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Life’s Biggest Question

I love to encourage people. In fact, I believe that when I do it well, it’s the most powerful thing I can do to serve others.  For me, there’s simply nothing like the feeling of offering an idea that has the potential to improve someone’s life and then watching to see the reaction. Here’s the reaction that I’m always working to achieve when I talk with a client. I want the client to ask: “I wonder if what Robert just said would really work? It sounds like the idea worked for him but would it work for me? I wonder if I should try to implement this idea in my own life and see what happens?” That’s the bulls-eye for me which leads me to LIFE’S BIGGEST QUESTION!

When I give seminars or workshops, I love to end a presentation with something that I learned from one of my most important mentors. His name is Jim Rohn, and he inspired a whole generation of personal development authors and speakers. His most famous student is probably Tony Robbins. If you take a minute to Google “Jim Rohn” and learn about his life’s work, you’ll find a long list of people who give him credit for changing their lives. Although I’ve had more mentors than I can count, Jim Rohn, along with the legendary Earl Nightingale, are always at the top of my list.

The reason I’m mentioning Jim Rohn is that I want to share an idea with you that was a part of many of Jim Rohn’s speeches. He would often end his speeches with this idea. In fact, I can still remember the first time I heard him share this idea, and I remember my reaction of excitement, wonder, and endless possibilities.

After humbly sharing his remarkable life story and the many lessons that he learned and practiced during his life, Jim Rohn would ask a series of 4 questions. He would begin with the simple question of “Why?” (I now call this LIFE’S BIGGEST QUESTION!) Jim would basically challenge the audience by saying: Why do all of the things I’ve talked about to improve your life? Why set goals and work to achieve them? Why develop the skills you need to succeed in the world? Why work as hard as possible to become as successful as possible? Why keep pushing forward despite the many obstacles? Why bother to go through all of the work required when you can instead just choose to drift along in life? Clearly the question of “Why?” is the major question indeed.

The answer to his question of “Why?” was always the same. He would say: The best answer to the question of “Why?” is the question “Why not?” Why not work to become all that you are capable of becoming? Why not stretch yourself to see what you can become? Why not set some big goals and see if it’s possible for you to achieve them? After a series of these kinds of “Why not?” questions, he would then say: What else are you going to do with your life? You have to stay here until you go so why not become all that you are capable of becoming?

Just the questions “Why?” and “Why not?” would have been enough. Even the first question of “Why?” had my complete attention. I was ready to take action after I heard the way in which he delivered that question followed by the life challenge posed in the question “Why Not?” But wait, there was more, much more. He would then say: “Why not you?” Other people have done incredible things with their lives, why not you? He would challenge you to think about all of the people you admire who have achieved the goals that you want to achieve and by doing so challenge the false belief that others are capable of great things but not you. Instead, he would say that if they found a way to achieve their goals, then why not you?

The final piece de resistance was the question: “Why not now?” He would expand this simple question by saying in essence: Why postpone your better future any longer? Why not get started today on the things that can change your life for the better?

I can still remember my reaction. I realized in that moment that while indeed there were real obstacles on my list of the things holding me back from achieving what I wanted in life, there was hope. I just had to admit to myself that I was front and center in holding myself back in life. I needed to change myself if I wanted to change my results. I still remember writing this quote from Jim Rohn in my journal the day I heard this special seminar:

“For things to change for you, you’ve got to change. Otherwise, it isn’t going to change.”

I offer you that same advice. Have I been able to achieve everything that I’ve wanted to achieve in my life? No. Of course not. However, the game isn’t over. I’m still working on the goals that are important to me. How about you? Are you drifting along or are you purposely working to make daily progress? And are you enjoying the journey?

I can tell you that I’ve achieved things that I never thought were possible for me because of incredible mentors like Jim Rohn, and the many ideas that they shared. They inspired and encouraged me. My goal is to try to be useful in life by working to inspire and encourage you.

