Here’s Why Successful People Control Their Emotions

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Emotions are a habit.

How you react emotionally, when life throws a wrench into things, is a habit.

One of the greatest traits of the self-made millionaires in my study was their ability to control negative emotions when all hell was breaking loose.

Why is controlling your emotions so important to success?

In a landmark study called the Broaden and Build Theory, lead researcher, B. L. Fredrickson discovered that negativity reduces cognitive ability. Meaning, emotions prevent you from thinking clearly.

Here’s the physiology behind the Broaden and Build Theory:

When you become emotional, the Amygdala, part of the subconscious Limbic System, takes control of your brain. It overpowers your neocortex, the executive command and control center of the brain.

With the neocortex partially shut down, decisions and actions are directed by the Amygdala.

Often, these decisions and actions are retaliatory and wind up damaging or destroying relationships; relationships you may have devoted a lifetime to building.

Also, these decisions and actions are not well-thought out. Knee jerk reactions/decisions are made; reactions/decisions you would never consider with a clear head.

Because your neocortex is missing in action, you overlook facts and details. Your focus becomes narrow. You are not acting and making decisions with a clear head.

If you think about it, it makes sense. Self-made millionaires forge the habit of controlling their emotions in order to maintain their cognitive abilities. This allows them to think through problems, come up with thoughtful solutions and solve the problem that created the turmoil in the first place.

This is why controlling your emotions is a Rich Habit.

Are Millionaires Just Lucky?

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In my speaker role, I am often asked by someone, “How important is luck with respect to becoming rich?”

It’s a very good question.

There are certain self-made millionaires (Saver/Investors), where luck does not play much of a factor. These millionaires become rich by saving and prudently investing their savings. Time, more than luck, is the overriding factor in accumulating wealth for these types of millionaires.

For the entrepreneurs or those chasing some dream, however, luck becomes a major variable in their success equation.

With respect to these entrepreneurs/dreamers, I learned that, through their daily habits, they tee’d themselves up to become lucky. I even gave the unique type of luck they create a name – Opportunity Luck.

In order to understand Opportunity Luck, you need to understand luck in general. There are four types of luck:

  1. Random Good Luck
  2. Random  Bad Luck
  3. Opportunity Good Luck and
  4. Detrimental Bad Luck

Random Good Luck

This is a type of luck that no one has control over. It’s like winning the lottery, receiving an inheritance from an old relative you didn’t even know you had or simply being born into a rich family.

Random Bad Luck

When people say they have no luck, they usually mean they have no good luck. The fact is, we all experience luck in our lives. Unfortunately, sometimes it’s random bad luck. Getting hit by lightening, your employer going bankrupt, war breaking out in your country, being born with color blindness or being a jew in Germany between 1939 – 1945 are all types of Random Bad Luck.

Opportunity Good Luck

This is the type of good luck that entrepreneurs and dreamers create. How? They do certain things that create the opportunity for good luck to occur in their lives.

  • They pursue a dream. The dream requires fast learning, so they read a lot about anything related to their dream. This new knowledge opens their eyes to opportunities that were previously invisible to them. Seeing opportunities means you can pursue them. Opportunities that pay off, create good luck.
  • They take risks. What makes a risk a risk, is the impossibility of knowing everything you need to know in order to succeed. As a result, mistakes are made. These mistakes teach you what works and what doesn’t work. Mistakes help you stumble onto unique processes that help automate success. These new processes create good luck.
  • They experiment. Like risk, experimentation reveals what works and what doesn’t work. Same outcome as taking risks – you stumble upon unique process that help you automate success. These new processes create good luck.
  • They forge good habits. When you are chasing a dream, almost by default, you must create goals in order to realize your dream. Embedded in every goal is action. Actions that work, you habitualize. These new habits help automate success and create good luck.

Detrimental Bad Luck

This is a type of bad luck that finds residence in the poor and the struggling. Why? They do certain things that manifest this bad luck. I call these certain things, Poor Habits. These include, overeating, never exercising, not reading every day for self-improvement, watching too much T.V. and many others. Each Poor Habit is like a snowflake on a mountainside. In time, these snowflakes build up until you experience an avalanche of bad luck. This might be a heart attack, getting fired from your job, or bankruptcy.

