Saving Ideas

I used to save ideas.  When I thought of a good idea for an article I would often justify not writing it until I was a better writer.  If I had a good idea for a joke I would often save it for a “good time” instead of telling it as soon as I thought of it.

I thought that good ideas were a scarce resource that needed to be carefully rationed.  But I’ve discovered that they’re not.  In fact, the more ideas I use the more I find I’m capable of creating high quality ideas.

Take writing for an example.  I recently received inspiration from Seth Godin to try writing everyday instead of only twice a week, and although I’ve only been doing this for three days, I can already feel a greater abundance of blog post ideas forming.

Maybe I was wrong.  Perhaps ideas aren’t a scarce resource needing to be rationed.  Perhaps they’re a muscle in the brain requiring constant exercise to prevent atrophying.

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Faking Progress

It’s easy to read personal development books, and attend seminars.  It’s much more difficult to actually apply the things you learn from them.

Even if you’re experiencing stagnation in your external reality it’s easy to think you’re still making progress internally.  And for some period of time your claims may be justified.

But because our external realities are mere reflections of our inner selves it’s actually impossible to have an inner identity shift without making external progress.

Therefore if your external reality has remained the same for more than a few months you haven’t actually changed internally either.

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Shifting Perspectives

We tend to overcomplicate our decisions.  Most of the time we know what we should do, but don’t do it.  I struggle with this at times as well, however, one method I’ve found useful in making the right decisions is shifting perspectives.  Whenever I can’t decide what action to take I shift to one of two alternative perspectives.

The first perspective shift I regularly use involves God. I pretend he’s standing by me with a gun pointed to my head saying, “Do the right thing… or else.”  You see, regardless of how much I was struggling to make a decision beforehand, from the perspective of someone threatening me with a gun pointed to my head, the right action becomes almost trivially easy to identify.

I may still have to fight through limiting beliefs and conflicting emotions to make myself take the right action, but it becomes much easier to do so when I understand what the right action is.

Another perspective shift I like using involves the shifting of time.  When I’m faced with a difficult problem I imagine myself looking back at that problem on my deathbed.  It’s easy to get caught up in the moment, but with this shift in perspective I can look at my struggles with more of a big picture outlook.

Doing so helps me prevent future regrets by making the right decisions, and even better helps me identify problems I won’t remember in a week, let alone a lifetime.

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The Tipping Point

In most of our lives there comes a point where we refuse to tolerate a certain area of our lives anymore.  Maybe your love life has falling by the wayside, or perhaps you’ve just gotten so tired of living in poverty that being poor just isn’t an option anymore.

Regardless of your particular situation, I call this phenomenon the tipping point. In essence the tipping point states that most people receive whatever they tolerate.

And while it’s great to be aware of this theory, how do you apply it to your daily life you ask? Don’t require hitting rock bottom to be your tipping point. You have the power to make the conscious decision to set your tipping point wherever you desire.

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The Wrong Problem

Perhaps the most frustrating thing in the world are unsolvable problems.  The type of problems where regardless of how many times you try to tackle them, they always seem to have you running in circles.

The concept of an unsolvable problem would seem to be something that couldn’t possibly exist.  But they do.

Unsolvable problems do exist, and more than that, they’re actually quite abundant.  A common example that comes to mind is diet.

An irrational number of people run around chasing an endless number of new diet fads, but at the end of the day they’re not going to lose weight regardless of which one they choose. And even if they do manage to drop a few pounds, it won’t be sustainable.

Another example that comes to mind is men looking to attract loving partners into their lives.  Often they try to do so by working longer hours in an effort to make more money.  They spend large amounts of money on fancy cars or spoil their dates because they think it’ll impress them.

But truthfully, it won’t.  Obviously their potential mates would rather have a financially independent man, versus a homeless one, but once a man gets to the point of being self sufficient any extra money he earns starts to become irrelevant in terms of his love life.

Making $200,000 a year vs $175,000 may make a big difference in his real estate investing, but in attracting a soulmate, not so much.

This is the point where many guys feel that attracting a mate into their life is hopeless because regardless of how much they increase their income the impact it has on their dating life is negligible.

