A Tap on the Glass

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A Tap on the Glass - Vol. 47 - The Value of Time

As somebody with a mild form of ADHD and an attention span of about 2 hours if I’m really focused, I’m forced to continually understand and evaluate my own productivity habits.

As I study those habits, I realize more and more why the people of the world waste so much time.

How you choose to spend your time and what actions you chose to focus on will ultimately determine the impact of you have.

Sniper Rifles and Machine Guns

If you ever watch anybody in any TV show or movie, the sniper always seemed to accomplish his or her goal in one shot, while the people shooting machine guns seem to get caught up in a whole world of nonsense that results in nothing but a big mess.

In many ways, I think our own attempts to be productive are similar. The worst thing I think we do is that we try to do too many things. I’ve become more and more of a strong believer in the idea of quality over quantity and when it comes to the actions you take, I think many of the same principles apply. I may not work 16 hours a day (ok, maybe 10-12), but I’m always trying to make sure during the time I’m working I focus on only the activities that will have a high impact.

High Impact Activities

Writing: In the context of blogging, the highest impact activity that you can spend your time on is writing. If you are an early stage blogger you should be writing and submitting as many guest posts as possible since that will have more impact than publishing posts on your new blog which nobody is currently reading. Even if you have been around for a while writing is one of the activities that will have the highest impact.

Brainstorming/Mind Mapping: Some of you might question this one, but done the right way brainstorming and mind mapping can be extremely high impact. An hour brainstorming or mind mapping session could give you a month’s worth of content. Many of these articles developed that way.

Reading: I believe that reading can be an extremely high impact activity depending on what you are reading. I’ve recently been spending time going through Dave Navarro’s Launch Coach system and reading his mini-courses and actually going through a few of the worksheets. It is something that can have a very strong impact almost immediately. It’s highly likely that you often come up with an idea for a post while reading another person’s writings and if you use something like Evernote and keep reminders of post ideas you can significantly increase the impact of your reading. I also keep notepads everywhere, just in case.

Networking and One True Friend: Networking events are an interesting place to test the productivity principles I’m talking about here. There are many people who will go to a networking event with the goal of talking to as many people as possible and getting as many business cards as possible. Personally, I’ve never been comfortable with that. In my mind that’s a complete waste of time because you don’t give any value to the people you are meeting. I usually aim for one true friend or one genuine connection. I never concern myself with how this person can help me because it’s really not important. Genuinely connecting with them will ultimately have a much stronger impact in the long term.

Insights vs. Hours: Last week I was able to spend some time on the phone with an old good friend of mine and during our talk we were discussing the way I’ve setup my life. In this strange hybrid blend of entrepreneurship and a “real job”, one of the things I realized is that I get paid for insights more than hours. This is largely the reason I don’t even bother with hourly projects anymore because it’s not an efficient use of time. One insight that makes a big difference is worth way more than countless hours spent on pointless nonsense that doesn’t have any impact.

Low Impact Activities

Email: I’m at the point now where I’m beginning to think I could get away with checking email a little less often each day. Email is one of the biggest time sucks I currently have. In many ways those of who have to check email constantly seem to have created a false sense of urgency. I’ve had a habit of checking my email the second I get it, and there’s rarely any sort of crisis that requires my immediate attention. The truth is if I checked email a little less often each day, then I think I would be good. I also realize it’s easier said than done because I’ve self-generated that “leash” and cultivated it for years. I’m not going to break that chain easily. It’s a work in progress. The smartphone and tablet that’s always near me doesn’t help.

Facebook/Twitter: As a marketer I do think that Facebook and to some extent, Twitter, play an important role in things. But, if you don’t use them strategically, they can be a real time suck. It’s really easy to get distracted by something that is completely irrelevant to what you are doing especially when people share links that grab our attention almost immediately. If we batched our time on these sites I think we’d be in much better shape and get much more done. And yes, I’m just as guilty of that as many of you. There is an addictive and slightly voyeuristic quality to watching the lives of other people unfold in front of you daily. I can do better…..maybe tomorrow.

To Do Lists: I create to-do lists but I try to keep them small. Have you ever spent so much time creating your to-do list that you didn’t have time to actually do anything on the list? Seems ridiculous doesn’t it? Talk about a low impact activity. If you are into to-do lists, I would say limit your activity to the 5 things that will have the biggest impact today. Imagine if you spent half the amount of time working that you currently do and worked on the things that had twice the impact. You would not only work less, you would get more done, and you would be working on the things that actually make a difference. Give a try and let me know what happens.

Thanks for reading…

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A Tap on the Glass - Vol. 46 - Capital Investment

I recently sat at breakfast with a good friend of mine who helps small business owners succeed.

As we talked about our lives, we discovered that we both work with people and companies who are struggling right now, as well as those who are experiencing higher levels of growth and success than ever.

As we continued to talk, we both noted that the economy's current volatility truly highlights the behaviors and patterns that people tend to have within themselves— even in good economic conditions. From that perspective, we found that the current economic strains that the economy is feeling can actually be healthy, because it causes each of us to re-examine our unsustainable, unproductive, or non-value-producing behaviors.

In addition, we discovered that we were in agreement on several key distinctions that separated the successful group from those who were struggling, and then the notepads came out and we started brainstorming! As an exercise in brainstorming we wanted to determine a set of traits and behaviors that were clearly common in both sets of people; those that were struggling and those that were successful.

The first thing we identified was the difference in each group’s focus. In our struggling group, as you might guess, the focus is on the never-ending barrage of bad news and negativity.

For starters, we identified people spending unproductive hours watching the stock market, checking the Internet, worrying about things beyond their control, or watching the news to confirm their already entrenched belief of how bad things are currently, add to that the time spent in unproductive conversations and discussions that conjure up feelings of fear and helplessness.

As these people project that fear and negative outlook on everyone else, it's no wonder that they experience others as being fearful too. We guessed that if we could listen in on their conversations, we might hear comments like "Nobody is buying houses right now." "There's no money available for credit." Or "Our clients have completely stopped spending money." Ironically, none of these statements are even remotely true.

