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Is It A Wonderful World?

Is it a wonderful world? What do you think? My answer is yes and no.

It’s hard not to notice that while we live on a beautiful blue island in space, we don’t spend enough time appreciating what we have.

While there have always been conflicts and disagreements on space ship earth, the way we humans seem to be taking opposing sides these days is perhaps more dangerous than ever before, especially given the fact that we have the power to destroy all life on earth in a matter of minutes. Luckily, we also have the power to take care of ourselves and the planet if we can learn to live together.

Thinking about this recently, I remembered something one of my mentors said to me a long time ago. I came across it when I was reading one of my journals the other day, and the idea really came to life again. While having a spirited conversation on all things philosophical, my mentor stopped me dead in my tracks and said: “Robert, you can’t choose sides on a round planet.” It got my attention and got me to shut up and listen. As I think now about what he said, it almost sounds like a Zen koan, don’t you think? If I reframe it as a question that goes like this, “How do you choose sides on a round planet?,  then that’s got to qualify as a Zen koan!

But unfortunately, we are choosing sides more and more. Rather than reach for agreements and partnerships, we tend to want to hold fast to old lines in the sand while we continue to work on drawing new ones. We’ve been playing this no-win game for centuries now and, if you read a bit of history, you can study the results. It’s not a pretty picture.

I confess that I’m an internal optimist and perhaps I’m so naïve as to believe that we are going to figure it all out … but I certainly don’t claim to have the answers. Nevertheless, one thing always seems to ring true for me. We tend to take care of those things that we treasure which brings me to a new addition to my family. My son recently bought a dog from an incredible dog breeder who named the puppy Schatze shortly after she was born. The name literally means “treasure.” While people often like to name their pets themselves, my son loved the name so much that he kept it. I have no doubt that Schatze will be “treasured” by our entire family for many years to come.

As I was playing with Schatze the other day, I had this thought:  What if each of us treated each other with the same respect and playfulness we typically show our pets? That’s an interesting idea, don’t you think? Having a thought like that might help to nudge us all in the right direction.

So why not start treating other people and our planet like the “treasures” that they are? That’s what I did while I played with Schatze and she returned the feelings in kind. We do tend to get back what we put out.

Perhaps this is all getting a bit too philosophical and overly simplistic given the nature our problems; however, I tend to find simple answers to be the most effective. We humans tend to overcomplicate our lives. So let me end this month’s blog by sharing a recording. The song is called “What A Wonderful World” and I know you’ve heard it many times, but have you ever really stopped to listen to it? It was first recorded by Louis Armstrong, in 1967. The words to the song will bring tears to your eyes if you really listen and think about their true meaning.

Here’s the original recording. Listen to Louis Armstrong at his best and see what you think. Does it change the way you feel about the world?

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=21LGv8Cf0us

It certainly affects me in a very deep way. I love the song so much that I enjoy playing it on my saxophone just for fun. I’ve provided an mp3 recording that I did a number of years ago that you might enjoy. It’s not even in the same ballpark as the master Louis Armstrong, and it’s obviously missing those important lyrics that really make it come alive. But it always makes me feel better when I play it. See what you think.

What A Wonderful World.mp3

The good news is that I’m working on another version based on the three things I focus on in life: (1) Studying, (2) Practicing, and (3) Teaching.  I’m committed to getting better, and I know you are as well or you wouldn’t be reading this blog. Just make sure you are studying, practicing, and teaching whatever fascinates you the most in life while surrounding yourself with people who want to grow and improve and build a better life and a better world just like you do.

For me, the bottom-line is this: Our best is yet to come. Don’t let anyone convince you otherwise.

Now make it a great day because IT CAN BE A WONDERFUL WORLD. The choice is up to each of us.

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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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The Miracle Formula

If a miracle is a surprising, welcome, improbable or extraordinary event, and we don’t fully grasp how it works, then call me a believer. In fact, I’ll go so far as to say there’s a formula you can use to create miracles if you’re interested in such things.

Try this simple equation to construct a miracle in your life:

Imagination + Faith + Labor = Miracle

It probably looks overly simplistic but I’m willing to argue that it works.

Let’s look at each step of the equation. The first step is IMAGINATION or being able to visualize something that you want to bring about in your life. This would be a goal or desire you have or a certain condition or event that you want to bring about in the world. It’s possible that what you are imagining has never been accomplished by anyone and has never existed before on planet earth. Do you have something in your imagination that you’d like to make real?

