The Century Experience (100 Days)

What is the meaning of this 100 day experiment?

Well to be completely honest this was not my idea but my homey Gboymah started doing this three years ago. Every time he did one it was quite inspiring. He is almost done with his third one and I can’t help to want to start my own.

The purpose for the 100 days is to focus and record everyday progress. It’s a three month in depth look at my habits, my attitude, my enviroment and my commitment. To many people this would seem unnessesary but if there was something that you desired to accomplish or pursue; why not give yourself a period of time to “Give It Your All. The results of my friend Gboymah shocks him each time. He uses a method of measuring “The Good, The Bad and The Ugly” at the end of each month. He takes notes to better his productivity. Then he puts in is something like two minutes at the end of the day and maybe ten minutes at the end of the week. By the end of thirty days Gboymah might spend a half hour to a full hour to reflect on his actions and behaviors. Now, this not a new process because I do this in my head all the time in my head. Which does not have the benefits of capturing the daily events of paper.

So it’s my turn to buy a empty composition book and start my own 100 day challenge. I will focus my 100 days on Health and Time Management which I struggle with daily to stay consistent. I know a number of other areas in my life that need tuning up but I feel these will be a good foundation of many accomplishment to come.

Every successful person I have ever read about has had a recreational routine plus a keen grasp of their time. I just read a few days ago about a executive who said he would never give a project to a person with nothing but time because this person will not be pressed to get anything done. But a person with a full schedule is the perfect candidate for an important task because he or she will dedicate the needed time to complete the project.

My second primary focus will be to improve my health by working out and changing my current diet. The greatest mind can not do anything without the body being at peak performance. I look at all the people I look up to and everyone of them have a workout ritual or a personal trainer. They all run marathons or they’re involved with some extreme sport. I enjoy rock climbing and love doing parkour. I am very convinced that there is always time to improve yourself. Any that says they don’t have time to pick up a book or jog around the block has mismanaged their lives. But the cool thing about human is We can reorganize our thoughts and actions to improve our results at any time. Hence, The Century Experience or 100 Days of Improvement.

Well folks stay tuned… Monday the 28th will be Day 1..this will be fun…I hope 🙂

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30 Days to Succes

By Steve Pavlina

A powerful personal growth tool is the 30-day trial. This is a concept I borrowed from the shareware industry, where you can download a trial version of a piece of software and try it out risk-free for 30 days before you’re required to buy the full version. It’s also a great way to develop new habits, and best of all, it’s brain-dead simple.

Let’s say you want to start a new habit like an exercise program or quit a bad habit like sucking on cancer sticks. We all know that getting started and sticking with the new habit for a few weeks is the hard part. Once you’ve overcome inertia, it’s much easier to keep going.

Yet we often psyche ourselves out of getting started by mentally thinking about the change as something permanent — before we’ve even begun. It seems too overwhelming to think about making a big change and sticking with it every day for the rest of your life when you’re still habituated to doing the opposite. The more you think about the change as something permanent, the more you stay put.

But what if you thought about making the change only temporarily — say for 30 days — and then you’re free to go back to your old habits? That doesn’t seem so hard anymore. Exercise daily for just 30 days, then quit. Maintain a neatly organized desk for 30 days, then slack off. Read for an hour a day for 30 days, then go back to watching TV.

Could you do it? It still requires a bit of discipline and commitment, but not nearly so much as making a permanent change. Any perceived deprivation is only temporary. You can count down the days to freedom. And for at least 30 days, you’ll gain some benefit. It’s not so bad. You can handle it. It’s only one month out of your life.

Now if you actually complete a 30-day trial, what’s going to happen? First, you’ll go far enough to establish it as a habit, and it will be easier to maintain than it was to begin it. Secondly, you’ll break the addiction of your old habit during this time. Thirdly, you’ll have 30 days of success behind you, which will give you greater confidence that you can continue. And fourthly, you’ll gain 30 days worth of results, which will give you practical feedback on what you can expect if you continue, putting you in a better place to make informed long-term decisions.

Therefore, once you hit the end of the 30-day trial, your ability to make the habit permanent is vastly increased. But even if you aren’t ready to make it permanent, you can opt to extend your trial period to 60 or 90 days. The longer you go with the trial period, the easier it will be to lock in the new habit for life.

