Good Luck is Critical to Success

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After I completed my Rich Habits Study, one thing became very clear – the rich, at some point during their success journey, get lucky.

Luck was so critical to the success of many of the self-made millionaires in my study, that I felt it imperative to address it right out of the gate in my book Rich Habits. I’ve updated that preamble for the 2nd Edition of Rich Habits and thought I’d share it with you.

The Rich Have Good Luck and the Poor Have Bad Luck

Many unsuccessful people rationalize that they don’t have “good luck” or just aren’t “lucky.” They argue that in order to be financially successful you need good luck.

So, is good luck important to becoming successful? The answer is a resounding “Yes!” All successful people pursuing some dream, have experienced good luck. In fact, no one will ever become successful if they do not have good luck. But let’s elaborate on this hard truth.

There are four types of luck. The first type of luck is “random good luck.” This is a type of good luck we have no control over, like winning the lottery or receiving an unexpected inheritance.

The second type of luck is “random bad luck.” Like random good luck, we have no control over this, either. Events creating this type of luck are outside of our influence for the most part. Examples include coming down with a genetic-driven disease, getting hit by lightning, random accidents, a tree falling on your house, etc.

The third type of luck is “opportunity luck.” This is good luck that is a byproduct of good daily habits. Think of opportunity luck as an apple orchard. You prepare the land, plant the apple seeds, and diligently nurture the trees as they grow. After some time the apple trees blossom and bear fruit. This fruit is the byproduct of doing the things you needed to do over a long period of time. These apples represent the fruit of good habits – opportunity luck.

Successful people do the things that are necessary over the long term in order for opportunity luck to occur in their lives. They live the Rich Habits every single day. Rich Habits are like a magnet for opportunity luck. Many of the opportunities are completely unexpected. Some people refer to this as “the law of attraction.” Opportunity luck follows the law of attraction for those who live the Rich Habits.

The fourth type of luck is “detrimental luck.” Detrimental luck is the evil twin of opportunity luck. Unsuccessful people have bad habits. Like the Rich Habits, bad habits are also seeds. They will take root and grow until they too bear fruit. Unfortunately, the bad fruit birthed by bad habits brings detrimental luck into the lives of the unsuccessful. This detrimental luck might be a job loss, investment losses, foreclosure, divorce, illness, or something similar.

To bring success into your life you need to attract the right kind of luck. Living the Rich Habits guarantees you will attract the right kind of luck, and opportunities will appear, seemingly out of thin air. As with low-hanging fruit, all you have to do is reach out and pick it.

Not All Goals Are Good Goals – How To Distinguish a Good Goal From a Bad Goal

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You hardly ever hear anyone talk about goals in a negative context. Goals are almost always perceived to be good. But as I learned from studying wealthy and poor people since 2003, not all goals are Good Goals.

So, how do you know when a goal is a Good Goal or a Bad Goal?

Good Goals have 12 things in common:

  1. Good Goals create long-term benefits, that pay dividends for many years. These benefits very often take many years before they show up in your life.
  2. Good Goals create a unique type of happiness, known as fulfillment. Fulfillment is a type of long-term happiness. It greets you in the morning and lulls you to sleep at night.
  3. Good Goals force you outside your comfort zone. They force you to learn what to do and what not to do. Good Goals make you grow as an individual.
  4. Good Goals force you to create good daily habits; habits that stay with you the rest of your life.
  5. Good Goals keep you moving forward. They get you from point A to point B. Point B being a better place, such as rising from poverty to the middle-class or from the middle-class to millionaire class.
  6. Good Goals make you smarter. They boost your IQ by challenging you to think your way through problems and obstacles. That learning results in the creation of new synapses in the brain. The more synapses you have, the higher your IQ.
  7. Good Goals attract and build relationships with the right kind of individuals. They force you to associate with can-do, optimistic, success-minded people.
  8. Good Goals improve the quality of life for you and your family.
  9. Good Goals allow you to maintain or improve your relationships. They don’t force you to isolate yourself from the ones you love.
  10. Good Goals allow you to maintain good health or improve your health.
  11. Good Goals expose you to more opportunities.
  12. Good Goals boost your confidence. The more goals you pursue and achieve, the more confident you become.

