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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You, CEO – Monitoring

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Welcome to our first post in our new series You, CEO. Be sure to check out the introduction here if you haven’t already.

Monitoring

Companies generally don’t make decisions based on emotions, feelings, guesses, or blind chance. But if you are honest, those factors often play a role in the decisions you make in your own life.

If we want to copy the success of top CEOs, let’s start by learning to copy their decision-making strategies. One of the best decision-making tools is data analysis. It’s a huge and growing industry that is changing the business world. It can have an equally powerful impact on our lives as well.

However, before we can analyze data, we need to have data. That’s today’s topic – getting the right data.

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You Get What You Measure

You get what you measure. This is one of the immutable laws of business, and it can be applied to your personal life as well. Whatever you choose to measure, you will begin to focus on it and improve it. Likewise, what you decline to measure generally gets overlooked and rarely sees improvement.

So step 1 is simply to choose what areas of your life you want to improve. Step 2 then is to choose a specific way to measure progress in that area. For example, if I want to save money, I should start tracking how much money I have saved at the end of each week. If I want to get stronger, I should start tracking how many pushups I do each day. If I want to become more intelligent, I could start tracking how many self-improvement books I read each month.

Now step 2 can be easily messed up, so be careful. Remember we said, you get what you measure. If for example you only track how many pushups you do, you may wind up focusing on pushups to the exclusion of other exercises. Then you aren’t really getting stronger overall; you are just getting better at a specific exercise. So choose carefully and choose multiple measurements to get better overall progress.

I use an Excel spreadsheet to measure my progress across several categories. You can do it digitally like me or write it out by hand as well. Choose the method most comfortable to you and stick to it. It may feel hard to at first, but I promise you can develop the habit within a month if you tough out the first few weeks.

Then, just as a CEO has piles of data to look at when making decisions, you too will have the data you need to stay motivated, track progress, and make well-informed decisions about your life. We’ll build on this idea in our next post in the series CEO, You. See you soon.

Jamie

Stay connected! Follow us on Facebook and on Twitter!:-)

P.S. If you want to do even more to improve your life today, sign up for the free version of Grammarly. Grammarly is a real-time grammar editor that will keep your writing error-free, warn you about plagiarism, and help you improve your writing. After all, as the CEO of your life, you can’t be a sloppy communicator. Try Grammarly today and start writing like a pro!

The Complete Guide to Improving Your Finances This Year

Everyone makes tons of goals around the new year. Unfortunately by summer, most of those ambitious plans have been long forgotten.

But here’s the thing. Summer is a great time for a financial reboot. There are so many fun (and free!) things to do, there’s no expensive heating bill to worry about, and best of all, here’s the Improve My Life This Year – The Complete Guide to Improving Your Financial Life.

How to use The Complete Guide to Improving Your Financial Life

My advice is this: use this guide as a checklist. Review it point-by-point. Most readers will find that some parts are more relevant than others to their specific financial situation. That’s great! Focus on the areas where you can improve. Financial difficulties lead to stress, health problems, relationship conflicts and depression. So if you are serious about improving your life this year, it is absolutely vital that you gain complete control over your financial situation.

Step 1: Increase Your Income

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Alright here we are at step 1. If you want to improve your financial situation, a simple, yet overlooked way is to increase your income. How? Well first, just ask for it. You may be surprised, but if you sit down with your boss and ask for more hours or ask for a raise, you may get it. The worst that can happen is they say no, but the answer is definitely no until you summon the courage to ask.

To increase your chances of being told yes, I recommend 2 strategies. One, take a month to do amazing work. That’ll build up your reputation prior to meeting with your boss. Two, document everything. As much as possible, record all the contributions you are making, particularly the ones that go above and beyond the call of duty. Especially important here are ones that can be linked to increased profits for your company. Find a way to show how your work adds value to the company. If you are making the firm more money, it is much easier for your manager to justify increasing your salary.

If you strike out here, then I recommend that you seek out other money-making opportunities outside of work. Do you write a blog? If not, check out this post on how to start one. Once you get some readers, you can add affiliate links to your articles (I’ll have a post out soon which explains how to do this) and earn commissions when people make purchases.

Another idea is to monetize a skill you already have. Do you like to play chess? Start offering chess lessons. Love golf? Be a caddie on the weekends. Love to read? Start a really cool book club and charge dues to join. The wonderful thing about living in this age is you can easily and cheaply start almost any business with a simple website.

To recap Step 1: Do some great work for a month. Document it all. Show it to your boss and ask for a raise. In the meantime, launch a website or start a blog and sell the skills you already have.

Step 2: Decrease Your Expenses

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You all know the classic saying, “A penny saved is a penny earned.” It’s totally true. While we try to increase our income in Step 1, we can also improve our financial situation by reducing our expenses. How?

