Category Archives: Simplification

My ‘Perfect Storm’

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“Believe in yourself! Have faith in your abilities! Without a humble but reasonable confidence in your own powers you cannot be successful or happy.”

Norman Vincent Peale

It’s been awhile since I’ve shared my journey to this point in my life. Much has changed and evolved since the last time I shared this story so I thought it was time for an update.

But first, a question for you: Do you believe in yourself?

Life is a crazy journey of unlikely twists and turns and one of the most important things I’ve learned is that I need to believe in myself before others will.

My beginning (literally)

Maybe it’s my natural tendency to be curious, but I like to understand where people are coming from and what makes them who they are. Everyone has a story and our story is what helps us connect to each other. Here’s mine.

My story starts in rural Eastern Oregon. That’s where I grew up. Back then, my idea of fun was seeing how many ‘city kids’ I could convince (dare) to touch the electric fence. It always brought me a twisted sense of pleasure to see the surprise on someone’s face after receiving an unexpected jolt of energy enter their body. And don’t worry. Karma got me back plenty of times. This is just the crazy shit young boys do.

My parents both worked full time and we lived on a horse ranch. Which sounds fun to most people until I describe the sheer volume of horse crap that I moved (manually) from one place to another.

I had a pretty standard small town upbringing, complete with grandpa’s fighting over who would take me fishing and getting reprimanded for making weird bodily noises in church.

By the time I was 18, I had spent my entire life in one single small town and I couldn’t wait to charge off to college and begin my own life. This was before parents thought it was normal to pay for their kids’ college tuition so I worked my way through college in pursuit of a better life. I was done with small towns and shoveling horse manure!

The brainwashing begins

I graduated from college and made my way to the big city and started working my way up the ladder in the fast paced world of technology. I worked hard, got married, bought a house in the suburbs, leased new cars, passed up vacations in order to work even harder, and thought that I was on a path to “success.” I had all the trappings of a good life and I was working hard but looking forward to the day that I would quit my job and be happy.

I was living what I thought was the life I wanted. I mean, everyone was telling me what a great career I had and what a great job I was doing so I must be doing it all right!

Umm…no! I was only following the lead of everyone else around me. I was allowing my friends, the culture and my work environment brainwash me. I was so busy being busy that I couldn’t see another way.

The storm hits

Back in the early 2000‘s, technology was the place to be and I was right smack in the middle of it working for a software startup in Portland. Everything was purring along nicely and then – BAM – the stock market crashed and within months, technology companies began firing people. The inconceivable was happening. And I got laid off. And then I did what seemed like a brilliant idea at the time. I started investing all of my money into real estate. And then the real estate market crashed. And then I lost everything I had worked so hard for.

A low point

I found myself newly divorced, out of work, nearly broke and looking for answers. If it had not been for what I now call my ‘Perfect Storm’, I might still be comfortably numb, spiritually bankrupt and feeling financially indestructible.

And as if things weren’t bad enough, my dog suddenly died and I lost my investment properties to foreclosure because I couldn’t sell them or pay for them. To say that all hell broke loose would be a massive understatement.

My ‘Perfect Storm’ shook me out of my complacency and plunged me into uncertainty, in which everything I held as important and true fell apart. Old beliefs began to to dissolve but nothing rushed in to take their place. I felt like I was just floating, ungrounded, desperate and hopelessly lost.

I had followed a path that was out of alignment for so many years and I was silently suffering. I remembered when I was a kid in school, how much I loved to draw, and paint, and create, and move, and play. What had happened? How did I get so off course? I still loved these things but I gave them up for what? For money? For security? For doing what others expected of me?

I found my way back into a technology job, leveraging my contacts and experience to do what I knew best. I drastically simplified my life, selling almost everything that I didn’t absolutely need or love. I started saving large chunks of my salary and I had zero debt for the first time in a long while. I started going to yoga and living a more healthy life. I felt as if I had wiped the slate clean and I was being re-born.

And then I began to dream again

I started getting glimpses of a new calling, but these glimpses would only come in flashes that were often undefined and fuzzy. But I knew something was coming. I felt an urge to be more creative but in a way that allowed me to work with people and earn some extra income on the side. I purposely mention income here because so many creative people tend discount it. Wake up! If you’re not making a good income, then you’re not serving your most important client – YOU!

Pondering how I could keep the parts of being in a technology career while ditching what sucked out my soul led me to realize that I wanted to help people learn to live unapologetically, in alignment with the truth of who they really are.

I never could have anticipated what happened next in my life. The more aligned I became with my inner desires, the more life seemed to return to me! I was getting raises and bonuses at work, I met and married the most amazing woman in the world, I started a little blog which led to a few coaching clients which led to getting paid for work that I love.