Examples of Good Goals:

  • Become an Expert – Eighty two percent of the professionals in my five year study on the wealthy were niche experts or virtuosos at what they did for a living. They devoted time on the side, every day, to developing an expertise in a specific area within their industry. Virtuosos have more value and, thus, make more money. Even better, because they make more money, they don’t have to work as many hours.
  • Start a Side Business – Forty eight percent of the business owners in my study started their business while working for someone else. It is possible to grow a side business while still maintaining your full-time job. Not only does a side gig create supplemental income, it could eventually give you the freedom to leave you job and devote yourself full-time to your business.
  • Improve the Way You Look – Thirty nine percent of the wealthy in my study lifted weights three days a week. Lifting weights to build a stronger, healthier body will improve the way you look. Healthier people have a better quality of life and fewer sick days, which translates into more productivity, more money and a longer life.
  • Become a Speaker – Twenty three percent of the millionaires in my study were also speakers. Joining Toastmasters or some similar speaker organization in order to develop your speaking skills will benefit you in the long term. Being a good speaker sets you apart from the competition and could eventually lead to paid speaking engagements, creating an additional revenue stream.
  • Become a Writer – Eighteen percent of those wealthy individuals in my study wrote for industry magazines, newsletters, blogs, etc. Becoming a good writer stamps you as an expert on the topics you write about which opens the door of opportunity for promotions at work, new job opportunities or eventually getting paid for articles or books you write.
  • Lose Weight – Setting a weight loss goal often involves a daily regimen of exercise, healthy eating and encourages a healthy lifestyle. It may also motivate you to moderate your consumption of alcohol or to quit smoking. When the weight eventually comes off you enjoy the compliments, feel healthier and are noticeably happier.
  • Saving/Investing – Opportunities knock for many, but go unanswered when you don’t have the money to take advantage of them. When you decide to live below your means, you are able to save money. When you are able to save money, you are able to invest that money or take advantage of opportunities that present themselves.

Bad Goals have 3 things in common:

  1. Bad Goals Solve Some Immediate Need.
  2. Bad Goals Create No Long-Term Benefit When Achieved.
  3. Bad Goals Borrow From Your Future.

Examples of Bad Goals:

  • Win the Lottery – Becoming rich by gambling in any way is a bad goal. The odds of winning the lottery are remote and costs you money that could otherwise be saved or invested prudently for future wealth creation. Seventy-seven percent of the poor in my study gambled on the lottery regularly. The mortgaged their future savings for a shot at instant wealth.
  • Buy a Bigger House – Unless this is a need (i.e. expanding family), buying a bigger house is a bad goal. Bigger houses require more upkeep, higher utilities bills and more in interest that you pay to the bank. A bigger house means that house owns more of your future income.
  • Buy a Boat or Luxury Car – This is another example of a bad goal. Boats and luxury cars are costly to won and costly to maintain. Plus, the money you spend to own them could be have been used to fund your retirement plan or build assets that create a revenue stream down the road.
  • Take an Exotic Vacation – While traveling to exotic locations can have some educational benefits, saving your hard earned money just to spend it on an expensive vacation means not having that money to build future wealth.
  • Destroy Your Competition – When you focus on destroying your competition as a means to increase your market share, rather than improving upon the products or service you offer, you ultimately hurt your business model. Engaging in competitive warfare often accomplishes only two things: reduced profits and enemies.

When the achievement of a goal does not improve your life for the long-term, it’s a bad goal. Goals pursued to own more stuff or to create some immediate, momentary pleasure are almost always bad goals.

Be very careful of the goals you pursue. Not all goals are good goals.

Success is a Lonely Business

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One of the lessons I’ve learned from studying self-made millionaires is that dreamers are almost always on their own in the beginning phases of pursuing a dream.

It’s very hard, initially, to find individuals who buy into your dream and are willing to grit it out.

Pursuing a dream is all risk. There is no guaranteed payoff and the effort requires an enormous investment in time, very often money and most definitely emotions.

Finding individuals who buy into your dream is difficult because, until you experience success, very few are able to stomach the risk and uncertainty pursuing a dream requires.

It is truly a rare breed of individual who will join you and stick with you during the journey to success. You’ve no doubt read about some of these rare breeds in books:

  • Paul Allen (Bill Gates partner)
  • Steve Wozniak (Steve Jobs partner)
  • Charlie Munger (Warren Buffet’s partner)
  • Jamie Dimon (Sandy Weill’s partner) and
  • Todd Wagner (Mark Cuban’s partner)

These mostly silent partners never quit on their famous billionaire-dreamer partners and they were handsomely rewarded for their loyal devotion.

Don’t lose faith when people quit on you. Keep working hard every day, pursuing your dream, even if you have to go it alone.

Dreamers change the world. And when you experience success, loneliness will forever be in your rear-view mirror.

Spending Smart During the Holidays is a Rich Habit

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The holidays are right around the corner. While we may enjoy the holidays, that enjoyment comes at a cost.

