Listening is Free

I’m not sure if anyone has noticed but the world, yep, not only the US but the entire world seems divided right now. Never in my lifetime has the divide between different groups of people been wider.

Even in times of World Wars the divide was not as great as it is right now. Even during the World Wars people agreed on more things than they do today. Governments started those wars, not the people of the countries that were dragged into them.

But today is different. The universal language is one of hate. We throw the word hate around as if it almost has no real meaning. People claim to hate people who hate. “We” all hate all the hating going on these days.

We make slogans and signs about who and what matters. We talk about what must change and who must change. I’m struck by the number of people who “demand” immediate change yet refuse to look in the mirror to see if there is any change they could make personally.

Abraham Lincoln is famous for saying many things but one thing he said might be more applicable today than even the day he said it. When commenting on someone he was not particularly fond of he said, “I do not like that man. I need to get to know him better.”

Lincoln knew what too many people today seemingly have forgotten. That is that we human beings have far more in common than we give ourselves credit for. We can focus on the things that draw us together or we can focus on the things the push us apart. That’s a choice.

But that won’t happen until we do something else that seems to be a thing of the past.

That “thing” is called listening.

I mean real listening. Not reading someone’s social media posts. Not hearing some filtered version of what somebody thinks or what someone said someone said someone said. It’s a sad commentary on the world we live in but if you didn’t hear someone say it yourself then you might want to have some doubts about whether or not it was actually said.

Plus…don’t only listen to people who agree with you! Invite conversations with people who have vastly different views and life experiences than you. Do not think them wrong simply because their views are different than yours. Don’t talk to them, talk with them to determine where your views overlap. Build on that overlap!

I take great comfort from talking with people who share my views and beliefs. I like talking to my family and friends. But whatever growth I experience at this point in life comes from talking with people who frankly might not be my first choice to talk with.

You and I do not have to like the people who see the world differently than we do but we do need to understand how they view their life. We need to understand that if our life experiences were identical to theirs that our views would likely be identical too.

Most of all we need to get to know them better. The more we know about people the less chance there will be that we judge them. I want to say that again….the more you know about someone the less chance there is that you will judge them.

Listen more. Listen with your heart and your mind WIDE open. Listening is free but it just might be that it liberates you from hate. Listening is one of those things that while free it is also priceless!

Listening, really listening to different views could save you great pain. It could save your Country severe turmoil. Listening, truly truly listening to one another might even save the world.

The Benefits of a Generous Spirit

Sir Winston Churchill said “We make a living by what we get. We make a life by what we give.”

No matter how much or how little you have, you have something that you can share with others. That something has the potential to change someone’s life for the better. IF you’re willing to share.

There are many logical reasons to give. It has been proven that giving can lower your blood pressure. It reduces the stress in your life. You will experience less anxiety and giving helps keep depression at bay. It also increases self-esteem.

But here is the best reason to make a difference in the life of someone else…because you can.

Some of you reading this are saying to yourself I’d give if only I had something to give. But as I said before, you absolutely have something to give. You only need to broaden your perspective about what you have that is valuable.

During this particular time in history there are many people experiencing profound loneliness. They would love for someone to talk with. If you have a willing ear and a mouth that works then that someone could be you.

I’ll bet there is an organization in your community that is matching up willing “givers” with people who could use a bit of conversation to brighten their day. If you Google it you can find that organization. 5 or 10 minutes a day to do a little good, maybe a lot of good, maybe even save a life.

That’s just one of a million ways you can give back this very day!

Still some of you are saying I’d do that if only I had the time. As anyone who has ever heard me do a Webinar on “Using Your Time Effectively” time is just an excuse for people too busy…or lazy, to make a real excuse.

You have plenty of time to do everything that is a priority in your life. And this is a bit off topic but if you have more than a small handful of priorities in your life then you probably don’t have any real priorities.

You might be thinking I can’t “spend” time giving back because I have kids, work, homeschooling, plus tons of stuff. So DON’T SPEND time on anyone, instead “INVEST TIME” with everyone in your life.

That change of mindset will improve every relationship in your life.

The benefits of giving far outweigh whatever perceived “costs” there may be. You don’t need money to give, you don’t need some special gift or skill to give. You don’t need more time in the day to give.

You just need a willing heart and a desire to help.

Giving to others is one of the nicest things you can do….for yourself. I think you deserve it, don’t you agree?