Another benefit of this approach is that you can use it to test new habits where you really aren’t sure if you’d even want to continue for life. Maybe you’d like to try a new diet, but you don’t know if you’d find it too restrictive. In that case, do a 30-day trial and then re-evaluate. There’s no shame in stopping if you know the new habit doesn’t suit you. It’s like trying a piece of shareware for 30 days and then uninstalling it if it doesn’t suit your needs. No harm, no foul.

Here are some examples from my own life where I used 30-day trials to establish new habits:

1) In the Summer of 1993, I wanted to try being vegetarian. I had no interest in making this a lifelong change, but I’d read a lot about the health benefits of vegetarianism, so I committed to it for 30 days just for the experience. I was already exercising regularly, seemed in decent health, and was not overweight (6’0″, 155 lbs), but my typical college diet included a lot of In-N-Out burgers. Going lacto-ovo vegetarian for 30 days was a lot easier than I expected — I can’t say it was hard at all, and I never felt deprived. Within a week I noticed an increase in my energy and concentration, and I felt more clear-headed. At the end of the 30 days, it was a no-brainer to stick with it. This change looked a lot harder than it really was.

2) In January 1997, I decided to try going from vegetarian to vegan. While lacto-ovo vegetarians can eat eggs and dairy, vegans don’t eat anything that comes from an animal. I was developing an interest in going vegan for life, but I didn’t think I could do it. How could I give up veggie-cheese omelettes? The diet seemed too restrictive to me — even fanatically so. But I was intensely curious to know what it was actually like. So once again I did a 30-day trial. At the time I figured I’d make it through the trial, but I honestly didn’t expect to continue beyond that. Well, I lost seven pounds in the first week, mostly from going to the bathroom as all the accumulated dairy mucus was cleansed from my bowels (now I know why cows need four stomachs to properly digest this stuff). I felt lousy the first couple days but then my energy surged. I also felt more clear-headed than ever, as if a “fog of brain” had been lifted; it felt like my brain had gotten a CPU and a RAM upgrade. However, the biggest change I noticed was in my endurance. I was living in Marina del Rey at the time and used to run along the beach near the Santa Monica Pier, and I noticed I wasn’t as tired after my usual 3-mile runs, so I started increasing them to 5 miles, 10 miles, and then eventually a marathon a few years later. In Tae Kwon Do, the extra endurance really gave a boost to my sparring skills as well. The accumulated benefits were so great that the foods I was giving up just didn’t seem so appealing anymore. So once again it was a no-brainer to continue after the first 30 days, and I’m still vegan today. What I didn’t expect was that after so long on this diet, the old animal product foods I used to eat just don’t seem like food anymore, so there’s no feeling of deprivation.

3) Also in 1997, I decided I wanted to exercise every single day for a year. That was my 1997 New Year’s resolution. My criteria was that I would exercise aerobically at least 25 minutes every day, and I wouldn’t count Tae Kwon Do classes which I was taking 2-3 days per week. Coupled with my dietary changes, I wanted to push my fitness to a new level. I didn’t want to miss a single day, not even for sick days. But thinking about exercising 365 days in a row was daunting, so I mentally began with a 30-day trial. That wasn’t so bad. After a while every day that passed set a new record: 8 days in a row… 10 days… 15 days…. It became harder to quit. After 30 days in a row, how could I not do 31 and set a new personal record? And can you imagine giving up after 250 days? No way. After the initial month to establish the habit, the rest of the year took care of itself. I remember going to a seminar that year and getting home well after midnight. I had a cold and was really tired, yet I still went out running at 2am in the rain. Some people might call that foolish, but I was so determined to reach my goal that I wasn’t going to let fatigue or illness stop me. I succeeded and kept it up for the whole year without ever missing a day. In fact, I kept going for a few more weeks into 1998 before I finally opted to stop, which was a tough decision. I wanted to do this for one year, knowing it would become a powerful reference experience, and it certainly became such.

