What Effective and Influential People Know That Most Don’t

Some people hate marketers, and it’s easy to understand why. It’s at least partly due to the out-of-hand volume of telemarketing calls trying to sell car warranties. Man, why are those people still calling?

Whether we like it or not, though, we’re all marketers, and the most effective and influential people are willing to embrace that fact.

See, not everyone embraces self-promotion so whole-heartedly. But I believe the reason more people don’t “market” themselves is that those people don’t understand how society works, and it’s natural to avoid or be downright abrasive to something you don’t understand. 

Here’s an oversimplification of how the world works:

In society, people need things. Food, housing, education, transportation, etc.

In a society where people have choices – in particular, a capitalist society where goods and services designed to meet people’s needs are produced and distributed privately – people need help deciding which goods and services are best-suited to fill their needs.

This may seem trivial, but not all products and services are commodities. In other words, some products are better than others, and much of the time it’s extremely important to make the right decision when deciding between goods and services.

For example, purchasing tires for your vehicle from a second-rate tire company can mean the difference between life and death. So how is a reputable tire company supposed to let people know how safe and reliable their tires are? That’s where marketing comes in.

Let’s say Jane Doe traditionally buys any old tires she can find, but for whatever reason she sees a marketing email from Firestone about their new run flat tire. So she goes in and buys a pair, thanks in part to those emails she’s been “bombarded” with. A month later while driving down the road with her small children in the car, she hits a huge nail. Only instead of her tire popping and her swerving off the road and hitting a tree, she drives safely down the road to the nearest gas station where she can call for help. All because of her new run flat tires that were marketed to her.

Were those emails from the tire company bothersome? Maybe in the moment. But Firestone had a solution to a problem the world faces, and I guarantee you, sitting safely at that gas station, Jane Doe is thanking God for Firestone’s marketing.

When we put ourselves out there confidently and unapologetically to the world around us, we’re helping people solve problems – real problems with real consequences. And that’s certainly worth doing.

So let’s tie this back to you:

There are people around you who need things. They have choices where they go for those needs to be fulfilled, and some of those places are better than others. Just like Firestone has a burden to communicate to the world that their solution is best for them, you also have a burden to communicate the value you already have to the world around you – even when it feels “sleezy” or like you’re being arrogant. 

The truth is, they need you to put your best foot forward and market yourself to them. And I don’t just mean self-promotion. I mean the way you dress, talk, and carry yourself – the way you live out your everyday life giving the parts of you your afraid people will judge. Those are the things people badly need, so why hold them back out of fear?

When we go on a date, we dress up and put a mint in our mouth because we’re marketing ourselves. We’re not ashamed of that. When we go to a job interview, we dress nice and try to say the right things because we’re marketing ourselves. And so on and so forth.

We’re always marketing, and that’s a good thing. Too many people shy away from putting themselves out there and being vulnerable, when in reality, we need to know how you can best help us, and that requires vulnerability. So please don’t hold back, even if at times it feels “pushy”. That’s normal at times, but I promise it’s what people need.

Every major religion and political movement throughout history spread because of marketing. Someone had an idea and they went out and told people who probably didn’t care to hear about it. But the fact that they did tell people about it changed the course of history.

Great leaders, innovators, fathers, and husbands throughout history were only able to change as many lives as they did by first committing to the idea that what they had was worth “marketing” to the people around them. They didn’t hold back. Do you think they were uncomfortable and ruffled some feathers along the way? Absolutely. And the world is a better place for it.

The Truth About Fear and How to Overcome It

The biggest opponent to loving deeper, leading better, and leaving a legacy is not the lack of knowledge, experience, or will-power. Your biggest opponent is fear.

Fear is the number one robber of all things good in life. The reason you don’t have the life you want, the character you want, the memories you want, the job you want, or the friends you want is fear.

Fear tells you to hold back, play it safe, don’t let people get too close, don’t be too vulnerable, don’t go out on a limb, don’t dream big, don’t believe in anything bigger than yourself, and don’t have hope for a better tomorrow. 

Fear also tells you to compare yourself to others and criticize them. After all, you must be accepted by as many people as possible, fear will say, so build yourself up so that you look good even if it means tearing others down.

And fear is usually subtle. No one thinks this stuff out loud, after all. It’s typically deep-seeded from years past and experiences compounded over time.

