don’t let us down, and especially don’t let yourself down. I shall leave you with a quote from Marianne Williamson: Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small doesn’t serve the world. There’s nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we’re liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.
    760 Posted by UniqueThis
  • One obstacle that traps a lot of highly conscious people is what Erin and I call Lightworker Syndrome.  This is what happens when someone wakes up to a higher level of consciousness, but they can’t figure out how to live on purpose and feed themselves at the same time.  Such people have a lot of trouble staying connected to higher levels of consciousness while also remaining solidly grounded in the physical world.  Many of them get so frustrated with the experience they become depressed and have feelings of wanting to give up and just “go home” (i.e. return to the nonphysical world). Spiritual connectedness vs. physical groundedness These troubled lightworkers often feel they must compromise:  either stay connected up top and be totally ungrounded, or lose that higher connection and become more grounded.  But this is a really tough compromise, so many of them oscillate back and forth, never quite sure which is the right way to go. Consequently, these lightworkers either do empty work they don’t enjoy but which pays OK, or they do purpose-centered work that hardly pays anything.  They end up sacrificing either their purpose or their income, since it’s very, very challenging to satisfy both at the same time.  But this either-or decision takes a toll in the long run.  It’s hard to stay on purpose if you’re worried about paying the rent, and it’s hard to generate good income if your work doesn’t inspire you. The real trap is the either-or belief itself.  It’s a mistake to think you can’t attract abundant resources doing what you love.  It’s also a mistake to think that staying broke is the best way to help other people.  Many lightworkers are so sensitive to the idea of sacrificing their purpose for money that they figure it’s better to have no money at all… or barely enough to get by.  As is typical of other lightworkers, I’m very sensitive to the idea of making money “the wrong way.”  I have a strong disinclination — I would actually call it total disgust — of violating my values to generate income.  However, when you’re faced with financial scarcity and have to pay the rent or lose your home, it’s really tough to maintain integrity because under stress you’ll likely lower your vibration and bring your awareness down.  You effectively become a different person.  When your survival and stability are threatened, those become your priority.  Fortunately I haven’t been in this situation for a long time, but I certainly know what it’s like.  It’s pretty darn hard to think about serving others when you’re behind on your rent, deep in debt, and you discover a 3-day pay-or-quit notice taped to the door of your apartment. I’m not going to tell you the solution is to choose between your higher connection and your groundedness.  As you can probably guess, the solution is that you need both.  But you won’t be able to get there until you understand why you don’t already have both right now. Fearing your own power The reason you can’t maintain your stable connection to Source AND remain grounded at the same time is that you’re afraid of what it will mean if you succeed. There’s a good chance you won’t agree with that statement — I wouldn’t have agreed with it a few years ago — but please keep an open mind while I explain why this is so. First of all, it is possible to stay connected to Source and be grounded at the same time.  This isn’t just some new agey concept — it’s downright practical. On the one hand, I have my purpose, my spiritual beliefs, and my feeling of connection to everyone.  When I resonate with those thoughts, I’m motivated to serve and help people all day long.  On the other hand, I also live in the physical world.  I need to provide the basic needs for myself and my family, which in practical terms means I need an income.  So I can’t be too airy-fairy if it means I don’t have a place to live.  I have to stay properly grounded. Connectedness + groundedness = synergy At their core these two sides aren’t really in conflict.  They may be different energies, but they’re not inherently opposed to each other.  In fact, they serve to support each other.  The spiritual side provides abiding motivation.  When I feel connected up top, I’m driven.  I’m passionate.  I’m energized.  And I’m also peaceful.  That’s powerful motivation to do some kind of work — work that could very well help me become more grounded simply by generating some income.  And on the other side, when I’m more grounded, more physically and financially stable, I have more freedom.  I have a greater capacity.  I don’t have to worry about paying the bills.  And that lends itself to the spiritual side because I have the capacity to devote more time to spiritual pursuits.  So these two energies are naturally complementary.  When they work together, they work synergistically. Truthfully I can say to you that this is what I experience in my life as my normal state of being.  I feel I have a great balance of conscious connectedness and physical world grounding.  I attend to both sides. This did not happen by accident though.  It happened by conscious choice.  I really had to stop and do a total life redesign to make it work.  That happened in 2004 before I made the decision to start this web site. What will happen if you succeed? Now this may sound a bit strange, but for me the decision wasn’t as balanced as I probably just made it sound.  I know a lot of would-be lightworkers are concerned they can’t make a living pursuing their purpose.  I didn’t have that problem though.  I felt confident I could make a living at it somehow.  What really held me back was whether I felt comfortable doing it at all.  My real fear was:  What’s going to happen if this actually works?  What if I succeed? Only after I achieved a stable balance between connectedness and groundedness did I begin to recognize this same pattern in other lightworkers.  At first I figured it was unique to me, but I was wrong about that.  I see the same pattern everywhere now.  Whenever I see a broke lightworker, I invariably see an underlying fear of success.  If I confront the person about it, they will usually resist the notion, which I completely understand, but the pattern is so strong that once you see it, it’s undeniable. The real barrier to achieving the connectedness-groundedness balance is the limiting beliefs you may have about what will happen after you achieve this balance.  What will realistically happen when you’re honoring your life’s purpose and making more than enough money to sustainably do it for the rest of your life? Well, I can tell you what will happen because I’ve already turned that page.  Here’s what’s likely to happen.  You’re going to succeed in a big way.  When you’re doing what you love and generating plenty of income from it, it creates a positive spiral.  Those two sides support each other.  Your purpose drives your actions, your actions drive your results, and your results produce income.  Your income gives you more freedom and more fuel for your purpose.  And the whole thing just keeps going because once achieved, it’s a stable pattern. With great power comes great responsibility This might sound like a good thing.  And truthfully it is a good thing.  But I’m sure you’ve heard the expression, “With great power comes great responsibility.”  And that is exactly what lightworker syndrome sufferers fear most.  They fear that if they actually succeed, they’ll have a lot of responsibility on their shoulders. That fear is what kills their income.  The best way to increase your income is to help more people.  In practice it’s not that difficult to do — IF your beliefs will let you.  The desire to reach out and help more people is what drove me to build so much web traffic.  I’ve met many lightworkers who are able to provide genuine value to others, but they’re doing so on a very limited basis.  When I toss out a few simple suggestions on how they could fairly easily double their income (or more) by doubling the number of people they help (without working harder or longer), the usual response is resistance and excuse-making.  I can see the real answer in their eyes though — they fear what will happen if they actually succeed.  So they keep themselves in a position where they make just enough to maintain the status quo, but not enough to get ahead.  And if they do somehow make lots of money, they’ll keep themselves so busy they won’t have the time to seriously think about their true purpose for being here. Overcoming fear of responsibility I ran this exact pattern for many years.  The only way I escaped it was to confront those fears head-on.  I admitted to myself that I had the internal resources to be doing much better, but I was holding myself back.  I knew I wasn’t doing my best, but why not?  I wasn’t doing my best because I wasn’t ready to accept the consequences of doing my best. If I really did my best, I’d have a bigger impact.  I’d draw a lot of people to me.  I’d end up with a lot of responsibility.  Scary. Well, guess what.  Those fears were accurate.  I do have a lot of responsibility.  Once I achieved the connectedness-groundedness balance and got that positive spiral going, my results took off.  They’re still taking off.  This web site is now getting about 200,000 page views a day.  I’m generating way more income than I need to cover my basic needs… more than $1000 per day, whether I work or not.  I fully expect this increase will continue spiraling for a long time to come.  But I didn’t reach this point by focusing on getting more and more for myself.  That kind of motivation would have been too weak.  My real motivation comes from a deep desire to make a positive difference in the world.  My passion comes from my purpose, not my income. However, I couldn’t tap into that motivation until I first overcame my fear of success.  I had to first accept that if I did my very best and succeeded, I was going to end up with far more responsibility.  I had to become a “vibrational match” for that scenario; otherwise I’d never be able to attract it and maintain it. I had to answer those tough questions:  Who am I to reach the point of influencing thousands of people a day, even while I’m sleeping?  Who am I to tell people how to improve their lives?  Who am I to try to make a difference? Subconsciously I couldn’t handle those questions, so for years I just maintained my status quo position as a seemingly contented computer game developer.  Occasionally I would journal about them though, but it wasn’t enough to get me past the underlying fear of success. Position vs. power What eventually allowed me to break that pattern was when I looked at the situation from a different angle.  I was thinking about the idea, “With great power comes great responsibility,” and I noticed I’d been assuming that my power would increase if I really did my best.  In other words I equated power with position.  As my position increased, so would my power… and thereby so would my responsibility. At that point I had a revelation that threw me for a loop.  What if power didn’t come from position?  If I have the potential to achieve a greater position, but I’m not pursuing it, doesn’t that mean I actually do have the power?  If I don’t exercise my power, it doesn’t mean I’m powerless.  It just means I’m inactive. I thought to myself, “Crap!  I’ve been thinking all this time that I’m staving off power (and thus responsibility) by declining to act.  But all I’m really doing is giving up control.  If I have the potential, then I have the power, which means I have the responsibility too, whether I act on it or not.”  Failure to act does NOT relieve one of responsibility. It was then that I had an epiphany.  I realized I could never escape responsibility by failing to act.  The only thing I could escape was control.  This is why I say you can give up control but never responsibility.  Responsibility is a given. That realization gave me a good kick in my complacency.  Even though I felt like I was in a relatively powerless position on the outside, in that moment I finally accepted my inner power.  That included accepting responsibility for that power.  And of course by the law of attraction, once I began resonating with that inner power, it was only a matter of time before the outer world reflected it.  If you’ve been following this web site for a year or more, then you’ve seen that manifestation unfolding before your eyes, and you’ll see that process continue over the next year as well. Responsibility is a privilege That thinking process got me out of my ego and past my fear of success.  When I realized I couldn’t escape responsibility no matter what my external position looked like, it made sense to just accept it.  My fear wasn’t at some distant point in the future — it was already here and now. You see… even though my external position may seem more burdened by responsibility than yours, in truth you have just as much responsibility as I do.  And that’s because you have great inner power just as I do.  Maybe you’ve accepted it, and maybe you haven’t, but the power is there, and the responsibility it bestows is inescapable. Even though we’ve probably never met, I feel a deep sense of responsibility towards you right now.  I feel honor-bound to do the best I can to help you grow — because I can.  It may seem like my position gives me the power to do that, but that isn’t accurate.  Power doesn’t come from position.  Position comes from power.  Because I have the power to help you grow, I must help you grow.  You may not accept my help, but that doesn’t make me feel any less responsible to you.  I feel responsible to everyone. That feeling of responsibility, however, isn’t the burden I once feared it would be.  When I accepted my inner power, responsibility became a privilege.  I’m truly grateful to have the opportunity to help so many people each day, even while I’m sleeping. Overcoming Lightworker Syndrome So what does all of this have to do with overcoming Lightworker Syndrome?  Lightworker Syndrome is a lack of acceptance of one’s power.  That lack of acceptance is what manifests the apparent conflict between connectedness to Source and groundedness in physical reality.  As within, so without.  Your inner conflict manifests in your external reality.  In truth you are simply getting what you’re intending.  You fear your real power, so you silently intend it to remain dim.  This manifests a never-ending series of distractions to keep you preoccupied enough that you don’t have to think about what you’re really doing — keeping yourself small because you’re afraid of too much responsibility. If you recognize you’re suffering from Lightworker Syndrome right now, I have a lot of compassion for you.  Having gone through it myself, I know how hard it is.  But you must recognize you’ll never solve this problem at the same level of thinking that created it.  Realize you’re the one who’s manifesting the annoying health problems, the “unexpected” financial crisis that suddenly wipes out your savings just when you start to get ahead, the unfulfilling relationship, etc.  You’re manifesting all of it because you’re resonating with fear — it’s one giant distraction.  You can hack at the branches all you want, but you’ll only be spinning your wheels.  Whenever you’re ready, you have the power to turn off those petty problems and stop manifesting them, but once you do that, you’re going to have to deal with the real issue of why you’re here.  Deep down you know that’s the truth, don’t you? The major turning point for me occurred when I finally surrendered and said, “Enough already!  I’m done with living small.  I’m tired of dealing with one pointless crisis after another.  I know this isn’t what I came here to do.  I don’t know if I can handle what might happen if I tap into my real potential, but I can’t accept going my whole life without finding out.  So I’m going for it.  If I go broke, I go broke.  But if I go this route in good faith, the universe had damned well better back me up.” I have to credit the results of the past two years to that decision.  That’s what cured me of Lightworker Syndrome.  Once I experienced the inner shift, I entered that positive spiral where my connectedness and groundedness supported each other beautifully.  Attracting more money and a larger audience just means I have a greater capacity to give.  And I’m always finding new ways for my connectedness and groundedness to move into better harmony with each other. Embracing your inner light If you consider yourself a lightworker, understand that your real work is to accept and embrace your inner light.  You are meant to shine, not to be snuffed out.  If you feel that life in this physical universe is dragging you down, it’s because you aren’t yet in vibrational harmony with your light.  The more you fear it, the more you’ll attract distracting problems that have little or nothing to do with your purpose.  But whenever you’re ready, you can say to the universe, “OK.  I’m ready.  I’m going to pursue my purpose with all my heart and soul, and you’d better back me up.”  Once you make a committed decision, you’ll attract all the help and resources you need.  You’ll be shocked at just how easy it is. You came here to do some serious good for this planet, so get busy and go do it.  You’re not fooling anyone by standing still.  You’re responsible to do what you came here to do whether you do it or not.  And if you’re going to be responsible, you might as well accept and embrace the power to do something about it.  Staying small serves no one, least of all you.  This planet needs you now, not tomorrow… not someday.  Don’t let us down, and especially don’t let yourself down. I shall leave you with a quote from Marianne Williamson: Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small doesn’t serve the world. There’s nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we’re liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.
    Jul 12, 2011 760
  • 12 Jul 2011
    How important is money?  How much is enough?  Is money a distraction from one’s spiritual path?  Is it a necessary evil?  Is it unfair that some people have more money than others?  Is poverty more noble than wealth?  Is it possible to become an enlightened millionaire? Even among highly conscious people, the subject of money is a contentious topic.  As an individual you’ve probably wrestled with this subject on many occasions.  Social attitudes towards money are so incongruent that it’s no wonder people are confused. Is money a positive resource or a consciousness-lowering distraction? Like most people I grew up with mixed associations about money.  In some ways money was a good thing; in other ways it was a necessary evil or a distraction from what was really important. On the one hand, I saw evidence that money was good.  It’s not hard to recognize that money bestows certain advantages.  Some problems can be solved by money very easily.  Money can provide food, clothing, shelter, heat, transportation, education, technology, entertainment, medicine, and so on.  Given the way our society currently functions, if you have a lot of money, you have a lot of solutions.  Money surely won’t solve all your problems, and it can create new problems of its own, but on balance it’s safe to say that money is a powerful problem-solving tool. I think Earl Nightingale said it best: Nothing can take the place of money in the area in which money works. On the other hand, there are some things I don’t like about money.  I don’t like that it’s used as a gatekeeper for certain “privileges” like proper medical care, healthy food, or decent educational resources.  I also don’t like how it induces people to behave dishonorably to attain it.  While I admire the achievements of today’s titans of industry, many of them acquired their wealth through means I couldn’t stomach. Conflicting beliefs about money For most of my life, I’ve been stuck with incongruent attitudes towards money.  Objectively, material wealth seemed like a great thing — I should definitely pursue it.  Subjectively it seemed like a giant distraction — why should I need it?  Intellectually, wealth seemed good.  Intuitively, wealth felt irrelevant.  I hadn’t yet figured out a way of thinking about money that was congruent across multiple perspectives. Have you been struggling with a similar internal conflict?  If so, you’re certainly not alone because this conflict is largely the result of social conditioning.  We have some influences telling us that money is very important, while other influences tell us it’s not.  Look at what happens during the holiday season.  Advertisers tell us to spend, spend, spend.  The more money we spend, the better our holidays will be.  Buy your wife an (inherently worthless but nonetheless expensive) diamond necklace, and she’ll love you forever.  On the other hand, we might watch a classic holiday movie like It’s a Wonderful Life that tells us we need to keep money in perspective and that relationships are far more important.  Mixed signals abound. This social conditioning affects our relationships too.  What assumptions do you make about people based on their income or financial assets?  If you know someone’s financial status, but you’ve never even met him/her, do you prejudge that person by assigning other qualities that may or may not be true?  What assumptions would you make about a millionaire?  About someone who’s totally broke?  How would you feel dating someone who earned 10x as much as you?  How about 1/10th as much as you? I believe these mixed associations lead many conscious people to conclude that money itself is the problem.  Maybe it’s better to find a way to live without money at all… at least cut its presence down to the bare minimum.  If money is truly a distraction from conscious living, wouldn’t the most conscious choice be to shun money altogether?  Maybe give up your worldly possessions and join a monastery? Within the scope of religion, money often plays a confusing role as well.  Supposedly Jesus wasn’t a particularly wealthy individual, but today’s Catholic Church is as wealthy as they come.  According to United Nations World Magazine, the Church has several billion dollars in gold alone, and when you consider their massive worldwide real estate holdings, their artwork collection, and their tax exempt status, the amount of wealth controlled by the Catholic Church is staggering.  While figures are hard to estimate due to the complexity and scope of the organization, some believe the Church is the world’s wealthiest entity, with the Pope controlling more financial assets than any corporation or government on earth.  Whether that’s true or not, the Church’s wealth certainly makes for an interesting contrast with the life Jesus supposedly lived.  When it comes to your financial future, should you model Jesus or the Pope?  Or someone else entirely? We could go deeper into the quagmire of confusing financial beliefs, but I don’t think that would be helpful, so let’s put the social models aside for now and take a fresh look at money to see what role we would have it play in our lives. What is money? Money is a social resource – the primary social resource.  Money has no inherent value of its own, but we assign it value through social agreement.  If I give you $100, you can withdraw $100 of value from society.  The only reason this works is that we agree by consensus that $100 has a certain value.  If we all agreed that money was worthless, then money would have no value whatsoever. Because it’s a social resource, money isn’t a perfect medium of exchange.  The value of anything, including money itself, is determined by social consensus.  That may be the consensus of just two people, such as when you buy an item from another person.  Or it may be the consensus of a large group, such as when you buy or sell stock in public companies. When your personal valuation roughly matches the social consensus, you’ll conclude that pricing is fair.  When your personal valuation drifts from the social consensus, you’ll conclude that certain items are either over- or under-priced. Although there will be serious consequences to doing so, you’re free to opt-out of the social contract of money.  Most people would find this totally impractical, but you can choose to assign no value whatsoever to money if you wish.  However, if you still want to take advantage of social resources, you’ll need to create your own social contracts on a case-by-case basis.  This could include barter or other forms of exchange, or it could involve leveraging relationships to meet your social needs. For most of us, the social contract of money is far too advantageous to ignore.  While the monetary system is far from perfect, it’s more efficient than the alternatives.  By assigning a monetary value to our social exchanges and by making it easy to transfer money from one person to another, social trades are performed with relative ease.  Buying groceries, going to work, using electricity, or connecting to the Internet are all examples of social trades, and by social consensus, all of these are reducible to money. Even money itself can be assigned a price, as anyone in debt can readily attest.  If you want money today, you can purchase it by pledging a greater amount of money tomorrow. So money is essentially social credit.  It’s an IOU from society, enabling you to extract a certain amount of social value whenever you want.  The more money you have, the more society owes you, and the more value you can extract. How to earn money Let’s consider what it means to earn money.  Since money is a social resource, earning money means acquiring more of that social resource.  When you spend money, you convert money to value.  But when you earn money, you convert value to money. One way to earn money is to sell possessions.  Take an item and sell it, and you’ll receive money for it.  Another option is to acquire items at one price and turn around and sell them for more than your costs.  Companies dig up resources all over the planet and sell them for a profit.  For individuals this approach might take the form of buying objects, stocks, or bonds at one price and selling them at a higher price.  Sometimes value is added in the process (which may just be added convenience), while other times the money earned comes from market inefficiencies. Perhaps the most common way to earn money is to sell your time.  Get a job and trade hours for dollars.  The greater your ability to personally deliver a high social value, the greater your earnings potential.  The difference between making $10/hour vs. $100/hour is that the latter work has much greater social value.  This difference isn’t anyone’s “fault” — the difference is due to the social consensus about the value of certain work.  Note the difference between absolute value and social value.  Top athletes may not perform useful work in an absolute sense, but their compensation is based on the social value of their service, which is currently very high. Another way to earn money is to create a system that earns money for you, such as a business.  This is my personal favorite, since it can provide far more leverage than selling time.  I also find it much less risky in the long run, since owning and controlling a money-generating system is more secure than trading hours for dollars at someone else’s discretion. You can also earn money by selling money itself… aka investing.  By loaning your money or assets to someone else, you can earn interest and/or dividends.  How you earn money depends on what you invest in.  Investing in a new business is very different from investing in a criminal organization.  One form of investing creates social value; the other steals it. And of course a final option for making money is to steal it.  Historically this has been a popular option, but I won’t give it serious consideration here. If you think about it, there are two basic ways to earn money: Make a social contribution, and receive payment commensurate with the social value of your contribution. Take advantage of market inefficiencies to extract money without contributing any value. Option 1 includes getting a job, running a business that provides products or services, reselling items with value added, or investing in any of these outlets.  Option 2 includes reselling items without added value, gambling, mooching off others, crime, or investing in any of these. Here’s another way of labeling these two strategies: Contribute. Mooch. Unless you’ve somehow opted out of the monetary system, you’re using one or both of these two strategies right now.  One strategy will likely be dominant in your life — either you’re creating genuine social value and being paid for it, or you’re mooching off the value created by others. Note that #1 is essential for the monetary system to survive and thrive, but #2 is not.  The only way moochers can survive is by extracting value from the contributors.  But ultimately someone must contribute, or there can be no value for the moochers to extract. Incidentally, Ayn Rand wrote a fascinating novel called Atlas Shrugged about what would happen if the world’s contributors left to form their own society, leaving the moochers to fend for themselves.  The contributor society became a paradise, while the moocher society fell to pieces.  Rand suggested that a system that rewarded moochers at the expense of contributors was evil and that contributors should be free to decide how their work is used (and whether or not they will support any moochers). Some degree of mooching is to be expected.  Children mooch off their parents.  Those who are unable to contribute mooch off those who can.  Whenever we enjoy the fruits of someone else’s labor without paying for it, we’re mooching.  We all mooch off the hard work of our ancestors.  But eventually we have to decide whether we’re going to continue to mooch for the rest of our lives or begin making a genuine contribution.  Will we remain moochers for life, or will we become contributors? Obviously your life will include some contribution and some mooching, but what’s your primary strategy for generating income today?  Do you contribute social value?  Or do you mooch off the value of other contributors? Let’s consider both possibilities. The moocher mindset Opting into mooch mode means you’re extracting more social value than you’re contributing.  Your focus is on getting as opposed to giving, so you take more out of the system than you give back.  The moocher mindset suggests you can always rely on others to pick up your slack.  It’s the mindset of unearned entitlement.  Since you still need to extract value such as food, clothing, and shelter — value which others must provide for you – you live at the expense of others.  Your burden may be shouldered by an individual such as a parent, or it may be shared by society at large, but either way you survive by suckling the social teat. Sometimes mooching becomes so habitual it’s easy to overlook.  Many people who seemingly have contribution-based careers harbor an underlying moocher mindset.  They aim to extract as much social value as possible while contributing as little as possible.  They work to make money to the degree it’s necessary, while mooching as much as they can get away with.  Such people don’t have inspired careers because work is only seen as a means to an end, not an outlet for genuine contribution.  Take a look around and see if you can identify the moochers in your life.  Who is there to get rather than to give? Another name for the moocher mindset is the scarcity mindset.  Since you aren’t creating value of your own, the money you extract must come from someone else.  It’s a zero-sum game.  Whatever you gain, someone else must lose. The moocher mindset makes the attainment of financial abundance very difficult because in order to succeed financially with this mindset, you must embrace certain values that most people would consider negative.  Your gain is someone else’s loss, so getting rich requires taking advantage of more people.  In order to gain by mooching, someone else must cover your extraction with real value.  So the more wealth you accumulate, the more you steal from others. Most people can’t handle the thought of becoming wealthy at the expense of others, so usually the moocher mindset gives rise to self-sabotage instead.  If you fall into this pattern, you’ll experience a love/hate relationship with money.  On the one hand, you may want more money, but on the other hand, you may feel disinclined to make too much, since you know that the more money you get, the more someone else has to pay for it.  For example, if you make a living as a professional poker player, then you know that the more you earn, the more money others have to lose… not the best motivation for a highly conscious person to achieve financial abundance. Some people are able to bypass this problem of financial self-sabotage by lowering their consciousness.  They learn to make money without rationally considering the consequences of how they’re earning it.  They invent justifications to explain their actions while keeping their awareness from getting in the way.  Ultimately this is the mindset of criminals. The more you align yourself with the moocher mindset, the more difficult it will be for you to experience financial abundance and remain conscious.  Ultimately you have to choose one or the other:  be conscious or be wealthy.  You can’t have both if you subscribe to the moocher mindset.  If you find yourself stuck at a certain level of income and unable to go any higher, an underlying moocher mindset is probably the culprit.  This is the mindset that leads you to ask, “How can I get more money?” instead of, “How can I contribute more value?”  It’s also the mindset that says it’s a bad idea to earn more money, since your gain is someone else’s pain. The contributor mindset Now let’s consider the contributor mindset.  This mindset recognizes that the best way to make money is to provide fair value in exchange.  Create genuine social value, and receive payment commensurate with that value.  Due to market inefficiencies, sometimes you’ll be underpaid, and sometimes you’ll be overpaid, but the basic idea is that you earn money by contributing. If you want to earn income as a contributor, you must contribute social value, not personal value.  Many would-be contributors get stuck on this concept.  Personal value is whatever you say it is — you’re free to decide what has value to you personally, and it doesn’t matter if no one agrees with you.  Social value, however, is assigned by social consensus.  If you believe your work has tremendous value, but virtually no one else does, then your work has high personal value but little or no social value.  Here’s the key point:  your income depends on the social value of your work, not the personal value. If you want to generate income from creative work, then your work must have social value.  There’s no getting around that.  No social value, no income.  If your skills and hard work are not in alignment with the creation of social value, then you will not be able to generate income as a contributor. This isn’t an unfair system — it’s just how the monetary system works.  Since money is a social resource backed by social value, it makes sense that you won’t get paid much for providing something of little or no social value.  The saying “Find a need and fill it” certainly rings true, assuming we’re referring to a social need or desire. This web site, for example, has a fair degree of social value.  Whether you or I value it as individuals is financially irrelevant.  It successfully generates income because the overall social consensus is that this site has a certain level of value.  And that social value makes it possible for the site to generate income.  If there was no social value to this site, there would be no income potential. Another name for the contributor mindset is the abundance mindset.  This mindset says that wealth can be created from ideas and action.  Your gain is a reflection of the social gain you’ve contributed.  If you want to earn a high income, you must contribute a lot of social value.  The more social value you create, the more money you can earn.  This is a win-win mindset because you’re putting value into the system for the benefit of others. Under the contributor mindset, you receive money as payment for your social service.  The money you earn is society’s way of saying, “In exchange for your valued contribution, you are hereby granted the right to extract $X of value from society at a time of your choosing.”  This is a beautiful thing! The only real limit on your income is how much social value you can create.  If you want to earn more money, then develop your skills and talents to facilitate the creation of lots of social value.  The best way to increase your income is to figure out how to deliver more social value.  Focus on giving, and the getting will largely take care of itself.  The systems to reward social service are already in place, so all you need to do is plug your service into the existing marketplace. Generating income from social contribution is a very positive experience.  Consequently, it won’t lower your consciousness like the moocher mindset.  With the contributor mindset, wealth and consciousness are not in conflict.  In fact, they synergize extremely well, especially if you reinvest some of your income into expanding your contribution. If you adopt the contributor mindset, just be aware that members of the moocher mindset will sometimes mistakenly count you among them.  As you work to increase your social contribution and thereby earn a higher income, moochers will project their values onto you, concluding you’ve become greedy and must be taking advantage of others for personal gain.  Don’t let moochers dissuade you from your path though.  Let your inspiration come from the desire to provide even more social value.  It would be less honorable to withhold your value just because others misinterpret your motives. Pro bono contribution Under the contributor model, you always have the option of making a contribution pro bono (i.e. for free).  You don’t have to receive the full social value for your work if you don’t want to. I like having this option because it means I can make my work accessible even to those who can’t afford it.  This web site represents a tremendous personal investment of time and energy, so it certainly isn’t free from my point of view.  But because I can leverage technology to keep my costs low, it’s practical for me to provide abundant content without requiring an access fee for every visitor.  Paying for the value received is entirely optional and is left to each individual visitor to decide for themselves. Money is social credit, so when you decline to receive money for your work, you decline the social credit you’ve earned.  While it’s perfectly fine to decline the social credit you’ve earned, be sure to consider what you could do with that social credit if you choose to receive it.  Could you re-invest it to make a bigger or better contribution?  If so, then paid work makes more sense than pro bono work, since you can use the money to expand your mission and serve even more people.  Money makes you more of who you already are, so if you’re already a contributor, more money can allow you to expand your contribution. You can also aim for a nice balance between paid work and pro bono work.  It doesn’t have to be either-or. Making money consciously Contributing social value is the primary strategy for making money consciously, but by itself it’s still not enough.  The problem with social value is that your personal values won’t perfectly align with the social consensus.  I’m sure that if everyone on earth were like you, the demand for certain products and services would shift dramatically.  For example, if everyone were like me, fresh fruits and vegetables would have even higher social value, while factory farming would have none whatsoever. When you attempt to provide social value without achieving congruence with your personal values, your motivation will be very weak.  You won’t be inspired because you’ll be doing what you feel you should do, but not what you want to do.  I often see this happen with people who jump into blogging on a topic they think will make them a lot of money, only to give up after a few months because they can’t stomach it any longer.  Please don’t do this to yourself. Alternatively, when you attempt to satisfy your personal values without providing any real social value, you get the starving artist syndrome.  You may be inspired by work that totally fulfills you, but it won’t pay the bills.  Please don’t do this to yourself either. The solution is to find an area of overlap between your personal values and social values, and work within that area of overlap.  This will allow you to do what you love and create something that others value as well.  Don’t force yourself to choose between your integrity and your income — choose both! Social values and your personal values will fluctuate over time, so be prepared to adapt.  In my early 20s, I launched my computer games business.  At first it aligned perfectly with my personal values but not with social values — I loved the work, but I wasn’t making any money.  After several years I reached a point of balance, where I was enjoyed the work and making a nice living from it.  Further down the road, my personal values changed, and the work no longer inspired me, even though it still had social value.  So at that point, I opted to change careers and started this personal development business. Personal development is a field which has high social value, and it also aligns beautifully with my personal values.  Consequently, I can generate substantial income in this field and be very fulfilled at the same time.  Don’t underestimate the importance of alignment between personal value and social value.  Both are essential if you want to make money consciously. Unless you’re really inflexible, it shouldn’t be exceedingly difficult to envision a way for you to contribute social value that also aligns with your personal values.  This is a problem that can be solved if you put some thought into it.  For most people the more difficult challenge is how to transition.  For that I’ll refer you to the article The Meaning of Life:  Transitioning. Congruent contribution Two simple realizations can help you achieve a congruent mindset about money and push beyond limiting financial beliefs.  First, you must consciously adopt the contributor mindset and abandon the moocher mindset.  And secondly, you must find a way to contribute social value while achieving alignment with your personal values.  Once you’ve internalized those two mindsets, you’ll be in a position to generate abundant income while serving the greater good. If you want to generate income without lowering your consciousness, you have to get your limiting beliefs out of your way.  Holding yourself back from earning more money doesn’t serve anyone.  Limiting your income only limits your contribution.  The conscious reason to earn more money is that you can put those social credits to good use.  Use them to expand your service to others.  If you’re living an honorable life, then it’s a good thing for you to receive more money.  You’ll be a good custodian for it.  The more money that flows through your life, the more resources you can invest into your life purpose.