Our thriving clients, on the other hand, are taking a different approach. They certainly aren't sticking their head in the sand or pretending that none of the financial catastrophes are real. In fact, they are often watching the same news programs and reading the same articles as the struggling people; however, they see the information with a completely different focus. This group realizes that if they can clearly identify and understand the changes that are occurring in other people’s values and priorities, then they can capitalize on an opportunity to realign with what people want and value right now.

Below are a few more traits and ideas that we agreed will help with applying this focus in order to put you in the latter, more successful, group:

First, it is imperative to understand that everyone is an entrepreneur. It is commonplace to think that entrepreneurs are only those who own their own business, but let's examine that idea a little deeper.

Obviously, when you own a business, you are an entrepreneur, but what happens if you work for someone else? How do you view that relationship?

To me, it means that you own your own business, and your boss is your customer.

Ahhh... I saw a few eyebrows go up!

Let’s take it further….perhaps your spouse, your children, or your parents are your customers too! In viewing the world this way, we each have that same entrepreneurial responsibility of maximizing the value we create with our customers—whoever our customers may be. If you adopt this attitude, then the question at hand becomes: What can you do to be productive, to be proactive, and to lend your abilities in a way that creates the most value for others?

In this approach it becomes critical to create more value for your customer than you ask from them in return, and therefore increase your bottom line. This is important because increasing your “bottom line value contribution” causes your “personal stock price” to go up (even if the overall economy is going the other direction). I’ve often quoted Zig Ziglar and one of his favorite sayings plays into this exactly: “You will get the most of what YOU want in your life when you help people get the most out of theirs!”

You see, we think that each of us has our own personal economy that we have an immense amount of control over, and our personal economy is determined more by our personal bottom line and balance sheet than it is by the external economy.

Another key that we saw with our successful people we know in this turbulent market was that they spent a lot of time developing their “capital.” Most people focus on financial capital; however, these people realize that financial capital is the least important form of capital to gain success.

 My friend , a very successful businessman in his own right and a seasoned entrepreneur, was able to identify and name them. In fact, there are three important types of capital that each person should be working on to ensure thriving in this economy:

Mental Capital is our ideas, knowledge, and human ingenuity. It is especially critical to increase one's capacity, leadership, and skill sets in order to increase productive output. While many people tend to get bogged down with the doom and gloom, refusing to spend money on improvement, training, and education, my most successful associates seem to take advantage of those lapses to accelerate their ability to create value. Increases in mental capital contribute to job security and career options.

For some, this may mean examining their career path and deciding it's time to take it in a different direction, or even pick a new path altogether.

Relationship Capital is simply people whom you have a connection with, create value for, or who know and trust you. Investing in these important relationships is paramount to stabilizing your personal economy. When people refuse to invest in personal relationships, they often find themselves in difficult and lonely situations when adversity strikes.

The different ways one might invest in a relationship can be to find out what others might value and to use your mental capital to provide it for them. It might include just keeping in touch and having meaningful conversations. Ultimately, it is helping them solve problems, being of service, and therefore building value or relationship equity (otherwise known as goodwill).

Those who are willing to extend themselves in relationships, and expand their circle of relationships, will fare far better during marketplace downturns. Important relationships should include mentors, teachers, and others who are contributing to increasing your mental capital.

Financial Capital is just as it sounds—money you have access to. While financial capital is important for thriving in these times, I have purposely listed it third because it is not as important as mental capital and relationship capital. Financial capital will expand based on creating more value than you consume and is a byproduct of how effectively you utilize your mental capital to create value for people. The higher the gap that exists between the value you create and what you consume, the more financial capital you will have. One approach (that we don't recommend) for accumulating financial capital during an economic downturn is to reduce consumption. However, that approach ultimately fuels system wide economic distress.

The second (and most recommended) solution is to increase output, production, or value creation. This doesn't mean to work longer hours, but rather to be aware of what others value more highly and to focus on delivering that particular type of value.

As you are able to increase your three forms of capital simultaneously, they will have an exponential effect on one another. This will enable your capacity to create value and therefore bolster your reserves and capabilities even further.

Simply put, the more you have to offer, the more you are able to receive in return. If you follow this principle and always increase your capital reserves, prosperity is an inevitability.


Thanks for reading

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A Tap on the Glass - Vol. 45 - Measuring Success

successIn a recent phone call with one of our sales reps where we talked about attitude and what it takes to be successful, it occurred to me to ask;

What does it take to succeed?
A positive attitude?

Well, sure, but that’s hardly enough. The Law of Attraction? The Secret? These ideas might act as spurs to some sort of action, but without the action itself, they don’t do much to measure results.

So, success, however it’s defined, takes action. And taking good and appropriate action takes skills. Some of these skills (not enough, though) are taught in school (not well enough, either), others are taught on the job, and still others we learn from general life experience.

So I went to my blogs and asked the question. Below is a list of general skills that (at least in MY mind) will help anyone get ahead in practically any field, from running a company to running a gardening club. Of course, there are skills specific to each field as well – but my concern here is with the skills that translate across all disciplines, the ones that can be learned by anyone in any position and used anywhere.

1. Public Speaking

The ability to speak clearly, persuasively, and forcefully in front of an audience – whether an audience of 1 or of thousands – is one of the most important skills anyone can develop. People who are effective speakers come across as more comfortable with themselves, more confident, and more attractive to be around. Being able to speak effectively means you can sell anything – products, of course, but also ideas, ideologies, worldviews. And yourself – which means more opportunities for career advancement, bigger clients, or business funding.

2. Writing

Writing well offers many of the same advantages that speaking well offers: good writers are better at selling products, ideas, and themselves than poor writers. Learning to write well involves not just mastery of grammar but the development of the ability to organize one’s thoughts into a coherent form and target it to an audience in the most effective way possible. Given the huge amount of text generated by almost every transaction – from court briefs and legislation running into the thousands of pages to those foot-long receipts you get when you buy gum these days – a person who is a master of the written word can expect doors to open in just about every field.

3. Self-Management

If success depends of effective action, effective action is going to depend on your ability to focus attention where it is needed most, when it is needed most. Strong productivity skills, and a strong sense of discipline are needed to keep yourself on track.

