This Is Why You Are In Debt

This is Why You Are in Debt

The only way to get out of debt is to understand why you’re in debt in the first place.

And the truth is…

You will not save money when you get your next raise.  You will not save money when your car is paid off.  You will not save money when your kids are supporting themselves someday.  And you wouldn’t even save a dime if I handed you $100,000 in cash right now.

How do I know this?

Because saving money has very little to do with the amount of money you have.  In fact, you will only start to save money when saving becomes an emotional habit – when you start treating the money you handle everyday differently.

So this is why you are in debt:

  • You buy miscellaneous crap you don’t need or use. – Stop buying ‘stuff’ on impulse!  Avoid the mall!  The mall is not a source for entertainment.  It’s a source for personal debt.  There’s no reason to tease yourself by staring at a bunch of brand new crap you don’t need.  And as you know, the novelty of a new purchase wears thin long before the credit card bill arrives.
  • You use credit to purchase things you can’t afford to buy in cash. – If you can’t pay for it in cash today, don’t buy it today!  It’s as simple as that.
  • You think of certain product brands as fashionable status symbols. – A car gets you from point ‘A’ to point ‘B.’  A purse holds your personal belongings.  A pair of sunglasses shades your eyes from the sun.  A shirt keeps you warm.  If you’re paying premium prices just to get a fashionable brand name labeled on each these products without any regard for how well the products actually serve their practical purpose, you have a problem.
  • You buy a brand new car every few years. – See my previous point.  A car is a means of transportation to get you from one place to another.  If you’re buying a new car every few years even when your old car works fine, you’re likely trying too hard to impress the wrong people… and you’re going broke in the process.
  • You buy things you could have borrowed from a friend or rented. – After you bought that DVD, how many times did you actually watch it?  Do you really want a 20 inch chainsaw collecting dust in your garage?  So you own a pressure washer you only use once every three years?  You get the point… borrow and rent when it makes sense.
  • You pay retail prices on everything you buy. – If you’re paying retail prices, you’re getting screwed.  You can easily save well over $1000 a year on general purchases by waiting for sales and shopping at discount outlets.
  • You own (or rent) way more house than you need. – When you buy or rent a house that’s bigger than you need, you end up wasting lots of money on larger monthly payments, higher upkeep costs, higher utility bills, and lots of random ‘stuff’ to fill up the extra empty space.
  • You don’t follow any sort of formal budgeting plan. – Do you assume that if you wait around and make more money your finances and credit debt will magically resolve themselves?  I’m sorry to say, you’re dead wrong!  It takes a lot of planning and proactive budgeting to erase a pile of debt and build a nest egg of wealth.  So start now!
  • You don’t automate 401K or savings deposits. – We’re ten years into the new millennium.  If you aren’t using simple technology to automate savings deposits, you pretty much deserve to be broke.
  • You don’t leverage the small investments you do have. – You have to give your money the opportunity to make money.  Any capital you do have, no matter how small, should be invested using a basic, long-term investment strategy.  If your capital isn’t invested, it’s just losing value as inflation rises.
  • You’re married to (or dating) a spend-thrift. – You’ll never get out of debt if you’re married to a person who spends every dime you make.  So help your soul mate become financially responsible, or except life in the poorhouse.
  • You’ve never educated yourself on basic money management. – Responsible money management is not an innate human instinct.  You have to properly educate yourself.  If you don’t, you’ll stay exactly where you are now, in debt.
  • You have a ‘get rich quick’ mentality. – For 99.99% of us, wealth doesn’t come instantly.  You’re far more likely to be struck by lightning twice than win the lottery once.  If you’re spending your time and money on a ‘get rich quick’ scheme, the debt will just keep piling up.
  • You have nasty, money-sucking (and life-sucking) habits. – Smoking, drinking and gambling are all perfect examples of bad habits in which you choose to trade short term pleasure for long term debt and discomfort.  So light one up, shoot one down, and toss another chip across the table.  It’s only your life.
  • You waste too much of your own time. – They say “time is money,” but I think time is way more valuable than money.  It’s the single greatest constituent of life.  If you fail to properly manage your time, you’ll absolutely fail to properly manage your money… and you’ll likely fail in every other aspect of your life as well.  So focus your time and energy on the important stuff and forget the rest.
  • You aren’t taking care of your health. – Keep your body and mind healthy!  Major medical problems drain back accounts, increase insurance rates, keep you from working and earning money, and generally guarantee that you will have long-term financial problems.
  • You aren’t enjoying life’s (free) simple pleasures. – The best things in life are free.  Stop wasting your money on second-rate entertainment and take a good look around you.  Mother Nature offers lots of entertainment free of charge.  Go hiking, go skinny dipping, play in the rain, build a bonfire with your friends, watch the sunset with your lover, etc.
  • You went through an unfortunate divorce. – This final point might seem cruel, but it’s impossible to discuss the major reasons why people accumulate financial debt without mentioning divorce.  Divorce absolutely destroys the finances of both parties involved.  So the best advice I can give you is:  Don’t get married until you’re certain you want to spend the rest of your life with your significant other.  And don’t get a divorce until you’ve truly exhausted all of your other possible options (marriage therapy, etc.).

