Is YOUR FEAR real?

One of the things I love about hiking mountains is that I always learn about life and myself. This held true while climbing Mt. Washington, the tallest mountain in New Hampshire, this past July.


The most powerful insight I gained from Mt. Washington was how susceptible we are to the power of suggestion, and how damaging it can be if we are not aware of when it is acting upon us.


mtw - warningWhen I arrived at the base of the mountain, there were several signs posted warning of avalanches and falling ice. The rangers I spoke with echoed this warning. While I am never one to do something stupid at elevation, especially when I am hiking alone, I didn’t get a sense that the ranger had a real conviction about his warning. My intuition told me that the trail wasn’t really that bad and that the ranger was erring on the side of caution.


So, I decided to take the risk and go up the trail.


While it may at first seem like I am about to make a big mistake, I should share that after 30 years of hiking, I enjoy taking measured risks, but rarely, if ever, will I take stupid ones. I decided I would continually assess the trail and if at any time I felt the danger level was too high, I would backtrack and take a safer trail up the mountain.


As it turns out, my intuition was right. The trail was not impassable or dangerous. Yes there was snow and ice. Yes the rocks up the vertical ravine were wet and slippery. But at no time did I feel my life was in danger.


But here is what did occur along the way.


My mind ran with the suggestion that there was danger. All I could think about on this gorgeous day was a huge chunk of ice the size of a Volkswagen barreling down the mountain and crushing me like a bug. The amount of fear I felt was distracting. Butterflies filled my stomach and my legs were unsteady.


My mind was preoccupied with what I would do if this did occur. What would be the best way to survive an avalanche in the terrain I was hiking? What rocks would I seek shelter behind? Did my phone have reception to call for help? Was there anyone else on the trail that I could hike with or assess whether the trail ahead was safe?


I was completely focused on the fear rather than the beauty and peace of the trail.


Sadly, the only place any danger existed was in my head. There was no real danger on the trail. All of my fear was the result of a suggestion of danger.


And that’s the thing about fear and worry: we become consumed by something that is not real and does not actually exist, and it takes us out of the reality and beauty of the present moment. And that is a total waste of time and energy.


Many of us live our lives in a space of fear and worry that is usually based on a suggestion rather than reality . . . which if you think about it, is the equivalent of living in a land of make believe.


At least when we were kids, the land of make believe was something to aspire to and was filled with rainbows, unicorns, lots of candy and happy endings.


Fear is not real. It is a product of thoughts you create. Do not misunderstand me. Danger is very real. But fear is a choice.

After Earth (movie)


Never underestimate the power of your mind. While this story demonstrates the power of fear, we must not forget that the mind can also create a powerful positive reality pertaining to something we desire in life.


An amazing truth in life is that almost everything in the world around you was created from a thought. That being the case, why not have those thoughts move you toward something you desire rather than something you fear.




For a little fun, below is the trailer that contains the above quote from the movie After Earth.

I think it would be fair to say that I am an avid outdoor enthusiast. Hiking, biking, walking, kayaking – anything that gets me out in Nature. Others would add that I am an environmentalist, having spent many years protecting the environment and teaching hundreds of young adults to care about the natural world around them.


So you can imagine my surprise on a recent kayaking trip down the Delaware River, with osprey and bald eagle circling overhead, when I saw a billboard on the riverbank announcing, “Hot Dog Man Around the Corner.”


First of all, rivers don’t have corners, they have bends. Second of all, rather than be upset that such commercialism has polluted the river, something about this just made me smile. As I rounded the bend, I saw close to 100 people in tubes, kayaks and canoes waiting to buy a hot dog or snack.


hot dog1When I paddled by, I admired this perfect scene of Americana and thought to myself, “That right there is the entrepreneurial lifeblood that fuels this country.” Someone saw an opportunity – hundreds of people floating down the river each day – and took advantage of it by setting up a mobile snack shack on their boat.


This brought to mind a billboard I saw on Interstate 95 a few years ago on the way to Philadelphia which proclaimed, “Microsoft was started during a recession.” I loved both the hope of this message as well as its encouraging, if not bold, challenge to all the dreamers and entrepreneurs in the world. Essentially, it was saying, “Go for it! Don’t be afraid to try!”


