I recently learned that modern society corrupted the word priority. One hundred years ago, there was no plural form: priority was singular only — it meant the single most important item.
Today, we have corrupted the word to mean “important” instead of the most important. I think we should return to the original definition.
So, as January 2017 is nearly here, what is your foremost priority resolution – yes, just one – for 2017?
I would suggest picking a self-improvement habit-of-excellence and focusing on just that one, until it truly is a habit in your life. Once your foremost priority becomes a habit, then and only then, create your next foremost priority resolution. Don’t dilute your effort with the list of 10 or 20 resolutions – that lack of focus is why most of us never seem to accomplish our long list of resolutions each year.
Once you pick your priority, leave reminders everywhere — on your computer, smartphone, and tablet wallpaper screens, your bathroom mirror, in your wallet, in your car. I really like the idea of have a calendar with red X’s on every day you made progress on your one true priority. Excellence comes from focus on building your own habits.
Some goals lend themselves better to the Red X system better than others. For a fitness goal, the Red X feedback is easy. For writing a book, break the long project into small steps, like writing a minimum of two pages or 300 words each day. For complex projects, you will need to pre-plan each day’s progress step with your first cup of coffee, but the idea is the same: make progress daily.
Although I am certain I have used this quote before, I can’t resist including it here:
Excellence is an art won by training and habituation. We do not act rightly because we have virtue or excellence, but we rather have those because we have acted rightly. We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act but a habit.
Why not ask people in conversation what their “foremost priority” is — right now — whenever conversation allows. If you listen well, you will learn something of importance about your friend, and you might just inspire him to improve his focus and succeed more easily. Inspiration is a great gift to give, not only over the Christmas Season, but all year long.
Finally, build a habit of saying “foremost priority” instead of “priorities” in conversation. Let’s do our part to get back to the meaning of the word and do our part to beat back the constant distractions of our modern, smartphone, media, and internet dominated life.
It is halfway through 2016. Are you halfway done on your resolutions? Do you remember where you put the list? It is a great good time to review what you decided to accomplish this year.
I believe resolutions are a great tool to replace bad habits with good habits. Changing habits is not easy without daily focus, accountability, and willpower. For that reason, minimalist champion Leo Babauta is right: focus on one habit change at a time. Habits take time to change — usually 12 sincere weeks — so quarterly resolutions are a great idea, in my humble opinion.
Job one is to keep “it” — whatever it is — front and center. Front and center reminders might be different for different people. It might be on your computer’s wallpaper, smartphone’s wallpaper, bathroom mirror, and refrigerator door. Whatever combination works for you.
The next step is to keep an honesty-with-oneself log. Let’s say your resolution is to go to the gym 15 days each month. Be specific: I believe you are better off to say 15 profuse-sweat workouts each month, because quality of effort gets targeted too. Log the days you go, what you did, and how much time you spent. Log the days you didn’t go. Review the situation daily. Pale ink helps willpower.
Finally, each of us has a finite amount of daily willpower. It is much harder to do “it” after we have struggled to overcome ten other objectives throughout our day. I recommend doing “it” as early as you can, when your willpower tank still has a lot of willpower megawatts in it.
Quarterly resolutions, one at a time, are the best way to adopt four habits for improvement and success, every year. Just be careful not to lose the previous habit when you move to the next.
PS. Idea for habits to improve, beyond the obvious fitness example above, include reading for 25 minutes per day (and writing down a couple of lines about what you read), learning one new thing per day (and writing it down of course), watching less TV each day (logging time and what you watched), or eating one truly healthy meal each day (always write it down).
Four words that have survived since the mid-1300’s. Why? Truth thrives.
I have often written about the extraordinary opportunities available to all of us. We live at an extraordinary time, a time of fantastic and rapid change, in the best country in world. I believe that the opportunities to achieve whatever one wants to achieve in today’s America are limitless.
Yet, I know a lot of people that look at the same things I do and simply don’t see it the same. They see scarcity where I see abundant opportunity. It has taken me a while to figure out why but I believe I now understand. There are three fierce guard dogs at the gates of opportunity, and it turns out that most people see the snarling beasts, they miss seeing the gates, let alone the rainbow and waterfalls in the garden on the other side.
The guard dogs are risk, sacrifice, and faith. One or more of these prevent many from jumping on thousands of golden opportunities. Today I’ll spend a few minutes discussing the first one — risk.
