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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How to Win at Life in Your 3os

Full discloser: I turned 30 not that long ago. It was the first birthday that inspired existential angst. Where has all the time gone? What am I doing with my life? Will my life sputter out or blossom into greatness? Will I ever see the Tampa Bay Rays win the Series? So many unanswered questions.

Everyone talks about how important your 20s are, and with good reason. In our 20s, we’ll likely choose our universities, select our majors, start our careers, and at probably meet the person we wind up marrying. With so many key decisions coming in our 20s, it can be easy to assume that success or failure in life depends on our 20s.

Malarkey.

See, here the problem with our 20s. It’s all kinda set up for us. Go to school? Apply to some places and go to the best one that accepts you. Choose a major? Well, select the one you like, or your dad did, or your friends are in, or one that was in a table of top-earning majors. Future spouse? Date a few people and when you meet one that seems better than the rest, go ahead and marry them.

It doesn’t seem like it when you are in that decade, but your 20’s are very much mapped out by family and social expectations.

But how about your 30s? This is the decade, you will sink or swim. The decade that will launch you past your peers or see you stagnate. Why?

It comes down to those social expectations. All those expectations in our 20s propel us forward. Go to school. Graduate. Date. Marry. Intern. Work. Manage. But what pushes us forward in our 30s? Generally, we aren’t meeting and dating as many people as we were in our 20s. We aren’t bouncing from job to job. We aren’t learning tons of new things like when we were in classes.

We settle in.

When we settle in, we stagnate. Our growth slows dramatically. Our horizons shrink. We wind up with a stable set of skills, friends, interests, and activities.

But it doesn’t have to be that way. We can learn and growth and advance just as fast as we did in our 20s. We just have to push ourselves now.

No professor will tell you to read a book. You’ll have to hunt down great books and choose to read them.

Friends won’t be dragging you to the college bar to meet people. You’ll have to choose to get involved in community groups, local sports, or volunteer to meet new people frequently.

If you are in a long-term relationship, you’ll have to make the effort to find new ways to understand your partner and new ways to enjoy your relationship.

If you can choose to create this kind of forward momentum in your 30s, this decade will be your best yet. And you’ll be way, way ahead of your peers who settle in and stop growing.

Win this decade. Win at life. Choose progress over stagnation.

Until next time,

Jamie

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The Best Dating Advice I Ever Received

Recently on Quora, I shared an answer to an interesting question: What is the best dating advice you have ever been given? My answer has already received almost 300,000 views, and has generated some great conversations (and some controversy), so I decided to share it with my readers here on Improve My Life This Year.

The Best Dating Advice I Ever Received

My best friend scribbled it on a napkin in my college bar 8 years ago.

S = L + (RV x MV)

That’s the best dating advice I ever received. The basic idea is your success in dating is one part luck and another part your perceived value.

Perceived value is a function of how much actual value you generate and how well you market that value.

So for the mathematically inclined,

Success = Luck + (real value x the marketing you do), or simply

S = L + (RV x MV)

That’s pretty much it. Punch in the numbers and that’s how your dating experiences will go.

Want more luck? Take more shots (not tequila shots, though who knows, that might work too). No, the shots we are talking about are attempts. If something has a 1 in a 100 chance of occurring, then statistically, you are about 50 shots away from getting it. Ask people out. Get rejected. Ask more out. Don’t hide your intentions. If you like someone, own it and show it. All other variables held constant, you chances of dating success go up, up, up as long you get out of your own head and just talk to the girl.

Want more real value? Then find ways to become more valuable as a person. Learn how to be witty. To make great conversation. Learn where the coolest restaurants are in town. Learn a musical instrument. Get physically fit. Groom well. Develop your own style. Be honest. These things and hundreds of others as well are avenues to build your value.

Want to market your value? Don’t hide your light under the proverbial bushel. If you have a funny joke, tell it! If you know a great restaurant, invite your friends. If you play guitar, play it outside the school cafeteria on a Tuesday afternoon just because you feel like it. If you are good at presentations, volunteer to make the big sales pitch at work. Whatever it is – don’t be afraid to show off the value that you’ve worked hard to build.

That’s about it. If you follow S = L + (RV x MV), you’ll achieve dating success! Everyone has a weakest variable – find yours and work on it!

Like our Facebook page to get our latest self-improvement advice in your newsfeed daily!

And for guys who are really serious about improving your dating skills, check out The Dating Playbook for Men by Andrew Ferebee. His 7-step system will simply and clearly help you become an attractive, valuable man. Enjoy!

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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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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

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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!