The power of your words

“Death and Life are in the power of the tongue. They that love it shall eat the fruit thereof.” – Proverbs 18:21

This ancient proverbs reveals a great truth about our words. Words have tremendous power, and in this particular proverb, death is mentioned first. I suspect this was intended as a warning, since for most of us its so easy to slip into negativity, both in our conversations and our self-talk.  There’s good reason that ‘Bad news travels fast’ is an old saying. For some reason, we all have a bit of the naughty little kid in us who just can’t wait to share the latest bit of bad news, especially when it’s particularly ‘juicy.’

To make matters worse, we tend to do this to ourselves. I teach my clients to break this habit, because even when we don’t mean what we say, our subconscious mind receives the negative signal and, unfortunately begins to work against us. Now, experts from scientists to internet marketers have tried to understand how it works. It remains mysterious, but there are some things we do understand about the subconscious mind that can help us, especially with regard to our words and thoughts.

We know that he subconscious mind is not rational or logical. It doesn’t necessarily think in linear terms. It seems to behave more like a parallel processor, and therefore can process much more information than the conscious mind. It’s believed that that the subconscious mind can process as much as 40 billion bits of information per second, versus the 70-20 bits that the conscious mind can process. So it seems possible that the subconscious mind can process and assimilate most, or maybe even all, of what we see, hear, smell, taste, and so on… including what we say.

When we are negative in our words, we can actually influence our subconscious mind to work against us, while our conscious mind begins to believe what we’re saying. There was once a skinny little teenager who wanted to become really strong despite his small size, many people told him in many ways that he’d never be able to bench press whatever number of pounds seemed like a good number to them. He, however, was undaunted. and continued to tell himself that he would reach his goal on the bench press. Soon enough, He began to believe that he could do it, and that belief caused him to research how muscles worked, and what actually made people get stronger. In the end, he bench pressed 270 pounds at a body weight of 117, and years later could bench press more than 300 pounds at a body weight of just 143 pounds!

Had he been negative, sooner or later he would have convinced himself that it was impossible, and his level of effort and dedication would have dropped to match those words. This happens to most of us. Some might even say this is how we talk ourselves out of pursuing our dreams. Do whatever you have to do to stop this habit. Now, I’m not saying you should be positive about things that don’t make any sense. You won’t see me trying out for the Toronto Raptors anytime soon.

Words can hurt feelings, offend sensibilities, start bar fights, end marriages and make enemies. At the same time, they can restore relationships, inspire people to strive for excellence, resolve conflict and make friends. Choose your words wisely, and use them kindly as often as you can.

What I am  saying that you should speak good things over your own life. Encourage yourself if you have to! What I typically have my clients do is a simple exercise in which they write down goals, or things they’d like to change, and then write down two or three encouraging statements about those things. They then read these aloud to themselves as often as they need to until they begin to believe it, and while they’re doing this, they’re already taking action toward achieving those goals.

Try this out for a week and see what happens. You’ll be glad you did.

Excuses, excuses…

One of the things that most often prevents us from achieving our dreams is making excuses. It often seems harmless, but excuses can become quite insidious if you let them. Perhaps the most dangerous aspect of excuses is that they’re often based on some form of truth, and so it’s very easy to give in to them.

For example, last week I was in a car accident. Some guy rear-ended me and took off. He was caught, but I’ve got some injuries. It’s painfully obvious that something’s very wrong with my left knee, lower back, and left shoulder, since I’m having trouble walking, and the back and shoulder pain are making everyday life really difficult. Even simple things like turning a corner in my car cause considerable pain and discomfort.

However, the icing on the cake is that I’m having violent headaches, getting very dizzy, and have passed out several times. Now, all this could be a great excuse to sleep later, and put off things that need doing. No one would blame me if I told all my clients I’m taking a few weeks off. Admittedly, I’ve slowed down quite a bit. Nevertheless, I continue to write, to plan, and to work with my clients. Why? Because while I’m nowhere near 100%, I can still do something. I can’t run or do cardio. Even laughing makes me dizzy right now, but I can write, even if only for 10-15 minutes at a time, and I can think. This means I can at least keep working a little.

If you research the lives of very successful people, one thing most of them have in common is that they are willing to do what other people won’t do. They persevere when others give up or slack off. They get up early when others sleep in. They go and do the pro-bono presentation they’d promised to do, even though they’d been awake for 22 hours because of circumstances they couldn’t control. This doesn’t mean you have to work yourself to death. It does mean that you should take a look at your excuses and see just how valid they really are. Are they really worth what they’ll cost you in lost opportunities? Are they worth what they will cost you in your relationships?

The truth is that most of the excuses we give ourselves are pure BS, even some of the valid ones. It’s human nature to get a little lazy, and sometimes an excuse shows up in place of an idea that can overcome whatever challenge, difficulty, or inconvenience we’re experiencing. My challenge to you today is to sift through any excuses you might be entertaining and make an honest assessment of whether they’re worth it.

A simple way to overcome an excuse is to work on an idea that will negate it. Years ago, after some business losses, I found myself without clients and close to broke. I decided to pick up an old idea I had for a webcomic, but didn’t have money to set up an art studio. So I bought a $5 plastic storage container, a $15 lamp, and a $40 tilting table on wheels, and some art supplies I already had. For less than $100 I had a humble, but functional studio that took up a corner of the kitchen. Within a few months I’d produced over 90 pages, and thanks to a really bad review, I began to acquire Twitter followers. In about a year, Jake the Evil Hare had become one of the most popular webcomics, and shortly after that I had thousands of Twitter followers and Jake was putting some money in my pocket. In the end, that ornery two foot tall talking jackabbit got me to over 70,000 followers and created the platform that got me back into public speaking and writing, which led to my first two best-selling books. I’m so glad I didn’t use being broke as an excuse!