4. Networking

Networking is not only for finding jobs or clients. In an economy that has forced an ideal dominated by ideas and innovation, networking creates the channel where ideas flow and where new ideas are created. A large network, carefully cultivated, ties one into not just a body of people but a body of relationships, and those relationships are more than just the sum of their parts. The interactions those relationships make possible give rise to innovation and creativity – and provide the support to nurture new ideas until they can be realized.

5. Critical Thinking

We are exposed to hundreds, if not thousands, of times more information on a daily basis than our great-grandparents were. Being able to evaluate that information, sort the potentially valuable from the trivial, analyze its relevance and meaning, and relate it to other information is crucial – and woefully under-taught. Good critical thinking skills immediately distinguish you from the mass of people these days.

6. Decision-Making

The bridge that leads from doing analysis to taking action is effective decision making – knowing what to do based on the information available. While not being critical can be dangerous, so too can over-analyzing, or waiting for more information before making a decision. Being able to take in the scene and respond quickly and effectively is what separates the doers from the wannabes.

7. Math

You don’t have to be able to integrate polynomials to be successful, fortunately. If so, I'd be working somewhere else. However, the ability to quickly work with figures in your head, to make rough but fairly accurate estimates, and to understand things like compound interest and basic statistics gives you a big lead on most people. All of these skills will help you to analyze data more effectively – and more quickly – and to make better decisions based on it.

8. Research

Nobody can be expected to know everything, or even a tiny fraction of everything. Even within your field, chances are there’s far more that you don’t know than you do know. You don’t have to know everything – but you should be able to quickly and painlessly find out what you need to know. That means learning to use the Internet effectively, learning to use a library, learning to read productively, and learning how to leverage your network of contacts – and what kinds of research are going to work best in any given situation. Google. It works.

9. Relaxation

Stress will not only kill you, it leads to poor decision-making, poor thinking, and poor socialization. Contrary to what you probably think, by failing to relax, you knock out at least three of the skills in this list – and really more. I'm telling you this as a "do as I say, not as I do", because I'm often guilty of this one myself. Plus, working yourself to death in order to keep up, and not having any time to enjoy the fruits of your work, isn’t really “success”. It’s obsession. Being able to face even the most pressing crises with your wits about you and in the most productive way is possibly the most important thing on this list.

Hmm...physician, heal thyself.

10. Basic Accounting

It is a simple fact in our society that money is necessary. Even the simple pleasures in life, like hugging your child, ultimately need money – or you’re not going to survive to hug for very long. Knowing how to track and record your expenses and income is important just to survive, let alone to thrive. But more than that, the principles of accounting apply more widely to things like tracking the time you spend on a project or determining whether the value of an action outweighs the costs in money, time, and effort. It’s a shame that basic accounting isn’t a required part of the core K-12 curriculum.

What Else?

Surely there are more important skills I’m not thinking of (which is probably why I’m not telling Bill Gates what to do!) – what are they? What have I missed? What lessons have you learned that were key to your successes – and what have you ignored to your peril?

Thanks for reading…

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A Tap on the Glass - Vol. 44 - Go with Your Gut

I’ve heard it said that men and women start to become great when they begin to listen to their inner voice, or their intuition. “Go with your gut”, my Dad used to say.

It is true that intuition is so powerful that it has been studied and written about for thousands of years by some of the greatest men and women in history.

Intuition has been called the "still, small voice within." You may experience your intuition as a gut feeling, as an inner sense of what is right or wrong for you. Sometimes, your intuition manifests itself as a hunch or an inspiration.

Often, it comes as a flash of insight. Your intuition leads you to new ideas, concepts, and breakthroughs. Sometimes, an intuitive flash will enable you to see a problem from a new perspective and allow you to solve it on a completely different level.

Einstein was referring to intuition when he said, "No problem can be solved on the same level at which you meet it."

Well, since it’s true that the more you do what you're doing, the more you'll get of what you've got, trying to solve your current problem at your current level is often an exercise in frustration.

Sometimes, you can unlock your intuition by using your imagination to think about your problem in a totally different way. You’ve heard it referred to as “thinking outside the box” among others. Just remember, as I mentioned in an earlier column, be careful what you buy into and act upon. When you hear something, make sure it makes good sense, and then try it. If it works, run with it. If it doesn’t work, dump it and run from it.

I did a bit of research on this and discovered that there are two major forms of imagination, both of which require the highest use of intuitive powers.

They are synthetic imagination and creative imagination.

Synthetic Imagination

Synthetic imagination is your ability to assemble existing pieces of knowledge and information you have and put it into new forms.

It is much like taking all the pieces of a jigsaw puzzle, having a clear idea of the picture that you want, and assembling the pieces into a single finished product.

This form of imagination is often called "integrative intelligence," and it’s one of the highest recognized forms of intelligence. Integrative intelligence is defined as the ability to integrate a large number of pieces of information into a single precept for decision and action. It is your ability to recognize and sort many different facts and insights, accepting some and discarding others, in the process of making the correct decision.

This form of intelligence is extremely valuable in fast-moving, fluid situations that require you to consider many different pieces of information in making a decision. It has been estimated that you need between 20,000 and 50,000 bits of information at your disposal to be successful in any field of endeavor. Fortunately, we live in the information age, and knowledge is the raw material of production in this age. So, the more pieces of information you have, the more effective your integrative intelligence, or synthetic imagination, will be.

The people who rise to the top of any field of endeavor are invariably those who know more than others. In fact, the division in our society today is not between those who "have more" and those who "have less" but, rather, between those who "know more" and those who "know less." You must continually be gathering additional bits of practical and useful information so you have plenty of ideas and concepts to draw upon when you are wrestling with any problem or striving toward any goal. Your intuition then goes to work for you by helping you quickly sort out the relevant facts and giving you the answers you need when you need them.

I had mentioned once about the numerous blogs that I subscribe to. “Social interaction and the relationship to applied thermodynamics” comes to mind. You’d be amazed what insights you can get from such a thread of information and how you can apply those concepts in so many different areas.

The more ideas you expose yourself to, the greater the probability that the right idea will appear at the right time. When it does, your intuition will help you recognize the idea and integrate it into whatever you are trying to accomplish.