Young adults have a great advantage over most of the working population. If they grew up in an optimistic home, they believe they can conquer the world, they have little if anything to lose, they don’t yet listen to (or at least adhere to) the often faulty, limited “wisdom” of their elders, and they have had few disheartening experiences. There is good reason most tech start-ups are fueled by young adults.
As we get older, we tend to take less and less risk. This risk aversion invades most of the facets of a person’s life: financial, emotional, professional, psychological, personal, you name it. Yet the core truth of “nothing ventured” rules nearly every facet of life.
By the time people hit their 40’s, most don’t want to take any chances. This is a terrible mistake that shackles one’s life. Without accepting risk, all you can expect is a lousy return following the path of the risk-free herd. When you embrace good risks, you expand your possibilities and your life.
Overcoming the fear of risk is possible and comes from learning and understanding probability better than the average person. Risk is simply half of the equation: once a person learns to evaluate risk clearly, in relation to probable return, she can start making educated decisions regarding the worthiness of any endeavor. These three guard dogs start to look much more lovable.
It is easiest to understand risk vs. return in simple betting. If someone offered you 3:1 odds on the flip of a quarter, it becomes a good bet – in other words a risk worth taking, because the quarter flip will win 50/50 over time. On a dollar bet, you would get paid $3 the 50% of the time that you win, but lose only $1 the 50% of the time you would lose.
The same is true in life. If you invest $1,000 in a growing, successful company that has a current P/E ratio of 10, a historical low for the stock, because of a short-term sell-off, while all its close competitors have P/E’s of 25 – barring any skeletons in the closet, you generally have taken a good bet – odds are much better that your stock will appreciate to $2,500 (probably more (because I’m ignoring earnings growth over time in this example)) rather than falling to $500 in the future. You can further mitigate the risk by investing $1,000 in 10 companies in similar situations – even if you are wrong on 5 of 10 — and 3 of them get halved while 2 tread water and stay at the price paid — if the other five do move up to their historical P/E, your final tally would be $16,000 on a $10,000 in investments, or a 60% return. If you leave that $10,000 in a money market account at Bank of America, you will earn less than $5 per year in this crazy near “interest-free” financial climate.
Yet many people never overcome the fear of risk. My suggestion is start small and gain momentum gradually. A big misconception is that those who take risks are fearless. Not true. People that take prudent risks, after weighing the probable rewards, are courageous and smart.
I really like John Wayne’s definition of courage….the Duke said “Courage is being scared to death – but saddling up anyway.”
It is incredibly important that a person learns to embrace prudent calculated risk during his entire life, learning from experiences as he grows older. There are always risks worth taking, and when you are 40, 50, or 60, you have a much broader base of experience, connections, and resources than when you were but 22. The idea is not to put more than you can afford to lose in any one investment or idea.
My discussion took a financial turn because it is easy to illustrate with numbers, but taking prudent risks is just as vital on your emotional, professional, personal, and psychological facets of life. If you come up with a great idea that is worthy at work, take the risk and land a meeting with your own CEO. Pitch it! You might just make Executive VP after all. Go to that job interview. Ask that girl out. Go ahead and volunteer when they ask. Speak up at the community meeting. Try helping out at the local soup kitchen or Meals-on-Wheels or Big Brothers Big Sisters — seriously! Start that little business on the side and stick to the project to the finish line. Always remember that it helps to fail spectacularly from time to time in order to become extraordinary in the end.
The great Wayne Gretzky is right when he says “You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.”
Michael Jordan put it this way: “I’ve missed more than 9000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. 26 times, I’ve been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.”
What have you ventured this month? What have you ventured in 2015? Take more risks to be all you can be!
Life tests us. Life wants to know what we are made of. One simple rule matters most: never give in. Stay true to yourself, your values, your principles, and your beliefs, no matter what.
All of us makes decisions about ourselves. In essence, we decide our mental DNA, we design our daily habits, we control our attitudes and our outlook.
One person stays gung-ho about life, even when he stumbles or encounters unexpected challenges. He decided to go from one challenge to the next without any loss of optimism, enthusiasm, or tenacity. Facing the same situation, another gives in and doesn’t swing the bat with the same gusto after a few strike outs. These two people’s lives will come out remarkably different.