Think for a moment. Everything in your life right now that you’re unsatisfied with – whether it’s an anger problem, stress, worry, feelings of insignificance, or anything in-between – likely started because you tried to control a situation that felt uncontrollable. For example, we lose our tempers when things around us get beyond our control, and trying to control a situation is simply a way to avoid the fear of chaos. Therefore anger is rooted in fear.

The same is true of anxiety and depression. Anxiety is caused by unthrottled and mismanaged thoughts about situations outside of our control. When we have a painful experience, our minds sometimes try to protect us from that pain in the future by attempting to control potentially harmful situations. Of course, we can never control all potentially harmful situations, and when we realize that control is an illusion, our brains search frantically for another solution to gain control. 

At that point, one of two things happens: We either give up control or our brains go haywire with stress, anxiety, and panic.

This is how mental breakdowns happen. This is why people snap under pressure. They’re walking around afraid of the future – consciously or unconsciously – and they’re doing the safe thing by trying to control their environment. But eventually, it will catch up with them.

You may not describe yourself as scared, but I assure you, if you’re avoiding something you see that isn’t working like it should in your life, it’s because you’re either afraid that it can’t be fixed or you’re afraid that you don’t have what it takes to fix it. Neither of those are true, and until you acknowledge that, you’re going to live a life that’s small and boxed in.

Fear is also the number one thing behind all evil in life as well. The Nazis only killed Jews because they were afraid of what the world might look like without a perfect race. Fear drives hate, which is why sometimes we’re surprised when people who seem like they’re otherwise well composed end up saying or doing things that are uncharacteristic of their composure. Why is that? It’s because of fear.

What is fear?

Fear is defined as an unpleasant emotion that comes from a belief that something is dangerous or a potential threat. 

Basically, when we experience fear, what our minds are doing is weighing probabilities. We look at any given situation, and our minds start processing, the main question being processed is this: Is this situation dangerous? It doesn’t actually matter if a situation is dangerous, only whether or not our minds perceive the possibility of danger. When we do perceive a possibility of danger, our minds trigger processes that produce the emotion we label as fear.

On a chemical level, fear is a complex process that involves multiple parts of the brain and releases multiple chemicals, one of which is adrenaline. On a very basic level, when we take in information throughout our day, our brains consider previously known information and apply that to our current circumstance to determine if a situation is normal or not.

For example, if you suddenly hear a knock on your front door at 2 o’clock in the morning, your thoughts will immediately go to the idea that something is wrong. Why? Because your brain knows that normally, people don’t knock on front doors at 2 o’clock in the morning unless something is wrong. Your brain is taking information from your past and from other sources of information such as TV and radio and other forms of media, and it’s applying it to the current situation. 

More than likely, in that situation, your brain will determine that this is not normal and every experience you have with someone knocking on a door at 2 o’clock in the morning is usually bad. Maybe you’ve seen movies where bad news is delivered in the middle of the night, or maybe you have a past experience with a similar situation. Either way, your brain is taking what has been put in it and applying it to what is now being put in it.

This is largely an unconscious process. We can’t forcefully push fear away – not long-term at least. No matter how hard you try or how intensely you focus, the fear you avoid will ultimately find it’s way back in if the right circumstances are present.

Fear isn’t usually some external force pressing in on you that you just have to press back against hard enough to overcome. Instead, most fear is simply a judgment issue. 

If you have a fear of public speaking, it’s probably because at one point in your life you spoke in public or you witnessed someone speaking in public, and there was some sort of outcome that you labeled as negative. Maybe everyone laughed at you or maybe your face turned really red and people commented on it. To you, your goal in the moment or of the goal of the person you watched in the moment was to be accepted. After all, that is largely our motivation for almost everything we do. So anything you See that results in negative progress towards that goal will automatically register in your brain as being “bad“.

So you see, most fear is an issue of information and judgment. In the mid-1900s, white people were largely afraid of black people. Were they physically afraid of them? Maybe. But there was a deeper fear at work. 

The fear that drove the hatred from whites against blacks in the mid-1900s was solely based on the fear that society would change if black people were included equally. Many white people didn’t want change, so they fought it in order to control it, and anger was the mechanism by which they exercised their control. But it was all rooted in fear.

This is important because almost everything you do in your life is driven by either fear or faith. By faith, I’m not talking about religion. I’m not even really talking about spirituality. Faith is a much broader term, and it is the direct opposite of fear. 

For example, in the mid-1900s, white people could have had faith in human nature and in their system of government and trusted that their lives will not be ruined by the full inclusion of black people into society. Having a mindset that’s willing to trust and open to solutions is what starts the process of overcoming fear.

