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Most people believe success is a function of hard work. Many popular quotes allude to this.

 

  • Success is 1% inspiration, 99% perspiration.
  • Success is where luck and preparation meet.
  • The dictionary is the only place where success comes before work.

 

There is a great deal of truth to this line of thinking, however, it overlooks one very important point — before any of that hard work is done, success is created in the mind.
 
context1
Bottom line: Success is a mind game.

 
If you win the game there, you are more than halfway to whatever success you desire.
 
The challenge, of course, is that in order to win the game in your head, you must be mindful of the thoughts and beliefs that hold you back – the negative ones that extinguish your success and dreams before they are even born. This mindfulness is often more difficult than any manual labor you will ever engage in to create success.
 
The reason it is difficult is because most of the thoughts and beliefs that hold us back are quiet killers. They are unconscious thoughts and beliefs that lie just below the surface of our life. They are just beyond our reach, yet they constantly whisper to us over and over again, reminding us that “we can’t,” “we have no chance,” or “we are not good enough.”
 
These are the little buggers we need to eliminate.
 
How, you ask?
 
To borrow from Jim Collins, who wrote the best-selling book Good to Great you need to get the right thoughts and beliefs on the bus and the wrong thoughts and beliefs off the bus. And that is no easy task. Many of us fail because . . . sadly . . . it is simply human nature to believe something negative about ourselves before we would believe something positive.
 
So how can we access these negative thoughts and beliefs and banish them? It is actually quite simple. Not necessarily easy, but definitely simple.

 

  1. Create Awareness. We must first shine a light on these negative beliefs. Identify and distinguish them. If we cannot identify them and say “Aha! There you are!” then there is nothing we can do about them. They will continue to silently run our lives, controlling us and our actions like robots.
  2. Transformation. Once the negative beliefs have been identified, they must either be discarded if they do not serve you, or transformed into a positive belief that does serve you and your goals. For the most part, this can be done with a little thought and some word-smithing.
  3. Make it a Mantra. Once you have crafted a positive thought or belief that serves you, take the opportunity to recite it several times a day. The repetition not only reminds you of your intended desire, but it begins to create a new neural pathway in your brain. Essentially, the new thinking will lead to new action.

 

We see things the way our minds have instructed our eyes to see.

- Muhammad Yunus

 

So many people, especially here in the United States, are indoctrinated into a culture that is in love with taking action and doing things. However, I think if you ask any extraordinarily successful person, whether they be a premier athlete or captain of industry, you will find that their success began in their head. They either visualize their success and/or strategically plan for it. And only after it is crystal clear in their mind, do they take their first step.
 

Do you know how your thinking and beliefs affect your goals? Are they clouding or advancing your vision and dreams? It is very hard to achieve the greatest level of success if you do not manage the silent dream killers that may be lurking inside your head.
 

Read how this applies to your business here.

If you are not single, chances are you missed the valuable lesson OkCupid has to teach everyone. OkCupid is one of the numerous popular dating sites on the Internet, and it does something the other dating sites do not. Trust me, I know. I have been on them all.

 

OkCupid has thousands of questions their members can answer. They fall into 6 categories – ethics, sex, religion, dating, lifestyle and other. The more questions you answer, the better your suggested matches will be.

 

Why is this important and how does it apply to you . . . even if you are not single?

 

These questions paint the context around each person. Of course, like every other dating site you can see a person’s photos, read their profile and see their basic stats; but that is just a shell. To get a true understanding of the person – how they think, what they believe and your potential compatibility – you have to look at their answers to the questions. Their responses connect the dots and fill in the shell created by their photos, stats and profile.

 
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To fully understand someone, or a situation for that matter, understanding context is vital. Context is the little details that form the world around us; like the atoms that comprise every object or the threads that are woven together to make our clothes. By themselves they seem insignificant and nondescript, but when taken together and seen in the big picture, they form our world.

 

Sadly, today’s society is not built for context. 140 character tweets, short emails, even shorter texts, Facebook updates, etc. None of these “drive-by” communications is sufficient enough to create context. As a result, misunderstandings, miscommunication, bad decision making and unnecessary drama is on the rise.

 

And therein lies the challenge.

 

Understanding context takes time and patience. Whether it is a few extra minutes to ask a few more questions or a few extra days to deeply understand, either way, you have to give time and must have patience to allow context to emerge. And in today’s ridiculously fast-paced society, that is a luxury few people are willing to afford. We would rather take the short-cut or simply skip some steps in order to get to the end.

