Just One Step Forward

Stop and look in the mirror. 100% happy with everything you see?

I certainly am not. I’m still scrawnier than I’d like to be. Ideally, I want to gain another 30 pounds of muscle. My bank account? Well, that’s scrawnier than I’d like it to be as well. My career is moving along, but if I’m honest, I’ve not done as much as I thought I would when I was a senior in college and expected myself to change the world. Socially, I have a few good friends and I’ve made a lot of progress towards overcoming that natural shyness that I grew up with. But you know that guy that just walks into a room, commands instant respect, and electrifies the crowd? That’s still not me.

If I honestly assess where I am at as a person vs where I’d like to be, I see so much ground I need to cover. It’s a bit overwhelming – so much to do. I find myself either stressing out about how far from my ideal self I still am or trying to just accept where I am now as good enough.

“The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step.” – Lao Tzu

I could freak out and stress over how much work I still have to do or I could give up and just accept I’ll never reach my goals, but a third option exists. Just One Step Forward. All I need to do today is take one step forward towards my goals. Just one step. Slow, steady forward progress will eventually accomplish your largest, most incredible dreams.

What can you do today to take 1 simple step forward? Here’s a few ideas.

  • Take a jog to burn some calories and strengthen your heart.
  • Sign up for a class in something you’ve always wanted to learn.
  • Visit the store and buy one clothing item that fits well and gives you confidence.
  • Join an online dating site and practice chatting with someone.
  • Better yet, visit a coffee shop and make small talk with someone there.
  • Sign up for a gym and search Youtube for a few basic workouts.
  • Fill out a to-do list to get yourself organized.
  • Clean one room or even one part of a room.
  • Message a friend to reconnect.
  • Read the first chapter of a book you’ve always wanted to read.
  • Drop $10 into a savings account.
  • Take 5 minutes and just breathe. Repeat the word “peace” or “strength” or “love” in your mind. You just meditated.
  • Plan to help someone today. When the opportunity presents itself, go for it.

None of these ideas are dramatic or life-changing. But then again maybe they are. If the journey of a thousand miles really does begin with a single step, then these simple steps may change you in ways you can’t imagine. You don’t have to change the world today. You don’t even have to transform yourself. You need just take a single step towards a better you. And in doing so, you just might end up changing yourself and the world more than you ever realized.

If you really want to master something as quickly as possible and go from first step to goal even quicker, I highly recommend The First 20 Hours – How to Learn Anything Fast. Josh Kaufman helps self-directed learners like us expedite the learning process get to the stage of enjoying what we’ve learned as fast as possible. If you are serious about self-improvement, moving forward towards goals, and achieving skills faster, then consider this book a strong introduction to everything you need to know.

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Happy reading, happy improving, and may your small steps lead to giant leaps toward your dreams!

The Winner’s Mindset

Today we are looking at one of the fundamentals of self-improvement – the winner’s mindset. In fact, I would go so far as to argue that it may be the single most important tool you need on your self-improvement journey.

The Winner’s Mindset

OK, what is the winner’s mindset? I define it as follows.

The winner’s mindset is a fundamental belief that someone has about themselves. It is the sense that he or she is a winner, that most life experiences will turn out to be successes, that failure is a temporary circumstance that can be overcome with adjustments, and most importantly, that one deserves to have the best things in life.

Let’s break that definition down piece by piece to understand it more.

The winner’s mindset is a fundamental belief that someone has about themselves. . .

The winner’s mindset should be one of your core beliefs. On good days and bad, after wins and losses, when all is well and when all sucks – you should feel somewhere deep inside that you are good, smart, capable, and able to overcome. If you don’t feel this, it likely stems from self-confidence issues. Trust me when I say that I struggled with this mindset growing up.

You can’t just get a winner’s mindset overnight if you don’t have it now. It will take time to develop but the method is pretty simple. You have to start loving yourself and treating yourself as a friend. It sounds cliche, but seriously, hear me out for a minute, because if you truly understand this, so many other challenges in life will be solved.

