253929 blogs
  • 12 Jul 2011
    One of the cool things about the abundance mindset (or the abundance vibe to be more accurate) is that you once you figure out how to lock into that state in one part of your life, you can use what you’ve learned to expand it to other parts of your life. For example, suppose you’re already enjoying a great deal of social abundance. Maybe you have a lot of good friends, and you’re able to make new friends easily whenever you want. You always have people to hang out with whenever you want. In this part of your life, you’ve already achieved abundance. And now suppose you’re struggling in the area of finances. Maybe you’re in debt, and paying your bills is a burden. Perhaps you have a hard time generating income consistently. Or you feel compelled to take on jobs you dislike to make enough money. In this part of your life, you’re still stuck with scarcity. You can apply what you’ve learned in the abundant part of your life to rework the scarcity-driven part of your life and gradually raise it up to a level of abundance. Abundance and scarcity are simply different patterns of relationships. You may have one type of relationship with your social life and another type of relationship with your finances. You may have one relationship with your work and another relationship with your health. Your relationship lessons can be generalized and transplanted. Just as you can use lessons applied from one human relationship to help you improve another human relationship, you can also apply your internal relationship lessons across different areas of your life. I recommend that you explore in writing (such as through journaling) how you think and feel about the most abundant part of your life. Where are you getting the best results? What’s your attitude toward that part of life? How do you feel about it? What kinds of actions to you take in that area? How do you relate to this part of your life? How are you managing this particular relationship, and how is it responding? How do you deal with success in this area? How do you handle setbacks? How do you keep the flow going? Do you have help, or do you manage it alone? Are you active or passive? How did you create these results in this part of your life in the first place? Then do the same for the part of your life where you’re experiencing scarcity. Ask and answer the same types of questions. Aim to get a clearer sense for how you’re managing each of these relationships. Compare and contrast your answers. I’ll bet you probably notice some major differences between how you relate to different parts of your life. Now consider how you can apply what’s working from your most positive internal relationships to your most negative ones. What can you do differently? What type of vibe is working best for you? How shall you approach the scarcity-driven parts of your life such that you can bring more abundance to them? This approach has done wonders for me. First I worked on financial abundance. Then I used those lessons to achieve time abundance. Next I achieved social abundance. And lately I’ve been exploring intimacy abundance. The general high-level pattern is essentially the same each time. It starts with creating and holding the right vibe (as explained in detail in this video). Another step involves releasing fear and letting go of attachment to outcomes, putting myself in a place of knowing that I can have whatever I desire. Then I have to work through various blocks and limiting beliefs that are keeping me stuck at the old vibration. And finally, I need to courageously receive the new level of abundance, which invariably requires stepping outside my comfort zone. For me this process usually plays out over a matter of months, maybe a couple of years max. The main limiting factors are how long it takes me to identify and release limiting beliefs and how long it takes me to summon the courage needed to leave my comfort zone behind and receive something new. Another tip that can accelerate your progress significantly is to bring people into your social circle who are already enjoying abundance in the area of life in which you’d like to experience abundance too. So if you want more friends in your life, for example, start hanging out with the most socially abundant people you know. Their vibe will soon rub off on you, and you’ll slide into that new reality faster. Try this for yourself, and be patient. Enjoy the journey of moving from scarcity to abundance, but don’t think you have to get there overnight.
    727 Posted by UniqueThis
  • One of the cool things about the abundance mindset (or the abundance vibe to be more accurate) is that you once you figure out how to lock into that state in one part of your life, you can use what you’ve learned to expand it to other parts of your life. For example, suppose you’re already enjoying a great deal of social abundance. Maybe you have a lot of good friends, and you’re able to make new friends easily whenever you want. You always have people to hang out with whenever you want. In this part of your life, you’ve already achieved abundance. And now suppose you’re struggling in the area of finances. Maybe you’re in debt, and paying your bills is a burden. Perhaps you have a hard time generating income consistently. Or you feel compelled to take on jobs you dislike to make enough money. In this part of your life, you’re still stuck with scarcity. You can apply what you’ve learned in the abundant part of your life to rework the scarcity-driven part of your life and gradually raise it up to a level of abundance. Abundance and scarcity are simply different patterns of relationships. You may have one type of relationship with your social life and another type of relationship with your finances. You may have one relationship with your work and another relationship with your health. Your relationship lessons can be generalized and transplanted. Just as you can use lessons applied from one human relationship to help you improve another human relationship, you can also apply your internal relationship lessons across different areas of your life. I recommend that you explore in writing (such as through journaling) how you think and feel about the most abundant part of your life. Where are you getting the best results? What’s your attitude toward that part of life? How do you feel about it? What kinds of actions to you take in that area? How do you relate to this part of your life? How are you managing this particular relationship, and how is it responding? How do you deal with success in this area? How do you handle setbacks? How do you keep the flow going? Do you have help, or do you manage it alone? Are you active or passive? How did you create these results in this part of your life in the first place? Then do the same for the part of your life where you’re experiencing scarcity. Ask and answer the same types of questions. Aim to get a clearer sense for how you’re managing each of these relationships. Compare and contrast your answers. I’ll bet you probably notice some major differences between how you relate to different parts of your life. Now consider how you can apply what’s working from your most positive internal relationships to your most negative ones. What can you do differently? What type of vibe is working best for you? How shall you approach the scarcity-driven parts of your life such that you can bring more abundance to them? This approach has done wonders for me. First I worked on financial abundance. Then I used those lessons to achieve time abundance. Next I achieved social abundance. And lately I’ve been exploring intimacy abundance. The general high-level pattern is essentially the same each time. It starts with creating and holding the right vibe (as explained in detail in this video). Another step involves releasing fear and letting go of attachment to outcomes, putting myself in a place of knowing that I can have whatever I desire. Then I have to work through various blocks and limiting beliefs that are keeping me stuck at the old vibration. And finally, I need to courageously receive the new level of abundance, which invariably requires stepping outside my comfort zone. For me this process usually plays out over a matter of months, maybe a couple of years max. The main limiting factors are how long it takes me to identify and release limiting beliefs and how long it takes me to summon the courage needed to leave my comfort zone behind and receive something new. Another tip that can accelerate your progress significantly is to bring people into your social circle who are already enjoying abundance in the area of life in which you’d like to experience abundance too. So if you want more friends in your life, for example, start hanging out with the most socially abundant people you know. Their vibe will soon rub off on you, and you’ll slide into that new reality faster. Try this for yourself, and be patient. Enjoy the journey of moving from scarcity to abundance, but don’t think you have to get there overnight.
    Jul 12, 2011 727
  • 12 Jul 2011
    Happy New Year! Around this time of year, I like to decide upon a primary focus for the upcoming year. I’ve held to this practice for several years now, and it’s never failed to stimulate major breakthroughs within the area of focus. I like to blog about my annual focus publicly because it helps solidify my commitment, and I’ve also learned that many of my readers enjoy having a preview of things to come. In 2008 my focus was health, and I became a raw foodist that year, which has yielded many benefits. I can’t even remember the last time I’ve had so much as a cold now; eating raw certainly does wonders for the immune system. I still eat cooked food on occasion, mainly for social convenience, but I keep returning to raw foods as my default. Although it was a significant challenge to convert to this diet, it’s rather easy to maintain it now. In 2009 my focus was intimate relationships. Since other people were involved, and it was important to protect their privacy, I didn’t blog about my explorations in much detail, but suffice it to say that I experienced some major shifts during that year. The most obvious result was my separation from Erin in October, which helped us move beyond a major impasse in our relationship. I realize that many people see that as a negative, but the end result has been extremely positive. That was a pretty intense year, and I’m very grateful for how it turned out. After spending two years back to back with a primary focus that was largely personal, this year I desire to create more balance between my personal growth and my professional growth. So I’ve decided to choose one primary focus for my business and another focus for my personal life. Going Direct My major professional aim this year is to shift my business to a direct sales revenue model. Currently my business generates most of its income from commissions on third-party sales, including joint venture and affiliate deals. Some people have a hard time understanding how I could be earning hundreds of thousands of dollars a year from StevePavlina.com, especially since I don’t sell any advertising. They may be surprised to learn that my site typically generates around $100,000 in sales per month, and I receive healthy commissions on those sales. This income is largely passive for me and is very easy to maintain. This has been a very lucrative business model for me for the past few years and continues to run smoothly. However, I perceive it to be a dead end for me. One problem is that I’m extremely selective about which products I’ll recommend. So I typically have to evaluate dozens of different products just to find one that meets my criteria for a personal recommendation. I also check out the product publisher to make sure they take excellent care of their customers. This work can be rather tedious. The worst part is when I spend many hours evaluating a promising product, and in the end I conclude that I can’t strongly recommend it because of one flaw or another. Another problem is when I find a product I can recommend wholeheartedly, and for whatever reason, it just doesn’t sell as well as I hoped. Sometimes otherwise great products are just a mismatch for my particular audience. Fortunately the hits more than make up for the few bombs, and due to the risk-free way these deals are structured, I never have to risk losing money. However, I can lose a great deal of time on a mediocre deal, so I have to consider the opportunity cost of that. Yet another factor is that this business model no longer excites me. It’s a bit too boring for my tastes. One of the reasons I became an entrepreneur in the first place is that I love risk and excitement. I don’t derive much excitement from doing risk-free deals where the results always seem to fall within a predictable range. If I want to increase my income with this business model, I have to recommend more products. Every time I recommend a new product, my income goes up, sometimes temporarily and sometimes permanently, depending on the longevity of that particular offer. But because I’m so selective in what I’m willing to recommend, I’m unwilling to do what it takes to increase my income significantly, such as recommending marginal products I don’t feel good about. On many occasions publishers have given me some very juicy offers to do just that, but I always decline. And finally, this business model doesn’t align well enough with my desire for creative self-expression. I feel there are better ways to use my time than reviewing other people’s products and services in an attempt to find the few gems that would appeal to my readers. I also know that there’s plenty of demand for new products and services that I can create myself. I suspect that once I get a certain flow going, I’ll be able to create a new product in less time than it takes me to find one to recommend. So my primary goal for 2010 is to shift my business to a direct sales model. I may still recommend high quality products from trusted sources that come my way, but I don’t intend to evaluate tons of products just to find new ones to recommend. I’ve known this transition was coming for a while, and I’ve blogged about it previously, so I’ve already been taking steps in that direction. For starters, I’m generating direct sales for the Conscious Growth Workshops. I plan to hold 3-4 of these workshops in 2010. The next one is January 15-17, and then most likely we’ll have one in the Spring (probably April or May), one in the Fall (September or October), and maybe one in the Summer too. Based on the current sign-up rate, I estimate that these workshops will generate an extra $150-200K in revenue in 2010. Of course there are expenses like the costs for the hotel ballrooms and some staff and materials, but since I can promote the workshops for free via my blog andnewsletter, this is a good step towards a more direct business model. I also happen to love doing live workshops, and based on the results of the first one, it’s clear they’re highly beneficial for attendees as well. If the workshops become a bit more popular, I can spin off more workshops to go deeper into certain topics. For example, I’d like to have a Conscious Career Development Workshop, a Conscious Wealth Workshop, and a Conscious Relationships Workshop. In order to make this business model work effectively though, the most important shift I’ll have to make will be to build out my own product line. I already have my book, so that’s a good start. And the 8-DVD set for the Conscious Growth Workshop is still in production and will be released as soon as it’s ready (no specific ETA on that just yet). Beyond that I have an endless supply of new product ideas. At this time I favor a self-publishing model as opposed to working with outside publishers. That’s how I ran my computer games business for years, so I’m already familiar with that model. It works quite well. I may still work with some publishers, but that won’t be the core of my business model. I suppose my main challenge this year is going to be taking all the micro-steps to make this actually happen. It may sound like it’s not that big of a shift on the surface, but for me personally it’s a major change. It requires refactoring my entire workflow for starters. It’s one thing to write a book or deliver a workshop one time. It’s quite another thing to set up structured processes and systems for creating and releasing new products and services repeatedly as part of the normal course of business. I suspect that making all the necessary shifts in my personal work habits is going to be the most difficult part of this transition for me. So what effect will this have on my blogging? I doubt it will have a significant impact because most of this transitional work will take place behind the scenes. However, I’ll likely blog about topics related to this transition that could benefit others, such as setting up business processes, how to succeed with a direct sales business model (already did that with my games biz), habit change, streamlining workflow, boosting productivity, boosting income, etc. My overall goal here is that by the 4th quarter of 2010, I am generating most of my business revenue from direct sales. In terms of the means to get there, my most important aim is to establish good habits and systems that have me consistently producing and releasing high-quality products that help people grow. This is more important to me than creating any specific number of products this year. If I end the year with good habits and systems in place for the long-term, I’ll be immensely delighted. I expect that I’ll still be generating indirect revenue for many years to come, especially since it takes very little to maintain those revenue streams. I have no problem with that. But for me the path of growth for the future (and the path with a heart) is to build and release my own products on a variety of topics. I’ve known for a long time that I wanted to make this transition to a direct sales model, and this is the year it’s happening. So this is my primary business focus for 2010. It will be a lot of work, but I can’t wait to see how it turns out. Alternative Relationship Styles Next I’ll share my personal focus for the year, which is going to take us in a completely different direction, but I need to share some transitional background info first, so you can understand where I’m coming from. After Erin and I separated, it took a while to adjust to life as a single guy once again. I hadn’t been single since 1994, so it’s been a long time. Being single today, however, isn’t remotely the same as what it was like at age 22. Back then I was fresh out of college. I’m just not the same person I was at that time, so I can’t simply recall what it was like the last time I was single and return to those habits. Otherwise I’d be eating way too much Taco Bell.  The rest of the world has changed dramatically as well. For starters the Internet was a lot smaller back then. As I think about my social life and relationships going forward, I feel very grateful. We have such amazing social resources available to us today, and they’re constantly improving. The last time I was single, I didn’t have access to smart phones, texting, Facebook, Twitter, etc. Back then I thought 3-way calling was a pretty cool technology, especially when planning the next poker game with my friends. And instead of the Internet, I mostly used a local dial-up BBS. No high-speed access was available either — it was all dial-up with a modem. And I had only a desktop computer, no laptop. I had email, as did all my geek friends, but most other people didn’t. And of course there were no blogs to speak of. It’s truly amazing to have 24/7 web access in the palm of my hand these days. I feel socially and technologically spoiled compared to how things use to be. A lot has changed in the past 16 years. I’m also in a very different situation socially than I was at age 22. Back then I mostly connected with a small number of local friends. Now I have more friends than I can keep track of, located all around the world, not to mention a hugely popular website. I have a constant flow of new people coming into my life, and that’s going to continue indefinitely. You could say that socially, I have a very unfair advantage compared to most people, and I’d be inclined to agree. All of these factors taken together have me feeling a bit overwhelmed by all the options available to me socially. When I thought about where I wanted to go next in my relationship life, I honestly didn’t have a clue. You could ask me each week, and I’d give you a different answer. I know that a few of my friends found it amusing to watch me stumble my way forward during the past few months. I felt a bit foolish proclaiming I’d figured out what I wanted to do next, only to reverse course a few days later. I was flapping around like a Twitter bird with its head cut off. Unfortunately it isn’t very healthy for me to remain stuck in the space of not knowing what I want in this part of my life. I’m at too great a risk of being outgoaled, meaning that someone else — or outside circumstances in general — will eventually decide for me. When I noticed that was starting to happen and that I was heading in a new social/relationship direction that didn’t feel quite right to me, I decided I’d better back off from further explorations until I could create more clarity. So for a short time, I actively held the intention “Back off, people! Please keep all women away from me!” to give myself some space to ponder what I wanted to explore next. During that time, I solicited advice from a number of close friends, asking them, “What would you do now if you were me?” People loved being asked that question, and it generated some interesting responses. Some suggested that I sign up for match.com and start dating a lot. Others said, “Go out and f— as many women as you can. Live it up!” And still others had totally different ideas about what I should do next. While these answers didn’t surprise me, none of them felt right to me. In fact, each possibility seemed utterly boring and pointless. The thought of dating or having casual sex seemed only slightly more interesting than doing my dishes. How could it be that with all this freedom and all these options available to me, none of them really excited me? Even the thought of going out and having sex with different women did nothing for me. My reaction was, “Eh… why bother?” It seemed like more trouble than it was worth. I certainly enjoy sex, but to pursue it as a goal unto itself was more of a turn-off than a turn-on. It was as if someone suggested I take up drinking as a hobby. Some of my friends seemed really excited on my behalf at the thought of me going out and enjoying more sex partners, and they jokingly teased me about what a fun ride I’d be in for. But I didn’t share their excitement, and I had to ask myself why. Why were others able to get more excited about that idea than I was? I know I like sex, so why doesn’t this excite me? I had to ask myself if maybe on some level, I was afraid to pursue that course. Is it possible I was pretending that I didn’t want it, so I wouldn’t have to push myself beyond my comfort zone? That’s a common problem in personal growth. If we fear a certain path, we pretend we don’t want it, even though we wish we had the courage to pursue it. But no, I couldn’t see any evidence that fear was holding me back. In fact, the real problem turned out to be just the opposite. Eventually I realized that the problem wasn’t that this pursuit took too much courage but rather that it took too little. It seemed too easy for me, and because it was too easy, it felt utterly pointless. It might have been a challenging goal to pursue in my early 20s, but today the idea has no bite. It’s too bland and too boring and too vanilla for me. I need a much bigger challenge. Only way I can be satisfied.  I realized that something that’s been missing from my relationship life for way too long was the intensity. I thrive on intense experiences. For example, I have to run a business because a regular job would leave me bored to tears. I couldn’t handle getting the same paycheck month after month. I need the risk and excitement of not knowing what’s going to happen next. It was this same need for intensity that got me addicted to shoplifting when I was a teenager. It was also this same drive that enabled me to go through college in only three semesters. It’s a very powerful part of my psyche, one that’s been relegated to the back burner for far too long. In 2009 I explored intimacy in great depth. But in 2010 I’m going to explore the intensity side. I’m going to explore different ways of relating to women that truly excite me, and that definitely isn’t the path of a traditional dating or relationship style. I want to try new things that are big enough to scare me and thrill me at the same time. The thought of doing anything that would be considered “normal” in terms of relationships makes me nauseous. This includes regular dating, having sex, having a girlfriend, or getting married again. I don’t judge other people who thrive on those forms of connection though. If that’s your cup of tea and you’re happy with it, I’m truly delighted for you. At various times those patterns were my delight as well, but if I were to revisit them now, I’d feel like I was living a rerun. For whatever reason, I can’t derive any further joy from such pursuits, at least not at this time in my life. It would be like eating jicama for every meal, which is the most boring food I can imagine. One of the key lessons I learned in 2009 was to stop trying to label my relationships. Once I let go of the labels, a whole new world of possibilities opened up to me. I realized that I had a lot more freedom in terms of relating to people than I previously assumed. I’m not stuck with such limited frames as date, girlfriend, wife, friend, lover, etc. Now let’s get more specific… What’s a relationship style that really does excite me? If you’re a very religious or judgmental person (is that redundant?), this is the point where you should stop reading. Otherwise you might have to go to confession or something. Continuing to read this could lead to impure thoughts. A general rule of thumb is that if you’re going to dabble in alternative relationship styles, then you want to make sure that your explorations are safe, sane, and consensual. As long as all parties involved are willing and able and are staying safe, then psychologically speaking, the exploration is just as valid and healthy as any other relationship style. The main risk is that the rest of society may judge you harshly, but if you can handle that, then the door is wide open. I began exploring some of those other possibilities, initially by reading about what else was out there and by talking to friends who have very non-traditional relationship lives. And I came upon something that excited me greatly and that I was eager to explore. It falls loosely within the scope of BDSM. BDSM is a complex acronym. The BD stands for bondage and discipline. The DS stands for domination and submission. And the SM stands for sadism and masochism. These methods of relating to a partner can be sexual, but they don’t have to involve sex at all. They’re basically ways of stimulating intense feelings and sensations. B/D doesn’t really do much for me. I dabbled with that a little in my early 20s. It was fun at times and certainly spiced up some sexual experiences, but overall I could take it or leave it. I still feel the same about it today. Some people are really turned on by this though, and I certainly don’t judge them for it. S/M is largely a turn-off for me. I’m just not into giving or receiving pain. I can understand why some people are so into it, but it’s of no special interest to me. Again I don’t judge those who are into it though. I understand how certain people can be neurologically wired or conditioned to perceive otherwise painful stimuli as intensely pleasurable. D/s, on the other hand, is immensely exciting to me. D/s is basically role-playing with a power exchange element. One person chooses to surrender to the will of another. This can be done with roles like Master/Mistress and slave or any other roles that involve an asymmetrical power distribution. I also dabbled in this in the distant past, and I remember how exciting it was at the time. Since then I always wanted to explore it in more depth. Note: The s is intentionally written in lower case to indicate that the sub is below the Dom in terms of authority. I’m definitely on the D side, meaning that I like being the dominant one. That means in a D/s session, I would want to interact with a sub. A sub isn’t a submissive person per se. In real life the person may be very dominant, but in a D/s exchange, they consciously agree to submit to their partner’s will. Some people are switches, meaning that they can handle either role. Some say that if you’re very dominant in real life, then you’d enjoy being submissive in the bedroom. For some people that seems to be true; however, overall there isn’t much of a pattern as to which people are Doms vs. subs vs. switches, at least not that I’m aware of. There are many different factors that can influence someone’s personal preference. According to the Kinsey Institute, 5-10% of American adults regularly engage in sexual D/s. That stat is very dated though, so I don’t know if this figure has changed in recent years. I expect it’s probably a lot higher in countries that are less sexually repressed (Thanks, Puritans!). For the most part though, this aspect of people’s lives stays behind closed doors. You surely know a lot of people who are into it, but they probably aren’t talking about it with you either because they don’t think you could handle it, or they worry you’ll judge them for it. However, if you were to out yourself as being BSDM-friendly, they’ll likely come out of the woodwork and make their presence known to you, in sort of a “Hi, Welcome to the club! Let me show you the secret handshake.” fashion. This happened to me when I started posting about D/s on my Facebook page a few weeks ago, and most likely it will accelerate now that I’ve blogged about it. The same thing happened when I started blogging about polyamory. I had no idea so many people in my life were already poly, but they only told me so after they could tell that I wasn’t a muggle. D/s can be isolated to the bedroom, or it can dictate the terms of a whole relationship (aka Lifestyle D/s or 24/7 D/s). My current interest is somewhere in the middle. To date I’ve only experienced the bedroom version, but that’s about to change later this month during what is likely to be an immensely fun and playful week with a willing play partner.  To get a sense of what the D side is like, ask yourself if any of the following appeals to you: - Being able to command your partner to do anything you want, sexual or otherwise, and having them immediately and willingly obey you without resistance or hesitation- Setting up rules that your partner must follow, like having to kiss you immediately whenever you say a certain keyword- Being addressed as Master or Mistress by your partner- Having your partner say, “If it pleases you, Master (or Mistress)” instead of “yes”- Getting all the physical touch and affection you desire, in exactly the way you desire it- Prohibiting your partner from touching you or doing anything to you except when you grant permission to do so- Commanding your partner to dress a certain way, like wearing the lingerie you like best, or to wear nothing at all- Commanding your partner to dance or strip for you- Commanding your partner to do things that sexually arouse you, and pushing yourself to see how long you can resist the irresistible- Commanding your partner to bathe you, shower with you, groom you, brush your hair, etc.- Commanding your partner to undress one or both of you- Commanding multiple subs to perform sex acts with you and/or each other- Receiving as much stimulation as you desire (oral sex, massage, kissing, etc) in exactly the way you like, for as long as you like- Commanding your partner to say or whisper anything you wish to hear at any time (“I love you, Master.” “I adore you, Mistress.”)- Not having to ask permission, just giving orders and knowing they’ll be promptly and obediently carried out- Stimulating your partner to the edge of orgasm and mercilessly holding them there until you’re ready to let them climax- Creatively “punishing” or disciplining an ornery sub- Seeing your partner unbelievably turned on through acts of submission to you And for the s side, consider how you might feel about this: - Surrendering yourself completely to the will of a partner you trust- Not having to make any decisions at all; simply listening and obeying- Addressing your partner as Master or Mistress while being addressed as slave yourself (or something similar)- Being “forced” to do things that please and stimulate your partner- Becoming the instrument for fulfilling your partner’s every desire, knowing that you’re the source of their ecstasy- Being irresistibly desired, seeing your partner get so turned on that they can’t hold back any longer and must surrender to their passion for you- Being intentionally ornery in order to trigger a “punishment” that is in fact your delight- Being commanded to do things you might otherwise never consider, and being “off the hook” for the responsibility because your partner is assuming full responsibility for all decisions- Being commanded to perform sex acts with and/or to another sub- Being brought to the edge of orgasm but not being allowed to climax until your partner gives you permission- Being lavishly rewarded for your obedience- Being deeply appreciated for your submission And for both, you get to let it all go and return to your normal life afterwards once you’re done playing together. For some people aspects of one or both of these roles can be huge turn-ons. For other people they’re turn-offs. And still others may not care either way. Your reaction is your own to contemplate. On the other hand, if you need to take a break from reading and go take care of yourself right now, I understand.  Keep in mind that all of this is done consensually. It’s a form of play that’s entered into consciously by all involved. As such it can be a tremendously pleasurable growth experience. I can’t cover all the growth aspects now — I’ll have to save that for future articles. But perhaps the simplest growth aspect is that if you have more fun in one part of your life, it can easily spread to other parts… and to other people. Now if you decide to explore such things, how do you find a willing partner? Some people use personal ads or join a local BDSM support group. My approach is to use the Law of Attraction plus courage. I started by imagining what it would feel like if this was already a part of my life, and then I focused on holding that vibe. At first the vibe felt too exciting to hold onto, but eventually it calmed down and began to feel more integrated and “normal.” Additionally, I focused on extending the vibe of abundance into this part of my life. Abundance is a vibe that’s already familiar to me (ala financial abundance, social abundance, intimacy abundance, etc.), so all I needed to do was extend that vibe to create the sensation of D/s abundance. What would it feel like if my life were already overflowing with all the abundance I could possibly desire in this part of my life? I sat on my couch visualizing this “fantasy” as already real. That’s enough to get the ball rolling. It’s enough for potential partners to start showing up. The next step is to work through any blocks, such as worrying about what other people might think. “Oh no… they’re gonna kick me off the planet for sure this time!” You have to summon the courage to receive what you’re now attracting, including all the potential consequences. That’s usually the most difficult step and often involves saying to yourself at some point, “Ah, screw it. Let’s do it!” After receiving plenty of criticism in 2009 for exploring polyamory and later for separating from Erin, I can’t see the feedback on this decision being any worse, especially since BDSM seems to be a lot more popular than polyamory. For me this is a very rich, excting area of exploration, and the potential positives vastly outweigh the negatives. Either that, or I have too much courage for my own good. I took the time to work through my feelings about this during the past few weeks, so I feel quite comfortable writing about it publicly, knowing full well that some people will have a tizzy cow about it. Maybe I am a masochist after all though.  I’m not sure how much I’ll be able to blog about this in terms of details. Partly it depends on a few things. My top priority is to protect the privacy of anyone I’m involved with, to whatever extent their privacy is important to them. I’m not a particularly private person myself, but I know how unfair and critical the public eye can be, and I understand that most people wouldn’t want to deal with that. I certainly can’t blame them. So unless a sub happens to come along who’s either very brave or very masochistic, I’m not going to share any specific details about who’s doing what to whom. That said, I’ve already been discussing the possibility of publicly exploring a D/s-style relationship with someone in particular, but it’s too soon to say if we’ll go public. For now we’re keeping our exploration private by default. I’d find a public exploration to be lot of fun, but obviously it would have major consequences for her if we do that, and I feel rather protective of her. How can I feel otherwise towards someone who refers to me as her Master?  I would never pressure her to share anything publicly; it will only happen if she truly wants to do it, and she does seem turned on by that possibility. But first, I’d like to see how people react to this blog post on the subject, and I’m sure she’s curious about that as well. I do NOT want to see people doing personal attacks on her. Maybe I can’t prevent that from happening, but I just might have to go S/M on anyone who crosses that line, not to mention sending an army of subs after them. I’m not much of a sadist, but in that case I’ll make an exception and pull out the pincers and blowtorch.  I’m looking to see how much maturity my readers can summon in terms of watching me explore this path without going kittywompus, especially since other people are involved. In the past I’ve been largely disappointed, but perhaps the New Year will bring a new level of genuine acceptance and curiosity. Another factor that I’ll have to determine based on feedback is whether or not enough of my readers actually care to learn more about this subject. If there isn’t much interest, I’ll just keep it to myself and won’t blog much about it. But if I see a lot of curiosity and questions, I can justify sharing more details. I must admit that I am immensely excited about 2010. This is already shaping up to be an exquisitely delicious year. I suspect you’ll be seing some unusually happy posts from me in the coming months.  If you can get past your fear of rejection and summon a modicum of courage, it’s not that difficult to find a play partner. You don’t need a full-on relationship first. You don’t need to date people either. You can just let a potential partner know that you’re up for playing together, and see what they say. It’s even easier if you publicly out yourself first, since then people will come to you. Of course it helps if you’re known to be very open, honest, and trustworthy, so that people who get involved with you can expect that everything will be done in a safe, sane, and consensual manner, not in an unsafe, crazy, or creepy way. The whole point is to co-create a fun and exciting experience that leaves everyone happy. I should mention that my interest in D/s is partly sexual and partly non-sexual. It’s the power exchange aspect that turns me on the most. If I had to choose between doing a D/s session without sex vs. having vanilla sex with no D/s aspects, most of the time I’d probably choose the D/s play. However, I’d much rather explore D/s with a sexual element than without. It’s a lot more fun that way.  I expect to devote a big chunk of my personal life to exploring D/s this year. Nothing else on my radar excites me quite as much as this. I can’t predict where it will lead, and I rather like that. I like that it challenges me in so many ways simultaneously. I get to work with the Law of Attraction, conscious communication, building trust, unconditional love and acceptance, self-discipline, emotional resiliency, and more. Some people don’t like the D side because it’s too much work. They don’t like having to make all the decisions. It definitely can be a lot of work, but that’s a challenge I rather enjoy. Maybe it’s the former game designer in me. One of the most appealing aspects of D/s to me is being granted the power to interactively discover what most excites a woman, and then taking her through an intense emotional and sensory journey. It’s like being the GM (aka Game Master) in a classic pen and paper role-playing session — plus a whole lot more. When role-playing I always liked being the GM more than being a regular player. That’s the most difficult role to fill, but it’s also the one with the most flexibility and choices available. I thrive on being responsible for other people’s enjoyment and having the power to interactively create a fun and unique experience for them. Perhaps on some level, the game designer part of me is still present, and he sees this as a good way to creatively express parts of himself that have been denied a proper outlet for too many years. Maybe you regard this decision as yet another of Steve’s insanities, but for me it makes perfect sense. I’ve had regular sex thousands of times, and I doubt I’ll gain much from doing it a thousand more times. I’d rather head off in a new direction (which a friend jokingly reminded me sounds the same as “nude erection”) and try something a bit more spicy and exhilarating. The nice thing is that D/s can be combined with just about anything, such as tantra, so all sorts of delectable combos are possible. Commence with the criticism now if you must, but just remember that ultimately it’s all about you anyway… and a harsh reaction could be a sign of a repressed desire to be dominated. Or perhaps you just need to be introduced to a particularly skilled sadist to soften you up a bit.  I completely understand that some people may not want to out themselves as being interested in this, so feel free to email me privately via my contact form or my Facebook page if you have feedback to share and don’t want to do so publicly. I can’t answer all the questions people send me, but I’ll use the feedback to gauge interest and to generate ideas for future articles. I wouldn’t be worried about posting about this in our forums though since we quickly weed out people who make personal attacks on other members. I hope your 2010 is as fun and tasty as mine is likely to be. 
    662 Posted by UniqueThis
  • Happy New Year! Around this time of year, I like to decide upon a primary focus for the upcoming year. I’ve held to this practice for several years now, and it’s never failed to stimulate major breakthroughs within the area of focus. I like to blog about my annual focus publicly because it helps solidify my commitment, and I’ve also learned that many of my readers enjoy having a preview of things to come. In 2008 my focus was health, and I became a raw foodist that year, which has yielded many benefits. I can’t even remember the last time I’ve had so much as a cold now; eating raw certainly does wonders for the immune system. I still eat cooked food on occasion, mainly for social convenience, but I keep returning to raw foods as my default. Although it was a significant challenge to convert to this diet, it’s rather easy to maintain it now. In 2009 my focus was intimate relationships. Since other people were involved, and it was important to protect their privacy, I didn’t blog about my explorations in much detail, but suffice it to say that I experienced some major shifts during that year. The most obvious result was my separation from Erin in October, which helped us move beyond a major impasse in our relationship. I realize that many people see that as a negative, but the end result has been extremely positive. That was a pretty intense year, and I’m very grateful for how it turned out. After spending two years back to back with a primary focus that was largely personal, this year I desire to create more balance between my personal growth and my professional growth. So I’ve decided to choose one primary focus for my business and another focus for my personal life. Going Direct My major professional aim this year is to shift my business to a direct sales revenue model. Currently my business generates most of its income from commissions on third-party sales, including joint venture and affiliate deals. Some people have a hard time understanding how I could be earning hundreds of thousands of dollars a year from StevePavlina.com, especially since I don’t sell any advertising. They may be surprised to learn that my site typically generates around $100,000 in sales per month, and I receive healthy commissions on those sales. This income is largely passive for me and is very easy to maintain. This has been a very lucrative business model for me for the past few years and continues to run smoothly. However, I perceive it to be a dead end for me. One problem is that I’m extremely selective about which products I’ll recommend. So I typically have to evaluate dozens of different products just to find one that meets my criteria for a personal recommendation. I also check out the product publisher to make sure they take excellent care of their customers. This work can be rather tedious. The worst part is when I spend many hours evaluating a promising product, and in the end I conclude that I can’t strongly recommend it because of one flaw or another. Another problem is when I find a product I can recommend wholeheartedly, and for whatever reason, it just doesn’t sell as well as I hoped. Sometimes otherwise great products are just a mismatch for my particular audience. Fortunately the hits more than make up for the few bombs, and due to the risk-free way these deals are structured, I never have to risk losing money. However, I can lose a great deal of time on a mediocre deal, so I have to consider the opportunity cost of that. Yet another factor is that this business model no longer excites me. It’s a bit too boring for my tastes. One of the reasons I became an entrepreneur in the first place is that I love risk and excitement. I don’t derive much excitement from doing risk-free deals where the results always seem to fall within a predictable range. If I want to increase my income with this business model, I have to recommend more products. Every time I recommend a new product, my income goes up, sometimes temporarily and sometimes permanently, depending on the longevity of that particular offer. But because I’m so selective in what I’m willing to recommend, I’m unwilling to do what it takes to increase my income significantly, such as recommending marginal products I don’t feel good about. On many occasions publishers have given me some very juicy offers to do just that, but I always decline. And finally, this business model doesn’t align well enough with my desire for creative self-expression. I feel there are better ways to use my time than reviewing other people’s products and services in an attempt to find the few gems that would appeal to my readers. I also know that there’s plenty of demand for new products and services that I can create myself. I suspect that once I get a certain flow going, I’ll be able to create a new product in less time than it takes me to find one to recommend. So my primary goal for 2010 is to shift my business to a direct sales model. I may still recommend high quality products from trusted sources that come my way, but I don’t intend to evaluate tons of products just to find new ones to recommend. I’ve known this transition was coming for a while, and I’ve blogged about it previously, so I’ve already been taking steps in that direction. For starters, I’m generating direct sales for the Conscious Growth Workshops. I plan to hold 3-4 of these workshops in 2010. The next one is January 15-17, and then most likely we’ll have one in the Spring (probably April or May), one in the Fall (September or October), and maybe one in the Summer too. Based on the current sign-up rate, I estimate that these workshops will generate an extra $150-200K in revenue in 2010. Of course there are expenses like the costs for the hotel ballrooms and some staff and materials, but since I can promote the workshops for free via my blog andnewsletter, this is a good step towards a more direct business model. I also happen to love doing live workshops, and based on the results of the first one, it’s clear they’re highly beneficial for attendees as well. If the workshops become a bit more popular, I can spin off more workshops to go deeper into certain topics. For example, I’d like to have a Conscious Career Development Workshop, a Conscious Wealth Workshop, and a Conscious Relationships Workshop. In order to make this business model work effectively though, the most important shift I’ll have to make will be to build out my own product line. I already have my book, so that’s a good start. And the 8-DVD set for the Conscious Growth Workshop is still in production and will be released as soon as it’s ready (no specific ETA on that just yet). Beyond that I have an endless supply of new product ideas. At this time I favor a self-publishing model as opposed to working with outside publishers. That’s how I ran my computer games business for years, so I’m already familiar with that model. It works quite well. I may still work with some publishers, but that won’t be the core of my business model. I suppose my main challenge this year is going to be taking all the micro-steps to make this actually happen. It may sound like it’s not that big of a shift on the surface, but for me personally it’s a major change. It requires refactoring my entire workflow for starters. It’s one thing to write a book or deliver a workshop one time. It’s quite another thing to set up structured processes and systems for creating and releasing new products and services repeatedly as part of the normal course of business. I suspect that making all the necessary shifts in my personal work habits is going to be the most difficult part of this transition for me. So what effect will this have on my blogging? I doubt it will have a significant impact because most of this transitional work will take place behind the scenes. However, I’ll likely blog about topics related to this transition that could benefit others, such as setting up business processes, how to succeed with a direct sales business model (already did that with my games biz), habit change, streamlining workflow, boosting productivity, boosting income, etc. My overall goal here is that by the 4th quarter of 2010, I am generating most of my business revenue from direct sales. In terms of the means to get there, my most important aim is to establish good habits and systems that have me consistently producing and releasing high-quality products that help people grow. This is more important to me than creating any specific number of products this year. If I end the year with good habits and systems in place for the long-term, I’ll be immensely delighted. I expect that I’ll still be generating indirect revenue for many years to come, especially since it takes very little to maintain those revenue streams. I have no problem with that. But for me the path of growth for the future (and the path with a heart) is to build and release my own products on a variety of topics. I’ve known for a long time that I wanted to make this transition to a direct sales model, and this is the year it’s happening. So this is my primary business focus for 2010. It will be a lot of work, but I can’t wait to see how it turns out. Alternative Relationship Styles Next I’ll share my personal focus for the year, which is going to take us in a completely different direction, but I need to share some transitional background info first, so you can understand where I’m coming from. After Erin and I separated, it took a while to adjust to life as a single guy once again. I hadn’t been single since 1994, so it’s been a long time. Being single today, however, isn’t remotely the same as what it was like at age 22. Back then I was fresh out of college. I’m just not the same person I was at that time, so I can’t simply recall what it was like the last time I was single and return to those habits. Otherwise I’d be eating way too much Taco Bell.  The rest of the world has changed dramatically as well. For starters the Internet was a lot smaller back then. As I think about my social life and relationships going forward, I feel very grateful. We have such amazing social resources available to us today, and they’re constantly improving. The last time I was single, I didn’t have access to smart phones, texting, Facebook, Twitter, etc. Back then I thought 3-way calling was a pretty cool technology, especially when planning the next poker game with my friends. And instead of the Internet, I mostly used a local dial-up BBS. No high-speed access was available either — it was all dial-up with a modem. And I had only a desktop computer, no laptop. I had email, as did all my geek friends, but most other people didn’t. And of course there were no blogs to speak of. It’s truly amazing to have 24/7 web access in the palm of my hand these days. I feel socially and technologically spoiled compared to how things use to be. A lot has changed in the past 16 years. I’m also in a very different situation socially than I was at age 22. Back then I mostly connected with a small number of local friends. Now I have more friends than I can keep track of, located all around the world, not to mention a hugely popular website. I have a constant flow of new people coming into my life, and that’s going to continue indefinitely. You could say that socially, I have a very unfair advantage compared to most people, and I’d be inclined to agree. All of these factors taken together have me feeling a bit overwhelmed by all the options available to me socially. When I thought about where I wanted to go next in my relationship life, I honestly didn’t have a clue. You could ask me each week, and I’d give you a different answer. I know that a few of my friends found it amusing to watch me stumble my way forward during the past few months. I felt a bit foolish proclaiming I’d figured out what I wanted to do next, only to reverse course a few days later. I was flapping around like a Twitter bird with its head cut off. Unfortunately it isn’t very healthy for me to remain stuck in the space of not knowing what I want in this part of my life. I’m at too great a risk of being outgoaled, meaning that someone else — or outside circumstances in general — will eventually decide for me. When I noticed that was starting to happen and that I was heading in a new social/relationship direction that didn’t feel quite right to me, I decided I’d better back off from further explorations until I could create more clarity. So for a short time, I actively held the intention “Back off, people! Please keep all women away from me!” to give myself some space to ponder what I wanted to explore next. During that time, I solicited advice from a number of close friends, asking them, “What would you do now if you were me?” People loved being asked that question, and it generated some interesting responses. Some suggested that I sign up for match.com and start dating a lot. Others said, “Go out and f— as many women as you can. Live it up!” And still others had totally different ideas about what I should do next. While these answers didn’t surprise me, none of them felt right to me. In fact, each possibility seemed utterly boring and pointless. The thought of dating or having casual sex seemed only slightly more interesting than doing my dishes. How could it be that with all this freedom and all these options available to me, none of them really excited me? Even the thought of going out and having sex with different women did nothing for me. My reaction was, “Eh… why bother?” It seemed like more trouble than it was worth. I certainly enjoy sex, but to pursue it as a goal unto itself was more of a turn-off than a turn-on. It was as if someone suggested I take up drinking as a hobby. Some of my friends seemed really excited on my behalf at the thought of me going out and enjoying more sex partners, and they jokingly teased me about what a fun ride I’d be in for. But I didn’t share their excitement, and I had to ask myself why. Why were others able to get more excited about that idea than I was? I know I like sex, so why doesn’t this excite me? I had to ask myself if maybe on some level, I was afraid to pursue that course. Is it possible I was pretending that I didn’t want it, so I wouldn’t have to push myself beyond my comfort zone? That’s a common problem in personal growth. If we fear a certain path, we pretend we don’t want it, even though we wish we had the courage to pursue it. But no, I couldn’t see any evidence that fear was holding me back. In fact, the real problem turned out to be just the opposite. Eventually I realized that the problem wasn’t that this pursuit took too much courage but rather that it took too little. It seemed too easy for me, and because it was too easy, it felt utterly pointless. It might have been a challenging goal to pursue in my early 20s, but today the idea has no bite. It’s too bland and too boring and too vanilla for me. I need a much bigger challenge. Only way I can be satisfied.  I realized that something that’s been missing from my relationship life for way too long was the intensity. I thrive on intense experiences. For example, I have to run a business because a regular job would leave me bored to tears. I couldn’t handle getting the same paycheck month after month. I need the risk and excitement of not knowing what’s going to happen next. It was this same need for intensity that got me addicted to shoplifting when I was a teenager. It was also this same drive that enabled me to go through college in only three semesters. It’s a very powerful part of my psyche, one that’s been relegated to the back burner for far too long. In 2009 I explored intimacy in great depth. But in 2010 I’m going to explore the intensity side. I’m going to explore different ways of relating to women that truly excite me, and that definitely isn’t the path of a traditional dating or relationship style. I want to try new things that are big enough to scare me and thrill me at the same time. The thought of doing anything that would be considered “normal” in terms of relationships makes me nauseous. This includes regular dating, having sex, having a girlfriend, or getting married again. I don’t judge other people who thrive on those forms of connection though. If that’s your cup of tea and you’re happy with it, I’m truly delighted for you. At various times those patterns were my delight as well, but if I were to revisit them now, I’d feel like I was living a rerun. For whatever reason, I can’t derive any further joy from such pursuits, at least not at this time in my life. It would be like eating jicama for every meal, which is the most boring food I can imagine. One of the key lessons I learned in 2009 was to stop trying to label my relationships. Once I let go of the labels, a whole new world of possibilities opened up to me. I realized that I had a lot more freedom in terms of relating to people than I previously assumed. I’m not stuck with such limited frames as date, girlfriend, wife, friend, lover, etc. Now let’s get more specific… What’s a relationship style that really does excite me? If you’re a very religious or judgmental person (is that redundant?), this is the point where you should stop reading. Otherwise you might have to go to confession or something. Continuing to read this could lead to impure thoughts. A general rule of thumb is that if you’re going to dabble in alternative relationship styles, then you want to make sure that your explorations are safe, sane, and consensual. As long as all parties involved are willing and able and are staying safe, then psychologically speaking, the exploration is just as valid and healthy as any other relationship style. The main risk is that the rest of society may judge you harshly, but if you can handle that, then the door is wide open. I began exploring some of those other possibilities, initially by reading about what else was out there and by talking to friends who have very non-traditional relationship lives. And I came upon something that excited me greatly and that I was eager to explore. It falls loosely within the scope of BDSM. BDSM is a complex acronym. The BD stands for bondage and discipline. The DS stands for domination and submission. And the SM stands for sadism and masochism. These methods of relating to a partner can be sexual, but they don’t have to involve sex at all. They’re basically ways of stimulating intense feelings and sensations. B/D doesn’t really do much for me. I dabbled with that a little in my early 20s. It was fun at times and certainly spiced up some sexual experiences, but overall I could take it or leave it. I still feel the same about it today. Some people are really turned on by this though, and I certainly don’t judge them for it. S/M is largely a turn-off for me. I’m just not into giving or receiving pain. I can understand why some people are so into it, but it’s of no special interest to me. Again I don’t judge those who are into it though. I understand how certain people can be neurologically wired or conditioned to perceive otherwise painful stimuli as intensely pleasurable. D/s, on the other hand, is immensely exciting to me. D/s is basically role-playing with a power exchange element. One person chooses to surrender to the will of another. This can be done with roles like Master/Mistress and slave or any other roles that involve an asymmetrical power distribution. I also dabbled in this in the distant past, and I remember how exciting it was at the time. Since then I always wanted to explore it in more depth. Note: The s is intentionally written in lower case to indicate that the sub is below the Dom in terms of authority. I’m definitely on the D side, meaning that I like being the dominant one. That means in a D/s session, I would want to interact with a sub. A sub isn’t a submissive person per se. In real life the person may be very dominant, but in a D/s exchange, they consciously agree to submit to their partner’s will. Some people are switches, meaning that they can handle either role. Some say that if you’re very dominant in real life, then you’d enjoy being submissive in the bedroom. For some people that seems to be true; however, overall there isn’t much of a pattern as to which people are Doms vs. subs vs. switches, at least not that I’m aware of. There are many different factors that can influence someone’s personal preference. According to the Kinsey Institute, 5-10% of American adults regularly engage in sexual D/s. That stat is very dated though, so I don’t know if this figure has changed in recent years. I expect it’s probably a lot higher in countries that are less sexually repressed (Thanks, Puritans!). For the most part though, this aspect of people’s lives stays behind closed doors. You surely know a lot of people who are into it, but they probably aren’t talking about it with you either because they don’t think you could handle it, or they worry you’ll judge them for it. However, if you were to out yourself as being BSDM-friendly, they’ll likely come out of the woodwork and make their presence known to you, in sort of a “Hi, Welcome to the club! Let me show you the secret handshake.” fashion. This happened to me when I started posting about D/s on my Facebook page a few weeks ago, and most likely it will accelerate now that I’ve blogged about it. The same thing happened when I started blogging about polyamory. I had no idea so many people in my life were already poly, but they only told me so after they could tell that I wasn’t a muggle. D/s can be isolated to the bedroom, or it can dictate the terms of a whole relationship (aka Lifestyle D/s or 24/7 D/s). My current interest is somewhere in the middle. To date I’ve only experienced the bedroom version, but that’s about to change later this month during what is likely to be an immensely fun and playful week with a willing play partner.  To get a sense of what the D side is like, ask yourself if any of the following appeals to you: - Being able to command your partner to do anything you want, sexual or otherwise, and having them immediately and willingly obey you without resistance or hesitation- Setting up rules that your partner must follow, like having to kiss you immediately whenever you say a certain keyword- Being addressed as Master or Mistress by your partner- Having your partner say, “If it pleases you, Master (or Mistress)” instead of “yes”- Getting all the physical touch and affection you desire, in exactly the way you desire it- Prohibiting your partner from touching you or doing anything to you except when you grant permission to do so- Commanding your partner to dress a certain way, like wearing the lingerie you like best, or to wear nothing at all- Commanding your partner to dance or strip for you- Commanding your partner to do things that sexually arouse you, and pushing yourself to see how long you can resist the irresistible- Commanding your partner to bathe you, shower with you, groom you, brush your hair, etc.- Commanding your partner to undress one or both of you- Commanding multiple subs to perform sex acts with you and/or each other- Receiving as much stimulation as you desire (oral sex, massage, kissing, etc) in exactly the way you like, for as long as you like- Commanding your partner to say or whisper anything you wish to hear at any time (“I love you, Master.” “I adore you, Mistress.”)- Not having to ask permission, just giving orders and knowing they’ll be promptly and obediently carried out- Stimulating your partner to the edge of orgasm and mercilessly holding them there until you’re ready to let them climax- Creatively “punishing” or disciplining an ornery sub- Seeing your partner unbelievably turned on through acts of submission to you And for the s side, consider how you might feel about this: - Surrendering yourself completely to the will of a partner you trust- Not having to make any decisions at all; simply listening and obeying- Addressing your partner as Master or Mistress while being addressed as slave yourself (or something similar)- Being “forced” to do things that please and stimulate your partner- Becoming the instrument for fulfilling your partner’s every desire, knowing that you’re the source of their ecstasy- Being irresistibly desired, seeing your partner get so turned on that they can’t hold back any longer and must surrender to their passion for you- Being intentionally ornery in order to trigger a “punishment” that is in fact your delight- Being commanded to do things you might otherwise never consider, and being “off the hook” for the responsibility because your partner is assuming full responsibility for all decisions- Being commanded to perform sex acts with and/or to another sub- Being brought to the edge of orgasm but not being allowed to climax until your partner gives you permission- Being lavishly rewarded for your obedience- Being deeply appreciated for your submission And for both, you get to let it all go and return to your normal life afterwards once you’re done playing together. For some people aspects of one or both of these roles can be huge turn-ons. For other people they’re turn-offs. And still others may not care either way. Your reaction is your own to contemplate. On the other hand, if you need to take a break from reading and go take care of yourself right now, I understand.  Keep in mind that all of this is done consensually. It’s a form of play that’s entered into consciously by all involved. As such it can be a tremendously pleasurable growth experience. I can’t cover all the growth aspects now — I’ll have to save that for future articles. But perhaps the simplest growth aspect is that if you have more fun in one part of your life, it can easily spread to other parts… and to other people. Now if you decide to explore such things, how do you find a willing partner? Some people use personal ads or join a local BDSM support group. My approach is to use the Law of Attraction plus courage. I started by imagining what it would feel like if this was already a part of my life, and then I focused on holding that vibe. At first the vibe felt too exciting to hold onto, but eventually it calmed down and began to feel more integrated and “normal.” Additionally, I focused on extending the vibe of abundance into this part of my life. Abundance is a vibe that’s already familiar to me (ala financial abundance, social abundance, intimacy abundance, etc.), so all I needed to do was extend that vibe to create the sensation of D/s abundance. What would it feel like if my life were already overflowing with all the abundance I could possibly desire in this part of my life? I sat on my couch visualizing this “fantasy” as already real. That’s enough to get the ball rolling. It’s enough for potential partners to start showing up. The next step is to work through any blocks, such as worrying about what other people might think. “Oh no… they’re gonna kick me off the planet for sure this time!” You have to summon the courage to receive what you’re now attracting, including all the potential consequences. That’s usually the most difficult step and often involves saying to yourself at some point, “Ah, screw it. Let’s do it!” After receiving plenty of criticism in 2009 for exploring polyamory and later for separating from Erin, I can’t see the feedback on this decision being any worse, especially since BDSM seems to be a lot more popular than polyamory. For me this is a very rich, excting area of exploration, and the potential positives vastly outweigh the negatives. Either that, or I have too much courage for my own good. I took the time to work through my feelings about this during the past few weeks, so I feel quite comfortable writing about it publicly, knowing full well that some people will have a tizzy cow about it. Maybe I am a masochist after all though.  I’m not sure how much I’ll be able to blog about this in terms of details. Partly it depends on a few things. My top priority is to protect the privacy of anyone I’m involved with, to whatever extent their privacy is important to them. I’m not a particularly private person myself, but I know how unfair and critical the public eye can be, and I understand that most people wouldn’t want to deal with that. I certainly can’t blame them. So unless a sub happens to come along who’s either very brave or very masochistic, I’m not going to share any specific details about who’s doing what to whom. That said, I’ve already been discussing the possibility of publicly exploring a D/s-style relationship with someone in particular, but it’s too soon to say if we’ll go public. For now we’re keeping our exploration private by default. I’d find a public exploration to be lot of fun, but obviously it would have major consequences for her if we do that, and I feel rather protective of her. How can I feel otherwise towards someone who refers to me as her Master?  I would never pressure her to share anything publicly; it will only happen if she truly wants to do it, and she does seem turned on by that possibility. But first, I’d like to see how people react to this blog post on the subject, and I’m sure she’s curious about that as well. I do NOT want to see people doing personal attacks on her. Maybe I can’t prevent that from happening, but I just might have to go S/M on anyone who crosses that line, not to mention sending an army of subs after them. I’m not much of a sadist, but in that case I’ll make an exception and pull out the pincers and blowtorch.  I’m looking to see how much maturity my readers can summon in terms of watching me explore this path without going kittywompus, especially since other people are involved. In the past I’ve been largely disappointed, but perhaps the New Year will bring a new level of genuine acceptance and curiosity. Another factor that I’ll have to determine based on feedback is whether or not enough of my readers actually care to learn more about this subject. If there isn’t much interest, I’ll just keep it to myself and won’t blog much about it. But if I see a lot of curiosity and questions, I can justify sharing more details. I must admit that I am immensely excited about 2010. This is already shaping up to be an exquisitely delicious year. I suspect you’ll be seing some unusually happy posts from me in the coming months.  If you can get past your fear of rejection and summon a modicum of courage, it’s not that difficult to find a play partner. You don’t need a full-on relationship first. You don’t need to date people either. You can just let a potential partner know that you’re up for playing together, and see what they say. It’s even easier if you publicly out yourself first, since then people will come to you. Of course it helps if you’re known to be very open, honest, and trustworthy, so that people who get involved with you can expect that everything will be done in a safe, sane, and consensual manner, not in an unsafe, crazy, or creepy way. The whole point is to co-create a fun and exciting experience that leaves everyone happy. I should mention that my interest in D/s is partly sexual and partly non-sexual. It’s the power exchange aspect that turns me on the most. If I had to choose between doing a D/s session without sex vs. having vanilla sex with no D/s aspects, most of the time I’d probably choose the D/s play. However, I’d much rather explore D/s with a sexual element than without. It’s a lot more fun that way.  I expect to devote a big chunk of my personal life to exploring D/s this year. Nothing else on my radar excites me quite as much as this. I can’t predict where it will lead, and I rather like that. I like that it challenges me in so many ways simultaneously. I get to work with the Law of Attraction, conscious communication, building trust, unconditional love and acceptance, self-discipline, emotional resiliency, and more. Some people don’t like the D side because it’s too much work. They don’t like having to make all the decisions. It definitely can be a lot of work, but that’s a challenge I rather enjoy. Maybe it’s the former game designer in me. One of the most appealing aspects of D/s to me is being granted the power to interactively discover what most excites a woman, and then taking her through an intense emotional and sensory journey. It’s like being the GM (aka Game Master) in a classic pen and paper role-playing session — plus a whole lot more. When role-playing I always liked being the GM more than being a regular player. That’s the most difficult role to fill, but it’s also the one with the most flexibility and choices available. I thrive on being responsible for other people’s enjoyment and having the power to interactively create a fun and unique experience for them. Perhaps on some level, the game designer part of me is still present, and he sees this as a good way to creatively express parts of himself that have been denied a proper outlet for too many years. Maybe you regard this decision as yet another of Steve’s insanities, but for me it makes perfect sense. I’ve had regular sex thousands of times, and I doubt I’ll gain much from doing it a thousand more times. I’d rather head off in a new direction (which a friend jokingly reminded me sounds the same as “nude erection”) and try something a bit more spicy and exhilarating. The nice thing is that D/s can be combined with just about anything, such as tantra, so all sorts of delectable combos are possible. Commence with the criticism now if you must, but just remember that ultimately it’s all about you anyway… and a harsh reaction could be a sign of a repressed desire to be dominated. Or perhaps you just need to be introduced to a particularly skilled sadist to soften you up a bit.  I completely understand that some people may not want to out themselves as being interested in this, so feel free to email me privately via my contact form or my Facebook page if you have feedback to share and don’t want to do so publicly. I can’t answer all the questions people send me, but I’ll use the feedback to gauge interest and to generate ideas for future articles. I wouldn’t be worried about posting about this in our forums though since we quickly weed out people who make personal attacks on other members. I hope your 2010 is as fun and tasty as mine is likely to be. 
    Jul 12, 2011 662
  • 12 Jul 2011
    As I mentioned in my 2010 Focus post, my personal focus for this year involves immersing myself in the fun and exciting world of domination and submission (D/s). (I really love my life!) Now one obvious question I’ve been asked a few times is: What the heck does this have to do with personal development? Once you get past the socially conditioned attitude that D/s is somehow naughty or deviant, you’ll find that it has a tremendous amount to do with personal development. Let’s start with some of the most basic elements and go from there. Body Image First, when you consciously explore your sexuality with other people, body image issues are bound to come up. What is all this extra fat doing on me? Why can’t I be taller? Why can’t I be more muscular? Why was I born looking like a troll? Why are my boobs so irregular? Why is my sister so much better looking than I am? How are you processing these feelings? Do you feel like you’re broken and need to fix yourself before you can fully embrace a healthy and abundant sex life? Do you ever say things like, “Once I lose another X pounds, then I’ll be open to dating again”? Do you give up on feeling attractive because you’re stuck following someone else’s rules? Well, guess what. Your body is always going to have some flaws. It’s never going to be perfect. And it doesn’t have to be anywhere close to perfect for you to enjoy sexual abundance. Fussing over your imperfections is only robbing you of pleasure. Why not enjoy an abundant sex life now, and work on making whatever improvements you’d like to make from a place of abundance… as opposed to thinking you must do those things first in order to earn your right to enjoy such abundance? This isn’t specific to D/s of course, but if you’re doing anything sexual, it’s likely you’ll have to deal with some body image issues. Get over yourself. Accept that we’re all physically flawed. Your body isn’t perfect, and neither will your partner’s be. Recognize that your partner is probably just as miffed as you are. It’s how you use what you’ve got that counts. Often the people who seem to have the most flawless bodies are those with the worst body image struggles. If you’re truly hideous, then turn out the lights, and master the art of pleasuring your lovers in the dark.  Enjoy what you have while you’re here. Don’t put off the enjoyment of a satisfying sex life just because you’re dissatisfied with how you look naked. Shift your attention to the parts of yourself you love most. Instead of looking at your fat, notice your muscles. Instead of feeling bad about that big mole, notice how nibble-ready your earlobes look. And instead of fussing over a hairstyle that was a mistake, notice how your eyes look when you smile. When you love your body, you give others the opportunity to love it too. Don’t be so selfish with your sexuality. You’re only denying yourself and your lover of pleasure. Communication Skills Reaching the point of having sex with someone, especially within a D/s context, can certainly challenge your communication skills. Some people are very good at this. Others really suck (and not in the good way). Are you able to effectively communicate your desires with other people in such a way that you get the results you want? Can you overcome problems like shyness, shame, guilt, and fear that cause you to hold back and hesitate? How often do you miss opportunities because you choke on finding the right words? What about your listening skills? Are you good at figuring out what your partner likes and dislikes? Can you tell when things are heading in a positive direction sexually and maintain the momentum together? Can you handle the pacing and flow of communicating about sex without coming across as too passive, too aggressive, too dorky, or too creepy? Can you get a date when you want one? Or are you one of those people that hovers around your target for months, pretending to be “just friends” when you’d really love to jump ‘em and hump ‘em? Does the thought of asking for a play date make you turn pale with anxiety? The more you explore your sexuality with other people, the faster you’re going to develop some amazing communication skills. You can read as many books as you want, but ultimately this skill is developed through experience. I know that sucks (and not in the good way), but it is what it is. Good communication skills are particular important when exploring D/s. Are you and your partner on the same wavelength in terms of the type of experience you wish to co-create, or have you fallen out of sync? Can you communicate about serious topics while staying in character? If your communication skills are poor, it will have major consequences for you in the bedroom, assuming anyone other than you ever visits there. Overcoming Limiting Beliefs What’s possible for you sexually? Do you have fantasies that you’d love to experience, the kind that some people have already enjoyed but which you doubt are possible for you? How does it feel considering that if it’s possible for them, it’s almost certainly possible for you too? How accurate are your beliefs? Are they well-aligned with reality, or do they prevent you from experiencing too much of the possible by mistakenly ruling it out as impossible or highly improbable? Some common examples of limiting beliefs include: - Women don’t like sex nearly as much as men.- I have to be in love or in a relationship before I can enjoy having sex with someone.- If I can impress her, she’ll like me and will be more inclined to go to bed with me.- I have to pretend I’m not interested in sex, or she’ll think I’m one of those guys.- No one in their right mind could possibly want to be dominated by me.- I can’t discuss my sexual interests publicly because society will shun me for it.- If I get rejected, I won’t be able to handle it. False beliefs hold us back sexually. When we dump them and adopt more accurate beliefs, we empower ourselves to create a whole new range of experiences that were previously impossible. Many, many false beliefs about sexuality are installed by television, particularly in America. One of the best things you can do to improve your sex life is cut back dramatically on watching TV, so you aren’t constantly bombarding your mind with hideously inaccurate beliefs about sex, dating, and relationships. Here are some examples of more accurate and empowering beliefs: - Most women and men love having sex.- Attraction is created by much more than looks.- We’re all sexual beings. Sex is as natural for us as eating.- If it can be done in a safe, sane, and consensual way, it’s a healthy experience to explore with a willing partner.- People frequently enjoy talking about sexually explicit topics within the first few minutes of conversation. They find it fun.- On a planet of 7 billion humans, there’s an absolute abundance of people who’d be thrilled to explore your sexual fantasies with you.- If I share my sexual interests openly, I’ll not only attract the attention of compatible partners more easily, but I’ll also help inspire others to be more open with their sexuality as well, thereby helping us all overcome unhealthy sexual repression. Immersing yourself in the exploration of your sexuality will help you identify, confront, and tear down many limiting beliefs — beliefs that are repressing you outside the bedroom as well. Sex energy is life energy. Your sexual limits reflect your life limits. Sex Skills Being a skilled lover is a line of personal development unto itself. How good are you at pleasing your partner? Do you consciously work on improving in this area of your life? Do you seek the advice of others who are more experienced than you? Do you ask your lovers how you can make your lovemaking even better? Do you read how-to books on sex? Do you go to sex workshops? Is this an area of your life you’re neglecting, or do you take charge of it and consciously work on becoming better and better? D/s requires even more skill development. Do you know how to safely and pleasurably dominate another person? Do you know how to please your partner from a submissive position? Such skills can even be applied outside the bedroom. For example, do you know how to lead your boss? Self-esteem Your self-esteem will play a major role in dictating the terms of your sex life. If you have high self-esteem, it’s much more likely you’ll enjoy a happy, healthy sex life. Do you feel worthy of having sexual abundance in your life? Is your self-esteem high enough to be able to handle a D/s session? Can you surrender yourself to someone else’s will for a while and still feel good about yourself during and afterwards? Can you feel good about your desire to dominate another person and welcome such an experience? How do you feel about broadcasting your sexual interests? Can you handle other people’s reactions? Could you handle it if your friends, family, and co-workers discovered what you were into? Is your self-esteem high enough to shrug off criticism and keep moving forward with no loss of enthusiasm, or do you have to hide everything from the public eye to protect your fragile self-image? How much of a chicken are you? Law of Attraction How well can you use the LoA to manifest compatible, willing sex partners? Are you surrounded by abundance, noticing that everywhere you look, fun sexual opportunities abound? Or do you live in a world of scarcity? Can you hold the intention for what you’d like to experience next and expect it to show up in your life quickly and easily? You’re creating this experience, you know. The quality of your sex life is a great indicator of your skill with the LoA. This is especially true when exploring D/s, and you’re looking to attract something more creative than vanilla sex. Fun and Enjoyment Does your sex life help you enjoy more positive emotions like unconditional love, bliss, and ecstasy? Do you feel good about your sex life at present? Are you happy? Are you having fun with it? Do you feel grateful for what you’re receiving? When you feel good, you spread that feeling to other parts of your life, and you also spread it to other people. It’s a wonderful feeling to know that someone else is willing to mate with you. It’s deliciously delightful to co-create a fun experience together, both physically and emotionally. You may find that these feelings are heightened when exploring D/s. To know that your partner cares enough to help you explore your sexuality in a less mainstream way can generate intense feelings of gratitude and connection. You’re human — enjoy your sexuality fully! Courage and Confidence How do you handle fear of rejection? Are you able to take action in spite of fear? Can you openly and shamelessly ask someone for what you want? Can you ask a particularly tasty looking morsel of humanity if s/he would like to “play together”? Or are you one of those soulless minions, missing countless opportunities because you’re too timid to speak up and ask for what you want? When you do find a sex partner, do you act all clingy and needy, afraid to lose him/her for fear you won’t be able to find anyone better? Do people feel compelled to lie to you to protect your feelings when they break up with you because they don’t think you can handle the truth? What about the fear of being judged? Can you publicly reveal that you enjoy what you enjoy, without worrying about being shamed or ridiculed for it? Can you say, “I absolutely love to dominate submissive women — that’s a huge turn-on for me”? Could you handle it if your parents knew that about you? No courage, no nookie. Social Conditioning Are you living your own life as an independent being, or are you trying to fit in to satisfy others’ expectations? Do you have the will to break with social conditioning when it runs afoul of your true desires? Can you explore what you want to explore, regardless of whether or not it’s socially acceptable? Success Are you getting the results you want in your sex life? Are you setting specific sex goals and achieving them? Are those goals in writing? Do you visualize them as real? Do you treat this part of your life differently than your career development, your finances, and your health? Are you sexually effective? Do you decide upon and then create the experiences you’d most like to have? Would you say this part of your life is a success… or a failure? And how does that reflect what’s happening in other parts of your life? Oneness Are you exploring your sexuality in a way that serves your good as well as the good of others? Are you a selfish lover, only concerned with your own pleasure? Or are you a generous and giving lover, creating pleasure for yourself and your partners? Does exploring your sexuality send positive ripples out into the world by boosting your happiness and the happiness of all who share your bed? Have you learned how to balance the fulfillment of your desires with the fulfillment of others’ desires? Can you embrace the asymmetical aspects of D/s without losing your alignment with Oneness? When you’re dominating, do you use your authority to pleasure your sub? And when you’re submitting, does your behavior delight your Dom? At the end of a session, are you both feeling happy and blissful? Can you share what you’re learning with others, so that they may benefit from your knowledge and experience? Can you help us co-create a less sexually repressed world, for the highest good of all? Do you care enough to help make that happen? Self-discipline Do you maintain good self-control, or do you take unsafe risks? Do you practice safe sex even in the height of passion? Can you make wise decisions when your brain is flooded with intoxicating hormones? Can you recognize when you’re emotionally compromised with infatuation and shouldn’t make major long-term decisions? Do you have the self-discipline to stop yourself from doing something really stupid? You can use D/s to test and to build your self-discipline. How long can you handle being told what to do as a sub — what are the limits of your obedience? And as a Dom, how well can you maintain consensual control over your sub? Receiving Do you allow yourself to receive pleasure? Do you feel guilty about asking for what you want? Can you expect your lover to do what pleases you most, even if it’s a bit unorthodox? If you can’t receive in the bedroom, maybe that explains why you’re broke too. Fix the problem in the bedroom, and notice what happens to your wallet. Power When you play the Dom role, how good are you at taking the lead? Do you feel comfortable with the burden of responsibility? Are you strong enough to handle that role? When you play as a sub, how good are you at implementing your Dom’s commands? Are you able to respond with loyalty and obedience, or do you become restless and resistant? How do these bedroom roles reflect challenges in other parts of your life? Do you have problems making clear, strong decisions (bad Dom)? Do you have problems sticking with your decisions long enough to fully implement them (bad sub)? Explore these roles in the bedroom, and notice what you learn about your fundamental strengths and weaknesses in the area of Power. As you build your capacity to handle these roles in the bedroom, you can increase your alignment with Power and grow stronger outside the bedroom. Balance and Variety After you’ve been dominated by your boss at the office all day, wouldn’t it be nice to return home and be greeted with, “How may your willing slave serve you this evening, Master?” Wouldn’t it be nice to enjoy someone who takes exquisite delight in carrying out your every command, sexual or otherwise? How about ordering your slave to make and serve your favorite meal, followed by a one-hour massage, and then some deliciously passionate sex — all because your slave truly loves doing those things for you? On the other hand, if your work life puts you in a role of great responsibility where you must make many tricky decisions, wouldn’t it be nice to release and let go of that responsibility in your private life? How would it feel to completely surrender yourself to the will of a strong, powerful, trustworthy individual who delights in taking charge of your personal pleasure? D/s can be used to restore balance to an otherwise unbalanced life. You may not understand people who enjoy one role or the other, but I assure you they exist in great abundance. Truth Pay attention and notice what’s happening. What’s the Truth about your sex life? Is your love life littered by a trail of broken hearts you’ve left behind? Or when people interact with you sexually, do you take responsibility for leaving them better off for having known you? Do you use sexual connections to help people feel good, to heal, and to share love and passion? Or do you use people like objects and then abandon them? Do you maintain positive ongoing relations with your past lovers, even if you’ve grown more distant with the passage of time? Or do you leave people feeling scorned, resentful, and disconnected? Is your personal exploration of sexuality helping to improve the lives of others along the way? Are you using your sexuality as a positive force for good? Do you really believe that having sex with you is a good and healthy experience for others in the long run? Are you certain of that? Do you consciously choose lovers with a healthy, happy sexual history and good relations with past lovers? It’s a wonderful feeling to look back on your past lovers and to see clear evidence that they’re much better off for having known you. It feels good to know that by expressing yourself sexually, you’re actually doing some good. This is what it means to be a conscious lover. Given these many areas of overlap between D/s and personal development (and many more I didn’t list here), it should be abundantly clear that D/s can be a tremendous growth accelerator, assuming you approach it with such an intention. While it may seem like a “naughty” subject to discuss openly, the reality is that exploring sexual power exchanges can help you learn a great deal more about yourself, enjoy a variety of delightful pleasures, and develop your strength of character in ways you can scarcely imagine… not to mention that it can be a heck of a lot of FUN. 