Who’da thunk I could have all this? Well that’s exactly the point! I started to believe that I deserved to have good things happen to me. My ‘Perfect Storm’ allowed me to see that unless I was brave enough to trust and believe in myself, that life would be a series of endless storms, slamming me around.

This didn’t happen overnight, but I decided to start trusting my inner desires and slowly pursue the people, activities and places that interested me the most. And by doing so, I began to listen to my own inner wisdom instead of what everyone else was saying.

In hindsight, I realize that I couldn’t have written a story better than this. And everything continues to emerge, like an onion, as I peel back the layers and become increasingly clear on what I’m here on earth to do.

One more #*% surprise

The Universe, having the sense of humor that it does, had one more big surprise in store for me. I was notified earlier this year that the software division at my company would be dissolved and that I was going to be losing my six-figure corporate job in August. Now the good news is that I had already started building something on the side to bring in a little extra income but this did nothing to dampen the shock of my day job disappearing.

So now I’m on this journey full time. I’m coaching people, I’m starting a new web show (to be released next week), I’m in the early stages of co-developing a new course with one of my mentors and I’m giving everything I’ve got to this new adventure.

While this process hasn’t been easy, it has been the most rewarding magical, enlightening journey I’ve ever experienced. In retrospect, I can honestly say that my ‘Perfect Storm’, as gut-wrenching as it was – was the best thing that ever happened to me. And if you’re in the midst of a Perfect Storm, embrace the change (even though it feels like hell) and use it as an opportunity to discover your purpose for being alive.

Best,

Michael

P.S. How have your ‘Perfect Storms’ shaped your life? Please share if you feel compelled to do so. You never know how your story may liberate someone else.

 

Build Your Own Reality

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 Most of us are slaves of the stories we unconsciously tell ourselves about our lives. Freedom begins the moment we become conscious of the plot line we are living and, with this insight, recognize that we can step into another story. 

– Carol S. Pearson, The Hero Within

As I move closer to my transition day away from working for a big corporation, I realize that a big part of my identity has been tied to my job and the responsibilities that go along with it. It seemed normal to feel this way while working in the corporate environment. But now things are starting to change.

I feel like I’m waking up.

I feel more exposed.

Things feel more raw.

I guess it’s because I’m aware of the reality of more freedom, being in complete control of my time, being able to create whatever I want, say whatever I want, with no one to answer to but myself.

But then there’s the flip side of that equation. There will be no more bi-weekly paycheck, no matching 401k, no paid vacations, no more ‘stability’ of working for a guaranteed return. I will be the one responsible for creating value and making sure that I’m solving real problems. Otherwise, I don’t get paid.

But here’s the thing.

This is a choice. I am choosing to create extraordinary work for myself.

Work that feels exciting.

Work that fills me with energy knowing that I am making progress with something that matters.

I am no longer bogged down with my corporate inbox, tasks that drain my energy, and doing work that I don’t really care about. I am genuinely happy about what lies ahead.

My mind has somehow expanded to understand that true abundance will never come from a job. It’s funny. I couldn’t see this while I was committed to the day-to-day grind of my job. It’s hard to see the gardens when you’re locked in jail. Abundance showed up when I began pursuing my true desires and let go of the perceived safety of my job.

Now I am focusing on finding creative ways to show others that it’s totally possible to achieve the following:

  • Create extraordinary & inspiring work
  • Make extra income doing it
  • Quit your day job (or at least be ready if your company decides to lay you off)

Now I wake up every day with the motive of enhancement. How can I enhance my family, my friends, my clients, potential customers, my blog readers, people I don’t even know yet but I would like to know?

Some people have indicated to me that it’s great that I’m able to do this but that they are in a totally different situation that doesn’t make it possible for them. They tell me “it’s just the way it is.”

What?

Hey, I realize that we all have different circumstances but many people severely discount their ability to design a life that truly represents the way they want to live.

If working 40-50 hours per week at a job, getting paid vacations, and a guaranteed paycheck are what you need, then great! I’m in your corner 100%.

But if you really desire something more, whether its making a bigger difference through your own thing, traveling the world, being in control of your income, living in a sunny location during the winter (one of my personal favorites), or being able to ski mid-week, I am here to tell you that YOU are in control!

Take responsibility for the life you want to create.

It’s time that we all (myself included) take full responsibility for the life that we create.  I will always be very clear about one thing…that we are all different and the dream that floats my boat might seem completely ridiculous to the next person. But the point is that we all have our own visions of greatness and we all have the free will to pursue it.