Giving in becomes a habit. Never, ever, ever give in, and never give up your enthusiasm.
PS> One of my favorites that I’m certain I have posted in the past:
Basic knowledge doesn’t get you far. If it did, everyone with a smartphone and access to Google would become CEO of Skynet or some other growing multi-national corporation.
Ideas are far different than knowledge. Fresh ideas — your ideas — your ideas blended with other ideas — are one of your most important assets. A great idea person is welcome in any group, whether work associates, sports teammate, or personal friends.
The problem is that ideas are often like fine wine — it takes time for them to grow in character.
I have posted often about keeping journals — writing it down is helpful. But, as I personally have discovered, ideas that are inter-dispersed in chronological journals get lost — the signal disappears in the surrounding noise.
Do you keep an ever-growing, well-indexed vault of your ideas? Do you read over your ideas on a regular basis, so that they serve as a catalyst for new ones? How do you distill ideas so that they don’t get lost in the clutter? How do you improve them over time?
Imagine if you started when you were young — lets say as a middle-school student or a freshman in high-school — and wrote down every idea! you ever had in a permanent vault. What if you then re-read and added to your ideas at least once every three months?
This would constitute managing your ideas as an important asset. Do you manage your ideas as an asset?
If you have no idea how to start, I would suggest Day One if you are an iPhone / iPad / Mac person. Evernote is another possibility although I find it cumbersome to review and improve. IdeaMatrix is a good tool that I helped invent, if you are happy with text only idea management (which offers brilliant speed and ease, but gives away pictures). As I type, I realize that I have not done my homework because I don’t know how to effectively export and backup from Day One or Evernote — and it is pretty clear that most tech companies expire after a few years. Trusting one of these with your idea vault also means that you must backup / offline / in a export-import friendly format. I will update this post after I work through the backup capability investigation. [here is an update on Day One — export to an adobe ‘pdf’ file seems to be the best backup — of course, that means you should do so on a regular basis, but in general, I’m comfortable with the capability.]
A few quotes to consider:
“There is one thing stronger than all the armies in the world, and that is an idea whose time has come.”
– Victor Hugo
“Ideas are great, but mostly worthless, without action and optimism.”
— Bob Sakalas
“Ideas won’t keep. Something must be done about them.”
– Alfred North Whitehead
Are you an idea person? Manage and refine your most valuable of assets. If you are not an idea person today, start a vault today — it isn’t magic.
If you invest your time and money, you will become rich. It’s really that simple.
— Bob Sakalas
Why not keep a daily diary, a small little log, of what investments you make each day?
noun: investment; plural noun: investment
The action or process of investing money for profit or material result.
An act of devoting time, effort, or energy to a particular undertaking with the expectation of a worthwhile result.
If you keep a daily log, it will open your eyes and you will see: few devote enough daily energy to investments that can or might pay off. Create something, learn something, write something, buy something that will gain value — just re-tweeeting someone else’s article doesn’t really count — but even that is better than watching T.V. or scrolling Facebook and Instagram. Don’t be part of the “Just Watch It” nation that wear Nike “Just Do It” t-shirts while sitting on the couch.
“I tried everything to make it happen, but nothing worked.“
How often have we heard this? Actually, how often have you said this yourself? Was this statement ever true?
The truth is that nearly everyone gives up after trying just one or two ways to achieve a goal. Three distinct attempts is quite rare, reserved for only the most important of endeavors. People shoot themselves in the foot when they announce that they “have tried everything” because nothing can be farther from the truth. When you make announcements, they become your own limiting belief. Sadly, a lot of people get mentally stuck, simply trying the same methods, over and over, expecting different results but not getting them.
I see few examples of anyone trying multiple paths and methods. This is true for the math teacher trying to get her lesson embraced by her student, or the student who tries to memorize the key elements needed for the upcoming exam. This is true for the coach trying to help his team win, the manager striving to make his sales team hit the forecasted numbers, the entrepreneur trying to win customers for her start-up, and it’s true for millions of people hoping to improve their physical fitness. Most everyone tries only one or two ways — sometimes for months and years — and then gives up.
But, what truly matters most — in the long-run — is whole-hearted, stake your life on it, commitment. Jumping into the deep end — with both feet — makes up for any shortcomings that you have in raw talent. Your commitment level is the single most important factor that changes how many distinct ways you will try to overcome a challenge. If you decide that “I must succeed at ________ ” instead of “I want to succeed at _______ “, you will find that your success percentages will dramatically improve.