    832 Posted by UniqueThis
  • As I mentioned in my 2010 Focus post, my personal focus for this year involves immersing myself in the fun and exciting world of domination and submission (D/s). (I really love my life!) Now one obvious question I’ve been asked a few times is: What the heck does this have to do with personal development? Once you get past the socially conditioned attitude that D/s is somehow naughty or deviant, you’ll find that it has a tremendous amount to do with personal development. Let’s start with some of the most basic elements and go from there. Body Image First, when you consciously explore your sexuality with other people, body image issues are bound to come up. What is all this extra fat doing on me? Why can’t I be taller? Why can’t I be more muscular? Why was I born looking like a troll? Why are my boobs so irregular? Why is my sister so much better looking than I am? How are you processing these feelings? Do you feel like you’re broken and need to fix yourself before you can fully embrace a healthy and abundant sex life? Do you ever say things like, “Once I lose another X pounds, then I’ll be open to dating again”? Do you give up on feeling attractive because you’re stuck following someone else’s rules? Well, guess what. Your body is always going to have some flaws. It’s never going to be perfect. And it doesn’t have to be anywhere close to perfect for you to enjoy sexual abundance. Fussing over your imperfections is only robbing you of pleasure. Why not enjoy an abundant sex life now, and work on making whatever improvements you’d like to make from a place of abundance… as opposed to thinking you must do those things first in order to earn your right to enjoy such abundance? This isn’t specific to D/s of course, but if you’re doing anything sexual, it’s likely you’ll have to deal with some body image issues. Get over yourself. Accept that we’re all physically flawed. Your body isn’t perfect, and neither will your partner’s be. Recognize that your partner is probably just as miffed as you are. It’s how you use what you’ve got that counts. Often the people who seem to have the most flawless bodies are those with the worst body image struggles. If you’re truly hideous, then turn out the lights, and master the art of pleasuring your lovers in the dark.  Enjoy what you have while you’re here. Don’t put off the enjoyment of a satisfying sex life just because you’re dissatisfied with how you look naked. Shift your attention to the parts of yourself you love most. Instead of looking at your fat, notice your muscles. Instead of feeling bad about that big mole, notice how nibble-ready your earlobes look. And instead of fussing over a hairstyle that was a mistake, notice how your eyes look when you smile. When you love your body, you give others the opportunity to love it too. Don’t be so selfish with your sexuality. You’re only denying yourself and your lover of pleasure. Communication Skills Reaching the point of having sex with someone, especially within a D/s context, can certainly challenge your communication skills. Some people are very good at this. Others really suck (and not in the good way). Are you able to effectively communicate your desires with other people in such a way that you get the results you want? Can you overcome problems like shyness, shame, guilt, and fear that cause you to hold back and hesitate? How often do you miss opportunities because you choke on finding the right words? What about your listening skills? Are you good at figuring out what your partner likes and dislikes? Can you tell when things are heading in a positive direction sexually and maintain the momentum together? Can you handle the pacing and flow of communicating about sex without coming across as too passive, too aggressive, too dorky, or too creepy? Can you get a date when you want one? Or are you one of those people that hovers around your target for months, pretending to be “just friends” when you’d really love to jump ‘em and hump ‘em? Does the thought of asking for a play date make you turn pale with anxiety? The more you explore your sexuality with other people, the faster you’re going to develop some amazing communication skills. You can read as many books as you want, but ultimately this skill is developed through experience. I know that sucks (and not in the good way), but it is what it is. Good communication skills are particular important when exploring D/s. Are you and your partner on the same wavelength in terms of the type of experience you wish to co-create, or have you fallen out of sync? Can you communicate about serious topics while staying in character? If your communication skills are poor, it will have major consequences for you in the bedroom, assuming anyone other than you ever visits there. Overcoming Limiting Beliefs What’s possible for you sexually? Do you have fantasies that you’d love to experience, the kind that some people have already enjoyed but which you doubt are possible for you? How does it feel considering that if it’s possible for them, it’s almost certainly possible for you too? How accurate are your beliefs? Are they well-aligned with reality, or do they prevent you from experiencing too much of the possible by mistakenly ruling it out as impossible or highly improbable? Some common examples of limiting beliefs include: - Women don’t like sex nearly as much as men.- I have to be in love or in a relationship before I can enjoy having sex with someone.- If I can impress her, she’ll like me and will be more inclined to go to bed with me.- I have to pretend I’m not interested in sex, or she’ll think I’m one of those guys.- No one in their right mind could possibly want to be dominated by me.- I can’t discuss my sexual interests publicly because society will shun me for it.- If I get rejected, I won’t be able to handle it. False beliefs hold us back sexually. When we dump them and adopt more accurate beliefs, we empower ourselves to create a whole new range of experiences that were previously impossible. Many, many false beliefs about sexuality are installed by television, particularly in America. One of the best things you can do to improve your sex life is cut back dramatically on watching TV, so you aren’t constantly bombarding your mind with hideously inaccurate beliefs about sex, dating, and relationships. Here are some examples of more accurate and empowering beliefs: - Most women and men love having sex.- Attraction is created by much more than looks.- We’re all sexual beings. Sex is as natural for us as eating.- If it can be done in a safe, sane, and consensual way, it’s a healthy experience to explore with a willing partner.- People frequently enjoy talking about sexually explicit topics within the first few minutes of conversation. They find it fun.- On a planet of 7 billion humans, there’s an absolute abundance of people who’d be thrilled to explore your sexual fantasies with you.- If I share my sexual interests openly, I’ll not only attract the attention of compatible partners more easily, but I’ll also help inspire others to be more open with their sexuality as well, thereby helping us all overcome unhealthy sexual repression. Immersing yourself in the exploration of your sexuality will help you identify, confront, and tear down many limiting beliefs — beliefs that are repressing you outside the bedroom as well. Sex energy is life energy. Your sexual limits reflect your life limits. Sex Skills Being a skilled lover is a line of personal development unto itself. How good are you at pleasing your partner? Do you consciously work on improving in this area of your life? Do you seek the advice of others who are more experienced than you? Do you ask your lovers how you can make your lovemaking even better? Do you read how-to books on sex? Do you go to sex workshops? Is this an area of your life you’re neglecting, or do you take charge of it and consciously work on becoming better and better? D/s requires even more skill development. Do you know how to safely and pleasurably dominate another person? Do you know how to please your partner from a submissive position? Such skills can even be applied outside the bedroom. For example, do you know how to lead your boss? Self-esteem Your self-esteem will play a major role in dictating the terms of your sex life. If you have high self-esteem, it’s much more likely you’ll enjoy a happy, healthy sex life. Do you feel worthy of having sexual abundance in your life? Is your self-esteem high enough to be able to handle a D/s session? Can you surrender yourself to someone else’s will for a while and still feel good about yourself during and afterwards? Can you feel good about your desire to dominate another person and welcome such an experience? How do you feel about broadcasting your sexual interests? Can you handle other people’s reactions? Could you handle it if your friends, family, and co-workers discovered what you were into? Is your self-esteem high enough to shrug off criticism and keep moving forward with no loss of enthusiasm, or do you have to hide everything from the public eye to protect your fragile self-image? How much of a chicken are you? Law of Attraction How well can you use the LoA to manifest compatible, willing sex partners? Are you surrounded by abundance, noticing that everywhere you look, fun sexual opportunities abound? Or do you live in a world of scarcity? Can you hold the intention for what you’d like to experience next and expect it to show up in your life quickly and easily? You’re creating this experience, you know. The quality of your sex life is a great indicator of your skill with the LoA. This is especially true when exploring D/s, and you’re looking to attract something more creative than vanilla sex. Fun and Enjoyment Does your sex life help you enjoy more positive emotions like unconditional love, bliss, and ecstasy? Do you feel good about your sex life at present? Are you happy? Are you having fun with it? Do you feel grateful for what you’re receiving? When you feel good, you spread that feeling to other parts of your life, and you also spread it to other people. It’s a wonderful feeling to know that someone else is willing to mate with you. It’s deliciously delightful to co-create a fun experience together, both physically and emotionally. You may find that these feelings are heightened when exploring D/s. To know that your partner cares enough to help you explore your sexuality in a less mainstream way can generate intense feelings of gratitude and connection. You’re human — enjoy your sexuality fully! Courage and Confidence How do you handle fear of rejection? Are you able to take action in spite of fear? Can you openly and shamelessly ask someone for what you want? Can you ask a particularly tasty looking morsel of humanity if s/he would like to “play together”? Or are you one of those soulless minions, missing countless opportunities because you’re too timid to speak up and ask for what you want? When you do find a sex partner, do you act all clingy and needy, afraid to lose him/her for fear you won’t be able to find anyone better? Do people feel compelled to lie to you to protect your feelings when they break up with you because they don’t think you can handle the truth? What about the fear of being judged? Can you publicly reveal that you enjoy what you enjoy, without worrying about being shamed or ridiculed for it? Can you say, “I absolutely love to dominate submissive women — that’s a huge turn-on for me”? Could you handle it if your parents knew that about you? No courage, no nookie. Social Conditioning Are you living your own life as an independent being, or are you trying to fit in to satisfy others’ expectations? Do you have the will to break with social conditioning when it runs afoul of your true desires? Can you explore what you want to explore, regardless of whether or not it’s socially acceptable? Success Are you getting the results you want in your sex life? Are you setting specific sex goals and achieving them? Are those goals in writing? Do you visualize them as real? Do you treat this part of your life differently than your career development, your finances, and your health? Are you sexually effective? Do you decide upon and then create the experiences you’d most like to have? Would you say this part of your life is a success… or a failure? And how does that reflect what’s happening in other parts of your life? Oneness Are you exploring your sexuality in a way that serves your good as well as the good of others? Are you a selfish lover, only concerned with your own pleasure? Or are you a generous and giving lover, creating pleasure for yourself and your partners? Does exploring your sexuality send positive ripples out into the world by boosting your happiness and the happiness of all who share your bed? Have you learned how to balance the fulfillment of your desires with the fulfillment of others’ desires? Can you embrace the asymmetical aspects of D/s without losing your alignment with Oneness? When you’re dominating, do you use your authority to pleasure your sub? And when you’re submitting, does your behavior delight your Dom? At the end of a session, are you both feeling happy and blissful? Can you share what you’re learning with others, so that they may benefit from your knowledge and experience? Can you help us co-create a less sexually repressed world, for the highest good of all? Do you care enough to help make that happen? Self-discipline Do you maintain good self-control, or do you take unsafe risks? Do you practice safe sex even in the height of passion? Can you make wise decisions when your brain is flooded with intoxicating hormones? Can you recognize when you’re emotionally compromised with infatuation and shouldn’t make major long-term decisions? Do you have the self-discipline to stop yourself from doing something really stupid? You can use D/s to test and to build your self-discipline. How long can you handle being told what to do as a sub — what are the limits of your obedience? And as a Dom, how well can you maintain consensual control over your sub? Receiving Do you allow yourself to receive pleasure? Do you feel guilty about asking for what you want? Can you expect your lover to do what pleases you most, even if it’s a bit unorthodox? If you can’t receive in the bedroom, maybe that explains why you’re broke too. Fix the problem in the bedroom, and notice what happens to your wallet. Power When you play the Dom role, how good are you at taking the lead? Do you feel comfortable with the burden of responsibility? Are you strong enough to handle that role? When you play as a sub, how good are you at implementing your Dom’s commands? Are you able to respond with loyalty and obedience, or do you become restless and resistant? How do these bedroom roles reflect challenges in other parts of your life? Do you have problems making clear, strong decisions (bad Dom)? Do you have problems sticking with your decisions long enough to fully implement them (bad sub)? Explore these roles in the bedroom, and notice what you learn about your fundamental strengths and weaknesses in the area of Power. As you build your capacity to handle these roles in the bedroom, you can increase your alignment with Power and grow stronger outside the bedroom. Balance and Variety After you’ve been dominated by your boss at the office all day, wouldn’t it be nice to return home and be greeted with, “How may your willing slave serve you this evening, Master?” Wouldn’t it be nice to enjoy someone who takes exquisite delight in carrying out your every command, sexual or otherwise? How about ordering your slave to make and serve your favorite meal, followed by a one-hour massage, and then some deliciously passionate sex — all because your slave truly loves doing those things for you? On the other hand, if your work life puts you in a role of great responsibility where you must make many tricky decisions, wouldn’t it be nice to release and let go of that responsibility in your private life? How would it feel to completely surrender yourself to the will of a strong, powerful, trustworthy individual who delights in taking charge of your personal pleasure? D/s can be used to restore balance to an otherwise unbalanced life. You may not understand people who enjoy one role or the other, but I assure you they exist in great abundance. Truth Pay attention and notice what’s happening. What’s the Truth about your sex life? Is your love life littered by a trail of broken hearts you’ve left behind? Or when people interact with you sexually, do you take responsibility for leaving them better off for having known you? Do you use sexual connections to help people feel good, to heal, and to share love and passion? Or do you use people like objects and then abandon them? Do you maintain positive ongoing relations with your past lovers, even if you’ve grown more distant with the passage of time? Or do you leave people feeling scorned, resentful, and disconnected? Is your personal exploration of sexuality helping to improve the lives of others along the way? Are you using your sexuality as a positive force for good? Do you really believe that having sex with you is a good and healthy experience for others in the long run? Are you certain of that? Do you consciously choose lovers with a healthy, happy sexual history and good relations with past lovers? It’s a wonderful feeling to look back on your past lovers and to see clear evidence that they’re much better off for having known you. It feels good to know that by expressing yourself sexually, you’re actually doing some good. This is what it means to be a conscious lover. Given these many areas of overlap between D/s and personal development (and many more I didn’t list here), it should be abundantly clear that D/s can be a tremendous growth accelerator, assuming you approach it with such an intention. While it may seem like a “naughty” subject to discuss openly, the reality is that exploring sexual power exchanges can help you learn a great deal more about yourself, enjoy a variety of delightful pleasures, and develop your strength of character in ways you can scarcely imagine… not to mention that it can be a heck of a lot of FUN. 
    Jul 12, 2011 832
  • 12 Jul 2011
    I want to share some thoughts on an interesting dynamic I’ve been observing as I continue to explore domination and submission (D/s) with my consensual slave partner. A key aspect of personal growth is that in order to grow, we must stretch beyond our comfort zones and experience something new. If we stay within our comfort zones and stick to the familiar, we deny ourselves the opportunity for expansion. Yet we don’t know for certain how new possibilities will impact us until we dive in and experience them. Many years ago I thought about being an entrepreneur. Since I’d never done it before, I couldn’t be sure if I’d like it or if I’d be good at it. It was outside my comfort zone. When I tried it, it turned out that I liked it and got good at it, so of course I stuck with it. But what if I never tried it because I was too worried it wouldn’t work out? Many people are in a similar situation right now, hesitant to make a move into the exploration of the unknown. What if there were an easier way to try out some bold new experiences but with a lower risk of failure? For example, what if you had a free-working slave at your disposal to help you start a new business, someone who will gladly do anything you ask for no pay? Would that make it easier to succeed at getting the new business up and running? Of course it would, assuming that your slave is reasonably competent. You could focus on making good decisions and command your slave do most of the implementation work. You could be a lot more productive than if you tried to do everything yourself. A free slave would take much of the burden off your shoulders. On the other hand, what if instead of a slave, you recruited a free manager for your new business, someone competent, focused, and disciplined? Your manager makes all the high-level decisions and tells you exactly what to do step by step. You don’t have to think about strategy. You can simply trust your manager and focus on taking daily action. Your manager observes the effectiveness of your actions and continually adjusts course and coaches you to improve. Might that business also be more likely to succeed? So would you agree that all else being equal, you’d be more likely to succeed as an entrepreneur if you could start your business with either a free slave or a free manager, assuming they’re competent? And if you can see in advance that you’re likely to succeed, wouldn’t you be more willing to dive in and try it? Wouldn’t you also be willing to stretch and take more risks in your business? Now consider this. Would these businesses also be good experiences for the slave and the manager? Could you fathom that they might also benefit tremendously from it? For example, what if the slave is, in real life, someone just starting out on their career path, and even though they work for free, they gain tremendously valuable experience. This “slave” is essentially an intern. Similarly, the manager could be thought of as a mentor or board member. Many variations are also possible, whereby the slave and manager could easily share in the rewards of the business. Hopefully you get the idea. The point is that a partnership with an unequal power structure can have some serious advantages, and it could very well turn out much better than a partnership with two equal partners who share responsibility for all decisions and actions in a more balanced way. Well, this is essentially how a D/s relationship works behind the scenes, except that instead of trying to build a business, the partners come together to help each other grow as human beings. Although it looks asymmetrical on the surface, D/s actually has a very balanced way of fostering new growth experiences for both partners. One simple reason this happens is that it reduces the risk of failure. It also creates a dynamic whereby if a failure experience does happen, it’s no big deal. Dominant Perspective For the dominant person, you have the opportunity to wield total control over another person. This means you can create all sorts of new experiences “by your command.” Your free slave gives you more power and more creative options. Now initially, you may use that power to create all the experiences you know you want to try but never had the chance to do yet. And maybe you’ll also try many familiar things that you know for certain you like. You may want to explore whatever feels good to you. But after you’ve done that, if you keep repeating those same experiences in the same way, it will probably become less and less interesting. So you keep adding new things to try. Eventually as you keep going, you hit the edge of your comfort zone. Now you have the opportunity to progress beyond it. Will you use your power to create an experience with your slave that you aren’t sure you’ll like? Will you use your power to explore a whole new world of possibilities? Your extra power gives you the opportunity to do that with much less risk. With a free slave at your disposal, you can take more risks and try new things that you couldn’t justify trying without the free slave. Also, it makes sense to help your slave become a more capable and competent servant. By helping your slave grow, you increase your slave’s power, thereby allowing you both to experience even more together. A highly competent slave is more useful than a novice slave. Submissive Perspective On the submissive side, you get the experience of being commanded. Initially you may be commanded to do many things that are still within your comfort zone. However, your Master can also command you to do things that lie outside your comfort zone, thereby creating new growth experiences, should you choose to accept them. Remember that since this is a consensual arrangement, you’re always free to decline something that feels wrong for you. While you don’t have the power to decide how your Master manages you, you do have the ability to influence your Master in many ways. You can encourage him/her to push you in the ways you most desire to explore. But more importantly, you are still in charge of your overall experience because you’re choosing to enter into this type of relationship. This is similar to the choice an intern makes. Interns don’t control every detail of their growth experience in terms of what specific tasks will be assigned, but they do choose the overall experience by deciding where to intern. And they may be better off doing that anyway. When entering a new field, someone else may be better qualified to manage the intern’s professional growth for a while, like an experienced manager or mentor. It’s a Lot Like Life It’s interesting that regardless of whether you choose to be on the dominant side or the submissive one, the potential to accelerate your personal growth is there. I’m not saying it’s a bad choice to have an equal partner. An equal partner can have certain advantages too. I’m simply pointing out that there are some very interesting growth opportunities that arises from relationships with an asymmetrical power exchange. We could also discuss what can go wrong with such an arrangement, but that isn’t unique to D/s relationships. An equal partnership entails at least as much risk as a D/s relationship… and perhaps even more risk if the shared responsibilities become murky and unclear. Going back to our business start-up example, if you were going to watch two equally competent people start a new business, and you have to make a bet on who would enjoy the greatest success, which of the two would you bet on? A new business with two equal partners with shared responsibility for making decisions and taking action A business whereby one partner works as the manager and makes all the key decisions, and the other partner works as the slave and implements all of the manager’s decisions. That’s an interesting bet, isn’t it? The most accurate answer is probably, “It depends.” But surely you can imagine scenarios in which the second business model would outperform the first. I certainly can, especially since the manager and the slave have the potential to specialize their skill sets instead of each of them trying to become good at everything. And naturally we can come up with hybrid models that are somewhere in the middle between these two extremes. We end up with similar possibilities when we ask these same questions about human relationships in general. Forget All About Equality D/s creates some interesting opportunities for helping each other learn and grow in ways that are less likely to be experienced in a power-balanced partnership. As I get to know my partner better, I see things in her that I can tell she’d like to explore and express, and by commanding her, I give her “permission” to explore those things. She doesn’t have to feel responsible for going there because I’m assuming responsibility on her behalf. If it doesn’t feel good to her, she’s always free to say no. But if she isn’t sure if she’ll like it or not, the command nudges her to go for it and see how it feels to her. I can push her in ways she’d probably never push herself. I can see potential within her that she doesn’t realize is there. Similarly, she can push me in new directions by giving me feedback that draws out new behaviors from me, such as by playfully teasing me or by how she responds to my commands. And I’m willing to try new things with her because after all, I have total control of her anyway, so I can do whatever I want with her. I don’t have to worry about scaring her off because I know she’ll stop me if I do something that’s a problem for her. Consequently, she and I are both gracefully sliding into the space of doing things with each other that we’ve never done before. Through this power exchange dynamic, we’re helping each other to let go and play freely together. We’re exploring new possibilities. We’re trying out new behaviors. How does it feel to us to do things that are more playful? More sensual? More emotional? More erotic? More naughty? Because she and I are both committed to conscious growth, we can use the D/s power exchange to achieve personal breakthroughs that might otherwise never happen in a more vanilla relationship. I think one of the reasons D/s works so well is that it’s based on total and complete acceptance of each other. The submissive accepts the dominant’s authority fully, so there’s no resistance or lack of acceptance there. And similarly the dominant accepts complete responsibility for and ownership of the submissive, so again there’s no resistance. With unconditional acceptance on both sides, each partner gains the freedom to relax and let loose, knowing they don’t have to worry about rejection or judgment. Isn’t it wonderful to be able to explore such things whilst knowing that your partner is completely loyal to you and fully accepting of you no matter what? Let’s Play…  Sharing comfort-zone-busting growth experiences is fun and exciting, and that excitement can easily spread to others. My slave, for example, has been posting in our discussion forums with an anonymous account for the past several days, playfully calling me Master, interacting with other members, and playfully teasing people who try to guess her real life identity. This gives everyone a chance to see how we interact with each other and gain a better understanding of D/s. I think it’s obvious to people that she and I are having fun together and that we’re happy with a D/s-style dynamic for now, and based on how other forum members have been reacting to her presence, it’s clearly contagious.  Perhaps an even more important point is to be careful not to dismiss a potential new growth experience out of hand. Be cautious about judging what you’ve never experienced or what you’ve experienced only in a limited way. If you’ve never experienced a particular dynamic firsthand, it’s safe to say you don’t have a clue what it’s really like. If you cast judgment from the outside looking in, all you’re doing is limiting yourself. I think it’s better to keep an open mind about that which you’ve never tried. Don’t buy into the social conditioning that encourages you to pre-condemn with prejudice. Our society cannot progress much until we drop such limiting thoughts.
    794 Posted by UniqueThis
  • I want to share some thoughts on an interesting dynamic I’ve been observing as I continue to explore domination and submission (D/s) with my consensual slave partner. A key aspect of personal growth is that in order to grow, we must stretch beyond our comfort zones and experience something new. If we stay within our comfort zones and stick to the familiar, we deny ourselves the opportunity for expansion. Yet we don’t know for certain how new possibilities will impact us until we dive in and experience them. Many years ago I thought about being an entrepreneur. Since I’d never done it before, I couldn’t be sure if I’d like it or if I’d be good at it. It was outside my comfort zone. When I tried it, it turned out that I liked it and got good at it, so of course I stuck with it. But what if I never tried it because I was too worried it wouldn’t work out? Many people are in a similar situation right now, hesitant to make a move into the exploration of the unknown. What if there were an easier way to try out some bold new experiences but with a lower risk of failure? For example, what if you had a free-working slave at your disposal to help you start a new business, someone who will gladly do anything you ask for no pay? Would that make it easier to succeed at getting the new business up and running? Of course it would, assuming that your slave is reasonably competent. You could focus on making good decisions and command your slave do most of the implementation work. You could be a lot more productive than if you tried to do everything yourself. A free slave would take much of the burden off your shoulders. On the other hand, what if instead of a slave, you recruited a free manager for your new business, someone competent, focused, and disciplined? Your manager makes all the high-level decisions and tells you exactly what to do step by step. You don’t have to think about strategy. You can simply trust your manager and focus on taking daily action. Your manager observes the effectiveness of your actions and continually adjusts course and coaches you to improve. Might that business also be more likely to succeed? So would you agree that all else being equal, you’d be more likely to succeed as an entrepreneur if you could start your business with either a free slave or a free manager, assuming they’re competent? And if you can see in advance that you’re likely to succeed, wouldn’t you be more willing to dive in and try it? Wouldn’t you also be willing to stretch and take more risks in your business? Now consider this. Would these businesses also be good experiences for the slave and the manager? Could you fathom that they might also benefit tremendously from it? For example, what if the slave is, in real life, someone just starting out on their career path, and even though they work for free, they gain tremendously valuable experience. This “slave” is essentially an intern. Similarly, the manager could be thought of as a mentor or board member. Many variations are also possible, whereby the slave and manager could easily share in the rewards of the business. Hopefully you get the idea. The point is that a partnership with an unequal power structure can have some serious advantages, and it could very well turn out much better than a partnership with two equal partners who share responsibility for all decisions and actions in a more balanced way. Well, this is essentially how a D/s relationship works behind the scenes, except that instead of trying to build a business, the partners come together to help each other grow as human beings. Although it looks asymmetrical on the surface, D/s actually has a very balanced way of fostering new growth experiences for both partners. One simple reason this happens is that it reduces the risk of failure. It also creates a dynamic whereby if a failure experience does happen, it’s no big deal. Dominant Perspective For the dominant person, you have the opportunity to wield total control over another person. This means you can create all sorts of new experiences “by your command.” Your free slave gives you more power and more creative options. Now initially, you may use that power to create all the experiences you know you want to try but never had the chance to do yet. And maybe you’ll also try many familiar things that you know for certain you like. You may want to explore whatever feels good to you. But after you’ve done that, if you keep repeating those same experiences in the same way, it will probably become less and less interesting. So you keep adding new things to try. Eventually as you keep going, you hit the edge of your comfort zone. Now you have the opportunity to progress beyond it. Will you use your power to create an experience with your slave that you aren’t sure you’ll like? Will you use your power to explore a whole new world of possibilities? Your extra power gives you the opportunity to do that with much less risk. With a free slave at your disposal, you can take more risks and try new things that you couldn’t justify trying without the free slave. Also, it makes sense to help your slave become a more capable and competent servant. By helping your slave grow, you increase your slave’s power, thereby allowing you both to experience even more together. A highly competent slave is more useful than a novice slave. Submissive Perspective On the submissive side, you get the experience of being commanded. Initially you may be commanded to do many things that are still within your comfort zone. However, your Master can also command you to do things that lie outside your comfort zone, thereby creating new growth experiences, should you choose to accept them. Remember that since this is a consensual arrangement, you’re always free to decline something that feels wrong for you. While you don’t have the power to decide how your Master manages you, you do have the ability to influence your Master in many ways. You can encourage him/her to push you in the ways you most desire to explore. But more importantly, you are still in charge of your overall experience because you’re choosing to enter into this type of relationship. This is similar to the choice an intern makes. Interns don’t control every detail of their growth experience in terms of what specific tasks will be assigned, but they do choose the overall experience by deciding where to intern. And they may be better off doing that anyway. When entering a new field, someone else may be better qualified to manage the intern’s professional growth for a while, like an experienced manager or mentor. It’s a Lot Like Life It’s interesting that regardless of whether you choose to be on the dominant side or the submissive one, the potential to accelerate your personal growth is there. I’m not saying it’s a bad choice to have an equal partner. An equal partner can have certain advantages too. I’m simply pointing out that there are some very interesting growth opportunities that arises from relationships with an asymmetrical power exchange. We could also discuss what can go wrong with such an arrangement, but that isn’t unique to D/s relationships. An equal partnership entails at least as much risk as a D/s relationship… and perhaps even more risk if the shared responsibilities become murky and unclear. Going back to our business start-up example, if you were going to watch two equally competent people start a new business, and you have to make a bet on who would enjoy the greatest success, which of the two would you bet on? A new business with two equal partners with shared responsibility for making decisions and taking action A business whereby one partner works as the manager and makes all the key decisions, and the other partner works as the slave and implements all of the manager’s decisions. That’s an interesting bet, isn’t it? The most accurate answer is probably, “It depends.” But surely you can imagine scenarios in which the second business model would outperform the first. I certainly can, especially since the manager and the slave have the potential to specialize their skill sets instead of each of them trying to become good at everything. And naturally we can come up with hybrid models that are somewhere in the middle between these two extremes. We end up with similar possibilities when we ask these same questions about human relationships in general. Forget All About Equality D/s creates some interesting opportunities for helping each other learn and grow in ways that are less likely to be experienced in a power-balanced partnership. As I get to know my partner better, I see things in her that I can tell she’d like to explore and express, and by commanding her, I give her “permission” to explore those things. She doesn’t have to feel responsible for going there because I’m assuming responsibility on her behalf. If it doesn’t feel good to her, she’s always free to say no. But if she isn’t sure if she’ll like it or not, the command nudges her to go for it and see how it feels to her. I can push her in ways she’d probably never push herself. I can see potential within her that she doesn’t realize is there. Similarly, she can push me in new directions by giving me feedback that draws out new behaviors from me, such as by playfully teasing me or by how she responds to my commands. And I’m willing to try new things with her because after all, I have total control of her anyway, so I can do whatever I want with her. I don’t have to worry about scaring her off because I know she’ll stop me if I do something that’s a problem for her. Consequently, she and I are both gracefully sliding into the space of doing things with each other that we’ve never done before. Through this power exchange dynamic, we’re helping each other to let go and play freely together. We’re exploring new possibilities. We’re trying out new behaviors. How does it feel to us to do things that are more playful? More sensual? More emotional? More erotic? More naughty? Because she and I are both committed to conscious growth, we can use the D/s power exchange to achieve personal breakthroughs that might otherwise never happen in a more vanilla relationship. I think one of the reasons D/s works so well is that it’s based on total and complete acceptance of each other. The submissive accepts the dominant’s authority fully, so there’s no resistance or lack of acceptance there. And similarly the dominant accepts complete responsibility for and ownership of the submissive, so again there’s no resistance. With unconditional acceptance on both sides, each partner gains the freedom to relax and let loose, knowing they don’t have to worry about rejection or judgment. Isn’t it wonderful to be able to explore such things whilst knowing that your partner is completely loyal to you and fully accepting of you no matter what? Let’s Play…  Sharing comfort-zone-busting growth experiences is fun and exciting, and that excitement can easily spread to others. My slave, for example, has been posting in our discussion forums with an anonymous account for the past several days, playfully calling me Master, interacting with other members, and playfully teasing people who try to guess her real life identity. This gives everyone a chance to see how we interact with each other and gain a better understanding of D/s. I think it’s obvious to people that she and I are having fun together and that we’re happy with a D/s-style dynamic for now, and based on how other forum members have been reacting to her presence, it’s clearly contagious.  Perhaps an even more important point is to be careful not to dismiss a potential new growth experience out of hand. Be cautious about judging what you’ve never experienced or what you’ve experienced only in a limited way. If you’ve never experienced a particular dynamic firsthand, it’s safe to say you don’t have a clue what it’s really like. If you cast judgment from the outside looking in, all you’re doing is limiting yourself. I think it’s better to keep an open mind about that which you’ve never tried. Don’t buy into the social conditioning that encourages you to pre-condemn with prejudice. Our society cannot progress much until we drop such limiting thoughts.
    Jul 12, 2011 794
  • 12 Jul 2011
    If you’d like to boost your productivity far beyond the results you get with the 9-to-5 grind, an interesting alternative work schedule to consider is the One Week On, One Week Off approach. Instead of working week after week, you alternate between one intensive work week followed by one vacation/personal week. This method isn’t very well publicized, but it’s commonly practiced by some of the most successful business people in the world. I first learned of it several years ago when Jay Abraham mentioned it on one of his audio programs. He said that it was a method Napoleon Hill had learned from many successful people while doing the research for Think and Grow Rich but that Hill didn’t comprehend why it was so effective and therefore didn’t integrate it into his book. There are many variations on this method. Some people work for one week and then take two weeks off. Some do two weeks on, two weeks off. Some do one week on, three weeks off. The basic concept is that you work in fairly short intense bursts of no more than a week or two at a time (one week seems to be an upper limit for most people), followed by a period of no work for at least a week. On Weeks During your “on” weeks, your focus is on work, work, and little else but work. You can limit yourself to 40 hours, but it’s wise to experiment with longer hours. Try pushing yourself to do 60, 80, or even 100+ hours of work during this week. Fully engage in what you’re doing. Play full out. Pick one project, and make a big dent in it during this time. Don’t get caught up in minor busywork. Bite off a meaningful piece of work, and get it done quickly and with solid focus. Work hard. End your days with a feeling of being spent. Put off distractions. You can always watch TV and surf the Internet later. Tell yourself that it’s only a week… really just a few days… little more than a cup of coffee. The time will pass quickly if you immerse yourself in a project. Your goal is to fully engage in what you’re doing for this short period of time. Allow yourself to become obsessed with your work during this time. Everything else can wait. Friends and social outings can wait. Family can wait. Personal tasks can wait. Recycle your dirty clothes if you must, but stick with solid work tasks during this time. Remember — it’s only a week. Off Weeks An “off” week is all about sharpening the saw. Let me clarify that this is NOT the same thing as having a lazy week. It’s not about taking time off and chilling out. That’s the equivalent of putting the saw down. The blade won’t get any sharper if you just put it down. Off weeks are a time for personal renewal and fun. This is the time to really live. Go out and have a life. Think of your off weeks as vacation weeks. Treat them as seriously as you do your work weeks. However, instead of focusing on your work life, focus all your attention on one or more aspects of your personal life. Go travel to another city during this time. Have some fun new experiences. Go skydiving or scuba diving. Read a few new books. Go out and spend many hours with friends. Attend a workshop or seminar. Learn to dance. Do something that will enrich your life instead of just spinning your wheels. If you have a family, consider taking a week to be with your family, giving them your full attention during this time. But don’t just sit around doing nothing. Go out and do fun activities with them each day. Travel to a new city with them. Go to the beach. Go camping. Go outside! You can also “work” on personal projects during this time. Clean out your garage. Purge and donate unwanted items. Replant your garden. Benefits of This Method Why would you want to manage your life this way? Here are some of the benefits. Motivation Because of the time constraints, you’ll likely see a major boost in your motivation. Knowing that you’re going on vacation in a few days can help you flow through a lot of work. And knowing that your vacation week will soon end can help you pack in a lot more renewal time. You will typically hit the start of your workweek with a strong desire to work. (If that doesn’t happen, you should definitely consider a career change.) And you’ll hit your off weeks with a strong desire to focus on your personal life for a while. Before you have a chance to start feeling demotivated and bored, it’s time to switch cycles. This keeps life fresh, interesting, and fun. Focus Instead of trying to work on all parts of your life in a single day or two, you focus on one important slice at a time. It’s okay to be largely unavailable for your significant other during your on weeks if you know you’ll be 100% present for him/her during an off week. This is far superior to not being fully present week after week. Would you like it better if you had a significant other who was 100% there for you, enjoying your company for days at a time, but you also had breaks of several days where you each focused on other parts of your lives? If this sounds interesting to you, then try it. You can always switch back if you don’t like it. Productivity The productivity boost can be significant due to your increased motivation and focus during the work weeks. But it’s also interesting to note that your personal weeks can be just as productive. Instead of wasting your personal days on idleness, you’ll be putting those days to good use. Also, the weekly flip-flopping helps you think more realistically in terms of planning and scheduling. You’ll be inclined to start thinking ahead and allocating certain weeks to projects, travel, etc. This is a good discipline to develop. It helps you avoid biting off more than you can chew. In one solid week of focused work on high value tasks, you can easily exceed the normal output of two regular weeks. So even though it seems like you’re taking a lot more time off, this overall method is geared to produce a net productivity gain compared to sustained back-to-back 40-hour weeks. Don’t overlook the positive impact this method can have on your personal life. When you work week after week and only take weekends off, it takes a huge toll on your personal life that you don’t even see. Weekends and evenings just aren’t enough to have a life outside of work. You need to devote significant chunks of time to the personal side as well. Otherwise your work will seem endless, and your motivation and passion will eventually tank, even if you normally enjoy your work. Money Higher productivity can easily generate an income boost. Money isn’t a result of time spent at the office. Hourly rates are largely a joke. Money flows from completing important tasks that deliver value. During your on weeks, you’ll be focused oncompleting meaningful projects and tasks. What can you finish before the week is up? Also, your off weeks will give you more motivation to boost your income because that’s a great time to enjoy your money. You can expect to spend a lot more money during your off weeks, especially if you love to travel, eat out, and enjoy fun experiences that cost money. When you get a taste of what your money can do for you if you spend it wisely (to enrich your life instead of creating clutter), you’ll be more motivated to earn even more, so you can continue the pattern. Imagine how fun it would be to take one or two weeklong vacations each month — and still get more work done than you do now. A lot of very wealthy people use this method or something similar. For example, in the personal development field, many friends of mine will put on a seminar for a week, during which they’ll work very hard, sometimes 12-16 hours per day. After that week they’re totally spent and hardly capable of productive work, even though their work is very fulfilling. So they’ll take off for a week or two or three and go travel, play golf, or spend time with their families. They try to do very little work during their off weeks. Once they’re restored they return to the office and begin working intensely on another project for a week or two, and their families don’t see them much during this time. Because they focus on high-value tasks while working, they can generate more than enough income during one solid workweek to offset a month of expenses, even while traveling and vacationing. Balance This method may look unbalanced at first, but it can actually create more balance in the long run because it helps ensure that you attend to your professional and your personal life without allowing one side to overpower the other. You’ll work hard with this approach, but you’ll also play hard and have a lot of fun. Your life will become both productive and enjoyable. It feels great to be in such a state of flow. Think of all the cool personal projects, experiences, and vacations you’d love to indulge in — if you only had the time. Well, just imagine what it would be like if you devoted 26 weeks — minimum! — to that side of your life this year. No one is stopping you from making this a reality but you. You really hate it when I remind you that you’re 100% responsible for your results in life, don’t you?  Perspective Alternating between your work life and personal life helps you regain perspective periodically. For example, during your work weeks, your subconscious mind will be processing some of the experiences from your last off week. How could you have enjoyed that week even more? Did you hold back? Did you overindulge? During your off weeks, you’ll be processing many work-related ideas in the background. When you start on a fresh week, you’ll be kicking it off with a fresh perspective, inspired by new ideas. This helps you avoid getting stuck in long-term patterns that don’t serve you. There are other benefits of course. These are just a few to get you thinking. Personal Experiences and Some Tips I’d like to share some extra tips based on my personal experiences that may help you avoid some pitfalls and gain some additional insights. I haven’t used this method religiously, but to the degree I’ve applied it at various times in my life (sometimes accidentally), it’s been effective. This year I’m aiming to apply it more deliberately than I have in the past. So far I’m off to a great start. First, it’s important to keep a reasonably solid line of separation between your work weeks and personal weeks. Decide what goes in each week, and do your best to prevent cross-cycle leaks. During your on weeks, put your personal life on the back burner, and focus hard on your work. During your off weeks, do as little work as possible, and indulge deeply on the personal side. I still check email and handle some communications during an off week, but I keep it to a minimum, ideally just 15-30 minutes per day, sometimes less. I delay any complex business communication until the next work cycle. People understand if I respond with a quick note to let them know I’m traveling and will follow up with them in a week or two. If you’re sloppy about keeping a hard line of division between your on weeks and your off weeks, you’ll lose the benefits of immersion. It’s like getting non-restful sleep and then being a zombie the next day. Second, don’t neglect your off weeks. This isn’t just time off to hang out and be lazy. This is an active time for growth, renewal, or completing personal projects. If you need a break or a lazy day (which is totally fine), use the weekends for that, or give yourself a down day or two between cycles. But don’t go through your off week in a semi-conscious haze of web surfing and TV watching. This is the time to really go out and have a life. Travel is a terrific use of an off week, especially if it keeps you away from your work environment. Attending a workshop is another great use of off weeks. Even immersing yourself in computer games for the whole week is great if you love playing a certain game. Indulge fully in your personal desires — guilt-free. Third, the perspective shifts that come from switching cycles are really powerful. They can accelerate your growth tremendously by giving you time to reflect with some distance. During an off week, I keep getting ideas for new articles I want to write, so I’m bursting with ideas when I finally get back to work. I also gain a better perspective on which work tasks are worthwhile and which aren’t. When I have limited time for work before going on vacation again, low-value work tasks become annoying really fast because they steal time from high-value work. Low-value tasks don’t generate serious income, which means they don’t help me on the personal side either. Emotional feedback plays an important role here. How I feel during one cycle has a lot to do with what happened during the previous cycle. If I blow my work week on trivial stuff, I don’t feel as good during an off week. I regret that I didn’t work as intelligently during the last work cycle, and it’s a little bit harder to fully enjoy the personal side. This helps me commit to a better work cycle the next time. However, since the off weeks are still guaranteed, I don’t have the option of deluding myself into thinking that I can steal time from my personal life to make up for low productivity at work. While I’m in the midst of a workweek, I get ideas for how I can improve my next off week. For example, my girlfriend and I were a bit too indulgent food-wise during our last week together. (L.A. just has so many incredible vegan restaurants.) That can be fun every now and then, but it’s not a wise idea to do that every week we spend together. So next time we may want to tone down that aspect and incorporate more exercise (the vertical kind, that is). An overindulgent week now and then is okay, but in the long run it’s important to strive for balance. On the bright side, it became clear that we both love traveling together, and we have the flexible lifestyles to make that a reality, so we’ve been discussing other cities we might explore together this year. Fourth, the intensity that comes from such immersion is really awesome. When you give yourself permission to blow off all personal concerns and fully immerse yourself in work for a week, it seems clear that you can get a lot done. But more important than the quantity of work is the quality of work you can produce during the times you can work for days on end without distractions. This is especially powerful on the personal side, especially when it comes to relationships. Instead of going on dates for a few hours at a time with big gaps in between, imagine diving into a new relationship by spending days on end with each other 24/7. Consider what it would be like to go on a date — even a first date — for a whole week instead of for a single night, including sleeping together every night and sharing every meal together. That can get pretty intense, but if you can handle it, you can build a connection in a matter of days that might otherwise take months. Applying this to dating might sound strange, but take a moment to ponder all the good practices you’d have to adopt in order to commit to a weeklong first date with someone. You’d probably get really good at pre-screening people for compatibility, so you wouldn’t have to deal with bad dates. And your communication skills will advance very quickly if you’re going to be with the same person for a full week. But since you also know the week will eventually end, it motivates you to enjoy the time spent with your partner as much as possible without taking him or her for granted. You can use this approach with your family too. Instead of being a half-assed parent on nights and weekends because you’re burnt out from weeks of endless work, consider spending a week out of every month with your family. Give them your full attention during that time. Lately I’ve been thinking about how I might travel with my kids and explore different cities with them, especially when they’re in their teen years and capable of enjoying more of the grown-up stuff. Fifth, the alternations are more important than the durations. It’s not that critical how many days you spend on each side. What matters most is that you keep shifting back and forth to keep your motivation for both sides sky-high. At the start of this year, I spent a week working hard to prep for the January Conscious Growth Workshop. I also spoke at a friend’s workshop. Then I spent several days hanging out with my girlfriend Rachelle, during which time I didn’t do much work at all. Then I did the workshop, after which I felt totally spent, and less than 48 hours later I was in Puerto Rico for a weeklong leadership retreat. I gave a one-hour presentation there, but the main focus of the week was personal renewal, so it was definitely an off week for me. Next I returned to Vegas and spent more time with Rachelle, had a poker night with friends, and spent a day at Circus Circus with Erin and the kids. Then Rachelle went to Hollywood, and I worked solo in Vegas for a few days. Next I headed to Hollywood to spend a few days with her there for her birthday, “kidnapped” her back to Vegas with me for the weekend, and then returned to Hollywood to spend another week with her there. When we were in Vegas, she and I also enjoyed a night of wrestling, video games, and hide-and-go-seek with the kids, and we saw two movies and a show on the Strip. While I was enjoying my off time, I did virtually no work. I didn’t do much blogging and spent only minimal time on communication. Most of that time Rachelle and I were busy having fun together 24/7. Last week we enjoyed a day at Disneyland, explored the L.A. Natural History Museum, strolled along Third Street Promenade in Santa Monica and the Walk of Fame in Hollywood, shared a walk along the beach under the stars, attended an L.A. social meet-up, and indulged in a lot more gourmet vegan and raw food than we should have (including a 6-course gourmet raw dinner for Valentine’s Day). At the end of the week, Rachelle and I noted that we had committed 4 of the 7 deadly sins. During breakfast yesterday I tried to piss her off so we could check off wrath as well, but my best efforts only made her laugh at me and roll her eyes. Later that morning she definitively kicked my ass at Star Trek trivia for the second time in a row. “Khhhhhaaaaaaaaaaaannnnn!” Today I’m back in Vegas, and after so much indulgence in my personal life, I’m filled with a renewed drive to get some serious work done, starting with this blog post. No girlfriend in town (which is good for Rachelle too because she needs to work on her next play — she’s a playwright and an actress). Then in a few more days it will be time to shift into personal mode since my family and Erin’s family are coming to town this weekend to celebrate my daughter’s 10th birthday. Wow… 10 already. They really do grow up fast.  These back-and-forth shifts don’t fall cleanly on weekly borders, and that’s okay. The benefits come from the shifting. The duration of each cycle isn’t as important as the fact that you do cycle — and cycle often. A weekend — even a 3-day weekend — simply isn’t long enough to complete a serious renewal cycle. Six to seven days is a more realistic minimum. It normally takes a few days just to let go of work and become fully immersed in vacation mode (or personal project mode). Taking off every weekend doesn’t cut it. Think of taking a full week off as the minimum, not the maximum. You’d be surprised to learn how many people achieve awesome productivity results with cycles closer to one week on, two or three weeks off. After taking so much time off for personal renewal, they’re itching to get back to work, so their on weeks are highly productive. * * * If you’ve never tried this method before, I encourage you to experiment with it. If this is the first time you’ve heard about it, it may sound a bit alien. You may have a hard time grasping why it works. But don’t reject it out of hand just because you’ve been conditioned to work a certain way. For now simply let this idea sit there in the back of your mind, and remain open to trying it at some point when that becomes realistic for you. This idea will resurface and nag at you when the time is right. Obviously you need a flexible work schedule to pull this off, so it’s up to you to create that. Whatever you do, don’t succumb to lame-ass excuses like “My boss won’t let me.” (If you were about to blurt out some wimpy, whiny, give-away-your-power crap like that, you need to read this article and then this one. And for good measure, this one too.) You chose your boss, your employer, work environment, and your work schedule after all. You can’t pretend you don’t have the freedom to make this work schedule happen if you really want it. If you want the flexibility to experiment with higher levels of productivity and a richer personal life, then you’re always free to make new choices. You’re responsible for your results in life. Are you getting the results you desire?
    767 Posted by UniqueThis
  • If you’d like to boost your productivity far beyond the results you get with the 9-to-5 grind, an interesting alternative work schedule to consider is the One Week On, One Week Off approach. Instead of working week after week, you alternate between one intensive work week followed by one vacation/personal week. This method isn’t very well publicized, but it’s commonly practiced by some of the most successful business people in the world. I first learned of it several years ago when Jay Abraham mentioned it on one of his audio programs. He said that it was a method Napoleon Hill had learned from many successful people while doing the research for Think and Grow Rich but that Hill didn’t comprehend why it was so effective and therefore didn’t integrate it into his book. There are many variations on this method. Some people work for one week and then take two weeks off. Some do two weeks on, two weeks off. Some do one week on, three weeks off. The basic concept is that you work in fairly short intense bursts of no more than a week or two at a time (one week seems to be an upper limit for most people), followed by a period of no work for at least a week. On Weeks During your “on” weeks, your focus is on work, work, and little else but work. You can limit yourself to 40 hours, but it’s wise to experiment with longer hours. Try pushing yourself to do 60, 80, or even 100+ hours of work during this week. Fully engage in what you’re doing. Play full out. Pick one project, and make a big dent in it during this time. Don’t get caught up in minor busywork. Bite off a meaningful piece of work, and get it done quickly and with solid focus. Work hard. End your days with a feeling of being spent. Put off distractions. You can always watch TV and surf the Internet later. Tell yourself that it’s only a week… really just a few days… little more than a cup of coffee. The time will pass quickly if you immerse yourself in a project. Your goal is to fully engage in what you’re doing for this short period of time. Allow yourself to become obsessed with your work during this time. Everything else can wait. Friends and social outings can wait. Family can wait. Personal tasks can wait. Recycle your dirty clothes if you must, but stick with solid work tasks during this time. Remember — it’s only a week. Off Weeks An “off” week is all about sharpening the saw. Let me clarify that this is NOT the same thing as having a lazy week. It’s not about taking time off and chilling out. That’s the equivalent of putting the saw down. The blade won’t get any sharper if you just put it down. Off weeks are a time for personal renewal and fun. This is the time to really live. Go out and have a life. Think of your off weeks as vacation weeks. Treat them as seriously as you do your work weeks. However, instead of focusing on your work life, focus all your attention on one or more aspects of your personal life. Go travel to another city during this time. Have some fun new experiences. Go skydiving or scuba diving. Read a few new books. Go out and spend many hours with friends. Attend a workshop or seminar. Learn to dance. Do something that will enrich your life instead of just spinning your wheels. If you have a family, consider taking a week to be with your family, giving them your full attention during this time. But don’t just sit around doing nothing. Go out and do fun activities with them each day. Travel to a new city with them. Go to the beach. Go camping. Go outside! You can also “work” on personal projects during this time. Clean out your garage. Purge and donate unwanted items. Replant your garden. Benefits of This Method Why would you want to manage your life this way? Here are some of the benefits. Motivation Because of the time constraints, you’ll likely see a major boost in your motivation. Knowing that you’re going on vacation in a few days can help you flow through a lot of work. And knowing that your vacation week will soon end can help you pack in a lot more renewal time. You will typically hit the start of your workweek with a strong desire to work. (If that doesn’t happen, you should definitely consider a career change.) And you’ll hit your off weeks with a strong desire to focus on your personal life for a while. Before you have a chance to start feeling demotivated and bored, it’s time to switch cycles. This keeps life fresh, interesting, and fun. Focus Instead of trying to work on all parts of your life in a single day or two, you focus on one important slice at a time. It’s okay to be largely unavailable for your significant other during your on weeks if you know you’ll be 100% present for him/her during an off week. This is far superior to not being fully present week after week. Would you like it better if you had a significant other who was 100% there for you, enjoying your company for days at a time, but you also had breaks of several days where you each focused on other parts of your lives? If this sounds interesting to you, then try it. You can always switch back if you don’t like it. Productivity The productivity boost can be significant due to your increased motivation and focus during the work weeks. But it’s also interesting to note that your personal weeks can be just as productive. Instead of wasting your personal days on idleness, you’ll be putting those days to good use. Also, the weekly flip-flopping helps you think more realistically in terms of planning and scheduling. You’ll be inclined to start thinking ahead and allocating certain weeks to projects, travel, etc. This is a good discipline to develop. It helps you avoid biting off more than you can chew. In one solid week of focused work on high value tasks, you can easily exceed the normal output of two regular weeks. So even though it seems like you’re taking a lot more time off, this overall method is geared to produce a net productivity gain compared to sustained back-to-back 40-hour weeks. Don’t overlook the positive impact this method can have on your personal life. When you work week after week and only take weekends off, it takes a huge toll on your personal life that you don’t even see. Weekends and evenings just aren’t enough to have a life outside of work. You need to devote significant chunks of time to the personal side as well. Otherwise your work will seem endless, and your motivation and passion will eventually tank, even if you normally enjoy your work. Money Higher productivity can easily generate an income boost. Money isn’t a result of time spent at the office. Hourly rates are largely a joke. Money flows from completing important tasks that deliver value. During your on weeks, you’ll be focused oncompleting meaningful projects and tasks. What can you finish before the week is up? Also, your off weeks will give you more motivation to boost your income because that’s a great time to enjoy your money. You can expect to spend a lot more money during your off weeks, especially if you love to travel, eat out, and enjoy fun experiences that cost money. When you get a taste of what your money can do for you if you spend it wisely (to enrich your life instead of creating clutter), you’ll be more motivated to earn even more, so you can continue the pattern. Imagine how fun it would be to take one or two weeklong vacations each month — and still get more work done than you do now. A lot of very wealthy people use this method or something similar. For example, in the personal development field, many friends of mine will put on a seminar for a week, during which they’ll work very hard, sometimes 12-16 hours per day. After that week they’re totally spent and hardly capable of productive work, even though their work is very fulfilling. So they’ll take off for a week or two or three and go travel, play golf, or spend time with their families. They try to do very little work during their off weeks. Once they’re restored they return to the office and begin working intensely on another project for a week or two, and their families don’t see them much during this time. Because they focus on high-value tasks while working, they can generate more than enough income during one solid workweek to offset a month of expenses, even while traveling and vacationing. Balance This method may look unbalanced at first, but it can actually create more balance in the long run because it helps ensure that you attend to your professional and your personal life without allowing one side to overpower the other. You’ll work hard with this approach, but you’ll also play hard and have a lot of fun. Your life will become both productive and enjoyable. It feels great to be in such a state of flow. Think of all the cool personal projects, experiences, and vacations you’d love to indulge in — if you only had the time. Well, just imagine what it would be like if you devoted 26 weeks — minimum! — to that side of your life this year. No one is stopping you from making this a reality but you. You really hate it when I remind you that you’re 100% responsible for your results in life, don’t you?  Perspective Alternating between your work life and personal life helps you regain perspective periodically. For example, during your work weeks, your subconscious mind will be processing some of the experiences from your last off week. How could you have enjoyed that week even more? Did you hold back? Did you overindulge? During your off weeks, you’ll be processing many work-related ideas in the background. When you start on a fresh week, you’ll be kicking it off with a fresh perspective, inspired by new ideas. This helps you avoid getting stuck in long-term patterns that don’t serve you. There are other benefits of course. These are just a few to get you thinking. Personal Experiences and Some Tips I’d like to share some extra tips based on my personal experiences that may help you avoid some pitfalls and gain some additional insights. I haven’t used this method religiously, but to the degree I’ve applied it at various times in my life (sometimes accidentally), it’s been effective. This year I’m aiming to apply it more deliberately than I have in the past. So far I’m off to a great start. First, it’s important to keep a reasonably solid line of separation between your work weeks and personal weeks. Decide what goes in each week, and do your best to prevent cross-cycle leaks. During your on weeks, put your personal life on the back burner, and focus hard on your work. During your off weeks, do as little work as possible, and indulge deeply on the personal side. I still check email and handle some communications during an off week, but I keep it to a minimum, ideally just 15-30 minutes per day, sometimes less. I delay any complex business communication until the next work cycle. People understand if I respond with a quick note to let them know I’m traveling and will follow up with them in a week or two. If you’re sloppy about keeping a hard line of division between your on weeks and your off weeks, you’ll lose the benefits of immersion. It’s like getting non-restful sleep and then being a zombie the next day. Second, don’t neglect your off weeks. This isn’t just time off to hang out and be lazy. This is an active time for growth, renewal, or completing personal projects. If you need a break or a lazy day (which is totally fine), use the weekends for that, or give yourself a down day or two between cycles. But don’t go through your off week in a semi-conscious haze of web surfing and TV watching. This is the time to really go out and have a life. Travel is a terrific use of an off week, especially if it keeps you away from your work environment. Attending a workshop is another great use of off weeks. Even immersing yourself in computer games for the whole week is great if you love playing a certain game. Indulge fully in your personal desires — guilt-free. Third, the perspective shifts that come from switching cycles are really powerful. They can accelerate your growth tremendously by giving you time to reflect with some distance. During an off week, I keep getting ideas for new articles I want to write, so I’m bursting with ideas when I finally get back to work. I also gain a better perspective on which work tasks are worthwhile and which aren’t. When I have limited time for work before going on vacation again, low-value work tasks become annoying really fast because they steal time from high-value work. Low-value tasks don’t generate serious income, which means they don’t help me on the personal side either. Emotional feedback plays an important role here. How I feel during one cycle has a lot to do with what happened during the previous cycle. If I blow my work week on trivial stuff, I don’t feel as good during an off week. I regret that I didn’t work as intelligently during the last work cycle, and it’s a little bit harder to fully enjoy the personal side. This helps me commit to a better work cycle the next time. However, since the off weeks are still guaranteed, I don’t have the option of deluding myself into thinking that I can steal time from my personal life to make up for low productivity at work. While I’m in the midst of a workweek, I get ideas for how I can improve my next off week. For example, my girlfriend and I were a bit too indulgent food-wise during our last week together. (L.A. just has so many incredible vegan restaurants.) That can be fun every now and then, but it’s not a wise idea to do that every week we spend together. So next time we may want to tone down that aspect and incorporate more exercise (the vertical kind, that is). An overindulgent week now and then is okay, but in the long run it’s important to strive for balance. On the bright side, it became clear that we both love traveling together, and we have the flexible lifestyles to make that a reality, so we’ve been discussing other cities we might explore together this year. Fourth, the intensity that comes from such immersion is really awesome. When you give yourself permission to blow off all personal concerns and fully immerse yourself in work for a week, it seems clear that you can get a lot done. But more important than the quantity of work is the quality of work you can produce during the times you can work for days on end without distractions. This is especially powerful on the personal side, especially when it comes to relationships. Instead of going on dates for a few hours at a time with big gaps in between, imagine diving into a new relationship by spending days on end with each other 24/7. Consider what it would be like to go on a date — even a first date — for a whole week instead of for a single night, including sleeping together every night and sharing every meal together. That can get pretty intense, but if you can handle it, you can build a connection in a matter of days that might otherwise take months. Applying this to dating might sound strange, but take a moment to ponder all the good practices you’d have to adopt in order to commit to a weeklong first date with someone. You’d probably get really good at pre-screening people for compatibility, so you wouldn’t have to deal with bad dates. And your communication skills will advance very quickly if you’re going to be with the same person for a full week. But since you also know the week will eventually end, it motivates you to enjoy the time spent with your partner as much as possible without taking him or her for granted. You can use this approach with your family too. Instead of being a half-assed parent on nights and weekends because you’re burnt out from weeks of endless work, consider spending a week out of every month with your family. Give them your full attention during that time. Lately I’ve been thinking about how I might travel with my kids and explore different cities with them, especially when they’re in their teen years and capable of enjoying more of the grown-up stuff. Fifth, the alternations are more important than the durations. It’s not that critical how many days you spend on each side. What matters most is that you keep shifting back and forth to keep your motivation for both sides sky-high. At the start of this year, I spent a week working hard to prep for the January Conscious Growth Workshop. I also spoke at a friend’s workshop. Then I spent several days hanging out with my girlfriend Rachelle, during which time I didn’t do much work at all. Then I did the workshop, after which I felt totally spent, and less than 48 hours later I was in Puerto Rico for a weeklong leadership retreat. I gave a one-hour presentation there, but the main focus of the week was personal renewal, so it was definitely an off week for me. Next I returned to Vegas and spent more time with Rachelle, had a poker night with friends, and spent a day at Circus Circus with Erin and the kids. Then Rachelle went to Hollywood, and I worked solo in Vegas for a few days. Next I headed to Hollywood to spend a few days with her there for her birthday, “kidnapped” her back to Vegas with me for the weekend, and then returned to Hollywood to spend another week with her there. When we were in Vegas, she and I also enjoyed a night of wrestling, video games, and hide-and-go-seek with the kids, and we saw two movies and a show on the Strip. While I was enjoying my off time, I did virtually no work. I didn’t do much blogging and spent only minimal time on communication. Most of that time Rachelle and I were busy having fun together 24/7. Last week we enjoyed a day at Disneyland, explored the L.A. Natural History Museum, strolled along Third Street Promenade in Santa Monica and the Walk of Fame in Hollywood, shared a walk along the beach under the stars, attended an L.A. social meet-up, and indulged in a lot more gourmet vegan and raw food than we should have (including a 6-course gourmet raw dinner for Valentine’s Day). At the end of the week, Rachelle and I noted that we had committed 4 of the 7 deadly sins. During breakfast yesterday I tried to piss her off so we could check off wrath as well, but my best efforts only made her laugh at me and roll her eyes. Later that morning she definitively kicked my ass at Star Trek trivia for the second time in a row. “Khhhhhaaaaaaaaaaaannnnn!” Today I’m back in Vegas, and after so much indulgence in my personal life, I’m filled with a renewed drive to get some serious work done, starting with this blog post. No girlfriend in town (which is good for Rachelle too because she needs to work on her next play — she’s a playwright and an actress). Then in a few more days it will be time to shift into personal mode since my family and Erin’s family are coming to town this weekend to celebrate my daughter’s 10th birthday. Wow… 10 already. They really do grow up fast.  These back-and-forth shifts don’t fall cleanly on weekly borders, and that’s okay. The benefits come from the shifting. The duration of each cycle isn’t as important as the fact that you do cycle — and cycle often. A weekend — even a 3-day weekend — simply isn’t long enough to complete a serious renewal cycle. Six to seven days is a more realistic minimum. It normally takes a few days just to let go of work and become fully immersed in vacation mode (or personal project mode). Taking off every weekend doesn’t cut it. Think of taking a full week off as the minimum, not the maximum. You’d be surprised to learn how many people achieve awesome productivity results with cycles closer to one week on, two or three weeks off. After taking so much time off for personal renewal, they’re itching to get back to work, so their on weeks are highly productive. * * * If you’ve never tried this method before, I encourage you to experiment with it. If this is the first time you’ve heard about it, it may sound a bit alien. You may have a hard time grasping why it works. But don’t reject it out of hand just because you’ve been conditioned to work a certain way. For now simply let this idea sit there in the back of your mind, and remain open to trying it at some point when that becomes realistic for you. This idea will resurface and nag at you when the time is right. Obviously you need a flexible work schedule to pull this off, so it’s up to you to create that. Whatever you do, don’t succumb to lame-ass excuses like “My boss won’t let me.” (If you were about to blurt out some wimpy, whiny, give-away-your-power crap like that, you need to read this article and then this one. And for good measure, this one too.) You chose your boss, your employer, work environment, and your work schedule after all. You can’t pretend you don’t have the freedom to make this work schedule happen if you really want it. If you want the flexibility to experiment with higher levels of productivity and a richer personal life, then you’re always free to make new choices. You’re responsible for your results in life. Are you getting the results you desire?
    Jul 12, 2011 767
  • 12 Jul 2011
    Erin recently announced the release of her new audio program Raising Your Vibration, which is based on her ebook 10 Ways to Raise Your Vibration in Under 10 Minutes. I thought it would be great to announce it here as well. I wasn’t personally involved in producing this program, but I’ve listened to the whole thing, and I think she did a terrific job on it. I was particularly impressed by how amazing her voice sounds on the recording — others have commented on that as well. Raising Your Vibration is designed to teach you methods to raise your vibration and enhance your mood, shifting you from low vibration states like worry, depression, fear, or anger… into higher vibration states like contentment, happiness, love, and gratitude. For this audio program, Erin added some new information that isn’t included in her ebook. She also included two new guided meditations accompanied by relaxing New Age music. Each meditation is less than 10 minutes long, so you can easily incorporate them into your day. The first meditation is geared to be used in the morning to begin your day with a sense of love and connection. The second meditation is intended for the evening before bed, helping you conclude your day with feelings of appreciation and gratitude. That’s the intended use, but you can actually listen to either meditation anytime you desire. Each meditation is included on a separate track, so it’s easy to listen to them again and again. Raising Your Vibration is available both as a downloadable MP3 and a CD. The MP3 version is $19.97 USD, and the CD version is $29.97. The CD version includes free postal mail shipping anywhere in the world. If you purchase the MP3 version, you’ll receive a link to download it immediately. The file size is 88 MB. You can easily transfer it to an iPod or other MP3 player — even your cell phone if it can play MP3s. Many people at the January Conscious Growth Workshop bought advance copies ofRaising Your Vibration, and Erin sold many more copies after she announced it on her website about 3 weeks ago. The response from listeners has been very positive. Here are a couple pieces of feedback Erin recently received from two happy purchasers of this program: Your audio program is changing the way I live my life. Now when people upset me at work I can get myself back to a positive vibration quickly. I could never do that before! And the guided meditations are phenomenal. Your voice is so soothing, and I’ve been brought to tears several times during them. Thanks to your program I’ve had the most loving conversations with people in my life and I am so full of gratitude. Thank you! – Jenna Neuworth The Love meditation and the Gratitude meditation in Erin’s CD are fantastic. I’d never done guided meditations before, and it’s definitely something I’ll explore more. If you can start your day feeling love for others, love for yourself and feeling love from the universe, you’re off to something good. And don’t underestimate the power of gratitude either, both from the people you’ve done good to, and from the people that positively impact you. It’s great to get into these two states. – Matt Lertora A big congrats to Erin for releasing her first audio program — and her first product since she started blogging 4 years ago! Take a moment to order your copy of Raising Your Vibration now, and enjoy higher vibrational states more consistently. 
    837 Posted by UniqueThis
  • Erin recently announced the release of her new audio program Raising Your Vibration, which is based on her ebook 10 Ways to Raise Your Vibration in Under 10 Minutes. I thought it would be great to announce it here as well. I wasn’t personally involved in producing this program, but I’ve listened to the whole thing, and I think she did a terrific job on it. I was particularly impressed by how amazing her voice sounds on the recording — others have commented on that as well. Raising Your Vibration is designed to teach you methods to raise your vibration and enhance your mood, shifting you from low vibration states like worry, depression, fear, or anger… into higher vibration states like contentment, happiness, love, and gratitude. For this audio program, Erin added some new information that isn’t included in her ebook. She also included two new guided meditations accompanied by relaxing New Age music. Each meditation is less than 10 minutes long, so you can easily incorporate them into your day. The first meditation is geared to be used in the morning to begin your day with a sense of love and connection. The second meditation is intended for the evening before bed, helping you conclude your day with feelings of appreciation and gratitude. That’s the intended use, but you can actually listen to either meditation anytime you desire. Each meditation is included on a separate track, so it’s easy to listen to them again and again. Raising Your Vibration is available both as a downloadable MP3 and a CD. The MP3 version is $19.97 USD, and the CD version is $29.97. The CD version includes free postal mail shipping anywhere in the world. If you purchase the MP3 version, you’ll receive a link to download it immediately. The file size is 88 MB. You can easily transfer it to an iPod or other MP3 player — even your cell phone if it can play MP3s. Many people at the January Conscious Growth Workshop bought advance copies ofRaising Your Vibration, and Erin sold many more copies after she announced it on her website about 3 weeks ago. The response from listeners has been very positive. Here are a couple pieces of feedback Erin recently received from two happy purchasers of this program: Your audio program is changing the way I live my life. Now when people upset me at work I can get myself back to a positive vibration quickly. I could never do that before! And the guided meditations are phenomenal. Your voice is so soothing, and I’ve been brought to tears several times during them. Thanks to your program I’ve had the most loving conversations with people in my life and I am so full of gratitude. Thank you! – Jenna Neuworth The Love meditation and the Gratitude meditation in Erin’s CD are fantastic. I’d never done guided meditations before, and it’s definitely something I’ll explore more. If you can start your day feeling love for others, love for yourself and feeling love from the universe, you’re off to something good. And don’t underestimate the power of gratitude either, both from the people you’ve done good to, and from the people that positively impact you. It’s great to get into these two states. – Matt Lertora A big congrats to Erin for releasing her first audio program — and her first product since she started blogging 4 years ago! Take a moment to order your copy of Raising Your Vibration now, and enjoy higher vibrational states more consistently. 
    Jul 12, 2011 837
  • 12 Jul 2011
    The nice thing about working on your personal growth is that when you make a concerted, dedicated effort to improve some part of your life, there’s an excellent chance that you will succeed in the long run. You may have a lot of gunk to clear out in terms of limiting beliefs, and you may be starting from a disadvantaged position, but given enough time, it’s entirely possible to completely rework some part of your life for the better. For example, you have the potential to go from rags to riches, from shy to socially confident, or from unhealthy to vibrant and fit. It may not be easy to make such transitions, but there are numerous successes to model. These are transitions that many, many people have already succeeded at, and they’re often more than happy to help out people who are interested in taking similar journeys. You certainly don’t have to stumble forward blindly. This, of course, is the grand promise of personal development — that you can consciously remake some part of your life, re-sculpting it from what it is now to what you desire it to be. But there are two very common problems that prevent many people from receiving the full delivery of this promise. Getting Clear About What You Want First, most people never get clear about what they want. Since they don’t decide, there’s nothing for them to move towards. Moving away from where you are now is not a specific heading. An “away from” mindset is like a bunch of crazy, chaotic arrows pointing off in all different directions, but in most cases that isn’t enough to get moving with any consistency. “Not here” isn’t a goal. When I ask people what they want out of life, most of the time I get a very vague answer. They can’t tell me. So of course their lives aren’t going to change much. They have no direction. If someone asks you what you want out of life, offer up a clear and specific answer. Don’t look to life to tell you what you want. That’s your burden — and your privilege — to decide. Not deciding is still a choice. If you can’t decide, then you’re deciding to continue the status quo, and you’re broadcasting the intention that more than anything else in the universe, you want to continue experiencing what you’re experiencing right now. And so essentially that is what you’ll get. So when you keep getting what you’re already getting, be grateful that the desires you voiced are being fulfilled. You are simply receiving what you’ve been asking for. Don’t pretend that your life will change until you first make a clear decision about where you want to go next. You can bitch and moan about the burden of having to make that choice, but there’s no point in that. It’s better to celebrate the honor and privilege of having the freedom to make that choice. Be grateful that you can choose. Appreciate the fact that you get to decide where your life goes next. Consider yourself lucky that you have a choice. Making a choice is really, really simple. Most people overcomplicate the process tremendously. Ask a child what they want for their birthday, and they’ll probably rattle off a number of specific items. How do they decide? They just decide. They don’t worry so much about making wrong choices. They voice intentions based on what experiences they feel drawn towards. It’s that simple. If you feel drawn to a certain experience, then that’s an excellent candidate for a new decision. Real Decisions vs. Fantasy Decisions Secondly, when people do finally decide, they usually don’t make a real choice. They make a fantasy choice instead. There’s a major difference between a fake decision and a real decision. Let me ‘splain that. A fake decision is when you get clear that you desire a certain experience, but you don’t accept the far-ranging consequences of that experience. This is like deciding to pick up one end of a stick while denying or ignoring the existence of the other end of the stick. Whether you acknowledge it or not, the other end of the stick is coming along for the ride. If you resist the true nature of the stick as a whole, you cannot pick up the front end of it. If you resist the consequences of your desires, you block your desires from becoming real. For example, you may set a goal to have a million dollars, but if you do not invite, welcome, and accept the consequences of becoming a millionaire, then your goal is a mere fantasy. It isn’t a real goal. It’s just a delusional waste of time. A real decision is when you get clear that you desire a certain experience, and then you do your best to predict and understand the likely consequences of that experience, and you decide to invite and welcome those consequences too. Think of it this way: Either you desire the entire stick, or you desire none of it. To desire one end of the stick but not the other end is to create a block that translates to desiring nothing but the perpetuation of the status quo. In order to set a real goal or hold a real intention, realize that you must intend and accept its consequences as well. So in our example of desiring a million dollars, a real decision includes accepting how you’ll manage that money, how it will alter your relationships with others, how it will impact your lifestyle, and so on. This includes accepting any likely effects you may perceive as negative — and welcoming them into your life. Understand this: If you cannot accept the likely consequences of a decision, then you have not yet made the decision. I.e. if you cannot accept the likely consequences of a new relationship, then you have not yet made the decision to attract a new relationship. If you cannot accept the likely consequences of doubling your income, then you have not yet made the decision to double your income. If you cannot accept the likely consequences of being at your ideal weight, then you have not yet made the decision to reach your ideal weight. Quite often people claim to know what they want, but the truth is that they’re stuck in fantasy land. For example, they’ve decided to reach their ideal weight, but they fail to accept and invite the possibility of getting more attention from the opposite sex, buying different clothes, maintaining more disciplined diet and exercise habits to maintain that weight, etc. Mentally they understand that these are the natural, logical consequences of reaching that goal, but they aren’t yet there emotionally. They don’t really “get it” yet. In order to achieve a goal, it’s important to listen to your logical predictions about what the consequences may be and to accept those predictions. Even more important than that is to integrate those predictions into the goal itself, so your goal represents the total package of what you’re going to create, not merely some isolated element of it. Goals as Growth Experiences How can you invite and welcome the consequences of a desire? Perhaps the best way to do that is to view your goals as growth experiences. Every goal, desire, or intention is a growth experience, and every growth experience is a package deal. Along with every desire you get a pack of free bonuses. Those bonuses are called life lessons. Along with money, you get bonus lessons in money management, scarcity, abundance, and generosity. Along with new relationships, you get bonus lessons in communication, negotiation, and compassion. Along with a better body, you get bonus lessons in self-discipline, self-awareness, and self-esteem. Along with a successful business or career, you get bonus lessons in responsibility, productivity, and life balance. These bonuses are awesome! You just need to recognize them as such. In many cases the bonuses are worth more than the initial desire. When you can regard the consequences of every potential goal or desire as a valuable pack of personal growth bonuses, it gets much easier to desire the whole package instead of obsessing over the front-end offer. So in summary, we have two key hurdles to overcome in order to begin realizing the promise of personal growth: 1) Decide what you want, and 2) Identify, accept and invite the likely consequences of what you want. Now… have you completed both steps yet? Of course you have. Either you’ve done this for a new desire, or you’ve done it for the status quo by default. Either you’re actively creating something new, or you’re actively perpetuating what you already have. Regardless of your choice, you are succeeding, so celebrate that! 
    684 Posted by UniqueThis
  • The nice thing about working on your personal growth is that when you make a concerted, dedicated effort to improve some part of your life, there’s an excellent chance that you will succeed in the long run. You may have a lot of gunk to clear out in terms of limiting beliefs, and you may be starting from a disadvantaged position, but given enough time, it’s entirely possible to completely rework some part of your life for the better. For example, you have the potential to go from rags to riches, from shy to socially confident, or from unhealthy to vibrant and fit. It may not be easy to make such transitions, but there are numerous successes to model. These are transitions that many, many people have already succeeded at, and they’re often more than happy to help out people who are interested in taking similar journeys. You certainly don’t have to stumble forward blindly. This, of course, is the grand promise of personal development — that you can consciously remake some part of your life, re-sculpting it from what it is now to what you desire it to be. But there are two very common problems that prevent many people from receiving the full delivery of this promise. Getting Clear About What You Want First, most people never get clear about what they want. Since they don’t decide, there’s nothing for them to move towards. Moving away from where you are now is not a specific heading. An “away from” mindset is like a bunch of crazy, chaotic arrows pointing off in all different directions, but in most cases that isn’t enough to get moving with any consistency. “Not here” isn’t a goal. When I ask people what they want out of life, most of the time I get a very vague answer. They can’t tell me. So of course their lives aren’t going to change much. They have no direction. If someone asks you what you want out of life, offer up a clear and specific answer. Don’t look to life to tell you what you want. That’s your burden — and your privilege — to decide. Not deciding is still a choice. If you can’t decide, then you’re deciding to continue the status quo, and you’re broadcasting the intention that more than anything else in the universe, you want to continue experiencing what you’re experiencing right now. And so essentially that is what you’ll get. So when you keep getting what you’re already getting, be grateful that the desires you voiced are being fulfilled. You are simply receiving what you’ve been asking for. Don’t pretend that your life will change until you first make a clear decision about where you want to go next. You can bitch and moan about the burden of having to make that choice, but there’s no point in that. It’s better to celebrate the honor and privilege of having the freedom to make that choice. Be grateful that you can choose. Appreciate the fact that you get to decide where your life goes next. Consider yourself lucky that you have a choice. Making a choice is really, really simple. Most people overcomplicate the process tremendously. Ask a child what they want for their birthday, and they’ll probably rattle off a number of specific items. How do they decide? They just decide. They don’t worry so much about making wrong choices. They voice intentions based on what experiences they feel drawn towards. It’s that simple. If you feel drawn to a certain experience, then that’s an excellent candidate for a new decision. Real Decisions vs. Fantasy Decisions Secondly, when people do finally decide, they usually don’t make a real choice. They make a fantasy choice instead. There’s a major difference between a fake decision and a real decision. Let me ‘splain that. A fake decision is when you get clear that you desire a certain experience, but you don’t accept the far-ranging consequences of that experience. This is like deciding to pick up one end of a stick while denying or ignoring the existence of the other end of the stick. Whether you acknowledge it or not, the other end of the stick is coming along for the ride. If you resist the true nature of the stick as a whole, you cannot pick up the front end of it. If you resist the consequences of your desires, you block your desires from becoming real. For example, you may set a goal to have a million dollars, but if you do not invite, welcome, and accept the consequences of becoming a millionaire, then your goal is a mere fantasy. It isn’t a real goal. It’s just a delusional waste of time. A real decision is when you get clear that you desire a certain experience, and then you do your best to predict and understand the likely consequences of that experience, and you decide to invite and welcome those consequences too. Think of it this way: Either you desire the entire stick, or you desire none of it. To desire one end of the stick but not the other end is to create a block that translates to desiring nothing but the perpetuation of the status quo. In order to set a real goal or hold a real intention, realize that you must intend and accept its consequences as well. So in our example of desiring a million dollars, a real decision includes accepting how you’ll manage that money, how it will alter your relationships with others, how it will impact your lifestyle, and so on. This includes accepting any likely effects you may perceive as negative — and welcoming them into your life. Understand this: If you cannot accept the likely consequences of a decision, then you have not yet made the decision. I.e. if you cannot accept the likely consequences of a new relationship, then you have not yet made the decision to attract a new relationship. If you cannot accept the likely consequences of doubling your income, then you have not yet made the decision to double your income. If you cannot accept the likely consequences of being at your ideal weight, then you have not yet made the decision to reach your ideal weight. Quite often people claim to know what they want, but the truth is that they’re stuck in fantasy land. For example, they’ve decided to reach their ideal weight, but they fail to accept and invite the possibility of getting more attention from the opposite sex, buying different clothes, maintaining more disciplined diet and exercise habits to maintain that weight, etc. Mentally they understand that these are the natural, logical consequences of reaching that goal, but they aren’t yet there emotionally. They don’t really “get it” yet. In order to achieve a goal, it’s important to listen to your logical predictions about what the consequences may be and to accept those predictions. Even more important than that is to integrate those predictions into the goal itself, so your goal represents the total package of what you’re going to create, not merely some isolated element of it. Goals as Growth Experiences How can you invite and welcome the consequences of a desire? Perhaps the best way to do that is to view your goals as growth experiences. Every goal, desire, or intention is a growth experience, and every growth experience is a package deal. Along with every desire you get a pack of free bonuses. Those bonuses are called life lessons. Along with money, you get bonus lessons in money management, scarcity, abundance, and generosity. Along with new relationships, you get bonus lessons in communication, negotiation, and compassion. Along with a better body, you get bonus lessons in self-discipline, self-awareness, and self-esteem. Along with a successful business or career, you get bonus lessons in responsibility, productivity, and life balance. These bonuses are awesome! You just need to recognize them as such. In many cases the bonuses are worth more than the initial desire. When you can regard the consequences of every potential goal or desire as a valuable pack of personal growth bonuses, it gets much easier to desire the whole package instead of obsessing over the front-end offer. So in summary, we have two key hurdles to overcome in order to begin realizing the promise of personal growth: 1) Decide what you want, and 2) Identify, accept and invite the likely consequences of what you want. Now… have you completed both steps yet? Of course you have. Either you’ve done this for a new desire, or you’ve done it for the status quo by default. Either you’re actively creating something new, or you’re actively perpetuating what you already have. Regardless of your choice, you are succeeding, so celebrate that! 
    Jul 12, 2011 684
  • 12 Jul 2011
    After almost 6 years as a member of Toastmasters International, I’ve decided to quit my Toastmasters club (and Toastmasters as a whole). Today is the last day of my paid membership. As of April 1st, I will no longer be a Toastmaster. I made the decision a few weeks ago, and I’ve already notified my club President. That was rather easy since the President of my club is Erin.  Just in case you’re wondering, I’m not quitting my club because of Erin. If I’d felt any social awkwardness due to our separation, I could simply switch clubs and continue on in Toastmasters (there are about 50 clubs in Las Vegas alone). But there was no such awkwardness to speak of, so that’s a non-issue. This is something I’m doing for different reasons. My Toastmasters Experience For most of my years in Toastmasters, it’s been a wonderful educational and social experience filled with many growth lessons and great friendships. Toastmasters was a terrific group to join after I first moved to Las Vegas in 2004. I made new friends quickly, and it allowed me to enjoy a rich social life in a new city. It was also a great complement to blogging, helping me expand my verbal communication skills along with my writing skills. I learned a tremendous amount about public speaking, and I got to speak a lot. For the first year, I averaged about one Toastmasters speech per month. I also competed actively in speech contests and even won a few. I performed every possible meeting role many times over. I wasn’t overly afraid of public speaking when I started in Toastmasters — I’d already had some experience speaking at tech conferences — but I still had some nervousness to shed, and I had a lot to learn in regards to technique. Toastmasters worked very well for me in that regard. I got much better, shed all the nervousness, and grew to really enjoy speaking. These days I feel very comfortable on a stage in front of a group of people. It’s easy for me to be completely myself without feeling pressured or nervous. On the contrary I find it a lot of fun. My journey of learning to be a better speaker is far from over. I still have much to learn, and of course I’ll continue on that path. But at this point, my learning must progress beyond Toastmasters. There are better ways for me to continue growing in this part of my life, one of which is simply to rack up a lot more stage time and gain additional experience. Deciding to Move On For more than a year, I’ve felt the disconnect building. Toastmasters meetings have become easy and predictable to the point of being boring. I skipped a lot of meetings this past year because I didn’t see much point in going. On the occasions that I did attend, I realized I was mainly there to hang out with friends, not because I wanted to attend Toastmasters. I haven’t given a speech in my club in about a year. It doesn’t make sense in terms of opportunity cost for me to continue working on Toastmasters speeches. The feedback I receive isn’t particularly helpful to me anymore. I get no value from doing 7-minute speeches or performing other various meeting roles when I’m now doing 3-day Conscious Growth Workshops on the Vegas Strip. My best ideas simply don’t fit into 7 minutes or even 20 minutes. Toastmasters is very focused on polishing delivery skills, whereas my focus is on developing great content. Delivery is important, but between delivery and content, great content is still king. I’d rather get feedback on my content, and there’s a general rule of thumb in Toastmasters that you don’t give feedback on someone’s content, so that rule doesn’t serve my needs. I can get all the content feedback I need online, so Toastmasters isn’t necessary for that. There are people who’ve been in Toastmasters much longer than I have, but for the most part Toastmasters serves as a social club for them. I have more social opportunities than I can keep up with right now, so I don’t need to attend club meetings as a social outlet. Our club has gotten so big that I barely have time to chat with my friends there anyway. I can easily contact such friends directly if I want to hang out with them, such as by arranging a disc golf game. Furthermore, it goes against Toastmaster etiquette to speak on certain topics that are of interest to me. There are many topics I’d love to speak about that would be considered inappropriate in a Toastmasters environment. If I really spoke about what mattered to me in a style that I enjoy, it would create too much drama, and I might put my friends in the difficult position of having to kick me out of the club. Toastmasters simply isn’t the right venue for what I want to communicate. There are better outlets for that, such as my own website. I’m perfectly okay with that. Toastmasters’ etiquette is there for good reason. If I stuck around, I’d probably end up going kittywompus and sabotaging my membership, so I’d be forced to drop it. (In fact, this is exactly the kind of behavior we see in members of our discussion forums when it’s clear they’re ready to move on, but they can’t get themselves to let go with love. So instead they go crazy nutso, create lots of drama by breaking rules, and eventually get themselves banned. I’d prefer to just bow out while the bowing is still good instead of going the drama route.) What about using Toastmasters as a place to give back? It isn’t the right outlet for that either, given my particular situation. It makes sense to do more writing and speaking for people who are keenly interested in what I have to share… as opposed to delivering short-form content to a small captive audience. If I write a new blog post, I can get it into the hands of tens of thousands of people within a matter of hours. That just doesn’t compare to writing and delivering a speech for such a small group. I already have much better outlets for giving back. I only needed to give one more speech to earn my AC-Silver designation, but picking up another educational award wouldn’t have any meaning for me, so I will have to remain an AC-Bronze. I’ve given so many speeches outside of Toastmasters that I could have gotten credit for, and I didn’t even care to do that. That tells me I really don’t place any value on further advancement in Toastmasters. That path is a dead end for me. Letting Go With Love This isn’t a decision I’m making against Toastmasters or against my club. It’s a decision I’m making for me. I recognize that it’s time for me to let go and move on. I have lots of wonderful memories from Toastmasters, and I shall forever cherish them. But for now, this is a part of my life where the energy has become stagnant. It’s no longer flowing with growth and abundance. There are many new areas I wish to explore, and by dropping Toastmasters, I can free up more attention, time, and energy for new adventures. I still highly recommend Toastmasters for people who want to develop their communication and leadership skills. It works. Especially if you’re nervous about public speaking, Toastmasters is a great way to overcome your fear of the stage and become a competent communicator. It helped me go from being a pretty weak speaker to being able to earn $50K in a weekend for speaking — and to have fundoing it. Given that a Toastmasters membership costs about $70 per year, I think that’s a pretty good return on investment. This is more evidence that the best place to invest your money is in your own personal growth. Now I get to apply and enjoy the speaking skills I developed for the rest of my life. I’m very grateful for all the amazing lessons and friendships I gained from Toastmasters. Joining Toastmasters in 2004 was one of the best decisions I ever made. If I had to do it all over again, I’d have joined much, much sooner… ideally during college. I’m also excited about what else I might do with the time and attention I previously devoted to Toastmasters. Removing this activity from my plate will free up more space to take on something new. This is not an early April Fools joke by the way, just in case you were wondering.