We spend more money on holiday-related things like gifts, dining, electricity for outdoor decorations, etc. What follows are a few Rich Habits to make sure you make the most efficient use of your money during this holiday season:

Stick to a Gift Budget

Set a maximum amount you will spend on gifts this holiday season. Even better, make a list of everyone who will be getting a gift and then budget how much you will spend for each person. This ensures you do not go over your budget. As a rule of thumb you should limit your holiday gift spending to 1.5% of your income. To find unique gift ideas within your budget visit sites like Gifts.com. These sites give you great gift ideas that are within your budget.

Use Credit Card Reward Dollars

Many credit cards have attached to them Rewards Programs. Typically, these Rewards Programs generate Reward Dollars that you can use at participating vendors. For example, the American Express Reward Program gives you about .88% back on every dollar you spend using an American Express credit card. One of the participating vendors with American Express is Barnes and Nobles. 50,000 American Express Rewards Dollars translates into $500 in Barnes and Noble gift cards. You can buy 20 $25 Barnes and Noble gift cards and give them out as gifts during the holiday season and it will cost you nothing.

Send e-Cards

Want to save on the cost of buying holiday cards and postage? Then send out a holiday e-Card this year. There are numerous websites that offer free cards such as BlueMountain.com. These sites offer templates and also allow you to customize your Ecards.

Unplug Holiday Lights After 10pm

Most everyone is asleep or in bed by 10pm so it makes no sense to keep your holiday lights on after this hour. This cuts down on the electricity costs for the holidays.

Interest-Free Financing

Sears, Home Depot, Best Buy, Lowes and certain Amazon partners offer up to 24 months of interest free financing. You must ensure that you pay off the interest free purchase within the free interest period and you must make your monthly payments on time. If you don’t you risk being back charged for ALL the interest you were saving on the purchase.

Dine at BYOB Restaurants

BYOB is an acronym for “Bring Your Own Booze”. Having your holiday meals at BYOB restaurants can save you and your family hundreds of dollars in liquor dining costs during this holiday season. You not only save up to 50% on the lower cost of the liquor but you also save on sales taxes and the gratuity. It’s a triple savings.

Holiday Parties

Transform this year’s holiday party into a culinary surprise holiday party. Ask each one of your guests to bring a special dish for the evening. You can even give out Awards such as a $25 Barnes and Noble gift card for the best dish. This will save you money on your party and add an element of fun and excitement.

Online Comparison Shopping

Thanks to the Internet you now have the ability to comparison shop without ever having to leave your home or office computer. Sites like PriceGrabber.com and PriceBlink.com will scour the Internet online retail sites for the lowest price for your gift.

Coupon Sites

There are many old and new coupon websites that offer coupons you can use to purchase gifts or for dinning. Some offer as much as 60% off the retail price you would otherwise pay.

Re-Gift

I know it sounds tacky but just because you didn’t much care for a gift you received last year doesn’t mean someone else won’t like it. After all it’s the thought that counts. Re-gifting is an obvious money savings strategy. If you feel embarrassed about re-gifting don’t. According to MSN Money, 68% engage in re-gifting. So, you’re not alone. For all you know the gift you are re-gifting may have been a re-gift of its own!

The Most Powerful Word in the World

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I’d like you to indulge me for a moment.

Imagine a life in which you have no obligations, no need to work, zero pressing matters to attend to.

As you open your eyes to face another day, what will be the first thought to greet you every morning?

What will I do today?

Do.

Do is the most powerful word in the world. Do is responsible for everything.

Do makes plants grow, flowers bloom and acorns rise into giant oaks.

Do creates families.

Do forges nations.

Do builds homes, skyscrapers, bridges and tunnels.

Do put a man on the moon.

Without do, nothing changes or moves forward in life.

The very essence of a life worth living owes its debt to the word do.

If you had no obligations, no need to work and no pressing matters to attend to, what would you do with your life?

Each individual has a special, unique purpose life. It’s usually wrapped around some innate talent; something that is easier for you to do than others. Something that makes your heart sing when you engage in it. It is a special gift hardwired into your DNA at birth.

But it only reveals itself through experimentation.

Experiment with different, diverse activities. Given enough time, enough experimentation, your special gift will be revealed.

And when you find it, DO it every day.

How the New Tax Law Affects Vacation-Home Owners

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From Market Watch

By Bill Bischoff

Published: Nov 20, 2018 9:08 a.m. ET

The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act complicates things for people who rent out a second home

The tax rules for vacation homes require close attention.

