A good article from Craig Ballantyne and Early to Rise…
Action Takers Rule the World
As Mark Ford correctly points out in his book, “The Reluctant Entrepreneur”, most business owners do not bet the farm. They take little bets. Little bets start with having the courage to take the first step. Today, Ryan Murdock shows you how. I did it, he did it, and you can do it too.Craig Ballantyne”If you’re always thinking about possibility, you’ll find it. You’ll always be creating your future.” – Sir Ken Robinson
How to Find the Courage to Take that First Step
by Ryan Murdock
It was 9:30am on a Wednesday. And I was sitting in a bathroom stall in an office building in Ottawa writing Communist slogans on the toilet paper.
Don’t get me wrong, I wasn’t a Communist by any possible stretch of the imagination. I was doing this in an effort to stay sane. Working as a temp in a government office where not a single person bothered to learn my name was starting to get me down, and drastic measures were called for.
And so each morning on my break I stuck a felt tipped marker in my back pocket and went to the toilet. I rolled down the paper and wrote things like “Power to the People!” or “The Party is Always Right”. And then I rolled it back up again.
I spent the rest of my mornings unfastening endless piles of research grant applications and putting them into a different order, because the applicants hadn’t followed the directions. I was grateful for the money, of course. But it was mind numbingly boring.
Whenever I began to feel my soul draining out of me, I pictured some guy in the bathroom peeling off a strip of toilet paper and finding one of those slogans. His first reaction was likely to be, “What the….?” quickly followed by, “Why…?” And then hopefully he’d start laughing like he hadn’t laughed in years. I wanted to bring a little sunshine into that otherwise grey world.
I hated that job. I hated every job I ever had. I woke up swearing every morning. I swore in the shower and I muttered profanity under my breath all the way to work. I felt useless because the work I was doing had no meaning. I wasn’t drawing on my talents. I wasn’t making the world a better place. And I felt trapped because the pay I earned was barely enough to live on, and I didn’t have any savings.
I wanted to write, and I knew my words would add value to other people’s lives. But I couldn’t see a way to make enough money to survive at it.
I finally reached a point where that didn’t matter anymore. I couldn’t imagine a more miserable life than the one I was already in. And so I vowed to make a living by doing what I loved — or starve to death trying. And I meant it in every fiber of my being.
When the contract ended, I asked the temp agency to remove my name from their list. And that was the last actual “job” I ever had.
Since then I’ve met an awful lot of people who feel trapped by the miserable circumstances of their lives. They’re completely unhappy. But when I ask them why they don’t change, they say they’re afraid to take the first step.
Well I’ll let you in on a secret…
You don’t need courage to take that first step. You just need to focus on two things: hate and desperation.
You already know that I hated my old job so much that even the worst failure was better than going back to that office. But where does “desperation” come in?
Fast forward to a couple years later. I was earning a little money from my writing, but we were still living on my wife’s salary as a translator in the automotive industry.
Payment for freelance work was irregular at best, and I needed money to pay some bills. Badly. By the middle of next week. And I had no idea how I was going to get it.
I had no one to borrow from. I didn’t have a job. And I wasn’t expecting checks from any magazine publishers either — not that you can ever count on “Check’s in the mail” from them!
What did I do? I drew on everything I learned in my 20+ years of martial arts training. It was the only other thing I could consider myself a legitimate “expert” in. I drove over to Future Shop and bought a mini-DV video camera and some editing software with my credit card. Then I sat down with a paper and pencil and wrote a list of every crazy push up variation I could think of. I got on the floor and made up a bunch of new ones too.
I filmed it all as a 25-minute tutorial, named it Beyond Pushups, uploaded it to a website called E-Junkie, and linked it to my PayPal account. And then I posted a teaser and description of my program on a fitness forum where I was a certified coach, and I emailed the link to everyone I knew.
I set the price at $10. My wife didn’t think I’d even be able to pay for the camera. She gave me a smug look and said, “And then what are you going to do?”
I plugged my ears and went to bed. And when I woke up the next morning, I had $1,000 in my PayPal account. I paid off the camera and software immediately, and still made a nice little profit.
I ended up filming several more of those downloadable tutorials in the following months. One on ab exercise variations, one on ankle strength, and one on mobility drills using a stick. My audience loved them. Each one sold better than the previous installment, and always for $10.
People would write to me and say, “Why are you giving this away for so little? You could easily make it into a full DVD!”
But I didn’t raise the price. I over delivered and built loyalty and trust with my audience instead. And six months later, I coauthored a larger online product with a friend. We called it Bodyweight Exercise Revolution and it made $10,000 in its first month.
Fast forward again — this time by 3 or 4 years. That coauthored program evolved into a business partnership. Adam Steer and I created and sold many more online fitness programs through a site called BodyweightCoach.com. And today we’ve got a seven figure business called Shapeshifter Media, where we help other new authors publish their work in the online fitness niche.
So yeah, that’s what I tell people when they ask me, “How do you get the courage to take that first step?”
In my experience you need two things:
1) Hate: you have to hate where you are right now so much that staying the same is far worse than the discomfort it’ll take you to change.
2) Desperation: sometimes you have to back yourself into a corner so you’re forced to come up with creative solutions.