    705 Posted by UniqueThis
  • How important is money?  How much is enough?  Is money a distraction from one’s spiritual path?  Is it a necessary evil?  Is it unfair that some people have more money than others?  Is poverty more noble than wealth?  Is it possible to become an enlightened millionaire? Even among highly conscious people, the subject of money is a contentious topic.  As an individual you’ve probably wrestled with this subject on many occasions.  Social attitudes towards money are so incongruent that it’s no wonder people are confused. Is money a positive resource or a consciousness-lowering distraction? Like most people I grew up with mixed associations about money.  In some ways money was a good thing; in other ways it was a necessary evil or a distraction from what was really important. On the one hand, I saw evidence that money was good.  It’s not hard to recognize that money bestows certain advantages.  Some problems can be solved by money very easily.  Money can provide food, clothing, shelter, heat, transportation, education, technology, entertainment, medicine, and so on.  Given the way our society currently functions, if you have a lot of money, you have a lot of solutions.  Money surely won’t solve all your problems, and it can create new problems of its own, but on balance it’s safe to say that money is a powerful problem-solving tool. I think Earl Nightingale said it best: Nothing can take the place of money in the area in which money works. On the other hand, there are some things I don’t like about money.  I don’t like that it’s used as a gatekeeper for certain “privileges” like proper medical care, healthy food, or decent educational resources.  I also don’t like how it induces people to behave dishonorably to attain it.  While I admire the achievements of today’s titans of industry, many of them acquired their wealth through means I couldn’t stomach. Conflicting beliefs about money For most of my life, I’ve been stuck with incongruent attitudes towards money.  Objectively, material wealth seemed like a great thing — I should definitely pursue it.  Subjectively it seemed like a giant distraction — why should I need it?  Intellectually, wealth seemed good.  Intuitively, wealth felt irrelevant.  I hadn’t yet figured out a way of thinking about money that was congruent across multiple perspectives. Have you been struggling with a similar internal conflict?  If so, you’re certainly not alone because this conflict is largely the result of social conditioning.  We have some influences telling us that money is very important, while other influences tell us it’s not.  Look at what happens during the holiday season.  Advertisers tell us to spend, spend, spend.  The more money we spend, the better our holidays will be.  Buy your wife an (inherently worthless but nonetheless expensive) diamond necklace, and she’ll love you forever.  On the other hand, we might watch a classic holiday movie like It’s a Wonderful Life that tells us we need to keep money in perspective and that relationships are far more important.  Mixed signals abound. This social conditioning affects our relationships too.  What assumptions do you make about people based on their income or financial assets?  If you know someone’s financial status, but you’ve never even met him/her, do you prejudge that person by assigning other qualities that may or may not be true?  What assumptions would you make about a millionaire?  About someone who’s totally broke?  How would you feel dating someone who earned 10x as much as you?  How about 1/10th as much as you? I believe these mixed associations lead many conscious people to conclude that money itself is the problem.  Maybe it’s better to find a way to live without money at all… at least cut its presence down to the bare minimum.  If money is truly a distraction from conscious living, wouldn’t the most conscious choice be to shun money altogether?  Maybe give up your worldly possessions and join a monastery? Within the scope of religion, money often plays a confusing role as well.  Supposedly Jesus wasn’t a particularly wealthy individual, but today’s Catholic Church is as wealthy as they come.  According to United Nations World Magazine, the Church has several billion dollars in gold alone, and when you consider their massive worldwide real estate holdings, their artwork collection, and their tax exempt status, the amount of wealth controlled by the Catholic Church is staggering.  While figures are hard to estimate due to the complexity and scope of the organization, some believe the Church is the world’s wealthiest entity, with the Pope controlling more financial assets than any corporation or government on earth.  Whether that’s true or not, the Church’s wealth certainly makes for an interesting contrast with the life Jesus supposedly lived.  When it comes to your financial future, should you model Jesus or the Pope?  Or someone else entirely? We could go deeper into the quagmire of confusing financial beliefs, but I don’t think that would be helpful, so let’s put the social models aside for now and take a fresh look at money to see what role we would have it play in our lives. What is money? Money is a social resource – the primary social resource.  Money has no inherent value of its own, but we assign it value through social agreement.  If I give you $100, you can withdraw $100 of value from society.  The only reason this works is that we agree by consensus that $100 has a certain value.  If we all agreed that money was worthless, then money would have no value whatsoever. Because it’s a social resource, money isn’t a perfect medium of exchange.  The value of anything, including money itself, is determined by social consensus.  That may be the consensus of just two people, such as when you buy an item from another person.  Or it may be the consensus of a large group, such as when you buy or sell stock in public companies. When your personal valuation roughly matches the social consensus, you’ll conclude that pricing is fair.  When your personal valuation drifts from the social consensus, you’ll conclude that certain items are either over- or under-priced. Although there will be serious consequences to doing so, you’re free to opt-out of the social contract of money.  Most people would find this totally impractical, but you can choose to assign no value whatsoever to money if you wish.  However, if you still want to take advantage of social resources, you’ll need to create your own social contracts on a case-by-case basis.  This could include barter or other forms of exchange, or it could involve leveraging relationships to meet your social needs. For most of us, the social contract of money is far too advantageous to ignore.  While the monetary system is far from perfect, it’s more efficient than the alternatives.  By assigning a monetary value to our social exchanges and by making it easy to transfer money from one person to another, social trades are performed with relative ease.  Buying groceries, going to work, using electricity, or connecting to the Internet are all examples of social trades, and by social consensus, all of these are reducible to money. Even money itself can be assigned a price, as anyone in debt can readily attest.  If you want money today, you can purchase it by pledging a greater amount of money tomorrow. So money is essentially social credit.  It’s an IOU from society, enabling you to extract a certain amount of social value whenever you want.  The more money you have, the more society owes you, and the more value you can extract. How to earn money Let’s consider what it means to earn money.  Since money is a social resource, earning money means acquiring more of that social resource.  When you spend money, you convert money to value.  But when you earn money, you convert value to money. One way to earn money is to sell possessions.  Take an item and sell it, and you’ll receive money for it.  Another option is to acquire items at one price and turn around and sell them for more than your costs.  Companies dig up resources all over the planet and sell them for a profit.  For individuals this approach might take the form of buying objects, stocks, or bonds at one price and selling them at a higher price.  Sometimes value is added in the process (which may just be added convenience), while other times the money earned comes from market inefficiencies. Perhaps the most common way to earn money is to sell your time.  Get a job and trade hours for dollars.  The greater your ability to personally deliver a high social value, the greater your earnings potential.  The difference between making $10/hour vs. $100/hour is that the latter work has much greater social value.  This difference isn’t anyone’s “fault” — the difference is due to the social consensus about the value of certain work.  Note the difference between absolute value and social value.  Top athletes may not perform useful work in an absolute sense, but their compensation is based on the social value of their service, which is currently very high. Another way to earn money is to create a system that earns money for you, such as a business.  This is my personal favorite, since it can provide far more leverage than selling time.  I also find it much less risky in the long run, since owning and controlling a money-generating system is more secure than trading hours for dollars at someone else’s discretion. You can also earn money by selling money itself… aka investing.  By loaning your money or assets to someone else, you can earn interest and/or dividends.  How you earn money depends on what you invest in.  Investing in a new business is very different from investing in a criminal organization.  One form of investing creates social value; the other steals it. And of course a final option for making money is to steal it.  Historically this has been a popular option, but I won’t give it serious consideration here. If you think about it, there are two basic ways to earn money: Make a social contribution, and receive payment commensurate with the social value of your contribution. Take advantage of market inefficiencies to extract money without contributing any value. Option 1 includes getting a job, running a business that provides products or services, reselling items with value added, or investing in any of these outlets.  Option 2 includes reselling items without added value, gambling, mooching off others, crime, or investing in any of these. Here’s another way of labeling these two strategies: Contribute. Mooch. Unless you’ve somehow opted out of the monetary system, you’re using one or both of these two strategies right now.  One strategy will likely be dominant in your life — either you’re creating genuine social value and being paid for it, or you’re mooching off the value created by others. Note that #1 is essential for the monetary system to survive and thrive, but #2 is not.  The only way moochers can survive is by extracting value from the contributors.  But ultimately someone must contribute, or there can be no value for the moochers to extract. Incidentally, Ayn Rand wrote a fascinating novel called Atlas Shrugged about what would happen if the world’s contributors left to form their own society, leaving the moochers to fend for themselves.  The contributor society became a paradise, while the moocher society fell to pieces.  Rand suggested that a system that rewarded moochers at the expense of contributors was evil and that contributors should be free to decide how their work is used (and whether or not they will support any moochers). Some degree of mooching is to be expected.  Children mooch off their parents.  Those who are unable to contribute mooch off those who can.  Whenever we enjoy the fruits of someone else’s labor without paying for it, we’re mooching.  We all mooch off the hard work of our ancestors.  But eventually we have to decide whether we’re going to continue to mooch for the rest of our lives or begin making a genuine contribution.  Will we remain moochers for life, or will we become contributors? Obviously your life will include some contribution and some mooching, but what’s your primary strategy for generating income today?  Do you contribute social value?  Or do you mooch off the value of other contributors? Let’s consider both possibilities. The moocher mindset Opting into mooch mode means you’re extracting more social value than you’re contributing.  Your focus is on getting as opposed to giving, so you take more out of the system than you give back.  The moocher mindset suggests you can always rely on others to pick up your slack.  It’s the mindset of unearned entitlement.  Since you still need to extract value such as food, clothing, and shelter — value which others must provide for you – you live at the expense of others.  Your burden may be shouldered by an individual such as a parent, or it may be shared by society at large, but either way you survive by suckling the social teat. Sometimes mooching becomes so habitual it’s easy to overlook.  Many people who seemingly have contribution-based careers harbor an underlying moocher mindset.  They aim to extract as much social value as possible while contributing as little as possible.  They work to make money to the degree it’s necessary, while mooching as much as they can get away with.  Such people don’t have inspired careers because work is only seen as a means to an end, not an outlet for genuine contribution.  Take a look around and see if you can identify the moochers in your life.  Who is there to get rather than to give? Another name for the moocher mindset is the scarcity mindset.  Since you aren’t creating value of your own, the money you extract must come from someone else.  It’s a zero-sum game.  Whatever you gain, someone else must lose. The moocher mindset makes the attainment of financial abundance very difficult because in order to succeed financially with this mindset, you must embrace certain values that most people would consider negative.  Your gain is someone else’s loss, so getting rich requires taking advantage of more people.  In order to gain by mooching, someone else must cover your extraction with real value.  So the more wealth you accumulate, the more you steal from others. Most people can’t handle the thought of becoming wealthy at the expense of others, so usually the moocher mindset gives rise to self-sabotage instead.  If you fall into this pattern, you’ll experience a love/hate relationship with money.  On the one hand, you may want more money, but on the other hand, you may feel disinclined to make too much, since you know that the more money you get, the more someone else has to pay for it.  For example, if you make a living as a professional poker player, then you know that the more you earn, the more money others have to lose… not the best motivation for a highly conscious person to achieve financial abundance. Some people are able to bypass this problem of financial self-sabotage by lowering their consciousness.  They learn to make money without rationally considering the consequences of how they’re earning it.  They invent justifications to explain their actions while keeping their awareness from getting in the way.  Ultimately this is the mindset of criminals. The more you align yourself with the moocher mindset, the more difficult it will be for you to experience financial abundance and remain conscious.  Ultimately you have to choose one or the other:  be conscious or be wealthy.  You can’t have both if you subscribe to the moocher mindset.  If you find yourself stuck at a certain level of income and unable to go any higher, an underlying moocher mindset is probably the culprit.  This is the mindset that leads you to ask, “How can I get more money?” instead of, “How can I contribute more value?”  It’s also the mindset that says it’s a bad idea to earn more money, since your gain is someone else’s pain. The contributor mindset Now let’s consider the contributor mindset.  This mindset recognizes that the best way to make money is to provide fair value in exchange.  Create genuine social value, and receive payment commensurate with that value.  Due to market inefficiencies, sometimes you’ll be underpaid, and sometimes you’ll be overpaid, but the basic idea is that you earn money by contributing. If you want to earn income as a contributor, you must contribute social value, not personal value.  Many would-be contributors get stuck on this concept.  Personal value is whatever you say it is — you’re free to decide what has value to you personally, and it doesn’t matter if no one agrees with you.  Social value, however, is assigned by social consensus.  If you believe your work has tremendous value, but virtually no one else does, then your work has high personal value but little or no social value.  Here’s the key point:  your income depends on the social value of your work, not the personal value. If you want to generate income from creative work, then your work must have social value.  There’s no getting around that.  No social value, no income.  If your skills and hard work are not in alignment with the creation of social value, then you will not be able to generate income as a contributor. This isn’t an unfair system — it’s just how the monetary system works.  Since money is a social resource backed by social value, it makes sense that you won’t get paid much for providing something of little or no social value.  The saying “Find a need and fill it” certainly rings true, assuming we’re referring to a social need or desire. This web site, for example, has a fair degree of social value.  Whether you or I value it as individuals is financially irrelevant.  It successfully generates income because the overall social consensus is that this site has a certain level of value.  And that social value makes it possible for the site to generate income.  If there was no social value to this site, there would be no income potential. Another name for the contributor mindset is the abundance mindset.  This mindset says that wealth can be created from ideas and action.  Your gain is a reflection of the social gain you’ve contributed.  If you want to earn a high income, you must contribute a lot of social value.  The more social value you create, the more money you can earn.  This is a win-win mindset because you’re putting value into the system for the benefit of others. Under the contributor mindset, you receive money as payment for your social service.  The money you earn is society’s way of saying, “In exchange for your valued contribution, you are hereby granted the right to extract $X of value from society at a time of your choosing.”  This is a beautiful thing! The only real limit on your income is how much social value you can create.  If you want to earn more money, then develop your skills and talents to facilitate the creation of lots of social value.  The best way to increase your income is to figure out how to deliver more social value.  Focus on giving, and the getting will largely take care of itself.  The systems to reward social service are already in place, so all you need to do is plug your service into the existing marketplace. Generating income from social contribution is a very positive experience.  Consequently, it won’t lower your consciousness like the moocher mindset.  With the contributor mindset, wealth and consciousness are not in conflict.  In fact, they synergize extremely well, especially if you reinvest some of your income into expanding your contribution. If you adopt the contributor mindset, just be aware that members of the moocher mindset will sometimes mistakenly count you among them.  As you work to increase your social contribution and thereby earn a higher income, moochers will project their values onto you, concluding you’ve become greedy and must be taking advantage of others for personal gain.  Don’t let moochers dissuade you from your path though.  Let your inspiration come from the desire to provide even more social value.  It would be less honorable to withhold your value just because others misinterpret your motives. Pro bono contribution Under the contributor model, you always have the option of making a contribution pro bono (i.e. for free).  You don’t have to receive the full social value for your work if you don’t want to. I like having this option because it means I can make my work accessible even to those who can’t afford it.  This web site represents a tremendous personal investment of time and energy, so it certainly isn’t free from my point of view.  But because I can leverage technology to keep my costs low, it’s practical for me to provide abundant content without requiring an access fee for every visitor.  Paying for the value received is entirely optional and is left to each individual visitor to decide for themselves. Money is social credit, so when you decline to receive money for your work, you decline the social credit you’ve earned.  While it’s perfectly fine to decline the social credit you’ve earned, be sure to consider what you could do with that social credit if you choose to receive it.  Could you re-invest it to make a bigger or better contribution?  If so, then paid work makes more sense than pro bono work, since you can use the money to expand your mission and serve even more people.  Money makes you more of who you already are, so if you’re already a contributor, more money can allow you to expand your contribution. You can also aim for a nice balance between paid work and pro bono work.  It doesn’t have to be either-or. Making money consciously Contributing social value is the primary strategy for making money consciously, but by itself it’s still not enough.  The problem with social value is that your personal values won’t perfectly align with the social consensus.  I’m sure that if everyone on earth were like you, the demand for certain products and services would shift dramatically.  For example, if everyone were like me, fresh fruits and vegetables would have even higher social value, while factory farming would have none whatsoever. When you attempt to provide social value without achieving congruence with your personal values, your motivation will be very weak.  You won’t be inspired because you’ll be doing what you feel you should do, but not what you want to do.  I often see this happen with people who jump into blogging on a topic they think will make them a lot of money, only to give up after a few months because they can’t stomach it any longer.  Please don’t do this to yourself. Alternatively, when you attempt to satisfy your personal values without providing any real social value, you get the starving artist syndrome.  You may be inspired by work that totally fulfills you, but it won’t pay the bills.  Please don’t do this to yourself either. The solution is to find an area of overlap between your personal values and social values, and work within that area of overlap.  This will allow you to do what you love and create something that others value as well.  Don’t force yourself to choose between your integrity and your income — choose both! Social values and your personal values will fluctuate over time, so be prepared to adapt.  In my early 20s, I launched my computer games business.  At first it aligned perfectly with my personal values but not with social values — I loved the work, but I wasn’t making any money.  After several years I reached a point of balance, where I was enjoyed the work and making a nice living from it.  Further down the road, my personal values changed, and the work no longer inspired me, even though it still had social value.  So at that point, I opted to change careers and started this personal development business. Personal development is a field which has high social value, and it also aligns beautifully with my personal values.  Consequently, I can generate substantial income in this field and be very fulfilled at the same time.  Don’t underestimate the importance of alignment between personal value and social value.  Both are essential if you want to make money consciously. Unless you’re really inflexible, it shouldn’t be exceedingly difficult to envision a way for you to contribute social value that also aligns with your personal values.  This is a problem that can be solved if you put some thought into it.  For most people the more difficult challenge is how to transition.  For that I’ll refer you to the article The Meaning of Life:  Transitioning. Congruent contribution Two simple realizations can help you achieve a congruent mindset about money and push beyond limiting financial beliefs.  First, you must consciously adopt the contributor mindset and abandon the moocher mindset.  And secondly, you must find a way to contribute social value while achieving alignment with your personal values.  Once you’ve internalized those two mindsets, you’ll be in a position to generate abundant income while serving the greater good. If you want to generate income without lowering your consciousness, you have to get your limiting beliefs out of your way.  Holding yourself back from earning more money doesn’t serve anyone.  Limiting your income only limits your contribution.  The conscious reason to earn more money is that you can put those social credits to good use.  Use them to expand your service to others.  If you’re living an honorable life, then it’s a good thing for you to receive more money.  You’ll be a good custodian for it.  The more money that flows through your life, the more resources you can invest into your life purpose.
    Jul 12, 2011 705
  • 12 Jul 2011
    In battlefield medicine the principle of triage involves dividing patients into three groups:  1) those who will die anyway whether they receive medical attention or not, 2) those who will survive anyway whether they receive medical attention or not, and 3) those who will survive only if they receive timely medical attention. Despite its morbid nature, triage is extremely important if you want to maximize the number of lives you save.  If you don’t do it, the results will be far worse than if you do. Triage is also a key principle of time management.  In this case you’d divide your tasks, projects, and activities into three groups: Projects that will fail to have a significant impact whether you do them or not. Projects that will succeed anyway whether you do them or not. Projects that will have a significant impact if you complete them in a timely manner. Group 1 includes projects that are may be urgent or non-urgent, but they definitely aren’t important.  If you focus your attention on this group, you’re just spinning your wheels while more important projects remain undone.  Ask yourself what difference a project will make in 5 years, and if the answer is none, it probably belongs to this group. Group 2 includes projects that will still get done by others even if you decline to participate.  Someone else will pick up the ball if you drop it.  Sometimes when we think we’re essential, we really aren’t.  For example, if you quit a club or team that really seems to need you, it may do just fine without you.  I’m not suggesting your participation won’t matter, just that it isn’t essential.  Think of the wounded person on the battlefield who’d love some medical attention for his/her injuries but will still be OK even if no help is available. Group 3 includes projects that are very important but rarely urgent.  This is what Stephen Covey refers to as Quadrant II projects in The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.  Such projects include starting a family, launching your own business, becoming physically fit, and exploring personal development.  In the long run, these projects, habits, and practices can make a huge long-term difference in your life, but they require your sustained personal attention to succeed. Just as with battlefield medicine, the time management version of triage may sound a bit brutal:  If you want to save group 3, you must withdraw your attention from groups 1 and 2.  Otherwise too many good projects from group 3 will die needlessly. Practicing triage is extremely challenging because it requires saying “no” again and again to what you may feel are good causes.  It’s the time management equivalent of saying ”no” to wounded people calling for your help.  You simply don’t have time to comfort all your dying projects or to nurse the non-essential ones.  If you don’t learn to make these tough decisions consistently, many really good projects will die, and that would be a far greater tragedy. The practice of triage is a challenge of consciousness.  It’s easy to lose sight of the big picture when you’re staring at a project screaming for your attention.  But you still need to muster the awareness to ask, “Is this the most important thing that must be done by me right now?”  Whenever you fail to ask this question, you can bet there’s a more important project being stalked by the Grim Reaper. My recommendation is to make a list of your group 3 projects and activities, and keep it handy at all times.  Maybe it’s a list of your key goals, but it could just be a list of the life areas you want to attend to, such as your health, marriage, spiritual practice, etc.  Review that list every day to keep refreshing its presence in your consciousness.  This will help you make some of those tough triage decisions when the need arises.  It’s easier to say no to groups 1 and 2 when you can see the whole battlefield in front of you. The reason triage is so tough is that groups 1 and 2 are still deserving of your help.  They’re good projects — or good people — and they need you.  However, you simply won’t have time to attend to group 3 if you become mired in groups 1 and 2.  While groups 1 and 2 are good, group 3 is the best.  While groups 1 and 2 need you, group 3 really, really, really needs you. Group 3 tends to be the smallest group, so it’s likely you’ll see a lot more 1s and 2s in your life.  Most of the time, you have to say no to a lot of 1s and 2s just to reach the 3s, and those 1s and 2s may not want you to leave them once they have your attention.  They’ll grab your arm, plead with you to stay, and try to keep you with them.  As you leave they’ll think you’re the most heartless person on earth.  It can be really tough to pull away in such situations, but that’s exactly what you must do if you’re to find and save those 3s. What are the 3s in your life that are dying on the battlefield but which can still be saved if you reach them in time?  Your health?  Your marriage?  Your career?  Your happiness?  In order to make time to save these 3s, what 1s and 2s are you willing to let go of?
    646 Posted by UniqueThis
  • In battlefield medicine the principle of triage involves dividing patients into three groups:  1) those who will die anyway whether they receive medical attention or not, 2) those who will survive anyway whether they receive medical attention or not, and 3) those who will survive only if they receive timely medical attention. Despite its morbid nature, triage is extremely important if you want to maximize the number of lives you save.  If you don’t do it, the results will be far worse than if you do. Triage is also a key principle of time management.  In this case you’d divide your tasks, projects, and activities into three groups: Projects that will fail to have a significant impact whether you do them or not. Projects that will succeed anyway whether you do them or not. Projects that will have a significant impact if you complete them in a timely manner. Group 1 includes projects that are may be urgent or non-urgent, but they definitely aren’t important.  If you focus your attention on this group, you’re just spinning your wheels while more important projects remain undone.  Ask yourself what difference a project will make in 5 years, and if the answer is none, it probably belongs to this group. Group 2 includes projects that will still get done by others even if you decline to participate.  Someone else will pick up the ball if you drop it.  Sometimes when we think we’re essential, we really aren’t.  For example, if you quit a club or team that really seems to need you, it may do just fine without you.  I’m not suggesting your participation won’t matter, just that it isn’t essential.  Think of the wounded person on the battlefield who’d love some medical attention for his/her injuries but will still be OK even if no help is available. Group 3 includes projects that are very important but rarely urgent.  This is what Stephen Covey refers to as Quadrant II projects in The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.  Such projects include starting a family, launching your own business, becoming physically fit, and exploring personal development.  In the long run, these projects, habits, and practices can make a huge long-term difference in your life, but they require your sustained personal attention to succeed. Just as with battlefield medicine, the time management version of triage may sound a bit brutal:  If you want to save group 3, you must withdraw your attention from groups 1 and 2.  Otherwise too many good projects from group 3 will die needlessly. Practicing triage is extremely challenging because it requires saying “no” again and again to what you may feel are good causes.  It’s the time management equivalent of saying ”no” to wounded people calling for your help.  You simply don’t have time to comfort all your dying projects or to nurse the non-essential ones.  If you don’t learn to make these tough decisions consistently, many really good projects will die, and that would be a far greater tragedy. The practice of triage is a challenge of consciousness.  It’s easy to lose sight of the big picture when you’re staring at a project screaming for your attention.  But you still need to muster the awareness to ask, “Is this the most important thing that must be done by me right now?”  Whenever you fail to ask this question, you can bet there’s a more important project being stalked by the Grim Reaper. My recommendation is to make a list of your group 3 projects and activities, and keep it handy at all times.  Maybe it’s a list of your key goals, but it could just be a list of the life areas you want to attend to, such as your health, marriage, spiritual practice, etc.  Review that list every day to keep refreshing its presence in your consciousness.  This will help you make some of those tough triage decisions when the need arises.  It’s easier to say no to groups 1 and 2 when you can see the whole battlefield in front of you. The reason triage is so tough is that groups 1 and 2 are still deserving of your help.  They’re good projects — or good people — and they need you.  However, you simply won’t have time to attend to group 3 if you become mired in groups 1 and 2.  While groups 1 and 2 are good, group 3 is the best.  While groups 1 and 2 need you, group 3 really, really, really needs you. Group 3 tends to be the smallest group, so it’s likely you’ll see a lot more 1s and 2s in your life.  Most of the time, you have to say no to a lot of 1s and 2s just to reach the 3s, and those 1s and 2s may not want you to leave them once they have your attention.  They’ll grab your arm, plead with you to stay, and try to keep you with them.  As you leave they’ll think you’re the most heartless person on earth.  It can be really tough to pull away in such situations, but that’s exactly what you must do if you’re to find and save those 3s. What are the 3s in your life that are dying on the battlefield but which can still be saved if you reach them in time?  Your health?  Your marriage?  Your career?  Your happiness?  In order to make time to save these 3s, what 1s and 2s are you willing to let go of?
