10 Stoic Principles – How to live life to the fullest

Outside of my mentors and defining moments, books have accelerated my learning both professionally and personally, and I truly believe that reading is the single most important thing you can do to better yourself. In light of this, on Monday’s I will be reviewing a book that has impacted me.

Today’s book is Everything Has Two Handles: The Stoic’s Guide to the Art of Living by Ronald Pies.

Brief Summary:

Ronald Pies is Professor of Psychiatry and Lecturer on Bioethics and Humanities at S.U.N.Y Upstate Medical University, N.Y. along with being Editor in Chief of the Psychiatric Times, author of several textbooks, short stories, poems.
Ronald’s book shares with us principles from the ancient Stoics. He utilizes specific quotes and stories from Epictetus, Seneca, and Marcus Aurelius who are three of the founding fathers of Stoicism. The writings of these three men can be difficult to understand, so Ronald does a great job of putting his own thoughts around each of the lessons taught by these men. I like to think of this book a modern-day guide to implementing stoic principles in your life. Today, I share with you the 10 principles I took away from the book.

Principles I learned from the book:

Things do not touch the soul

Think about a time when you have been upset. Ask yourself was it your opinion of those external events that caused you to be upset or the actual event itself. The Stoics would say the former. Others might disagree which is fine. It would be borderline crazy to think that we can indeed control the way we feel, but the Stoics believe that we have much more influence over our emotions then we are led to believe.
When feeling frustrated or upset follow this ancient stoic practice: Ask yourself how important is this issue going to be hundreds of years from now? The answer is probably not very likely. It is only your perception of the problem that makes you feel as if it is important. As referenced in the book Shakespeare once wrote in his play Hamlet “There is nothing good or bad, but thinking makes it so.”

Don’t be bewildered by appearances

This is the classic line “Don’t judge a book by its cover.” The ancient stoics urge us to see beyond and beneath our first impressions of anything. Be careful not to instantly make a judgment. Take a step back. Think it through, and remember that the other person might be dealing with something that might be causing you to misinterpret them.

If you once gain time for thought, you will more easily command yourself

Have you ever jumped to a conclusion about something and you realized you were wrong? Happens all the time. Sometimes it is as simple as taking a deep breath, processing the information and then deciding on what to do next.

Death creates meaning

The Stoics saw no difference in “the one who lives longest” and “the one who will die soonest.” Our society thinks in terms longevity, not depth and quality of life which leads us to believe that we have time. It is the reason you think you can start that diet tomorrow, or push that goal back a day or so. The stoics remind themselves of this: Hundreds of thousands of years from now, how big of a difference will it matter whether you lived 20 years or 100 years. People do not remember you for how much time you spent with them, but the impact you made on them. So in short, your time is valuable. Live each day like it is your last.

The art of living resembles wrestling more than dancing

Why would you want to wrestle with life vs. dance with it? Marcus Aurelius teaches that we must always be prepared for whatever comes in our way whether good or bad. As you know, life can be diffucult at times. And what can make it even more difficult is our society’s obsession to praise the winners and quickly forget about the losers. It all comes down to perception. We see the champions dancing at the end, but we never got to witness the wrestling they went through. So, if you want to live a good life follow Marcus’s advice don’t be afraid to wrestle with both the good and bad of every situation.

Focus on what you can control

“Be not disgusted, nor discouraged, nor dissatisfied, if you do not succeed in doing everything according to the right principles; but when you have failed, return back again – Marcus Aurelius

“If you work at that which is before you, following right reason seriously…calmly, without allowing anything else to distract you, but keeping your divine part pure….if you hold to this, expecting nothing, fearing nothing, but satisfied with your present activities according to nature…you will live happily” – Marcus Aurelius

Before you decide to start something, don’t think about failure. Think about everything that is in your control. If you follow through on the parts you control, then you can’t fail. You either are satisfied, or you learn where you can improve.

Live in the here and now

As the Stoics would say, You can’t change the past. You can’t control the future. But you can learn from your past and help dictate a better future by living in the now. This is what a day one mindset is all about. You get an opportunity every morning to reset your life.
“Finish each day and be done with it. You have done what you could; some blunders and absurdities have crept in; forget them as soon as you can. Tomorrow is a new day; you shall begin it serenely and with too high a spirit to be encumbered with your old nonsense.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

We must first achieve self-love and self-sufficiency

In our society, we tend to blur the lines between what we want and what we need. According to the ancient Stoics, to truly find happiness in life, we must realize the difference between the two. As Seneca puts it, ” What is my object in making a friend.” Do I need to have a friend, or do I want to have a friend? The difference between the two will determine how you go about a friendship with someone depending if you believe you need or want that friendship.

Remember, someone is always dealing with it worse

Straightforward practice here. When every you feel mad or upset about anything remember that someone is probably dealing with a worse situation.
“Seneca imagines nature saying to us, “ Those things you grumble about are the same for everyone. I can give no one anything any easier. But anyone who likes may make them easier for himself. How? By viewing them equanimity.”
If you can not control or fix it, then don’t worry about it.

Everything has two handles

Marcus Aurelius believed that we control two things: our attitude and behavior. In any situation bad or good you must realize that no one is stopping you from acting with kindness, gratitude, or integrity. You control what you do next. We are always faced with two choices or how the Stoics saw it: two handles. You can choose to view the situation as positive, or you can choose to view the situation as negative. You always have a choice. Its up to you to decide which handle you choose.

How has this book impacted me?