This is what I love about America and working with entrepreneurs and business owners. They go for it! The blood that courses through their veins is rich with possibility. They see what CAN be, take the risk, and set out to make it reality.


In some cultures they would call that magic, for they are creating something from nothing. In America, we call it the entrepreneurial spirit.


They who dream by day are cognizant of many things which escape those who dream only by night.

– Edgar Allen Poe


Entrepreneurs and business owners daydream a lot and live in a world of possibility. They are future-focused, proactive and constantly ask themselves, “How can I . . .? They rarely take “no” for an answer and they are the fuel that powers the American workforce.


However, I think this is true of Americans as a whole. We daydream a lot. We see things as they can be or as we hope them to be. It is a spirit of possibility that was planted within us at the birth of our country and it is programmed into our DNA . . . which means we are ALL capable of performing magic and transforming our lives if we have the desire.



If you don’t believe that spirit is within you, think back to when you were a kid. That is where you will find the belief you seek. It is still there . . . it is just covered with the dust of adulthood.

Recently, I went out to dinner with my niece and nephew. They are 3 and 4 ½. I LOVE spending time with them. They are a tremendous amount of fun and their eyes are always wide with possibility. They not only see things as they are, but they also see into the infinite realm of their limitless imagination.


After dinner, we went out to “explore.” This often turns into a game of observing the ordinary and making it extraordinary. Essentially, I let their imaginations run free, and I simply follow in the wake of that possibility. It is always a magnificent and fun experience for me.


On this particular evening we were gazing out from a patio, across a street and into a train station parking lot. The kids would share what they see, shouting out each announcement as if they had just discovered an amazing treasure. “I see a car!” “I see a bird!” “I see a flower!” I would acknowledge their tremendous find with equal excitement.


I see a purple tree!” shouted my nephew.


purple tree1Huh? You see a purple tree? Where?” I am always careful not to deny their possibility, imagination, or world as they see it, but a purple tree? Come on. I stared and I stared and I stared, but I could not see it. Of course, we all know trees are green. I kept asking where he saw the purple tree, wanting to get into his world. He kept pointing and insisting right there. Still, I could not see it. I would have sworn he was recalling a cartoon or perhaps a Dr. Seuss book.


Finally, after a good 30 seconds to a minute, I saw it. “Hmm. Look at that. A purple tree.” It was right there in front of me the whole time, yet, I did not see it. They were plum trees or perhaps Japanese maple trees.


The weeks following this experience, I saw a lot of purple trees. My eyes were wider with possibility. I didn’t just see trees as the green I expected them to be, I saw them as they truly are. And as a result, my world became more colorful.


I am continually amazed by how knowledge, wisdom and experience blind us not only to infinite possibility, but also to the world right in front of our eyes. As we are told, or learn, what is “right,” we eliminate what is possible. Our world shrinks, and we become more blind. This is one of the key reasons I LOVE and prefer to immerse myself into the world of children. They continually pave a path to limitless possibility and hope.


Where have you gone blind in your life? Can you no longer see what is in front of you? Can you see beyond what you know to be true into what is possible?


If, and when, your world gets smaller, take some time to connect with children. Suddenly you will see things you never have, or that you might have been missing for quite some time.


It is impossible for a man to learn what he thinks he already knows.

– Epictetis


If you want to miss out on the magnificence of life, live it as if you already know. Pretend you know all the answers. Pretend you know exactly how a person is. Pretend you know exactly what will happen next. Pretend you know what your life will look like because of what happened yesterday. Pretend you know what works and what doesn’t.


Just keep in mind . . . it is all pretend.



New Hope, PA. is one of my favorite places to go once the weather gets nice. It sits on the Delaware River across from Lambertville, NJ and it has this incredibly unique, eclectic vibe. Bikers decked out in leather hang out alongside a prominent lesbian/gay community. Cool NY-style art galleries sit beside witchcraft and body piercing stores. Family ice cream shops sit across from crowded outdoor bars. The streets pulse with life, cars cruise the main road through town, and there is more artwork on people’s bodies than in its art galleries. It is a town on the fringe, accepting of everyone, and the people-watching is GREAT!