If you own a vacation home that you use for both rental and personal purposes, now is a good time to plan how to use it for the rest of this year with tax savings in mind. Here’s what you need to know:

Rented less than 15 days during the year with more than 14 days of personal use

For a vacation home in this category, the tax rules are really simple. You need not report any of the rental income on your Form 1040. However, you cannot deduct expenses directly attributable to the rental period (rental agency fees, cleaning, and so forth). If your vacation home happens to be located near a major event — like a PGA golf tournament or a big multi-day concert — you may be able to rent the place out for a short period even at high rates and pay zero federal income tax.

Tax-smart year-end strategy: The more rental days between now and year-end, the better — as long as they don’t exceed 14 days for the year.

Rented more than 14 days with substantial personal use

Your vacation home falls into this category if you rent it for more than 14 days during the year and your personal use exceeds the greater of:(1) 14 days or (2) 10% of the rental days. For example, a vacation home that’s rented for 180 days during the year and used by you and family member for 60 days falls into this slot.

Personal usage includes use by you, other family members (whether they pay fair market rent or not) or anyone else who pays less than market rent. Personal use also includes time spent at your place by another party under a reciprocal sharing arrangement (“I use your place in exchange for you using my place”) whether the other party pays market rent or not.

Days devoted principally to repairs and maintenance are considered days of vacancy and are disregarded, even if family members are present while you work away.

The tax drill

Vacation homes in this category are treated as personal residences for federal income tax purposes. Follow this six-step procedure to account for the property’s rental income and all the expenses.

Step 1: Report 100% of rental income on Schedule E of Form 1040.

Step 2: Deduct 100% of any direct rental expenses (such as rental agency fees and advertising) on Schedule E.

Step 3: Allocate mortgage interest and property taxes between rental and personal use. See below for how to do that.

Step 4: Deduct as Schedule E rental expenses the allocable mortgage interest and property taxes from Step 3.

Step 5: If there’s any net rental income left after Step 4, deduct as rental costs allocable indirect expenses — maintenance, utilities, association fees, insurance, depreciation and so forth on Schedule E — but only to the point where you zero out rental income. In allocating these indirect expenses, consider only actual rental and personal-use days during the year, and ignore days of vacancy. For example, if you rent your vacation home for 90 days during the year and use the property 60 days for personal purposes, allocate 60% of the maintenance, utilities, and so forth to rental usage and 40% to personal usage. The 40% is non-deductible. Even so, the bottom line on Schedule E will often be zero, because the rental income will often be fully offset by deductible expenses.

Step 6: Write off the personal-use percentage of mortgage interest and property taxes as itemized deductions on Schedule A of Form 1040, subject to the new Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 (TCJA) limits for 2018-2025 (see “TCJA changes affecting vacation-home owners” below).

You are allowed to carry over any disallowed allocable indirect expenses to future years when you can deduct them against rental profits (if you ever have any).

Controversy regarding how to allocate mortgage interest and property taxes

The IRS says you should use only actual days of personal and rental usage to allocate all non-direct vacation-home expenses, including mortgage interest and property taxes. However, two Appeals Court decisions say you can allocate mortgage interest and property taxes differently, by treating actual rental occupancy days as rental days and all other days — including days of vacancy — as personal days.

Before the TCJA, the Appeals Court method was often more beneficial because (1) it allocates more mortgage interest and property taxes to Schedule A (where you could usually fully write off these expenses as allowable itemized deductions under prior law) and (2) it allocates less mortgage interest and property taxes to Schedule E, which usually allowed you to currently deduct more of the other expenses allocable to rental usage (property insurance, utilities, etc.) on Schedule E when applying the rental income limitation.

But after the TCJA changes, some vacation-home owners may benefit from using the IRS-approved method instead of the Appeals Court method. That’s because you will never get any tax benefit from allocating more interest and taxes to Schedule A than you can currently deduct after the TCJA changes. Your tax pro can run the numbers at tax return time and figure out the best allocation method for interest and taxes.

Tax-smart year-end strategy: If your property fits solidly into this category for 2018 and your expenses will comfortably exceed rental income (the usual situation), you will probably come out ahead by renting it out for some additional days between now and year-end. That way, you’ll receive more rental income (good for cash flow), and you can probably still offset all the rental income with direct expenses, allocable mortgage interest and property taxes, and allocable indirect expenses. So you’ll have that much more tax-sheltered rental income, which is always a good thing.

The bottom line

As you can see, the tax rules for vacation homes are complicated.