Creative Imagination

The second form of imagination is creative imagination. This is a higher form of imagination, where intuition plays an even more important role. Creative imagination refers to your ability to come up with complexly new and different ideas and concepts to solve your problems and achieve your goals. This form of imagination is at the core of all the great breakthroughs in science, technology, art, music, literature, and medicine. The most successful individuals throughout history have been those who have deliberately trained themselves to tap into their creative imagination on a regular basis.

Men and women who have a highly developed imagination have often reached the point where they completely trust their intuition — their inner voice — to guide them in every situation. The never speak or act until they feel an inner urging to do so. They know that their intuition will always bring them exactly the right answer at exactly the right time.

Your intuition is your direct pipeline to a form of intelligence that is completely beyond your conscious brain. It is accessed by your subconscious mind, which is controlled by the thoughts you think and the beliefs you hold in your conscious mind. The more often you affirm and visualize your desired goals in your conscious mind, the more readily they are picked up by your subconscious mind, and the more rapidly your intuition or creative imagination is triggered.

Successful, effective, happy people are those who have gotten onto the beam of their own intuitive senses and who rely continuously on their inner guidance — and they seldom make mistakes.

All the great writers, composers, artists, and scientists have developed the habit of listening to their intuition. You have access to the same intuitive powers as the smartest men and women who ever lived whether you realize it at this point or not.

Research shows that men and women, tested separately, have intuitions that are equally accurate. They seem to come up with the same intuitive answers to complex problems and questions. Why is it, then, that women's intuition is more respected than men's? The answer is simple: Women listen to their intuition more, while men tend to brush it aside. When a woman says, "This situation doesn't feel right," she perceives this feeling as a valid and important assessment of whether the situation is right or wrong. Women are generally very respectful of their intuitive feelings, and they generally refuse to go against them. Men will often brush aside their intuitive leanings in favor of a short-term conscious solution, only to pay the price later.

Perhaps the best method for stimulating your intuition is to practice solitude on a regular basis. Throughout the ages, the greatest thinkers practiced solitude regularly in their work and life. They took time to be alone with themselves. They went off and sat quietly prior to any situation of importance. Most of the great thinkers of today continue to use solitude as an essential tool in developing the creative insights and intuitions that often have the power to change lives.

Most people have never practiced solitude because they wrongly believe that they have no time for it. However, one good idea that comes to you in the silence of solitude can save you a year of hard work. With that in mind, it would seem that you cannot afford not to practice solitude on a regular basis.

Solitude requires no energy, no effort, no trying at all. It simply requires a state of relaxed awareness in which you open your mind to your greater intelligence. And, at the right moment, exactly the right answer you need will come to you in exactly the right form. I see you nodding your head. It’s happened to you before, hasn’t it?

You can overcome any obstacle, solve any problem, or achieve any goal by tapping into the incredible powers of your mind and by trusting your intuition. Once you begin to develop and use your intuition, you will become more alert, more aware, smarter, and more effective in everything that you do.

Here’s a quick recap on the two forms of imagination:

Synthetic Imagination is your ability to assemble existing pieces of knowledge and information into new forms. It is much like taking all the pieces of a jigsaw puzzle, having a clear idea of the picture that you want, and assembling the pieces into a single finished product. The more ideas you expose yourself to, the greater the probability that the right idea will appear at the right time.

Creative Imagination is a higher form of imagination resulting in complexly new and different ideas and concepts to solve your problems and achieve your goals. This form of imagination is at the core of all the great breakthroughs in science, technology, art, music, literature, and medicine. The most successful individuals are those who can deliberately tap into their creative imagination on a regular basis.

Listen to your inner voice and what it’s telling you. Listen to what it’s saying about your life, your relationships, your career and your future. It’s trying to tell you something.

Listen… and then, go with your gut.

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A Tap on the Glass - Vol. 43 - Finding Passion

I was talking with Cindy at the CVTA office earlier this week and Cindy was remarking how much she appreciates the opportunity to work with our membership.

…and it gave me pause, for thought.

It’s a question that I’m betting you’ve paused and asked yourself on more than one occasion…and I’m not referring to recent discussions with your significant other….

Do you have passion?

Do you feel like something is missing in your life?

Are you finally waking up to the fact that you’ve been distracting yourself with the unnecessary?  

Just how much time do you really have to spend on that Facebook account or let people know your every move on Twitter or Foursquare?

Working a 9-to-5 job just to scrape together a living isn’t the most fulfilling way to live. In fact, it’s more debilitating than energizing.

Taking the leap from 9-to-5 to what is your PASSION is hard, but if you really want fulfillment, it’s just what needs to be done.   I’ve been subliminally making this suggestion to members of my own family for some time now…in hopes they’ll listen.  Occasionally, I even listen to myself.

There are a lot of excuses you can use, and a lot of obstacles that will come in your way.  Some will be valid.  Some will be excuses.

What it all boils down to how determined you are to create the life of your dreams.  To be happy.

This is not for everyone. In fact, it’s not for most people around you.

It requires an amazing amount of  discipline, motivation, courage and, of course, passion.  There’s that word again.

It demands that you embrace being uncomfortable and that you learn to deal with confusion.

When I went from being an on-air personality in ’87 to pursuing my passion, it wasn’t easy, but looking back now, it was worth it.

When you live an unconventional life, you grow much faster than someone who’s looking for security, comfort and convenience.

Overwhelm
If you really want to stay stuck—let “overwhelm” take control. When you’re looking for your passion, it’ll feel like you have an unlimited amount of options, but when you really prune them down and are honest with yourself, you’ll see that you’re left with just a handful.

It’s easy to look at everything you’re interested in and count them as options, but when you REALLY stop and listen to your heart, you’ll see what is true and what is not.

We’ve been brought up to believe a lot of things that are false. It might be a good idea to pause and observe what beliefs are running your life and ask yourself if they are beneficial for where you want to go.  A lot of people have difficulty with this, because they’re justly afraid of what they’re going to see!   Which brings me to….

Fear
When you’re about to dive into something new, you will be afraid, and your mind will try to stop you. Anything unpleasant should be avoided. That’s what we automatically believe, right?