When faced with a difficulty, distraction, or inconvenience or circumstance that threatens to become an excuse, try to think of an idea that would work around it. If you’re stumped, don’t worry. One of the odd things about human nature is we can’t resist the urge to answer a question. If I say, “What’s 2+2?” pretty much everyone reading this will think “4.” So, present the challenge to yourself as a question, and you might just get a good answer. If that fails you somehow, then ask someone who’s got good sense. As the old proverb goes, there’s safety in the multitude of counsellors.  Do some research, find out what someone else who experienced a similar challenge did, and do it!

I believe the best version of you is yet to come. I believe you’re worth more than any excuse. I believe you were born with a purpose greater than any circumstance, situation or struggle. I believe in you.

So get cracking! ;)

How to understand your own intentions

 in·ten·tion [in-ten-shuhn] noun. An act or instance of determining mentally upon some action or result.

Intention, we must understand, then, occurs in the mind, wherein reside our will, emotions, and intellect. To master our intentions, you must then gain a better understanding of your own intentions.

First, think of something you did (or didn’t do), or something you said (or didn’t say). If you find this first step a bit tricky, try to remember a specific action or decision of yours which included one or more of the following:

  • Being “good,” or “nice”

  • Telling someone “No.”

  • Agreeing to do something that was asked of you.

  • Using force.

  • Telling a joke, or bring funny.

  • Giving someone “feedback” or criticism.

  • Expressing your disapproval or annoyance.

Now, on paper, describe what you said or did, and the intention you had at that time. Then, think of whether you may have had other intentions and write those down. As J.P. Morgan was fond of saying, people usually have two reasons for what they do: the real reason, and one that sounds good.

Were any of your intentions different from the one that “sounds good?” When you realized one of your intentions, did you want to change it or your action? Did you start “justifying” what you said or did? Write down any thoughts that come to mind while you consider this. As one wise man once said, if you have to justify something, you probably shouldn’t have done it. While that’s not a universally applicable maxim, as some situations and actions are justifiable, it’s a good rule of thumb to use when reviewing your intentions and your decision-making process.

Particularly for those of you who are stuck in your vision, or even frustrated with what seems to be an inability to get to that next level, this exercise will help you to get a better understanding of the decisions you’ve made up to this point. I would recommend using this method to review the major decisions you’ve made in the last year at the very least.

-from The Million Dollar Hustle, by Sam Medina

Intentions and Decisions

It’s been a while since my last post, as I recently developed a pretty bad infection, and then was given an anti-inflammatory that kept the antibiotics from working. Was the doctor trying to kill me?

Probably not. His intention was to get me better, but his decision regarding anti-inflammatory medication turned out to be bad, considering that a major study had show that particular drug to block the bioavailability of penicillin-based antibiotics. Because he hadn’t known this, he didn’t make the best decision for my situation. Likewise, many times in our pursuit of success we have good, great or wonderful intentions but fail to match our intention with an appropriate decision. As I’m fond of saying to my coaching clients, an intention without a decision is just a wish, and an intention with the wrong decision is practically a sure recipe for frustration.

If you’re struggling in bringing your intentions into the world, take some time to review the decisions you’ve made, then ask yourself these questions:

What actions have you been taking in the direction of that intention?

  • Have these actions been productive?
  • Have you been consistent in your actions?
  • Do you have a system in place for reviewing your decisions ad making ‘course corrections?’
  • Do you measure your progress, and if so, how?
  • How do you come about your decisions? Are they hard and fast, or slow and sloppy?

Plenty of business consultants and coaches will say, “if it gets measured, it gets done,” but measurement alone doesn’t guarantee accomplishment. How you measure is just as important, and perhaps more important than when and how you measure your activity and achievement is how you decide. Decisions determine the direction of activity, and activity determines results. Some books I recommend on decision making include:

  • Blunder: Why Smart People Make Bad Decisions, by Zachary Shore
  • 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, by Stephen R. Covey
  • How We Decide, by Jonah Lehrer

Next week: Be the Part – The Art of Becoming the Successful You

Dealing with low-value clients

Don’t qualify them. Disqualify them. Another profound truth that we sometimes forget is that not everyone is qualified to do business with us. Some may even be qualified from a financial standpoint, but they may not necessarily be a good client in the the long run. Yes, it’s true that you won’t always land the perfect client, but part of making your initial contact numbers really count is eliminating bad prospects whenever possible, or at least reducing them to a lower priority so that you spend less of your time on your less qualified prospects.

Recognizing when a prospect is going to be troublesome, or a high-maintenance, low value client is vital to meeting your sales goals, and to the health of your business. This may seem counter-intuitive at first, because you’ll cut your sales numbers down by not doing business with troublesome, tiresome, or time-consuming clients. After all, you need the sale, right?

Wrong! A low value client can very easily end up taking up a lot of your time. For example, I once took on a client on a sliding scale with their promise that they’d send me several referrals. This client proved to need a lot more work than they initially let on, the project consumed a lot more time than originally anticipated, the client was not teachable at all, and in the end they just weren’t worth the trouble I’d gone to. Needless to say, those referrals never happened, either. So, I learned my lesson and decided not to deal with people unable or unwilling to pay my full price. Those who are willing to pay more for your services are much more likely to respect your time, effort, and expertise.