Please remember, financial debt can be avoided and erased.  It just takes a little effort, education, and determination on your end to make it possible.  So as I’ve said before, live a comfortable life, not a wasteful one.  Do not spend to impress others.  Do not live life trying to fool yourself into thinking wealth is measured in material objects.  Manage your money wisely so your money does not manage you.  And always live well below your means.

40 Modern Nonfiction Books Everyone Should Read

Books Everyone Should Read

I credit a fraction of who I am today to each of these books.  Many of these titles challenged my internal status quo, opening my mind to new ideas and opportunities.  And together, they gave me a basic framework for living, loving, learning and working successfully.

If you haven’t taken the time to read them, do yourself a favor and do so.  It will be time well spent.

  1. The Road Less Traveled by M. Scott Peck – Pretty much the granddaddy of all self-improvement books, it’s easily one of the best nonfiction works I’ve ever read.  By melding love, science, and spirituality into a primer for personal growth, Peck guides the reader through lessons on delaying gratification, accepting responsibility for decisions, dedicating oneself to truth and reality, and creating a balanced lifestyle.
  2. Radical Honesty by Brad Blanton – The book’s basic point is sound – honesty is the best policy.  With a brash, ‘in your face’ writing style, Blanton states that lying is the primary cause of human stress and advocates strict truthfulness as the key to achieving intimacy in relationships and happiness in life.
  3. The Art of Learning by Josh Waitzkin – Josh Waitzkin transformed himself from a championship chess master into an elite Tai Chi martial arts practitioner.  This book is part autobiography, part chess memoir, and part martial arts philosophy.  Essentially, Waitzkin offers his own approach to becoming a student and applying certain disciplines and habits toward learning and eventually mastering any skill.
  4. Scratch Beginnings: Me, $25, and the Search for the American Dream by Adam Shepard – Shepard started his life over from scratch in Charleston, South Carolina, with $25 and the clothes on his back.  He lived in a homeless shelter while looking for work.  His goal was to start with nothing and, within a year, work hard enough to save $2500, buy a car, and to live in a furnished apartment.  “Scratch Beginnings” is sometimes sad, sometimes amusing, pointed and thought provoking – all the makings of a book well worth reading.
  5. The Joy of Simple Living by Jeff Davidson – A great resource for anyone wanting to cut down on the clutter and confusion in their life.  Davidson takes a step-by-step, easy to follow approach to simplifying your house, garage, office, car, etc.  Not only will you learn to create an orderly home, you’ll gain the knowledge necessary to be a more successful spouse, parent, and worker by learning how to prioritize and simplify.
  6. Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion by Robert Cialdini – Arguably the best book on the science of persuasion.  Cialdini explains the six psychological principles that drive our powerful impulse to comply to the pressures of others and shows how we can defend ourselves against manipulation (or put these principles to work for our own interests).
  7. Secrets of the Millionaire Mind by T. Harv Ecker – This book competently discusses the missing link between wanting success and achieving it.  If you suspect that your mindset is holding you back from making more money and achieving your goals, you’d be wise to give this title a thorough read.
  8. Management of the Absurd by Richard Farson – Farson zeros in on the paradoxes of communication, the politics of management, and the dilemmas of change, exploring relationships within organizations and offering a unique perspective on the challenges managers face.  I highly recommend this book for anyone in a management or leadership role, including parents and teachers.
  9. Overachievement by John Eliot – According to Eliot, in order to achieve spectacular success, one must change his or her thoughts about pressure and learn to welcome it, enjoy it, and make it work.  Eliot says that goal-setting, relaxation, and visualization, the typical self-help suggestions, just don’t work well for most people.  This book provides some great food for thought that attempts to counteract the primary points of other major self-help gurus.
  10. The Magic of Thinking Big by David Schwartz – This is another classic self-improvement book.  Schwartz gives the reader useful, proactive steps for achieving success.  He presents a clear-cut program for getting the most out of your job, marriage, family life, and other relationships.  In doing so, he proves that you don’t need to be an intellectual or have innate talent to attain great success and satisfaction in life.
  11. An Incomplete Education: 3,684 Things You Should Have Learned but Probably Didn’t by Judy Jones – Simply fun and insightful, this book is truly a wonderful supplement to any person’s mental knowledgebase.  It’s basically an intellectual outline of history with a lot of helpful charts and guides.  It’s written in a very humorous tone and nails the humor attempts more often than not.  Whether you’re interested in a ‘refresher’ or just a quick briefing on an academic area you never had time for, this book is for you.  It’s not in depth, but it does tell you what you should know in all areas, including history, philosophy, music, art, and even film.
  12. How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie – Easily one of the best and most popular books on people-skills ever written.  Carnegie uses his adept storytelling skills to illustrate how to be successful by making the most of human relations.