I hated my job so much that staying there was worse than the risk of trying to live my dream and starving to death. And I needed that moment of desperation — having bills to pay but no money to pay them with — to free up my imagination so it could find a creative solution.
But thankfully you don’t have to do anything dumb to get that desperation. There’s no need to go into massive debt, or poke a lion with a stick. It can be something as simple as setting a really tight deadline. Or buying a one-way ticket to a place you’re scared to travel.
Try it today. Rig the game in your favor and commit to your goal in public. You’ll be amazed at the creative solutions you come up with.
And don’t sweat it too much if you hate your current circumstances with the fiery passion of a thousand suns. I hated mine too. Transform that energy into positive momentum instead.
Category Archives: failure
Being rich is all about having the right habits. That’s the message from Tom Corley, who spent five years observing how rich and poor people lived, worked, and even slept. Then, Corley wrote about his research in a book called “Rich Habits: The Daily Success Habits of Wealthy Individuals.”
Here’s what he found:
First: Be an early bird. Because among people making six-figures a year, about half wake up at least three hours before they have to be at work. Then, Corley says they use that extra morning time to focus on self-improvement like reading and exercising, because those things help them be more productive at work.
Another daily habit that can make you rich:Don’t gossip. According to Corley’s research, wealthy people are a whopping 14 times less likely to say they spread gossip, compared to people earning less than $30,000 a year.
Also: Spend less time using the Internet. Corley says most people who struggle with money spend at least an hour a day surfing the Web, or watching TV. But rich people are HALF as likely to go online every day. Instead, they spend that extra hour connecting with others in the “real world,” doing things like networking, socializing, and volunteering.
Another helpful habit: Make more “to-do” lists. Because wealthy people say they cross off 70% percent of the tasks on their to-do list every day – including short-term and long-term goals, meaning, rich people love getting stuff done.
Finally: According to the book, wealthy people are calorie counters. They generally limit alcoholic consumption, keep their junk food snacks to less than 300 calories per day, and weigh less. And it makes sense that successful people would weight less, 75% of executives in a recent survey said that being overweight is a “serious career impediment.” Overweight people are 3,000 times more likely to get passed over for a promotion. And fair or not, overweight applicants get turned down for jobs more than any other group.
You know, we’ve all been there in one way or another: we’ve been tense and focused on money, maybe stressed, maybe short with our spouse, maybe short with our kids….and in that moment when we’re stressing about money, we’re missing the world around us.
You know what I mean when I say “That awful feeling in the pit of your stomach because you feel like you have to worry about running out of money at the end of the month.”
I’ve been there, then back on “top”, then stressed again, a few times in my life.
I heard a funny thing the other day; someone was saying how they thought ‘rich people’ always think about money and ‘rich people’ are all shallow.
Maybe some are shallow, but in my experience and from what I read, when you had enough money to pay the bills and to live in a decent way, you’re NOT thinking about money much at all. When you have enough to cover the bills, you can think about fun things, about things that you WANT to do in your job and career, and things that you can do for or contribute to others – you can choose to enjoy life a little more.
When I was struggling with income and bills, and when I observe others that have the same struggle to pay bills and meet their obligations, they think about money all day long.
There is a great book that I highly recommend called “Bridges out of Poverty”. It helps explain how people struggling in poverty are constantly thinking about how they are paying the bills, food on the table, tires on the car, utility bills, etc.
Even if we aren’t at the poverty level, we can sometimes have some traits of the poverty mindset……we worry about money, about paying the mortgage, about our jobs, etc. This never creates a good feeling inside, does it?
Again, as someone that has been back and forth, here is some wisdom that I’ve learned from a few others and I believe that it really can help:
Focus on what you want, not what you don’t want – instead of focusing on the bills and lack of cash, focus on the things that you really want, the freedom, peace of mind, better health, better relationships, enjoying life, security for your family, etc.
Watch your self-talk- we all talk to ourselves and ask ourselves questions throughout the day. There is enough negativity in the world, don’t add to it by bringing yourself down. I was someone who beat myself up for many things and once in a while still do – if you do also, STOP. Reflect on accomplishments, look for references why you’re good at something, ask yourself questions like “Why do I deserve this?” and “Why am I so lucky?” instead of things like “Why can’t I earn more money” or ‘why is this such a struggle’ or ‘why don’t I ever win anything?”
Have a vision – ok maybe your life isn’t where you want it to be now and you want to improve – almost everyone does….create a vision. It doesn’t have to be a major complicated thing – something as simple as some bullet points or a paragraph or two is fine – create a simple story of you as you want to be – make the story in present tense as if you already have it – as if you are already “THERE” and you’re looking back on today, when you are struggling. Make sure that in the story you talk about how you’re proud of the steps you took, the hard work, the good attitude, and how you changed for the better. Remember, tell the ideal story of your life as if it is already done!
Enjoy the present, live in the moment – when we worry about the future or fret over the past, we miss moments and experiences right in front of us. I recall a time when my wife and I had time alone and I sat there worrrying about something that never even happened. Another time I recall worrying about something and basically ignoring my daughters when I had a free day with them. We all lost and nothing was gained. Take a moment to look around, be aware, and live today’s life. Things can happen in a moment. Look for miracles. You gotta celebrate life’s moments no matter what. There is no rehearsal.