They often begin to think that their problem is unsolvable, but in reality the solution is actually quite simple. They’re trying to solve the wrong problem.

Sometimes the most challenging problems are only difficult because they’re not the ones that need solving.

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Fuel To The Fire

“A setback is a setup for a comeback”  -Eric Thomas

I’ve failed.  The little voice in my head is laughing and telling me I couldn’t do it.  My back’s against the wall and it’s tempting to just give up.  But despite all this, there’s a part of me that knows I can’t go back.

In the past whenever I’ve failed I’ve engaged in self pity parties. Crying about how unfair life is and how I wish I could get everything like some people do.  Woe is me.

Yet somehow that doesn’t feel right anymore.  Even though I’ve failed, it doesn’t seem like failure anymore.  No doubt I’m disappointed to have not been successful, but somehow failure no longer feels like the result of my stumble.  It feels like the launching pad to my success.

There’s no more time for pity parties.  I’m trying to get the most out of life and failure has just set me behind schedule. I’ve got to kick it into overdrive.  Instead of counting the day as a loss, I’m making it into a win.

The exterior appearance of that day is one in which I lacked discipline and strayed away from my goals, but on the inside I recognize it as something else.  I see it for what it is, feedback that my current approach isn’t working.

I’ve allowed myself to hit rock bottom which although unpleasant was necessary.  It’s provided me with clarity with what I don’t want and in turn helped me realize what I do what.  It’s helped remind me why I do the things I do.  This time failure hasn’t caused me to throw pity parties, but instead added fuel to the fire that drives me.

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Input Equals Output

I had just finished juggling practice and was eating lunch at my grandma’s house. Amy’s Kitchens Organic Bean Burritos. Yum. My taste buds were in a heavenly state.

I had been listening to music while I was juggling, but as I had taken my headphones out to talk with my grandmother I was blasted with the obnoxious sound of the television. The Family Fued theme song screeched in my head.

The mindless clapping had a hypnotizing effect and as I looked up from my plate toward my grandmother I saw not a conscious being, but a zombie. Her eyes had been fixed to the television since I had gotten there and as suddenly as I had taken my headphones out, I proceeded to put them right back in.

I haven’t watched more than a passing glance of television in almost three years, and my brief encounter of Family Fued at my grandmother’s was the perfect example of why.

My grandmother, like most Americans is a very closed minded person. She thinks that the only way to make a living is the traditional route of going to college, getting a degree and then becoming a life long “employee.” She thinks that life is unfair, that the world is a mean and nasty place, and that making eye contact, let alone talking to strangers is asking for trouble.

In short, she’s a product of social conditioning. A victim of the tube. Her beliefs are probably no more negative than the average American’s, but that’s not saying much considering the pessimistic outlook on life most people have.

Most people wish their life was better, but they don’t think they can do anything about it. Even worse, some people know that they could change their lives, but don’t. I can’t remember where, but I once heard a quote that said something like this, “You get out of life what you put in.”

Obviously there are small variables that are out of our control such as where we’re born, physical height, etc. But most people would agree that if you put in the work required to reach your goals, you’ll achieve them, except in the rarest of circumstances, such as someone that’s four feet tall trying to become an NBA center. I’d agree with that as well, but at least for today, I’d like to approach, “You get out of life what you put in” from a different angle, but before doing so I want to give you a quick scenario.

It’s my family’s annual baking contest between me and my brother. We both have 1 hour to bake a cake and after we’ve finished the cakes will be sliced and then given to the rest of the family to be judged in a blind taste test.

Assuming my brother and I both bake on a regular basis, and we’re at a similar level of expertise, who would you expect to win? With the info I’ve given so far it would probably be pretty hard to predict, wouldn’t it?

But what if I told you that my brother had access to a kitchen full of gourmet ingredients as well as a professional chef as an adviser and all I had was flour, eggs, expired milk, and half a cup of frosting? Wouldn’t it then become trivially easy to predict who would win the contest?

You’ve probably already caught on to what I’m alluding to, but if you haven’t, it’s that garbage in equals garbage out.