No matter where you are at in life right now, you deserve your love. At the end of the day, friends may desert you. Family may let you down. Health can fail, money can disappear, and jobs can be cut unceremoniously. Most of us put our own self-confidence into the hands of other people. IF they have a good job, IF they have a great girlfriend or boyfriend, IF they are sitting pretty financially, THEN they think well of themselves. But if they lose one, or worse, all of those things, they then see themselves as failures and losers.

You may be thinking this way right now. I know I did in the past.

But you know what? In this whole world, no one knows you better than you. Noone knows your struggles and challenges, hopes and fears, like you do. You need to become your own best friend.

Think about it. If your friend loses his job, what do you do? Laugh at him? Call him a failure? A loser? Tell him he’s doomed? Of course not. You will remind your friend of his strong points, offer any assistance, give encouragement, root for him and believe he’ll ger through it.

How much better would your life be like if you started treating yourself the same way you treat your friends? Or even further, if you genuinely loved yourself? Look in the mirror, see that face looking back at you and honestly say, “Wow, we’ve been through so much together. I love you, keep going, I believe in you.”

That is what winners do. They believe in themselves.

What if you don’t feel it? Say it anyway. Our brains have a way of syncing up our feelings with our words. So even if you feel outmatched, overwhelmed, and ready to give up, don’t. Go to the mirror, look yourself in the face, and say the words you need to hear. Be your best friend. Love yourself.

OK, if you can do that, the rest is easy.

. . . It is the sense that he or she is a winner . . .

You are a winner. You aren’t defined by your mistakes. Everone makes those. Especially people who try to accomplish something. You are a winner. Even if you haven’t scored a big win in your life, you are a winner who has just hasn’t reached your true destination yet. You are a winner.

. . . that most life experiences will turn out to be successes. . .

Unsatisfied with your current job? You career still has a long way to go and you can still reach your goals.  Have a bad relationship with one of your friends? Work on fixing it. Or if it can’t be fixed, work on finding a better friend. Your current state does not dictate your end result. Believe that in the end, you will achieve your desires.

If you live in Kansas, and your goal is to see the Atlantic Ocean, you’ll spend lots of time traveling and never see the beach until the very end of your trip. If you don’t see the sand yet, keep going!

. . . that failure is a temporary circumstance that can be overcome with adjustments. . .

Quote me on this because it isone of the smarter things I’ve ever said – “Never change your dream; frequently change your methodology.”

This means, when you screw up and don’t get the result you want, please don’t give up on your goal. Just change your tactics abit. If you want to get a great job and you crashed and burned on your last 3 interviews, don’t take it as a sign that you can’t get the job you want. Instead change tactics. Update your resume. Practice some interviewing with friends. Modify some of the answers you have been giving. Or shoot for a less challenging role now, learn some more, and then try for your dream job next year.

Change your tactics; hold fast to your goal.

. . . and that one deserves to have the best things in life.

No one on this planet is more valuable than you. You matter as much as anyone. Your dreams matter. You deserve to experience the life that you want.

Believe in your inherent worth. Never sacrifice your mission in life to placate others. You deserve your dreams and this world deserves a confident, motivated you!

The Winner’s Creed

To help you internalize the the winner’s mindset, I’ve written the Winner’s Creed. Save it as your wallpaper, share it, and live by it!

I am a winner. There is no one like me. I may not win immediately, but I will win eventually. Watch me win!.png

All the best,

Jamie

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How to Become a Problem-Solving Ninja

Hi all,

It’s Jamie here. Welcome to September. Today I have a simple trick that will help you solve any problem. Well, almost any problem. That sock that disappeared in the washing machine last week is just long gone now, you need to accept it and move on.

But almost any other problem can be understood more fully and solved if you follow this ridiculously simple, powerful method.

How to Fix (Almost) Any Problem

The  method has two steps. First you need to understand the problem; then you can fix it. Step 1 is where most people screw up. Let me use an example to help you understand as we go along.