  13. How to Talk to Anyone by Leil Lowndes – Another practical book about conversational people skills.  Lowndes helps the reader discover how to make small talk work, how to break the ice, how to network at a party, how to use body language to captivate your audience, and much more.
  14. The Irresistible Offer by Mark Joyner – Create an irresistible offer.  Present it to people who need it.  And sell it almost instantly.  A great sales and marketing primer for anyone trying to sell something.
  15. Nickel and Dimed by Barbara Ehrenreich – This is the book that provoked Adam Shepard to write “Scratch Beginnings.”  It’s another first person perspective on poverty in America.  In the book, Ehrenreich moves into a trailer and works as a waitress, hotel maid, and Wal-Mart sales clerk.  Nickel and Dimed reveals low-rent America in all its tenacity, anxiety, and duality.  I found it to be an extremely thought-provoking read.
  16. The Power of Less by Leo Babuta – Babuta’s message is simple:  Identify the essential.  Eliminate the rest.  Get on your way to living a simpler life in order to do and achieve the things that are of real value to you and your family.  This is my favorite book on the art of simplicity.
  17. Outliers: The Story of Success by Malcolm Gladwell – Gladwell embarks on an intellectual journey to figure out what separates the best, the brightest, and the most successful people from everyone else.  He investigates these high achievers by looking closely at their culture, family, generation, and the individual experiences of their upbringing.  This book really gets you thinking about success from a totally different perspective.
  18. Freakonomics by Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner – This book just may redefine the way you look at the modern world.  Through skillful storytelling and wry insight, Levitt and Dubner set out to explore the hidden side of everything from the inner workings of a crack gang to the myths of political campaign finance to the true importance or unimportance of gun control.  It’s an eye-opening read.
  19. Maximum Achievement by Brian Tracy – This book is probably exactly what you would expect from a well-written, classic self-improvement book.  Tracy’s straightforward advice is accompanied by easy-to-do exercises and enhanced with inspiring stories of successful, highly motivated achievers in many fields.
  20. You, Inc.: The Art of Selling Yourself by Harry Beckwith – Beckwith concentrates on the importance of being a considerate human being as it relates to running a successful business or living a successful life.  The title is somewhat deceiving because the book is more about giving than it is about selling… or should I say, it’s about giving as a way to sell yourself.  Either way, this book is packed with practical tips and insightful stories.
  21. Getting Things Done by David Allen – The ultimate ‘organize your life’ book.  Allen’s ideas and processes are for all those people who are overwhelmed with too many things to do, too little time to do them, and a general sense of unease that something important is being missed.  The primary goal of this book is to teach you how to effectively get your ‘to-do inbox’ to empty.
  22. The Dip: A Little Book That Teaches You When to Quit by Seth Godin – Godin challenges the age old idea that winners never quit.  He states that every new project or career starts out exciting and fun.  Then it gets hard and less fun, until it hits a low point – and at that point you have to figure out if you’re in a dip or at a dead-end.  This book provides a look at how the market actually expects people to quit and what to do about it.  It’s a short and insightful read.
  23. Predictably Irrational by Dan Ariely – Looks at the reasons so many of us continuously make irrational decisions on a daily basis.  It’s a scientific but easily readable and unquestionably insightful look about why we do what we do on a daily basis, and why we never change our ways even though we often ‘know better.’
  24. The Smartest Investment Book You’ll Ever Read by Daniel R. Solin – A short, no-fluff guide to investing.  Solin provides an easy-to-follow four step plan that allows investors to create and monitor their portfolios in 90 minutes or less per year, explaining how to asses risk and how to allocate assets to maximize returns and minimize volatility.  This book was absolutely invaluable to me when I first started investing my money.
  25. The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey – A classic self-improvement book.  Covey presents a principle-centered approach for solving personal and professional problems by delivering a step-by-step guide for living with integrity and honesty and adapting to the inevitable change life brings us everyday.  It’s a must-read.
  26. Made to Stick by Chip Heath and Dan Heath – Why do some ideas and stories thrive while others die?  And how do we improve the chances that our ideas and stories will catch on with others?  Heath and Heath tackle these questions head-on.  This book is extremely entertaining, while simultaneously providing practical, tangible strategies for makings things stick.
  27. Fast Food Nation by Eric Schlosser – “What we eat has changed more in the last forty years than in the last forty thousand,” Schlosser observes, yet most Americans know very little about how that food is made, where, by whom, and at what cost.  In a wonderfully horrifying way, this book exposes the American fast food industry’s evil side.  It’s a true eye-opener.