Now you might think that my perspective requires a certain privilege available only to those that are already wealthy, successful or otherwise endowed with choices unavailable to you.

This is not the case! This was not the case for me and it was not the case for many people I know that have consciously created their lifestyle.

The only prerequisite to a new way of life is to start creating it. You start with the vision of how you want to live and then you work toward creating the actual life that you envision.

In most cases, it won’t be easy, or straightforward or feel completely safe. But it’s your life that is on the line and I encourage you to start really living it.

I wake up every day wondering if I should go take another job in the corporate world. The allure of the big salary, the benefits and the perceived stability are appealing. But I know that there is another way for me right now. I know that it’s time for me to create extraordinary work for myself.

It’s okay to take baby steps.

“I can’t just QUIT!” people say. “I have bills to pay.” I get it. I’m not saying quit today. Before someone runs a marathon they learn how to run to the end of the block and back, then run a mile, then two miles. They run several times a week and stay healthy. Then they run a marathon.

Make a list right now. Write down every dream you have. I want to start a business. I want to travel to Africa. I want to simplify my life. I want to have the freedom from many of the worries that I have succumbed to all my life. I want to be healthy. I want to make an impact with my creativity. I want to have more time for myself.

These are not goals. These are core desires for your life. What can you do today to start practicing these desires? Who can you help today? What can you do to simplify your life today? This is how you take baby steps. This is how you eventually run towards freedom.

Challenge yourself.

I want you to think about your current life in a new way.

Ask yourself this question about your job, your relationships, where you live, and how you spend the majority of your time:

Would I want to do this if I didn’t have to?

If yes, great!

If no, it’s time to begin building your own reality. You get to decide what your reality looks like and start designing it. No one is stopping you.

What would it take to wake up excited and go to sleep fulfilled most days? Decide to move one step closer to this every day.

Plan for it.

Do it.

Michael

P.S. Tell me one thing you are 100% committed to doing differently by this time next year.

Want to be Happier? Stop Doing What You Don’t Really Care About

What is it that you really care about?girl-blowing-glitter-113790_640

Your family?

Your friends?

Your job?

Your 401k?

Getting everything done?

It’s an interesting question, isn’t it? On the surface, we all seem to care about the things that people think we should care about.

While it’s completely natural to care deeply about your family, your spouse, your partner, your kids, and your health, it’s equally acceptable to say that you care deeply about your job or your recent promotion (even if it’s way more work for a little extra money).

But are these the things you really care about? This question is a little trickier to answer. By caring about what others expect us to care about, we most often end up neglecting our deepest purpose in life.

Not long ago, I was notified that I would be laid off from my job selling software to large corporate clients. It wasn’t a bad job but I knew that I wasn’t using my greatest gifts.

If someone were to ask me if I cared about my job, I would respond with “of course!”

But deep down I knew that I had more to give. I knew that my mind and body was made to create and build and teach and explore and love. And instead I was sitting on airplanes, sitting in meetings and sitting in front of my computer answering emails all day.

Deep down I was so busy caring for my job that I didn’t even realize I could be caring about more important things. I do not believe that we are meant to spend the majority of our time caring deeply about soul-destroying occupations where we must sit in a fluorescently-lighted box taking orders to do things so boring that we want to cry.

It’s a fact that we have been socialized to relinquish our joy for 8 or 10 hours per day in exchange for a sum of money just big enough that it keeps us chained to a miserable existence.

So many of us feel trapped, desperate, afraid, and separated from everything that gives us true happiness. So why do we care about such things?

Stop doing what you don’t really care about.

Getting laid off from my job was a wake up call. I see it as my chance to move forward and do something great, something that I really care about.

It’s also a chance for me to stop chasing things that I don’t really care about. It’s a chance for me to take my energy away from what I don’t want so that I can put it towards something I do want.

Why do I care so much about what other people think?

It’s been hard the last few weeks. I’ve had to make a huge mental shift away from pleasing other people to truly pleasing myself. Not everyone understands (or even supports) my path to doing my own thing.

Some people think I’m nuts for pursuing my own business rather than jumping back on the conventional path. They don’t say it outright but I can tell it’s what they’re thinking.

I hear things like “good for you for really going for it” and “I know you can do it.” But underneath the comments I can feel the disingenuous nature of these well meaning remarks.

Why do I care what others think? I think its human nature to want to be liked and included. But since when did it become such a risk to start your own business and follow your own path?

I’ve been tempted to continue down the same path.

I’ve had some great job opportunities come my way since being notified of my pending layoff, but it doesn’t feel right to pursue them knowing that I will most likely be frustrated and unhappy six months down the road.