The last few years I have been on a journey to understand what truly makes someone a great leader. I have sifted through many biographies and researched a ton of past and present leaders. The most common theme I found is that they all studied or were very familiar with the ancient philosophy of stoicism. It amazed me. Some of them were natural leaders, and some learned how to be leaders. But at the end of the day they are not any different than you and I. They just simply followed principles like the ones you read above. I am sure as you read them you thought to yourself, “Wow. This is common sense.” I thought the same thing at first. Then, I thought to myself how many of these principles am I actually following on a daily basis. The answer was zero. I decided to change that and try my best to implement as many of them as I could. It has changed the way I think and live my life. I challenge you to truly try to apply one of the principles above. You will be shocked by the results.
Now, Wake Up! It’s Day One. “Let us rise up and be thankful, for if we didn’t learn a lot today, at least we learned a little, and if we didn’t learn a little, at least we didn’t get sick; and if we got sick, at least we didn’t die; so let us be thankful.” – Ronald Pies

Learn how to become a modern stoic here

All We Got Is Time

As we continue on our journey to reaching our potential, we must remember, it is not about what has happened to you, where you came from, how long you have been here or where you are at today. It’s about what happens next and what you did with what happens to you and how you deal with what you are given. No matter who you are we are all given a time limit the day we were born. We can’t hide or run from it. We must embrace it. We must be ready to take action on every opportunity we get. To help me along the way I utilize these four simple principles as a guide to keep me moving forward.

Life is a marathon, not a sprint

As human we tend to be  A and Z thinkers, we obsess over how to start, and then we dream about what the end result will be. This type of thinking naturally leads us to neglect B thru Y.  From time to time, it will be important to remember “why” you started and where you want to end up, but we must not forget reaching your end goal is always is a process of many small things completed over an extended period of time. It is vital that you give B thru y some love. How do you do this? It is simple.

Instead, break up the task at hand into small pieces. Do what you need to do right now. Accomplish that thing. Then, move on to the next thing.

Never stop moving forward

The most straightforward and easy habit to form is reminding yourself constantly of what you control. Whenever you feel the emotion of anger, frustration, or thought of giving up remind yourself you are in control.

  1. Take a deep breath.
  2. Look at the situation objectively. It is what it is.
  3. Ask yourself what do I control?
  4. How or what do I need to solve this?
  5. Now, move forward.

Embrace failure

Here is the thing, you can never create a plan that can prepare you for trying. You just have to do it. The amount of time you spend talking about your plan vs. actually taking action on your plan will end in you living a life full of regret. The best part about trying is that no matter what it will lead you to two outcomes:

  1. You fail. We learn the task or idea we thought was possible was not.

What action can we take:

Ask yourself: What went wrong here? What am I missing? What can be improved?

  1. You succeed. We learn that the task or idea we thought was possible was.

What action can we take:

Ask yourself: What went right here? How can I improve? How can I maintain it?

Guess What? Life goes on and no matter the outcome you learned. If you failed great. If you succeeded great. At least you know you tried. Remember, nobody ever regrets trying.

Don’t be afraid to ask yourself the tough questions

One of the ancient stoics practices is to remind yourself of this question: how important is this moment or issue hundreds of year from now? The answer is… probably not very important. Sadly, what you do today may or may not have any impact in the future. The fact is time will continue to march forward with or without you.

Depending on how you look at it you might feel the exact opposite of taking action. However,  the stoics posed this question to themselves to make them truly understand who they really were and allow themselves to fully believe in what they were supposed to do. It forced them to ask even more profound questions which can answer the most underlying reasons for why we choose to do anything in our lives: Why are you here? What is the point? What is the purpose? Why wake up today?

These questions are simple, but yet so difficult for people to answer. Why? Most of us are afraid to find the answer.

Good thing it’s day one.

 

How to Manage Your Ego

Outside of my mentors and defining moments, books have accelerated my learning both professionally and personally, and I truly believe that reading is the single most important thing you can do to better yourself. In light of this, on Monday’s I will be reviewing a book that has impacted me.

Today’s book is Ego is the Enemy by Ryan Holiday.

Brief Summary:

Ryan Holiday is an accomplished author, entrepreneur, and marketer. He is most recognized for his work as the head of marketing for American apparel and is very popular for his blog: ryanholiday.net.

Ryan shares with us stories from people who reached the highest level of success and how their egos either made them or destroyed them. He claims that there is three stages of your career: Aspire, Success, Failure. No matter whether you are early in your career, a super successful professional, or finding yourself failing at the moment, your ego will be there. Ryan shares with us how you can combat it at each stage of your life and turn it into one of your biggest assets.

Things I learned from this book:

Aspire – How to manage your ego while you aspire to be great

Talk Less:

How many people do you know who regularly talk about these big ideas or big goals they have? Or say I am going to do this? Or this is such a great idea? Where are those people today? Are they are actually following through on what they said? The answer for most is no. In the early stages of a career, or idea our ego makes us think that talking is more powerful, then silence and action. The issue is while you are talking up a storm telling everyone how great your idea is, the other person is working, learning, and taking action.

To be or To do:

This is a straightforward and compelling question. Do you want to BE something or do you want to DO something? Yes, there is a difference. And it’s a big one. When it is said and done, you will be remembered for what you did NOT what you said you were going to do. Pretty easy to guess which answer your ego will tell you to go with.

Become a Student:

A great way to keep your ego in check is to always be learning. I will leave you with a quote from Epictetus (Ancient Stoic) and additional thoughts from Ryan Holiday:

“It is impossible to learn what one thinks they already know” – Epictetus

“You cant learn if you think you already know. You will not find the answers if you’re too conceited and self-assured to ask the questions. You can not get better if you are convinced you are the best.” – Ryan Holiday

Have a purpose

“Passion is about. I am so passionate about X.”

“Purpose is to and for. I must do X. I was put here to accomplish X. I am willing to endure for the sake of X.”

If you believe you are truly an ambitious person, then ask yourself: Do you feel excited about what you do or do you feel like that this is what you are supposed to do?

Early Pride

Every night before he went to bed John D. Rockefeller wrote to himself in his diary. Here is one of the many entries:

“Because you have a got a start. You think you are quite a merchant, look out, or you will lose your head – go steady.”

Success – How to manage your ego when you made it

Keep learning

Success is a double edge sword. Our ego loves to feast on success whenever it gets the chance. It is so easy to fall into this trap of forgetting what made you successful. All that hard work, hours spent, and constant learning helped you reach your success, not pure talent.

When we reach success, we can go one of two ways. We will either strive to continue to learn and improve, accept harsh feedback. Or we will always assume “We know the way.”

“No matter what you have done to this point. You better be a student. If you are still not learning, you are already dying.”

What is important to you?