Winning means you are willing to go longer, work harder, and give more than anyone else.
— Vince Lombardi
Imagine two people, Nick and Mike, who both hope to invent the next big thing. Nick, in his own mind’s eye, simply says “I want to” and so, he will work on his project whenever time allows, after he does his day job, hangs with his family, works out at the gym, sees his friends, checks his social media, watches the ball game, and catches up on the news. Mike, on the other hand, commits whole-heartedly and says “I must” — this one little difference makes all the difference. He etches out hours, each and every week without fail, he pivots, adapts, and overcomes, he gets to the finish line of the project, succeeding with persistence and tenacity. It is rarely about talent alone. Success is invariably about your commitment. Commitment is the seed of will power. Only the committed are relentless in the pursuit.
What’s happening in your life today? What are you trying to achieve? Where you should upgrade your commitment from “I want to succeed” to “I must succeed?”
Are you up for a challenge in longevity? Why not author a few great quotes? One of the puzzles that I find truly interesting is what makes a quotation survive the test of time, thriving long after the person who authored it has passed away. Not many people out of the billions of people before you and I have had a quote survive at all.
It is a challenge in striking a cord with the reader or listener, capturing an essential truth, keeping it short and sweet, and having it go viral. Books and books try to solve “how a business idea goes viral” but no strategy or formula seems to be reliable as yet.
It stands to reason, then, that long-standing quotes must have something special, the right stuff that transcends generations, cultures, and languages. All this tends to fit in less than ten words that resonate. Its quite like the fact that all music stems from only a few available notes.
Who is on the all time all-star list of quotation authors? Top of the list must be Kong Fuzi, or as we know him, Confucius, the “latinized” version of his name that given to his legacy by Jesuit missionaries around 2,000 years after he lived.
Here are twenty-one quotes from Confucius. Twenty-one quotes that thrive today, more than 2,500 years later. Are there lessons to learn in twenty-one quotes that have survived 2,500 years and 125 generations of people? You betcha!
It does not matter how slowly you go as long as you do not stop.
To know what you know and what you do not know, that is true knowledge.
If you think in terms of a year, plant a seed; if in terms of a year, plant trees; if in terms of 100 years, teach the people.
Our greatest glory is not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall.
Wherever you go, go with all your heart.
When it is obvious that the goals cannot be reached, don’t adjust the goals, adjust the action steps.
Life is really simple, but we insist on making it complicated.
Everything has beauty, but not everyone sees it.
I hear and I forget. I see and I remember. I do and I understand.
Respect yourself and others will respect you.
When anger rises, think of the consequences.
He who speaks without modesty will find it difficult to make his words good.
The superior man is modest in his speech, but exceeds in his actions.
What the superior man seeks is in himself. What the mean man seeks is in others.
What you do not want done to yourself, do not do to others.
Hold faithfulness and sincerity as first principles.
They must often change who would be constant in happiness or wisdom.
Have no friends not equal to yourself.
To see what is right, and not to do it, is want of courage or of principle.
When you complain about something unpleasant you double it, when you laugh at it, you destroy it.
Forget injuries, never forget kindness.
Learn! Change yourself. Be wiser and live wiser today than yesterday.
Too often, one faulty thought enters the mainstream, is picked up as a soundbyte and disseminated by the media, and multitudes are affected by it. In this case, the thought was issued in 1966 by 32 year old Carl Sagan, when half the appliances in the USA were avocado and linoleum was in. The rest of the scientific community latched onto his quote and started doing math, coming to conclusions like the universe must be populated by thousands of planets that support intelligent life. Even today, “the math from the 60’s and 70’s” persists in many of our high school teachers.
As knowledge evolved, that math started to change. Here is an article that appeared in the Wall Street Journal this month. I don’t know if its 100% right (that’s hard to find) but it seems well worth considering.
I.M. Optimism Man
Preserved from the Wall Street Journal…
Science Increasingly Makes the Case for God The odds of life existing on another planet grow ever longer. Intelligent design, anyone?