    Jul 12, 2011 646
  • 12 Jul 2011
    At the start of each new year, in lieu of creating a New Year’s resolution, my tradition is to select an area of primary focus for the coming year.  Whereas a New Year’s resolution may succeed or fail, the choice of primary focus endures throughout the year.  Usually the choice is obvious enough that remembering it is a no-brainer. How to choose an area of primary focus To choose your area of primary focus, ask yourself this question:  If I were to focus on improving one area of my life this year (health, finances, relationships, etc.), what single area would have the greatest overall impact? Most of the time, you’ll find one area of your life lagging behind the others.  From a purely objective sense, the area may not be horrible, but relative to the other parts of your life, it’s the weakest link.  What part of your life do you find most lacking?  What’s holding you back?  If you could snap your fingers and guarantee a major improvement in one area of your life, what would it be?  Would you improve your finances?  Fall in love?  Get in shape?  Overcome an addiction?  Transform a relationship?  Discover your life purpose? Here’s a sample list of areas from which you might select your primary focus.  Consider this a guide, not a comprehensive list: Work/Career/Business Financial Relationship Home & Family Physical Health Mental/Educational Social/Friends Emotional Spiritual Character Contribution Fun & Adventure For example, if you’re 50 pounds overweight, that’s a serious problem that will negatively affect many parts of your life, including your health, your career, and your relationships.  (Don’t try the denial route with me.)  Go to the gym, pick up two 25-lb dumbbells, walk around with them, and ask yourself if you really want to carry that burdensome weight 24/7 for another year.  If you made physical fitness your #1 priority for the year — and I mean #1 by your actions, not the wishful thinking version — then even if you made little or no progress in every other area of your life, it would make a huge difference, wouldn’t it?  You may not lose all the weight, but if you commit to physical fitness as your top priority, you’re certainly going to make more progress than if you don’t.  You’ll probably end the year feeling you accomplished something amazing. To assess which area needs the most work, you can apply the rating process from Podcast #2 – Truth and Awareness.  Rate each area on a scale of 1-10 (1 = worst, 10 = best).  Then choose from among the areas with the lowest score.  Think about where you could be in a year if you made a serious commitment to growth in one of these areas.  Make your choice based on the year-end results you want.  If you’re worried about the work it will take to get there, realize that’s just your fear talking, and summon the courage to make a conscious choice. If your life is weak in many areas, where should you begin?  There’s a whole article on that topic called Where to Begin Your Path of Personal Growth.  Overall if your physical health is one of the areas that’s most lacking, I suggest you Start With the Physical. You may have been exposed to the idea that you should work from your strengths and not worry about your weaknesses.  That rule applies to individual talents and skills.  In this case, however, we’re dealing with universal areas of life we all share.  You can often circumvent a skill-based weakness, but you can’t easily escape a life area weakness.  Lacking musical talent isn’t in the same league as being chronically lonely, overweight, or broke.  Don’t fall into the trap of excusing yourself for a life area weakness; these weaknesses must be addressed, or they’ll always hold you back. Managing your primary focus Having a primary focus doesn’t mean ignoring every other area of your life.  It means that within your area of primary focus, you set your most ambitious goals and intentions, and you devote significant time, energy, and resources to achieve them.  In all other areas of your life, you’ll set more modest goals.  And in some areas, you may just want to maintain the status quo.  This is a resource allocation process.  You’re transferring some of the slack from areas that are doing OK in order to rebalance the worst-performing area. Since your time and resources are limited, it’s unrealistic to make significant progress in a certain area without a clear focus.  You have to let some areas slide a bit in order to make a real dent in your growth.  Think of this as intelligent slacking.  These sacrifices can be tough to make, but looking back on your life with regret is a lot harder. The main resource you’ll be committing to your primary focus is time.  Whenever you change your primary focus, you must shift time from other areas to invest more time in this key area.  This could mean working 60 hours a week instead of 40.  It could mean exercising 10 hours a week instead of 0.  It could mean meditating daily instead of just occasionally.  That time has to come from somewhere, so whenever you make one area your priority, you automatically downgrade the other areas into posteriorities. Keep in mind that having a primary focus is a temporary situation.  Your primary focus for the upcoming year may not be the most important part of your life.  In fact, it probably won’t be.  In order to make an intelligent choice here, you have to consider the long-term impact of your decision.  For example, you might be a very family oriented person who selects physical fitness as your primary focus for the year because you want more health and energy to devote to your family, you want to be there for them as you age gracefully, and you want to serve as a positive role model for your children. A personal example:  focusing on finances for one year At the end of 2005, I decided to set improving my finances as my primary focus for 2006.  This meant working hard to grow StevePavlina.com’s income, experimenting with new revenue sources, optimizing the website’s revenue streams, hiring a new accountant, forming an LLC, improving my financial education, and lots more.  I set goals in other areas, but they were fairly modest compared to my financial goals. While there were many reasons for focusing on financial growth in 2006, the #1 reason is that one of my long-term goals is to transform this business from a solo operation into a team effort.  I felt that working hard to boost my income would give me the most flexibility and put me in the best position to begin building a staff in 2007 and 2008.  In my opinion this was the area where significant growth would have the biggest long-term positive impact. What about the results?  At the end of 2005, StevePavlina.com was generating $2-3K/month in income.  A year later it’s now generating $30-40K/month.  The income will probably fluctuate a lot in 2007 as I make further changes to the business model next year, but it’s solidly in the five figures per month range, and the expenses are still minimal.  Additionally, Erin had a six-figure year of her own, fueled largely by launching ErinPavlina.com in January 2006. These results are unusually good – in prior years I haven’t seen such a dramatic improvement in my area of primary focus.  I’d say the main reason for the highly positive results this year is that I finally learned to integrate the intention-manifestation concept with more traditional goal-setting and planning.  I gave as much consideration to my thoughts as I did my actions.  Sometimes I’d sit at my desk and physically work, while other times I’d lie on the couch and creatively visualize the results I wanted.  I believe both practices worked synergistically.  Direct action seemed to produce steady incremental gains, while the quantum leaps resulted from new opportunities and synchronicities that came to me (and which I must reasonably credit to the Law of Attraction).  Personally I don’t care whether you’re inclined to attribute these results to hard work, the Law of Attraction, or dumb luck.  The initial catalyst was still the singular decision to commit to growth in this area. Think of your primary focus as Overwhelming Force stretched across a whole year.  You’re not going to work yourself to death for 365 days in a row.  Maintain an even pace, and pay attention to all areas of your life, but be perfectly clear about your #1 area of focus.  Sometimes you may go a whole week without doing anything in this area, but throughout the year you’ll keep coming back to it. Reaping the rewards How do you feel about the past year?  I’ll bet that if you set a clear primary focus and stuck with it, you’re feeling pretty darned good about your progress.  You’ll look back on the year with a sense of accomplishment and fulfillment.  You may not have achieved all your goals, but you’ve certainly made a big dent in an area that was screaming for growth. On the other hand, if you never selected a primary focus and just winged it for the whole year, it’s more likely you’re wondering where all the time went.  Since you didn’t consciously set your focus, it means someone else set it for you — most likely you ended up serving the unfocused social context of advertisers, your employer, your friends, etc.  You may have gotten a lot done, but you probably spent too much time in a circular rat race instead of generating the kind of forward impact you really desired. In addition to the emotional and psychological benefits of a primary focus (i.e. self-esteem and self-actualization), a year with a strong focus can produce substantial practical benefits as well.  Quitting smoking, getting out of debt, or losing 50 pounds are major accomplishments with long-term positive repercussions. Our lives aren’t compartmentalized, so an improvement in one area can drive improvements in other areas.  For example, a major income boost can pay for a gym membership, a personal trainer, a reliable vehicle, a quality education for yourself or your children, vacations and entertainment, a wedding, a cleaning service, donations to your favorite charity, the expansion of your life purpose, employees for your business, and free time to ponder the meaning of life.  You’ll experience similar rippling effects by making major improvements to your health, your relationships, your spiritual beliefs, etc. While minor gains here and there certainly help, sometimes small improvements across too many areas aren’t maintained.  It’s too easy to backslide.  You lose five pounds and gain back seven.  You get a new job and discover it’s a dead end.  You enter a new relationship and later feel trapped.  When you make a major breakthrough in one area, a little backslide won’t hurt much.  If you lose 50 pounds, it won’t kill you to gain a few back.  If you double your income, a minor financial setback won’t force you into debt.  If you fall in love and get married this year, a falling out with one of your friends doesn’t seem so bad.  One really big success can compensate for a lot of minor setbacks. Be flexible but don’t give up It’s OK to change your primary focus mid-year if there’s a compelling reason for doing so.  But barring a major change like being diagnosed with cancer, you’ll probably want to maintain your focus for at least four solid quarters.  Sometimes I’ve even kept the same focus for two years in a row, but I usually avoid that because I prefer the variety of changing each year.  A solid year may seem like an eternity, especially when you’re young, but some problems require this level of focus to effect a genuine turnaround.  Examples include being morbidly obese, being deep in debt, or being on the verge of divorce.  It’s hard to make a serious dent in such problems without a long-term commitment.  Even when you feel your life is relatively good in most areas, it takes a lot of focus to break through to a new level of achievement. What about balance?  Rather than unbalancing your life, choosing a primary focus is a rebalancing act.  You’re taking an area that’s lagging behind the others and bringing it up to speed.  Your goal is to correct imbalances, not create them. Don’t abandon your primary focus just because it seems too hard.  If it’s your worst-performing area, it probably will be hard.  You won’t make things any easier by putting an underperforming area on the back burner.  All that does is dump you into a state of denial, and the problem will persist year after year.  Don’t wuss out just because you encounter a challenge.  Keep your primary focus in the forefront of your consciousness without letting yourself off the hook when the going gets tough.  Focus your thoughts on where you want to go, and push yourself to make progress in this area first and foremost. For added flexibility you may want to select a secondary focus, tertiary focus, etc.  Sometimes I do this; sometimes I don’t.  It depends on the magnitude of the difference between my top three choices.  If they’re really close, I’ll add a secondary and perhaps a tertiary choice.  But if there’s one area that’s clearly lagging behind the others, I’ll stick with a single focus for the year and try to transform that relative weakness into a strength. Remember that you’re still free to work on other goals outside your primary focus.  It’s up to you to decide what kind of investment your primary focus warrants and how you’ll maintain balance with the other areas of your life.  Just be aware that sometimes the best way to ensure long-term balance is to pass through a short-term imbalance. Share it Once you’ve chosen your primary focus, share it with someone, if for no other reason than to put yourself on record.  If you’re a blogger, I highly encourage you to blog about it.  Let your visitors know where you’re headed.  By making a public record of your primary focus for the upcoming year, you make yourself accountable to your audience.  If you don’t have a blog, feel free to share your decision in the forums on this site.  And if you really want to be bold, add your primary focus to your email signature, like “By the end of this year, I will weigh XXX pounds.”  Then you’ll renew your commitment whenever you send an email. If you’re in a committed relationship, it’s important for you and your partner to select congruent focuses.  For example, if money is tight, you might focus on career advancement while your partner tackles budgeting and debt reduction.  As the financial tensions are reduced, the next year you might both focus on personal goals like physical fitness or emotional intimacy. For 2007 my primary focus will be to overhaul the way I’ve structured my life and business, transforming what has largely been a solo effort into a team effort.  If I were to summarize it with a single word, I’d have to say “teamwork.”  2005 and 2006 have yielded so much growth that I couldn’t handle another year of the same without significant changes.  I have to lighten my plate and begin relying on others more, both professionally and personally.  I have no doubt this will be a major growth experience for me. In addition to sharing your primary focus, you can also share your experience and results.  Pass along your knowledge to help someone else lose the weight, overcome the addiction, or find true love.  Life isn’t a zero-sum game.  Whatever you achieve for yourself becomes an opportunity to help others. What will be your area of primary focus for the new year?
    818 Posted by UniqueThis
  • At the start of each new year, in lieu of creating a New Year’s resolution, my tradition is to select an area of primary focus for the coming year.  Whereas a New Year’s resolution may succeed or fail, the choice of primary focus endures throughout the year.  Usually the choice is obvious enough that remembering it is a no-brainer. How to choose an area of primary focus To choose your area of primary focus, ask yourself this question:  If I were to focus on improving one area of my life this year (health, finances, relationships, etc.), what single area would have the greatest overall impact? Most of the time, you’ll find one area of your life lagging behind the others.  From a purely objective sense, the area may not be horrible, but relative to the other parts of your life, it’s the weakest link.  What part of your life do you find most lacking?  What’s holding you back?  If you could snap your fingers and guarantee a major improvement in one area of your life, what would it be?  Would you improve your finances?  Fall in love?  Get in shape?  Overcome an addiction?  Transform a relationship?  Discover your life purpose? Here’s a sample list of areas from which you might select your primary focus.  Consider this a guide, not a comprehensive list: Work/Career/Business Financial Relationship Home & Family Physical Health Mental/Educational Social/Friends Emotional Spiritual Character Contribution Fun & Adventure For example, if you’re 50 pounds overweight, that’s a serious problem that will negatively affect many parts of your life, including your health, your career, and your relationships.  (Don’t try the denial route with me.)  Go to the gym, pick up two 25-lb dumbbells, walk around with them, and ask yourself if you really want to carry that burdensome weight 24/7 for another year.  If you made physical fitness your #1 priority for the year — and I mean #1 by your actions, not the wishful thinking version — then even if you made little or no progress in every other area of your life, it would make a huge difference, wouldn’t it?  You may not lose all the weight, but if you commit to physical fitness as your top priority, you’re certainly going to make more progress than if you don’t.  You’ll probably end the year feeling you accomplished something amazing. To assess which area needs the most work, you can apply the rating process from Podcast #2 – Truth and Awareness.  Rate each area on a scale of 1-10 (1 = worst, 10 = best).  Then choose from among the areas with the lowest score.  Think about where you could be in a year if you made a serious commitment to growth in one of these areas.  Make your choice based on the year-end results you want.  If you’re worried about the work it will take to get there, realize that’s just your fear talking, and summon the courage to make a conscious choice. If your life is weak in many areas, where should you begin?  There’s a whole article on that topic called Where to Begin Your Path of Personal Growth.  Overall if your physical health is one of the areas that’s most lacking, I suggest you Start With the Physical. You may have been exposed to the idea that you should work from your strengths and not worry about your weaknesses.  That rule applies to individual talents and skills.  In this case, however, we’re dealing with universal areas of life we all share.  You can often circumvent a skill-based weakness, but you can’t easily escape a life area weakness.  Lacking musical talent isn’t in the same league as being chronically lonely, overweight, or broke.  Don’t fall into the trap of excusing yourself for a life area weakness; these weaknesses must be addressed, or they’ll always hold you back. Managing your primary focus Having a primary focus doesn’t mean ignoring every other area of your life.  It means that within your area of primary focus, you set your most ambitious goals and intentions, and you devote significant time, energy, and resources to achieve them.  In all other areas of your life, you’ll set more modest goals.  And in some areas, you may just want to maintain the status quo.  This is a resource allocation process.  You’re transferring some of the slack from areas that are doing OK in order to rebalance the worst-performing area. Since your time and resources are limited, it’s unrealistic to make significant progress in a certain area without a clear focus.  You have to let some areas slide a bit in order to make a real dent in your growth.  Think of this as intelligent slacking.  These sacrifices can be tough to make, but looking back on your life with regret is a lot harder. The main resource you’ll be committing to your primary focus is time.  Whenever you change your primary focus, you must shift time from other areas to invest more time in this key area.  This could mean working 60 hours a week instead of 40.  It could mean exercising 10 hours a week instead of 0.  It could mean meditating daily instead of just occasionally.  That time has to come from somewhere, so whenever you make one area your priority, you automatically downgrade the other areas into posteriorities. Keep in mind that having a primary focus is a temporary situation.  Your primary focus for the upcoming year may not be the most important part of your life.  In fact, it probably won’t be.  In order to make an intelligent choice here, you have to consider the long-term impact of your decision.  For example, you might be a very family oriented person who selects physical fitness as your primary focus for the year because you want more health and energy to devote to your family, you want to be there for them as you age gracefully, and you want to serve as a positive role model for your children. A personal example:  focusing on finances for one year At the end of 2005, I decided to set improving my finances as my primary focus for 2006.  This meant working hard to grow StevePavlina.com’s income, experimenting with new revenue sources, optimizing the website’s revenue streams, hiring a new accountant, forming an LLC, improving my financial education, and lots more.  I set goals in other areas, but they were fairly modest compared to my financial goals. While there were many reasons for focusing on financial growth in 2006, the #1 reason is that one of my long-term goals is to transform this business from a solo operation into a team effort.  I felt that working hard to boost my income would give me the most flexibility and put me in the best position to begin building a staff in 2007 and 2008.  In my opinion this was the area where significant growth would have the biggest long-term positive impact. What about the results?  At the end of 2005, StevePavlina.com was generating $2-3K/month in income.  A year later it’s now generating $30-40K/month.  The income will probably fluctuate a lot in 2007 as I make further changes to the business model next year, but it’s solidly in the five figures per month range, and the expenses are still minimal.  Additionally, Erin had a six-figure year of her own, fueled largely by launching ErinPavlina.com in January 2006. These results are unusually good – in prior years I haven’t seen such a dramatic improvement in my area of primary focus.  I’d say the main reason for the highly positive results this year is that I finally learned to integrate the intention-manifestation concept with more traditional goal-setting and planning.  I gave as much consideration to my thoughts as I did my actions.  Sometimes I’d sit at my desk and physically work, while other times I’d lie on the couch and creatively visualize the results I wanted.  I believe both practices worked synergistically.  Direct action seemed to produce steady incremental gains, while the quantum leaps resulted from new opportunities and synchronicities that came to me (and which I must reasonably credit to the Law of Attraction).  Personally I don’t care whether you’re inclined to attribute these results to hard work, the Law of Attraction, or dumb luck.  The initial catalyst was still the singular decision to commit to growth in this area. Think of your primary focus as Overwhelming Force stretched across a whole year.  You’re not going to work yourself to death for 365 days in a row.  Maintain an even pace, and pay attention to all areas of your life, but be perfectly clear about your #1 area of focus.  Sometimes you may go a whole week without doing anything in this area, but throughout the year you’ll keep coming back to it. Reaping the rewards How do you feel about the past year?  I’ll bet that if you set a clear primary focus and stuck with it, you’re feeling pretty darned good about your progress.  You’ll look back on the year with a sense of accomplishment and fulfillment.  You may not have achieved all your goals, but you’ve certainly made a big dent in an area that was screaming for growth. On the other hand, if you never selected a primary focus and just winged it for the whole year, it’s more likely you’re wondering where all the time went.  Since you didn’t consciously set your focus, it means someone else set it for you — most likely you ended up serving the unfocused social context of advertisers, your employer, your friends, etc.  You may have gotten a lot done, but you probably spent too much time in a circular rat race instead of generating the kind of forward impact you really desired. In addition to the emotional and psychological benefits of a primary focus (i.e. self-esteem and self-actualization), a year with a strong focus can produce substantial practical benefits as well.  Quitting smoking, getting out of debt, or losing 50 pounds are major accomplishments with long-term positive repercussions. Our lives aren’t compartmentalized, so an improvement in one area can drive improvements in other areas.  For example, a major income boost can pay for a gym membership, a personal trainer, a reliable vehicle, a quality education for yourself or your children, vacations and entertainment, a wedding, a cleaning service, donations to your favorite charity, the expansion of your life purpose, employees for your business, and free time to ponder the meaning of life.  You’ll experience similar rippling effects by making major improvements to your health, your relationships, your spiritual beliefs, etc. While minor gains here and there certainly help, sometimes small improvements across too many areas aren’t maintained.  It’s too easy to backslide.  You lose five pounds and gain back seven.  You get a new job and discover it’s a dead end.  You enter a new relationship and later feel trapped.  When you make a major breakthrough in one area, a little backslide won’t hurt much.  If you lose 50 pounds, it won’t kill you to gain a few back.  If you double your income, a minor financial setback won’t force you into debt.  If you fall in love and get married this year, a falling out with one of your friends doesn’t seem so bad.  One really big success can compensate for a lot of minor setbacks. Be flexible but don’t give up It’s OK to change your primary focus mid-year if there’s a compelling reason for doing so.  But barring a major change like being diagnosed with cancer, you’ll probably want to maintain your focus for at least four solid quarters.  Sometimes I’ve even kept the same focus for two years in a row, but I usually avoid that because I prefer the variety of changing each year.  A solid year may seem like an eternity, especially when you’re young, but some problems require this level of focus to effect a genuine turnaround.  Examples include being morbidly obese, being deep in debt, or being on the verge of divorce.  It’s hard to make a serious dent in such problems without a long-term commitment.  Even when you feel your life is relatively good in most areas, it takes a lot of focus to break through to a new level of achievement. What about balance?  Rather than unbalancing your life, choosing a primary focus is a rebalancing act.  You’re taking an area that’s lagging behind the others and bringing it up to speed.  Your goal is to correct imbalances, not create them. Don’t abandon your primary focus just because it seems too hard.  If it’s your worst-performing area, it probably will be hard.  You won’t make things any easier by putting an underperforming area on the back burner.  All that does is dump you into a state of denial, and the problem will persist year after year.  Don’t wuss out just because you encounter a challenge.  Keep your primary focus in the forefront of your consciousness without letting yourself off the hook when the going gets tough.  Focus your thoughts on where you want to go, and push yourself to make progress in this area first and foremost. For added flexibility you may want to select a secondary focus, tertiary focus, etc.  Sometimes I do this; sometimes I don’t.  It depends on the magnitude of the difference between my top three choices.  If they’re really close, I’ll add a secondary and perhaps a tertiary choice.  But if there’s one area that’s clearly lagging behind the others, I’ll stick with a single focus for the year and try to transform that relative weakness into a strength. Remember that you’re still free to work on other goals outside your primary focus.  It’s up to you to decide what kind of investment your primary focus warrants and how you’ll maintain balance with the other areas of your life.  Just be aware that sometimes the best way to ensure long-term balance is to pass through a short-term imbalance. Share it Once you’ve chosen your primary focus, share it with someone, if for no other reason than to put yourself on record.  If you’re a blogger, I highly encourage you to blog about it.  Let your visitors know where you’re headed.  By making a public record of your primary focus for the upcoming year, you make yourself accountable to your audience.  If you don’t have a blog, feel free to share your decision in the forums on this site.  And if you really want to be bold, add your primary focus to your email signature, like “By the end of this year, I will weigh XXX pounds.”  Then you’ll renew your commitment whenever you send an email. If you’re in a committed relationship, it’s important for you and your partner to select congruent focuses.  For example, if money is tight, you might focus on career advancement while your partner tackles budgeting and debt reduction.  As the financial tensions are reduced, the next year you might both focus on personal goals like physical fitness or emotional intimacy. For 2007 my primary focus will be to overhaul the way I’ve structured my life and business, transforming what has largely been a solo effort into a team effort.  If I were to summarize it with a single word, I’d have to say “teamwork.”  2005 and 2006 have yielded so much growth that I couldn’t handle another year of the same without significant changes.  I have to lighten my plate and begin relying on others more, both professionally and personally.  I have no doubt this will be a major growth experience for me. In addition to sharing your primary focus, you can also share your experience and results.  Pass along your knowledge to help someone else lose the weight, overcome the addiction, or find true love.  Life isn’t a zero-sum game.  Whatever you achieve for yourself becomes an opportunity to help others. What will be your area of primary focus for the new year?
    Jul 12, 2011 818
  • 12 Jul 2011
    One thing that holds a lot of people back from becoming wealthy is the fear that their lives will actually become worse in some ways. There is in fact a dark side to financial abundance, but it isn’t pitch black. Here are some items that might genuinely concern you if you dramatically increase your income or net worth: Your accounting and tax situation will become much more complicated. Financial mistakes may cost you more than ever. People will treat you differently, including friends and family members. You’ll feel pressured to develop better money management skills, even if you find it absolutely tedious. Overall these things are largely true.  Wealth has consequences.  However, none of these consequences are serious deal breakers if you’re willing to accept them.  They’re all intelligently manageable.  Plus you’ll have extra money to help you in dealing with them. Last year my accounting situation did become a lot more complicated.  Erin and I started making too much money — in the form of personal income that is — and the reward for our troubles would be a hefty tax bill from the IRS.  While I’m OK with paying taxes, I have no interest in paying more than what’s legally required.  I’d rather reinvest the extra cash in my business, since I can easily put the funds to more efficient use than the government. So I converted this sole proprietorship to limited liability company (LLC), and I did an IRS election to have the LLC treated as a C-corporation for tax purposes.  Soon I’ll be setting up payroll for the business, and Erin and I will become employees of our own company.  I’ll finally have a real job!  Instead of having all the business income flow to us personally (and be taxed at the highest personal tax rates), we’ll be keeping a lot of money in the business where it will be taxed at the lower corporate rate.  Although this is a more complex tax situation than the simple flow-through taxation of a sole proprietorship or S-corporation, the net effect is that it will save us thousands of dollars in taxes each year, which means more money to grow the business. Now to be honest, navigating these changes is a real pain in the backside.  I’d rather be writing articles than trying to make sense of incomprehensible IRS regulations.  Fortunately my accountant is gently guiding me through each step, saving me a lot more money than I would otherwise.  This process isn’t pleasant, but it is tolerable, and it’s helping me make this business more structured, more profitable, and ready for further growth. In the past I’d have been discouraged by this tediousness.  Now I just accept that it comes with the territory, and taken in that light, it’s not so bad.  Do you ever hold yourself back from earning more money because you don’t want to deal with the accounting implications?  Is that a consequence you’re unwilling to accept? What about financial mistakes?  Even with good advisors, you’re still going to screw-up now and then.  If you had millions of dollars, would you be paranoid about losing it?  Would you worry about making incorrect decisions? Although costly mistakes may seem bigger when you lose more money, keep in mind it’s all relative.  In billion-dollar corporations, million dollar mistakes are commonplace.  When you enjoy a lot of financial leverage, so do your errors.  If you have a net worth of $10,000, and you lose $100, it stings a little, but it’s not the end of the world.  Percentage-wise that’s the same as a person with a net worth of $1 million losing $10,000.  It’s tolerable.  Even if you lose it all, you’ll still be OK.  It’s only money.  And if you’re capable of earning over a million dollars, you’re probably capable of doing it again. What if people start behaving differently around you because you have more money?  That has both positive and negative aspects.  While some people may turn all weird on you because they can’t handle the fact that you have a lot of money, others will turn towards you.  The relationships that don’t resonate with you will drift apart, but at the same time you’ll attract new relationships that are a better fit.  This is a fairly natural process and is really nothing to fear.  If a relationship cannot grow with you, it’s best to let it go to make room for a relationship that can. As your financial situation improves, you may feel pressure to develop better money management skills.  When you’re in a state of financial scarcity, you feel pressure to make ends meet or to get out of debt.  With financial abundance there’s a different kind of pressure — the pressure to grow your wealth and contribute more.  Having your money just sit there won’t feel right when you know you could be doing something more with it.  While investing can be very profitable, it’s also a means of positive contribution.  You can help others turn their ideas into reality for the betterment of everyone. If you enjoy financial abundance, will you be a good steward of your wealth?  Do you want that kind of responsibility? You’ll also encounter problems specific to the way you generate income.  For example, as my web traffic grew, I began having more issues with spam attacks, copyright infringement, and various other problems common to top bloggers.  It didn’t take long to develop good processes for dealing with all of these issues, so none of them are particularly troublesome.  But be aware that as you grow your income, certain problems will grow right along with you. As I worked towards increasing the financial abundance in my life, I found it helpful to think through issues like these, consider how I’d deal with them, and accept them as part of the landscape.  Rather than major problems or obstacles, they’re simply facts to be dealt with. This process helped me develop a more realistic understanding of what financial abundance would actually feel like.  Instead of getting stuck in wishful thinking about impractical fantasies, I began holding a more internally congruent intention that was capable of manifesting.  As I explained in a previous article called Manifesting Intentions Without Resistance, for an intention to manifest, we must accept the entire package of anticipated consequences without fear or resistance.  If A causes B, and you intend A without B, you get neither A nor B.  What you get is frustration. The main benefit of facing the dark side of financial abundance isn’t really the money itself.  The benefit is becoming the kind of person who resonates with financial abundance — someone who’s less fearful, more flexible, more responsible, more organized, and more confident. As you work to overcome your own limiting beliefs about financial abundance, you’ll gradually develop a stronger character.  You’ll become more proactive, more trusting of yourself, and less sensitive to criticism.  The pursuit of financial abundance is the means to shine a light on your need for growth in these areas.  To attract more abundance, you must create more value for others, which requires that you recognize, accept, and embrace your own value.