I’m tired of pretending to be interested in jobs that don’t provide me with any significant level of fulfillment. I’m tired of waking up anxious about all the work that I need to do, work that isn’t even interesting to me.

Who came up with the idea that we need to invest our days working to make some big corporation more profitable? I would rather simplify my life, be in control of my income, have more time to enjoy life, and do creative work that inspires me.

The truth is that it probably would be easier to take another high paying corporate sales job. Starting my own business is challenging and it takes time to figure things out.

But honestly, my biggest fear right now is wasting the opportunity to reach out and take my shot at creating something meaningful. After all, I can always go back and get another job.

Getting honest with yourself.

Maybe it’s time that you get honest with yourself. You may – oh dear – disappoint a few people when you:

Follow your heart for the first time,

cut back your hours at work,

say ‘no’ more often,

sell your stuff,

let people be unimpressed,

decide to travel…

And you:

Transfer your skills and desires into your own meaningful project, make time for your Soul to breathe and let your purpose distract you long enough to wake-up.

Pursue your desired reality.

When you decide to go after something meaningful, you need to give less to your current reality and more to your desired reality. I struggled with this a lot when trying to figure out when/if I should leave my job to follow my desires.

Fortunately, that decision was made for me. This allowed me to set my sights 100% on my vision instead of staying in my kinda-crappy situation out of fear, habit, and obligation.

Maybe it’s time that you pursue your highest calling while you’re still employed.

Maybe it’s time that you developed a second income doing something you really care about.

Maybe it’s time that you stop ignoring that little something inside that wants to be born of your creativity and desire.

Maybe it’s time you stop waiting for everything to be perfect.

Maybe it’s time that you stop putting in crazy hours at your current thing, while your big idea waits for you to find the time.

What will your life be like a year later, or three years later, or ten years later if you just keep pleasing others instead of following your true nature?

Most people will walk this earth for decades, feeling guilty for not pursuing the adventures inside of them. Be the person who is brave enough to trust in yourself, your ideas, and in your ability to know, deep down, what’s best for YOU.

Michael

P.S.  Do me a huge favor and share one small step you are going to take towards creating the life you really want.

A Life of No Regrets: How to Avoid the Top Five Regrets of the Dying

sunset-surferI wrestled with the title for this blog post. My nature is to keep things light and leaning in a positive direction. But then I decided to go for impact.

Early on I made a pledge to myself and to my readers that I will write from the heart in order for you to wake up inspired and fall asleep fulfilled because you’re fearlessly giving your gifts to the world.

And sometimes that means taking a serious look at where you are in the process of becoming the best version of yourself.

So on with today’s topic…

When we are no longer young, what will we be most proud of?

When we are in the latter part of our life, what will we wish we would have accomplished?

Right before we take our last breath, will we be at peace knowing that we lived a full life with few regrets?

These are big questions, no doubt. But these are the types questions that I encourage everyone to ask themselves as often as possible.

Most of us spend at least some time trying to figure out how best to live, so that when the time comes to die we can do so without regrets.

I love the following quote from Wayne Dyer’s movie, The Shift.

“Do not die with your music still inside you”

This quote came from a scene in the movie where Wayne has a powerful realization and literally writes a note to himself that says “Dear Wayne, Do not die with your music sill inside you”.

You can view the one-and-a-half minute scene here.

What is the music inside of you that yearns to be expressed?

If you are not living your life exactly the way you want, why not? I realize that there is a ‘waking up’ phase for many people. I was one of them.

I spent many years after college just going through the motions and doing what I thought was expected of me. This involved many years of sitting in a cube and selling computer systems and software to companies that I didn’t really care about.

After while I began to wonder if this was really all there was to life.

I began to wonder if my deepest purpose was spending my most productive hours doing ‘meaningless’ things for other people.

I began to wonder if life was just about buying a house and filling it with stuff. And then buying two cars. And then buying a two week vacation to escape the insanity of it all.

I began to wonder if there wasn’t something else.

Something better.

Something more meaningful.

And that is what led me to the very deliberate act of getting a job that was a better fit for my lifestyle, so that I could begin pursuing things that I wanted to do outside of my day job.

And that is what led me to starting this blog.

And to begin exploring the things I really love to do.

And to begin experimenting with ways that I can earn a living doing something that matters. Something that excites me. Something that I can’t not do.

The only time it makes sense to do a job for the money.

I loved a recent blog post from Danielle LaPorte that stated there’s only one good time that working only for money makes sense.  And this is when you have a light at the end of the tunnel and an unwavering commitment to yourself to transition into doing work that lets you be more of who you truly are.