Across the river, a short ¼ mile walk over a bridge sits Lambertville. The vibe is very different there. It is more staid and proper. The art galleries, stores and restaurants are more upscale and tame. There are no bikers, no witchcraft stores or crazy bars, and a lot fewer tattoos and piercings walk the streets. It is, well, more “normal.”


These two towns are a perfect demonstration of what I have been hearing and reading a lot about lately . . . “culture.” I have seen it so many times in the past few weeks that I wonder if it is about to become the latest buzzword. Regardless of whether or not it becomes the next hot jargon term, culture is important to all of us.


vibe1I think most of us relate to culture more as a vibe. It is something we sense about a person, family, organization, town, university, company, restaurant . . . anything really. We sense it immediately; within seconds of experiencing it. And it subconsciously determines how we interact with whom or what we are experiencing. Do we want to hang out with that person? Do we like that family? Do we want to go to that school? Do we want to do business with, or work for, that company? Are we going to rave about that new restaurant?


We assess a vibe and like or dislike it immediately, but it takes a very conscious and concerted effort to create . . . or at least it should. Establishing a vibe is vital to your future, whether you are an individual or an organization. It will determine the type of people you attract into your life and the type of customers you have in your business. Yet, too many of us ignore it or leave it up to circumstance, letting it emerge willy-nilly rather than with intent.


What we need to realize is that every action we take, and every belief we hold, adds up to our vibe or culture. They form who we are and how we will be defined. As such, we should be very conscious about our decisions and actions, and think about how they contribute to, or detract from, whom we want to be and how we want to be known in the world.


Sadly, not enough people and companies are consciously creating their vibe or culture. As a result, events and the reactions to them, dictate who they are.


If that is occurring for you or your company, you are letting the “outside world” dictate and define who you are, rather than letting that come from your heart and spirit. And if that is the case, at some point you will most likely find yourself unhappy in your life or business and you will want to change who you have become.


If you don’t run your life, someone else will.



If you are not consciously creating how you want to be seen in the world, then someone, or something, else will do it for you. It is that simple. Do not surrender your power this way. Take time to think about how you, or your company, wants to be known. Then take the necessary actions to create that vibe.


Can’t think of anyone better who essentially posed this question to all of us. :-)

I always wanted to master the ability to do HANDstands. They just seem like so much fun and an expression of strength and balance.


However, before I could do a HANDstand, I decided I should probably master a HEADstand. I felt it was a stepping stone since you have to be upside down for both. And I decided to master this one step at a time. First I would master HEADstands using the wall as a support, then I would master free-standing headstands, and finally I would move on to handstands.


I accomplished the first step pretty easily. I gave myself 3 months to figure it out, but I had it down inside of a week. I felt quite confident knowing the wall was always there to support and “catch” me.


Step two I found much harder. I could be free from the wall for a few seconds at a time, but then my balance would falter and my feet would always fall back to it for support and reassurance.


I spent at least 3 months in this space, making little, if any, progress. I would last a few seconds away from the crutch of the wall, but without fail, my feet fell back to it, or worse, I fell out of the headstand all together. I was getting quite discouraged and wondered if I would ever succeed.


Then the happy accident occurred.


HeadStand 1One day while I was doing a headstand, it just felt right to stretch out my body as long as I could make it. As I was inverted, I decided to lengthen and tighten my core, and stretch my legs as far to the ceiling as I could make them go. And that’s when it happened.


I suddenly felt a balance, strength and centeredness I had never felt before. The next thing I knew, I could do a free standing headstand away from the wall for several seconds, maybe even 10 seconds!


Something about stretching my body out, tightening my core, and reaching for the ceiling with my feet was the secret to finding balance and mastering this next stage. I hardly noticed it when it first happened, but then I realized this was the key to achieving the next stage.


Often, success does not happen with a big epiphany or a grandiose “Eureka!” moment. More times than not, success happens with a barely perceptible, small, incremental difference or shift you make in your efforts.


If you have been struggling with a success in your life, rather than frustrate yourself by trying to make a big leap, I encourage you think about a small change you can make. Then pay close attention to the results, for it may produce a surprising result.