 

The thing is, context is like the water in a fish bowl. It surrounds and pervades the fish’s life, yet, it goes undetected by the fish because it is everywhere. Kinda like air for us humans. We don’t think about it very much or notice it. We just exist within it. Yet, without it, we would die.

 

Without taking the time to distinguish and understand the context of a situation, you may not die, but I promise you, in some way your experience will be more painful.

 

Context is the key – from that comes the understanding of everything.

- Kenneth Noland

 

One of the best ways to improve your life and relationships, and eliminate misunderstandings, miscommunications and bad decisions, is to take the time to understand context. Stephen Covey, author of Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, said it best – seek first to understand, then be understood.

 

This small action will dramatically change most relationships in your life, whether they are personal or business. The simple trick to achieving this change is to listen more, talk less, and take the time to ask more questions.

 

Read how this applies to your business here.
 
 
And for those singles out there, if you want some dating tips and help from one of the world’s most famous villains, be sure to check out this fun video!
 

 

(To see a great demonstration of context, click here!)

 

A few months ago a good friend was visiting, having just returned from a short adventure in China. I really admire how he is living his life. The trip to China was about taking a chance. Chasing an opportunity to see where it might lead. This friend is also someone who easily dances with life’s bigger, more philosophical questions, which is another reason I enjoy our friendship so much.

 

In our last conversation I asked him, “What is your philosophy of living?” We took a moment to get clarity about what I really meant by the question and finally settled on, the principle that guides your daily actions. He wrestled with the question for a bit as he thought out loud, but eventually declared an answer that seemed graceful, fitting and captured the essence of his life.

 

I, of course, knew I now needed to answer this question for myself. I pondered it for a while until this thought emerged – Leave everyone I touch with a greater sense of hope and possibility. At my core, I believe this is who I am, how I approach life and what guides my daily actions.

 

philosophy1If you do not have a sense of what your Philosophy of Living is, the beginning of a new year is the perfect time to distinguish this for yourself. I do not believe many people take the time to understand this about themselves, and as a result, they may feel a bit rudderless in life, wondering what they are doing, why they are here or what the meaning of life is.

 

The irony of those questions is that they are not bigger questions about life itself, but rather questions about YOU as an individual and how you define your life. Many people avoid thinking about this because they feel it is hard. In reality, I think they avoid thinking about it because then they might have to actually begin living their life as they truly desire.

 

Don’t waste another year of your precious life avoiding this question. Seek the clarity your Philosophy of Living provides and set sail in 2015 with a stiff wind at your back and a strong rudder to guide you!

 

“What is it that I really want to do with the one wild, precious thing called my life? Don’t go back to sleep. The fires are always kindled. Don’t go back to sleep.”

- Anais Nin

 

The year is young! As arbitrary as time and our declaration of a new year is, it is an opportunity for all of us to begin anew!! If you feel you have been wandering aimlessly through your life or business, now is the perfect time to reset your direction and commitment.

 

As hard as that may sound at first, all it really requires is some quiet time away from your distractions so that you can focus on and reconnect to who you really are and what you are committed to. You may pretend you don’t know, but that is just another smokescreen keeping you from what you really desire.

 

Read how this applies to your business here.

“Live life with no regrets.”

 

God I hate that phrase.

 

If you don’t have any regrets in your life, then you haven’t challenged yourself enough or come across enough situations that really cause you to stop and think long and hard before making a decision.

 

The phrase comes from a perspective of looking back in hindsight and judging our lives. However, until a time machine is invented, we do not have the luxury of hindsight in the present moment. We can’t live in the future in order to help us make a decision in the present. And that is the only place life actually shows up! We can only assess the present moment and make the best decision from there. And I imagine that in that moment, we all make the best decision we possibly can.

 

So why torture yourself with judgment?

 

Don’t put yourself in purgatory; constantly thinking about your choice, judging yourself, and wondering if you made a wrong decision. I just don’t see the value of assessing and reassessing a decision and continually judging ourselves for it. The only result that can produce is a life of unhappiness and uncertainty.

 

Personally, I think regrets emerge in life when we make decisions based in fear. Things we did or didn’t do because we were afraid. I have to believe decisions made from that place will always lead to regret.

 
regret 1

I think the true intent of the phrase above is to make a decision; own it; and go forward. If it turns out to be a bad decision. Fine. Make another one. A different one. One that suits you better . . . now. In the new moment.