Amen!

Doing a job for the money is a lot easier when your Soul can see the bigger picture.

But isn’t the money important?

Of course money is important. But don’t let it drive you to do work that you don’t enjoy. That will eventually lead to an unhappy ending.

There is real scientific and medical proof that doing work you don’t enjoy will actually shorten your lifespan.

Lissa Rankin M.D. just stated in her newly published book that “It’s not just early death that work stress can cause. A recent study found that disenchanted, burned out employees developed heart disease at a 79% higher rate than those who liked their job”.

The entire focus and direction of this blog is about creating both money and meaning in your life. It’s one of the most debated subjects out there right now. Should I get a job even if I don’t fully enjoy it or should I do what I love?

Why not have both? It’s completely possible by taking steps towards creating a life you desire and having the persistence and patience to make it happen.

Into the Wind

I’m reading a fantastic book right now called Into the Wind’. It’s a true story about a guy that begins questioning the status quo and decides to do something about it. He opts out of a college basketball scholarship and leaves behind his previous life to wander the world and prove that we can find our dreams by following our heart.

Our culture would generally classify this guy as irresponsible and say that he’s throwing away a great opportunity in return of an uncertain future. But what he ends up finding is his true self. He literally has to remove himself from his familiar surroundings to understand that his true destiny can be reached by looking deep within himself.

The biggest gamble of all.

One of the important realizations of Jake Ducey, the author of ‘Into the Wind’, is that many of us are expected to take a huge gamble.

“Most of us are busy gambling on the most dangerous risk of all – living our whole life not doing what we want on the bet that we can buy the freedom to do it later”.

How many times have you been told that all you need to do is to go get a good job, make a lot of money, put it into a 401K and then everything will work out. And after 40 years of doing this, then you can go and do what you want.

Um…is it just me or does this seem like a really flawed idea?

We will all get old (hopefully!)

As we grow older, we gain not just wrinkles and grey hair but knowledge and wisdom gained from experience. You can’t log several decades on this little blue ball without seeing a lot, hearing a lot, and picking up plenty of emotional scar tissue. Along the way you develop not just perspective but understanding.

A life fully lived is one that has had its fair share of triumphs and failures, temptations, traumas, disappointments, false friends, and broken hearts. Once we reach a certain age we have discovered – usually through trial and error – what works and what doesn’t. We have a better sense of what’s valuable and enduring – and what isn’t. We may even have a few thoughts on how to grow older gracefully.

As we grow older, we gain a frame of reference unavailable to our younger selves.

Bronnie Ware, an Australian nurse, worked several years in palliative care, and routinely spent the last three to 12 weeks of her patients’ lives with them. She listened to their stories and recorded their dying epiphanies in a blog called Inspiration and Chai, which she later compiled into a book call ‘The Top Five Regrets of the Dying’. According to her, these were her patients’ greatest regrets:

  1. I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me. Wow, a biggie and, as it turns out, the single most common regret. Ware found that many folks get caught up in what well-meaning parents, children, spouses, mentors or bosses want for them. Consequently, they found it impossible – as Joseph Campbell put it – to follow their bliss. Little is more important than finding your own path – and accepting the responsibilities and obligations that come with it. However, it can take courage and determination to overcome the expectations of family, co-workers or “society.” The dying remind us that our time here is shorter than we think. Health grants us the freedom to pursue our dreams. Once it’s gone, we lose the ability to live the life that we’ve imagined.
  2. I wish I didn’t work so hard. I know what Ware is saying here but I wish she’d phrased it differently. Many people find meaning, purpose and even a sense of identity in their work. It often leads to a feeling of earned success. Hard work can be one of life’s great satisfactions, especially if it provides you with an opportunity to express your talents. So I would venture that working hard is not what the dying regret but rather working too much and losing balance in their lives. Workaholics often sacrifice so much for so little. A simpler, less materialistic lifestyle, for instance, enables shorter working hours, greater freedom and more leisure.
  3. I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings. This isn’t the case with everyone, of course. I’ve known people who have never had an unspoken thought. But others go through life with their opinions and emotions bottled up inside, often just to keep the peace. This is not only frustrating, it makes the individual feel like he or she is living a lie. Ware points out that, while you can’t control the reactions of others, speaking honestly either raises a healthy relationship to a higher level or eliminates an unhealthy one. Either way, you win.
  4. I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends. As we go through life, we never stop making new acquaintances. But, in my experience, true friends are irreplaceable. These are the men and women who have known us longer and better than anyone… yet choose to hang out with us anyway. However, even lifelong friendships fade with inattention or neglect. And near the end of our lives, it may not be possible to find them.
  5. I wish I had let myself be happier. It’s sad how many people only realize at the end of their lives that happiness is an inside job – an attitude – not a particular set of circumstances or what we own. Worry and regret can poison a life and diminish the only time you have to be happy: right now. For it is always the present moment.