Let’s say you keep getting to work late. Your boss is angry about it and you are starting to get scared that you’ll get fired. What is your problem?

Most people will answer like this. My problem is my boss is angry. Or my problem is I am always late.

While those answers are not incorrect, they are certainly incomplete. With a bit more probing, we can potentially understand your problem is a better way.

How?

Ask “Why?” Ask it 5 times. Watch the magic at work. Let’s take the statement, “The problem is I am late” and apply Five Whys to it.

Why am I late. I sleep through my alarm. Why do I sleep through my alarm. Because it isn’t loud enough and I am so tired in the morning. (Maybe this problem can be solved by buying a louder alarm, but let’s keep digging deeper for more insights.) Why are you tired in the morning? I don’t sleep well at night. Why? (Don’t give a cheap answer here like, “I just never do, it is what it is, blah blah) Is your mattress uncomfortable? Are you stressed at night? Are you too cold? Too warm? Is your room too bright. Do you play video games before bed and the blue light from the TV interferes with your sleep later? Really dig in and answer why.

If you ask why at least 5 times, you’ll gain a true understanding of your problems. Sometimes the answers will shock you and introduce you to novel solutions you never imagined. Let’s illustrate this by asking why to our other answer – My problem is I have an angry boss.

Why is an angry boss a problem for me? He might fire me. Why is that a problem? I will lose my source of income. Why is that a problem, can you find any other sources? Maybe we are waking up late because this job is really not exciting us. Maybe we ought to be quitting it and launching our own business that we don’t need an alarm to wake us up for. Maybe there is a much bigger problem in our life than a cheap alarm clock. We might really need a career change or a diet change so we sleep better. You won’t easily identify those ideas though unless you relentlessly ask Why.

OK, that was step 1. Understand, really understand your problem by asking why… alot. Now step 2.

In step 2, you need to silence all the voices in your head that will push you toward a standard, boring answer to your Why questions. Be as optimistic and free-thinking as possible. Otherwise, you’ll never think of ideas like launching a business as a solution to your problem of waking up late.

I often find that it helps to run through the Five Whys exercise with a friend. Why? You are often unaware of the ruts in your mind that drive your thinking into the same patterns again and again. If you have a problem now, it means you haven’t figured out how to fix it yet. Some clear, focused positive thinking can give you novel solutions, but so too can a friend who is approaching your issue with fresh eyes and a different thought pattern.

If you love this idea, you really ought to check out The Personal MBA: Master the Art of Business. It is packed with great ideas like the Five Whys that will help you win in business and win in life. Here are some statistics on The Personal MBA that shows how popular it has become. Don’t go through life without its powerful ideas for one more day!

  • #1 International Bestseller
  • Over 300,000 Copies Sold Worldwide
  • #1 in Business Training on Amazon.com
  • #1 Audible.com Business Bestseller
  • 2013 Audio Publishers Association Awards Finalist
  • 299+ five-star reviews on Amazon.com
  • 1,250+ five-star ratings on Audible.com

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Good luck to all my problem-solving ninjas out there!

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The Two Things You Simply Must Have to Feel More Confident

Hello readers, it is great to be back! I took a two week break from writing here at Improve My Life This Year because I moved… across the world. I had been living in South Korea for almost 6 years, but now I am back in the United States of America.

Today I want to talk about confidence. Almost everyone wants to feel more confident. Well today I’ll simplify how to achieve self-confidence. There’s tons of info and contradictory ideas out there on the topic, so my goal today is to make it as clear and uncomplicated as possible. If you want to be more confident, you really only need two simple things. Let’s check them out.

Belief and Skills

That’s really it. You just need to believe in yourself and have skills at whatever you are doing. Nothing more is needed. Let’s look at these in detail.

Self-Belief

Because of how we were raised, many of us go through life with limiting self-beliefs. “I can’t, I’ll fail, I’m not good enough,” etc. Many of these are developed in childhood and unless we stop to think about it, they remain unnoticed, affecting our lives into the present. Stop and think about it, is your gut reaction to new challenges fear or excitement? If it is fear, you need to realize that you are are likely telling yourself negative stories in your mind. You can’t be confident without first deciding to become your own number one supporter, your own your strongest fan, your own believer.