The most exciting phrase to hear in science, the one that heralds new discoveries, is not ‘Eureka!’, but ‘Hmm, that’s funny…

– Isaac Asimov


Too often we focus only on the big eureka moment, thinking that taking big steps will get us to our goal faster. But more times than not, the small, almost imperceptible changes are the ones that open the doorway to the success we desire.


Often times, we stumble across these successes after many, many attempts. One of the the biggest differentiators between success and failure is determination. It took Edison thousands of tries to develop a battery. But he never was discouraged by his failed attempts. Instead, his perspective was, “I have not failed. I’ve just found thousands of ways that won’t work.”



To see how these small, barely perceptible incremental differences matter and can be the difference between a champion and . . . whoever comes in second, check out the video below.

Finish the Dream

When Gary Vaynerchuk was a little boy, he dreamed of being incredibly rich. Actually, for him it wasn’t a dream as much as it was a foregone conclusion. It was just something he KNEW was going to happen.


Last month I had the opportunity to hear Gary speak, and not surprisingly, his dream came true. He took his family wine business from $3 million to $60 million a year by leveraging his abilities and the never-ending marketing tools the internet creates to reach customers – email, Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, etc. He has since parlayed his success into a venture capital firm and a social media agency of 500 employees.


And he is not done.


Within the first minute of his talk, Gary joked about buying the NY Jets football team. It was a joke because . . . well, the Jets are a joke and in bad need of good leadership. It is not uncommon to poke fun of the Jets here in the New York City area.


But then he mentioned the Jets again. And then again. And once more. It soon became clear that he was not joking. This is a real goal and dream of Gary’s: buy the Jets and resurrect them into a Superbowl champion, creating the same success with them as he has done with his family wine business and other businesses he invested in.


And this is no small dream! We are talking about an investment of just over $1 billion. And he will do it. Of that I have no doubt. He talks about it with the same confidence and certainty he had when he was a kid and just KNEW he was going to be incredibly rich.


Today, the dream of owning the Jets is what fuels Gary. It inspires him, excites him, provides him with laser-like focus, and gives him the energy of a giddy child.


Hearing his story got me thinking about our childhood dreams. I think so many of our authentic childhood dreams have been crushed because these days the American dream seems to be all about making a jillion dollars or finding celebrity on the web and reality TV.


The problem, however, is that I think that is a fictionalized characterization of the American dream that we finally need to let go of. I think our true dreams have been hijacked by this incessant message that success = making a jillion dollars.


Your dream doesn’t have to be about money or celebrity – not that there is anything wrong with an awesome dream like that. What is important, however, is that the dream is about YOU.


What is YOUR dream? Or was your dream growing up?


I remember as a 12-year-old in 7th grade I wrote this amazing poem about the Revolutionary War battles of Lexington and Concord. I was surprised by the positive response I received to my writing and in that moment I realized I wanted to be a writer. My dream was to be a best-selling author.


And here is what I have learned from years and years of NOT fulfilling that dream.


Until we go after that dream, the one we have always known and felt deep in our soul, we will never feel the peace and sense of accomplishment we crave. We will always be chasing the wrong thing, and when we catch it, we will still feel unsatisfied.


Stop chasing after the things you don’t truly desire.


Thanks to Gary, I added a new goal to my 2015 goals – finish the book I started writing 10 years ago.


What dream will you finish this year?


Hope is a beautiful thing. I have built a career off of it. But it sucks as a plan.

– Rich Largman


I struggled with focusing on dreams for this post. The truth is, I feel like the term dream is a bit “tired” these days. It feels like a Disney cliche and it has lost the meaning and power it once held. As soon as you mention the word dream, people relate to it as something that might never come true, or worse, is not suppose to come true. It is something we are supposed to always chase, and at best, it will be very difficult to bring to fruition.


However, dreams are really just goals we have not put a plan behind. That is the real secret. More times than not, fulfilling a dream is not about divine intervention or an amazing stroke of luck. It is about having a clear idea of what you want, putting a plan in place and putting in the hard work to make it a reality.


Read how this applies to your business here.

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.
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.


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