Nothing like a cold shower to put a smile on your face

Our water heater is out. Again. Third time in the short 8 months we've been living here. The last time our landlord's plummer came out, he said they might have to completely re build the side of the house to replace the system.

This is terrible news for us tenants only so far as we might have to put up with a hotel for a few weeks. Even worse news for our landlord who might be out a few thousand or more for the construction and new water heater (I don't even want to consider the labor cost). 

I bring this up because as a listener of Dave Ramsey, and an avid debt opponent, I hear people buying homes as they graduate college with who knows how much in debt. To quote Dave,

A home is a huge financial blessing if you have money. If you don’t have money, it becomes a curse, because the water heater breaks. The heat and air system goes out. The winds blow shingles off the roof. Houses cost money. They’re a good investment, but they cost money to operate these things. You’ve got to be prepared. If you move into a home with three student loans that have been around so long you think they’re a pet, MasterCard, you’ve Discovered bondage and American Excess, and two fleeced car payments with no money, you move into that home, Murphy will move into your spare bedroom and bring his three cousins Broke, Desperate, and Stupid. Don’t do that. 

So while I may be waking up quite briskly tomorrow morning, I'll have quite a smile on my face. Why? Because I have a plan. Being wise in choosing to pay down my debt first before buying a home has allowed me the peace of mind to not have to worry about this water heater issue. 

And after all my debt is paid off, I'll gladly buy my first home as a blessing. And WHEN that water heater goes out, I'll have the peace of mind knowing that I can pay it easily, because my credit card payments, car payment, student loan payments, or debt payments of any kind won't be there with me when I move in. 

So, do you have a plan? Is it detailed? Is it long term? Are you following it? If not, I've got the expertise to help if you need. If yes, congratulations. You're on your way to succeeding in life. 

Sorites Paradox

(This post was inspired by Gretchen Rubin and one of her posts on the one coin loophole.)

If I were to give one coin, that would not make anyone instantly rich. If a second coin was added, wealth is still not achieved. But what is rich, if not having many coins?  Which coin is the tipping point? Which workout is the one to lead to the body of your dreams? Conversely, which skipped workout will derail us? Which soda is the one that causes obesity or diabetes? How many $5 coffees can we afford before we lack the financial freedom we desire?

In my five years of experience as a personal trainer and success coach, I've had the pleasure of working with a variety of people. I've had the honor of helping many get to their goals, regardless of their situation in life. And while everyone is different in different parts of their lives, I've run across three types of people over and over again. To explain their dispositions, and how each can lead to or away from success, I present to you a case study of sorts: the Instagram model.

Type one sees the model and tends to be jealous. Unhappy with their own self image, their jealousy creates an unbridgeable gap between themselves and the model. Maybe the model is genetically gifted or has a plastic surgeon. Or worse, this type of mentality leads to devaluing themselves: that they lack time or the energy to work out. Regardless of how they define that gap, they end up stuck in their own sense of shame, soothed only by their attack on someone they don't even know.

Type two, also unhappy with their current self image, tend to at first be inspired to achieve that status. This type often takes a step in the right direction; signs up for a gym membership, hires a trainer, switches from full sugar to diet soda, and maybe even goes for a walk once or twice a week. But few are the ones who make it past the first step; they quit at the first sign of struggle and lack of instant gratification.  In my experience, they revert back to old habits within the first month of their journey. 

Types one and two are common. Types one and two tend towards an external locus of control; or simply put, the cry baby syndrome. They put up their own road blocks, or make up excuses on why they can't do what the model did, or somehow that the model is special. In doing so, they devalue the achievements of those around them in an attempt to feel better about their own short comings, and devalue their own potential for achievement.

Type three are the ones that see the model and see the countless hours in the gym. They hear every no said to the one dessert or night out drinking. They see the model never skipping a workout. These people, rather than get jealous or complacent, model the model. These are the people who see the truth: success takes work. Success takes sacrifice. Success is the product of daily habits which lead them towards their goals, and breaking the habits which impede them. 

In other words, success comes one coin at a time, and is taken away just as subtly. The question is, how do you amass your coins? And how are you keeping the coins you have, rather than spending them one cupcake or skipped workout at a time? Which of the three types are you?

 

(if you're interested: Sorities Paradox)

also, heard Gretchen talking on the Art of Charm Podcast, episode 388. Check them out if you'd like!