You will often sabotage yourself because of underlying fears. Many have told me that they cannot decide what their passion is. I don’t have answers.  No one can truly answer that question, but one.   Look in the mirror.

Realize that choosing a passion and running with it isn’t going to define your life, it is just the beginning.

BUT, if you don’t take action, you won’t get anywhere. Focus on getting started instead of being perfect.

Missing Out
When you have a lot of options in front of you, the biggest fear of missing out is always present.

When I started, I knew my passions were self-improvement, natural health and financial freedom.  Most importantly, was making a difference in SOMETHING.

I still have those fears, but I welcome it as part of the process of pursuing what I love.

While I was afraid of missing out, I also knew that if I didn’t pick one, I’d miss the train. You can either pick one, or miss out on them all. It is up to you.

The feeling of missing out and wanting to do everything at once is an illusion. You can’t do them all, and even if you tried, you’d probably fail horribly.

Again, this is just the beginning of your journey, so pick one passion and go.

Time
When I’ve asked friends and associates what their biggest obstacles were when trying to find their passion, time frequently made the top three.

In the end, it’s not that you don’t have enough time; it’s that you fail to prioritize.

If you’re watching TV, watching the news and doing stuff that doesn’t need to be done, you don’t really want to go after your passion.

If you really wanted to find your passion, you’d make time, wouldn’t you?

So what if you work all day and have a family? There are people who’ve been in much worse situations and made it work. Why not you?

Excuses
Excuses are irrelevant, because they are always manufactured by your mind.

There may be outside influences that certainly make them feel valid, but if you REALLY look at the situation the excuses you’re using are almost always self generated.

If you want to live the life you’ve always lived, go ahead and accept your excuses.

But if you’re ready for something else, you have to throw your excuses out the window.

It doesn’t matter what kind of excuses you have, because they can always be overcome.  Maybe not today or tomorrow or this year or next.  But they CAN be overcome, once you make up your mind to do and BE whatever it is you have a passion for.

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A Tap on the Glass - Vol. 42 - Being Mindful of Body and Spirit

Would you like to strengthen your capacity to learn?

How about your memory retention, gaining the ability to recall items faster, kind of like a mental filing system ready to unleash your knowledge whenever called upon?

Increasing knowledge is the name of the game these days in all aspects of your life, and there's an easy, quick way to learn—well, maybe the proper phrasing is how to learn!

You know, it's very useful to know how an internal combustion engine works, but you don't need to know that in order to drive a car.

So let's get behind the wheel right now and hit the road;

To a surprising extent, this will be an experience of “back to the future.” When you were very young, literally everything you did was a learning experience. Every time you tried to say a new word or to take another step, you were opening new pathways and creating new connections in your brain. But as you get older, instead of creating new routes, you tend to stay in the ones that are already well worn. What used to be new pathways have now turned into ruts. And if there’s one thing that’s not good for keeping your brain in shape, it’s keeping it in a rut.

To see what can be done about this, there’s a very useful and important word—“mindfulness”, which means being fully aware of what you're doing in the moment that you're doing it. When you were a child and it was time to brush your teeth in the morning, you were mindfully aware of that action. You focused on putting the toothpaste on the brush, because you had to focus in order to do it correctly. Brushing your teeth was a novel experience for the simple reason that you hadn't been doing it very long.

Well, contrast that with the act of brushing your teeth at this point in your life—or with any action that you've done ten thousand times over the years. It's not likely that your attention is fully engaged when you put the toothpaste on the brush. In fact, the chances are your thoughts are a thousand miles away. Or, here's an even more disturbing possibility; Maybe you're not having any thoughts at all. Maybe your brain is engaged only on a very minimal level, like a really low pilot light in a stove. There are lots of problems with this, and one of them is the way you can get used to that level of functioning. If your day is filled with a series of routines that can happen on autopilot, you're going to sail along on autopilot unless you make a conscious decision to do something else. And unless you do make that conscious decision, you'll eventually find that the autopilot is not very easy to turn off.

Mindfulness is the antidote to this, and mindfulness can be created in a few different ways. The first way is by introducing new experiences and endeavors into your daily life—things that you actually can't do on autopilot. Most of the ideas that we bring up today fall into that category. But it's not really possible to be doing new things all the time—which suggests another form of mindfulness. This is a matter of becoming more fully engaged with even the routine tasks that you do every day. We're not saying you can get excited about brushing your teeth, but you can make a bit of an effort not to zone out quite so easily. Just focus your attention a little more consciously. Just have a bit more awareness of what you're doing, even if it doesn't seem like that awareness is necessary.

So becoming more mindful is the first thing you can do starting right now to benefit your brain. Once you get started with this, you'll be amazed at the difference it can make in your everyday life. Once you become mindful of where you put your keys, for instance, you won't lose your keys so often. As a result, you won't have to waste a lot of time looking for your keys. You also won't have to deal with the unpleasant suspicion that your brainpower is diminishing because you're losing things all the time.

As a way of getting started with this, try making a list of six or seven mindless actions that you do every day. Putting down your keys could certainly be one of them. Making the morning coffee might be another. Maybe you watch the same TV news show every evening or read the sections of the newspaper in exactly the same order. What we're suggesting now is not that you should change those things. On the contrary, continue to do them, but do them with more conscious awareness. Do them mindfully instead of mindlessly.

As you're making this list, here's something you should definitely be mindful of. There are probably some activities that you do so automatically that you're not even aware of them and, for most people, these are not usually beneficial activities. For example, people who smoke a pack a day aren't usually aware of the fact that they light up a cigarette 20 times. The only way they know that is when they see that they need to buy a new pack. Actually lighting the cigarettes takes place completely outside their conscious awareness. It's the same with people who snack a lot between meals. Their attention may be somewhere else, or it may be nowhere, but it definitely isn't on the fact that they're eating potato chips.

Now here's the good news in all of this. Mindfulness is one of the best ways not only for increasing your brain power, but also for breaking destructive habits that have become automatic behaviors. If you want to quit smoking, you don't necessarily have to go cold turkey right way. You can give yourself permission to keep smoking, but make a conscious decision to be mindful every time you light up a cigarette. This really works and, on a physical level, ending habits like smoking and overeating will benefit your brain and your body as a whole. Easier said than done, I know. But here is a path that you can walk that TRULY can help change things for you.