4) More diet stuff…. After being vegan for a number of years, I opted to try other variations of the vegan diet. I did 30-day trials both with the macrobiotic diet and with the raw foods diet. Those were interesting and gave me new insights, but I decided not to continue with either of them. I felt no different eating macrobiotically than I did otherwise. And in the case of the raw diet, while I did notice a significant energy boost, I found the diet too labor intensive — I was spending a lot of time preparing meals and shopping frequently. Sure you can just eat raw fruits and veggies, but to make interesting raw meals, there can be a lot of labor involved. If I had my own chef, I’d probably follow the raw diet though because I think the benefits would be worth it. I did a second trial of the raw diet for 45 days, but again my conclusion was the same. If I was ever diagnosed with a serious disease like cancer, I’d immediately switch to an all raw, living foods diet, since I believe it to be the absolute best diet for optimal health. I’ve never felt more energetic in my life than when I ate a raw diet. But I had a hard time making it practical for me. Even so, I managed to integrate some new macrobiotic foods and raw foods into my diet after these trials. There are two all-raw restaurants here in Vegas, and I’ve enjoyed eating at them because then someone else does all the labor. So these 30-day trials were still successful in that they produced new insights, although in both cases I intentionally declined to continue with the new habit. One of the reasons a full 30-day trial is so important with new diets is that the first week or two will often be spent detoxing and overcoming cravings, so it isn’t until the third or fourth week that you begin to get a clear picture. I feel that if you haven’t tried a diet for at least 30 days, you simply don’t understand it. Every diet feels different on the inside than it appears from the outside.

This 30-day method seems to work best for daily habits. I’ve had no luck using it when trying to start a habit that only occurs 3-4 days per week. However, it can work well if you apply it daily for the first 30 days and then cut back thereafter. This is what I’d do when starting a new exercise program, for example. Daily habits are much easier to establish.

Here are some other ideas for applying 30-day trials:

  • Give up TV. Tape all your favorite shows and save them until the end of the trial. My whole family did this once, and it was very enlightening.
  • Give up online forums, especially if you feel you’re becoming forum addicted. This will help break the addiction and give you a clearer sense of how participation actually benefits you (if at all). You can always catch up at the end of 30 days.
  • Shower/bathe/shave every day. I know YOU don’t need this one, so please pass it along to someone who does.
  • Meet someone new every day. Start up a conversation with a stranger.
  • Go out every evening. Go somewhere different each time, and do something fun — this will be a memorable month.
  • Spend 30 minutes cleaning up and organizing your home or office every day. That’s 15 hours total.
  • List something new to sell on ebay every day. Purge some of that clutter.
  • Ask someone new out on a date every day. Unless your success rate is below 3%, you’ll get at least one new date, maybe even meet your future spouse.
  • If you’re already in a relationship, give your partner a massage every day. Or offer to alternate who gives the massage each day, so that’s 15 massages each.
  • Give up cigarettes, soda, junk food, coffee, or other unhealthy addictions.
  • Become an early riser.
  • Write in your journal every day.
  • Call a different family member, friend, or business contact every day.
  • Make 25 sales calls every day to solicit new business. Professional speaker Mike Ferry did this five days a week for two years, even on days when he was giving seminars. He credits this habit with helping build his business to over $10 million in annual sales. If you make 1300 sales calls a year, you’re going to get some decent business no matter how bad your sales skills are. You can generalize this habit to any kind of marketing work, like building new links to your web site.
  • Write a new blog entry every day.
  • Read for an hour a day on a subject that interests you.
  • Meditate every day.
  • Learn a new vocabulary word every day.
  • Go for a long walk every day.

Again, don’t think that you need to continue any of these habits beyond 30 days. Think of the benefits you’ll gain from those 30 days alone. You can re-assess after the trial period. You’re certain to grow just from the experience, even if it’s temporary.

The power of this approach lies in its simplicity. Even though doing a certain activity every single day may be less efficient than following a more complicated schedule — weight training is a good example because adequate rest is a key component — you’ll often be more likely to stick with the daily habit. When you commit to doing something every single day without exception, you can’t rationalize or justify missing a day, nor can you promise to make it up later by reshuffling your schedule.

Give trials a try. If you’re ready to commit to one right now, please feel free to post a comment and share your goal for the next 30 days. If there’s enough interest, then perhaps we can do a group postmortem around May 20th to see how it went for everyone. I’ll even do it with you. Mine will be to go running or biking for at least 25 minutes or do a minimum 60-minute hike in the mountains every day for 30 days. The weather here in Vegas has been great lately, so it’s a nice time for me to get back to exercising outdoors.