Take a minute to write down these 4 questions based on “WHY” and then review them at least once a day. After say, thirty days, see if you don’t notice a difference. Keep doing this for a year, and then check your progress. I’m willing to bet that these simple questions will help you accomplish your goals while at the same time helping you to become the person you most want to be.

Why? Why not? Why not you? Why not now? Ask those questions to yourself every day and notice how your life changes.

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The Creation of The Lifetime Success Process™

I am often asked about how my 3 Core Programs, THE 12 LIFE SECRETS, THE 12 WEALTH SECRETS, and CREATING YOUR ULTIMATE DESTINY came about. As you may know, I spent many years working with the #1 producer and worldwide distributor of personal development products, Nightingale-Conant Corporation, founded by one of my most important mentors, Earl Nightingale.

During the time I worked with N-C, I helped craft programs for hundreds of thought leaders like Tony Robbins, Wayne Dyer, and many others you may know.

I also learned from thousands of clients what they liked most about these programs and what they did not. As a result of listening to and studying all of these programs, I discovered a huge problem within the Personal Development Industry.

Here’s the problem:  Authors were trying so hard to be unique and different, they were changing and revising key, universal truths that have always worked through the ages. (This is even more true today.)  Proven secrets for success were becoming lost in translation or hard to follow. What was relatively simple to understand, was becoming confusing with tons of contradictions. People were confused about what to do or who to follow.

What I knew was needed was a Simpler, Clearer Path to success that anyone could follow … so I decided to create a solution …

Then one day, I was playing the piano and I noticed something for the first time. If you look at a piano and count all of the notes you will find 88 different black and white keys or notes. What’s interesting is that although there are 88 keys, there are only 12 different primary notes. Check it out for yourself sometime. The primary 12 notes just continue to repeat in octaves. This means that all of the great music we have ever heard is made up of only 12 notes. Talk about simplicity. The same can be said about the world’s greatest ideas. You don’t need endless principles to succeed, and the key principles never change.

This breakthrough lead me to the creation of my first Core Program, THE 12 LIFE SECRETS

I boiled down all of the products I’d listened to over the years and all of the books I’ve read into the 12 most important principles. It became my cornerstone product that was endorsed by the major thought leaders of the day and remains a best-seller to this day.

This program immediately went to the top of the sales list and is more relevant today than the day it was written, because it is based on the most important and timeless principles.  It was later endorsed by dozens of world-class thought leaders as a simple guide to getting what you want in life.

I knew what was needed next was a program to help individuals create true and lasting Financial Success, so I developed THE 12 WEALTH SECRETS which also became a best-seller.

Again, it contains the foundational principles of becoming financially independent that never change. It’s simple and it works!  THE 12 WEALTH SECRETS contains universal laws of success that will guide you to a path of financial prosperity in your life.

Finally, I knew that I needed to address the critical concept of how to create your best life making sure your success leads to true happiness and fulfillment. If you become successful and miss fulfillment, you’ve lost the game. I titled the next program CREATING YOUR ULTIMATE DESTINY which again became a best-seller.  This program is the culmination of everything it takes to create your best life and to find exactly what it takes to Create Your Ultimate Destiny.

Each of these 3 Core Programs are unique in their own way, and each deliver 12 Powerful Secrets and Ideas that will change your life.

It was after finishing these programs that I realized it was time for me to leave Nightingale-Conant and start my own company. That’s when I developed THE LIFETIME SUCCESS PROCESS™ which has guided everything I have done over the years with my company Success Systems International, LLC. It is now the foundation of all of our products and services.

I took all I had learned and more from some of the greatest minds in history and crafted a Simple 7-Step Formula for Success. It is a process that anyone could follow, understand, and use daily to stay on course. It’s made up of just 7 simple steps that never fail to produce results. They are the glue that hold everything together. Learn them and use them, and you will succeed. It’s that simple. Miss them and you’ll get lost in endless details and distractions.