How to Overcome Irrational Fear

The only way to overcome this type of irrational fear is to give your brain accurate information to make better judgment calls. That’s not to say we should avoid fear, but most of the time, fear is rooted in a lack of information. 

Like pretty much everything else in life, fear and faith are balancing acts. You have to input the right information in your brain to make a decision with sound judgment. Not enough information, and you’re operating in fear, too much information and you are again operating in fear, this time it’s just the fear of making a wrong choice. But right there in the middle, there is faith – the place where you let go of being certain and walk forward despite fear.

And again, faith is not limited to religion or spirituality. 

We put our faith in human nature every day. For example, if you drive down the road on a two-lane road, then you’re putting your faith in the person in the other lane who is speeding in the opposite direction of you only feet away from your vehicle. If that person veers in your direction even slightly, you’re either severely injured or dead. Yet we trust them.

Consider for a moment, though, if you had a bad previous experience with driving. Imagine if the first time you drove a vehicle, the first person that came past you in the opposite lane veered into your lane ever so slightly and rammed the front end of your car. 

If that was one of the only memories you had of driving down a two-lane road, then two-lane roads would probably cause you to feel a certain amount of fear. That’s because that’s all you know, and your brain is simply acting on the knowledge you have. 

Memories are very strong sources of information for our brains. We all have things that have happened to us throughout our lives that shape the way we see the present and the future. Our brains are very good at processing information, but sometimes we make false connections between a memory and a fact. 

In the example above, you might be led to believe that cars are inherently dangerous or that driving down two-lane roads is dangerous. But in reality, another person may go their entire life without having a wreck, and for that person, driving down two-lane roads probably brings about zero fear at all.

So, one person is willing to put their faith in other drivers, and the other is not. They both face the same reality and the same probability of having a wreck. But it’s the way we interpret the information and experiences we have that create fear.

Fear can be very subtle. Some fears are blatantly obvious, but others lie just beneath the surface driving our actions without us ever noticing. 

For example, the fear of spiders is very apparent. You see a spider, your brain thinks of every negative experience or piece of information connected to spiders, the adrenaline is released, and your body is now in fight or flight mode. But not all fear is that dramatic.

Some people live their lives surrounded by a safety net of comfortable living. They base every decision they make on the amount of money and comfort to be gained from that decision. 

Many people fear not being accepted, respected, and remembered. They fear looking socially inadequate by not driving the right car or having the right clothes. Many people fear not having the right size house. They wouldn’t admit to it, and they probably don’t even know it’s going on, but at some point society, the media, or the family and friends around them convinced them that being accepted was the chief goal of their existence. So they drive on towards this goal they don’t even realize they don’t need.

So what does faith look like as an antidote to fear? In order to get past a fear of spiders, for example, you have to choose to place your faith in something that has the potential to protect you from the fearful ideas in your mind about spiders. 

Maybe you’ve spent time around someone who knows a lot about spiders, and they’ve shown you the reality of the nature of spiders, which is that they are actually not out to kill you. This may be contrary to the movies and social media posts you’ve seen about spiders or all of the Halloween decorations that include creepy spiders, but that new information can give your brain something to work with in order to then place your faith in that information going forward. Or maybe you just simply put your faith in your ability to get away from spiders quickly.

Here’s the bottom line:

To combat the fear that lies just beneath the surface that drives us to make irrational and unproductive decisions, we have to offset fear with the faith and trust that we don’t have to control things in order for us to move forward. 

In fact, embracing fear as a necessary obstacle to doing anything worthwhile is one of the best things you can do. And your life and legacy as a husband, father, and leader will be marked by courage not because you overcame fear but because you let go of being in control and walked right past fear to do what matters most. 

Why Am I Never Satisfied?

Have you found yourself jumping from thing to thing without ever being satisfied? Have you ever wondered why you never seem to be content? You’re not alone. 

While being discontent isn’t ideal, it’s all-too-normal in American society. One study found that only 14% of American adults say they’re very happy.

We all have “if I could just” moments. Here’s what I mean:

Most of us want things that are better than what we currently experience, but we’re not typically willing to put our short-term desires in the backseat long enough to see them come to fruition.

But when our short-term desires collide with our long-term dreams, it causes our brains to start calculating the shortest distance between us and what we want right now, which leads to “if I could just“ moments.