You only need to worry about luck if you are an entrepreneur or chasing some dream. Those who save and invest aren’t really dependent on luck.

The Wealth Elite

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One of the valid criticisms of my Rich Habits study is that my study was conducted by a non-academic and, thus, did not apply the generally accepted methodologies used by academia in studies.

Also, my research included both qualitative (Q & A Interviews) and quantitive data, and this deviates from the norm, which is primarily quantitative in nature.

In short, I was an outsider and, thus, not qualified to embark on such a study.

Well, finally, an insider in academia, Reiner Zitelmann, who holds a PhD in History and Sociology and author of 21 books, embarked on a study, very similar to my Rich Habits Study.

Zitelmann’s study, like my Rich Habits study, applied a qualitative and quantitative approach.

In his study, Zitelmann interviewed 45 wealthy individuals. He asked many questions. Each interview lasted between one to two hours during the period of October 2015 – march 2016.

Zitelmann, a professed insider, confirmed the advantages of the qualitative approach to such a study, which I knew, intuitively.

Zitelmann shared his research in an amazing book titled, The Wealth Elite, which I highly recommend.

Zitelmann corroborates many of my findings in my Rich Habits Study. This is a truly remarkable book and I highly recommend it to my audience.

Many of the findings will be very familiar to my followers and subscribers.

While the breath of the study encompasses only 45 wealthy individuals, as compared to 233 in my study, it nonetheless confirms many of the findings in my Rich Habits Study.

Knowledge is power and seeking knowledge is a Rich Habit.

This book is filled with knowledge. It will be another tool in your tool belt that you can use along your journey towards success and the realization of your dreams and goals.

What It Takes To Be An Entrepreneur

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It is not easy being an entrepreneur. Entrepreneurs must fight millions of years of human evolution; evolution that compels you to seek out the safety inherent in the herd.

This desire to herd helped early humans survive the onslaught of predators, lurking around every corner. Being part of a herd was the means by which humans survived the early years of humanity.

But entrepreneurship requires rugged individualism. That individualism forces entrepreneurs to step outside the herd; separating themselves from the thinking and actions of the herd.

In short, they are forced to lead and to create their own herd.

Successful entrepreneurs who become millionaires have hundreds in their herd.

Successful entrepreneurs who become deca-millionaires have thousands in their herd.

And successful entrepreneurs who have millions in their herd, become billionaires.

Those who are unable to step outside the herd are not suited for entrepreneurship. And that’s OK.

Most people are not suited to be entrepreneurs. The vast majority find comfort in the herd. They are happy to live their lives doing what everybody else is doing. Safety and security trumps their desire for wealth and success.

Consequently, those not suited to be entrepreneurs, do what others inside the herd do. They think what others inside the herd think. And their very success depends on the success of the herd.

If you believe you have what it takes to be an entrepreneur, you need to become aware of the many things that can derail entrepreneurship. These are the  enemies of entrepreneurship:

  • Fear & Doubt That Causes Inaction
  • Procrastination
  • Complacency
  • Victim Mindset
  • Feeling Hopeless
  • Desire for Safety & Security
  • Perfectionism
  • Quitting on Yourself
  • Lack of Persistence
  • Lack of Consistency
  • Poor Processes or No Processes
  • Bad Habits
  • Negative Thinking
  • Limiting Beliefs
  • Under-Capitalization
  • Poor Health

There are also structural enemies of entrepreneurship:

  • Heavy Government Regulations
  • Socialist or Communist Economic Systems
  • Dictatorial Government Leaders
  • Crony Capitalism

These structural enemies make is difficult, if not impossible, to succeed as an entrepreneur.

Countries who encourage entrepreneurship, embrace capitalism. They typically have low business taxes, tolerable government regulations and a free market system with minimal government interference.

Even the Scandanavian countries (Denmark, Finland, Norway and Sweden) who have been misrepresented as socialist countries, embrace free market capitalism, have low government control and regulation over businesses and keep business taxes relatively low (20-24%).

Rich Habits Poor Habits – Do the Rich Work More or Less Than the Poor?

Michael Yardney and Tom Corley discuss why the more you work the richer you become – believe it or not.

