May 312011

People spend way too much time and money on their outsides and spend too little time improving their inside.

Billions are spent each year on cosmetics, on jewelry, on fashion, on cosmetic surgery, on salons, spas, and moisturizing cremes.  Billions and billions of hard earned bucks.  Billions of hours are blown sitting in salons and trying on clothes.  The cost of these hours is staggering, quite possibly more than the cost of the products.  Yet, it seems like the most attractive person in the room is always the person that is beautiful inside.

It is the person that sparkles, is full of life, is having fun, who smiles and laughs out loud. Its the person that intensely believes and defends the value of his or her ideas. Its the person that sees what is special in each person she meets. Its the person that asks the best questions and really listens to what you say. Its the person that remembers your name and asks you if everything turned out well with your dog’s vet visit that you mentioned in passing a few weeks ago. Its the person that is optimistic, gracious, and friendly. Its the person that treats you like you are the most interesting person in the room.

God dealt us a certain amount of good looks and billions spent won’t change them much. But each and every one of us can choose to give people our undivided attention, our warmth, our encouragement. We can choose to remember people’s names, and the names of their kids.

Be focused. Be fun. Smile all the time. Joke around. Happiness is infectious.

In short, we can make a choices to become more and more beautiful inside.  Its takes only a bit of effort, focus, optimism, and sincerity.  Beautiful inside is far more noticed than sporting that new Chanel purse, driving that new Porsche convertible, or eliminating a few wrinkles with Botox.

I.M. Optimism Man

May 232011

Financial success is not as elusive as many people think — but you must follow some basic strategies to stack the odds in your own favor. Here are my 22 Commandments for financial success (not to be confused with my twenty-one keys for overall success in life 🙂  ):

1. Never compromise your integrity.

Do not lie. Do not steal. Do not gossip and trash others. Do exactly what you say you will do (or even 10% more). Integrity is integral to any long-term success. Many think this is a short-cut to financial success but there is not — those with gray areas in their ethics may enjoy temporary success but usually flame out before the game is over.

2. Focus on one strategically important project at a time, until the project is finished.

Multi-taskers do not outpace intense, single-minded, driven individuals. The fable of the tortoise and the hare is the most important story each of us must remember from our youth. Discipline is a very important quality to foster in your life.

3. Write down and fine-tune your goals on paper.

Keep your goals with you and review your goals every morning for 15 minutes without fail. Goals enable you to focus, to plan, to be in charge of your life’s destination, to avoid distractions. Do not make your primary goal your own wallet — financial reward is a side-effect of producing economic value for others — help others succeed to be a lasting success yourself.

4. Pay careful attention to where you invest your time.

Time is your most precious resource.  Keep a detailed written log of where you invest your time.  When at work, focus on work.  When with your family, focus on the family.  The better you manage the investment of your time, the better the quality of your life will become.

5. Work harder and smarter than everyone you know.

Working smart starts with goals, then plans, then supporting tasks… yet very few are serious about their planning and task management process.  There is no substitute for doing your planning homework first and following through with genuine hard work and effort. Be disciplined every day.

6. Adapt and overcome.

Every project will have set backs. Assume there will be setbacks and pre-plan what your “Plan B” and “Plan C” will be — pre-planning is an important step to not getting discouraged. Never look at a roadblock as a dead-end. Those that are determined to succeed, to adapt, to overcome, win.  The US Marine Corp teaches this principle better than any other organization on the planet. Excuses are for the less successful.

7. You will not succeed long-term, without good health.

The formula is 70% smart eating, 30% daily exercise.  Order fish and steamed veggies at every corporate dinner.  Drink only a little.  Work out every day possible, even if it is only for 30 minutes.  Those that weigh the same that they weighed at 21 when they are in their 50’s and beyond have an 80% chance of avoiding the major diseases that will topple so many people. Self-discipline matters in every facet of your life.