“If I could just” is code for “I think I’ve found a shortcut”. It’s our way of outsmarting the process. 

We think that everyone else has to work their butts off to become financially healthy, but “if I could just” make more money, then I’ll be fine. We’re miserable at our jobs, but instead of embracing the challenges we face in the present as a way to grow into a more mature version of ourselves that can actually sustain the future we long for, we’d rather tell ourselves “if I could just” find a better job or “if I could just” become my own boss, then everything will be fine.

“If I could just” thinking is a lot like standing in front of a flight of stairs and telling yourself, “if I could just jump to the tenth step, then I could make it no problem.” The first nine steps are unattractive and, frankly, don’t provide enough progress to be enjoyable. They might even make our legs burn from the repetitive movement. We don’t like those first nine steps. Step number ten, we think, is where true progress is. If we could just jump there in one giant leap, then that would clearly be better than the tedious one-by-one walking approach. We see the first nine as a waste of time. That’s what we tell ourselves. 

The reality is, one of two things are going to happen with that kind of thinking: You’re either not going to jump because the ten-step leap is too intimidating, or you’re going to be audacious enough to actually make the leap only to find yourself landing face first onto the jagged edge of one of the first nine steps. Then, in all likelihood, you’re going to roll back down the steps and find yourself laying at the base of the first step, except this time you’ll be starting over with a bloody nose. It’s at that point you’ll find yourself discouraged and complaining, regretting that you ever attempted the journey in the first place. Or am I the only one this has happened to?

I get it; the first step isn’t exciting or “fulfilling”. Neither is the second, the third, the fourth, or the fifth. But from step zero, each one of those steps is progress, which is more than you can say for the failed ten-step leap attempt. 

I know, I know. I get it. I really do. You’re thinking, “But that doesn’t apply to me. I actually can make the ten-step jump. My plan is just that good. I’m exceptional.”

Listen, I realize there are outliers in every scenario. I realize some people make the leap, and it seems unfair. And when we see people make the leap to the 10th or the 15th step, we stand back and think that we should be able to as well. But here’s something you already know: life isn’t fair. We all get different breaks. And I would be willing to bet that the person who made the leap from 0 to 10 was probably willing to take step one. In fact, they were probably on their way to steps one, two, or three, when they were catapulted to step 10 or 15. And even if they weren’t, it doesn’t matter for you. You’re not them. 

So forget about becoming an overnight success. The ones that accomplish that are very few and far between. I can tell you this much: Luck falls sparingly and unpredictably, but favor always falls on the side of the humble and diligent.

The truth is, “if I could just“ is a thief. It’s a mindset that attempts to rob the opportunities of now and elevate our minds to a prideful place that keeps us from taking the baby steps necessary to get where we want and need to get. The tragedy is, there are some very important people in our lives, and people who are not yet in our lives, who are depending on us to take those baby steps. But all too often we give away the immense value of the moment to “if I could just” thinking, and in doing so, we lose our opportunity to grow to where we want to go.

Wherever you’re at today, no matter what step you’re on – whether you’re on step 10 or you haven’t started the journey at all – please don’t fall for “if I could just” thinking. Your purpose and your most impactful life is only found on the steps, not at the top of the stairs.

What Some of the Greatest Innovators in History Have in Common

What do Thomas Edison, Henry Ford, Walt Disney, Oprah, and Steve Jobs all have in common?

Of course, they are all iconic innovators who have changed the way the world thinks and acts, but that goes without saying. Looking beyond the obvious, each of them faced the same issue at some point in their journey to paramount success, and each of them triumphed.

It’s the same problem you and I (along with practically every other person in the universe) face at some point in our lives. What do some of the greatest innovators in history have in common?

They didn’t invent anything.

To invent, by definition, means “to create or produce (something useful) for the first time.” By that definition:

Thomas Edison didn’t invent the light bulb. (>>)

William S. Harley and the Davidson brothers didn’t invent the motorcycle. (>>)

Henry Ford didn’t invent the automobile. (>>)

Sam Walton didn’t invent the department store. (>>)

Walt Disney didn’t invent the animated cartoon. (>>)

Oprah Winfrey didn’t invent the talk show. (>>)

Steve Jobs didn’t invent the computer or mobile digital media player or cell phone. (>>) (>>) (>>)

Bill Gates didn’t invent the computer or operating system. (>>)

Jeff Bezos didn’t invent the e-commerce website. (>>)

Larry Page and Sergey Brin didn’t invent the internet search engine. (>>)

What each of these individuals did do, however, is take an idea that already existed and improved upon it. They invented their own version, a better version, of an already-innovative idea.