    909 Posted by UniqueThis
  • One thing that holds a lot of people back from becoming wealthy is the fear that their lives will actually become worse in some ways. There is in fact a dark side to financial abundance, but it isn’t pitch black. Here are some items that might genuinely concern you if you dramatically increase your income or net worth: Your accounting and tax situation will become much more complicated. Financial mistakes may cost you more than ever. People will treat you differently, including friends and family members. You’ll feel pressured to develop better money management skills, even if you find it absolutely tedious. Overall these things are largely true.  Wealth has consequences.  However, none of these consequences are serious deal breakers if you’re willing to accept them.  They’re all intelligently manageable.  Plus you’ll have extra money to help you in dealing with them. Last year my accounting situation did become a lot more complicated.  Erin and I started making too much money — in the form of personal income that is — and the reward for our troubles would be a hefty tax bill from the IRS.  While I’m OK with paying taxes, I have no interest in paying more than what’s legally required.  I’d rather reinvest the extra cash in my business, since I can easily put the funds to more efficient use than the government. So I converted this sole proprietorship to limited liability company (LLC), and I did an IRS election to have the LLC treated as a C-corporation for tax purposes.  Soon I’ll be setting up payroll for the business, and Erin and I will become employees of our own company.  I’ll finally have a real job!  Instead of having all the business income flow to us personally (and be taxed at the highest personal tax rates), we’ll be keeping a lot of money in the business where it will be taxed at the lower corporate rate.  Although this is a more complex tax situation than the simple flow-through taxation of a sole proprietorship or S-corporation, the net effect is that it will save us thousands of dollars in taxes each year, which means more money to grow the business. Now to be honest, navigating these changes is a real pain in the backside.  I’d rather be writing articles than trying to make sense of incomprehensible IRS regulations.  Fortunately my accountant is gently guiding me through each step, saving me a lot more money than I would otherwise.  This process isn’t pleasant, but it is tolerable, and it’s helping me make this business more structured, more profitable, and ready for further growth. In the past I’d have been discouraged by this tediousness.  Now I just accept that it comes with the territory, and taken in that light, it’s not so bad.  Do you ever hold yourself back from earning more money because you don’t want to deal with the accounting implications?  Is that a consequence you’re unwilling to accept? What about financial mistakes?  Even with good advisors, you’re still going to screw-up now and then.  If you had millions of dollars, would you be paranoid about losing it?  Would you worry about making incorrect decisions? Although costly mistakes may seem bigger when you lose more money, keep in mind it’s all relative.  In billion-dollar corporations, million dollar mistakes are commonplace.  When you enjoy a lot of financial leverage, so do your errors.  If you have a net worth of $10,000, and you lose $100, it stings a little, but it’s not the end of the world.  Percentage-wise that’s the same as a person with a net worth of $1 million losing $10,000.  It’s tolerable.  Even if you lose it all, you’ll still be OK.  It’s only money.  And if you’re capable of earning over a million dollars, you’re probably capable of doing it again. What if people start behaving differently around you because you have more money?  That has both positive and negative aspects.  While some people may turn all weird on you because they can’t handle the fact that you have a lot of money, others will turn towards you.  The relationships that don’t resonate with you will drift apart, but at the same time you’ll attract new relationships that are a better fit.  This is a fairly natural process and is really nothing to fear.  If a relationship cannot grow with you, it’s best to let it go to make room for a relationship that can. As your financial situation improves, you may feel pressure to develop better money management skills.  When you’re in a state of financial scarcity, you feel pressure to make ends meet or to get out of debt.  With financial abundance there’s a different kind of pressure — the pressure to grow your wealth and contribute more.  Having your money just sit there won’t feel right when you know you could be doing something more with it.  While investing can be very profitable, it’s also a means of positive contribution.  You can help others turn their ideas into reality for the betterment of everyone. If you enjoy financial abundance, will you be a good steward of your wealth?  Do you want that kind of responsibility? You’ll also encounter problems specific to the way you generate income.  For example, as my web traffic grew, I began having more issues with spam attacks, copyright infringement, and various other problems common to top bloggers.  It didn’t take long to develop good processes for dealing with all of these issues, so none of them are particularly troublesome.  But be aware that as you grow your income, certain problems will grow right along with you. As I worked towards increasing the financial abundance in my life, I found it helpful to think through issues like these, consider how I’d deal with them, and accept them as part of the landscape.  Rather than major problems or obstacles, they’re simply facts to be dealt with. This process helped me develop a more realistic understanding of what financial abundance would actually feel like.  Instead of getting stuck in wishful thinking about impractical fantasies, I began holding a more internally congruent intention that was capable of manifesting.  As I explained in a previous article called Manifesting Intentions Without Resistance, for an intention to manifest, we must accept the entire package of anticipated consequences without fear or resistance.  If A causes B, and you intend A without B, you get neither A nor B.  What you get is frustration. The main benefit of facing the dark side of financial abundance isn’t really the money itself.  The benefit is becoming the kind of person who resonates with financial abundance — someone who’s less fearful, more flexible, more responsible, more organized, and more confident. As you work to overcome your own limiting beliefs about financial abundance, you’ll gradually develop a stronger character.  You’ll become more proactive, more trusting of yourself, and less sensitive to criticism.  The pursuit of financial abundance is the means to shine a light on your need for growth in these areas.  To attract more abundance, you must create more value for others, which requires that you recognize, accept, and embrace your own value.
    Jul 12, 2011 909
  • 12 Jul 2011
    This article continues our exploration of Polarity.  If you haven’t yet digested the first article, you’ll probably want to do so before reading this one, since now we’re going to extend those concepts even further. A quick review Every thought has two components:  content and energy.  Content is the data portion of a thought, and energy is the carrier that gives a thought the power to manifest.  Think of each thought as being like a radio wave.  The electromagnetic radio wave is the energy component, and the information being transmitted is the content. Our bodies behave like energetic receiver-transmitters, translating the energy that flows through us into emotional states.  High-energy thoughts generate intense emotional states.  Low-energy thoughts generate little or no emotion. Thought energy has a polarity.  That polarity is either in-flowing or out-flowing.  In-flowing thoughts focus on receiving and acquiring.  Out-flowing thoughts focus on creating and giving. The thoughts with the greatest power to manifest are those which are highly polarized, meaning that your attention is primarily focused on inflow or outflow but not both.  It is possible for the energy component of a thought to have a mixture of both in-flowing and out-flowing polarities, but those opposite polarities will cancel each other, and the thought will have significantly less power to manifest.  Electromagnetic waves at the same frequency can interfere with each other, so even though the overall energy of each signal is high, the content of both signals ends up as garbled static.  Thoughts behave similarly. The manifestation of a highly polarized thought can occur through motivated action or passive synchronicity or (usually) a combination of both.  Ultimately the intentional energy is what sparks the chain of events leading to the eventual manifestation. To improve your ability to manifest an intention, make a choice to use either in-flowing or out-flowing energy but not both.  As you will soon see, that choice is much more significant than it appears at first glance. What goes around comes around As you might suspect, the flow of energy never stops.  It is always circulating.  Consider the basic patterns of polarized energy flow. Polarized outflow:  In this situation you focus your attention on the outflow.  Your intention is aligned with creating, giving, or contributing.  Your outward flow of energy causes an associated energetic response from the universe, so the energy flows right back to you again.  It may flow back to you through other people, through money, through loving relationships, etc.  But there will always be a compensating return flow.  The best way to receive that return flow is with gratitude; then send it back out again to generate more outflow.  The rule for this polarity is:  Giving is its own reward. Polarized inflow:  In this situation you focus your attention on the inflow.  Your intention is aligned with getting, acquiring, or achieving.  Your inward flow of energy causes an associated energetic response from the universe, so this energetic debt must flow back out of you again.  In this case the compensating return flow will be some kind of payback.  It may be an outward flow of money, work to be completed, the manifestation of competitors, etc.  The rule for this polarity is:  we live in a competitive world, and you have to look out for number one. Mixed flow:   Attempting to mix the two flows together will generally create an energetic mess.  Instead of building a strong, steady flow in one direction, you will manifest chaotic turbulence.  Your job is to focus on one end and let the universe handle the return flow.  This is what it means to “go with the flow.”  If you focus on giving, you will receive too.  If you focus on getting, you will manifest a compensating outflow.  But if you send out energy in both directions, you will have to deal with the summation of both return flows.  This constant shifting of your energy will make your life seem far more random and accidental than it really is, but you’re really just be tossed around by the wake of your own thought waves. Creating energetic chaos by constantly shifting polarities is something you’re always free to do.  If you wish to be tossed around by the currents of life, go ahead.  In fact, most people do exactly this.  But it’s a mistake to blame outside forces for your current situation when you’re only dealing with the natural reflections of the energies you’ve produced in the first place. Karma The concept of karma is easy to explain in terms of polarized energy flow.  The energies you put out will always come back to you.  The polarity of outflow generates positive karma, while the polarity of inflow generates negative karma (i.e. karmic debt).  If you heavily favor one polarity over the other, it’s easier to observe the karmic reflections.  However, if you frequently switch polarities or mix them together, you’ll have a hard time connecting the dots between your experiences and the thoughts that spawned them. I want to emphasize that negative karma isn’t necessarily a terrible thing if you’re willing to accept the karmic reflections and pay them willingly.  Karmic debt is much like financial debt.  It can be used constructively, or it can overwhelm you.  Those who are skilled with the polarity of inflow learn to accept the karmic debt created by their intentions and pay it willingly rather than resisting it. Understanding inflow and outflow  In the previous article, when I explained the polarities of inflow and outflow, I failed to do them justice.  As I scanned the feedback (via email and forums), it was clear that many people thought I was describing two sides of the same coin, like yin and yang.  Some suggested the best option would be to balance the two polarities.  But these polarities are not something you’d want to balance.  Saying that you should balance the polarities of outflow and inflow is like saying you should balance your good deeds with evil ones… or that you should punch as many people as you hug.  In this case balance is not a desirable quality, unless you want to be a very conflicted individual. The confusion was my fault for selecting terms like inflow and outflow that imply an inherent balance.  How can you have inflow without outflow, and vice versa?  The difference between polarities is more extreme though, and I’ll attempt to do a better job distinguishing between them here.  Instead of inflow and outflow, I’ll use different terms to describe them:  fear (instead of inflow) and love (instead of outflow).  These terms are probably more accurate labels, since they imply fundamentally different ways of relating to life.  They are polar opposites, but they aren’t the kind you’d want to balance or blend together. Let me describe these two energetic polarities in a slightly different way now, this time using the labels of fear and love. Fear Fear (inflow) is the energy of survival, power, and control.  It is associated with intense emotions such as greed, victory, or lust.  Fear energy seeks expression through the acquisition of power.  It wants to overwhelm, to dominate, to conquer, to possess.  When you fantasize about dominating or controlling others or your environment, you’re summoning fear energy. If you want a great role model for mastering fear energy, picture the Emperor character from Star Wars. Fear is a specific way of relating to life that says, “I am inherently vulnerable, and the more power I have, the less vulnerable I become.”  Life is a competitive venture, and ultimately you can’t trust anyone but yourself.  The point of life is to increase your power.  The part of you that believes you need to acquire more power, more money, more status, or a better position is the part that resonates with fear energy.  If a fear-polarized person could pick a magical power, s/he would choose something to increase his/her dominance over others or the environment, probably something like mind control. The peak emotion of polarized fear energy is that of feeling unstoppably powerful.  When you build a certain intensity of fear energy, you will feel incredibly powerful and dominant.  This is how those who polarize with fear energy connect with God or Source.  They strive to become gods unto themselves. Love Love is the energy of connectedness, creation, and service.  It is associated with intense emotions such as joy, peace, and oneness.  Love seeks expression through giving and creativity.  It wants to connect, to heal, to unite, to inspire.  When you intensely desire to serve the highest good of all, you’re summoning love energy. If you want a great role model for mastering love energy, the best example I can think of is Jesus Christ. Love is a specific way of relating to life that says, “No matter what happens, I am perfectly safe.”  You relate to life from a state of fearlessness because you know that on a fundamental level, nothing can truly harm you.  The point of life is joyful self-expression.  The part of you that believes that everything is already perfect and that you are here to embrace and enjoy the experience is the part that resonates with love energy.  If a love-polarized person could pick a magical power, s/he would choose something to increase his/her ability to serve the greater good, probably something like the ability to heal people. The peak emotion of polarized love energy is that of experiencing complete perfection and undeniable beauty in all things.  When you build a certain intensity of love energy, you will radiate gratitude, joy, and unconditional love.  This is how those who polarize with love energy connect with God or Source.  They dissolve all barriers between God and themselves, so that Self and God become one. Polarization The reason you find yourself living as a human being in this physical universe is so you can experiment freely with both polarities at relatively low intensities.  Eventually you must choose between them, meaning that you yourself must polarize. It makes no sense to attempt to balance fear and love energies because they cancel each other.  They are two fundamentally different ways of relating to existence.  Either you believe you’re fundamentally safe here (love polarization), or you don’t (fear polarization).  Those of us who find ourselves living as human beings are still working to address this fundamental question.  Once we make that choice and come to terms with it, we begin the next stage of our existence. Mixing love and fear energies is the result of not having made this choice yet.  We aren’t certain what to believe.  We don’t even know how to make the choice.  But ultimately that’s exactly what it is — a choice to be made of our own free will.  Although you likely have a pre-existing moral bias about this decision, in the grand scheme of things there is no right or wrong answer.  You can choose to polarize with fear, or you can choose to polarize with love.  The whole point of your human existence is to help you come to terms with that decision and then to actually make it. Polarization and levels of consciousness What’s the relationship between polarization and your level of consciousness?  While people often bias their descriptions of those levels to favor love orientation, it’s entirely possible to have a fear orientation at any level as well. Those who choose to polarize with love become lightworkers.  Those who choose to polarize with fear become darkworkers.  The more conscious and aware you become, the more easily you’ll observe the role of polarized energy, and the more pressure you’ll feel to polarize one way or the other.  Your level of consciousness doesn’t dictate your polarity, but it does help you come to terms the importance of this decision. At each level of consciousness, there are fear-based and love-based manifestations.  For example, there is a form of courage that’s rooted in fear, and there’s another form of courage that’s rooted in love.  The fear-based courage will entice you to conquer your fears, while the love-based courage will motivate you to transcend your fears.  As another example, at the level of peace, there’s a certain peace that comes from a sense of oneness, and there’s another kind of peace that comes from wielding a sufficient amount of power. Consider the Emperor character from Star Wars.  He was highly conscious and aware (not suffering from depression, apathy, grief, or shame), but he chose to polarize with the dark side of the force (fear orientation).  His consciousness combined with his polarization made him extremely powerful — this made it easy for him to turn Anakin to the dark side, since Anakin was less conscious and more conflicted.  Although Star Wars is fiction, the concepts of the light side and dark side are very similar to the polarities of love and fear, respectively.  If you want to master the force (i.e. energy flow), you must eventually polarize.  Those who never polarize are largely powerless and will simply serve as pawns of those who do. Making the polarity choice Erin has done a few intuitive readings for highly conscious people who are facing the polarization decision.  These people struggle with what is the biggest decision of their lives, and they’re often on the fence about it.  They’re usually leaning one way or the other, but they can still see both alternatives as possible.  They have the feeling that once they decide, there’s no going back. Having made this choice myself, I can say that it is not remotely easy.  When you first begin to understand the fundamental nature of this choice, it can take many years to come to terms with it. Ultimately the way I made the decision was to ask this question:  Which reality do I wish to experience?  I knew that once I made the choice, I’d begin attracting a reality that would reflect my choice.  I’d eventually be surrounded by the corresponding reflections that matched my energetic output.  When I looked at the choice through that lens, it was easier for me to decide (but still not easy).  I consciously decided to polarize with love, since that is the reality I wish to experience. Now you might be thinking, “Who on earth would want to polarize with fear energy?  Obviously love is the only proper choice.”  If that’s your thinking, then I would say you haven’t yet come to terms with your own shadow, and you aren’t ready to polarize.  Before you can make this decision consciously, you must understand the appeal of both polarities because that’s the whole point of human existence. Post-polarization After you decide to polarize you still have access to both energetic polarities, but one of them will become dominant over the other.  This change doesn’t happen instantly.  Most likely it’s a very gradual progression as you rely on the non-dominant polarity less and less and on the dominant one more and more. As you learn to use your dominant energy more frequently, your ability to manifest what you want increases.  It’s like you finally have your batteries plugged in the right way, so a strong current is able to flow.  The energetic waves that come back to you are magnified because your energetic output begins to form a resonance pattern.  It’s like pushing a child on a swing.  If you push at random intervals, the child won’t swing very high because some of your pushes will cancel each other.  But if you push with the right rhythm, the child will swing higher and higher.  In each case your total energy output is the same, but the results are very different.  When you stick with energy of a single polarity, you’re finally pushing with the right rhythm, manifesting greater results without working any harder.  If you used mixed energy and try to improve your results by working harder, you’ll only manifest more frustration. Over time it becomes harder to rely on your non-dominant polarity when you know it’s going to reduce your effectiveness in the long run.  An intensely selfish person who one day shows heart-felt mercy just ends up weakening himself, and an intensely giving person who acts from obsessive lust does the same.  If you use your non-dominant energy after you’ve polarized, it will absolutely, positively weaken you in some way. Consider Darth Vader’s story.  He’s tooling along, successfully building his empire with highly polarized energy.  Then at the end of Return of the Jedi, he suddenly switches polarities to save his son.  Boom!  He and his mentor both wind up dead, and his glorious empire goes down the tubes.  All of his power gone in an instant.  Now if he hadn’t made that stupid mistake — stupid from a fear-polarized perspective, that is – he’d have killed Luke and the Emperor too, making himself the most powerful person in the galaxy. Polarization comes with the responsibility to be consistent in your energy usage.  You can’t keep switching sides every day like people do before they polarize.  You can’t be forgiving one day and then plot revenge the next.  Sticking to a single polarity for a sufficient length of time will increase your capacity to create flow.  Once that flow reaches a certain level, you can’t reverse it mid-stream without serious energetic consequences.  You’re too likely to manifest an energetic explosion. The consequences of polarization At their fullest intensities, both polarities are extremely powerful.  But until you polarize, you don’t have access to the full range on either side.  On a scale of -10 to 10, you maybe get to operate in the -3 to +3 range before you polarize, and that’s a logarithmic scale.  After you polarize you gradually get access to the rest of the range… but only on one side or the other. Again Star Wars has a great analogy here.  The force is polarized energy.  It has a light side (love) and a dark side (fear).  If you want to master the force, you must pick a side.  The purer your polarity, the greater your ability to use the force.  The more polarized the character, the greater his/her ability to use the force.  Those individuals who hadn’t yet polarized, such as Han Solo, couldn’t use the force to do anything special, even after watching others use it.  Whether in Star Wars or the real world, undecided skeptics remain largely powerless, serving as pawns of the polarized. After you polarize and learn to use your dominant energy with greater intensity, there will be major consequences.  These include clearer thinking, stronger and more accurate intuition, increased psychic development, and a greater ability to manifest your desires.  Overall life will become much easier for you because you’ll have a greater capacity to use intentional energy.  It’s like being 10x stronger — everything you pick up feels lighter. That increased capacity comes with a price, however.  You’ll feel a greater responsibility to use it.  For a darkworker the responsibility is to increase your positional power, to become more dominant in your primary undertakings through competitive superiority.  For a lightworker the responsibility is to expand your capacity for unconditional love and creative expression.  As polarized energy courses through you, it seeks to increase its flow and to increase your capacity as an energetic medium. Polarized momentum Once you begin favoring a single energetic polarity, the feedback you receive will encourage you to keep heading in the same direction.  This is because the energetic feedback will eventually align itself with your dominant polarity.  In essence when you use fear energy, you’ll attract more reasons to use it.  The same goes for love energy. For example, if you devote your life to serving the highest good of all, you will receive an enormous return flow from the universe.  The more you give, the more you will receive.  This return flow, especially when received gratefully, will only encourage you to continue giving.  The joyful emotions you experience will do likewise. On the other hand, if you center your life around conquest, acquisition, and victory, the energetic feedback will tend to reinforce your competitive posture, since the universe will always be pulling the energy back out again.  You’ll manifest enemies and competitors that you must constantly defend against, and as you gain more positional power, they’ll become stronger and more resolute in their attempts to drain your energy.  The more powerful you become, the more powerful your opposition becomes, and the less you can afford to let your guard down.  The emotions you experience as a result of this energy flow will further reinforce your focus on strengthening your position and striving for greater dominance. A person who hasn’t yet polarized will manifest mixed and chaotic feedback.  Since their energy output is scrambled, it can’t build any momentum and will tend to remain scrambled.  Such people have very little power to manifest their desires, so they usually end up as pawns (servants, employees, followers, etc.) of those who are more polarized.  This isn’t a bad thing per se, since it provides important experience, but eventually it’s necessary to make the polarization choice consciously and deliberately. Final words of advice Don’t worry about polarizing your entire being right away.  Start with small decisions, and observe the consequences.  When you tackle a particular problem or goal or put out an intention, consciously decide which polarity you’re going to use, and stick with it.  For example, suppose you want to resolve a problem with a certain co-worker.  Will you attempt to dominate and gain power over the other person to get what you want, or will you unconditionally forgive and accept that person and attempt to do what’s best for him/her?  Either approach can work, but they have very different consequences, and those consequences will tend to reinforce the original polarity choice. Notice how these different energies feel when you apply them consciously.  And notice how much more effective it is to use a single polarity instead of haphazardly mixing them together.  This will help you gain experience with both polarities, making it easier for you to eventually decide which polarity to align yourself with.