  28. Stumbling on Happiness by Daniel Gilbert – Gilbert, a Harvard professor of psychology has studied happiness for decades, and he shares scientific findings that just might change the way you look at the world.  His primary goal is to persuade you into accepting the fact that happiness is not really what or where you imagined it would be.  This is my favorite book on happiness by a long shot.
  29. The Wisdom of Crowds by James Surowiecki – Surowiecki argues that “under the right circumstances, groups are remarkably intelligent, and are often smarter than the smartest people in them.”  He uses statistical examples to backup this theory.  For example: “…the TV studio audience of Who Wants to Be a Millionaire guesses correctly 91 percent of the time, compared to ‘experts’ who guess only 65 percent correctly.”  Hmm… perhaps this is why Wikipedia is so successful.
  30. The 4-Hour Workweek by Tim Ferriss – Ferris challenges us to evaluate our perspective on the cost and availability of our dreams.  And he teaches us that hard work isn’t very hard when you love what you’re doing.  Although there’s certainly some pages of self promotion within, Ferris provides invaluable tips to help us remain aligned with our goals, set expectations on our terms, and eliminate unnecessary time-sinks while increasing our overall effectiveness.
  31. Personal Development for Smart People by Steve Pavlina – A surprisingly well-written, broad, and totally raw look at the different aspects of self-improvement.  Pavlina skillfully unveils the truth about what it takes to consciously grow as a human being by teaching what he calls ‘the seven universal principles’ behind all successful personal growth efforts.
  32. The Now Habit by Neil Fiore – Quite possibly the best book ever written on overcoming procrastination.  Fiore provides an optimistic, empathetic, and factual explanation of why we procrastinate and then delivers practical, immediately applicable tips for reversing the procrastination spell.  On many levels, this book saved my life.
  33. Ignore Everybody by Hugh MacLeod – Where does inspiration and creativity come from?  This little book attempts to uncover this mystery.  MacLeod states that creativity is not a genetic trait, nor is it reserved for professionals.  Everyone is creative sooner or later, but unfortunately, most people have it drilled out of them when they’re young.  MacLeod’s primary goal is to un-drill it and unleash your creative mind.
  34. Never Eat Alone by Keith Ferrazzi – Ferrazzi explains the guiding principles he has mastered over a lifetime of personal and professional networking and describes what it takes to build the kind of lasting, mutually beneficial relationships that lead to professional and personal success.  Most of this book is fantastic – you learn how to relate to people, how to establish contacts and maintain connections, and how to create a social network.  If you interact with a lot of people on a regular basis, it’s a great read.
  35. Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind by Shunryu Suzuki – This inspiring work ranks with the great Zen classics, in a voice and language completely adapted to modern-day sensibilities.  Suzuki’s words breathe with the joy and simplicity that make a liberated life possible.  As he reveals the actual practice of Zen as a discipline for daily life, the reader begins to understand what Zen is truly about.  If you’re even slightly curious about the practice of Zen Buddhism, you’ll find this book to be extremely enlightening.
  36. Eating Well For Optimum Health by Andrew Weil – If you only read one health and nutrition book in your whole lifetime, read this one.  Weil sheds light on the often confusing and conflicting ideas circulating about good nutrition, addressing specific health issues and offering nutritional guidance to help heal and prevent major illnesses.  Of particular value is his examination of recent dieting fads, such as low-carbohydrate, vegan and ‘Asian’ diets, with an eye toward debunking the myths about them while highlighting their benefits.
  37. The Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell – Gladwell looks at how small ideas can spread like viruses, sparking global sociological changes.  The ‘tipping point’ is that magic moment when an idea, trend, or social behavior crosses a threshold, tips, and spreads like wildfire.  Just as a single sick person can start an epidemic of the flu, so too can a small but precisely targeted push cause a fashion trend, the popularity of a new product, or a drop in the crime rate.
  38. A People’s History of the United States by Howard Zinn – Although this book is likely to be more interesting to Americans than citizens of other countries, it’s truly a great read either way.  Covering Christopher Columbus’s arrival through President Clinton’s years in office, as well as the 2000 election and the War on Terrorism, the book features an insightful and frank analysis of the most important events in American history told from the perspective of minorities and the working class.
  39. I Will Teach You To Be Rich by Ramit Sethi – This is the ultimate personal finance book for twenty-somethings (and anyone else in need of a financial planning makeover).  It’s one thing to know about finance, another to be able to write about it, and another entirely to write about it in a way that aptly motivates the younger generation.  Ramit hits the tri-fecta here.  He tells you exactly what to do with your money and why.
  40. Career Renegade by Jonathan Fields – This book is simply about building a great living around what you love to do most.  And it’s one of the best guides I’ve ever read on the subject.  Fields, a big-time lawyer turned serial entrepreneur, shows you how to turn your passion – whether it’s cooking or copywriting, teaching or playing video games – into a better payday and a richly satisfying career.