In the words of King Solomon, “there is nothing new under the sun.” (>>)

You don’t have to re-invent the wheel. Almost every time, it’s better to steadily improve than it is to try to start from scratch. In your marriage, with your parenting skills, in your walk with God, in your career – what do you have at your disposal right now that you can improve upon in order to serve someone well today?

Just because there’s something in your life that’s not where you want to be doesn’t mean it can’t be improved and morphed into something that changes everything. 

Stop thinking you have to find the perfect solution and start iterating and improving on what’s currently there. That’s what all the greats do.

How to Get Your Priorities Straight When Life Is Crazy

As a busy person with a quickly-growing list of things on your plate, how can you get your priorities straight? Is that even possible?

Life’s a game of needs and wants:

  • If we want a strong relationship with our wife and kids, then we need to spend time with them.
  • If we want to avoid hospitals as much as possible until we’re in our 70s or 80s, then we need to take care of ourselves by eating right and staying active.
  • If we want our lights to stay on, then we need to work so we can pay the bills.

The problem is, those needs and wants don’t always go together. In fact, most of the time what we want is not at all what we need.

  • We may want to drive an awesome car, but we need to not have a car payment that drives us into self-imposed poverty.
  • We may want to eat a giant bacon cheeseburger with fries, but we need our heart to keep kicking in the near and distant future. 
  • You may want to follow your dreams and do what you’ve always wanted, but you still need to pay bills.

That’s called prioritization. And whether you can see it or not, your priorities directly affect your ability to love and lead your family well.

If enjoying myself and letting loose is my number one priority in any individual situation (say, at a baseball game or birthday party), eating healthy may take a back seat to hot dogs and birthday cake. The same goes for every area of your life. Every time you decide to do one thing, you’re deciding not to do another.

Deciding to do less important things during hours that should be devoted to the thing that you’ve decided is most important is the same thing as deciding that those things are no longer important.

Priorities aren’t determined by your intentions, they’re determined by your actions.

We all struggle with the same thing. When what you want and what you need aren’t in alignment, our natural tendency is to lean more towards the “want” side.

But there’s a common sense approach to prioritizing your life that from Dave Ramsey’s book EntreLeadership. This should help keep yourself in check so you’re putting the most important things first every day.

How to Set Priorities:

Make a list of things you need and want (this can be as long as it needs to be).

  • Things you and your family need get marked as an A. This includes practical needs like dinner and paid bills as well as less concrete things like spending quality time with your kids.
  • Things you and your family want get marked as a B. These are things that might be important to you but you don’t technically need them. That doesn’t mean they’re not important, it just means they’re not a need.
  • Everything else can be marked as a C. However, if these things aren’t moved to a B or A soon, they should be delegated or done away with. Sometimes we’ll find that the needs and wants of others fall on our C list, and that’s okay. Some of that can’t be avoided, and it’s good to keep them there as service to others even when we don’t need or even want to do it. But overall, Cs clutter up our lives and cause stress, so get rid of them as often as you reasonably can.

Now, go through the As and ask yourself, “What is the single most important item on this list that needs to be done today?” Put a 1 beside that (A1).

What’s the next-most-important and urgent? Make it A2, etc. all the way through the Bs and Cs.

Now reorganize your list from A1 down.

When new things come up, ask yourself if that thing is more important and urgent than A1 (or whichever item you’re doing at the time). If not, put it on your list in the most appropriate place and stay on track with your priority list.

This can seem like a very basic thing to do, but most people don’t do it. Most people have done to-do lists for household chores and work tasks, but never the priorities of their daily lives. There’s something powerful about writing everything out on paper and ranking them in order that helps you actually stick to your priorities.

Looking at your priorities in this way forces you to only focus on the things that are absolutely needed before you start losing focus and getting sidetracked. That way, at the end of the day you’re not looking back wondering where the time went (which sometimes feels like every day as a parent).

So use this method to put your “need-to’s” above “want-to’s” in their proper place, and spend your valuable time doing what truly matters.

Why Your Dream Will Probably Take Forever, and Why That’s Good

Let’s face it – as men, we can be pretty impatient at times. We want what we want and we want it as soon as possible, especially for those of us who are highly driven.

