Confidence is Overrated

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I cringe every time I read an article about confidence. The majority of the time, these articles offer strategies that will help you build confidence which will help you succeed in life. Such strategies run the gamut from positive affirmations, role playing in a mirror, associating with other confident people, adopting confident body language, creating victory lists, and on and on. Just type in confidence in Google and the first 20 hits you’ll see will be articles on how to boost confidence.

What I learned from my five-year study of the wealthy, particularly the self-made millionaires, is that confidence comes and goes even for the rich and successful. It’s like the high tides and the low tides rolling in and out of the ocean. One day you’re riding high with confidence and the next day your filled with nothing but doubts. It doesn’t matter if you have $100 in the bank or $100 million. Confidence is never a permanent thing.

You gain confidence when your actions and decisions succeed in moving you closer to realizing your dreams and your goals. You lose confidence when your actions and decisions keep you stuck or force you backwards, further away from your dreams and goals.

On any given day, Elon Musk is brimming with confidence when one of his SpaceX rockets reaches space or wallowing in misery and self doubt when one blows up.

Confidence is not a driver for success. Rather, it is the byproduct of it. You gain confidence when you succeed and you lose confidence when you fail.

If you lack confidence, welcome to the club. Confidence is not something you can will into existence by staring at a mirror and repeating positive affirmations. Confidence does not create success. Success creates confidence.

 

Uncertainty – A Fact of Life for Entrepreneurs

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Being an entrepreneur isn’t easy. The upfront investment in time and money is significant.

The early part of the journey for an entrepreneur is one fraught with nothing but uncertainty.

You invest most, if not all of your time, money and energy in something with no guarantee of success. Despite your best efforts, things often go wrong. In the beginning, there’s an endless parade of setbacks, obstacles and mistakes. You begin to doubt yourself with every misstep. These doubts fill your waking moments and invade your dreams. Peace of mind is hard to find. Uncertainty sucks the life out of you. It drains you of your confidence and every day you wonder if it is all worth it?

It takes superhuman resilience to survive the entrepreneur’s journey. So, why do it? Why even try?

Because the journey transforms your life. It forces you to develop new skills, acquire new knowledge and introduces you to many outstanding, success-minded people. If you are able to survive the journey and succeed, what awaits is a better life for you and your loved ones. Happiness and fulfillment are on the other side of the journey.

Success means no more financial worries. Success means you can send your children and your grandchildren to the finest schools, giving them a leg up in life. Success means you can help your adult children buy their first home. Success means you can pay for your child’s wedding. Success means you can spend more time with your family at your vacation home. Success means you can help family and friends who are struggling financially, survive. Success means you can use your money to help local charities do more good. Success gives your life more meaning because of all the good you can do for family, friends and your community.

Yes, the journey for entrepreneurs is difficult. But during that journey, you acquire superpowers that never go away. And those superpowers have significant monetary value that pay dividends for the rest of your life.

Is Your Job Turning You Into a Zombie?

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Zombies never become rich. And zombies are unhappy.

There are so many people stuck in jobs that make them feel like they are on a treadmill. Every day is the same. The same routines, same tasks, same people to report to and collaborate with, same issues, same problems, same environment.

When you are stuck in a job doing the same thing with the same people, you become a zombie.

Perhaps the worst Zombie Jobs are the ones in which you are required to account for every minute of your time, every day. Accountants, attorneys, construction contractors, programmers and many independent contractors must account for their time every day.

If you study millionaires, as I have, the one common denominator is that they are not zombies. Sixty-one percent were entrepreneurs who left their full time jobs and transformed their lives. Their days are all different. Their time is owned by no one. They engage in different activities every day with different people. They are not stuck in the same environment. They often travel to different places, meeting with different people. Why is this so?

They are not zombies because they invested in themselves over many years. That investment enabled them to grow as individuals. This growth gave them superpowers – unique skills, knowledge and expertise, valued by society. Their investment in themselves set them free.

Those stuck in zombie jobs lack unique skills, knowledge or expertise and are always employed by someone or some company. If you’re one, the solution is to isolate an hour or more every day developing unique skills, knowledge and expertise that will, over time, make you more valuable. Those who develop their own superpowers are valued by society more than others. This translates into freedom. With your new superpowers you’ll be able to escape your full-time zombie existence and  become your own boss; free from the monotony of doing the same thing every day at the same place with the same people.