One of the best ways to improve brain function doesn't directly involve the brain at all. It involves the feet, oddly enough.

Running, walking, or some other form of aerobic exercise is absolutely essential for optimal brain power. As we age, our brain cells—called neurons—lose their interconnections. These interconnections, or synapses, are essential to thought. But there's now strong evidence that exercise can not only head off mental decline, but can even restore lost brain function. We can put this very simply—fit people have sharper brains compared with people who are not fit. But even people who are out of shape can make changes that benefit their brains. There's no question that exercise makes you smarter, and it does so at all stages of life.

Exercise used to be a natural part of life, but today we have to consciously and mindfully build it into the daily routine. Incredibly enough, even walking is now considered a form of exercise. It used to just be the way to get from one place to another. Times have changed!

As it happens, walking is especially good for your brain, because it increases blood circulation and the oxygen and glucose that reach your brain. Walking is not strenuous, so your leg muscles don’t take up extra oxygen and glucose as they do during other forms of exercise. As you walk, you effectively oxygenate your brain. Maybe this is why walking can “clear your head” and help you to think better.

All this is well documented by research. At the University of Illinois, a study was done on a group of more than 200 men and women in their early 60s. They were basically healthy, but they were also classified as sedentary individuals. They hadn't been involved in any physical exercise for at least five years, and for most of them it was much longer. Half of the subjects took long walks around the university three times a week, while the other half did light toning and stretching exercises. After six months, the walkers improved significantly in mental tests, as well as being more physically fit. An improvement of only 5-7% in cardio-respiratory fitness led to an improvement of up to 15% in mental tests. But the non-walkers, despite the fact that they had done some exercise, did not gain any benefits for their brains.

And just as you can build brain power through your feet, you can also do it through your stomach. For example, research in both animals and humans indicates that a calorie-restricted diet is helpful for both overall health and brain function. Eating wisely controls weight and decreases risk for heart disease, cancer, and stroke. It also triggers mechanisms to increase the production of nerve growth factors, which are essential to brain function.

What you eat is just as important as how much you eat. That's why researchers use the acronym CRON—for "calorie restriction with optimal nutrition." If you take in fewer calories, you must make all of those calories count. For example, certain fatty acids found in fish also make up a large portion of the gray matter of the brain. Research has shown that diets rich in fatty acids can help promote emotional balance and cognitive function, possibly because they're a main component of the brain's synaptic structures. In a similar way, studies show that fruits and vegetables can reduce the risk of developing cognitive impairment.

This is because so-called free radicals play a major role in the deterioration of the brain with age. When a cell converts oxygen into energy, tiny molecules called free radicals are made. Produced in normal amounts, free radicals rid the body of harmful toxins. But when they're produced in larger, toxic amounts, free radicals can cause cell death and tissue damage. Vitamin E, Vitamin C, and beta carotene inhibit the production of free radicals—and the best natural sources for all of these are in fruits and vegetables.

If you've already done some reading on brain function, you probably know that fish oils and fruits and vegetables can be good for you. But there's an excellent chance that you're not aware of the single most important dietary factor for peak brain function—water. The fact is the human brain—like the human body as a whole—is more than 70 percent water. When a sufficient volume of water is not brought into the body, the process of dehydration begins, and this is potentially very damaging to good brain function. Most people don't drink enough water, and this is especially true as we get older. In fact, dehydration is often the underlying cause of symptoms of dementia in elderly people. It may seem like an excessive amount, but adults should drink eight 10-ounce glasses of water every day, and that water should not include artificial sweeteners, sugar, caffeine, or alcohol.

Physically helping your brain through exercise is at one end of a spectrum, but there's another side of this coin. Sleep is just as important as exercise. A study at Harvard Medical School looked at the conditions under which people come up with creative solutions to math problems. It was found that a good night's rest doubled participants' chances of finding a solution to a problem the next day. The sleeping brain, it seems, is vastly more capable of synthesizing complex information. But you don't have to be a mathematician in order to need the right amount of sleep. Many people don't realize that sleep is more than just resting. Good sleep leads to deep, regular breathing, and this allows the blood to receive generous amounts of oxygen from the lungs. If your blood isn't getting enough oxygen, you're going to have problems both physically and mentally. During sleep the volume of blood circulating through the brain is actually greater than during the waking hours. The sleeping brain is actually just as active as the waking brain —and having an active brain is always a good thing. Conversely, nothing is more destructive to brain health than lack of sleep. So keep in mind that sleep and exercise are two sides of the same coin. If you get enough exercise, you're more likely to sleep better, and if you get enough sleep, you'll feel more like exercising. Both those activities will strengthen your brain. Mindfulness, sleep, exercise, and diet—four steps you can take right now to benefit your brain.

And here's a fifth: Do whatever you can to reduce stress in all areas of your life. Easier said than done, huh?

You may have noticed that when you're under acute stress you have a harder time remembering things. It's a well-documented fact that stress can disturb cognitive processes such as learning and memory. The hippocampus, for example, which is the brain's primary center of memory formation, can be seriously debilitated by chronic stress. This happens all the time. You're running out the door, and you can't find your keys. Or you're having a conversation with a potentially important new client, and you suddenly can't remember the client's name. Why? Because you're stressed out about how important she is. It's the fight or flight response. When you're nervous, your body gears up to take physical action, and this has a negative impact on your mental functioning. The impact can be short term if the stress is short term, as when you're talking to the new client—but if the stress is continuous and chronic, the effects can become ingrained. So try to relax. Admittedly, it's not always easy, but there are many things you can do toward calming yourself down. Yoga and meditation are both excellent. Look into both of these if you're living a stressful life and you're not sure how to calm down. Take a deep breath. “Ommmmmmmm”

Now, so far we’ve seen five important steps you can take to optimizing brain function, but now we’re going to explore some ideas for improving brain function by actually using your brain. This will be very beneficial because the saying “use it or lose it” is definitely true where the brain is concerned.