 

That, in my opinion, is how you live without regrets.

 

In the end, not having regrets is not about the decisions you made, but rather the ability to forgive yourself for the decisions you made and learn from them.

 

This is a great time of year to think of any regrets – and forgive yourself. Forgive others. We are all doing the best we can. Release that energy and allow yourself to move on and start the new year fresh. Otherwise you will forever be stuck in the past, in a life you don’t want.

 

“Forget regret, or life is yours to miss. No other path, no other way, no other day but today.”

- Jonathan Larson

 

Living a life of regret is more about living in the past, not being able to forgive yourself, or thinking that your life should be different or look different than it does. Second guessing your life away . . . well, I imagine that is a life where you can rarely find peace.

 

The truth is, we have but 2 choices in our life. Love the life you have . . . or begin taking action to change it. Anything in between will feel like purgatory.

 

First World Problem

A few months ago I saw a video someone posted on Facebook. It showed a woman having an absolute meltdown because her iPhone wasn’t working properly. Perhaps you experienced something similar as I heard many customers lost information with Apple’s latest system update.

 

The woman in the video was ranting and raving as if the world was coming to an end. She was visibly upset and extremely angry, to say the least.

 
first world problem5

Unfortunately, videos like this one often become a source of comedy and amusement in the Internet world. How could anyone actually act that way over such a silly thing? But let’s be honest, we have all probably had an experience like this, especially when it comes to our technology.

 

Then I looked at the comments for this video, as I often find the comments as insightful and entertaining, if not more so, than the video itself.

 

A page or two into the comments, past all those that made fun of her or commiserated with her, was one that stopped me in my tracks. The comment was three short and simple words –

 

“First World Problem”

 

Whoa. That put life in perspective pretty fast.

 

If I took a moment to consider my life, I would have to admit that well over 99% of my supposed problems are first world problems.

 

I have my health. I have a roof over my head. I never go to bed hungry. Come on, do I really have problems?

 

The truth is, if malfunctioning technology, rush hour traffic, the grocery store being temporarily out of stock of my favorite brand, car problems or any other similar challenges are the kinds of things I think are “problems”, then I shouldn’t be annoyed . . . I should be grateful.

 

I can’t think of a better time than Thanksgiving to feel grateful for all of my first world problems.

 

Next week when we Americans sit down at our Thanksgiving tables with friends and family, why not take a moment to be thankful for all our first world problems. May they be all we ever have to worry about.

 

Some people grumble that roses have thorns; I am grateful that thorns have roses.”

- Alphonse Karr

 

Perspective is everything. I totally understand that even if our problems are first world problems, they still appear as problems in our lives that need to be handled. They can be just as frustrating and worrisome as other bigger problems.

 

But perhaps at least once a year, those of us enjoying the luxuries afforded to us in the first world should stop long enough to see the incredibly beautiful rose growing among our first world problem thorns.

 

If you want a good chuckle, take a look at the video below. I can’t think of a better person to highlight this concept, and poke fun of some of the things we think are problems, than Weird Al Yankovic.

 

I have lived my life by one simple belief – you matter. Whether you are a stranger I meet on the street, an organization I help in my business or a friend I have known for years, I hold a belief that you make a difference.

 

You make a difference to your family, to your friends, to your communities, and to the world. You just do. You may not know it, or believe it, or ever see proof of it, but it is a truth. You matter and have an impact on the world.

 

But, here is the cruel twist of life.

 

You are also incredibly insignificant. In fact, you probably have no idea just how insignificant you are. The other truth of life is that you are little more than a speck of dust aimlessly floating around the universe. And that is probably being generous.

 

Think of as much of the universe as possible – your town, your state, galaxy 4your country, the world, our solar system, the BILLIONS of stars in our galaxy, the neighboring galaxies, the BILLIONS of galaxies our telescopes are discovering every year – the vastness is immense to say the least.

 
 

If you think of all of that, you begin to realize just how insignificant we are. I don’t care how important you think you are, or how famous or successful someone might be, we are all just specks.

 

But wait! This gets even more incredible!

 

All of that – everything you just thought of – it accounts for a whopping 4% of what we know exists out “there.” Four percent!!! The other 96% is considered dark matter and dark energy. We know it is something, we just don’t know what. We can’t see it, but astrophysicists know something is there. As vast as we know the universe to be, everything we know is only 4% of it!!!