“According to Seneca (Ancient Stoic), the Greek word euthymia is one we should think of often: it is the sense of our own path and how to stay on it without getting distracted by all the others that intersect it. In other words, it’s not about beating the other guy. It’s not about having more than others. It’s about being what you are, and being as good as possible at it, without succumbing to all the things that draw you away from it. It’s about going where you set out to go.” – Ryan Holiday

Failure – How to manage your ego when shit hits the fan

Effort is good enough

In our society winning is everything. We only remember and celebrate the champions. This is what can make failing so difficult for so many. When we fail we feel as if it was not worth it to even try. Next time, remind your ego that if you gave your full effort that is good enough.

Maintain your own scorecard

The best part about failure is that no matter how much you succeed you will always learn the most from failing. The most celebrated minds to ever walk this planet have one secret weapon that most humans fail to utilize. Their internal scorecard. We all have one. It is simply how we perceive success through our own eyes. When you face failure, your ego will try to take over, but you always can fight back. Just turn to your internal scorecard.

Always love

You failed a test. You failed to hit your quota. Your business idea failed. You lost your job. The best response is to the find the positive in everything. I know its hard, but at least try to laugh at it all. Anger never solves anything. Life is short, don’t take everything so seriously.

Alive or Dead Time

Robert Greene who mentored Ryan Holiday taught him there are two different types of time. Alive or Dead. Dead time is when you are sitting passive, accomplishing nothing. Alive time is when you are learning, and growing. Every time we are faced with failure or self-doubt we are presented with a choice on how we spend our time. Alive or Dead. You might not control the situation, but you do control your choice on how you spend your time.

How this book has impacted me:

This book made me realize two things: We all have an ego, and your ego is a very powerful tool that can help you achieve success in life. The term ego has a negative connotation, but honestly, ego is neither good or bad. To me, your ego is simply knowing who you are, but it should never define you. There is nothing wrong with believing in yourself or feeling special. I believe that is important. You are unique, so you might as well show off your talents. Just make sure you keep it all in check.
To ensure you do remember this:

“Training is like sweeping the floor. Just because we ‘ve done it once, doesn’t mean the floor is clean forever. Every day the dust comes back. Every day we must sweep.”

Now Wake Up! It’s Day One. I believe that this book is one of the most important books of our generation. Please read it.

From the Greens to Technology Sales: How to Stay Elite – Guest Post By Elite Caddy Brett

My Boss, and good friend, Jeff Brandwein approached me about doing a guest appearance on his Blog– Wake Up! It’s Day One. Naturally, I had no idea what I was going to write about at first. What expert am I? Why would anyone listen to me? I started thinking about what others think of me, and something people call me a lot is “Elite Caddy.” Silly, I know. They’re partially making fun of me because that’s my Instagram handle. But to be honest, it also means a great deal to me. I was an Elite Caddy at one of America’s top 100 golf courses for the better part of a decade. I was one of the best. I figured I would share the principles that made me one of the best, that made me Elite. 

If You’re Not 5 Minutes Early, You’re 10 Minutes Late

This is something my Grandfather said to me all the time, and it stuck. I hate being late to anything, especially things that are work-related. Being early shows you care, it shows that you’re willing to work harder than the others, and in return, you often reap the rewards. Simple concept, right? In my case, being early showed the head pro that I was reliable, and I was rewarded by getting assigned better groups to caddy for, and in return making more money.

Do Something Different

Yes, every Caddy can clean a golf club. Every Caddy can rake a bunker, or give yardage. But what I did differently from every other Caddy is that I knew more about the history of the golf course than everyone. Guests and members love that stuff, and this allowed me to create the best member/guest experience possible. This was another thing that allowed me to establish myself as one of the best.

Act As If Someone Is Always Watching

Think about it. You almost always act better when you know someone is watching you. Why not act like that all the time? I can remember back to a day of cleaning out the golf carts all by myself after an outing. The golf outing had been over for about an hour, the sun was setting, and every other Caddy had left by this point. But there I was, cleaning carts alone. After finishing, I was walking to my car to go home when the head pro gave me a call and told me I was working the next day for the best member. I didn’t really know why I was given this opportunity until he ended the call saying “and thanks for cleaning the carts, good work.” He had been watching the whole time.

Although I’m no longer an active Elite Caddy, I still carry these three principles with me today. I’m now in sales at a great company here in Chicago, and these are things I implement on a daily basis. So, what do you do for a living? How can you get better? How can you be Elite?

Good thing it’s Day One.

How to Go From Good to Great to Unstoppable – Lessons from Tim Grover

Outside of my mentors and defining moments, books have accelerated my learning both professionally and personally, and I truly believe that reading is the single most important thing you can do to better yourself.  In light of this, on Monday’s I will be reviewing a book that has impacted me.

Today’s Book is Relentless: From Good to Great to Unstoppable by Tim S. Grover with Shari Lesser Wenk.

Brief Summary:

Tim Grover is a personal athletic trainer and founder of Attack Athletics. He is most recognized for his personal training for Michael Jordan, Dwayne Wade, and Kobe Bryant among other world-class athletes. 

In his book, Tim shares with us his stories training and working with some of the greatest athletes in the world. The book centers around his most well-known clients Jordan, Kobe, and Dwade three of the most fierce and competitive athletes we have ever witnessed. He starts by explaining the fact that there are three types of people in the world: Coolers, Closers, and Cleaners. To become a cleaner, you must develop specific traits which he lays out in the book he calls them the Relentless 13.  Today, I will share with you the six I found most impactful: 

Things I learned from this book:

Three types of people Coolers, Closers, and Cleaners:

  • Coolers:
    • This type of person will do the job that they are given. They will never go above and beyond. Their desired result will be satisfactory, and they find no reason to push themselves any harder to achieve the next level.  
  • Closers:
    • Closers are a step above coolers. You can count on them to get the job done, but only in specific situations. They are really good at specific things, and will always perform well in situations they feel comfortable in.
  • Cleaners:
    • This type of person is in relentless pursuit of their end result. They know exactly where they want to go, and spend very little time thinking. Countless hours are spent preparing and training to be the best at their specific skill sets. No matter the situation, or issues that arise you can always count on them achieving their desired result. 