Making the Quantum Leap

By Steve Pavlina

Since 1992, I’ve been pursuing personal growth with a passion. I’ve attended seminars, listened to audio programs, and read hundreds of books in this field. I’ve easily spent many thousands of dollars and invested thousands of hours on such pursuits. And one thing I can tell you from all of this effort is that personal growth is very, very hard.

Many books, audio programs, and self-help gurus promote the quick fix mentality. Read this book and all your time management problems will vanish. Attend this seminar and you’ll be the next self-made millionaire. This kind of marketing is unfortunate because most people who buy these products will achieve only modest results with them. Then disappointment and disillusionment set in. Some people feel they must be defective if they can’t meet such unrealistic expectations. Maybe I have a genetic predisposition to being lazy. Others conclude the whole personal development field itself is just a sham. [Insert guru name here] is only in it for the money — none of his/her ideas really work.

I’ll say it again. Personal growth is very, very hard. If you think you can read one book or article on time management and instantly erase procrastination and disorder from your life forever, that’s an extremely unrealistic expectation. While a single book can potentially lead you to a big change, most won’t. When you experience a big change in your life, it’s probably the result of a long chain of events, of which reading a particular book was only a small but perhaps critical part.

Personal growth experiences often occur in the form of a quantum leap — a strong and radical shift from one mindset to another. There may be a number of small steps leading up to that leap, but at some point there is a big change, and it happens in an instant. You go to work and suddenly realize you’re going to quit your job; even before you tell your boss, you know you’re certain and that there’s no going back. You decide to ask your boyfriend or girlfriend to marry you after you’ve been together for years. You decide you’re done smoking, and you quit for life. These decisions can happen in a mere second – a moment of clarity suddenly hits you, and you know what you have to do. A quantum leap occurs, and from that moment on, you’re never the same again. Some of these leaps appear more gradual than others, but virtually all of them can be traced back to a moment of decision. At some point you made a decision to change. And even before you manifest this change in your physical reality, you immediately know you’re not the same anymore.

It’s rare that reading a single book will produce a quantum leap. Quantum leaps require a large amount of consistent input and energy. When you decide to quit your job or break off your relationship or move to a new city, it may be the result of months or years of dissatisfaction. It may also occur after lots of time spent thinking positively about what life will be like after the shift. Both positive and negative factors can help generate a quantum leap.

Most of the time when people pursue personal growth, they simply don’t invest enough time and energy in a consistent direction to achieve a quantum leap. Maybe you’ve read a book on getting organized, and while you were reading it, the positive energy you experienced moved you closer to making a leap. You felt fairly certain at the time that this was going to work. But then you finished the book (or got sidetracked and didn’t finish it), and the impact of the book gradually faded. You never reached the quantum leap that allowed you to break through to a new level of order in your life. Over a period of days or weeks, your old pattern reasserted itself. Sound familiar?

But it wasn’t the book or the ideas themselves that failed you. The problem was that you didn’t invest enough sustained energy in the same direction to achieve the quantum leap. You never reached the point of no return. Reading a single book was only a small, short-term nudge, albeit in the right direction.

In order for a rocket launched from earth to reach outer space, the rocket must exert a sufficient amount of sustained force to overcome the earth’s gravity. If the rocket’s engines cut out prematurely, the rocket will crash back to earth. Just as it can take a massive amount of sustained force to put a rocket into orbit, recognize that there are certain areas of your life where you may need a large force to knock you into a higher state. Small efforts over a long period of time may do absolutely nothing for you. You can read one time management book a year and be no better at your managing your time.

So what does work? How do you achieve a quantum leap? You need to exert some effort in a particular direction where you want to grow, and you need to consistently sustain it until you achieve a quantum leap. If you stop short, you’ll likely fall right back to where you started. So first of all, if you’re going to target a new quantum leap, you need to commit to sustaining that effort until you hit the leap.

This is why I say personal growth is very hard. Effecting a quantum leap is tough work. It requires a strong force of sustained effort, and you can’t let up until you hit the leap. If you get sidetracked for too long, you have to start over again.