Once you have something in mind, ask yourself this question: Do I believe this is possible? In other words, do I have FAITH that what I desire can become real in the world? That’s step two. I would say that if you don’t have faith, the chance of creating a miracle is slim to none.

However, if you have both imagination and faith, is that enough to create a miracle? I say no. There is something else that is required. That’s step three. It’s the very thing that most people don’t want to acknowledge. The simple word to describe what’s needed next is LABOR. Lots of hard work or labor. Sweat, long hours, dedication, perseverance, resolve, commitment, etc. You get the idea. This is the hardest part. But it’s also the part that most people leave out of the equation. Having imagination and faith without labor doesn’t produce great results, let alone miracles.

Even if you’re a genius, I don’t think you will get around the ‘work’ part of the formula. Let me give you an example by sharing this story. I’ll never forget traveling to Italy and encountering, for the first time, one of the world’s most famous sculptures. As I walked to the end of a hallway of statues, I was stunned by the sheer size when I saw the 17-foot statue of Michelangelo’s David towering above me. As I walked around it, it was amazing to see the craftsmanship and attention-to-detail, right down to the chiseled veins in David’s hands and the almost perfectly depicted anatomy from top to bottom.

It doesn’t seem possible that a person working by himself could create something so magnificent. But, of course, Michelangelo was a genius, and that’s what a genius can do. Except that Michelangelo’s genius alone did not create the David. It was his hard work and labor that were necessary to bring into existence this ‘work’ of art. Long days and nights of painstaking labor brought Michelangelo’s imagination and faith into reality as the miracle that is the David. That’s the fourth and final step of the equation. Michelangelo created what he thought about and made it real in the world so anyone could experience it. He used his imagination, faith and labor to create a miracle.

Let’s not forget that the tools used to create the David were rudimentary at best. Michelangelo primarily used a hammer and a chisel. He had no power tools or finishing sanders. He used the tools of the time combined with years of hard work.

If you haven’t yet studied the life of Michelangelo, and the enormous efforts he put into his works of art, I would highly recommend it. Then consider making the trip to Florence to see the David for yourself. And if you have the time, travel to the Louvre Museum in Paris to gaze directly at the Mona Lisa and some of Michelangelo’s other miraculous works of art. Just don’t miss the chance to see the David. It is an extraordinary achievement that shows how the formula “Imagination + Faith + Labor = Miracle.” It will remind you never to forget the all-important ‘labor’ part of the equation.

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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:

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“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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Hits of Happiness

I recently googled “how to be happy” and got 3.7 billion hits. Then for fun I googled “how to be unhappy” and only got 82.7 million hits. I found that interesting. Does that mean there are more ways to be happy than unhappy or are there simply more websites devoted to happiness than there are websites devoted to unhappiness? In either case, there are undoubtedly more people searching for happiness than unhappiness.

My question is how many hits of happiness are you getting in life? Are you getting billions of hits of happiness with only a few hits of unhappiness or is it the reverse? Interestingly, in reading through some of the websites, I found the first few hits on the unhappiness list to be most helpful.

The pursuit of happiness is a universal quest, and even an obsession for some. Of course, I think happiness is what most people aspire to experience. However, reviewing what creates unhappiness may be the best way to focus your thinking.

Here’s a short list I found that makes experiencing unhappiness quite easy:

  1. Buy things you can’t afford or don’t want. Either choice is a sure fit for unhappiness. When you buy things you can’t afford, you go into debt, which limits the other choices available to you. When you buy things you don’t want, you lie to yourself about the real source of your unhappiness.
  2. Compare yourself to others. The love of comparison is the root of much misery. Therefore, judge your success or worth based on other people, especially those with a different background from you. Do this on a continual basis, always looking for a new idol or competitor in which your ideal unhappiness lies.
  3. Take no joy in the journey. Focus only on the destination without appreciating the ride. Fail to celebrate small successes, and neglect to pause for reflection on how far you’ve come.
  4. Respond instead of initiate. Take no responsibility for your schedule or preferences. Let other people set the agenda for your life. Take the lead for your schedule from your Inbox, voicemail, or someone else’s demands.
  5. Allow other people to determine your values and priorities. Set no compass point for your life. Drift in the wind. For best results, allow your values and priorities to shift as you waver between bosses or role models.
  6. Refuse to challenge yourself. Take it easy and settle into routine. Choose to believe that all stress is bad and seek to live as relaxed a life as possible.
  7. Whine and complain to anyone who will listen. Explain how the world isn’t fair and how you would do things differently if you were in charge. Bonus: this practice also allows you to contribute to other people’s unhappiness.
  8. Focus only on yourself. Refuse to forgive. Hold on to grudges. See the worst in people.
  9. Accept things as they are no matter how unsettling they might seem. It could always be worse, right? Live in the complacency of your situation and refuse to fight for something better.