Now, I am grateful and happy to have seen these programs change the lives of countless people all over the world including so many of my personal Mentoring Clients. The programs are what I call Evergreen Products like Napoleon Hill’s THINK AND GROW RICH or James Allen’s AS A MAN THINKETH. They are based on the key principles that never fail to produce outstanding results. They are proven strategies and time-tested ideas that you can implement easily within your life where ever you may be right now.  All you have to do is make these ideas your own by listening to the programs or reading the transcripts. They come with workbooks so you can study the material in greater depth.

Try them in your life. My wish is that they work for you as well as they have worked for me and so many others.

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This Masquerade

I find myself fascinated with what’s happened since I wrote my last blog post entitled “Sabbatical” on February 1, 2020. My personal intention was to take some time off from work so I could re-evaluate my life and what I’ve been able to accomplish in my first 6 decades on the planet. The plan was to step back from the day-to-day momentum of my personal and professional life and examine who and what I have become during my short ride on this spinning blue island in space.

Who would have guessed what would happen next? Just days after my decision to take an extended sabbatical, the whole world (in one way, shape, or form) would also go on a sabbatical of sorts.

I’m sure it’s fair to say that Covid-19 surprised you as much as it did me and the rest of the world. It’s become a once in a generation event that has literally reshaped life on earth as we know it.

I’ve been stunned by what’s happened with the Covid-19 situation, not to mention everything else that’s taken place. For example, I find myself thinking about the many plagues of the past and what our ancestors must have gone through to survive. Surely we have many additional resources these days, but this pandemic has been challenging for each and every one of us. It’s certainly not anything I ever wanted to experience but, like with all challenges, there are definitely things that can be learned from it.

During this time of lockdown and isolation, I’ve probably learned more about myself, my family, my neighbors, and the world around me than I ever thought possible, both good things and bad. However, my primary focus on sabbatical has been learning more about the best ways to gather up what I’ve learned in life so I can invest it into my future. I’ve been placing a special emphasis on music which was once a primary focus of my life.

As a teenager I dreamed of being a jazz musician and a College Music Professor. For a number of reasons, my life didn’t go in that direction. But this sabbatical taught me that I have some unfinished business with music. What’s interesting is that my sabbatical has allowed me the freedom to reawaken passions that I left behind to make a living. For me, a sabbatical is not about making a living, it’s about designing a life or focusing on a project, like doing research or writing a new program or book. So the first thing I did was find some new mentors, including some new music mentors, since one of my goals involved getting back into playing music again.

Over the years, I studied with many wonderful mentors in music as well as many other disciplines. During the pandemic, I started studying again with some music mentors. And it was during a mentoring session that I thought how interesting it would be to include a song to go along with one of my future Blog Posts. And as I thought about it a bit more, I decided that the perfect song to start with was “This Masquerade.” (I’ve attached a recording of me playing the song on tenor saxophone. It’s a work in progress!)

One reason I chose the song “This Masquerade” was because of the obvious connection with the masks we are having to wear during the pandemic to stay safe. Another reason I chose it is because of the song’s lyrics that speak to the topic of hiding who we are by wearing masks and pretending to be different than we are.

While I was recording the tracks for this song in my home studio, I thought a lot about the kinds of masks I wear as well as the ones I need to get rid of. Perhaps you’ll get some insight into your masks by listening to my recording. (If you’d like to hear the lyrics, I’d suggest listening to George Benson’s original version of the song. It’s outstanding!)

Here’s my version: THIS MASQUERADE!

 

If you listen to my recording, here are a few suggestions to keep in mind while listening:

  1. Notice how the song starts very softly and quietly, almost whispering. It makes me think about how everything seemed completely fine in early 2020 but then, in a matter of a day or two, everything changed. In music we say “the tone changed!”
  2. Notice the many areas of struggle represented in the song. Notes are bending, high notes are sometimes almost screaming for attention, and yet the song keeps moving forward much like life.
  3. Listen for the place in the song near the end where I start reaching for higher and higher notes as if trying to escape. I finally go way above the normal register of the instrument in an effort to rise above what’s happening.
  4. Lastly, pay attention to the very end of the song. What’s the last thing you hear? Do you hear a piano, a guitar, a saxophone, or just a breath of air? And if you hear a whisper of air, what does that mean to you? What reason might I have had to end that way? Is a single breath the essence of life and music?