But the bright side is that after you make the leap, you can rest for a bit. You’ve reached a higher state, and you’re going to stay there by default, just as a satellite in orbit will remain in orbit. Sure the orbit may slowly decay, but if that happens it will be over a long period of time, and only a minimal investment of energy is needed to adjust course and sustain your new orbit indefinitely. Quitting smoking may be very difficult. But if you’ve been a nonsmoker for years, it doesn’t take nearly as much effort to remain a nonsmoker; you may need to make some adjustments along the way, but they’ll be minor required to the initial energy required to quit.

Suppose you want to lose weight. You read a book on weight loss and get motivated to lose weight. You join a gym and start working out. After a few weeks, you’ve lost five pounds. But you get busy with work and gradually stop going to the gym. Crash! You gain all the weight back plus a couple more pounds. A few months later you try again. You get inspired and buy some new exercise equipment. Again you use it for several weeks and lose some weight, and again something takes you away from this habit and you gain all the weight back. The next year you join a weight loss organization, adopt their diet plan, and start going to weekly meetings. But after a dozen sessions, you drift again and gain back all the weight you lost. You’ve invested a lot of time, money, and energy into this goal, but it wasn’t enough to hit a quantum leap.

So how would you pursue such a goal as a quantum leaper?

The exact manner of pursuing this goal is up to you of course. But here are some ideas that will help you achieve a quantum leap:

  • Immerse yourself in your goal. Get clear on your exact goal, and write it down in your own words. Post your goal somewhere you’ll see it every day; I often use the text of my goals as screen savers or write them on my marker board.
  • Educate yourself on what it will take to achieve your goal. And I mean really educate yourself to the point where you become an expert. Keep pouring knowledge into your head until you succeed — continuously. Don’t just read one book on the subject. Read 10. Then read 10 more. Then 10 more. Listen to audio programs. Talk to experts. Never let up on your self-education.
  • Alter your environment to support the achievement of your goal. This subject was already explored in a previous entry.
  • Consciously change the people you spend the most time with such that your goal is supported by those around you. For details read this entry.

One reason people fail to achieve a quantum leap is that they make only a meager effort in these four areas. They don’t get really clear about what they want and keep their goals in their face every day. They invest only a few hours in education instead of several hundred. They maintain an environment that fails to reinforce their new identity. And they continue to cling to people who hold them back. Year after year they remain stuck in unfulfilling careers, unhealthy bodies, stagnant relationships, and incongruent belief systems.

In my own life, I’ve experienced many of these leaps:

  1. employee -> independent contractor -> retail game developer -> shareware game developer -> game publisher -> speaker/writer (in progress)
  2. SAD (Standard American Diet) -> vegetarian -> vegan (with some branches going into raw foodism, alkalarian diets, whole foods, and macrobiotics)
  3. single -> dating -> living together -> engaged -> married -> father of one -> father of two
  4. Catholicism -> atheism -> agnosticism -> various new agey stuff -> ? -> Buddhism -> ? -> Bajoran wormhole aliens -> ? -> objectivism -> ? -> ? (the ?s are belief systems that can’t really be labeled)

None of these shifts happened by accident; each leap was a consciously chosen step… well… all except “father of two” — whoops!

If I’d never experienced any of these quantum leaps, I’d be an employed Catholic bachelor who eats the standard American diet. And that’s not necessarily any “better” or “worse” than my current situation (OK, the diet part is a lot better). I don’t think in terms of trying to reach some kind of final destination though. What’s important to me is experiencing the path itself: having been single AND married AND a father, having experienced lots of different belief systems, having worked in a business AND having owned one. In some areas there’s a logical progression; for example, I keep shifting careers to those that give me more and more freedom and which increase my ability to contribute. But in other areas, I find the most growth by experiencing a lot of different perspectives in no particular order, such as in my spiritual growth pursuits.

Yes it’s a lot of hard work to achieve a quantum leap in any of these areas, but I think the alternative of stagnation is worse. You can pursue the quick fix methodology and fall flat on your face over and over. Or you can accept that the change you want is going to be hard and that it may take years to achieve, but it will be worth it. And best of all, once you’ve gone through a few quantum leaps, you may learn to enjoy the process of building up to the next one. It’s deeply satisfying to look back on your previous state of being and see how much you’ve grown.