    759 Posted by UniqueThis
  • After almost 6 years as a member of Toastmasters International, I’ve decided to quit my Toastmasters club (and Toastmasters as a whole). Today is the last day of my paid membership. As of April 1st, I will no longer be a Toastmaster. I made the decision a few weeks ago, and I’ve already notified my club President. That was rather easy since the President of my club is Erin.  Just in case you’re wondering, I’m not quitting my club because of Erin. If I’d felt any social awkwardness due to our separation, I could simply switch clubs and continue on in Toastmasters (there are about 50 clubs in Las Vegas alone). But there was no such awkwardness to speak of, so that’s a non-issue. This is something I’m doing for different reasons. My Toastmasters Experience For most of my years in Toastmasters, it’s been a wonderful educational and social experience filled with many growth lessons and great friendships. Toastmasters was a terrific group to join after I first moved to Las Vegas in 2004. I made new friends quickly, and it allowed me to enjoy a rich social life in a new city. It was also a great complement to blogging, helping me expand my verbal communication skills along with my writing skills. I learned a tremendous amount about public speaking, and I got to speak a lot. For the first year, I averaged about one Toastmasters speech per month. I also competed actively in speech contests and even won a few. I performed every possible meeting role many times over. I wasn’t overly afraid of public speaking when I started in Toastmasters — I’d already had some experience speaking at tech conferences — but I still had some nervousness to shed, and I had a lot to learn in regards to technique. Toastmasters worked very well for me in that regard. I got much better, shed all the nervousness, and grew to really enjoy speaking. These days I feel very comfortable on a stage in front of a group of people. It’s easy for me to be completely myself without feeling pressured or nervous. On the contrary I find it a lot of fun. My journey of learning to be a better speaker is far from over. I still have much to learn, and of course I’ll continue on that path. But at this point, my learning must progress beyond Toastmasters. There are better ways for me to continue growing in this part of my life, one of which is simply to rack up a lot more stage time and gain additional experience. Deciding to Move On For more than a year, I’ve felt the disconnect building. Toastmasters meetings have become easy and predictable to the point of being boring. I skipped a lot of meetings this past year because I didn’t see much point in going. On the occasions that I did attend, I realized I was mainly there to hang out with friends, not because I wanted to attend Toastmasters. I haven’t given a speech in my club in about a year. It doesn’t make sense in terms of opportunity cost for me to continue working on Toastmasters speeches. The feedback I receive isn’t particularly helpful to me anymore. I get no value from doing 7-minute speeches or performing other various meeting roles when I’m now doing 3-day Conscious Growth Workshops on the Vegas Strip. My best ideas simply don’t fit into 7 minutes or even 20 minutes. Toastmasters is very focused on polishing delivery skills, whereas my focus is on developing great content. Delivery is important, but between delivery and content, great content is still king. I’d rather get feedback on my content, and there’s a general rule of thumb in Toastmasters that you don’t give feedback on someone’s content, so that rule doesn’t serve my needs. I can get all the content feedback I need online, so Toastmasters isn’t necessary for that. There are people who’ve been in Toastmasters much longer than I have, but for the most part Toastmasters serves as a social club for them. I have more social opportunities than I can keep up with right now, so I don’t need to attend club meetings as a social outlet. Our club has gotten so big that I barely have time to chat with my friends there anyway. I can easily contact such friends directly if I want to hang out with them, such as by arranging a disc golf game. Furthermore, it goes against Toastmaster etiquette to speak on certain topics that are of interest to me. There are many topics I’d love to speak about that would be considered inappropriate in a Toastmasters environment. If I really spoke about what mattered to me in a style that I enjoy, it would create too much drama, and I might put my friends in the difficult position of having to kick me out of the club. Toastmasters simply isn’t the right venue for what I want to communicate. There are better outlets for that, such as my own website. I’m perfectly okay with that. Toastmasters’ etiquette is there for good reason. If I stuck around, I’d probably end up going kittywompus and sabotaging my membership, so I’d be forced to drop it. (In fact, this is exactly the kind of behavior we see in members of our discussion forums when it’s clear they’re ready to move on, but they can’t get themselves to let go with love. So instead they go crazy nutso, create lots of drama by breaking rules, and eventually get themselves banned. I’d prefer to just bow out while the bowing is still good instead of going the drama route.) What about using Toastmasters as a place to give back? It isn’t the right outlet for that either, given my particular situation. It makes sense to do more writing and speaking for people who are keenly interested in what I have to share… as opposed to delivering short-form content to a small captive audience. If I write a new blog post, I can get it into the hands of tens of thousands of people within a matter of hours. That just doesn’t compare to writing and delivering a speech for such a small group. I already have much better outlets for giving back. I only needed to give one more speech to earn my AC-Silver designation, but picking up another educational award wouldn’t have any meaning for me, so I will have to remain an AC-Bronze. I’ve given so many speeches outside of Toastmasters that I could have gotten credit for, and I didn’t even care to do that. That tells me I really don’t place any value on further advancement in Toastmasters. That path is a dead end for me. Letting Go With Love This isn’t a decision I’m making against Toastmasters or against my club. It’s a decision I’m making for me. I recognize that it’s time for me to let go and move on. I have lots of wonderful memories from Toastmasters, and I shall forever cherish them. But for now, this is a part of my life where the energy has become stagnant. It’s no longer flowing with growth and abundance. There are many new areas I wish to explore, and by dropping Toastmasters, I can free up more attention, time, and energy for new adventures. I still highly recommend Toastmasters for people who want to develop their communication and leadership skills. It works. Especially if you’re nervous about public speaking, Toastmasters is a great way to overcome your fear of the stage and become a competent communicator. It helped me go from being a pretty weak speaker to being able to earn $50K in a weekend for speaking — and to have fundoing it. Given that a Toastmasters membership costs about $70 per year, I think that’s a pretty good return on investment. This is more evidence that the best place to invest your money is in your own personal growth. Now I get to apply and enjoy the speaking skills I developed for the rest of my life. I’m very grateful for all the amazing lessons and friendships I gained from Toastmasters. Joining Toastmasters in 2004 was one of the best decisions I ever made. If I had to do it all over again, I’d have joined much, much sooner… ideally during college. I’m also excited about what else I might do with the time and attention I previously devoted to Toastmasters. Removing this activity from my plate will free up more space to take on something new. This is not an early April Fools joke by the way, just in case you were wondering.
    Jul 12, 2011 759
  • 12 Jul 2011
    I did my first Bikram (hot yoga) class today with Rachelle. She’s been asking me to try it for 4 months, so I finally decided to attend a class with her this morning to see what it was like. I’ve never done hot yoga before, so you could say my curiosity finally got the better of me. That and the fact that I told Rachelle I’d try Bikram yoga if she’d help me buy some new clothes. She spent 16 hours shopping with me this weekend — she really knows her colors.  This particular yoga studio is right around the corner from my gym, so for the past week I’d drop Rachelle off for her class and then head to my gym for my usual morning workout. And each time the friendly people at the Bikram studio would offer me a free class and nudge me to try it. I had to explain to them that I never met a yoga I liked. As many of my friends know, I can be quite vocal in my distaste for all things yoga. It bores me to tears. I keep suggesting they add a sparring element to make it more engaging. This is a fairly new studio — it just opened earlier this year — so there weren’t many students in the class. It was just Rachelle, myself, and two others (one male, one female). The next class coming in after ours seemed a bit more populous. (Hmmm… Populous… I used to spend hours playing that game. Anyone remember that one?) This class was 90 minutes long, and it takes place in a heated room, so you sweat continuously. I think it was set to 95 degrees or so, but I’m not sure about the exact temp. (Edit — turns out 105 degrees is the standard setting for Bikram studios.) It also seemed pretty humid in there. I don’t know if the humidity was by design or if it was from the previous class sweating it up. I drank almost a quart of water and a quart of fresh carrot-apple-celery-spinach-greens-ginger-lime juice before class (but no solid food), so I was well hydrated before I got there. The class was easier than I expected in terms of the workout. I haven’t done martial arts in a while, so my flexibility has a ways to go, but other than not being very stretchy, I didn’t find it overly difficult. My usual morning workout (intervals + weight training) is more challenging for me than this yoga class was. I actually liked the heat. It felt good to sweat so much. Sometimes the A/C at my gym is turned up a bit high, and I found the warmth of this yoga room to be a nice change of pace. The heat wasn’t a problem for me at all, maybe because I’m used to 110-degree days during the Vegas summers. I wouldn’t have minded if they cranked up the heat a bit higher in fact. The first half of the class was standing exercises, and the second half involved floor exercises that were done sitting or lying down. There were 26 postures in all, and we did each of them twice. Most of these postures weren’t new to me because I’ve done yoga before. But there were a few I hadn’t tried before, like the rabbit pose. The instructor talked very fast, but I was able to figure out what to do pretty quickly, partly by listening to her and partly by watching the other students. The hardest part for me was staying silent because in group classes I tend to enjoy cracking jokes now and then. But overall I didn’t mind the policy of silence because it kept me focused on what I was doing. I thought the workout was very relaxing and refreshing, almost like hanging out in a spa for a while. I’m sure the heat helped with getting into the stretches more deeply. I’d expect that one of the benefits of the heat and the sweating would be better skin. Rachelle’s skin is amazingly soft and smooth, and she says it wasn’t like that before she started doing Bikram yoga. She’s been into it for about 4 years. She says that if I keep doing it, I should definitely see a difference in my skin within a few weeks or less. I can believe that. Until today I always hated yoga, but I have to admit that I actually enjoyed this class. Afterwards I felt very energized, more than I normally would after one of my usual workouts. The class ended about 5 hours ago, and I’m still feeling more energetic than usual, both mentally and physically. My body seems more oxygenated, and it feels like I’m breathing better. My mind is in a state of relaxed alertness. I’m considering doing a 30-day trial of Bikram yoga to see what the results are (going to class every day for 30 days in a row). I don’t think you can get a good idea of the benefits of any particular workout unless you keep it up for at least a few weeks to see if you notice any difference. I’m just not sure if that would be practical for me at this time of year because I have some travel coming up. I plan to attend another Bikram class tomorrow and make a decision on a 30-day trial a bit later. This weekend I’ll be busy doing CGW #3. At this time I invite all the pro-Bikram people who’ve been bugging me to try this to finally indulge in their gloating session.  I still think they should add some sparring.
    759 Posted by UniqueThis
  • I did my first Bikram (hot yoga) class today with Rachelle. She’s been asking me to try it for 4 months, so I finally decided to attend a class with her this morning to see what it was like. I’ve never done hot yoga before, so you could say my curiosity finally got the better of me. That and the fact that I told Rachelle I’d try Bikram yoga if she’d help me buy some new clothes. She spent 16 hours shopping with me this weekend — she really knows her colors.  This particular yoga studio is right around the corner from my gym, so for the past week I’d drop Rachelle off for her class and then head to my gym for my usual morning workout. And each time the friendly people at the Bikram studio would offer me a free class and nudge me to try it. I had to explain to them that I never met a yoga I liked. As many of my friends know, I can be quite vocal in my distaste for all things yoga. It bores me to tears. I keep suggesting they add a sparring element to make it more engaging. This is a fairly new studio — it just opened earlier this year — so there weren’t many students in the class. It was just Rachelle, myself, and two others (one male, one female). The next class coming in after ours seemed a bit more populous. (Hmmm… Populous… I used to spend hours playing that game. Anyone remember that one?) This class was 90 minutes long, and it takes place in a heated room, so you sweat continuously. I think it was set to 95 degrees or so, but I’m not sure about the exact temp. (Edit — turns out 105 degrees is the standard setting for Bikram studios.) It also seemed pretty humid in there. I don’t know if the humidity was by design or if it was from the previous class sweating it up. I drank almost a quart of water and a quart of fresh carrot-apple-celery-spinach-greens-ginger-lime juice before class (but no solid food), so I was well hydrated before I got there. The class was easier than I expected in terms of the workout. I haven’t done martial arts in a while, so my flexibility has a ways to go, but other than not being very stretchy, I didn’t find it overly difficult. My usual morning workout (intervals + weight training) is more challenging for me than this yoga class was. I actually liked the heat. It felt good to sweat so much. Sometimes the A/C at my gym is turned up a bit high, and I found the warmth of this yoga room to be a nice change of pace. The heat wasn’t a problem for me at all, maybe because I’m used to 110-degree days during the Vegas summers. I wouldn’t have minded if they cranked up the heat a bit higher in fact. The first half of the class was standing exercises, and the second half involved floor exercises that were done sitting or lying down. There were 26 postures in all, and we did each of them twice. Most of these postures weren’t new to me because I’ve done yoga before. But there were a few I hadn’t tried before, like the rabbit pose. The instructor talked very fast, but I was able to figure out what to do pretty quickly, partly by listening to her and partly by watching the other students. The hardest part for me was staying silent because in group classes I tend to enjoy cracking jokes now and then. But overall I didn’t mind the policy of silence because it kept me focused on what I was doing. I thought the workout was very relaxing and refreshing, almost like hanging out in a spa for a while. I’m sure the heat helped with getting into the stretches more deeply. I’d expect that one of the benefits of the heat and the sweating would be better skin. Rachelle’s skin is amazingly soft and smooth, and she says it wasn’t like that before she started doing Bikram yoga. She’s been into it for about 4 years. She says that if I keep doing it, I should definitely see a difference in my skin within a few weeks or less. I can believe that. Until today I always hated yoga, but I have to admit that I actually enjoyed this class. Afterwards I felt very energized, more than I normally would after one of my usual workouts. The class ended about 5 hours ago, and I’m still feeling more energetic than usual, both mentally and physically. My body seems more oxygenated, and it feels like I’m breathing better. My mind is in a state of relaxed alertness. I’m considering doing a 30-day trial of Bikram yoga to see what the results are (going to class every day for 30 days in a row). I don’t think you can get a good idea of the benefits of any particular workout unless you keep it up for at least a few weeks to see if you notice any difference. I’m just not sure if that would be practical for me at this time of year because I have some travel coming up. I plan to attend another Bikram class tomorrow and make a decision on a 30-day trial a bit later. This weekend I’ll be busy doing CGW #3. At this time I invite all the pro-Bikram people who’ve been bugging me to try this to finally indulge in their gloating session.  I still think they should add some sparring.
    Jul 12, 2011 759
  • 12 Jul 2011
    It ain’t what you don’t know that gets you into trouble. It’s what you know for sure that just ain’t so. – Mark Twain Whenever I write about certain topics, especially those that seem contrary to mainstream conditioning, some people voice very strong opinions. They communicate their thoughts with a high degree of certainty, as if adopting the posture of an expert. However, upon further inspection it becomes readily apparent that most of these people have little or no direct experience upon which to base their opinions. Their knowledge of such subjects can hardly be classified as knowledge at all, since it’s derived largely from non-primary sources like media conditioning, third-party rumors, and supposition. Erroneous Knowledge Of course the problem with acquiring “knowledge” in such an indirect manner is that it’s often riddled with errors. People claim certainty about things that “just ain’t so.” For example, when I wrote some blog posts about polyamory, much of the feedback I received was nonsensical, whether it was supportive or critical. Out of sheer ignorance, some people would start with a false assumption such as polyamory = polygamy (polygamy is illegal in the USA) and then base their opinions on that assumption. Other assumptions were not quite so ludicrous, but they were just as inaccurate. People made such errors in judgment because they have no relevant experience upon which to base an informed opinion. So they filled in their lack of knowledge with guesses, and many of those guesses turned out to be completely erroneous. From their perspective their opinions seemed to make sense, but to any reasonable person with experience in those areas, such opinions seemed utterly naive at best and sometimes borderline insane. Such problems aren’t limited to polyamory of course. They can come up with any topic, but they tend to happen more frequently in areas where people lack direct experience. Other topics which generated a lot of ignorant feedback based on false assumptions include polyphasic sleep, raw food diets, divorce, and even self-employment. The Smoothing Function One reason this problem occurs is that our brains have a tendency to apply a “smoothing function” when we lack information about certain subjects. Our minds are always searching for new levels of certainty and patterns of predictability, so when we lack direct experience in a certain area, our brain does the best it can to pull in connections from seemingly related areas. Unfortunately sometimes those related areas just aren’t related enough, so the connections that are formed introduce a great deal of error, and this corrupts any conclusions we might draw based on those connections. Think of it like an image or a video that’s overly compressed to the point where you can’t even make out any distinct elements. It’s just a blur of colors. That missing data is important. If the compression is turned up too high, the images don’t convey accurate and useful information. For example, when I wrote about polyphasic sleep, the topic was outside of most people’s direct experience. Nevertheless, that fact didn’t prevent such people from voicing strong opinions about it. But since they hadn’t experienced polyphasic sleep and knew virtually nothing about it, their opinions were based on the closest mental connections they could form. So people would share opinions with false suppositions like polyphasic sleep = long-term sleep deprivation. Similarly when I wrote about the raw food diet, many people who hadn’t read so much as a single book about raw foods would share ignorant (yet often strongly worded) opinions based on silly assumptions like raw foods = eating only salads all day. And then there were false associations like polyamory = promiscuity, domination and submission = abuse, and divorce = conflict. Some false associations are of a more personal nature, the result of overgeneralization. These include beliefs such as, “I can’t make money online,” or “If I get divorced, it will screw up my kids,” or “If I lose my job, I won’t be able to cope.” Suspending Judgment False beliefs and associations are growth killers. When your mind is cluttered with false information, and you base your beliefs on such falsehoods, you can’t move forward in those particular areas. Your progress remains stunted until you clean up the mental mess. Now the obvious solution here is to suspend judgment when your knowledge in a particular area is lacking. You can actually do this consciously. Your brain may still apply its smoothing function at inappropriate times, but with sufficient self-awareness, you can discipline yourself to mentally override those biases. The first step is awareness. You must become aware of the areas where you’re likely to harbor false beliefs. When you catch yourself voicing a strong opinion on some subject, pause for a moment and check in with yourself. What specific knowledge are you basing your opinion on? Is this knowledge based on a wide range of direct experience? Are you an expert on this topic? How do you know what you claim to know? Do you catch yourself arguing with someone who has more direct experience than you? Are you voicing an opinion just to be opinionated, or are you sharing information of value? Is your ego getting too involved? Are you wrapping your ideas into your identity, such that when your ideas are criticized, you feel a need to personally defend yourself. What comes up if you ask yourself, What else might be true? Based on your self-diagnostic, you may come to realize that your opinion, even though it may be strongly held, has little or no basis in fact. At this time you can choose to take a step back, release your attachment to your opinion, and allow your mind to unclench and open itself to new ideas. After all, your opinions are not even yours to claim. They are just perspectives. There’s no need to take ownership of any perspective and wrap it into your identity. You Are Perspective-Independent It can be tremendously helpful at times to adopt a particular perspective and make the best case you can for it. Then sit back and observe how other people react to it. Allow their feedback to poke holes in your arguments if possible. Use the strength of that initial perspective to draw out other potential perspectives, and explore them as well. But don’t get your ego so wrapped up in your perspective that you close your mind to new ideas. I do this quite often when I write new articles. Before I begin writing, I adopt a certain perspective that I want to explore in more depth. Then I write some observations based on how reality appears through that lens. After I post the article, I step back and observe the feedback. I see what other lenses people suggest. I see what new pros and cons they identify. In the follow-up discussions, I may push harder to make a case for the original lens, but sometimes I’ll switch sides and offer up other perspectives, so we can explore those as well. I realize this can confuse people at times because we’re so conditioned to wrap perspectives/lenses into our identities, but I find that more growth opportunities are possible with an open mind. Open-mindedness, however, makes for very dull writing and cannot stimulate much growth. A truly open mind can only receive; it has nothing to give. However, when the mind fixates for a while on a specific perspective, it can express many interesting insights. If you assume that my blog posts represent my personal opinions on all subjects I write about, you’ll have a completely inaccurate image of me, and you’ll probably be confused in the end because many of my articles share perspectives that appear to be in conflict with each other. That’s because the perspectives I share aren’t mine per se. They’re perspectives that I temporarily adopt to stimulate people to grow. It doesn’t matter whether people agree or disagree with the perspectives that are shared. They derive new growth lessons through the process of thinking about and discussing what’s true for them. For example, when I write a very opinionated article like 10 Reasons You Should Never Get a Job, it stimulates a tremendous amount of thought and discussion. For some people, the ideas in the article help motivate them to start their own businesses. I’m aware of dozens of new businesses that have been spawned as a direct result of people reading that article. But some people react in just the opposite way. That article makes them think more deeply about their role as an employee and warns of traps to avoid, so they’re able to make more conscious choices if they choose to follow the path of long-term employment. Either way, that article helps stimulate growth precisely because it appears so strongly opinionated, and therefore people are inclined to think about and react to the ideas being shared. So the irony here is that it can be a very powerful growth experience to adopt a specific perspective and explore it deeply, but you don’t want to get so attached to any particular perspective that you miss out on powerful growth opportunities. You want to use strong perspectives as a tool for stimulating growth as opposed to a method of blocking growth. Blocking Quite often people succumb to false beliefs and erroneous judgments in order to block themselves from facing their fears. For example, if people can make harsh judgments about divorce, even if such judgments are based on false or inaccurate information, it allows them to rule out the possibility of divorce. Consequently, they may remain stuck in an unfulfilling marriage. Staying stuck enables them to block themselves from facing fears such as:If we break up, will I be able to cope? Will I be able to support myself financially? How will my friends and family react? Will a divorce screw up the kids? Am I good enough to attract a new partner? Can I handle seeing my partner withs someone else? What if s/he finds someone who’s a better match than me, and I’m still alone? Facing such challenges consciously can be too much for some people, so in the short run, it may seem easier to block the whole thing by clinging to a false belief likemarriage is permanent. A telltale sign of such blocking is closed-mindedness and the unwillingness to consider contradictory information. Especially common is the unwillingness to embrace learning through direct experience. When people are in blocking mode, they’ll often propose and defend the most ridiculous arguments that make more experienced people cringe. I see this sort of blocking happen quite often in relationship related discussions in our forums. When people are desperately clinging to an unfulfilling relationship situation, out of fear they may not be able to find anything better, they’ll frequently attack any perspectives that would potentially present them with major growth opportunities. Their unwillingness to face their fears prevents them from seriously considering new perspectives. The upside is that blocking is often a prelude to a breakthrough. People who are in a blocking phase aren’t necessarily stuck long-term. Usually they’re working through their fears. The whole reason they dive into such discussions instead of remaining silent is that subconsciously they know that other more experienced people will rip their baseless arguments to shreds, thereby pushing them to face their fears. This can help create cracks in the person’s resistance as their block begins to crumble. Some people eventually come to realize that they’re blocking, and this helps them open their minds and take a deeper look at themselves. This is a difficult thing to do, and I have tremendous respect for people who can recognize their own blocks and look for ways around them. On the other hand, I also have a lot of compassion for people whose resistance is much stronger; they’re deeply afraid of what they may find on the other side. Beyond Blocking Based on my experience seeing many people go through this process, and having done it myself many times, I can at least turn the page and let you know what to expect when you begin to see your own blocks. Initially it’s a humbling experience for most, and afterwards it opens the door to tremendous growth. But how that growth plays out is a bit different for everyone. Some people experience a major breakdown as their old beliefs succumb to new truths. For a while nothing seems real anymore. It’s as if their whole reality is broken. They have to live one day at a time for a while to process what’s happening to them. If you find yourself in this place, rest assured it’s temporary. Just keep breathing, and you’ll work your way through it. Other people go through this process much more gradually, spreading it out over years instead of weeks. Little by little, bits and pieces of their false beliefs are chipped away, and they begin to perceive reality more accurately than before. In the end, the general attitude I see most often is one of gratitude. People look back and say things like, “It was hard, but it was surely worth it.” Do you have blocks? Yes, we all do. If you’re aware of one or more of your blocks, then you have a chance to chip away at them. If you aren’t aware of any blocks, it simply means you aren’t ready to work on them yet. When you feel ready, simply say aloud to the universe, “Show me where I’m blocked.” Say it like you mean it. If your desire is genuine, you won’t have to wait long for one of your blocks to reveal itself. One suggestion I have for overcoming such blocks is to educate yourself. Turn towards your fears in a gentle way by getting a book on the subject and reading about it. Education is a powerful antidote to fear. Another option is to talk to people who’ve already gone through what you fear you might have to endure. They can share a more empowering perspective with you that you may not think is possible. I was much less resistant to divorce, for example, after reading some books about it and talking to people who’d already gone through a divorce. Similarly, I felt a lot more comfortable running my own business after reading books by successful entrepreneurs. If reading a whole book is too much of a commitment, then make an appointment to go to your local bookstore and read just one chapter of one book. Or read for just 20 minutes total. See if you can pick up one or two ideas that will help fill in some gaps in your knowledge. Once you’ve educated yourself, it’s much easier to muster the courage to begin taking small action steps, and from there you can build momentum towards a greater transition. Yet another option is to use the Lefkoe Method to identify and eliminate limiting beliefs, which takes about 20 minutes per belief. I’ve been recommending this method since 2009, and the feedback I’ve received on it since then has been wonderful. I know many people who’ve benefitted greatly from this technique. Intelligent Judgments Judgment isn’t a bad thing per se. Judgments are necessary for making good decisions. Your brain is wired to make judgments automatically because your survival depends on it. Whenever you decide what to eat or not eat, you’re making a judgment call. In terms of personal growth, it’s important to strike the right balance between flexibility and rigidity in your judgments. If you’re too flexible, you become wishy-washy and can’t make strong decisions. Such people don’t function very well. They get tossed around by the currents of life. Other people run roughshod over them. They can’t build or sustain any serious momentum. They bounce around from one thing to another without any rhyme or reason, and their weak results reflect their lack of self-control. On the other hand, too much rigidity can be just as problematic. Such people have a hard time seeing the big picture. False beliefs cripple them from growing in certain areas, so they remain perpetually stuck. How can you tell the difference between good judgments and bad ones? This is perhaps the simplest way to understand the difference. Good judgments yield accurate predictions. Bad judgments yield inaccurate predictions. For example, if I post about something I’m going to do, and you make some predictions about what’s going to happen, how accurate are your predictions? Do my reported results fall within the range of your expectations, or do they violate your expectations? If your expectations are violated, it means you’ve based your predictions on one or more bad judgments. One of my favorite ways to challenge people who are clearly succumbing to false beliefs is to push them to share some specific predictions based on their judgments. I simply ask them to share what they expect will happen next, preferably in public, such as by posting in our forums. For those who do it, it puts them on record, and it allows them to see if they were right in the long run. Some of these people make ridiculously erroneous predictions that any experienced person would find laughable, but that doesn’t seem to stop them from voicing their opinions with great certainty. For example, when I was doing my 30-day trial of raw foods, I seem to recall that one person predicted something like, ”If you eat 100% raw vegan for 30 days, you will suffer protein deficiency symptoms. You’ll never make it to 30 days because otherwise you’d get sick and die.” This person’s ignorance about basic nutrition led them to make a completely inaccurate prediction. Such is the nature of false knowledge — it leads to erroneous predictions. What’s even more ridiculous is when people make erroneous back-predictions of events that have already turned out contrary to their false assumptions. For example, I’ve seen some people predict that if I try to eat vegan for 30 days, I’ll die from nutritional deficiencies… even though I’ve already been vegan since 1997.  Obviously these cases are extreme to the point of being ludicrous, but I share them because we all do this sort of thing to varying degrees. If we would put ourselves on record more often by sharing our best predictions and expectations, it would help expose more of our false beliefs, thereby giving us the opportunity to uproot and replace them with more accurate perspectives. If we can’t share any specific predictions, then a posture of open-mindedness makes more sense than one of closed-mindedness and rigidity. If we can’t make good predictions, we can’t claim any degree of certainty. If you want to know if your judgments are accurate, make some predictions based on those judgments, and see if they come to pass as you expect. The more accurate your judgments, the more accurate your predictions will be. If your predictions turn out to be grossly inaccurate, take a deeper look at your judgments to see where you’ve gone wrong. As you gradually fine-tune your judgments, you’ll consequently make more accurate predictions. And since you naturally rely on your predictions and expectations when making decisions, you’ll get better at making decisions that generate the results you desire. This has very practical consequences. It means more money in your wallet, better health and energy, and happier and more fulfilling relationships to enjoy. It will take time and patience to calibrate your judgments effectively, such that your flexibility or firmness is appropriate to your level of knowledge and the circumstances you’re dealing with. Fortunately, your interactions with those who challenge you will automatically help you get there, if you hold the intention to keep growing and learning. 
    782 Posted by UniqueThis
  • It ain’t what you don’t know that gets you into trouble. It’s what you know for sure that just ain’t so. – Mark Twain Whenever I write about certain topics, especially those that seem contrary to mainstream conditioning, some people voice very strong opinions. They communicate their thoughts with a high degree of certainty, as if adopting the posture of an expert. However, upon further inspection it becomes readily apparent that most of these people have little or no direct experience upon which to base their opinions. Their knowledge of such subjects can hardly be classified as knowledge at all, since it’s derived largely from non-primary sources like media conditioning, third-party rumors, and supposition. Erroneous Knowledge Of course the problem with acquiring “knowledge” in such an indirect manner is that it’s often riddled with errors. People claim certainty about things that “just ain’t so.” For example, when I wrote some blog posts about polyamory, much of the feedback I received was nonsensical, whether it was supportive or critical. Out of sheer ignorance, some people would start with a false assumption such as polyamory = polygamy (polygamy is illegal in the USA) and then base their opinions on that assumption. Other assumptions were not quite so ludicrous, but they were just as inaccurate. People made such errors in judgment because they have no relevant experience upon which to base an informed opinion. So they filled in their lack of knowledge with guesses, and many of those guesses turned out to be completely erroneous. From their perspective their opinions seemed to make sense, but to any reasonable person with experience in those areas, such opinions seemed utterly naive at best and sometimes borderline insane. Such problems aren’t limited to polyamory of course. They can come up with any topic, but they tend to happen more frequently in areas where people lack direct experience. Other topics which generated a lot of ignorant feedback based on false assumptions include polyphasic sleep, raw food diets, divorce, and even self-employment. The Smoothing Function One reason this problem occurs is that our brains have a tendency to apply a “smoothing function” when we lack information about certain subjects. Our minds are always searching for new levels of certainty and patterns of predictability, so when we lack direct experience in a certain area, our brain does the best it can to pull in connections from seemingly related areas. Unfortunately sometimes those related areas just aren’t related enough, so the connections that are formed introduce a great deal of error, and this corrupts any conclusions we might draw based on those connections. Think of it like an image or a video that’s overly compressed to the point where you can’t even make out any distinct elements. It’s just a blur of colors. That missing data is important. If the compression is turned up too high, the images don’t convey accurate and useful information. For example, when I wrote about polyphasic sleep, the topic was outside of most people’s direct experience. Nevertheless, that fact didn’t prevent such people from voicing strong opinions about it. But since they hadn’t experienced polyphasic sleep and knew virtually nothing about it, their opinions were based on the closest mental connections they could form. So people would share opinions with false suppositions like polyphasic sleep = long-term sleep deprivation. Similarly when I wrote about the raw food diet, many people who hadn’t read so much as a single book about raw foods would share ignorant (yet often strongly worded) opinions based on silly assumptions like raw foods = eating only salads all day. And then there were false associations like polyamory = promiscuity, domination and submission = abuse, and divorce = conflict. Some false associations are of a more personal nature, the result of overgeneralization. These include beliefs such as, “I can’t make money online,” or “If I get divorced, it will screw up my kids,” or “If I lose my job, I won’t be able to cope.” Suspending Judgment False beliefs and associations are growth killers. When your mind is cluttered with false information, and you base your beliefs on such falsehoods, you can’t move forward in those particular areas. Your progress remains stunted until you clean up the mental mess. Now the obvious solution here is to suspend judgment when your knowledge in a particular area is lacking. You can actually do this consciously. Your brain may still apply its smoothing function at inappropriate times, but with sufficient self-awareness, you can discipline yourself to mentally override those biases. The first step is awareness. You must become aware of the areas where you’re likely to harbor false beliefs. When you catch yourself voicing a strong opinion on some subject, pause for a moment and check in with yourself. What specific knowledge are you basing your opinion on? Is this knowledge based on a wide range of direct experience? Are you an expert on this topic? How do you know what you claim to know? Do you catch yourself arguing with someone who has more direct experience than you? Are you voicing an opinion just to be opinionated, or are you sharing information of value? Is your ego getting too involved? Are you wrapping your ideas into your identity, such that when your ideas are criticized, you feel a need to personally defend yourself. What comes up if you ask yourself, What else might be true? Based on your self-diagnostic, you may come to realize that your opinion, even though it may be strongly held, has little or no basis in fact. At this time you can choose to take a step back, release your attachment to your opinion, and allow your mind to unclench and open itself to new ideas. After all, your opinions are not even yours to claim. They are just perspectives. There’s no need to take ownership of any perspective and wrap it into your identity. You Are Perspective-Independent It can be tremendously helpful at times to adopt a particular perspective and make the best case you can for it. Then sit back and observe how other people react to it. Allow their feedback to poke holes in your arguments if possible. Use the strength of that initial perspective to draw out other potential perspectives, and explore them as well. But don’t get your ego so wrapped up in your perspective that you close your mind to new ideas. I do this quite often when I write new articles. Before I begin writing, I adopt a certain perspective that I want to explore in more depth. Then I write some observations based on how reality appears through that lens. After I post the article, I step back and observe the feedback. I see what other lenses people suggest. I see what new pros and cons they identify. In the follow-up discussions, I may push harder to make a case for the original lens, but sometimes I’ll switch sides and offer up other perspectives, so we can explore those as well. I realize this can confuse people at times because we’re so conditioned to wrap perspectives/lenses into our identities, but I find that more growth opportunities are possible with an open mind. Open-mindedness, however, makes for very dull writing and cannot stimulate much growth. A truly open mind can only receive; it has nothing to give. However, when the mind fixates for a while on a specific perspective, it can express many interesting insights. If you assume that my blog posts represent my personal opinions on all subjects I write about, you’ll have a completely inaccurate image of me, and you’ll probably be confused in the end because many of my articles share perspectives that appear to be in conflict with each other. That’s because the perspectives I share aren’t mine per se. They’re perspectives that I temporarily adopt to stimulate people to grow. It doesn’t matter whether people agree or disagree with the perspectives that are shared. They derive new growth lessons through the process of thinking about and discussing what’s true for them. For example, when I write a very opinionated article like 10 Reasons You Should Never Get a Job, it stimulates a tremendous amount of thought and discussion. For some people, the ideas in the article help motivate them to start their own businesses. I’m aware of dozens of new businesses that have been spawned as a direct result of people reading that article. But some people react in just the opposite way. That article makes them think more deeply about their role as an employee and warns of traps to avoid, so they’re able to make more conscious choices if they choose to follow the path of long-term employment. Either way, that article helps stimulate growth precisely because it appears so strongly opinionated, and therefore people are inclined to think about and react to the ideas being shared. So the irony here is that it can be a very powerful growth experience to adopt a specific perspective and explore it deeply, but you don’t want to get so attached to any particular perspective that you miss out on powerful growth opportunities. You want to use strong perspectives as a tool for stimulating growth as opposed to a method of blocking growth. Blocking Quite often people succumb to false beliefs and erroneous judgments in order to block themselves from facing their fears. For example, if people can make harsh judgments about divorce, even if such judgments are based on false or inaccurate information, it allows them to rule out the possibility of divorce. Consequently, they may remain stuck in an unfulfilling marriage. Staying stuck enables them to block themselves from facing fears such as:If we break up, will I be able to cope? Will I be able to support myself financially? How will my friends and family react? Will a divorce screw up the kids? Am I good enough to attract a new partner? Can I handle seeing my partner withs someone else? What if s/he finds someone who’s a better match than me, and I’m still alone? Facing such challenges consciously can be too much for some people, so in the short run, it may seem easier to block the whole thing by clinging to a false belief likemarriage is permanent. A telltale sign of such blocking is closed-mindedness and the unwillingness to consider contradictory information. Especially common is the unwillingness to embrace learning through direct experience. When people are in blocking mode, they’ll often propose and defend the most ridiculous arguments that make more experienced people cringe. I see this sort of blocking happen quite often in relationship related discussions in our forums. When people are desperately clinging to an unfulfilling relationship situation, out of fear they may not be able to find anything better, they’ll frequently attack any perspectives that would potentially present them with major growth opportunities. Their unwillingness to face their fears prevents them from seriously considering new perspectives. The upside is that blocking is often a prelude to a breakthrough. People who are in a blocking phase aren’t necessarily stuck long-term. Usually they’re working through their fears. The whole reason they dive into such discussions instead of remaining silent is that subconsciously they know that other more experienced people will rip their baseless arguments to shreds, thereby pushing them to face their fears. This can help create cracks in the person’s resistance as their block begins to crumble. Some people eventually come to realize that they’re blocking, and this helps them open their minds and take a deeper look at themselves. This is a difficult thing to do, and I have tremendous respect for people who can recognize their own blocks and look for ways around them. On the other hand, I also have a lot of compassion for people whose resistance is much stronger; they’re deeply afraid of what they may find on the other side. Beyond Blocking Based on my experience seeing many people go through this process, and having done it myself many times, I can at least turn the page and let you know what to expect when you begin to see your own blocks. Initially it’s a humbling experience for most, and afterwards it opens the door to tremendous growth. But how that growth plays out is a bit different for everyone. Some people experience a major breakdown as their old beliefs succumb to new truths. For a while nothing seems real anymore. It’s as if their whole reality is broken. They have to live one day at a time for a while to process what’s happening to them. If you find yourself in this place, rest assured it’s temporary. Just keep breathing, and you’ll work your way through it. Other people go through this process much more gradually, spreading it out over years instead of weeks. Little by little, bits and pieces of their false beliefs are chipped away, and they begin to perceive reality more accurately than before. In the end, the general attitude I see most often is one of gratitude. People look back and say things like, “It was hard, but it was surely worth it.” Do you have blocks? Yes, we all do. If you’re aware of one or more of your blocks, then you have a chance to chip away at them. If you aren’t aware of any blocks, it simply means you aren’t ready to work on them yet. When you feel ready, simply say aloud to the universe, “Show me where I’m blocked.” Say it like you mean it. If your desire is genuine, you won’t have to wait long for one of your blocks to reveal itself. One suggestion I have for overcoming such blocks is to educate yourself. Turn towards your fears in a gentle way by getting a book on the subject and reading about it. Education is a powerful antidote to fear. Another option is to talk to people who’ve already gone through what you fear you might have to endure. They can share a more empowering perspective with you that you may not think is possible. I was much less resistant to divorce, for example, after reading some books about it and talking to people who’d already gone through a divorce. Similarly, I felt a lot more comfortable running my own business after reading books by successful entrepreneurs. If reading a whole book is too much of a commitment, then make an appointment to go to your local bookstore and read just one chapter of one book. Or read for just 20 minutes total. See if you can pick up one or two ideas that will help fill in some gaps in your knowledge. Once you’ve educated yourself, it’s much easier to muster the courage to begin taking small action steps, and from there you can build momentum towards a greater transition. Yet another option is to use the Lefkoe Method to identify and eliminate limiting beliefs, which takes about 20 minutes per belief. I’ve been recommending this method since 2009, and the feedback I’ve received on it since then has been wonderful. I know many people who’ve benefitted greatly from this technique. Intelligent Judgments Judgment isn’t a bad thing per se. Judgments are necessary for making good decisions. Your brain is wired to make judgments automatically because your survival depends on it. Whenever you decide what to eat or not eat, you’re making a judgment call. In terms of personal growth, it’s important to strike the right balance between flexibility and rigidity in your judgments. If you’re too flexible, you become wishy-washy and can’t make strong decisions. Such people don’t function very well. They get tossed around by the currents of life. Other people run roughshod over them. They can’t build or sustain any serious momentum. They bounce around from one thing to another without any rhyme or reason, and their weak results reflect their lack of self-control. On the other hand, too much rigidity can be just as problematic. Such people have a hard time seeing the big picture. False beliefs cripple them from growing in certain areas, so they remain perpetually stuck. How can you tell the difference between good judgments and bad ones? This is perhaps the simplest way to understand the difference. Good judgments yield accurate predictions. Bad judgments yield inaccurate predictions. For example, if I post about something I’m going to do, and you make some predictions about what’s going to happen, how accurate are your predictions? Do my reported results fall within the range of your expectations, or do they violate your expectations? If your expectations are violated, it means you’ve based your predictions on one or more bad judgments. One of my favorite ways to challenge people who are clearly succumbing to false beliefs is to push them to share some specific predictions based on their judgments. I simply ask them to share what they expect will happen next, preferably in public, such as by posting in our forums. For those who do it, it puts them on record, and it allows them to see if they were right in the long run. Some of these people make ridiculously erroneous predictions that any experienced person would find laughable, but that doesn’t seem to stop them from voicing their opinions with great certainty. For example, when I was doing my 30-day trial of raw foods, I seem to recall that one person predicted something like, ”If you eat 100% raw vegan for 30 days, you will suffer protein deficiency symptoms. You’ll never make it to 30 days because otherwise you’d get sick and die.” This person’s ignorance about basic nutrition led them to make a completely inaccurate prediction. Such is the nature of false knowledge — it leads to erroneous predictions. What’s even more ridiculous is when people make erroneous back-predictions of events that have already turned out contrary to their false assumptions. For example, I’ve seen some people predict that if I try to eat vegan for 30 days, I’ll die from nutritional deficiencies… even though I’ve already been vegan since 1997.  Obviously these cases are extreme to the point of being ludicrous, but I share them because we all do this sort of thing to varying degrees. If we would put ourselves on record more often by sharing our best predictions and expectations, it would help expose more of our false beliefs, thereby giving us the opportunity to uproot and replace them with more accurate perspectives. If we can’t share any specific predictions, then a posture of open-mindedness makes more sense than one of closed-mindedness and rigidity. If we can’t make good predictions, we can’t claim any degree of certainty. If you want to know if your judgments are accurate, make some predictions based on those judgments, and see if they come to pass as you expect. The more accurate your judgments, the more accurate your predictions will be. If your predictions turn out to be grossly inaccurate, take a deeper look at your judgments to see where you’ve gone wrong. As you gradually fine-tune your judgments, you’ll consequently make more accurate predictions. And since you naturally rely on your predictions and expectations when making decisions, you’ll get better at making decisions that generate the results you desire. This has very practical consequences. It means more money in your wallet, better health and energy, and happier and more fulfilling relationships to enjoy. It will take time and patience to calibrate your judgments effectively, such that your flexibility or firmness is appropriate to your level of knowledge and the circumstances you’re dealing with. Fortunately, your interactions with those who challenge you will automatically help you get there, if you hold the intention to keep growing and learning. 
    Jul 12, 2011 782
  • 12 Jul 2011
    Many time management experts label procrastination in strictly negative terms such as “the thief of time.” But is procrastination always such a negative experience? Is there a positive side to procrastination, one that may even encourage you to procrastinate more often? What if you could see procrastination from a more empowering perspective? What if you could even fall in love with procrastination? The Anti-Procrastination Brigade One of the reasons procrastination gets such a bad rap is because it’s generally perceived as contrary to corporate agendas, which rely heavily on time-is-of-the-essence execution driven by command and control authority to hit financial targets. When employees procrastinate on key projects and tasks, it can cause delays that hurt the corporate bottom line. Managers are typically held accountable for these delays. Managerial pay is frequently linked to the corporate agenda, so procrastination issues with team members can personally impact a manager’s income. This incentivizes managers to turn procrastination into an enemy and to do what they can to squash it. Consequently, you’ll commonly find that anti-procrastination books are written by current or former corporate managers. I’ve read many books on this topic, and I have a hard time recalling one that wasn’t written by someone with management experience. Since I’ve managed a team in the past as well, I’ve also witnessed the effect of procrastination on team results, so it should come as no surprise that I too have been a member of the anti-procrastination brigade. One of my earliest article hits was Overcoming Procrastination. I wrote the original version of that article in 2001 while running Dexterity Software, three years before I started blogging, and for most of the intervening years, it has held a top position in search engines. Anti-procrastination, however, is merely a perspective — a lens through which we can view reality. In this article, I’d like to offer you a different perspective to consider. Instead of favoring what’s best for the manager, the team, or the company, let’s consider what’s actually best for the individual. What Do You Do When You Procrastinate? When you’re coming upon a deadline, and you seem to be putting off what “needs” to be done, what are you doing instead? Some people tend to freeze in this situation, doing virtually nothing. They get some impulses for things they’d rather be doing, but then they guilt themselves out of acting on them. However, if you were to set that guilt aside and flow with those impulses, what would you end up doing instead? And what might be the long-term consequences? Perhaps the consequences of procrastination are not as negative as they initially seem. The pressure of the moment has a way of distorting your perspective, just as physical pressure can distort a glass lens. When I was in high school, I used to procrastinate heavily on certain school assignments, almost always waiting till the night before the due date to begin working on them. Most often I’d procrastinate on writing essays and doing various reading assignments. I generally found them boring and tedious. Looking back, I don’t see that this has hurt me at all over the long run. I still don’t care about analyzing the works of Chaucer, and since then my mind has seen fit to reallocate the neurons once devoted to such tasks. What would I do while I was procrastinating on school assignments? I spent many hours playing video games. I also read programming books and wrote small programs on my Atari 800 and then on a PC. And this actually benefitted me in a huge way. Many years later I started a game development and publishing company and ran it for more than a decade. Thanks in part to my previous gaming experience, some of my games won industry awards. So while it seemed like I was procrastinating on the important stuff in high school, in truth I was putting off what was less relevant to me personally, so I could spend more time doing what actually mattered to me. Somehow I never got around to writing a computer game based on the life of Chaucer. Years later, I found myself procrastinating on programming projects in order to read personal development books, listen to audio programs, and write articles. My early article writing was actually a form of procrastination. I always had to put off something seemingly more important to free up time to crank out a new article. I’d also coach other game developers as a form of procrastination, helping certain people gain the knowledge and skills they needed to quit their corporate jobs and start their own indie game development businesses. But the funny thing is that further down the road, I ended up licensing and publishing games from some of those developers I helped. In retrospect, this pattern of procrastination has benefitted me tremendously in the long run, although at the time it often seemed like a bad habit I needed to resist, and I’d feel guilty about it. It caused me some extra stress and a number of all-nighters. I’ve also had to deal with the occasional late fee or penalty now and then. But overall I have to say that all that procrastination wasn’t such a problem after all. I can make a case that it’s done me more good than harm. Whose Agenda Are You Fulfilling? Whose deadlines are you really working on? Are they your deadlines or someone else’s? If the deadlines aren’t really yours, why do you care so much about them anyway? Quite often you’ll find yourself procrastinating on someone else’s agenda so you can spend more time working on your own. Much of the time, however, people aren’t in tune with their own agendas. They spend more time fussing over what they think they should be doing as opposed to what they actually want to be doing. So what if you’re late? Do you really care all that much what your teacher thinks of you… or your boss… or the government? Other people’s deadlines are just that — other people’s deadlines. They won’t always mesh with your desires. Even if you choose to take on a certain project, and you’re the one defining the milestones along the way, you may find that at some future point, you seem to be resisting your earlier decisions. You may have a hard time getting yourself to take action when you know that you “should.” Where do you think this resistance comes from? What if this isn’t a failing at all? What if your procrastination is actually a signal that your priorities are askew? What if procrastination is a sign that a greater intelligence is trying to nudge you in a whole new direction? How Much Is Procrastination Really Hurting You? When you feel that you’re procrastinating, take a deeper look at what’s going on. First of all, is your procrastination really hurting you all that much? Or are you making mountains out of molehills? In the grand scheme of things, having to pay a late fee is hardly the end of the world. Same goes for doing an occasional all-nighter. The money can be recouped. You’ll have a chance to catch up on your sleep later. You’ll recover easily enough. The consequences are little more than a mosquito bite. Even when something seems really bad at the time, years later you may look back and realize it wasn’t such a big deal after all. And maybe it actually helped you get onto a better path. For example, if your procrastination is so “bad” that you end up failing your classes and getting kicked out of college, initially it may seem like a huge blow. You may be inclined to beat yourself up with guilt, and the people around you may heap loads of disappointment onto you. But later in life when the emotional sting wears off, you may realize that this was a powerful step along your path of growth. You’ll begin to see the good in those trying times. Perhaps your procrastination helped you escape the wrong major. After all, how can you purport to be majoring in something that’s aligned with your passion and talents if you got yourself expelled because when push came to shove, you consistently opted to do something other than tend to your studies? Maybe your real mistake was further upstream, and procrastination helped you escape a dead-end track. Another possibility is that the timing just wasn’t right. Maybe your procrastination is telling you that this is the wrong time to attend college. Perhaps you should travel the world for a while. Maybe you don’t need a college degree at all. Maybe you should dive right in and get to work doing what you love. What if the decision to earn a degree was just a fear-based delay tactic? The Benefit of Hindsight Even when it seems like your procrastination habit is a purely destructive one, there may be hidden benefits that can be difficult to see at the time. When I got expelled from UC Berkeley after 3 semesters — I think that in my final semester, my GPA actually started with the decimal point — it was a huge blow to me at the time. Even worse was that I’d just gotten out of jail after being charged with felony grand theft, and I was awaiting my court date. This was a major low point in my life. I was only 19 years old at the time, and I constantly beat myself up about the stupid mistakes I’d made. I thought I was a fairly intelligent guy, but apparently my choices had been incredibly stupid. I procrastinated endlessly on my studies, so I could do things like drink alcohol, go to parties, play poker, and shoplift. My original plan was to earn my degree in computer science, then maybe go on to earn a Ph.D. Afterwards I could get a nice job as a computer programmer somewhere. That was my “should” path. Looking back with the benefit of hindsight, however, the seemingly crazy path I ended up taking turned out to be tremendously valuable. It was very stressful at the time, but to this day, I remain immensely grateful that I didn’t stick to my original plan and graduate from UC Berkeley. If I’d followed that course, I might be working as a computer programmer for the government or some corporation today. That wouldn’t necessarily be a terrible outcome, but I’d much rather be where I am today than where I expect that path would have led me. I think my original plan would have been a heartless path for me in the long run. Instead, my procrastination put me in a position where I had to learn entirely different lessons. Through shoplifting I pushed myself to face my fear again and again and to control my adrenaline response, so I could maintain my composure even when taking big risks. That has been of tremendous benefit to me ever since, especially in business. I really love that I’m able to look at something that scares me and motivate myself to plow right through it without freezing up. It’s very unlikely I’d be doing public speaking today if I’d never learned those courage lessons via shoplifting. Secondly, I learned how to handle negative social pressure. When I hit that low point in my life, everyone who knew me at the time seemed deeply disappointed in me. A lot of criticism was heaped upon me, and I can’t say that it was unwarranted. But in order to make forward progress and turn things around, I had to learn to tune out unhelpful feedback, decide for myself what was best, and take action without the benefit of social support. Otherwise I’d have gotten stuck in a place of self-pity or defensiveness. This ability still comes in handy today. For instance, I feel quite comfortable opening up about topics that will predictably generate a lot of negative feedback (such as polyamory or divorce). It’s hard for me to get worked up over anonymous Internet criticism after what I’ve already been through. Thirdly, I had to learn to love myself unconditionally. The beating I gave myself at the time was worse than what anyone else could have done to me. I was terribly disappointed in myself, and I felt guilty about blowing everything that seemed important. As I recovered from those experiences, which took a long time, I gradually learned to accept myself in spite of my apparent flaws. I had to learn that I’m still worthy of love. We all are. By loving myself, I feel more inclined to care about others. A few days ago, I noticed that a friend seemed to be feeling down on herself, so I wrote her a note to offer her some support and to remind her that she’s loved and appreciated. And of course I had to procrastinate on something “important” to do that. Perhaps our to-do lists should include more items like this to begin with. Fourthly, I became more motivated than ever to do some good with my life. I was so disgusted with the way I’d been living that I pushed myself to the opposite end of the spectrum. I began spending a lot of time working on my character development. Changes were slow and gradual, but eventually I grew into a man who felt good about himself and his contribution to the world. Fifthly, I became a lot less judgmental towards others. Given my sordid past, who am I to judge someone else for their choices? I learned that accepting others and accepting myself are two sides of the same coin; you can’t love and accept yourself without doing the same for others. In my writing I will sometimes temporarily adopt a very opinionated position to stimulate people to think about the ideas, but that’s simply a literary tool I employ to make articles more impactful and memorable. People who hang out with me in person know that I’m ridiculously accepting of others, regardless of their lifestyles. Consequently, I seem to have a habit of attracting friends who are often subjected to harsh judgment by society, including psychics, strippers, porn stars, polyamorous people, pot smokers, people with non-mainstream spiritual beliefs, and of course those “crazy” jobless folks. This has added tremendous richness to my life, including many fun and educational experiences that I’d have otherwise missed. Associating with such people has also helped me feel a lot more comfortable in my own skin. And finally, I gained much more freedom. Since I had failed in such a big way, everyone else’s expectations of me hit rock bottom. No one expected anything from me after that. This gave me the social and emotional freedom to begin taking control of my life without feeling that I had to live up to anyone else’s expectations. Even though I was in a low place, I felt like I finally had the wherewithal to steer my life as I saw fit without worrying about what other people might think. I could hardly make things worse, so it was easier to take some risks. To this day I’m immensely grateful for these lessons (and many more), which came about as a result of procrastinating on my studies in order to follow other impulses. I can’t be sure where those impulses came from, but I’ve since learned not to reject such urges out of hand. Perhaps there is a greater intelligence at work here. Stop Beating Yourself Up If you have a tendency to beat yourself up for procrastinating, maybe you should stop doing that. It doesn’t help you anyway, does it? Perhaps procrastinating isn’t such a bad thing after all. What if there are important growth experiences to be found within your procrastination? Are the items on your to-do list really so important? Are they important to you personally? Why do you feed them so much energy? Even the stuff that seems really important in the moment may look totally different with the benefit of hindsight. You may be beating yourself up because your procrastination seems to be leading you astray. What if you’re even at risk of losing your home? Is it possible that this may turn out to be a good thing in the long run? Who’s to say that losing your stuff is bad? Maybe you’ll find newfound freedom in a life of minimalism. Maybe you’ll end up living in a much nicer place down the road. Maybe the experience will help you develop more courage and self-acceptance. Maybe you’ll gain a cool story to blog about someday, whereby you’ll be in a position to help other people learn valuable lessons. Realize that someday, all of this will be gone. Eventually you’ll pass on and leave this world behind. What will matter to you most when you’re on your deathbed? Will you wish you’d hit more of your assigned deadlines ahead of time? Or will you perhaps wish that you’d spent more time following your heart? Will you regret those late assignments? Or will you regret those amazing life experiences that you missed because you were too busy working to meet someone else’s deadline? Procrastinate Harder What if… instead of resisting your impulse to procrastinate, you threw yourself into it more fully? What if you dove headfirst into your biggest procrastination impulses? Where might they lead you? Maybe procrastination won’t seem like such a curse if you follow those impulses without so much guilt and resistance. You’re probably going to procrastinate anyway, so why not do it in style? When you feel the urge to procrastinate, what are you driven to do? Do you feel like watching movies? Perhaps you could become the next Roger Ebert. Do you prefer to play computer games? Maybe someday you’ll start a game review site or become a game designer. Maybe playing games will evolve into a fun hobby that you can enjoy with friends and family. You might even find a new relationship partner via an online game. Do you like to escape into books? If you read enough books in a certain field, you can eventually become an international expert. I learned a great deal about personal development by reading hundreds of books, but at the time it often seemed like I was procrastinating on something more important. Do you invest a lot of time and energy in online socializing? Maybe you’ll meet your next relationship partner that way. Or perhaps you’ll become a highly paid social media consultant. Corporations are throwing thousands of dollars at such consultants just to learn how to use Twitter and Facebook like any teenager can. You may not even realize just how valuable your expertise can be to the right people. Maybe you could do what the worst procrastinators in the world frequently do. Start your own productivity blog.  Having a Life What would you rather be doing than working to meet someone else’s deadlines? Quite often when you procrastinate, you’ll find yourself doing what it takes to have a life. If you stopped resisting the urge to procrastinate and simply went with it, what new experiences would you invite into your life? What other emotions are hidden behind those surface feelings of stress and resistance? Do you also see some potential excitement staring back at you? What about the feeling that maybe you could get all the so-called “important” work done in half the time you originally estimated while still carving out space to do what you love? Maybe it’s not such a bad idea to blow off today and go have some fun. Isn’t it a more natural tendency to do what you enjoy first… then do what you supposedly have to do as urgency dictates? Perhaps you should allow those “have tos” to build up a certain level of urgency-based pressure before you tend to them. Such pressure has some benefits, doesn’t it? Once it reaches a certain level, you may be able to plow through tons of work with unrelenting speed and focus, drawing on inner resources that you could never bring to bear when you were swimming in extra time. Maybe you’ve been over-thinking this problem, turning it into a phantom boogieman. What if you simply relaxed into the idea of following your heart? Let the procrastination happen. Let the pressure build. If there’s something that really does need to be done, you’ll find a way to get it done. You always do when it truly matters, don’t you? It’s not like you’ve procrastinated yourself into starvation. Despite all your worst procrastination episodes, you’re still breathing, aren’t you? You may think that procrastination is hurting you, but is that harm actually real? Or is it just imaginary harm? Are you still whole and intact? Perhaps there is some greater intelligence nudging you to delay tasks and activities that merely seem important but really aren’t. “Having a life” might just be what happens while you’re procrastinating on something else. When you delay to the limit those uninspired tasks, you’ll create more space in your life for inspiration and joy. * * * I hope you enjoyed this article since I procrastinated on lots of accounting work to write it. I’m sure I’ll feel plenty guilty about that later.  In the meantime, please ponder these quotes from Geoffrey Chaucer: Love is blind. Forbid us something, and that thing we desire. The life so short, the crafts so long to learn. First he wrought, and afterward he taught. The greatest scholars are not usually the wisest people. The guilty think all talk is of themselves. Time and tide wait for no man. Women desire six things: They want their husbands to be brave, wise, rich, generous, obedient to wife, and lively in bed. You had to procrastinate on something to read this article, didn’t you? 
    914 Posted by UniqueThis
  • Many time management experts label procrastination in strictly negative terms such as “the thief of time.” But is procrastination always such a negative experience? Is there a positive side to procrastination, one that may even encourage you to procrastinate more often? What if you could see procrastination from a more empowering perspective? What if you could even fall in love with procrastination? The Anti-Procrastination Brigade One of the reasons procrastination gets such a bad rap is because it’s generally perceived as contrary to corporate agendas, which rely heavily on time-is-of-the-essence execution driven by command and control authority to hit financial targets. When employees procrastinate on key projects and tasks, it can cause delays that hurt the corporate bottom line. Managers are typically held accountable for these delays. Managerial pay is frequently linked to the corporate agenda, so procrastination issues with team members can personally impact a manager’s income. This incentivizes managers to turn procrastination into an enemy and to do what they can to squash it. Consequently, you’ll commonly find that anti-procrastination books are written by current or former corporate managers. I’ve read many books on this topic, and I have a hard time recalling one that wasn’t written by someone with management experience. Since I’ve managed a team in the past as well, I’ve also witnessed the effect of procrastination on team results, so it should come as no surprise that I too have been a member of the anti-procrastination brigade. One of my earliest article hits was Overcoming Procrastination. I wrote the original version of that article in 2001 while running Dexterity Software, three years before I started blogging, and for most of the intervening years, it has held a top position in search engines. Anti-procrastination, however, is merely a perspective — a lens through which we can view reality. In this article, I’d like to offer you a different perspective to consider. Instead of favoring what’s best for the manager, the team, or the company, let’s consider what’s actually best for the individual. What Do You Do When You Procrastinate? When you’re coming upon a deadline, and you seem to be putting off what “needs” to be done, what are you doing instead? Some people tend to freeze in this situation, doing virtually nothing. They get some impulses for things they’d rather be doing, but then they guilt themselves out of acting on them. However, if you were to set that guilt aside and flow with those impulses, what would you end up doing instead? And what might be the long-term consequences? Perhaps the consequences of procrastination are not as negative as they initially seem. The pressure of the moment has a way of distorting your perspective, just as physical pressure can distort a glass lens. When I was in high school, I used to procrastinate heavily on certain school assignments, almost always waiting till the night before the due date to begin working on them. Most often I’d procrastinate on writing essays and doing various reading assignments. I generally found them boring and tedious. Looking back, I don’t see that this has hurt me at all over the long run. I still don’t care about analyzing the works of Chaucer, and since then my mind has seen fit to reallocate the neurons once devoted to such tasks. What would I do while I was procrastinating on school assignments? I spent many hours playing video games. I also read programming books and wrote small programs on my Atari 800 and then on a PC. And this actually benefitted me in a huge way. Many years later I started a game development and publishing company and ran it for more than a decade. Thanks in part to my previous gaming experience, some of my games won industry awards. So while it seemed like I was procrastinating on the important stuff in high school, in truth I was putting off what was less relevant to me personally, so I could spend more time doing what actually mattered to me. Somehow I never got around to writing a computer game based on the life of Chaucer. Years later, I found myself procrastinating on programming projects in order to read personal development books, listen to audio programs, and write articles. My early article writing was actually a form of procrastination. I always had to put off something seemingly more important to free up time to crank out a new article. I’d also coach other game developers as a form of procrastination, helping certain people gain the knowledge and skills they needed to quit their corporate jobs and start their own indie game development businesses. But the funny thing is that further down the road, I ended up licensing and publishing games from some of those developers I helped. In retrospect, this pattern of procrastination has benefitted me tremendously in the long run, although at the time it often seemed like a bad habit I needed to resist, and I’d feel guilty about it. It caused me some extra stress and a number of all-nighters. I’ve also had to deal with the occasional late fee or penalty now and then. But overall I have to say that all that procrastination wasn’t such a problem after all. I can make a case that it’s done me more good than harm. Whose Agenda Are You Fulfilling? Whose deadlines are you really working on? Are they your deadlines or someone else’s? If the deadlines aren’t really yours, why do you care so much about them anyway? Quite often you’ll find yourself procrastinating on someone else’s agenda so you can spend more time working on your own. Much of the time, however, people aren’t in tune with their own agendas. They spend more time fussing over what they think they should be doing as opposed to what they actually want to be doing. So what if you’re late? Do you really care all that much what your teacher thinks of you… or your boss… or the government? Other people’s deadlines are just that — other people’s deadlines. They won’t always mesh with your desires. Even if you choose to take on a certain project, and you’re the one defining the milestones along the way, you may find that at some future point, you seem to be resisting your earlier decisions. You may have a hard time getting yourself to take action when you know that you “should.” Where do you think this resistance comes from? What if this isn’t a failing at all? What if your procrastination is actually a signal that your priorities are askew? What if procrastination is a sign that a greater intelligence is trying to nudge you in a whole new direction? How Much Is Procrastination Really Hurting You? When you feel that you’re procrastinating, take a deeper look at what’s going on. First of all, is your procrastination really hurting you all that much? Or are you making mountains out of molehills? In the grand scheme of things, having to pay a late fee is hardly the end of the world. Same goes for doing an occasional all-nighter. The money can be recouped. You’ll have a chance to catch up on your sleep later. You’ll recover easily enough. The consequences are little more than a mosquito bite. Even when something seems really bad at the time, years later you may look back and realize it wasn’t such a big deal after all. And maybe it actually helped you get onto a better path. For example, if your procrastination is so “bad” that you end up failing your classes and getting kicked out of college, initially it may seem like a huge blow. You may be inclined to beat yourself up with guilt, and the people around you may heap loads of disappointment onto you. But later in life when the emotional sting wears off, you may realize that this was a powerful step along your path of growth. You’ll begin to see the good in those trying times. Perhaps your procrastination helped you escape the wrong major. After all, how can you purport to be majoring in something that’s aligned with your passion and talents if you got yourself expelled because when push came to shove, you consistently opted to do something other than tend to your studies? Maybe your real mistake was further upstream, and procrastination helped you escape a dead-end track. Another possibility is that the timing just wasn’t right. Maybe your procrastination is telling you that this is the wrong time to attend college. Perhaps you should travel the world for a while. Maybe you don’t need a college degree at all. Maybe you should dive right in and get to work doing what you love. What if the decision to earn a degree was just a fear-based delay tactic? The Benefit of Hindsight Even when it seems like your procrastination habit is a purely destructive one, there may be hidden benefits that can be difficult to see at the time. When I got expelled from UC Berkeley after 3 semesters — I think that in my final semester, my GPA actually started with the decimal point — it was a huge blow to me at the time. Even worse was that I’d just gotten out of jail after being charged with felony grand theft, and I was awaiting my court date. This was a major low point in my life. I was only 19 years old at the time, and I constantly beat myself up about the stupid mistakes I’d made. I thought I was a fairly intelligent guy, but apparently my choices had been incredibly stupid. I procrastinated endlessly on my studies, so I could do things like drink alcohol, go to parties, play poker, and shoplift. My original plan was to earn my degree in computer science, then maybe go on to earn a Ph.D. Afterwards I could get a nice job as a computer programmer somewhere. That was my “should” path. Looking back with the benefit of hindsight, however, the seemingly crazy path I ended up taking turned out to be tremendously valuable. It was very stressful at the time, but to this day, I remain immensely grateful that I didn’t stick to my original plan and graduate from UC Berkeley. If I’d followed that course, I might be working as a computer programmer for the government or some corporation today. That wouldn’t necessarily be a terrible outcome, but I’d much rather be where I am today than where I expect that path would have led me. I think my original plan would have been a heartless path for me in the long run. Instead, my procrastination put me in a position where I had to learn entirely different lessons. Through shoplifting I pushed myself to face my fear again and again and to control my adrenaline response, so I could maintain my composure even when taking big risks. That has been of tremendous benefit to me ever since, especially in business. I really love that I’m able to look at something that scares me and motivate myself to plow right through it without freezing up. It’s very unlikely I’d be doing public speaking today if I’d never learned those courage lessons via shoplifting. Secondly, I learned how to handle negative social pressure. When I hit that low point in my life, everyone who knew me at the time seemed deeply disappointed in me. A lot of criticism was heaped upon me, and I can’t say that it was unwarranted. But in order to make forward progress and turn things around, I had to learn to tune out unhelpful feedback, decide for myself what was best, and take action without the benefit of social support. Otherwise I’d have gotten stuck in a place of self-pity or defensiveness. This ability still comes in handy today. For instance, I feel quite comfortable opening up about topics that will predictably generate a lot of negative feedback (such as polyamory or divorce). It’s hard for me to get worked up over anonymous Internet criticism after what I’ve already been through. Thirdly, I had to learn to love myself unconditionally. The beating I gave myself at the time was worse than what anyone else could have done to me. I was terribly disappointed in myself, and I felt guilty about blowing everything that seemed important. As I recovered from those experiences, which took a long time, I gradually learned to accept myself in spite of my apparent flaws. I had to learn that I’m still worthy of love. We all are. By loving myself, I feel more inclined to care about others. A few days ago, I noticed that a friend seemed to be feeling down on herself, so I wrote her a note to offer her some support and to remind her that she’s loved and appreciated. And of course I had to procrastinate on something “important” to do that. Perhaps our to-do lists should include more items like this to begin with. Fourthly, I became more motivated than ever to do some good with my life. I was so disgusted with the way I’d been living that I pushed myself to the opposite end of the spectrum. I began spending a lot of time working on my character development. Changes were slow and gradual, but eventually I grew into a man who felt good about himself and his contribution to the world. Fifthly, I became a lot less judgmental towards others. Given my sordid past, who am I to judge someone else for their choices? I learned that accepting others and accepting myself are two sides of the same coin; you can’t love and accept yourself without doing the same for others. In my writing I will sometimes temporarily adopt a very opinionated position to stimulate people to think about the ideas, but that’s simply a literary tool I employ to make articles more impactful and memorable. People who hang out with me in person know that I’m ridiculously accepting of others, regardless of their lifestyles. Consequently, I seem to have a habit of attracting friends who are often subjected to harsh judgment by society, including psychics, strippers, porn stars, polyamorous people, pot smokers, people with non-mainstream spiritual beliefs, and of course those “crazy” jobless folks. This has added tremendous richness to my life, including many fun and educational experiences that I’d have otherwise missed. Associating with such people has also helped me feel a lot more comfortable in my own skin. And finally, I gained much more freedom. Since I had failed in such a big way, everyone else’s expectations of me hit rock bottom. No one expected anything from me after that. This gave me the social and emotional freedom to begin taking control of my life without feeling that I had to live up to anyone else’s expectations. Even though I was in a low place, I felt like I finally had the wherewithal to steer my life as I saw fit without worrying about what other people might think. I could hardly make things worse, so it was easier to take some risks. To this day I’m immensely grateful for these lessons (and many more), which came about as a result of procrastinating on my studies in order to follow other impulses. I can’t be sure where those impulses came from, but I’ve since learned not to reject such urges out of hand. Perhaps there is a greater intelligence at work here. Stop Beating Yourself Up If you have a tendency to beat yourself up for procrastinating, maybe you should stop doing that. It doesn’t help you anyway, does it? Perhaps procrastinating isn’t such a bad thing after all. What if there are important growth experiences to be found within your procrastination? Are the items on your to-do list really so important? Are they important to you personally? Why do you feed them so much energy? Even the stuff that seems really important in the moment may look totally different with the benefit of hindsight. You may be beating yourself up because your procrastination seems to be leading you astray. What if you’re even at risk of losing your home? Is it possible that this may turn out to be a good thing in the long run? Who’s to say that losing your stuff is bad? Maybe you’ll find newfound freedom in a life of minimalism. Maybe you’ll end up living in a much nicer place down the road. Maybe the experience will help you develop more courage and self-acceptance. Maybe you’ll gain a cool story to blog about someday, whereby you’ll be in a position to help other people learn valuable lessons. Realize that someday, all of this will be gone. Eventually you’ll pass on and leave this world behind. What will matter to you most when you’re on your deathbed? Will you wish you’d hit more of your assigned deadlines ahead of time? Or will you perhaps wish that you’d spent more time following your heart? Will you regret those late assignments? Or will you regret those amazing life experiences that you missed because you were too busy working to meet someone else’s deadline? Procrastinate Harder What if… instead of resisting your impulse to procrastinate, you threw yourself into it more fully? What if you dove headfirst into your biggest procrastination impulses? Where might they lead you? Maybe procrastination won’t seem like such a curse if you follow those impulses without so much guilt and resistance. You’re probably going to procrastinate anyway, so why not do it in style? When you feel the urge to procrastinate, what are you driven to do? Do you feel like watching movies? Perhaps you could become the next Roger Ebert. Do you prefer to play computer games? Maybe someday you’ll start a game review site or become a game designer. Maybe playing games will evolve into a fun hobby that you can enjoy with friends and family. You might even find a new relationship partner via an online game. Do you like to escape into books? If you read enough books in a certain field, you can eventually become an international expert. I learned a great deal about personal development by reading hundreds of books, but at the time it often seemed like I was procrastinating on something more important. Do you invest a lot of time and energy in online socializing? Maybe you’ll meet your next relationship partner that way. Or perhaps you’ll become a highly paid social media consultant. Corporations are throwing thousands of dollars at such consultants just to learn how to use Twitter and Facebook like any teenager can. You may not even realize just how valuable your expertise can be to the right people. Maybe you could do what the worst procrastinators in the world frequently do. Start your own productivity blog.  Having a Life What would you rather be doing than working to meet someone else’s deadlines? Quite often when you procrastinate, you’ll find yourself doing what it takes to have a life. If you stopped resisting the urge to procrastinate and simply went with it, what new experiences would you invite into your life? What other emotions are hidden behind those surface feelings of stress and resistance? Do you also see some potential excitement staring back at you? What about the feeling that maybe you could get all the so-called “important” work done in half the time you originally estimated while still carving out space to do what you love? Maybe it’s not such a bad idea to blow off today and go have some fun. Isn’t it a more natural tendency to do what you enjoy first… then do what you supposedly have to do as urgency dictates? Perhaps you should allow those “have tos” to build up a certain level of urgency-based pressure before you tend to them. Such pressure has some benefits, doesn’t it? Once it reaches a certain level, you may be able to plow through tons of work with unrelenting speed and focus, drawing on inner resources that you could never bring to bear when you were swimming in extra time. Maybe you’ve been over-thinking this problem, turning it into a phantom boogieman. What if you simply relaxed into the idea of following your heart? Let the procrastination happen. Let the pressure build. If there’s something that really does need to be done, you’ll find a way to get it done. You always do when it truly matters, don’t you? It’s not like you’ve procrastinated yourself into starvation. Despite all your worst procrastination episodes, you’re still breathing, aren’t you? You may think that procrastination is hurting you, but is that harm actually real? Or is it just imaginary harm? Are you still whole and intact? Perhaps there is some greater intelligence nudging you to delay tasks and activities that merely seem important but really aren’t. “Having a life” might just be what happens while you’re procrastinating on something else. When you delay to the limit those uninspired tasks, you’ll create more space in your life for inspiration and joy. * * * I hope you enjoyed this article since I procrastinated on lots of accounting work to write it. I’m sure I’ll feel plenty guilty about that later.  In the meantime, please ponder these quotes from Geoffrey Chaucer: Love is blind. Forbid us something, and that thing we desire. The life so short, the crafts so long to learn. First he wrought, and afterward he taught. The greatest scholars are not usually the wisest people. The guilty think all talk is of themselves. Time and tide wait for no man. Women desire six things: They want their husbands to be brave, wise, rich, generous, obedient to wife, and lively in bed. You had to procrastinate on something to read this article, didn’t you? 