Why listen to the elderly or the dying? Because it is an excellent way of getting the wisdom of experience in advance.

We don’t hesitate to listen to a CPA about advice on our taxes. Doesn’t it make sense to listen to the wisdom of people that are at the end of their lives?

With each day – each passing hour – our future grows shorter. That’s why it’s essential to determine who and what are most important to us.

Life is short. Let’s make the most of it!

– Michael

P.S. I would love to hear your thoughts on this topic. Leave a comment if you feel inspired.

 

The Quickest Way to Change Your Reality

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A few weeks ago I wrote a series called Four Steps to Getting Paid to Make a Difference. This was based on my experience and my personal journey over the last few years. It was a way for me to organize all of the steps that led me to launch this blog and to start a business based on the things I was most curious about.

The first thing I talked about was how to Get on Your Feet Financially. I talk about building a foundation of financial stability so that you can pursue your greatest work without the energy of fear and scarcity lurking in the background.

The second thing I talked about was how to Simplify and Prioritize Your Life so that you have the time and energy to create something brilliant.

The third subject was all about Creating Room for Expansion which allows us to create our life in the direction that is most inspiring.

And the final entry in the series was about Creating a Life with Meaning and Money. This idea focuses on the necessary action step of deliberate experimentation and pursuing your most inspiring ideas.

After putting together a comprehensive blog series on the steps that I have taken to get where I am, something still felt like it was missing.

And I figured out what it is.

Step 5: Surround yourself with people that support you.

As I began talking to people about pursuing steps to create a life with more meaning and money, I realized that I had left out maybe the most important step of all.

Whatever you do, begin surrounding yourself with people that support you!

Maybe you’ve heard this quote from Jim Rohn:

“You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.”

What we believe is possible for ourselves, who we can become, what we can achieve, what we deserve, is largely determined by how we were raised, who we spend time with, and the community we’re surrounded by.

Thus my realization that you can be following all the other steps above, but if you are surrounding yourself with a crowd that has no desire for doing something greater…well, good luck!

How we limit ourselves.

Have you ever heard someone say something limiting about themselves that just sounds ridiculous?

“I want to get out of debt but I don’t make enough money.”

“I wish I could get in shape, but I don’t have the time.”

“I’d love to travel more, but it’s too expensive.”

“I want to find a lover, but there’s just no one out there for me.”

To the person making the statement, these thoughts might seem completely true. Some people really think that debt-free living is only for people who make a certain amount of money, or they don’t have time to get in shape, or that travel is cost prohibitive unless you’re rich, or they will never find love so why bother looking.

To others, these are just weak excuses. Maybe you read the above and knew better.

But no matter who you are, and how easily you can recognize the weak excuses of others, you’re never without your own self-limiting beliefs. Some of your beliefs probably even seem like silly excuses or uninformed points of view to others who have more informed views of the subjects than you do.

We all live in our own realities.

Where do these self-imposed limits and beliefs come from?

Think about who you spend the most time with. Is how you see yourself influenced by what those people believe and what they have achieved and aspire to?

Now think about your own limiting beliefs.

What do you accept as being out of reach in your life?

How do the people you spend time with contribute to those beliefs?

It’s not just your closest friends who influence how you see yourself and what you accept as reality. Your surroundings, your media influences and the status quo you’re surrounded by all have a big impact as well.

If you’re surrounded by unhappy, out of shape, in-debt people, whether they’re close friends or simply your community or co-workers, guess what you’re likely to be as well?

Make a Breakthrough!

Here are two ways to make a breakthrough in your life.

  • Surrounding yourself with people who have broader, more enlightened and ambitious views of themselves and life is one way to change your own reality.
  • Another way is to take an honest look at yourself and admit that you’re capable of much more than what you’ve allowed yourself to become so far. Then force yourself into a period of discomfort. If you’re comfortable, you’re not growing. To change your life, you have to embrace being uncomfortable regularly.

The good news is we’re all capable of these voluntary adjustments of reality. These moments of clarity are opportunities and gifts, but they shouldn’t be relied on for all the progress you hope to make in your life.

You have to use these moments of clarity to make changes that will give your not-so-bold self a safety net. When you’re ready to change your life, you should devote part of your energy to tackling your challenges head-on, but you should also use some of your energy to change your surroundings and influences.