Self-Discipline

By Steve Pavlina

This week I’ll be blogging a series on self-discipline. New posts on this topic will appear every day Mon-Fri. I’ve also added a new self-discipline category.

I’ve already written about 20 pages on self-discipline for my upcoming book, including what it is and how to develop it. I’ll share some of those ideas in this series, focusing on what I call the five pillars of self-discipline.

The Five Pillars of Self-Discipline

The five pillars of self-discipline are: Acceptance, Willpower, Hard Work, Industry, and Persistence. If you take the first letter of each word, you get the acronym “A WHIP” — a convenient way to remember them, since many people associate self-discipline with whipping themselves into shape.

Each day of the series, I’ll explore one of these pillars, explaining why it’s important and how to develop it. But first a general overview….

What Is Self-Discipline?

Self-discipline is the ability to get yourself to take action regardless of your emotional state.

Imagine what you could accomplish if you could simply get yourself to follow through on your best intentions no matter what. Picture yourself saying to your body, “You’re overweight. Lose 20 pounds.” Without self-discipline that intention won’t become manifest. But with sufficient self-discipline, it’s a done deal. The pinnacle of self-discipline is when you reach the point that when you make a conscious decision, it’s virtually guaranteed you’ll follow through on it.

Self-discipline is one of many personal development tools available to you. Of course it is not a panacea. Nevertheless, the problems which self-discipline can solve are important, and while there are other ways to solve these problems, self-discipline absolutely shreds them. Self-discipline can empower you to overcome any addiction or lose any amount of weight. It can wipe out procrastination, disorder, and ignorance. Within the domain of problems it can solve, self-discipline is simply unmatched. Moreover, it becomes a powerful teammate when combined with other tools like passion, goal-setting, and planning.

Building Self-Discipline

My philosophy of how to build self-discipline is best explained by an analogy. Self-discipline is like a muscle. The more you train it, the stronger you become. The less you train it, the weaker you become.

Just as everyone has different muscular strength, we all possess different levels of self-discipline. Everyone has some — if you can hold your breath a few seconds, you have some self-discipline. But not everyone has developed their discipline to the same degree.

Just as it takes muscle to build muscle, it takes self-discipline to build self-discipline.

The way to build self-discipline is analogous to using progressive weight training to build muscle. This means lifting weights that are close to your limit. Note that when you weight train, you lift weights that are within your ability to lift. You push your muscles until they fail, and then you rest.

Similarly, the basic method to build self-discipline is to tackle challenges that you can successfully accomplish but which are near your limit. This doesn’t mean trying something and failing at it every day, nor does it mean staying within your comfort zone. You will gain no strength trying to lift a weight that you cannot budge, nor will you gain strength lifting weights that are too light for you. You must start with weights/challenges that are within your current ability to lift but which are near your limit.

Progressive training means that once you succeed, you increase the challenge. If you keep working out with the same weights, you won’t get any stronger. Similarly, if you fail to challenge yourself in life, you won’t gain any more self-discipline.

Just as most people have very weak muscles compared to how strong they could become with training, most people are very weak in their level of self-discipline.

It’s a mistake to try to push yourself too hard when trying to build self-discipline. If you try to transform your entire life overnight by setting dozens of new goals for yourself and expecting yourself to follow through consistently starting the very next day, you’re almost certain to fail. This is like a person going to the gym for the first time ever and packing 300 pounds on the bench press. You will only look silly.

If you can only lift 10 lbs, you can only lift 10 lbs. There’s no shame in starting where you are. I recall when I began working with a personal trainer several years ago, on my first attempt at doing a barbell shoulder press, I could only lift a 7-lb bar with no weight on it. My shoulders were very weak because I’d never trained them. But within a few months I was up to 60 lbs.

Similarly, if you’re very undisciplined right now, you can still use what little discipline you have to build more. The more disciplined you become, the easier life gets. Challenges that were once impossible for you will eventually seem like child’s play. As you get stronger, the same weights will seem lighter and lighter.

Don’t compare yourself to other people. It won’t help. You’ll only find what you expect to find. If you think you’re weak, everyone else will seem stronger. If you think you’re strong, everyone else will seem weaker. There’s no point in doing this. Simply look at where you are now, and aim to get better as you go forward.