    Jul 12, 2011 914
  • 12 Jul 2011
    I spent last week in Santa Fe, NM for a Transformational Leadership Council retreat. These TLC retreats are held twice a year, and this is the third one I’ve attended. It was also the largest, with about 80 members (out of a total of 114) present. The atmosphere at TLC is like a big family reunion. It’s a place where people who are doing transformational work can come together to help and support each other both personally and professionally. Sometimes business deals happen, but the main focus isn’t transactional. It’s about caring for each other, supporting each other, and helping each other grow and improve. We meditate together each day, we sing, we dance, and we do fun and sometimes silly activities. We share many laughs and hundreds of hugs. We help support those who are going through rough times. We share our best ideas on how to accelerate the healing of this planet. We also pool our knowledge and skills to help each other in a spirit of cooperation. For example, at the January TLC retreat in Puerto Rico, I did a presentation on building web traffic. It was rewarding to see that six months later, a number of TLC members had already applied those ideas to reach more people with their positive messages. On top of that, we do a lot of deep introspection. We push ourselves to grow as human beings, to become more aware and to recognize new truths, to become stronger and more courageous, to connect more deeply and to become more heart-centered, and to more fully step into our missions to help create a better world. One of the most important elements is that we do this away from the public eye, sans fans and critics alike, so we can keep the energy very positive and loving but also honest and real. For me, going to TLC is like taking a weeklong spa day for the heart and spirit. Immersion Imagine spending a week with 80 transformational leaders, many of whom are the top experts in the world at what they do. Some are fabulously wealthy. Some are deeply insightful and brilliant. Some are very loving and compassionate. Some are incredibly fearless. You can informally walk up and ask anyone there about anything, and they’re happy to share their best ideas as if they’re your brothers and sisters. Some of them have been doing this kind of work longer than I’ve been alive. They know all the best methods and processes and whatnots. They know the places where fear, denial, and falsehood love to hide. Being at TLC is like going to a place where everyone has X-ray vision, so by default you end up walking around naked the whole time, even if you think you’re wearing clothes. If you speak something other than your truth, you’ll get called on your B.S. But you don’t get judged for your foibles. You just receive more unconditional love and acceptance. The focus there isn’t on fixing ourselves or transcending what we believe to be our faults. It’s about integrating the various parts of ourselves into a complete whole. The atmosphere at TLC is similar to what you’d find at CGW (especially on the third day of CGW). My ego would just love to credit the brilliant CGW content, but the content is only part of it, and arguably not the most important part. Many of the shifts have more to do with being around the energy of so many conscious people. It can be difficult to define or explain those shifts afterwards, but they’re extremely potent, and they can send one’s life spiraling off in new directions. Every CGW and TLC have had that kind of effect on me. In such an environment, much of the B.S. we tell ourselves simply burns away, and new truths finally have the chance to be seen and heard. For example, when people at CGW see how their lives could be filled with so much more love and connection, they cannot return to doing soulless work on Monday morning; the utter foolishness of that approach is too obvious to ignore, so they quit that same week and quickly transition to a path with a heart. They finally see that on the heartless path, they were already living without that which mattered most to them, so there was nothing more to lose… and everything to gain… by letting it go. TLC has a similar effect on me. It’s not really the content we share that’s the biggest element. The content does help, but the bigger shifts have to do with being bathed for several days in the positive energy we create. We could gather with no formal plan or structure, and it would still have a transformational effect. Great content just makes it that much better. Many TLC members recognize that working on ourselves and working to create a better world are inherently the same thing. Healing the world is a journey of self-healing. We are teachers because we are lifelong students, and teaching is one of the fastest (and most intense) ways to learn. That’s why I wrote 1000 articles and a book… and why I do workshops that turn out differently each time. By giving thoughts and ideas form and expression, I deepen my understanding of them. If I knew how an article was going to turn out before I started writing it, I wouldn’t need to write it. Everything I share and express is a growth experience for me; otherwise I delete it before it’s done and never post it. Intensity Every time I’ve gone to TLC, I’ve returned home feeling like a different person. At times the TLC experience can be like drinking from a fire hose. Occasionally I have to spend some time walking around by myself just to internally process the shifts that occur. Before attending TLC this time, I was already in a really good place. I’d just finished an amazing Conscious Growth Workshop a couple days earlier, so I was still enjoying that post-workshop high, feeling incredibly grateful and happy and super motivated. The first couple days of TLC were a bit of a letdown, energetically speaking. It usually takes a day or two for the energy at TLC to amp up, just as it does at CGW. It was great to reconnect with so many friends, but on Day 2 I started feeling bored and listless. By the next morning, I was actually feeling grumpy, and when I turned within to ask myself why, I realized that part of me felt that I really didn’t need a “vacation” right now and that I’d much rather be getting some real work done. Going to this particular TLC seemed like an unnecessary indulgence when I had so many other things to attend to, both personally and professionally. At this particular time, I didn’t want to be on a retreat. I wanted to be advancing. I was already renewed and energized when I got there. But I still had several more days there, and I didn’t want to be fighting with myself the whole time, so I acknowledged and accepted that feeling and the message behind it, applying a process that was a blend of Genpo Roshi’s Big Mind method and Hale Dwoskin’s Sedona Method. (Both of them were at TLC.) This process took only minutes. In fact, I did it while taking a shower, so it didn’t even take any extra time. Almost immediately, the grumpiness and boredom vanished, their message received. By realizing that I wanted to be active and productive rather than taking time off and restoring myself, I shifted my focus and saw that I could use TLC to get some actual work done and to make it a productive experience, instead of treating it like an unwanted break. This might seem obvious in retrospect, but it wasn’t obvious to me at the time. With a better attitude, I launched into the third day of TLC with a lot more motivation and passion, and this energy carried me through the rest of the week. I spent many hours connecting with people I wanted to get to know better, and I deepened some existing connections. I picked up ideas for improving CGW, and I got advice for growing my business. I found several new potential joint-venture partners. I learned new methods and techniques. I also shared a lot of advice to help others, especially with blogging and traffic building. And I recorded a few videos to help members promote their work. And I had a lot more fun since I was congruent about wanting to be there. I took the exercises seriously and worked a lot on myself too. It’s too much to explain in a blog post though. (That’s a B.S. excuse, but I’m hoping you’ll buy it for now while I do more inner work on it and build up the courage to share it.) Suffice it to say that I went through some huge emotional shifts related to my past. One morning I woke up in my hotel room, and all I could do was cry for about an hour, struck by some realizations I’d been repressing for most of my life. Pretty frakkin’ painful stuff. I’m still not sure I’m ready to deal with it yet, but I have to practice what I preach. Sometimes it annoys me that I teach courage. There was another attendee who arrived later in the week, and her needs were practically the opposite of mine. She’d been on the road for a few weeks, and she was feeling worn down. She came to TLC for renewal and rejuvenation, and she got that. Authenticity One thing I love about TLC is that the people there are very authentic. One thing I hate about TLC is that the people there are very authentic. (That isn’t a typo.) As much as you might think you’d love it, hanging out with dozens of highly authentic people for a week is tougher than it sounds. That kind of experience shines a light on your own authenticity issues. You may even come to see that the pursuit of authenticity is yet another form of self-delusion. Many people have asked me how on earth I can publicly share certain aspects of my life on my blog, such as I wrote about in the article Share Your Shame. The underlying assumption is that if people knew the real truth about you, you could be socially ostracized. Your friends and family would shun you. You’d be cut off, abandoned, and tossed aside for being unworthy. In the end you would receive less love. But the truth is that the exact opposite happens. Initially there may be some tumult, but the long-term outlook is extremely positive. When you learn to love and accept all parts of yourself, especially the parts you’d rather keep hidden, then you attract a lot more authentic love and support from others. Instead of being shunned, you’re welcomed and invited and included. We all have these dark parts of ourselves that are difficult to accept and integrate. But your secrets aren’t secret at all. People can see right through you. They just aren’t telling you about it because they can see you aren’t ready to deal with it yet. Your inner shame is far from unique. We all have similar issues. Only the details are different. My friends in TLC have plenty of dirt on me. It’s not like it’s a secret. They know I separated from my wife last year, that I went bankrupt, that I used to be a thief, that I’m into D/s, and so on. And it just isn’t a big deal. In fact, all that stuff is more like a badge of honor. During the awards ceremony one night, I joked that I was hoping to qualify for the most recent divorce award. The truth, however, is that my issues just aren’t particularly striking or unique. It’s practically a truism that the people there have had to go through some serious challenges at one point or another, such as divorce, loss, addiction, financial scarcity, abuse, and more. It’s a pretty common pattern that a TLC member’s life has been a roller coaster of ups and downs, as opposed to smooth sailing all the way. The stuff that really tugs at my heart is when these loving and compassionate people have to deal with things like the death of a spouse or a drug-addicted child. And they ultimately process those experiences in ways that allow them to become even more loving and compassionate, even though they have every reason to justify becoming resentful and bitter. People sometimes ask me, “Is so and so the real deal?” And having met these people behind the scenes, I have to say yes again and again. These people pour their hearts and souls into their missions, and I respect and love them immensely. I feel honored to be included in this group. The Challenge of Being in the Public Eye One of the reasons TLC is so important is that doing this kind of work can be very challenging, especially when you’re in the public eye. The exposure to criticism can be brutal at times. It’s really helpful to have a group of supportive friends you can turn to, get bandaged up, and go back out into the world again. These people aren’t superheroes. They’re very much human. When they take a beating, it hurts them and slows them down, but in the long run, it also makes them stronger and more compassionate. I can’t say I’ve encountered anyone there who does this kind of work for the money. If such a person exists, I’ve never met him/her. Even the ones who teach about wealth and abundance seem to be primarily motivated by the love of the work and the desire to contribute. The truth is that it breaks their hearts when they see people suffering from lack, and they want to do what they can to alleviate suffering and spread more happiness and abundance. I think if you got to know the people behind the scenes as I have, you’d feel immensely grateful for them. Even when they’re dealing with major personal and professional challenges, they just keep giving, giving, giving. Maybe their contributions aren’t perfect, but they do the best they can. What you may not realize is that these people question everything they do. They question whether they should use certain Internet marketing techniques, or if the methods would be manipulative. They wonder about how they can help more people. They wonder how they can be more impactful on each person they connect with. They wonder about what to work on in themselves so that they may become better teachers. For all the criticism they receive, they are their own harshest critics. If their critics actually knew the personal standards these people hold themselves to, it would make those critics cringe and say, “Whoa… go easy on yourself.” Of course this is something I had to learn as well. I spent a good 10 minutes today casting unconditional love at Tony Robbins. He isn’t a TLC member, but it became clear to me that he too must be doing the best he can. Inspiration I realize this is a rambling article, perhaps a bit too stream of consciousness, so let me get to the wrap up portion. This was a mind-blowing week, but one element in particular was especially mind-blowing. About halfway through the week, Joe Vitale gave a talk on inspiration. I first met Joe and his wife Nerissa at the July TLC in 2009, so I’ve known them for about a year, but this is the first time I saw Joe speak. He was simply brilliant. Joe and I have something in common in that we are both content machines. He’s authored 52 books, for instance, and he’s constantly giving birth to new products. I haven’t been working in this field as long as he has, but I’ve authored a respectable 1000 articles in less than 6 years, which is enough to fill about 25 books… not to mention getting one actual book published as well. Joe explained how he creates his content, which I recognized as essentially the same approach I use. When an inspired idea comes to me, I act on it almost immediately. I know that I have about a 48-hour window — maximum — to write and publish that idea. Otherwise the energy is gone. Trying to create that same content later is possible, but it’s much more difficult and takes a lot longer. The experience is like catching a wave. I might wake up one morning and get an idea for a new article, and I know I need to grab my laptop immediately and let it flow through me. In those situations I can write nearly as fast as I can type, without having to pause to think. Sometimes it’s hard to tell what’s a real wave and what’s just a minor swell, but this calibration gets better with practice. When you catch the wave and stick with it, it has sufficient energy to carry you all the way through to completion of whatever it is you’re creating, as long as you’re willing to put most other things aside and stick to that wave like glue. Again, it’s like surfing. If you stick with the wave, you can ride it all the way to shore. Well… as Joe continued to speak, I realized that he does something I don’t. He uses this same method for acting on business ideas in general. I haven’t been doing that. I only use it for content creation, and the vast majority of that content has been in the form of free articles. Joe, however, also uses this method to conjure up new products, workshops, events, business deals, and so on. That’s when I gave myself a mental slap upside the head. Duh. Duh. Duh. For some stupid reason, I’ve been managing the rest of my business in a much more left-brained fashion. I get inspired business ideas all the time, but instead of acting on them immediately and riding them like the time-sensitive waves they are, I toss the ideas into my inbox for later processing. Then perhaps a week later, I’ll consider each idea carefully and integrate it into my to-do list for future action. But by and large, by the time I get around to them, if ever, that wave of energy has long since dissipated, and trying to start those projects is like pulling teeth. Consequently, the content creation aspect of my business has always been super easy for me. I know I’ll never run out of ideas there. But the rest of my business changes much more slowly. My website, for instance, has essentially the same design as it did 5 years ago. Very quickly I got the idea to do a 30-day trial of acting on inspiration almost immediately whenever it hits me, whether it has to do with content creation or some other idea. I decided that I wasn’t going to wait, so I kicked it off while I was still at TLC. To be honest, I really don’t care about the exactitude of the 30-day stretch for this trial, but today was Day 4. This is new territory for me, so it may entail some hidden risks. I know it works on the content side, but I can’t predict what will happen as I apply this to the rest of my life. In order to begin this trial, I had to remind myself that worst case, I probably can’t screw things up so badly in 30 days that I can’t repair the damage later if necessary. Because the potential benefits are so great, I’m willing to take this risk. 30 Days of Inspired Action The same day I heard Joe’s talk (Friday), I was in my hotel room at around 8pm, and a stray thought popped into my head. I got the idea to put up an eBay auction for a 60-minute consultation, as I shared in my previous blog post. I began to ponder it, and my initial inclination was to jot down the idea and then consider it when I got back to Vegas the following week. Then I stopped and smacked myself and said, “No… you have to catch this wave now and see where it takes you. Don’t just let it pass.” So I dove into immediate action. I wasn’t sure how far I’d get with it, but I started by checking to see if my old eBay account was still good. I hadn’t logged in since March 2001, but the account was still there. I haven’t used eBay in a very long time, so it took me about 30 minutes to create the listing and make it live, something an experienced eBayer could have done in 10 minutes or less I’m sure. Then I spent another 20 minutes writing a quickie blog post about it, and that also fed to myTwitter and Facebook pages. Imagine that. Less than an hour after getting the idea, it was already up and running. If I’d written it down instead of acting upon it immediately, I could have wasted that much time just pondering whether or not I should do it. A few minutes later, I was Skyping with Erin, and I told her what I’d done. She loved it. Then she checked on the auction and told me I was already up to $51. I said, “You’re joking… it hasn’t even been up for 10 minutes yet.” But she wasn’t joking. By the time I went to bed, it had reached $132.50. The next morning it was at $425. Today it hit $1000, and there are still 3 days left till the auction closes. I can’t predict where it will end up. If you want to see what it’s up to now, you can visit the auction page. The auction officially ends on Friday, July 30, at 9:28:29 PDT. The next day I told Joe about this, and he loved it. I told other TLC members about it as well, and throughout the rest of the conference, people would check in with me to see how the auction was going. I think they were just as curious about it as I was. One morning at breakfast a fellow TLCer asked me, “So what are you up to?” I started telling him what I’d been doing, and he said, “No no… I mean, ‘What are the bids up to?’” Some people have asked me what this means. Does it mean I’m going to be doing paid coaching and consulting? Does it mean I’ll do more eBay auctions? Honestly I have no idea. It’s not part of some grand plan. This was pure impulse. I’m simply going with the flow of an inspired idea and riding it to shore. I can’t say when the next wave will arrive or what it will look like. This wasn’t even an idea with an intention behind it. I wasn’t intending to make money with it or anything. The motivation for this idea was sheer curiosity. I want to see what happens when I act on these sorts of ideas immediately, without trying to analyze or understand them first. In order to be true to this 30-day trial, I can’t think and plan ahead. If I schedule a bunch of stuff in advance or try to plan things out, I’m at risk of not being able to ride those waves of inspiration when they come. One thing I find very interesting is that from today through the rest of the trial, my calendar is completely blank. I don’t have a single scheduled appointment at all — no interviews, no meetings, nothing. There are still some events coming up, including my son’s 7th birthday and some potential travel, but none of it is in the form of a fixed appointment, at least not yet. I did have an appointment to meet with someone Wednesday morning, but it got bumped to today, so it’s already done with. And I would definitely say it was an inspired meeting. I’m used to having a flexible schedule, but it’s pretty unusual to have such a huge block of time with no scheduled appointments. I should at least have a radio interview in there… or a workshop… or a scheduled phone call… or something. But no — it’s totally blank. Is that just a coincidence? I can’t say. But this is an ideal time for me to conduct such an experiment. I could even extend it well beyond the 30 days, especially since the next CGW is still 3+ months away. A Sample Day As a typical example of how things are going with this trial so far, I’ll share how today went. I woke up at 5:30 this morning, and immediately my mind was racing with thoughts of writing this blog post. I didn’t originally plan to blog about my TLC trip, but the inspiration was there, so I had to ride it. I went straight to my computer and started writing, which was effortless. After 3 hours of writing, which passed in a blink, the phone rings. It’s Erin inviting me to go to breakfast with her. I realize that I’m starving and could use a break anyway, so I accept. While at breakfast, I got some inspired ideas related to our separation. Instead of pondering them and hashing them out a bit more, I shared them with her immediately. That turned out to be a wonderful thing, as it sent us down a path towards resolving some tricky practical aspects of our separation. Erin and I both leave happier, with a commitment to taking some specific actions that should make life easier for us both. From breakfast I drove to Starbucks to meet with a British military intelligence officer. I didn’t have any particular need to meet with him other than the fact that he expressed interest, and my intuition gave it a green light. We ended up having a fascinating 2.5-hour conversation. I learned a lot that I didn’t know about the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. After a couple hours, the thought occurred that many of my readers might be interested in hearing what he had to say, so I asked him if he’d be up for an interview. He agreed. It turned out that doing an interview would be a win for him too because he’s about to enter a phase of writing and publishing his own ideas, including starting a blog. By the time I got home, he’d already sent me some article links that we discussed. I haven’t had a chance to read them yet, but I quickly wrote up a forum post to keep riding that wave. I wanted to see if there was interest in such an interview and if people had specific questions. It looks like there is indeed interest, so I’ll compile some questions and send them off to him when I feel inspired to do so. I wasn’t feeling any major waves of inspiration this afternoon, so I ate lunch, processed some communication, and handled a few minor tasks while watching the movie Pulp Fiction. Lately I’ve been getting a number of synchronicities associated with the filmInception, which I haven’t seen yet. I thought maybe I’d go see it this evening, and I saw there was a 7pm show at the local IMAX, so I “planned” to hit that show. Whoops. But around 6:30pm when I was thinking about leaving, I realized that I just didn’t feel inspired to go see the movie, at least not yet. I was starting to feel a mild pull in a different direction — oh yeah, I still wanted to finish up and post the blog entry I’d started in the morning. So I decided to skip the movie and go with the writing wave. You’re reading the result. While I’m writing the final section of this post, I hear a text message come through on my cell phone, but I don’t check it till now. It’s Rachelle asking about Skyping tonight. That feels right, so as soon as I’ve posted this article, I’ll flow into that next. I haven’t had dinner yet, but I notice I’m not hungry. There’s another IMAX showing of Inception at 10:20pm. If I go to that show, I’ll still have 30 minutes to Skype, but it would keep me up till 1am. I can’t predict whether I’ll see it tonight or not. I’ll have to wait and see if the energy of the moment is pulling me in that direction. As I was typing the last sentence, my laptop tells me I’ve got 9 minutes of battery power left. Time to go plug it in. This is going to be a very unusual 30 days. I have no idea how it will turn out. I can’t even say how much I’ll blog about it along the way — that too will depend on whether I’m inspired to do so. In any event, you may see some rather erratic behavior from me in the coming weeks. I’m extending this trial across all areas of my life, both personally and professionally. It’s a 24/7 commitment with no breaks except those that occur naturally as the inspirational waves ebb. I’m excited about this. It’s going to be an interesting 30 days to be sure. Wish me luck! 
    780 Posted by UniqueThis
  • I spent last week in Santa Fe, NM for a Transformational Leadership Council retreat. These TLC retreats are held twice a year, and this is the third one I’ve attended. It was also the largest, with about 80 members (out of a total of 114) present. The atmosphere at TLC is like a big family reunion. It’s a place where people who are doing transformational work can come together to help and support each other both personally and professionally. Sometimes business deals happen, but the main focus isn’t transactional. It’s about caring for each other, supporting each other, and helping each other grow and improve. We meditate together each day, we sing, we dance, and we do fun and sometimes silly activities. We share many laughs and hundreds of hugs. We help support those who are going through rough times. We share our best ideas on how to accelerate the healing of this planet. We also pool our knowledge and skills to help each other in a spirit of cooperation. For example, at the January TLC retreat in Puerto Rico, I did a presentation on building web traffic. It was rewarding to see that six months later, a number of TLC members had already applied those ideas to reach more people with their positive messages. On top of that, we do a lot of deep introspection. We push ourselves to grow as human beings, to become more aware and to recognize new truths, to become stronger and more courageous, to connect more deeply and to become more heart-centered, and to more fully step into our missions to help create a better world. One of the most important elements is that we do this away from the public eye, sans fans and critics alike, so we can keep the energy very positive and loving but also honest and real. For me, going to TLC is like taking a weeklong spa day for the heart and spirit. Immersion Imagine spending a week with 80 transformational leaders, many of whom are the top experts in the world at what they do. Some are fabulously wealthy. Some are deeply insightful and brilliant. Some are very loving and compassionate. Some are incredibly fearless. You can informally walk up and ask anyone there about anything, and they’re happy to share their best ideas as if they’re your brothers and sisters. Some of them have been doing this kind of work longer than I’ve been alive. They know all the best methods and processes and whatnots. They know the places where fear, denial, and falsehood love to hide. Being at TLC is like going to a place where everyone has X-ray vision, so by default you end up walking around naked the whole time, even if you think you’re wearing clothes. If you speak something other than your truth, you’ll get called on your B.S. But you don’t get judged for your foibles. You just receive more unconditional love and acceptance. The focus there isn’t on fixing ourselves or transcending what we believe to be our faults. It’s about integrating the various parts of ourselves into a complete whole. The atmosphere at TLC is similar to what you’d find at CGW (especially on the third day of CGW). My ego would just love to credit the brilliant CGW content, but the content is only part of it, and arguably not the most important part. Many of the shifts have more to do with being around the energy of so many conscious people. It can be difficult to define or explain those shifts afterwards, but they’re extremely potent, and they can send one’s life spiraling off in new directions. Every CGW and TLC have had that kind of effect on me. In such an environment, much of the B.S. we tell ourselves simply burns away, and new truths finally have the chance to be seen and heard. For example, when people at CGW see how their lives could be filled with so much more love and connection, they cannot return to doing soulless work on Monday morning; the utter foolishness of that approach is too obvious to ignore, so they quit that same week and quickly transition to a path with a heart. They finally see that on the heartless path, they were already living without that which mattered most to them, so there was nothing more to lose… and everything to gain… by letting it go. TLC has a similar effect on me. It’s not really the content we share that’s the biggest element. The content does help, but the bigger shifts have to do with being bathed for several days in the positive energy we create. We could gather with no formal plan or structure, and it would still have a transformational effect. Great content just makes it that much better. Many TLC members recognize that working on ourselves and working to create a better world are inherently the same thing. Healing the world is a journey of self-healing. We are teachers because we are lifelong students, and teaching is one of the fastest (and most intense) ways to learn. That’s why I wrote 1000 articles and a book… and why I do workshops that turn out differently each time. By giving thoughts and ideas form and expression, I deepen my understanding of them. If I knew how an article was going to turn out before I started writing it, I wouldn’t need to write it. Everything I share and express is a growth experience for me; otherwise I delete it before it’s done and never post it. Intensity Every time I’ve gone to TLC, I’ve returned home feeling like a different person. At times the TLC experience can be like drinking from a fire hose. Occasionally I have to spend some time walking around by myself just to internally process the shifts that occur. Before attending TLC this time, I was already in a really good place. I’d just finished an amazing Conscious Growth Workshop a couple days earlier, so I was still enjoying that post-workshop high, feeling incredibly grateful and happy and super motivated. The first couple days of TLC were a bit of a letdown, energetically speaking. It usually takes a day or two for the energy at TLC to amp up, just as it does at CGW. It was great to reconnect with so many friends, but on Day 2 I started feeling bored and listless. By the next morning, I was actually feeling grumpy, and when I turned within to ask myself why, I realized that part of me felt that I really didn’t need a “vacation” right now and that I’d much rather be getting some real work done. Going to this particular TLC seemed like an unnecessary indulgence when I had so many other things to attend to, both personally and professionally. At this particular time, I didn’t want to be on a retreat. I wanted to be advancing. I was already renewed and energized when I got there. But I still had several more days there, and I didn’t want to be fighting with myself the whole time, so I acknowledged and accepted that feeling and the message behind it, applying a process that was a blend of Genpo Roshi’s Big Mind method and Hale Dwoskin’s Sedona Method. (Both of them were at TLC.) This process took only minutes. In fact, I did it while taking a shower, so it didn’t even take any extra time. Almost immediately, the grumpiness and boredom vanished, their message received. By realizing that I wanted to be active and productive rather than taking time off and restoring myself, I shifted my focus and saw that I could use TLC to get some actual work done and to make it a productive experience, instead of treating it like an unwanted break. This might seem obvious in retrospect, but it wasn’t obvious to me at the time. With a better attitude, I launched into the third day of TLC with a lot more motivation and passion, and this energy carried me through the rest of the week. I spent many hours connecting with people I wanted to get to know better, and I deepened some existing connections. I picked up ideas for improving CGW, and I got advice for growing my business. I found several new potential joint-venture partners. I learned new methods and techniques. I also shared a lot of advice to help others, especially with blogging and traffic building. And I recorded a few videos to help members promote their work. And I had a lot more fun since I was congruent about wanting to be there. I took the exercises seriously and worked a lot on myself too. It’s too much to explain in a blog post though. (That’s a B.S. excuse, but I’m hoping you’ll buy it for now while I do more inner work on it and build up the courage to share it.) Suffice it to say that I went through some huge emotional shifts related to my past. One morning I woke up in my hotel room, and all I could do was cry for about an hour, struck by some realizations I’d been repressing for most of my life. Pretty frakkin’ painful stuff. I’m still not sure I’m ready to deal with it yet, but I have to practice what I preach. Sometimes it annoys me that I teach courage. There was another attendee who arrived later in the week, and her needs were practically the opposite of mine. She’d been on the road for a few weeks, and she was feeling worn down. She came to TLC for renewal and rejuvenation, and she got that. Authenticity One thing I love about TLC is that the people there are very authentic. One thing I hate about TLC is that the people there are very authentic. (That isn’t a typo.) As much as you might think you’d love it, hanging out with dozens of highly authentic people for a week is tougher than it sounds. That kind of experience shines a light on your own authenticity issues. You may even come to see that the pursuit of authenticity is yet another form of self-delusion. Many people have asked me how on earth I can publicly share certain aspects of my life on my blog, such as I wrote about in the article Share Your Shame. The underlying assumption is that if people knew the real truth about you, you could be socially ostracized. Your friends and family would shun you. You’d be cut off, abandoned, and tossed aside for being unworthy. In the end you would receive less love. But the truth is that the exact opposite happens. Initially there may be some tumult, but the long-term outlook is extremely positive. When you learn to love and accept all parts of yourself, especially the parts you’d rather keep hidden, then you attract a lot more authentic love and support from others. Instead of being shunned, you’re welcomed and invited and included. We all have these dark parts of ourselves that are difficult to accept and integrate. But your secrets aren’t secret at all. People can see right through you. They just aren’t telling you about it because they can see you aren’t ready to deal with it yet. Your inner shame is far from unique. We all have similar issues. Only the details are different. My friends in TLC have plenty of dirt on me. It’s not like it’s a secret. They know I separated from my wife last year, that I went bankrupt, that I used to be a thief, that I’m into D/s, and so on. And it just isn’t a big deal. In fact, all that stuff is more like a badge of honor. During the awards ceremony one night, I joked that I was hoping to qualify for the most recent divorce award. The truth, however, is that my issues just aren’t particularly striking or unique. It’s practically a truism that the people there have had to go through some serious challenges at one point or another, such as divorce, loss, addiction, financial scarcity, abuse, and more. It’s a pretty common pattern that a TLC member’s life has been a roller coaster of ups and downs, as opposed to smooth sailing all the way. The stuff that really tugs at my heart is when these loving and compassionate people have to deal with things like the death of a spouse or a drug-addicted child. And they ultimately process those experiences in ways that allow them to become even more loving and compassionate, even though they have every reason to justify becoming resentful and bitter. People sometimes ask me, “Is so and so the real deal?” And having met these people behind the scenes, I have to say yes again and again. These people pour their hearts and souls into their missions, and I respect and love them immensely. I feel honored to be included in this group. The Challenge of Being in the Public Eye One of the reasons TLC is so important is that doing this kind of work can be very challenging, especially when you’re in the public eye. The exposure to criticism can be brutal at times. It’s really helpful to have a group of supportive friends you can turn to, get bandaged up, and go back out into the world again. These people aren’t superheroes. They’re very much human. When they take a beating, it hurts them and slows them down, but in the long run, it also makes them stronger and more compassionate. I can’t say I’ve encountered anyone there who does this kind of work for the money. If such a person exists, I’ve never met him/her. Even the ones who teach about wealth and abundance seem to be primarily motivated by the love of the work and the desire to contribute. The truth is that it breaks their hearts when they see people suffering from lack, and they want to do what they can to alleviate suffering and spread more happiness and abundance. I think if you got to know the people behind the scenes as I have, you’d feel immensely grateful for them. Even when they’re dealing with major personal and professional challenges, they just keep giving, giving, giving. Maybe their contributions aren’t perfect, but they do the best they can. What you may not realize is that these people question everything they do. They question whether they should use certain Internet marketing techniques, or if the methods would be manipulative. They wonder about how they can help more people. They wonder how they can be more impactful on each person they connect with. They wonder about what to work on in themselves so that they may become better teachers. For all the criticism they receive, they are their own harshest critics. If their critics actually knew the personal standards these people hold themselves to, it would make those critics cringe and say, “Whoa… go easy on yourself.” Of course this is something I had to learn as well. I spent a good 10 minutes today casting unconditional love at Tony Robbins. He isn’t a TLC member, but it became clear to me that he too must be doing the best he can. Inspiration I realize this is a rambling article, perhaps a bit too stream of consciousness, so let me get to the wrap up portion. This was a mind-blowing week, but one element in particular was especially mind-blowing. About halfway through the week, Joe Vitale gave a talk on inspiration. I first met Joe and his wife Nerissa at the July TLC in 2009, so I’ve known them for about a year, but this is the first time I saw Joe speak. He was simply brilliant. Joe and I have something in common in that we are both content machines. He’s authored 52 books, for instance, and he’s constantly giving birth to new products. I haven’t been working in this field as long as he has, but I’ve authored a respectable 1000 articles in less than 6 years, which is enough to fill about 25 books… not to mention getting one actual book published as well. Joe explained how he creates his content, which I recognized as essentially the same approach I use. When an inspired idea comes to me, I act on it almost immediately. I know that I have about a 48-hour window — maximum — to write and publish that idea. Otherwise the energy is gone. Trying to create that same content later is possible, but it’s much more difficult and takes a lot longer. The experience is like catching a wave. I might wake up one morning and get an idea for a new article, and I know I need to grab my laptop immediately and let it flow through me. In those situations I can write nearly as fast as I can type, without having to pause to think. Sometimes it’s hard to tell what’s a real wave and what’s just a minor swell, but this calibration gets better with practice. When you catch the wave and stick with it, it has sufficient energy to carry you all the way through to completion of whatever it is you’re creating, as long as you’re willing to put most other things aside and stick to that wave like glue. Again, it’s like surfing. If you stick with the wave, you can ride it all the way to shore. Well… as Joe continued to speak, I realized that he does something I don’t. He uses this same method for acting on business ideas in general. I haven’t been doing that. I only use it for content creation, and the vast majority of that content has been in the form of free articles. Joe, however, also uses this method to conjure up new products, workshops, events, business deals, and so on. That’s when I gave myself a mental slap upside the head. Duh. Duh. Duh. For some stupid reason, I’ve been managing the rest of my business in a much more left-brained fashion. I get inspired business ideas all the time, but instead of acting on them immediately and riding them like the time-sensitive waves they are, I toss the ideas into my inbox for later processing. Then perhaps a week later, I’ll consider each idea carefully and integrate it into my to-do list for future action. But by and large, by the time I get around to them, if ever, that wave of energy has long since dissipated, and trying to start those projects is like pulling teeth. Consequently, the content creation aspect of my business has always been super easy for me. I know I’ll never run out of ideas there. But the rest of my business changes much more slowly. My website, for instance, has essentially the same design as it did 5 years ago. Very quickly I got the idea to do a 30-day trial of acting on inspiration almost immediately whenever it hits me, whether it has to do with content creation or some other idea. I decided that I wasn’t going to wait, so I kicked it off while I was still at TLC. To be honest, I really don’t care about the exactitude of the 30-day stretch for this trial, but today was Day 4. This is new territory for me, so it may entail some hidden risks. I know it works on the content side, but I can’t predict what will happen as I apply this to the rest of my life. In order to begin this trial, I had to remind myself that worst case, I probably can’t screw things up so badly in 30 days that I can’t repair the damage later if necessary. Because the potential benefits are so great, I’m willing to take this risk. 30 Days of Inspired Action The same day I heard Joe’s talk (Friday), I was in my hotel room at around 8pm, and a stray thought popped into my head. I got the idea to put up an eBay auction for a 60-minute consultation, as I shared in my previous blog post. I began to ponder it, and my initial inclination was to jot down the idea and then consider it when I got back to Vegas the following week. Then I stopped and smacked myself and said, “No… you have to catch this wave now and see where it takes you. Don’t just let it pass.” So I dove into immediate action. I wasn’t sure how far I’d get with it, but I started by checking to see if my old eBay account was still good. I hadn’t logged in since March 2001, but the account was still there. I haven’t used eBay in a very long time, so it took me about 30 minutes to create the listing and make it live, something an experienced eBayer could have done in 10 minutes or less I’m sure. Then I spent another 20 minutes writing a quickie blog post about it, and that also fed to myTwitter and Facebook pages. Imagine that. Less than an hour after getting the idea, it was already up and running. If I’d written it down instead of acting upon it immediately, I could have wasted that much time just pondering whether or not I should do it. A few minutes later, I was Skyping with Erin, and I told her what I’d done. She loved it. Then she checked on the auction and told me I was already up to $51. I said, “You’re joking… it hasn’t even been up for 10 minutes yet.” But she wasn’t joking. By the time I went to bed, it had reached $132.50. The next morning it was at $425. Today it hit $1000, and there are still 3 days left till the auction closes. I can’t predict where it will end up. If you want to see what it’s up to now, you can visit the auction page. The auction officially ends on Friday, July 30, at 9:28:29 PDT. The next day I told Joe about this, and he loved it. I told other TLC members about it as well, and throughout the rest of the conference, people would check in with me to see how the auction was going. I think they were just as curious about it as I was. One morning at breakfast a fellow TLCer asked me, “So what are you up to?” I started telling him what I’d been doing, and he said, “No no… I mean, ‘What are the bids up to?’” Some people have asked me what this means. Does it mean I’m going to be doing paid coaching and consulting? Does it mean I’ll do more eBay auctions? Honestly I have no idea. It’s not part of some grand plan. This was pure impulse. I’m simply going with the flow of an inspired idea and riding it to shore. I can’t say when the next wave will arrive or what it will look like. This wasn’t even an idea with an intention behind it. I wasn’t intending to make money with it or anything. The motivation for this idea was sheer curiosity. I want to see what happens when I act on these sorts of ideas immediately, without trying to analyze or understand them first. In order to be true to this 30-day trial, I can’t think and plan ahead. If I schedule a bunch of stuff in advance or try to plan things out, I’m at risk of not being able to ride those waves of inspiration when they come. One thing I find very interesting is that from today through the rest of the trial, my calendar is completely blank. I don’t have a single scheduled appointment at all — no interviews, no meetings, nothing. There are still some events coming up, including my son’s 7th birthday and some potential travel, but none of it is in the form of a fixed appointment, at least not yet. I did have an appointment to meet with someone Wednesday morning, but it got bumped to today, so it’s already done with. And I would definitely say it was an inspired meeting. I’m used to having a flexible schedule, but it’s pretty unusual to have such a huge block of time with no scheduled appointments. I should at least have a radio interview in there… or a workshop… or a scheduled phone call… or something. But no — it’s totally blank. Is that just a coincidence? I can’t say. But this is an ideal time for me to conduct such an experiment. I could even extend it well beyond the 30 days, especially since the next CGW is still 3+ months away. A Sample Day As a typical example of how things are going with this trial so far, I’ll share how today went. I woke up at 5:30 this morning, and immediately my mind was racing with thoughts of writing this blog post. I didn’t originally plan to blog about my TLC trip, but the inspiration was there, so I had to ride it. I went straight to my computer and started writing, which was effortless. After 3 hours of writing, which passed in a blink, the phone rings. It’s Erin inviting me to go to breakfast with her. I realize that I’m starving and could use a break anyway, so I accept. While at breakfast, I got some inspired ideas related to our separation. Instead of pondering them and hashing them out a bit more, I shared them with her immediately. That turned out to be a wonderful thing, as it sent us down a path towards resolving some tricky practical aspects of our separation. Erin and I both leave happier, with a commitment to taking some specific actions that should make life easier for us both. From breakfast I drove to Starbucks to meet with a British military intelligence officer. I didn’t have any particular need to meet with him other than the fact that he expressed interest, and my intuition gave it a green light. We ended up having a fascinating 2.5-hour conversation. I learned a lot that I didn’t know about the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. After a couple hours, the thought occurred that many of my readers might be interested in hearing what he had to say, so I asked him if he’d be up for an interview. He agreed. It turned out that doing an interview would be a win for him too because he’s about to enter a phase of writing and publishing his own ideas, including starting a blog. By the time I got home, he’d already sent me some article links that we discussed. I haven’t had a chance to read them yet, but I quickly wrote up a forum post to keep riding that wave. I wanted to see if there was interest in such an interview and if people had specific questions. It looks like there is indeed interest, so I’ll compile some questions and send them off to him when I feel inspired to do so. I wasn’t feeling any major waves of inspiration this afternoon, so I ate lunch, processed some communication, and handled a few minor tasks while watching the movie Pulp Fiction. Lately I’ve been getting a number of synchronicities associated with the filmInception, which I haven’t seen yet. I thought maybe I’d go see it this evening, and I saw there was a 7pm show at the local IMAX, so I “planned” to hit that show. Whoops. But around 6:30pm when I was thinking about leaving, I realized that I just didn’t feel inspired to go see the movie, at least not yet. I was starting to feel a mild pull in a different direction — oh yeah, I still wanted to finish up and post the blog entry I’d started in the morning. So I decided to skip the movie and go with the writing wave. You’re reading the result. While I’m writing the final section of this post, I hear a text message come through on my cell phone, but I don’t check it till now. It’s Rachelle asking about Skyping tonight. That feels right, so as soon as I’ve posted this article, I’ll flow into that next. I haven’t had dinner yet, but I notice I’m not hungry. There’s another IMAX showing of Inception at 10:20pm. If I go to that show, I’ll still have 30 minutes to Skype, but it would keep me up till 1am. I can’t predict whether I’ll see it tonight or not. I’ll have to wait and see if the energy of the moment is pulling me in that direction. As I was typing the last sentence, my laptop tells me I’ve got 9 minutes of battery power left. Time to go plug it in. This is going to be a very unusual 30 days. I have no idea how it will turn out. I can’t even say how much I’ll blog about it along the way — that too will depend on whether I’m inspired to do so. In any event, you may see some rather erratic behavior from me in the coming weeks. I’m extending this trial across all areas of my life, both personally and professionally. It’s a 24/7 commitment with no breaks except those that occur naturally as the inspirational waves ebb. I’m excited about this. It’s going to be an interesting 30 days to be sure. Wish me luck! 
    Jul 12, 2011 780
  • 12 Jul 2011
    Yesterday I returned home from a 23-day road trip. It was an incredible experience, and I’m really glad I took the time to do it. I drove 4100 miles (6600 km) through 9 U.S. states (Nevada, California, Oregon, Washington, Montana, Wyoming, Idaho, Utah, and Arizona) and 2 Canadian provinces (British Columbia and Alberta). Beginning in Las Vegas, I traveled through Reno, Sacramento, San Francisco, Ashland, Portland, Seattle, Vancouver (BC), Kelowna, Banff, and Calgary with Rachelle. Then Rachelle flew from Calgary to Winnipeg, and I drove solo from Calgary through Glacier Park, Columbia Falls & Kalispell (MT), Flathead Forest, Yellowstone Park, Grand Teton Park, Salt Lake City, and finally back to Vegas. Day 21 was the most memorable for me because I pushed myself beyond my comfort zone. On that day I got up at 4:45am in Columbia Falls, a small Montana mountain town west of Glacier Park. I packed up and hit the road at 5:50am and drove 400 miles to Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming, visiting Earthquake Lake along the way (this lake was formed in 1959 when a 7.5 earthquake caused a massive landslide that buried a campground and choked a river). During the first hour of the drive while I was driving through Flathead Forest in the dark before dawn, a large deer sprang out of the dense woods at full speed and darted in front of my car. I instinctively swerved to avoid it and missed it by a split second. It was fortunate that I didn’t lose control of the car or crash into a tree. My heart was racing for several minutes after that. Later on that same drive, another small deer ran onto the highway as well, although with enough distance that it was easy to avoid. I later learned that in Yellowstone Park, about 100 animals are killed each year by motorists. I don’t think they’re counting small rodents like squirrels and chipmunks. I made it to Yellowstone Park just before noon. I explored the west side of the park for 4 hours, visiting many interesting sites along the way including rivers, geysers (including witnessing a timely Old Faithful eruption), various hot springs, Yellowstone Lake, and seeing gorgeous terrain all around. I saw many deer and bison as well as a wolf and a small bear. At 4pm I drove south through Grand Teton Park, enjoying its amazing sights, especially the snowy mountains near the Snake River. Then I continued driving for several more hours down many single-lane Wyoming roads until I reached Salt Lake City at 10:30pm. I didn’t know where I was going to stay in advance, so I used my phone to find a hotel and booked a room at the counter when I got there. Fortunately there was a 24-hour grocery store across the street where I was able to procure a late dinner. I drove 790 miles that day, much of it on winding mountain roads at 45 mph. I probably spent 13-14 hours behind the wheel. That’s more than I’ve ever driven on a single day in my life. It was an amazing experience seeing all the magical natural beauty from Montana to Utah. When I finally collapsed into bed and closed my eyes, I still felt like I was speeding down the highway. I kept dreaming that I was driving. I can’t condense 23 days of travel into a single blog post, but I can say that this physical journey helped me see my life from a new perspective. It gave me more clarity about what’s important to me and what isn’t. In some ways I was reminded of Elizabeth Gilbert’s experiences in Eat Pray Love, although a more accurate descriptor for this trip would be Eat Play Drive. One realization I had is that I need to change the way I manage incoming communication. My current approach isn’t working for me, so as of today, I’m changing it. Years ago I realized that I can’t possibly respond to all of the feedback I get, but on this trip I had a further realization. People shouldn’t even be sending me so much email in the first place. I don’t even want to look at it anymore. I’m referring mainly to messages people send me through my contact form, but this applies to some other communication channels as well. For example, the last time I checked my voicemail, I had 22 messages: 2 were hang ups, 2 were fan feedback messages (both from the same person), and 18 were spam calls from solicitors. What was the point in listening to it? And how much of my life should I continue to devote to this? When I first started blogging in 2004, some of the feedback I received was useful and actionable. But somewhere along the way, after tens of thousands of messages, it became too much of the same — a “been there, done that” sort of thing. To the individual senders, it may seem like their messages are unique, but to me it has become nothing but re-runs. The routine of processing email has become pointless — and extremely boring. I think the road trip highlighted these feelings because I was away from my daily routine for so long. Set against the backdrop of adventurous travel, I was able to clearly grasp a waste of life it is to spend my time reading messages that I don’t need to read, regardless of how well-intentioned they may be from the sender’s perspective. I still value quality feedback, but these days the actionable items come from people who know me really well — normally people I see in person. People who only communicate with me via the Internet seldom provide actionable feedback; they’re almost always projecting some aspect of their psyches onto me, as a way of asking me to solve the problem within themselves that they aren’t ready to face yet. They don’t understand the details of my situation well enough to be of help. Another aspect is that many of the messages I receive are very needy. At one time I was glad to help anyone who requested it, but it’s become clear that the people who email me so casually are almost always seeking quick fixes rather than real growth. They contact me because it’s easy and because I’m accessible, but when I give them an honest reply, they take no direct action because they aren’t ready to change yet. A person who is ready to change will do a lot more than send a casual email to someone they’ve never met; by and large these people simply aren’t serious. They’re doing what’s easy because they’re hoping to avoid having to do what’s hard, such as quitting the meaningless job or leaving the unfulfilling relationship. They don’t like being told that the path of conscious growth requires them to face their fears, not hide from them. It’s a mistake for them to contact me. I don’t sell Band Aids. So I’m shutting the door on that kind of communication. I could hire an assistant to process all of this communication for me, but what would be the point? Most of those messages are directed to me personally, and they don’t serve any essential business purpose, so there’s no real basis for outsourcing to an assistant. Consequently, I realized the best solution is to simply put a brick in my mailbox, so to speak. Turn off the pathways that invite so many casual messages from being sent in the first place. So I’ve done exactly that. This morning I removed the contact formfrom my website. In its place is a message explaining that I’m no longer available to be contacted through this site. There are plenty of what-if scenarios that could make this seem like a bad idea. But in weighing the pros and cons, I feel that overall this is the right decision for me. It probably wouldn’t make sense for most other online businesses, but it’s a reasonable solution for my particular situation. It’s also easy enough to go back to the previous approach if I don’t like the results, but I doubt I will. I may tweak the solution over time, however, so that I can keep high-value, low-volume communication channels open while closing low-value, high-volume channels. I also unfollowed the 300+ people I’d been following on Twitter. It’s not because I don’t like them. It’s because when I follow someone, they can send me direct messages there, which creates yet another inbox for me. Twitter doesn’t seem to provide a way to disable DMs, so this is the only viable solution I can see. The small number of people who connected with me via DMs can contact me in other ways anyway, so all this really does is simplify my communication pathways. As for other channels like Facebook and the forums, I’m not sure what, if any, changes I may make there. Those are less problematic though because people have to be friends/members in order to send personal messages, so the direct communication volume is much lower. For now I’ll just maintain the status quo unless it becomes an issue. Does this mean I’m becoming anti-social and hiding behind a virtual wall? It’s really the opposite of that. I’d rather connect with interesting people face to face instead of receive messages via the Internet. And I’d rather spend more time traveling since I find it beneficial for my own path of growth. So if you’re reading this website, and you feel the urge to contact me with your feedback, question, proposal, etc., don’t do it. If that bothers you, well… I suppose you’ll have to get used to disappointment. I don’t even care to receive typo reports — people will still be able to figure out the message, despite the Typo Gremlin’s mischief. I could offer up an explanation for why this is a good thing for everyone, but it will save us all time if I fess up that I’m doing this purely for selfish reasons. That may not be entirely accurate, but the simplicity of this assumption will save me some typing. So what’s the growth lesson here? Perhaps it would be wise for you to do your own soul-searching. Are your communication channels adding tremendous value to your life, or are they simply wasting your precious life? What would happen if you bricked up some of those inboxes and made yourself less available? What if you did it as an experiment for a week or so? Would your whole world come crashing down? Or would it free up more time to do some of those crazy, adventurous things you’ve always wanted to do… like take a monstrous road trip to places you’ve said you’ll visitsomeday. Is all of that emailing and forum posting and Facebooking really helping, or would you rather be smooching someone beside a beautiful waterfall? You decide. There’s no right or wrong answer here per se — just decisions and consequences. In my case I’m willing to accept the consequences of being less accessible, so that I can direct more time, attention, and energy towards other pursuits. Here’s an extra travel tip: Do NOT eat the nachos made with 10 different kinds of beans in Banff an hour before driving to Calgary!
    3038 Posted by UniqueThis
  • Yesterday I returned home from a 23-day road trip. It was an incredible experience, and I’m really glad I took the time to do it. I drove 4100 miles (6600 km) through 9 U.S. states (Nevada, California, Oregon, Washington, Montana, Wyoming, Idaho, Utah, and Arizona) and 2 Canadian provinces (British Columbia and Alberta). Beginning in Las Vegas, I traveled through Reno, Sacramento, San Francisco, Ashland, Portland, Seattle, Vancouver (BC), Kelowna, Banff, and Calgary with Rachelle. Then Rachelle flew from Calgary to Winnipeg, and I drove solo from Calgary through Glacier Park, Columbia Falls & Kalispell (MT), Flathead Forest, Yellowstone Park, Grand Teton Park, Salt Lake City, and finally back to Vegas. Day 21 was the most memorable for me because I pushed myself beyond my comfort zone. On that day I got up at 4:45am in Columbia Falls, a small Montana mountain town west of Glacier Park. I packed up and hit the road at 5:50am and drove 400 miles to Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming, visiting Earthquake Lake along the way (this lake was formed in 1959 when a 7.5 earthquake caused a massive landslide that buried a campground and choked a river). During the first hour of the drive while I was driving through Flathead Forest in the dark before dawn, a large deer sprang out of the dense woods at full speed and darted in front of my car. I instinctively swerved to avoid it and missed it by a split second. It was fortunate that I didn’t lose control of the car or crash into a tree. My heart was racing for several minutes after that. Later on that same drive, another small deer ran onto the highway as well, although with enough distance that it was easy to avoid. I later learned that in Yellowstone Park, about 100 animals are killed each year by motorists. I don’t think they’re counting small rodents like squirrels and chipmunks. I made it to Yellowstone Park just before noon. I explored the west side of the park for 4 hours, visiting many interesting sites along the way including rivers, geysers (including witnessing a timely Old Faithful eruption), various hot springs, Yellowstone Lake, and seeing gorgeous terrain all around. I saw many deer and bison as well as a wolf and a small bear. At 4pm I drove south through Grand Teton Park, enjoying its amazing sights, especially the snowy mountains near the Snake River. Then I continued driving for several more hours down many single-lane Wyoming roads until I reached Salt Lake City at 10:30pm. I didn’t know where I was going to stay in advance, so I used my phone to find a hotel and booked a room at the counter when I got there. Fortunately there was a 24-hour grocery store across the street where I was able to procure a late dinner. I drove 790 miles that day, much of it on winding mountain roads at 45 mph. I probably spent 13-14 hours behind the wheel. That’s more than I’ve ever driven on a single day in my life. It was an amazing experience seeing all the magical natural beauty from Montana to Utah. When I finally collapsed into bed and closed my eyes, I still felt like I was speeding down the highway. I kept dreaming that I was driving. I can’t condense 23 days of travel into a single blog post, but I can say that this physical journey helped me see my life from a new perspective. It gave me more clarity about what’s important to me and what isn’t. In some ways I was reminded of Elizabeth Gilbert’s experiences in Eat Pray Love, although a more accurate descriptor for this trip would be Eat Play Drive. One realization I had is that I need to change the way I manage incoming communication. My current approach isn’t working for me, so as of today, I’m changing it. Years ago I realized that I can’t possibly respond to all of the feedback I get, but on this trip I had a further realization. People shouldn’t even be sending me so much email in the first place. I don’t even want to look at it anymore. I’m referring mainly to messages people send me through my contact form, but this applies to some other communication channels as well. For example, the last time I checked my voicemail, I had 22 messages: 2 were hang ups, 2 were fan feedback messages (both from the same person), and 18 were spam calls from solicitors. What was the point in listening to it? And how much of my life should I continue to devote to this? When I first started blogging in 2004, some of the feedback I received was useful and actionable. But somewhere along the way, after tens of thousands of messages, it became too much of the same — a “been there, done that” sort of thing. To the individual senders, it may seem like their messages are unique, but to me it has become nothing but re-runs. The routine of processing email has become pointless — and extremely boring. I think the road trip highlighted these feelings because I was away from my daily routine for so long. Set against the backdrop of adventurous travel, I was able to clearly grasp a waste of life it is to spend my time reading messages that I don’t need to read, regardless of how well-intentioned they may be from the sender’s perspective. I still value quality feedback, but these days the actionable items come from people who know me really well — normally people I see in person. People who only communicate with me via the Internet seldom provide actionable feedback; they’re almost always projecting some aspect of their psyches onto me, as a way of asking me to solve the problem within themselves that they aren’t ready to face yet. They don’t understand the details of my situation well enough to be of help. Another aspect is that many of the messages I receive are very needy. At one time I was glad to help anyone who requested it, but it’s become clear that the people who email me so casually are almost always seeking quick fixes rather than real growth. They contact me because it’s easy and because I’m accessible, but when I give them an honest reply, they take no direct action because they aren’t ready to change yet. A person who is ready to change will do a lot more than send a casual email to someone they’ve never met; by and large these people simply aren’t serious. They’re doing what’s easy because they’re hoping to avoid having to do what’s hard, such as quitting the meaningless job or leaving the unfulfilling relationship. They don’t like being told that the path of conscious growth requires them to face their fears, not hide from them. It’s a mistake for them to contact me. I don’t sell Band Aids. So I’m shutting the door on that kind of communication. I could hire an assistant to process all of this communication for me, but what would be the point? Most of those messages are directed to me personally, and they don’t serve any essential business purpose, so there’s no real basis for outsourcing to an assistant. Consequently, I realized the best solution is to simply put a brick in my mailbox, so to speak. Turn off the pathways that invite so many casual messages from being sent in the first place. So I’ve done exactly that. This morning I removed the contact formfrom my website. In its place is a message explaining that I’m no longer available to be contacted through this site. There are plenty of what-if scenarios that could make this seem like a bad idea. But in weighing the pros and cons, I feel that overall this is the right decision for me. It probably wouldn’t make sense for most other online businesses, but it’s a reasonable solution for my particular situation. It’s also easy enough to go back to the previous approach if I don’t like the results, but I doubt I will. I may tweak the solution over time, however, so that I can keep high-value, low-volume communication channels open while closing low-value, high-volume channels. I also unfollowed the 300+ people I’d been following on Twitter. It’s not because I don’t like them. It’s because when I follow someone, they can send me direct messages there, which creates yet another inbox for me. Twitter doesn’t seem to provide a way to disable DMs, so this is the only viable solution I can see. The small number of people who connected with me via DMs can contact me in other ways anyway, so all this really does is simplify my communication pathways. As for other channels like Facebook and the forums, I’m not sure what, if any, changes I may make there. Those are less problematic though because people have to be friends/members in order to send personal messages, so the direct communication volume is much lower. For now I’ll just maintain the status quo unless it becomes an issue. Does this mean I’m becoming anti-social and hiding behind a virtual wall? It’s really the opposite of that. I’d rather connect with interesting people face to face instead of receive messages via the Internet. And I’d rather spend more time traveling since I find it beneficial for my own path of growth. So if you’re reading this website, and you feel the urge to contact me with your feedback, question, proposal, etc., don’t do it. If that bothers you, well… I suppose you’ll have to get used to disappointment. I don’t even care to receive typo reports — people will still be able to figure out the message, despite the Typo Gremlin’s mischief. I could offer up an explanation for why this is a good thing for everyone, but it will save us all time if I fess up that I’m doing this purely for selfish reasons. That may not be entirely accurate, but the simplicity of this assumption will save me some typing. So what’s the growth lesson here? Perhaps it would be wise for you to do your own soul-searching. Are your communication channels adding tremendous value to your life, or are they simply wasting your precious life? What would happen if you bricked up some of those inboxes and made yourself less available? What if you did it as an experiment for a week or so? Would your whole world come crashing down? Or would it free up more time to do some of those crazy, adventurous things you’ve always wanted to do… like take a monstrous road trip to places you’ve said you’ll visitsomeday. Is all of that emailing and forum posting and Facebooking really helping, or would you rather be smooching someone beside a beautiful waterfall? You decide. There’s no right or wrong answer here per se — just decisions and consequences. In my case I’m willing to accept the consequences of being less accessible, so that I can direct more time, attention, and energy towards other pursuits. Here’s an extra travel tip: Do NOT eat the nachos made with 10 different kinds of beans in Banff an hour before driving to Calgary!
    Jul 12, 2011 3038
  • 12 Jul 2011
    Here are some of the reasons I decided to disable my online contact form, as mentioned in this blog post. I already shared some of these in the forums, but I figured it would be fun to share them here as well. 1. I bought your game Dweep in 2002, but my hard drive crashed and I lost the game. Please send me the download link again. My grandson really wants to play. [Dweep is a PC puzzle game I published in 1999. I stopped marketing it in 2004 and stopped selling and supporting it in 2006.] 2. i thnk my b/f is cheeting on me cuz he sez im fat. plz hlp asap. Sent from my iPhone 3. I know your time is valuable, so I’ll be as brief as I can and get to the point. But first I need to explain my situation, so you’ll understand where I’m coming from. <3000 words of complaining about life with his/her parents> So how do you think I should deal with my Mom? I mean I guess I could move out and get a job or something, but I really don’t want to work at Starbucks. 4. I’m working on a school project, and after reading some of your blog posts, I’ve decided to do it on the subject of polyphasic sleep. I need to interview you for the project because part of the assignment is that we have to interview an expert. I’ve taken the liberty of attaching the interview questions below. Please send me your answers by Friday since my paper is due next week. 5. Author X is coming out with a new book this week, and we’ve decided to give you the opportunity to be included in the launch promotion. Please give me your mailing address so I can send you a free copy of the book in exchange for a review on your website. I’ve pasted the press release below. Please post a copy of the review on Date Y, since that’s the day we’re doing a big marketing push. [Oh boy! A free book!] 6. Thank you so much! Reading your blog has truly changed my life. <1000 words about trying to get out of bed before 8am and how success was finally achieved.> 7. I’m 18, and I have a business idea that I’m sure is going to be a huge success. Please download and sign our NDA, and fax it back to me, so we can discuss it. I’m sure you’ll want to help us once you hear the idea. This is going to be huge! 8. I just launched my new personal development blog at URL. Please take a look at it and tell me what you think. I want my site to be as successful as yours by the end of the year. I’m eager to hear what advice you have to share. 9. I just joined the forums this week, and one of your moderators banned me for spamming. I signed up so I could use the forums to promote my new website. I can’t believe you guys banned me for spamming. Please look into this and restore my account. This is an amazing new service, and I want to make sure everyone knows about it. 10. You are going to HELL for cheating on your wife. <3000 words about God and Jesus> Sent from my iPhone Some of these may give you a chuckle, but they’re all based on actual emails I’ve received again and again. Of course there have been some amazing messages as well, but even the good stuff can lose its spiciness when it becomes a repetitive pattern. For me the issue isn’t really about time savings. It has more to do with focus. When I take time out of each day to read messages like the above, it shifts my attention all over the place. This makes it harder to stay focused on my own goals and pursuits. People send me feedback not just about my present day work, but about work I did going all the way back to the 90s. Imagine receiving daily feedback about things you did over the past decade instead of just the past week or two. Suppose that every day, people sent you questions about things you said or did in 2005, 2006, 2007… even 1999. Imagine what this forced nostalgia would do to your ability to stay focused on the present. That’s been my daily reality for years. It’s been an interesting experience, but the effect is that it pulls my thoughts back to what I’ve already done, sending my attention backwards rather than forwards. For now I’d rather focus on living in the present. I’m grateful that my years of blogging have been so positive, but I also want to make sure I create enough space to continue working on my own growth and development without feeling unreasonably tied to the past. I’m not trying to erase my past, but I don’t need to be reminded of it every day. Even a positive past can become a leash. I know that recurring thoughts have the ability to manifest as real. If my thoughts keep going to the past, then I’ll manifest more of the same. As good as the past five years have been, I don’t want to live a re-run for the next five. And take the job at Starbucks and move out. It may not be your dream job, but if it helps you leave a toxic environment, it will be a positive step forward. Just let me know where you’re working, so I can mooch a free venti soy vanilla rooibos latte. 
    776 Posted by UniqueThis
  • Here are some of the reasons I decided to disable my online contact form, as mentioned in this blog post. I already shared some of these in the forums, but I figured it would be fun to share them here as well. 1. I bought your game Dweep in 2002, but my hard drive crashed and I lost the game. Please send me the download link again. My grandson really wants to play. [Dweep is a PC puzzle game I published in 1999. I stopped marketing it in 2004 and stopped selling and supporting it in 2006.] 2. i thnk my b/f is cheeting on me cuz he sez im fat. plz hlp asap. Sent from my iPhone 3. I know your time is valuable, so I’ll be as brief as I can and get to the point. But first I need to explain my situation, so you’ll understand where I’m coming from. <3000 words of complaining about life with his/her parents> So how do you think I should deal with my Mom? I mean I guess I could move out and get a job or something, but I really don’t want to work at Starbucks. 4. I’m working on a school project, and after reading some of your blog posts, I’ve decided to do it on the subject of polyphasic sleep. I need to interview you for the project because part of the assignment is that we have to interview an expert. I’ve taken the liberty of attaching the interview questions below. Please send me your answers by Friday since my paper is due next week. 5. Author X is coming out with a new book this week, and we’ve decided to give you the opportunity to be included in the launch promotion. Please give me your mailing address so I can send you a free copy of the book in exchange for a review on your website. I’ve pasted the press release below. Please post a copy of the review on Date Y, since that’s the day we’re doing a big marketing push. [Oh boy! A free book!] 6. Thank you so much! Reading your blog has truly changed my life. <1000 words about trying to get out of bed before 8am and how success was finally achieved.> 7. I’m 18, and I have a business idea that I’m sure is going to be a huge success. Please download and sign our NDA, and fax it back to me, so we can discuss it. I’m sure you’ll want to help us once you hear the idea. This is going to be huge! 8. I just launched my new personal development blog at URL. Please take a look at it and tell me what you think. I want my site to be as successful as yours by the end of the year. I’m eager to hear what advice you have to share. 9. I just joined the forums this week, and one of your moderators banned me for spamming. I signed up so I could use the forums to promote my new website. I can’t believe you guys banned me for spamming. Please look into this and restore my account. This is an amazing new service, and I want to make sure everyone knows about it. 10. You are going to HELL for cheating on your wife. <3000 words about God and Jesus> Sent from my iPhone Some of these may give you a chuckle, but they’re all based on actual emails I’ve received again and again. Of course there have been some amazing messages as well, but even the good stuff can lose its spiciness when it becomes a repetitive pattern. For me the issue isn’t really about time savings. It has more to do with focus. When I take time out of each day to read messages like the above, it shifts my attention all over the place. This makes it harder to stay focused on my own goals and pursuits. People send me feedback not just about my present day work, but about work I did going all the way back to the 90s. Imagine receiving daily feedback about things you did over the past decade instead of just the past week or two. Suppose that every day, people sent you questions about things you said or did in 2005, 2006, 2007… even 1999. Imagine what this forced nostalgia would do to your ability to stay focused on the present. That’s been my daily reality for years. It’s been an interesting experience, but the effect is that it pulls my thoughts back to what I’ve already done, sending my attention backwards rather than forwards. For now I’d rather focus on living in the present. I’m grateful that my years of blogging have been so positive, but I also want to make sure I create enough space to continue working on my own growth and development without feeling unreasonably tied to the past. I’m not trying to erase my past, but I don’t need to be reminded of it every day. Even a positive past can become a leash. I know that recurring thoughts have the ability to manifest as real. If my thoughts keep going to the past, then I’ll manifest more of the same. As good as the past five years have been, I don’t want to live a re-run for the next five. And take the job at Starbucks and move out. It may not be your dream job, but if it helps you leave a toxic environment, it will be a positive step forward. Just let me know where you’re working, so I can mooch a free venti soy vanilla rooibos latte. 
    Jul 12, 2011 776
  • 12 Jul 2011
    Erin and I have now been separated for more than a year after deciding in Oct 2009 not to continue as husband and wife. In this post I want to share some thoughts on what that first post-separation year has been like (after 15 years together as a couple, 11 of them married). It’s my hope that this may help someone who’s considering a similar relationship transition. While the initial separation involved some stress and uncertainty for both of us, the picture so far has turned out pretty well. Erin and I remain good friends to this day, and we continue to connect on many levels. Physical Adjustment The first and most immediate aspect of the separation involved the practical matter of separating our households and living in two different homes. I know our situation wasn’t typical in this case. We had some significant advantages that made this part easier for us than it might be for most people. We already owned a second house that was vacant, and we had the finances to support two households and to furnish the second home. So this part was mainly a matter of separating a bunch of physical items and then spending money to fill in the gaps. Erin bought a bunch of furniture, and I bought a second car for myself. Some of those gaps are still there a year later, however. My house has some empty rooms that I haven’t bothered to furnish since I now have an excess of space. But all things considered, this is a minor problem, and there’s no urgent need to address it. The crashing housing market in Vegas somewhat limits our options though. With the massive decline in real estate values, it would be difficult for either of us to justify moving at this time. But despite the increase in expenses from going to two households, we haven’t had any problem keeping up with bills and such. Our situation is stable. In fact, my web traffic increased this year because my business model adapts well to a down economy — it means more people looking for free content, and this site has tons of that. Career & Financial Adjustment We haven’t bothered to separate our finances yet, so everything there is still pooled. We’ve agreed to tackle this in the coming months, and I’d love to have that figured out by the end of the year, partly for tax and accounting reasons, but I suspect it will be challenging to work through all the little details since our career and financial lives are so interconnected. The trickiest part is that most of Erin’s web traffic still originates from my site, so if I take down some of those links and develop my site differently, it could hurt her business, at least in the short run. And that in turn hurts us both. Eventually I’d like to develop my website in a more independent direction, but we need a good way of resolving the effect on Erin’s business. I think it made sense for us to table this part of the separation until later though. When we first separated, the bigger issue was navigating the social and emotional transition. After that, Erin and I needed the chance to explore some alternative career possibilities. In what capacity might we continue working together? And where would it make more sense to work separately as individuals? For example, Erin has developed her own professional intuitive training program, which is going very well. I’m not involved in that part of her work at all. Nor does she get involved in any joint-venture deals that I do. On the collaborative side, this past weekend we delivered our 5th Conscious Growth Workshop along with a staff of several helpers, and it went incredibly well. I feel it was the best one ever, and the feedback from attendees has been wonderfully positive. Erin and I still seem to work well together in that capacity, and it’s a rewarding experience for us both. But now that we have no upcoming workshops scheduled, it’s time to make some decisions about whether we’ll continue to work together in this area. It seems likely that if we do more workshops, Erin will step away from handling the logistics, and I’d need to hire someone else to fill that role. It would make more sense for Erin to be involved in the content and delivery side of certain aspects… or to do her own workshops. Since we’ve never gone through such a process of separation before, there’s a lot of experimenting and feeling things out. Cutting our career and financial ties abruptly would have been unnecessarily painful and difficult for us both. I like that we continued working together by default while giving ourselves the space to explore and experiment and ponder possibilities as individuals. It allowed us to transition at a reasonable pace without stressing ourselves out. Since neither Erin nor I are money-centered people and since we both tend to be financially conservative relative to our income, it hasn’t been a big deal who spends what amounts of money on themselves, unless it would be something that costs maybe $5K or more. If she wants to buy some nice clothes for herself with joint funds, I really don’t care. I have enough of a sense of abundance that I know there’s plenty of money and opportunities for us both. We’ve both done a good job of keeping the income coming in this past year. If we had been at each others’ throats, it would have made sense to cut our financial ties sooner, but I’m happy with how things played out during the past year. There’s still a lot of work to be done here, but the only deadlines that matter are the ones we set for ourselves. I do feel a little constrained though since I know our finances are still pooled. I think it will be nice for both of us when we finally separate our personal finances, so we’re no longer so accountable to each other for personal spending. That may take some getting used to after so many years with joint finances. Relationship Adjustment A big part of our separation involved changing how we relate to each other. That adjustment is still ongoing, but I’d say the main part of it played out within the first 3 months. Erin and I both moved on with other partners, both sexually and emotionally, within a few months after we separated. That helped to energetically clear a part of our connection, making it easier to transition our primary connection from marriage to friendship. I’m grateful that this played out the way it did, not just for me but for Erin as well. I put some intentional energy into this by visualizing new connections I wanted to experience, and the Law of Attraction worked as expected. When thoughts of resentment came up, I brushed them aside and said to myself, “Forget about that. What do you want to experience next?” That gave me a new sense of possibility instead of looking backwards to the past. I didn’t just imagine happy outcomes for myself; I imagined a positive future for Erin as well. I still care about her and want her to be happy too. It certainly doesn’t do me any good if she’s unhappy, nor is it good for our kids. I honestly believe this transition is a positive step forward for both of us. Making that a reality, however, requires using our power constructively. For me the best part of connecting with someone else was the extra validation it provided. First, the chance to connect with someone who was more compatible in certain dimensions quickly validated that the decision to separate was the right one. I didn’t feel I needed that kind of validation, but it was nice to have it anyway. Second, there was the validation that yes, love is abundant and there’s no scarcity in this area if I keep my heart open to new connections. After 15 years with the same primary partner, I found it rewarding to attract a new partner, to enjoy fresh experiences together, and to share lots of love. I think that if I went through this whole adjustment process on my own, it would have been much more difficult. I’m very grateful for the way this aspect of the past year played out — and for the great friends who helped me along the way too. Labels can’t really describe how Erin and I relate to each other these days, but I like to think of her as a part of my “spiritual family.” Ultimately I know that our connection will continue to evolve. I didn’t feel any jealousy or attachment knowing that Erin connected with someone else. What I felt most was relieved. It was as if a cord had been cut, but in a gentle and nonviolent way. I want things to go well for her, but since I don’t have as much direct influence in that area anymore, this is a situation where I mainly have to let go and trust. However, Erin and I still watch each other’s backs in the relationship area. If either of us got involved with someone who seemed a poor match, we could trust that the other would speak up. In this manner we continue to help each other stay aligned with truth. As Erin will admit, she has a tendency to downplay her power. It’s been gratifying to see her step more into her power as an individual this past year, as opposed to relying on mine. She’s becoming more confident, which I’m happy to see. Others have noticed this too. On the flip side, I’ve had to do more to focus on my alignment with oneness and harmony instead of drawing so much from her in that area. It’s been an adjustment process, and I feel good about how I’m doing in this area so far. So in this vein, it’s nice to see that Erin and I are each locking in some of the gains we got from each other. Social Adjustment Since Erin and I had many mutual friends at the time we separated, this part of the adjustment was a bit strange. Once our friends and family had a chance to digest the initial separation, they were very supportive overall. This made things easier on Erin and me emotionally. However, as time went on, I noticed that because Erin and I spent much less time together as a couple, our social circles began to divide somewhat. There’s still a lot of overlap but not nearly as much as there was a year ago. Partly this is because I decided to drop Toastmasters in the Spring, while Erin stayed on as President of our club. So I naturally drifted apart from many of my Toastmaster friends when I stopped going to the meetings. On the other side, I developed closer connections with different mutual friends, while Erin’s connections with them began to drift. Also, Erin and I both cultivated some new connections as individuals. This separation of our social circles has been pretty gradual, so it wasn’t a big shock. I expect it will become more pronounced in the years ahead as we continue to forge new connections as individuals. I rather like this part of the transition because I feel I have more control over my social life now. I no longer feel obligated to accept social obligations that arise from being part of a couple. I can also connect as much as I want with people and situations that Erin may have avoided. On the other hand, I also feel more responsible for managing my social life deliberately because I can’t passively rely on Erin to handle that part of our lives for me. We still have some overlap in our social lives, but I think we both feel freer to decline invites that don’t interest us. For example, last night we had a poker game at my house with some CGWers who were still in town. If I hadn’t wanted to play poker that night but Erin did, she could have hosted it at her house without me. Earlier this week, I went zip-lining with some CGWers in downtown Vegas, an activity I can’t imagine Erin doing. That same day Erin went hiking in Red Rock Canyon with a different group. While we could have pursued our separate interests like this while married, most of the time we didn’t. We gave too much power away to a disempowering concept of marriage, expecting that we should do a lot of things together (or skip them entirely if one of us objected). It’s nice to be free of those expectations and to feel good about saying yes or no as individuals. I still feel I have a lot of work to do in the social area though. For most of the past year, I’ve reacted to what’s come up, but I haven’t been as proactive about seeking out compatible new connections. That’s partly due to the fact that I have a high enough flow of social invites that I can enjoy an active social life without having to be very proactive. I always have the ability to rest on my laurels and simply respond to the invites that come my way, and I know there will always be plenty of them. But I know I can enjoy a better social life if I consciously decide what I want and take action to make it happen, instead of just reacting to the chaotic social soup around me. Family Adjustment The family adjustment has probably been the most difficult part, and I haven’t been satisfied with the status quo here. After we separated, we fell into a temporarily stable situation by default, but it’s unbalanced. This is an area where we need to work out a more conscious long-term solution. I think that may be tricky though since Erin and I don’t seem to want the same things in this area. Our family values are quite different. Since the kids moved with Erin when we separated, she’s spent way more time with them than I have during the past year, and the four of us haven’t spent very much time together as a family. I can’t say we deliberately decided that things would play out this way. I think things stabilized this way because of the difference in our family values and the priorities we set for ourselves after separating. Erin grew up with a close, loving Jewish family that included a twin sister. To this day she remains close to her family and connects with them often. I can tell that having a close family is very important to her. It wouldn’t surprise me at all if she gets married again. She seems to have a strong nesting instinct. For me that kind of family situation would be stifling. I don’t place a high value on security and stability. I love taking risks, and I’m drawn to new experiences and adventure. I feel best about my life when I’m pushing myself in the courage and power areas. If I don’t feel adequately challenged, I become bored and restless. Throughout our relationship, I avoided, rejected, and resisted family get-togethers if I felt I wouldn’t enjoy them. I largely saw them as pointless, time-wasting fluff. Erin offered up similar resistance to some of my more adventurous ideas — she rarely rejected them outright, but her lack of enthusiasm was obvious, so it often felt like pushing through Jell-O to make certain things happen, so in the end I dropped a lot of things I previously loved. For example, while living in L.A. before I met Erin, I might have an idea like, “It would be fun to take off to Vegas for a few days.” If it was 10pm when I got the idea, I could be on the road by midnight. I’d get there around 4am, and I’d play blackjack (counting cards) for a few hours till I made enough to get a hotel room. While you could say that this kind of impulsivity is fine for a single 20-something but inappropriate for a man in his late 30s with a wife and two kids, keep in mind that the majority of the articles on this website were created with that same type of energy. I often go from inspired idea to published article within a matter of hours; when I get a good idea, I don’t hesitate. This aspect of my personality, while it may seem a bit unstable, has yielded many positive benefits too, not just for myself but for thousands of others. I feel I can do more good if I flow with this energy even more than I’ve been doing. But this also makes me seem, at least from a traditional societal perspective, like I’d be a pretty irregular father. During our marriage Erin and I settled into a bunch of compromises to appease each other, but it wasn’t what either of us really wanted. I think there’s simply too big a gulf in our values for us to be compatible in this area. My early experiences of family led me to much different values than Erin. My Catholic upbringing led me to associate things like control, conformity, denial, darkness, and unhappiness to the concept of a close nuclear family. I became much happier after I moved out. I grew to place a high value on independence and the freedom to make my own choices. I learned to create my own social support instead of trying in vain to feel supported by blood connections whose beliefs said I was doomed as a non-Christian. Erin, however, wouldn’t feel very secure with the sort of independence that I thrive on. For her it would likely feel too stressful and ungrounded. For me it’s exciting and rewarding to be put into a position where I must think on my feet in real time. We’ve both made many shifts to move away from the biases in our upbringing, but there still remains a pretty significant compatibility gap there. In my opinion, this makes a traditional co-parenting arrangement unlikely to work for us (if such a thing can be called traditional). Erin and I each have different views of parenting in general, so our parenting styles will simply not be the same. It’s safe to say that our ongoing influences on the kids will be rather unique and different. Throughout our relationship, that’s always been the case. But this isn’t necessarily a bad thing. In fact, it could be of great advantage to our kids. Many readers of mine have pointed out that I haven’t really written anything about parenting. That’s not an oversight on my part — it’s deliberate. I personally feel that parenting advice is largely B.S. For each parenting book you’ll find that pushes one parenting philosophy, you’ll find another book suggesting the opposite. And sometimes those books are written by the same “expert,” published years apart. Such parenting advice largely involves people sharing subjective values with very limited experience, and it’s often bad advice in my opinion. The bigger issue, however, is that what’s actually been measured with respect to how children turn out has little to do with what we’d classify under the label of parenting. The biggest influencers are actually who the parents are, rather than what they do. Specifically, this includes the parents’ socio-economic class, their level of education, and how old the mother was when she had her first child. Factors like whether parents read to their kids frequently or whether the kids are spanked or not seem to make little measurable difference in how the kids turn out, at least to the extent that this has actually been measured. In other words, parenting has much more to do with who you are — with your own level of self-development — as opposed to what specific actions you take in terms of raising your kids. The bulk of your parenting success is determined before the pregnancy even occurs. Initially when Erin and I look at this situation, it seems like we might have to compromise. But I don’t see that being a solution that would make either of us happy. I suspect that our ultimate long-term solution will look very non-traditional, but I think it has the potential to be great for everyone, especially the kids. Erin has the capacity to provide a stable, nurturing environment for the kids. I have the capacity to bring some kick-ass growth experiences into their lives. I can already see that my kids have aspects of my personality that I can nurture in ways Erin simply won’t be able to do. And of course the reverse is true as well. While the kids are still fairly young (currently ages 10 and 7), Erin may play a bigger role in their lives. However, as they become teenagers, I think it would be awesome to travel around the world with them and give them a real education as opposed to having them sit in a classroom and read about things they could be seeing and touching. I think this is going to take a lot of experimentation to figure out what works best for us. Ultimately we’re going to have to craft our own unique version of a family. It’s too soon to tell where this will lead, but I’m confident we can work things out. Deep down, I value what Erin does for the kids. And I believe she values what I can do for them as well. However, I think both of us still harbor some resentment towards each other in this area, and we need to work through that first before we can move forward. Partly I’m disappointed that Erin isn’t the Adventure Mom I wish she could have been, and I suspect that she’s still coming to grips with the fact that I’m not the Jewish Family Guy. Until we can really let go and forgive in this area, not just superficially but at the level of true acceptance, it will be difficult for us to move forward because we’ll keep hoping for the other person to “get with the program.” I think our family situation will improve greatly once Erin and I figure out how to share our best selves with them in our own unique ways, even if those selves don’t mesh well within the same household. Lifestyle Adjustment A big part of separation is having the chance to write some new chapters in one’s life story as an independent author instead of co-writing everything as a couple. This is an area where I felt very held back in my marriage. It was such a freeing experience to finally explore things I wanted to do that were perpetually on the back burner. The biggest deal for me lifestyle-wise was traveling. I love to travel, but since Erin isn’t a particularly resilient traveler (she’ll readily admit to being very particular in this area), I didn’t travel nearly as much as I’d wanted to. For so many years, this was a bottled-up desire. I had the option of traveling alone of course, but I really wanted to travel with an intimate partner. I love the shared experience aspect of traveling, and for me it’s almost an essential part of an intimate relationship. Traveling together adds some delicious intensity. And I honestly love the romantic aspect of exploring a new city with someone, eating new foods together, strolling through interesting museums, etc. It was clear that Erin wouldn’t fill that role with me. If Erin were to travel the way I enjoyed, it would be too stressful and overwhelming for her. We just have very different tolerances in this area. So this year I made it a priority to explore this part of my life. I spent about 9-10 weeks out of this year traveling so far, including a weeklong trip to Puerto Rico, 3 weeks in Canada (Ontario and Quebec), and a 23-day road trip through 9 U.S. states and 2 Canadian provinces. I also spent many days in Hollywood, Costa Mesa, and Santa Fe. I loved all of it! It felt like a stifled part of my spirit finally had the chance to escape its cage. I expect to do even more traveling in the years ahead, especially internationally. Europe is definitely in my sights. But before I go too far in that direction, it makes sense to work through the financial separation with Erin. This year was just a taste, but it was enough of a taste for me to know that this is the right path for me. Ideally I’d like to spend at least 3 months out of the year traveling. There was a little bit of resistance from some people who felt it was irresponsible for me to spend so much time traveling with my new girlfriend, but this was so obviously part of my “path with a heart” that I couldn’t take their objections seriously. They’re simply filtering my experience through their own values. I have no regrets about exploring this part of my life. It’s been long overdue. Erin has also felt free to explore paths that I never would have gone along with. At first my reaction was a bit judgmental, but then I realized that she’s her own person, and it just gave me further validation that separating was the best thing for us both. I’m glad she felt comfortable going her own way and being able to tell me about it. Even so, we probably still have some unreasonable expectations of each other that we need to release and forgive. I think we’re doing pretty well in this area so far. I expect that as time goes on, our paths will diverge much more than they have already. It will take time for our individual values to grow stronger and to express themselves more fully. Partly this is because we still have some factors, like our joint finances, acting as a drag. New Relationship Exploration A number of people have asked me if I’ve been monogamous or polyamorous lately. I think the most honest answer is that I enjoy aspects of both. Using either label feels too limiting. It’s really a matter of perspective. This is an area where I’ve had to abandon the labels and simply follow my heart. Rachelle has been my primary intimate partner during this year. We’ve agreed to maintain an open relationship, but in practice we don’t exercise that option too frequently. We’re both pretty selective, and we don’t consider ourselves promiscuous, but when a fun opportunity presents itself, we enjoy playing with others too. I like the intimacy and depth of a long-term, one-on-one relationship. That kind of connection can provide lots of joy and growth for both partners, so it feels wonderful to have it as part of my life. I also enjoy the variety and spiciness of connecting with multiple partners, as long as they’re the right partners who are willing to co-create a sensual experience within a space of unconditional love, non-judgment, and playfulness. I don’t think I’d want to have a threesome every week, but every once in a while with the right person, it’s a welcome exploration. I could have done more in this part of my life this year, but I largely played it safe. Adjusting to the separation made my life complicated enough. I didn’t want to complicate things further by trying to take on too much. So anything that seemed iffy or not quite right, even though it might have led to some fun growth experiences, I largely avoided. In the future I may take more risks in this area, but for now I’m happy to look back on some fun shared experiences that were good for all involved… and no broken hearts. After reading the above, some people would say that I want to have my cake and eat it too. They’d be right. I do indeed want the best of both worlds — the depth that comes from real intimacy and the variety of multiple partners. I see no reason those should be in conflict, as long as I continue to attract people with a similar mindset. So far this is going well, and I expect that it will keep getting better as I keep stretching. To reach this point, I had to do a lot of introspecting about what I wanted. Then I had to acknowledge that it was indeed possible. And then I had to cast off a lot of socially conditioned baggage in my beliefs about what a proper relationship is supposed to look like. The real truth of course is that we can create whatever we desire in our hearts. I’m sure I still have some baggage to release in this area, but it’s nice to see that the people I’ve been attracting into my life this year have been helping to expose areas where I’m still holding back — and gently, sometimes teasingly, nudging me forward. For me this has been a fun adventure. After separating from Erin, I had a much better idea of what I didn’t want as opposed to what I did want in terms of new relationships. So I actually set an intention to attract something fresh and new instead of trying to lock down all the specifics. Having a particular relationship structure wasn’t as important to me as attracting a compatible, open-minded partner who was willing to explore and experiment. One of the reasons I was drawn to a relationship with Rachelle was that it was guaranteed to be something new and different. Since her home base is in Winnipeg, Canada, about 1300 miles away from Las Vegas, I could predict from the start that there would be some unique challenges and opportunities if we got involved. That has definitely been the case. Our relationship has been very loving but also pretty intense at times. We’ve traveled to more than a dozen cities together this year, but we’ve also spent about half the year apart from each other. I’ve lost count of how many times we’ve hugged goodbye at airports (and it’s about to happen again in a few more hours), but that just makes the reunions so much sweeter. At certain times when Rachelle and I have been apart for a few weeks, I could even have claimed to be celibate. This long-distance element has given me the opportunity to explore a new relationship while also having plenty of space to rediscover myself as an individual. As strange as it may look from the outside, it was exactly what I needed at this time in my life. If I’d gone straight into a full-time relationship with someone local to me, I’d probably have felt stifled, like I didn’t have enough time to reconnect with myself as an individual. But if I’d kept to myself for 6-12 months, I’d have felt lonely and disconnected. I wanted to explore both aspects, and instead of having to choose between them, I got both. I’ve had the space to get to know myself as an individual who isn’t part of a couple. But I’ve also been enjoying a close, intimate, loving connection. I’m grateful that such a perfect, personalized solution manifested so readily. Conscious Separation If I had to give us an annual report card, I’d give myself and Erin an A for how we’ve handled our separation thus far. We still have more to do, but deep down we still love and care about each other, and things have a way of working out well for us both when we act from that place. Our separation has pushed us both to grow in new and different ways. It’s safe to say that we’re both better off today than we would have been if we’d stayed together as a married couple. I think everything played out as it needed to, and I have no real regrets about it. It’s hard to predict the road ahead. I can’t say for certain where our paths will lead next. But for right now, I’m okay being in that space of possibility and potential. I don’t feel a need to lock down all the details for a greater sense of security. I feel much more secure when I’m actively exploring and learning as opposed to when I think I have everything figured out. I don’t regret being married. I think it’s a good thing that I was married and that I had kids. I also think it’s a good thing that I’ve been going through a separation. This journey helps me understand human relationships from different perspectives, which makes it easier for me to personally relate to other people’s relationship challenges and to potentially share insights that others may find helpful and practical. Gratitude Looking back on the past year, what I feel most of all is gratitude. I’m grateful not only for how things turned out but also for all the growth experiences that Erin and I shared together as a couple. We really learned a lot from each other, and we emerged from our marriage with a lot of self-development under our belts that now serves us well as individuals. As many people say after they go through a separation, “It was hard, but it was worth it.” Making the decision to separate was indeed very difficult, but it was such an important step to take. I don’t see blame or regret or failure as I look back. I see lots of cool memories and positive lessons. And when I look forward, I see heart-centered connection, exploration, and adventure.   