Here’s something that can be the toughest for any of us – do the above each and everyday. We can all do things for a while or on occasion, or here and there. We have to ask the right questions, focus on the good stuff, reflect on our vision, and enjoy the present every day! We all must take action – even if they are just baby steps each day. Ask, ‘what thing, regardless how big or small, can I do today?” You don’t have to spend long on it – but at least 5 -10 minutes. Can you turn off the TV, put down the phone, or walk away from the computer or ipad for 10 minutes if it makes you better?
Remember, people with much less smarts, ability, education, opportunity have done great things, contributed, made money, helped others, and been successful , you have the ability, you have the power inside, you just need to take action.
Did you ever notice that when you’re at a family get together, or some other social event where you’re with friends or people that you know really well, you can sometimes notice others making excuses?
Sometimes we see others making excuses for not doing/trying/being/living, right?
Often times the excuses are based on FEAR.
I have some people in my life that are great people, and I love them a lot, but they are controlled by, and limited by their Fears.
It is easy to sit there and look at those people, almost in a judgmental way, and that’s not good, typically, nor is it what I want to point out or what I want you to do. We can always learn from watching others – but my point is this:
We ALL use Fear as an Excuse!
If you’re looking at your relatives or your friends and you see them making excuses and using Fear to hold them back in some way – If you’re really HONEST with yourself and aware, you can often see yourself in others.
I was at a nice picnic this weekend and a few of the ladies were there and just full of fear for so many things and they were talking about many things in their lives that they just didn’t want to do or “just couldn’t”.
At first I got a little judgmental and thought “Tsk!”, then I stopped myself. I tried to look at them and see what I didn’t like – and what it was in me.
I saw how I use Fear as an excuse. Recently I’ve had various opportunities in my career and with real estate. In the past I had a bad real estate experience, so I chose to pass on this opportunity. Looking back, it wasn’t a great decision to pass like I did – I at least needed to spend more time researching – but my fears about the past clouded my current-day decision.
How are you using Fear to hold you back, consciously or unconsciously?
What can you do to wipe out fear so you can make better decisions?
What can you do to wipe out fear so that you can live your life?
What kinds of questions can you ask yourself to change this habit?
What kinds of things can you do to interrupt the pattern of fear?
Look at all of the times, the opportunities, the ‘stuff of life’ that you may have missed.
Could you be better off if you were less fearful?
Live Life and Drop Fear.
….so that fall I returned to college a new person….really I felt like a man for the first time ever. As I mentioned, people treated me differently. I had a new confidence and self-respect. I can tell you that my relationships, grades, and life were affected.
I went to the fitness center 4 or 5 times a week. I ate better. I worked in the office and carried a 90% load of schoolwork. My grades improved greatly. My professors noticed my change. I began to think differently.
My parents now went to Florida from January to April. They bought a small place there and had a great time – they deserved it. My dad played volleyball 4 or 5 days a week and softball once or twice a week. My mother and father rode there bikes around the park most of the day and they socialized. They looked and acted years younger.
Besides some basic challenges, the year went on well. My father had a minor set back the next year but recovered quickly. I continued to run the business mostly on my own, using my dad as a valuable consultant. I would bounce ideas and situations off of him and we’d work together. My father and I did travel together to some larger clients, some tradeshows and other business. I got to spend time with him as a boss, partner and for the first time friend. It was a great time and I am forever grateful for that time. As time went on, I began to inject more of my own ideas and personality into the business. I had much to learn.
The next year of college came and I continued to maintain the balance of work, school, and social life. I began to enjoy the bit of extra money that I started to gather. Life was good.
I began to really taste independence. When I say that, I mean it in a few ways….I tasted what it was like to earn money, to save money, and to invest it. I saw my money grow in my investments, so I understood the passive nature of investing.
By the nature of our business, we set up dealers, home centers, and distributors. They sold our products. We earned commission. That was pretty cool. We earned money whether we were golfing, driving, sleeping or whatever. Sure we had to offer support, service and coordinate deliveries….and yes set up new dealers, but it was cool when I understood that there was a recurring revenue of sorts happening there.
The other part of independence was that we were living one about 30 acres – about 10 acres of fields in front of the home and office, and the balance behind us in beautiful woods. There was a small hillside on the on side of the property so that we were in a nice little valley. Not far in the woods, we had a creek. You could sit in the office in mid-summer and open the windows to a great cool breeze. You could hear birds sing, hear the bubbling creek, and look out and see deer.
If you wanted to take a walk, go fishing, it was all possible. There was an independence so that we were not tied to a city building, hampered by a commute and traffic. We weren’t tied to one employer. We had the freedom of recurring income. The independence that all people experience when they first reach a certain level of income was there. Life was good.
Later in my life I got away from many of these things. I worked in the city and had a very long commute. I worked for controlling employers. I would spend years longing to get back to that independence – the feeling that I controlled my own life. I lost the recurring revenue and the almost passive nature of the income. For many years, sometimes on purpose, sometimes because of circumstances around me, I lost independence. I can tell you this, it is much better, in so many ways, to be as independent as possible. I’ve had it and in some ways, I lost it.
As with any life event, I learned lessons. Among others, I learned the WORDS TO LIVE BY: Independence. Being free to act on your own, free to live where you want. I encourage you, define what independence means to you and what types of it are important to you.