Traits of a Cleaner:

You keep pushing yourself harder when everyone has had enough

When it comes to exercising you most likely spend your time in the gym trying to increase your physical strength. Tim has spent most of his career training with MJ. He is very clear that the difference between MJ and everyone else was not his pure physical talents. What separates MJ was his non-stop training working his mind. Being physically gifted can make you great, but being more mentally fit then your peers is what makes you ultimately unstoppable.

Every day, you have to do something you don’t want to do. Every day. Challenge yourself to be uncomfortable, push past the apathy and laziness and fear. Otherwise, the next day you’re going to have two things you don’t want to do, then three, four, and five and pretty soon, you can’t even get back to the first thing. And then all you can do is beat yourself up for the mess you’ve created, and now you’ve got a mental barrier to go along with the physical barriers. 

– Tim Grover

You know exactly who you are

This trait is all about the practice of thinking less and just doing. It is so easy for us to get distracted by others, and worry about what they are doing. Like I mentioned in my last post, most of us live in this world of measurement constantly competing with others and measuring our abilities to see how we compare. 

Even if you practiced for hours trying to make sure you are prepared for every outcome you still ask yourself: I am doing something wrong? Was this how it is supposed to go? Did I do better than the other person? These questions race through your mind while the other person is running past you trusting that all the hard work and practice will guide them. 

You’re not intimidated by pressure, you thrive on it

When you feel pressure or stress, it makes you know that you are alive. When you are alive, you feel. And at the end of the day how you feel is everything.

Directly quoted from Tim because I could not say it any better:

Pressure can bust pipes, but it can also make diamonds. If you take the negative view, it will crush you, now you’re in an “I can’t do this” frame of mind. But the positive view is that pressure is a challenge that will define you; it gives you the opportunity to see how much you can take, how hard you can go. Everyone wants to cut back on stress because stress kills. I say bullshit. Stress is what brings you to life. Let it motivate you, make you work harder. Use it, don’t run from it. When it makes you uncomfortable, so what? The payoff is worth it. Work through the discomfort, you’ll survive. And then go back for more.

– Tim Grover

When everyone is hitting “In Case of Emergency Button” they are looking for you

The most ultimate competitor have absolutely no fear of failure. Cleaners don’t waste time thinking positively. They just keep moving forward knowing they have trust in themselves to do the right thing. All the hard work and preparation you put into your craft allows you to let go of any insecurities or fears to go full speed ahead.

You don’t compete with anyone you find your opponents weakness, and you attack

The mindset here is simple: Get on my level or get out of the way. We will win with or without you. These are the words that were said by MJ to Rodman when he joined the Bulls in the 90’s. So my advice, if you want to be like Mike, then start thinking like him.

You don’t celebrate your achievements because you always want more

Done. Next. A cleaners favorite words. I am still working every day to become a cleaner, but I share a similar thought process. If you are one of my reps, you know when you close a deal my first question is “What’s Next.” 

For some, they might believe this is what leads to burnout. To me, this means that you are always trying to learn and grow. Just because you excelled at one thing doesn’t mean you can’t stop learning how to do it better. Until you reach your end result, you should never be satisfied.

How this book has impacted me:

This book taught me that I am on the right path. I felt good about my mindset, but this book takes it to the next level. And it is a constant reminder of what I already know to be true: mental fitness is more critical than physical fitness.  I have studied Jordan’s coach, read his bio, and now studied his personal trainer. Each of them tells me the same thing: The difference between MJ and his competition was his mindset. 

That tells me everything I need to know and do. 

Now, Wake Up! It’s Day one. What’s your choice? If your choice is to be great today, then I would highly recommend reading this book: Buy it here.

 

Playbook for Success – From One Millennial to Another – Guest Post by Kyle Maynard

Before I begin, I just want to thank Jeff for asking me to guest write for his blog. I’ve met a lot of people and worked with several individuals in my relatively short time on this Earth. If there is ANYONE who can motivate you to WAKE UP with a DAY ONE mentality…it’s Jeff Brandwein.

The point I want to make in this post can be summarized in two key themes. First, never trick yourself into thinking that where you come from determines where you’re going. And second, we are all capable of success, it’s your willingness to get serious and your ability to take the necessary steps that will ultimately get you there. Nothing in this post is groundbreaking by any stretch of the word; simply a set of principles and guidelines that I have applied to my life to get ahead.

Who am I?

My name is Kyle Maynard. I am a 25-year-old sales representative at a SaaS startup in Chicago. I come from a very small town called Cicero, Indiana with a population size of just under 6,000 people. Everybody knows everybody and not many people make it out of that bubble. Even though it was a very safe and comfortable place to grow up, I always knew I wanted something more. At 18, confused and eager, I graduated high school and started my collegiate career at Purdue University. Fast forward to 2015, and here I am; a young professional with not a clue what I was doing.

Since I can remember, I was told the same thing from all my elders: “do well in school, go to college, get a job, support your family, and you will be successful.” I also remember thinking to myself, “easier said than done.” These things can most definitely lead you to success, but how in the hell are you supposed to accomplish those things? And more importantly, is this even the path I want to take? This is an age-old tale and will always be a part of life we must go through.

I recently had a conversation with my brother, who is an extremely intelligent and talented 17-year-old. He has started to explore what he wants to do with his life and is struggling with finding what best suits his interests and strengths. It is a concerning time for him because he feels that the world hasn’t yet prepared him properly for what lies ahead and how to choose his path. What I tried to stress is that the world will never prepare you fully; unfortunately, you must struggle and make mistakes to figure it out. I had to figure this out the hard way, just as many of you had to. When I entered Purdue as a freshman, I learned very quickly that I was not prepared for what lied ahead. High school came so easy to me that I didn’t realize the amount of grit, preparation, and time-management that was demanded of me to succeed. Furthermore, it took me at least a year and a half to figure out what I was actually interested in pursuing as a major. This was a huge setback, as I switched majors twice. However, I finally recognized the importance of taking it seriously and laying out a game plan and took the necessary steps to get on the right path.