Photo by: Joel Bedford

How To Be The Best You Can Be

 Be The Best You Can Be

This guest post was written by Celestine, author of Personal Excellence.

Do you expect nothing but the best from yourself?  Well, you are not alone.  As someone who’s highly committed to personal excellence and growth, my motto in life is to ‘be my best self and live my best life.’  I strive to uphold this motto every single day.  In doing so, I have adopted ten simple principles which help me stay on track:

Follow Your Heart

Follow your passion.  Life’s too short to spend it doing something you don’t love.  When I made the decision to leave my brand management career last year, I faced varying levels of resistance from people all around me – my parents, friends, managers, colleagues, mentors, etc.  Some thought I went crazy.  Some thought I was undergoing a strange life-phase.  Some thought it was a waste to give up a Fortune 100 career with excellent prospects and a sizable paycheck.  And others thought I was just being rash and wasn’t thinking things through.

If what you are doing now is not your passion,
then you have nothing to lose.

The truth is, it was a decision two years in the making.  I had already discovered my passion before I graduated from college.  After two years of working, I had reached the point where every day I spent at my job was making me unhappy.  And I knew I could be doing something I really loved instead.  So I quit my job to pursue my passion, and I haven’t looked back since.

Today, I’m happier than I’ve ever been, pursuing my passion in full throttle – touching lives through my personal development blog, coaching people and speaking at related events.  The story doesn’t end here either – I have huge plans in the future to transform even more lives and I can’t wait to make this a reality.  Now that I’m in full control of me, there are no limits at all to what can be done!

So what’s your passion?  What are your goals and dreams?  If you absolutely knew you couldn’t fail, what would you do with your life?  To aid your goal achievement process, check out my seven-part goal achievement series.

Prioritize and Focus

One of my core values is excellence, and I believe a key component of excellence is focus.  I ensure that everything I do has a single-minded focus – it starts off first with my purpose in life, laddering down to my life goals, then my long-term goals, my short-term goals, and finally down to my daily tasks.  One of the tools which helps keep me focused is my life handbook.  It’s a life manual I created back in 2007 that contains my purpose, vision, goals, strategies, and specific plans to keep me on track.  It has served me tremendously over the years.

I’m also a strong advocate of the 80-20 rule – where 20% of the causes lead to 80% of the effects.  Many outcomes in life are attributable to a few small actions, and once we get all those key actions right, we will gain phenomenal results.  Thus, I’m always looking out for the most critical factors that require my attention.  Once I identify them, I put forth my best effort to conquer them.  As for the remaining factors, I either do them with lesser attention, delegate them out to others, or outsource the work.  So in summary, I make sure that the things I spend my time doing are the things that have the most impact.

Look on the Positive Side

Probably cliché, but true nonetheless, you must stay positive.  You can look at a half-filled glass from multiple perspectives.  If you are positive, you will cheer at how the glass is half-full.  If you are negative, you will sigh and resign at the half-empty portion of the glass.  If you are a realist, you will simply see the glass as a glass.

At the end of the day, what you are faced with is simply the way it is.  Everything else is your own perspective.  Focus on the negative side of the situation, and you will be mired in negativity.  Focus on the positive upside, and you will gain a positive outlook which will improve your experience and quality of life, giving you the momentum to move onward and upward.

Place Yourself in the Face of Uncertainty

Uncertainty is my compass towards growth.  Whenever I’m faced with something that makes me feel uncomfortable or uncertain, it’s an indicator that there are growth opportunities inside me.  In fact, the more uncertain I feel, the more it signifies the possibility for growth.

If I feel uncertain about a particular topic I’m writing about, it means I need to learn more about this topic before I continue writing.  If I feel uncertain about a circumstance, it means I need to learn how to deal with it.  It has become a natural reaction for me to explore feelings of uncertainty inside of me as they arise, work on them, and then emerge with an increased level of self-awareness.

Are you putting yourself in the face of uncertainty?  Or are you snuggled away in your comfort zone?  Personal growth only occurs when you are faced with an unprecedented situation that forces you to expand your comfort boundaries.

Think and Reflect

Introspection is pretty much my staple hobby.  If there’s anything I’m grateful for, it’s the ability to think freely.  Being able to think and reflect on our lives is a gift. Whenever you reflect on your own thoughts and actions, you gain a greater sense of clarity about yourself and the world around you.

Think about the things that make you happy and the things that make you sad.  Why do these things make you feel the way they do?  Think carefully when you answer these questions, and get comfortable with your answers.

Of course, this doesn’t mean you should be thinking 24/7.  Sometimes, detaching yourself from the reality and becoming an observer (through meditation, another one of my favorite hobbies) is needed as well.

Detach Yourself

There is nothing permanent in this world.  Money, material possessions, success, circumstances, and people – each of these enter and leave our lives continuously.  Thus, there is no reason to attach yourself to whatever you see.  This includes the outcome of different situations.