    2918 Posted by UniqueThis
  • This article continues our exploration of Polarity.  If you haven’t yet digested the first article, you’ll probably want to do so before reading this one, since now we’re going to extend those concepts even further. A quick review Every thought has two components:  content and energy.  Content is the data portion of a thought, and energy is the carrier that gives a thought the power to manifest.  Think of each thought as being like a radio wave.  The electromagnetic radio wave is the energy component, and the information being transmitted is the content. Our bodies behave like energetic receiver-transmitters, translating the energy that flows through us into emotional states.  High-energy thoughts generate intense emotional states.  Low-energy thoughts generate little or no emotion. Thought energy has a polarity.  That polarity is either in-flowing or out-flowing.  In-flowing thoughts focus on receiving and acquiring.  Out-flowing thoughts focus on creating and giving. The thoughts with the greatest power to manifest are those which are highly polarized, meaning that your attention is primarily focused on inflow or outflow but not both.  It is possible for the energy component of a thought to have a mixture of both in-flowing and out-flowing polarities, but those opposite polarities will cancel each other, and the thought will have significantly less power to manifest.  Electromagnetic waves at the same frequency can interfere with each other, so even though the overall energy of each signal is high, the content of both signals ends up as garbled static.  Thoughts behave similarly. The manifestation of a highly polarized thought can occur through motivated action or passive synchronicity or (usually) a combination of both.  Ultimately the intentional energy is what sparks the chain of events leading to the eventual manifestation. To improve your ability to manifest an intention, make a choice to use either in-flowing or out-flowing energy but not both.  As you will soon see, that choice is much more significant than it appears at first glance. What goes around comes around As you might suspect, the flow of energy never stops.  It is always circulating.  Consider the basic patterns of polarized energy flow. Polarized outflow:  In this situation you focus your attention on the outflow.  Your intention is aligned with creating, giving, or contributing.  Your outward flow of energy causes an associated energetic response from the universe, so the energy flows right back to you again.  It may flow back to you through other people, through money, through loving relationships, etc.  But there will always be a compensating return flow.  The best way to receive that return flow is with gratitude; then send it back out again to generate more outflow.  The rule for this polarity is:  Giving is its own reward. Polarized inflow:  In this situation you focus your attention on the inflow.  Your intention is aligned with getting, acquiring, or achieving.  Your inward flow of energy causes an associated energetic response from the universe, so this energetic debt must flow back out of you again.  In this case the compensating return flow will be some kind of payback.  It may be an outward flow of money, work to be completed, the manifestation of competitors, etc.  The rule for this polarity is:  we live in a competitive world, and you have to look out for number one. Mixed flow:   Attempting to mix the two flows together will generally create an energetic mess.  Instead of building a strong, steady flow in one direction, you will manifest chaotic turbulence.  Your job is to focus on one end and let the universe handle the return flow.  This is what it means to “go with the flow.”  If you focus on giving, you will receive too.  If you focus on getting, you will manifest a compensating outflow.  But if you send out energy in both directions, you will have to deal with the summation of both return flows.  This constant shifting of your energy will make your life seem far more random and accidental than it really is, but you’re really just be tossed around by the wake of your own thought waves. Creating energetic chaos by constantly shifting polarities is something you’re always free to do.  If you wish to be tossed around by the currents of life, go ahead.  In fact, most people do exactly this.  But it’s a mistake to blame outside forces for your current situation when you’re only dealing with the natural reflections of the energies you’ve produced in the first place. Karma The concept of karma is easy to explain in terms of polarized energy flow.  The energies you put out will always come back to you.  The polarity of outflow generates positive karma, while the polarity of inflow generates negative karma (i.e. karmic debt).  If you heavily favor one polarity over the other, it’s easier to observe the karmic reflections.  However, if you frequently switch polarities or mix them together, you’ll have a hard time connecting the dots between your experiences and the thoughts that spawned them. I want to emphasize that negative karma isn’t necessarily a terrible thing if you’re willing to accept the karmic reflections and pay them willingly.  Karmic debt is much like financial debt.  It can be used constructively, or it can overwhelm you.  Those who are skilled with the polarity of inflow learn to accept the karmic debt created by their intentions and pay it willingly rather than resisting it. Understanding inflow and outflow  In the previous article, when I explained the polarities of inflow and outflow, I failed to do them justice.  As I scanned the feedback (via email and forums), it was clear that many people thought I was describing two sides of the same coin, like yin and yang.  Some suggested the best option would be to balance the two polarities.  But these polarities are not something you’d want to balance.  Saying that you should balance the polarities of outflow and inflow is like saying you should balance your good deeds with evil ones… or that you should punch as many people as you hug.  In this case balance is not a desirable quality, unless you want to be a very conflicted individual. The confusion was my fault for selecting terms like inflow and outflow that imply an inherent balance.  How can you have inflow without outflow, and vice versa?  The difference between polarities is more extreme though, and I’ll attempt to do a better job distinguishing between them here.  Instead of inflow and outflow, I’ll use different terms to describe them:  fear (instead of inflow) and love (instead of outflow).  These terms are probably more accurate labels, since they imply fundamentally different ways of relating to life.  They are polar opposites, but they aren’t the kind you’d want to balance or blend together. Let me describe these two energetic polarities in a slightly different way now, this time using the labels of fear and love. Fear Fear (inflow) is the energy of survival, power, and control.  It is associated with intense emotions such as greed, victory, or lust.  Fear energy seeks expression through the acquisition of power.  It wants to overwhelm, to dominate, to conquer, to possess.  When you fantasize about dominating or controlling others or your environment, you’re summoning fear energy. If you want a great role model for mastering fear energy, picture the Emperor character from Star Wars. Fear is a specific way of relating to life that says, “I am inherently vulnerable, and the more power I have, the less vulnerable I become.”  Life is a competitive venture, and ultimately you can’t trust anyone but yourself.  The point of life is to increase your power.  The part of you that believes you need to acquire more power, more money, more status, or a better position is the part that resonates with fear energy.  If a fear-polarized person could pick a magical power, s/he would choose something to increase his/her dominance over others or the environment, probably something like mind control. The peak emotion of polarized fear energy is that of feeling unstoppably powerful.  When you build a certain intensity of fear energy, you will feel incredibly powerful and dominant.  This is how those who polarize with fear energy connect with God or Source.  They strive to become gods unto themselves. Love Love is the energy of connectedness, creation, and service.  It is associated with intense emotions such as joy, peace, and oneness.  Love seeks expression through giving and creativity.  It wants to connect, to heal, to unite, to inspire.  When you intensely desire to serve the highest good of all, you’re summoning love energy. If you want a great role model for mastering love energy, the best example I can think of is Jesus Christ. Love is a specific way of relating to life that says, “No matter what happens, I am perfectly safe.”  You relate to life from a state of fearlessness because you know that on a fundamental level, nothing can truly harm you.  The point of life is joyful self-expression.  The part of you that believes that everything is already perfect and that you are here to embrace and enjoy the experience is the part that resonates with love energy.  If a love-polarized person could pick a magical power, s/he would choose something to increase his/her ability to serve the greater good, probably something like the ability to heal people. The peak emotion of polarized love energy is that of experiencing complete perfection and undeniable beauty in all things.  When you build a certain intensity of love energy, you will radiate gratitude, joy, and unconditional love.  This is how those who polarize with love energy connect with God or Source.  They dissolve all barriers between God and themselves, so that Self and God become one. Polarization The reason you find yourself living as a human being in this physical universe is so you can experiment freely with both polarities at relatively low intensities.  Eventually you must choose between them, meaning that you yourself must polarize. It makes no sense to attempt to balance fear and love energies because they cancel each other.  They are two fundamentally different ways of relating to existence.  Either you believe you’re fundamentally safe here (love polarization), or you don’t (fear polarization).  Those of us who find ourselves living as human beings are still working to address this fundamental question.  Once we make that choice and come to terms with it, we begin the next stage of our existence. Mixing love and fear energies is the result of not having made this choice yet.  We aren’t certain what to believe.  We don’t even know how to make the choice.  But ultimately that’s exactly what it is — a choice to be made of our own free will.  Although you likely have a pre-existing moral bias about this decision, in the grand scheme of things there is no right or wrong answer.  You can choose to polarize with fear, or you can choose to polarize with love.  The whole point of your human existence is to help you come to terms with that decision and then to actually make it. Polarization and levels of consciousness What’s the relationship between polarization and your level of consciousness?  While people often bias their descriptions of those levels to favor love orientation, it’s entirely possible to have a fear orientation at any level as well. Those who choose to polarize with love become lightworkers.  Those who choose to polarize with fear become darkworkers.  The more conscious and aware you become, the more easily you’ll observe the role of polarized energy, and the more pressure you’ll feel to polarize one way or the other.  Your level of consciousness doesn’t dictate your polarity, but it does help you come to terms the importance of this decision. At each level of consciousness, there are fear-based and love-based manifestations.  For example, there is a form of courage that’s rooted in fear, and there’s another form of courage that’s rooted in love.  The fear-based courage will entice you to conquer your fears, while the love-based courage will motivate you to transcend your fears.  As another example, at the level of peace, there’s a certain peace that comes from a sense of oneness, and there’s another kind of peace that comes from wielding a sufficient amount of power. Consider the Emperor character from Star Wars.  He was highly conscious and aware (not suffering from depression, apathy, grief, or shame), but he chose to polarize with the dark side of the force (fear orientation).  His consciousness combined with his polarization made him extremely powerful — this made it easy for him to turn Anakin to the dark side, since Anakin was less conscious and more conflicted.  Although Star Wars is fiction, the concepts of the light side and dark side are very similar to the polarities of love and fear, respectively.  If you want to master the force (i.e. energy flow), you must eventually polarize.  Those who never polarize are largely powerless and will simply serve as pawns of those who do. Making the polarity choice Erin has done a few intuitive readings for highly conscious people who are facing the polarization decision.  These people struggle with what is the biggest decision of their lives, and they’re often on the fence about it.  They’re usually leaning one way or the other, but they can still see both alternatives as possible.  They have the feeling that once they decide, there’s no going back. Having made this choice myself, I can say that it is not remotely easy.  When you first begin to understand the fundamental nature of this choice, it can take many years to come to terms with it. Ultimately the way I made the decision was to ask this question:  Which reality do I wish to experience?  I knew that once I made the choice, I’d begin attracting a reality that would reflect my choice.  I’d eventually be surrounded by the corresponding reflections that matched my energetic output.  When I looked at the choice through that lens, it was easier for me to decide (but still not easy).  I consciously decided to polarize with love, since that is the reality I wish to experience. Now you might be thinking, “Who on earth would want to polarize with fear energy?  Obviously love is the only proper choice.”  If that’s your thinking, then I would say you haven’t yet come to terms with your own shadow, and you aren’t ready to polarize.  Before you can make this decision consciously, you must understand the appeal of both polarities because that’s the whole point of human existence. Post-polarization After you decide to polarize you still have access to both energetic polarities, but one of them will become dominant over the other.  This change doesn’t happen instantly.  Most likely it’s a very gradual progression as you rely on the non-dominant polarity less and less and on the dominant one more and more. As you learn to use your dominant energy more frequently, your ability to manifest what you want increases.  It’s like you finally have your batteries plugged in the right way, so a strong current is able to flow.  The energetic waves that come back to you are magnified because your energetic output begins to form a resonance pattern.  It’s like pushing a child on a swing.  If you push at random intervals, the child won’t swing very high because some of your pushes will cancel each other.  But if you push with the right rhythm, the child will swing higher and higher.  In each case your total energy output is the same, but the results are very different.  When you stick with energy of a single polarity, you’re finally pushing with the right rhythm, manifesting greater results without working any harder.  If you used mixed energy and try to improve your results by working harder, you’ll only manifest more frustration. Over time it becomes harder to rely on your non-dominant polarity when you know it’s going to reduce your effectiveness in the long run.  An intensely selfish person who one day shows heart-felt mercy just ends up weakening himself, and an intensely giving person who acts from obsessive lust does the same.  If you use your non-dominant energy after you’ve polarized, it will absolutely, positively weaken you in some way. Consider Darth Vader’s story.  He’s tooling along, successfully building his empire with highly polarized energy.  Then at the end of Return of the Jedi, he suddenly switches polarities to save his son.  Boom!  He and his mentor both wind up dead, and his glorious empire goes down the tubes.  All of his power gone in an instant.  Now if he hadn’t made that stupid mistake — stupid from a fear-polarized perspective, that is – he’d have killed Luke and the Emperor too, making himself the most powerful person in the galaxy. Polarization comes with the responsibility to be consistent in your energy usage.  You can’t keep switching sides every day like people do before they polarize.  You can’t be forgiving one day and then plot revenge the next.  Sticking to a single polarity for a sufficient length of time will increase your capacity to create flow.  Once that flow reaches a certain level, you can’t reverse it mid-stream without serious energetic consequences.  You’re too likely to manifest an energetic explosion. The consequences of polarization At their fullest intensities, both polarities are extremely powerful.  But until you polarize, you don’t have access to the full range on either side.  On a scale of -10 to 10, you maybe get to operate in the -3 to +3 range before you polarize, and that’s a logarithmic scale.  After you polarize you gradually get access to the rest of the range… but only on one side or the other. Again Star Wars has a great analogy here.  The force is polarized energy.  It has a light side (love) and a dark side (fear).  If you want to master the force, you must pick a side.  The purer your polarity, the greater your ability to use the force.  The more polarized the character, the greater his/her ability to use the force.  Those individuals who hadn’t yet polarized, such as Han Solo, couldn’t use the force to do anything special, even after watching others use it.  Whether in Star Wars or the real world, undecided skeptics remain largely powerless, serving as pawns of the polarized. After you polarize and learn to use your dominant energy with greater intensity, there will be major consequences.  These include clearer thinking, stronger and more accurate intuition, increased psychic development, and a greater ability to manifest your desires.  Overall life will become much easier for you because you’ll have a greater capacity to use intentional energy.  It’s like being 10x stronger — everything you pick up feels lighter. That increased capacity comes with a price, however.  You’ll feel a greater responsibility to use it.  For a darkworker the responsibility is to increase your positional power, to become more dominant in your primary undertakings through competitive superiority.  For a lightworker the responsibility is to expand your capacity for unconditional love and creative expression.  As polarized energy courses through you, it seeks to increase its flow and to increase your capacity as an energetic medium. Polarized momentum Once you begin favoring a single energetic polarity, the feedback you receive will encourage you to keep heading in the same direction.  This is because the energetic feedback will eventually align itself with your dominant polarity.  In essence when you use fear energy, you’ll attract more reasons to use it.  The same goes for love energy. For example, if you devote your life to serving the highest good of all, you will receive an enormous return flow from the universe.  The more you give, the more you will receive.  This return flow, especially when received gratefully, will only encourage you to continue giving.  The joyful emotions you experience will do likewise. On the other hand, if you center your life around conquest, acquisition, and victory, the energetic feedback will tend to reinforce your competitive posture, since the universe will always be pulling the energy back out again.  You’ll manifest enemies and competitors that you must constantly defend against, and as you gain more positional power, they’ll become stronger and more resolute in their attempts to drain your energy.  The more powerful you become, the more powerful your opposition becomes, and the less you can afford to let your guard down.  The emotions you experience as a result of this energy flow will further reinforce your focus on strengthening your position and striving for greater dominance. A person who hasn’t yet polarized will manifest mixed and chaotic feedback.  Since their energy output is scrambled, it can’t build any momentum and will tend to remain scrambled.  Such people have very little power to manifest their desires, so they usually end up as pawns (servants, employees, followers, etc.) of those who are more polarized.  This isn’t a bad thing per se, since it provides important experience, but eventually it’s necessary to make the polarization choice consciously and deliberately. Final words of advice Don’t worry about polarizing your entire being right away.  Start with small decisions, and observe the consequences.  When you tackle a particular problem or goal or put out an intention, consciously decide which polarity you’re going to use, and stick with it.  For example, suppose you want to resolve a problem with a certain co-worker.  Will you attempt to dominate and gain power over the other person to get what you want, or will you unconditionally forgive and accept that person and attempt to do what’s best for him/her?  Either approach can work, but they have very different consequences, and those consequences will tend to reinforce the original polarity choice. Notice how these different energies feel when you apply them consciously.  And notice how much more effective it is to use a single polarity instead of haphazardly mixing them together.  This will help you gain experience with both polarities, making it easier for you to eventually decide which polarity to align yourself with.
    Jul 12, 2011 2918
  • 12 Jul 2011
    As a follow-up to the Polarity and Polarization articles, let’s explore some practical applications of polarity-based thinking with respect to your career choices. Better decision-making The significance of polarity is that it can serve as a powerful decision-making tool.  It helps you cut through the fog of indecision to reach a new level of clarity.  When you look at a decision from the polarities of love and fear, the right decision for you will often become clear.  So the whole point of understanding polarity is to make more accurate decisions leading to more desirable results. Your drive and ambition Your own position on the polarity spectrum will play a huge part in determining the kind of effort and energy you invest in your career or business.  As a general rule, polarized people are far more ambitious and driven than non-polarized people. A lightworker’s source of motivation is love.  The “love conquers all” expression has some truth to it.  The more deeply you love, the more you’ll be driven to act.  Lightworkers have such infinite stores of love within them that they can’t help but express it.  The drive to create and contribute is undeniable.  There is a joyful compulsion to give. A darkworker’s source of motivation is fear.  Whereas a lightworker transcends fear by recognizing fear as pure illusion, a darkworker faces his/her fear as if it were a beast to be slain, taming it and using it as fuel.  This primal fuel burns as a passionate lust for power, control, and dominance. When you see someone lacking ambition and drive in their career, it’s a safe bet they haven’t polarized yet.  But it’s an equally safe bet they’ll be working for someone who is fairly well polarized. Deciding to polarize is not remotely easy.  It’s one of the biggest decisions you’ll ever make.  But you’ll never tap into your deepest levels of drive and ambition until you do.  You’ll just remain stuck on the sidelines. Making intelligent career choices  If you polarize with love, you’ll build a career based on where you can make the best contribution.  You’ll want to work where your strengths and talents can be put to use serving the greater good.  Your top considerations are service, creativity, and contribution, and you’ll evaluate your career choices based on how well they meet those criteria.  Things like salary, job title, and benefits are still relevant, but they’re only important to the degree they enhance your ability to serve. If you polarize with fear, you’ll build a career based on acquiring money, status, and power.  Recognition and advancement are extremely important.  You want to climb the ladder of success as far as you can go.  If you end up contributing along the way, so be it, but that isn’t your primary concern.  Making a contribution is only relevant to the extent it increases your power. Your polarity will affect your major career decisions.  Certain industries have polarity leanings, as do individual companies.  I saw both ends of the spectrum in the computer gaming industry.  On the one hand, there were some highly creative developers who were truly working for the sheer joy of creation.  And on the other hand, I met executives who couldn’t care less about their company’s products or employees and just wanted to sell lots of units.  Internally conflicted companies usually don’t perform well.  The companies I saw do best were those where there was either a company-wide focus on sales or a company-wide focus on producing quality products.  In both cases it’s essential that these companies avoided the traps of lightworker syndrome (going broke creating) and darkworker syndrome (imploding from excessive selfishness).  I’ll explain these concepts later in this article, so keep reading. You might think that a balanced mindset is more effective than a polarized one, but it just doesn’t work that way in the real world.  The singular focus of polarity produces better results.  A service-based company will still pay attention to sales and profits, but the purpose is to expand it’s creative output.  A profit-driven company will still put effort into its creative output, but only to the extent those efforts increase profits.  Both companies can be very successful, but they’ll operate with very different value systems. Your polarity will determine what kind of company will be best for you.  It would be torturous for a lightworker to work in a fear-polarized company as well as for a darkworker to work in a love-polarized one.  You’ll learn a lot working for a highly polarized company, but for long term career enjoyment, it’s important to choose a company that matches your own alignment. You might find it enlightening to rate your previous employers on a scale of -10 (fear) to +10 (love).  Then rate yourself on that same scale, and consider your experiences in light of those ratings.  Do the same for your current employer.  Does this give you more clarity about whether you need a career change?  Do the same for the industries you’ve worked in.  Do you need an industry change? Dealing with others Now use that same -10 to +10 scale to rate your co-workers and associates.  Which polarity is most predominant in your work environment?  Do these polarity ratings give you new insights into the nature of your professional relationships? Knowing someone’s polarity leanings can make your working relationships go much more smoothly.  For instance, if you know someone is a -6, you must appeal to that person’s self interest to motivate him/her.  Offer that person more power, recognition, rewards, money, etc. and you’ll see some good work and cooperation.  These incentives won’t work as well on a +6 person though.  With a +6 you’ll want to emphasize the opportunity for creative work and show how this person will be making a positive difference in the world. Recently I was reading a passage from an author who’s written more than a dozen books.  He stated very plainly, “It’s all about the money.”  And his books reflect it, with many upsell offers in every chapter.  This author is writing to maximize profits, and he’s shamelessly open about it.  I had lunch with him a few months ago, and he really walks his talk.  He’s wealthy, successful, energetic, motivated, and happy.  His alignment is working for him because he embraces it. You needn’t fear a darkworker if you understand how that polarity works.  The nice thing about darkworkers is that you always know where you stand with them.  You know you’re only in their life because they think they can gain something from associating with you.  For this reason I’m more inclined to trust a darkworker than someone who isn’t polarized.  With someone who hasn’t polarized yet, you never know where you stand.  They’re internally conflicted, so their behavior is inconsistent and harder to predict.  But with a darkworker, you know you’re on solid ground as long as you’re feeding their self-interest.  So it’s a fairly safe relationship as long as you maintain the ability to help them get what they want. Similarly, I love interacting with lightworkers for the same reason.  You know where you stand with them.  You just need to align yourself with their desire to create and contribute. Now with respect to your own career, ask yourself these two questions: What would I do differently as a committed lightworker? What would I do differently as a committed darkworker? Make two separate lists.  The interesting thing is that you may notice some overlap between them, perhaps a great deal of overlap, even though there’s a very different intention behind each list.  Either polarity is more effective than mixing your energies, so the neat thing about polarizing is that you can experience a strong call to action no matter which side you pick. Avoiding polarity problems Polarized people focus on cycling their energy flow in a single direction, much like a current flowing through an electrical circuit.  The important thing is to maintain the flow, which requires considering the big picture of the whole circuit. Lightworker syndrome is what happens when a lightworker focuses on giving to the exclusion of all else, ultimately crippling his/her capacity to give.  These are the people with really big hearts who give, give, give to the point of exhaustion.  They haven’t yet learned the importance of balancing production with production capacity.  Lightworkers must learn to balance their giving with receiving to the degree it increases their capacity to give.  This is a more intelligent form of giving than burning out from giving too much.  But instead of mixing polarities, the true intention is always on increasing one’s capacity to give.  For an intelligent lightworker, even receiving becomes an expression of giving. In truth a lightworker who fails to receive is using fear energy by mistake.  The inability to take time for themselves is rooted in a fear of being perceived as selfish.  So without knowing it, they’re actually calling upon fear energy, which slowly corrupts the flow of their love energy.  Consequently, lightworker syndrome isn’t caused by excessive love.  It’s caused by the hidden application of fear energy. Darkworker syndrome is what happens when a darkworker becomes too power-hungry and ends up self-destructing.  The collapse of Enron is a good example… greed to the point of implosion.  Darkworkers must learn to balance their acquisitions with some form of contribution, to the extent that it increases their long-term capacity to gain more power.  A darkworker who only takes and never gives will quickly lose the cooperation of others and will manifest emboldened competition.  Overtly “evil” behavior does not befit an intelligent darkworker.  When a darkworker gives, the true intention remains focused on long-term power gain, so giving is still a completely selfish act.  For a darkworker giving is seen as good PR. A darkworker who fails to embrace “selfish giving” is using love energy by mistake.  The darkworker who commits too many evil yet unproductive acts secretly wants to self-destruct, so that s/he can finally begin making amends to relieve a guilty conscience.  Guilt has no place in a darkworker’s soul, and its presence is the sign of the hidden application of love energy. Whichever polarity you choose, it’s important to remain cognizant of your own shadow.  Persistent negative emotions are a sure sign you’re mixing polarities. Your true intentions When you look deep within yourself, what do you see staring back at you?  Are you a lightworker in the making, or does the dark side call to you? While words like light/dark and love/fear obviously have major social conditioning attached to them, it’s best to view each polarity as equally valid and acceptable.  Judging these polarities as good or evil is out of line with their actual practice.  I assert that the good polarity is the one that’s best for you, and the evil polarity is pretending to be something you’re not.  Don’t resist who you really are. If you’re feeling that being a darkworker would be wrong or evil, consider that a darkworker can end up making a much bigger social contribution than a non-polarized person, even though contribution isn’t his/her primary concern.  So don’t beat yourself up if you feel drawn to this polarity. While you don’t have to polarize anytime soon, for the best results you should eventually polarize with whichever side you find most attractive.  Which side is more appealing to you?  What kind of life do you want to experience? Selecting a polarity needn’t be a lifetime commitment.  I suggest you pick whichever polarity seems most natural to you, and give it a 30-day trial.  Do your best to embrace the lightworker or darkworker mindset, and see what it feels like to make polarized decisions.  At the end of the 30 days, decide whether you want to continue with that polarity, or give the opposite polarity a 30-day trial.  Switching polarities isn’t easy, since you’ll have accrued some momentum with your first choice, so you may want to take a week or two to rest in neutrality before tackling the second trial. If you do take on this trial, I encourage you to share your experiences, observations, and insights in the forums.  It will help others decide which polarity most appeals to them. As you begin to apply polarized thinking to your career, you’ll begin to see just how useful it is.  You’ll find it easier to relate to your co-workers and associates as you gain an understanding of their position on the polarity spectrum.  And most importantly, you’ll find yourself feeling more motivated and driven to act, either because you’re transcending fear or conquering it.
    913 Posted by UniqueThis
  • As a follow-up to the Polarity and Polarization articles, let’s explore some practical applications of polarity-based thinking with respect to your career choices. Better decision-making The significance of polarity is that it can serve as a powerful decision-making tool.  It helps you cut through the fog of indecision to reach a new level of clarity.  When you look at a decision from the polarities of love and fear, the right decision for you will often become clear.  So the whole point of understanding polarity is to make more accurate decisions leading to more desirable results. Your drive and ambition Your own position on the polarity spectrum will play a huge part in determining the kind of effort and energy you invest in your career or business.  As a general rule, polarized people are far more ambitious and driven than non-polarized people. A lightworker’s source of motivation is love.  The “love conquers all” expression has some truth to it.  The more deeply you love, the more you’ll be driven to act.  Lightworkers have such infinite stores of love within them that they can’t help but express it.  The drive to create and contribute is undeniable.  There is a joyful compulsion to give. A darkworker’s source of motivation is fear.  Whereas a lightworker transcends fear by recognizing fear as pure illusion, a darkworker faces his/her fear as if it were a beast to be slain, taming it and using it as fuel.  This primal fuel burns as a passionate lust for power, control, and dominance. When you see someone lacking ambition and drive in their career, it’s a safe bet they haven’t polarized yet.  But it’s an equally safe bet they’ll be working for someone who is fairly well polarized. Deciding to polarize is not remotely easy.  It’s one of the biggest decisions you’ll ever make.  But you’ll never tap into your deepest levels of drive and ambition until you do.  You’ll just remain stuck on the sidelines. Making intelligent career choices  If you polarize with love, you’ll build a career based on where you can make the best contribution.  You’ll want to work where your strengths and talents can be put to use serving the greater good.  Your top considerations are service, creativity, and contribution, and you’ll evaluate your career choices based on how well they meet those criteria.  Things like salary, job title, and benefits are still relevant, but they’re only important to the degree they enhance your ability to serve. If you polarize with fear, you’ll build a career based on acquiring money, status, and power.  Recognition and advancement are extremely important.  You want to climb the ladder of success as far as you can go.  If you end up contributing along the way, so be it, but that isn’t your primary concern.  Making a contribution is only relevant to the extent it increases your power. Your polarity will affect your major career decisions.  Certain industries have polarity leanings, as do individual companies.  I saw both ends of the spectrum in the computer gaming industry.  On the one hand, there were some highly creative developers who were truly working for the sheer joy of creation.  And on the other hand, I met executives who couldn’t care less about their company’s products or employees and just wanted to sell lots of units.  Internally conflicted companies usually don’t perform well.  The companies I saw do best were those where there was either a company-wide focus on sales or a company-wide focus on producing quality products.  In both cases it’s essential that these companies avoided the traps of lightworker syndrome (going broke creating) and darkworker syndrome (imploding from excessive selfishness).  I’ll explain these concepts later in this article, so keep reading. You might think that a balanced mindset is more effective than a polarized one, but it just doesn’t work that way in the real world.  The singular focus of polarity produces better results.  A service-based company will still pay attention to sales and profits, but the purpose is to expand it’s creative output.  A profit-driven company will still put effort into its creative output, but only to the extent those efforts increase profits.  Both companies can be very successful, but they’ll operate with very different value systems. Your polarity will determine what kind of company will be best for you.  It would be torturous for a lightworker to work in a fear-polarized company as well as for a darkworker to work in a love-polarized one.  You’ll learn a lot working for a highly polarized company, but for long term career enjoyment, it’s important to choose a company that matches your own alignment. You might find it enlightening to rate your previous employers on a scale of -10 (fear) to +10 (love).  Then rate yourself on that same scale, and consider your experiences in light of those ratings.  Do the same for your current employer.  Does this give you more clarity about whether you need a career change?  Do the same for the industries you’ve worked in.  Do you need an industry change? Dealing with others Now use that same -10 to +10 scale to rate your co-workers and associates.  Which polarity is most predominant in your work environment?  Do these polarity ratings give you new insights into the nature of your professional relationships? Knowing someone’s polarity leanings can make your working relationships go much more smoothly.  For instance, if you know someone is a -6, you must appeal to that person’s self interest to motivate him/her.  Offer that person more power, recognition, rewards, money, etc. and you’ll see some good work and cooperation.  These incentives won’t work as well on a +6 person though.  With a +6 you’ll want to emphasize the opportunity for creative work and show how this person will be making a positive difference in the world. Recently I was reading a passage from an author who’s written more than a dozen books.  He stated very plainly, “It’s all about the money.”  And his books reflect it, with many upsell offers in every chapter.  This author is writing to maximize profits, and he’s shamelessly open about it.  I had lunch with him a few months ago, and he really walks his talk.  He’s wealthy, successful, energetic, motivated, and happy.  His alignment is working for him because he embraces it. You needn’t fear a darkworker if you understand how that polarity works.  The nice thing about darkworkers is that you always know where you stand with them.  You know you’re only in their life because they think they can gain something from associating with you.  For this reason I’m more inclined to trust a darkworker than someone who isn’t polarized.  With someone who hasn’t polarized yet, you never know where you stand.  They’re internally conflicted, so their behavior is inconsistent and harder to predict.  But with a darkworker, you know you’re on solid ground as long as you’re feeding their self-interest.  So it’s a fairly safe relationship as long as you maintain the ability to help them get what they want. Similarly, I love interacting with lightworkers for the same reason.  You know where you stand with them.  You just need to align yourself with their desire to create and contribute. Now with respect to your own career, ask yourself these two questions: What would I do differently as a committed lightworker? What would I do differently as a committed darkworker? Make two separate lists.  The interesting thing is that you may notice some overlap between them, perhaps a great deal of overlap, even though there’s a very different intention behind each list.  Either polarity is more effective than mixing your energies, so the neat thing about polarizing is that you can experience a strong call to action no matter which side you pick. Avoiding polarity problems Polarized people focus on cycling their energy flow in a single direction, much like a current flowing through an electrical circuit.  The important thing is to maintain the flow, which requires considering the big picture of the whole circuit. Lightworker syndrome is what happens when a lightworker focuses on giving to the exclusion of all else, ultimately crippling his/her capacity to give.  These are the people with really big hearts who give, give, give to the point of exhaustion.  They haven’t yet learned the importance of balancing production with production capacity.  Lightworkers must learn to balance their giving with receiving to the degree it increases their capacity to give.  This is a more intelligent form of giving than burning out from giving too much.  But instead of mixing polarities, the true intention is always on increasing one’s capacity to give.  For an intelligent lightworker, even receiving becomes an expression of giving. In truth a lightworker who fails to receive is using fear energy by mistake.  The inability to take time for themselves is rooted in a fear of being perceived as selfish.  So without knowing it, they’re actually calling upon fear energy, which slowly corrupts the flow of their love energy.  Consequently, lightworker syndrome isn’t caused by excessive love.  It’s caused by the hidden application of fear energy. Darkworker syndrome is what happens when a darkworker becomes too power-hungry and ends up self-destructing.  The collapse of Enron is a good example… greed to the point of implosion.  Darkworkers must learn to balance their acquisitions with some form of contribution, to the extent that it increases their long-term capacity to gain more power.  A darkworker who only takes and never gives will quickly lose the cooperation of others and will manifest emboldened competition.  Overtly “evil” behavior does not befit an intelligent darkworker.  When a darkworker gives, the true intention remains focused on long-term power gain, so giving is still a completely selfish act.  For a darkworker giving is seen as good PR. A darkworker who fails to embrace “selfish giving” is using love energy by mistake.  The darkworker who commits too many evil yet unproductive acts secretly wants to self-destruct, so that s/he can finally begin making amends to relieve a guilty conscience.  Guilt has no place in a darkworker’s soul, and its presence is the sign of the hidden application of love energy. Whichever polarity you choose, it’s important to remain cognizant of your own shadow.  Persistent negative emotions are a sure sign you’re mixing polarities. Your true intentions When you look deep within yourself, what do you see staring back at you?  Are you a lightworker in the making, or does the dark side call to you? While words like light/dark and love/fear obviously have major social conditioning attached to them, it’s best to view each polarity as equally valid and acceptable.  Judging these polarities as good or evil is out of line with their actual practice.  I assert that the good polarity is the one that’s best for you, and the evil polarity is pretending to be something you’re not.  Don’t resist who you really are. If you’re feeling that being a darkworker would be wrong or evil, consider that a darkworker can end up making a much bigger social contribution than a non-polarized person, even though contribution isn’t his/her primary concern.  So don’t beat yourself up if you feel drawn to this polarity. While you don’t have to polarize anytime soon, for the best results you should eventually polarize with whichever side you find most attractive.  Which side is more appealing to you?  What kind of life do you want to experience? Selecting a polarity needn’t be a lifetime commitment.  I suggest you pick whichever polarity seems most natural to you, and give it a 30-day trial.  Do your best to embrace the lightworker or darkworker mindset, and see what it feels like to make polarized decisions.  At the end of the 30 days, decide whether you want to continue with that polarity, or give the opposite polarity a 30-day trial.  Switching polarities isn’t easy, since you’ll have accrued some momentum with your first choice, so you may want to take a week or two to rest in neutrality before tackling the second trial. If you do take on this trial, I encourage you to share your experiences, observations, and insights in the forums.  It will help others decide which polarity most appeals to them. As you begin to apply polarized thinking to your career, you’ll begin to see just how useful it is.  You’ll find it easier to relate to your co-workers and associates as you gain an understanding of their position on the polarity spectrum.  And most importantly, you’ll find yourself feeling more motivated and driven to act, either because you’re transcending fear or conquering it.