A great place to start is with this post, How to Save More Money in 6 Simple Ways. In that article, one thing I talk about is the idea that you should track every expense you make for one month. It is tedious and annoying, but trust me, the results will shock you. You’ll find there are things that you had no idea you spent so much money on.

The best way I have found to reduce expenses is to look for and eliminate these unnecessary habitual costs. I answered a question on Quora recently with analysis on just how much a daily coffee from Starbucks can set you back financially in the long-run. You can read the answer in full here or just skip to the conclusion – you may retire with $10,000 less just because you drank a cup a day this year.

How else can you save money? I’ll open that question up to you. Please tell us in the comments below any money-saving tips you have.

To recap Step 2: Record all your expenses for one month. Then identify and eliminate the habitual expenses that have been costing more than realize.

Step 3: Use the Gains from Step 1 and Step 2 to Increase Your Savings

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OK, Step 3 is where things get fun. Take your new income from Step 1. Take your new free money from Step 2. Add them together. Congratulations! This is your new money for savings. Now, this is important. I want you to open a new savings account. We don’t want this money mixing with the money we use in our daily life. This new money for savings should simply not exist in our mind. We will use it for building a long-term pile of money for starting a future business, getting higher education, or retiring with dignity and freedom.

So, open a new savings account and hide the money from Step 1 and Step 2 there. Or, if your willing to add a bit of risk in exchange for likely higher future returns, you can choose to put it in an low-fee or no-fee index fund. In the short-term, the market can swing up or down quite a bit, but if you are truly investing for the long-run, this can be a smart move (Of course it goes without saying, all investments have risk and you should do due diligence before making any investment decisions and speak with a certified financial adviser).

To recap Step 3: Add your new money from Step 1 and from Step 2 and save it for your future.

Step 4: Create a Plan to Get out of Debt

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Step 4 is so important that I considered making it Step 1. If you are in debt, you absolutely need to come up with a realistic plan to get out. At the risk of over-simplifying, we can honestly think of debt as either good or bad debt.

Good debt is the kind that is enabling you to become wealthier in the future. If you bought a good home with a mortgage in a nice neighborhood where prices are rising, this is most likely to be good debt. Why? Well, through this debt you are A) avoiding rent payments and B) slowly gaining full ownership of an asset that is rising in value. Of course, in the long-run, you’d like to pay off that mortgage, but this debt isn’t so terrible to have.

Bad debt on the other hand is the debt that does not deliver any tangible long-term increases to your wealth. Let’s say I buy an expensive watch with my credit card. Most likely, that watch will not help me get richer in the future. If I am in debt now because of it, that debt is bad debt because it doesn’t enrich me; it only slowly bleeds me.

The simple rule to remember is this. Find out the interest rate you can earn by saving the money in Step 3. Compare that rate to the interest rate you are being charged for any debts that you have in Step 4. Whichever rate is higher becomes your priority.

If I can earn 2% by saving the money in a CD at the bank and I pay 1% interest on student loans and 15% on my credit cards, then any new money I gain from Steps 1&2 should first go to pay off credit cards, then go toward a CD and then go making more than the minimum payment on the student loans – in that order.

Important Note: Some people are struggling to make their current payments. For you there may be significant help available. National Debt Relief has helped tens of thousands of people and is accredited by the Better Business Bureau. If you need help, you can get some free advice from the them today.

To recap Step 4: Rank your debts by the interest rate you pay and tackle the highest rates first. If you need help with your debts, get some help now so you can be on the path to freedom.

Step 5: Make Important Financial Decisions Wisely

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Now let’s start looking at the future. Big financial decisions will impact your overall financial health a lot. Sure you can save some extra money by making coffee at home rather than buying it outside everyday, but if you want to make the biggest positive impact to your overall financial situation, you absolutely need to make the right decisions at some key moments.

A great example of this is when you are buying a new home. The choice of which home to buy, the choice of which community to live in, and the choice of which mortgage provider to go with are huge.

My best advice here is to say that you need to research as much as possible. Don’t just blindly make a choice based on emotion or random luck. When I need to make important financial decisions, I often go to The Simple Dollar. It is a fantastic blog with tons of advice and tips on making smart financial choices. They’ve been featured in places like Forbes Magazine and Time Magazine. A good example of their work is a recent guide they put together on The Best Mortgage Lenders. The person who reads this is way more likely to make the right call when it comes time to buy a home, and that may lead to hundreds if not thousands of dollars of savings.

To recap Step 5: When it comes to the big decisions in life, buying a home, going to university, or investing in the stock market, you absolutely need to spend time researching before jumping to a conclusion.

Step 6: Track Future Progress with a Proper Budget

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OK, if you’ve followed the first 5 steps, you are now well ahead of most other people. Step 6 is how we maintain our success. You need to make a monthly budget and you need to track your expenses. This doesn’t have to be hard. You can use a free service like Mint to stay on top of your monthly progress.

Tracking is valuable because it makes sure you don’t slide into old bad habits or get of course from your goals.