The reason most people will never be successful is because they possess all the ingredients of failure, but none of the ingredients of success. They watch fear based television programs, and surround themselves with negative people, which is fine if they’re trying to cook up the recipe for failure, but they’re deluding themselves if they think those ingredients will ever amount to any level of success.

Think about it like this, if I gave you spoiled milk and cracked eggshells and told you to make me the best cake I’ve ever had, how would you do that? How would you go about making a delicious gourmet cake out of those ingredients? Simply put, you couldn’t. You wouldn’t even know where to begin.

The same thing applies to life. If you want to succeed you need to consciously and carefully chose what “ingredients” or input you’re allowing into your life. The further you deviate from the recipe of success, the further you’ll be from being successful.

The Ingredients of Success

Among the best habits I’ve developed for maintaining a motivated, positive attitude is consuming personal development material on a regular basis. This could mean reading motivational books or blogs, listening to positive podcasts, whatever. The medium you choose is irrelevant.

The important thing is that you’re regularly exposing yourself to things that will provide you with new ideas that will contribute to your growth, rather than inhibit it.

I often listen to motivational podcasts while I’m in the car because it requires no extra time investment and I love the feeling of learning from other people who have succeeded, rather than listening to complaining from those that haven’t. I’d highly recommend you adopt a similar practice.

Besides the type of media you consume, another important form of input is the type of people you surround yourself with. Whoever said, “You are the product of the five people you spend the most time with” wasn’t lying.

Surrounding yourself with positive people is absolutely crucial to success. Achieving your goals is difficult enough as it is. The last thing you need is negative “friends” trying to sabotage your efforts.

I don’t want to be repetitive, but again I can’t emphasize enough how important it is to surround yourself with positive people. Start a mastermind group, find something on Meetup, join Toastmaster’s. Do whatever you need to do to find them.

I’m still working on recalibrating my own social circle, but I’ve already made tremendous progress and finding people who have been able to help me grow has been incredibly invaluable.

It’s nearly impossible for anyone to significantly change and develop as a person without changing who they associate themselves with. You may be able to make minor improvements to your life and continue hanging out with the same people, but ultimately if you want to change your social circle is going to have to as well.

This may be a tough realization to accept at first, initially it was for me too, but it’s absolutely necessary.

Think about it like this, you can have a positive social circle of people who will help you succeed and contribute to your growth, or you can spend time with negative, mindless zombies who spend the majority of their time playing servant to a box. It’s your choice, but you can’t have both.

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Doubling Down

I was lifting weights, and before I had even finished my warmup, I quit.

I wasn’t in pain and there was no logical reason for me to stop, but I did. I had just taken a few extra recovery days the week before so the problem wasn’t overtraining. I had slept well and eaten healthy the day of the workout, but for some reason I quit.

There appears to be some mechanism in our brains that’s geared toward survival and when I had the thought that maybe lifting weights wasn’t 100% necessary my body decided to conserve energy and give up on me. I allowed my body to control me as if I was an animal so, I had the idea to treat myself like one.

During my next workout I decided that not only was I going to finish my whole workout, but as punishment for giving up on myself I was also going to add 5 pounds to each lift. I decided that no matter what happened, I wasn’t going to leave until I got through my whole workout. And it worked. I completed each lift, and strangely enough the weights actually felt lighter than before.

I can’t tell you why the weights felt lighter, but I can tell you that increasing the amount I had to lift worked. Maybe it’s because I was more inspired by the higher goal and my body produced more adrenaline than it typically does. Maybe my body thought I would increase the amount of weight it would have to lift if it failed. I don’t know, and while I’m still not sure this is the best long term strategy to be using in the gym, I’ve been able to apply it to others aspects of my life quite successfully.

Let’s use socialization as an example. As a child I had low self esteem and was very introverted, but as I’ve developed as a person I’ve gradually became more extroverted. I still spend the majority of my time alone, but it’s now a conscious choice I make as a result of my hobbies rather than it being my only option.