    779 Posted by UniqueThis
  • Erin and I have now been separated for more than a year after deciding in Oct 2009 not to continue as husband and wife. In this post I want to share some thoughts on what that first post-separation year has been like (after 15 years together as a couple, 11 of them married). It’s my hope that this may help someone who’s considering a similar relationship transition. While the initial separation involved some stress and uncertainty for both of us, the picture so far has turned out pretty well. Erin and I remain good friends to this day, and we continue to connect on many levels. Physical Adjustment The first and most immediate aspect of the separation involved the practical matter of separating our households and living in two different homes. I know our situation wasn’t typical in this case. We had some significant advantages that made this part easier for us than it might be for most people. We already owned a second house that was vacant, and we had the finances to support two households and to furnish the second home. So this part was mainly a matter of separating a bunch of physical items and then spending money to fill in the gaps. Erin bought a bunch of furniture, and I bought a second car for myself. Some of those gaps are still there a year later, however. My house has some empty rooms that I haven’t bothered to furnish since I now have an excess of space. But all things considered, this is a minor problem, and there’s no urgent need to address it. The crashing housing market in Vegas somewhat limits our options though. With the massive decline in real estate values, it would be difficult for either of us to justify moving at this time. But despite the increase in expenses from going to two households, we haven’t had any problem keeping up with bills and such. Our situation is stable. In fact, my web traffic increased this year because my business model adapts well to a down economy — it means more people looking for free content, and this site has tons of that. Career & Financial Adjustment We haven’t bothered to separate our finances yet, so everything there is still pooled. We’ve agreed to tackle this in the coming months, and I’d love to have that figured out by the end of the year, partly for tax and accounting reasons, but I suspect it will be challenging to work through all the little details since our career and financial lives are so interconnected. The trickiest part is that most of Erin’s web traffic still originates from my site, so if I take down some of those links and develop my site differently, it could hurt her business, at least in the short run. And that in turn hurts us both. Eventually I’d like to develop my website in a more independent direction, but we need a good way of resolving the effect on Erin’s business. I think it made sense for us to table this part of the separation until later though. When we first separated, the bigger issue was navigating the social and emotional transition. After that, Erin and I needed the chance to explore some alternative career possibilities. In what capacity might we continue working together? And where would it make more sense to work separately as individuals? For example, Erin has developed her own professional intuitive training program, which is going very well. I’m not involved in that part of her work at all. Nor does she get involved in any joint-venture deals that I do. On the collaborative side, this past weekend we delivered our 5th Conscious Growth Workshop along with a staff of several helpers, and it went incredibly well. I feel it was the best one ever, and the feedback from attendees has been wonderfully positive. Erin and I still seem to work well together in that capacity, and it’s a rewarding experience for us both. But now that we have no upcoming workshops scheduled, it’s time to make some decisions about whether we’ll continue to work together in this area. It seems likely that if we do more workshops, Erin will step away from handling the logistics, and I’d need to hire someone else to fill that role. It would make more sense for Erin to be involved in the content and delivery side of certain aspects… or to do her own workshops. Since we’ve never gone through such a process of separation before, there’s a lot of experimenting and feeling things out. Cutting our career and financial ties abruptly would have been unnecessarily painful and difficult for us both. I like that we continued working together by default while giving ourselves the space to explore and experiment and ponder possibilities as individuals. It allowed us to transition at a reasonable pace without stressing ourselves out. Since neither Erin nor I are money-centered people and since we both tend to be financially conservative relative to our income, it hasn’t been a big deal who spends what amounts of money on themselves, unless it would be something that costs maybe $5K or more. If she wants to buy some nice clothes for herself with joint funds, I really don’t care. I have enough of a sense of abundance that I know there’s plenty of money and opportunities for us both. We’ve both done a good job of keeping the income coming in this past year. If we had been at each others’ throats, it would have made sense to cut our financial ties sooner, but I’m happy with how things played out during the past year. There’s still a lot of work to be done here, but the only deadlines that matter are the ones we set for ourselves. I do feel a little constrained though since I know our finances are still pooled. I think it will be nice for both of us when we finally separate our personal finances, so we’re no longer so accountable to each other for personal spending. That may take some getting used to after so many years with joint finances. Relationship Adjustment A big part of our separation involved changing how we relate to each other. That adjustment is still ongoing, but I’d say the main part of it played out within the first 3 months. Erin and I both moved on with other partners, both sexually and emotionally, within a few months after we separated. That helped to energetically clear a part of our connection, making it easier to transition our primary connection from marriage to friendship. I’m grateful that this played out the way it did, not just for me but for Erin as well. I put some intentional energy into this by visualizing new connections I wanted to experience, and the Law of Attraction worked as expected. When thoughts of resentment came up, I brushed them aside and said to myself, “Forget about that. What do you want to experience next?” That gave me a new sense of possibility instead of looking backwards to the past. I didn’t just imagine happy outcomes for myself; I imagined a positive future for Erin as well. I still care about her and want her to be happy too. It certainly doesn’t do me any good if she’s unhappy, nor is it good for our kids. I honestly believe this transition is a positive step forward for both of us. Making that a reality, however, requires using our power constructively. For me the best part of connecting with someone else was the extra validation it provided. First, the chance to connect with someone who was more compatible in certain dimensions quickly validated that the decision to separate was the right one. I didn’t feel I needed that kind of validation, but it was nice to have it anyway. Second, there was the validation that yes, love is abundant and there’s no scarcity in this area if I keep my heart open to new connections. After 15 years with the same primary partner, I found it rewarding to attract a new partner, to enjoy fresh experiences together, and to share lots of love. I think that if I went through this whole adjustment process on my own, it would have been much more difficult. I’m very grateful for the way this aspect of the past year played out — and for the great friends who helped me along the way too. Labels can’t really describe how Erin and I relate to each other these days, but I like to think of her as a part of my “spiritual family.” Ultimately I know that our connection will continue to evolve. I didn’t feel any jealousy or attachment knowing that Erin connected with someone else. What I felt most was relieved. It was as if a cord had been cut, but in a gentle and nonviolent way. I want things to go well for her, but since I don’t have as much direct influence in that area anymore, this is a situation where I mainly have to let go and trust. However, Erin and I still watch each other’s backs in the relationship area. If either of us got involved with someone who seemed a poor match, we could trust that the other would speak up. In this manner we continue to help each other stay aligned with truth. As Erin will admit, she has a tendency to downplay her power. It’s been gratifying to see her step more into her power as an individual this past year, as opposed to relying on mine. She’s becoming more confident, which I’m happy to see. Others have noticed this too. On the flip side, I’ve had to do more to focus on my alignment with oneness and harmony instead of drawing so much from her in that area. It’s been an adjustment process, and I feel good about how I’m doing in this area so far. So in this vein, it’s nice to see that Erin and I are each locking in some of the gains we got from each other. Social Adjustment Since Erin and I had many mutual friends at the time we separated, this part of the adjustment was a bit strange. Once our friends and family had a chance to digest the initial separation, they were very supportive overall. This made things easier on Erin and me emotionally. However, as time went on, I noticed that because Erin and I spent much less time together as a couple, our social circles began to divide somewhat. There’s still a lot of overlap but not nearly as much as there was a year ago. Partly this is because I decided to drop Toastmasters in the Spring, while Erin stayed on as President of our club. So I naturally drifted apart from many of my Toastmaster friends when I stopped going to the meetings. On the other side, I developed closer connections with different mutual friends, while Erin’s connections with them began to drift. Also, Erin and I both cultivated some new connections as individuals. This separation of our social circles has been pretty gradual, so it wasn’t a big shock. I expect it will become more pronounced in the years ahead as we continue to forge new connections as individuals. I rather like this part of the transition because I feel I have more control over my social life now. I no longer feel obligated to accept social obligations that arise from being part of a couple. I can also connect as much as I want with people and situations that Erin may have avoided. On the other hand, I also feel more responsible for managing my social life deliberately because I can’t passively rely on Erin to handle that part of our lives for me. We still have some overlap in our social lives, but I think we both feel freer to decline invites that don’t interest us. For example, last night we had a poker game at my house with some CGWers who were still in town. If I hadn’t wanted to play poker that night but Erin did, she could have hosted it at her house without me. Earlier this week, I went zip-lining with some CGWers in downtown Vegas, an activity I can’t imagine Erin doing. That same day Erin went hiking in Red Rock Canyon with a different group. While we could have pursued our separate interests like this while married, most of the time we didn’t. We gave too much power away to a disempowering concept of marriage, expecting that we should do a lot of things together (or skip them entirely if one of us objected). It’s nice to be free of those expectations and to feel good about saying yes or no as individuals. I still feel I have a lot of work to do in the social area though. For most of the past year, I’ve reacted to what’s come up, but I haven’t been as proactive about seeking out compatible new connections. That’s partly due to the fact that I have a high enough flow of social invites that I can enjoy an active social life without having to be very proactive. I always have the ability to rest on my laurels and simply respond to the invites that come my way, and I know there will always be plenty of them. But I know I can enjoy a better social life if I consciously decide what I want and take action to make it happen, instead of just reacting to the chaotic social soup around me. Family Adjustment The family adjustment has probably been the most difficult part, and I haven’t been satisfied with the status quo here. After we separated, we fell into a temporarily stable situation by default, but it’s unbalanced. This is an area where we need to work out a more conscious long-term solution. I think that may be tricky though since Erin and I don’t seem to want the same things in this area. Our family values are quite different. Since the kids moved with Erin when we separated, she’s spent way more time with them than I have during the past year, and the four of us haven’t spent very much time together as a family. I can’t say we deliberately decided that things would play out this way. I think things stabilized this way because of the difference in our family values and the priorities we set for ourselves after separating. Erin grew up with a close, loving Jewish family that included a twin sister. To this day she remains close to her family and connects with them often. I can tell that having a close family is very important to her. It wouldn’t surprise me at all if she gets married again. She seems to have a strong nesting instinct. For me that kind of family situation would be stifling. I don’t place a high value on security and stability. I love taking risks, and I’m drawn to new experiences and adventure. I feel best about my life when I’m pushing myself in the courage and power areas. If I don’t feel adequately challenged, I become bored and restless. Throughout our relationship, I avoided, rejected, and resisted family get-togethers if I felt I wouldn’t enjoy them. I largely saw them as pointless, time-wasting fluff. Erin offered up similar resistance to some of my more adventurous ideas — she rarely rejected them outright, but her lack of enthusiasm was obvious, so it often felt like pushing through Jell-O to make certain things happen, so in the end I dropped a lot of things I previously loved. For example, while living in L.A. before I met Erin, I might have an idea like, “It would be fun to take off to Vegas for a few days.” If it was 10pm when I got the idea, I could be on the road by midnight. I’d get there around 4am, and I’d play blackjack (counting cards) for a few hours till I made enough to get a hotel room. While you could say that this kind of impulsivity is fine for a single 20-something but inappropriate for a man in his late 30s with a wife and two kids, keep in mind that the majority of the articles on this website were created with that same type of energy. I often go from inspired idea to published article within a matter of hours; when I get a good idea, I don’t hesitate. This aspect of my personality, while it may seem a bit unstable, has yielded many positive benefits too, not just for myself but for thousands of others. I feel I can do more good if I flow with this energy even more than I’ve been doing. But this also makes me seem, at least from a traditional societal perspective, like I’d be a pretty irregular father. During our marriage Erin and I settled into a bunch of compromises to appease each other, but it wasn’t what either of us really wanted. I think there’s simply too big a gulf in our values for us to be compatible in this area. My early experiences of family led me to much different values than Erin. My Catholic upbringing led me to associate things like control, conformity, denial, darkness, and unhappiness to the concept of a close nuclear family. I became much happier after I moved out. I grew to place a high value on independence and the freedom to make my own choices. I learned to create my own social support instead of trying in vain to feel supported by blood connections whose beliefs said I was doomed as a non-Christian. Erin, however, wouldn’t feel very secure with the sort of independence that I thrive on. For her it would likely feel too stressful and ungrounded. For me it’s exciting and rewarding to be put into a position where I must think on my feet in real time. We’ve both made many shifts to move away from the biases in our upbringing, but there still remains a pretty significant compatibility gap there. In my opinion, this makes a traditional co-parenting arrangement unlikely to work for us (if such a thing can be called traditional). Erin and I each have different views of parenting in general, so our parenting styles will simply not be the same. It’s safe to say that our ongoing influences on the kids will be rather unique and different. Throughout our relationship, that’s always been the case. But this isn’t necessarily a bad thing. In fact, it could be of great advantage to our kids. Many readers of mine have pointed out that I haven’t really written anything about parenting. That’s not an oversight on my part — it’s deliberate. I personally feel that parenting advice is largely B.S. For each parenting book you’ll find that pushes one parenting philosophy, you’ll find another book suggesting the opposite. And sometimes those books are written by the same “expert,” published years apart. Such parenting advice largely involves people sharing subjective values with very limited experience, and it’s often bad advice in my opinion. The bigger issue, however, is that what’s actually been measured with respect to how children turn out has little to do with what we’d classify under the label of parenting. The biggest influencers are actually who the parents are, rather than what they do. Specifically, this includes the parents’ socio-economic class, their level of education, and how old the mother was when she had her first child. Factors like whether parents read to their kids frequently or whether the kids are spanked or not seem to make little measurable difference in how the kids turn out, at least to the extent that this has actually been measured. In other words, parenting has much more to do with who you are — with your own level of self-development — as opposed to what specific actions you take in terms of raising your kids. The bulk of your parenting success is determined before the pregnancy even occurs. Initially when Erin and I look at this situation, it seems like we might have to compromise. But I don’t see that being a solution that would make either of us happy. I suspect that our ultimate long-term solution will look very non-traditional, but I think it has the potential to be great for everyone, especially the kids. Erin has the capacity to provide a stable, nurturing environment for the kids. I have the capacity to bring some kick-ass growth experiences into their lives. I can already see that my kids have aspects of my personality that I can nurture in ways Erin simply won’t be able to do. And of course the reverse is true as well. While the kids are still fairly young (currently ages 10 and 7), Erin may play a bigger role in their lives. However, as they become teenagers, I think it would be awesome to travel around the world with them and give them a real education as opposed to having them sit in a classroom and read about things they could be seeing and touching. I think this is going to take a lot of experimentation to figure out what works best for us. Ultimately we’re going to have to craft our own unique version of a family. It’s too soon to tell where this will lead, but I’m confident we can work things out. Deep down, I value what Erin does for the kids. And I believe she values what I can do for them as well. However, I think both of us still harbor some resentment towards each other in this area, and we need to work through that first before we can move forward. Partly I’m disappointed that Erin isn’t the Adventure Mom I wish she could have been, and I suspect that she’s still coming to grips with the fact that I’m not the Jewish Family Guy. Until we can really let go and forgive in this area, not just superficially but at the level of true acceptance, it will be difficult for us to move forward because we’ll keep hoping for the other person to “get with the program.” I think our family situation will improve greatly once Erin and I figure out how to share our best selves with them in our own unique ways, even if those selves don’t mesh well within the same household. Lifestyle Adjustment A big part of separation is having the chance to write some new chapters in one’s life story as an independent author instead of co-writing everything as a couple. This is an area where I felt very held back in my marriage. It was such a freeing experience to finally explore things I wanted to do that were perpetually on the back burner. The biggest deal for me lifestyle-wise was traveling. I love to travel, but since Erin isn’t a particularly resilient traveler (she’ll readily admit to being very particular in this area), I didn’t travel nearly as much as I’d wanted to. For so many years, this was a bottled-up desire. I had the option of traveling alone of course, but I really wanted to travel with an intimate partner. I love the shared experience aspect of traveling, and for me it’s almost an essential part of an intimate relationship. Traveling together adds some delicious intensity. And I honestly love the romantic aspect of exploring a new city with someone, eating new foods together, strolling through interesting museums, etc. It was clear that Erin wouldn’t fill that role with me. If Erin were to travel the way I enjoyed, it would be too stressful and overwhelming for her. We just have very different tolerances in this area. So this year I made it a priority to explore this part of my life. I spent about 9-10 weeks out of this year traveling so far, including a weeklong trip to Puerto Rico, 3 weeks in Canada (Ontario and Quebec), and a 23-day road trip through 9 U.S. states and 2 Canadian provinces. I also spent many days in Hollywood, Costa Mesa, and Santa Fe. I loved all of it! It felt like a stifled part of my spirit finally had the chance to escape its cage. I expect to do even more traveling in the years ahead, especially internationally. Europe is definitely in my sights. But before I go too far in that direction, it makes sense to work through the financial separation with Erin. This year was just a taste, but it was enough of a taste for me to know that this is the right path for me. Ideally I’d like to spend at least 3 months out of the year traveling. There was a little bit of resistance from some people who felt it was irresponsible for me to spend so much time traveling with my new girlfriend, but this was so obviously part of my “path with a heart” that I couldn’t take their objections seriously. They’re simply filtering my experience through their own values. I have no regrets about exploring this part of my life. It’s been long overdue. Erin has also felt free to explore paths that I never would have gone along with. At first my reaction was a bit judgmental, but then I realized that she’s her own person, and it just gave me further validation that separating was the best thing for us both. I’m glad she felt comfortable going her own way and being able to tell me about it. Even so, we probably still have some unreasonable expectations of each other that we need to release and forgive. I think we’re doing pretty well in this area so far. I expect that as time goes on, our paths will diverge much more than they have already. It will take time for our individual values to grow stronger and to express themselves more fully. Partly this is because we still have some factors, like our joint finances, acting as a drag. New Relationship Exploration A number of people have asked me if I’ve been monogamous or polyamorous lately. I think the most honest answer is that I enjoy aspects of both. Using either label feels too limiting. It’s really a matter of perspective. This is an area where I’ve had to abandon the labels and simply follow my heart. Rachelle has been my primary intimate partner during this year. We’ve agreed to maintain an open relationship, but in practice we don’t exercise that option too frequently. We’re both pretty selective, and we don’t consider ourselves promiscuous, but when a fun opportunity presents itself, we enjoy playing with others too. I like the intimacy and depth of a long-term, one-on-one relationship. That kind of connection can provide lots of joy and growth for both partners, so it feels wonderful to have it as part of my life. I also enjoy the variety and spiciness of connecting with multiple partners, as long as they’re the right partners who are willing to co-create a sensual experience within a space of unconditional love, non-judgment, and playfulness. I don’t think I’d want to have a threesome every week, but every once in a while with the right person, it’s a welcome exploration. I could have done more in this part of my life this year, but I largely played it safe. Adjusting to the separation made my life complicated enough. I didn’t want to complicate things further by trying to take on too much. So anything that seemed iffy or not quite right, even though it might have led to some fun growth experiences, I largely avoided. In the future I may take more risks in this area, but for now I’m happy to look back on some fun shared experiences that were good for all involved… and no broken hearts. After reading the above, some people would say that I want to have my cake and eat it too. They’d be right. I do indeed want the best of both worlds — the depth that comes from real intimacy and the variety of multiple partners. I see no reason those should be in conflict, as long as I continue to attract people with a similar mindset. So far this is going well, and I expect that it will keep getting better as I keep stretching. To reach this point, I had to do a lot of introspecting about what I wanted. Then I had to acknowledge that it was indeed possible. And then I had to cast off a lot of socially conditioned baggage in my beliefs about what a proper relationship is supposed to look like. The real truth of course is that we can create whatever we desire in our hearts. I’m sure I still have some baggage to release in this area, but it’s nice to see that the people I’ve been attracting into my life this year have been helping to expose areas where I’m still holding back — and gently, sometimes teasingly, nudging me forward. For me this has been a fun adventure. After separating from Erin, I had a much better idea of what I didn’t want as opposed to what I did want in terms of new relationships. So I actually set an intention to attract something fresh and new instead of trying to lock down all the specifics. Having a particular relationship structure wasn’t as important to me as attracting a compatible, open-minded partner who was willing to explore and experiment. One of the reasons I was drawn to a relationship with Rachelle was that it was guaranteed to be something new and different. Since her home base is in Winnipeg, Canada, about 1300 miles away from Las Vegas, I could predict from the start that there would be some unique challenges and opportunities if we got involved. That has definitely been the case. Our relationship has been very loving but also pretty intense at times. We’ve traveled to more than a dozen cities together this year, but we’ve also spent about half the year apart from each other. I’ve lost count of how many times we’ve hugged goodbye at airports (and it’s about to happen again in a few more hours), but that just makes the reunions so much sweeter. At certain times when Rachelle and I have been apart for a few weeks, I could even have claimed to be celibate. This long-distance element has given me the opportunity to explore a new relationship while also having plenty of space to rediscover myself as an individual. As strange as it may look from the outside, it was exactly what I needed at this time in my life. If I’d gone straight into a full-time relationship with someone local to me, I’d probably have felt stifled, like I didn’t have enough time to reconnect with myself as an individual. But if I’d kept to myself for 6-12 months, I’d have felt lonely and disconnected. I wanted to explore both aspects, and instead of having to choose between them, I got both. I’ve had the space to get to know myself as an individual who isn’t part of a couple. But I’ve also been enjoying a close, intimate, loving connection. I’m grateful that such a perfect, personalized solution manifested so readily. Conscious Separation If I had to give us an annual report card, I’d give myself and Erin an A for how we’ve handled our separation thus far. We still have more to do, but deep down we still love and care about each other, and things have a way of working out well for us both when we act from that place. Our separation has pushed us both to grow in new and different ways. It’s safe to say that we’re both better off today than we would have been if we’d stayed together as a married couple. I think everything played out as it needed to, and I have no real regrets about it. It’s hard to predict the road ahead. I can’t say for certain where our paths will lead next. But for right now, I’m okay being in that space of possibility and potential. I don’t feel a need to lock down all the details for a greater sense of security. I feel much more secure when I’m actively exploring and learning as opposed to when I think I have everything figured out. I don’t regret being married. I think it’s a good thing that I was married and that I had kids. I also think it’s a good thing that I’ve been going through a separation. This journey helps me understand human relationships from different perspectives, which makes it easier for me to personally relate to other people’s relationship challenges and to potentially share insights that others may find helpful and practical. Gratitude Looking back on the past year, what I feel most of all is gratitude. I’m grateful not only for how things turned out but also for all the growth experiences that Erin and I shared together as a couple. We really learned a lot from each other, and we emerged from our marriage with a lot of self-development under our belts that now serves us well as individuals. As many people say after they go through a separation, “It was hard, but it was worth it.” Making the decision to separate was indeed very difficult, but it was such an important step to take. I don’t see blame or regret or failure as I look back. I see lots of cool memories and positive lessons. And when I look forward, I see heart-centered connection, exploration, and adventure.   
    Jul 12, 2011 779
  • 12 Jul 2011
    For years I’ve been recommending the 30-day trial as a way to install a new habit or replace a bad habit. Many people, myself included, have used this practice to successfully make behavioral changes — and have them stick. Now it’s time for the advanced version: The 30-Day Supertrial. [cue trumpets] A Quick Review When conducting a 30-day trial, you pick one habit or behavior you’d like to change, and you commit yourself to sticking with it for 30 days straight. If you miss even one day, you start back at Day 1. It can be very difficult to change a habit for life, but if you use the psychological trick of telling yourself that it’s only for 30 days, your odds of success increase substantially. And of course once you reach Day 30, the new habit is already installed, and it’s much easier to continue it on Day 31 and beyond. Some examples: Get up at 5am every morning. Eat a vegan or vegetarian diet. Avoid watching TV. Say “You are loved” to someone each day. A 30-day trial is partly an experiment and partly an exercise in self-discipline. It’s an experiment in that you see for yourself how your life would be different if you made a certain change and stuck with it. A good 30-day trial will also push you to build your self-discipline, helping you grow stronger mentally and emotionally. It’s a workout for your willpower. The more 30-day trials you successfully complete, the stronger your self-discipline muscle becomes. This will benefit you tremendously in all areas of life. On top of that, you get the benefits of the new habits you’ve installed, such as the educational value of reading lots of new books, the metabolic boost that comes from regular exercise, or the financial benefits of working on your Internet business every day. When most of us reach adulthood, we have lots of crappy habits that don’t serve us, and our self-discipline tends to be very weak. For example, about 50 million Americans smoke, yet most of them would prefer not to. That’s a behavioral conditioning nightmare. What habitual actions are you succumbing to that you’d prefer not to? Your level of self-discipline will have a strong impact on your self-esteem. The more disciplined you are, the more you can adopt positive habits and shed negative ones. Positive habits yield positive results, and positive results feel good. Feeling good gives you more energy, and that feeds into more positive actions, which in turn become positive habits. 30-day trials can be very challenging, but they’re also very effective. This is my #1 favorite tool for habit change. Now in the past, I’ve cautioned people not to overdo it. Many people who are new to the concept of 30-day trials go kittywompus and try to install 5-10 new habits simultaneously. And almost without exception, they crash and burn. Usually they don’t even make it past Day 3. It’s like trying to juggle too many balls at once. You end up dropping all of them. Zero results. So I’ve advised people to stick with one 30-day trial at a time. One trial will be plenty challenging. And you can do 12 of these per year if you’d like. Even if you only succeed at half of them, that’s still a tremendous amount of improvement within a year. Now I’m going to explain how to actually do the opposite. Yes, Dr. Venkman, under certain conditions we can cross the streams. There’s definitely a very slim chance you’ll survive. I love this plan! I’m excited to be a part of it! Let’s do it!  What Is a 30-Day Supertrial? A 30-day Supertrial is when you attempt to make several significant behavioral changes in one 30-day period. For example, you might attempt to install the following habits all at the same time: Check email only once per day, and completely empty your inbox each time Exercise every morning for 30 minutes minimum, alternating weight training and yoga workouts Read positive, inspirational material for an hour before bed Go to bed by 10pm every night Spend 10-20 minutes per day visualizing your goals/intentions as already accomplished Avoid consuming dairy products Work on your screenplay for 2 hours per day For 30 days you commit yourself to doing all of these things without exception. If you’re like most people, then you’re going to fail. You probably won’t even make it through the first day, and the odds of making it through the first week successfully are more than 100-1 against you. So if you want to have a chance in Sto’Vo’Kor of succeeding at this, you can’t be like most people. You probably won’t heed my advice, but let me succumb to the delusion anyway and share some practical tips on how to increase your odds of success. It’s Possible But Almost Not First of all, it is possible to succeed at a Supertrial. It’s just extremely difficult. But like the Siren’s song, many of us can’t resist the seductive lure of instant behavioral nirvana. Yes, it’s possible. It’s possible to flop a boat with 7-2 offsuit too, but the odds are against you. Knowing how difficult this is, however, gives you a slight advantage. If you maintain a healthy respect for the challenge, you’re less likely to underestimate how tough it is, so you’ll be better prepared when you begin. A Supertrial does make some sense because our behaviors are intricately linked. One behavior triggers another, which links to another, and so on. Oversleeping in the morning leads to skipping exercise, which leads to a crappy breakfast and a late start on your day, which leads to feeling unproductive and lazy, which leads to low performance at work and a feeling of being drained at the end of the day. On the flip side, getting up early gives you extra time to exercise, which boosts your metabolism and energizes you. You’ll also be more attracted to healthier foods after exercise, and this positive start can kick you into a productive workday, which leaves you with a delicious feeling of accomplishment in the evening, where you’ll still have plenty of energy to work on your personal goals. Habits reinforce each other. They overlap. So the main idea behind a Supertrial is to collapse a whole chain of negative habits and replace them with a new chain of positive ones. In some ways this can actually be easier than trying to change habits one at a time since a Supertrial gives you the opportunity to cut out an entire chain of unhelpful behaviors. Prepare Well Read the article Habit Change Is Like Chess to understand the 3 phases of habit change. A 30-day trial occurs in the third and last phase. Make sure you devote sufficient effort to putting the right scaffolding in place and preparing for the trial as best you can. For example, if you’re doing a dietary change, stock your kitchen with healthy foods and make sure the off-limit foods are out of the house before you even begin your trial. Whatever you can set up, take down, or prepare in advance to make your life easier during the Supertrial, do that first. Give yourself a few days to get everything in place before you begin. You may be itching to start Day 1 as soon as you can, but that inspiration is only going to fizzle into disappointment if you don’t take enough prep time. The more prepared you are when you kick off your Supertrial, the better your odds of success. Train Up First Supertrials are like triathlons. You don’t just show up for one with no advance training. You won’t even make it through the swimming portion if you do that. This is a level you must build up to. Once you have at least 5-10 successful 30-day trials under your belt, then you might consider a Supertrial. Otherwise you’re wasting your time. Supertrials are the advanced version of 30-day trials. Even a regular 30-day trial is well beyond the beginner level. The beginner version is a 5-day or 10-day trial. You must learn to walk before you can run. Training up your self-discipline is a lifelong process. Start with what you can achieve, and keep upping the challenge level as you grow stronger. But don’t keep attempting to lift weights that you’re always dropping. Go lighter until you see what your capabilities are. There’s no shame in being a beginner who accepts that s/he is a beginner. For the unwilling and impatient, there are humility lessons. Eliminate Social Drag If there are people in your life who will resist the changes you’re making, distance yourself from them as much as possible. Otherwise the social drag they create can decrease your motivation and hold you back. For example, if part of your Supertrial includes working on your new Internet business for 2 hours per day, and you have a friend who thinks that the only people who make money online are scammers, that isn’t a good person to be connecting with during your trial. Make yourself scarce to anyone who would drag you down. You’re going to have enough of a challenge without the unnecessary social resistance. Don’t Announce It With a normal 30-day trial, telling people about your commitment in advance can increase your chance of success because they’ll help hold you accountable. But with a Supertrial, I’d advise you to do the opposite and keep it to yourself. One reason is that you’re going to be attempting so much change at once, that most people won’t believe you can do it. So when you tell others about it, you’ll probably add more negative social drag. People will be watching for you to fail. That isn’t going to help you succeed. The exception is that it’s okay to share this with people you genuinely expect will be encouraging and supportive. If you can secure more social support, then go for it. It can definitely help. By the time you’ve built your self-discipline to the level where a Supertrial becomes potentially achievable, you’ll be so far beyond the average level of performance in society that most people will be turned off if you talk about it. You’ll just upset them, and they may secretly wish to see you fail. So my feeling is that you’re better off keeping them in the dark. Many years ago I set a goal of going through a 4-year university in only 3 semesters by taking about triple the normal course load (as explained in Do It Now). I shared this goal with several people in advance. Most of them laughed or said I was deluded. Not a single person was encouraging. So I learned to keep a low profile, and I kept other people out of the loop. Further into this experience, one of my professors became curious about what I was doing, so I shared the details with him. He was able to relate because he had a very high-performance daughter. It was nice to gain that little bit of social support. It takes more than discipline to get through a Supertrial. There may be unforeseen interactions between your habits that you didn’t account for. You may realize you didn’t set it up right after the first day or two, and you need to go back and revise your plan. So much can go wrong. With a Supertrial you really don’t need the added social pressure of accountability to others. A Supertrial is more of an inner journey anyway. It’s about digging deep within yourself and giving birth to a whole new you. You need the space to focus on doing what needs to be done without worrying about other people’s reactions. By the time you’re ready to attempt a Supertrial, you’ll have already trained your self-discipline to a high degree. And you’ll have a clearer understanding of what kinds of weights you can lift and which are too heavy for you. At this point you’re going to rely more on your inner resolve; social accountability won’t be as important. If you can’t hold yourself accountable, you aren’t ready to attempt a Supertrial anyway. Don’t Wear Yourself Out One of the most common mistakes people make when stacking multiple 30-day trials is that they include something in there that’s going to wear them out during the first week. The craziest example is when people attempt polyphasic sleep, which is insanely difficult by itself, and then they stack a bunch of other trials on top of that. I’ve never seen anyone succeed this way. It’s like going to the gym for the first time ever and trying to bench press 300 pounds. Nice try, grasshopper… but no. Only slightly less deluded is including something in your trial that’s going to make your energy levels wonky during the first several days. For example, if you currently drag yourself out of bed at 8am each morning, and getting up at 5am is part of your Supertrial, you can expect to be a bit sleep deprived during that first week until your body adapts to the new rhythm. Being tired will make it VERY difficult to succeed at the other parts of your trial. Another example would be trying to switch from the Standard American Diet (SAD) to an all raw vegan diet. You’re probably going to deal with some intense detox (cold-like symptoms) during that first week or two. To stack even more on top of this is going to be too tough. Any yet another example would be diving into a new weight training regimen, one that leaves you very sore during that first week. If you’re going to attempt a Supertrial, do your best to avoid including a new habit that may wear you out during that first week. Do a separate 30-day trial for that item first, get it locked in, and then conduct a Supertrial afterwards. So go raw first, or become an early riser first, or start weight training first. Get the sleepiness, detox, and soreness out of the way. Then you can stack more on top with a Supertrial later. This will make your Supertrial much less stressful and a lot more achievable. Guard your sleep during your Supertrial. Don’t push yourself to stay up later and later trying to squeeze everything in. If you can’t complete all your actions by your desired bedtime, then cut out some actions. Don’t deprive yourself of sleep. Sleep deprivation will increase your stress levels and your risk of illness. You don’t want to be fighting your own fatigue while you’re trying to complete a Supertrial. Supertrials are tough even when you maintain stellar energy levels. Stagger Your Starting Days Instead of launching every new habit on Day 1, you can stagger your starting days a bit. This gives you the opportunity to focus on adding one new habit every day or two, so Day 1 isn’t so overwhelming. It’s a judgment call if you want to do this. It isn’t necessary, but it may help if your intended Day 1 looks a bit daunting. Count Day 1 of your 30 days as the day you add on the final habit, so you’re still doing the full 30 days with every habit. Have a Fallback Position Prioritize the habits in your Supertrial, so if the going gets too tough, you can drop one or more of them and fall back to a smaller number that you’re committed to installing. I suggest splitting your Supertrial habits into 3 lists: A-list = definitely want these installed, would make a huge difference if I succeed B-list = great to have, would certainly enhance my life, but not worth sacrificing my A-list items for them C-list = nice to have but it’s the icing on the cake, but not worth sacrificing A-list or B-list items for them If you feel too overwhelmed or stressed, and you’re at serious risk of failing your Supertrial, first cut out the C-list items. If you’re still overwhelmed, then cut out the B-list too. And worst case, fall back to your single most important A-list item. Knowing in advance which items to cut in an emergency will at least allow you to fall back to a regular 30-day trial and still get something installed. That’s a lot better than dropping every single ball and achieving nothing. Do the best you can, but don’t beat yourself up if you can’t get everything installed at once. Design for Balance Perhaps the best use of a Supertrial is to conduct a holistic rebalancing of your life across all key areas. A well-balanced Supertrial will increase your chances of success. An imbalanced trial will generate inner resistance and make you want to quit. Pay particular attention to the following: Body – Include something to boost your energy and sense of well-being. Exercising in the morning is great because it will boost your metabolism, making you feel more alert and energetic during the day. It’s much easier to conduct a Supertrial when your energy is high. Mind – Develop your mind during your Supertrial. Daily nonfiction reading is a nice practice. Then you’ll gain some educational value during your trial. Reading in the area of your career can be especially beneficial. Career – Add a habit to benefit your career or your general work productivity, such as checking email only once a day, or saying something encouraging to each of your coworkers each day. Finances – Add habits to improve your finances, such as updating your accounting records each day or working on a new Internet business for 2 hours per day. Relationships – Add a habit to improve your social courage or relationship skills. Attempt to initiate a conversation with one new person per day. Or share lunchtime with a different coworker each day to improve your networking. Emotions – Include habits that help you maintain a positive, action-oriented attitude. I listened to inspirational and educational audio programs for about 2 hours per day in college, mostly while walking to and from classes, and it kept my motivation levels very high. Order – Add a habit to reduce chaos and increase the order and organization of your life, such as devoting 30 minutes per day to sorting and purging clutter in your home or office. Spiritual Development – Include a habit like daily meditation or journaling, so you can enrich your inner life to keep pace with your outer enrichment. Fun – Including at least one fun daily activity in your trial, such as playing a game with your family. This gives you a daily reward and something to look forward to. It also helps condition your mind to believe that self-discipline is fun. The more disciplined you are, the more time you’ll have to enjoy your life, and the less stressful your life will be. This may sound like a tall order, but such a blend of habits will help to mutually reinforce each other, thereby increasing your chances of success. For example, improving your finances means you can afford to buy healthier foods, pay for yoga classes, etc. A holistic approach will help you make advances across the board, so no area of your life drags down the other areas. Use Crisp Parameters Define your habits crisply by spelling them out with nouns, verbs, and prepositions. Avoid the use of adjectives like more and better, since that’s a sign of wishful thinking (and it’s also dumb). These are delusional goals: Exercise more. Eat healthier. Read faster. Complain less. Be nicer. Work harder. You can’t succeed if you set delusional goals. Plus your cheek will be hurting after I smack you upside the head. This is a crisp goal: Exercise on the treadmill at 60-80% max heart rate for 30 minutes per day. With crisp goals you can’t delude yourself. It’s obvious if you’ve done it or not. An objective observer would give you the same thumbs up or thumbs down that you give yourself. There’s no room for debate. To the maximum extent possible, define each habit in binary terms. Either you did it or you didn’t. Eliminate the middle gray area, unless you just want to do a make-believe trial with make-believe results. Focus on Actions The point of doing a Supertrial is to lock in some serious gains that will put you on a path for a major long-term boost in your results. However, during the Supertrial itself, it’s usually counter-productive to be too outcome-focused. Keep the end results in mind, but put your attention on the daily actions you need to take, and do them one at a time as they come up. For example, “Write for 2 hours per day” is a better choice for a habit goal than “Write every day so as to complete the first draft of a book in 30 days.” The first one is more directly under your control, and it’s clear whether you’ve done it or not. Supertrials are all about action. What are the daily actions you want to condition into habits, such that if you passively maintain beyond the initial trial, they’re likely to serve you well for many years to come? How would your life be different if every day you… Did yoga for 45 minutes? Limited web surfing to 30 minutes max? Initiated a conversation with someone new? Read nonfiction for 30 minutes? Worked on an Internet business for 1-2 hours? Cuddled and caressed your significant other for 20 minutes? Took a shower? Organized your home for 20 minutes? Planned your next day for 10 minutes? Made travel plans for 30 minutes? Schedule It If you’re going to perform some action each day, decide in advance what time you’re going to do it. If you have a lot of items to schedule, write out a schedule for a typical day, so you can see how everything fits together. Give yourself some breathing room between activities. Don’t assume you can stop exercising and start showering in the very same minute, for instance. If you don’t set aside a time for it, you haven’t yet committed to doing it. Compensate for What’s Missing Bad habits are sticky for a reason. They provide you with some benefits. Before you drop a bad habit, consider what the benefit is. Then be sure to add something to your Supertrial to compensate for the benefits you may be losing when you cut out those bad habits. Suppose you’re spending way too much time checking Facebook and other online forums during your workday. This kills your productivity, which in turn drags down your self-esteem and energy levels, preventing you from feeling the motivational boost that only a truly productive day can provide. Deep down you know this bad habit has to go. But each time you attempt to drop it, you feel isolated and disconnected. You miss those frequent social connections, and pretty soon you’re back at it again. Recognize that even though this habit is destroying your productivity, it’s actually helping you in a different way. It helps you periodically renew the feeling of being connected to others. That isn’t a bad thing at all. What else can give you this feeling of connection without destroying your workday? There are many possible solutions. One solution would be to timebox your online socializing by assigning it a time slot in the evening, so it doesn’t interfere with your workday. You can give yourself a liberal amount of time to socialize all you want, but not when you’re supposed to be working. If you want more frequent socializing, you can chop it up and schedule it during the natural breaks in your day, such as during lunchtime or with your afternoon snack. Another solution is to reduce or eliminate the online socializing, and add a stronger habit that gives you even more of these benefits. Spend 30-60 minutes talking with friends on the phone each day. Arrange a social event at your house every day for 30 days, like a 2-3 hour game night. Or invite a different friend or coworker over for dinner each night. Communicating online can be fun, but nothing beats face-to-face connecting, especially when it comes to sharing laughs. Still another option, which may be outside the scope of a Supertrial, would be to switch to a career that has you interacting with people a lot more, so you don’t feel disconnected during your workday. Replace smoking with meditation and massage. Replace junk food with cuddle time. Replace masturbation with sex (or vice versa, depending on your priorities). Notice the hidden benefit behind your bad habits. Instead of dropping those habits completely, look to replace them with new habits that provide even stronger benefits but without the drawbacks. This may take some trial and error experimenting to discover what works best for you, but it can certainly be done. Include Downtime Supertrials can be energizing, but they can also be physically and emotionally taxing, especially in the beginning when it takes a lot of conscious thought. I recommend that you include at least 2 hours per day of downtime for rest and relaxation. Give your body and mind a complete break from the potential stress of your Supertrial. You can use this time to lie down, take a nap, connect with friends and family, enjoy a relaxing bath, play video games, cuddle a loved one, or anything else that helps refresh you. Unplug and relax. Putting this near the end of the day, such as right after dinner time, gives you something to look forward to. You may not always need it, but some days you’ll be glad to know it’s there. Stick With Daily Habits For a Supertrial it’s best to stick with habits you’ll do every day, including weekends. Maintaining a consistent daily rhythm with no days off is important for creating a sense of flow. So if you’re going to get up at 5am or write for 2 hours per day, then do that 7 days a week. It may seem harder and less flexible this way (that’s what she said), but it’s actually easier. A major point of failure is when people slack off on the weekends and then try to get everything working again on Monday. It’s almost like starting the Supertrial all over again each week. A habit is a memorized solution. This memorization will occur faster if you maintain daily consistency with no breaks. Once your brain has the solution memorized (your 30 days are up, and the habit is installed), then you can cut back on the frequency, such as by skipping weekends, with less risk of complete slippage. But it’s better to stick with daily actions while you’re getting these habits installed. Remember — it’s only 30 days! If you still wish to include non-daily habits in your Supertrial, read How to Maintain Not-Quite-Daily Habits to educate yourself on how to do it. Define Your Baseline Performance To reduce the difficultly level, define each habit in baseline terms. What’s the minimum level of performance that will still give you some worthwhile positive results? For example, instead of reading for an hour per day, you might set a baseline goal of reading for 15 minutes per day. If you’re running late and can’t squeeze in your hour of reading without losing sleep, you can just do it for 15 minutes those days. Some days you may go longer, but 15 minutes is your minimum. Once you complete a trial at your baseline level, now you have some success under your belt. You also have a basic version of the habit installed. Now you can push beyond the baseline level to a more optimal level for the long term, such as by doing another 30-day trial focused on improving or expanding that one habit. It’s better to install a baseline level of performance in each area of your Supertrial than to try to go for the full monty and fail to make any habits stick. The results may not be as good as you’d hoped, but at least there will be some results to speak of. It’s much less difficult to exercise for 45 minutes per day when you’ve already conditioned the habit of exercising for 20 minutes per day… as opposed to installing the 45-minute habit from a cold start. Adding 5-10 new baseline habits (15-20 minutes per day here and there) can be a terrific use of a Supertrial. Afterwards you can maintain these new baselines and then try to increase them, either with a new Supertrial or with individual 30-day trials that focus on one habit at a time. *** If you do attempt a Supertrial, I wish you the best of luck. You must be really disciplined, really crazy, or really naive — or some combination of those. Today is actually my Day 1 of a new Supertrial that involves a major rebalancing of how I invest my time each day. I’m not going to share the details or blog about it along the way (as explained in the “Don’t Announce It” section above), but if you follow this blog for the next 30 days, you may be able to guess at one or two of them… … unless every molecule in my body explodes at the speed of light, that is. 
    698 Posted by UniqueThis
  • For years I’ve been recommending the 30-day trial as a way to install a new habit or replace a bad habit. Many people, myself included, have used this practice to successfully make behavioral changes — and have them stick. Now it’s time for the advanced version: The 30-Day Supertrial. [cue trumpets] A Quick Review When conducting a 30-day trial, you pick one habit or behavior you’d like to change, and you commit yourself to sticking with it for 30 days straight. If you miss even one day, you start back at Day 1. It can be very difficult to change a habit for life, but if you use the psychological trick of telling yourself that it’s only for 30 days, your odds of success increase substantially. And of course once you reach Day 30, the new habit is already installed, and it’s much easier to continue it on Day 31 and beyond. Some examples: Get up at 5am every morning. Eat a vegan or vegetarian diet. Avoid watching TV. Say “You are loved” to someone each day. A 30-day trial is partly an experiment and partly an exercise in self-discipline. It’s an experiment in that you see for yourself how your life would be different if you made a certain change and stuck with it. A good 30-day trial will also push you to build your self-discipline, helping you grow stronger mentally and emotionally. It’s a workout for your willpower. The more 30-day trials you successfully complete, the stronger your self-discipline muscle becomes. This will benefit you tremendously in all areas of life. On top of that, you get the benefits of the new habits you’ve installed, such as the educational value of reading lots of new books, the metabolic boost that comes from regular exercise, or the financial benefits of working on your Internet business every day. When most of us reach adulthood, we have lots of crappy habits that don’t serve us, and our self-discipline tends to be very weak. For example, about 50 million Americans smoke, yet most of them would prefer not to. That’s a behavioral conditioning nightmare. What habitual actions are you succumbing to that you’d prefer not to? Your level of self-discipline will have a strong impact on your self-esteem. The more disciplined you are, the more you can adopt positive habits and shed negative ones. Positive habits yield positive results, and positive results feel good. Feeling good gives you more energy, and that feeds into more positive actions, which in turn become positive habits. 30-day trials can be very challenging, but they’re also very effective. This is my #1 favorite tool for habit change. Now in the past, I’ve cautioned people not to overdo it. Many people who are new to the concept of 30-day trials go kittywompus and try to install 5-10 new habits simultaneously. And almost without exception, they crash and burn. Usually they don’t even make it past Day 3. It’s like trying to juggle too many balls at once. You end up dropping all of them. Zero results. So I’ve advised people to stick with one 30-day trial at a time. One trial will be plenty challenging. And you can do 12 of these per year if you’d like. Even if you only succeed at half of them, that’s still a tremendous amount of improvement within a year. Now I’m going to explain how to actually do the opposite. Yes, Dr. Venkman, under certain conditions we can cross the streams. There’s definitely a very slim chance you’ll survive. I love this plan! I’m excited to be a part of it! Let’s do it!  What Is a 30-Day Supertrial? A 30-day Supertrial is when you attempt to make several significant behavioral changes in one 30-day period. For example, you might attempt to install the following habits all at the same time: Check email only once per day, and completely empty your inbox each time Exercise every morning for 30 minutes minimum, alternating weight training and yoga workouts Read positive, inspirational material for an hour before bed Go to bed by 10pm every night Spend 10-20 minutes per day visualizing your goals/intentions as already accomplished Avoid consuming dairy products Work on your screenplay for 2 hours per day For 30 days you commit yourself to doing all of these things without exception. If you’re like most people, then you’re going to fail. You probably won’t even make it through the first day, and the odds of making it through the first week successfully are more than 100-1 against you. So if you want to have a chance in Sto’Vo’Kor of succeeding at this, you can’t be like most people. You probably won’t heed my advice, but let me succumb to the delusion anyway and share some practical tips on how to increase your odds of success. It’s Possible But Almost Not First of all, it is possible to succeed at a Supertrial. It’s just extremely difficult. But like the Siren’s song, many of us can’t resist the seductive lure of instant behavioral nirvana. Yes, it’s possible. It’s possible to flop a boat with 7-2 offsuit too, but the odds are against you. Knowing how difficult this is, however, gives you a slight advantage. If you maintain a healthy respect for the challenge, you’re less likely to underestimate how tough it is, so you’ll be better prepared when you begin. A Supertrial does make some sense because our behaviors are intricately linked. One behavior triggers another, which links to another, and so on. Oversleeping in the morning leads to skipping exercise, which leads to a crappy breakfast and a late start on your day, which leads to feeling unproductive and lazy, which leads to low performance at work and a feeling of being drained at the end of the day. On the flip side, getting up early gives you extra time to exercise, which boosts your metabolism and energizes you. You’ll also be more attracted to healthier foods after exercise, and this positive start can kick you into a productive workday, which leaves you with a delicious feeling of accomplishment in the evening, where you’ll still have plenty of energy to work on your personal goals. Habits reinforce each other. They overlap. So the main idea behind a Supertrial is to collapse a whole chain of negative habits and replace them with a new chain of positive ones. In some ways this can actually be easier than trying to change habits one at a time since a Supertrial gives you the opportunity to cut out an entire chain of unhelpful behaviors. Prepare Well Read the article Habit Change Is Like Chess to understand the 3 phases of habit change. A 30-day trial occurs in the third and last phase. Make sure you devote sufficient effort to putting the right scaffolding in place and preparing for the trial as best you can. For example, if you’re doing a dietary change, stock your kitchen with healthy foods and make sure the off-limit foods are out of the house before you even begin your trial. Whatever you can set up, take down, or prepare in advance to make your life easier during the Supertrial, do that first. Give yourself a few days to get everything in place before you begin. You may be itching to start Day 1 as soon as you can, but that inspiration is only going to fizzle into disappointment if you don’t take enough prep time. The more prepared you are when you kick off your Supertrial, the better your odds of success. Train Up First Supertrials are like triathlons. You don’t just show up for one with no advance training. You won’t even make it through the swimming portion if you do that. This is a level you must build up to. Once you have at least 5-10 successful 30-day trials under your belt, then you might consider a Supertrial. Otherwise you’re wasting your time. Supertrials are the advanced version of 30-day trials. Even a regular 30-day trial is well beyond the beginner level. The beginner version is a 5-day or 10-day trial. You must learn to walk before you can run. Training up your self-discipline is a lifelong process. Start with what you can achieve, and keep upping the challenge level as you grow stronger. But don’t keep attempting to lift weights that you’re always dropping. Go lighter until you see what your capabilities are. There’s no shame in being a beginner who accepts that s/he is a beginner. For the unwilling and impatient, there are humility lessons. Eliminate Social Drag If there are people in your life who will resist the changes you’re making, distance yourself from them as much as possible. Otherwise the social drag they create can decrease your motivation and hold you back. For example, if part of your Supertrial includes working on your new Internet business for 2 hours per day, and you have a friend who thinks that the only people who make money online are scammers, that isn’t a good person to be connecting with during your trial. Make yourself scarce to anyone who would drag you down. You’re going to have enough of a challenge without the unnecessary social resistance. Don’t Announce It With a normal 30-day trial, telling people about your commitment in advance can increase your chance of success because they’ll help hold you accountable. But with a Supertrial, I’d advise you to do the opposite and keep it to yourself. One reason is that you’re going to be attempting so much change at once, that most people won’t believe you can do it. So when you tell others about it, you’ll probably add more negative social drag. People will be watching for you to fail. That isn’t going to help you succeed. The exception is that it’s okay to share this with people you genuinely expect will be encouraging and supportive. If you can secure more social support, then go for it. It can definitely help. By the time you’ve built your self-discipline to the level where a Supertrial becomes potentially achievable, you’ll be so far beyond the average level of performance in society that most people will be turned off if you talk about it. You’ll just upset them, and they may secretly wish to see you fail. So my feeling is that you’re better off keeping them in the dark. Many years ago I set a goal of going through a 4-year university in only 3 semesters by taking about triple the normal course load (as explained in Do It Now). I shared this goal with several people in advance. Most of them laughed or said I was deluded. Not a single person was encouraging. So I learned to keep a low profile, and I kept other people out of the loop. Further into this experience, one of my professors became curious about what I was doing, so I shared the details with him. He was able to relate because he had a very high-performance daughter. It was nice to gain that little bit of social support. It takes more than discipline to get through a Supertrial. There may be unforeseen interactions between your habits that you didn’t account for. You may realize you didn’t set it up right after the first day or two, and you need to go back and revise your plan. So much can go wrong. With a Supertrial you really don’t need the added social pressure of accountability to others. A Supertrial is more of an inner journey anyway. It’s about digging deep within yourself and giving birth to a whole new you. You need the space to focus on doing what needs to be done without worrying about other people’s reactions. By the time you’re ready to attempt a Supertrial, you’ll have already trained your self-discipline to a high degree. And you’ll have a clearer understanding of what kinds of weights you can lift and which are too heavy for you. At this point you’re going to rely more on your inner resolve; social accountability won’t be as important. If you can’t hold yourself accountable, you aren’t ready to attempt a Supertrial anyway. Don’t Wear Yourself Out One of the most common mistakes people make when stacking multiple 30-day trials is that they include something in there that’s going to wear them out during the first week. The craziest example is when people attempt polyphasic sleep, which is insanely difficult by itself, and then they stack a bunch of other trials on top of that. I’ve never seen anyone succeed this way. It’s like going to the gym for the first time ever and trying to bench press 300 pounds. Nice try, grasshopper… but no. Only slightly less deluded is including something in your trial that’s going to make your energy levels wonky during the first several days. For example, if you currently drag yourself out of bed at 8am each morning, and getting up at 5am is part of your Supertrial, you can expect to be a bit sleep deprived during that first week until your body adapts to the new rhythm. Being tired will make it VERY difficult to succeed at the other parts of your trial. Another example would be trying to switch from the Standard American Diet (SAD) to an all raw vegan diet. You’re probably going to deal with some intense detox (cold-like symptoms) during that first week or two. To stack even more on top of this is going to be too tough. Any yet another example would be diving into a new weight training regimen, one that leaves you very sore during that first week. If you’re going to attempt a Supertrial, do your best to avoid including a new habit that may wear you out during that first week. Do a separate 30-day trial for that item first, get it locked in, and then conduct a Supertrial afterwards. So go raw first, or become an early riser first, or start weight training first. Get the sleepiness, detox, and soreness out of the way. Then you can stack more on top with a Supertrial later. This will make your Supertrial much less stressful and a lot more achievable. Guard your sleep during your Supertrial. Don’t push yourself to stay up later and later trying to squeeze everything in. If you can’t complete all your actions by your desired bedtime, then cut out some actions. Don’t deprive yourself of sleep. Sleep deprivation will increase your stress levels and your risk of illness. You don’t want to be fighting your own fatigue while you’re trying to complete a Supertrial. Supertrials are tough even when you maintain stellar energy levels. Stagger Your Starting Days Instead of launching every new habit on Day 1, you can stagger your starting days a bit. This gives you the opportunity to focus on adding one new habit every day or two, so Day 1 isn’t so overwhelming. It’s a judgment call if you want to do this. It isn’t necessary, but it may help if your intended Day 1 looks a bit daunting. Count Day 1 of your 30 days as the day you add on the final habit, so you’re still doing the full 30 days with every habit. Have a Fallback Position Prioritize the habits in your Supertrial, so if the going gets too tough, you can drop one or more of them and fall back to a smaller number that you’re committed to installing. I suggest splitting your Supertrial habits into 3 lists: A-list = definitely want these installed, would make a huge difference if I succeed B-list = great to have, would certainly enhance my life, but not worth sacrificing my A-list items for them C-list = nice to have but it’s the icing on the cake, but not worth sacrificing A-list or B-list items for them If you feel too overwhelmed or stressed, and you’re at serious risk of failing your Supertrial, first cut out the C-list items. If you’re still overwhelmed, then cut out the B-list too. And worst case, fall back to your single most important A-list item. Knowing in advance which items to cut in an emergency will at least allow you to fall back to a regular 30-day trial and still get something installed. That’s a lot better than dropping every single ball and achieving nothing. Do the best you can, but don’t beat yourself up if you can’t get everything installed at once. Design for Balance Perhaps the best use of a Supertrial is to conduct a holistic rebalancing of your life across all key areas. A well-balanced Supertrial will increase your chances of success. An imbalanced trial will generate inner resistance and make you want to quit. Pay particular attention to the following: Body – Include something to boost your energy and sense of well-being. Exercising in the morning is great because it will boost your metabolism, making you feel more alert and energetic during the day. It’s much easier to conduct a Supertrial when your energy is high. Mind – Develop your mind during your Supertrial. Daily nonfiction reading is a nice practice. Then you’ll gain some educational value during your trial. Reading in the area of your career can be especially beneficial. Career – Add a habit to benefit your career or your general work productivity, such as checking email only once a day, or saying something encouraging to each of your coworkers each day. Finances – Add habits to improve your finances, such as updating your accounting records each day or working on a new Internet business for 2 hours per day. Relationships – Add a habit to improve your social courage or relationship skills. Attempt to initiate a conversation with one new person per day. Or share lunchtime with a different coworker each day to improve your networking. Emotions – Include habits that help you maintain a positive, action-oriented attitude. I listened to inspirational and educational audio programs for about 2 hours per day in college, mostly while walking to and from classes, and it kept my motivation levels very high. Order – Add a habit to reduce chaos and increase the order and organization of your life, such as devoting 30 minutes per day to sorting and purging clutter in your home or office. Spiritual Development – Include a habit like daily meditation or journaling, so you can enrich your inner life to keep pace with your outer enrichment. Fun – Including at least one fun daily activity in your trial, such as playing a game with your family. This gives you a daily reward and something to look forward to. It also helps condition your mind to believe that self-discipline is fun. The more disciplined you are, the more time you’ll have to enjoy your life, and the less stressful your life will be. This may sound like a tall order, but such a blend of habits will help to mutually reinforce each other, thereby increasing your chances of success. For example, improving your finances means you can afford to buy healthier foods, pay for yoga classes, etc. A holistic approach will help you make advances across the board, so no area of your life drags down the other areas. Use Crisp Parameters Define your habits crisply by spelling them out with nouns, verbs, and prepositions. Avoid the use of adjectives like more and better, since that’s a sign of wishful thinking (and it’s also dumb). These are delusional goals: Exercise more. Eat healthier. Read faster. Complain less. Be nicer. Work harder. You can’t succeed if you set delusional goals. Plus your cheek will be hurting after I smack you upside the head. This is a crisp goal: Exercise on the treadmill at 60-80% max heart rate for 30 minutes per day. With crisp goals you can’t delude yourself. It’s obvious if you’ve done it or not. An objective observer would give you the same thumbs up or thumbs down that you give yourself. There’s no room for debate. To the maximum extent possible, define each habit in binary terms. Either you did it or you didn’t. Eliminate the middle gray area, unless you just want to do a make-believe trial with make-believe results. Focus on Actions The point of doing a Supertrial is to lock in some serious gains that will put you on a path for a major long-term boost in your results. However, during the Supertrial itself, it’s usually counter-productive to be too outcome-focused. Keep the end results in mind, but put your attention on the daily actions you need to take, and do them one at a time as they come up. For example, “Write for 2 hours per day” is a better choice for a habit goal than “Write every day so as to complete the first draft of a book in 30 days.” The first one is more directly under your control, and it’s clear whether you’ve done it or not. Supertrials are all about action. What are the daily actions you want to condition into habits, such that if you passively maintain beyond the initial trial, they’re likely to serve you well for many years to come? How would your life be different if every day you… Did yoga for 45 minutes? Limited web surfing to 30 minutes max? Initiated a conversation with someone new? Read nonfiction for 30 minutes? Worked on an Internet business for 1-2 hours? Cuddled and caressed your significant other for 20 minutes? Took a shower? Organized your home for 20 minutes? Planned your next day for 10 minutes? Made travel plans for 30 minutes? Schedule It If you’re going to perform some action each day, decide in advance what time you’re going to do it. If you have a lot of items to schedule, write out a schedule for a typical day, so you can see how everything fits together. Give yourself some breathing room between activities. Don’t assume you can stop exercising and start showering in the very same minute, for instance. If you don’t set aside a time for it, you haven’t yet committed to doing it. Compensate for What’s Missing Bad habits are sticky for a reason. They provide you with some benefits. Before you drop a bad habit, consider what the benefit is. Then be sure to add something to your Supertrial to compensate for the benefits you may be losing when you cut out those bad habits. Suppose you’re spending way too much time checking Facebook and other online forums during your workday. This kills your productivity, which in turn drags down your self-esteem and energy levels, preventing you from feeling the motivational boost that only a truly productive day can provide. Deep down you know this bad habit has to go. But each time you attempt to drop it, you feel isolated and disconnected. You miss those frequent social connections, and pretty soon you’re back at it again. Recognize that even though this habit is destroying your productivity, it’s actually helping you in a different way. It helps you periodically renew the feeling of being connected to others. That isn’t a bad thing at all. What else can give you this feeling of connection without destroying your workday? There are many possible solutions. One solution would be to timebox your online socializing by assigning it a time slot in the evening, so it doesn’t interfere with your workday. You can give yourself a liberal amount of time to socialize all you want, but not when you’re supposed to be working. If you want more frequent socializing, you can chop it up and schedule it during the natural breaks in your day, such as during lunchtime or with your afternoon snack. Another solution is to reduce or eliminate the online socializing, and add a stronger habit that gives you even more of these benefits. Spend 30-60 minutes talking with friends on the phone each day. Arrange a social event at your house every day for 30 days, like a 2-3 hour game night. Or invite a different friend or coworker over for dinner each night. Communicating online can be fun, but nothing beats face-to-face connecting, especially when it comes to sharing laughs. Still another option, which may be outside the scope of a Supertrial, would be to switch to a career that has you interacting with people a lot more, so you don’t feel disconnected during your workday. Replace smoking with meditation and massage. Replace junk food with cuddle time. Replace masturbation with sex (or vice versa, depending on your priorities). Notice the hidden benefit behind your bad habits. Instead of dropping those habits completely, look to replace them with new habits that provide even stronger benefits but without the drawbacks. This may take some trial and error experimenting to discover what works best for you, but it can certainly be done. Include Downtime Supertrials can be energizing, but they can also be physically and emotionally taxing, especially in the beginning when it takes a lot of conscious thought. I recommend that you include at least 2 hours per day of downtime for rest and relaxation. Give your body and mind a complete break from the potential stress of your Supertrial. You can use this time to lie down, take a nap, connect with friends and family, enjoy a relaxing bath, play video games, cuddle a loved one, or anything else that helps refresh you. Unplug and relax. Putting this near the end of the day, such as right after dinner time, gives you something to look forward to. You may not always need it, but some days you’ll be glad to know it’s there. Stick With Daily Habits For a Supertrial it’s best to stick with habits you’ll do every day, including weekends. Maintaining a consistent daily rhythm with no days off is important for creating a sense of flow. So if you’re going to get up at 5am or write for 2 hours per day, then do that 7 days a week. It may seem harder and less flexible this way (that’s what she said), but it’s actually easier. A major point of failure is when people slack off on the weekends and then try to get everything working again on Monday. It’s almost like starting the Supertrial all over again each week. A habit is a memorized solution. This memorization will occur faster if you maintain daily consistency with no breaks. Once your brain has the solution memorized (your 30 days are up, and the habit is installed), then you can cut back on the frequency, such as by skipping weekends, with less risk of complete slippage. But it’s better to stick with daily actions while you’re getting these habits installed. Remember — it’s only 30 days! If you still wish to include non-daily habits in your Supertrial, read How to Maintain Not-Quite-Daily Habits to educate yourself on how to do it. Define Your Baseline Performance To reduce the difficultly level, define each habit in baseline terms. What’s the minimum level of performance that will still give you some worthwhile positive results? For example, instead of reading for an hour per day, you might set a baseline goal of reading for 15 minutes per day. If you’re running late and can’t squeeze in your hour of reading without losing sleep, you can just do it for 15 minutes those days. Some days you may go longer, but 15 minutes is your minimum. Once you complete a trial at your baseline level, now you have some success under your belt. You also have a basic version of the habit installed. Now you can push beyond the baseline level to a more optimal level for the long term, such as by doing another 30-day trial focused on improving or expanding that one habit. It’s better to install a baseline level of performance in each area of your Supertrial than to try to go for the full monty and fail to make any habits stick. The results may not be as good as you’d hoped, but at least there will be some results to speak of. It’s much less difficult to exercise for 45 minutes per day when you’ve already conditioned the habit of exercising for 20 minutes per day… as opposed to installing the 45-minute habit from a cold start. Adding 5-10 new baseline habits (15-20 minutes per day here and there) can be a terrific use of a Supertrial. Afterwards you can maintain these new baselines and then try to increase them, either with a new Supertrial or with individual 30-day trials that focus on one habit at a time. *** If you do attempt a Supertrial, I wish you the best of luck. You must be really disciplined, really crazy, or really naive — or some combination of those. Today is actually my Day 1 of a new Supertrial that involves a major rebalancing of how I invest my time each day. I’m not going to share the details or blog about it along the way (as explained in the “Don’t Announce It” section above), but if you follow this blog for the next 30 days, you may be able to guess at one or two of them… … unless every molecule in my body explodes at the speed of light, that is. 