If you have a vacation home that is rented for more than 14 days during the year and your personal use does not exceed the greater of (1) 14 days or (2) 10% of the rental days, the home is classified as a rental property for tax purposes. (I’ll cover the tax rules for vacation homes that are classified as rental properties in next week’s column. So please stay tuned.)

TCJA changes affecting vacation-home owners

New limit on property-tax deductions: Before the TCJA, you could claim itemized deductions for an unlimited amount of personal state and local property taxes. For 2018-2025, however, the TCJA limits itemized deductions for personal state and local property and income taxes to a combined total of only $10,000 ($5,000 for those who use married filing separate status). This limitation can affect your ability to claim itemized deductions for property taxes on a vacation home.

New limits on home-mortgage interest deductions: The TCJA also places new limits on the amount of home mortgage debt for which you can claim itemized qualified residence interest expense deductions. These limits can affect your ability to claim itemized deductions for mortgage interest on a vacation home.

For 2018-2025, the TCJA generally allows you treat interest on up to $750,000 of home acquisition debt (incurred to buy or improve a first or second personal residence) as deductible qualified residence interest. If you use married filing separate status, the limit is halved to $375,000. Thanks to a grandfather provision for pre-TCJA mortgages (explained below), this change will mainly affect new buyers (those with post 12/15/17 mortgages).

TCJA change for home-equity debt: For 2018-2025, the TCJA generally eliminates the prior-law provision that allowed you to treat interest on up to $100,000 of home-equity debt as deductible qualified residence interest ($50,000 if you used married filing separate status).

TCJA grandfather rules for up to $1 million of home-acquisition debt: Under one grandfather rule, the TCJA changes do not affect qualified residence interest deductions on up to $1 million of home-acquisition debt that you took out: (1) before 12/16/17 or (2) under a binding contract that was in effect before 12/16/17, as long as the home purchase closed before 4/1/18. If you use married filing separate status, the limit is halved to $500,000.

Under a second grandfather rule, the TCJA changes do not affect qualified residence interest deductions on up to $1 million/$500,000 of home-acquisition debt that you took out before 12/16/17 and then refinanced later — to the extent the initial principal balance of the new loan does not exceed the principal balance of the old loan at the time of the refinancing.

Home-equity debt treated as home-acquisition debt: Say you spent or spend the proceeds of a home-equity loan to build, buy, or improve your first or second personal residence. The loan counts as home-acquisition debt for which qualified residence interest deductions are allowed, as long as the applicable home acquisition debt limit ($750,000/$375,000 or $1 million/$500,000) is not exceeded.

Bigger standard deductions: For 2018-2025, the TCJA almost doubled the standard deduction amounts. For 2018, they are:

  • $24,000 for married joint-filing couples.
  • $18,000 for heads of households.
  • $12,000 for singles.

This seemingly benign change can adversely affect vacation-home owners, because their allowable itemized deductions (including those for vacation home mortgage interest and property taxes) may not exceed their standard deduction amount for 2018-2025.

Will Your Child be Rich or Poor and What You Can Do About It | Rich Habits Poor Habits Podcast

If you’re a parent or a grandparent or planning to become one, this show is for you.

I believe it’s our job to teach our children good money habits.

And even if you’re not planning to become a parent, Tom Corley and I will be discussing some important money lessons in this Rich Habits Poor habits podcast.

So let’s talk about children….

Science shows that by the age of nine we have learned most of our habits.

These habits come from our parents.

We mirror our parents thinking, habits, and emotions.

The beauty of rich habits is that you only need one or two of them to transform your life.

Habits like reading and exercising will change your future.

But emulating bad habits can force you into a situation where you have to eke out a living.

It gets even worse

Sadly, 74% of children raised in a poor household had grades below a B and 34% had grades below a C.

Why?

Wealthy, successful parents teach their children certain success habits that give their children an edge in life.

These Rich Habits, which give them this edge in life, begins to manifest itself in the classroom and continues into the workplace, where such children become working adults who receive higher pay, bigger raises and larger bonuses during their working career.

As a consequence, they accumulate more wealth in life.

Will your child be Rich or Poor?

Every student wants to be successful and thinks they will be successful, but none have been taught by their parents or their school system how to be financially successful in life.

Not only are there no courses on basic financial success principles but there are no structured courses teaching basic financial literacy.

We are raising our children to be financially illiterate and to fail in life.

We don’t have a wealth gap in this country we have a parent gap.

We don’t have income inequality, we have parent inequality.

Parents and our schools need to work together to instill good daily success habits.

They need to be teaching children specific Rich Habits that lead to success.