 

And therein lies the conundrum.

 

How do you balance the truth that you are incredibly important and meaningful, while at the same time knowing you are nothing more than an infinitesimally small, insignificant speck?

 

Now before your head explodes trying to understand this, here is why it is worth thinking about this conundrum and struggling with it. If you can allow both of these truths to coexist in the same space and time in your life . . . well, that is where peace lies.

 

To master this conundrum is to finally find the peace that many of us so desperately search for in our lives.

 

For those who will go on that quest for peace, here are two thoughts to consider to get you started on your journey.

  • Live for others as if you know you matter, but never think so highly of yourself to think you are the world.
  • You definitely matter, but never take anything in life so seriously that you think it will impact life a few billion galaxies away.
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    “It is not in the stars to hold our destiny, but in ourselves.”

    - William Shakespeare

     

    Whether you like it or not the above are truths.

     

    What matters most, however, is not that they are true, but rather what you choose to do with those truths – and your life – is up to you. The ultimate beauty of being human is that we can create our own lives to look like whatever we desire most in our hearts. We are the creator of our life. Destiny is in our hands. Not anyone else’s . . . or the stars.

     

    Want to get a sense of how small the Earth and our problems are? Take a look at this video.
     

I want you the think of the busiest road in, or near, your town. I mean crazy busy. Think of a road where there is a tremendous amount of traffic, both sides of the road are littered with billboards, hundreds of businesses line the road with distracting signs, traffic lights interrupt your driving every few hundred yards and there are people crossing the street at busy intersections. Your eyes dart from one distracting stimulation to the next, not knowing what to focus on. It feels crowded, crazy and hectic.

 
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Got that picture, and hectic feeling, in your mind?

 

Good.

 

That is the typical mind these days. Between the multitudes of tasks we are responsible for each day, the multitude of interruptions our electronic devices provide, the overwhelming number of emails we receive, and the multitude of other thoughts and worries that fill our heads, that busy street is what our brain feels like. It is a crazy, hectic street where we are unable to focus on any one specific thing.

 

And that is only what our conscious mind registers and deals with! Our subconscious mind is processing many more times the information you consciously see. A study by the University of Pennsylvania found that the conscious mind processes 2,000 bits of information per second, while the subconscious mind processes 400 billion!!

 

Essentially that means that you aren’t really aware of all the information and distractions flooding into your head.

 

BUT . . . what this also points to is the amazing volume of unused processing power many of us are wasting if we do not let our subconscious mind work on some of your daily challenges. If you are constantly running around, doing things and filling your day with activities or “to do” lists, there is no way you can perform at your optimal levels.

 

If you truly want to improve your performance, focus and success, you need to find a quiet, less busy street so that your subconscious mind has some time and space to go to work.

 

Here are 3 things you can do to create a quieter street for your brain.

 

  1. Turn off all email/text/Facebook/Twitter notifications when working on important tasks. Trust me, the world will not end if you do this. You must stop being at the beck and call of the world and start setting your own schedule in order to create your life and your success.
  2. Clear the clutter from your home, workspace and life. You won’t know the impact this has until you do it, but the subconscious mind is taking in all that clutter and trying to process it. And in doing so, it is clogging the neurons in your brain that you want to access and use to think about and create greater success and peak performance.
  3. If you have been stumped by a problem and just can’t seem to reach that breakthrough or solution, give it a rest and let your subconscious go to work. Take time to go for a run, meditate, go for a bike ride, sit quietly, take a nap, hike, take a bath or whatever it is that clears your mind and allows the subconscious to go to work on your challenges and problems. Doing so always produces a possibility or idea to move you closer to the success you want.

 

“The ability to simplify means to eliminate the unnecessary so that the necessary may speak.”

- Hans Hoffman

 

It seemingly goes against conventional wisdom to do less in order to do more. But out of that simplicity, clarity emerges. And from that clarity, direction emerges. And from that direction, focus emerges. And from that focus, achievement emerges. And from that achievement, success is found.

 

You can choose to stay on that busy road if you want, but if you do, consciously realize what you are risking by doing so.

 

There is no doubt that science has played a HUGE role in revealing the power of the subconscious mind. There is probably no greater experiment, or scientist, that has played a larger role in establishing the importance of this power than the one demonstrated in the video below. :)
 
 

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