Here are the 5 things I have learned so far:

Find your “Somewhere”

We all have heard the phrase, “everyone’s gotta start somewhere.” This has been engraved on our brains since birth. The problem that most of us struggle with is, “where is my somewhere”? To start, you must first understand what you are chasing. Whether that is to own a three-story house, to be CEO of your own company, to become a famous athlete or musician, or to just be happy in life; you HAVE to determine what makes you get up in the morning in order to chase it.

Now sit down, take 20 minutes, and make a list of your top three goals. Don’t think intensively – just close your eyes and think of the first three things that come to mind. Write them down.

Goals vs. Commitments

Now that you have defined a few key goals or aspirations you would like to reach, it’s time to build on that. The first thing to recognize is that your goals CAN and WILL change. That is okay. However, it’s very effective to set annual goals to keep yourself on track. I prefer 3 personal and 3 professional goals. What’s crucial before laying these out is that you understand the difference between a “goal” and a “commitment.” One thing our team does at work is set a goal and/or commitment for the week. A “goal” is something that you wish to accomplish but isn’t fully under your control. A “commitment” is something that has a deadline, and you commit to accomplishing: no excuses. A great way to work towards your ultimate goal is to set 2-3 commitments that will help you reach that goal.

For example, one of my goals in 2018 is to learn to code on a basic level (HTML, CSS, JQUERY). 2 commitments I have set to accomplish this are:

1.) to schedule a half-hour block two days a week with my girlfriend (who codes and designs for a living) to work through a crash course

2.) to code and launch my own website for my music (I’m also a musician/producer in my spare time) by no later than December 31, 2018.

These two “commitments” I’ve made to myself are actionable and trackable, therefore enabling me to accomplish my “goal” of learning to code on a basic level. This principle can apply to your personal goals and is a great way to hold yourself accountable.

Small Victories are Vital

Now that you’ve laid out your goals and set your corresponding commitments, it is equally as important to celebrate those commitments as victories. Being in sales, small victories are vital. Dealing with rejection is a daily routine. To maintain a positive outlook and continue on your path to success, you must celebrate the small wins that ultimately lead you towards your goal. For example, every time we set a meeting at our company, we ring a bell. If we close a deal, we hit the gong. These things not only help with our company culture but on a personal level, allow you to celebrate the steps you’ve accomplished on the path to your ultimate goal. This can apply to anything: closing a deal, passing a test, reaching a certain body weight, finishing a painting, etc. The focus is to take time to celebrate those wins and know that you’re that much closer to your goal. Even further, instead of a gong, find a productive way to celebrate each small victory. It could be as simple as a “fist-pump” or as rewarding as a purchase you make to celebrate that victory. Regardless of the act, the outcome should provide you the confidence you need and inspire you to push on towards your goal.

Being Coachable

This may be one of the most important things I’ve learned in my life so far and one of the most valuable strengths I possess. Whether we admit it or not, we all have some sort of egotism in our DNA. We subconsciously shy away from advice or constructive feedback; whether it’s due to our fear of change, or our inability to accept when we are wrong. This is a cancerous and fixed mindset because it hinders our capability to grow as an individual. If you can swallow your pride and learn to implement advice from others who inspire you, it will change your world. For example, as a salesperson, my close percentage of meetings I conducted to deals I closed from January-March of 2017 was low. I wasn’t implementing advise I was given and therefore my performance suffered. I spoke with Jeff, who was my boss at the time, and recognized I needed to make some changes to my sales approach. After implementing these changes, my close percentage more than DOUBLED the next quarter and led to my now two promotions at my current company. If you take the advice given to you from people who have succeeded in your field, it will drastically improve your future.

Effort is Everything

Last, but definitely not least, it all comes down to EFFORT. You don’t have to be the smartest or most talented person in the room (believe me I’m not). All you must do is consistently put in the ‘incremental effort’ every single day or don’t bother getting up. If you apply these simple guidelines and make a conscious effort to use them, it WILL make a huge difference in the outcome of your future.

So the moral of the story here is: I’m not special, I came from a very small town and lived a very “normal” life. I had the same opportunities as my peers and am in no way someone who is a role model by any means. I have not cured diseases, and I am definitely not the most decorated salesperson at my company. However, instead of staying in a fixed mindset and wondering why the world hasn’t given me everything, I worked hard, accepted that I had to make some changes, and am striving every day to consistently use these principles to reach my goals in life. You don’t have to be the next Jeff Bezos or the next Elon Musk to be successful. We all have our own path, and hopefully, this helps you on your mission to find it.

Now Wakeup! It’s Day One.

Wake Up! It’s Book Review Monday – Grit

Outside of my mentors and defining moments, books have accelerated my learning both professionally and personally, and I truly believe that reading is the single most important thing you can do to better yourself.  In light of this, on Monday’s I will be reviewing a book that has impacted me.

Today’s book is  Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance by Angela Duckworth. What you will read below will not do this book justice. You must read it yourself. This is one of the most important books ever written, and it will change the way you think.

Brief Summary of Grit:

The author, Angela Duckworth, is a psychologist who has dedicated her career to studying the idea of grit. In her book, she discusses why grit is essential to achieving your potential and uses her research and interviews with people who she says are grit paragons (athletes, business leaders, etc.) to help solidify her findings.

She starts her psychology career while doing a study on West Point. She tries to understand why only 1,200 out of 14,000 are asked to enroll and how out of those 1,200 only 1 of 5 cadets make it to graduation. What she learned was that the scoring system that West Point uses does not accurately predict who the best candidates are. She finds that what predicts the best candidates is who is truly passionate and willing to persevere through the grueling task to become a cadet. Her research tells her that our potential is one thing, but what we do with it is another. She goes on to explain that what makes you successful is not about how “smart” you are, but how gritty. 

Things I learned from this book:

Effort Counts Twice

Duckworth shares an equation that is “Talent x Effort = Skill, and Skill x Effort = achievement which means effort counts twice. She shares a countless number of interviews and research studies of “Grit Paragons” who prove her equation. This equation tells you that while you can be the most skilled and talented person in the world at your craft, you can still fail because you did not put in the effort. A pretty simple concept right? How many people do you know who have all the talent, but fail? 

What is Grit and how is it measured?