If there is something happy in your life, relish in it, enjoy it, but don’t develop an unhealthy craving towards it.  If there is something unhappy in your life, experience the emotion and smile at it at the same time, knowing that nothing is permanent and that this situation will dissipate in time.

Many of life’s disappointments and miseries come from attaching yourself to particular outcomes.  When you realize that nothing is permanent and all that you see will be gone soon, then feelings of unhappiness and fear tend to dissipate.

Concentrate on Actionable Steps

Don’t waste your time on things that you cannot change.  I generally classify things you cannot change into 2 categories – (1) The past (2) Other people.  This means that you should focus on effecting the present, so you can shape the future and progress your wellbeing.

Harping on things that cannot be changed is just a waste of your time and energy.  If something happened in the past that upset you, focus on what can be done to alleviate the situation in the future.  If people are annoying you, focus on what you can act on to remove the annoyance.

There was a time at my previous job where I faced a difficult series of challenges.  I became somewhat jaded and fell into a self-victimizing mode.  After a short period of doing this, I just felt sick of it – the negativity, the inaction, everything.  That’s when I realized that no matter what the circumstances are, or how tough they may appear, there are always actionable steps I can take to change the situation.

For whatever challenge you may be facing in life now, think in terms of actionable steps.  What can you do in this situation?  How can you act to move yourself closer to where you want to be?  Check Marc’s excellent post 28 Ways to Slay the Delay to learn more about taking action.

Keep the Momentum Alive

Most people often spend copious amount of time thinking about things and planning things, but then defer the action stage perpetually.  They justify themselves into inaction, citing reasons such as wanting to avoid failure.  It’s a total cop-out.  Here’s another favorite quote of mine:

Even if you’re on the right track, you’ll get run over if you just sit there.
-Will Rogers.

It is by taking action and receiving feedback from this action that we expand our horizons.  By constantly acting and moving, you are automatically gaining more knowledge just by virtue of the response you are receiving from your interactions with the world around you.  Remember, information won’t walk up to you on its own.  You have to go get it.

Learn From the Best

Many of the things you want to know have already been experienced firsthand by others.  I have found that I can achieve so much more by studying what others have already done.  Then I can build upon the knowledge I gain from them.  In the process, I keep the best practices and remove everything else.

This doesn’t mean that you stop experiencing new things for yourself.  It just means you aren’t reinventing the wheel a hundred times over.  It’s a simple way to avoid making the mistakes others have already made.  This cuts down the learning curve by a whole lot and gives you much better results in a much shorter timeframe.

In summary:

  • Surround yourself with great people.  As Jim Rohn puts it, you are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.
  • Study the best practices of the people who are succeeding in subjects you would like to pursue.

Help Others

I used to be quite a selfish person, keeping everything, including my knowledge, for myself.  I had heard many talk about the benefits that come from contribution and giving, but I could never comprehend them until I gave it a try.  In the past year after I left my day job, I have dedicated myself to serving others and helping others live their best life. It has been the most incredible and meaningful year of my life yet, and I just know there’s so much more to come.

When you help others, you not only help them grow, but you also grow yourself.  Your generosity opens the floodgates to an abundance of love and resources that flow between everyone involved.

For example, I spend many hours every day working on my personal development blog and writing free articles for others.  While I receive no direct monetary benefit for what I write, the universe pays me back indirectly – in terms of media coverage from journalists who heard about my blog and my story, speaking engagements by organizations which heard about me through word of mouth, coaching sign-ups from people who want to enlist my help in achieving their dreams, love from readers who have benefited from my writings, and much more.

Of course, the motivation to give should come from an unadulterated desire to want to give and contribute, and not for the benefits that follow.  The joy of giving comes from giving itself; the other perks are just a bonus.


Apply these ten principles into your life, and I promise you’ll start seeing positive results.  Please stay in touch and let me know how they work out for you.  😉

Also, read these books for more on being your best self:

Celestine Chua is a personal excellence coach who writes at The Personal Excellence Blog to help others like you achieve excellence.  She has been featured frequently in the press and is a highly sought-after life coach.  Some of her top articles: 50 Ways to Boost Your Productivity and Cultivate Good Habits in 21 Days.

Photo by: H. Koppdelaney

I Am My Own Worst Enemy

I Am My Own Worst Enemy

A petite, light-skinned Jamaican woman sits with her husband in a crowded beachside ice cream shop in San Diego.  Although she doesn’t speak loudly or occupy much space in the room, people notice her.

Her hair is long, flowing and black like a windy night.  Her lips are soft and red like rose petals.  Her curves are subtle, yet they dip and bend in all the right places.  Her skin is smooth, brown, maple cream.  And her clothes are modest, accentuating everything, while exposing nothing at all.