To recap Step 6: Don’t lose your progress through neglect. Track your monthly progress manually or with a free online program to make sure are staying on target.

Step 7: Relax and Trust the Process

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Whew! We made it to the end. Great work!

Remember at the start of the article, we mentioned that money problems may cause stress, health problems, relationship difficulties and even depression? Don’t let that happen to you. If you have followed the 6 steps, if you are in periodic contact with a certified financial adviser, and if you working to improve day-by-day, then relax and trust the process you are on. I’m proud of you for taking on this challenge and I believe that you have what it takes to succeed! Good luck!

Please share this guide on your favorite social media site and let’s make this the moment that we start improving our financial lives 🙂

Why You Should Already Be Blogging & How to Start Your Blog

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Benjamin Franklin once said, “Write something worth reading or do something worth writing.” Today, we’ll learn how to do both by exploring the topic of blogging. If you want to improve your life this year, you absolutely should be writing your own blog. Why? Well, let’s look at a few of the benefits of blogging first and then I’ll show you how to get started. It’s damn easy and if you’d like, after you read this post, you will know how to have your own blog up and running in just a few minutes. But first, let’s see the reasons you should be blogging.

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You will Improve Many Skills

Spelling. Grammar. Storytelling. Using your computer for more than just web-surfing. You will learn a lot of skills by creating and maintaining a blog. A lot of those skills – communication, tech, marketing – are in big demand. So today’s hobby can lead to tomorrow’s promotion. Speaking of which . . .

You will Improve Your Career

If you blog about a topic related to your career, 2 things will happen. First people will begin to perceive you as a thought-leader in your field. They will come to see you as the person who knows a lot about your job and industry. This can lead to networking opportunities, chances for promotion, and even new job offers. Secondly, you actually will become more of an expert in your field. You cannot help but know a great deal about your business when you are writing about it frequently.

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You May Make Money!

If your blog becomes popular, you will be able to make money selling ad spaces, providing affiliate links, or selling your own products like ebooks. I will be writing future posts explaining how each of these methods work. April was the first full month of this blog and it already earned over $100. I ain’t getting rich yet, but it’s nice to earn a bit of reward from your hard work, and once I implement some other monetization strategies, I expect this website to become very rewarding. I’ll share all these tips with you in future posts, so stay tuned!

Anyway, how do we get started? You can make a simple website with WordPress. If you want to make something beautiful and more personalized, try Strikingly. It’s simple to use and creates stunningly beautiful websites. They have an amazing feature which allows you to convert information from a Facebook page (great for small businesses) into a website or convert information from a LinkedIn profile (great for job-seekers) in a website.

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Another tip for getting started – If you use WordPress or Blogspot or one of the basic blogging services, your website address will include their name. Your site will be something like http://www.improvemylifethisyear.wordpress.com. Not so sexy. If you really want full ownership of what you create and the most professional image, you should get your own domain name and host. It’s simple and inexpensive and dramatically increases your level of control and status in the eyes of readers. There are many to choose from, but many bloggers eventually settle on Blue Host. Why? Here’s what Blue Host brings to the table for bloggers around the world.

Bluehost was founded in 2003 with one goal: to make a better hosting company. Built on open source technology, they’ve since grown to become one of the world’s largest providers of online solutions. Bluehost is a top recommended host by WordPress and also proudly supports many other open source programs. Blue Host provides . . .

Money-back guarantee
1 FREE domain registration
Unlimited domain hosting
1-Click MOJO Marketplace installations
Free drag-and-drop site builder
Unlimited disk storage
Unlimited IMAP & POP3 e-mail support
Industry-leading technical support located in the USA.
24/7 chat, email and phone support for customers.

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How to Make Your Blog Successful

I won’t complicate things. There are really only 3 things you need for success.

  1. Write (a lot). You just need to churn out a lot of writing. Readers keep coming back to a site when they know it routinely is updated with fresh content. You need to post frequently. I make multiple posts per week here on this site. You might post less frequently, but at the very least, you need to get an article up per week.
  2. Write well. You don’t have to have a degree in English to write a blog. But at the very least, try to avoid simple errors that damage your credibility. I use Grammarly to keep my writing crisp, clear, and error-free. They have a free version and a paid version, depending on how hard-core you want to be about your writing.
  3. Wait a lot. It takes time to build up an audience. It takes time for Google to respect your site as well. So don’t give up in those dark, lonely early months of your blog. If you keep at it, you will see progress. A previous site I launched that I no longer add content to continues to grow now thanks to some love from Google bringing me search traffic. But at the beginning, I was writing a lot and getting very little traffic. That’s normal, expect it, and don’t get discouraged. Results will come!

This post is very brief, but I promise to deliver some future posts that will dive into much more details. I look forward to sharing all the things I’ve learned thus far.

But enough reading me. Start writing your blog now!

Jamie

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