Grit is not just as simple as working really hard. It is something you develop over time and actually grows with age. There are two parts to grit: Passion and Perseverance. Duckworth explains that grit is about working on something you care about so much that you are willing to stay loyal to it and strive for the same top level goal for a long period of time. 

How do you become Gritty?

You work to improve and develop the 4 physiological assets below:

Interest

The foundation for achieving your potential is rooted in what interests you. Duckworth explains that it takes time to find out what you are interested in, and most of us give up too quickly on things. She discusses the motto “Follow your passion,” and believes that we should rephrase it to “Foster your passion” because it takes time to find out what you are genuinely interested in. 

Practice

Most of us practice our craft and spend time working on our own personal or professional development, but why do we fail to achieve the highest standards in our fields? Well, Duckworth explains that the grit paragons she interviews didn’t just practice they deliberately practiced. To them, every day was a new day to improve from yesterday, and they were relentless with being better than yesterday.

Purpose

Duckworth describes purpose as a critical aspect of grittiness. To have a real passion for something you have to first be interested in what you are doing, but to deepen your passion you have to feel your work is important not to just you, but others.

Hope

To Grit paragons, hope means that if I give today all the effort I have, then I will be better off in the future. Duckworth shares a compelling statement that when I read it made me think differently:

Instead of “I have a feeling tomorrow will be better” you must say “I resolve to make tomorrow better.”

How to create a culture of Grit at work and for your kids?

1. Create your own life philosophy

This revolves around building out your core values, your vision, your purpose, your end result. Once you do you should talk about them, and live them every single day.  Every conversation you have with your kids or employees is centered around these items. 

2.  Duckworth developed a concept that she uses in her family called the “Hard Thing Rule”

  1. Everyone in the family has to do something hard
  2. You have to finish what you start
  3. No one gets to pick the hard rule for anyone else

How has this book impacted me?

This book changes the way I think about success and how I achieve it. If I make a career out of doing something I genuinely love, practice really hard every day, believe that this is my calling, and know that if I put in a full effort that I will be better off in the long run… I will achieve my own definition of success. Duckworth shared with me how simple achieving success in life can be and it has nothing to do with how smart you are.

As a parent, I have no greater responsibility than to teach and guide my son to his potential in life. I am going to use the ideas, stories, and concepts I learned in this book to be a better parent and that impact is extraordinary. As my son enters school, he will be taught that his effort is more important than getting an A, B or C on his test. Twenty to thirty years from now I believe this book will make the world a better place.

Now, WAKE UP! It’s Day One. Are you ready to become a Grit Paragon? May the choice be with you. If you have decided YES, Buy the book here and also check out her non-profit Character Lab to find out how she is changing the way we educate kids.

We Are Our Choices – The Stories of Steve, Richard, and I

As I have discussed in my previous posts, reaching your potential is a long journey that will most likely last a lifetime. Your future is not necessarily in your control, but throughout each day we have the opportunity to shape it by the choices we make. At times you will be tested, self-doubt will creep in, and you will want to give up. In those moments believing in yourself is vital, but the next most important thing is the choices you make to continue to move forward.

Today, I want to share a personal story and examples from others on how much power you have at this very moment to make a choice that can alter your future for the good or the worse. 

Let me start by asking you this:

Do you ever wonder why some people in your group of friends in and outside of work seem to progress their life or career faster than you?

To be honest, it’s simple and truthfully outside of any external factors it has nothing to do with luck or fate. The answer lies in the choices they make.

Years ago, I was like most people. Waiting for others to help me reach my potential. I remember being at my first job out of college, sitting at my desk, waiting for the next 1-on-1 with my boss to get feedback or waiting for the leadership team to give me training. The classic line that every single experienced professional will tell you is “Be proactive, go talk to your boss. Ask if there is anything you can do more of”. We have all been there, sitting and waiting for someone to tell you how to get better.

One day, while I was waiting for my 1-on-1, I had this feeling like this moment had already played out so many times before. Now looking back, I realize of course it has. The feeling that I remembered was how I felt after a 1 on 1 with my boss or after training or doing what everyone tells me to do. I felt good, and at times I learned something. But I started to wonder: Is this the rest of my career, waiting for someone else to help me?

So I made a choice. Instead of waiting for my boss to give me training, or teach me something, I realized I must take ownership of my own development. If I couldn’t do that, then nobody would ever be able to truly help me reach my goals. I decided I would learn as much as I could about business, sales, and leadership by myself, and then record and apply my learnings to my day to day job.

What choice did I make to start to improve myself?

You have many different ways to learn and get better. I decided books were the first and best route at the time. Sales books, biographies, self-help, business, non-fiction, whatever I could get my hands on. The key was not necessarily in the books themselves, it was the choice I made to take control of my own improvement that was important.

For me, books were helpful; for others, they might respond more favorably to something different. Whatever it is, the point is that I stopped waiting for others to help me and took matters into my own hands.

How did this choice to read books impact me?

I wanted to be in sales since I graduated college, but due to the economic climate in 2009 I took the first job I got offered. My passion was sales but sales jobs were hard to come by at the time for entry level reps. After a ton of hard work, I was given the opportunity to join a top tech company in Chicago to do sales. My very first sales manager told me something that I will never forget. He told me he hired me because in the interview process he was so impacted by the amount of effort I put into reading books about sales. He had interviewed candidates who had more experience than me, but I used my knowledge that I acquired from the books I read about sales and business to show him that I could learn quickly and apply it. This made a lasting impact and helped me to get the job over others with more experience. Looking back, my decision to start reading was the best thing I ever did, because ultimately it launched my career.

One of the early books I picked up was Seth Godin’s book “Linchpin.” After reading it, I took away two stories that are now the foundation of my life, and my sales team. It is the stories of two men named “Richard and Steve” and how their choices will impact their careers.

The Story of Steve (Seth Godin’s Book: Linchpin)

“Steve works at the Stop and Shop near my house. He hates it. He works at the cash register, and it seems as though every ounce of his being projects his dissatisfaction with his job. Steve won’t make eye contact. Steve takes a lot of breaks. Steve doesn’t start bagging until the last possible moment. Steve grumbles a lot.