The easiest way to make a big change is to upgrade your surroundings.

I don’t know about you, but I only have a limited amount of will-power. If I am trying to lose weight and get in better shape, the last thing I need is to be hanging around someone who heads straight to happy hour for two dollar cheeseburgers and a pint of ale.

It will be much easier to achieve my desired lifestyle result if I’m surrounding myself with people that are talking about going for a run after work or discussing how to make delicious and healthy meals.

Never accept your current surroundings as your reality.

Do you really want to make changes in your life? Then be very deliberate about who you spend the most time with every day.

Make new friends, change jobs, start a business, move to a new place, start reading new books or blogs, find a mentor, stop watching so much junk TV, stop hanging out with the negative people in your life, and start doing more things that make you come alive.

Be bold and get purposeful about who you spend your time with. Do you spend your time with people out of obligation, out of old habit?

This may sound silly to some people but I keep a list of the people who inspire me and who I want to meet. And I find creative ways to meet them or get introduced to them.

I don’t think there is anything more exciting than bonding together with someone in pursuit of a common goal: to mold your reality as you want it to be.

It’s true, you might be the average of the 5 people you spend the most time with, and you’re likely to live a life much like your colleagues and people in your community. The good news is that you can change your surroundings.

Remember, your reality is up to you!

What is the first thing that you would change in your surroundings? Leave a comment if you feel inspired.

Michael

How to Embrace Simplicity and Live Life With More Joy

simplify

Okay, first things first. It’s been over three weeks since I posted my last article. I haven’t been slacking….trust me! :-)

You might be thinking several things about my absence. Things like……..I knew he wouldn’t take this blogging thing serious!  Or, what gives? He posts the first part of a four part blog series and then takes a three week ski trip to the Swiss Alps!?

HA!

I wish!

Unfortunately, (or fortunately) none of the above are true and I am returning with the second installment of my series discussing how to get paid to make a difference.

The truth is, I have found it challenging over the last few weeks to balance a busy work/life/travel schedule with my desire for producing life changing content. If you remember, I committed to being transparent about this journey and I’m here to tell you that the last few weeks have been a struggle in the writing/blogging department.

Put simply, it’s been a challenge to balance the commitment of producing meaningful content and delivering it consistently.

This week we’re gonna take a look at creating an environment that makes it super easy to focus on the things that matter most.

But first, since I can barely remember what I wrote three weeks ago, let’s have a quick refresher from where we left off. Getting on your feet financially is a critical step for launching a sustainable idea that can make a difference in the world. When you have a steady flow of income and the bills are covered, there is much less pressure around making your big idea work.

Instead of feeling sad that you are trapped in a 9 to 5…..feel grateful that someone is happily funding your current life while you figure out how to capitalize on bringing your talents, interests, skills and strengths together to create an amazing business that rocks the world!

Step 2 for Getting Paid to Make a Difference: Simplify and Prioritize

As I look back on the last several years, I realize how much my priorities have changed. I remember back in 2005 when I decided to move and the moving company weighed all my stuff. When they told me that I had over 12,000 pounds of stuff, I immediately wondered how I could possibly have accumulated so much in such a short period of time. I suppose it shouldn’t have been that big of a surprise considering that I spent most of my early post-college years indulging in the things that I could now afford.

But 12,000 pounds!?

Of stuff?

Seriously?

After moving, I made it a priority to host a garage sale every summer no matter what. My new rule for stuff was if I hadn’t used it or worn it in the last year then it went into a big box. From there, it got sorted into two piles:

  • Pile 1: Things of sentimental value such as photos, keepsakes, things given to me by my relatives. In other words, things of meaning or value that I truly loved.
  • Pile 2: Things that I did not love and hadn’t used in the last year. In other words – Stuff

I was ruthless. I staged everything from pile 2 for the yearly garage sale or immediately donated it to Goodwill.

I’m not sure what it was about de-cluttering my life, but it felt cathartic to unburden myself from the stuff that I didn’t really use or want. This made more room for expansion and enjoying the things that I really did care about. Ahhhhh…this felt really good!

Since my de-cluttering journey started back in 2005, I have practiced keeping the stuff in my life to a minimum.