I really grew over a few years. I learned a lot. I took some risks. I made some mistakes. I had successes.
One of the companies was about 90% of our income. We were independent but when you looked at the finances of our business, we were very dependent on one company. It wasn’t by design but because that company had such a diverse nature of products and because of how the territory simply developed, we were tied to them.
One spring we got news that this company hired a new set of sales managers. We got the call that one was coming to our area and we had to set up some visits. We approached it with a great attitude but he was pretty tough to deal with. Even though he knew nothing of the industry, he came across as egotistical, typically interrupted people, and was not a pleasant guy to spend the guy with…..
….he came into town a few times that summer and he’d typically tick off clients wherever he visited. We’d ask for help solving problems but he never solved one of them. He often was late for appointments and was disrespectful to me and my father. Then one day he asked us to meet him somewhere far. So we got up at 5am, drove to see this guy and we got fired.
That year, that company let go of any and every representative like us across the country and they went with some in-house salaried people. (Within 12 months that company also let go that sales manager!) Things change. You must adapt!.
So we drove all the way home on that beautiful summer day. I could tell that my dad was very upset that suddenly the business had lost 90% of its cashflow and the legacy he wanted to leave was not going to be the same. We tried to enjoy the day and we discussed the exit strategy….we also began to think about what the next step would be………
5 Common Words That Create Failure
Your level of success is predetermined by the words you use every day. Avoid these five “failure” words.
The words that people use every day determine whether they will achieve failure or success. There are five words that, in my observation, frequently show up in the conversation of losers, much more so than in that of winners. Here they are:
Although it’s true that unforeseen events can affect outcomes, it was not luck that made the difference. It was the events. Luck had nothing to do with it.
Believing in luck focuses your thoughts on an imaginary construct that neither you nor anybody else can change or affect.
What’s worse, luck is an excuse that explains away failure (“It was just bad luck”) and devalues your successes (“It was just good luck”).
It’s true that you have competitors, and that sometimes, for you to win, they have to lose (and vice versa). Even so, there are no enemies in business.
Enemies are opponents in warfare, when people are killing one another. Business is about making things better, not killing people.
The moment you demonize competitors by calling them enemies, you close off your business options. Today’s competitors are often tomorrow’s partners.
Wouldn’t it be nice if people always said yes to your ideas? Well, sometimes people aren’t going to like your ideas, or even you personally, for that matter.
You can pathologize such events by thinking of them as rejection, or you can understand that what really happened was that the other person’s desires didn’t match yours.
Rather than using a word that automatically makes you miserable, concentrate on changing your approach or approaching somebody else.
I cringe every time I hear somebody use this word in casual conversation. At work, it’s usually something like: “I hate my boss” or “I hate my job.”
Hate is a sick word, and it creates sickness in your body. Every time you use that word, you might as well be sticking a cancer cell in your body. Seriously.
I’m not saying that you’ve got to be sweetness and lovey-dovey about everything, but why pollute your brain by actually hating anything or anybody?
I’m sure you know somebody who can’t say anything about any idea, plan, or activity without crutching the sentence with the word but.
It’s always something like “Hey, that’s a great idea, but…” or “I agree that we need to take action, but…” It’s discouraging, and it kills momentum.
There’s a substitute for but that actually creates momentum: the word and. Try it next time a but is about to emerge from your mouth.
Tomorrow, I’ll give you the words that, in my observation, signal that a person is a winner rather than a loser. So stay tuned.
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Geoffrey James writes the Sales Source column on Inc.com, the world’s most visited sales-oriented blog. His newly published book is Business to Business Selling: Power Words and Strategies From the World’s Top Sales Experts. @Sales_Source
(This is one of a part of a series of WORDS TO LIVE BY. This series grew out of a workbook I first made for my young daughters and discussed at the dinner table. These Words include values, good ideas, and Words to aspire to….and learn from….enjoy!)
clar·i·ty- /ˈklærɪti/ Show Spelled [klar-i-tee] Show IPA
You just don’t feel right about it – often because you’re unclear about it, undecided, on the fence, etc.
- How many people do you want to reach today with your message?
- How do you want to contribute to the world/society/family/life?
- How much income do you want to earn this year/5 years/10 years?
- What kind of work do you want to do?
How many pages do you want to write?
- What things do you want to improve upon in _______?
- WHat does freedom/independence/the ideal life really mean to you?
What is the ideal day life for you?
- What do you want people to ‘feel’ when you talk to them?
- What is important to you – GET CLEAR!
Think about the recently famous Felix Baumgartner’s Supersonic Jump from the Stratoshpere (on October 14th, 2012). Have you seen it or heard about it? If not – it’s OK – I wrote a post about it here on this site.
The reason why thoughts of that jump filled my mind is because Felix Baumgartner accomplished a very clear goal he set for himself about 5 years ago… it took him that long to train for it… but his intentions were crystal clear even though that goal 5 years ago might have seemed a little unrealistic.
I know it took him 5 years to accomplish it but you’d be surprised what you can accomplish in 30 days.
Just as an example, when I got laser focused on my blogging almost 60 days ago now, my blog traffic went from daily visitors in the teens and twenties to hundreds .