Better Voices

Most people won’t actually admit to hearing voices in their head. They think if people find out they will be sent immediately to see a psychiatrist…or worse. People think that way because one of the voices in their head tells them to think that way.

Everybody hears voices in their head. Sometimes it’s the voice of fear. Sometimes it’s the voice of reason. Sometimes it’s the voice of self-doubt. Sometimes it’s the voice of belief and confidence.

Some of the voices are stronger than others. For too many people the voices they hear most often are the voices of fear and self-doubt. For successful people the voices they hear most often are the voices of self-belief and confidence.

What someone hears in their head will determine their level of success. Do you allow the loudmouthed fear to overrule your voice of reason? Do you allow the voice of self-doubt to out shout your voice of confidence.

There are people in your life that you know better than to pay attention to. There are people in your life who you trust and listen to. You seek out their advice while ignoring the nattering naysayers of negativity.

Those voices of fear and self-doubt are nothing more than nattering naysayers of negativity. They are to be ignored just like the people you know better than to allow into your life.

Successful people have the voices of fear and self-doubt in their heads like everyone else. But they drown them out with their “better voices” of confidence, self-belief, and reason. When fear and doubt start their yapping successful people cut them off immediately with self-affirmation and confidence.

I think the key is paying attention to that voice in your head. It’s always there and if you aren’t careful it can influence your actions whether you realize it or not. So pay attention to those voices, when you realize it’s an unhealthy voice then either out shout it or overpower it with something better.

You have to admit to the voices before you can take control over them….but maybe you don’t have to admit them to other people. 🙂

One Small Step

Sometimes success begins by taking a mighty leap of faith. Sometimes, but not very often. Most often, success begins with one small step.

As small a step as it often is, many people just can’t make themselves take it. They might see success somewhere on the path they want to take but it appears to be a long way off. Between where they are standing and the success they seek are obstacles called risk, failure, effort, problems, lack of financing and other various unknowns.

Those obstacles cause many people to wait. To wait for the obstacles to magically disappear. To wait for someone or something to remove the obstacles for them. These people have a desire for success but their desire is small when compared to what they have told themselves are huge obstacles.

But here’s a funny thing about obstacles on the path to success…the closer you get to them the smaller they turn out to be.

But sadly, many people will not get to experience that because they never take that one small step that starts them down the path to success.

The journey of your success will always begin with the small step of taking a risk. Whether in business, in personal relationships, or in life, all success most often starts with that small step made with a hefty desire to be more. To be better. To make a difference. To leave behind a legacy that’s not soon forgotten.

Despite what you may have heard or hoped, success in NOT available to everyone who wants it. It is only available to those who are willing to work to achieve it. That work includes overcoming any and all obstacles. That work includes maintaining a “can do” attitude, even when you’re surrounded by a pack of “can’t do” people. That work includes making an effort every day, not only on the days you feel like it.

That work includes taking one small step on the path towards success. Sometimes that’s the hardest work of all. The question isn’t whether you want success, the real question is whether you’ll work hard enough to achieve it.

Well, will you?

If This, Then That, If That, Then This

The problem with making a plan is that the plan often fails. Some unforeseen “thing” happens and the whole plan falls apart.

That’s why I never make a plan. Instead, I make plans. My plans take on the look of a flow chart. It is full of one contingency after another. If this happens then I’ll do that. If that happens then I’ll do this…and on it goes. It is like having plans within your plans.

I review those plans on a regular basis and rewrite them as necessary at the beginning of each New Year. There is no better stress reducer than preparation and that has never been truer than in this particular year.

My “if this, then that” plans could never have foreseen what is happening in the world right now. But the combinations of my “if this, then that” plans do in fact account for nearly every single change and related consequences we’ve seen so far. And for me, as for many of you, some of those have been whoppers.

The whole “if this, then that” strategy comes from a single principle from a life changing book by Dale Carnegie. The title of that book is “How to Stop Worrying and Start Living.” It is far from Mr. Carnegie’s most famous work. But people who have also read his legendary “How to Win Friends and Influence People” would give the edge to what Carnegie folks call “The Worry Book.”

The principle says to “Consider the worst that can happen. Accept the worst. Try to improve upon the worst.” I don’t suppose Mr. Carnegie realized it at the time but that translates pretty well into “if that happens I’ll do this, if this happens I’ll do that.

Knowing what you’ll do in difficult circumstances offers you great peace of mind when those circumstances arrive. Making big decisions before they need to be made allows you to make much better decisions.