 

 

Extremism and the idiot

“Extremism is so easy. You've got your position, and that's it. It doesn't take much thought. And when you go far enough to the right you meet the same idiots coming around from the left." - Clint Eastwood

I'll be the last person to ever deny being an extremist at one point or another. But I will be the first person to say any extremist position is extremely probable to be wrong, however right it may feel. As human beings with universal needs, it is extremely comforting to feel right, and ignore any grey areas in an argument. Global warming is because of humans. Red meat causes cardiovascular disease. My God is the only true way.  2+2=4. You don't know what you're talking about, and do. Think about it. How much easier is it cognitively to think about something when there are less variables? 

But therein lies the trap. There are variables. Sometimes 2+2=5. Sometimes global warming is both nature caused AND human caused. Sometimes we can get cardiovascular disease without consuming red meat because of genetics. The reality is that there is a grey area that we subconsciously chose to ignore. We as humans are wired to delete, distort and generalize reality as a way to simplify our responses to our external environment.  But that's not faulty wiring. We want this process in our lives. It gives us the power of focus without taxing our cognitive resources to the extreme. (Look more into selective attention, and you'll know what I'm talking about)

Conscious extremism, however, is dangerous. Conscious extremism leads to actions like the events of 9/11 (and the subsequent destabilization of the Middle East after American happened there) Conscious extremism can also fuel bitterness between friends and lovers: "You never do anything nice anymore." Conscious extremism can even lead to our own depression through the extreme stories we tell ourselves.

So how do we avoid the extremist trap? How can we as individuals wired to have selective focus attempt to not be the idiots Mr. Eastwood describes? 

For the next 24 hours, flex the brain's awareness muscles. Just listen to yourself and those around you and pick out blanket statements, or extremism language (all, every, always, only, never). Listen to the news and hear many examples of things like the fallacy of the single cause, or the fundamental attribution error. (You can probably find 5 examples just by scrolling your Facebook feed for a few minutes)  

Most importantly, make the conscious decision to exorcise extremism from your being. Make the conscious decision to never take the easy way out again. Make that conscious decision, and you'll not only be less idiot, but once step closer to being the solution any problem, and not part of it. 

The Emperor Has No Clothes

April 7, 1837, The Emperor's New Clothes was published. If you have not read this short story by Hans Christian Anderson, click here, or feel free to enjoy my interpretation. 

In short, an Emperor finds himself an opportunity to don the most lavish and expensive clothing ever made. But when promised by two conman weavers that the fabric would be invisible to the "hopelessly stupid," the Emperor allows himself to be swindled, and subsequently humiliated by his townspeople. 

For me, this is a story about the power of story. We hear stories every day about how the world is, and we then chose to let that story shape the lens through which we see the world. But some stories have more impact on the shape of our lens than others. Have you ever told yourself a story? How about phrases like, "I'm depressed," or "I'm too stupid," or "I'm so tired," or my personal example, "I can't, because I don't know how." These are all stories that shape our lens to see the world as depressing, too difficult, or too tiring. 

Anderson's Emperor calls upon several trusted servants to scout out the looms, but being too proud to admit they see nothing, they report back sights of the most beautiful fabric ever woven. Their story is one of pride and grandiosity.

The Emperor himself is wrought with fear, as his story is one of entitlement and vanity. When he finds himself in front of the mirror: "Am I a fool? Am I unfit to be the Emperor? What a thing to happen to me of all people! - Oh! It's very pretty," he said. "It has my highest approval." And he nodded approbation at the empty loom. Nothing could make him say that he couldn't see anything."

The little child has a story of innocence and purity. With as simple a statement as "But he hasn't got anything on," the child pierces the stories of the townspeople, turning the Emperor into a laughing stock. And yet, the Emperor's story of pride is too strong to be pierced, "The Emperor shivered, for he suspected they were right. But he thought, "This procession has got to go on." So he walked more proudly than ever, as his noblemen held high the train that wasn't there at all."

This post is not to say we are slaves to our stories, as the Emperor was, but to demonstrate just how our view of the world, and ourselves, can be affected by those stories. For me, the moral of the story is that we can be pierced, and choose to change our story to one that serves us rather than harms us. As the saying goes: change your story, change your life. 

What stories do you believe in? Is there really a 1% trying to keep you down? Is your boss really the worst human alive? Are you really not good enough? Or is it possible to tell yourself a story for so long, you forgot that it's fiction? What will you see in the mirror, when looking through the lens of your stories?