Examples of Rich Habits:

  • Limit TV, social media, video games and cell phone use to no more than one hour a day.
  • Require that children read one non-fiction book a week and write a one-page summary of what they learned for their parents to review.
  • Require children to aerobically exercise 20 – 30 minutes a day.
  • Limit junk food to no more than 300 calories a day.
  • Teach children to dream and to pursue their dreams. Have them write a script of their ideal, future life.
  • Require that children set monthly, annual and long-term goals.
  • Require working age children to work or volunteer at least ten hours a week.
  • Require that children save at least 25% of their earnings or the monetary gifts they receive.
  • Teach children the importance of calling family, friends, teachers, coaches, etc., on their birthday
  • Teach children the importance of calling family, friends, teachers, coaches, etc. when anything good or bad happens in their lives. Examples include births, deaths, awards, illnesses, etc.
  • Teach children to send thank you cards to individuals who helped them in any way. Reassure children that mistakes are good and not bad. Children need to understand that the very foundation of success is built upon the lessons we learn from our mistakes.
  • Discipline children when they lose their temper, so they understand the consequence of not controlling this very costly emotion. Anger is the costliest emotion. It gets people fired, divorced and destroys relationships.
  • Teach children that the pursuit of financial success is a good thing.
  • Children need to learn how to manage money. Open up a checking account or savings account for children and force them to use their savings to buy the things they want. This teaches children that they are not entitled to anything. It teaches them that they have to work for the things they want in life, like cell phones, computers, fashionable clothes, video games, etc.
  • Require children to participate in at least one non-sports-related extracurricular group at school or outside of school.
  • Parents and children need to set aside at least an hour a day to talk to one another. Not on Facebook, not on the cell phone, but face to face. The only quality time is quantity time.
  • Teach children how to manage their time. Teach them how to create a daily “to do” list. They can put their “to-do” list on their bedroom door, so parents can check it each day.

OBVIOUSLY, IT IS NOT POSSIBLE TO FOLLOW EVERY RICH HABIT RECOMMENDATION LISTED ABOVE

All it takes is one or two Rich Habits to completely transform a life.

The reading habit, on its own, can set your children up for career success.

The savings habit, on its own, can set your children up to be financially independent.

The exercise habit, on its own, can set your children up for a long, healthy life.

The happy birthday or life event calls, on their own, can set your children up to forge strong relationships.

Pick just two habits to teach you kids and stay on top of them for six months.

After six months the habits should stick.

Links and Resources:

Michael Yardney

Metropole

Rich Habits Poor Habits

Michael Yardney’s Mentorship Program

Some of our favourite quotes from the show:

“You can change your habits anytime throughout your life no matter what your age.” – Michael Yardney

“In my mind, the lottery, or gambling, is a tax for people who can’t do maths.” – Michael Yardney

“I believe it’s important to teach your children that it’s OK to dream, it’s OK to dream big, it’s OK to be successful, and allow them to set themselves goals and understand how to pursue them.” – Michael Yardney

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Finding Your Natural Talents – Here Are Five Clues

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I didn’t figure out that I had a hidden talent until I was age 47. That’s when I decided to write, what became a huge bestseller, Rich Habits, which also happened to be the first of many books I would go on to write.

For most of my adult life, I’ve been a tax specialist/CPA. My thing was numbers, not words. Or, so I thought.

Back in 2009, I had never written a book before. So, this was way out of the comfort zone for me. But, it didn’t take very long for me to realize that I had stumbled upon something I was innately good at doing.

How did I know I had found a natural talent?

Well, things you are brilliant at doing, reveal themselves in five different ways:

#1 – Brilliance Comes Easy

When you engage in an activity that is easier for you than for others, you’ve found your brilliance.

Writing came very easy to me. The words just flowed effortlessly from my brain and onto the keyboard.

We all have innate talents, or things we are just brilliant at doing. Most never discover them because, finding your brilliance, requires experimentation.

When you experiment with numerous, different activities, eventually you will stumble upon something that naturally comes easy to you; something you can do easier, faster and better than others.

#2 – Brilliance Provides You With Never-Ending Energy

When you find an activity that you can engage in for many hours, without losing energy or getting tired, you’ve found your brilliance.

I could write for five, six or even seven hours straight without tiring or getting bored. I never lost my energy. I never felt fatigued. It was as if I had tapped into some limitless supply of energy.

There is a little-known energy source that lies dormant inside each one of us, waiting to be released. This energy source is very powerful. It is controlled by the limbic system, one of the oldest regions of the brain.