That’s a great list. If you want to see the entire blog post, I’ve included the link below.

What’s most important is to make sure that your daily hits of happiness are higher than your hits of unhappiness. That simple list just might help.

Finally, I thought I’d round out the list to an even 10 with just one more:

  1. Refuse to develop your gifts or use them to serve others. Don’t work on developing those things that you enjoy and that fascinate you in life. Don’t explore who you are at the deepest level, and don’t work on becoming the best version of you. The bottomline: Don’t discover and find your Unique Talent™! That will lead to unhappiness. I promise.

 

Source:  https://chrisguillebeau.com/unhappy/

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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!

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Studying Your Beliefs

The process uncovering and shaping your beliefs is never-ending. I think it’s a healthy and worthwhile endeavor. Have you ever taken the time to write down your beliefs so you can really study and examine them? This is one of the exercises that I do in my journal from time to time. As we grow and mature, it’s natural to question old beliefs and sometimes change or modify them.

In order to keep challenging my beliefs in an effort to improve them, I’m constantly reading what other people have to say on the subject. I have a long list of authors who have influenced me greatly. I recently came across Will Durant’s short essay titled “This I Believe” that I think you’ll enjoy reading. It’s an amazing example of how a great writer and thinker clarified his beliefs into a succinct statement. Will Durant, a highly regarded American writer, historian, and philosopher, became best known for his work “The Story of Civilization.” The groundbreaking work includes eleven volumes that were published between 1935 and 1975. Many were written in collaboration with his wife, Ariel. Will Durant also wrote many other books including his first best-seller “The Story of Philosophy” and my personal favorite, “The Lesson’s of History.” I’ve learned a great deal from his writings over the years.

The Durants were awarded a Pulitzer Prize for General Non-Fiction in 1968 and the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1977. Below is a copy of the essay on beliefs that Will Durant wrote after a lifetime of serious study and reflection. No matter what you believe, I think you’ll find Durant’s essay worth reading and thinking about.

It’s not necessary that you believe what Will Durant chose to believe. What’s important is to decide for yourself what you believe. I have a rule that I never tell anyone else what to believe. I’d rather ask others to tell me what they believe. Then I ask them what they think the consequences will be from having those beliefs. I also love this question: Is what you believe good for you, good for others, and does it serve the greater good?

Using Will Durant’s essay as a model, create your own “This I Believe” statement. Save it and then see if it evolves over time.

* * * * *

THIS I BELIEVE

by

Will Durant

I find in the Universe so many forms of order, organization, system, law and adjustment of means to ends, that I believe in a cosmic intelligence and I conceive God as the life, mind, order and law of the world.

I do not understand my God, and I find in nature and history many instances of apparent evil, disorder, cruelty and aimlessness. But I realize that I see these with a very limited vision and that they might appear quite otherwise from a cosmic point of view. How can an infinitesimal part of the universe understand the whole? We are drops of water trying to understand the sea.

I believe that I am the product of a natural evolution. The logic of evolution seems to compel determinism, but I cannot overcome my direct consciousness of a limited freedom of will. I believe that if I could see any form of matter from within as I can see myself through introspection, I should find in all forms of matter something akin to what in ourselves is mind and freedom. I define “virtue” as any quality that makes for survival, but as the survival of the group is more important than the survival of the average individual, the highest virtues are those that make for group survival: love, sympathy, kindliness, cooperation. If my life lived up to my ideals, I would combine the ethics of Confucius and Christ; the virtues of a developing individual with those of a member of a group.

I was a Socialist in my youth and sympathized with the Soviet regime until I visited Russia in 1932. What I saw there led me to deprecate the extension of that system to any other land. Experience and history have taught me the instinctive basis and economic necessity of competition and private property. I’m not so fanatical a worshipper of liberty as some of my radical or conservative friends; when liberty exceeds intelligence it begets chaos; which begets dictatorship. We had too much economic liberty in the later nineteenth century due to our free land and our relative exemption from external danger. We have too much moral liberty today, due to increasing wealth and diminishing religious belief. The age of liberty is ending under the pressure of external dangers; the freedom of the part varies with the security of the whole.