She knows why they’re looking at her.  “It’s because I’m not white,” she says.  “It’s because we’re an interracial couple and they don’t understand why you’re with me.”

Her husband groans and closes his eyes.  There’s nothing he can say.  They’ve already had this conversation a hundred times before.  He threads his fingers through his hair in frustration and watches as his chocolate ice cream begins to melt.

Three tables over, two white college kids eat their ice cream cones and check out ‘the scene.’  As usual, they’re not impressed.  The women around here are too old, too fat, too ugly, or…, “Wow, look at her,” the pimple-faced one says as he nods his head towards the Jamaican woman.

The prematurely balding one turns around to look.  “Oh yeah, she must be a model,” he replies.  “She’s way out of our league, bro…”

“I don’t think I should have to explain why this is so painful for me,” the Jamaican woman continues.  “The media portrays white, blonde females as the essence of beauty and perfection.  My color is simply a genetic defect.”

A chubby white girl, about ten years old, naively stares at the Jamaican woman while sipping a root beer float.  Small tears stream down her face.  “Daddy, why can’t I be as pretty as her?” she asks her father.

“It doesn’t matter if you’re physically faithful to me,” the Jamaican woman says to her husband.  “Because with all these influences surrounding you, you’re probably internalizing your deep desires for a genetically endowed female companion.  And it kills me!  Don’t you understand?”

“Please honey… Are you ready to go home?” her husband replies softly.  She hasn’t taken a single bite of her brownie sundae and all of the ice cream has already melted.  She sighs and stands up, weakly.

Three well-dressed white women in their late twenties talk cheerfully and sip diet cokes at a table near the door.  They were all childhood friends at a local orphanage.  When they were eventually placed in different foster homes, they lost contact with each other.  This special reunion is their first time together in almost fifteen years.

“Did you see those three women by the door?” the Jamaican woman asks her husband as they walk to their car.  “Wealthy white women like that don’t even appreciate how easy their life has been.”

Photo by: Jasmic

32 Thought-Provoking Life Stories

Makes Me Think

Sometimes the most random everyday encounters force us to stop and rethink the truths and perceptions we have ingrained in our minds.  These encounters are educationally priceless.  They spawn moments of deep thought and self-reflection that challenge the status quo and help us evolve as sensible individuals.

On our new sister site, Makes Me Think, we call these thought-provoking life experiences ‘MMTs’.  Makes Me Think is an online community where people share daily life stories that provoke deep thought and inspire positive change.

Here’s a sample of 32 MMT stories that were recently submitted to the site:

  1. Today, I was sitting on a hotel balcony watching 2 lovers in the distance walk along the beach.  From their body language, I could tell they were laughing and enjoying each other’s company.  As they got closer, I realized they were my parents.  My parents almost got divorced 8 years ago.  MMT
  2. Today, I asked my 6 year old son what he wants to be when he grows up.  He said, “Mommy, all I want to be is happy.”  MMT
  3. Today, after spending the last 3 years viciously bickering with the college kid who lives next door, I found myself crying in his arms and thanking him repeatedly for saving my son’s life.  MMT
  4. Today, my daughter confronted me with the fact that my biggest fear, a fear that has held me back from many life experiences, has never come true.  I am 76 years old.  MMT
  5. Today, I attended the grand opening for Shane’s art gallery.  Shane is a quirky, soft-spoken guy with long red hair.  For the last 5 years I’ve thought he was a bit of a weirdo.  But today I realized Shane’s weirdness is just the side-effect of being an artistic genius.  MMT
  6. Today, my company employs 130 intelligent individuals and turns a net profit of nearly $500K a year.  I started this company 10 years ago after I was laid off by IBM.  If they hadn’t laid me off, I might still be working in a cubicle at IBM today.  MMT
  7. Today, I waited on an elderly woman at the local restaurant where I work.  She left me a $90 tip on a $10 tab with a handwritten note that said, “I’m 86 and I can’t take this money with me.  So please spoil yourself with it.”  MMT
  8. Today, I tested a theory that didn’t work, which led me to different theory that didn’t work, which spawned a totally new idea that seems to work really well.  Although it doesn’t solve the original problem, all of my business partners agree that this idea has earth-shattering potential.  MMT
  9. Today, I saw a pretty scary looking guy who had a tall blue mohawk and tattoos and piercings all over his body.  He was helping my elderly neighbor take her trash down to the curb.  My neighbor told me afterwards that the guy was just walking by and offered to help.  MMT
  10. Today, I married the man of my dreams.  I left for college at 18 and looked for him there.  Nothing.  I moved to a new city and looked for him there.  Nothing.  Then last fall I returned home for Thanksgiving.  My brother’s best friend, whom I grew up with, joined us for dinner.  And I found him.  MMT
  11. Today, I was reunited with an old buddy.  Throughout college we were best friends.  Then just before graduation we got into a nasty fight over a girl.  Terrible words were exchanged and we never spoke again, until today.  And as we hugged each other, we acknowledged how irrelevant that girl is now.  MMT
  12. Today, my 21 year old son’s alternative rock band received a record deal from a major record label.  I spent the last 5 years trying to convince him that college was the smarter way to go.  But he stood his ground and pursued his dream.  And now he’s living it.  MMT
  13. Today, I was walking along the boardwalk in Pacific Beach when I saw 4 teenagers heckling a homeless beach bum.  He laughed and said, “I’m not crazy!  ‘Crazy’ is spending 40 years of your life hating 40 hours a week.”  MMT
  14. Today, I met a movie star celebrity who has been one of my idols since I was a kid.  He was a total jerk in real life.  MMT
  15. Today, a lady walked up to me in the gym and asked me to give her some workout pointers.  She said, “You look incredible!  Watching you gradually tone-up and progress in here has become my primary inspiration to get in shape.”  It made me smile because I’ve struggled with my weight since I was 15.  MMT
  16. Today, I implemented a web-based business idea I got from my girlfriend.  The kickoff was a total success.  She actually tried explaining this idea to me 2 years ago, but I was too busy at the time to listen.  MMT
  17. Today, I checked my account balance and realized I had been fined $40 by my bank for a $2 overdraft when I bought a coffee on the way to work.  “I couldn’t be any more broke!” I cried aloud as I walked outside to get some air.  Just then a skinny homeless man limped out from a nearby alleyway.  MMT
  18. Today, my daughter who struggled to get C’s in grade school owns a multi-million dollar cosmetics company.  My daughter who was in the gifted program in grade school is happily employed as a kindergarten teacher making $35K a year.  MMT
  19. Today, I ran into an old best friend I haven’t seen in nearly a year.  We live in the same city, but we’re just so busy.  MMT
  20. Today, we celebrated our 10 year anniversary.  We unknowingly held our wedding in a park on the same day a college fraternity was tailgating.  There were drunken college kids everywhere.  At the time it seemed horrific.  But it produced several amusing stories our family still laughs about today.  MMT
  21. Today, I returned 2 library books that were 3 months overdue.  The librarian looked extremely nervous as she informed me of my $34 late fee.  When I smiled and handed her the $34, she said, “Oh, thanks for being so nice about it.  Most people scream at me when I inform them of their late fees.”  MMT
  22. Today, my employer officially approved my request to work from home 2 days a week.  All of my friends and family were shocked.  “When did your employer implement this policy?” they asked.  “About 2 weeks after I pitched the idea to the CEO,” I replied.  MMT
  23. Today, I was dealt a colossal life lesson.  My girlfriend is pregnant.  I’ve worn a condom every single time we’ve had sex for the last 2 years… except for this one night last month when we were really, really drunk.  MMT
  24. Today, I visited an old neighborhood where I used to live.  The landscaping in every yard seemed better kept than I remember.  And everyone on the block seemed friendlier.  But other than the couple who moved into my old house, the same exact people live there.  MMT
  25. Today, my mother-in-law cooked fish for dinner.  I have refused to eat fish since I was a child.  But I didn’t want to seem rude, so I sucked it up and ate it anyway.  Surprisingly, I thought it was pretty good.  And I may try it again sometime soon.  MMT
  26. Today, I was at the beach watching a little girl chase her father’s remote controlled car around in circles.  She kept jumping forward and falling on her knees in an effort to catch the car as it skidded by.  She did this 31 times and failed.  But on attempt #32, she caught the car.  MMT
  27. Today, a complete stranger outside a local coffee shop was holding a sign that said, “Free Hugs.”  I hesitated at first, but then I decided to give her a hug.  Truthfully, it felt great!  MMT
  28. Today, I heard another Michael Jackson song on the radio.  For the last 15 years up until the day he died, it seemed like everyone thought he was a freak.  Now, all I hear are MJ songs on the radio and people calling him a musical genius.  It’s like the world forgot what they had until it was gone.  MMT
  29. Today, I was sitting on my front porch watching the neighbor’s kid have the time of his life with nothing more than a wooden stick and his imagination.  MMT
  30. Today, I was in a really bad mood when a young girl came into my office sporting the most genuine smile I’d seen in a long while.  She was bound to a wheelchair because she had no legs.  MMT
  31. Today, I spent an hour with a stranger, said nothing, and walked away feeling like I just had the best conversation ever.  MMT
  32. Today, I was working in a coffee shop when 2 gay men walked in holding hands.  As you might expect, heads started turning.  Then a young girl at the table next to me asked her mom why 2 men were holding hands.  Her mom replied, “Because they love each other.”  MMT

Makes Me Think is updated daily.  If you enjoyed the MMT stories in this article, please visit the site for the latest content.  Or subscribe to Make Me Think here via RSS or email.

Photo by: Philipp Klinger