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Tracking Your Way to More Wealth and Better Health

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As many of you know, tracking is a Rich Habit.

I’ve written several times about the fact that self-made millionaires track certain things:

  • Exercise – For cardio, they tracked how many minutes every day they jogged, biked, swam, etc.
  • Calories – Typically, this involved tracking calories consumed every day, by meal.
  • Learning – Some of the self-made millionaires maintained Fact Binders, in which they would document new facts that could prove helpful in their career or business. They would then periodically review their Fact Binder to keep the new knowledge fresh.
  • Relationships – Here, the millionaires typically maintained a list of successful/important people they wanted to build relationships with. This list included columns for Happy Birthday Calls made, Hello Calls made and Life Event calls made during the year. Oftentimes they would automate these calls using some computerized calendar such as Outlook.

I have been using all of these systems. The one I use most often is the Tracking Schedule for exercise and calories. I love it because it enabled me to lose 38 pounds in 2007 and has been responsible for keeping my weight at between 179 – 183 lbs for the past 11 years.

You can click on the link below to see an example of the one I use.

tracking schedule

It’s very difficult to change or improve what you don’t track. Tracking is like an accountability partner. It is another tool in your tool belt for success.

Knowing Without Thinking

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The conscious part of the brain, the neocortex, is the thinking part of the brain.

The subconscious parts of the brain (limbic system and brain stem), are the unconscious or unthinking parts of the brain.

The unthinking brain, the subconscious, is old – millions of years old.

The thinking brain, the conscious, is, in terms of evolution, brand new – only hundreds of thousands of years old.

Habits and intuition (gut feelings) originate from the subconscious brain.

Habits and intuition allow humans to “know without thinking”.

Habits and intuition enable rapid, unconscious behaviors, thinking, solutions and responses.

Because the subconscious brain has been in existence far longer than the conscious brain, it has a greater capacity to intuitively “know”.

According to researcher, Gerd Gigerenzer (Gut Feelings: The Intelligence of the Unconscious), the unconscious brain is far superior to the conscious brain. It has the ability to take in information that is invisible to the conscious brain.

This invisible information is extracted from the environment via the five senses. The Reticular Activating System (RAS), Insula and Thalamus then process portions of this invisible information. The parts received by the conscious mind, either directly, via the RAS, Insula or Thalamus, or indirectly, via intuition (gut feelings), become “visible” to the conscious mind.

The parts not received by the conscious mind, remain “invisible” to the conscious mind, however, that “invisible” information remains stored in the subconscious to be used to:

  • Automate behavior, thinking, decisions and emotions (Habits), or
  • When needed for survival (fight or flight) or
  • To help us realize dreams or achieve goals.

Habits and intuition exist to help us “know without thinking”. This allows us to make split second, intuitive decisions and these decisions are often the most reliable.

The mechanism by which the subconscious communicates with the conscious is done one of two ways:

  1. By triggering habits or
  2. By communicating to the conscious mind via intuition, or gut feelings.

And the reason why habits and intuition are so critical to success is they draw their power from a part of the brain that has been in existence for millions of years.

Our old subconscious brains “know” things that our new conscious brains cannot know or see, without the assistance of the old subconscious brain.

Forging habits enables you to tap into the most powerful, all-knowing, part of the brain – the subconscious.

Is Your Brain Preprogrammed For Success or Failure?

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According to a study by Raj Raghunathan, Ph.D., Associate Professor with University of Texas McCombs School of Business, between 60-70% of self-talk is negative.

And, according to a landmark study by B.L. Frederickson, called The Broad and Build Study, this is a major problem. Negativity, they found, shuts down part of the neocortex, impairing focus, cognitive ability and lowering risk tolerance.

If you are pursuing success, a negative mental outlook acts like an neurological anchor, holding your brain back from optimal performance, thus increasing the odds you will fail.

The reality is, we are often too critical of ourselves. We obsess over mistakes and failures, thinking about them constantly.

The self-made millionaires in my study forged the habit of focusing on their successes in life. Instead of beating themselves up over mistakes and failures, they learn what they can from those mistakes and move on.

Positive thinking opens up your entire mind so that it can see opportunities and solutions rather than just problems. It toggles on the incredible powers of the subconscious mind’s Reticular Activating System, Insula and Thalamus.