Take a stand  today. Start pursuing things on the side that you are passionate about and that you can monetize. Over time you will develop new skills, knowledge and expertise that will give you the superpowers you need to end your zombie existence. It takes many years of dedicated investment, but what awaits you at the end is freedom. Freedom from being a zombie.

 

Buridian’s Ass

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A donkey stands between a pile of hay and a bucket of water. The donkey cannot choose between the hay or the water. After some time, the donkey falls over and dies from hunger and thirst.

This famous story of Buridian’s Ass is a metaphor for indecision and inaction. Decisions and actions always have consequences. It’s impossible to anticipate every possible outcome for the choices we make and the actions we take.  The most successful people in life cast aside their fears and choose a corse of action even when they do not possess all of the facts, knowledge and skills they believe they need in order to produce a perfect outcome.

We can only grow as individuals by taking action. The mistakes and consequences become learning experiences. Those who take action grow. Those who grow, gain knowledge and experience. Those with the most knowledge and experience realize the greatest success in life.

At the Top of the Stairs You’ll Find the Elevator

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“All things are difficult before they are easy.” Thomas Fuller

The path towards success is like climbing a never ending flight of stairs. Each step, another obstacle to overcome. Each step, another mistake to learn from. Each step, another closed door opened.

Success is not for the meek. It requires a warrior mindset. When you have a warrior mindset, each one of the steps you must climb is an enemy you must defeat.

It takes years to get to the top of the stairs. Only the most persistent are able to make the climb. But once you get to the top, you’ll find an elevator waiting for you.

Things are always harder at first. The beginning is always a struggle. But, in time, things do get easier. You learn, you improve, you gain experience. Eventually you figure out what to do and what not to do.

You see evidence of this law at work all the time. Someone toils and grinds away at something for years, perfecting their craft. Then, someone in the media exposes their greatness to the world. Suddenly, they find themselves riding the elevator. And they become another overnight success story.

  • Bill Gates founded Microsoft in 1975. Six years later, he managed to land a contract with IBM, who decided to use his operating system for their computers. It took another five years before Microsoft made enough money to go public in 1986, making him an overnight success worth $350 million.
  • Sam Walton was turned down over and over again by banks for desperately needed loans to grow his company. Eventually, a bank took a risk and loaned Walton the money to expand his company. Now it’s one of the largest corporations in the world. It seemed to happen overnight, but it didn’t.
  • Jesus Christ was unknown even 2,300 years after his death. In the year 300 AD, Christianity was adopted as the new religion of the Roman Empire and Jesus became an overnight success.

Those Who Succeed Build Habits Around Their Strengths

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“You don’t succeed because you have no weaknesses. You succeed because you find your unique strengths and focus on developing habits around them.” Tim Ferriss

Even the most gifted, talented and successful individuals are swimming in flaws.

  • JFK, Tiger Woods and Arnold Schwarzenegger were womanizers.
  • Edgar Allen Poe and Stephen King, iconic writers, were consumed by drug and alcohol addictions.
  • Winona Ryder, Megan Fox & Britney Spears, famous celebrities, were all caught shoplifting in the height of their success.
  • Tiger Woods also struggles with a gambling addiction. As does Charles Barkley, Michael Jordan and Ben Affleck.

Yet, despite their many flaws, they excelled in life. How?

What propelled them to greatness and riches was their ability to focus on one or two strengths for many years.

The secret to escaping poverty and accumulating enormous wealth, for self-made millionaires, is finding one or two innate talents and then devoting your life to building habits around those talents:

  • JFK devoted his life to honing his political skills.
  • Arnold Schwrzenegger devoted focused chunks of his life to four key areas: first on bodybuilding, then on real estate investing, acting and politics.
  • Tiger Woods devoted his life to golf beginning at age 2.
  • Michael Jordan focused all of his efforts on basketball after he was cut from his high school basketball team.

The path towards success is not eliminating your weaknesses. It is finding one or two innate talents that you possess and then devoting your life to building daily habits around those strengths.

Don’t focus on eliminating or minimizing your flaws. Focus on building your strengths. We were all born with certain innate talents; natural gifts. Find them, develop habits around them and life will rain success down upon you.