The Power of Focus

"For every thousand hacking at the leaves of evil, there is one striking at the root."  -Thoreau

Said another way, most people major in minor things, rooting themselves into an endless uphill battle, struggling to make headway through the leaves. I've personally been there, constantly blaming others, or trying to find the magical breakthrough I needed to finally succeed and be happy. And while I would get it for a while, a small reprieve from the constant fight, it would never last. You see, progress towards a goal equals happiness. Unfortunately, the illusion of progress equals the delusion of happiness.

Today's reading (Stephen R Covey's The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People) reminded me of my former delusions. My quick story: I blamed my upbringing for my many failings I had in life: abusive relationships, nearly failing out of college, unsuccessful careers, even my high levels of OCD. For almost a decade, I felt repeated progress as I hacked away at the leaves one by one, but felt overwhelmed as they continued to multiply. and failed spectacularly to even see the root of my problem. 

I believe it was Einstein that said, "No problem can be solved from the same level of consciousness that created it." What I had failed to do is shift my consciousness, or focus, away from blame. Who could blame me? An infant has very little choice.  How could parents love me when they treated me like a burden? Who would ever use a child as a weapon against an ex husband/wife? (I could list my endless pity party forever, but you get the idea) It took me nearly a decade and a year in therapy to realize what was actually to blame. The biggest moment in my life was when I asked myself one question. One question that no one had been asking me. One question that changed my whole life, and finally elevated me to a new level of consciousness.

'What am I focusing on?' Said another way, 'Is what I'm currently focusing on getting me towards my goal? Or is it only minor?' 'Is my focus on a leaf? Or the root?' The day I chose to ask the question, I realized I was choosing to focus on leaves that sprouted from blame. That blame had kept me rooted at the bottom of the hill. I rooted myself  there by choosing to focus on only the negative leaves of my past. But in asking that question,  I found my root. I shifted my focus from blame to gratitude. In choosing gratitude (in the words of one of my childhood heroes), "At last, I threw down my enemy and smote his ruin upon the mountainside." 

The analogy is still that life is an uphill battle. But because I asked the question, because I elevated my consciousness, and because I uprooted the evil in my life,  all those leaves are gone, and the path is a whole lot more clear. 

So here's the question. What are you currently focusing on? Is it one of many leaves? Or is it the root? What level of consciousness led you to the problem? And how is your current focus keeping you there?

 

New format!

I've decided to broaden the subject of the blog from books to general learning. While I'm still reading a book a day (today's was bad childhood, good life by Dr. Laura Schlessinger), I feel as if books are no longer the only way to learn a vast amount of knowledge and practical life lessons. Movies, podcasts, some educational YouTube videos, TED talks, and even blogs like this are all viable options. 

So, I'll be doing two things with this. One will be to keep people informed as to my progress of growing and learning. And the other will be to provide action steps for applying the knowledge I post. Fair warning, I will NOT be claiming the knowledge and/or action steps as my own all the time. Like I said, with the internet we don't need knowledge, we merely need to learn to apply what is already available. Don't reinvent the wheel, unless you intend to make the wheel obsolete. 

I'll leave you all with this quote from Education's End, by Anthony T Kronman: 

"The insistence on the importance of facts had the further consequence of making a complete knowledge of the classics unattainable. One can never get to the bottom of a single fact, let alone a limitlessly expanding set of facts."

Find out why things are important, and you'll be well on your way to becoming more successful than the old knowledge seeking paradigm. 

The Laws of Money, The Lessons of Life by Suze Orman

I started the year with the goal of reading 300+ books in an attempt to gain more perspective from minds smarter than mine. Today marks the completion of the 37th book, and I'm already bored. 

Don't get me wrong. Suze Orman's Laws of Money is amazing. Not only a treasure trove of knowledge, but practical applications and exercises for a layman and wall street mogul to understand alike. For me though, there's only one problem. 

I've heard it all before. 

It's funny how so many successful people say the same things, and how we continue to not listen. Like a child ignoring a parents advice, we hear the lessons of life over and over with hindsight being 20/20. Things like:

  • never invest in things you don't understand 
  • leasing a car is the most expensive way to operate a vehicle (by a LOT, by the way)
  • be grateful for what you have, not what you had 
  • and my personal favorite: change comes from within, not from Obama. 