Finally, ask yourself these questions: What masks am I wearing that it’s time to throw off? More importantly, when would NOW be the best time to show the world who I really am? Also, ask yourself what passions do you have that may have been neglected and need more time and attention to grow and evolve?

Perhaps the bottomline is this: Depending on when you read this, you may not be able to take off your physical mask just yet, but you can always remove mental masks or blocks that are holding you back from being the best version of yourself.

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Sabbatical

I just reread last month’s blog titled “Do Less And Accomplish More!” While I don’t necessarily recommend you do what I’m about to do, it will hopefully show you that I really do work hard to practice what I preach.

I’ve always been fascinated with the idea of a sabbatical. While the common definition is to take a break from work, the original definition goes back to an Old Testament law about farming. The requirement was to sow the seeds and harvest the crops for 6 years and then take the 7th year off to rest. Some might say it was about resting both the land as well as the farmer. While the idea of over-farming a field is well known as it relates to land, what about over-farming yourself?

Last month’s blog was about simplifying your life. It was about asking the question: What should I eliminate or delegate in order to simplify and streamline my life? I’ve done this throughout my life, and I’ve found it to be invaluable. My life is much simpler today than it ever has been but I’m always looking for the next level of growth and advancement.

That’s where a sabbatical comes in. One of my early goals was to take sabbaticals in my work life. In my early life I thought I’d become a college music professor where I would have the summers off and could also take paid sabbaticals for research every so many years. My life didn’t go that way so today as I look over my many goals, I see “take a sabbatical” and it remains uncompleted. We can’t have that. In my mind, working to achieve our goals is what living is all about.

So starting on February 1, 2020, I’m officially on sabbatical. I might take a few months off, but something tells me that I’m going to take the rest of the year off to make up for my many missed sabbaticals.

I’ve made arrangements to keep things working in my businesses without my having to be present. The hardest thing for me is to temporarily discontinue my coaching which I enjoy so much. I have clients that have literally been with me for decades and I’ve had the incredible privilege to be a part of creating some amazing success stories. I promise that I will be back to contribute more but I need to do what old Stephen Covey recommended in “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.” Do you remember Habit #7? Here it is:

SHARPEN THE SAW!

Most people are like the lumberjack who was working like crazy to chop down a tree with a dull saw. I don’t remember all of the details of what Mr. Covey wrote so let’s just say that an ancestor of Stephen Covey saw what was happening while walking past the lumberjack and hailed him. He said: “Sir, why don’t you take a break and sharpen your saw? I think you’ll find that the tree will fall much quicker with a lot less work.”

Now I’m sure that’s not the exact story because it has been many years since I read that book; however, I think that’s the essence of the idea. The question really becomes this: What are you working like crazy to do that would be improved if only you stepped back to learn a better way … to sharpen your saw?

That’s what I’m doing for the next few months or perhaps even the rest of this year. We’ll see. I see a number of dull spots I have to sharpen.

While I’m gone, try this idea yourself for a day or a week or a month or longer and then send me a note about how it worked for you. I love hearing how the ideas that have become so important to me are working in other peoples’ lives.

If this idea as I’ve described it doesn’t work, just skip sending me a note and instead read “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People,” which I know has been life-changing for millions of people.

At any rate, make 2020 a great year … in fact, I dare you to make it the best year of your life so far!

Let’s compare notes in 2021.

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Do Less and Accomplish More!

I have a firm belief that the old dictum “less is more” contains an enormous amount of wisdom. I also believe that not recognizing the power contained in the three words — “less is more” — complicates our life and limits our progress.

Is it possible that you could make the decision to do less and actually accomplish more? I believe the answer is YES!

After coaching high achievers for decades, the most powerful thing I’ve learned and relearned over and over again can be summed up in one word: FOCUS!