8. Add personal knowledge weekly.

Your mind needs fuel too, and not just in your chosen field. Read good stuff no less than five hours each week. Take notes while you read. Take a class or workshop every year. Watch lectures on the web. You will find that ideas of economic success come quicker if you feed your mind daily. 99% of television idles the brain while carefully selected reading strengthens it.

9. Search for and develop as many trusted mentors as you can.

You must invest a lot of time to search, find, and develop excellent mentors.  A mentor must be an optimist.  Once you have them, consult with them, often.

10. Choose to be a gung-ho optimist.

Preach optimism and convert others. Stop all complaints — it can be done. You will be amazed at the difference choosing to end all complaints will make on your own attitude. People that believe a project will work out, people that believe they will succeed, do.

11. Look for opportunities and embrace prudent risks.

You must first search if you expect to find. Risk is why so few people spank life’s ball out the the ball park. Nothing ventured, nothing gained. Make prudent risk your best friend.

12. When in doubt, take decisive action.

The world belongs to the focused, driven, determined person with a solid plan and a lot of action.

13. Never walk alone.

Reserve a bit of time each day for solitude and pray for wisdom and making the right choices. We have so much opportunity and so many choices to make. God helps those that ask for help.

14. Plan big.

Set your sights and expectations high. You tend to hit what you aim at. Aim too low and you wind up underachieving by a lot.

15. Play the hand you are dealt to the best of your ability.

Did Helen Keller fold or play her hand? Life dealt her a pair of threes and she still changed the world. Don’t torpedo yourself by not given each and every day your best possible effort.

16. Don’t get swayed by other people’s opinions.

There are a lot of naysayers. That is why there is so much opportunity that other’s don’t see. There will be a day when people start complimenting you, as you success grows. Don’t let that sway you into big-head-syndrome either — stay true to yourself.

17. Create solutions to problems that have economic value.

The more you practice creativity, the more creative you become. Creative solutions are always in demand.

18. Ask great questions, then carefully listen to what people say.

Most people are so wound up about they want to say next, that they rarely hear what others are saying. A person that pre-plans great questions, asks great questions, and listens attentively is 1 in a 100. Make notes as soon as you can in your written journal. No memory is a match for pale ink. Stay disciplined on this core questioning, listening, and taking notes strategy and it will serve you well.

19. Specialize.

It is hard to become a financial success if you are just like everyone else.  Every industry offers room to specialize and differentiate yourself.  The specialist in a niche with excellent profit characteristics wins the game.

20. Engage in areas where you have true passion.

Work on stuff you genuinely care and are passionate about — passion greatly improves your odds of success.

21. Spend less than you make, and always invest your savings.

If you want to stay ahead, you must live on 80% of your income and invest the rest, unfailingly, year after year. If you start when you are 18 or 21, you will build up your wealth by the time you are 50 so that many of your dreams and goals can come to life.  The longer you wait, the greater the headwinds for financial success.

22. Measure progress and be very honest with yourself.

What gets measured gets improved. Businesses watch their income statements and their net worth statements for good reason. You should too. Create monthly statements for your family. You will find that when you will start paying attention to your income, expenses, and net worth, improvement soon follows. Don’t follow the “big hat no cattle” herd (I am from Texas after all).

There are more facets to financial success, but if you adopt just these 22 commandments, you will go far and prosper.

I.M. Optimism Man

May 182011

Henry Ford once said “If you think you can do it, or you think you can’t do it, you are right”.

This is a great quote and is easy to say, but few really live the phrase to its utmost. Too many critics jump up and tell people what they can and can’t accomplish in life. No where is this more obvious than in sports such as the NFL and the NBA.  There are many supremely talented players in the world, but undersized athletes are told that they can’t possibly compete in the professional leagues given their size.

Yet, once in a while, belief and optimism proves everyone wrong.