    Jul 12, 2011 913
  • 12 Jul 2011
    I’d like to clarify a common question about polarity and love:  How does a darkworker experience love? How lightworkers experience love Lightworkers express love outwardly through forms such as giving and service.  Love is something that flows out of them and into the world.  This definition of love is fairly consistent with the social norm.  When you feel love, you want to express it, such as by saying “I love you” or by doing something nice for someone else. As you experience this form of love more unconditionally, it infects your entire being, and you’ll feel the desire to center your life around some form of service.  This may begin as a gentle nudge and gradually increase until it feels like a calling of sorts.  As your awareness expands, you’ll feel drawn to expand your service as well.  By this I mean that you’ll want to help more and more people, so instead of serving only your family and friends or your local community, you’ll start thinking about how you can help your country or the entire world.  Unconditional love is all-inclusive, so the lightworker path is one of increasing service. How darkworkers experience love Darkworkers, on the other hand, would read the last two paragraphs and say, “Blech!  Who cares about that lovey-dovey crap?”  For a darkworker the outward expression of love feels phony and insincere.  Such a person would say, “We only help other people because it helps us in some way.”  A darkworker experiences love very differently than a lightworker.  For a darkworker the only love that matters is love of self.  Think of it as a heightened form of self-respect.  Darkworkers express love inwardly by holding themselves in high esteem and committing to do whatever it takes to ensure their own happiness.  A darkworker’s path involves learning to truly love and respect his own worth.  As a darkworker’s love of self becomes increasingly unconditional, he conquers the fears that have been holding him back, such as the fear of being unworthy or powerless.  He comes to the knowledge that he is the most valuable being in his entire reality, and he begins to act accordingly, putting his own needs and desires first.  Darkworkers follow a path of increasing power. Think of it like this… Lightworker:  “Thou art God.  I love you.  I honor your divinity.” Darkworker:  “I am God.  I love me.  I honor my divinity.” Your love will flow where your attention goes.  For a lightworker the attention is on loving others, which creates an outward flow of contribution and service.  For a darkworker the attention is on loving himself, which creates an inward flow whereby action is taken to fulfill his own needs and desires.  While the actions of lightworkers and darkworkers may be very similar, the true intention behind those actions reveals the person’s polarity. Both paths ultimately lead to the same place — to God realization… to enlightenment.  The lightworker primarily experiences the creative out-breath of God, while the darkworker resonates with the powerful in-breath of God.  You say “ah.”  I say “om.”  Although polarization is a path of duality, it leads to a place of nonduality.  That’s one of the great paradoxes of being human… that we can experience nonduality by completely embracing (instead of resisting) our experience of duality.  The big irony is that when you really devote yourself to a single polarity (light or dark) and experience it from the inside, you realize that you’ve actually chosen both paths simultaneously.  But I would say this is next to impossible to fathom until you’ve actually made that kind of commitment, which is why most people remain stuck in a kind of dualistic limbo. For love of evil Some religious teachings embrace the lightworker path while shunning the darkworker path, which at the very least is incredibly misguided.  That approach only lowers our awareness.  Labeling parts of ourselves as bad or evil isn’t helpful.  In every one of us, there is the potential for both polarities.  What we label “evil” is merely a temporary condition while we’re growing through the experience of duality, and when we resist that phase, we merely prolong it.  However, if we can commit to one of these paths and take it far enough, accepting even the seemingly negative experiences as they come, we eventually reach the other side where both paths converge.  If you must label parts of yourself or others as evil, then your lesson is to learn to love and accept the evil.  It’s all you anyway. Trying to explain polarity to someone who may have never experienced it certainly isn’t an easy task.  The problem is that whenever it gets reduced to words, we’re left with content, but polarity is about energy, which is independent of content.  So no matter how many words I write on this topic, it can only serve as a pointer to the experience, but it can never adequately convey the real thing.  I love a good challenge, but right now my stomach is screaming for some breakfast, so I’ll leave you with this food for thought while my thoughts turn to food.  Thou art God.
    752 Posted by UniqueThis
  • I’d like to clarify a common question about polarity and love:  How does a darkworker experience love? How lightworkers experience love Lightworkers express love outwardly through forms such as giving and service.  Love is something that flows out of them and into the world.  This definition of love is fairly consistent with the social norm.  When you feel love, you want to express it, such as by saying “I love you” or by doing something nice for someone else. As you experience this form of love more unconditionally, it infects your entire being, and you’ll feel the desire to center your life around some form of service.  This may begin as a gentle nudge and gradually increase until it feels like a calling of sorts.  As your awareness expands, you’ll feel drawn to expand your service as well.  By this I mean that you’ll want to help more and more people, so instead of serving only your family and friends or your local community, you’ll start thinking about how you can help your country or the entire world.  Unconditional love is all-inclusive, so the lightworker path is one of increasing service. How darkworkers experience love Darkworkers, on the other hand, would read the last two paragraphs and say, “Blech!  Who cares about that lovey-dovey crap?”  For a darkworker the outward expression of love feels phony and insincere.  Such a person would say, “We only help other people because it helps us in some way.”  A darkworker experiences love very differently than a lightworker.  For a darkworker the only love that matters is love of self.  Think of it as a heightened form of self-respect.  Darkworkers express love inwardly by holding themselves in high esteem and committing to do whatever it takes to ensure their own happiness.  A darkworker’s path involves learning to truly love and respect his own worth.  As a darkworker’s love of self becomes increasingly unconditional, he conquers the fears that have been holding him back, such as the fear of being unworthy or powerless.  He comes to the knowledge that he is the most valuable being in his entire reality, and he begins to act accordingly, putting his own needs and desires first.  Darkworkers follow a path of increasing power. Think of it like this… Lightworker:  “Thou art God.  I love you.  I honor your divinity.” Darkworker:  “I am God.  I love me.  I honor my divinity.” Your love will flow where your attention goes.  For a lightworker the attention is on loving others, which creates an outward flow of contribution and service.  For a darkworker the attention is on loving himself, which creates an inward flow whereby action is taken to fulfill his own needs and desires.  While the actions of lightworkers and darkworkers may be very similar, the true intention behind those actions reveals the person’s polarity. Both paths ultimately lead to the same place — to God realization… to enlightenment.  The lightworker primarily experiences the creative out-breath of God, while the darkworker resonates with the powerful in-breath of God.  You say “ah.”  I say “om.”  Although polarization is a path of duality, it leads to a place of nonduality.  That’s one of the great paradoxes of being human… that we can experience nonduality by completely embracing (instead of resisting) our experience of duality.  The big irony is that when you really devote yourself to a single polarity (light or dark) and experience it from the inside, you realize that you’ve actually chosen both paths simultaneously.  But I would say this is next to impossible to fathom until you’ve actually made that kind of commitment, which is why most people remain stuck in a kind of dualistic limbo. For love of evil Some religious teachings embrace the lightworker path while shunning the darkworker path, which at the very least is incredibly misguided.  That approach only lowers our awareness.  Labeling parts of ourselves as bad or evil isn’t helpful.  In every one of us, there is the potential for both polarities.  What we label “evil” is merely a temporary condition while we’re growing through the experience of duality, and when we resist that phase, we merely prolong it.  However, if we can commit to one of these paths and take it far enough, accepting even the seemingly negative experiences as they come, we eventually reach the other side where both paths converge.  If you must label parts of yourself or others as evil, then your lesson is to learn to love and accept the evil.  It’s all you anyway. Trying to explain polarity to someone who may have never experienced it certainly isn’t an easy task.  The problem is that whenever it gets reduced to words, we’re left with content, but polarity is about energy, which is independent of content.  So no matter how many words I write on this topic, it can only serve as a pointer to the experience, but it can never adequately convey the real thing.  I love a good challenge, but right now my stomach is screaming for some breakfast, so I’ll leave you with this food for thought while my thoughts turn to food.  Thou art God.
    Jul 12, 2011 752
  • 12 Jul 2011
    At the other end of the spectrum from self-help junkies, we find self-help cynics.  Self-help cynics are people who’ve become totally disillusioned with anything associated to personal development.  They regard the entire field as nothing but a sham populated by scammers and charlatans.  Cynics don’t subscribe to the idea that people can actually change by conscious intent.  They are who they are, and there’s nothing anyone can do about it. Skeptics vs. cynics As opposed to a cynic, a skeptic is doubtful but still open-minded and logical enough to consider new input.  Skeptics primarily seek truth through the process of asking questions.  Sometimes the real truth cannot be pinned down so easily, so the skeptic must learn to live with ambiguity and uncertainty much of the time.  For the cynic, however, the mere existence of doubt is immediate cause for labeling an entire field as erroneous.  If you try to engage a cynic about his/her beliefs, you’ll usually receive some emotional and very close-minded arguments but little logic. I think any field should welcome skeptics with open arms, but it’s hard for a field like self-help to engage cynics because cynics vehemently resist the very nature of conscious growth, especially the idea of seeking help from others.  Conscious growth requires a degree of openness and the willingness to take reasonable risks, but cynics haven’t yet achieved a sufficient feeling of security to override their fears.  Consequently, the path of growth available to the cynic is mainly an unconscious one.  That’s typically a slower and more painful way to grow, but the cynic’s resistance to growth is an exercise in futility.  Growth springs from change, and change is inevitable. In my own life, I’m happy to interact with genuine skeptics.  I have a high degree of respect for the open-minded skeptic.  I often consider myself a skeptic because I don’t tend to trust new ideas until I’ve applied them myself and have experienced the results first-hand.  I trust direct experience more than third-party reports.  For example, I believe in astral projection because I’ve done it many times.  If I’d never experienced it for myself, I’d have a hard time understanding it.  There are many skeptics who post in the forums here, and they often help participants keep discussions grounded in reality by injecting common sense and thoughtful questions.  Skeptics are great at balancing those who hold very strong (but perhaps publicly unprovable) beliefs.  Some very interesting discussions result.  I often enjoy discussing ideas with intelligent skeptics because the process assists me in my own pursuit of growth.  I lack the time to address all the questions that are addressed to me, but I appreciate that there are always people in my life that will question my ideas, actions, and intentions.  Every time I post a new blog entry, it’s like I have a group of friends to beta-test it and help uncover any bugs. There are certainly shades of gray between skepticism and cynicism, but I believe what paints the dividing line between them is the cynic’s close-mindedness.  Whereas a skeptic will engage in open debate in order to seek the truth, the cynic’s goal is to make everyone else wrong.  Sometimes cynics will try to hide behind the banner of skepticism, but when their ideas are challenged, they eventually self-destruct with emotional, close-minded retorts.  In our forums skeptics frequently make significant and valuable contributions, while cynics often end up getting banned for violating the forum rules by resorting to trolling, thread hijacking, and/or personal attacks.  They can’t really help it, however, because it’s the nature of a cynic to subconsciously manifest their own rejection from such a community in order to prove their pre-conceived beliefs correct. The cynic’s motives I think there are several reasons cynics find it necessary to attack and denigrate those who pursue personal growth: Powerlessness - Cynics are often in denial about parts of their lives they lack the courage and/or ability to change.  They find it effectively impossible to make the changes they feel are necessary or important, but they’re unwilling to accept this because it makes them feel powerless.  The intelligent solution, which the cynic rejects, is to acknowledge the problem and the desired result, even though no solution is available.  A problem with no apparent solution is still a problem, a condition to be accepted.  As noted in The Courage to Live Consciously, the ability to accept the existence of unsolvable problems in our lives is what ultimately creates the strength and ability to solve them.  Cynics prefer the illusion of perfectionism to the reality of serious challenges; in the long run, however, this only weakens them further. Insecurity – Cynics attempt to make themselves feel more secure by surrounding themselves with others who are in the same boat, i.e. people who are stuck and who don’t appear to be growing much.  Cynics find safety in numbers.  They don’t feel secure on the inside, so they try to create artificial security on the outside.  This involves discouraging and dissuading others from new pursuits that might succeed.  The cynic is terribly worried about being left behind and feels threatened by others’ attempts to advance.  The cynic in your life will take a keen interest in your maintaining the state of mediocrity as much as possible.  A cynic may give you a leg up when you’re down, but s/he will not help you pass them by.  Being abandoned by his/her peers is one of a cynic’s worst fears.  Ultimately the cynic is fighting a losing battle, since it’s impossible to find genuine security in a static position.  But this doesn’t stop the cynic from trying anyway. Fear of the unknown - Cynics who fear change may be concerned that the growth of others around them will disrupt their comfortable routine.  Change, however, is inevitable.  By resisting change the cynic will only delay it, and often when the change finally occurs, it will be overwhelmingly strong — a massive disruption instead of a gradual shift. Fear of rejection – The cynic may interpret others’ desire to grow as a personal rejection.  For example, if you commit to changing your diet and losing weight, the overweight cynic in your life may perceive your decision as a rejection of their own choices.  This can also lead to jealousy if the cynic feels s/he is being left behind. I have a lot of compassion for cynics, and I’ve been fortunate to see a number of them outgrow their cynicism over the past couple years.  It’s a bit sad when a cynic overshoots the mark and ends up becoming a self-help junkie (another form of denial), but I love watching cynics open their minds a little and graduate to a more healthy skepticism.  It takes a lot of courage for a cynic to do this.  In fact, it takes a lot of courage for anyone to admit to themselves, “I am finding no joy on this path.  I must seek out another.” Cynical lessons Although I wouldn’t take pains to invite them over for dinner, I feel grateful for the self-help cynics in my life because they remind me not to fall into the trap of becoming so attached to an idea that I close myself off to new possibilities.  Whenever I feel myself needing to emotionally defend my position in some way instead of open-mindedly exploring it, I recognize I’m resonating with the cynical part of me that needs to be right.  So I remind myself that I am not my ideas, and I needn’t ever defend them as such. Cynics also remind us that we need to seek out realistic, measurable results and not fall victim to the self-help junkie’s pattern of self-delusion.  The junkie will mislabel the act of spinning in circles as a growth experience, while the cynic will dismiss everything as failure to progress.  But when you start thinking about whether your personal growth results are strong enough to incite a cynic to have an emotional blow-up, then you know you’re getting somewhere.  As odd as it may seem, the more successful I become in my own pursuit of growth, the more cynics I see imploding around me.  It’s been said that success is the best revenge, but it’s also a means of counteracting the low awareness level of cynicism.  The presence of people who are succeeding in their growth efforts helps drive cynics to question their own self-imposed limitations and to begin asking the questions they’ve been avoiding for so long.  Initially the cynic may do this out of frustration, anger, or jealousy, but at least it’s a step in the right direction.  As you pursue your own growth, you’ll inevitably find that you infect others with the pursuit of conscious growth as well.  When you eventually infect a cynic, it’s quite a sight to behold. Optimal growth The existence of self-help junkies and self-help cynics directs us to the middle ground between gullibility on one side and total close-mindedness on the other.  Both are suboptimal strategies.  If you’re too loose, you chase too many bad leads for too long.  If you’re too tight, you miss out on great opportunities for genuine advancement.  While everyone has their favorite spot along this continuum, I generally prefer to err on the side of being a little loose.  I’m willing to suffer some extra defeats, failures, and losses in order to uncover opportunities and gain experiences I might otherwise miss.  Sometimes this approach pays off.  Sometimes it doesn’t.  But it’s certainly a fun ride.
    1002 Posted by UniqueThis
  • At the other end of the spectrum from self-help junkies, we find self-help cynics.  Self-help cynics are people who’ve become totally disillusioned with anything associated to personal development.  They regard the entire field as nothing but a sham populated by scammers and charlatans.  Cynics don’t subscribe to the idea that people can actually change by conscious intent.  They are who they are, and there’s nothing anyone can do about it. Skeptics vs. cynics As opposed to a cynic, a skeptic is doubtful but still open-minded and logical enough to consider new input.  Skeptics primarily seek truth through the process of asking questions.  Sometimes the real truth cannot be pinned down so easily, so the skeptic must learn to live with ambiguity and uncertainty much of the time.  For the cynic, however, the mere existence of doubt is immediate cause for labeling an entire field as erroneous.  If you try to engage a cynic about his/her beliefs, you’ll usually receive some emotional and very close-minded arguments but little logic. I think any field should welcome skeptics with open arms, but it’s hard for a field like self-help to engage cynics because cynics vehemently resist the very nature of conscious growth, especially the idea of seeking help from others.  Conscious growth requires a degree of openness and the willingness to take reasonable risks, but cynics haven’t yet achieved a sufficient feeling of security to override their fears.  Consequently, the path of growth available to the cynic is mainly an unconscious one.  That’s typically a slower and more painful way to grow, but the cynic’s resistance to growth is an exercise in futility.  Growth springs from change, and change is inevitable. In my own life, I’m happy to interact with genuine skeptics.  I have a high degree of respect for the open-minded skeptic.  I often consider myself a skeptic because I don’t tend to trust new ideas until I’ve applied them myself and have experienced the results first-hand.  I trust direct experience more than third-party reports.  For example, I believe in astral projection because I’ve done it many times.  If I’d never experienced it for myself, I’d have a hard time understanding it.  There are many skeptics who post in the forums here, and they often help participants keep discussions grounded in reality by injecting common sense and thoughtful questions.  Skeptics are great at balancing those who hold very strong (but perhaps publicly unprovable) beliefs.  Some very interesting discussions result.  I often enjoy discussing ideas with intelligent skeptics because the process assists me in my own pursuit of growth.  I lack the time to address all the questions that are addressed to me, but I appreciate that there are always people in my life that will question my ideas, actions, and intentions.  Every time I post a new blog entry, it’s like I have a group of friends to beta-test it and help uncover any bugs. There are certainly shades of gray between skepticism and cynicism, but I believe what paints the dividing line between them is the cynic’s close-mindedness.  Whereas a skeptic will engage in open debate in order to seek the truth, the cynic’s goal is to make everyone else wrong.  Sometimes cynics will try to hide behind the banner of skepticism, but when their ideas are challenged, they eventually self-destruct with emotional, close-minded retorts.  In our forums skeptics frequently make significant and valuable contributions, while cynics often end up getting banned for violating the forum rules by resorting to trolling, thread hijacking, and/or personal attacks.  They can’t really help it, however, because it’s the nature of a cynic to subconsciously manifest their own rejection from such a community in order to prove their pre-conceived beliefs correct. The cynic’s motives I think there are several reasons cynics find it necessary to attack and denigrate those who pursue personal growth: Powerlessness - Cynics are often in denial about parts of their lives they lack the courage and/or ability to change.  They find it effectively impossible to make the changes they feel are necessary or important, but they’re unwilling to accept this because it makes them feel powerless.  The intelligent solution, which the cynic rejects, is to acknowledge the problem and the desired result, even though no solution is available.  A problem with no apparent solution is still a problem, a condition to be accepted.  As noted in The Courage to Live Consciously, the ability to accept the existence of unsolvable problems in our lives is what ultimately creates the strength and ability to solve them.  Cynics prefer the illusion of perfectionism to the reality of serious challenges; in the long run, however, this only weakens them further. Insecurity – Cynics attempt to make themselves feel more secure by surrounding themselves with others who are in the same boat, i.e. people who are stuck and who don’t appear to be growing much.  Cynics find safety in numbers.  They don’t feel secure on the inside, so they try to create artificial security on the outside.  This involves discouraging and dissuading others from new pursuits that might succeed.  The cynic is terribly worried about being left behind and feels threatened by others’ attempts to advance.  The cynic in your life will take a keen interest in your maintaining the state of mediocrity as much as possible.  A cynic may give you a leg up when you’re down, but s/he will not help you pass them by.  Being abandoned by his/her peers is one of a cynic’s worst fears.  Ultimately the cynic is fighting a losing battle, since it’s impossible to find genuine security in a static position.  But this doesn’t stop the cynic from trying anyway. Fear of the unknown - Cynics who fear change may be concerned that the growth of others around them will disrupt their comfortable routine.  Change, however, is inevitable.  By resisting change the cynic will only delay it, and often when the change finally occurs, it will be overwhelmingly strong — a massive disruption instead of a gradual shift. Fear of rejection – The cynic may interpret others’ desire to grow as a personal rejection.  For example, if you commit to changing your diet and losing weight, the overweight cynic in your life may perceive your decision as a rejection of their own choices.  This can also lead to jealousy if the cynic feels s/he is being left behind. I have a lot of compassion for cynics, and I’ve been fortunate to see a number of them outgrow their cynicism over the past couple years.  It’s a bit sad when a cynic overshoots the mark and ends up becoming a self-help junkie (another form of denial), but I love watching cynics open their minds a little and graduate to a more healthy skepticism.  It takes a lot of courage for a cynic to do this.  In fact, it takes a lot of courage for anyone to admit to themselves, “I am finding no joy on this path.  I must seek out another.” Cynical lessons Although I wouldn’t take pains to invite them over for dinner, I feel grateful for the self-help cynics in my life because they remind me not to fall into the trap of becoming so attached to an idea that I close myself off to new possibilities.  Whenever I feel myself needing to emotionally defend my position in some way instead of open-mindedly exploring it, I recognize I’m resonating with the cynical part of me that needs to be right.  So I remind myself that I am not my ideas, and I needn’t ever defend them as such. Cynics also remind us that we need to seek out realistic, measurable results and not fall victim to the self-help junkie’s pattern of self-delusion.  The junkie will mislabel the act of spinning in circles as a growth experience, while the cynic will dismiss everything as failure to progress.  But when you start thinking about whether your personal growth results are strong enough to incite a cynic to have an emotional blow-up, then you know you’re getting somewhere.  As odd as it may seem, the more successful I become in my own pursuit of growth, the more cynics I see imploding around me.  It’s been said that success is the best revenge, but it’s also a means of counteracting the low awareness level of cynicism.  The presence of people who are succeeding in their growth efforts helps drive cynics to question their own self-imposed limitations and to begin asking the questions they’ve been avoiding for so long.  Initially the cynic may do this out of frustration, anger, or jealousy, but at least it’s a step in the right direction.  As you pursue your own growth, you’ll inevitably find that you infect others with the pursuit of conscious growth as well.  When you eventually infect a cynic, it’s quite a sight to behold. Optimal growth The existence of self-help junkies and self-help cynics directs us to the middle ground between gullibility on one side and total close-mindedness on the other.  Both are suboptimal strategies.  If you’re too loose, you chase too many bad leads for too long.  If you’re too tight, you miss out on great opportunities for genuine advancement.  While everyone has their favorite spot along this continuum, I generally prefer to err on the side of being a little loose.  I’m willing to suffer some extra defeats, failures, and losses in order to uncover opportunities and gain experiences I might otherwise miss.  Sometimes this approach pays off.  Sometimes it doesn’t.  But it’s certainly a fun ride.