The thing is, Steve spends as much time at work as his co-worker Melinda. And Melinda is engaged, connected and enthusiastic. Steve has decided that he’s not being paid enough to bring his entire self to work, and he’s teaching all of us a lesson. Melinda has decided that she has a platform, and she uses it to make a tiny difference in every customer’s day.

The sad part for me is that while Steve is busy teaching the store a lesson, he’s teaching himself that this is the way to do his job. He’s fully expecting that his next job, or the job after that or the job after that is when he’ll become the linchpin. If he waits for a job that he feels deserves his best shot, it’s unlikely that he’ll ever have that job.”

The Story of Richard (Seth Godin’s Book: Linchpin)

“Forty years ago, Richard Branson, who ultimately founded Virgin Air, found himself stuck and most likely to be late for a business meeting in an airport in the Caribbean. They had just canceled his flight, the only flight that day. Instead of freaking out about how essential the flight was, how badly his day was ruined, how his entire career was now in jeopardy, the young Branson walked across the airport to the charter and inquired about the cost of chartering a flight out of Puerto Rico.

Then he borrowed a portable blackboard and wrote, ‘Seats to Virgin Islands, $39.’ He went back to this gate, sold enough seats to his fellow passengers to completely cover his costs, and made it home on time. Not to mention planting the seeds for the airline he’d start decades later. Sounds like the kind of person you’d like to hire.”

So, I leave you with a question: Who do you want to be? Richard or Steve? It’s up to you to decide. You are in control of your destiny. This world owes you nothing. You must take ownership of your choices. No one else will help you unless you start to help yourself.

Now WAKE UP! It’s Day ONE. May the choice be with you.

 

Wake Up! It’s Book Review Monday – Today We Are Rich

Outside of my mentors and defining moments, books have accelerated my learning both professionally and personally, and I truly believe that reading is the single most important thing you can do to better yourself.  In light of this, on Monday’s I will be reviewing a book that has impacted me.

Today’s book is Today We Are Rich: Harnessing the Power of Total Confidence by Tim Sanders.

Brief Summary:

Tim Sanders was an early stage member of Broadcast.com (think Mark Cuban), and he was a former executive at Yahoo! Today, he is an international speaker, consultant, and author. In his book, Tim shares with us his personal story of moving back home to live with his grandmother while he was going through some hardships. While back home, he learns from his grandmother the 7 principles of “confident living.” He shares personal stories about each principal and how they can be used step-by-step to overcome obstacles to become more confident and achieve your full potential.

Things I learned from this book:

Feed the mind

This is one of the easiest things to do but yet so difficult. Tim simply explains that we must reduce or eliminate the things in our lives like social media, news, and friends that gives you negative thoughts. No surprise here, but by doing this it will increase your overall happiness and positivity. Tim was way ahead of his time considering I read this book about 7 years ago which makes social media look like an infant. As we enter 2018, it is more vital than ever to try to eliminate the crap out of your mind. Here are some tips I learned from Tim:

  • Write down everything you read, listen to, and watch. You will be shocked at how much unnecessary crap you are wasting your time with.
  • Once you have seen all the crap, you can start reducing it one by one. For example, cut people out of your life who are negative, and delete friends on social media who are constantly creating drama and creating negative thoughts in your head.
  • Spend your time reading books, editorial pieces from credible authors, and watching credible shows which discuss solutions instead of problems. 
  • Avoid waking up and looking at your email or social media. The first thing you see every morning should be something positive.
  • Keep an ongoing journal in your mind or on paper of successful things that happen and use that as a way to combat negative or self-doubting thoughts.

Move the Conversation Forward

To me, this is an essential skill to have and the #1 principle you must be able to master. I personally took this principle as the idea of how to take a conversation with yourself or someone else and find the good in it. It reminds me of the many times, we get caught up in a conversation and drown ourselves in the problem instead of looking for a solution. I see so many people do this and it creates a downward spiral that leads to taking no action.  

Tips from Tim about how you can continue to move the conversation forward:

When processing the information it comes in four ways, and you should frame every bit of information:

  • Good – Either for you or for someone or something you have an interest in
  • Neutral – No direct effect on you or one of your interests
  • Get Busy – Adversity you need to respond to
  • Bad – A irrevocably negative effect on you or one of your interests

Use Willis Carrier’s (Founder of Carrier – Air Conditioning) advice to move the conversation forward:

  • Define the worst case scenario
  • Accept it as survivable
  • Make a good goal of beating it

Always be Prepared

  1. Become an expert in your craft:

A few easy ways to do this is to read books in your field, network with other individuals in your field and find a mentor or mentor an individual who works within the same industry. How many people do you know do any of those three things? To be honest, I know very few people.

  1. Practice, Practice, Practice:

Run through the presentation as it actually will be. Every detail of the presentation should be precisely the same when you are practicing. From the setting to the running through the entire presentation it should all be done as if you were presenting live.

  1. Expect the unexpected:

Something I have learned time and time again is that nothing goes according to plan. We should always prepare for “objections” or potential challenges we will run into and assume the worst case scenario. It is very important especially for sales and business. I know personally that I have fallen into this trap thinking a call would go one way and I was not prepared for the objections that came up. Though my reps don’t like when I seem pessimistic on a deal, I am just trying to prepare for all scenarios so we can win the deal.

How has this book impacted me?

One of the particular ideas expressed in this book, “move the conversation forward”, really moved me. Ever since reading it as a young professional it made me rethink the way I communicate with others and the ways I talk to myself subconsciously. Over the years, I have been trying to understand and learn as much as possible about the human mind and how we can control our thoughts. It has led me to a philosophy called Stoicism that I now consider a big part of my life professionally and personally.  

I read this book twice in my life: once as an early professional, and again as a sales leader. I personally use three of the seven principles discussed in the book every single day and I credit them to a lot of the early success I’ve had in my career. The best part is that the principles can be implemented by anyone and when they are, they can change your life and your career.