In this region resides your emotions. When you find something you are brilliant at doing, you tap into the emotional centers of the brain, which then fuel all of your energy needs while you are engaged in your brilliance.

#3 Brilliance Makes Time Flies By

When you engage in an activity, and time seems to just fly by, you’ve found your brilliance.

My early morning workweek writing routine was (and still is) to write for two hours. That’s all the time I had during the workweek. Those two hours felt like two minutes. Time just seemed to fly while I was writing. In fact, it got so bad, I had to buy a timer that would go off after two hours. This way, I would not be late for work, which had happened several times.

#4 Brilliance Makes You Want to Practice

When you find your brilliance, you will desire to engage in it over and over again.

I enjoyed writing so much. In fact, I hated when that timer went off. It meant I had to stop writing and get ready for work. I just wanted to keep writing.

Because I never wanted to stop writing, I couldn’t wait to wake up the next morning to begin writing again. I started waking up earlier and earlier, every day. And amazingly, I sprang out of bed, down to my basement office and immediately began writing.

#5 Brilliance is Fun

When you find happiness and joy in doing something, you’ve found your brilliance.

Writing, right out of the gate, felt like fun. It definitely did not feel like work. Because it felt like fun, I noticed I was very happy when I was writing. Knowing that the very next morning I was going to be writing again, kept me feeling happy all day long, even when I wasn’t engaged in my writing activity. My wife was the first to notice that I seemed much happier since I had started writing.

These five clues only show up when you experiment with diverse activities.

“But I’m old. It’s too late for me.”

Stop worrying about your age. Don’t put that limiting belief in your head. I found my brilliance at age 47. Colonel Sanders (Kentucky Fried Chicken founder) found his brilliance in his early sixties.

The way I see it, ten years is going to go by no matter what you do. Why not devote a few hours a day, mining for your brilliance?

I can promise you this – if you find your brilliance, your life will improve in ways you never imagined. And, more importantly, you’ll be happy.

Success Requires Focus – How to Supercharge Your Ability to Focus

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Tom Corley boats - crop

Focus is way more than a just a habit. Focus involves an orchestra of variables that must all come together.

What makes focus so complex is the fact that it is dependent on the optimal performance of the most complex organ we possess – our brain.

Your brain never sleeps. It is constantly active. This activity can be measured by brain waves. Brain waves are the speed at which brain cells talk to one another. When you focus, your brain waves operate at a much faster frequency than normal, known as the Gamma frequency.

While in this Gamma state, your brain is sucking energy from the body at an accelerated rate, in order to provide itself with the fuel that focus requires.

Any little hiccup can throw a wrench into the brain’s ability to maintain focus. In my book, Change Your Habits Change Your Life, I list all of the Focus Killers. Below are the top eight Focus Killers:

#1 Distractions

Your environment can be a host to many distractions:

  • People – Wife, kids, co-workers, etc. can disrupt you while you are in the flow of focus.
  • Phone Calls – Ringing phones disrupt your focus. Even worse would be taking a phone call during your focus time.
  • Emails – Those annoying ding sounds you get every time you receive an email disrupts your focus. Focus becomes even more distracted if you decide to read or respond to those emails.
  • Text Messages – If you have any sound effects triggered by text messages, every chime or whistle will disrupt your focus. And, once again, reading and responding to text messages while in the flow of focus, disrupts it entirely.
  • Background Noise – If you have TV news on while you are trying to focus, those Breaking News Alerts will disrupt your focus. So too will music. Songs can trigger emotional responses that cause your mind to drift back in time to an old flame, a concert you attended, or any life event linked to a song.

The solution is to unplug from technology and block off two hours a day without any distractions. No phones ringing, hide your cell phone and turn off all background noise.

This is why I advocate waking up early and spending those early morning hours focusing on your  top priorities, which should be your personal and professional dreams and goals.

#2 Chronic Stress

Short-term stress can actually improve focus and concentration. But chronic stress is very different from short-term stress.

Chronic stress causes a cavalcade of chemical reactions within the body that produce cortisol, the chronic stress hormone. Cortisol is a chemical that impairs your ability to focus by redirecting your brain and your body’s resources. Thus, if you are suffering from chronic stress, focus will be very difficult. Death of a loved one, financial problems, marital problems, health problems, all produce chronic stress.

Study after study has concluded that aerobic (running, biking etc.) and anaerobic (weight lifting/high intensity training) exercises stifle the production of cortisol, alleviating chronic stress. Thirty minutes a day of doing both will reverse the effects of chronic stress.