So it makes sense why we get frustrated when the dreams and goals we have aren’t accomplished as quickly as we want. Then we typically get fed up with the whole process and resign ourselves to going through the motions because, well, we don’t have time to wait and work for what we truly want.

The bad news is, there isn’t a shortcut. The good news is, there isn’t a shortcut. Let me explain.

The book The Self-Made Billionaire Effect talks about how one of the character traits of successful people is “patient urgency”. Successful people tend to have the ability to wait for the right time, but they can’t wait to work on and perfect their idea until it is the right time. But waiting until the right time is the key to that equation. 

Most men would probably say that they have the urgency part down, it’s just the waiting for the right time part that they get hung up on.

Look at some of the most successful people around:

Seth Godin, one of the world’s leading voices on marketing and entrepreneurship, spent years at a software company and other jobs before he saved enough money to start his first business. 

Mark Cuban, one of the most successful business investors in the world, worked at odd jobs in college and sold software as a salesman before he finally went out and did his thing on his own years later. 

Dave Ramsey, America’s leading voice on personal finance, sold his books out of the trunk of his car and had a small-time radio show for years before he ever caught real traction. 

Gary Vaynerchuk, one of the leading experts on digital marketing and personal branding, spent 12 years working his tail off before he started really building his personal brand. He was only able to build his personal brand because he spent those 12 years in the trenches.

All throughout history you can find example after example of people who were successful only after years of hard work. You’ll have to look hard for that part of the story though, because that’s not the sexy part and therefore it’s the part that gets skipped in most success stories.

The truth is, if you want to do anything of any significance it’s going to take time. Once you look around the world and start examining what anything truly impactful looks like, you’ll start to see that there really is no such thing as overnight success. Not in work, not with your kids, not with your marriage, not with your money, not with your friendships. It all takes a grueling amount of work.

But in the end, the process works for our good because it prepares us for when it’s time to step up and do the thing we’ve been waiting impatiently to do.

It’s very hard for men to keep that in mind, especially in this generation. With guys like Mark Zuckerberg and other tech entrepreneurs that seem to change the world overnight, it’s tough to keep hard work and persistence in mind. 

But you can’t use them as models. Their stories are one in a billion. 99.99% of the time, hard work and dedication is what pays off, not swinging for the fences.

Consider the 10,000-hour rule. Malcolm Gladwell says it takes 10,000 hours of practice before you can be truly great at any one skill. If you spent two hours a day working on your skill, it would take you over 13 years to be truly great at that skill. Even if you spent 10 hours a day working on it, it would still take you nearly 3 years to achieve expertise.

So, what does that mean for you? 

Keep your head down, be consistent, and don’t get discouraged. Don’t obsess over something for the sake of achieving your goals faster. Slow down and enjoy life and take every experience as it comes. Don’t look past the here and now, because you’re right where you are for a reason. Learn today’s lessons so you’re ready for tomorrow’s tests.

Rick Warren, author of the book Purpose Driven Life calls this “life’s waiting room”. If you’re in the waiting room right now, waiting for something eagerly, it’s understandable to get antsy. But there’s a necessary process that must take place before anything of any significance can happen. So, stay balanced, carry the load a little at a time, and don’t give up.

Let me tell you a quick story to illustrate this point:

There was once a psychology professor who taught stress management principles to students, and one day she stepped in front of the class, filled a glass full of water, and raised it where everyone could see. All of the students expected they’d be asked the typical “glass half empty or glass half full” question. Instead, with a smile on her face, the professor asked, “How heavy is this glass of water I’m holding?”

Students shouted out answers ranging from eight ounces to a couple pounds. The professor then replied, “From my perspective, the absolute weight of this glass doesn’t matter. It all depends on how long I hold it. If I hold it for a minute or two, it’s fairly light. If I hold it for an hour straight, its weight might make my arm ache a little. If I hold it for a day straight, my arm will likely cramp up and feel completely numb and paralyzed, forcing me to drop the glass to the floor. In each case, the weight of the glass doesn’t change, but the longer I hold it, the heavier it feels to me.”

As the class shook their heads in agreement, she continued, “Stresses and worries in life are very much like this glass of water. When carried for short periods of time, they have relatively no effect. However, the longer you try to hold them without balance and rest, the more they can hurt you. At first, you begin to ache a little, but after a while, that same amount of relatively small weight can make you feel completely numb and paralyzed – incapable of doing anything else until you drop them.”