Skills

The problem is, most self-improvement advice ends here. Belief in yourself is important, but, it is not enough for true confidence and success. Think about it. Imagine if you want to fly. You can think all the positive thoughts you want. You can believe in your power to fly. You can repeat a mantra – “I can fly, I can fly, I can fly.” But if you leap from the cliff, you’ll still fall and day. True confidence isn’t ignorant positivity. It is self-assured ability. If you want true confidence to fly, you need to take pilot lessons. You need to practice flying an airplane under careful supervision and direction for months. Then, after you complete your training, you truly can believe in yourself. You can fly!

True confidence, true success requires just two things. Self-belief and skills. So now it is time to get started. Today, right now, I want you to walk over to the mirror, look at yourself, and say, “I believe in you. You can accomplish your dreams. You can overcome your weaknesses. You can become the person you wish to be.” Then I want you to take a concrete step toward gaining the skills that will grant you true confidence. Check out our reading list for some great books that’ll teach some great skills. Or check out Kaplan. They’ve got tons of great online learning materials that will set you up for confidence and success.

Get started today and soon you’ll be amazed at the confident man or woman you have become!

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Until next time,

Jamie

The Art of the Deal vs. Hard Choices

tdy_mitchell_clinton_160519__588455.nbcnews-ux-1080-600Being a bit of a political junkie, I watched both the Republican National Convention and the Democratic National Convention this year. Of course, I have my own personal preferences going into this election, but here at Improve My Life This Year, we’ll remain impartial.

Regardless what you think of either candidate, neither would have reached the level of fame, power, and wealth that they have without having some skills and abilities that we might be able to put to work in our own life.

And that got me to thinking. With so many undecided voters out there this election year, why not read the most popular book written by each candidate to get a better feel for what they believe, how they think, and to identify skills and abilities from them worth emulating.

So for Mr. Donald J Trump, I have selected The Art of the Deal – it is by far his most famous book. For Secretary Hillary Clinton, I have selected the Hard Choices.

To makes things exciting, from now until November 8th, I’ll be tabulating which book my readers choose more and once a month I’ll be updating you with the stats! Happy reading and may the best man (or woman!) win!


The Art of the Deal: Donald J. Trump
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Republican presidential nominee Donald J. Trump lays out his professional and personal worldview in this classic work—a firsthand account of the rise of America’s foremost deal-maker.
 
“I like thinking big. I always have. To me it’s very simple: If you’re going to be thinking anyway, you might as well think big.”—Donald J. Trump
 
Here is Trump in action—how he runs his organization and how he runs his life—as he meets the people he needs to meet, chats with family and friends, clashes with enemies, and challenges conventional thinking. But even a maverick plays by rules, and Trump has formulated time-tested guidelines for success. He isolates the common elements in his greatest accomplishments; he shatters myths; he names names, spells out the zeros, and fully reveals the deal-maker’s art. And throughout, Trump talks—really talks—about how he does it. Trump: The Art of the Deal is an unguarded look at the mind of a brilliant entrepreneur—the ultimate read for anyone interested in the man behind the spotlight.
 
“Trump makes one believe for a moment in the American dream again.”—The New York Times

“Donald Trump is a deal maker. He is a deal maker the way lions are carnivores and water is wet.”—Chicago Tribune
 
“Fascinating . . . wholly absorbing . . . conveys Trump’s larger-than-life demeanor so vibrantly that the reader’s attention is instantly and fully claimed.”—Boston Herald
 
“A chatty, generous, chutzpa-filled autobiography.”—New York Post


Hard Choices: Hillary Rodham Clinton515otzAA0oL._SX328_BO1,204,203,200_.jpg

Hillary Rodham Clinton’s inside look at the choices and challenges she has faced is “a subtle, finely calibrated work…with succinct and often shrewd appraisals of the complex web of political, economic, and historical forces in play around the world” (The New York Times).