In 1966 Time magazine ran a cover story asking: Is God Dead? Many have accepted the cultural narrative that he’s obsolete—that as science progresses, there is less need for a “God” to explain the universe. Yet it turns out that the rumors of God’s death were premature. More amazing is that the relatively recent case for his existence comes from a surprising place—science itself.
Here’s the story: The same year Time featured the now-famous headline, the astronomer Carl Sagan announced that there were two important criteria for a planet to support life: The right kind of star, and a planet the right distance from that star. Given the roughly octillion—1 followed by 27 zeros—planets in the universe, there should have been about septillion—1 followed by 24 zeros—planets capable of supporting life.
With such spectacular odds, the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence, a large, expensive collection of private and publicly funded projects launched in the 1960s, was sure to turn up something soon. Scientists listened with a vast radio telescopic network for signals that resembled coded intelligence and were not merely random. But as years passed, the silence from the rest of the universe was deafening. Congress defunded SETI in 1993, but the search continues with private funds. As of 2014, researches have discovered precisely bubkis—0 followed by nothing.
What happened? As our knowledge of the universe increased, it became clear that there were far more factors necessary for life than Sagan supposed. His two parameters grew to 10 and then 20 and then 50, and so the number of potentially life-supporting planets decreased accordingly. The number dropped to a few thousand planets and kept on plummeting.
Even SETI proponents acknowledged the problem. Peter Schenkel wrote in a 2006 piece for Skeptical Inquirer magazine: “In light of new findings and insights, it seems appropriate to put excessive euphoria to rest . . . . We should quietly admit that the early estimates . . . may no longer be tenable.”
As factors continued to be discovered, the number of possible planets hit zero, and kept going. In other words, the odds turned against any planet in the universe supporting life, including this one. Probability said that even we shouldn’t be here.
Today there are more than 200 known parameters necessary for a planet to support life—every single one of which must be perfectly met, or the whole thing falls apart. Without a massive planet like Jupiter nearby, whose gravity will draw away asteroids, a thousand times as many would hit Earth’s surface. The odds against life in the universe are simply astonishing.
Yet here we are, not only existing, but talking about existing. What can account for it? Can every one of those many parameters have been perfect by accident? At what point is it fair to admit that science suggests that we cannot be the result of random forces? Doesn’t assuming that an intelligence created these perfect conditions require far less faith than believing that a life-sustaining Earth just happened to beat the inconceivable odds to come into being?
There’s more. The fine-tuning necessary for life to exist on a planet is nothing compared with the fine-tuning required for the universe to exist at all. For example, astrophysicists now know that the values of the four fundamental forces—gravity, the electromagnetic force, and the “strong” and “weak” nuclear forces—were determined less than one millionth of a second after the big bang. Alter any one value and the universe could not exist. For instance, if the ratio between the nuclear strong force and the electromagnetic force had been off by the tiniest fraction of the tiniest fraction—by even one part in 100,000,000,000,000,000—then no stars could have ever formed at all. Feel free to gulp.
Multiply that single parameter by all the other necessary conditions, and the odds against the universe existing are so heart-stoppingly astronomical that the notion that it all “just happened” defies common sense. It would be like tossing a coin and having it come up heads 10 quintillion times in a row. Really?
Fred Hoyle, the astronomer who coined the term “big bang,” said that his atheism was “greatly shaken” at these developments. He later wrote that “a common-sense interpretation of the facts suggests that a super-intellect has monkeyed with the physics, as well as with chemistry and biology . . . . The numbers one calculates from the facts seem to me so overwhelming as to put this conclusion almost beyond question.”
Theoretical physicist Paul Davies has said that “the appearance of design is overwhelming” and Oxford professor Dr. John Lennox has said “the more we get to know about our universe, the more the hypothesis that there is a Creator . . . gains in credibility as the best explanation of why we are here.”
The greatest miracle of all time, without any close seconds, is the universe. It is the miracle of all miracles, one that ineluctably points with the combined brightness of every star to something—or Someone—beyond itself.
Mr. Metaxas is the author, most recently, of “Miracles: What They Are, Why They Happen, and How They Can Change Your Life” ( Dutton Adult, 2014).
Teenage and young adult years are tough on kids, and particularly tough on girls. Peer pressure is as high as it will ever be, fitting in and being popular are deep rooted, if not often talked about ambitions, and confusing messages, painful lessons, and suave one-track-mind guys lurk around every corner.