The truth is, you can carry a lot more than you think you can, you just have to do it a little at a time. I know it’s frustrating and I know you want so badly to immediately be where you envision yourself going. But give yourself a break, choose to back up and gain perspective, and baby-step your way to your goals. 

Your wife, kids, family, friends, co-workers, and community need all of you right now, not sometime in the future. So next time you feel like your dream is taking forever, try to remember that’s a good thing. You’ll be all-the-better for it when the time comes.

How to Stay Consistent When You Feel Like Quitting

One of the most valuable assets we have as parents and leaders is our reputation. As the old saying goes, a man is only as good as his word. But how do we keep our reputation strong by keeping our word in the times when all we want to do is quit or change direction?

Saying something is one thing, but sticking to what you say when it stops being fun or comfortable is another thing entirely. As husbands and fathers, our wives and kids learn to trust us based on how well we stick with what we commit to. That’s why consistency isn’t just something that’s nice to have – it’s absolutely essential.

Most people aren’t good at consistently sticking to goals. Statistically, the large majority of people who set New Year’s goals give up on them before they achieve them. And we all know people who talk about all they’re going to do – start a business, lose weight, stop smoking, etc. – only to find them back to their old ways a few months later. If we’re honest, that’s us, too, a lot of the time.

But what’s the key to accomplishing the goals we want to hit? The answer is day-in, day-out consistency in the little nuanced aspects of the thing you’re working to accomplish. Author Malcolm Gladwell says that 10,000 hours of doing something consistently is how you achieve mastery of a skill. To put that into perspective: if you did something for 4 hours per day, it would take you just under 7 years to master something. 

In other words, no matter how you slice it, consistently doing productive things over a long period of time is the key to success in any area of your life.

So how do we do that? How do we stay consistent? If we’re not naturally consistent people, is there a way to learn how to be consistent so we can finally stop quitting and giving up on things before they have time to materialize?

Here are a few tips to help you stay consistent so you can build trust and accomplish the vision you have for your family and for your own life:

Make a plan

This should go without saying, but most people don’t make plans for the things they want to do. DHM Research found that only 33% of Americans have a life plan that they have committed to in writing and use to help guide them. 

Yet studies have shown that having a plan has been shown to increase follow-through on a wide range of beneficial behaviors.

So do this: start small and write down how you plan to get to the place you want to go. Don’t overthink it. Just put it on scratch paper or in a Google doc if you have to. But hold onto it and keep it handy for when you feel yourself starting to deviate. 

Then do this…

Tell someone

Once you have your plan written down, then you need to share that plan with at least one person. Tell them that you need them to help ensure that you don’t leave the plan. See, when you have someone who knows what you’ve committed to, you’re much more likely to follow through. 

We’ll let ourselves down, but we hate letting other people down. Use that to your advantage. Tell your wife or your best friend and tell them to follow up with you regularly. And do yourself a favor: make sure you pick someone who will be honest with you. The last thing you need is people around you justifying inconsistency.

Once you have your plan written down and you have someone you’ve told to keep you accountable, next…

Make a “when I feel like quitting” plan

The number one reason people quit on something they should be consistent on is because they believe that if they drop the ball once, they’re done – the fight is over. To overcome this all-or-nothing mentality, we have to do away with perfectionist thinking.

Tell yourself up front that you’re going to fail – because you are going to fail in some way. You’re human, it’s going to happen.

The difference between successful people and unsuccessful people is ultimately found in how tolerant they are of themselves when they fail.

This is why tracking the number of days in a row you’ve done something isn’t the most productive thing you can do. As soon as you don’t do it – as soon as you skip the workout or eat junk food or somehow break the streak – the clock “starts over” and it feels like it was all a waste.

But the way to stay consistent is to tell yourself ahead of time what you’re going to do when you feel like skipping or when you miss a day, drop the ball, or fail completely. Giving yourself that grace takes the pressure off to be perfect, and it removes the “pass or fail” grade we all try to place on ourselves. And we won’t quit if we don’t see what we’re doing as a failure.

Here’s the bottom line:

Success isn’t found in the absence of failure, it’s found in the persistence of pursuit. 

Your marriage, your emotional growth, your parenting – they’re all infinite games you’re playing against yourself. You don’t have to be perfect in accomplishing your plan, you just need to be persistent. Stay in the fight and do the next step regardless of what happened yesterday.

Stick to the plan, and have someone you’re accountable to. Then, if you’re still ready to quit, give yourself a two week notice. We give notices to jobs before we leave them because we had made a prior commitment to them and we owe it to them to make the proper adjustments with our leaving. So why don’t we do that with ourselves? 