Let’s consider an example.

Suppose you want to develop the ability to do 8 solid hours of work each day, since you know it will make a real difference in your career. I was listening to an audio program this morning that quoted a study saying the average office worker spends 37% of their time in idle socializing, not to mention other vices that chew up more than 50% of work time with unproductive non-work. So there’s plenty of room for improvement.

Perhaps you try to work a solid 8-hour day without succumbing to distractions, and you can only do it once. The next day you fail utterly. That’s OK. You did one rep of 8 hours. Two is too much for you. So cut back a bit. What duration would allow you to successfully do 5 reps (i.e. a whole week)? Could you work with concentration for one hour a day, five days in a row? If you can’t do that, cut back to 30 minutes or whatever you can do. If you succeed (or if you feel that would be too easy), then increase the challenge (i.e. the resistance).

Once you’ve mastered a week at one level, take it up a notch the next week. And continue with this progressive training until you’ve reached your goal.

While analogies like this are never perfect, I’ve gotten a lot of mileage out of this one. By raising the bar just a little each week, you stay within your capabilities and grow stronger over time. But when doing weight training, the actual work you do doesn’t mean anything. There’s no intrinsic benefit in lifting a weight up and down — the benefit comes from the muscle growth. However, when building self-discipline, you also get the benefit of the work you’ve done along the way, so that’s even better. It’s great when your training produces something of value AND makes you stronger.

Throughout this week we’ll dive more deeply into the five pillars of self-discipline. If you have any questions on the subject of self-discipline (either specific or general) that you’d like to see addressed, feel free to post them as comments, and I do my best to incorporate them along the way.

This post is part one of a six-part series on self-discipline: part 1 | part 2 | part 3 | part 4 | part 5 | part 6

Do It Now

By Steve Pavlina

When going to college many years ago, I decided to challenge myself by setting a goal to see if I could graduate in only three semesters, taking the same classes that people would normally take over a four-year period. This article explains in detail all the time management techniques I used to successfully pull this off.

In order to accomplish this goal, I determined I’d have to take 30-40 units per semester, when the average student took 12-15 units. It became immediately obvious that I’d have to manage my time extremely well if I wanted to pull this off. I began reading everything I could find on time management and putting what I learned into practice. I accomplished my goal by graduating with two Bachelor of Science degrees (computer science and mathematics) in just three semesters without attending summer school. I slept seven to eight hours a night, took care of my routine chores (shopping, cooking, etc), had a social life, and exercised for 30 minutes every morning. In my final semester, I even held a full time job (40 hours a week) as a game programmer and served as the Vice Chair of the local Association of Computing Machinery (ACM) chapter while taking 37 units of mostly senior-level computer science and math courses. My classmates would add up all the hours they expected each task to take and concluded that my weeks must have consisted of about 250 hours. I graduated with a 3.9 GPA and also received a special award given to the top computer science student each year. One of my professors later told me that they had an easy time selecting the award recipient once it became clear to them what I was doing.

I wasn’t considered a gifted child, and this was the first time I had ever done anything like this. I didn’t have any personal mentors helping me, I didn’t know of anyone who’d done anything like this before, and I can’t recall a single person encouraging me to do it. In fact, most people were highly discouraging of the idea when I told them about it. This was simply something I decided to do for myself. If you want a better understanding of where I was at this time in my life and why I decided to attempt such a crazy thing, you might enjoy reading The Meaning of Life: Intro, which includes the full background story and more details about my motivation for doing this.

It took a lot of convincing to get the computer science department chair to approve my extra units every semester, and my classmates often assumed I was either cheating or that I had a twin or that I was just mentally unstable (I get accused of that last one pretty much every week, so maybe there’s some truth to it). Most of the time I kept quiet about what I was doing, but if someone asked me how many units I was taking, I didn’t deny it. I was perhaps the only student at the university with a two-page class schedule, so it was easy to prove I was telling the truth if anyone pressed me, but rarely did I ever do so.