In the aftermath of her 2008 presidential run, Hillary Rodham Clinton expected to return to the United States Senate. To her surprise, newly elected President Barack Obama asked her to serve in his administration as Secretary of State. “Hard Choices is a richly detailed and compelling chronicle of Clinton’s role in the foreign initiatives and crises that defined the first term of the Obama administration…it teems with small, entertaining details about her interactions with foreign leaders (Los Angeles Times).

Secretary Clinton and President Obama had to decide how to repair fractured alliances, wind down two wars, and address a global financial crisis. Along the way, they grappled with tough dilemmas, especially the decision to send Americans into harm’s way, from Afghanistan to Libya to the hunt for Osama bin Laden. By the end of her tenure, Secretary Clinton had gained a truly global perspective on the major trends reshaping today’s landscape.

In Hard Choices, “a rich and lively narrative” (Entertainment Weekly), Hillary Clinton offers her views on what it will take for the United States to compete and thrive. This “memoir is serious, sober, and substantive” (The New York Times Book Review).

Enjoy your reading!

Jamie

The 3 Shortcuts to Wisdom

books-768426_960_720Recently I answered a question on Quora on the topic of shortcuts to wisdom. I’ve expanded my ideas and want to share them with my readers here at Improve My Life This Year.

Year by year, I’m sure you notice that you become wiser. What if we could accelerate that process? What if we could become wiser, faster? We can. Let’s see how. Let’s see the 3 shortcuts to wisdom.

Shortcut #1 to Wisdom – Mistakes

You learn most when you are in-over-your-head, taking on challenges you never faced before. And in that kind of environment, you will screw up a lot and make many mistakes. The pain and frustration of those setbacks will spark awareness and new understanding. And you’ll be on the fast-track to wisdom. That is of course if you engage in self-reflection at each moment and use your mistakes as learning opportunities.

Shortcut #2 to Wisdom – Mentors

The cool thing about mentors is, they have already screwed up a lot. So, of course, you can spend a lot of time making your own mistakes, but another great way to become wise is to learn from the mistakes and experiences of others. On the plus side, learning through mentors saves you a lot of struggle and pain. On the down side, that lack of direct experience makes it harder for you to truly understand as well as you can from your own mistakes.

Shortcut #3 to Wisdom – Reading

The final shortcut is reading. Think of this, if you read a book by Elon Musk, you are almost having a conversation with him. If you read my post, you are, for a brief moment, peering into my little bit of wisdom. Reading is not so dissimilar to finding a mentor. The conversation is just one-way from them to you, but you are not limited by time and space. You can select from millions of potential mentors from the past and present with a quick trip to the library. Or better yet, you can get a Kindle and read on-the-go, throughout the day. Wherever and however you prefer, just find  a way to read.

Good luck, and may you find wisdom on your life journey!

Jamie

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3 Killer Ways to Improve Your Writing

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The pen is mightier than the sword. Are you well-armed?

If you want to improve your life this year, a key area to target is your communication skills. We’ll cover conversational skills in a different post, but let’s focus on writing today.

Fair or not, people judge your writing skills A LOT! Your resume. Your school assignment. Your dating profile. Your social media posts. These have the power to shape your life. If your writing skills aren’t at the level you’d like, then please, follow my 3 steps and you will be a better writer today!

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#1 Avoid Crutches:

So, crutches are those things you add to your writing, thinking they add value, even though they don’t. What do I mean? Let’s look at some examples more closely.

Adverbs – Take a look at these sentences. He shouted loudly. She walked nervously. He ate quickly. He spoke proudly. All these sentences contain adverbs and all these sentences could be made stronger. You see, writers often lean on adverbs because they have chosen weak verbs. Look at the verbs in those sentences. Shouted. Walked. Ate. Spoke. All of these are rather generic and weak. That’s why the adverbs were added to give a little more color to the sentences. But better yet would be to swap out the original verb/adverb pairs for a single powerful verb. Look at how we can upgrade these sentences. He roared. She tip-toed. He gulped. He gloated. There is almost always an amazing verb that will improve the sentence. Find it. Use it. Instant improvement.