Stuff vs. Joy

As I survey my life today, I realize that most of the things I buy and own are things that truly give me an experience of joy. For example, I could care less about buying new furniture or having a collection of the most stylish clothes. I have two pairs of jeans, a suit for work, and one pair of casual pants. My wife and I just celebrated our one year anniversary as a single car couple because we don’t really need two cars. We share a 10 year old Subaru and we put our extra money towards things that we really love like travel, enjoying great meals with friends at nice restaurants, spending a little extra here and there on a good bottle (or 4) of wine. :-)

I guess that it really boils down to deciding on the few things that float your boat and then let that guide your decisions of what to let go of and what to keep/buy. Once you make this decision, it will free up a tremendous amount of energy that typically goes into trying to have it all. Our consumer driven culture hypnotizes us into believing that everything is important and so many of us get caught in the trap of spending our entire adult lives working hard to pay for the things that we think will make us happy.

I used to lease two new cars, have a big mortgage payment on a brand new house, have the latest electronics, buy a new patio set every couple of years, and on and on. I was trapped into thinking that I needed to have all of these bright shiny objects to feel happy and rewarded for working so hard. Now I realize that it’s mostly experiences that I enjoy. My wife and I love to take several mini-vacations per year to experience new places, people and adventures. I love to ski so I allocate time and money to really good ski gear and a season pass at the local ski resort. Some people might think that I’m still enjoying stuff and that’s absolutely true. But the big difference is that I am deliberately choosing only the stuff that truly enhances my quality of life.

Some people love shoes. Some people love cars. Some people love gardening. Some people love fishing. Decide what really makes you happy and let this guide your decisions about how you can simplify and lighten your load. You will be a lot happier for it.

How I Prioritize My Day

Over the last few years I have also applied the idea of simplification to how I organize my day. I used to think I could do it all (similar to the belief that I could have it/buy it all) and as a result, my energy was scattered and I never did anything all that well. Then I began to get really focused on the things that are most important to me and I narrowed it down to these four:

  1. Quality time with Jill (my wife), family and friends
  2. My job/work
  3. Health and exercise (eating healthy and moving my body every day through yoga, running, skiing, etc.)
  4. Creating my new ‘Launch a Legacy’ project

Placing my attention on these four things guides my life in a powerful way. If I ever have a decision to make about whether to do something or not, I just go to my ‘top 4’ list. If it’s not on the list, I don’t do it! It’s that simple. Some might say this really sucks the spontaneity and creativity out of life but I have found the opposite to be true. I have found that by gaining depth and focus around the areas that matter most to me, it frees my mind and spirit to be more creative because I’m not always questioning (i.e. regretting) my decisions about whether to do something or not. And it makes it really easy to decide when to say ‘yes’ or ‘no’.

How Does This Apply to Getting Paid to Make a Difference?

You’ve probably been wondering what this has to do with getting paid to make a difference. My answer is that is has everything to do with it!

For me, this is the foundation that I needed to make physical, mental, emotional and spiritual space to live my life with more freedom and creativity than ever before. The comparison of how I live in 2013 compared to how I lived in 2005 is pretty different but it was really just a process of making little conscious choices along the way that allow me to enjoy the following benefits:

  • I have closer and more meaningful friendships than ever
  • The relationship that I have with my wife is the best it’s ever been
  • I have more flexibility in my work life than ever
  • I have complete clarity about what’s most important in my life
  • I am saving more money than ever
  • I don’t have any debt outside of our mortgage
  • I prioritize what’s most important and rarely feel guilty about where or how I spend my time
  • I enjoy more freedom and adventure, doing the things that make me happy

While I am far from finished with this journey of aligning my priorities and simplifying my life, I can honestly say that I feel great about the foundation that I have created over the last few years.

Next Steps

If you haven’t already done so, schedule some time this week or this weekend to do the following:

  1. Start with just one room, or closet, or even a drawer and commit to donating or selling anything that you don’t need, love or haven’t used in the last year. Use this as a stepping stone to make space in your life for what you really do want.
  2. Decide on one hobby/interest/passion that makes you feel alive and write it down on a note card. Cary this card with you and dedicate some time, money and attention to it. (Hint: Start with just one thing and schedule it into your day or week. Even if it’s just for a few minutes….just do it!)
  3. Write down the three or four things that are your top priorities in life right now. These will change over time but identify what it is that you know you need to be focusing on right now. Then practice saying ‘no’ to anything that is not on that list. Notice how much easier it is to decide whether or not you should do something.
  4. This is extra credit. :-) Journal about how you feel after taking action on these items.

If you are really gung ho about the idea of simplifying your life, I recommend checking out my friend Tammy Strobel’s work. Tammy is a full time writer and teaches others about simple living and entrepreneurship through her blog called Rowdy Kittens. She also wrote a fantastic book on the subject called You Can Buy Happiness (and It’s Cheap). She’s the real deal!

That’s all for this week. Next week we will be back on track and talking about the third step for getting paid to make a difference.

Be well,

Michael