Now, WAKE UP! It’s Day One. Buy “Today We Are Rich” here and check out Tim’s other books, all of which are great. If you are not a book reader but enjoy great content, follow Tim’s blog here: http://timsanders.com/blog/

Wake Up! It’s Book Review Monday – HARD Goals

Outside of my mentors and defining moments, books have accelerated my learning both professionally and personally, and I truly believe that reading is the single most important thing you can do to better yourself.  In light of this, on Monday’s I will be reviewing a book that has impacted me.

Today’s book is Hard Goals: The Secret to Getting from Where You Are to Where You Want to Be by Mark Murphy. This book will teach you an entirely new way to set goals, and when you do it will change your life.  

Brief Summary:

Mark Murphy is founder and CEO of Leadership IQ, which is a leadership consulting company. Mark and his team studied 5,000 workers from all different type of industries to understand what makes people and businesses extraordinary. He also shares stories from people like Steve Jobs, Jeff Bezos, and many of our past presidents to discover what made them achieve things most dream of doing. What he learned was that they didn’t set easy or “SMART” goals, they set HARD goals. In his book, Mark walks us through what HARD goals are and how we can achieve them. 

Things I learned from the book:

  • You must be emotionally connected to your goal, able to see and feel as if this goal is necessary to your survival and when accomplished it is the hardest thing you have ever done in your life.
  • Forget about SMART goals, and focusing on tactical and analytical goal setting. The most important part of the goal-setting process is asking yourself questions like this: “WHY do I care to accomplish this goal,” What happens if I don’t accomplish it? How is this goal going to help me reach my potential?
  • The specific part of “SMART” goals is OK, but all you do to make it specific is focus on making the goal a number. Instead, why don’t you visualize the goal, and draw it out to make it specific? If you can draw the goal being accomplished, then your mind will be more invested in completing it.

Other things I learned:

You can set and achieve HARD goals because YOU HAVE DONE IT MANY TIMES BEFORE

We have all accomplished things we never thought possible. When we do, we all have the same feeling that makes us feel on top of the world. Unfortunately, as incredible as that feeling is we as humans tend to lose it so quickly. For most, they just completely forget, and it prohibits them from remembering how they achieved things once thought impossible. So, right now at this moment think back to the last time you did set a goal and achieved it. Now ask yourself these questions?

  • Did this goal challenge me and push me out of my comfort zone?
  • DId I have a deep emotional attachment to the goal?
  • Did I have to learn new skills to accomplish it?
  • Was my personal investment in this goal such that it felt entirely necessary?
  • Could I vividly picture what it would be like to hit my goal?

What are HARD goals and How do you set HARD goals?

Heartfelt

As mentioned above, the best question to ask yourself is “Why do I care about this goal.” This is a straightforward and easy question, but yet very powerful. And to further develop a heartfelt connection Mark explains you must focus on intrinsic, personal, extrinsic connections to your goal:

    • Develop goals around things that interest you, and you have expressed passion towards
    • Who are you accomplishing this goal for? It is OK if it is not just for you but for someone else
    • Ask yourself what the payoff is?

Also, Mark discusses the idea of discovering your “Shoves and Tugs” which are moments/things that pull you away from your goal or push you towards your goal. Once you identify what these “things” are you can be more aware of them and set goals that are tailored to the tugs more than the shoves. To help, ask yourself questions like this to help yourself identify shoves and tugs:

    • Describe a time when you felt really frustrated and wanted to give up?
    • Describe a time recently when you felt really motivated, and you were totally fired up?

Animated

This is a simple task that I think most people know how to do, but don’t actually do it. A great way to think about is to ask yourself “How do I think this goal looks and feels? Literally, Draw it out. (Shape, Colors, Lighting, Distinct parts, Emotions, Movement)

Required

Most of us set goals annually and never achieve them (80% of us to be exact). Why? We want the reward immediately rather than putting in the long-term work. When it comes to goals like losing weight, saving money, and trying to improve yourself, it is easier to just eat that cake, spend that money, or not pick up that self-help book in the moment. You say, ‘well I have time. I can start tomorrow, or next week’. You have no thought of the future implications. So, how can you try to turn the goal into being a requirement and ensuring it gets accomplished?

  1. Ask yourself this: If you don’t accomplish this goal, what happens? If the implication is something you can deal with, then I bet you will not be invested enough to follow through on accomplishing the goal.
  2. Spread out the costs and rewards over the present and future: Instead of taking on the brunt of the work now, and rewarding yourself right now. You can spread it out and have small wins to avoid burnout and gain confidence.
  3. Limit your choices: If you are trying to lose weight don’t go to a restaurant that has healthy and crap food. Just, change the habit not the reward to get you thinking about breaking your goal.
  4. Focus on each day, or as I like to put it say to yourself “every day is day one.” Just focus on accomplishing today.
  5. When writing down your goals or visualizing your goals make sure you tell others you want to “lose weight” say “6 months from now I will be wearing an X size” OR say “I will be wearing those pants that I have not worn since I was young”s

Difficult

To create a difficult goal you ask yourself  questions like this:

  • How is this goal going to stretch me?
  • What will you have to learn to achieve this goal?
  • How will you have grown and what skills will you have acquired?

How has this book impacted me?

The first time I read this book I thought it was dumb, no joke. I was all for the “SMART” goal idea, but I quickly realized how I and so many others fail to actually accomplish their goals. I re-read this book about 3 years ago and went into it wanting to find a better way to set and achieve goals. Well, over the past 3 years I went from saying I was going to achieve goals to ACTUALLY achieving goals. I go through an annual goal setting process for myself personally, and I use these steps above to help me do that.

In 2017, I set 6 goals for myself: Read 25 books, reconnect with 6 people from my past, write 5 recommendations for others who I have worked with, save and invest X amount of money, build out a framework for a blog, and write a “thank you” letter to my high school teacher. I can tell you that I read 28 books, reconnected with 10 people, wrote 9 recommendations, didn’t just start my blog, but published 10 posts in 2017, and reconnected with my old teacher. My goals were crushed in 2017, and I have no doubt if I follow this process of setting HARD goals I will do it again and again.

Now, Wake Up! It’s Day One. Time to set your HARD goals for 2018 and beyond. You can start by purchasing the book here: Hard Goals: The Secret to Getting from Where You Are to Where You Want to Be and check out www.leadershipiq.com for more information on Mark and his company.