Adjectives – Take a look at these sentences. The beautiful girl sang a lovely song. The small house was in the green forest.The hungry wolf wanted to eat the pig. See the adjectives? Beautiful. Lovely. Small. Green. Hungry. Notice that they are common and overused adjectives that don’t really add much value to the sentence? Their only role is to take your eye off the fact that the nouns are even more common and overused. Girl. Song. House. Forest. Wolf. Pig. So here’s what to do. If possible, combine the adjective and noun into a new noun which carries the meaning of both. “Beautiful girl” can be an “angel”. “Small house” can be “a cottage”. If such a word does not exist, (for example there is no specific word which means “hungry wolf”) at least choose a more specific adjective, and consider substituting some imagery in place of the standard noun. Let’s see how this looks. “The beautiful girl sang a lovely song” becomes “The angel sang a stirring aria.” Better yet, “sang” is an overused verb, so let’s change the sentence to “The angel lifted her voice in a stirring aria.” Amazing improvement. “The small house was in the green forest” becomes “The welcoming cottage was nestled in a peaceful green sea of trees.” “The hungry wolf wanted to eat the pig” becomes “The rapacious monster longed to devour the unsuspecting farm animal.” If you want your words to come alive, swap out the common for the uncommon and you’ll get instant improvements.

Cliches – I struggle so much with this. A cliche is any phrase that has been used again and again to the point of losing all freshness and originality. As much as I try not to, I tend to overuse cliches frequently.

“At the end of the day”

“All’s well that ends well”

“Bring your A-game”

Here’s a huge list if you’d like to see more. http://examples.yourdictionary.com/examples-of-cliches.html

Like I said, I’m bad at it; I use cliches far too often. When you catch those, cut them out and come up with a fresh way to say it. Now that you are aware of it, you’ll notice them in your writing. Ruthlessly remove and replace for an instant boost to your writing.

#2 Get a Decent Thesaurus:

Seriously. Get a physical copy, place it on your desk and become friends with it. Refer to it often. A good thesaurus contains far more than just synonyms. I personally love Roget’s Thesaurus of Words for Writers. It contains over 2,300 emotive, evocative, descriptive synonyms, antonyms, and related terms every writer should know.

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As you refer to a thesaurus over time, your vocabulary and writing skills naturally strengthen.

Avoid Grammar and Spelling Mistakes:

OK, if you follow steps 1 and 2, you’ll be crafting incredibly descriptive sentences now, but you still don’t want a perfectly good email or journal entry to be marred by basic errors. How can you avoid making grammar and spelling mistakes, especially when you are in a hurry? I use Grammarly.

Grammarly is a cloud-­based application. As of now, it checks for over 250 types of common grammatical errors, corrects contextual spelling mistakes (which means it’ll notice that you used “too” when you probably meant “to”), enhances vocabulary usage, and provides citation suggestions as you type (a fantastic aid for college students). My favorite feature is that it runs in real-time as you type, so you see a variety of suggestions which don’t obstruct your view or distract you as you work. If you want to correct an error, you simply click once on the suggested improvement and your text is instantly fixed. There are browser extensions available as well, so wherever you are typing (emails, Facebook, blog comments, etc.) you are protected from errors. They have both a free service and a premium one. I started with the free service for some time; later I upgraded to premium and I love it even more. Seriously try the free version for yourself and I’m pretty sure you’ll wonder how you lived and worked without it for so long. Millions of people worldwide including myself rely on Grammarly and it can be the key tool that makes you a better writer.

So there you have it! Avoid crutches like boring adverbs and adjectives. Get a thesaurus and use it as you write to build your vocabulary. And use Grammarly to catch all the tiny errors that you miss but the judging eyes of someone else won’t. I truly believe that as you write better, your career, your relationships, and your reputation will improve.

Go for it, and if you have additional tips, feel free to share them in the comment section below!

Jamie

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