Ok, that last one was mine, but I've read many flavors of it from many authors. Like Brendon Burchard, "Only two things change your life: either something new comes into your life, or something new comes out of YOU."  Or even Mahatma Gandhi, "Be the change you wish to see in the world."

Personally, I've noticed these books changing me in subtle ways. I've been killing all my stupid debt (college loans, car, etc). I've been dramatically changing my perspective on life from pessimism to optimism; negativity to positivity;  an attitude of gratitude. All of these I've been told over and over for nearly two decades. Actually following them for the past two months has doubled by income, gained me an awesome relationship, given me the freedom to enjoy life on my terms, and given me me the power to see myself as a man for the first time in my life. 

So what is something you've heard from others, or even told yourself many times, that you should be doing but are avoiding? Investing? Call your parents more? Pay off that credit card? Even as simple as clean your room? Meditate? 

Starbucked, by Taylor Clark

Personally, I've never liked Starbucks coffee. I'm more of an organic, grind my own whole beans and use a french press guy. I personally believe if you need cream and three sugars to choke down a cup of coffee, it's not that great. (heck, a little over one third of their profits are from the frappuccino). 

Still, I have to respect the company, and Howard Schultz, the man who built it. McDonald's is not successful because their food is great. Anyone can make a better hamburger. But, McDonald's built a system that was replicable. Starbucks doesn't make a great cup of coffee, in fact, their quality control is in trouble right now (author's point, not mine). As are the growers of the beans, getting paid next to nothing.  What Henry did do, though, was build a system so successful that it was even able to put two multi-million dollar locations 15 yards apart. Visit them both, and they have a different feel. Starbucks even nurtures our vanity: "At Starbucks, being finicky was celebrated; this was a place that actually glorified and indulged our neurotic tendencies."As a believer and cheerleader for humanity, these neurosis are troubling to me.

Clark brings up another amazing point: "When we see someone giving more attention to the precise, scientific application of Splenda to their morning cappuccinos than they seem to bestow on their own personal hygiene, do we even bother to raise an eyebrow anymore?" For me, this has become a growing annoyance for years, and not only with Starbucks, or our coffee, but our behaviors in general. 

Inconsistency. That some people can care so much about their hair, yet never brush their teeth because they don't have time. That some people will order the extra large, extra cheese, extra sausage pizza, but order a diet coke because they're watching their weight. That some people know all of the right moves to get what they want, and yet still care more about who gets kicked off the island. Howard Schultz built a system of consistency, and delivered exactly what we wanted as consumers. He said he would do it, followed through on his vision and is now worth 2.5 billion. 

So, what are you inconsistent about? What are you consistent with? Can you build your own Starbucks? Know what you want, and go get what you want!

Rich Dad, Poor Dad's Cashflow Quadrant, by Robert T Kiyosaki

Years ago, while working at Barnes and Noble, I had the pleasure of reading Rich Dad, Poor Dad, and it changed the way I felt about money. Like many people, I had no shortage of negative thoughts related to money: money was the root of all evil, money is only inherited (the ridiculous notion of the 1% these days), or even that rich people were somehow smarter than I could ever be. That book, with its easy to understand concepts and powerful belief system, helped change my negative relationship with money to one of big dreams and aspirations.

Today, years wiser, I read Cashflow Quadrant. Overall I liked it. Reads almost exactly the same as the original. I did have one gripe, though. While Kiyosaki repeatedly says that it is possible to minimize and sometimes even eliminate risk (and even has many examples of when he did in his own life), he never really gets into the details of how. But to his credit, he does leave me with another important lesson. Like every financial author, Robert peppered the phrase (or something similar) "if you know the game." Financial education, a business plan, mentors, risk management, even sleepless nights. All are almost requirements in the pursuit of financial freedom, and all require a massive level of commitment. 

Commitment is key. Commitment in a relationship leads to long lasting happiness and love. Commitment to a job leads to promotion and a great career. Commitment to a faith leads to a life of spiritual fulfillment. Commitment to diet and exercise leads to a life of health and an abundance of energy. And a commitment to the pursuit of financial education is a path that leads to freedom from financial stress, and a massive opportunity to give. Be committed to success in any area you so desire. 