There is one simple principle that will serve every girl well, but it is hard to remember in the heat of the moment, as those challenging “moments” happen when they are not expected: Stay classy no matter what. When facing any crossroads decision, small or large, remember Coco Chanel’s famous quote:
A girl should be two things: classy and fabulous.
— Coco Chanel
Classy doesn’t let you down, doesn’t lead to moments, events, or pictures that you will soon regret. A good life is a life where you are always proud of yourself through success and setback, a life where you take the high road time and again. Sure, there may be a few times where you miss out on ‘being there’ when ‘whatever’ happened, but 9 times out of 10, you will have avoided a ‘whatever’ that could have become a scarred regret. When a girl decides, in advance, to stay classy and chooses to never cross that line, she will absolutely be better off, for the rest of her life.
Here are a few more quotes worth considering:
A guy wants a classy girl who is smart and has goals – someone that he wouldn’t be afraid to bring home to his parents.
— Victoria Justice
I have always believed that if you need to take your clothes off to get your man, you’ve begun to lose the battle. If you pull it off right, you can do it in a very classy way… Being sexy is about suggestion; it’s about the tease. It’s not about being obvious and forcing yourself out in the open. That takes all the fun out of being a woman.
— Bipasha Basu
I grew up loving actresses or actors who were very classy but who seemed a little bit mysterious because you couldn’t grasp what they’re really thinking. I mean, Grace Kelly always looked impossibly glamorous, yet you could always see there was something behind her eyes.
— Diane Kruger
Most of us really feel good about ourselves when we accomplish something great. Yet, far too often, we only wish a key accomplishment would happen, rather than taking the initiative to start, and then putting in a concentrated burst of effort to change our status quo.
I find that when I really want to make it happen, midnight can be magical.
Consider one of my favorite quotes:
The heights by great men reached and kept were not attained by sudden flight, but they, while their companions slept, were toiling upward in the night.
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
When is the last time you burned the midnight oil? Perhaps today is the day. When you make things happen — great things that are not part of the norm — you become more hopeful and happier overall.
Stephen Covey will be remembered most for his book — The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People — which was a runaway best seller. If you have read this book 20 years ago, when it was most popular, I suggest reading it again. While some of Covey’s ideas can be traced to the work of many before him, his succinct and well architected compilation is very valuable.
As we grow older, our interpretation of books and ideas is getting better. Re-reading a good book after putting it aside for a decade makes sense, because it results in new ideas and newfound appreciation.
Here are a dozen great quotes from Covey that are well worth thinking about while in your own fortress of solitude:
The main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing.
Life is not about accumulation, it is about contribution.
The key is taking responsibility and initiative, deciding what your life is about and prioritizing your life around the most important things.
Live out of your imagination, not your history.
Trust is the glue of life. It’s the most essential ingredient in effective communication. It’s the foundational principle that holds all relationships.
Most of us spend too much time on what is urgent and not enough time on what is important.
I am not a product of my circumstances. I am a product of my decisions.
You have to decide what your highest priorities are and have the courage—pleasantly, smilingly, non-apologetically, to say “no” to other things. And the way you do that is by having a bigger “yes” burning inside. The enemy of the “best” is often the “good.”
I teach people how to treat me by what I will allow.
We become what we repeatedly do.
Leadership is a choice, not a position.
I have an abundance mentality: When people are genuinely happy at the successes of others, the pie gets larger.
— Stephen Covey
Now, here’s the kicker — after thinking deeply about these core ideas, will you decide to adopt just one of them, make it a habit, and change yourself for the better?
Everything good starts will making a good decision.
It is a crowded world, full of distractions, and it is getting louder all the time. People seem to have less time and less interest in listening to anyone. Instant messaging and checking one’s Facebook and Instagram take more and more available attention. It seems like more than half of everyone under thirty is wearing ear buds. Without a doubt, it is getting hard to be heard and understood, yet few skills matter more to your success and effectiveness than your ability to communicate effectively.
Do you find that others sometimes miss your message or don’t listen as attentively as you would like them to? There’s a reason, and it is well worth figuring out the root cause. There are ways to rise above, but many people fall into poor communication habits. The result is that less people listen.