I sometimes listen, watch, and read stuff from a marketing guy named David Wood. David Wood spends close to 2 hours on the subject of clarity in this one podcast (and much much more) and how to set goals in such a way that they become so crystal clear that you can actually feel them as being accomplished.
Also, here is a video by Tony Robbins where he emphasizes how important clarity is to accomplishing goals.
What Tony Robbins says in that video is right on the money…
“Life Will pay whatever price you ask of it.”
Without clarity, you cannot accomplish any goal that you set for yourself.
You too, can have clarity, implement these methods in your business and start making the income that you deserve.
Here is more from another website worth sharing.. http://thinksimplenow.com
Do you ever get so busy with the details of your life and the countless things you need to complete, that you end up feeling exhausted and disconnected?
The result: Your mind becomes clouded and unable to focus and you start to make poor decisions regarding your priorities. You end up working hard instead of working smart.
What do you do when this happens? Do you take the time to step out of the situation to regroup? Or do you continue with what you’re doing, all the while feeling that you’re running out of time, besides you still have a massive list of tasks to complete. In the past, my natural inclination was to do the latter and, in the end, I would be left feeling burnt out with my spirits down.
Lately I’ve been running around preparing for several major changes in my life. I’ve felt my mind becoming consumed by the problems revolving around these changes. My eating schedule became irregular and my decisions felt clouded. When my clarity started to fizzle, I found myself making decisions and judgments based on emotions rather than on logic or intuition arising out of clarity.
The following is a simple technique I’ve used to reconnect myself to what’s most important: my inner self. In doing so, Clarity came.
I’ve always been attracted to the idea of a Spiritual Day or a Clarity Day, in which you spend the whole day disconnected from the information world and the many distractions of modern life, and start to connect within yourself.
If this sounds too mystical, don’t get caught up with the words, they are just linguistic symbols to communicate ideas. When you really get into such a day, it can become a source of great bliss and understanding of one’s self. During these times, we can experience tremendous personal growth, peace, and satisfaction.
This is also the perfect chance to clear out the noise and mental clutter that collects in our inner space from the hectic demands of our life. Through better understanding of ourselves and our surroundings, we gain more than clarity, we gain self confidence.
Similar to Self Dates or Alone Time, on a Clarity Day your goal is to spend an enjoyable day on your own and away from everyday distractions. Aim for minimal planning, so that you spend the day following your heart and enjoying the spontaneous expressions of the present moment.
Here’s an example of how I spent this past Saturday, when I deeply needed clarity and to connect with myself:
- Basics – From 8am to 8pm. I was doing everything on my own, without friends or family. All distractions such as cell phones, home phones, computers, and TVs, were turned off.
- Salon – I’ve always enjoyed getting my hair done. My favorite salon straightens my hair at each appointment. I sat there with my eyes closed and enjoyed being there. The girls kept asking me if I needed a magazine, and I would say “No thanks. I’m happy just sitting here.”
- Walk – I walked out of the downtown Salon and drifted randomly uphill to the Capital Hill neighborhood. The day was so beautiful. I enjoyed looking up at the sky and passing by families of tourists and Saturday shoppers.
- Café – I found a comfortable corner seat by the large windows at a local café. I pulled out my book and my journal. Periodically, I would sit back with my book in my lap and enjoy watching people. People are so interesting, and if you try, you can sense what people are feeling. I had a fantastic seat for people watching and deeply enjoyed the experience.
- Meet a Stanger – I started talking with an interesting new friend who sat next to me. We talked about happiness, art, and creativity. It was very simulating and felt good to connect with another human being; they add meaning and dimension to your life.
- Read – I read Stillness Speaks by Eckhart Tolle. A short but enlightening read. It is full of bite sized wisdom to help find the stillness within you.
- Meditation – 35 minute guided meditation. When I opened my eyes after the meditation, I felt like I was seeing the world with new eyes. I felt calm and happy. I followed this up by lying down on my yoga mat and visualizing all of the things I am grateful for. I got up feeling incredibly centered and present.
- Journaling – with my new found clarity, I wrote out my thoughts and feelings. In doing this, it gave me a chance to organize my thoughts (which were the source of my problems), along with options for dealing with them. I’ve learned that recording emotional events and personal realizations in a journal can be a fulfilling experience. Especially when you read the entries several years later.
I stepped out of the day in a peaceful state and had regained my clarity. I felt like my spirit had been recharged. It also became clear that my problems are only as big as I perceive them to be, in my mind.
MORE FROM THE CHANGEBLOG.COM below…..
Henry David Thoreau famously wrote that most people (‘the mass of men’) live lives of quiet desperation. Most of us probably wouldn’t describe our daily experience as ‘desperation,’ but there may be an uncomfortable feeling that we are drifting along, not having a clear aim, not having achieved what we dreamed about in the past and yet not knowing quite why.
Usually, this feeling is not painful enough to drive us into making any real changes, so the danger is that we can drift along like this indefinitely. Many people who have made significant advances in life have had periods of intense discomfort which have forced them to go inside, reflect and become more aware.
For most of us, there are things we can do to become clearer about where we are, what we want and how to get there. These practices may be less radical that sudden upheavals and painful experiences, but they can be uncomfortable – learning new things usually is – and a gentle persistence will be an important attitude to adopt if you attempt them seriously.