I do not resent the conflicts and difficulties of life. In my case, they have been far outweighed by good fortune, reasonable health, loyal friends and a happy family life. I have met so many good people that I have almost lost my faith in the wickedness of mankind.

I suspect that when I die I shall be dead. I would look upon endless existence as a curse as did the Flying Dutchman and the Wandering Jew. Death is life’s greatest invention; perpetually replacing the worn with the new. And after twenty volumes, it will be sweet to sleep.

Source: http://will-durant.com/believe.htm

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When Self-Help is No Help

Although self-help principles and concepts can be enormously useful in helping you change your life for the better, I believe there are limits to how much you can achieve using self-help. Granted, you and you alone can do incredible things to improve your life. Nevertheless, you may find that depending solely on your own devices is not always the best path. Self-help can sometimes be wrought with built-in limits.

One limit in the area of mental health involves conditions like anxiety, depression, post-traumatic stress, and a host of other challenges. I shutter to think about the number of times I’ve heard and witnessed well-meaning self-help or personal development authors or speakers delve into areas where they lack the proper knowledge or training. I’m sure you’ve heard self-help “gurus” prescribe vacuous success quips and pollyannaish nonsense in situations where medical help would be the best answer.

I’ve had clients over the years where it was clear to me the challenges they were facing ran much deeper than finding your life’s purpose, changing your beliefs, setting goals that are attainable, reaching more financial success, or developing new strategies for your life and business. This is when self-help or life coaching may not be the right approach. Some problems require medical assistance, and  it’s important to recognize the difference and always err on the side of caution. Let’s use depression as an example as it comes up frequently.

Depression comes in many forms but let’s just consider two broad categories: (1) situational depression, and (2) clinical depression. As the name states, situational depression is situation based. Something has happened in your life that is a short-term, stress-type issue. Maybe something bad has happened and you need to find a healthy way to process it. Perhaps you need to change the situation or just change the way you think about the situation. Self-help, or a bit of coaching, might be useful in this case. So far, so good.

However, what if your depressed mood doesn’t get better in a few days? What if the situation gets better but your depression continues? It’s possible that you’ve stepped into the world of clinical depression.

Here’s an except from Medical News Today:

“Clinical depression is more severe than situational depression. It is also known as major depression or major depressive disorder. It is severe enough to interfere with daily life.”

“It is classified as a mood disorder and it typically involves chemical imbalances in the brain.”

“Clinical depression can have genetic origins or it may develop as a response to painful or stressful experiences or events, such as a major loss. These major life events can trigger negative emotions such as anger, disappointment, or frustration.”

“Depression can change the way a person thinks and how the body works.”

“Alcohol and drug abuse are also linked to clinical depression.”

Since the lines between situational and clinical depression can get blurry, I can understand why people can be confused. But again, it’s always best to err on the side of caution. If you are experiencing depression and it’s been more than a few days, stop the self-help and go get the right medical help.

I’m especially attuned to this topic because there is a history of mental health issues in my family. My mother suffered from depression and anxiety. My father battled substance abuse. And I lost one of my brothers, Paul, on Thanksgiving Day in 2015 as a result of his mental health challenges. His condition was so severe that he tried to take his own life several times. He finally decided to declare himself DNR (“Do Not Resuscitate”) and then refused to take his medications and also refused to eat or drink. Death was more appealing to Paul than the pain of living. So this issue is very real to me.

Are you experiencing any mental health challenges that are out of the reach of the latest self-help book, or a new-to-the-scene motivational speaker, or an exciting life coach? If self-help or pop-psychology isn’t working, the sooner you get medical help the better. Remember that all improvement begins by telling yourself the truth. So how are you doing, and how are you feeling? No, really, how are you feeling? The healing starts with the truth.

No matter what problems you may be facing, there is help available. Maybe a great life coach is all you need to help you see yourself from the outside looking in. Just make sure you choose the right person for your situation. We are all too close to ourselves to really see ourselves as we really are. Shakespeare captured this idea best when he wrote:

“The eye sees not itself but by reflection or of some other means.”

So get the right person to give you both an outside look and an inside look if necessary. Make sure that, if you need a complete inside look, you get the right professional with the best medical training. New discoveries are being made everyday. Never lose sight of help that might be closer than you think with your family and friends. Tell your family and friends how you feel, and always remember to keep the faith. The help you need is available, and it’s within reach.