Next time you want to quit something, tell yourself you’ll quit in two weeks. Then, at the end of those two weeks, if you still feel like quitting, then by all means follow through with your plan. 

Otherwise, keep putting the next foot in front of the other and watch consistency and trust and success fall into place as you stick with the process.

Does Positivity Lead to Success?

Can positivity make you successful?

Stanford University did a study that examined the impact of positive thinking on students’ learning abilities. They found that “the hippocampus, a brain area linked with memory and learning, was significantly more active in kids with a positive attitude.”

So is there more to positive thinking than we realize?

Let’s be honest. Life is ugly at times, and it isn’t all flowers and rainbows, so why pretend it’s not? It’s much more beneficial to be a realist, right?

As it turns out, positive thinking is overwhelmingly influential when it comes to succeeding in your career and in life. Check out these studies:

Psychologist Michael F. Scheier, who has researched and published papers on the power of optimism as far back as 1985, said:

“I think it’s now safe to say that optimism is clearly associated with better psychological health, as seen through lower levels of depressed mood, anxiety, and general distress, when facing difficult life circumstances, including situations involving recovery from illness and disease.”

A researcher named Martin Seligman studied insurance salespeople and found that “optimistic salespeople sold 37% more policies than pessimists, who were twice as likely to leave the company during their first year of employment.”

Economists at the University of Warwick found that happiness led to a 12% spike in productivity.

Other research found that people who engaged positively and provided social support — people who picked up the slack for others, invited coworkers to lunch, and organized office activities — were not only 10 times more likely to be engaged at work than those who kept to themselves; they were 40% more likely to get a promotion.

To explain why optimists are better at business than pessimists, I think Scheier summed it up best when he said:

“We know why optimists do better than pessimists (…) they’re problem solvers who try to improve the situation.”

But positive thinking seems to have more benefits than just in the work environment:

Researchers from Dartmouth and the University of Michigan found that “pessimists’ health deteriorated far more rapidly as they aged.”

Researchers from the Universities of Kentucky and Louisville conducted tests that found that when injected with a virus, optimists actually had a “significantly stronger immune response” than pessimists.

Okay, that’s a lot of data. But is it possible for someone who defaults to negative thinking to become naturally optimistic? Here are a few ways to keep you from being negative:

1. Gratitude. It’s really difficult to be negative when you consistently direct your thoughts to things to be grateful for. No matter who you are or where you are in life, you have something to be grateful for. Get in the habit of reflecting regularly on these things and keeping them front-of-mind.

2. Create space. When you’re in a situation and you start to feel negativity creeping in, delay your reaction for a moment or two. Breathe. Nod your head, smile, whatever it takes to buy time, just don’t speak immediately. Your initial reaction will almost certainly be negative until you train your brain to think differently, so just let it pass.

3. Once you’ve paused to let the initial reaction pass, imagine what a positive response would sound like in this situation. You don’t need to say it immediately, just get comfortable with the idea of thinking positively. Once you get into the habit of acknowledging a healthy response, you’re one step closer to choosing a healthier response.

4. Consider what negativity would accomplish. Allow yourself to address a negative thought and then discard it. When you feel like negativity is a plague to stay away from, your mind seems to be more attracted to it. It becomes the guilty pleasure you can’t have until you finally give in, then you’re an up-and-down mess. Truthfully, you’re probably not going to be able to push negativity completely out of your mind, so simply practice becoming aware of it. Face it head on then ask yourself, “If I say what I’m thinking, what would be the result? What would it accomplish? Would anyone be better for it? Would it in any way whatsoever help this situation?” If the answer is no, then let it go. You’ll thank yourself for this later (see research above).

The better thing to do, and what successful people tend to do, is find perspective and go into problem-solving mode. You’re frustrated? Great. Take it out on the problem instead of complaining about it. You’ll be infinitely better off for it, and people will actually enjoy being around you.

And since resources and opportunities come from people, then the more people like being around you, the more resources and opportunities will come your way. You’re not manipulating to achieve that result, but it is a nice bi-product.

The bottom line is this: If you’ve convinced yourself that being a “realist” is okay, and that poking holes in every idea or situation you come across is somehow a good thing, or that losing your cool in tough situations is normal or “understandable,” think again. You’re only hurting yourself, both in your career and in life. Because, as it turns out, whether we like it or not, positivity actually does lead to success.