 

To find out more about the Rich Dad philosophy, check out this link:

http://www.richdad.com/Home.aspx

 

Born Standing Up, by Steve Martin

I'm not ashamed to say that this book made me laugh out loud a few nights while reading it in bed, and also cry as I finished it at my desk. It is a beautifully written story of hard work, depression, and familial reconciliation. His is a story of an emotionally absent father, decades of struggle financially, and even at the height of his career felt the loneliest he ever was. 

I was left with a great deal of inspiration after reading this. The turning point in Steve's career was when Steve finally 'felt funny.' He no longer needed validity from the audience, and it gave him a sense of confidence only possible from YEARS of searching for himself. The resulting authenticity took him from performing small venues to stadiums and eventually to the big screen. 

Inspiration. A powerful part of building success in any area of life. As Tony Robbins says, "What people CAN do is very different from what they WILL do." I believe one of those deciding factors is the inspiration to change. Reading biographies like this are inspiring to me, and I encourage anyone to join me. What's your inspiration?

 

My Favorite Quotes:

"Despite a lack of natural ability, I did have one element necessary to all early creativity: naivete,  that fabulous quality that keeps you from knowing just how unsuited you are for what you are about to do."

"through the years, I have learned there is no harm in charging oneself up with delusions between moments of valid inspiration."

"...and I exited the stage and felt something rare for me: rage. In the wings, I began swearing to myself. I ripped off my coat and threw it against a wall. my fury was that over the last few years, I had lost contact with what I was doing, and I was suffering an artistic crisis that I didn't know I had a capacity for."

Crazy is a Complement, by Linda Rottenberg

(I had a 'word exchange' with my father when I told him of my book a day resolution. To his credit, he supported me, and even fueled me with my first book of 2015. Thanks dad. Lots of love!)

The beginning of 2015 had another resolution: to become self-employed and leave the employ of corporate America. The goal fueled me like a nuclear bomb, flooded with excitement and adventure, and extreme anxiety for the almost inevitable pain to follow (My joke: It's amazing being your own boss. Too bad I'm also the employee).

Of all this book did, most important to be was give me hope that what I wanted was possible. If you have aspirations of owning your own business, but fear is stopping you, understand: the fear is what DRIVES you. Said in another way, to be a successful entrepreneur, you must turn the fear into a fuel source. 

What gave me that hope? Linda identifies many characteristics of successful entrepreneurs, and outlines them beautifully. For example, there are different 'species' of entrepreneurs. My company won't necessarily reflect the growth of Facebook or Amazon, yet can still be successful. I'm a butterfly! (her words, although I am 1/16th hippie).

Hope is a powerful thing. Hope is an ingredient of success. If there is no hope for success, our psyche quickly fall into a state of helplessness, and we start the process of self sabotage. Take action! Pick up at least one book that will help give you hope to combat a specific fear in your life.  

The Book Blog

At the start of 2015, one of my resolutions was to become a gold digger...kind of. You see, whenever I tell people my resolution was to read a book a day, they usually look at me with either a look of disgust and jealousy because I'm so special that I can read that fast, or a discredulous look of dismissal, as that is impossible for anyone.

I understand both these reactions because the flaw in my resolution is simply the English language, and how people personally define the word 'read.' More people than not know they should read more, yet they rarely do. I used to be one of those people, gobbling up a sci fi book a month as a child. But when it came to anything non-fiction, I was always failing to finish books. You can imagine how this failing strategy supported me in school work. 

Whether through fate or random fortune, late last year I stumbled upon Tai Lopez and his book a day club. His philosophy: the goal of reading is the acquisition of knowledge, not the processing of words. It struck me harder than a truck (and I know what that feels like from experience). Years ago I read  Rich Dad, Poor Dad. In it, Robert Kiyosaki claims that only 10 percent of what we read is retained. Both men were onto something

I'm a gold digger. I 'read' the book in less than an hour, looking for that one (or more) piece of information that applies to my current state of growth. The mistake I used to make was believing that I had to read the whole book to learn. Thanks American School system. It's only been a month, yet after reading 31 books, I can already feel a massive change in my character. 

And that change is what I will be posting. These won't be book reviews, although you will garner some information from my change. These will be my experience with the book, and how the author's message comes across, and what I might have gathered from the wisdom.  

Read with Omid. Grow with Omid. Succeed with Omid

 

(Lastly, I would be remise if I didn't give a massive amount of credit to Tai. Check out his YouTube channel here)