    Jul 12, 2011 1002
  • 12 Jul 2011
    Stereo vision is one of our more fascinating human abilities.  Our eyeballs capture 2D snapshots of our environment, and our brains and visual circuitry rapidly combine them into 3D images.  So even though our eyes are perceiving reality in two dimensions, by combining the data from both eyes in a specific way, we perceive our visual fields in apparent 3D.  This 3D image is richer than either of its 2D components.  You could also say it’s a more useful representation of reality than the raw pre-processed data taken in by our eyes. The combined input of all five of our physical senses and their submodalities creates a rich and cohesive whole.  For example, when you go out to dinner with friends, the sights, sounds, smells, tastes, and textures of your evening create an experience that’s greater than the sum of its parts. Spiritually we also have access to a rich set of inputs.  Unfortunately, most of us are taught to give our attention to a puny subset of those inputs and tune out the rest as irrelevant or misleading.  This spiritual blindness can’t help but create functional problems for us.  Such problems manifest in many forms, such as depression, loneliness, hopelessness, and meaninglessness.  We do our best to adapt and do without, but for most of us, this is an unnecessary handicap. Just as your physical senses act as lenses through which you perceive different subsets of reality, your spiritual senses also act as cognitive filtering mechanisms.  These filters allow you to focus on bits and pieces of pre-processed information which may or may not be useful to you.  The more spiritual sensory data you can access and comprehend, the richer your spiritual life will be, and the more accurately it will model truth. Your spiritual sensory equipment includes: First-, second-, and third-person viewpoints Subjective (consciousness is primary) and objective (physical world is primary) viewpoints Intuition and gut instincts Feelings and emotions Logic and reason Dreams and visions Religious and philosophical beliefs (Christianity, Buddhism, atheism, skepticism, Darwinism, romanticism) Cultural, social, political, and economic beliefs (stereotypes, gender roles, fashion, citizenship) Functional beliefs (how to earn a living, what to eat, role of money) Personal beliefs (goals, values, expectations) Suppose you’re cooking dinner for yourself.  You can use your eyes to measure the ingredients, your ears to listen for the water boiling, your nose to detect something burning, and your tongue to enjoy the result.  If you wanted to do so, you could rely solely upon just one or two of your senses to prepare a meal, but you’d probably find it more difficult to achieve a good result.  It could also be a very frustrating experience. Similarly, when we confront the key spiritual questions of our lives, such as, “Who am I?” and “What is my purpose in life?” we can consult the full spectrum of sensory channels available to us, or we can limit our input to a small subset of those channels.  Generally when we limit our input too severely, we end up making things much harder than necessary, much like trying to prepare a meal while wearing a blindfold and ear plugs.  This is what happens when we say, “I am only going to consider this one point of view because it’s the one and only truth.” Perceptual filters Our perceptions are the lenses through which we view reality, but they are not reality itself.  What we perceive is invariably pre-processed to one degree or another.  We do not consciously perceive individual photons of light or oscillating atmospheric compression waves.  We observe a photograph or a song.  Whenever this kind of sensory compression occurs, a tremendous amount of raw data is irrecoverably lost.  Each of our senses compresses and repackages the field of perceivable data in different ways, and it is this heavily processed output that reaches our consciousness. Our beliefs and other cognitive filters give us similar glimpses into reality, but they also provide us with highly compressed and processed after-images of the underlying data.  For example, suppose you attempt to perceive non-physical entities.  What will you consciously perceive?  Through the lens of Christianity, you may connect with angels and saints via the mechanism of prayer.  Through an American Indian lens, you may perform a vision quest to consult with ancestral spirits or animal guides.  Through an atheistic or skeptical lens, you may perceive nothing at all or perhaps something very fuzzy and uncertain.  Through a psychic or mediumistic lens, you may conduct a two-way conversation with a spirit guide or deceased person.  What is actually there, however, is none of these things.  You don’t consciously perceive reality as it truly is because the raw data would overwhelm your cognitive abilities.  Instead you must attend to the highly compressed versions. Even though each channel of input has limited expressiveness, if you can access a diverse enough set of channels, each compressed and filtered in different ways, you can develop a more accurate picture of reality.  Each belief system you consider provides another way of viewing the same underlying data. Just as we can augment our physical senses with technology such as night-vision goggles or radio antennae, we can also significantly improve our spiritual senses.  Exploring different belief systems and considering unfamiliar perspectives allows us to create new data filters we can then add to our collection of cognitive tools.  These filters process the same underlying reality as our other filters, but they’ll present it in unique ways, possibly revealing important patterns our previous filters would have missed.  Our eyes may be able to see, but they can see more with a microscope, telescope, and oscilloscope.  Similarly, a single belief system gives up some insight into a greater reality beyond the physical, but as our sole filter, it’s full of holes and inconsistencies.  Consider the viewpoints of a half-dozen belief systems, however, and the big picture finally begins to take shape. Mistaken identity The big mistake we make that limits our spiritual perceptual ability is equating our identities with our beliefs.  This constricts our conscious input to tiny subsets of reality, giving us a very shallow and incomplete picture, thereby destroying our spiritual depth perception.  For example, if I say, “I am an atheist,” I’m applying a filter through which all my sensory data must now pass.  Any information that doesn’t align with that filter will be unable to make it through to my conscious mind, meaning that my mental model of reality will be severely stunted.  Just because you have knowledge of certain beliefs doesn’t mean you need to become them. No single belief can give you a perfectly accurate view of reality, just as none of your physical senses can give you a completely accurate picture of your physical environment.  The sum total of multiple inputs provides an invaluable richness, and the more input channels you can simultaneously process, the more accurate your understanding of reality will be, and the more easily you’ll adapt to what is without undo confusion or frustration. Each of your senses has its own field of dominance, and all have their strengths and weaknesses.  Learn to honor all channels of input, just as you respect the individual input of each of your physical senses.  You never know when one of those underutilized channels contains a key piece of data that’s important to notice. While I’ve placed more emphasis on some belief lenses than others in my writing (usually with the intention of counter-balancing the already socially dominant ones), I value the total collection above and beyond any single piece.  Consequently, you may read one of my articles and conclude I’m an atheist, another will suggest I’m very new agey, and still others will convince you I’m neither (or just plain neurotic).  The truth is that I value all of these lenses, but I don’t equate myself with any of them.  As I explained in Podcast #13: Beyond Religion, belief systems are like software running on a PC.  A PC can run many different types of software without having an identity crisis.  Imagine if your PC happily ran Microsoft Word but refused to let you install QuickBooks, shouting, “Dammit, Jim.  I’m a writer, not an accountant.”  (Of course, some QuickBooks users would say your PC is doing you a favor.)  Yet this is precisely what human beings do when they say, “I’m an atheist.  End of story.”  Some people will even die to defend their identity, an act which, although some may perceive as noble or honorable, is often performed by those suffering from spiritual sensory deprivation. Do your best to avoid the trap of turning any single collection of lenses into your identity.  Don’t become the person who says, “I shall completely tune out my ears, nose, skin, and taste buds because they’re inferior to my eyes.”  Those other senses may be inferior to your eyes in the realm of visual data, but there will be plenty of situations where they provide useful information that’s situationally superior to what your eyes tell you.  Intelligent spiritual development is largely a process of uninstalling identity-based filters that have been unnecessarily limiting you. The more you develop and utilize all of your physical senses, the more complete and accurate your sensory picture becomes.  Sometimes the data coming through a single channel you don’t use very often is critical.  You may not rely much on your sense of smell, but you’ll be glad for your nose if you smell a gas leak you can’t see, hear, taste, or feel.  Similarly, some extraordinary information can come through other input channels you may barely listen to, such as your intuitive or psychic abilities.  The more data you tune out, the less accurate your map of reality becomes. Suitability How do you know which particular lenses will provide the most relevant information for a certain situation?  You figure it out the same way you learn to use your physical senses.  Do you ever make the awkward mistake of trying to get to know someone by tasting them?  Perhaps when you were a baby you did, but most likely you predominantly use your eyes and ears for that now.  Through trial and error, you learned which senses are the most appropriate for each situation. We still make sensory mistakes, however.  Sometimes we become fixated on the wrong input channels.  Have you ever caught yourself ogling someone you’re attracted to, not remembering a word that was said?  Or have you ever put too much emphasis on your taste buds, shoveling food into your mouth while your eyes are shouting, “You’re getting fat!” For many situations I find a subjective belief system incredibly useful.  When the objective viewpoint is giving me confusing data or mixed signals, considering the subjective side often provides tremendous clarity.  But in some situations it’s just the opposite, and I find an objective framework more suitable.  I do my best to focus on the right tool for the job, knowing that my senses and beliefs are only low-res maps of a high resolution reality. Spirituality in stereo When you first attempt to perceive reality through multiple lenses, especially those that seem to inherently contradict each other, it will feel like you’re trying to do the impossible.  You’ll be like a newborn baby trying to make sense of garbled blobs of light, noise, and pressure.  You may feel overwhelmed and frustrated, as if you’re flooding your mind with utterly useless information. Be patient with yourself.  With sufficient practice you’ll gradually learn to combine data from multiple viewpoints into a single coherent picture.  At first it will take considerable conscious effort as you mentally switch between different viewpoints, asking questions like, “How would a Buddhist view this situation?  A biologist?  A psychologist?”  Eventually your subconscious will learn to do it for you, and you’ll begin to sense a larger picture that merges the input from multiple viewpoints.  As this begins to happen, you’ll unlock a new level of clarity, like an infant realizing for the first time the floating blob in front of it is its own hand.  It won’t be a perfect clarity, but you’ll likely find that some problems that previously plagued you become much easier to solve. A good example of the limitations of a fixed belief system would be understanding the intricate connections between your financial results, your religious or spiritual beliefs, and your emotional states.  Common cultural belief systems provide a very limited and dysfunctional understanding of these connections, which helps explain why so many people struggle both financially and emotionally.  But when you examine the connection from multiple points of view (rich and poor, moral and amoral, happy and depressed, yourself and others), it’s much easier to see the big picture.  And this big picture, panoramic view can enable you to enjoy positive emotional stability, financial abundance, and deep spiritual development without so much struggle and unnecessary conflict.  (As I’ve mentioned in previous articles, one solution is to center your life around service to others, and trust that the receiving part will take care of itself.  The focus on genuine value creation and contribution tends to manifest happiness, wealth, and a sense of meaning in one’s life without too much struggle or effort – IF you can really let go and trust the process.  Yet most of us are socially conditioned to overlook the simplicity of this connection.  It can seem counterintuitive, so we resist applying it for any length of time.  But from the right vantage point, the effectiveness of this solution is readily apparent.  Having applied it for some time now myself, I can attest that being happy, fulfilled, and enjoying financial abundance is rather easy if you just steadfastly focus on helping people to the best of your ability.) Training your spiritual senses How can you effectively train your own spiritual depth perception?  You can do it the same way you train your physical senses.  If you want to improve your hearing, take a music class.  Find others with different beliefs systems that seem to empower them in some specific way, and learn from them.  Study people from other cultures, and learn what makes them tick.  Find out why a Buddhist monk seems so calm, why an athlete can maintain such a high fitness level, or why a billionaire is able to enjoy so much abundance.  Read books written by such people, meet them in person if you can, and find out what makes them tick. Through such studies you’ll learn that certain perceptions are more likely than others to yield successful results.  For example, if you can’t get yourself to exercise regularly, then obviously you perceive reality differently than someone who is highly motivated to exercise.  But if you could learn how an accomplished athlete perceives reality, you could model and assimilate their beliefs.  If you learn to think the way someone else does in a certain area, you’ll tend to behave similarly, and you’ll likely achieve similar results. Beyond social conditioning Our social conditioning tells us we must turn one particular set of beliefs into our personal identity.  Are you a capitalist?  A Christian?  A skeptic?  The way these questions are asked assumes you must respond with a yes or no.  But this is like asking if you’re an eye, an ear, or a nose.  It would be more sensible to ask questions like “Do you understand the viewpoint of Christianity?” instead of trying to equate your identity with it.  When you start linking specific beliefs to your identity, you only limit your ability to perceive what lies outside your (now artificially limited) sense of self. Sometimes you’ll find that certain thought patterns become so useful that there’s a tendency for them to get folded into your identity.  For example, people with musical ability may begin to identify themselves as musicians.  Clearly this labeling mechanism is very common and even encouraged.  But even when we develop strong patterns like this, we don’t lose the ability to access other frames of reference.  Other patterns may degrade from lack of use, but they’re still accessible to us. One of those strong patterns from my life is eating a vegan diet, which I’ve been doing since 1997.  I continue digesting new information on health and nutrition (from pro-vegan, anti-vegan, and neutral sources), but none have come close to dislodging this pattern.  But despite all of this, I still retain the ability to access other points of view.  I don’t find it useful to access those viewpoints when deciding what to eat for dinner (the thought of putting animal foods into my mouth would turn my stomach), but I often find it useful to access those points of view when dealing with others.  I understand the kinds of perceptions that encourage non-vegan food choices, and to lose access to those perceptions would only reduce my ability to function. Also, by allowing myself access to alternative perceptions, I retain the ability to eat animal foods if I ever find myself in a situation where it seems intelligent or necessary, such as if I find myself stranded in the woods and have to choose between hunting and starving.  To be perfectly honest, I can’t be sure what I’d do in that situation because I’ve never been in it.  But from where I am now, I believe the most intelligent choice would be to honor my human drive to survive.  At the very least, the experience would make a good article. I find that a multi-spectral philosophy of life aligns closely with what we’d consider common sense.  When you find your beliefs incongruent with what your common sense is telling you, perhaps you just need to view the situation from another angle.  This is more effective than clinging to a belief that only gets in your way.  Your common sense is probably right. We all have a tendency to fear and resist the unknown, so the notion of giving your beliefs so much flexibility may give you pause.  Will you lose your sense of self?  Will you become totally amoral?  Will you devolve into one of those deranged blogger types?  In my experience these worries are unfounded.  Allowing yourself a greater richness of perceptual channels will only increase your ability to make accurate decisions that align with your values and morals.  First you view a situation from many different angles, remaining as open and nonjudgmental as possible.  Then you bring your personal values and identity online to use in making decisions and taking action. The point of this article is to help you make conscious choices based on accurate input.  Cloudy or incomplete perceptions reduce your ability to make intelligent choices.  The richer your perceptions, the better your decisions will be, so rich perceptions can greatly enhance your ability to live consciously, and that in turn benefits all the lives you touch.
    780 Posted by UniqueThis
  • Stereo vision is one of our more fascinating human abilities.  Our eyeballs capture 2D snapshots of our environment, and our brains and visual circuitry rapidly combine them into 3D images.  So even though our eyes are perceiving reality in two dimensions, by combining the data from both eyes in a specific way, we perceive our visual fields in apparent 3D.  This 3D image is richer than either of its 2D components.  You could also say it’s a more useful representation of reality than the raw pre-processed data taken in by our eyes. The combined input of all five of our physical senses and their submodalities creates a rich and cohesive whole.  For example, when you go out to dinner with friends, the sights, sounds, smells, tastes, and textures of your evening create an experience that’s greater than the sum of its parts. Spiritually we also have access to a rich set of inputs.  Unfortunately, most of us are taught to give our attention to a puny subset of those inputs and tune out the rest as irrelevant or misleading.  This spiritual blindness can’t help but create functional problems for us.  Such problems manifest in many forms, such as depression, loneliness, hopelessness, and meaninglessness.  We do our best to adapt and do without, but for most of us, this is an unnecessary handicap. Just as your physical senses act as lenses through which you perceive different subsets of reality, your spiritual senses also act as cognitive filtering mechanisms.  These filters allow you to focus on bits and pieces of pre-processed information which may or may not be useful to you.  The more spiritual sensory data you can access and comprehend, the richer your spiritual life will be, and the more accurately it will model truth. Your spiritual sensory equipment includes: First-, second-, and third-person viewpoints Subjective (consciousness is primary) and objective (physical world is primary) viewpoints Intuition and gut instincts Feelings and emotions Logic and reason Dreams and visions Religious and philosophical beliefs (Christianity, Buddhism, atheism, skepticism, Darwinism, romanticism) Cultural, social, political, and economic beliefs (stereotypes, gender roles, fashion, citizenship) Functional beliefs (how to earn a living, what to eat, role of money) Personal beliefs (goals, values, expectations) Suppose you’re cooking dinner for yourself.  You can use your eyes to measure the ingredients, your ears to listen for the water boiling, your nose to detect something burning, and your tongue to enjoy the result.  If you wanted to do so, you could rely solely upon just one or two of your senses to prepare a meal, but you’d probably find it more difficult to achieve a good result.  It could also be a very frustrating experience. Similarly, when we confront the key spiritual questions of our lives, such as, “Who am I?” and “What is my purpose in life?” we can consult the full spectrum of sensory channels available to us, or we can limit our input to a small subset of those channels.  Generally when we limit our input too severely, we end up making things much harder than necessary, much like trying to prepare a meal while wearing a blindfold and ear plugs.  This is what happens when we say, “I am only going to consider this one point of view because it’s the one and only truth.” Perceptual filters Our perceptions are the lenses through which we view reality, but they are not reality itself.  What we perceive is invariably pre-processed to one degree or another.  We do not consciously perceive individual photons of light or oscillating atmospheric compression waves.  We observe a photograph or a song.  Whenever this kind of sensory compression occurs, a tremendous amount of raw data is irrecoverably lost.  Each of our senses compresses and repackages the field of perceivable data in different ways, and it is this heavily processed output that reaches our consciousness. Our beliefs and other cognitive filters give us similar glimpses into reality, but they also provide us with highly compressed and processed after-images of the underlying data.  For example, suppose you attempt to perceive non-physical entities.  What will you consciously perceive?  Through the lens of Christianity, you may connect with angels and saints via the mechanism of prayer.  Through an American Indian lens, you may perform a vision quest to consult with ancestral spirits or animal guides.  Through an atheistic or skeptical lens, you may perceive nothing at all or perhaps something very fuzzy and uncertain.  Through a psychic or mediumistic lens, you may conduct a two-way conversation with a spirit guide or deceased person.  What is actually there, however, is none of these things.  You don’t consciously perceive reality as it truly is because the raw data would overwhelm your cognitive abilities.  Instead you must attend to the highly compressed versions. Even though each channel of input has limited expressiveness, if you can access a diverse enough set of channels, each compressed and filtered in different ways, you can develop a more accurate picture of reality.  Each belief system you consider provides another way of viewing the same underlying data. Just as we can augment our physical senses with technology such as night-vision goggles or radio antennae, we can also significantly improve our spiritual senses.  Exploring different belief systems and considering unfamiliar perspectives allows us to create new data filters we can then add to our collection of cognitive tools.  These filters process the same underlying reality as our other filters, but they’ll present it in unique ways, possibly revealing important patterns our previous filters would have missed.  Our eyes may be able to see, but they can see more with a microscope, telescope, and oscilloscope.  Similarly, a single belief system gives up some insight into a greater reality beyond the physical, but as our sole filter, it’s full of holes and inconsistencies.  Consider the viewpoints of a half-dozen belief systems, however, and the big picture finally begins to take shape. Mistaken identity The big mistake we make that limits our spiritual perceptual ability is equating our identities with our beliefs.  This constricts our conscious input to tiny subsets of reality, giving us a very shallow and incomplete picture, thereby destroying our spiritual depth perception.  For example, if I say, “I am an atheist,” I’m applying a filter through which all my sensory data must now pass.  Any information that doesn’t align with that filter will be unable to make it through to my conscious mind, meaning that my mental model of reality will be severely stunted.  Just because you have knowledge of certain beliefs doesn’t mean you need to become them. No single belief can give you a perfectly accurate view of reality, just as none of your physical senses can give you a completely accurate picture of your physical environment.  The sum total of multiple inputs provides an invaluable richness, and the more input channels you can simultaneously process, the more accurate your understanding of reality will be, and the more easily you’ll adapt to what is without undo confusion or frustration. Each of your senses has its own field of dominance, and all have their strengths and weaknesses.  Learn to honor all channels of input, just as you respect the individual input of each of your physical senses.  You never know when one of those underutilized channels contains a key piece of data that’s important to notice. While I’ve placed more emphasis on some belief lenses than others in my writing (usually with the intention of counter-balancing the already socially dominant ones), I value the total collection above and beyond any single piece.  Consequently, you may read one of my articles and conclude I’m an atheist, another will suggest I’m very new agey, and still others will convince you I’m neither (or just plain neurotic).  The truth is that I value all of these lenses, but I don’t equate myself with any of them.  As I explained in Podcast #13: Beyond Religion, belief systems are like software running on a PC.  A PC can run many different types of software without having an identity crisis.  Imagine if your PC happily ran Microsoft Word but refused to let you install QuickBooks, shouting, “Dammit, Jim.  I’m a writer, not an accountant.”  (Of course, some QuickBooks users would say your PC is doing you a favor.)  Yet this is precisely what human beings do when they say, “I’m an atheist.  End of story.”  Some people will even die to defend their identity, an act which, although some may perceive as noble or honorable, is often performed by those suffering from spiritual sensory deprivation. Do your best to avoid the trap of turning any single collection of lenses into your identity.  Don’t become the person who says, “I shall completely tune out my ears, nose, skin, and taste buds because they’re inferior to my eyes.”  Those other senses may be inferior to your eyes in the realm of visual data, but there will be plenty of situations where they provide useful information that’s situationally superior to what your eyes tell you.  Intelligent spiritual development is largely a process of uninstalling identity-based filters that have been unnecessarily limiting you. The more you develop and utilize all of your physical senses, the more complete and accurate your sensory picture becomes.  Sometimes the data coming through a single channel you don’t use very often is critical.  You may not rely much on your sense of smell, but you’ll be glad for your nose if you smell a gas leak you can’t see, hear, taste, or feel.  Similarly, some extraordinary information can come through other input channels you may barely listen to, such as your intuitive or psychic abilities.  The more data you tune out, the less accurate your map of reality becomes. Suitability How do you know which particular lenses will provide the most relevant information for a certain situation?  You figure it out the same way you learn to use your physical senses.  Do you ever make the awkward mistake of trying to get to know someone by tasting them?  Perhaps when you were a baby you did, but most likely you predominantly use your eyes and ears for that now.  Through trial and error, you learned which senses are the most appropriate for each situation. We still make sensory mistakes, however.  Sometimes we become fixated on the wrong input channels.  Have you ever caught yourself ogling someone you’re attracted to, not remembering a word that was said?  Or have you ever put too much emphasis on your taste buds, shoveling food into your mouth while your eyes are shouting, “You’re getting fat!” For many situations I find a subjective belief system incredibly useful.  When the objective viewpoint is giving me confusing data or mixed signals, considering the subjective side often provides tremendous clarity.  But in some situations it’s just the opposite, and I find an objective framework more suitable.  I do my best to focus on the right tool for the job, knowing that my senses and beliefs are only low-res maps of a high resolution reality. Spirituality in stereo When you first attempt to perceive reality through multiple lenses, especially those that seem to inherently contradict each other, it will feel like you’re trying to do the impossible.  You’ll be like a newborn baby trying to make sense of garbled blobs of light, noise, and pressure.  You may feel overwhelmed and frustrated, as if you’re flooding your mind with utterly useless information. Be patient with yourself.  With sufficient practice you’ll gradually learn to combine data from multiple viewpoints into a single coherent picture.  At first it will take considerable conscious effort as you mentally switch between different viewpoints, asking questions like, “How would a Buddhist view this situation?  A biologist?  A psychologist?”  Eventually your subconscious will learn to do it for you, and you’ll begin to sense a larger picture that merges the input from multiple viewpoints.  As this begins to happen, you’ll unlock a new level of clarity, like an infant realizing for the first time the floating blob in front of it is its own hand.  It won’t be a perfect clarity, but you’ll likely find that some problems that previously plagued you become much easier to solve. A good example of the limitations of a fixed belief system would be understanding the intricate connections between your financial results, your religious or spiritual beliefs, and your emotional states.  Common cultural belief systems provide a very limited and dysfunctional understanding of these connections, which helps explain why so many people struggle both financially and emotionally.  But when you examine the connection from multiple points of view (rich and poor, moral and amoral, happy and depressed, yourself and others), it’s much easier to see the big picture.  And this big picture, panoramic view can enable you to enjoy positive emotional stability, financial abundance, and deep spiritual development without so much struggle and unnecessary conflict.  (As I’ve mentioned in previous articles, one solution is to center your life around service to others, and trust that the receiving part will take care of itself.  The focus on genuine value creation and contribution tends to manifest happiness, wealth, and a sense of meaning in one’s life without too much struggle or effort – IF you can really let go and trust the process.  Yet most of us are socially conditioned to overlook the simplicity of this connection.  It can seem counterintuitive, so we resist applying it for any length of time.  But from the right vantage point, the effectiveness of this solution is readily apparent.  Having applied it for some time now myself, I can attest that being happy, fulfilled, and enjoying financial abundance is rather easy if you just steadfastly focus on helping people to the best of your ability.) Training your spiritual senses How can you effectively train your own spiritual depth perception?  You can do it the same way you train your physical senses.  If you want to improve your hearing, take a music class.  Find others with different beliefs systems that seem to empower them in some specific way, and learn from them.  Study people from other cultures, and learn what makes them tick.  Find out why a Buddhist monk seems so calm, why an athlete can maintain such a high fitness level, or why a billionaire is able to enjoy so much abundance.  Read books written by such people, meet them in person if you can, and find out what makes them tick. Through such studies you’ll learn that certain perceptions are more likely than others to yield successful results.  For example, if you can’t get yourself to exercise regularly, then obviously you perceive reality differently than someone who is highly motivated to exercise.  But if you could learn how an accomplished athlete perceives reality, you could model and assimilate their beliefs.  If you learn to think the way someone else does in a certain area, you’ll tend to behave similarly, and you’ll likely achieve similar results. Beyond social conditioning Our social conditioning tells us we must turn one particular set of beliefs into our personal identity.  Are you a capitalist?  A Christian?  A skeptic?  The way these questions are asked assumes you must respond with a yes or no.  But this is like asking if you’re an eye, an ear, or a nose.  It would be more sensible to ask questions like “Do you understand the viewpoint of Christianity?” instead of trying to equate your identity with it.  When you start linking specific beliefs to your identity, you only limit your ability to perceive what lies outside your (now artificially limited) sense of self. Sometimes you’ll find that certain thought patterns become so useful that there’s a tendency for them to get folded into your identity.  For example, people with musical ability may begin to identify themselves as musicians.  Clearly this labeling mechanism is very common and even encouraged.  But even when we develop strong patterns like this, we don’t lose the ability to access other frames of reference.  Other patterns may degrade from lack of use, but they’re still accessible to us. One of those strong patterns from my life is eating a vegan diet, which I’ve been doing since 1997.  I continue digesting new information on health and nutrition (from pro-vegan, anti-vegan, and neutral sources), but none have come close to dislodging this pattern.  But despite all of this, I still retain the ability to access other points of view.  I don’t find it useful to access those viewpoints when deciding what to eat for dinner (the thought of putting animal foods into my mouth would turn my stomach), but I often find it useful to access those points of view when dealing with others.  I understand the kinds of perceptions that encourage non-vegan food choices, and to lose access to those perceptions would only reduce my ability to function. Also, by allowing myself access to alternative perceptions, I retain the ability to eat animal foods if I ever find myself in a situation where it seems intelligent or necessary, such as if I find myself stranded in the woods and have to choose between hunting and starving.  To be perfectly honest, I can’t be sure what I’d do in that situation because I’ve never been in it.  But from where I am now, I believe the most intelligent choice would be to honor my human drive to survive.  At the very least, the experience would make a good article. I find that a multi-spectral philosophy of life aligns closely with what we’d consider common sense.  When you find your beliefs incongruent with what your common sense is telling you, perhaps you just need to view the situation from another angle.  This is more effective than clinging to a belief that only gets in your way.  Your common sense is probably right. We all have a tendency to fear and resist the unknown, so the notion of giving your beliefs so much flexibility may give you pause.  Will you lose your sense of self?  Will you become totally amoral?  Will you devolve into one of those deranged blogger types?  In my experience these worries are unfounded.  Allowing yourself a greater richness of perceptual channels will only increase your ability to make accurate decisions that align with your values and morals.  First you view a situation from many different angles, remaining as open and nonjudgmental as possible.  Then you bring your personal values and identity online to use in making decisions and taking action. The point of this article is to help you make conscious choices based on accurate input.  Cloudy or incomplete perceptions reduce your ability to make intelligent choices.  The richer your perceptions, the better your decisions will be, so rich perceptions can greatly enhance your ability to live consciously, and that in turn benefits all the lives you touch.