    Jul 12, 2011 698
  • 12 Jul 2011
    How we can talk about creating abundance when it seems we live in a world of scarce resources? Aren’t these in conflict? Isn’t an abundance mindset just an exercise in self-delusion? Scarce Resources Certain resources on earth are in limited supply and are being depleted quickly. Perhaps the #1 example of this is oil. Oil is being pumped out of the ground faster than it can be replenished by the earth. It takes energy to pump the oil out of the ground, and not all of the oil can be retrieved in an energy efficient manner. It doesn’t make sense to spend 100 units of energy in order to extract only 90 units. The easy-to-get oil is already scarce, and companies are going after the harder-to-get oil at much greater risk and expense. It’s easier to pump oil out of the ground than it is to build offshore oil rigs and pump it up through the ocean floor. There would be no rational justification for engaging in costly offshore oil drilling if land-based oil supplies were abundant. The very existence of offshore oil drilling is a clear signal that oil is becoming scarcer. Even oil rich nations like Saudi Arabia are engaged in offshore drilling, which is a tacit acknowledgement that they’re running out of oil. It’s only a matter of time before this resource runs out. As it becomes increasingly scarce, shortages will occur, and oil prices will surge. Industries that depend heavily on oil will have to cut back. Aren’t we already seeing this happen? At present there’s no resource that can substitute for oil’s versatility or its integration into modern society. Oil is used to run farming equipment and transport food. It’s used in plastics — your home is probably filled with petroleum-based products. Even the tires on your car are made with oil, about 7 gallons per tire. It’s not a resource that can be easily replaced. As oil runs out, some lifestyle changes are inevitable. Story There’s no need to deny that certain resources are scarce. Scarce resources are part of the story of earth. If life is a dream, then what sense does it make for there to be scarce resources? Can’t you just think your way into limitless abundance? Limits and constraints make for interesting story. If there are no constraints, there’s no story. Life in a constraint-free world would be incredibly boring. Abundance isn’t the same thing as limitlessness. If you lived in a truly limitless world, would you feel a sense of abundance? More likely you’d suffer from gluttony, boredom, and laziness. It would be a disappointing and uninspiring dream to endure. This may appear unintuitive at first glance, but abundance requires scarcity. Gratitude Abundance and scarcity are equally valuable teachers. They both teach us gratitude, but in different ways. When there’s a constant presence in your life, you’ll tend to take it for granted. You’ll come to expect that it will always be there. But when you have to do without for a while, it gives you the opportunity to appreciate what you have even more. It’s the shifting between phases of abundance and scarcity that teaches us what we value most. I take time every day to appreciate the good things in my life, partly because I’ve had the experience of not having them. I know these experiences are temporary. I’m grateful for the freedom I enjoy because at one point I was in an 8′x10′ jail cell, feeling what it felt like not to have that freedom. I’m grateful for the money that flows through my life because I was broke for many years, went bankrupt, and got kicked out of my apartment because I couldn’t pay the rent. I’m grateful for the friends I have because I know what it’s like to feel alone and friendless. I’m grateful for the health I enjoy because I know what it’s like to be sick. When I use the Internet, I feel grateful for how amazing it is and how it lets me connect with people all over the world. I remember what it was like when I didn’t have access to this amazing wonder. In two days I’m traveling to Canada to visit my Rachelle. We haven’t seen each other in a month and a half. Being apart for so long makes it hard to take each other for granted. It helps us appreciate each other much more. I’m very grateful that she’s in my life. However, when there’s a glut of abundance, I’m more likely to take things for granted. That’s when scarcity may become the more valuable teacher. When I’ve spent a few weeks with Rachelle, for instance, I may not feel as appreciative of her on Day 20 as I did on Day 1. But after saying goodbye to her at the airport and then experiencing a few days alone, I become more acutely aware of just how much I appreciate her, and I look forward to seeing her again. It’s the contrast between abundance and scarcity that helps raise our awareness of what we value most. The abundance mindset isn’t about acquiring and securing more stuff. It’s about appreciating life fully and feeling grateful for what life is teaching you. Gratitude for the Story Can you actually feel grateful for the scarcity you experience because it’s teaching you new truths about yourself? When I was deep in debt, knowing I was going to have to declare bankruptcy, I felt I had nothing more to lose financially, so I decided to stop feeding so much of my power to that part of my life. I’d been telling myself I couldn’t have a good life if the my financial life was broken. So I gave myself permission to feel good about the other parts of my life and not let the lack of money drag me down so much. After all, it was just a number. Why was I giving it so much power over me? I started paying attention to what I did have, and I learned to appreciate it more deeply. I appreciated the food I was able to eat. I appreciated that I somehow still had a roof over my head. I appreciated the weather. I appreciated the ocean, the beach, and the sunrise. I appreciate that I could breathe. I appreciated running and meditation. I appreciated my relationships. I appreciated my health. It was in late 1998 and early 1999 that I began to do that. And 1998 was the last year I felt to be a scarce one (and perhaps the first half of 1999). After that I always seemed to have plenty. Even the money situation turned around within a year. That was my first financially positive year after 6 years as an entrepreneur. I experienced 12 more good years in a row after that. I’m glad these events were part of my story. If I had achieved lots of good things earlier in life, I don’t think I’d appreciate them as much as I do now. Despite having a lot of good stuff in my life these days, I don’t take it for granted. The sweet stuff is sweeter because I know what bitter tastes like. The Story of Loss Everything you have in this world is temporary. One way or another, it will vanish from your life. If it’s physical in nature, it’s impermanent. Earth’s resources will eventually be used up. Your human body will be used up as well. Even the Sun will eventually burn out. And it’s expected that the known universe itself will eventually end. Loss is part of the story of life. When we lose something precious to us, we deepen our understanding of its value. Humanity is burning through some of the earth’s scarce resources. That, by itself, is not a problem. The real problem is that we don’t properly appreciate those resources. It’s okay to pump oil out of the ground and use it. The earth doesn’t mind. But are we truly appreciating what the earth is giving to us? Do you realize that all of the “stuff” in your life is a gift of the earth? If it’s physical in nature, it was probably made from something that was pulled out of the ground. Human creativity played its part of course, but do you realize that the raw materials of the items in your home came from the earth? You’re literally wearing pieces of the earth on your body. Now realize that all of this is temporary. You’ll either lose it before you die or when you die. The great story of loss is that everything in this physical reality will eventually be taken from you. Do you accept this, or do you resist it? Appreciating Scarcity According to Elisabeth Kübler-Ross, the five stages of grief are denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. Clinginess shows up in the first 4 stages, but when we get to acceptance, we finally let go and make peace with reality. I think there are stages beyond acceptance, however, and gratitude is certainly one of them. When we can see the important role that loss plays in life, we can learn to appreciate loss itself. It’s an important part of our story. Loss helps us grow. Without loss we’d be too likely to take the good parts of our lives for granted. They’d eventually become hollow and meaningless to us. When we lose them, however, we become intensely aware of the value we once experienced. As we move into an abundance mindset, we recognize that the true value we experience can always be recreated. Real value isn’t scarce. We may lose a loved one, but we can experience love again. Scarcity teaches us what true abundance means. Scarcity helps us understand what we value and what we don’t. You may not value oil specifically, but by appreciating what oil has done, you may come to appreciate technology, and by appreciating technology, you may come to appreciate human empowerment, sharing knowledge, making new discoveries, and connecting with people. True Abundance Abundance doesn’t require unlimited physical resources. Having limitless oil or some suitable replacement won’t help us feel more abundant. It will simply lead us to take more things for granted, and we’ll under-appreciate what we have. Abundance isn’t about having more, more, more. It’s about learning what we truly value and realizing that we can in fact create that value if we so desire. In some ways this dream world is much smarter than our limited individual personalities. It brings us what we truly desire, even if that conflicts with what we explicitly ask for. The universe is completely and 100% on your side. You can try to make an enemy of it, but it never abandons you. It simply outsmarts you by doing an end run around your stubbornness. To create an abundance mindset, you may need to shed a lot of false desires. You may need to stop feeding your power to what you don’t want. And you may need to start appreciating all the goodness that’s right in front of you, but you’ve been too blind to pause and appreciate it. If you think that scarcity in the world is a bad thing, take another look. You’re seeing scarcity because you need to see it in order to grow. You need to see war in order to appreciate peace. You need to see unfairness to appreciate fairness. You need to see disease to appreciate health. If you didn’t need to learn these lessons, you wouldn’t keep summoning scarcity as your teacher. Don’t close your eyes to the scarcity you perceive. Let it sink in fully. Feel the sense of lack. And when you’ve learned the lesson you need to learn from it, withdraw your power from it, and use it to create the abundance you desire. Happiness Aligning yourself with abundance is the same thing as aligning yourself with happiness. There are many false roadsigns to happiness in this world. Most of them lead to dead ends. Material wealth is one example. If you think that having “more” will lead to happiness, go ahead and try it. You may learn this lesson by gaining more and still feeling unhappy, or you may learn it by failing to reach the level of more that you desire. Eventually you’ll become so frustrated that you decide to explore a different path. I put some energy into improving my finances, but I didn’t feel happier or more abundant when I achieved those goals. What gave me the greatest feeling of happiness was taking time to appreciate the good things in my life. The interesting part is that this had nothing to do with the things. It had everything to do with how I was using my power. I learned that it makes no difference what my finances are doing. They can go up or down, and it doesn’t affect my happiness. I always have the ability to feel grateful. Sometimes I feel more grateful when I have less vs. when I have more. One of the reasons I placed my work into the public domain and no longer copyright it is that I realized that owning a lot of intellectual property doesn’t make me any happier than when I owned none. When I tried feeling grateful for it, I realized it wasn’t the ownership that mattered to me. Nor was it the body of work that I created in the past. I discovered the deeper truth that I’m grateful for the opportunity to express myself creatively. I’m grateful for the ability to connect with people around the world. I’m grateful for the chance to learn and grow. I don’t need to make more money or acquire more prestige or gain more web traffic in order to be happier. I can be happy simply expressing my creativity. Certain tools like a computer and the Internet help me do that, and I’m grateful for them as well, but if they were all stripped from me, I could still express my creativity with sticks and stones. Even if I ended up paralyzed, I could build new creations within my mind, and I could still feel grateful for the ability to do that. However, I’ve noticed that the more I remember these lessons, the less often scarcity shows up in my life as a personal teacher. I’m getting better at making choices with respect to happiness as opposed to making choice on the basis of more. I pass up obvious avenues for advancement in my business if I don’t think they’ll increase my happiness, even if they might increase my income. From an entrepreneurial perspective, it may appear that I run my business strangely, but I run it happily. Discarding False Paths The existence of scarcity in the world helps us identify and discard the false paths that won’t give us a true sense of abundance. I believe that a true abundance mindset isn’t about how much stuff you can acquire. I think it’s about realizing how little you need to create happiness. Could you lose all your stuff and still feel grateful? Can you still use your power to create the experience of caring, generosity, and happiness even in the presence of lack? I also think that life stops hammering us with certain lessons once we learn them. My money problems didn’t go away because I became aggressive about making more money. They stopped arising when I let go of my fear of not having money and when I stopped empowering the belief that I couldn’t have a good life without money. What helped me most was thinking about what my life would be like if I actually became homeless. I could live on the beach and sleep under the stars each night. I could work on my social skills. I could learn to get better at drawing. I’d have lots of freedom. I could learn new languages from bilingual homeless people. I could go to libraries and read. I could meditate and go running each day. I could write a book about the experience. I could even do volunteer work to help people. I soon realized that even if I had no money at all, I could still live a pretty cool life. It was within my power to do so. Once I realized that my money situation absolutely did not have the power to sentence me to a miserable life and that in fact, I could still lead an interesting and fulfilling life no matter what, my whole being lightened up. It seemed as if reality said to me, “Ok, great… it took years, but you finally got that lesson. Now let’s move on to these other lessons over here.” There was no more need for major scarcity to keep arising for me in this particular area since I learned what I needed to learn. An expanded version of this lesson that I’ve been learning recently is that I don’t need non-physical property either. I don’t need to own anything at all to be happy. I think I’m going to enjoy writing without the burden of ownership. The creative part is what I enjoy most. I don’t need to own what I create. Sustainability Some people desire to create more sustainability in the world, which is partly about shifting away from non-renewable resources and towards renewable resources. I don’t presently consider myself a proponent of the sustainability movement though. I think there are more beneficial growth lessons to be learned from cycles of excess and scarcity than there are from long-term sustainability. If my own life had been more balanced, I doubt I’d have learned as much as I did. I think it would be boring and depressing to live as many animals in nature do, so I wouldn’t use that as my model of environmental harmony. I think there are good reasons humans create such huge imbalances — and why we have the capacity to continue doing so. These imbalances provide us with amazing growth lessons, teaching how to expand our power and our wisdom simultaneously. Some would say that today our power has gotten ahead of our wisdom. I tend to agree. This, however, motivates us to increase our wisdom. When our wisdom pulls ahead, there will be a stronger drive to increase our power. On a deeper level, I see this as the balance between Truth, Love, and Power. These are the primary ways in which we experience growth, and all three have the capacity to expand. When Truth gets too far ahead, then we have theories we cannot test and grand ideas we cannot implement. This motivates us to come together and collaborate (Love) in order to achieve new breakthroughs (Power). When Love gets too far ahead, we connect to such a degree that we begin to lose our individual will and drive. We stagnate and do the same things day after day. You may see this kind of imbalance arising in your life if you spend tons of time socializing online. Eventually you begin to feel empty inside, like you’re just spinning your wheels. This negative feeling can’t be resolved by throwing more socialization at it. To correct this imbalance, you need to incorporate more learning (Truth) and creative projects (Power) into your life. When Power gets too far ahead, we abuse ourselves. We get good at creating what we don’t want, so we create a lot of it. This motivates us to pay more attention to our relationships (Love) and to listen to our true desires (Truth). If we truly appreciate a natural resource, we’ll be motivated to find ways to use it efficiently to create good value for ourselves. If we don’t appreciate a certain resource, we may push it to the point of extinction and then deal with its absence afterwards. How many of the now extinct species did we appreciate? Do you miss them, or are you okay living without them? Is oil a resource that you truly appreciate, or is it one you’d be okay living without? Do you feel grateful for all that oil has added to your life? Do you hate it and want to see it go away? How does the unfolding story of earth reflect your feelings in this area? How does it give you new insights into what you value most? For me the lesson of oil has to do with prioritizing my values. Using oil has consequences, some of which I perceive as negative and some as positive. Which of those consequences am I willing to accept? Which am I not willing to accept? And what does this tell me about my values? I learn a lot about myself by witnessing the story of oil unfolding in my reality. It’s a wonderful teacher. Lessons From Your Story The story of earth is taking us through some interesting lessons these days. When faced with these lessons, we have a choice. We can choose to resist them, in which case we’ll feed more power to them and see them expand. Or we can choose to learn these lessons now, which gives us a chance to move on to new lessons. If you don’t appreciate something in your life, then why is it there? It’s there because you keep feeding your power to it. You keep noticing it and paying attention to it. If you didn’t do that, then for all practical purposes, it would be invisible to you. The reason you’re creating this drama is so that you can have a growth experience. It is there to teach you something important, such as what you truly value. You’ll keep creating this drama in different forms until you’re able to learn the lesson behind the drama. That lesson will ultimately take you to a deeper level of Truth. If you try to shortcut these lessons, your solutions will never last. The deeper part of your being — the part that wants to grow — will simply keep manifesting the lessons as new dramas in your reality. You create with your whole being, not just with your thoughts or feelings. Some people are currently experiencing interesting and dramatic lessons with respect to unemployment. Many didn’t appreciate the jobs they once had and which are now gone. Now they are job-free, and some don’t appreciate that either. They may finally get a new job, and they may dislike that too. They’ll continue to live out such cycles until they realize that the common element in all this scarcity isn’t the presence or lack of a job. It’s their ongoing lack of appreciation. If you were looking to employ people, and someone came to you for an interview, and you sensed they didn’t appreciate their previous employer, and they didn’t appreciate what they learned from unemployment, and they probably weren’t going to appreciate the job you could give them, would you hire them? If you were going to hire someone, wouldn’t you choose someone that would truly appreciate what you can offer? Wouldn’t you favor someone with a record of appreciating their previous work history as well? Would you rather work with an appreciative person or with an unappreciative one? What would you want if you were the employer? What kind of employer would hire an unappreciative employee? Perhaps an employer who’s desperate, ignorant, or self-punishing would do so. Is that the kind of person you’d want as your boss? Are you likely to enjoy that job? My career life turned around when I learned to appreciate the value of work itself. I realized that the value I get from work isn’t about how much I get paid or who hires me. It’s about the opportunity to express myself creatively. Once I realized that, I always enjoyed my work.  I feel grateful that I get to create something that didn’t exist before. I also realized that being creative is more important to me than a steady paycheck. I’m glad that life brought me experiences to teach me this lesson, even though they were difficult to learn. Can we enjoy abundance in a world of scarce resources? Of course we can. Scarcity is one of our best teachers. It steers us away from false paths and teaches us what real abundance means to us. We don’t need more money or success or iStuff to be happy. We can choose to feel grateful for what we value most, and through that feeling of gratitude, we can empower its expansion.
    869 Posted by UniqueThis
  • How we can talk about creating abundance when it seems we live in a world of scarce resources? Aren’t these in conflict? Isn’t an abundance mindset just an exercise in self-delusion? Scarce Resources Certain resources on earth are in limited supply and are being depleted quickly. Perhaps the #1 example of this is oil. Oil is being pumped out of the ground faster than it can be replenished by the earth. It takes energy to pump the oil out of the ground, and not all of the oil can be retrieved in an energy efficient manner. It doesn’t make sense to spend 100 units of energy in order to extract only 90 units. The easy-to-get oil is already scarce, and companies are going after the harder-to-get oil at much greater risk and expense. It’s easier to pump oil out of the ground than it is to build offshore oil rigs and pump it up through the ocean floor. There would be no rational justification for engaging in costly offshore oil drilling if land-based oil supplies were abundant. The very existence of offshore oil drilling is a clear signal that oil is becoming scarcer. Even oil rich nations like Saudi Arabia are engaged in offshore drilling, which is a tacit acknowledgement that they’re running out of oil. It’s only a matter of time before this resource runs out. As it becomes increasingly scarce, shortages will occur, and oil prices will surge. Industries that depend heavily on oil will have to cut back. Aren’t we already seeing this happen? At present there’s no resource that can substitute for oil’s versatility or its integration into modern society. Oil is used to run farming equipment and transport food. It’s used in plastics — your home is probably filled with petroleum-based products. Even the tires on your car are made with oil, about 7 gallons per tire. It’s not a resource that can be easily replaced. As oil runs out, some lifestyle changes are inevitable. Story There’s no need to deny that certain resources are scarce. Scarce resources are part of the story of earth. If life is a dream, then what sense does it make for there to be scarce resources? Can’t you just think your way into limitless abundance? Limits and constraints make for interesting story. If there are no constraints, there’s no story. Life in a constraint-free world would be incredibly boring. Abundance isn’t the same thing as limitlessness. If you lived in a truly limitless world, would you feel a sense of abundance? More likely you’d suffer from gluttony, boredom, and laziness. It would be a disappointing and uninspiring dream to endure. This may appear unintuitive at first glance, but abundance requires scarcity. Gratitude Abundance and scarcity are equally valuable teachers. They both teach us gratitude, but in different ways. When there’s a constant presence in your life, you’ll tend to take it for granted. You’ll come to expect that it will always be there. But when you have to do without for a while, it gives you the opportunity to appreciate what you have even more. It’s the shifting between phases of abundance and scarcity that teaches us what we value most. I take time every day to appreciate the good things in my life, partly because I’ve had the experience of not having them. I know these experiences are temporary. I’m grateful for the freedom I enjoy because at one point I was in an 8′x10′ jail cell, feeling what it felt like not to have that freedom. I’m grateful for the money that flows through my life because I was broke for many years, went bankrupt, and got kicked out of my apartment because I couldn’t pay the rent. I’m grateful for the friends I have because I know what it’s like to feel alone and friendless. I’m grateful for the health I enjoy because I know what it’s like to be sick. When I use the Internet, I feel grateful for how amazing it is and how it lets me connect with people all over the world. I remember what it was like when I didn’t have access to this amazing wonder. In two days I’m traveling to Canada to visit my Rachelle. We haven’t seen each other in a month and a half. Being apart for so long makes it hard to take each other for granted. It helps us appreciate each other much more. I’m very grateful that she’s in my life. However, when there’s a glut of abundance, I’m more likely to take things for granted. That’s when scarcity may become the more valuable teacher. When I’ve spent a few weeks with Rachelle, for instance, I may not feel as appreciative of her on Day 20 as I did on Day 1. But after saying goodbye to her at the airport and then experiencing a few days alone, I become more acutely aware of just how much I appreciate her, and I look forward to seeing her again. It’s the contrast between abundance and scarcity that helps raise our awareness of what we value most. The abundance mindset isn’t about acquiring and securing more stuff. It’s about appreciating life fully and feeling grateful for what life is teaching you. Gratitude for the Story Can you actually feel grateful for the scarcity you experience because it’s teaching you new truths about yourself? When I was deep in debt, knowing I was going to have to declare bankruptcy, I felt I had nothing more to lose financially, so I decided to stop feeding so much of my power to that part of my life. I’d been telling myself I couldn’t have a good life if the my financial life was broken. So I gave myself permission to feel good about the other parts of my life and not let the lack of money drag me down so much. After all, it was just a number. Why was I giving it so much power over me? I started paying attention to what I did have, and I learned to appreciate it more deeply. I appreciated the food I was able to eat. I appreciated that I somehow still had a roof over my head. I appreciated the weather. I appreciated the ocean, the beach, and the sunrise. I appreciate that I could breathe. I appreciated running and meditation. I appreciated my relationships. I appreciated my health. It was in late 1998 and early 1999 that I began to do that. And 1998 was the last year I felt to be a scarce one (and perhaps the first half of 1999). After that I always seemed to have plenty. Even the money situation turned around within a year. That was my first financially positive year after 6 years as an entrepreneur. I experienced 12 more good years in a row after that. I’m glad these events were part of my story. If I had achieved lots of good things earlier in life, I don’t think I’d appreciate them as much as I do now. Despite having a lot of good stuff in my life these days, I don’t take it for granted. The sweet stuff is sweeter because I know what bitter tastes like. The Story of Loss Everything you have in this world is temporary. One way or another, it will vanish from your life. If it’s physical in nature, it’s impermanent. Earth’s resources will eventually be used up. Your human body will be used up as well. Even the Sun will eventually burn out. And it’s expected that the known universe itself will eventually end. Loss is part of the story of life. When we lose something precious to us, we deepen our understanding of its value. Humanity is burning through some of the earth’s scarce resources. That, by itself, is not a problem. The real problem is that we don’t properly appreciate those resources. It’s okay to pump oil out of the ground and use it. The earth doesn’t mind. But are we truly appreciating what the earth is giving to us? Do you realize that all of the “stuff” in your life is a gift of the earth? If it’s physical in nature, it was probably made from something that was pulled out of the ground. Human creativity played its part of course, but do you realize that the raw materials of the items in your home came from the earth? You’re literally wearing pieces of the earth on your body. Now realize that all of this is temporary. You’ll either lose it before you die or when you die. The great story of loss is that everything in this physical reality will eventually be taken from you. Do you accept this, or do you resist it? Appreciating Scarcity According to Elisabeth Kübler-Ross, the five stages of grief are denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. Clinginess shows up in the first 4 stages, but when we get to acceptance, we finally let go and make peace with reality. I think there are stages beyond acceptance, however, and gratitude is certainly one of them. When we can see the important role that loss plays in life, we can learn to appreciate loss itself. It’s an important part of our story. Loss helps us grow. Without loss we’d be too likely to take the good parts of our lives for granted. They’d eventually become hollow and meaningless to us. When we lose them, however, we become intensely aware of the value we once experienced. As we move into an abundance mindset, we recognize that the true value we experience can always be recreated. Real value isn’t scarce. We may lose a loved one, but we can experience love again. Scarcity teaches us what true abundance means. Scarcity helps us understand what we value and what we don’t. You may not value oil specifically, but by appreciating what oil has done, you may come to appreciate technology, and by appreciating technology, you may come to appreciate human empowerment, sharing knowledge, making new discoveries, and connecting with people. True Abundance Abundance doesn’t require unlimited physical resources. Having limitless oil or some suitable replacement won’t help us feel more abundant. It will simply lead us to take more things for granted, and we’ll under-appreciate what we have. Abundance isn’t about having more, more, more. It’s about learning what we truly value and realizing that we can in fact create that value if we so desire. In some ways this dream world is much smarter than our limited individual personalities. It brings us what we truly desire, even if that conflicts with what we explicitly ask for. The universe is completely and 100% on your side. You can try to make an enemy of it, but it never abandons you. It simply outsmarts you by doing an end run around your stubbornness. To create an abundance mindset, you may need to shed a lot of false desires. You may need to stop feeding your power to what you don’t want. And you may need to start appreciating all the goodness that’s right in front of you, but you’ve been too blind to pause and appreciate it. If you think that scarcity in the world is a bad thing, take another look. You’re seeing scarcity because you need to see it in order to grow. You need to see war in order to appreciate peace. You need to see unfairness to appreciate fairness. You need to see disease to appreciate health. If you didn’t need to learn these lessons, you wouldn’t keep summoning scarcity as your teacher. Don’t close your eyes to the scarcity you perceive. Let it sink in fully. Feel the sense of lack. And when you’ve learned the lesson you need to learn from it, withdraw your power from it, and use it to create the abundance you desire. Happiness Aligning yourself with abundance is the same thing as aligning yourself with happiness. There are many false roadsigns to happiness in this world. Most of them lead to dead ends. Material wealth is one example. If you think that having “more” will lead to happiness, go ahead and try it. You may learn this lesson by gaining more and still feeling unhappy, or you may learn it by failing to reach the level of more that you desire. Eventually you’ll become so frustrated that you decide to explore a different path. I put some energy into improving my finances, but I didn’t feel happier or more abundant when I achieved those goals. What gave me the greatest feeling of happiness was taking time to appreciate the good things in my life. The interesting part is that this had nothing to do with the things. It had everything to do with how I was using my power. I learned that it makes no difference what my finances are doing. They can go up or down, and it doesn’t affect my happiness. I always have the ability to feel grateful. Sometimes I feel more grateful when I have less vs. when I have more. One of the reasons I placed my work into the public domain and no longer copyright it is that I realized that owning a lot of intellectual property doesn’t make me any happier than when I owned none. When I tried feeling grateful for it, I realized it wasn’t the ownership that mattered to me. Nor was it the body of work that I created in the past. I discovered the deeper truth that I’m grateful for the opportunity to express myself creatively. I’m grateful for the ability to connect with people around the world. I’m grateful for the chance to learn and grow. I don’t need to make more money or acquire more prestige or gain more web traffic in order to be happier. I can be happy simply expressing my creativity. Certain tools like a computer and the Internet help me do that, and I’m grateful for them as well, but if they were all stripped from me, I could still express my creativity with sticks and stones. Even if I ended up paralyzed, I could build new creations within my mind, and I could still feel grateful for the ability to do that. However, I’ve noticed that the more I remember these lessons, the less often scarcity shows up in my life as a personal teacher. I’m getting better at making choices with respect to happiness as opposed to making choice on the basis of more. I pass up obvious avenues for advancement in my business if I don’t think they’ll increase my happiness, even if they might increase my income. From an entrepreneurial perspective, it may appear that I run my business strangely, but I run it happily. Discarding False Paths The existence of scarcity in the world helps us identify and discard the false paths that won’t give us a true sense of abundance. I believe that a true abundance mindset isn’t about how much stuff you can acquire. I think it’s about realizing how little you need to create happiness. Could you lose all your stuff and still feel grateful? Can you still use your power to create the experience of caring, generosity, and happiness even in the presence of lack? I also think that life stops hammering us with certain lessons once we learn them. My money problems didn’t go away because I became aggressive about making more money. They stopped arising when I let go of my fear of not having money and when I stopped empowering the belief that I couldn’t have a good life without money. What helped me most was thinking about what my life would be like if I actually became homeless. I could live on the beach and sleep under the stars each night. I could work on my social skills. I could learn to get better at drawing. I’d have lots of freedom. I could learn new languages from bilingual homeless people. I could go to libraries and read. I could meditate and go running each day. I could write a book about the experience. I could even do volunteer work to help people. I soon realized that even if I had no money at all, I could still live a pretty cool life. It was within my power to do so. Once I realized that my money situation absolutely did not have the power to sentence me to a miserable life and that in fact, I could still lead an interesting and fulfilling life no matter what, my whole being lightened up. It seemed as if reality said to me, “Ok, great… it took years, but you finally got that lesson. Now let’s move on to these other lessons over here.” There was no more need for major scarcity to keep arising for me in this particular area since I learned what I needed to learn. An expanded version of this lesson that I’ve been learning recently is that I don’t need non-physical property either. I don’t need to own anything at all to be happy. I think I’m going to enjoy writing without the burden of ownership. The creative part is what I enjoy most. I don’t need to own what I create. Sustainability Some people desire to create more sustainability in the world, which is partly about shifting away from non-renewable resources and towards renewable resources. I don’t presently consider myself a proponent of the sustainability movement though. I think there are more beneficial growth lessons to be learned from cycles of excess and scarcity than there are from long-term sustainability. If my own life had been more balanced, I doubt I’d have learned as much as I did. I think it would be boring and depressing to live as many animals in nature do, so I wouldn’t use that as my model of environmental harmony. I think there are good reasons humans create such huge imbalances — and why we have the capacity to continue doing so. These imbalances provide us with amazing growth lessons, teaching how to expand our power and our wisdom simultaneously. Some would say that today our power has gotten ahead of our wisdom. I tend to agree. This, however, motivates us to increase our wisdom. When our wisdom pulls ahead, there will be a stronger drive to increase our power. On a deeper level, I see this as the balance between Truth, Love, and Power. These are the primary ways in which we experience growth, and all three have the capacity to expand. When Truth gets too far ahead, then we have theories we cannot test and grand ideas we cannot implement. This motivates us to come together and collaborate (Love) in order to achieve new breakthroughs (Power). When Love gets too far ahead, we connect to such a degree that we begin to lose our individual will and drive. We stagnate and do the same things day after day. You may see this kind of imbalance arising in your life if you spend tons of time socializing online. Eventually you begin to feel empty inside, like you’re just spinning your wheels. This negative feeling can’t be resolved by throwing more socialization at it. To correct this imbalance, you need to incorporate more learning (Truth) and creative projects (Power) into your life. When Power gets too far ahead, we abuse ourselves. We get good at creating what we don’t want, so we create a lot of it. This motivates us to pay more attention to our relationships (Love) and to listen to our true desires (Truth). If we truly appreciate a natural resource, we’ll be motivated to find ways to use it efficiently to create good value for ourselves. If we don’t appreciate a certain resource, we may push it to the point of extinction and then deal with its absence afterwards. How many of the now extinct species did we appreciate? Do you miss them, or are you okay living without them? Is oil a resource that you truly appreciate, or is it one you’d be okay living without? Do you feel grateful for all that oil has added to your life? Do you hate it and want to see it go away? How does the unfolding story of earth reflect your feelings in this area? How does it give you new insights into what you value most? For me the lesson of oil has to do with prioritizing my values. Using oil has consequences, some of which I perceive as negative and some as positive. Which of those consequences am I willing to accept? Which am I not willing to accept? And what does this tell me about my values? I learn a lot about myself by witnessing the story of oil unfolding in my reality. It’s a wonderful teacher. Lessons From Your Story The story of earth is taking us through some interesting lessons these days. When faced with these lessons, we have a choice. We can choose to resist them, in which case we’ll feed more power to them and see them expand. Or we can choose to learn these lessons now, which gives us a chance to move on to new lessons. If you don’t appreciate something in your life, then why is it there? It’s there because you keep feeding your power to it. You keep noticing it and paying attention to it. If you didn’t do that, then for all practical purposes, it would be invisible to you. The reason you’re creating this drama is so that you can have a growth experience. It is there to teach you something important, such as what you truly value. You’ll keep creating this drama in different forms until you’re able to learn the lesson behind the drama. That lesson will ultimately take you to a deeper level of Truth. If you try to shortcut these lessons, your solutions will never last. The deeper part of your being — the part that wants to grow — will simply keep manifesting the lessons as new dramas in your reality. You create with your whole being, not just with your thoughts or feelings. Some people are currently experiencing interesting and dramatic lessons with respect to unemployment. Many didn’t appreciate the jobs they once had and which are now gone. Now they are job-free, and some don’t appreciate that either. They may finally get a new job, and they may dislike that too. They’ll continue to live out such cycles until they realize that the common element in all this scarcity isn’t the presence or lack of a job. It’s their ongoing lack of appreciation. If you were looking to employ people, and someone came to you for an interview, and you sensed they didn’t appreciate their previous employer, and they didn’t appreciate what they learned from unemployment, and they probably weren’t going to appreciate the job you could give them, would you hire them? If you were going to hire someone, wouldn’t you choose someone that would truly appreciate what you can offer? Wouldn’t you favor someone with a record of appreciating their previous work history as well? Would you rather work with an appreciative person or with an unappreciative one? What would you want if you were the employer? What kind of employer would hire an unappreciative employee? Perhaps an employer who’s desperate, ignorant, or self-punishing would do so. Is that the kind of person you’d want as your boss? Are you likely to enjoy that job? My career life turned around when I learned to appreciate the value of work itself. I realized that the value I get from work isn’t about how much I get paid or who hires me. It’s about the opportunity to express myself creatively. Once I realized that, I always enjoyed my work.  I feel grateful that I get to create something that didn’t exist before. I also realized that being creative is more important to me than a steady paycheck. I’m glad that life brought me experiences to teach me this lesson, even though they were difficult to learn. Can we enjoy abundance in a world of scarce resources? Of course we can. Scarcity is one of our best teachers. It steers us away from false paths and teaches us what real abundance means to us. We don’t need more money or success or iStuff to be happy. We can choose to feel grateful for what we value most, and through that feeling of gratitude, we can empower its expansion.
    Jul 12, 2011 869
  • 12 Jul 2011
    I seem to have this tradition of making a post at the start of each year to muse about what my primary focus for the coming year will be, so I’ll share some thoughts on what I’d like to explore in 2011. 2010 in Review First of all, 2010 was a year of tremendous growth and exploration. It was one of the most unusual years for me. Some 2010 highlights include: Adjusting to the separation from Erin in late 2009 and working through many details of that Exploring interpersonal relationships (long-distance relationship, polyamory, D/s, new friendships, unconditional love, oneness) Quitting Toastmasters after 6 years of membership Traveling extensively (on the road for 3 months of the year; visiting many U.S. states, 5 Canadian Provinces, and Puerto Rico) Delivering 4 Conscious Growth Workshops Shutting down my online contact form (spending less time on email and more time interacting face to face) Helping to kick off a Las Vegas men’s group Conducting deeper explorations of subjective reality and inspired living Doing various personal experiments (trying hot yoga, running my business from the road, etc.) Uncopyrighting my work and releasing my blog posts and podcasts into the public domain In many respects this was a chaotic year. If you place a high value on stability and security, you probably wouldn’t have enjoyed doing what I did. I spent a lot of time pushing the boundaries of my comfort zone. This year was more stressful than most, but it was also a year of wonderful new experiences. I feel like I really lived this year, not in the sense of living it up, but in the sense of having “had a life” outside of work. For me 2010 was a year of exploring, especially in the area of interpersonal relationships. But it was also a bit crazy at times. I did a number of things “just for the experience” because I’d never done them before. It felt good to stretch myself in new directions as I was coming out of a marriage and rediscovering myself as an individual. I also took a deeper look at my values and considered what was truly important to me in life. I thought more deeply about what I wanted to explore, experience, and contribute. My 40th birthday is coming up in April, so this felt like a good year to pause, reflect, stretch myself, and gain some clarity about the road ahead. I definitely spent more time working on my personal growth this year than I did on my professional growth, and I have no regrets about that. Expanding Upon 2010 In the coming year, I’d like to continue building upon some of the explorations I began in 2010. I’d especially like to continue traveling. I’d love to visit Europe in 2011 since I’ve never been there. I like the idea of spending a month or more in a new country and immersing myself in the culture and language, but I can also see the appeal of visiting multiple countries in the span of a few weeks to get some rapid exposure and discover places I’d like to revisit for a deeper experience. When it comes to picking travel destinations, I favor going to new places I’ve never visited, and beyond that I rely on intuition. Since there are so many countries I’ve never seen, I’m mainly interested in going to places that are new to me. It doesn’t matter whether they’re culturally similar to the USA or not. I learned a lot from the 5-6 weeks I spent in Canada this year; the more time I spent there, the more subtleties I discovered. I’d also like to continue exploring in the area of relationships and social connections. One of my biggest challenges is maintaining a balanced social life. Because of the popularity of my website, it’s easy for me to be socially lazy because there are always fresh connections and invites coming my way. Turning off my contact form was a good step in the right direction because it removes the biggest social firehouse in my life and gives me space to initiate connections instead of feeling I have an endless line of people who need to hear back from me. I love being social, but I want to do it on my own terms and in a way that feels good to me. This year I intend to pay more attention to the quality and depth of my connections. I could do with less quantity and variety for a while. I also want to shift further away from online socializing and towards more face to face connecting. 2011 Focus Because 2010 was such an intense year, I don’t have as much clarity about my primary focus for the upcoming year as compared to previous years. I’m still processing my 2010 experiences and working through the rippling after-effects of separating from Erin. Consequently, I may be indulging in some wishful thinking in this attempt to clarify my 2011 focus. I’ll do my best to share what I can though. I think the main thing I’d like to explore this year is alternative business models. I feel I’m in a good place to do this for several reasons. First, I’m not particularly attached to money. I don’t fear experimenting in this area, even if it means taking financial risks and causing swings in my income. I’m much more curious than I am greedy. I’ve been an entrepreneur for 16+ years, and I’ve lived through many lean years and many abundant ones. I don’t see money as a power source, and I’m just not particularly inspired by financial gain. I am, however, curious to explore different ways of generating income this year. On a practical level, I have plenty of financial fallbacks if things go south. I can write more books or do more workshops to earn more money if needed. This puts me in a good place to explore and experiment without feeling like I have to succeed. But I also get bored easily if I do too much of the same thing. I like to change things up since it makes my business more fun and varied. I require a certain level of risk (or challenge) in order to keep my work interesting. If my work becomes too easy, I get bored, and my motivation plummets. If I had a guaranteed path to success staring me in the face, I’d abandon it and try something else. Otherwise my life would be like playing a video game in God mode. If there’s no challenge, the game is boring and pointless. I flunked out of university when I tried to go through it in 4 years (too easy, no challenge, pointless), but I graduated with two degrees when I pushed myself to do it in 3 semesters (challenging, difficult, exciting). In previous years, I’ve done a lot of lifestyle experimenting, especially with respect to working, eating, sleeping, and relationships. I enjoy the growth and learning that comes from such experiments. This year I’d like to do more experimenting in the space of business. During some of the years that I’ve been blogging, most of my income came from advertising. Then most of it came from joint-venture deals. Then most of it was from doing workshops. I’ve been experimenting with different ways of making my work financially sustainable since I started blogging, but in 2011 I’d like to be more conscious and deliberate about trying different ideas. I think it will make my business more fun, exciting, and challenging and less predictable. My top priority isn’t to make as much money as I can. If I wanted to maximize my income above all else, I’d prioritize my actions very differently. As an end in itself, making money is pretty boring to me. It’s like playing a video game just for the score. It’s fair to say that my website is grossly under-monetized. I’m pretty sure I could be earning 10x as much money with my existing traffic if I made income generation my top priority. But I don’t feel the sacrifices would be worth it. I’d say that my priority when it comes to business model experimentation is to maximize my happiness. I want to enjoy my freedom, including the freedom to travel, and not feel chained to my work. I want to continue enjoying and increasing the level of financial abundance in my life. I want to connect with people as friends and not feel that transactions are more important than interactions. I want to provide strong values that benefits people. And I want to express myself honestly and openly; I’m unwilling to conform to others’ expectations in order to get more business. I like to experiment, and I change my primary business model almost every year. I don’t do this because I’m trying to make more money. I do it because I get bored with the old model. When my methods for generating income become too secure and predictable, I’m drawn to abandon them in order to try something new. I like to drop proven methods even if it means less income because I gain more from the process of exploration than I gain from the income. I learn and grow faster when I experiment often, and life is more fun and exciting. So for 2011, I’d like to do even more experimenting with my business model. You may see me doing things that look highly questionable — perhaps even foolish — if you’re coming from the perspective that an entrepreneur is supposed to optimize a business around revenue generation. I’d rather optimize for fun, excitement, and challenge. And of course I’m happy to share what I learn along the way.  
    630 Posted by UniqueThis
  • I seem to have this tradition of making a post at the start of each year to muse about what my primary focus for the coming year will be, so I’ll share some thoughts on what I’d like to explore in 2011. 2010 in Review First of all, 2010 was a year of tremendous growth and exploration. It was one of the most unusual years for me. Some 2010 highlights include: Adjusting to the separation from Erin in late 2009 and working through many details of that Exploring interpersonal relationships (long-distance relationship, polyamory, D/s, new friendships, unconditional love, oneness) Quitting Toastmasters after 6 years of membership Traveling extensively (on the road for 3 months of the year; visiting many U.S. states, 5 Canadian Provinces, and Puerto Rico) Delivering 4 Conscious Growth Workshops Shutting down my online contact form (spending less time on email and more time interacting face to face) Helping to kick off a Las Vegas men’s group Conducting deeper explorations of subjective reality and inspired living Doing various personal experiments (trying hot yoga, running my business from the road, etc.) Uncopyrighting my work and releasing my blog posts and podcasts into the public domain In many respects this was a chaotic year. If you place a high value on stability and security, you probably wouldn’t have enjoyed doing what I did. I spent a lot of time pushing the boundaries of my comfort zone. This year was more stressful than most, but it was also a year of wonderful new experiences. I feel like I really lived this year, not in the sense of living it up, but in the sense of having “had a life” outside of work. For me 2010 was a year of exploring, especially in the area of interpersonal relationships. But it was also a bit crazy at times. I did a number of things “just for the experience” because I’d never done them before. It felt good to stretch myself in new directions as I was coming out of a marriage and rediscovering myself as an individual. I also took a deeper look at my values and considered what was truly important to me in life. I thought more deeply about what I wanted to explore, experience, and contribute. My 40th birthday is coming up in April, so this felt like a good year to pause, reflect, stretch myself, and gain some clarity about the road ahead. I definitely spent more time working on my personal growth this year than I did on my professional growth, and I have no regrets about that. Expanding Upon 2010 In the coming year, I’d like to continue building upon some of the explorations I began in 2010. I’d especially like to continue traveling. I’d love to visit Europe in 2011 since I’ve never been there. I like the idea of spending a month or more in a new country and immersing myself in the culture and language, but I can also see the appeal of visiting multiple countries in the span of a few weeks to get some rapid exposure and discover places I’d like to revisit for a deeper experience. When it comes to picking travel destinations, I favor going to new places I’ve never visited, and beyond that I rely on intuition. Since there are so many countries I’ve never seen, I’m mainly interested in going to places that are new to me. It doesn’t matter whether they’re culturally similar to the USA or not. I learned a lot from the 5-6 weeks I spent in Canada this year; the more time I spent there, the more subtleties I discovered. I’d also like to continue exploring in the area of relationships and social connections. One of my biggest challenges is maintaining a balanced social life. Because of the popularity of my website, it’s easy for me to be socially lazy because there are always fresh connections and invites coming my way. Turning off my contact form was a good step in the right direction because it removes the biggest social firehouse in my life and gives me space to initiate connections instead of feeling I have an endless line of people who need to hear back from me. I love being social, but I want to do it on my own terms and in a way that feels good to me. This year I intend to pay more attention to the quality and depth of my connections. I could do with less quantity and variety for a while. I also want to shift further away from online socializing and towards more face to face connecting. 2011 Focus Because 2010 was such an intense year, I don’t have as much clarity about my primary focus for the upcoming year as compared to previous years. I’m still processing my 2010 experiences and working through the rippling after-effects of separating from Erin. Consequently, I may be indulging in some wishful thinking in this attempt to clarify my 2011 focus. I’ll do my best to share what I can though. I think the main thing I’d like to explore this year is alternative business models. I feel I’m in a good place to do this for several reasons. First, I’m not particularly attached to money. I don’t fear experimenting in this area, even if it means taking financial risks and causing swings in my income. I’m much more curious than I am greedy. I’ve been an entrepreneur for 16+ years, and I’ve lived through many lean years and many abundant ones. I don’t see money as a power source, and I’m just not particularly inspired by financial gain. I am, however, curious to explore different ways of generating income this year. On a practical level, I have plenty of financial fallbacks if things go south. I can write more books or do more workshops to earn more money if needed. This puts me in a good place to explore and experiment without feeling like I have to succeed. But I also get bored easily if I do too much of the same thing. I like to change things up since it makes my business more fun and varied. I require a certain level of risk (or challenge) in order to keep my work interesting. If my work becomes too easy, I get bored, and my motivation plummets. If I had a guaranteed path to success staring me in the face, I’d abandon it and try something else. Otherwise my life would be like playing a video game in God mode. If there’s no challenge, the game is boring and pointless. I flunked out of university when I tried to go through it in 4 years (too easy, no challenge, pointless), but I graduated with two degrees when I pushed myself to do it in 3 semesters (challenging, difficult, exciting). In previous years, I’ve done a lot of lifestyle experimenting, especially with respect to working, eating, sleeping, and relationships. I enjoy the growth and learning that comes from such experiments. This year I’d like to do more experimenting in the space of business. During some of the years that I’ve been blogging, most of my income came from advertising. Then most of it came from joint-venture deals. Then most of it was from doing workshops. I’ve been experimenting with different ways of making my work financially sustainable since I started blogging, but in 2011 I’d like to be more conscious and deliberate about trying different ideas. I think it will make my business more fun, exciting, and challenging and less predictable. My top priority isn’t to make as much money as I can. If I wanted to maximize my income above all else, I’d prioritize my actions very differently. As an end in itself, making money is pretty boring to me. It’s like playing a video game just for the score. It’s fair to say that my website is grossly under-monetized. I’m pretty sure I could be earning 10x as much money with my existing traffic if I made income generation my top priority. But I don’t feel the sacrifices would be worth it. I’d say that my priority when it comes to business model experimentation is to maximize my happiness. I want to enjoy my freedom, including the freedom to travel, and not feel chained to my work. I want to continue enjoying and increasing the level of financial abundance in my life. I want to connect with people as friends and not feel that transactions are more important than interactions. I want to provide strong values that benefits people. And I want to express myself honestly and openly; I’m unwilling to conform to others’ expectations in order to get more business. I like to experiment, and I change my primary business model almost every year. I don’t do this because I’m trying to make more money. I do it because I get bored with the old model. When my methods for generating income become too secure and predictable, I’m drawn to abandon them in order to try something new. I like to drop proven methods even if it means less income because I gain more from the process of exploration than I gain from the income. I learn and grow faster when I experiment often, and life is more fun and exciting. So for 2011, I’d like to do even more experimenting with my business model. You may see me doing things that look highly questionable — perhaps even foolish — if you’re coming from the perspective that an entrepreneur is supposed to optimize a business around revenue generation. I’d rather optimize for fun, excitement, and challenge. And of course I’m happy to share what I learn along the way.  
    Jul 12, 2011 630
  • 12 Jul 2011
    Today I decided to stop using Facebook. I’ve already turned off both my personal page and my fan page. I’ve been pretty active on Facebook in the past, and I have many friends who use the service. My personal page was maxed out at 5K friends for more than a year, and my fan page had just over 3300 fans. So it may seem a little surprising that I’d up and drop the service altogether. There are a number of reasons I decided to do this, so let me ‘splain. The main reason is that I dislike the way certain features on Facebook are designed and implemented. They may work okay for most users, but they aren’t a good match for someone in my shoes. Over time I felt like the system was becoming increasingly abusive in the way it treats me as a user, largely due to what I consider to be serious design flaws. Obviously my situation isn’t like that of the typical Facebook user since I already had a substantial online following before I started using Facebook. It didn’t take long for my personal account to max out on friends. Once I got close to that limit, I lost the ability to send out new friend requests. So that feature hasn’t been available to me for more than a year. Facebook kept adding new incoming friend requests to a waiting list. It just left those requests in limbo, but I couldn’t do anything about that. I thought that a solution would be to add a fan page, which I did in September, but then I ended up with two pages. That’s been awkward to maintain, especially since each type of page is administered differently. Also, Facebook’s latest update really broke the way fan pages can be administered, making it more trouble than it’s worth. I can either spend extra time on the admin side, let the page quality go down the drain, or drop it altogether. I choose the latter. The biggest overall issue is that Facebook’s admin tools absolutely suck when you have a very well-known profile there. I think all of these problems are fixable from a design and programming perspective, but instead of fixing them, Facebook seems to break more things as time goes on. My Facebook message inbox would receive daily spam, even from people I’ve unfriended and blocked, and there’s no way to prevent it. I disabled every possible email notification that Facebook might send me, but it’s still very lame to visit my Facebook page, see notification that I have several new messages, and all of them are spam from people I don’t know. This problem was minimal when I started using Facebook, but the longer I’ve been a member, the worse it became. Having another spammed inbox degrades the quality of the service a lot. When it got to the point where most of my Facebook messages were spam, I began to think, “Why bother with this?” And of course you can’t disable their private messaging feature, which would have been my preference from the get-go. I don’t need another email inbox anyway. If you have a personal account on Facebook, then people can message you there, and you have to go to Facebook to reply. Even if I set it so that only friends can message me (the most restrictive setting they offer), it doesn’t work. For whatever reason, people could still spam me on Facebook whether we were friends or not. I’d also receive countless event invitations from people I don’t know, in cities where I don’t reside, and there’s no way to block them. This is really lame. If given the choice, I’d disable event invites altogether, but of course they don’t provide such a setting. Event spam is apparently mandatory. People tag me in random photos as a way of spamming my wall. If I don’t manually delete those, my photo section will eventually fill up with spammed photos. No way to prevent this. People add me to groups without my permission, and I can’t prevent it. I can only manually unsubscribe after the fact. There are numerous other forms of abuse employed by Internet marketers, spammers, born again nutters, and people who simply want to game the system. In my opinion, all of these problems could be solved with some moderately skilled programming. And that’s just on the personal page side. The best word I can use to describe Facebook’s fan page administration is “broken.” There are so many complaints about it from other fan page admins, but it seems like Facebook is ignoring these problems and perhaps even making things worse on purpose. Due to their business model, Facebook can actually make more money if they break things a certain way. For example, in their latest “update”, Facebook removed the ability for fan page admins to block certain users from posting comments on their walls. So a spammer or troll can post comment spam on your wall, and for all practical purposes, you can’t prevent it. You can manually delete their posts after the fact, but they can just come back and post more. A common trick used by spammers is to “like” your fan page, spam it, and then “unlike” your page. It appears that they can do this as much as they want, and you can’t prevent it. There’s no way to block them. As a programmer myself, I can’t fathom that it would take much technical and design effort to address these issues, and Facebook is flooded with complaints from users begging them to fix these headaches. From my perspective as a Facebook user with a very active personal page and fan page, I can’t help but get the impression that Facebook deliberately wants to make some basic admin tasks (like blocking spammers) difficult or impossible in order to compel you to spend more time on the site. There doesn’t seem to be any other logical reason for these glaring design flaws that I can comprehend, other than pure incompetence, and based on their success in other areas, it seems more likely that these choices are deliberate. I imagine that most Facebook users won’t encounter these problems, at least not to the degree that I did. They’re partly a problem of scale. The more people who know you on Facebook, the worse these problems become. Given that Facebook’s business model is based on getting you to spend more time on their site, effectively addicting you to it, and given what I’ve seen from maintaining very active pages on their site, it looks to me like these “bugs” are intentional. For most users they’ll create only very minor headaches, probably not enough to motivate someone to leave the service but enough to produce a little extra gain for Facebook. An occasional spam message from a non-friend looks like a glitch or an accident if it only happens once or twice a year, but it brings you back to their site to deal with it, where you’ll be exposed to more ad impressions that generate revenue for Facebook. Multiply these seemingly infrequent problems by 500 million users, and something looks very fishy. Either that, or they have some really incompetent interface designers and/or programmers, and I have a harder time believing that to be the case. Surely someone on their team is aware of all the complaints and requests to fix the broken elements. So why do they seem to ignore what appear to be such glaring (and fixable) problems? I thought that Facebook would be an interesting place to share inspirational messages and build more community around growth-oriented people. But the current implementation of Facebook can’t handle the way I’ve been trying to use it without creating more headaches than it’s worth, and their momentum appears to be headed in the wrong direction for me to expect that these problems would be fixed anytime soon. So I’ve crossed the threshold where Facebook’s value isn’t worth the hassle to use it. I concluded that the best choice was to simply drop the service altogether and invest my time elsewhere. If you were one of the people who actively connected with me on Facebook and you’re disappointed by this decision, I’m sorry about that. Perhaps it’s for the best though. From a subjective perspective, I’m not particularly disappointed. I’ve been wanting to spend less time online and more time connecting with people in person, so these problems may simply be part of the way that desire manifested.
    729 Posted by UniqueThis
  • Today I decided to stop using Facebook. I’ve already turned off both my personal page and my fan page. I’ve been pretty active on Facebook in the past, and I have many friends who use the service. My personal page was maxed out at 5K friends for more than a year, and my fan page had just over 3300 fans. So it may seem a little surprising that I’d up and drop the service altogether. There are a number of reasons I decided to do this, so let me ‘splain. The main reason is that I dislike the way certain features on Facebook are designed and implemented. They may work okay for most users, but they aren’t a good match for someone in my shoes. Over time I felt like the system was becoming increasingly abusive in the way it treats me as a user, largely due to what I consider to be serious design flaws. Obviously my situation isn’t like that of the typical Facebook user since I already had a substantial online following before I started using Facebook. It didn’t take long for my personal account to max out on friends. Once I got close to that limit, I lost the ability to send out new friend requests. So that feature hasn’t been available to me for more than a year. Facebook kept adding new incoming friend requests to a waiting list. It just left those requests in limbo, but I couldn’t do anything about that. I thought that a solution would be to add a fan page, which I did in September, but then I ended up with two pages. That’s been awkward to maintain, especially since each type of page is administered differently. Also, Facebook’s latest update really broke the way fan pages can be administered, making it more trouble than it’s worth. I can either spend extra time on the admin side, let the page quality go down the drain, or drop it altogether. I choose the latter. The biggest overall issue is that Facebook’s admin tools absolutely suck when you have a very well-known profile there. I think all of these problems are fixable from a design and programming perspective, but instead of fixing them, Facebook seems to break more things as time goes on. My Facebook message inbox would receive daily spam, even from people I’ve unfriended and blocked, and there’s no way to prevent it. I disabled every possible email notification that Facebook might send me, but it’s still very lame to visit my Facebook page, see notification that I have several new messages, and all of them are spam from people I don’t know. This problem was minimal when I started using Facebook, but the longer I’ve been a member, the worse it became. Having another spammed inbox degrades the quality of the service a lot. When it got to the point where most of my Facebook messages were spam, I began to think, “Why bother with this?” And of course you can’t disable their private messaging feature, which would have been my preference from the get-go. I don’t need another email inbox anyway. If you have a personal account on Facebook, then people can message you there, and you have to go to Facebook to reply. Even if I set it so that only friends can message me (the most restrictive setting they offer), it doesn’t work. For whatever reason, people could still spam me on Facebook whether we were friends or not. I’d also receive countless event invitations from people I don’t know, in cities where I don’t reside, and there’s no way to block them. This is really lame. If given the choice, I’d disable event invites altogether, but of course they don’t provide such a setting. Event spam is apparently mandatory. People tag me in random photos as a way of spamming my wall. If I don’t manually delete those, my photo section will eventually fill up with spammed photos. No way to prevent this. People add me to groups without my permission, and I can’t prevent it. I can only manually unsubscribe after the fact. There are numerous other forms of abuse employed by Internet marketers, spammers, born again nutters, and people who simply want to game the system. In my opinion, all of these problems could be solved with some moderately skilled programming. And that’s just on the personal page side. The best word I can use to describe Facebook’s fan page administration is “broken.” There are so many complaints about it from other fan page admins, but it seems like Facebook is ignoring these problems and perhaps even making things worse on purpose. Due to their business model, Facebook can actually make more money if they break things a certain way. For example, in their latest “update”, Facebook removed the ability for fan page admins to block certain users from posting comments on their walls. So a spammer or troll can post comment spam on your wall, and for all practical purposes, you can’t prevent it. You can manually delete their posts after the fact, but they can just come back and post more. A common trick used by spammers is to “like” your fan page, spam it, and then “unlike” your page. It appears that they can do this as much as they want, and you can’t prevent it. There’s no way to block them. As a programmer myself, I can’t fathom that it would take much technical and design effort to address these issues, and Facebook is flooded with complaints from users begging them to fix these headaches. From my perspective as a Facebook user with a very active personal page and fan page, I can’t help but get the impression that Facebook deliberately wants to make some basic admin tasks (like blocking spammers) difficult or impossible in order to compel you to spend more time on the site. There doesn’t seem to be any other logical reason for these glaring design flaws that I can comprehend, other than pure incompetence, and based on their success in other areas, it seems more likely that these choices are deliberate. I imagine that most Facebook users won’t encounter these problems, at least not to the degree that I did. They’re partly a problem of scale. The more people who know you on Facebook, the worse these problems become. Given that Facebook’s business model is based on getting you to spend more time on their site, effectively addicting you to it, and given what I’ve seen from maintaining very active pages on their site, it looks to me like these “bugs” are intentional. For most users they’ll create only very minor headaches, probably not enough to motivate someone to leave the service but enough to produce a little extra gain for Facebook. An occasional spam message from a non-friend looks like a glitch or an accident if it only happens once or twice a year, but it brings you back to their site to deal with it, where you’ll be exposed to more ad impressions that generate revenue for Facebook. Multiply these seemingly infrequent problems by 500 million users, and something looks very fishy. Either that, or they have some really incompetent interface designers and/or programmers, and I have a harder time believing that to be the case. Surely someone on their team is aware of all the complaints and requests to fix the broken elements. So why do they seem to ignore what appear to be such glaring (and fixable) problems? I thought that Facebook would be an interesting place to share inspirational messages and build more community around growth-oriented people. But the current implementation of Facebook can’t handle the way I’ve been trying to use it without creating more headaches than it’s worth, and their momentum appears to be headed in the wrong direction for me to expect that these problems would be fixed anytime soon. So I’ve crossed the threshold where Facebook’s value isn’t worth the hassle to use it. I concluded that the best choice was to simply drop the service altogether and invest my time elsewhere. If you were one of the people who actively connected with me on Facebook and you’re disappointed by this decision, I’m sorry about that. Perhaps it’s for the best though. From a subjective perspective, I’m not particularly disappointed. I’ve been wanting to spend less time online and more time connecting with people in person, so these problems may simply be part of the way that desire manifested.