In my first book and audio program “The 12 Life Secrets,” I said it this way:

“The trouble with so many of us is that we underestimate the power of simplicity. We have a tendency it seems to overcomplicate our lives and forget what’s important and what’s not. We tend to mistake movement for achievement. We tend to focus on activities instead of results. And as the pace of life continues to race along in the outside world, we forget that we have the power to control our lives regardless of what’s going on outside.” 

I recently did an Internet search to find out what quotes from my books and audio programs are referenced online and this particular quote was at the top of the list. I find it interesting that out of all of the words I’ve written and recorded, this quote is the most popular. Perhaps that’s because it’s the most powerful. This quote hit the mark for enough people that it’s stood the test of time which is usually the best test to use when selecting ideas to implement in your life. The one thing I know for sure is that this is the idea I need to remind myself of on a daily basis so I do a better job of practicing what I preach.

Why not decide what’s most important to you and focus on that? I’d be willing to bet that you’ll look back some day and say that it was one of the best decisions of your life.

My guess is that you’ve let your life become too complicated. Perhaps you’ve hit a ceiling of complexity with too many moving parts in your life. Perhaps you’ve let your life become so complicated with so many endless details that you are holding yourself back by doing things that you need to eliminate or delegate. In fact, here’s a great question to ask at the beginning of every day: “WHAT SHOULD I ELIMATE OR DELEGATE?”

My suggestion would be to review your life’s purpose and then choose the top 3 things that are taking up your time that don’t align with your purpose and mission, and then get rid of them. I do this simple exercise with my clients at least once a year which reminds me to do it for myself. If you haven’t decided on a life’s purpose, download a FREE audio message and planning worksheet entitled “Discovering Your Life’s Purpose.” Knowing your life’s purpose is the starting point, and you need to review it often.

The opportunities you need to improve your life are within reach, but you have to make sure you aren’t so busy that you miss them. I can promise you that what you need the most is within your reach, but you have to have the time and the focus to recognize what you need so you can take action.

Remind yourself everyday that being busy is not the same thing as being productive. Being productive requires that you focus on the right things.

What’s the top priority to focus on? That’s easy. It’s to focus on your life’s purpose. Focus on building the best version of you! How do you focus on that? Start by deciding what you need to eliminate or delegate.

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Success Lies

My guess is you might be surprised with my title choice for this blog post. The title “Success Lies” seems like a bit of an oxymoron, however, I think I can make a case that much of what we think we know, we don’t, and many beliefs about success that are assumed to be accurate, are not. That’s a strong statement, but let me see if I can support my point.

Let me begin with what I call my Prime Directive, a rule I follow where I never tell anyone what to believe. I may question beliefs but I don’t tell anyone what to believe. I adopted this rule a number years ago when I discovered that I was being told things about how life works and how to achieve success in life that turned out to be false. While I’m sure I’ve broken my rule on occasion, I encourage people to decide for themselves what to believe based on the best information that is available. The bottom line is this: We don’t actually know how the world works! (The good news is we are learning more every day.)

Much of what we assume to be true is based on old ideas passed down from previous generations. We don’t always revisit our long-held beliefs and ideas with the light of today’s current knowledge. We need to make sure our beliefs are based on the best information available about how the world really does work.

While all of us have our subjective viewpoints, observations, and opinions, there is an abundance of disagreement on the facts, and for good reason. It’s safe to say that if you compare what we thought we knew about our world 100 years ago to what we think we know today we’d see huge disparities.

Let’s start with the most troubling of the lies which is that we are in complete control of our lives. That we control our reality and our destiny. How many times have you heard someone say: You are in control of your destiny. Wrong. We can certainly influence and shape our destiny in many ways but there are tons of other factors involved besides our choices and actions.

While there are an infinite number of factors affecting your life, I think these three are the most important:

1. Our Genes.
2. Our Environment.
3. Our Thoughts.

So do you control all of those? Did you choose your genes, your parents, and your early environment? Some people believe that they did. Seriously, they believe that before entering life they made a sacred pack with the Universe or God and planned everything in advance so their karma would provide them with the exact life experiences needed for another chance at reaching nirvana.