I guess I’m supposed to be stressed out by all that’s going on around me but I’ve reviewed every single “if this, then that” in my plans. I can’t find a single one that says “be stressed” so there is no stress to be found.

There is no stress because my wife and I are implementing plans we made 25 years ago. Frankly we are a little farther into the “if this, then that” scenarios than we would like to be but that’s fine because we are in complete control of our futures. No one else gets to decide them for us.

You can have that same authority over your life IF you make plans that contemplate every possible outcome. This type of planning takes a pretty serious investment of time but the return on that investment is peace of mind and that my friends is priceless.

I may not get to decide all of my circumstances but I have complete control over how I respond to them. You too can have complete control over the circumstances of your life if you’re willing to make the effort before you need to.

As for me, I’ll just follow my plans because I know exactly where they lead.

The Power of Gratitude

Of all the attributes successful people possess few are more important than a grateful heart.

Back in my days of working with the Dale Carnegie Organization there was a 50 something guy in one of our classes who looked very successful. He obviously had money, drove his choice of the many fancy cars he owned. He had houses (notice I didn’t say homes) around the world in which he could live comfortably. At first glance he appeared to have it all.

But it was never enough. He was one of the most unhappy and “relationship poor” people I had ever met.

The stories he told were in stark contrast to the ones told by a 30 something guy with 5 kids. It seemed as if every example from the younger man was laced with struggles and challenges that the older man knew nothing about. His stories were also filled with something else missing from the older man’s…a grateful heart.

He appreciated the opportunity every challenge presented him. He appreciated the chance to learn and overcome obstacles which he knew would better prepare him for the future. He found “the silver lining” in every cloud.

It was in that particular 12 week Dale Carnegie course that I learned about the true power of gratefulness.

The older, more successful appearing man in the 12 week program knew nothing of his gifts. He knew little of his actual strengths, and he had long ago surrendered his power to be happy.

The younger man’s thoughts were focused on appreciating what he had, not what he wanted. He was thankful for what he was able to earn. Thankful for his God given gifts that made it possible for him to support his family. Thankful for his one overcrowded home in a modest neighborhood and I suspect thankful every time his 20 year old car actually started.

He was happy and as far as he was concerned, one of the richest people on earth.

Now I ask you…which of those two men was the most successful?

You may find this difficult to believe if you find yourself struggling. You will find it hard to believe if you’re a “keeping up with the Joneses” type person. But your greatest happiness is within you, not in chasing what you’re without.

Practice gratefulness each day. Absolutely work hard for your dreams but make time each day to also appreciate what you already have.

If you find it hard to be grateful for what you have today it’s very likely you’ll find it just as hard to be grateful for what you may have tomorrow. It has been my experience that an ungrateful heart is also an unhappy one.

“Things” will never make you happy but the power of gratitude most certainly will. If nothing else, be grateful for that.

Creating Your Personal Reality

It’s very likely that you are far more powerful than you think. So powerful in fact that you have the ability to create your own reality.

How do I know that about you? Well because you’re human. Every human has the ability to create their own reality. Not only do they have the ability, they in fact DO create their own reality. Every person on earth creates their own reality out of their thoughts.

What you think you become. What others think of you matters very little when compared to what you think of yourself. Negative thoughts about yourself linger for a long long time. Self-doubt kills more dreams than all other obstacles combined. Yes, even more than lack of money. Actually, lack of money isn’t much of an obstacle at all, far more dreams are killed by lack of effort than lack of money.

You attract people to you who are often identical to the person you believe you are. If you think you’re a loser than you’ll invite losers into your life. Now the term loser isn’t very nice but I can’t think of a more apt description. Misery indeed loves company and if you think you can’t succeed you’ll attract people who think the same as you.

Since we are all basically a compilation of the five people we spend the most time with you want to make certain your five people build you up. If those 5 people tell you often enough that you can succeed you may start to wonder if they could possibly be right…and that can be the start of something magical.

Henry Ford said “Whether you think you can or you think you can’t, you’re right.”

You have to be so careful about what you think. Your thoughts become your words and your words become your actions and your actions become your reality.

You’re creating your reality this very day. Everything you think, say and do plays a part in the future you’re creating for yourself. If you master the discipline of controlling your thoughts there won’t be much else in life you can’t master.

My recommendation is to start EVERY day with five minutes of positive self-talk. Those might be the most vital 5 minutes of your day. Those five minutes will set the tone for the next 1435 minutes of your day.

Those five minutes could very well change your life. Now that’s reality!