Think Big Start Small

tip-o-the-morning

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“You don’t have to see the whole staircase, just take the first step.”

– Martin Luther King

The idea of pursuing a dream is overwhelming. Like most dreamers who take action, there is a huge knowledge gap starting out. The pursuit of a dream eventually fills that gap. You gain knowledge, understanding and clarity by virtue of the multitude of missteps you make during the journey.

The key to taking action on a dream is to stop trying to see the entire staircase but to, instead, focus on the step in front of you. Once you navigate that step successfully, the second step appears, then the third and so on.

Each step you take is a learning experience. Learning by doing forces you to figure out how to overcome the inevitable pitfalls and obstacles that get in the way. The learning you acquire from those pitfalls and obstacles becomes emotional scar tissue on the brain – you don’t forget them. Emotions make learning stick.

So, the goal should not be to over think the steps you need to take. The goal should be to figure out what is the first step you need to take. Then take it. Don’t concern yourself with what you don’t know. No one who pursues a dream knows what they need to know. All dreamers are blind in the beginning.  You acquire your glasses that allow you to see, along the way.

 

Hard-Wired for Pessimism

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Pessimism is our tendency. We are all naturally hard-wired that way. Our initial response to unexpected events is pessimism. Why? Blame the amygdala. The amygdala is the seat of negative emotions. Those negative emotions, worry, anger, fear and anxiety, have served humans well.

Negative emotions have been around since the dawn of man. They act like a radar system, looking out for environmental dangers that could imperil our very existence. They are part of our fight or flight response system, alerting us to threats from our environment. The amygdala, raises the red flag, alerting us to potential dangers. It’s supposed to be a temporary thing. The amygdala is supposed to quiet down, allowing the prefrontal cortex, the command and control center of the brain, to go to work, solving the threat.

The problem, however, is that due to chronic stress, the amygdala remains on high alert in most people. This is bad. According to the latest science, negativity shuts down the prefrontal cortex. As a result, solutions to problems remain elusive. When you are perpetually negative, you are literally shutting down half of your brain, making it impossible for you to find solutions to the problems you encounter in life. 

Successful people, however, have conditioned themselves to be positive. When a problem, threat or unexpected event occurs, their positive mental outlook works to silence the amygdala, allowing the prefrontal cortex to get right to work solving the problem, threat or unexpected event. But, here’s the important thing – successful people weren’t born different from everyone else. They worked hard to develop a positive mental outlook. 

In my research I discovered some of the tricks the self-made millionaires used to create a positive outlook on life: daily exercise, journaling, scripting your ideal life, expressing gratitude every day, meditating and associating with other positive people, while avoiding negative people. I’ve written extensively about each one of these positivity tools.

If you are alive you will confront problems. That’s just life. It doesn’t matter if you’re rich or poor, there will always be problems. To turn off the negativity bias inside your brain, you must make an effort to stop negativity in its tracks. Every problem has a solution. When you confront problems with a positive mental outlook, you are able to shut down the negativity bias inside your brain and when you do, positive solutions will manifest out of thin air.

The Power of Posterity

tip-o-the-morning

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I must confess, I am driven in large part by my posterity. What is posterity? Posterity is what remains when you are gone. It is your legacy. It is the stories future generations will tell of you; the footprint you leave behind that lets the world know you lived a life of meaning.

I consistently post my Tip o’ the Morning to Ya with one hope in mind: that someone will find value in one of my morning tips which will change their life in such a way that they become motivated to pursue greatness and, in that greatness, they change the world. My legacy, therefore, is to be a catalyst for greatness, even if that greatness manifests itself in only one person.

We are all here for a reason. We are not here to simply live and die. We all have a purpose in life. Our purpose does not announce itself with trumpets and horns and ah ha moments. It creeps up on us. It nudges us in certain directions, ever so slightly. But we need to be ever vigilant in seeking it. We need to spend our lives in search for our individual purpose. For in that purpose lies our posterity. Find your purpose, pursue it and you will have lived a life of meaning that will live on, long after you die.

 

Lack of Time Means Lack of Priorities

tip-o-the-morning

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Almost every day I get a call from someone, somewhere and the first thing they say is, “I know you’re very busy.”

I always find my inner voice saying, “I’m not too busy actually.” But I also know what’s next. It’s typically some request for my time: a free speaking engagement, a podcast interview, contribute to some article they are working on or something else along those lines.

I always say no to anything that does not help me move forward in realizing my dreams or achieving my goals.

When I think of the idea of being busy, I think of someone who is out of control in their lives. They’ve said yes to too many things in life. They say yes because they have no priorities. They have no priorities because they are not pursuing their dreams or the goals behind those dreams.