 

Make Your Money Invisible

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Cheap people and frugal people are two very different types. Cheap people focus on price first, when it comes to spending their money. Frugal people focus on quality first when it comes to spending their money. But one common denominator they both share is that they control how much money they spend.

Most people, however, are neither cheap nor frugal. Consequently, they are not cautious about their spending. If you don’t make a lot of money, this character trait can lead to credit card debt and poverty.

But, there is a solution. In my study of frugal self-made millionaires, I found one strategy that they used to limit how much money was available for them to spend. I call it the Invisible Money Strategy. The Invisible Money Strategy involves just three simple steps:

Step #1 Define Your Monthly Nut

This step requires that you track your spending for a few months in order to determine exactly how much money you are spending on your needs and how much money you are spending on your wants. Your needs are the things that you must spend money on in order to survive.

Your needs include housing costs, food, car expenses etc. Your wants include entertainment expenses such as going to restaurants, bars, taking vacations, buying jewelry or buying other stuff you don’t really need.

Your wants also include super-sizing on your needs. You super-size when you buy a house in a upscale neighborhood or when you buy a bigger house just to give others the impression that you are doing well. You super-size when you buy a more expensive car just to impress others. You super-size when you buy a more expensive wedding ring, watch or anything that falls into the latest fad category. Latest fad spending includes clothing, cell phones, computers, etc.

Once you have defined your monthly nut, you know exactly how much money you need to survive.

Step #2 Calculate Your Excess Money

Subtract your monthly nut from your total monthly take home pay. This equals your Excess Money

Step #3 Make Your Money Invisible

Open up a separate savings account. Every time you get paid, immediately move your Excess Money into the savings account. This will force you to spend only what you have in your main checking account. This has three psychological effects. The first, is that the simple act of moving your Excess Money into a savings account makes you feel good about yourself. Feeling good about yourself makes you happy. The second effect is that you will be forced to limit your spending to what is available in your main checking account. This forces discipline, which also makes you feel good about yourself. The third effect is the psychological impact of caving into your wants. Every time you move money from your savings account back to your main checking account, in order to spend money on something you want, you will feel like you are cheating. This makes you feel bad about yourself, which leads to unhappiness.

People naturally gravitate to things that make them feel happy and avoid things that make them feel unhappy. The Invisible Money Strategy plays into that natural human tendency. Over time you will develop the habit of spending money only on your needs in order to prevent the unhappiness that results when you give into your wants.

Give it a try for a at least four months. It takes about four months to forge good money habits.

 

Top 6 Habits of Successful Entrepreneurs

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The life of an entrepreneur isn’t easy. The early stages of every start-up is fraught with obstacles, potholes, dead ends and wrong turns. Successful entrepreneurs do certain things which help them navigate around those obstacles, potholes, dead ends and wrong turns:

  1. Self-Education – Successful entrepreneurs read and learn like their life depended on it. They read books, read articles, read blogs, listen to podcasts, listen to audio books and watch video interviews of other successful entrepreneurs.
  2. Tap Experts – Successful entrepreneurs find mentors who succeeded. They ask them questions, tapping their knowledge and experience.
  3. Take Action – Successful entrepreneurs gain knowledge and experience through the school of hard knocks by taking action. Taking action teaches them what to do and what not to do.
  4. Develop Processes That Work – Successful entrepreneurs use the knowledge and experience they gain from the school of hard knocks to develop processes that work, in order to avoid repeating what doesn’t work and to ensure repeating what does work.
  5. Find Apostles – Successful entrepreneurs build a team of talent. They search for and eventually find talented individuals who share their dreams and goals.
  6. They Don’t Follow the Herd – Successful entrepreneurs are not followers. They are trailblazers. They separate themselves from the herd and never look back. Success brings more and more people into their herd. Successful entrepreneurs understand that the more people they bring into their herd, the more successful they will be.

 

Happiness & Epigenetics

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Last week Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam in the Netherlands published a paper that, for the first time, linked genetics to happiness.

In the study of nearly 300,000 people, the researchers, led by Meike Bartels, found that there was a direct link between genes and happiness.

This is a groundbreaking study. For the first time, researchers were able to determine that happiness is genetic; that your your happiness is predetermined by your genes.

But there’s much more to the story. You see, the research also pointed out that environmental factors can turn happiness or sadness genes on or off. In other words, your environment can turn on or off genes that make you happy or sad. This environmental influence over your genes is known as epigenetics.