Like it or not, the human brain starts slowing down at about the age of 30. At one time, it seemed like nothing could be done about this, but new research shows you can train your mind to work faster and better, and you can do this at any age. With the right tools, you can recondition your brain to work as it did when you were younger. What's needed is a clearly defined regimen of brain exercise. Just as you can plan to walk or run a certain number of miles every week, you can also commit to workouts for your brain in the same period of time. The key finding in modern brain research is that the brain at any age is highly adaptable. It's "plastic," as neurologists put it. If you ask your brain to learn, it will learn. And you can speed up the process.

Introducing new forms of mental activity can strengthen the brain—such as doing crossword puzzles or Sudoku, learning a new language, or engaging in any form of new activity for you. If you have been doing puzzles every morning for your whole life, there probably is not much benefit in doing them now. That's especially true if doing puzzles has become a habitual behavior in which you're zoned out while you're doing them. So here's what we urge you to do: Whether it's crossword puzzles or Sudoku or chess or bridge, challenge your mind to try something different. So again, find something that takes your brain in a new direction, and then find ways to make it as enjoyable as you can.

Our final point is a bit more philosophical. As we mentioned, brain functions start to slow down at around the age of 30. But that's only part of the story.

Throughout the body, all our systems lose approximately 1 percent of their energy every year starting in our early 20s.

Now the question is—so what? Does that mean you have to resign yourself to slowly becoming a vegetable? Absolutely not! The body and the brain are marvelously designed to compensate for the process of change. What you may lose in the speed of your thoughts, you can more than make up for with your wisdom. You may not be able to process information as fast, but you can definitely process it more efficiently. In short, don't give up on yourself, and don't feel sorry for yourself just because you're changing. You can control that change in many different ways. You can slow it down by taking the positive steps mentioned in this article.

The rest, is up to you.

Thanks for reading.

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A Tap on the Glass - Vol. 41 - Are you ready?

Are You Prepared for Success?

I started my first real job with a radio career, on March 1st, 1970 at 6am in the morning. I recall it being overcast, 48 degrees and the first song I played was Floyd Kramer’s “Last Date”. KOFE 1480 AM, small town radio. Ah, memories.

One of the other things I remember from those days was playing the syndicated programs of Kasey Kasem and American top 40 and the inspirational and powerful thoughts of Earl Nightingale who had one of the most powerful voices ever heard on the air. Nightingale once said that “if a person does not prepare for his success, when his opportunity comes, it will only make him look foolish.” Loved listening to him growing up. Now THAT was a radio voice!

The old saying goes that “luck is what happens when preparedness meets opportunity.” There’s a lot of ways to interpret that, but I think that it means you’ve only paid the price to be ready for your success when you are in a position to take advantage of your opportunities when they arise. For me, that’s been some of the most frustrating events in my career, when opportunity was right in front of me and I couldn’t move on it.

But the most remarkable thing about that is this: The very act of doing the preparation attracts to you, like iron filings to a magnet, opportunities to use that preparation to advance in your life. You'll seldom learn nearly anything of value without having a chance to use your new knowledge and your new skills to move ahead more rapidly.

Go to any of the motivational speaker or books out there and you’ll find there is a series of things that you can do to become ready for success when it comes. To be sure, all of these activities require a little self-discipline and a whole lot of faith. They require self-discipline because the most normal and natural thing for people to do is to try to get by without preparation.

None of us like change. Go on, admit it. Instead of taking the time and making the effort to be ready for their chance when it comes, they fool around, listen to the radio, watch television, and then they try to wing it and dupe others into thinking that they are more prepared than they really are. And since just about everyone can see through just about everyone else, the unprepared person simply looks incompetent and foolish.

Been there, done that. Don’t like it.

The Golden Hour

So, “they” say we live in a knowledge-based society today, and knowledge in every field is doubling approximately every seven years. This means that you must double your knowledge in your field every seven years just to stay even. The Japanese have a phrase for it – “KAIZEN”. You're already "maxed out" at your current level of knowledge and skill. You've reached the ceiling in your career with your current talents and abilities. If you want to go faster and further, you must get back to work and begin to prepare yourself for greater things. Put aside the newspaper, turn off the television, politely excuse yourself from aimless socializing, and work on yourself. It’s going to be one of the hardest jobs you’ll ever have.

Get in the habit of waking earlier in the morning and spending the first 30 to 60 minutes reading something uplifting, informational, educational. Henry Ward Beecher once said, "The first hour is the rudder of the day." This is often called the "golden hour." It's the hour when you program your mind and set the emotional tone for the rest of the day. If you get up in the morning at least two hours before you have to be at work, or before your first appointment, and spend the first hour investing in your mind, taking in "mental protein" rather than "mental candy," reading good books rather than the newspaper or magazines, your whole day will flow more smoothly. You'll be more positive and optimistic. You'll be calmer, more confident and relaxed. You'll gain a greater sense of control and well-being by the very act of reading healthy material for the first hour of each and every day.

Don’t believe me? Try it first.

Plan Your Day

Another thing that highly successful people do is plan and prepare for the entire day. They review all of the tasks and responsibilities that they have for the coming hours. They make a list of all their activities, and they set clear priorities on what they’re going to accomplish doing the activities. They decide which things are most important to do, which are secondary in importance, and which things should not be done at all unless all the other things are finished. They then discipline themselves to start working on their most important tasks and stay with them during the day until they're complete. Here’s the secret about how to do this, however; set up your next day the night before. Lay out your day the night before. You’ll find that your time is far more organized and you’re far more prepared if you set up your next day before you go home at night.

Don’t believe me? Try it first.

The natural tendency of the low performer is to do what is fun and easy before he or she does what is hard and necessary.

Underachievers always like to do the little things first. You ever notice that? They are drawn to the tasks that contribute little to their careers or future possibilities. But high achievers discipline themselves to start at the top of their list and to work on the activities in order of importance, without diversion or distraction. Top down time management, so to speak.

In everything you do, preparation is the key. If you want to be ready for success, you have to plant the seeds well in advance of the harvest that you expect. Do what the winners do: Think on paper.

Memorize the winner's creed: "Everything counts." Everything you do is either moving you toward your goals or away from them. Everything is either helping you or hurting you. Nothing is neutral. Everything counts.