When you are too busy it is almost always because you lack priorities. Priorities open your eyes to what’s most important in your life. And they act like stop signs for all of the things that are unimportant.

When you have priorities, you eliminate engaging in unimportant activities. Priorities free up your time and put you in control of your life. Having time is important. It keeps your calendar clear so you can take advantage of the important things that come along in life; the things that help move you forward in realizing your dreams and achieving your goals.

When you don’t have priorities, you take on too many things that add little value to your life. When that big opportunity does come along, you won’t recognize it. Your mind will be inundated with the need to complete all of the unimportant things you said yes to. You’ll be too busy to achieve and succeed.

 

Consistency Drives Success

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One of the hallmarks of successful people is that they are consistent. They forge routines that, from the outside looking in, don’t seem so incredibly hard to do. But what does make those routines hard is that they engage in them day in and day out. They are relentlessly consistent.

When Stephen King, author of Carrie, Cujo and many other blockbuster books, is writing a book, he will consistently write at least two thousand words a day for three months at a clip. He will write on weekends, holidays, even Christmas. Two thousand words a day works out to about ten pages a day. After three months, his first draft is complete.

My fifty year old sister-in-law, who has a body of an eighteen year old, runs virtually every day. She’s been doing that for more than thirty years. Earlier in the year, she began a one hundred day challenge in which she would run every day for one hundred days. She is closing in on two hundred straight days of running.  She is a mother with two children and has a demanding full-time job. There are days she can only run a mile or two. She does the one or two miles, no matter what. Running two miles a day might not seem hard. Running two miles a day for two hundred days, however, is hard.

If you want to be successful, you need to develop daily routines that move your forward in achieving your dreams and your goals. And you need to consistently engage in those routines even when you don’t feel like it. Over time, those who are relentlessly consistent, will outperform or outcompete or outgrow, those who are not. Consistency leaves your competition in the dust, given enough time.

Constructive vs Destructive Comparisons

tip-o-the-morning

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It is human nature, something hardwired into each one of us, to compare ourselves to those around us. Some good can come of it, especially when those within our social networks are of good character. In such cases, comparing yourself to others of high moral standing and who possess exceptional habits, is a good thing. It can lead to the development of good habits and morality. It can force you to grow in the right direction.

Where comparison goes wrong, however, is when it is tied to consumerism. When this hard-wired human tendency of comparing ourselves to others is applied to owning things, that is where the danger lies. Such comparisons lead to excess spending, debt and an unhappy life. In this instance, comparison becomes an unhealthy habit.

Seek constructive comparisons, such as good traits and habits you see in others. Avoid destructive comparisons, driven by consumerism, which motivates you to buy unnecessary things. Destructive comparisons are a slippery slope that will only lead to perpetual unhappiness and want.

 

Cultural Habits

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Many of the behaviors, habits and thinking we possess are the result of the different cultures we are part of. We are taught to think, feel and act by our culture. Without knowing it, we are literally doing things, saying things, responding to things and thinking things due to the conditioning we are exposed to every day.

There are many cultures you are exposed to during your lifetime. There are religious cultures, country cultures, town cultures, neighborhood cultures, family cultures, work cultures, high school cultures, college cultures, etc.

Each one of these cultures influences the habits you forge during your life. Some of these cultural habits are good, conditioning you to become thrifty or moral or compassionate. Some of these cultural habits are bad, conditioning you to spend money frivolously, go into debt, or do do immoral things.

As I’ve mentioned many times, habits spread like a virus within your social networks. Awareness is the most powerful tool available to stop bad habits in their tracks and replace them with good habits. Through awareness, you are able to identify those bad habits that are creating a life of misery.

When we know what those bad habits are, we can re-program ourselves by eliminating them and forging good habits. Surrounding yourself with others who have the habits you desire, can remove the cultural conditioning that gave you your bad habits.

You can join a local gym and adopt their good habits. You can join groups such as Weight Watchers and adopt their good habits. You can join a reading club and adopt their good habits. You can find a company which promotes self-improvement and personal growth and adopt their good habits.

Once you know which habits you want, it’s just a matter of finding a place, an environment, which fosters those good habits. The quality of your life is determined by the quality of your habits. You have only one life. Make sure you surround yourself with those who help make that life exceptional.

 

Rich Habit Diets vs Poor Habit Diets

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Rich Habit #4: I will devote part of each and every day in caring for my health

The food we eat passes from the mouth, to the esophagus, to the stomach, to the small intestine and finally into the large intestine. What remains then passes into the colon (longest portion of the large intestine) and into the toilet.

During this entire process, there is a lot going on. The latest research on what happens in the large intestine, however, is turning medical science on its head.