Environmental Factors That Make You Happy

  • Associate with Happy People – If your inner circle is made up of happy people, like a virus, they will infect you, turning on your happiness genes and suppressing your sadness genes.
  • Gratitude – Expressing gratitude every day can turn happiness genes on and sadness genes off.
  • Volunteering – Helping others through volunteer work can turn happiness genes on and sadness genes off.
  • Dream-Setting – Pursuing something you are passionate about, something that you love, can turn happiness genes on and sadness genes off.
  • Goal-Setting – Pursuing meaningful goals, goals that help advance your dreams, can turn happiness genes on and sadness genes off.
  • Happy Mentors – Finding a mentor who is happy, upbeat and optimistic, activates your own happiness genes and deactivate your sadness genes.
  • Happy Spouses – When you marry a spouse who is happy, upbeat and optimistic, activates your own happiness genes and deactivates your sadness genes.
  • Happy Boss – Working for a boss who is happy, upbeat and optimistic, activates your own happiness genes and deactivates your sadness genes.
  • Read to Learn – The brain loves to learn. It’s hardwired to learn and rewards you, when you read to learn, with happiness neurotransmitters that turn happiness genes on and sadness genes off.
  • Find a Happy Job – Finding a job that you like or love will turn on your happiness genes and suppress your sadness genes.
  • Reach – Taking on projects or responsibilities that force you to grow as an individual (meaning to learn new things) excites the brain, which then releases happiness neurotransmitters that turn on happiness genes and turn off sadness genes.
  • New Hobbies – The brain likes novelty. When you take up a new hobby or anything new, your brain rewards you by producing happiness neurotransmitters which turn on happiness genes and turn off sadness genes.

It May be the Industry That Sucks and Not You

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Back in early 1991 I was really just getting starting in my career as a corporate tax specialist. I had recently passed a rigorous three day, 22-hour exam and was awarded the prestigious CPA designation. With that CPA in hand I was able to secure a higher paying job as a Tax Manager in a large cement manufacturing company that was on the precipice of going public (issuing stock to the public via one of the stock exchanges) in the U.S.

Along with my new responsibilities as a Tax Manager, I was spending 3 nights a week attending graduate school to get my Masters degree in Taxation. I was also working  15-20 hours a week part time as a tax preparer for a friend’s CPA firm in order to pay for graduate school.

I was burning the candle at both ends but I was happy because my future looked bright. Once my company went public, I stood to make a lot of money in the form of stock bonuses and stock options.

Then the recession hit. My company lost $20 million dollars in 1992 because of that recession. Upper management issued a company-wide memo, informing all employees that salaries would be frozen for at least one year.

I remember sitting at a bar with my boss shortly after the news hit. We had both worked so hard the past two years organizing our tax department, hiring the right staff and putting smart systems and processes in place. We invested our lives in our company, at the expense of family time. We were both very down and we decided to drown our sorrows with some beer. We talked about the situation we found ourselves in. I naively suggested to my boss that things would turn around and everything would eventually work itself out. My normally optimistic boss looked me in the eyes and said that the loss likely meant our company would not go public. Then he looked down at his beer, then back up to me and said,  “it’s the industry that sucks, not us.”

I learned an important lesson from that experience. You can be the best, brightest, hardest working person in your industry, but if that industry is shrinking and not growing, all that hard work and smarts doesn’t matter. Becoming successful requires much more than working hard and working smart. You have to work hard and work smart in the right industry. Hard work and smarts are rewarded in growth industries.

Just look at those smart hard working people at Google, Apple, Uber, Facebook, or Netflix, many of whom are now multi-millionaires. Then compare them to those smart hard working people who worked at Kodak, Blockbuster, Shearson Lehman, or Barnes and Noble. These companies were all in industries that have been disrupted by technology and are either bankrupt, shut down or in steep decline.

Success isn’t easy. You have to forge the traits, habits, thinking, work ethic and good decision-making of self-made millionaires. While all of those success traits are important, good decision-making is probably the most important. It requires that you make choices in life that offer you the best chance for success. One of the biggest decisions you can make in life is in picking the industry you will devote your working life to. Make sure that industry is one that is exploding and not imploding. Plant your flag in the right industry and not just any industry. Life rewards you when you make good decisions and punishes you when you don’t.