Now keep in mind that I’m not criticizing this belief. I have no idea if it’s accurate or not. You could even make an argument that having this belief is good for you if it helps you function better in the world and it doesn’t harm others. There is certainly more than ample evidence to support what’s known as “The Placebo Effect” illustrating that beliefs do have an impact. I’m especially fascinated with the study of “Epigenetics” – i.e., with the idea that our thoughts and behaviors can influence the expression of our genes. Just imagine what that means. There is research that suggests we may have the power to influence how our genes are expressed in our lives. So while we may not have chosen our genes, perhaps how they are expressed in our lives can be changed. This means we need to continue to let science and experimentation lead the way rather than clinging to ideas that have been shown to be invalid.

Perhaps the bottom line is this: If you have a belief that is good for you, good for others, and serves the greater good, fantastic. I’d call that belief a winner. However, if you believe that your destiny is to rule the world no matter what, what then? Should you be in charge and get exactly what you want no matter how it affects others? I think not. While you might think this is an extreme example, it proves my point.

Beliefs are ideas that represent an acceptance that a particular statement is true or that something exists. The essence of every religion is a set of beliefs. But are all of the religious beliefs in the world true? Are some of them true? Which ones are true and which are false? Would you say that all of the world’s religious beliefs have been good for humanity and our beautiful blue island in space?

While this may seem like an idea too deep or too involved to address in a short blog post, I would just end by suggesting that you examine your beliefs very carefully. Start by listening more critically to so-called Success Principles. As an old mentor of mine once said, “Stand guard at the door of your mind.” Don’t just adopt beliefs without careful analysis because it is entirely possible to adopt a belief with good intentions but turn out to be sincerely wrong.

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The Entrepreneur’s Biggest Problem

Even if you may not consider yourself an entrepreneur, I’m willing to bet you will relate to what I’m writing about here. After decades of coaching entrepreneurs in a wide variety of industries, I think I’ve learned the single biggest problem that entrepreneurs face. I call it “Gas Pedal Mentality.” Let me explain.

If you wanted to win the Indianapolis 500, here’s what you would NOT want to do: Get in the car, wait for the flag to drop, and then just floor it. You would NOT place both feet firmly on the gas pedal and hope for the best. While this scenario may sound ridiculous, I can assure you that entrepreneurs, along with many others, use this strategy more often than you might think. Obviously, if you use a “Gas Pedal Mentality,” you’ll most certainly end up in a wreck or with a burned out engine, but that’s exactly what many entrepreneurs do. Since most entrepreneurs typically start out with an abundance of enthusiasm, drive, and energy, they just pour it on. Unfortunately, that’s not the best strategy for the long term.

Have you ever met an entrepreneur that did damage to their personal or professional life and relationships with this pedal-to-the-medal approach? Have you ever met an entrepreneur who was once successful and making progress only to completely burn out a short time later? If you’re an entrepreneur, has this happened to you?

Winning a race requires not just knowing when to hit the gas, it’s also critical to learn when to utilize the clutch as well as the brakes. In fact, it’s learning to balance accelerating with shifting and braking throughout the race to avoid both crashes and burnout that wins the race. The same holds true in life and business.

I’ve been surprised to learn that most entrepreneurs actually work too many hours. They often sacrifice other important areas of life outside of work in an effort to get ahead. Not only does this result in burnout, it can also wreck relationships with family and friends not to mention create serious health issues.

If you’re an entrepreneur and you don’t have a fun, stimulating, interesting life outside of work, you’re probably pushing on the gas pedal too hard. What you may need to do is slow down to develop some focus and balance. Undoubtedly, there are things in your business that must be done but are you doing too much? Have you learned to delegate things that you should not be doing, such as activities that are not a part of what I call your Unique Talent™? Do you know what your Unique Talent™ is and how to make the most if it?

My challenge to you is to find a professional coach who works with and understands entrepreneurs. Then focus on finding your Unique Talent™ as the first priority. Next, learn how to delegate all those things that are outside of your Unique Talent™ zone. If you think this isn’t possible, examine the world’s greatest entrepreneurs who also have happy family lives with lots of interesting and engaging friends.