The kind of meditation the Buddha is said to have taught is most closely reflected in Vippassana or ‘insight’ meditation. The technique is extremely simple: no special apparatus or prior knowledge is needed, just a quiet place and a period of time. All you have to do it sit comfortably with a straight back and observe your breath. Nothing more. In time, the practice is intended to bring about clarity and insight into the nature of the self, and that of reality.
Some years ago, I attended one of S. N. Goenka’s famous ten day Vippassana retreats. The Goenka organization is a worldwide group dedicated to teaching the practice of insight meditation. The retreats are tough – many hours of meditation, only two small meals per day, basic communal facilities such as dorms, and a strict code of silence. Attendees are not allowed phones, books, journals or any other form of intellectual stimulation.
The Goenka courses are excellent in the sense that they force you to meditate – there are quite literally no distractions, and one is forced to face up to the many obvious – and subtle – ways in which we try to avoid a practice which is so alien to our restless mind and which forces us to face some uncomfortable realities. But for those not quite ready to take the plunge, there are plenty of online courses available, such as those offered by Wildmind. It is also usually possible to find a local meditation centre offering guided evening sessions.
Meditation is a way of focusing on the present moment in a very intense kind of way; the practice of mindfulness is a way of being present throughout the day. It just means watching yourself, being a silent witness to your own feelings, thoughts and reactions, in order to gain clarity about everything you do, feel or think. We usually move through life in a fairly unconscious state, responding to circumstances in a conditioned way, unconscious repetition of learned behaviors.
Becoming more mindful is not easy – it requires a great deal of practice but will, in time, lead to a great deal of clarity and insight into what drives us. With this knowledge, we can make better choices and exert more control over how we respond to situations and hence what we experience.
Two books I particularly recommended are Awareness by Anthony de Mello and Mindfulness in Plain English by Bhante Gunaratana. De Mello’s book is full of anecdotes and stories which underline the importance and the (sometimes surprising) consequences of being more ‘awake .’
Our connection with the natural world
Although we might sometimes be tempted to see ‘nature’ as ‘something out there,’ separate from our experience, we are, of course, very much a part of the environment, and we naturally feel more centered and clear when we are close to our natural environment. We haven’t been living in houses and apartments for very long, and city living is a particularly new innovation which can be very stressful.
It is helpful to find time regularly to spend time in a more natural environment. This doesn’t have to mean trekking through the jungle – even walking through a park or a garden can bring great benefits. In Hong Kong, where I have lived for many years, it can be extremely difficult to find the time and the opportunity to get out into nature, but it is possible, and making a conscious effort to do so enables me to maintain more balance and perspective. If I can do it here in Hong Kong, I think almost anyone can!
How many of us have fought with a spouse or partner about money?
We all have in some way, right?
When financial issues come up, we handle things differently due to our gender, family, upbringing, current outlook, etc.
So how do we handle this?
I saw this good video about it from Noah St. John.
(This is one of a part of a series of WORDS TO LIVE BY. This series grew out of a workbook I first made for my young daughters and discussed at the dinner table. These Words include values, good ideas, and Words to aspire to….and learn from….enjoy!)
This Words To Live By is about Making judgements and generalizations in life. I guess I want to focus on how we look at others and how we look at opportunities and make a generalization or judgement.
From vocabulary.com –A generalization is taking one or a few facts and making a broader, more universal statement. If all the girls you know play with dolls, you might make the generalization that all girls play with dolls. Scientists try to make generalizations based on research — the more data they have, the more accurate the generalization. Generalizations can be similar to stereotypes in that they are sometimes wrong and harmful. Usually, it’s best to stick with specifics and avoid generalizations.
We constantly are making judgements in our minds each day about small and large decisions. We need to make snap judgements about all sorts of things. But, many times we make judgements about others based on emotion, prejudice, previous pain, misunderstandings, etc.
We generalize about some things don’t we? Sure, it is necessary to some degree but these generalizations are unfair and limiting. When we judge someone or something, we limit ourselves, we limit them, and we immediate limit the possibilities.
For instance, I had a former boss that made lots of generalizations. If we’d get a client that was from a certain vocation, he’d generalize “I worked with a few of those people before, she won’t return the forms or follow up, they’re all like that.” He would immediate make a judgement that she wasn’t the type to follow through, she was flakey, and that she wasn’t committed. Guess what? He was often wrong when he made these generalizations and I loved it. Often I didn’t even say anything, but once in while my ego got in the way perhaps and I’d say something like “Oh, she did return the forms and follow up?” I had to becareful.
Sometimes a client or prospect came in dressed a certain way. My boss would make a judgement whether they had money, and if they were flakey, etc. It really bothered me. Again, often he was wrong. I remember one single man came in and was about to retire. My boss thought he was without financial resources and was the type to not follow up. He was wrong.
I’ve had bosses, friends and relatives make judgements and generalizations about all sorts of things. In some ways it is almost entertaining to hear someone talking about their misunderstandings about other people or about an opportunity. I love to laugh at people who say small-minded things (but I don’t classify them as small-minded, nonetheless!) It is unfortunate and even offensive when people start making generalizations about race and creed.
I remember an older lady in my family, she has since passed, she was getting a little foggy in her head as she grew older. She often would see someone, almost anyone, and make some generalization. Many times it was amusing. She saw an Irish man once drinking tea and said “They like their tea, don’t they?”