Julian Treasure studies sound and advises businesses on how best to use it. He is the chair of the Sound Agency, a firm that advises worldwide businesses — offices, retailers, hotels — on how to use sound. Here is one of his three short talks at TED. We all have habits that can be improved. I think his thoughts are well worth considering:
As with many things that lead to personal success, improving yourself is a matter of eliminating or at least greatly limiting bad habits while enhancing good habits. In the case of speaking, Julian suggests eliminating your —
lying / exaggeration, and
These seven absolutely turn people off to your message. Those who think a that a bit of gossip every week, or little white lie here and a little exaggeration there are no big deal, don’t realize the damage they do to themselves and their longer-term believability.
Focus on four good habits —
speaking honestly and from the heart,
being authentic (be yourself),
do what you say (have integrity), and
have love (wish them well) for your fellow man.
Improving oneself is mission-critical but we often lose months, even years, because we are too busy. Jim Rohn’s consistent message was that everyone should “Work harder on yourself than you do on your job.” One of Stephen Covey’s seven habits was “Sharpen the Saw“, a likely adaptation from Abraham Lincoln’s “If I had eight hours to chop down a tree, I’d spend six hours sharpening my axe.” In my opinion, improving your ability to communicate — clearly, concisely, and with impact — must be at the top of your skills improvement quest. There is always room to get better.
Many foolishly believe that having the brilliant idea is what makes a person succeed or fail. I believe the truth is found in the value of discipline in our lives. Hundreds of good ideas come and go during any given year. If a person is not disciplined, none of them will pay off. Discipline is the ingredient that makes all the difference.
Here are ten great quotes about discipline to consider over a cup of coffee:
It doesn’t matter whether you are pursuing success in business, sports, the arts, or life in general: The bridge between wishing and accomplishing is discipline. — Harvey Mackay
Effective leadership is putting first things first. Effective management is discipline, carrying it out. — Stephen Covey
It was character that got us out of bed, commitment that moved us into action, and discipline that enabled us to follow through. — Zig Ziglar
Discipline strengthens the mind so that it becomes impervious to the corroding influence of fear. — Bernard Law Montgomery
Discipline is the refining fire by which talent becomes ability. — Roy L. Smith
Discipline is just doing the same thing the right way whether anyone’s watching or not. — Michael J. Fox
The only discipline that lasts is self-discipline. — Bum Phillips
It’s easy to have faith in yourself and have discipline when you’re a winner, when you’re number one. What you got to have is faith and discipline when you’re not a winner. — Vince Lombardi
Most people want to avoid pain, and discipline is usually painful. — John C. Maxwell
The world conspires to steal and waste your time. It takes true discipline to stay on track while television, social media, and friends of leisure beckon. — Bob Sakalas
If you embrace self-discipline, you will go far in life. Discipline matters. Discipline is what you must be made of.
It — no matter what “it” we are talking about — will not be easy if it is a worthy pursuit. One of the disciplines that I believe matters most is the discipline of optimism and enthusiasm. Rare the success that isn’t fueled by true belief and an excited mind.
Regret is often the product of not taking a chance, not embracing an opportunity, when we had it. While people offer a lot of excuses for why they missed out as they express regrets, the underlying truth is most often a failure of courage. If you are not making mistakes, it is a clear indicator that you are not trying enough new things. But it takes courage to try anything new, to embark on any new exciting journey, to try a road less traveled by the rest of the human herd.
The hardest step is always the first — getting started comes before getting motivated — and getting started takes courage.
Nothing gets in people’s way more often than fears, and fears are usually quite silly once one looks back on them and sees them for what they really are. It is often more than just the fear of failure that prevents people from trying the new. Others have fear of success, for with success comes far greater responsibility. Others yet fear change or the unknown, simply because they assume the the unknown is worse than where they are today. Small minded people fear people that are not like them, or people that think differently than them. In every case, those who decide to risk in the face of small fears or large fears, expand their lives and their horizons. This is courage and like every key to success, courage can be learned, courage can be practiced, courage can be expanded through experiences.
This is not to say that all fear is bad. Fear is what drives prudent decision-making, in other words balancing the chance of success versus the chance of failure. But those without courage allow themselves to become paralyzed. Fear prevents so many things that are good. A person with a fear of rejection doesn’t stick their hand out and introduce themselves to new people. Similar fears convince people to not try out for the team, to not run for class president, to not put in for that promotion, to not decide to have kids, to not be all they can be. In each of these cases, the upside potential usually outweighs the downside risk but those who have not developed the courage to take risks, shrink away from opportunities.