I watched the Dallas Mavericks beat the Oklahoma City Thunder last night in the Western Conference Finals of the NBA.  It was an extraordinary game, fast, furious, and a clash of titans — Dirk Nowitski put up 48 points for Dallas while Kevin Durant dropped 40 for the Thunder. But the smallest optimist on the floor stole the show.  JJ Berea was the difference that pushed Dallas to victory, a 5′ 8″ blur of competitive spirit and belief.

I am so very glad that JJ’s parents always told him that he can achieve his goals and dreams. His level of “I think I can” is higher than anyone else I have seen in professional sports in many years. Every parent can learn a lesson. Tell your kids that they can!

I.M. Optimism Man

May 122011

The day that you decide to surrender your dreams and have no concrete goals is the day that you become old.  Dreams and goals, with sincere determination to achieve those goals, are the fountain of youth.

Forced retirement should be outlawed.  Retirement kills.  Everybody knows somebody that went from firecracker go-getter to listless and irrelevant in that first year or two after retirement.  If traditional retirement doesn’t kill a person, it definitely maims many people’s psyche.

Who invented retirement and why is it set at 65 years of age?

Doing a bit of researched revealed something quite startling.  A German chancellor — Otto von Bismark — invented social security in 1884 AND he decided that 65 was the right age in his estimation, given that very few people at that time lived much past the average life expectancy of 46 years (in Germany in the 1880’s).

Conveniently, Herr Bismark, in this one brilliant checkmate move, also eliminated his closest competitors for the position of chancellor, but I’m sure this had nothing to do with picking that random 65 number 🙂

65 a silly number to fixate upon!

Life expectancy has soared WAY past 65 in the last century. Many people are very capable at 75, 85, and 95 years old — remaining productive and valuable in society. Being productive and valuable, striving for personal and organizational progress is what keeps a person vibrant and young. Yet almost everyone is brain-washed into hanging up their six guns and spurs just when a lifetime of experience is hitting full stride.

Let’s rename retirement to one’s Personal Financial Independence Day.

What we should strive for is our next chapter, our next project, the one that really makes our eyes sparkle with hope and intensity.

Everyone has missions at different phases of life. In today’s model during our short time on earth, we grow up from students to young singles to young families to empty-nesters to retirement to home-locked.  I think those last steps should be renamed to “financial independent and creating my great legacy” phase, not the golf, fishing, sitting, and TV is all I have phase.

A wise person can choose to make the golden years the greatest chapter in the book of one’s life. If a person that achieves financial independence at an early age, she just earns more years to make a outsized difference in the lives of others.

Just as importantly, if you keep your goals alive, you will find that you live — really live — those final chapters and not get stuck watching TV for 40+ hours each week (yes, the survey I found say that the traditionally retired watch more than 40 hours per week, on average).

Be spry and prosper,

I.M. OptimismMan

May 052011

I often come in contact with people that say “I don’t have a fresh idea to start my own business — so much has already been done” and my only answer is “so why’s that a problem…” because there is plenty of room for improvement.

Is every restaurant perfect? Was your last taxi ride perfect? Is every donut shop near your house perfect? How about your local frozen yogurt hole-in-the-wall?

Of course not.

You don’t have to invent new markets — you just have to improve on decent business ideas and make them better. Inventing something net new, creating demand when people don’t understand the need and are not yet looking for the solution, is tough sledding and full of risk.

Did RedBox invent DVD rentals or did the just make it cheaper and more convenient than BlockBuster? Did TIVO invent the idea of video recording a TV show, or did they just make it a lot easier, only to start losing out to unbranded DVRs a few years later?

Every time you go out into the surrounding world, think in terms of “could this be easier, simpler, cheaper, or better?” Each time you see possibilities for improvement, jot them down in your journal or your smartphone. Then, after 3 months or 6 months, rank your ideas (more on that next time).

You will be amazed at how big and vibrant the list becomes in a short amount of time. There is plenty of room, without creating the next new thing in a new market.

You only have to be 20% better to win a lot of marketshare. There is plenty of opportunity for the Optimistic Few.