#3 Sleep Deprivation

If you are not getting between 7 – 8.5 hours of sleep a night, you are very likely suffering from sleep deprivation. Since one of the most important functions of sleep is to clean the brain of toxins that build up during the day, lack of adequate sleep means toxins are building up inside and on brain cells, impairing their ability to function properly.

#4 Glucose Depletion

When glucose reserves become depleted, the brain sends a signal to stop engaging in an activity. This is commonly referred to as Decision Fatigue or Willpower Depletion. So, Willpower Depletion is really just the depletion of glucose reserves in the body.

Each individual has their own unique reservoir of willpower. Some naturally have more, some less. On average, willpower, or your ability to focus, lasts between 90 – 120 minutes.

When you run out of willpower, you essentially run out of brain fuel – glucose, and you must take immediate action to regain your willpower and your focus:

  • Rest or Nap – 20 to 30 minutes is all you need to restore your willpower reserves.
  • Eat a Sugar Snack – This quick fix should only be used in emergency situations because after 20 – 30 minutes you will find yourself even more depleted than before and your focus even more impaired than before.
  • Eat a Healthy Snack – This should be combined with rest or a nap, which will provide a maximum boost in willpower reserves, giving you another 90-120 minutes of focused thinking.

#5 Boredom

It is always very difficult to focus on anything you hate doing or that bores you. This is why I spend so much time writing and speaking about the need to find that thing that makes your heart sing and then figuring out how to monetize it.

When you like or love what you are doing, you turn up the volume on certain parts of the brain associated with emotions (amygdala, thalamus, hippocampus, hypothalamus, cingulate gyrus and ventral tegmental area). These emotional brain centers do not succumb to willpower depletion, which means you can focus for many hours without feeling fatigued.

#6 Poor Diet

Since the brain is such a heavy consumer of energy, a poor diet will deprive your brain of the nutrients it desperately needs in order to allow you to focus. Two out of every three meals should be vegetables with the third meal being high in protein (fish, lean meat, chicken).

#7 Inconsistent Exercise

Aerobic exercise is, next to sleep and diet, the third most important thing you can do for your brain. When you exercise aerobically, you feed your brain with oxygen, which is used by those cells to convert glucose to energy (Adenosine Triphosphate, or ATP for short).

If you are not exercising enough aerobically, that means you are not feeding your brain cells with enough oxygen, which then leads to an energy crisis inside your brain.

#8 Drugs/Alcohol

The use of drugs or alcohol causes the overproduction of certain neurotransmitters, such as dopamine. This throws the brain off kilter, making it nearly impossible to focus for any significant period of time. The problem is compounded with excessive use of drugs or alcohol. This puts you brain into permanent repair mode, which means it is using precious brain fuel for repair needs, leaving little left for focus needs.

Start Painting Your Masterpiece

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Tom Corley boats - crop

On October 18, 2000 Thomas Labrecque died at age 62. I knew Mr. Labrecque, so I was very sad at his passing.

His obituary highlighted only some of his accomplishments in life. Here’s a sampling:

  • US Navy Veteran where he served on a destroyer at Guantanamo Bay during the Cuban Missile Crisis and where he headed a section responsible for deploying ships in the blockade off Cuba
  • Graduate of Villanova
  • American University Graduate School
  • New York University Graduate School
  • Chase Management Trainee Program
  • Member of Chase Management Committee at just age 38, ten years younger than any previous member
  • President and CEO of Chase
  • Chairman of Chase’s International Advisory Council
  • Board of Trustees at the University of Notre Dame
  • Trustee of the Hospital for Special Surgery

There was much more, but I think you get the point.

Mr. Labrecque’s life was a masterpiece.

After reading Mr. Labrecque’s obituary, I remember thinking, “what the hell do I have to show for my life?

That question haunted me until 2004, which is when I began my Rich Habits Study.

That dream, to understand why some people are rich and some people struggle with poverty, pushed me in directions that completely changed the course of my life, and the portrait of my life.

And every day, thanks to my relentless pursuit of that dream, I am adding vibrant new colors to my portrait.

If I were to die today, I would be proud of my obituary.

If you were to write your obituary today, what would it say?

Would it make you proud?

Would a reader marvel at your accomplishments?

Would it be an exclamation point at the end of an amazing life?

We all have the same amount of time. We paint our life’s portrait by how we spend that time.

When your time is running out, the last thing you want to feel is regret – regret for not doing more with your life, for not utilizing your full potential.

Start painting your masterpiece today. Take that first step towards your new, amazing life. Take action on your dreams and your goals.

The pursuit and realization of dreams and goals are what transforms ordinary portraits into masterpieces.