A young man once asked a successful businessman how he could be more successful faster. The businessman told him that the key to his own success had been to "get good" at his job. The young man said, "I'm already good at what I do."
The businessman then said, "Well, get better!"
The young man, somewhat self-satisfied, said, "Well, I'm already better than most people."
To that, the businessman replied, "Then be the best."

Those are three of the best pieces of advice I've ever heard: Get good. Get better. Be the best!

A quotation by Abraham Lincoln had a great influence on my life when I was 15. It was a statement he made when he was a young lawyer in Springfield, Illinois. He said, "I will study and prepare myself, and someday my chance will come."

If you study and prepare yourself, your chance will come as well. There is nothing that you cannot accomplish if you'll invest the effort to get yourself ready for the success that you desire. And there is nothing that can stop you but your own lack of preparation.

Think about the message in this poem by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow:

"Those heights by great men won and kept
Were not achieved by sudden flight;
But they, while their companions slept,
Were toiling upward in the night."


Remember that preparation requires self-discipline, because your natural tendency is to do more and more of the things that come most easily to you and avoid those areas that you don't enjoy because you're not particularly good at them yet. It requires character for you to admit your weaknesses in a particular area and then resolve to go to work to develop yourself so those weaknesses don't hold you back.

In other words: Prepare yourself for success ... or when opportunity knocks, it will make you look like a fool.

IT'S NOT WHAT YOU DON'T KNOW...

It's not what you don't know that can cause you to miss out on success; it's what you think you don't need to know.

Perhaps you have never studied the intricacies of how to raise money to support a new venture ... you have never needed to.

But, how many ideas have you had that get dispelled because they are "too big" or would "cost too much money"?

Maybe they would seem smaller, more achievable — allowing you to entertain them — if you knew how to obtain venture capital.

You don't need to learn every subject in depth.

But, take the time to learn what you think you don't need to know — at least at a cursory level.

If the occasion comes to dig deeper, then dig.

 

Thanks for reading.

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A Tap on the Glass - Vol. 40 - What Are You Entitled To?

Much as we hope it would be otherwise, organizations such as ours can’t stop this world from changing. The very best we can hope for is to adapt. If we’re smart, we change before we have to. The smart or lucky ones (insert your choice) manage to scramble and adjust when push comes to shove. The rest lose…and they become history.

As organizations maneuver in some effort to cope with rapid change, some careers always get caught in the cracks. It’s unfortunate, but completely unavoidable. Some employees get pinched and, naturally, people cry foul. They accuse top management of “breaking the psychological contract,” of changing the rules.

The idea of some sort of “implied contract” between Management and Employee is a little hard to justify in today’s job climate. I think it’s more accurate to say that the organization is just responding to a rule change in the WORLD. The irony in this is that many executives are in a true no-win situation. If they’re a smart one and change early like they need to, they’re described as cold, uncaring and over-reactive. If they try and drag it out and DON’T change until the world forces the issue, they’re considered inept as well as cruel. It’s a no-win situation for somebody, no matter what.

Look at today’s multi-generational workforce. Never has there been such a time in Labor history where so many generations of workers, all with clearly different perspectives on employment, worked together.

I think part of the problem is the “entitlement” mindset that has crept into our thinking over the past couple of decades. People came to believe that, because they had worked at all, no matter how much time they had put in, the organization “owed” them continued employment with benefits, time off whenever they wanted, flexible schedules, sick days, all their IT problems fixed for them, etc., etc., etc. Just showing up every day (usually) – loosely referred to as “loyalty” – was supposed to entitle a person to job security. I actually had an employee once that said “Hey, I came to work! What more do you want?” Seriously? I recall trying to explain to that employee that he didn’t receive income from us for showing up and being there. He was paid for what he did while he was there. He had a hard time understanding the concept and shortly thereafter was encouraged to leave.

Employees EXPECTED, even DEMANDED regular pay increases and periodic promotions. Some folks even went so far as to assume they had a “right” to expect their employer to keep them happy and provide high job satisfaction for them. The burden of responsibility for people’s career’s kept shifting further and further away from the employee and more onto the backs of employers. And the truth is, both sides bought into the system and it’s been bad for everybody.

Too often, employees rested on past achievements, instead of requiring themselves to constantly upgrade their skills. The EXPECTED to have their needs met by their employer when the times arose. They became so dependent on their employers, expecting to be protected and bailed out from whatever storm hit, that they became unable to move forward either in skill set or value to their employer that was struggling to meet their needs!
Well, obviously, it didn’t work. It has no chance of ever working, now.

A lot of jobs have been cut back or completely eliminated . New technology and competition is re-shaping how we work. The marketplace has no mercy and it puts definite limits on how generous and protective an organization can be with its people. Boomers and older have seen this before. In fact, we grew up with it that way.

But Gen X and Gen Y employees aren’t used to that type of marketplace. They grew up with flexible schedules and employers who were just happy to have them working for them. But if not, no big deal! There were PLENTY of jobs out there to choose from. If an employer didn’t give them what they wanted, they just went to another that did. And another. And another. And another.

THAT ship has sailed in this new economy, and I would suspect that we’ll never see it like that again. Americans don’t learn lessons early or easily, but when we do it usually sticks.

It’s time to reframe your relationship with your organization, just as it must reframe their relationship with customers and competitors. Don’t fall into the trap of assuming that you’re automatically “entitled” to pay increases, promotions, or even a job! Circumstances will keep changing over the next several years. The best thing you can do is constantly upgrade your skills, stay flexible and never ever con yourself into thinking that your employer is “supposed” to protect your future. You have a tough schedule? That’s what the job calls for. You want more time off than your company can give? Adjust YOUR schedule. Don’t expect the company to bend to your whims. They don’t have to. Remember, you are not paid to show up for work everyday. You’re paid for what you do WHILE at work everyday.

The era of entitlement is ended. Instead of relying on your “rights”, take some personal responsibility for your career. Put some faith in the future and put more in yourself.

Embrace the change and develop the work habits you’ll need for job success in this new age.

“Don't feel entitled to anything you don't sweat and struggle for.”

Marian Wright Edelman (1939 – )
American Activist
Founder of the Children's Defense Fund

Thanks for reading.