    Jul 12, 2011 729
  • 12 Jul 2011
    It’s been about 30 days since I quit Facebook, so I wanted to share an update on what that’s been like. Many others also quit the service last month, and many more are on the fence as to whether they should do the same. Here are some realizations I’ve had as a result of leaving Facebook after 2+ years as an active user. I’m sure some of these realizations can be generalized to social networking as a whole, but I’m going to focus mainly on my personal experience with Facebook. I can’t guarantee you’ll find much overlap between my realizations and your experiences, but I’m sure some people will see similar patterns. Facebook communication is mostly low-priority noise. When I dropped Facebook, I noticed that the communication volume in my life dropped significantly. However, I felt no drop in the level of significant and meaningful communication. What I seemed to lose was mostly a lot of noise. Generally speaking, communicating via Facebook is a shallow experience. You read streams of brief messages from a variety of people, but the messages don’t contain much depth. Most are trivial and mundane. Some are clever or witty. Very little of the information you’ll digest on Facebook is memorable and life-changing. Using Facebook can still give you a feeling of connectedness, but the long-term benefits are negligible. Facebook essentially gives you the emotional sense that you’re doing something worthwhile (i.e. connecting with people), but when you step back and look at your actions and results from a more objective perspective, it becomes clear that you’re really just spinning your wheels. Consequently, when I dropped Facebook, I let go of a lot of trivial communication, but I don’t have the sense that anything truly valuable has been lost. Impulse sharing comes with a price. In the weeks after quitting Facebook, I still felt the urge to share certain things with my online “friends”. I’d have a clever thought and feel, I should post this. Or I’d take a really cool photo and think, I ought to share this. In the past I’d have shared those tidbits out of habit. Then I’d check back in later and read through a few dozen comments people left. And there would be a little emotional reward in having that sense of connection. But without the option to impulse-share during the past 30 days, I allowed those feelings to come and go without acting on them. I noticed that there was a consequence to sharing in real-time. I wasn’t being very present in the moment. While things were happening around me, I was off thinking about my online posse and what I might wish to share with them. When I stopped acting on the desire to impulse-share, I become more present to what I was doing in the moment. Instead of being distracted by thoughts of connecting with people at a distance, I did a better job of connecting with the people right in front of me. I felt more immersed in my experiences. That was a subtle change at first, but it feels good. During the past two years, I’d often feel obligated to share frequent updates with my online “friends”, most of whom I’d never met in person. If I didn’t post an update for a while, some would complain. If I shared something cool, people would thank me for it. Now that I’ve been rolling back this conditioning, I can see what a dead end it’s been. I allowed social media to condition me to behave a certain way, but it’s not a conscious choice I would have made otherwise. So it’s nice to regain conscious control over this part of my life. Even after 30 days, the desire to impulse-share is still there, but it’s growing fainter, replaced by a growing desire to “be here now,” fully present in what’s going on in front of me. I still like sharing, but it’s better to do so thoughtfully instead of impulsively. Friends lose their individuality and become part of a collective. Facebook compacts so much communication into a single stream, and this can have a depersonalizing effect. As I continued to use the service to interact with people en masse, I gradually began thinking of my online friends as a network, stream, or blob, as opposed to valuing each person as a unique individual. When I’d post a status update, who was the intended recipient? Which friend was I updating? In truth I wasn’t sharing with anyone in particular. I was simply sharing with the collective. If I posted something on a friend’s wall, I wasn’t just communicating with that friend. I was communicating with their posse too. If I used the private messaging feature, it was just one message among dozens. Friends were becoming like interchangeable drones. One thing that surprised me was just how few of my Facebook friends I actually missed when I left the service. It was difficult to think of my old Facebook friends as individuals. They were all just part of the collective whole. When I unplugged from the collective, it wasn’t like I’d lost any individual friends. I can barely remember the names of all the people I used to connect with there. I’d already lost the ability to distinguish Third of Five from Seven of Nine. Dropping Facebook wasn’t at all like disconnecting from hundreds of individual friends. I didn’t miss anyone in particular because my Facebook experience was like connecting with a collective. I noticed the absence of the collective when I left, but I didn’t miss it per se. The exception is that if I knew specific Facebook friends from real life, meaning that we’d met in person and had at least one good conversation together, then I could still see them as individuals. But I don’t need Facebook to stay in touch with those people anyway, so I didn’t feel like I was losing any of these connections by dropping Facebook. I realize this might sound rather strange, but it’s the best I can explain it. My Facebook page was maxed out at 5K friends and was very active. If I’d only had 50-100 friends, then it might not have felt like I was interacting with a collective. The feeling that I was interacting with a collective began to feel rather creepy, as you might imagine. I’m glad to be off of Facebook, since I really don’t wish to be assimilated. It’s nice not to feel like there’s an endless stream of other people’s thoughts flowing through my mind all the time. I can hear my own thoughts once again, and they’re a lot more relaxed and coherent. Facebook creates a false and unsatisfying sense of socializing. I’m somewhere between an introvert and an extrovert. As a child I was very introverted. In kindergarten I was the kid who played in the sandbox all by himself. I don’t think I was lonely. I just found sand toys more interesting than people. As I aged, however, I gradually became more extroverted. Partly this was by choice. I pushed myself to develop my social skills and to embrace what I once avoided. It’s said that you’re an introvert if you recharge your batteries while being alone, and you’re an extrovert if you recharge in the company of others. That metaphor doesn’t seem to work for me though. I prefer balance, usually by taking turns. If I spend a lot of time alone, I feel a strong desire to go out and be social. But after a very social week, I feel the desire to retreat back to my cave and enjoy more solitary time. Being active on Facebook had the effect of filling my social bucket. But it was essentially a false fill, like drinking salt water instead of fresh water. Instead of providing a real sense of connection that satisfies, it made me think I was out there being social, but I’d still be “hungry” afterwards. Facebook activity could never recharge my batteries in the way that face to face interaction could. When I dropped Facebook, I began feeling genuinely more social when I’d go out. Even when running errands, I’d notice myself chatting and joking around with people more often. When I was active on Facebook, I wouldn’t do that as much because I had the false sense that I was being social by interacting with my online posse. Facebook is computer interaction, not human interaction. The reality of using Facebook is that you’re just typing and viewing insignificant bits of information on a digital device (computer, cell phone, iStuff, etc). The next time you use such a service, pause for a moment and do a reality check. What are you actually doing? Who’s with you? How is this advancing your life? What if you do this for 20 more years? What do you expect to gain from it? You can call it social networking, but it’s not really a social experience if you’re actually alone sitting at a computer. Real socialization is face to face. There’s a tremendous richness to in-person socialization that just doesn’t translate over the Internet, at least not yet. A ***hug*** isn’t a real hug. A smiley isn’t a real smile. All you’re doing is pushing buttons. I’ll go so far as to say that Facebook isn’t social networking. It’s anti-social retreating. If you want to disagree with me about this, you’ll have say it to my face. If you try to tell me off by typing something on a digital device, you’re only proving me right. Evil, I know. A friend isn’t necessarily a “friend”. I can be friendly with people from all walks of life, but when it comes to which people are most compatible as my long-term friends, the Facebook pool isn’t a good fit for the kinds of lasting friendships I really wish to cultivate. The main issue is the age difference. Most of my Facebook friends were in their 20s. I’m sure that’s a big part of the service’s demographic. It’s also a big part of my blog’s readership, and many of my articles are targeted to the needs of that age group. I already have many friends in their 20s, but if I draw too many of my friends from this pool, it comes with a price. I can relate to what it’s like to be a 20-something these days, so I’m able to be a friend to someone in that age group, but it’s rare that such people are able to be a good friend to me. They simply don’t have the life experience to give the kind of value I gain from a good friendship. In your 20s it’s common to do a lot of soul-searching and experimenting to figure out what to do with your life. To get the career part of your life going well, you basically have to figure out 4 things: (1) what you can do to earn a good income, (2) what skills and talents you can develop to a high degree, (3) what you enjoy doing, (4) what you can contribute. It takes some effort to figure these out. Then it takes more effort to massage yourself into the area of intersection, such that you can earn a good income doing what you love and what you’re good at, and thereby make a meaningful contribution too. Most of the 20-somethings I know are still struggling to figure this out, so they can’t be of much help to me in working on what lies beyond this. I like having younger friends. They help me stay young at heart, and they help me keep my thinking from becoming stale. Their needs and concerns provide me with an endless supply of ideas. But I also need older, more experienced friends, especially people in their 40s, 50s, and beyond. I gain so much from their wisdom and knowledge. Having the right balance is key. Otherwise you become socially stagnant, and the sparkle drains from your social life. Instead of appreciating your friends, you start taking them for granted. I noticed I was beginning to fall into this trap last year, so I knew it was time to shuffle the deck and rebalance this part of my life. The problem with Facebook is that it greatly unbalanced the social part of my life, skewing it in the direction of spending lots of time with people nearly half my age. This dragged my thinking backwards in terms of maturity. When I dropped Facebook, my social life began to rebalance itself automatically. This is causing other positive ripples as well. Many problems are easier to solve when you approach them with a 40-something’s discipline or a 50-something’s patience as opposed to a 20-something’s youthful energy. Ask yourself what your life would be like if 80-90% of your social interactions were with people roughly half your age. Can you see how that might unbalance your social life? For many years this has been a challenging part of my life to balance. It took a while to recognize and accept that my online “friends” and my best in-person friends come from different pools and move in different circles. Most of my Facebook “friends” wouldn’t have been very compatible as in-person friends. We wouldn’t have had enough in common to develop a particularly deep friendship, and the interactions would have been too unbalanced. So it seems odd to refer to them as friends in the same way I’d refer to my in-person friends. I’ve learned the hard way that I can’t just fill up my social bucket with an endless supply of 20-something friends and expect good results, even if they’re very intelligent, growth-oriented, open-hearted 20-somethings. This kind of imbalance happens by default when I leave too many doors and windows open since the bulk of my online readership is in their 20s. If I allow too many of my typical readers to become my friends, my social life becomes unbalanced and stagnant, even as it maintains the illusion of freshness. It took a long time to recognize that this was happening. In order to rebalance this part of my life, I’ve had to deliberately close some of those accessible avenues, such that I can spend more time connecting with people who can add serious value to my life and help me keep growing (peers, mentors, etc). I like having some 20-something friends, but I can’t have hundreds of them. So that’s one reason Facebook really had to go — using Facebook was a lame attempt on my part to expect that my peers would come from the same pool as my readers. Facebook is ruled by addicts. This is probably obvious, but the Facebook “friends” that you’ll interact with most frequently will tend to be those who are the most addicted. They post more status updates and comments because they spend a lot of time on the service. So you end up giving the most attention to those who are the greatest addicts. In short, you end up spending the most time interacting with the people who are the worst influences — highly unproductive people who don’t value their time. This can have many adverse effects, such as causing you to become more addicted to the service and to feel the urge to post more often just for the sake of posting. If your strongest connections on Facebook are the most addicted, how is that going to influence you over time? The closer you become with those people, the more you’ll get sucked into spending more time on the service. After I left Facebook, I asked myself, Should I really be giving so much attention to the greatest social networking addicts? While even the biggest addicts can be very intelligent, helpful, and growth-oriented, their addiction tends to sap their ambition, causing them to make little forward progress in life. It should come as no surprise that many of these people are financially stagnant. It’s hard to improve your finances when you devote so much time to non-income generating activities each day. When I dropped Facebook, I also dropped off the radar of some of the biggest social networking addicts. I’m no longer subject to their influence, which was probably stronger than I’d care to admit. Breaking free of this cycle was a wise choice. I should have done it sooner. Facebook is lazy socialization. Social networking makes it easy to become socially lazy. With a few clicks, you can delude yourself into thinking you have an active social life. But is that the real story? Are you enjoying some intelligent face time with these friends? Or are you merely exchanging witty banter? Do you deeply value these friendships? Are you having the social experiences you desire? Or are you just wasting time clicking and typing and telling yourself you’re being social? What else could you be doing instead of social networking? You could go dancing or see a show with your boyfriend or girlfriend. No one special in your life? Wonder why… A person with halfway decent social skills can change that in a day. Has the Internet become your social hiding place? Does the thought of going outside and socializing with strangers make you anxious? If so, you can overcome that weakness with practice. You could have a nice chat with a wealthy mentor about how to improve your finances. No wealthy friends? Think you’re going to meet them on Facebook? It’s a good idea to pause and take a look at your social results. Has social networking transformed your life for the better? Has it helped bring empowering relationships, valuable contacts, and intelligent mentors into your life? Or does it leave you drifting in a sea of social drifters? I found that spending more time on Facebook didn’t produce much value for me socially. I did make some interesting contacts now and then, but it wasn’t worth the time spent. It’s true that in-person networking is more challenging. If your social skills are weak, you can pretend to be a social butterfly online just by throwing a lot of time at it. But you’re still going to be limited in the long run by your ability to connect with people face to face. Make sure you don’t let your social skills atrophy to the point where you end up spending more and more time alone, vainly trying to feed the illusion that you have a real social life. Be sure to keep challenging yourself socially. If you only do what’s easy, you’ll grow weaker with each passing year. Facebook is an expensive way to increase visibility. I know there’s a great deal of hype about the business value of social networking. Much of that hype is circulated by those who are trying to make money from it. Be wary of taking advice about gold from those who make a living selling picks and shovels. From a business standpoint, one supposed benefit of social networking is that it can raise your visibility. Raising your visibility is great. If you’re more visible (among the right people), you can attract more business. That part is all good. But not all visibility-raising methods are the same. If you use Facebook to raise your visibility, it comes with a hefty price. As you raise your visibility, you also increase your accessibility. For example, if you have a Facebook page, then you also have an inbox. At this time Facebook makes it impossible to disable the inbox. People can email you there. People I’d never met would email me on Facebook each day. Why? Because they could. Facebook made it easy for them to do so. They didn’t need my permission. Facebook would even let non-friends email me whenever they felt like it. Maybe that’s a bug, but that’s how it worked from my perspective. If you have a Facebook page with a wall on it, then people can post comments on your wall. If you have a fan page, someone can “like” your fan page, spam your wall, and then “unlike” your fan page, and it’s impossible to ban them from repeated abuse. You just have to deal with it. At low numbers, more accessibility isn’t so bad. Maybe you’d like the chance to communicate with more people. That’s all fine. At higher numbers, the visibility-accessibility linkage becomes untenable. The more visible you are on Facebook, the more people have access to interact with you in some way, whether it’s by sending you private messages, posting messages on your wall, or inviting you to events and groups. Beyond a certain point, this kind of contact becomes impractical to deal with in any meaningful way. I like that Facebook may have helped to increase my visibility by introducing people to my work who might otherwise never have learned about it. However, the price tag for that gain in visibility is a corresponding increase in accessibility. That price turned out to be way too high for me. I like helping people, but I can’t serve as a personal friend and therapist to thousands of individuals. That isn’t a sustainable way for me to contribute. When I dropped Facebook, I breathed a major sigh of relief. In a way I’m still sighing 30 days later. It really is a great relief not to be so accessible anymore. I finally feel like I have the space to think about what I desire to contribute of my own accord instead of feeling overwhelmed with an endless flood of requests from others. The visibility gains that Facebook provides just aren’t worth the price. There are much easier and more effective ways to build visibility that don’t yield an accessibility penalty, such as doing interviews. What About Twitter? As for my Twitter account, the jury’s still out, but for now I’m still using it. Twitter doesn’t create the same accessibility problem because by following zero people there, I’m not forced to have an inbox on the service. Even if I did have an inbox, it wouldn’t be bad because people could only send 140-character messages. But I find it best not to have an inbox there at all, so I never need to worry about people expecting me to reply to their direct messages. A few people apparently consider it poor Twitter etiquette to have thousands of followers and not follow anyone back. I don’t lose any sleep over it. Occasionally I’ll skim through the public messages that people address to me, especially if I posted a question for feedback purposes, but I normally don’t pay much attention to the @stevepavlina replies since they’re mostly re-tweets of my own stuff. So if you tried to get my attention by publicly posting a message to me on Twitter, there’s a good chance I never saw it. For now I’m okay using Twitter for posting broadcast-style messages because Twitter doesn’t force upon me the scaling headaches that Facebook does. If I double my Twitter followers, the service doesn’t require me to spend any more time there to keep my account tidy. I nuked my Linkedin account at the same time I left Facebook. Linkedin is supposed to be a business networking service, and I had about 350 contacts there, but I always found that service utterly useless, so it was a no-brainer to dump it. Try a 30-Day Facebook Fast If you have any doubts about your own Facebook usage, I highly recommend you to try a 30-day Facebook fast. It’s easy to do this because Facebook lets you (temporarily or permanently) deactivate your account without deleting your data. So if you decide you want to go back to using it later, you can always log back in again, and everything can be restored with a few clicks, including your wall, photos, etc. As for the how-to, all you do is login to your Facebook account, and click Account -> Account Settings. Then at the bottom of that page, click “deactivate.” Follow the instructions from there. This won’t delete your data, but it will take your profile offline. You’ll become invisible on the service. To restore it later, just login again and click a similar link to bring it back. If you really want to stay in touch with certain people from Facebook who don’t already have an alternate means of contacting you, you can send them a private message before you deactivate your account to let them know how to reach you during your hiatus. I’m a big advocate of testing. If you’re an active Facebook user, and you go 30 days without it, you’ll gain a much clearer understanding of its role in your life. In my case it was obvious within a few days that the benefits I got from using it weren’t worth the effort, but there were other subtleties I didn’t notice until weeks later. This is your life. It’s up to you to ensure that you’re getting good value from your online activities. Don’t just go through the motions because you’ve been conditioned by some service to behave a certain way. As for myself, I’m sure it’s obvious that I have no plans to return to Facebook. Resistance is NOT futile. *** hugs *** 
    776 Posted by UniqueThis
  • It’s been about 30 days since I quit Facebook, so I wanted to share an update on what that’s been like. Many others also quit the service last month, and many more are on the fence as to whether they should do the same. Here are some realizations I’ve had as a result of leaving Facebook after 2+ years as an active user. I’m sure some of these realizations can be generalized to social networking as a whole, but I’m going to focus mainly on my personal experience with Facebook. I can’t guarantee you’ll find much overlap between my realizations and your experiences, but I’m sure some people will see similar patterns. Facebook communication is mostly low-priority noise. When I dropped Facebook, I noticed that the communication volume in my life dropped significantly. However, I felt no drop in the level of significant and meaningful communication. What I seemed to lose was mostly a lot of noise. Generally speaking, communicating via Facebook is a shallow experience. You read streams of brief messages from a variety of people, but the messages don’t contain much depth. Most are trivial and mundane. Some are clever or witty. Very little of the information you’ll digest on Facebook is memorable and life-changing. Using Facebook can still give you a feeling of connectedness, but the long-term benefits are negligible. Facebook essentially gives you the emotional sense that you’re doing something worthwhile (i.e. connecting with people), but when you step back and look at your actions and results from a more objective perspective, it becomes clear that you’re really just spinning your wheels. Consequently, when I dropped Facebook, I let go of a lot of trivial communication, but I don’t have the sense that anything truly valuable has been lost. Impulse sharing comes with a price. In the weeks after quitting Facebook, I still felt the urge to share certain things with my online “friends”. I’d have a clever thought and feel, I should post this. Or I’d take a really cool photo and think, I ought to share this. In the past I’d have shared those tidbits out of habit. Then I’d check back in later and read through a few dozen comments people left. And there would be a little emotional reward in having that sense of connection. But without the option to impulse-share during the past 30 days, I allowed those feelings to come and go without acting on them. I noticed that there was a consequence to sharing in real-time. I wasn’t being very present in the moment. While things were happening around me, I was off thinking about my online posse and what I might wish to share with them. When I stopped acting on the desire to impulse-share, I become more present to what I was doing in the moment. Instead of being distracted by thoughts of connecting with people at a distance, I did a better job of connecting with the people right in front of me. I felt more immersed in my experiences. That was a subtle change at first, but it feels good. During the past two years, I’d often feel obligated to share frequent updates with my online “friends”, most of whom I’d never met in person. If I didn’t post an update for a while, some would complain. If I shared something cool, people would thank me for it. Now that I’ve been rolling back this conditioning, I can see what a dead end it’s been. I allowed social media to condition me to behave a certain way, but it’s not a conscious choice I would have made otherwise. So it’s nice to regain conscious control over this part of my life. Even after 30 days, the desire to impulse-share is still there, but it’s growing fainter, replaced by a growing desire to “be here now,” fully present in what’s going on in front of me. I still like sharing, but it’s better to do so thoughtfully instead of impulsively. Friends lose their individuality and become part of a collective. Facebook compacts so much communication into a single stream, and this can have a depersonalizing effect. As I continued to use the service to interact with people en masse, I gradually began thinking of my online friends as a network, stream, or blob, as opposed to valuing each person as a unique individual. When I’d post a status update, who was the intended recipient? Which friend was I updating? In truth I wasn’t sharing with anyone in particular. I was simply sharing with the collective. If I posted something on a friend’s wall, I wasn’t just communicating with that friend. I was communicating with their posse too. If I used the private messaging feature, it was just one message among dozens. Friends were becoming like interchangeable drones. One thing that surprised me was just how few of my Facebook friends I actually missed when I left the service. It was difficult to think of my old Facebook friends as individuals. They were all just part of the collective whole. When I unplugged from the collective, it wasn’t like I’d lost any individual friends. I can barely remember the names of all the people I used to connect with there. I’d already lost the ability to distinguish Third of Five from Seven of Nine. Dropping Facebook wasn’t at all like disconnecting from hundreds of individual friends. I didn’t miss anyone in particular because my Facebook experience was like connecting with a collective. I noticed the absence of the collective when I left, but I didn’t miss it per se. The exception is that if I knew specific Facebook friends from real life, meaning that we’d met in person and had at least one good conversation together, then I could still see them as individuals. But I don’t need Facebook to stay in touch with those people anyway, so I didn’t feel like I was losing any of these connections by dropping Facebook. I realize this might sound rather strange, but it’s the best I can explain it. My Facebook page was maxed out at 5K friends and was very active. If I’d only had 50-100 friends, then it might not have felt like I was interacting with a collective. The feeling that I was interacting with a collective began to feel rather creepy, as you might imagine. I’m glad to be off of Facebook, since I really don’t wish to be assimilated. It’s nice not to feel like there’s an endless stream of other people’s thoughts flowing through my mind all the time. I can hear my own thoughts once again, and they’re a lot more relaxed and coherent. Facebook creates a false and unsatisfying sense of socializing. I’m somewhere between an introvert and an extrovert. As a child I was very introverted. In kindergarten I was the kid who played in the sandbox all by himself. I don’t think I was lonely. I just found sand toys more interesting than people. As I aged, however, I gradually became more extroverted. Partly this was by choice. I pushed myself to develop my social skills and to embrace what I once avoided. It’s said that you’re an introvert if you recharge your batteries while being alone, and you’re an extrovert if you recharge in the company of others. That metaphor doesn’t seem to work for me though. I prefer balance, usually by taking turns. If I spend a lot of time alone, I feel a strong desire to go out and be social. But after a very social week, I feel the desire to retreat back to my cave and enjoy more solitary time. Being active on Facebook had the effect of filling my social bucket. But it was essentially a false fill, like drinking salt water instead of fresh water. Instead of providing a real sense of connection that satisfies, it made me think I was out there being social, but I’d still be “hungry” afterwards. Facebook activity could never recharge my batteries in the way that face to face interaction could. When I dropped Facebook, I began feeling genuinely more social when I’d go out. Even when running errands, I’d notice myself chatting and joking around with people more often. When I was active on Facebook, I wouldn’t do that as much because I had the false sense that I was being social by interacting with my online posse. Facebook is computer interaction, not human interaction. The reality of using Facebook is that you’re just typing and viewing insignificant bits of information on a digital device (computer, cell phone, iStuff, etc). The next time you use such a service, pause for a moment and do a reality check. What are you actually doing? Who’s with you? How is this advancing your life? What if you do this for 20 more years? What do you expect to gain from it? You can call it social networking, but it’s not really a social experience if you’re actually alone sitting at a computer. Real socialization is face to face. There’s a tremendous richness to in-person socialization that just doesn’t translate over the Internet, at least not yet. A ***hug*** isn’t a real hug. A smiley isn’t a real smile. All you’re doing is pushing buttons. I’ll go so far as to say that Facebook isn’t social networking. It’s anti-social retreating. If you want to disagree with me about this, you’ll have say it to my face. If you try to tell me off by typing something on a digital device, you’re only proving me right. Evil, I know. A friend isn’t necessarily a “friend”. I can be friendly with people from all walks of life, but when it comes to which people are most compatible as my long-term friends, the Facebook pool isn’t a good fit for the kinds of lasting friendships I really wish to cultivate. The main issue is the age difference. Most of my Facebook friends were in their 20s. I’m sure that’s a big part of the service’s demographic. It’s also a big part of my blog’s readership, and many of my articles are targeted to the needs of that age group. I already have many friends in their 20s, but if I draw too many of my friends from this pool, it comes with a price. I can relate to what it’s like to be a 20-something these days, so I’m able to be a friend to someone in that age group, but it’s rare that such people are able to be a good friend to me. They simply don’t have the life experience to give the kind of value I gain from a good friendship. In your 20s it’s common to do a lot of soul-searching and experimenting to figure out what to do with your life. To get the career part of your life going well, you basically have to figure out 4 things: (1) what you can do to earn a good income, (2) what skills and talents you can develop to a high degree, (3) what you enjoy doing, (4) what you can contribute. It takes some effort to figure these out. Then it takes more effort to massage yourself into the area of intersection, such that you can earn a good income doing what you love and what you’re good at, and thereby make a meaningful contribution too. Most of the 20-somethings I know are still struggling to figure this out, so they can’t be of much help to me in working on what lies beyond this. I like having younger friends. They help me stay young at heart, and they help me keep my thinking from becoming stale. Their needs and concerns provide me with an endless supply of ideas. But I also need older, more experienced friends, especially people in their 40s, 50s, and beyond. I gain so much from their wisdom and knowledge. Having the right balance is key. Otherwise you become socially stagnant, and the sparkle drains from your social life. Instead of appreciating your friends, you start taking them for granted. I noticed I was beginning to fall into this trap last year, so I knew it was time to shuffle the deck and rebalance this part of my life. The problem with Facebook is that it greatly unbalanced the social part of my life, skewing it in the direction of spending lots of time with people nearly half my age. This dragged my thinking backwards in terms of maturity. When I dropped Facebook, my social life began to rebalance itself automatically. This is causing other positive ripples as well. Many problems are easier to solve when you approach them with a 40-something’s discipline or a 50-something’s patience as opposed to a 20-something’s youthful energy. Ask yourself what your life would be like if 80-90% of your social interactions were with people roughly half your age. Can you see how that might unbalance your social life? For many years this has been a challenging part of my life to balance. It took a while to recognize and accept that my online “friends” and my best in-person friends come from different pools and move in different circles. Most of my Facebook “friends” wouldn’t have been very compatible as in-person friends. We wouldn’t have had enough in common to develop a particularly deep friendship, and the interactions would have been too unbalanced. So it seems odd to refer to them as friends in the same way I’d refer to my in-person friends. I’ve learned the hard way that I can’t just fill up my social bucket with an endless supply of 20-something friends and expect good results, even if they’re very intelligent, growth-oriented, open-hearted 20-somethings. This kind of imbalance happens by default when I leave too many doors and windows open since the bulk of my online readership is in their 20s. If I allow too many of my typical readers to become my friends, my social life becomes unbalanced and stagnant, even as it maintains the illusion of freshness. It took a long time to recognize that this was happening. In order to rebalance this part of my life, I’ve had to deliberately close some of those accessible avenues, such that I can spend more time connecting with people who can add serious value to my life and help me keep growing (peers, mentors, etc). I like having some 20-something friends, but I can’t have hundreds of them. So that’s one reason Facebook really had to go — using Facebook was a lame attempt on my part to expect that my peers would come from the same pool as my readers. Facebook is ruled by addicts. This is probably obvious, but the Facebook “friends” that you’ll interact with most frequently will tend to be those who are the most addicted. They post more status updates and comments because they spend a lot of time on the service. So you end up giving the most attention to those who are the greatest addicts. In short, you end up spending the most time interacting with the people who are the worst influences — highly unproductive people who don’t value their time. This can have many adverse effects, such as causing you to become more addicted to the service and to feel the urge to post more often just for the sake of posting. If your strongest connections on Facebook are the most addicted, how is that going to influence you over time? The closer you become with those people, the more you’ll get sucked into spending more time on the service. After I left Facebook, I asked myself, Should I really be giving so much attention to the greatest social networking addicts? While even the biggest addicts can be very intelligent, helpful, and growth-oriented, their addiction tends to sap their ambition, causing them to make little forward progress in life. It should come as no surprise that many of these people are financially stagnant. It’s hard to improve your finances when you devote so much time to non-income generating activities each day. When I dropped Facebook, I also dropped off the radar of some of the biggest social networking addicts. I’m no longer subject to their influence, which was probably stronger than I’d care to admit. Breaking free of this cycle was a wise choice. I should have done it sooner. Facebook is lazy socialization. Social networking makes it easy to become socially lazy. With a few clicks, you can delude yourself into thinking you have an active social life. But is that the real story? Are you enjoying some intelligent face time with these friends? Or are you merely exchanging witty banter? Do you deeply value these friendships? Are you having the social experiences you desire? Or are you just wasting time clicking and typing and telling yourself you’re being social? What else could you be doing instead of social networking? You could go dancing or see a show with your boyfriend or girlfriend. No one special in your life? Wonder why… A person with halfway decent social skills can change that in a day. Has the Internet become your social hiding place? Does the thought of going outside and socializing with strangers make you anxious? If so, you can overcome that weakness with practice. You could have a nice chat with a wealthy mentor about how to improve your finances. No wealthy friends? Think you’re going to meet them on Facebook? It’s a good idea to pause and take a look at your social results. Has social networking transformed your life for the better? Has it helped bring empowering relationships, valuable contacts, and intelligent mentors into your life? Or does it leave you drifting in a sea of social drifters? I found that spending more time on Facebook didn’t produce much value for me socially. I did make some interesting contacts now and then, but it wasn’t worth the time spent. It’s true that in-person networking is more challenging. If your social skills are weak, you can pretend to be a social butterfly online just by throwing a lot of time at it. But you’re still going to be limited in the long run by your ability to connect with people face to face. Make sure you don’t let your social skills atrophy to the point where you end up spending more and more time alone, vainly trying to feed the illusion that you have a real social life. Be sure to keep challenging yourself socially. If you only do what’s easy, you’ll grow weaker with each passing year. Facebook is an expensive way to increase visibility. I know there’s a great deal of hype about the business value of social networking. Much of that hype is circulated by those who are trying to make money from it. Be wary of taking advice about gold from those who make a living selling picks and shovels. From a business standpoint, one supposed benefit of social networking is that it can raise your visibility. Raising your visibility is great. If you’re more visible (among the right people), you can attract more business. That part is all good. But not all visibility-raising methods are the same. If you use Facebook to raise your visibility, it comes with a hefty price. As you raise your visibility, you also increase your accessibility. For example, if you have a Facebook page, then you also have an inbox. At this time Facebook makes it impossible to disable the inbox. People can email you there. People I’d never met would email me on Facebook each day. Why? Because they could. Facebook made it easy for them to do so. They didn’t need my permission. Facebook would even let non-friends email me whenever they felt like it. Maybe that’s a bug, but that’s how it worked from my perspective. If you have a Facebook page with a wall on it, then people can post comments on your wall. If you have a fan page, someone can “like” your fan page, spam your wall, and then “unlike” your fan page, and it’s impossible to ban them from repeated abuse. You just have to deal with it. At low numbers, more accessibility isn’t so bad. Maybe you’d like the chance to communicate with more people. That’s all fine. At higher numbers, the visibility-accessibility linkage becomes untenable. The more visible you are on Facebook, the more people have access to interact with you in some way, whether it’s by sending you private messages, posting messages on your wall, or inviting you to events and groups. Beyond a certain point, this kind of contact becomes impractical to deal with in any meaningful way. I like that Facebook may have helped to increase my visibility by introducing people to my work who might otherwise never have learned about it. However, the price tag for that gain in visibility is a corresponding increase in accessibility. That price turned out to be way too high for me. I like helping people, but I can’t serve as a personal friend and therapist to thousands of individuals. That isn’t a sustainable way for me to contribute. When I dropped Facebook, I breathed a major sigh of relief. In a way I’m still sighing 30 days later. It really is a great relief not to be so accessible anymore. I finally feel like I have the space to think about what I desire to contribute of my own accord instead of feeling overwhelmed with an endless flood of requests from others. The visibility gains that Facebook provides just aren’t worth the price. There are much easier and more effective ways to build visibility that don’t yield an accessibility penalty, such as doing interviews. What About Twitter? As for my Twitter account, the jury’s still out, but for now I’m still using it. Twitter doesn’t create the same accessibility problem because by following zero people there, I’m not forced to have an inbox on the service. Even if I did have an inbox, it wouldn’t be bad because people could only send 140-character messages. But I find it best not to have an inbox there at all, so I never need to worry about people expecting me to reply to their direct messages. A few people apparently consider it poor Twitter etiquette to have thousands of followers and not follow anyone back. I don’t lose any sleep over it. Occasionally I’ll skim through the public messages that people address to me, especially if I posted a question for feedback purposes, but I normally don’t pay much attention to the @stevepavlina replies since they’re mostly re-tweets of my own stuff. So if you tried to get my attention by publicly posting a message to me on Twitter, there’s a good chance I never saw it. For now I’m okay using Twitter for posting broadcast-style messages because Twitter doesn’t force upon me the scaling headaches that Facebook does. If I double my Twitter followers, the service doesn’t require me to spend any more time there to keep my account tidy. I nuked my Linkedin account at the same time I left Facebook. Linkedin is supposed to be a business networking service, and I had about 350 contacts there, but I always found that service utterly useless, so it was a no-brainer to dump it. Try a 30-Day Facebook Fast If you have any doubts about your own Facebook usage, I highly recommend you to try a 30-day Facebook fast. It’s easy to do this because Facebook lets you (temporarily or permanently) deactivate your account without deleting your data. So if you decide you want to go back to using it later, you can always log back in again, and everything can be restored with a few clicks, including your wall, photos, etc. As for the how-to, all you do is login to your Facebook account, and click Account -> Account Settings. Then at the bottom of that page, click “deactivate.” Follow the instructions from there. This won’t delete your data, but it will take your profile offline. You’ll become invisible on the service. To restore it later, just login again and click a similar link to bring it back. If you really want to stay in touch with certain people from Facebook who don’t already have an alternate means of contacting you, you can send them a private message before you deactivate your account to let them know how to reach you during your hiatus. I’m a big advocate of testing. If you’re an active Facebook user, and you go 30 days without it, you’ll gain a much clearer understanding of its role in your life. In my case it was obvious within a few days that the benefits I got from using it weren’t worth the effort, but there were other subtleties I didn’t notice until weeks later. This is your life. It’s up to you to ensure that you’re getting good value from your online activities. Don’t just go through the motions because you’ve been conditioned by some service to behave a certain way. As for myself, I’m sure it’s obvious that I have no plans to return to Facebook. Resistance is NOT futile. *** hugs *** 
    Jul 12, 2011 776
  • 12 Jul 2011
    In his recent book Manifesting for Non-Gurus, Robert MacPhee contrasts two different methods for making your desires a reality. The first method is to define your outcome and then dive right into massive action. Adjust your approach along the way, and keep going until you get there. This approach is easy to begin, but as Robert points out, you’ll typically run into serious resistance down the road. Very often such goals get derailed long before they’re achieved. Sound familiar? The second method, and the basis of Robert’s book, consists of 5 steps: Ask and answer the question Who am I? Ask and answer the question What am I intending to attract? Ask and answer the question How will I feel (when I experience what I intend to attract)? Let go of attachments Take inspired action With this second method, you don’t set an intention or a goal until the second step. Who Are You? What I like about Robert’s method is that it begins with deepening your sense of self. When it comes to setting new goals or defining their desires, lots of people struggle to figure out what they want. They focus on the external aspects of manifesting or goal achievement, and they get stuck because they don’t know how to choose between the limitless possibilities of what can be created in the external world. One reason people struggle here is that they don’t have a very strong sense of self. So they latch onto desires that come mainly from external influences, but those desires may not align with the person’s best self image. Earlier this month I attended a 3-day conference for entrepreneurs. As I expected for this kind of event, it was heavy on the product pitches and upselling. After each speaker finished presenting, some attendees would go to the back of the room and buy whatever the speaker was pitching. But how many of the people who bought those products are really going to follow through? If they were to ask the question Who am I? and answer it seriously, would part of their answer truly be, “I’m a successful real estate investor”? If not, then why did they spend $500 on a real estate investing program? For a fraction of those purchases, perhaps there is a strong alignment between the product and the customer. But the rest of those people were most likely acting on impulses that don’t align with their inner selves, and the result will be predictable — a year later that same info product will still be in the shrink wrap. The worst part is that some of those people will beat themselves up for lacking the discipline to follow through on their purchases, when their real mistake was that they made a bad purchase that didn’t align with who they really are. Instead of making a conscious and intelligent choice, they got sold. Their desire was dictated by an outside influence. How many bad decisions of a similar nature have you made over the years? What’s piled up in your closets, garage, hard drive, etc? External Influences It’s very easy to set goals and intentions that don’t align with who you are. This is a very common trap, so don’t feel bad if you’ve been stung a lot. There are certainly plenty of marketers who will influence you to make unwise decisions. Just turn on the TV, and there will be people trying to influence you one way or another. Or simply go out and talk to people. You’ll be subjected to external influences automatically. Not all of them are profit-driven or sales oriented. Even friends and family can influence you to do things that don’t really align with who you are. Those influences aren’t going away. They’re always going to be present in your life to some degree. But when it comes time to set some serious goals and intentions for yourself, this is when you need to step back from those influences and be present with yourself. Even though you can’t entirely escape external influence — short of moving to a deserted island, that is — you can take steps to limit your exposure by turning down the volume, so to speak. This is one reason I decided to shut down my online contact form last year, and it also played a role in my decision to quit Facebook last month. I wasn’t trying to run away and be anti-social. I love interacting with people, especially the growth-oriented people who tend to reach out to me. However, things got to the point where so many external influences were urging me to go in different directions (write about this, speak about that, help me with this) that I began to feel like a pinball in a pinball machine. I felt that I was inviting in so many external influences that I was losing touch with my inner guidance. It became difficult to listen to myself and to make good decisions because my mind was constantly cluttered with thoughts injected by other people. I felt busier than usual but less productive at the same time. Some external influences can be very positive, but the total summation of lots of disparate influences isn’t usually harmonious. It can be quite discordant in fact. Imagine what your life would be like if you tried to say yes to all the external influences that request something of you. Your mind would be overwhelmed withshoulds. Often we soak up these influences subconsciously without even realizing what’s happening. Then when we sit down to get clear about our goals and intentions, we end up regurgitating some of those external influences as if they’re our own goals. Our intentions become cluttered with too many items that aren’t a good match for who we really are on the inside. How Do You Feel? Step 3 of Robert’s process is to ask yourself how you’ll feel when your intention becomes a reality. This takes some careful thought. The surface impression may be, “I’d feel happier.” But if we consider the full range of consequences of the intention, the true answer may not be so rosy. When we make a mistake, then we usually discover the truth of our feelings later on — when we try to take action. We may also suffer from mixed feelings that lead to self-sabotage and procrastination. Our feelings can be a powerful guide to our true selves. They can be very difficult to decipher, but overall they do a pretty good job of pointing us in the right direction, if we stop and take the time to listen to them carefully. Socially I love to interact with people who read my work, but when I had so many communication channels open for people to contact me (my online contact form, Facebook, Twitter, our discussion forums, live workshops, in-person meet-ups when traveling), it got to be overwhelming. The external influences mostly pushed me in the direction of being more accessible.You should have a Facebook page. Add a fan page too. Have more meet-ups. Post more inspirational tweets. Write another book. Do an interview with me. And so on. That seemed like a reasonably positive direction at first. Accessibility is a good thing, isn’t it? Surely it’s better than inaccessibility, right? But when I actually followed this path, my feeling about it became less and less harmonious. Sometimes I liked it. It really is nice to connect with so many cool people. But sometimes I felt poorly about it. The communication seemed endless and overwhelming. I didn’t like having to perform so much triage just to keep up. I felt conflicted. Was I on the right path with all of this accessibility, or was it a mistake? I couldn’t really make sense of those feelings because the volume of the external influences in my life created so much mental clutter that if I tried to tune in to mytrue self, I’d most likely hear other people’s thoughts playing back to me. It was hard to tell which thoughts were really my own. Do you have any situations in your life right now where you’re suffering from mixed feelings? Are you facing a difficult “Should I stay or should I go?” type of decision? It could be that the reason you struggle to find clarity is that you’re being bombarded by discordant external influences, making it nearly impossible to discern which thoughts are really yours. Is This Really Who I Am? When you notice that some part of your life doesn’t quite feel right, I think it’s wise to pause for a moment and get in touch with your true self. But in order to do that, you may need to turn down the volume of external influences. When I finally turned off enough of the external input that was coming at me each day, a wonderful thing happened. First, I felt relieved. After a few weeks, I began to experience much greater mental clarity about my goals and intentions. Planning ahead became significantly easier. My workflow sped up. As the noise died down, I could clearly see which new goals and intentions were congruent with my true self and which were more like thought injections being pushed upon me from the outside in. I often like to do a simple meditation where I visualize a room with two chairs facing each other. I imagine myself sitting in one chair, and I invite my highest and best self to sit in the other chair. Sometimes I invite my future self, the version of me that’s 5 years older. This works well either way, but lately I’ve been getting the best results by tuning into an alternate-reality version of my present self. His reality is the one in which I’m the happiest and most fulfilled. The most important element of this meditation is that I’m consulting with another version of myself that I feel is wiser in some way. Then I imagine having a chat with my other self. The main value in this exercise isn’t about getting specific answers to questions. The value lies in connecting with my true self and getting a better sense of who he really is. What kind of a man is he? What does he value most? When I understand who my best self is, then I have a clearer sense of the man I wish to become. This understanding makes it easier to set good goals and intentions. When I set goals with this level of understanding, I’m more likely to follow through on them because they’re well aligned with the kind of man I most desire to be. They may be very difficult goals, but I’m less likely to experience self-doubt about my desire for them. I just know they’re right for me. An example of such a goal was when I decided to quit the computer gaming industry in 2004 and start a new personal development website. Obviously that turned out pretty well. Because the goal was aligned with my best self, I didn’t suffer from self-doubt. I knew it was the right path for me to pursue. My lower self likes to ask What should I do? But each time I ask that question, I get different answers, depending on which external influences happen to be the loudest or most infectious at that time. I find that a better question to ask is: What would he do? where “he” refers to my best self. When considering different possible paths, I can ask myself, Does this help me align more closely with my best self? If the answer is no or probably not, then I know it’s a path I should reject. If I pursue such a path, I won’t feel good about it, I’ll doubt myself often, and I’ll encounter a lot of resistance along the way. But if it’s a path that does align well with my higher self, then I tend to experience wonderful flow and fulfillment. The key idea here is to set goals and intentions very carefully. You can waste a lot of time and suffer unnecessary frustration if you try to pursue a path that doesn’t align with the person you most desire to be. Embracing Paradox When I imagine my best possible self, I love what I see. He has all the qualities that I value most. He’s strong, disciplined, confident, and brave, but he’s also loving, caring, compassionate, and gentle. He’s tenacious but flexible. He’s brilliant but intensely curious. He’s focused but spontaneous. He keeps his life simple, but he gets a lot done. He prefers a lifestyle far from the norm, but he can still connect well with people. In my present day reality, I often struggle to balance these different aspects. My best self, however, is able to blend them harmoniously into a perfect whole. The more I take the time to understand who he is and how he’s able to integrate all these seemingly paradoxical qualities, the more clarity I have about my own path of self-development. A while back I was hanging out with a good friend who’s a successful tech investor. At one point during our conversation, he said to me, “Steve, you’re a bit of a paradox. I mean… on the one hand, you’re a successful entrepreneur, and you’re also very smart. But on the other hand, you’re not an asshole like many other entrepreneurs and smart people I know. You actually care about people, and in-person you’re very friendly and easy to talk to, but most people who are like that can’t build a successful business that makes money.” Then he went on to explain how he considers himself a paradox as well, and he explained how it helps him to embrace these seemingly conflicted elements. I think the real truth is that the paradox is only an illusion. External influences condition us to believe that we have to be one way or another. Fictional characters such as what we see in movies and TV are often depicted in ways that make us think that if we develop some positive qualities, then we must sacrifice others. Real human beings are richer and more complex than any fictional character, no matter how well developed that character is. If we aim to be strong and powerful and successful, then supposedly we must be less loving, less caring, and more cold-hearted. If we want to be heart-centered and loving, we must be less ambitious. If we want to be very disciplined, we can’t be impulsive or spontaneous. Have you ever bought into such nonsense? I certainly have. For example, if I post a tough love article, then according to the feedback, I must be a hard-ass kind of guy… since obviously only that type of man would write such an article. It amuses me to think there are people who actually believe that’s the kind of person I am, as if I go around every day trying to do everything in a tough-guy manner. If I post a compassionate and heart-centered article, then the feedback tries to get me to believe that I must be a very sensitive man… since obviously only such a man would write something like that. But to those who’ve already concluded I’m a hard-ass, then I must be having an off day.  I think the apparent paradox isn’t really a paradox at all. The truth is that good qualities can blend together beautifully, just like different instruments can be used to create delightful music. You don’t have to choose between being a percussion instrument and a string instrument. You can be both at the same time. After my last blog post about the survey, someone posted in the forum discussion thread, “Who are you, and what have you done with Steve?” Apparently my character isn’t allowed to conduct surveys. I apologize for going against my programming. This really is the sort of programming that gets injected into our minds, often without our conscious awareness. Others expect us to behave a certain way, and they communicate their expectations to us, either directly or indirectly. Over time their expectations mesh with our dominant thoughts, and their expectations become our expectations of ourselves. At some point it’s a good idea to back away from all these influences, clear your mind, and get to know the beautiful paradox that is your true self. The more you understand that person, the easier it is to set goals and intentions that are achievable — and enjoyable — for you. The Practical Benefits of Self-Knowing When you deepen your connection to your higher self, you gain many real-world practical benefits. One very powerful benefit is that you can get yourself unstuck where you’ve previously felt stuck. For many years in my marriage to Erin, I struggled with the decision Should we stay together or break up? No matter how much I thought about it, journaled about it, or sought advice, I couldn’t get to a place of clarity about it. Why couldn’t I get clear? Perhaps the main reason was that I was paying too much attention to what other people thought. My mind was cluttered with input from Erin, from friends and family, from authors I’d read, from people whose opinions I respected. Some of that was direct feedback, and some was just a general impression of how the other person would likely react. But those external influences were incongruent. Some said stay. Some said go. It was impossible to weigh them against each other or find peace among them. They could never agree. Since these outer influences had infected my thinking, I couldn’t achieve any real clarity within my mind. I always felt internally conflicted, when the truth was that I was infected with too much thinking that wasn’t my own. What got me past this place of stuckness was to pull back from allowing outside influences to get into my mind. I took time to deepen my connection to my best self. I didn’t ask him whether Erin and I should break up or not. I knew that would be a bad question to ask that would just bring up all the mental clutter again. Instead, I took the time to understand the kind of man he was — the kind of man I desired to become. Fortunately, this was relatively uncluttered territory because I didn’t have many external influences telling me what kind of man I should be in great detail. Once I understood who my best self was, I set a new intention from that base of clarity. I intended to attract into my life relationships that were congruent with my becoming my best self. I remained open to the possibility that my marriage might be transformed into that kind of relationship, and I also accepted that I might be guided to pursue a different path. This led to some tumultuous changes, and the outcome wasn’t what I expected, but it certainly took me down a path that helped me do a better job of aligning with my best self. I didn’t achieve perfection of course, but it’s definitely been a step forward, and I’ve been happier and more fulfilled as a result. Taking Action When you really get to know yourself, and you set goals and intentions from that place of knowing, it’s easier to take action because you’ll feel a positive pressure to get moving. If the action part seems unreasonably difficult or if your intention seems to be lost in limbo with no signs of manifesting, perhaps you picked a bad goal to begin with. What’s the point in setting a goal anyway? Why bother to invest so much effort into it? The point is to use goals to more fully become your best self. When I look back on all the goals I’ve set and achieved, the real gain is how my goals sculpted me as a person. Those are the best payoffs. If I didn’t set and pursue goals vigorously, I’d be more fearful, timid, shy, and socially awkward. I’d be less energetic. I’d be lazier. I’d be less confident in myself. My self-esteem would be much lower. I wouldn’t care about people as much. I’d be more focused on survival than contribution. I’d be a hell of a lot less happy. Take a look at your best self. What is s/he like? Can you clearly describe your best self’s character, personality, attitude, and beliefs? Do you notice the contrast between your current self and your best self? When you see the contrast, use it to set new goals and intentions that will help you align with your best self. If you see that your best self is braver than your current self, set a goal that will compel you to face your fears and build your courage muscles. If you see that your best self is more friendly and social than your current self, hold the intention to develop better social skills. Go out more. Set goals that will compel you to socialize more. Join a club. If you see that your best self enjoys great abundance while your current self wallows in scarcity, ask your best self how s/he got there. What goals could you set to create more abundance in your life? What bad habits could you release? The answers are inside you. But sometimes in order to hear them clearly, you have to tell the rest of the world, Shut the hell up! 
    758 Posted by UniqueThis
  • In his recent book Manifesting for Non-Gurus, Robert MacPhee contrasts two different methods for making your desires a reality. The first method is to define your outcome and then dive right into massive action. Adjust your approach along the way, and keep going until you get there. This approach is easy to begin, but as Robert points out, you’ll typically run into serious resistance down the road. Very often such goals get derailed long before they’re achieved. Sound familiar? The second method, and the basis of Robert’s book, consists of 5 steps: Ask and answer the question Who am I? Ask and answer the question What am I intending to attract? Ask and answer the question How will I feel (when I experience what I intend to attract)? Let go of attachments Take inspired action With this second method, you don’t set an intention or a goal until the second step. Who Are You? What I like about Robert’s method is that it begins with deepening your sense of self. When it comes to setting new goals or defining their desires, lots of people struggle to figure out what they want. They focus on the external aspects of manifesting or goal achievement, and they get stuck because they don’t know how to choose between the limitless possibilities of what can be created in the external world. One reason people struggle here is that they don’t have a very strong sense of self. So they latch onto desires that come mainly from external influences, but those desires may not align with the person’s best self image. Earlier this month I attended a 3-day conference for entrepreneurs. As I expected for this kind of event, it was heavy on the product pitches and upselling. After each speaker finished presenting, some attendees would go to the back of the room and buy whatever the speaker was pitching. But how many of the people who bought those products are really going to follow through? If they were to ask the question Who am I? and answer it seriously, would part of their answer truly be, “I’m a successful real estate investor”? If not, then why did they spend $500 on a real estate investing program? For a fraction of those purchases, perhaps there is a strong alignment between the product and the customer. But the rest of those people were most likely acting on impulses that don’t align with their inner selves, and the result will be predictable — a year later that same info product will still be in the shrink wrap. The worst part is that some of those people will beat themselves up for lacking the discipline to follow through on their purchases, when their real mistake was that they made a bad purchase that didn’t align with who they really are. Instead of making a conscious and intelligent choice, they got sold. Their desire was dictated by an outside influence. How many bad decisions of a similar nature have you made over the years? What’s piled up in your closets, garage, hard drive, etc? External Influences It’s very easy to set goals and intentions that don’t align with who you are. This is a very common trap, so don’t feel bad if you’ve been stung a lot. There are certainly plenty of marketers who will influence you to make unwise decisions. Just turn on the TV, and there will be people trying to influence you one way or another. Or simply go out and talk to people. You’ll be subjected to external influences automatically. Not all of them are profit-driven or sales oriented. Even friends and family can influence you to do things that don’t really align with who you are. Those influences aren’t going away. They’re always going to be present in your life to some degree. But when it comes time to set some serious goals and intentions for yourself, this is when you need to step back from those influences and be present with yourself. Even though you can’t entirely escape external influence — short of moving to a deserted island, that is — you can take steps to limit your exposure by turning down the volume, so to speak. This is one reason I decided to shut down my online contact form last year, and it also played a role in my decision to quit Facebook last month. I wasn’t trying to run away and be anti-social. I love interacting with people, especially the growth-oriented people who tend to reach out to me. However, things got to the point where so many external influences were urging me to go in different directions (write about this, speak about that, help me with this) that I began to feel like a pinball in a pinball machine. I felt that I was inviting in so many external influences that I was losing touch with my inner guidance. It became difficult to listen to myself and to make good decisions because my mind was constantly cluttered with thoughts injected by other people. I felt busier than usual but less productive at the same time. Some external influences can be very positive, but the total summation of lots of disparate influences isn’t usually harmonious. It can be quite discordant in fact. Imagine what your life would be like if you tried to say yes to all the external influences that request something of you. Your mind would be overwhelmed withshoulds. Often we soak up these influences subconsciously without even realizing what’s happening. Then when we sit down to get clear about our goals and intentions, we end up regurgitating some of those external influences as if they’re our own goals. Our intentions become cluttered with too many items that aren’t a good match for who we really are on the inside. How Do You Feel? Step 3 of Robert’s process is to ask yourself how you’ll feel when your intention becomes a reality. This takes some careful thought. The surface impression may be, “I’d feel happier.” But if we consider the full range of consequences of the intention, the true answer may not be so rosy. When we make a mistake, then we usually discover the truth of our feelings later on — when we try to take action. We may also suffer from mixed feelings that lead to self-sabotage and procrastination. Our feelings can be a powerful guide to our true selves. They can be very difficult to decipher, but overall they do a pretty good job of pointing us in the right direction, if we stop and take the time to listen to them carefully. Socially I love to interact with people who read my work, but when I had so many communication channels open for people to contact me (my online contact form, Facebook, Twitter, our discussion forums, live workshops, in-person meet-ups when traveling), it got to be overwhelming. The external influences mostly pushed me in the direction of being more accessible.You should have a Facebook page. Add a fan page too. Have more meet-ups. Post more inspirational tweets. Write another book. Do an interview with me. And so on. That seemed like a reasonably positive direction at first. Accessibility is a good thing, isn’t it? Surely it’s better than inaccessibility, right? But when I actually followed this path, my feeling about it became less and less harmonious. Sometimes I liked it. It really is nice to connect with so many cool people. But sometimes I felt poorly about it. The communication seemed endless and overwhelming. I didn’t like having to perform so much triage just to keep up. I felt conflicted. Was I on the right path with all of this accessibility, or was it a mistake? I couldn’t really make sense of those feelings because the volume of the external influences in my life created so much mental clutter that if I tried to tune in to mytrue self, I’d most likely hear other people’s thoughts playing back to me. It was hard to tell which thoughts were really my own. Do you have any situations in your life right now where you’re suffering from mixed feelings? Are you facing a difficult “Should I stay or should I go?” type of decision? It could be that the reason you struggle to find clarity is that you’re being bombarded by discordant external influences, making it nearly impossible to discern which thoughts are really yours. Is This Really Who I Am? When you notice that some part of your life doesn’t quite feel right, I think it’s wise to pause for a moment and get in touch with your true self. But in order to do that, you may need to turn down the volume of external influences. When I finally turned off enough of the external input that was coming at me each day, a wonderful thing happened. First, I felt relieved. After a few weeks, I began to experience much greater mental clarity about my goals and intentions. Planning ahead became significantly easier. My workflow sped up. As the noise died down, I could clearly see which new goals and intentions were congruent with my true self and which were more like thought injections being pushed upon me from the outside in. I often like to do a simple meditation where I visualize a room with two chairs facing each other. I imagine myself sitting in one chair, and I invite my highest and best self to sit in the other chair. Sometimes I invite my future self, the version of me that’s 5 years older. This works well either way, but lately I’ve been getting the best results by tuning into an alternate-reality version of my present self. His reality is the one in which I’m the happiest and most fulfilled. The most important element of this meditation is that I’m consulting with another version of myself that I feel is wiser in some way. Then I imagine having a chat with my other self. The main value in this exercise isn’t about getting specific answers to questions. The value lies in connecting with my true self and getting a better sense of who he really is. What kind of a man is he? What does he value most? When I understand who my best self is, then I have a clearer sense of the man I wish to become. This understanding makes it easier to set good goals and intentions. When I set goals with this level of understanding, I’m more likely to follow through on them because they’re well aligned with the kind of man I most desire to be. They may be very difficult goals, but I’m less likely to experience self-doubt about my desire for them. I just know they’re right for me. An example of such a goal was when I decided to quit the computer gaming industry in 2004 and start a new personal development website. Obviously that turned out pretty well. Because the goal was aligned with my best self, I didn’t suffer from self-doubt. I knew it was the right path for me to pursue. My lower self likes to ask What should I do? But each time I ask that question, I get different answers, depending on which external influences happen to be the loudest or most infectious at that time. I find that a better question to ask is: What would he do? where “he” refers to my best self. When considering different possible paths, I can ask myself, Does this help me align more closely with my best self? If the answer is no or probably not, then I know it’s a path I should reject. If I pursue such a path, I won’t feel good about it, I’ll doubt myself often, and I’ll encounter a lot of resistance along the way. But if it’s a path that does align well with my higher self, then I tend to experience wonderful flow and fulfillment. The key idea here is to set goals and intentions very carefully. You can waste a lot of time and suffer unnecessary frustration if you try to pursue a path that doesn’t align with the person you most desire to be. Embracing Paradox When I imagine my best possible self, I love what I see. He has all the qualities that I value most. He’s strong, disciplined, confident, and brave, but he’s also loving, caring, compassionate, and gentle. He’s tenacious but flexible. He’s brilliant but intensely curious. He’s focused but spontaneous. He keeps his life simple, but he gets a lot done. He prefers a lifestyle far from the norm, but he can still connect well with people. In my present day reality, I often struggle to balance these different aspects. My best self, however, is able to blend them harmoniously into a perfect whole. The more I take the time to understand who he is and how he’s able to integrate all these seemingly paradoxical qualities, the more clarity I have about my own path of self-development. A while back I was hanging out with a good friend who’s a successful tech investor. At one point during our conversation, he said to me, “Steve, you’re a bit of a paradox. I mean… on the one hand, you’re a successful entrepreneur, and you’re also very smart. But on the other hand, you’re not an asshole like many other entrepreneurs and smart people I know. You actually care about people, and in-person you’re very friendly and easy to talk to, but most people who are like that can’t build a successful business that makes money.” Then he went on to explain how he considers himself a paradox as well, and he explained how it helps him to embrace these seemingly conflicted elements. I think the real truth is that the paradox is only an illusion. External influences condition us to believe that we have to be one way or another. Fictional characters such as what we see in movies and TV are often depicted in ways that make us think that if we develop some positive qualities, then we must sacrifice others. Real human beings are richer and more complex than any fictional character, no matter how well developed that character is. If we aim to be strong and powerful and successful, then supposedly we must be less loving, less caring, and more cold-hearted. If we want to be heart-centered and loving, we must be less ambitious. If we want to be very disciplined, we can’t be impulsive or spontaneous. Have you ever bought into such nonsense? I certainly have. For example, if I post a tough love article, then according to the feedback, I must be a hard-ass kind of guy… since obviously only that type of man would write such an article. It amuses me to think there are people who actually believe that’s the kind of person I am, as if I go around every day trying to do everything in a tough-guy manner. If I post a compassionate and heart-centered article, then the feedback tries to get me to believe that I must be a very sensitive man… since obviously only such a man would write something like that. But to those who’ve already concluded I’m a hard-ass, then I must be having an off day.  I think the apparent paradox isn’t really a paradox at all. The truth is that good qualities can blend together beautifully, just like different instruments can be used to create delightful music. You don’t have to choose between being a percussion instrument and a string instrument. You can be both at the same time. After my last blog post about the survey, someone posted in the forum discussion thread, “Who are you, and what have you done with Steve?” Apparently my character isn’t allowed to conduct surveys. I apologize for going against my programming. This really is the sort of programming that gets injected into our minds, often without our conscious awareness. Others expect us to behave a certain way, and they communicate their expectations to us, either directly or indirectly. Over time their expectations mesh with our dominant thoughts, and their expectations become our expectations of ourselves. At some point it’s a good idea to back away from all these influences, clear your mind, and get to know the beautiful paradox that is your true self. The more you understand that person, the easier it is to set goals and intentions that are achievable — and enjoyable — for you. The Practical Benefits of Self-Knowing When you deepen your connection to your higher self, you gain many real-world practical benefits. One very powerful benefit is that you can get yourself unstuck where you’ve previously felt stuck. For many years in my marriage to Erin, I struggled with the decision Should we stay together or break up? No matter how much I thought about it, journaled about it, or sought advice, I couldn’t get to a place of clarity about it. Why couldn’t I get clear? Perhaps the main reason was that I was paying too much attention to what other people thought. My mind was cluttered with input from Erin, from friends and family, from authors I’d read, from people whose opinions I respected. Some of that was direct feedback, and some was just a general impression of how the other person would likely react. But those external influences were incongruent. Some said stay. Some said go. It was impossible to weigh them against each other or find peace among them. They could never agree. Since these outer influences had infected my thinking, I couldn’t achieve any real clarity within my mind. I always felt internally conflicted, when the truth was that I was infected with too much thinking that wasn’t my own. What got me past this place of stuckness was to pull back from allowing outside influences to get into my mind. I took time to deepen my connection to my best self. I didn’t ask him whether Erin and I should break up or not. I knew that would be a bad question to ask that would just bring up all the mental clutter again. Instead, I took the time to understand the kind of man he was — the kind of man I desired to become. Fortunately, this was relatively uncluttered territory because I didn’t have many external influences telling me what kind of man I should be in great detail. Once I understood who my best self was, I set a new intention from that base of clarity. I intended to attract into my life relationships that were congruent with my becoming my best self. I remained open to the possibility that my marriage might be transformed into that kind of relationship, and I also accepted that I might be guided to pursue a different path. This led to some tumultuous changes, and the outcome wasn’t what I expected, but it certainly took me down a path that helped me do a better job of aligning with my best self. I didn’t achieve perfection of course, but it’s definitely been a step forward, and I’ve been happier and more fulfilled as a result. Taking Action When you really get to know yourself, and you set goals and intentions from that place of knowing, it’s easier to take action because you’ll feel a positive pressure to get moving. If the action part seems unreasonably difficult or if your intention seems to be lost in limbo with no signs of manifesting, perhaps you picked a bad goal to begin with. What’s the point in setting a goal anyway? Why bother to invest so much effort into it? The point is to use goals to more fully become your best self. When I look back on all the goals I’ve set and achieved, the real gain is how my goals sculpted me as a person. Those are the best payoffs. If I didn’t set and pursue goals vigorously, I’d be more fearful, timid, shy, and socially awkward. I’d be less energetic. I’d be lazier. I’d be less confident in myself. My self-esteem would be much lower. I wouldn’t care about people as much. I’d be more focused on survival than contribution. I’d be a hell of a lot less happy. Take a look at your best self. What is s/he like? Can you clearly describe your best self’s character, personality, attitude, and beliefs? Do you notice the contrast between your current self and your best self? When you see the contrast, use it to set new goals and intentions that will help you align with your best self. If you see that your best self is braver than your current self, set a goal that will compel you to face your fears and build your courage muscles. If you see that your best self is more friendly and social than your current self, hold the intention to develop better social skills. Go out more. Set goals that will compel you to socialize more. Join a club. If you see that your best self enjoys great abundance while your current self wallows in scarcity, ask your best self how s/he got there. What goals could you set to create more abundance in your life? What bad habits could you release? The answers are inside you. But sometimes in order to hear them clearly, you have to tell the rest of the world, Shut the hell up! 
    Jul 12, 2011 758
  • 12 Jul 2011
    Lately I’ve been on a happiness kick. I’ve been going over various projects, activities, and aspects of my lifestyle and asking myself, Does this really make me happy? Many people say that happiness comes from within, and while that’s true in the long run, there’s also an experiential side of happiness. I’m sure you’ll agree that some experiences put a smile on your face more than others. It may be a learned response in most cases, but there’s still an effect. Even money can contribute to happiness to an extent. You’d probably be happier receiving an unexpected financial gift as opposed to an unexpected bill. So I’ve been looking at some recurring activities in my life and asking myself if they’re positively contributing to my long-term happiness. As I’ve been going through this process, I’ve been making a lot of changes, and they’re really beginning to add up. My daily rhythms changed quite a bit in the past six months or so. Identifying and Eliminating Dead Weight One of the easiest places to begin was to start identifying and eliminating dead weight. These are activities that aren’t really too debatable — I’m pretty clear that they aren’t doing much to increase my long-term happiness. They may generate some momentary pleasure, but in the long run, the gains are probably neutral or negative. Or they might be only marginally positive, such that it’s easy to see that there are better ways to spend my time. Here are some of the bigger dead weight items I’ve identified and have dealt with so far: Email – I used to spend a lot of time processing email, but when I asked myself if it was contributing to my happiness, that was an easy no. While I haven’t eliminated it entirely, I have reduced my email volume by at least 95% during the past year. Now I typically receive less than 10 emails per day, and most of it is personal and comes from just a handful of people I’m close to. I wouldn’t say this change did much to increase my happiness directly, but it did give me a sense of relief. I experience less stress and overwhelm as a result of not feeling that communication obligations are piling up 24/7. It may not be a perfect solution, but it’s significantly better than what I had before. Some days I’m able to process all my email in less than a minute. Other times I can go a day or two and not process email at all. That is a REALLY nice feeling. Social Networking – I enjoy some aspects of social networking, but to really get good value from it, it can take a serious time investment. Your mileage may vary of course, but that’s been my experience. Keep in mind that if you do one hour of social networking per day, that’s the equivalent of working a full-time job (40 hours per week) for over 2 months — every year. You can easily start a profitable web business in less time than that. So I scaled back by quitting sites like Facebook and Linkedin, and I’ve been happier as a result. I still participate in the forums here, but this community doesn’t have the same kinds of admin problems I had to deal with on Facebook. Cable TV – I used to have cable TV, but I didn’t watch it much, so it was an easy decision to drop that too. Later I dropped a streaming video subscription I had with Netflix. Partly I used it to watch educational documentaries, but I can’t say it made me any happier, so I decided to let it go. I can always go and rent a one-off documentary if I want, but I decided it was best not to have the streaming service because I don’t want to get into the habit of watching documentaries regularly. They may have educational value, but overall this isn’t an activity that increases my long-term happiness. I’d rather read more books instead. Possessions – I gradually purged some possessions that I accumulated over time, mostly by giving them away. If a possession doesn’t increase my happiness, what’s the point in keeping it? I made these changes one at a time for the most part. This gave me time to adjust and to see if I wanted to maintain the change. In each case I did. I would say that overall, just dropping the dead weight didn’t increase my happiness per se. It simply cleared some space, thereby giving me more opportunities to invest my time differently. Making Big Changes Dead weight is fairly easy to identify and slightly harder to eliminate, but it’s a good place to begin. However, you also have to tackle some bigger items. For me the biggest item I had to face within the past two years was my marriage. When I first got married, it did increase my happiness, but over time as Erin and I grew in different directions, I had to admit that I’d probably be happier letting go of the marriage. It took years to have enough certainty about that decision, but with the benefit of hindsight, it’s easier to see that it was the right choice. As many people conclude who’ve gone down a similar road, it was hard but it was worth it. It wasn’t Erin’s fault that the marriage was making me unhappy. I chose to be married, and I had to awaken to new possibilities. I see the experience as a test of sorts. Was I willing to choose happiness? Another change I had to make was my lifestyle. I wanted to travel a lot more, but that was going to require some adjustments. Last year I traveled about 3 months out of the year. This year I’d like to exceed that. And yet another change I’m currently undertaking involves remaking my social life. Due to the popularity of my blog and my pre-existing local friends, I’ve had the opportunity to be socially lazy and still enjoy a rich and abundant social life. Invitations would come my way no matter what, so all I’d have to do was filter and respond to them. Although this might seem like a good situation, and I enjoyed it for many years, I reached the point of wanting to head in a different direction. My old social life was too easy, and so I wasn’t getting much growth out of it. Another issue was that because I had so many friends in different cities, I ended up spending more time online maintaining those connections. I also ended up with a lot of friends I’d only see once or twice a year. I realized that while this certainly wasn’t a bad situation, ultimately it wasn’t increasing my long-term happiness. It was only maintaining my existing comfort zone. To be happy and fulfilled, I need more of a challenge. I also need to focus more on local friends that I can hang out with face to face instead of people spread all over the world, where I’ll have to use technology to keep in touch with them. Let me backtrack by saying that I still like having non-local friends, but since I run an Internet business, I need my social life to be more weighted in the offline direction to balance things out. Otherwise I feel like I’m spending way too much time on my computer or cell phone. My old social life was probably 80% non-local and 20% local. This year I’m working on rebuilding it with the opposite percentages. For example, I went to a local vegetarian meetup this week, a group that I’d never been to before. I’m also pushing myself to start up more conversations with people when I run errands, partly to remind myself to think locally when it comes to my social life — as opposed to talking on my cell phone or texting someone while I’m in a city filled with potential friends. This shift is turning out to be a challenge, not because I have anxiety about it but because the non-local mindset is so ingrained in me from 16 years of doing business online. I almost don’t know how to think locally. It’s so much easier for me to think globally. Thinking locally is almost an alien concept for me. Sometimes I feel like I’m connected to the Internet at all times. So grasping the right mindset is a tough challenge for me. As strange as it may sound, sometimes the Internet and various online communities feel more solid to me than the city of Las Vegas. Or perhaps that won’t sound so strange if you’ve been to Vegas.  It’s pretty obvious to me that face to face socializing increases my happiness more than online socializing. Even the best online social experiences just can’t compare to a game of disc golf… or a massage… or a night of dancing. I’m enjoying this challenge, but sometimes it’s hard to get a handle on it. Since my social life is so different now than it was a year ago, I often feel ungrounded in this new place. It’s going to take some time to get used to it. If you find yourself in a situation where you aren’t seeing your long-term happiness increasing, then perhaps your path to greater happiness lies in a different direction. You can be happy. You definitely have the power to create that. It’s just a question of whether or not you’re willing to step up and claim that happiness. The alternative is to project your unhappiness onto others and blame or resent them for contributing to your unhappiness. If you’re unhappy in any situation, it’s up to you to step away from it. Don’t blame the situation or the people within it because they won’t bend over backwards for you. You may be making them just as unhappy, so while you’re blaming them, they’re also blaming you. Big changes can be very difficult to undertake. You may need to deal with many consequences, which can be unpleasant in the short term. I understand all of that. It may not be easy. Transitions of this nature can be pretty tough. You may shed some tears along the way. But in the end, you’ll emerge in a much brighter place. Escaping a cocoon isn’t supposed to be easy — it’s the process of struggling to get out that makes you stronger for what lies ahead. Interacting Complexities One thing that stunned me — much to my delight — was that as I began eliminating some non-contributing items, I discovered all the different ways they interacted with each other, creating a webby quagmire of stuckness. For example, interacting on social networking sites increased the volume of email I received. This meant even more time in front of the computer, which made me more tired in the evenings, so at the end of the day, I might want to veg out and watch a movie instead of doing something more fun and interesting. Also, when I canceled some services I didn’t need, it meant fewer bills to pay and more money saved. Financially this wasn’t particularly impactful, but over time it adds up. Why spend money on things that don’t make you happy? Each time I let go of something that wasn’t making me happy, another part of the surrounding web gave way. I didn’t have to deal with everything all at once. I just tackled one little piece at a time, usually focusing on the most obvious next item to handle. You probably have some ambiguous activities in your life, where you aren’t sure if they’re contributing to your happiness or not. Don’t worry about those just yet. Start with the most obvious changes — the ones you’re fairly certain about. After you deal with the obvious items, the ambiguous ones will tend to reveal their true nature. For example, at first I wasn’t sure if watching documentaries or not was increasing my happiness. But when I freed up more time for other activities — and when I felt I’d watched enough documentaries that I was beginning to feel like I was watching re-runs — I realized that they weren’t really increasing my happiness. I’d rather learn about the world through travel, direct experience, and reading. When you run out of obvious items, then deal with the more ambiguous ones. These are the items where you keep saying to yourself, “I wonder if I should quit/cancel/leave/drop X.” Yes, you should! Remember — you can always drop activities temporarily to see how the change plays out. Try it for 30 days. If you don’t like the result, you can always go back. You can even shift back and forth a few times to get a better sense of the contrast between life with the activity and life without it. This is fairly easy in practice. Just start paying attention to the stuff in your life and the activities that consume your time. Stop and ask now and then, “Will this increase my long-term happiness if I keep doing it?” If the answer is no, then let go of that one thing, whatever it may be. Enjoying the Silence When you drop some of the noncontributing clutter from your life, it creates more space. Life becomes simpler and less noisy. You can certainly fill that space with something else, and you probably will in time, but there’s no rush. It’s nice to just enjoy the silence at first. Don’t feel that you need to rush to replace one activity with another. Allow yourself some do-nothing space. With less unhappy clutter in your life, your sense of well being can increase, and your stress can decrease. Let this happen and notice it. Notice how good it feels not to have to deal with things that weren’t making you happy anyway. Give yourself some time to adjust to their absence. Then take some time to consciously decide what activities are worth adding to this newly created space. You might choose not to add anything. Or you might add a new hobby that makes you happy, like learning to play the guitar or reading all the best books from your favorite authors. Or you might add a new goal like starting an Internet business on the side. After making so many cuts, I now feel like I’m swimming in an abundance of time and space. I feel less pressured from the outside-in. Now I’m feeling more pressure from the inside-out as I ponder what new activities to add. I feel the urge to branch out and explore and experiment. Adding Happy Activities When you’ve cleared enough space and you’re ready to add some new activities, I would caution you to take your time. There’s no rush to get everything perfect on the first try. Start with the most obvious items. If you know you get a lot of enjoyment from a certain activity, add it to your life. Then watch your happiness increase. As the weather started to warm up, I added disc golf back to my life. I barely played at all last year — maybe once or twice during the whole year. But I have a fun time every time I go out and play, and a game usually takes less than 2 hours with 4-5 players in a group. It’s a social activity as well, and I like being outdoors in the sunshine. So I decided to get back into it about a month ago. I contacted some friends and set up a game, and we played. Now I’m playing on a regular basis again. It’s a fun thing to look forward to each week. This was an easy item to add to my plate, and it creates value for others as well. We always have fun no matter how badly we play. The tricky part is not forcing it. When your life is overflowing with extra time, there’s a temptation to fill it with something ASAP. But you have to be careful about doing that because whatever you fill it with could easily turn into a long-term habit… perhaps even an addiction. So you don’t want to fill it up with things like watching more TV if that isn’t increasing your long-term happiness. As I ponder what other activities to add, I’ve been mostly sticking to safe, familiar activities like reading and meditation. They’re “safe” in the sense that they don’t create major long-term commitments. I can always choose to spend less time on them when I discover a better option. Right now I feel like I’m in that funky space between intention and manifestation. I’m intending a much richer LOCAL social life, but it hasn’t shown up physically yet. I’m getting a better sense of what it feels like, but I’m still working on getting the right vibe for it. Partly that’s because I haven’t yet created a clear enough vision of what it might look like. One thing I’ve been considering is creating and/or hosting some kind of regular meetup or social group in Vegas, perhaps a weekly gathering for locals who are into personal growth. I found some meetup groups along those lines on meetup.com, but nothing that looks all that exciting yet. Many of the listed groups look dead… or they focus on very limited topics… or they were obviously created as a marketing outlet for someone. I’m not interested in doing this as a professional thing. I’m simply considering it as a way to bring like-minded people together to have fun experiences. Maybe we could even do some cool group activities together like hiking in Red Rock Canyon (only a 10-minute drive from my house)… or do a Free Hugs event on the Strip… or do a group tour of the Grand Canyon. One local friend has been reminding me that I agreed to go skydiving with him, so there’s another option for those who like facing death.  I have the time to do this sort of thing now — and I must admit it sounds a lot more fun than emailing and Facebooking. At this point I’m only musing out loud, but if there are any locals interested in this sort of thing, feel free to share some feedback in the forums about it. Although there’s this feeling of being a bit up in the air when you’re between an intention and its manifestation, it can be exhilarating too, especially if you love surprises. You never know when another synchronicity or unexpected event is going to smack you upside the head… like yesterday when I had the strong urge to go work on my laptop at a local coffee shop, and when I get there I see Las Vegas Mayor Oscar Goodman there too, doing his Coffee with the Mayor thing that morning. I didn’t feel any desire talk to him, but his presence gave me a ridiculously easy opening to chat with other locals hanging around.  This is still an ongoing process for me, but I figured I’d share what I’ve learned thus far. Perhaps the most important thing I’ve discovered is that pursuing happiness is a happiness-increasing activity itself. If you start taking deliberate steps to increase your happiness, you can feel happier just by doing that, and your outlook for better long-term happiness improves as well. There may be some emotional rollercoastering along the way, but it’s worth it for the long-term benefits. Is Happiness Selfish? I know some people think it’s selfish to pursue your own happiness. Unfriend them. 
    766 Posted by UniqueThis
  • Lately I’ve been on a happiness kick. I’ve been going over various projects, activities, and aspects of my lifestyle and asking myself, Does this really make me happy? Many people say that happiness comes from within, and while that’s true in the long run, there’s also an experiential side of happiness. I’m sure you’ll agree that some experiences put a smile on your face more than others. It may be a learned response in most cases, but there’s still an effect. Even money can contribute to happiness to an extent. You’d probably be happier receiving an unexpected financial gift as opposed to an unexpected bill. So I’ve been looking at some recurring activities in my life and asking myself if they’re positively contributing to my long-term happiness. As I’ve been going through this process, I’ve been making a lot of changes, and they’re really beginning to add up. My daily rhythms changed quite a bit in the past six months or so. Identifying and Eliminating Dead Weight One of the easiest places to begin was to start identifying and eliminating dead weight. These are activities that aren’t really too debatable — I’m pretty clear that they aren’t doing much to increase my long-term happiness. They may generate some momentary pleasure, but in the long run, the gains are probably neutral or negative. Or they might be only marginally positive, such that it’s easy to see that there are better ways to spend my time. Here are some of the bigger dead weight items I’ve identified and have dealt with so far: Email – I used to spend a lot of time processing email, but when I asked myself if it was contributing to my happiness, that was an easy no. While I haven’t eliminated it entirely, I have reduced my email volume by at least 95% during the past year. Now I typically receive less than 10 emails per day, and most of it is personal and comes from just a handful of people I’m close to. I wouldn’t say this change did much to increase my happiness directly, but it did give me a sense of relief. I experience less stress and overwhelm as a result of not feeling that communication obligations are piling up 24/7. It may not be a perfect solution, but it’s significantly better than what I had before. Some days I’m able to process all my email in less than a minute. Other times I can go a day or two and not process email at all. That is a REALLY nice feeling. Social Networking – I enjoy some aspects of social networking, but to really get good value from it, it can take a serious time investment. Your mileage may vary of course, but that’s been my experience. Keep in mind that if you do one hour of social networking per day, that’s the equivalent of working a full-time job (40 hours per week) for over 2 months — every year. You can easily start a profitable web business in less time than that. So I scaled back by quitting sites like Facebook and Linkedin, and I’ve been happier as a result. I still participate in the forums here, but this community doesn’t have the same kinds of admin problems I had to deal with on Facebook. Cable TV – I used to have cable TV, but I didn’t watch it much, so it was an easy decision to drop that too. Later I dropped a streaming video subscription I had with Netflix. Partly I used it to watch educational documentaries, but I can’t say it made me any happier, so I decided to let it go. I can always go and rent a one-off documentary if I want, but I decided it was best not to have the streaming service because I don’t want to get into the habit of watching documentaries regularly. They may have educational value, but overall this isn’t an activity that increases my long-term happiness. I’d rather read more books instead. Possessions – I gradually purged some possessions that I accumulated over time, mostly by giving them away. If a possession doesn’t increase my happiness, what’s the point in keeping it? I made these changes one at a time for the most part. This gave me time to adjust and to see if I wanted to maintain the change. In each case I did. I would say that overall, just dropping the dead weight didn’t increase my happiness per se. It simply cleared some space, thereby giving me more opportunities to invest my time differently. Making Big Changes Dead weight is fairly easy to identify and slightly harder to eliminate, but it’s a good place to begin. However, you also have to tackle some bigger items. For me the biggest item I had to face within the past two years was my marriage. When I first got married, it did increase my happiness, but over time as Erin and I grew in different directions, I had to admit that I’d probably be happier letting go of the marriage. It took years to have enough certainty about that decision, but with the benefit of hindsight, it’s easier to see that it was the right choice. As many people conclude who’ve gone down a similar road, it was hard but it was worth it. It wasn’t Erin’s fault that the marriage was making me unhappy. I chose to be married, and I had to awaken to new possibilities. I see the experience as a test of sorts. Was I willing to choose happiness? Another change I had to make was my lifestyle. I wanted to travel a lot more, but that was going to require some adjustments. Last year I traveled about 3 months out of the year. This year I’d like to exceed that. And yet another change I’m currently undertaking involves remaking my social life. Due to the popularity of my blog and my pre-existing local friends, I’ve had the opportunity to be socially lazy and still enjoy a rich and abundant social life. Invitations would come my way no matter what, so all I’d have to do was filter and respond to them. Although this might seem like a good situation, and I enjoyed it for many years, I reached the point of wanting to head in a different direction. My old social life was too easy, and so I wasn’t getting much growth out of it. Another issue was that because I had so many friends in different cities, I ended up spending more time online maintaining those connections. I also ended up with a lot of friends I’d only see once or twice a year. I realized that while this certainly wasn’t a bad situation, ultimately it wasn’t increasing my long-term happiness. It was only maintaining my existing comfort zone. To be happy and fulfilled, I need more of a challenge. I also need to focus more on local friends that I can hang out with face to face instead of people spread all over the world, where I’ll have to use technology to keep in touch with them. Let me backtrack by saying that I still like having non-local friends, but since I run an Internet business, I need my social life to be more weighted in the offline direction to balance things out. Otherwise I feel like I’m spending way too much time on my computer or cell phone. My old social life was probably 80% non-local and 20% local. This year I’m working on rebuilding it with the opposite percentages. For example, I went to a local vegetarian meetup this week, a group that I’d never been to before. I’m also pushing myself to start up more conversations with people when I run errands, partly to remind myself to think locally when it comes to my social life — as opposed to talking on my cell phone or texting someone while I’m in a city filled with potential friends. This shift is turning out to be a challenge, not because I have anxiety about it but because the non-local mindset is so ingrained in me from 16 years of doing business online. I almost don’t know how to think locally. It’s so much easier for me to think globally. Thinking locally is almost an alien concept for me. Sometimes I feel like I’m connected to the Internet at all times. So grasping the right mindset is a tough challenge for me. As strange as it may sound, sometimes the Internet and various online communities feel more solid to me than the city of Las Vegas. Or perhaps that won’t sound so strange if you’ve been to Vegas.  It’s pretty obvious to me that face to face socializing increases my happiness more than online socializing. Even the best online social experiences just can’t compare to a game of disc golf… or a massage… or a night of dancing. I’m enjoying this challenge, but sometimes it’s hard to get a handle on it. Since my social life is so different now than it was a year ago, I often feel ungrounded in this new place. It’s going to take some time to get used to it. If you find yourself in a situation where you aren’t seeing your long-term happiness increasing, then perhaps your path to greater happiness lies in a different direction. You can be happy. You definitely have the power to create that. It’s just a question of whether or not you’re willing to step up and claim that happiness. The alternative is to project your unhappiness onto others and blame or resent them for contributing to your unhappiness. If you’re unhappy in any situation, it’s up to you to step away from it. Don’t blame the situation or the people within it because they won’t bend over backwards for you. You may be making them just as unhappy, so while you’re blaming them, they’re also blaming you. Big changes can be very difficult to undertake. You may need to deal with many consequences, which can be unpleasant in the short term. I understand all of that. It may not be easy. Transitions of this nature can be pretty tough. You may shed some tears along the way. But in the end, you’ll emerge in a much brighter place. Escaping a cocoon isn’t supposed to be easy — it’s the process of struggling to get out that makes you stronger for what lies ahead. Interacting Complexities One thing that stunned me — much to my delight — was that as I began eliminating some non-contributing items, I discovered all the different ways they interacted with each other, creating a webby quagmire of stuckness. For example, interacting on social networking sites increased the volume of email I received. This meant even more time in front of the computer, which made me more tired in the evenings, so at the end of the day, I might want to veg out and watch a movie instead of doing something more fun and interesting. Also, when I canceled some services I didn’t need, it meant fewer bills to pay and more money saved. Financially this wasn’t particularly impactful, but over time it adds up. Why spend money on things that don’t make you happy? Each time I let go of something that wasn’t making me happy, another part of the surrounding web gave way. I didn’t have to deal with everything all at once. I just tackled one little piece at a time, usually focusing on the most obvious next item to handle. You probably have some ambiguous activities in your life, where you aren’t sure if they’re contributing to your happiness or not. Don’t worry about those just yet. Start with the most obvious changes — the ones you’re fairly certain about. After you deal with the obvious items, the ambiguous ones will tend to reveal their true nature. For example, at first I wasn’t sure if watching documentaries or not was increasing my happiness. But when I freed up more time for other activities — and when I felt I’d watched enough documentaries that I was beginning to feel like I was watching re-runs — I realized that they weren’t really increasing my happiness. I’d rather learn about the world through travel, direct experience, and reading. When you run out of obvious items, then deal with the more ambiguous ones. These are the items where you keep saying to yourself, “I wonder if I should quit/cancel/leave/drop X.” Yes, you should! Remember — you can always drop activities temporarily to see how the change plays out. Try it for 30 days. If you don’t like the result, you can always go back. You can even shift back and forth a few times to get a better sense of the contrast between life with the activity and life without it. This is fairly easy in practice. Just start paying attention to the stuff in your life and the activities that consume your time. Stop and ask now and then, “Will this increase my long-term happiness if I keep doing it?” If the answer is no, then let go of that one thing, whatever it may be. Enjoying the Silence When you drop some of the noncontributing clutter from your life, it creates more space. Life becomes simpler and less noisy. You can certainly fill that space with something else, and you probably will in time, but there’s no rush. It’s nice to just enjoy the silence at first. Don’t feel that you need to rush to replace one activity with another. Allow yourself some do-nothing space. With less unhappy clutter in your life, your sense of well being can increase, and your stress can decrease. Let this happen and notice it. Notice how good it feels not to have to deal with things that weren’t making you happy anyway. Give yourself some time to adjust to their absence. Then take some time to consciously decide what activities are worth adding to this newly created space. You might choose not to add anything. Or you might add a new hobby that makes you happy, like learning to play the guitar or reading all the best books from your favorite authors. Or you might add a new goal like starting an Internet business on the side. After making so many cuts, I now feel like I’m swimming in an abundance of time and space. I feel less pressured from the outside-in. Now I’m feeling more pressure from the inside-out as I ponder what new activities to add. I feel the urge to branch out and explore and experiment. Adding Happy Activities When you’ve cleared enough space and you’re ready to add some new activities, I would caution you to take your time. There’s no rush to get everything perfect on the first try. Start with the most obvious items. If you know you get a lot of enjoyment from a certain activity, add it to your life. Then watch your happiness increase. As the weather started to warm up, I added disc golf back to my life. I barely played at all last year — maybe once or twice during the whole year. But I have a fun time every time I go out and play, and a game usually takes less than 2 hours with 4-5 players in a group. It’s a social activity as well, and I like being outdoors in the sunshine. So I decided to get back into it about a month ago. I contacted some friends and set up a game, and we played. Now I’m playing on a regular basis again. It’s a fun thing to look forward to each week. This was an easy item to add to my plate, and it creates value for others as well. We always have fun no matter how badly we play. The tricky part is not forcing it. When your life is overflowing with extra time, there’s a temptation to fill it with something ASAP. But you have to be careful about doing that because whatever you fill it with could easily turn into a long-term habit… perhaps even an addiction. So you don’t want to fill it up with things like watching more TV if that isn’t increasing your long-term happiness. As I ponder what other activities to add, I’ve been mostly sticking to safe, familiar activities like reading and meditation. They’re “safe” in the sense that they don’t create major long-term commitments. I can always choose to spend less time on them when I discover a better option. Right now I feel like I’m in that funky space between intention and manifestation. I’m intending a much richer LOCAL social life, but it hasn’t shown up physically yet. I’m getting a better sense of what it feels like, but I’m still working on getting the right vibe for it. Partly that’s because I haven’t yet created a clear enough vision of what it might look like. One thing I’ve been considering is creating and/or hosting some kind of regular meetup or social group in Vegas, perhaps a weekly gathering for locals who are into personal growth. I found some meetup groups along those lines on meetup.com, but nothing that looks all that exciting yet. Many of the listed groups look dead… or they focus on very limited topics… or they were obviously created as a marketing outlet for someone. I’m not interested in doing this as a professional thing. I’m simply considering it as a way to bring like-minded people together to have fun experiences. Maybe we could even do some cool group activities together like hiking in Red Rock Canyon (only a 10-minute drive from my house)… or do a Free Hugs event on the Strip… or do a group tour of the Grand Canyon. One local friend has been reminding me that I agreed to go skydiving with him, so there’s another option for those who like facing death.  I have the time to do this sort of thing now — and I must admit it sounds a lot more fun than emailing and Facebooking. At this point I’m only musing out loud, but if there are any locals interested in this sort of thing, feel free to share some feedback in the forums about it. Although there’s this feeling of being a bit up in the air when you’re between an intention and its manifestation, it can be exhilarating too, especially if you love surprises. You never know when another synchronicity or unexpected event is going to smack you upside the head… like yesterday when I had the strong urge to go work on my laptop at a local coffee shop, and when I get there I see Las Vegas Mayor Oscar Goodman there too, doing his Coffee with the Mayor thing that morning. I didn’t feel any desire talk to him, but his presence gave me a ridiculously easy opening to chat with other locals hanging around.  This is still an ongoing process for me, but I figured I’d share what I’ve learned thus far. Perhaps the most important thing I’ve discovered is that pursuing happiness is a happiness-increasing activity itself. If you start taking deliberate steps to increase your happiness, you can feel happier just by doing that, and your outlook for better long-term happiness improves as well. There may be some emotional rollercoastering along the way, but it’s worth it for the long-term benefits. Is Happiness Selfish? I know some people think it’s selfish to pursue your own happiness. Unfriend them. 