All the great leaders of the last century have observed the extraordinary importance of courage. Winston Churchill, perhaps the greatest leader during world war two, proclaimed “Courage is the first of the human qualities because it is the quality that guarantees all the others.” He is right. I have often written about the crucial importance of integrity. Is it possible to be a person of integrity if you do not have the courage to stand up for what you believe is right? Is it possible to have extraordinary character if you don’t have the courage to stand up to peer pressure? Your faith will be tested, as will your sense of duty. Even your purpose will be questioned and you will have to have to courage to swim against the ever-changing winds of “popular” thinking.
Courage takes practice. One doesn’t typically have the courage to speak in front of an audience of thousands if they have never spoken in front of an audience of five, then ten, then thirty. One doesn’t step onto a basketball court and hit two game winning free-throws unless they have played thousands of games first. The trick is to take every small opportunity you can, at least every one that makes prudent sense along the road of life, so that when the time comes, you have the experience and the courage to give it your best shot.
Fear is often driven by perceived risk, not necessarily actual risk. Irrational fear is driven by an irrational perception of risk and it leads to paralysis or irrational failure. Healthy fear — lets call it apprehension — is healthy, because it is driven by an accurate assessment of risk. It does not immobilize us, but helps us make good decisions when it is critical that we must. A great example is a person trapped atop a burning building. While most of us have a fear of heights, the prudent and courageous person can evaluate the situation, and decide that sliding down a wire over the yawning abyss is less risky than staying put on top of the inferno.
Courage therefore is not lack of fear but rather mastery of fear and risk. Mastery of fear and risk starts with doing your research, your homework, evaluating your situation. Preparation helps an extraordinary amount, yet many people are lazy and do not prepare. Using my example of speaking in front of a large crowd, it is far easier to master your fear and succeed if you have developed great material, written down a crisp opening, made some backup notes to keep in your pockets, and practiced your speech once or twice. Courage is bolstered through preparation.
Preparation may not put you completely over the top, but it makes that last bit of courage far easier to muster. Courage allows a person to become decisive, to grab opportunities that others do not, to take chances when the odds are good.
Take every prudent risk, face the world with courage, and your world will be a far bigger place, with far more expansive horizons, with plentiful opportunities. Don’t listen to your peers for you must realize that smart, courageous people are rare – most everyone you will know will have far more limited horizons than you.
The world can be your oyster if you embrace it. Envision yourself courageous. Take smart risks. Embrace opportunities with little hesitation. Most importantly, realize that courage requires practice.
Here is a quote I love:
What would you attempt to do if you knew you could not fail?
Embrace opportunities. Life is better when you have the courage to live life large, with few regrets.
Sometimes I see something so concise, so brilliant, so crisp, so true, that I truly wish that I had written it.
Life will never go quite as planned. You can be meticulous in your ideas, your goals, and your execution, and Murphy’s Law will remain a potent force. Being flexible and enjoying what you get is important. I was fortunate to have the opportunity to plan a number of large, outdoor events, so perhaps the ever changing weather really taught me some valuable lessons.
Consider this little magnet, found in a small boutique at the Seattle airport. It really hit home for me:
John Wooden is perhaps the greatest basketball coach that ever lived. He saw himself, first and foremost, as a teacher. Many of Coach’s lessons had much more to do with life than just with basketball. John’s wisdom is captured in several books that are well worth reading, including one of my favorites, Wooden on Leadership.
Coach Wooden, March 24, 1969
Here are my top 10 John Wooden quotes to consider and apply in your life:
If you don’t have time to do it right, when will you have time to do it over?
If you’re not making mistakes, then you’re not doing anything.
I’m positive that a doer makes mistakes.
Do not let what you cannot do interfere with what you can do.
Failure is not fatal, but failure to change might be.
You can’t let praise or criticism get to you.
It’s a weakness to get caught up in either one.
Success is never final, failure is never fatal.
It’s courage that counts.
It’s what you learn after you know it all that counts.
Young people need models, not critics.
Don’t let making a living prevent you from making a life.
Success is peace of mind which is a direct result of self-satisfaction in knowing you did your best to become the best you are capable of becoming.
Thank you Coach, for inspiring me and thousands of others. Rest in peace.