    Jul 12, 2011 780
  • 12 Jul 2011
    Since I receive many questions about this topic, I thought it would be fun to share a candid insider’s look at the reality of being an A-list blogger.  These are my personal observations, so I’m not saying they’re true of other high-traffic bloggers, but it wouldn’t surprise me if some of these patterns held up.  While I normally prefer not to write about blogging as a topic unto itself — it’s my medium, not my message — I think you’ll find plenty of personal growth lessons here as well.  Many of these “confessions” have to do with finding ways to maintain balance in a lifestyle that can so easily become unbalanced. If you’re new to this site, just be aware that this blog is run by an individual (not a team of bloggers), that I focus on writing original content (not links or commentary about other blogs’ content), and that the topic is “Personal development for smart people.” In writing an article like this, it’s a challenge not to come across as either too arrogant or awkwardly modest.  My goal is simply to share what is true for me in the hopes you’ll derive some value from it, painting a realistic picture as opposed to skewing it for greater social validation. Tons of traffic To my knowledge there’s no cast-in-stone definition of an A-list blogger, but the key defining element would certainly be traffic, i.e. the size of the blog’s readership.  It’s really just a popularity contest.  This blog gets about 2 million monthly visitors and has an Alexa rank of about 4,000, which by any reasonable definition would put it into the A-list category.  As far as I can tell, StevePavlina.com is currently the most popular personal development web site in the world as well.  The main reason for that is its 600+ in-depth articles on a variety of growth-related topics — all of them freely available. Now imagine being an individual who enjoys writing and has some knowledge to share, and within a fairly short period of time — just a couple years — you’ve got your very own global audience of millions of people.  That’s quite a soapbox, almost like having your own TV show. While building traffic can be a challenge, maintaining traffic is much easier.  You basically just have to keep doing what you’ve been doing that got you there in the first place.  Soon it hits you that unless you do something really lame to screw it up (*cough* *Wil Wheaton* *cough*), you’re going to have this audience for a very, very long time, possibly for the rest of your life if you so desire.  If anything your audience will continue to grow, even if it just tracks the growth rate of blogging in general or the Internet itself. While many bloggers are hungry for more traffic, I don’t think most are prepared for what would happen if they actually succeeded.  A-list blogging has some major oddities, the consequences of having direct access to a large readership with no middlemen. Feedback Perhaps the greatest social consequence of A-list blogging is that you get tons of feedback, whether you solicit it or not.  Every day I receive feedback through email, phone calls, and posts on other blogs, even if I haven’t posted anything new for several days.  I also get at least a few cards and letters in the mail every week. In a typical day, about 10-20 other blogs write something about me or one of my articles.  If I have a hit post, that number can surge to more than 50 in a day.  Knowing that somebody somewhere is writing something about you or your ideas every single day takes some getting used to. When I first started blogging, I loved the feedback.  The more, the better.  Then it got to be so much I grew to hate it.  Then I started loving it again.  Then I hated it again.  At various times I even modified my contact form to be more or less inviting, depending on how much feedback I wanted to get.  I learned that tweaking the contact form text in different ways could affect feedback volume by at least a factor of 5. I cycled a few more times through the love-hate extremes before I was able to put high-volume feedback into a more healthy perspective.  One problem is that most feedback, although it may be new to the sender, isn’t new to me — I’ve seen so much of it that it almost always falls into one of a couple dozen patterns.  I eventually noticed that even when people seem to be writing about me, they’re really writing about themselves.  Even when something is addressed to me in the guise of genuine feedback, it’s hardly ever about me, and it’s seldom actionable.  In virtually all cases, feedback is the other person’s unique response to the stimulus I provided, not an evaluation of the stimulus itself.  Consequently, most feedback isn’t really that helpful to me in terms of improving what I do.  I’ll readily acknowledge that some great ideas came from reader feedback, but on balance I’m not sure the effort required to find those gems has been worth it. Whether the feedback I get is positive or negative, I’ve learned to see it not as something addressed to me but rather as part of the other person’s story.  In that light I end up feeling grateful and appreciative for feedback because it shows me what kinds of issues people are struggling with, and that does help me generate ideas for future articles.  On average I spend about 2-5 seconds reading each piece of feedback email, regardless of the length.  I don’t want to disrespect the time the sender spent crafting it, but within a few seconds I can identify the pattern of the email.  In reviewing feedback email, I generally watch for long-term trends and aim to assess the big picture. In late 2005 I wrote a piece about two email templates visitors could use to send me feedback, one positive and one critical.  Although the piece was meant to be humorous, much of the feedback I receive still fits the general pattern of those templates. If I took every piece of feedback personally instead of focusing on overall trends, it would drive me in circles.  For many articles I write, at least one person will tell me it’s the best article I’ve ever written, while someone else will slam it as junk.  They’re both right because they’re writing about their reactions, not the article itself. In truth virtually all the feedback I get falls into a relatively small number of common patterns.  I even have mental labels for them, including the convert (high praise from a new reader), the whiner (my life sucks, woe is me), the disgruntled teen (aka traffic from Digg), the life story (emails that are longer than my articles), the cross-examiner (let me nitpick each of your ideas one sentence at a time), and so on.  To each individual it seems unique, and although the details change, the underlying themes are universal and cross-cultural. Figuring out how to process high-volume feedback isn’t easy.  While it might sound cold to treat feedback as some sort of collective entity rather than as individual pieces of communication, I find the alternatives much worse.  I believe the best role of feedback is to serve as a vehicle for staying connected with my audience and to look for ways to improve while at the same time not getting phased by the emotional drama it may contain. Requests Many people regard my site as a potential media outlet and myself as a good person to network with, so I receive a lot of PR-related requests.  Authors and publishers send me new personal development books, audio programs, and DVDs in the mail every week in the hopes they may get a mention or a review on my site.  Some have even succeeded, although that’s rare because I’m extremely picky about what I’ll recommend.  I also receive unsolicited press releases, invitations to various events, interview requests, and lunch invites.  And then there are the frequent link swap and site review requests.  On the other hand, I also get a lot of non-PR items, such as requests for personal advice. After a few rounds of cycling through the basic love-hate patterns, I found the best approach was to set standards for the kinds of requests I’ll accept and just decline anything that doesn’t meet those standards.  This saves me time and keeps me focused while still allowing me to accept the items that really deserve a yes.  There are far too many requests to say yes to all of them. For example, when I get a same-day request to do a 5-10 minute radio interview, I know it’s likely to be a waste of time.  The producer is just looking to fill a gap with anyone they can find at the last minute, the DJ won’t be well prepared, and the interview will be very shallow.  On the other hand, when an interview is scheduled well in advance with a qualified host and a decent time allotment, that will usually be a more worthwhile endeavor.  Yanik Silver recently did an hour-long interview with me about Internet marketing, and I think it came out very well. Here are a few things I’ve found helpful to consider when evaluating requests: My investment – If I say yes, how much time/money/effort will this require?  Is this a one-shot time investment, or will it create an ongoing commitment?  Is this investment congruent with my goals, or will it take me off course? Impact - What’s the likely impact of this request?  Is this only going to benefit one person in a small way, or could it have a positive impact on thousands?  I favor the more impactful, contributing requests.  A college student who wants to interview me for a school paper gets an automatic no (too little leverage), while a high-traffic blog asking for that same interview will often get a yes.  I want to see my efforts help as many people as possible. Time to evaluate – How long will it take me to intelligently evaluate this request?  Is the request so complicated that it would take me longer to evaluate it than I think it’s worth?  If I have to spend 30 minutes reading a PDF just to figure out what’s being asked of me, it’s going to be an automatic no unless the other factors suggest it could be extremely worthwhile. Clarity – Is the request clear, specific, and actionable?  “We both work in the same field, so we should do something together” gets an automatic decline.  I’ve learned from experience that people who make very general, open-ended requests just aren’t clear enough about their own goals, and they’ll only run me in circles if I get involved with them. Reasonableness - Is the request fair and reasonable?  Requesting a link swap for a site that gets little or no traffic is obviously not a fair exchange, unless you think it’s fair to trade a marshmallow for a Porsche. Person making the request – Does this person seem like someone I’d want to work with?  Is this just a cold call, or has s/he been referred by someone I trust? Personal or generic – Is this a personal request addressed to me specifically, or is it a generic request that’s probably being made of others?  I decline generic requests, such as requests to participate in an upcoming book or product launch.  I don’t want to run a generic blog. Opportunity cost – How does this request stack up against the other items on my plate?  What am I willing to delete or delay to get this done? Interest – Does this request actually interest me?  Is it something I’d enjoy doing?  Will it challenge me in new ways? The sheer volume of requests necessitates adopting such criteria.  For a blogger just starting out, you won’t need to be so picky, but it really helps to have standards when you need to make quick yes/no decisions every day.  I think these rules could be applied by anyone who has to process a high volume of requests. When responding to requests, I basically choose one of four options: 1. Yes – the rarest of replies from me.  But it does happen if a request meets my standards. 2. No – My default response is to reply with a polite but standard decline message.  Here’s the one I currently use: I appreciate the offer, but I must decline.  I’m committed to various projects for the next several months, and I don’t have the capacity to give this idea the consideration it deserves. When I decline I usually don’t tell people why except in a very generic way.  In my experience that too often encourages people to go into pushy salesperson mode and begin trying to address my objections, which just wastes my time and theirs.  I get enough requests that I know the angles they’re going to use anyway. 3. No response – If I suspect a decline message will incite the other person to go all kittywampus on me, I’ll send no response at all.  I prefer to give people a quick no, but if the person seems very pushy and unlikely to take no for an answer, they’ll have to talk to the hand.  Also when I’m really busy, I usually default to no response to speed things along, especially if the requests are very generic. 4. Send more info – If I think a request may have merit, but I don’t have enough info to say yes, I’ll request further details.  For example, if it’s a request for a speaking engagement, at the very least I need to know the date and location. When making requests of busy people, it’s important to be respectful of their time.  This means making clear, concise, reasonable requests that represent genuine opportunities.  Busy people make rapid triage decisions every day, and requests that disrespect their time are likely to be rejected within seconds. Pressure to post One artifact of having lots of readers is that there’s this ongoing pressure to post.  Your guaranteed audience is always there, ready to digest the next article you put online.  That’s both a privilege and a responsibility.  If you aren’t prepared for this situation, it can be stressful, making you feel like you always have to be working on your next blog entry.  Even when you’re offline, you’re blogging in your head.  But if you do prepare for it, this can become a gentle, positive pressure — eustress instead of distress. Fortunately I gave this a lot of thought before I started my blog.  This web site wasn’t my first online business, so I knew from experience that success could be just as challenging as failure.  I outgrew my computer games business, and I wanted to avoid falling into that same trap again.  Perhaps the most important decision I made was to pick a topic I really, really love:  personal development.  But that wasn’t enough by itself.  I loved computer games and got bored with that after a decade.  Personal development is specific enough so as to give my work a solid focus, but it’s also broad enough that I needn’t succumb to boredom.  In truth I can write about anything that interests me as long as I explore it from the perspective of personal growth.  My topic gives my writing a solid focus, but I don’t consider myself a niche blogger. This flexibility has been crucial to my success as a blogger.  If I start feeling burned out with a certain subtopic like health or spirituality, I can shift to writing about other interests like productivity or time management.  While some readers who become attached to my writing about certain subtopics may complain when I switch gears, at the same time other readers are delighted with the new direction.  The rule that you can’t please everyone certainly applies. One of the key benefits of writing about diverse topics is that my readers are exposed to ideas and concepts they wouldn’t normally seek out on their own.  They find the site looking for a specific topic and get drawn into reading about many other topics, which expands their awareness and broadens their horizons. In an average week, I probably spend about 10-15 hours writing articles.  Maintaining this blog doesn’t take a lot of work.  If I wanted to, I could probably get it down to about 5 hours a week or less.  I happen to enjoy writing, but knowing that I don’t have to write and that I can take time off whenever I want is important to me.  I sometimes write a batch of blog entries in advance and then future-post them throughout the week, so I can spend the rest of the week doing other things.  I rarely do any blog-related work on weekends. For me the pressure to post is no big deal.  I never have to force myself to sit down and write.  I’m fortunate to find myself in a situation where my desire to write is greater than what is required to keep my blog thriving. I gave serious thought to my exit strategy before I started blogging, and I realized I didn’t really need one in the traditional entrepreneurial sense because I designed this business to be able to grow with me.  For bloggers who pick very specific niche topics though, I think it’s important to have an exit strategy if you someday see yourself getting burned out on the topic you’ve chosen.  Burning out is very common within the first two years. The business of blogging As someone who hasn’t had a job since 1992, I’ve never been interested in a traditional career path.  I love the business model of blogging because it’s so flexible.  I can work as little or as much as I want, when I want, and where I want.  There are zillions of ways to monetize a high-traffic web site, and technology handles all the tedious parts. Business success with blogging is mainly a function of traffic.  No traffic, no income.  Lots of traffic, plenty of income.  Sure there are other variables, but traffic is the most important single factor.  If you can build a successful blog, it’s not that difficult to turn it into a successful business. Consider my current business model.  I have no products, no inventory, no customers, no sales, no employees, and no office outside my home.  I haven’t spent a dime on marketing since I launched this site in October 2004.  But I earn about $40K per month, mostly from joint-venture promotions, advertising, affiliate programs, and donations.  Two years ago this site was bringing in about $150/month, and one year ago it was earning around $6K/month, so that’s a pretty nice rate of growth.  The income does fluctuate from month to month, but the positive cashflow is high enough that the fluctuations don’t matter.  I maintain a substantial cash reserve too, so I could survive a very long time even if all my income suddenly shut off.  This is much less risky than having a job. The expense of running this blog is negligible.  I pay around $220/month for a dedicated server with 1.5 TB (1500 GB) of available bandwidth, and that’s my main expense.  Sure I bought other things like podcasting equipment, but that certainly isn’t essential. A high-traffic blog is a wonderful vehicle for wealth building.  First, it’s an asset you own.  I’ve seen various evaluations that StevePavlina.com is worth anywhere from $1.6 million to over $5 million.  That nice to see, but it’s odd to have so much wealth tied up in an asset I don’t plan to sell, so to me the cashflow is what matters from a financial standpoint.  I doubt too many banks would feel comfortable lending money against my web site as collateral. A year ago I wrote an extensive article called How to Make Money From Your Blog, which has since become one of the most widely referenced articles of its kind.  The content is slightly dated, since most of my income now comes from commissions on joint-venture deals, not advertising, but overall the advice in that article is still valid.  Dozens of bloggers credit that article for getting them started blogging for income, and some are generating results much faster than I did.  While some people tell me it’s foolish to give away such information, especially for free, I’m more interested in helping others succeed than in worrying about competition.  To me the notion of turf protection is rooted in scarcity thinking.  More competition is only going to push me to keep growing, which is what I want anyway. If there’s one insider’s secret I can offer to how to become an A-list blogger, this is it:  Treat your blog as your primary outlet for contribution to the world.  Make it your legacy.  Write to pass on knowledge and ideas that you think will really benefit people.  Focus first and foremost on providing value.  If you can do that, the rest is relatively easy.  Value builds referrals.  Referrals build traffic.  Traffic generates income.  Income increases your ability to contribute, which in turn helps you provide even more value.  The keys to unlocking this positive spiral are contribution, contribution, contribution. Responsibility I’m not sure if other bloggers feel the same as I do about this, but I feel a strong sense of responsibility to my readers.  When writing a new article, I sometimes imagine standing on a stage in front of an audience of millions of people from all over the world.  What shall I say to them?  That simple visualization helps me focus on providing value instead of just writing for the sake of writing.  I’ve summarily deleted a number of articles in progress when I realized they weren’t worthy of my readers. At the same time, I think it’s important not to let that responsibility go to my head.  I prefer to communicate on a personal level instead of going into soapbox mode.  Even though I’m writing for a large group of people, to each individual reader it’s still a form of one-on-one communication.  It’s ironic that I endeavor to write on an individual level, while I process feedback on a more collective level. Lifestyle In the recent book The 4-Hour Workweek (Yes, I received a free promo copy in the mail), author Tim Ferriss writes about the importance of having a decent income as well as the time to enjoy it.  What good will it do you to earn lots of money if you have to perpetually put in 40+ hours a week to get it?  Would you rather earn $5,000/month working 5 hours/week or $10,000/month working 50 hours/week?  The second option may give you more cash, but the first option gives you a lot more time to enjoy it.  Tim debunks the idea of working long hours to save up for a retirement that may never come.  He proposes taking mini-retirements throughout life in order to strike a balance between work and play. I agree that people spend way too much time spinning their wheels at work.  It doesn’t matter how much time you spend at the office — the results are what matters.  With a shift in thinking, it’s entirely possible to generate greater results in much less time.  You just have to be really clear about what you’re trying to accomplish.  I like that blogging allows me to create value once (by writing an article), and computers deliver that value again and again for virtually no cost.  Whenever I feel the urge, I can write something that will be read by thousands of people within 24 hours.  That’s massive leverage. The key to leverage is to generate income as a function of the value you provide, not the number of hours you work. I learned of another interesting work model from a Jay Abraham seminar recording I heard many years ago.  Jay reported that some of the most financially successful people used a pattern of alternating weeks between their work and personal life.  So they’ll work hard one week, and the next week they won’t even go into the office at all.  During their off weeks, they’ll travel or play golf or spend time with their families.  Some do one week on, two weeks off.  And others can manage one week on, three weeks off.  I can see this working well for certain business models.  For example, if I wrote like mad for a week, I could create a month’s worth of articles and then future-post them.  I could spend the next few weeks traveling or doing other things, and the blog would automatically post new content during my absence according to the schedule I provided.  Unfortunately I’m not into golf, although I do enjoy disc golf. Blogging affords very flexible work patterns, and I really like that it can grow along with me.  When I want to write a lot, it’s nice to have a guaranteed audience that’s bigger than most best-selling authors will ever see.  When I want to spend more time on personal pursuits, I can do so guilt-free, knowing that there are 600+ articles in the archives for people to explore — enough to fill several books.  And the discussion forums are available 24/7 for anyone in need of extra advice or encouragement.  So even when I’m not working, that value is still being provided. There’s still a potential dark side to this lifestyle, however.  I’ve seen many bloggers fall into the trap of turning their blogs into their lives.  They sit at their computers all day, answering email, reading RSS feeds, and cranking out posts.  That’s not a lifestyle I’d choose to emulate.  I had my RSS subscriptions down to just 5 feeds total, and I recently eliminated those as well, so I don’t subscribe to any other feeds at all, nor do I read or watch the news or visit any daily web sites.  I prefer to use real life, not cyberspace, as my primary source of inspiration.  I also try to limit my email to about 15 minutes a day, 30 minutes max.  On weekends I like to get away from the computer and go out with my family.  When I want more input, I read books or talk to people face to face.  Blogging can too easily devolve into a pattern of Internet addiction, and I want to steer clear of that. Because of my blog’s topic, my work and personal life have fuzzy divisions.  Almost any of my personal pursuits, such as Toastmasters or martial arts, can become topics for future articles.  So I don’t feel the need to separate work life and personal life as much as other bloggers might.  Most of my work involves simply doing what I naturally enjoy. Cyberfame Popular bloggers achieve a strange kind of fame.  On the one hand, I have this massive worldwide readership, my work has been translated into a dozen different languages, and people I’ve never met are writing and talking about me every day.  On the other hand, if I’m just walking down the street, nobody will even recognize me. There’s a strange dichotomy between my online blogging persona and my personal life.  When I first started out, they remained fairly separate.  Even as I was building a large online readership, to my local friends I was just plain Steve.  If people asked me what I did for a living, I’d just tell them I ran an Internet business.  I didn’t want to have to define blogging to everyone I met. Over time, however, my work and personal life have been intersecting with increasing frequency, and the clear dividing line between them is no longer present. Here are some examples of a few things that have been happening: Hey, I know that guy!  Old friends contact me out of the blue because copies of my productivity articles were floating around their workplace.  They find my contact info and look me up. Friends and business.  Discussing business with friends who also do business online can be awkward because we both know I can potentially help them simply by linking to them.  I have to balance my desire to help a friend vs. the needs of my readers and the purpose of the site. Local events.  When it comes to promoting local events, I have an obvious advantage if I utiltize my blog, which can feel a bit like using a bazooka to kill a cockroach.  In November 2006, I gave an all-day workshop on blogging for the Las Vegas National Speakers Association, and I mentioned it on my blog with only a very short advance notice.  These local NSA workshops drew about 20 attendees at the time, whereas mine had 50 people show up, including several from out of state.  My NSA friends were very pleased, and the successful workshop raised a lot of money for the club.  This led to my being invited to speak at an upcoming NSA symposium in Palm Springs.  I’m not even qualified to join the national NSA yet, and I’m being invited to speak at one of their main events.  On the one hand, I’m grateful for these types of opportunities, but it feels a bit awkward using my blog to get there, as if I’m unfairly bypassing those who’d be even more honored to receive those same invitations. Struggling friends.  It can be tough seeing friends who are struggling financially while I’m enjoying so much abundance.  After working hard on my own thinking about money, it’s become very obvious how other people’s own financial beliefs hold them back, especially their fears.  I can spot the seeds of abundance within everyone, but not many are watering those seeds correctly.  On the one hand I really want to show people how to water those seeds, but I don’t want to push so hard that it damages our relationship.  So I generally keep my mouth shut unless someone specifically requests my help.  I’m not out to judge people or to push my ideas on them. Networking.  My blog is helping me build high-leverage relationships with people that would otherwise be difficult or impossible to get access to.  For example, I’ve been spending more time on the phone with multi-millionaire entrepreneurs who’ve built very successful businesses.  I probably connect with at least one such person every week now, usually by phone but occasionally in person.  For the most part, they approach me, usually because they heard about me from word of mouth.  I enjoy these interactions very much because we can both help each other, if only in the sharing of advice and ideas.  I’m particularly good at giving people ideas on how they can better leverage the Internet.  Invariably these have been some of the nicest people I’ve ever met, but they tend to be very busy and are extremely selective in how they use their time… something I can certainly understand. Facing the future.  When Erin and the kids and I are out and about in Vegas, it can feel strange if we’ve previously been spending a lot of time in cyberspace.  It takes us a while to transition out of our blogging duo mindset and back into family mode.  We can see where our momentum is headed and that our situation is constantly changing.  We sense that it’s only a matter of time before our online reputation overflows so much into the offline world that we start getting recognized in public.  Erin already had this happen once or twice due to her TV appearance on the Criss Angel show.  It feels like we’re sitting in the eye of a storm, knowing that the winds are only going to pick up. All these factors add up to an unusual situation, one that is difficult to fully fathom and predict.  Overall these are very positive developments, and I enjoy their many challenges.  One of those challenges is maintaining perspective, staying grounded and balanced even while confronting a rather unbalanced situation.  On the one hand, it’s important not to let cyberfame go to one’s head and become an ego-feeding monster.  But on the other hand, it’s equally foolish to deny the existence of one’s fame and the ability to leverage it intelligently, both for personal growth and for contributing to others. Staying focused Overall my greatest challenge as a blogger is staying focused.  So much input comes my way each day that it’s easy to get caught up in a whirlwind of activity.  There’s always something new that can be added to my plate, and in the moment of decision, everything may seem like a good idea.  But seemingly good ideas are seldom the best choices. I find it most helpful to stay focused by returning to the fundamentals of personal development.  Sometimes when I notice I’m getting off track, I’ll go back and re-read some of my old articles on topics like setting goals, making plans, taking action, tracking progress, and adjusting course as needed.  This helps me regain my perspective and get back on track.  I also do a lot of journaling to work through specific issues as they arise. Whenever I need to make tough decisions, I keep coming back to the purpose of my work, which is to help people grow.  That simple purpose helps me stay committed to my long-term strategy instead of drowning in short-term tactical thinking.  When I feel my life is becoming too complicated and confusion sets in, I review my to-do list, asking for each item, “Is this going to help people grow?”  Then I start deleting items that don’t respond with a resounding yes. Final thoughts Being an A-list blogger is a privilege, one I believe must be earned with every post.  Ultimately it’s a position of responsibility, not of status.  I encourage those of you who achieve such a position to take that responsibility seriously.  Use your influence to make a positive difference in people’s lives, but find a balanced and sustainable way to do it, so you enjoy the process without burning out or blowing up.  Enjoy the rewards that come your way, but don’t lose sight of the fact that those rewards are a product of your service.
    2185 Posted by UniqueThis
  • Since I receive many questions about this topic, I thought it would be fun to share a candid insider’s look at the reality of being an A-list blogger.  These are my personal observations, so I’m not saying they’re true of other high-traffic bloggers, but it wouldn’t surprise me if some of these patterns held up.  While I normally prefer not to write about blogging as a topic unto itself — it’s my medium, not my message — I think you’ll find plenty of personal growth lessons here as well.  Many of these “confessions” have to do with finding ways to maintain balance in a lifestyle that can so easily become unbalanced. If you’re new to this site, just be aware that this blog is run by an individual (not a team of bloggers), that I focus on writing original content (not links or commentary about other blogs’ content), and that the topic is “Personal development for smart people.” In writing an article like this, it’s a challenge not to come across as either too arrogant or awkwardly modest.  My goal is simply to share what is true for me in the hopes you’ll derive some value from it, painting a realistic picture as opposed to skewing it for greater social validation. Tons of traffic To my knowledge there’s no cast-in-stone definition of an A-list blogger, but the key defining element would certainly be traffic, i.e. the size of the blog’s readership.  It’s really just a popularity contest.  This blog gets about 2 million monthly visitors and has an Alexa rank of about 4,000, which by any reasonable definition would put it into the A-list category.  As far as I can tell, StevePavlina.com is currently the most popular personal development web site in the world as well.  The main reason for that is its 600+ in-depth articles on a variety of growth-related topics — all of them freely available. Now imagine being an individual who enjoys writing and has some knowledge to share, and within a fairly short period of time — just a couple years — you’ve got your very own global audience of millions of people.  That’s quite a soapbox, almost like having your own TV show. While building traffic can be a challenge, maintaining traffic is much easier.  You basically just have to keep doing what you’ve been doing that got you there in the first place.  Soon it hits you that unless you do something really lame to screw it up (*cough* *Wil Wheaton* *cough*), you’re going to have this audience for a very, very long time, possibly for the rest of your life if you so desire.  If anything your audience will continue to grow, even if it just tracks the growth rate of blogging in general or the Internet itself. While many bloggers are hungry for more traffic, I don’t think most are prepared for what would happen if they actually succeeded.  A-list blogging has some major oddities, the consequences of having direct access to a large readership with no middlemen. Feedback Perhaps the greatest social consequence of A-list blogging is that you get tons of feedback, whether you solicit it or not.  Every day I receive feedback through email, phone calls, and posts on other blogs, even if I haven’t posted anything new for several days.  I also get at least a few cards and letters in the mail every week. In a typical day, about 10-20 other blogs write something about me or one of my articles.  If I have a hit post, that number can surge to more than 50 in a day.  Knowing that somebody somewhere is writing something about you or your ideas every single day takes some getting used to. When I first started blogging, I loved the feedback.  The more, the better.  Then it got to be so much I grew to hate it.  Then I started loving it again.  Then I hated it again.  At various times I even modified my contact form to be more or less inviting, depending on how much feedback I wanted to get.  I learned that tweaking the contact form text in different ways could affect feedback volume by at least a factor of 5. I cycled a few more times through the love-hate extremes before I was able to put high-volume feedback into a more healthy perspective.  One problem is that most feedback, although it may be new to the sender, isn’t new to me — I’ve seen so much of it that it almost always falls into one of a couple dozen patterns.  I eventually noticed that even when people seem to be writing about me, they’re really writing about themselves.  Even when something is addressed to me in the guise of genuine feedback, it’s hardly ever about me, and it’s seldom actionable.  In virtually all cases, feedback is the other person’s unique response to the stimulus I provided, not an evaluation of the stimulus itself.  Consequently, most feedback isn’t really that helpful to me in terms of improving what I do.  I’ll readily acknowledge that some great ideas came from reader feedback, but on balance I’m not sure the effort required to find those gems has been worth it. Whether the feedback I get is positive or negative, I’ve learned to see it not as something addressed to me but rather as part of the other person’s story.  In that light I end up feeling grateful and appreciative for feedback because it shows me what kinds of issues people are struggling with, and that does help me generate ideas for future articles.  On average I spend about 2-5 seconds reading each piece of feedback email, regardless of the length.  I don’t want to disrespect the time the sender spent crafting it, but within a few seconds I can identify the pattern of the email.  In reviewing feedback email, I generally watch for long-term trends and aim to assess the big picture. In late 2005 I wrote a piece about two email templates visitors could use to send me feedback, one positive and one critical.  Although the piece was meant to be humorous, much of the feedback I receive still fits the general pattern of those templates. If I took every piece of feedback personally instead of focusing on overall trends, it would drive me in circles.  For many articles I write, at least one person will tell me it’s the best article I’ve ever written, while someone else will slam it as junk.  They’re both right because they’re writing about their reactions, not the article itself. In truth virtually all the feedback I get falls into a relatively small number of common patterns.  I even have mental labels for them, including the convert (high praise from a new reader), the whiner (my life sucks, woe is me), the disgruntled teen (aka traffic from Digg), the life story (emails that are longer than my articles), the cross-examiner (let me nitpick each of your ideas one sentence at a time), and so on.  To each individual it seems unique, and although the details change, the underlying themes are universal and cross-cultural. Figuring out how to process high-volume feedback isn’t easy.  While it might sound cold to treat feedback as some sort of collective entity rather than as individual pieces of communication, I find the alternatives much worse.  I believe the best role of feedback is to serve as a vehicle for staying connected with my audience and to look for ways to improve while at the same time not getting phased by the emotional drama it may contain. Requests Many people regard my site as a potential media outlet and myself as a good person to network with, so I receive a lot of PR-related requests.  Authors and publishers send me new personal development books, audio programs, and DVDs in the mail every week in the hopes they may get a mention or a review on my site.  Some have even succeeded, although that’s rare because I’m extremely picky about what I’ll recommend.  I also receive unsolicited press releases, invitations to various events, interview requests, and lunch invites.  And then there are the frequent link swap and site review requests.  On the other hand, I also get a lot of non-PR items, such as requests for personal advice. After a few rounds of cycling through the basic love-hate patterns, I found the best approach was to set standards for the kinds of requests I’ll accept and just decline anything that doesn’t meet those standards.  This saves me time and keeps me focused while still allowing me to accept the items that really deserve a yes.  There are far too many requests to say yes to all of them. For example, when I get a same-day request to do a 5-10 minute radio interview, I know it’s likely to be a waste of time.  The producer is just looking to fill a gap with anyone they can find at the last minute, the DJ won’t be well prepared, and the interview will be very shallow.  On the other hand, when an interview is scheduled well in advance with a qualified host and a decent time allotment, that will usually be a more worthwhile endeavor.  Yanik Silver recently did an hour-long interview with me about Internet marketing, and I think it came out very well. Here are a few things I’ve found helpful to consider when evaluating requests: My investment – If I say yes, how much time/money/effort will this require?  Is this a one-shot time investment, or will it create an ongoing commitment?  Is this investment congruent with my goals, or will it take me off course? Impact - What’s the likely impact of this request?  Is this only going to benefit one person in a small way, or could it have a positive impact on thousands?  I favor the more impactful, contributing requests.  A college student who wants to interview me for a school paper gets an automatic no (too little leverage), while a high-traffic blog asking for that same interview will often get a yes.  I want to see my efforts help as many people as possible. Time to evaluate – How long will it take me to intelligently evaluate this request?  Is the request so complicated that it would take me longer to evaluate it than I think it’s worth?  If I have to spend 30 minutes reading a PDF just to figure out what’s being asked of me, it’s going to be an automatic no unless the other factors suggest it could be extremely worthwhile. Clarity – Is the request clear, specific, and actionable?  “We both work in the same field, so we should do something together” gets an automatic decline.  I’ve learned from experience that people who make very general, open-ended requests just aren’t clear enough about their own goals, and they’ll only run me in circles if I get involved with them. Reasonableness - Is the request fair and reasonable?  Requesting a link swap for a site that gets little or no traffic is obviously not a fair exchange, unless you think it’s fair to trade a marshmallow for a Porsche. Person making the request – Does this person seem like someone I’d want to work with?  Is this just a cold call, or has s/he been referred by someone I trust? Personal or generic – Is this a personal request addressed to me specifically, or is it a generic request that’s probably being made of others?  I decline generic requests, such as requests to participate in an upcoming book or product launch.  I don’t want to run a generic blog. Opportunity cost – How does this request stack up against the other items on my plate?  What am I willing to delete or delay to get this done? Interest – Does this request actually interest me?  Is it something I’d enjoy doing?  Will it challenge me in new ways? The sheer volume of requests necessitates adopting such criteria.  For a blogger just starting out, you won’t need to be so picky, but it really helps to have standards when you need to make quick yes/no decisions every day.  I think these rules could be applied by anyone who has to process a high volume of requests. When responding to requests, I basically choose one of four options: 1. Yes – the rarest of replies from me.  But it does happen if a request meets my standards. 2. No – My default response is to reply with a polite but standard decline message.  Here’s the one I currently use: I appreciate the offer, but I must decline.  I’m committed to various projects for the next several months, and I don’t have the capacity to give this idea the consideration it deserves. When I decline I usually don’t tell people why except in a very generic way.  In my experience that too often encourages people to go into pushy salesperson mode and begin trying to address my objections, which just wastes my time and theirs.  I get enough requests that I know the angles they’re going to use anyway. 3. No response – If I suspect a decline message will incite the other person to go all kittywampus on me, I’ll send no response at all.  I prefer to give people a quick no, but if the person seems very pushy and unlikely to take no for an answer, they’ll have to talk to the hand.  Also when I’m really busy, I usually default to no response to speed things along, especially if the requests are very generic. 4. Send more info – If I think a request may have merit, but I don’t have enough info to say yes, I’ll request further details.  For example, if it’s a request for a speaking engagement, at the very least I need to know the date and location. When making requests of busy people, it’s important to be respectful of their time.  This means making clear, concise, reasonable requests that represent genuine opportunities.  Busy people make rapid triage decisions every day, and requests that disrespect their time are likely to be rejected within seconds. Pressure to post One artifact of having lots of readers is that there’s this ongoing pressure to post.  Your guaranteed audience is always there, ready to digest the next article you put online.  That’s both a privilege and a responsibility.  If you aren’t prepared for this sit