The types of food we eat alters the makeup of the bacteria that lives in our large intestine. This bacteria is called the microbiome. The microbiome is responsible for extracting energy from the calories we consume. It also synthesizes vitamins out of the food we consume.

Having the right microbiome in your large intestine makes you healthy. Having the wrong microbiome in your large intestine causes colds, flus, upper respiratory infections, cancer, heart disease, obesity, diabetes and all sorts of other horrific diseases.

 

The microbiome in fat and obese people is very different than the microbiome in thin people, according to Microbiologist Ruth Ley, Washington University, St. Louis, Missouri.

Fat and obese people consume too much fat, too many carbohydrates and too little fiber. This high fat diet results in the accumulation of too much firmicutes, also known as obese microbiota, and too few bacteroidetes, also known as lean microbiota.

Ironically, the firmicutes microbiota are able to extract more energy from every calorie, storing the excess in fat cells, causing you to gain weight. Bacteroidetes, conversely, are unable to extract as much energy from every calorie as firmicutes, and the rest is discharged in the form of stool. Those who consume food which contains more bacteroidetes than firmicutes, are leaner. Those who consume food which contains more firmicutes than bactericides, are fatter.

The Right Food

Two third’s of your diet needs to be high in fiber (plant-based and fruit-based) in order for the right microbiome to thrive. Yogurt is also a rich source of the right microbiota. The other one third is everything else: meat, bread, sweets, junk food, etc. High fiber foods such as fruits and vegetables, contain lean microbiota. You can also find these lean microbiota in supplements known as probiotics, which line the shelves of drug stores and retail outlets.

Probiotic supplements allow you to consume bacteria found in fruit and vegetables. The jury is still out as to whether or not the bacteria in these probiotics are able to survive the highly acidic environment inside the stomach in order to make their way to the large intestine, where most of the microbiota lives.

Microbiota survive inside the large intestine by eating the otherwise undigestible plant and fruit fibers that make their way from the stomach to the large intestine. So, fruits and vegetables not only provide you with the right microbiota, they also are a food source for these microbiota.

Food for thought.

Stress Triggers Bad Habits

tip-o-the-morning

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In a 2009 study on rats conducted by Rui Costa of the Champalimaud Foundation in Portugal in collaboration with the National Institute of Health, they found that chronic stress acts as a trigger for old habits.

This is an important discovery because the key to habit change is awareness. Being aware of your habits is the stopgap for engaging in destructive habits. If you are aware of the triggers that cause you to engage in bad habits, you can take action to avoid those triggers or to engage in activities that stop those triggers in their tracks before they have a chance to influence your habits.

Chronic stress is caused by external environmental factors. These factors could be almost anything: a demanding boss, deadlines, monthly bills, family, friends, weather, etc. You can feel stress as it is happening. Knowing this, there are things you can do to stop stress and, therefore, prevent bad habits from taking over your life.

For example, suppose deadlines act as a trigger for stress and when you feel stress you have the bad habit of reaching for a cigarette. Procrastination, therefore, is the worst possible thing you can do. The solution is to tackle the project long before the deadline approaches. This will prevent the stress trigger from occurring and thwart the bad cigarette habit.

Awareness of the triggers that create stress in your life and cause you to engage in bad habits, will help you to do certain things that prevent those triggers from occurring.

 

Wealth = Work and Sacrifice

tip-o-the-morning

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I interviewed 361 rich and poor people over a five year period to learn why they were rich or poor. After peeling back that onion, I came to the realization that most people really did not want to become rich.

Becoming rich requires an enormous amount of work and sacrifice. The sacrifice is the investment in time away from family and friends that is required.  It is also, oftentimes, a financial investment, which means taking a risk with your money or leveraging all of the assets you accumulated during your life. This investment and sacrifice is made by almost every self-made millionaire with a zero guarantee that success will occur and wealth will result.

Many who make the sacrifice fail. Some, pick themselves up and try again. And again, and again, and again. Failure is the common denominator in the lives of self-made millionaires.

For most, the work and sacrifice, along with initial failures, is too much to ask. After getting burned by failure and the lack of any return on their investment, most individuals put their tail between their legs and find safe, steady employment, working for those who refuse to quit.

If you were to study this process, as I have, you would come to the conclusion, as I have, that being poor or stuck in the middle-class is a choice. It’s a choice in that the work and the sacrifice, for most, is just not worth it.

The cold hard truth is that those who become self-made millionaires are really very special. They are willing to do the work, make the sacrifices, fail and never quit. If you want a secret to success it is this:

Work, sacrifice, fail and keep working, sacrificing and failing until you succeed