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!

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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Eat That Frog!

51eRBJgA9hL._SX321_BO1,204,203,200_This week’s theme is all about accomplishing great things. And one of the best books I’ve read on the topics of overcoming procrastination and increasing productivity is Eat That Frog!: 21 Great Ways to Stop Procrastinating and Get More Done in Less Time

Below is the introduction of the book which provides a nice outline of its contents and overall philosophy.

The introduction comes via the book’s Amazon page.

Introduction: Eat That Frog

This is a wonderful time to be alive. There have never been more possibilities and opportunities for you to achieve more of your goals than exist today. As perhaps never before in human history, you are actually drowning in options. In fact, there are so many good things that you can do that your ability to decide among them may be the critical determinant of what you accomplish in life.

If you are like most people today, you are overwhelmed with too much to do and too little time. As you struggle to get caught up, new tasks and responsibilities just keep rolling in, like the waves of the ocean. Because of this, you will never be able to do everything you have to do. You will never be caught up. You will always be behind in some of your tasks and responsibilities, and probably in many of them.

The Need to Be Selective

For this reason, and perhaps more than ever before, your ability to select your most important task at each moment, and then to get started on that task and to get it done both quickly and well, will probably have more of an impact on your success than any other quality or skill you can develop.

An average person who develops the habit of setting clear priorities and getting important tasks completed quickly will run circles around a genius who talks a lot and makes wonderful plans but who gets very little done.

The Truth about Frogs

Mark Twain once said that if the first thing you do each morning is to eat a live frog, you can go through the day with the satisfaction of knowing that that is probably the worst thing that is going to happen to you all day long.

Your “frog” is your biggest, most important task, the one you are most likely to procrastinate on if you don’t do something about it. It is also the one task that can have the greatest positive impact on your life and results at the moment.

The first rule of frog eating is this:
If you have to eat two frogs, eat the ugliest one first.

This is another way of saying that if you have two important tasks before you, start with the biggest, hardest, and most important task first. Discipline yourself to begin immediately and then to persist until the task is complete before you go on to something else.

Think of this as a test. Treat it like a personal challenge. Resist the temptation to start with the easier task. Continually remind yourself that one of the most important decisions you make each day is what you will do immediately and what you will do later, if you do it at all.

The second rule of frog eating is this:
If you have to eat a live frog at all, it doesn’t pay to sit and look at it for very long.

The key to reaching high levels of performance and productivity is to develop the lifelong habit of tackling your major task first thing each morning. You must develop the routine of “eating your frog” before you do anything else and without taking too much time to think about it.

Take Action Immediately

In study after study of men and women who get paid more and promoted faster, the quality of “action orientation” stands out as the most observable and consistent behavior they demonstrate in everything they do. Successful, effective people are those who launch directly into their major tasks and then discipline themselves to work steadily and single-mindedly until those tasks are complete.

In our world, and especially in our business world, you are paid and promoted for getting specific, measurable results. You are paid for making a valuable contribution and especially for making the most important contribution that is expected of you.

“Failure to execute” is one of the biggest problems in organizations today. Many people confuse activity with accomplishment. They talk continually, hold endless meetings, and make wonderful plans, but in the final analysis, no one does the job and gets the results required.

Develop the Habits of Success

Your success in life and work will be determined by the kinds of habits that you develop over time. The habit of setting priorities, overcoming procrastination, and getting on with your most important task is a mental and physical skill. As such, this habit is learnable through practice and repetition, over and over again, until it locks into your subconscious mind and becomes a permanent part of your behavior. Once it becomes a habit, it becomes both automatic and easy to do.

This habit of starting and completing important tasks has an immediate and continuous payoff. You are designed mentally and emotionally in such a way that task completion gives you a positive feeling. It makes you happy. It makes you feel like a winner.

Whenever you complete a task of any size or importance, you feel a surge of energy, enthusiasm, and self-esteem. The more important the completed task, the happier, more confident, and more powerful you feel about yourself and your world.

The completion of an important task triggers the release of endorphins in your brain. These endorphins give you a natural “high.” The endorphin rush that follows successful completion of any task makes you feel more positive, personable, creative, and confident.

Develop a Positive Addiction

Here is one of the most important of the so-called secrets of success. You can actually develop a “positive addiction” to endorphins and to the feeling of enhanced clarity, confidence, and competence that they trigger. When you develop this addiction, you will, at an unconscious level, begin to organize your life in such a way that you are continually starting and completing ever more important tasks and projects. You will actually become addicted, in a very positive sense, to success and contribution.

One of the keys to your living a wonderful life, having a successful career, and feeling terrific about yourself is to develop the habit of starting and finishing important jobs. When you do, this behavior will take on a power of its own and you’ll find it easier to complete important tasks than not to complete them.

No Shortcuts

You remember the story of the man who stops a musician on a street in New York and asks how he can get to Carnegie Hall. The musician replies, “Practice, man, practice.”

Practice is the key to mastering any skill. Fortunately, your mind is like a muscle. It grows stronger and more capable with use. With practice, you can learn any behavior or develop any habit that you consider either desirable or necessary.

The Three Ds of New Habit Formation

You need three key qualities to develop the habits of focus and concentration, which are all learnable. They are decision, discipline, and determination.

First, make a decision to develop the habit of task completion. Second, discipline yourself to practice the principles you are about to learn over and over until they become automatic. And third, back everything you do with determination until the habit is locked in and becomes a permanent part of your personality.

Visualize Yourself as You Want to Be

There is a special way that you can accelerate your progress toward becoming the highly productive, effective, efficient person that you want to be. It consists of your thinking continually about the rewards and benefits of being an action-oriented, fast-moving, and focused person. See yourself as the kind of person who gets important jobs done quickly and well on a consistent basis.

Your mental picture of yourself has a powerful effect on your behavior. Visualize yourself as the person you intend to be in the future. Your self-image, the way you see yourself on the inside, largely determines your performance on the outside. All improvements in your outer life begin with improvements on the inside, in your mental pictures.

You have a virtually unlimited ability to learn and develop new skills, habits, and abilities. When you train yourself, through repetition and practice, to overcome procrastination and get your most important tasks completed quickly, you will move yourself onto the fast track in your life and career and step on the accelerator.

Eat That Frog!

Incredible advice and a fantastic book for people that want to get serious about improving their career or academic life.

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Get it on Kindle and make this week the start of a new, more productive you!