I, on the other hand, did not know thatJ. She’d see someone riding a bike and say ‘they like to ride their bikes around here.’ Do they? But, it would get borderline racist when she’d see an African American and make a generalization. Many times it wasn’t about a stereotype and maybe wasn’t necessarily offensive by itself, but it was sometimes racist and we told her to stop it.
I had a boss that would generalize about Jewish people due to his experience with one Jewish person years ago. It made me sick. I told him numerous times not to make those statements around me.
What about when others make judgements or generalizations about you?
I recall, when I was young, getting passed over for a few rounds for an intramural football team. They made a judgement about me and how I played without ever having seen me. They were wrong. Soon they had me playing first string.
We’ve all gone to job interviews and felt that the interviewer was making a judgement or generalization right? Relatives often easily pass judgement and generalize about us, don’t they?
How does it feel when someone makes a judgement or generalization about you? It angers me. I feel that I want to yell, point out all of their faults, that I don’t want to deal with them.
I must admit, I’ve been told that I’m not cut out for things or can’t do things many times and in many ways it motivates me. Healthy or not, I use that anger or whatever it is to fuel me to do better. In some ways I do it to “show them” – but that’s not what it really should be about. We need to do things and make choices for ourselves, not for someone who is passing judgement on us.
When confronted by mean-spiritedness, and hateful gossip, respond to it from your position of love: “I don’t want to make any judgments.” Rather than criticizing the mean-spirited person, silently project love. Wayne Dyer
How many times have you had a friend or relative pass judgement on an opportunity, job, relationship?
“You can’t make money in the stock market.”- or – “Real estate is a drag, it’s all about fixing someone’s toilet, tenants are mooches.” – or – “He comes from a big family. People from big families are attention hounds.” – or – “She’s an only child. You know how only children are spoiled, she is so selfish.” – or – “Why would you ever work there? That job just seems so boring/challenging/empty….” – or – “do you put in an honest day’s work in that kind of job?”
These are all actual one’s that I have heard lately. Many people make judgements about a whole group of things because of one or two situations.
Many of us also make judgements because of our own fears and negative emotions. It is a way that we can rationalize passing on an opportunity and doing nothing. It is a way to deny a failure or lack of action.
I think of my old boss sometimes and all the things he said. He must have been a fearful guy. He was constantly setting himself up so that if he did fail or not get an opportunity, he had the excuse ready. “Sure he didn’t sign up as a client, he’s one of those _____, what do you expect.”
I see some of my friends and relatives do this too. I love these people and they’re good people, hardworking, giving, friendly – but sometimes their judgement isn’t entirely un-biased. Emotions and fear cloud them. Prejudice too.
Don’t get me wrong, I make judgements, incorrect ones, and generalizations. But I do constantly work at stopping myself. Judging others is such a waste of time and energy. In essence we’re focusing on a perceived negative quality of another person or situation. In essence we’re complaining or worrying about something we don’t even know to be true. Other than rationalizing and making us feel a slight bit better for a moment, how does that help anyone?
So many people build up prejudice, judgements, generalizations as they go through life because of failure, hurt, loss, pain, etc. It is easy to do. It is natural, perhaps, but not healthy.
Are you making judgements? Generalizations? About people or opportunities? Are you limiting yourself? Are you seeing things clearly for what they really area?
A good friend and coach once said, we should not judge an event as good or bad. He said,” I suggest taking words like bad, good, negative, positive out of your self-talk by simply stating what it is without labeling it.
You can change it to “I have empathy/compassion for that person,… Yet If you have empathy/compassion and want to do something (even if it’s sending love or compassion from your heart) that offers something for that person to help Empower them to move forward…use your feelings to help in some way instead of simply feeling “bad” which usually ties to guilt and is a mind and time waster.”
In some ways I think judgements and generalizations, like forgiveness, seems to be about others but in fact it is about us. When we hold a grudge against someone else, it really doesn’t hurt them, it hurts us mostly by what we carry around. When we pass judgement about someone or something, we do limit the other person but we also limit ourselves more by not seeing the whole picture, relying on prejudices, not being open, not being a loving human being. We’re hurting ourselves when we judge or generalize.
Our prejudice, judgements, generalizations often tell others a lot about ourselves, too! Have you ever seen or heard someone say something, some kind of judgemental statement or generalization – that they are trying to ‘look bigger’ or somehow act superior, or put down another person? However the effect is instead that they look silly/small-minded/angry/inferior. We suddenly see what is really inside rather than the fascade they project.
I’ve heard people say that there is perfection in our lives – that where we are and what happens is in some ways perfect. For many things I accept this – but when we lose a loved one, especially a child – or something similar, it is hard to see any kind of perfection in those tragic events.
But, just for this conversation, let’s just discuss events around our careers?
I look back when I was working full time and going to the evening MBA program. It was over 10 years ago. Arthur Andersen Consulting was big, at least it seemed to be from my perspective. They were worldwide, visible, and seemed to have a great reputation. Through the university’s MBA program, I got to meet many of the local Arthur Andersen’s (AA) staff. They were about my age and seemed like really interesting people. I researched AA more and it seemed really interesting.