These brain centers receive information from the environment through the five senses. If your brain remains preprogrammed for negativity, these brain centers will do their job and focus their search for negative things. As a result, they become blind to opportunities for success or solutions to your most pressing problems.

If, instead, you were to preprogram your brain for positivity, these brain regions will search the environment, via the five senses, for things that will help you realize your dreams and achieve your goals.

I discovered two tools the self-made millionaires in my study used to keep their mind positive, upbeat and optimistic.

The Victory Log  is a listing of all of your successes in life. Its purpose is focus on your successes and not your mistakes or failures. It’s a tool that stops your inherently negatively-biased conscious mind from focusing on the bad. It programs your subconscious to be success-focused and not failure-focused. It’s a psychological pat on the back and it works. Every time you screw up, pull out your Victory Log and begin reading. It will stop you from beating yourself up the rest of the day and prevent you from going negative.

Mistakes and failures are nothing more than valuable learning. They are not a reflection of your incompetence, lack of education, or some character flaw. They are just things to learn from. The Victory Log help put mistakes and failures in their proper context and keeps your mind positive.

A cool modification of the Victory Log is the Dreamer Victory Log, which I’ve written about before.

The Reward Strategy is another way to shift your habitual thinking from negative to positive.

Here’s how it works: every time you experience a success in life, no matter how small, reward yourself. This reward can be anything that you like. New clothes, candy, going out to dinner, the movies, buying yourself a gift, a milkshake, or in my case a Fosters Lager.

By rewarding yourself, you are reprogramming your subconscious for success. Your subconscious receives the message that success is good because it’s rewarded. This programming becomes part of the software code that directs the Reticular Activating System, Insula and Thalamus to begin seeking more success in life in order to receive a reward. Behind the scenes, your subconscious becomes a GPS, searching for opportunities and solutions, through intuition or gut feelings.

Unleash the Rebel Within

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In my first job after graduating college, I commuted from Staten Island to New York City by way of the Staten Island Ferry.

Over one thousand people stood inside the ferry terminal, shoulder to shoulder, as they made their way onto the ferry.

I felt like I was part of the herd, and I immediately loathed it.

Outsiders rebel against the herd. And, according to my research data, so do self-made millionaires.

And my research has recently been corroborated.

In an amazing book called The Wealth Elite, author Rainer Zitelmann studied the daily habits of 45 wealthy individuals.

More than 50% of the self-made millionaires in his study had a habit of swimming against the current. They preferred to pursue their own individual path in life rather than be part of the herd.

Self-made millionaires refuse to do what everyone else is doing. That is because they do not want to be like everyone else. The way they see it, everyone who is doing the same thing seems to be eking out a living; just getting by financially in life.

And they want no part of it.

Outsiders find unconventional ways to make their fortunes. They thrive going against the majority. They create unique ways to earn money. They take risks that the herd would never take. They pursue dreams and goals that the herd believes are unrealistic. They are nonconformists.

Your dreams and goals are not unrealistic.

Unleash the rebel inside you. Separate yourself from the herd by pursuing your dreams and goals.

There’s safety and security inside the herd.

But outside the herd is where self-made millionaires are born.

The Aftermath of Failure

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What do you do in the aftermath of failure?

How do you respond to failure?

  • Do you wallow in self pity?
  • Do you cast blame on others?
  • Do you search for excuses?

Those who become success stories, do two things:

#1 Self-Assess

After the emotions of failure subside, those who eventually succeed, go through a period of self-assessment. Their objective is to truly understand what went wrong.

They ask themselves certain questions:

  • What went wrong?
  • What was my role in this failure?
  • How can I prevent this from happening again?

#2 Take Action

After this Self-Assessment period, the successful take what they’ve learned from their failure and that learning becomes another tool in their tool belt – something to propel them towards success.

They put that new learning to use by taking action; action that, in many cases, leads to eventual success.

Being honest with yourself about your failures is a Rich Habit. That honesty reveals all of the mistakes you’ve made. Those mistakes are not a negative thing – they are your new assets. Assets that are then deployed to help you become successful in life.

The only way out of failure is to embrace it. Learn from it. And then take action with the new knowledge you’ve gained from your failure.