Trust me, the secret is focus and balance. It’s not about going faster. It’s not about working harder. It’s about working smarter. It’s about being more strategic with each action that you take which includes knowing not only what to focus on but also what to delegate and what to stop doing completely.

Remember that success is never enough. What you want is success with fulfillment, and that requires a different strategy.

Get in touch with a coach today if you don’t have one. Here’s a tip: A great coach should ultimately not cost you a dime. A great coach should be helping you to earn more money and gain more free time. Remember, focus and balance are what lead to success with fulfillment. Replace the urge to go faster with the strategy of balancing your life and your work. This is the secret to a life’s journey that’s both more profitable and more fulfilling.

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Aikido

I often talk with clients about Aikido, especially if they are having a bad day. Are you familiar with Aikido? It’s a martial art developed by a man named Morihei Ueshiba in the 1920s. It’s by far my most favorite martial art but it’s really much more than a martial art, it’s a philosophy of life. The essence of the martial art Aikido is to defend yourself while also protecting anyone who may be attacking you. Seriously, the goal is to defend yourself while also protecting anyone who may be attacking you. That’s not the traditional approach, right?

What’s fascinating about Aikido is that it seeks to diffuse a problem or bad situation without hurting anyone, which should always be the primary objective. In this regard, I sometimes think of a child who is having a temper tantrum while a calm parent just hugs the child or does whatever is best to protect the child all the while knowing that everything will be okay when the child stops thrashing about and regains a bit of sanity.

We often run into people in life who are like children thrashing about and throwing their weight around. They aren’t having a good day so they want you to join them in their misery. But alas, this is a game you don’t have to play. As a mentor of mine once said to me: “Robert, never let someone else’s lack of balance affect your balance.” Doesn’t that bring to mind the old “Karate Kid” movie with Mr. Miyagi dishing out wise albeit often perplexing advice?

The truth is that it’s great advice. “Never let someone else’s lack of balance affect your balance.” That’s the kind of advice we need in difficult interactions of any kind. The natural thing to do when problems present themselves is to allow the problem to overtake you, sometimes letting the situation take control of your consciousness and stir you into one negative emotion or action after another. However, how much better would it be if you could remain calm and focused with the belief that you can handle anything that comes your way? What if you could smile, relax, and stay calm through the next storm?

Remember, it’s not if there will be a next storm, it’s simply a matter of when. Doesn’t that mean that now is an excellent time to get ready?

The common reaction of most people is to push back if pushed. But what if you were so wise that you knew when to just step out of the way?

Look up “Aikido” on Wikipedia and see if you find it as interesting and useful as I do. It’s both a martial art and a philosophy of life that allows you to protect yourself while helping others from hurting you or themselves. Trust me, it’s not easy. But with practice, you might just transform your life and the life of someone else in the process.

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Be Useful

Would you say that you are useful? I can assure you the answer is yes but what you do think? This is an important question to consider, especially if you don’t feel like your life is on the right track. To help you think about your answer, I want to share something from Robert Fulghum, the author of “All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten.” Here’s what Mr. Fulghum wrote on his website about being useful:

* * * * *

“Often, without realizing it, we fill important places in each other’s lives. It’s that way with the guy at the corner grocery, the mechanic at the local garage, the family doctor, teachers, coworkers, and neighbors. Good people who are always “there,” who can be relied upon in small, ordinary ways. People who, by example, teach us, bless us, encourage us, support us, uplift us in the daily-ness of life.

“I want to be one of those.

“You may be one of those, yourself. There are those who depend on you, watch you, learn from you, are inspired by you, and count on you being in their world. You may never have proof of your importance to them, but you are more important than you may think. There are those who couldn’t do without you. The rub is that you don’t always know who. We seldom make this mutual influence clear to each other. But being aware of the possibility that you are useful in this world is the doorway into assuring that will come to be true.

“My way is to keep writing and sharing that. What’s yours?”