So I started the interview process. I was intrigued and excited. I loved it. I seemed to be doing well in the process – although it was a long process. They had 5-6 interviews. I felt things were going well and got invited back to my 5th interview. I was pumped. That interview was tough, and I eventually was told that they ‘passed me over’ this time.
I was crushed. I was so excited, felt connected to the people, the mission, the pay, the aura. It really bothered me.
A few weeks went by and through the MBA program, we heard that AA was no longer going to pursue ANY candidates. What? None of us? There were about 7 people in the last stages. We heard two might be hired.
Then we found out that Arthur Andersen was somehow involved with ENRON. There was a big backlash and other problems. Suddenly no hiring. Soon after layoffs came to AA.Then I was told the Pittsburgh office was downsized. That opportunity had looked SOOOOOO good. I would have almost paid for it. I wanted it so bad.
Now I was somewhat relieved that I didn’t get hired. I later found out that some former Arthur Andersen staff had a tough time getting hired elsewhere, at least for a while, due to the Enron stigma. In reality many had nothing to do with it but the PR was bad.
I’ve had other times in my life where I started a partnership with another guy and it seemed to be a great thing. Then in 2 months he decided to end our contract. I was shocked. There was really no reason, all parties were performing and doing well. I was mad, upset, hurt, confused……but it didn’t take long to realize that he was so incredibly anal, controlling, etc. – that we probably would not have gotten along. Years later I talked to someone in the industry that had worked for him and he didn’t have anything good to say. He felt that the years with him were lost years. A bad breakup turned out to be good?
I remember attending a football banquet with my father. A local organization put it on for charity – some of the Pittsburgh Steelers attended and spoke, took pictures, etc. Two of the Steelers spoke about how they progressed – even how they were guided through their careers and through life. The kicker, Gary Anderson, spoke about being on the football team before the Steelers. Before the NFL, he was a very accurate kicker and was drafted. After being drafted to the NFL, he spoke about how his kicking in practice and in games was far below his potential. As he said it, “I could kick better with my left foot than I was with my right during that period.” He soon got cut. He went through all the bad emotions and worry. How could he ever work again? Would he be able to kick well ever again? Etc.
Then he was picked up by the Steelers. For whatever reasons, when he arrived on the Steelers, he kicked well again. It seemed much easier and things went well for a number of years. He was happier, he contributed to the team, the community, his family was happy, etc. Looking back, that previous experience and failure almost seemed necessary – it seemed perfect.
I’ve heard many other stories of people in sports, life, love where a crushing blow seemed to be the worst loss, failure, dead end, or bad moment in their lives. Something that seemed to be so good, so desirable, such a must was suddenly taken away or shut off. How could they ever recover? Maybe it was a relationship, a career change, a move, whatever.
Then, a short period after, they looked back and they were glad it happened. One thing led to another and something better showed up. Something unexpected came about and now they were happy.
This has happened in my own life many times in many ways. More recently there has been a career event that seemed to be so good, then suddenly changed and it hurt. I’m still too close to look back on it clearly but for once I’m kind of excited to see the perfection in the new life and options I now have. I feel calm, confident, and faithful that whatever comes next will be better and that event is part of the perfection.
I’ve read different stories about people getting hurt and now have to use a wheelchair all their lives but they now feel grateful for the new role. How many people have you heard say they went for a certain job and found it miserable, and now they have a better, simpler life doing something else, something that they could not have dreamed of on their own? An injury? A loved one being challenged by something? Any of the hurdles each of us face….
Some people say it is Destiny. Others say God is guiding us. Some say that it is our Inner Self guiding us. There is no right or wrong answer. For me, I feel it is a little bit of all the above.
I feel that Destiny/God/Inner Self is all the same thing. When we calm down and listen to ourselves, we often feel/see/hear the ‘right’ decisions. I believe that this guides us. I also believe that our Inner Self is connected to the outside world – the Source, God, the Universe whatever you call it. Are we being guided or guiding ourselves? Does it really matter?
There is an old Chinese proverb that helps us have a perspective on events….is something ‘good’ or ‘bad’
Sāi Wēng Lost his Horse –Sāi Wēng lived on the border and he raised horses for a living. One day he lost a horse and his neighbor felt sorry for him, but Sāi Wēng didn’t care about the horse, because he thought it wasn’t a bad thing to lose a horse. After a while the horse returned with another beautiful horse, and the neighbor congratulated him on his good luck. But Sāi Wēng thought that maybe it wasn’t a good thing to have this new horse.
His son liked the new horse a lot and often took it riding. One day his son fell off the horse and broke his leg. Because of his broken leg, he couldn’t go off to the war, as was expected of all the young men in the area. Most of them died.
This proverb is said when bad luck turns to good, or when good luck turns to bad.
Related to this, we should avoid labeling anything as good or bad.
I suggest taking words like bad, good, negative, positive out of your self talk by simply stating what it is without labeling it. For example: you may feel emotional inside where your energy is low in a situation, ask yourself if that feeling is serving you and if it is, ok…if not, choose to change to another feeling state. Realize that you may not know if this event today is really ‘bad’ or ‘good’ yet.
Be excited to find how the failure, disappointment, rejection is just going to lead to something better. Be relaxed and at ease that you’ll be guided – by yourself or by something else – to the right spot, to the state of perfection. Have faith, have patience, and let it happen.