Recently, however, I’ve noticed myself becoming a bit too introverted for my liking, so I’ve begun making a conscious effort to socialize more. Sometimes that may mean introducing myself to a random stranger, while other times it may mean attending a social event or reconnecting with someone I’ve lost touch with.

This process has been going pretty smoothly for the most part, however, there have been times where I know I should have introduced myself to someone or went to some event I had been invited to but didn’t. In those cases, I force myself to do more of whatever I had just avoided.

Cameron did you just skip introducing yourself to that girl? Bad decision. Now you’re going to have to introduce yourself to three more by the end of the day. Did you just tell them you were busy and couldn’t build a snowman later? Bad decision. Now you have to find two more social events to attend this weekend.

Of course, I could punish myself the way most people do, perhaps going for a run, or studying a foreign language every time I allowed my brain to rationalize its way out of things, but that wouldn’t be nearly as effective.

It may help me get in better shape, or improve my Spanish, but because my brain doesn’t fear either of those activities like it sometimes fears socialization, it would ultimately prove to be futile because my brain would rationalize running and studying every single time and I wouldn’t ever face my fear.

I could see how it could perhaps work the other way, however, forcing yourself to so something you fear more than the activity you just rationalized your way out of, but for now I’m keeping my system as simple as possible and simply substituting more of whatever I just attempted to avoid.

In addition to substituting more of an activity, you can also substitute a more intense version of an avoided activity. That’s what I did when increased the amount of weight I had to lift. It’s an interesting alternative to simply increasing your amount of a specific activity and it’s something I intend to experiment with in the coming weeks.

Continuing with the socialization example, let’s say you suffer from social anxiety and you tell yourself that you’re going to go to the mall with friends and just say hi to one stranger. An hour passes, but you still haven’t said hi to anyone. Well, then you can up the ante a bit.

Perhaps you then force yourself to not only say hi to someone, but hold a conversation with them as well. And the great thing about doing this with friends, is that you can tell them beforehand to hold you accountable. Tell them that if you don’t say hi to at least one stranger within an hour then they can do whatever they want to embarrass you.

You’ll have a lot more motivation when they start walking up to random chicks and telli them that you have a crush on them, or they try to pants you, or whatever your friends may try to do that you find embarrassing.

I call this whole process of punishing yourself for not doing something you know you should do doubling down. I find it’s a very effective way of consciously programming my mind to thrive instead of merely survive, and in the few short weeks I’ve been using this process it’s already shown great promise.

Doubling down can be utilized in any area of your life, so if you find yourself constantly procrastinating or making excuses in one area of your life try it, and let me know in the the comments how it’s worked out for you.

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5 Feeble Excuses

Excuses are lies we tell ourselves to justify why can’t do something.  We all make them at times, but as long as we continue to feed them, we block ourselves off from new experiences and growth.

I don’t have time.

One of the most common excuses people make is that they don’t have time.  That’s wrong.  Whether you’re white, black, rich, poor, employed, or unemployed is irrelevant.

Everyone is given the same 24 hours and your success is completely dependent on how you use that time.  The difference between those that are successful and those that are unsuccessful, is that successful people use their time wisely.

Successful people don’t sit on the couch, and complain about their lives while watching zombifying passive entertainment.  They’re out there trying to make the most of life, doing whatever they can to bring themselves up to a level they’ve never experienced.  Successful people are successful because they take massive action and massive action equals massive results.

Truthfully, “I don’t have time” isn’t a rational reason not to do something.  It’s an excuse manifested from some level of fear that’s trying to justify that our current level of experiences are just fine, and that change is too risky.  It’s the result of the overemphasis of security in our lives.

Time isn’t an abundant resource that can be found just anywhere.  If something is important to you, you have to make time for it.

I’m not good enough.

How aren’t you good enough?  If someone else can do it, why not you?  If someone else has done whatever it is you’re trying to do, then it’s possible.

You may currently lack the skill or experience required for the task you’re trying to accomplish, but there’s nothing stopping you from developing it.  If anyone’s going to experience your hopes and dreams, why not you?  You are good enough, and if you’re making the excuse that you’re not, then become good enough.

It’s too different. 