* * * * *

I think it’s hard to improve on that. If fact, I think it’s not only a good idea to review Mr. Fulghum’s ideas about being useful from time-to-time, but also to review what he learned in kindergarten that became the guiding principles of his life, and the basis for many best-selling books.

Here they are in summary form:

* * * * *

ALL I REALLY NEED TO KNOW I LEARNED IN KINDERGARTEN
by Robert Fulghum

All I really need to know I learned in kindergarten. ALL I REALLY NEED TO KNOW about how to live and what to do and how to be I learned in kindergarten. Wisdom was not at the top of the graduate-school mountain, but there in the sandpile at Sunday School. These are the things I learned:

Share everything.
Play fair.
Don’t hit people.
Put things back where you found them.
Clean up your own mess.
Don’t take things that aren’t yours.
Say you’re sorry when you hurt somebody.
Wash your hands before you eat.
Flush.
Warm cookies and cold milk are good for you.

Live a balanced life – learn some and think some and draw and paint and sing and dance and play and work every day some.

Take a nap every afternoon.
When you go out into the world, watch out for traffic, hold hands, and stick together.
Be aware of wonder.
Remember the little seed in the styrofoam cup:
The roots go down and the plant goes up and nobody really knows how or why, but we are all like that.
Goldfish and hamsters and white mice and even the little seed in the Styrofoam cup – they all die.
So do we.

And then remember the Dick-and-Jane books and the first word you learned – the biggest word of all – LOOK.

Everything you need to know is in there somewhere. The Golden Rule and love and basic sanitation. Ecology and politics and equality and sane living.

Take any of those items and extrapolate it into sophisticated adult terms and apply it to your family life or your work or your government or your world and it holds true and clear and firm. Think what a better world it would be if all – the whole world – had cookies and milk about three o’clock every afternoon and then lay down with our blankies for a nap. Or if all governments had a basic policy to always put thing back where they found them and to clean up their own mess.

And it is still true, no matter how old you are – when you go out into the world, it is best to hold hands and stick together.

© Robert Fulghum, 1990.
Found in Robert Fulghum, All I Really Need To Know I Learned In Kindergarten Villard Books: New York, 1990, page 6-7.

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Don’t Compete, Create!

Do you believe that life is one big game of competing to get ahead? Do you take the game so seriously that it becomes winning at any cost? Sometimes life looks like the world is filled with an endless path of competition and struggle. From the beginning there’s a challenge to do well in school, then a challenge to find the right career, then a challenge to move up the ladder in your career, then a challenge to keep up with your neighbors, then a challenge to stay healthy, and on and on. Competition appears to be a dominant force. But what if you’ve taken the concept too far? What if there’s a better way to play the game of life that’s much more rewarding?

Consider for a moment the possibility of starting to play the game of life from a standpoint of creating instead of competing. Competing is striving to gain or win something by defeating or establishing superiority over others who are trying to do the same. Conversely, creating is bringing something into existence or causing something to happen as a result of your actions. You could go so far as to say that “to compete” can mean “to destroy” your competitors whereas “to create” can mean “to collaborate” with your so-called competitors.

Focusing on creating brings to mind such action words as building, constructing, promoting, fabricating, fostering, generating, and producing. These words all sound much better than competing in a win-lose game. Creating instead of competing could turn “competitors” into “collaborators.” And if it’s not possible to work with “competitors” perhaps it’s time to avoid them altogether. Instead try working on your own independent ideas that no one else may have considered.

In thinking about this topic over the years, I’ve come to the realization that competing for the sole purpose of winning can be waste of valuable time, and it can leave you with feelings of inferiority through comparison. A person who is competing is often stuck in the trap of comparison. Perhaps Teddy Roosevelt said it best with this idea: “Comparison is the thief of joy.”

Focus on creating instead of competing. Remember that your ultimate competitive advantages are those things that make you unique. No one else can compete with what I call your “Unique Talent™.” Your Unique Talent™ is like a mote around your castle. If you haven’t found your Unique Talent™, keep looking because finding it and using it in the service of others is your gift to give to the world.

Don’t compete, create!