    Jul 12, 2011 766
  • 12 Jul 2011
    “The reasonable man adapts himself to the world; the unreasonable man persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore all progress depends on the unreasonable man.” – George Bernard Shaw In reading the biographies of very successful men and women, one theme frequently surfaces: such people have a strong bias for action. Those who achieve high levels of success in some areas of life tend to take a LOT more action than those who settle for average or below average results. Lots of people come up with interesting ideas to pursue. You’ll probably come up with some great ideas while going about your day. But very often when you come up with an idea that could be actionable, you’ll let it fade, or you’ll talk yourself out of it, or you’ll overcomplicate it to the point where it dies on the vine. This isn’t what the most successful people typically do, however. These people are more likely to take action — either right away or shortly after they generate the cool idea. Bias for Inaction When you come up with an interesting idea, it’s easy to avoid taking action. I mentioned some of these a few sentences ago, but let me elaborate a bit. One way to avoid taking action is to lose focus. You come up with a cool idea, but instead of staying focused on it, you distract yourself from it. Instead of making the new idea a top priority, you switch your attention to something else. When you withdraw your focus from the new idea, the idea gets fuzzier. The initial enthusiasm fades. Your mental RAM gets overwritten by something else. Soon the cool idea is essentially forgotten. Another way to avoid taking action is to talk yourself out of it. This requires shifting your focus to the anti-idea. What about this idea won’t work? Where might it lead to failure? What could go wrong? By shifting your focus to the anti-idea instead of the idea, you magnify problems instead of opportunities, so the idea becomes less attractive to you. Eventually you sense that the idea is probably more trouble than it’s worth, so you reject it. You can also allow others to talk you out of your idea. This is essentially the same thing because you must internalize their attitudes in order to kill the idea. Finally, you can overcomplicate the idea. Instead of focusing on the critical core, you can keep adding and expanding the idea until it’s so monstrous that there’s no way you could implement it in a reasonable period of time. Perfectionists often do this. Many implementations that are “good enough” can still provide a lot more value than doing nothing, but when you overcomplicate an idea, you make doing nothing the more attractive choice. I don’t want to suggest that these mental processes are wrong per se, but the long-term consequence is that if you run any of these subroutines, you’ll avoid taking action most of the time when you come up with an interesting idea. These processes favor maintaining the status quo because they derail you from implementing new ideas. If maintaining the status quo is very important to you, then it may be reasonable to apply such processes to your life. The potential upside is that you’ll avoid making errors of commission. Because you aren’t taking action, you won’t have to worry about new failures and rejections caused by your mistakes. Bias for Action Just as you can apply a mental process that leads to inaction, you can also do the opposite. You can run subroutines that favor action. When you come up with an interesting idea, you can stay focused on that idea until your focus naturally flows into direct action. Instead of letting other things get in the way, you can clear your schedule and stay with the idea to see where it leads. You can elevate the status of spontaneously cool ideas in your life, so they take precedent over maintaining the status quo. When you feel you’ve been struck by an inspired idea, you drop everything else, so you can run with the new idea and see where it leads. You can also talk yourself into taking action on an idea. You can focus your attention on the possibilities of what might work as opposed to the potential problems. You can ponder the upside more than the downside. Or you can allow others to talk you into action, which again is pretty much the same thing. When you want to be talked into action, you’ll probably seek out others who will help push you over the edge. And finally, you can simplify the idea to make it easier to take action. You can strip the idea down to its core essence. You can scale it down until it becomes accessible and readily actionable. If you apply these mental processes as opposed to the processes in the previous section, you’re going to take a lot more action. You’ll start more projects. You’ll ask for what you want more often. You’ll pick up the phone many more times than you would otherwise. You’ll risk failure and rejection more often. The upside here is that you’ll avoid many errors of omission. You’re much less likely to miss golden opportunities. Which Approach Is Better for You? Which approach is better for you depends on how comfortable and happy you are with the status quo of your life. Do you feel your life is about 95% where you want it to be? Would you be delighted to maintain your current situation? Do you feel your momentum is taking you down a wonderful path? If so, you may wish to favor the processes in the first group. Talk yourself out of taking action when you feel the risk of upsetting the status quo is too great. You may not experience as much personal growth on this path, but there’s no rule that says you have to. If you’re very happy and fulfilled where you are, it’s fine if you want to coast and enjoy that for a while. You can always shift gears later. On the other hand, do you feel you have a lot more growing to do? Do you feel more drawn to new experiences? Would you rather create something new for yourself vs. maintaining your current situation?  Are you willing to upset the status quo for a shot at something better? If that’s the case, then you’re better off favoring the second set of processes that will get you into action faster and more frequently. Risking failure and rejection would be a small price to pay to ensure that you don’t let potential opportunities pass you by. You’d kick yourself more for the opportunities you missed as opposed to the mistakes you made. Do you often catch yourself saying, “I really wish I hadn’t…” or “How could I have done something so stupid?” or “I should have thought that through more carefully”? If so, then you may be acting too haphazardly, and you need to pause and think things through a bit more. It’s okay to slow down and be more deliberate. Or do you catch yourself saying, “Why didn’t I jump on that opportunity when I had the chance?” or “I wish I’d signed up for that years ago” or “I’m feeling behind relative where I think I should be at this time in my life”? If so, you may wish to shift yourself towards a greater action bias. Start talking yourself into action instead of talking yourself out of it. It’s okay to speed up and be more spontaneous. Throughout your life you’ll probably shift back and forth between these sets of processes many times. Sometimes you’ll dislike the status quo, or you’ll feel a strong desire for something new. At those times, you’ll want to cultivate an action bias. At other times you may need a break from so much action and rapid change, and you may want to coast for a while. You can also mix and match based on what you want in different areas of your life. One year you may want to maintain your health status while improving your social life, and the next year you may want to upgrade your fitness levels while maintaining the status quo in other parts of your life. Sometimes I’ll say aloud, as if I’m speaking to the Universe, “I’m feeling overwhelmed and need a breather. Let’s slow things down.” Other times I’ll say, “This pace is too slow for me. I’m ready to move faster. Speed up!” I can’t say if this is just a trigger for my own subconscious or a genuine message to the Universe, but I do notice that within a few days, the pace will begin to shift. Maybe I’m somehow directing the pacing of new opportunities, or maybe I’m just shifting my perspective. Either way, it works for me. I suggest you try it to see if it works for you. Ask for a shift in pacing when you feel your current pacing is too fast or slow. Long-Term Consequences Short-term fluctuations in your action bias tend to average out over time. Some weeks you’ll take a lot of action, and other weeks will see a slower pacing. But what does your long-term pattern look like? Do you usually run mental processes that favor inaction or action? When you come up with new ideas, do you normally decline to act? Or do you normally find a way to get moving ASAP? How many ideas do you talk yourself into vs. talk yourself out of? Are you normally busy with direct action on your ideas, or do you spend more time pondering them without any observable progress? It shouldn’t be too difficult to see why very successful men and women tend to have a strong bias in favor of action. They lean in the direction of focusing on their new ideas, looking at the positive possibilities, and talking themselves into action. Is it reasonable to favor action though? Wouldn’t it be better to spend more time deliberating and thinking things through carefully? I think this depends on what you’re working on. If you’re launching a NASA mission, you want to triple-check everything to make sure it’s safe. The consequences of failure can be very high. But in cases where the consequences of failure aren’t fatal, like if you’re risking some embarrassment or a break-up or a bankruptcy, well… that may sting a little, but you’ll recover. Ask yourself, “What are the realistic worst-case consequences if my idea fails to work?” In many cases you’ll have to admit that in the grand scheme of things, the negative consequences just aren’t a big deal. You may make them a big deal in your mind, but are people going to lose their lives if you make an honest mistake? Taking action is rarely fatal these days. You can screw up a lot, recover, and keep right on going. If you favor an action bias in the long run, you’re more likely to experience greater long-term success. By taking lots of action, you’ll invite a tremendous amount of experiential learning. While we can learn a great deal from books and teachers and coaches, we must still learn certain things from experience. This includes learning to walk, talk, dance, drive a car, raise kids, run a business, and so on. If you want to learn to drive a car, an action bias will help you develop that skill quickly. Focus on learning to drive. Focus on the positive aspects of driving, like more freedom to come and go as you please. Talk yourself into it. Let peer pressure talk you into it. Keep it simple, such as by driving an automatic instead of a stick shift. Run the mental processes that encourage action, and you’ll soon be driving. If you use the opposite approach, you won’t learn how to drive. You may think about it and then distract yourself by thinking of something else. You may focus on the negatives such as the learning curve, cost, risk, inconvenience, or your nervousness. You may overcomplicate it. Run the mental processes that discourage action, and you’ll maintain the status quo of being a non-driver. Extend these kinds of results across many years and multiple areas of life, and it isn’t too difficult to predict what will happen. If you avoid taking action, you’ll suffer fewer mistakes and failures (errors of commission), but you’ll also deny yourself many valuable skills and opportunities. You won’t have as much flexibility to earn money, to attract positive relationships, to do work you love, etc. If you cultivate an action bias, you’ll suffer fewer errors of omission. You won’t miss as many opportunities in life. In the long run, missing opportunities will probably hurt your results a lot more than making mistakes. The biggest failure is the failure to act. If you want to experience lots of positive change throughout your life, then you must be willing to embrace more change in general. You can’t always guarantee that each change will be positive. Sometimes things won’t work out the way you’d have liked. If you wish to avoid making mistakes and suffering setbacks, you’ll have to avoid virtually all change, and that means you’ll miss many golden opportunities. This is because virtually all good opportunities entail some degree of risk. To avoid risk, you must avoid positive results too. Only the low-hanging fruit remains accessible, and that usually won’t fuel much change. Improving Through Action Ideally we want to take actions that we predict will lead to success, and we want to avoid taking actions that we predict will lead to failure. Unfortunately, the best opportunities tend to be unpredictable. Even when we do everything we can to reduce risk and guarantee success, there are no guarantees. We can never eliminate all uncertainty. There’s still a randomness factor. You could get injured without trying to. You could lose your money through no fault of your own. You could be blindsided by a completely unexpected setback or loss. It happens. When you take action, there’s always some doubt as to how well it will turn out. You can’t even accurately measure this doubt. Even when people try to do this with the best processes available, they still suffer failures and setbacks. Insurance companies still go bust, even when they make the best bets they can. It isn’t wise to be reckless. It’s still a good idea to put the odds on your side as much as possible. But it’s just as important to accept that there’s inherent risk in taking action. You might succeed. You might fail. Or you might experience something in the middle. An action bias gives you a long-term advantage here because the more you take action, the more you learn about risk. You develop a better feel for how to tell when the odds are on your side. You become better at placing high-payoff bets, and you learn to avoid the sucker bets. In some limited domains, you can learn this from a book or a teacher. In other areas, especially new areas that are rich with untapped opportunities, you mainly have to learn by trial and error. Trial and error may sound like a slow and tedious process, but often it’s the fastest way to learn. Humans are capable of single-trial learning. We don’t necessarily have to repeat mistakes to learn to avoid them. One bad experience can teach us to avoid specific problems for the rest of our lives. Sometimes you’ll make a mistake and say to yourself, “I’m never doing that again,” and you never will. You may have learned this lesson in a matter of seconds. Without an action bias, you don’t gain the benefit of feedback. If you fail to take action, you’ll never know what might have been. This isn’t like sports betting, where you place a bet on a team and then watch the game from a distance. In many cases you’re like the quarterback on the field who can strongly influence the outcome of the game. The feedback you receive from the sidelines isn’t the same as what you receive on the field. So if you avoid the field, you avoid the best feedback. This greatly limits your ability to grow and improve. When you favor action, you gain the long-term benefits of action-based feedback. In the long run, these benefits can be massive. If you read a lot of biographies of highly successful men and women, you’ll see just how critical action-based feedback is. I can’t recall any stories where people set a clear goal and achieved massive success right away. Success came as a result of refinement over many years and decades. You take action. You see what happens. You make some adjustments. And you take more action. Most of the time, your first stab will fail. So will the second and the third. But eventually you’ll figure it out. Sometimes you won’t figure it out though. And that’s okay too because there are always new ideas to try, and quite often your failure experiences will help you take better stabs at future ideas. Persistence One thing I’ve been seeing in a lot of 20-somethings today is that they often want massive positive results without going through that long-term process of trial and error learning. Many of them have a low tolerance for failure. They give up easily. They see persistence as a 6-month commitment instead of a 5- or 10-year commitment (or longer). A 6-month commitment is an oxymoron — that’s merely dabbling. For example, someone will read an article like 10 Reasons You Should Never Get a Job, and they’ll get inspired by the idea that they can start their own business and work for themselves. If they take action, then 6-12 months later they’re often stuck in setback land. Their new business is struggling. They aren’t making enough money. They’re working for less than minimum wage. So they give up and go back to job land, concluding they aren’t cut out for this sort of thing. But again, even a yearlong commitment isn’t a true commitment — that’s dabbling. The serious contenders are looking ahead for several years minimum. When I started my first business in my early 20s, it took 5 years of full-time work just to achieve my first profitable year. I thought I was a pretty smart guy, but there was so much I didn’t know about business. I made countless mistakes. I sank into debt. I went bankrupt. I got kicked out of my apartment because I couldn’t pay the rent. I made some bad decisions, and I suffered the consequences. Sometimes I worked with the wrong people, and I suffered the consequences. Sometimes I got blindsided by problems outside my direct control, and I suffered the consequences. But I just kept going. I didn’t let these setbacks stop me. I kept taking more action. I simply refused to stop or to be stopped. Seriously… is getting kicked out of your home fatal? Is bankruptcy fatal? Are these reasons to quit? Hardly. These are minor bumps in the road. Money is just a number in a bank account. If it hits zero or negative, so what? Does a number in a computer database have power over you? Can it stop you from taking action? Hardly. Short of being physically restrained, what can stop you from taking action? If you can physically move your body, you can still take action. If you use these events (or the fear of these events) to talk yourself out of taking action, this is no different than anyone else who runs the mental subroutines for inaction. If you aren’t physically tied up or otherwise immobilized, you can always act. One reason I kept going was that even by that time in my life, I was already reading the biographies of very successful people. I kept seeing the same patterns. It takes time to get good at anything new. The early years of a new venture are more about figuring things out than they are about making things work well. I think this gave me an advantage because I was willing to stick it out through the tough times. I had more reasonable expectations about how long it might take. Of course I wanted to succeed faster, but I was willing to let it take as long as it took. I saw a lot of other people dabble in the field and then leave, but I hung around and kept going, despite experiencing a lot of setbacks. When I started my blog in 2004, I was able to grow my web traffic to 100,000 visitors per month within the first 6 months… and to 400,000 visitors per month by the end of the first year. No money was spent on marketing or promotion. Even by today’s standards, that’s pretty solid growth, even though the Internet was significantly smaller back then. And it really wasn’t that difficult to achieve this. I largely expected it. Unfortunately when people ask me how I did it, they’re mainly looking for techniques and tactics and tricks. What method can they apply to achieve similar results? I’ve shared some of those before, but the truth is that most of the time I probably wasn’t even aware of what I was doing. The actions I took were largely subconscious and habitual. If someone watched me working in late 2004 or 2005, they might have labeled some of my actions as random and impulsive. But there was a reason for them. My subconscious mind was good at spotting opportunities and instantly acting on them, and it was good at spotting dead ends and avoiding them. I did what I’d spent the previous 10 years learning how to do, much like a surgeon can go in and make a few precise snips, and they’re done. I was able to succeed much faster with this business because I’d spent the previous 10 years figuring out how to run an Internet business. Doing it again was about as difficult as making dinner — it just took longer. But people don’t want to hear my honest answer — that fast results are the result of many years spent building and refining your skills. Many people, especially 20-somethings, seem to think that an action bias is a tool for short-term success. It isn’t. It’s a long-term process that plays out over many years and decades. It takes time to sculpt your mind to adopt the right focus, attitudes, and behaviors that will lead to success. But once you learn what you need to learn, then you can enjoy the benefits of running on autopilot in many areas of your life. You simply do what feels natural to you, and it tends to work well. What you can do in the short term though is to develop the habit of favoring action more often than not. When new opportunities and ideas present themselves, lean further in the direction of action. If you’re thinking that a commitment is something you’ll try for 6-12 months, I doubt you’ll get very far. Surely you’ll make some interesting distinctions during that time, but you’ll have many more lessons to learn after that. You could get lucky of course, but too much luck is a dangerous thing. Lucky people are the ones who get blindsided by market downturns. It’s easy to succeed when all the dice are rolling with you, but what happens when they inevitably turn? When the rules change, can you successfully manage the new risks and maintain momentum? Commitment If you think it’s difficult to commit to something for so many years, you’re right. It is difficult. That’s why average and below average results are more common than exceptional results. Most people aren’t going to commit. But therein lies your greatest advantage. If you simply stick it out longer than most people, your odds of success increase. Your field may look crowded, but that’s most likely because it’s flooded with dabblers. They’ll be gone within a year or less, replaced by new dabblers. These people don’t represent any serious competition. In fact, they’re most likely helping you. They’ll introduce new people to your field before they give up. Think of these dabblers as your volunteer marketing team. They help to expand the market for the products and services that you’ll eventually deliver. If you read the bios of those who seem to have achieved tremendous success early in life, you’ll often see that their path to success began in childhood. Steve Wozniak, for instance, started learning about electronics when he was about 4 years old (his Dad was an engineer who worked on missile programs), and he was winning science fairs and building computers while in grammar school. Building the first Apple computer was the result of a progression that began many years earlier. Commitment doesn’t mean trapping or limiting yourself. It’s not about putting yourself in a box or a cage. It’s about choosing a certain line of development and running with it, which isn’t that difficult to do when you discover something you really love. Then your commitment is a commitment to enjoy your life and to express what feels good to you. It’s still going to involve a lot of work, but that work is mostly a labor of love. The question is whether or not you’re willing to put in the time. Commitment and action bias are teammates. If you have a strong action bias but your actions are random and haphazard, you’ll pile up a lot of feedback, but it will be tough to make sense of it. On the other hand if you make a commitment to pursue a certain direction, and you cultivate a strong action bias too, then you’re going to acquire feedback that you can use to go further and further down that path. This is a terrific way to experience a fulfilling life that makes you happy and contributes to others.
    753 Posted by UniqueThis
  • “The reasonable man adapts himself to the world; the unreasonable man persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore all progress depends on the unreasonable man.” – George Bernard Shaw In reading the biographies of very successful men and women, one theme frequently surfaces: such people have a strong bias for action. Those who achieve high levels of success in some areas of life tend to take a LOT more action than those who settle for average or below average results. Lots of people come up with interesting ideas to pursue. You’ll probably come up with some great ideas while going about your day. But very often when you come up with an idea that could be actionable, you’ll let it fade, or you’ll talk yourself out of it, or you’ll overcomplicate it to the point where it dies on the vine. This isn’t what the most successful people typically do, however. These people are more likely to take action — either right away or shortly after they generate the cool idea. Bias for Inaction When you come up with an interesting idea, it’s easy to avoid taking action. I mentioned some of these a few sentences ago, but let me elaborate a bit. One way to avoid taking action is to lose focus. You come up with a cool idea, but instead of staying focused on it, you distract yourself from it. Instead of making the new idea a top priority, you switch your attention to something else. When you withdraw your focus from the new idea, the idea gets fuzzier. The initial enthusiasm fades. Your mental RAM gets overwritten by something else. Soon the cool idea is essentially forgotten. Another way to avoid taking action is to talk yourself out of it. This requires shifting your focus to the anti-idea. What about this idea won’t work? Where might it lead to failure? What could go wrong? By shifting your focus to the anti-idea instead of the idea, you magnify problems instead of opportunities, so the idea becomes less attractive to you. Eventually you sense that the idea is probably more trouble than it’s worth, so you reject it. You can also allow others to talk you out of your idea. This is essentially the same thing because you must internalize their attitudes in order to kill the idea. Finally, you can overcomplicate the idea. Instead of focusing on the critical core, you can keep adding and expanding the idea until it’s so monstrous that there’s no way you could implement it in a reasonable period of time. Perfectionists often do this. Many implementations that are “good enough” can still provide a lot more value than doing nothing, but when you overcomplicate an idea, you make doing nothing the more attractive choice. I don’t want to suggest that these mental processes are wrong per se, but the long-term consequence is that if you run any of these subroutines, you’ll avoid taking action most of the time when you come up with an interesting idea. These processes favor maintaining the status quo because they derail you from implementing new ideas. If maintaining the status quo is very important to you, then it may be reasonable to apply such processes to your life. The potential upside is that you’ll avoid making errors of commission. Because you aren’t taking action, you won’t have to worry about new failures and rejections caused by your mistakes. Bias for Action Just as you can apply a mental process that leads to inaction, you can also do the opposite. You can run subroutines that favor action. When you come up with an interesting idea, you can stay focused on that idea until your focus naturally flows into direct action. Instead of letting other things get in the way, you can clear your schedule and stay with the idea to see where it leads. You can elevate the status of spontaneously cool ideas in your life, so they take precedent over maintaining the status quo. When you feel you’ve been struck by an inspired idea, you drop everything else, so you can run with the new idea and see where it leads. You can also talk yourself into taking action on an idea. You can focus your attention on the possibilities of what might work as opposed to the potential problems. You can ponder the upside more than the downside. Or you can allow others to talk you into action, which again is pretty much the same thing. When you want to be talked into action, you’ll probably seek out others who will help push you over the edge. And finally, you can simplify the idea to make it easier to take action. You can strip the idea down to its core essence. You can scale it down until it becomes accessible and readily actionable. If you apply these mental processes as opposed to the processes in the previous section, you’re going to take a lot more action. You’ll start more projects. You’ll ask for what you want more often. You’ll pick up the phone many more times than you would otherwise. You’ll risk failure and rejection more often. The upside here is that you’ll avoid many errors of omission. You’re much less likely to miss golden opportunities. Which Approach Is Better for You? Which approach is better for you depends on how comfortable and happy you are with the status quo of your life. Do you feel your life is about 95% where you want it to be? Would you be delighted to maintain your current situation? Do you feel your momentum is taking you down a wonderful path? If so, you may wish to favor the processes in the first group. Talk yourself out of taking action when you feel the risk of upsetting the status quo is too great. You may not experience as much personal growth on this path, but there’s no rule that says you have to. If you’re very happy and fulfilled where you are, it’s fine if you want to coast and enjoy that for a while. You can always shift gears later. On the other hand, do you feel you have a lot more growing to do? Do you feel more drawn to new experiences? Would you rather create something new for yourself vs. maintaining your current situation?  Are you willing to upset the status quo for a shot at something better? If that’s the case, then you’re better off favoring the second set of processes that will get you into action faster and more frequently. Risking failure and rejection would be a small price to pay to ensure that you don’t let potential opportunities pass you by. You’d kick yourself more for the opportunities you missed as opposed to the mistakes you made. Do you often catch yourself saying, “I really wish I hadn’t…” or “How could I have done something so stupid?” or “I should have thought that through more carefully”? If so, then you may be acting too haphazardly, and you need to pause and think things through a bit more. It’s okay to slow down and be more deliberate. Or do you catch yourself saying, “Why didn’t I jump on that opportunity when I had the chance?” or “I wish I’d signed up for that years ago” or “I’m feeling behind relative where I think I should be at this time in my life”? If so, you may wish to shift yourself towards a greater action bias. Start talking yourself into action instead of talking yourself out of it. It’s okay to speed up and be more spontaneous. Throughout your life you’ll probably shift back and forth between these sets of processes many times. Sometimes you’ll dislike the status quo, or you’ll feel a strong desire for something new. At those times, you’ll want to cultivate an action bias. At other times you may need a break from so much action and rapid change, and you may want to coast for a while. You can also mix and match based on what you want in different areas of your life. One year you may want to maintain your health status while improving your social life, and the next year you may want to upgrade your fitness levels while maintaining the status quo in other parts of your life. Sometimes I’ll say aloud, as if I’m speaking to the Universe, “I’m feeling overwhelmed and need a breather. Let’s slow things down.” Other times I’ll say, “This pace is too slow for me. I’m ready to move faster. Speed up!” I can’t say if this is just a trigger for my own subconscious or a genuine message to the Universe, but I do notice that within a few days, the pace will begin to shift. Maybe I’m somehow directing the pacing of new opportunities, or maybe I’m just shifting my perspective. Either way, it works for me. I suggest you try it to see if it works for you. Ask for a shift in pacing when you feel your current pacing is too fast or slow. Long-Term Consequences Short-term fluctuations in your action bias tend to average out over time. Some weeks you’ll take a lot of action, and other weeks will see a slower pacing. But what does your long-term pattern look like? Do you usually run mental processes that favor inaction or action? When you come up with new ideas, do you normally decline to act? Or do you normally find a way to get moving ASAP? How many ideas do you talk yourself into vs. talk yourself out of? Are you normally busy with direct action on your ideas, or do you spend more time pondering them without any observable progress? It shouldn’t be too difficult to see why very successful men and women tend to have a strong bias in favor of action. They lean in the direction of focusing on their new ideas, looking at the positive possibilities, and talking themselves into action. Is it reasonable to favor action though? Wouldn’t it be better to spend more time deliberating and thinking things through carefully? I think this depends on what you’re working on. If you’re launching a NASA mission, you want to triple-check everything to make sure it’s safe. The consequences of failure can be very high. But in cases where the consequences of failure aren’t fatal, like if you’re risking some embarrassment or a break-up or a bankruptcy, well… that may sting a little, but you’ll recover. Ask yourself, “What are the realistic worst-case consequences if my idea fails to work?” In many cases you’ll have to admit that in the grand scheme of things, the negative consequences just aren’t a big deal. You may make them a big deal in your mind, but are people going to lose their lives if you make an honest mistake? Taking action is rarely fatal these days. You can screw up a lot, recover, and keep right on going. If you favor an action bias in the long run, you’re more likely to experience greater long-term success. By taking lots of action, you’ll invite a tremendous amount of experiential learning. While we can learn a great deal from books and teachers and coaches, we must still learn certain things from experience. This includes learning to walk, talk, dance, drive a car, raise kids, run a business, and so on. If you want to learn to drive a car, an action bias will help you develop that skill quickly. Focus on learning to drive. Focus on the positive aspects of driving, like more freedom to come and go as you please. Talk yourself into it. Let peer pressure talk you into it. Keep it simple, such as by driving an automatic instead of a stick shift. Run the mental processes that encourage action, and you’ll soon be driving. If you use the opposite approach, you won’t learn how to drive. You may think about it and then distract yourself by thinking of something else. You may focus on the negatives such as the learning curve, cost, risk, inconvenience, or your nervousness. You may overcomplicate it. Run the mental processes that discourage action, and you’ll maintain the status quo of being a non-driver. Extend these kinds of results across many years and multiple areas of life, and it isn’t too difficult to predict what will happen. If you avoid taking action, you’ll suffer fewer mistakes and failures (errors of commission), but you’ll also deny yourself many valuable skills and opportunities. You won’t have as much flexibility to earn money, to attract positive relationships, to do work you love, etc. If you cultivate an action bias, you’ll suffer fewer errors of omission. You won’t miss as many opportunities in life. In the long run, missing opportunities will probably hurt your results a lot more than making mistakes. The biggest failure is the failure to act. If you want to experience lots of positive change throughout your life, then you must be willing to embrace more change in general. You can’t always guarantee that each change will be positive. Sometimes things won’t work out the way you’d have liked. If you wish to avoid making mistakes and suffering setbacks, you’ll have to avoid virtually all change, and that means you’ll miss many golden opportunities. This is because virtually all good opportunities entail some degree of risk. To avoid risk, you must avoid positive results too. Only the low-hanging fruit remains accessible, and that usually won’t fuel much change. Improving Through Action Ideally we want to take actions that we predict will lead to success, and we want to avoid taking actions that we predict will lead to failure. Unfortunately, the best opportunities tend to be unpredictable. Even when we do everything we can to reduce risk and guarantee success, there are no guarantees. We can never eliminate all uncertainty. There’s still a randomness factor. You could get injured without trying to. You could lose your money through no fault of your own. You could be blindsided by a completely unexpected setback or loss. It happens. When you take action, there’s always some doubt as to how well it will turn out. You can’t even accurately measure this doubt. Even when people try to do this with the best processes available, they still suffer failures and setbacks. Insurance companies still go bust, even when they make the best bets they can. It isn’t wise to be reckless. It’s still a good idea to put the odds on your side as much as possible. But it’s just as important to accept that there’s inherent risk in taking action. You might succeed. You might fail. Or you might experience something in the middle. An action bias gives you a long-term advantage here because the more you take action, the more you learn about risk. You develop a better feel for how to tell when the odds are on your side. You become better at placing high-payoff bets, and you learn to avoid the sucker bets. In some limited domains, you can learn this from a book or a teacher. In other areas, especially new areas that are rich with untapped opportunities, you mainly have to learn by trial and error. Trial and error may sound like a slow and tedious process, but often it’s the fastest way to learn. Humans are capable of single-trial learning. We don’t necessarily have to repeat mistakes to learn to avoid them. One bad experience can teach us to avoid specific problems for the rest of our lives. Sometimes you’ll make a mistake and say to yourself, “I’m never doing that again,” and you never will. You may have learned this lesson in a matter of seconds. Without an action bias, you don’t gain the benefit of feedback. If you fail to take action, you’ll never know what might have been. This isn’t like sports betting, where you place a bet on a team and then watch the game from a distance. In many cases you’re like the quarterback on the field who can strongly influence the outcome of the game. The feedback you receive from the sidelines isn’t the same as what you receive on the field. So if you avoid the field, you avoid the best feedback. This greatly limits your ability to grow and improve. When you favor action, you gain the long-term benefits of action-based feedback. In the long run, these benefits can be massive. If you read a lot of biographies of highly successful men and women, you’ll see just how critical action-based feedback is. I can’t recall any stories where people set a clear goal and achieved massive success right away. Success came as a result of refinement over many years and decades. You take action. You see what happens. You make some adjustments. And you take more action. Most of the time, your first stab will fail. So will the second and the third. But eventually you’ll figure it out. Sometimes you won’t figure it out though. And that’s okay too because there are always new ideas to try, and quite often your failure experiences will help you take better stabs at future ideas. Persistence One thing I’ve been seeing in a lot of 20-somethings today is that they often want massive positive results without going through that long-term process of trial and error learning. Many of them have a low tolerance for failure. They give up easily. They see persistence as a 6-month commitment instead of a 5- or 10-year commitment (or longer). A 6-month commitment is an oxymoron — that’s merely dabbling. For example, someone will read an article like 10 Reasons You Should Never Get a Job, and they’ll get inspired by the idea that they can start their own business and work for themselves. If they take action, then 6-12 months later they’re often stuck in setback land. Their new business is struggling. They aren’t making enough money. They’re working for less than minimum wage. So they give up and go back to job land, concluding they aren’t cut out for this sort of thing. But again, even a yearlong commitment isn’t a true commitment — that’s dabbling. The serious contenders are looking ahead for several years minimum. When I started my first business in my early 20s, it took 5 years of full-time work just to achieve my first profitable year. I thought I was a pretty smart guy, but there was so much I didn’t know about business. I made countless mistakes. I sank into debt. I went bankrupt. I got kicked out of my apartment because I couldn’t pay the rent. I made some bad decisions, and I suffered the consequences. Sometimes I worked with the wrong people, and I suffered the consequences. Sometimes I got blindsided by problems outside my direct control, and I suffered the consequences. But I just kept going. I didn’t let these setbacks stop me. I kept taking more action. I simply refused to stop or to be stopped. Seriously… is getting kicked out of your home fatal? Is bankruptcy fatal? Are these reasons to quit? Hardly. These are minor bumps in the road. Money is just a number in a bank account. If it hits zero or negative, so what? Does a number in a computer database have power over you? Can it stop you from taking action? Hardly. Short of being physically restrained, what can stop you from taking action? If you can physically move your body, you can still take action. If you use these events (or the fear of these events) to talk yourself out of taking action, this is no different than anyone else who runs the mental subroutines for inaction. If you aren’t physically tied up or otherwise immobilized, you can always act. One reason I kept going was that even by that time in my life, I was already reading the biographies of very successful people. I kept seeing the same patterns. It takes time to get good at anything new. The early years of a new venture are more about figuring things out than they are about making things work well. I think this gave me an advantage because I was willing to stick it out through the tough times. I had more reasonable expectations about how long it might take. Of course I wanted to succeed faster, but I was willing to let it take as long as it took. I saw a lot of other people dabble in the field and then leave, but I hung around and kept going, despite experiencing a lot of setbacks. When I started my blog in 2004, I was able to grow my web traffic to 100,000 visitors per month within the first 6 months… and to 400,000 visitors per month by the end of the first year. No money was spent on marketing or promotion. Even by today’s standards, that’s pretty solid growth, even though the Internet was significantly smaller back then. And it really wasn’t that difficult to achieve this. I largely expected it. Unfortunately when people ask me how I did it, they’re mainly looking for techniques and tactics and tricks. What method can they apply to achieve similar results? I’ve shared some of those before, but the truth is that most of the time I probably wasn’t even aware of what I was doing. The actions I took were largely subconscious and habitual. If someone watched me working in late 2004 or 2005, they might have labeled some of my actions as random and impulsive. But there was a reason for them. My subconscious mind was good at spotting opportunities and instantly acting on them, and it was good at spotting dead ends and avoiding them. I did what I’d spent the previous 10 years learning how to do, much like a surgeon can go in and make a few precise snips, and they’re done. I was able to succeed much faster with this business because I’d spent the previous 10 years figuring out how to run an Internet business. Doing it again was about as difficult as making dinner — it just took longer. But people don’t want to hear my honest answer — that fast results are the result of many years spent building and refining your skills. Many people, especially 20-somethings, seem to think that an action bias is a tool for short-term success. It isn’t. It’s a long-term process that plays out over many years and decades. It takes time to sculpt your mind to adopt the right focus, attitudes, and behaviors that will lead to success. But once you learn what you need to learn, then you can enjoy the benefits of running on autopilot in many areas of your life. You simply do what feels natural to you, and it tends to work well. What you can do in the short term though is to develop the habit of favoring action more often than not. When new opportunities and ideas present themselves, lean further in the direction of action. If you’re thinking that a commitment is something you’ll try for 6-12 months, I doubt you’ll get very far. Surely you’ll make some interesting distinctions during that time, but you’ll have many more lessons to learn after that. You could get lucky of course, but too much luck is a dangerous thing. Lucky people are the ones who get blindsided by market downturns. It’s easy to succeed when all the dice are rolling with you, but what happens when they inevitably turn? When the rules change, can you successfully manage the new risks and maintain momentum? Commitment If you think it’s difficult to commit to something for so many years, you’re right. It is difficult. That’s why average and below average results are more common than exceptional results. Most people aren’t going to commit. But therein lies your greatest advantage. If you simply stick it out longer than most people, your odds of success increase. Your field may look crowded, but that’s most likely because it’s flooded with dabblers. They’ll be gone within a year or less, replaced by new dabblers. These people don’t represent any serious competition. In fact, they’re most likely helping you. They’ll introduce new people to your field before they give up. Think of these dabblers as your volunteer marketing team. They help to expand the market for the products and services that you’ll eventually deliver. If you read the bios of those who seem to have achieved tremendous success early in life, you’ll often see that their path to success began in childhood. Steve Wozniak, for instance, started learning about electronics when he was about 4 years old (his Dad was an engineer who worked on missile programs), and he was winning science fairs and building computers while in grammar school. Building the first Apple computer was the result of a progression that began many years earlier. Commitment doesn’t mean trapping or limiting yourself. It’s not about putting yourself in a box or a cage. It’s about choosing a certain line of development and running with it, which isn’t that difficult to do when you discover something you really love. Then your commitment is a commitment to enjoy your life and to express what feels good to you. It’s still going to involve a lot of work, but that work is mostly a labor of love. The question is whether or not you’re willing to put in the time. Commitment and action bias are teammates. If you have a strong action bias but your actions are random and haphazard, you’ll pile up a lot of feedback, but it will be tough to make sense of it. On the other hand if you make a commitment to pursue a certain direction, and you cultivate a strong action bias too, then you’re going to acquire feedback that you can use to go further and further down that path. This is a terrific way to experience a fulfilling life that makes you happy and contributes to others.
    Jul 12, 2011 753
  • 12 Jul 2011
    One of the big traps in life is believing that you’re making progress when there’s no actual evidence of it. It’s easy to keep learning and studying new ideas, methods, and techniques that don’t improve your results… while convincing yourself that you must be making progress simply because you’ve invested a lot of time and effort in learning and growth. It would be nice if effort equaled results, but it’s very common to apply effort without generating measurable results. Let me share a personal story to illustrate this… Based on my efforts at studying and practicing the game of blackjack, I could make a case that I’m an expert blackjack player. In my 20s I read a dozen or so books about the game of blackjack and a dozen more more about casino gambling in general. I did some independent study on games of chance in college, both for fun and as part of my education for my math degree. In high school I even programmed my Casio fx-8000G calculator to play blackjack, including drawing all the cards pixel by pixel. However, I soon learned that it’s one thing to hold this knowledge in my mind, and it’s quite another thing to apply it as a real-world skill to get positive results. Shortly after my 21st birthday, I made my first adult trip to Las Vegas with some friends. Before we left, I practiced counting cards just as I had learned from books. It took hours to memorize the correct play of every hand and to practice counting down a deck until I could do it in 13-14 seconds consistently (about as fast as I could physically flip through all the cards). I felt very well prepared before I ever set foot in a real casino. On that first trip, I played the lowest limits available, mostly varying my bets from $2 to $10. I won $125 total, giving me a nice reward for my efforts. This positive result encouraged me to keep playing. I made the 4-hour drive from L.A. to Vegas dozens of times, taking advantage of the cheap rooms and food that were in abundance at the time. I continued to invest in learning more about blackjack. I studied advanced techniques that could add a bit more edge. I learned more about the social aspects of the game. I started betting a bit more, usually $5-25 or $10-50 ranges, sometimes $25-125. I got used to bigger swings, such as losing $700 or winning $900 in a single sitting. I got kicked out of a casino for winning $200 in a few minutes, so I learned to disguise my play better. I learned how to get comps. I was very disciplined and never risked rent money or went on tilt. For me it was mostly about the challenge. I loved the combination of mathematics and emotional discipline that was required to do well. Now fast forward 20 years. I’ve been living in Vegas since 2004. There’s a popular casino just 5 minutes from my house. I can walk there if I want. I could go play blackjack at any time of day. But I rarely do these days. And if I do play, I don’t count cards. I would only play for fun, and only at a betting level that’s so far below my means so that it can’t possibly make a difference in my finances. I would never go as high as risking even half a percent of my income over the course of a year. So on the one hand, I can claim that I have a lot of expertise in this area. I invested a lot of time in learning, and I have many hours of real-world practice. But what are the actual results? I certainly didn’t do anything like the M.I.T. blackjack team did. Given my low betting levels and infrequent play, I wouldn’t even earn enough to reach minimum wage. Over the long run, my results were insignificant from a financial perspective. If I evaluate this pursuit through the lens of study and effort and practice, then I could argue that I’ve grown tremendously in my skill at blackjack. But if I use the lens of real-world results, then I must admit that I have virtually no results to speak of. I never did what would have been necessary to generate serious results from this pursuit. It was merely a side hobby that I explored for fun. So can I claim to be an expert blackjack player? That may be an issue of semantics, but I certainly can’t claim to have won any serious money at the game, which is generally how a blackjack player would measure their long-term success. Evaluating Your Progress How do you assess your progress? Do you feel you’re making progress if you’ve studied and practiced a great deal? Or do you only give yourself credit for real-world results that other people can perceive as well? I think that both types of assessment are valid. I don’t think we should completely discount learning, study, and practice as ends unto themselves. However, I also think many of us need to move our evaluation criteria further in the direction of measurable, real-world results. Here are some questions to get you thinking about the differences between study and results… Study: Do you think you know a lot about relationships? Have you read books or attended workshops on relationships? Do you know how to approach people and start conversations? Do you know how to build rapport? Do you know how to communicate well with people? Results: Are you currently enjoying positive relationships in your life right now? Are you happy and fulfilled in this part of your life? Do other people notice how happy you are with your relationships? How many people would name you as a friend? How many invites do you get in a typical month? Study: Do you think you know a lot about making money? Do you have ideas about what you can do to increase your income? Do you have goals, plans, and to-do lists? What financial skills have you acquired? Results: How much money have you earned so far this year? What does your financial balance sheet look like? If an independent financial consultant looked at your balance, would s/he say you’re wealthy, average, or pretty much broke? Would s/he see evidence of positive change over the past 3 years? Study: Do you believe you’re a caring and compassionate person? Do you care about people, animals, and the environment? Do you have ideas regarding how to make the world a better place? Do you ever wish more people would think as you do? Results: What is the measurable evidence of your ongoing contribution in the real world? What results are other people now getting that they weren’t before, thanks to you? Which specific people will testify that you’ve helped them, and how will they say you’ve helped? Which parts of the environment are better off now, thanks to you, and how are they better? Is your caring and compassion flowing out into the world and affecting real people, or is it just a feeling you have? When you look back at how your life was 3 years ago, which areas would seem to be about the same if examined by an impartial observer? Where would this observer testify that you’ve made measurable progress? Where would s/he testify that you’ve failed to make any discernable progress? Have you been assessing your progress as objectively and fair-mindedly as this impartial observer would? Have you been giving yourself credit for non-existent results? Have you been failing to credit yourself for results you really did achieve? Results-Orientation If you’re beginning to realize that you have a strong bias towards over-crediting yourself for study, effort, and practice as opposed to real-world results, I’d encourage you to shift your evaluation criteria to the results side. This may feel a bit alien at first… perhaps a bit harsher than you’re used to… but I think you’ll like it better in the long run. I’m a person who loves to read, explore, and experiment, so it’s easy for me to get caught up on the learning side and convince myself that I’m making real progress simply by making an effort. But I’ve learned over the years that my study tends to flow much better when I’m working towards a results-based goal. During college I got a contract job to program some computer games for a local game company. At the time I only knew DOS game programming, and they were developing games for Windows 3.1. Windows game programming was a whole different animal, so I committed myself to the project before I really knew what I was getting into. But as “luck” would have it, I got jury duty right when I was supposed to begin working on the first game, so the start of the project had to be delayed. I went to a bookstore and bought a stack of books on Windows game programming. Since there was so much downtime during the court case, I was able to go through those books in a matter of days. Since my learning was results-driven from the get-go, I was able to learn a lot faster. I could focus on the concepts that I would need to apply and ignore the irrelevant bits. Consequently, I had a working demo of the first game running only 9 days after I started the project. About six months later, I got to see the 4-pack of games I had programmed selling in stores like Comp USA and Software Etc. I also received royalty checks for more than $20K in addition to my contract pay. My learning efforts generated measurable results. I wasn’t just learning for the sake of learning. Later I applied those skills to design, program, and publish other games as well. And I helped teach other independent developers how to do the same. When I engage in learning just to learn something new, I almost always learn more slowly. I learn fastest when my learning is results-oriented, such as if I’m figuring out how to implement some particular feature for a specific project. Learning just to learn can be very seductive. Read any random nonfiction book, and you may be able to convince yourself that you’re doing something valuable and worthwhile. But what are you going to do with that knowledge? Will it be largely forgotten a year later? Or will you apply it in the real world? I’ve read so many books that it’s hard to keep them all straight. I have bits and pieces of knowledge about a great variety of subjects. At the time I studied these topics, they usually seemed important. Yesterday I was reading a fascinating book about the history of Goldman Sachs, a powerful investment bank that started in the 1800s and took a lot of flak for its role in the recent financial crisis. But what can I do with this knowledge? How will it generate fresh real-world results? It may be an educational, eye-opening read, but since I’m not reading it with any results-orientation in mind, I could say that I’m better off learning something else that I can apply right away. Learning for the sake of learning can indeed be pleasurable, and it can offer up hidden benefits over time. But my experience suggests that learning for the sake of creating real-world results can be just as pleasurable — and a lot faster too. You not only enjoy the learning process, but you also get to experience new results. All else being equal, doesn’t it make more sense to learn with a strong results-orientation in mind? What are the results you’d like to achieve next? Can you direct your learning to help you achieve those results faster? The Best of Both Worlds Study, effort, and practice needn’t be in opposition to real-world results. The truth is that we can enjoy both. A straightforward way to do this is to clarify some new results you’d like to achieve, and then focus on learning what you need to learn to achieve those results. While I enjoyed learning to play blackjack, my blackjack knowledge doesn’t do much for me or anyone else in terms of real-world results; it never did. On the other hand, learning how to create a web business has allowed me to enjoy life without the hassle of a regular job, to provide a worthwhile and sustainable service for people around the world, and to give me sufficient freedom to keep learning and growing. Never say “I don’t know how” to excuse yourself from pursuing a particular result you desire. “I don’t know how” is the mantra of fools. It’s okay to say, “I don’t know how yet,” but better still is to drop such phrases from your repertoire altogether. Just dive in and start learning what you need to learn. Don’t excuse yourself due to a lack of knowledge. If you don’t know how, learn how. You learned how to walk and talk. Surely you can learn other skills too. I like Jack Canfield’s advice to “lean into it.” When you don’t know how to achieve a particular result, don’t worry about learning everything overnight. Just lean into it. Get one book that seems remotely relevant, and read it. That book should give you new leads to follow. It might turn you on to other books, teachers, workshops, or experiments you can try. Keep following the trail of breadcrumbs as you gradually learn how to achieve the new results you desire. But be careful not to fall back into the seductive trap of learning merely for the sake of learning. Again, learning for the sake of learning is still perfectly okay. I think it’s well and good to broaden your horizons, and not everything you learn has to be so results-oriented. But when you’re pursuing a particular goal, stick to results-oriented learning, and don’t let yourself get sidetracked. When you look back on the past several years of your life, are you pleased with the results you’ve achieved? Can you see that your investments in personal growth and learning are paying off in terms of measurable results? What is the evidence of your real-world progress? Is your “progress” all in your mind? Are you happy with your current balance between learning for the sake of learning vs. learning to achieve specific results?
    1155 Posted by UniqueThis
  • One of the big traps in life is believing that you’re making progress when there’s no actual evidence of it. It’s easy to keep learning and studying new ideas, methods, and techniques that don’t improve your results… while convincing yourself that you must be making progress simply because you’ve invested a lot of time and effort in learning and growth. It would be nice if effort equaled results, but it’s very common to apply effort without generating measurable results. Let me share a personal story to illustrate this… Based on my efforts at studying and practicing the game of blackjack, I could make a case that I’m an expert blackjack player. In my 20s I read a dozen or so books about the game of blackjack and a dozen more more about casino gambling in general. I did some independent study on games of chance in college, both for fun and as part of my education for my math degree. In high school I even programmed my Casio fx-8000G calculator to play blackjack, including drawing all the cards pixel by pixel. However, I soon learned that it’s one thing to hold this knowledge in my mind, and it’s quite another thing to apply it as a real-world skill to get positive results. Shortly after my 21st birthday, I made my first adult trip to Las Vegas with some friends. Before we left, I practiced counting cards just as I had learned from books. It took hours to memorize the correct play of every hand and to practice counting down a deck until I could do it in 13-14 seconds consistently (about as fast as I could physically flip through all the cards). I felt very well prepared before I ever set foot in a real casino. On that first trip, I played the lowest limits available, mostly varying my bets from $2 to $10. I won $125 total, giving me a nice reward for my efforts. This positive result encouraged me to keep playing. I made the 4-hour drive from L.A. to Vegas dozens of times, taking advantage of the cheap rooms and food that were in abundance at the time. I continued to invest in learning more about blackjack. I studied advanced techniques that could add a bit more edge. I learned more about the social aspects of the game. I started betting a bit more, usually $5-25 or $10-50 ranges, sometimes $25-125. I got used to bigger swings, such as losing $700 or winning $900 in a single sitting. I got kicked out of a casino for winning $200 in a few minutes, so I learned to disguise my play better. I learned how to get comps. I was very disciplined and never risked rent money or went on tilt. For me it was mostly about the challenge. I loved the combination of mathematics and emotional discipline that was required to do well. Now fast forward 20 years. I’ve been living in Vegas since 2004. There’s a popular casino just 5 minutes from my house. I can walk there if I want. I could go play blackjack at any time of day. But I rarely do these days. And if I do play, I don’t count cards. I would only play for fun, and only at a betting level that’s so far below my means so that it can’t possibly make a difference in my finances. I would never go as high as risking even half a percent of my income over the course of a year. So on the one hand, I can claim that I have a lot of expertise in this area. I invested a lot of time in learning, and I have many hours of real-world practice. But what are the actual results? I certainly didn’t do anything like the M.I.T. blackjack team did. Given my low betting levels and infrequent play, I wouldn’t even earn enough to reach minimum wage. Over the long run, my results were insignificant from a financial perspective. If I evaluate this pursuit through the lens of study and effort and practice, then I could argue that I’ve grown tremendously in my skill at blackjack. But if I use the lens of real-world results, then I must admit that I have virtually no results to speak of. I never did what would have been necessary to generate serious results from this pursuit. It was merely a side hobby that I explored for fun. So can I claim to be an expert blackjack player? That may be an issue of semantics, but I certainly can’t claim to have won any serious money at the game, which is generally how a blackjack player would measure their long-term success. Evaluating Your Progress How do you assess your progress? Do you feel you’re making progress if you’ve studied and practiced a great deal? Or do you only give yourself credit for real-world results that other people can perceive as well? I think that both types of assessment are valid. I don’t think we should completely discount learning, study, and practice as ends unto themselves. However, I also think many of us need to move our evaluation criteria further in the direction of measurable, real-world results. Here are some questions to get you thinking about the differences between study and results… Study: Do you think you know a lot about relationships? Have you read books or attended workshops on relationships? Do you know how to approach people and start conversations? Do you know how to build rapport? Do you know how to communicate well with people? Results: Are you currently enjoying positive relationships in your life right now? Are you happy and fulfilled in this part of your life? Do other people notice how happy you are with your relationships? How many people would name you as a friend? How many invites do you get in a typical month? Study: Do you think you know a lot about making money? Do you have ideas about what you can do to increase your income? Do you have goals, plans, and to-do lists? What financial skills have you acquired? Results: How much money have you earned so far this year? What does your financial balance sheet look like? If an independent financial consultant looked at your balance, would s/he say you’re wealthy, average, or pretty much broke? Would s/he see evidence of positive change over the past 3 years? Study: Do you believe you’re a caring and compassionate person? Do you care about people, animals, and the environment? Do you have ideas regarding how to make the world a better place? Do you ever wish more people would think as you do? Results: What is the measurable evidence of your ongoing contribution in the real world? What results are other people now getting that they weren’t before, thanks to you? Which specific people will testify that you’ve helped them, and how will they say you’ve helped? Which parts of the environment are better off now, thanks to you, and how are they better? Is your caring and compassion flowing out into the world and affecting real people, or is it just a feeling you have? When you look back at how your life was 3 years ago, which areas would seem to be about the same if examined by an impartial observer? Where would this observer testify that you’ve made measurable progress? Where would s/he testify that you’ve failed to make any discernable progress? Have you been assessing your progress as objectively and fair-mindedly as this impartial observer would? Have you been giving yourself credit for non-existent results? Have you been failing to credit yourself for results you really did achieve? Results-Orientation If you’re beginning to realize that you have a strong bias towards over-crediting yourself for study, effort, and practice as opposed to real-world results, I’d encourage you to shift your evaluation criteria to the results side. This may feel a bit alien at first… perhaps a bit harsher than you’re used to… but I think you’ll like it better in the long run. I’m a person who loves to read, explore, and experiment, so it’s easy for me to get caught up on the learning side and convince myself that I’m making real progress simply by making an effort. But I’ve learned over the years that my study tends to flow much better when I’m working towards a results-based goal. During college I got a contract job to program some computer games for a local game company. At the time I only knew DOS game programming, and they were developing games for Windows 3.1. Windows game programming was a whole different animal, so I committed myself to the project before I really knew what I was getting into. But as “luck” would have it, I got jury duty right when I was supposed to begin working on the first game, so the start of the project had to be delayed. I went to a bookstore and bought a stack of books on Windows game programming. Since there was so much downtime during the court case, I was able to go through those books in a matter of days. Since my learning was results-driven from the get-go, I was able to learn a lot faster. I could focus on the concepts that I would need to apply and ignore the irrelevant bits. Consequently, I had a working demo of the first game running only 9 days after I started the project. About six months later, I got to see the 4-pack of games I had programmed selling in stores like Comp USA and Software Etc. I also received royalty checks for more than $20K in addition to my contract pay. My learning efforts generated measurable results. I wasn’t just learning for the sake of learning. Later I applied those skills to design, program, and publish other games as well. And I helped teach other independent developers how to do the same. When I engage in learning just to learn something new, I almost always learn more slowly. I learn fastest when my learning is results-oriented, such as if I’m figuring out how to implement some particular feature for a specific project. Learning just to learn can be very seductive. Read any random nonfiction book, and you may be able to convince yourself that you’re doing something valuable and worthwhile. But what are you going to do with that knowledge? Will it be largely forgotten a year later? Or will you apply it in the real world? I’ve read so many books that it’s hard to keep them all straight. I have bits and pieces of knowledge about a great variety of subjects. At the time I studied these topics, they usually seemed important. Yesterday I was reading a fascinating book about the history of Goldman Sachs, a powerful investment bank that started in the 1800s and took a lot of flak for its role in the recent financial crisis. But what can I do with this knowledge? How will it generate fresh real-world results? It may be an educational, eye-opening read, but since I’m not reading it with any results-orientation in mind, I could say that I’m better off learning something else that I can apply right away. Learning for the sake of learning can indeed be pleasurable, and it can offer up hidden benefits over time. But my experience suggests that learning for the sake of creating real-world results can be just as pleasurable — and a lot faster too. You not only enjoy the learning process, but you also get to experience new results. All else being equal, doesn’t it make more sense to learn with a strong results-orientation in mind? What are the results you’d like to achieve next? Can you direct your learning to help you achieve those results faster? The Best of Both Worlds Study, effort, and practice needn’t be in opposition to real-world results. The truth is that we can enjoy both. A straightforward way to do this is to clarify some new results you’d like to achieve, and then focus on learning what you need to learn to achieve those results. While I enjoyed learning to play blackjack, my blackjack knowledge doesn’t do much for me or anyone else in terms of real-world results; it never did. On the other hand, learning how to create a web business has allowed me to enjoy life without the hassle of a regular job, to provide a worthwhile and sustainable service for people around the world, and to give me sufficient freedom to keep learning and growing. Never say “I don’t know how” to excuse yourself from pursuing a particular result you desire. “I don’t know how” is the mantra of fools. It’s okay to say, “I don’t know how yet,” but better still is to drop such phrases from your repertoire altogether. Just dive in and start learning what you need to learn. Don’t excuse yourself due to a lack of knowledge. If you don’t know how, learn how. You learned how to walk and talk. Surely you can learn other skills too. I like Jack Canfield’s advice to “lean into it.” When you don’t know how to achieve a particular result, don’t worry about learning everything overnight. Just lean into it. Get one book that seems remotely relevant, and read it. That book should give you new leads to follow. It might turn you on to other books, teachers, workshops, or experiments you can try. Keep following the trail of breadcrumbs as you gradually learn how to achieve the new results you desire. But be careful not to fall back into the seductive trap of learning merely for the sake of learning. Again, learning for the sake of learning is still perfectly okay. I think it’s well and good to broaden your horizons, and not everything you learn has to be so results-oriented. But when you’re pursuing a particular goal, stick to results-oriented learning, and don’t let yourself get sidetracked. When you look back on the past several years of your life, are you pleased with the results you’ve achieved? Can you see that your investments in personal growth and learning are paying off in terms of measurable results? What is the evidence of your real-world progress? Is your “progress” all in your mind? Are you happy with your current balance between learning for the sake of learning vs. learning to achieve specific results?
    Jul 12, 2011 1155
  • 12 Jul 2011
    One of the most potent lessons I’ve ever learned (and would love to impart to you) is just how powerful a seemingly simple perspective shift can be. Dr. Wayne Dyer says, “When you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.” I hope you realize just how profound that statement is. But just in case you don’t, let me share a personal story about it. During my first 5 years in business (1994-1998), I lost money every year, turning my $20K life savings into $150K of debt. That’s a net loss of $170K, or $34K per year on average. In 1999 I finally went bankrupt when my credit ran out. Every year since then, my business made a decent profit. So I suffered a negative cashflow each year from 1994-1998, and then from 1999 – present (12 years in a row and counting), I enjoyed a positive cashflow each year. What the heck happened in 1999? What was responsible for this major change in results? Learning How NOT to Make Money I can actually pinpoint the exact moment when I felt the shift. I underwent a radical change in my perspective. I turned the way I thought about business upside down. My attitude and my motivation changed. Obviously there were some catalyzing experiences that led to this epiphany such as getting kicked out of my apartment and going bankrupt, but when the conditions were right for it, the actual mental and emotional shifts happened fast — in a matter of minutes. It was like flipping a switch, partly in my mind… but mostly in my heart. Here are the main before-and-after differences: During my first 5 years in business, I focused on making my business successful. I pursued deals, money, and projects as if they were things to be acquired. I wanted to create hit products that sold well (computer games at the time). My motivation had a lot to do with proving myself, with making my mark on my particular field. I visualized my games getting glowing reviews, and I imagined seeing them selling in software stores. Money was a big concern. I always went for the deal that I expected would put the most money in my pocket and lead to the greatest success. During my last 12 years in business, I focused on having fun, enjoying life,and creatively expressing myself. I stopped worrying about whether or not I was ever going to be successful. The bankruptcy supplied plenty of proof that I’d already failed dismally, so I didn’t see any point in continuing to pursue the same priorities that led me there. I was using a cardboard box as a piece of furniture, a symbol of just how much financial success I’d been able to achieve. Since I’d been soundly thrashed while playing the success game, I decided to change the rules and try my hand at the “let’s just play for fun” game. A Tale of Two Mindsets My initial motivation for starting my computer games business was to make more money. For several months before that, I worked as a contract game programmer on the side while going to college. I completed a 4-pack of Windows games, doing all of the programming and much of the design work for a local games company. When the games got published, I received about $1 in programmer’s royalties for every $7 the company received. Other people at the company contributed artwork, music, and some design work, and of course they closed a deal with a publisher too. But these were fairly basic games from a resource standpoint, and it was clear to me that I was doing well over 50% of the actual production work, probably 70-80% in terms of sheer hours invested. I even wrote the help files and instruction manuals. I recognized that with a bit more effort, and with the help of the right people, such as an artist and a musician, I could essentially do what this company was doing, and I’d get to keep a lot more of the profits. Finding talented people to work with wasn’t too difficult, so soon I was off and running. I had the technical and design skills to create more games at least as good as those I created for the local game company, but after years of trying, I was never actually able to make a profit. While running the business for the first 5 years, I was constantly looking for ways to make money. If I smelled potential dollar signs, I’d chase after them. I ran after a lot of elusive deals that fizzled, fell apart, or collapsed, even after some advances were received. I worked hard, hard, hard, sometimes even sleeping at the office. But I could never get the money coming in with any consistency. Ironically the harder I tried to make money, the faster I lost money. Instead of the Midas touch, I somehow mastered the Medusa touch. Looking back, I didn’t do that initial contract programming work for the money. I did it for the love of game programming. I was in college at the time, and a friend pointed out a flier about a game programming position. He suggested I take a look at it because he knew I was into computer games, and we were both computer science majors close to graduating. It seemed like a wonderful opportunity to me. I went for an interview with the company. I felt confident about getting the job, and I really didn’t care how much they paid me. I just wanted to work on games. So when they asked me how much I wanted to be paid, I said “$10 an hour,” which was a ridiculously lowball amount. Game programming may not pay as much as some other types of programming, but it certainly pays more than $20K per year, even for a starting programmer who’s still in school. That company hired me on the spot, and I must say they got a great deal. I hit the ground running and threw myself into the first project they assigned me. They were stunned that I had a prototype up and running after only 9 days, and they actually pulled me off that project and assigned me something more ambitious. One time my project manager asked me how many hours a week I was putting in. This was during the summer when I wasn’t attending classes. I told him about 40 hours, which would have seemed reasonable because I worked at their offices Mon-Fri during normal business hours. But I actually lied. In truth I continued working on their game projects at home on evenings and weekends. Realistically I was probably putting in 60-80 hours most weeks. And those hours were dedicated to solid coding work, not to email or any other distractions. I said that I worked 40 hours a week because I didn’t want to make the other programmers in the company seem less dedicated. I was on good terms with them — and I wanted to keep it that way. I wasn’t working hard and fast for low pay to impress anyone. I did it for the sheer love of the work. I was enthralled by the technical challenges of each game. There was nothing else I wanted to be doing. I probably would have done that work for free. Within a month or two, I think the management of the company could no longer stomach seeing me do such high quality work for so little, so they voluntarily doubled my pay. I didn’t request it, but I received it with gratitude. $20 per hour is a lot for a college student. By the time the royalties were added in (after the game hit store shelves the following year), I probably ended up making about $50 per hour for programming those games, even though I only asked for $10 per hour. Plus it was really cool to walk into software stores and see something I created on the shelves. That’s rather beautiful, isn’t it? I certainly thought so. It’s a classic example of sowing first, then reaping. And then over the next 5 years, I proceeded to take this beautiful model and completely screw it up. I underwent a perspective shift that seemed intelligent at the time. The potential for greater success hit me, and I began seeing dollar signs. That local games business immediately offered me another project to work on, and I turned them down so I could start my own game development business. I did that specifically because I wanted to make more money. It seemed like a good idea at the time. I was simply expressing the American entrepreneurial spirit, right? Getting My Ass Kicked by Kolrami After 5 years of total failure, I finally had to admit that my great plan wasn’t working. Going bankrupt was a hint and a half that something went awry. The more I chased after money, the faster it ran away from me, as if screaming, “The horror! The horror!” So in 1999 I finally gave up. I didn’t enjoy living this way. It wasn’t producing the results I wanted, so for that reason alone I could justify declaring “game over.” But beyond that, those 5 years were very frustrating. I did my best to be positive and optimistic, but seeing some great projects canceled after years of work were serious disappointments. In my moment of epiphany, I realized that my decision to pursue money was when everything started going kittywompus. Becoming more financially ambitious simply did not work. In the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode “Peak Performance,” the master strategist Kolrami competes with the android character Data in a game of Strategema. The crew expects Data to win, just as you’d expect a modern chess-playing computer to kick your ass at chess. They confidently advise Data to take the shortest path to victory in order to put a dent in Kolrami’s smugness. However, Kolrami soundly defeats Data without breaking a sweat. Data is stunned by the loss and assumes he must have some kind of programming defect, going so far as to remove himself from active duty until he can figure out what’s wrong with him. Later in that episode, Captain Picard informs Data that it’s possible to make no mistakes and still lose. This leads Data to challenge his assumptions about the game. He accepts Kolrami’s offer of a rematch, and this time he plays Kolrami to an endless stalemate, leading Kolrami to eventually surrender in disgust. The crew celebrates Data’s victory and asks how he did it. Data confesses that he couldn’t defeat Kolrami by playing to win because that’s what Kolrami expected him to do. Every advantage-maximizing move that Data attempted was blocked by a superior counter-move from Kolrami. So in the rematch, Data used a different strategy. He bypassed obvious avenues of advancement and played for a draw instead of trying to win. This visibly frustrated Kolrami and allowed Data to theoretically play the game indefinitely, rendering defeat impossible. This episode may contradict game theory and minimax algorithms, assuming that Data could search ahead more moves than Kolrami could, but setting aside that issue, I found tremendous value in this lesson. It seemed like the perfect analogy for my own situation. I felt like I’d made no serious mistakes, but I still lost. When I reviewed my previous moves, they still seemed reasonable even though they led to failure, and pondering whether I might have a defective brain proved as unhelpful to me as it did to Data. During my first 5 years in business, I played to improve my financial score. I saw each business negotiation partly as a competition. If I got more money out of a deal, it meant that the other party got less. The more I succeeded in setting things up to maximize my financial score, the more I had to diminish the scores of others. In order to maximally win, someone else had to lose, at least a little bit. The harder I tried to win, the more friction I created that would ultimately cause me to lose. Maybe some people are good at playing this kind of game. I wasn’t. Someone always had more resources, more time, or more expensive lawyers. The more I pressed for gains, the more I felt an opposing force pushing back against me. This led to many problems such as delays and cancelations. I could blame others for it, but the truth is that I was responsible for creating that reality. When Internet marketers treat you as a dollar sign, can you sense it? Can you feel that tugging sensation — the sense that their main motivation is to get something from you? How does this ultimately affect your relationship with them? Bypassing Obvious Avenues of Advancement In 1999 I decided to stop trying to make money. I stopped trying to achieve success. I had 5 years of failure to convince me that it was time to change my approach. The bankruptcy was like a bonk on the head that told me I’d better not live the next 5 years like I lived the last 5. I had no more credit and no more cash to burn, so I had to make immediate changes. I had little choice but to try a different path. When I tried to succeed, Kolrami always showed up to kick my ass. I could never defeat him no matter how hard I tried. The harder I tried, the more vigorously he thrashed me. So I surrendered to his superior skills. I stopped trying to win. I accepted the irony that trying to get a higher financial score actually doomed me to a negative score. The opposing force was always greater than anything I could overcome. I decided to apply Data’s lesson to my business. Instead of trying to win, I began to play for a draw. I bypassed what seemed like obvious avenues for financial advancement, recognizing that it was exactly what Kolrami expected me to do. If I made those self-maximizing moves, he would simply knock me back, and I’d be worse off than when I started. Again, I had 5 years of experience to drill this lesson into me. In practice what this meant was that I stopped trying to maximize revenue or profits. In each business transaction, I opted to give more than I received in return. I always sought to leave extra value on the table. For example, in mid-1999 I priced my next game release at only $9.95, even though I believed a competitive price would have been $19.95. I began writing articles for free. I committed hundreds of hours to unpaid volunteer work. I hosted free discussion forums on my website to help other game developers succeed. I spoke at conferences and hosted roundtables for free. I made it impossible for Kolrami to counter my moves because my moves weren’t competitive. Last year I uncopyrighted all of my articles and podcasts and donated all of them to the public domain. I also committed to placing my new articles directly into the public domain (including this one). I encouraged people to republish, translate, and/or sell my work for their own financial gain if they wanted to. I deliberately and intentionally earn less revenue and less profit than I feel I’m capable of earning. When it comes to income generation, I hold back when it seems like the logical move would be to advance. While Kolrami expects me to play to win, I’m actually playing for a draw. Playing for a Draw When I played to win, I lost for 5 years in a row. I never actually won. Even when it seemed like I nailed a winning move, it always turned out to be a mistake that led to my being checkmated several moves later. When I played for a draw, I was able to make money for 12 years in a row. And I didn’t have to work nearly as hard to make that happen. When you play to win in a competitive game, you’re playing for someone else to lose. If you want to maximize revenue or profits, you need to maximize the amount of money your customers or clients pay you. The more money you make, the less money they get to keep. You can only go so far down this path before you start meeting serious resistance. And the more tactics and techniques you use to try to combat that resistance, the stronger the resistance becomes. How many businesses have had to learn this lesson the hard way? The more they try to extract the maximum amount of money from you, the more you feel driven to resist them, such as by resorting to piracy to cut them out entirely. Which businesses do you dislike most? Do you feel those businesses are playing to win at your expense? How does that affect your ongoing relationship with them? What are your favorite businesses? Why are they your favorites? One of my favorite businesses is Google. I like them because I feel they give me a lot more value than they ask in return. They provide me with a free search engine, free email, free calendar, etc. I benefit from their engineering expertise every day, and I’m grateful for it. I’ve paid them back in some ways over the years, such as by generating hundreds of thousands of dollars of business for them when I had Adsense on my blog… and probably millions if you include all the referrals I must have sent their way, such as other bloggers who signed up for Adsense after learning about my results with it. Facebook, on the other hand, left me feeling used and abused after two years as an active user of their service. So I shut down my personal page and my fan page and wrote multiple articles about why I had to abandon them and take my social networking to greener pastures. Ironically, one of those articles racked up 2000+ Facebook likes. Of course these evaluations are being continually refreshed. Google might screw up, and I may have to bid Larry and Sergey adieu. Facebook might correct its problems, and I’ll have to refriend Zuck. But for now, my perception is that Google is still playing with me, while Facebook still wants to play at me. Becoming an Enigma What does it mean to win? What does it mean to succeed? Does it even make sense to pursue these ideals? I learned the hard way that it’s actually easier to enjoy an abundant and fulfilling lifestyle by playing for a draw instead of playing to win or succeed. When you play for a draw, you change the way others relate to you. They may not understand this consciously, but they’ll behave differently towards you nonetheless. Some of your decisions may confuse people at first, especially if they’re used to dealing with businesses that play to win, but generally people seem to respond positively. A business that plays for a draw is a breath of fresh air. When you leave extra value on the table without trying to extract it, that value rolls over into goodwill, which is the lifeblood of a sustainable business. For example, by giving away so much free content, my business receives a massive number of referrals. New referrals happen every single day — passively and with zero marketing costs. I’ve done okay financially too. Not counting income from my workshops or my book, my blog alone has generated well over $1 million in revenue since I started, mostly from joint-venture promotions and affiliate programs. That’s plenty for me to sustain a positive cashflow and to enjoy an abundant lifestyle. What about the economy? I live in Nevada, which has the highest unemployment rate of any U.S. state, according to the U.S. Dept of Labor. Lots of people here are looking for ways to make money, and they’re getting thrashed by Kolrami. They’re trying to beat a game that they can’t win. The odds are better in the casinos. The irony, however, is that I perceive my actual income as much lower than it could be if I put more effort into it. There are lots of ways I could potentially earn more money, and some are dirt simple. For instance, for about an hour’s work, I could immediately start earning at least an extra $10K per month in passive income just by putting up Google Adsense ads, which I used to have on the site for several years. See this post if you want to know why I dropped Adsense. I deliberately choose not to earn this money. Now you might be wondering, What kind of idiot would pass up an easy $10K/month in passive income? The kind of idiot who’s had his ass kicked by Kolrami way too many times.  You see… I don’t run my business to optimize revenue or profits. When I tried to do that, my real-world results were the exact opposite of what I wanted. So these days I deliberately make business decisions that leave significant value on the table, untapped and unextracted. Kolrami cannot make sense of these moves, and therefore he cannot counter them. Consequently, any potential competition with him remains in a state of perpetual stalemate. He cannot defeat me, and theoretically I can keep playing indefinitely. Instead of seeing me as a competitor, my peers in this field tend to regard me as a bit of an enigma. Many of them became very curious when I did the whole copyright giveaway thing last year. From their perspective it seemed like a very risky thing to do, perhaps even foolhardy. Some regard it as very brave, while others simply don’t know what to make of it. Most aren’t willing to go down a similar path, preferring to keep all their work copyrighted so they can control it. They know that I’m an intelligent and strategic thinker, but since this action doesn’t really make logical sense from the standpoint of maximizing revenue, they don’t perceive me as any sort of competitive threat, so by default I’m treated as a non-threatening ally. And the truth is that I’m not a competitive threat of any sort because I’m not playing this game to win. I’m still playing for a stalemate with Kolrami, and I plan to continue doing so indefinitely. Making money is very easy now. I don’t consider myself uber-rich, but I’ve achieved what I consider to be functional abundance. All my bills are paid, and I have sufficient income to enjoy the lifestyle I desire. I can work when I want and take time off when I want. And I feel I can keep this going indefinitely. Even though I’ve made plenty of money from this business, I always have the sense that I could be earning many times more than what I’m actually earning. But I deliberately avoid that level of success, not because I’m resistant to success but because I recognize that the pursuit of such success is a trap. It was a major lesson for me to learn that I can actually make more money by trying to make less money. I can achieve more success by trying to succeed less. This is what has actually worked for me in the real world. The path of abundance isn’t the path that maximizes velocity. It’s the path that minimizes friction. If you try to maximize velocity, you end up maximizing friction too, thereby causing massive amounts of heat. Ultimately, you burn up. If you race to every destination by driving as fast as your car will allow, is that the optimal approach? Or is it better to intentionally hold back a bit, driving at speeds well below your car’s maximum potential? Success = Sustainability Instead of seeing success as some kind of accomplishment, victory, or conquest, I think it’s wiser and more effective to define success as sustainability. This isn’t just about how we run our lives or businesses. It’s about how we relate to each other and to our planet as a whole. Is the most successful energy company the one that extracts and sells the earth’s resources as quickly as possible? Is a successful relationship one in which you extract maximum value from your partner, leaving them drained at the end of each day? I like Stephen Covey’s analogy of the goose and the golden eggs. If you try to maximize all-out production by extracting as many golden eggs as possible, you eventually kill the golden goose, thereby causing your production capacity to crash. For long-term sustainability, you must nurture the golden goose. Getting greedy with the eggs will cause Kolrami to swoop in and turn your goose into foie gras. The game of business isn’t winnable. No matter how hard you play to win, you’ll always lose in the end. Even if you become an extremely cunning player, laying waste to all who oppose you, eventually you’ll die, and your deathbed score resets to zero. Kolrami always gets the last move. But if you largely ignore the score and play for a draw instead of trying to win, Kolrami cannot defeat you. You can play the game for as long as you like. When you seek sustainability, the games of money and business are transformed. Instead of competing for survival and success, you can relax and enjoy yourself. Playing for fun is a whole different ride. When you play for fun instead of trying to win, most people will relate to you in the same manner. Some players may initially assume a competitive posture with you, but once they realize you’re playing for fun instead of trying to win, they’ll quickly lower their shields, and they’ll begin to play the game with you at your level — for fun. Even highly competitive players naturally sense there’s no honor in thrashing an opponent who isn’t trying to beat them. No real victory can be achieved against a player who stands no chance of winning. Players that try to overwhelm defenseless opponents simply make themselves look ridiculous. I’m not saying that you’ll never encounter a stubborn victory-minded person who seeks to trounce you anyway, but it’s a lot rarer when you decline to resist them. Competitive people tend to expend more energy on those who resist them. If you offer no resistance, they’re more likely to consider you a potential ally. When I tried to win in business, I experienced frustration and failure. When I played for a draw, I had fun and enjoyed sustainable success. If you’re still trying to win, maybe it’s time to give it up. Kolrami is just too good. You cannot hope to beat him. He’ll take all your best moves and turn them against you, causing you to end up worse off than when you started. As for defeating Kolrami, in the strictest sense, I did not win. I busted him up.  Thanks for the inspiration, Gene. You are still loved. <3
    879 Posted by UniqueThis
  • One of the most potent lessons I’ve ever learned (and would love to impart to you) is just how powerful a seemingly simple perspective shift can be. Dr. Wayne Dyer says, “When you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.” I hope you realize just how profound that statement is. But just in case you don’t, let me share a personal story about it. During my first 5 years in business (1994-1998), I lost money every year, turning my $20K life savings into $150K of debt. That’s a net loss of $170K, or $34K per year on average. In 1999 I finally went bankrupt when my credit ran out. Every year since then, my business made a decent profit. So I suffered a negative cashflow each year from 1994-1998, and then from 1999 – present (12 years in a row and counting), I enjoyed a positive cashflow each year. What the heck happened in 1999? What was responsible for this major change in results? Learning How NOT to Make Money I can actually pinpoint the exact moment when I felt the shift. I underwent a radical change in my perspective. I turned the way I thought about business upside down. My attitude and my motivation changed. Obviously there were some catalyzing experiences that led to this epiphany such as getting kicked out of my apartment and going bankrupt, but when the conditions were right for it, the actual mental and emotional shifts happened fast — in a matter of minutes. It was like flipping a switch, partly in my mind… but mostly in my heart. Here are the main before-and-after differences: During my first 5 years in business, I focused on making my business successful. I pursued deals, money, and projects as if they were things to be acquired. I wanted to create hit products that sold well (computer games at the time). My motivation had a lot to do with proving myself, with making my mark on my particular field. I visualized my games getting glowing reviews, and I imagined seeing them selling in software stores. Money was a big concern. I always went for the deal that I expected would put the most money in my pocket and lead to the greatest success. During my last 12 years in business, I focused on having fun, enjoying life,and creatively expressing myself. I stopped worrying about whether or not I was ever going to be successful. The bankruptcy supplied plenty of proof that I’d already failed dismally, so I didn’t see any point in continuing to pursue the same priorities that led me there. I was using a cardboard box as a piece of furniture, a symbol of just how much financial success I’d been able to achieve. Since I’d been soundly thrashed while playing the success game, I decided to change the rules and try my hand at the “let’s just play for fun” game. A Tale of Two Mindsets My initial motivation for starting my computer games business was to make more money. For several months before that, I worked as a contract game programmer on the side while going to college. I completed a 4-pack of Windows games, doing all of the programming and much of the design work for a local games company. When the games got published, I received about $1 in programmer’s royalties for every $7 the company received. Other people at the company contributed artwork, music, and some design work, and of course they closed a deal with a publisher too. But these were fairly basic games from a resource standpoint, and it was clear to me that I was doing well over 50% of the actual production work, probably 70-80% in terms of sheer hours invested. I even wrote the help files and instruction manuals. I recognized that with a bit more effort, and with the help of the right people, such as an artist and a musician, I could essentially do what this company was doing, and I’d get to keep a lot more of the profits. Finding talented people to work with wasn’t too difficult, so soon I was off and running. I had the technical and design skills to create more games at least as good as those I created for the local game company, but after years of trying, I was never actually able to make a profit. While running the business for the first 5 years, I was constantly looking for ways to make money. If I smelled potential dollar signs, I’d chase after them. I ran after a lot of elusive deals that fizzled, fell apart, or collapsed, even after some advances were received. I worked hard, hard, hard, sometimes even sleeping at the office. But I could never get the money coming in with any consistency. Ironically the harder I tried to make money, the faster I lost money. Instead of the Midas touch, I somehow mastered the Medusa touch. Looking back, I didn’t do that initial contract programming work for the money. I did it for the love of game programming. I was in college at the time, and a friend pointed out a flier about a game programming position. He suggested I take a look at it because he knew I was into computer games, and we were both computer science majors close to graduating. It seemed like a wonderful opportunity to me. I went for an interview with the company. I felt confident about getting the job, and I really didn’t care how much they paid me. I just wanted to work on games. So when they asked me how much I wanted to be paid, I said “$10 an hour,” which was a ridiculously lowball amount. Game programming may not pay as much as some other types of programming, but it certainly pays more than $20K per year, even for a starting programmer who’s still in school. That company hired me on the spot, and I must say they got a great deal. I hit the ground running and threw myself into the first project they assigned me. They were stunned that I had a prototype up and running after only 9 days, and they actually pulled me off that project and assigned me something more ambitious. One time my project manager asked me how many hours a week I was putting in. This was during the summer when I wasn’t attending classes. I told him about 40 hours, which would have seemed reasonable because I worked at their offices Mon-Fri during normal business hours. But I actually lied. In truth I continued working on their game projects at home on evenings and weekends. Realistically I was probably putting in 60-80 hours most weeks. And those hours were dedicated to solid coding work, not to email or any other distractions. I said that I worked 40 hours a week because I didn’t want to make the other programmers in the company seem less dedicated. I was on good terms with them — and I wanted to keep it that way. I wasn’t working hard and fast for low pay to impress anyone. I did it for the sheer love of the work. I was enthralled by the technical challenges of each game. There was nothing else I wanted to be doing. I probably would have done that work for free. Within a month or two, I think the management of the company could no longer stomach seeing me do such high quality work for so little, so they voluntarily doubled my pay. I didn’t request it, but I received it with gratitude. $20 per hour is a lot for a college student. By the time the royalties were added in (after the game hit store shelves the following year), I probably ended up making about $50 per hour for programming those games, even though I only asked for $10 per hour. Plus it was really cool to walk into software stores and see something I created on the shelves. That’s rather beautiful, isn’t it? I certainly thought so. It’s a classic example of sowing first, then reaping. And then over the next 5 years, I proceeded to take this beautiful model and completely screw it up. I underwent a perspective shift that seemed intelligent at the time. The potential for greater success hit me, and I began seeing dollar signs. That local games business immediately offered me another project to work on, and I turned them down so I could start my own game development business. I did that specifically because I wanted to make more money. It seemed like a good idea at the time. I was simply expressing the American entrepreneurial spirit, right? Getting My Ass Kicked by Kolrami After 5 years of total failure, I finally had to admit that my great plan wasn’t working. Going bankrupt was a hint and a half that something went awry. The more I chased after money, the faster it ran away from me, as if screaming, “The horror! The horror!” So in 1999 I finally gave up. I didn’t enjoy living this way. It wasn’t producing the results I wanted, so for that reason alone I could justify declaring “game over.” But beyond that, those 5 years were very frustrating. I did my best to be positive and optimistic, but seeing some great projects canceled after years of work were serious disappointments. In my moment of epiphany, I realized that my decision to pursue money was when everything started going kittywompus. Becoming more financially ambitious simply did not work. In the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode “Peak Performance,” the master strategist Kolrami competes with the android character Data in a game of Strategema. The crew expects Data to win, just as you’d expect a modern chess-playing computer to kick your ass at chess. They confidently advise Data to take the shortest path to victory in order to put a dent in Kolrami’s smugness. However, Kolrami soundly defeats Data without breaking a sweat. Data is stunned by the loss and assumes he must have some kind of programming defect, going so far as to remove himself from active duty until he can figure out what’s wrong with him. Later in that episode, Captain Picard informs Data that it’s possible to make no mistakes and still lose. This leads Data to challenge his assumptions about the game. He accepts Kolrami’s offer of a rematch, and this time he plays Kolrami to an endless stalemate, leading Kolrami to eventually surrender in disgust. The crew celebrates Data’s victory and asks how he did it. Data confesses that he couldn’t defeat Kolrami by playing to win because that’s what Kolrami expected him to do. Every advantage-maximizing move that Data attempted was blocked by a superior counter-move from Kolrami. So in the rematch, Data used a different strategy. He bypassed obvious avenues of advancement and played for a draw instead of trying to win. This visibly frustrated Kolrami and allowed Data to theoretically play the game indefinitely, rendering defeat impossible. This episode may contradict game theory and minimax algorithms, assuming that Data could search ahead more moves than Kolrami could, but setting aside that issue, I found tremendous value in this lesson. It seemed like the perfect analogy for my own situation. I felt like I’d made no serious mistakes, but I still lost. When I reviewed my previous moves, they still seemed reasonable even though they led to failure, and pondering whether I might have a defective brain proved as unhelpful to me as it did to Data. During my first 5 years in business, I played to improve my financial score. I saw each business negotiation partly as a competition. If I got more money out of a deal, it meant that the other party got less. The more I succeeded in setting things up to maximize my financial score, the more I had to diminish the scores of others. In order to maximally win, someone else had to lose, at least a little bit. The harder I tried to win, the more friction I created that would ultimately cause me to lose. Maybe some people are good at playing this kind of game. I wasn’t. Someone always had more resources, more time, or more expensive lawyers. The more I pressed for gains, the more I felt an opposing force pushing back against me. This led to many problems such as delays and cancelations. I could blame others for it, but the truth is that I was responsible for creating that reality. When Internet marketers treat you as a dollar sign, can you sense it? Can you feel that tugging sensation — the sense that their main motivation is to get something from you? How does this ultimately affect your relationship with them? Bypassing Obvious Avenues of Advancement In 1999 I decided to stop trying to make money. I stopped trying to achieve success. I had 5 years of failure to convince me that it was time to change my approach. The bankruptcy was like a bonk on the head that told me I’d better not live the next 5 years like I lived the last 5. I had no more credit and no more cash to burn, so I had to make immediate changes. I had little choice but to try a different path. When I tried to succeed, Kolrami always showed up to kick my ass. I could never defeat him no matter how hard I tried. The harder I tried, the more vigorously he thrashed me. So I surrendered to his superior skills. I stopped trying to win. I accepted the irony that trying to get a higher financial score actually doomed me to a negative score. The opposing force was always greater than anything I could overcome. I decided to apply Data’s lesson to my business. Instead of trying to win, I began to play for a draw. I bypassed what seemed like obvious avenues for financial advancement, recognizing that it was exactly what Kolrami expected me to do. If I made those self-maximizing moves, he would simply knock me back, and I’d be worse off than when I started. Again, I had 5 years of experience to drill this lesson into me. In practice what this meant was that I stopped trying to maximize revenue or profits. In each business transaction, I opted to give more than I received in return. I always sought to leave extra value on the table. For example, in mid-1999 I priced my next game release at only $9.95, even though I believed a competitive price would have been $19.95. I began writing articles for free. I committed hundreds of hours to unpaid volunteer work. I hosted free discussion forums on my website to help other game developers succeed. I spoke at conferences and hosted roundtables for free. I made it impossible for Kolrami to counter my moves because my moves weren’t competitive. Last year I uncopyrighted all of my articles and podcasts and donated all of them to the public domain. I also committed to placing my new articles directly into the public domain (including this one). I encouraged people to republish, translate, and/or sell my work for their own financial gain if they wanted to. I deliberately and intentionally earn less revenue and less profit than I feel I’m capable of earning. When it comes to income generation, I hold back when it seems like the logical move would be to advance. While Kolrami expects me to play to win, I’m actually playing for a draw. Playing for a Draw When I played to win, I lost for 5 years in a row. I never actually won. Even when it seemed like I nailed a winning move, it always turned out to be a mistake that led to my being checkmated several moves later. When I played for a draw, I was able to make money for 12 years in a row. And I didn’t have to work nearly as hard to make that happen. When you play to win in a competitive game, you’re playing for someone else to lose. If you want to maximize revenue or profits, you need to maximize the amount of money your