Just because conforming is the trending social norm doesn’t mean you have to participate.  Lots of people think running my own website and making juggling videos is weird.  Who cares?

It’s cliche, “But those who mind don’t matter and those who matter don’t mind” (Bernard Baruch). If you plan on experiencing something you’re not currently experiencing you’re going to need to change in some way.  Otherwise you’re going to continue to get what you’ve always gotten.

Whenever you change, it’s inevitable that you’re social circle will change as well and that’s perfectly fine.  In fact it’s a wonderful change.  Wouldn’t you rather attract positive, successful people into your life instead of socially conditioned, mindless zombies?  I certainly would.  It’s your choice, but you can’t have both.

As long as you continue to hold onto your current social circle, you resist the manifestation of new relationships that are more conductive to your success.

I don’t know how.

This is perhaps the worst excuse you could possible have.  With the wealth of information online today, almost anything you could possibly learn is just a click away, and even if it’s some discrete subject that’s not online, you can almost always find the contact information of someone who has the knowledge you’re seeking.

Even if you’re trying to do something that’s never done before, it’s more than possible to teach yourself.  It may require some persistence, but no baby ever learned to walk by complaining about its incompetence.

It’s not the right time.

I could do it now, but one day I’ll be in a better position to do “x”.  The time will never be just right. Unless there’s a concrete reason you need to wait to start working towards your goal, start now.

If you’re trying to learn how to snowboard and it’s the middle of the summer, then waiting might be unavoidable.  But at least set a concrete start date for your goal.

Don’t say, “I want to learn how to snowboard next winter.”  Say, “The first time it snows “x” amount of inches I’m going to go snowboarding.”  Better yet, tell a friend about your goal and have them make the commitment to come snowboarding with you.

It’s the same idea as a workout buddy.  You might not feel like going snowboarding, but your friend will provide you with an extra level of accountability.

Conclusion

Stop lying to yourself.  Stop making excuses. You are good enough, you have the time, you can do it.  And if anyone tells you otherwise, ignore them.  They’re just  socially conditioned mindless zombies. 😉

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The First Hour

It’s almost 10:00 (a.m.) and I’ve yet to accomplish anything besides getting out of bed.  I feel lazy, uninspired, and unmotivated.  I’ve spent the whole day tweeting, emailing, and watching random Youtube videos.  Many people aren’t even awake yet, but I’m an early riser and on a typical day I’d have already completed 2-3 hours of work by now.

It’s tempting to give up on accomplishing anything productive today, but I know I can’t.  I can’t afford to sit here doing nothing.  I can’t afford to procrastinate any longer or I’ll end up wasting the whole day.  I got myself into this mess, and I’m going to have to be the one to get myself out.

One of the most interesting phenomenons I’ve noticed over the last few years is something I call the “First Hour”.  What I mean by the First Hour is that whatever you do for the first hour after waking up in the morning sets the tone for the rest of the day.

If I spend the First Hour of my day writing or exercising I tend to have a pretty productive day, but if I spend the First Hour on twitter or email I never seem to get much done.

It’s like Newton’s First Law of Motion, “An object that is at rest will stay at rest unless an external force acts upon it”.

Similarly, if I start the day “at rest” doing unproductive things, I’m going to spend the whole day being unproductive, unless an external force acts upon me.  I’m going to spend the whole day being unproductive unless I make a conscious effort to immediately begin working on an important task.

In this case my important task is writing, but your important task could be anything.  If you’re trying to lose weight, but are feeling unmotivated, put your running shoes on and run out the door as quickly as possible.  Don’t even think about it.

Consciously make the decision to begin working on your important task, but don’t think about the task itself or you’ll start to make justifications on why it can wait until tomorrow.

Although it can be  difficult to get going, once you get started staying in motion requires significantly less effort and you’ll often feel motivated to continue doing whatever needs to get done.  You’ll effectively shift the tone of the day from being unproductive to productive.

The first paragraph of this post was extremely difficult to write, but the last several have been effortless.  I can feel the tone of the day shifting, and although this whole mess could have been avoided if I hadn’t allowed myself to waste the First Hour, I refuse to allow myself to waste any more time.

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