I didn’t tell you this story to impress you but rather to make you curious as to how I did it. I pulled this off by applying time management concepts that most people simply didn’t know but that were readily available in books and audio programs at the time (1992-93). The time management habits I learned in college have served me very well in building my business, so I want to share them with you in the hopes that you’ll find them equally valuable. They allowed me to shave years off my schooling while also giving me about $30,000 to start my business (all earned in my final semester as a game programmer, mostly from royalties). Without further ado, here’s the best of what I’ve learned about mastering time management:

Clarity is key.

The first step is to know exactly what you want. In a Tae Kwon Do studio where I used to train, there’s a huge sign on the wall that says, “Your goal is to become a black belt.” This helps remind each student why s/he is going through such difficult training. When you work for yourself, it’s easy to spend a whole day at your desk and accomplish nothing of value. This almost always happens when you aren’t really clear about what it is you’re trying to do. In the moments when you regain your awareness, ask yourself, “What exactly is it that I’m trying to accomplish here?” You must know your destination with as much clarity as possible. Make your goals specific, and put them in writing. Your goals must be so clear that it would be possible for a stranger to look at your situation objectively and give you an absolute “yes” or “no” response as to whether you’ve accomplished each goal or not. If you cannot define your destination precisely, how will you know when you’ve arrived?

The key period I’ve found useful for defining and working on specific goals is ninety days, or the length of one season. In that period of time, you can make dramatic and measurable changes if you set crystal clear goals. Take a moment to stop and write down a snapshot description of how you want your life to be ninety days from now. What will your monthly income be? How much will you weigh? Who will your friends be? Where will you be in your career? What will your relationship be like? What will your web site look like? Be specific. Absolute clarity will give you the edge that will keep you on course.

Just as an airplane on autopilot must make constant corrections to stay on course, you must periodically retarget your goals. Reconnect with your clear, written goals by re-reading them every morning. Post them on your walls, especially your financial goals. Years ago (during the mid-90s), I went around my apartment putting up signs in every room that said “$5,000 / month.” That was my monthly business income goal at the time. Because I knew exactly what I wanted, I achieved that goal within a few weeks. I continued setting specific income goals, even amidst occasional setbacks, and I found this process very effective. It wasn’t just that it helped me focus on what I wanted — perhaps even more important is that it made it easy for me to disregard those things that weren’t on the path to my goal. For example, if you set a goal to earn $10,000/month, this can help you stop doing those things that will only earn you $5000/month.

If you aren’t yet at the point of clarity, then make that your first goal. It’s a big waste of time to go through life being unclear about what you want. Most people wallow way too long in the state of “I don’t know what to do.” They wait for some external force to provide them with clarity, never realizing that clarity is self-created. The universe is waiting on you, not the other way around, and it’s going to keep waiting until you finally make up your mind. Waiting for clarity is like being a sculptor staring at a piece of marble, waiting for the statue within to cast off the unneeded pieces. Do not wait for clarity to spontaneously materialize — grab a chisel and get busy!

Be flexible.

There’s a key difference between knowing your destination and knowing the path you will take to get there. A typical commercial airplane is off course 90% of the time, yet it almost always arrives at its destination because it knows exactly where it’s going and makes constant corrections along the way. You cannot know the exact path to your goal in advance. I believe that the real purpose of planning is simply so that you remain convinced that a possible path exists. We’ve all heard the statistic that 80% of new businesses fail in their first five years, but a far more interesting statistic is that nearly all of the businesses that succeeded did not do so in the original way they had intended. If you look at successful businesses that started with business plans, you will commonly find that their original plans failed miserably and that they only succeeded by trying something else. It is said that no business plan survives contact with the marketplace. I like to generalize this to say that no plan survives contact with the real world.

Renowned author and business consultant Stephen Covey often uses the expression, “integrity in the moment of choice.” What that means is that you should not follow your plans blindly without conscious awareness of your goals. For instance, let’s say you’re following your plans nicely — so far so good — and then an unforeseen opportunity arises. Do you stick to your original plan, thereby missing the opportunity, or do you stop and go after the opportunity, thereby throwing yourself off schedule? This is where you have to stop and reconnect with your goals to decide which is the better course. No plan should be followed blindly. As soon as you gain new knowledge that could invalidate the plan, you must exercise integrity in the moment of choice. Sometimes you can reach your goals faster by taking advantage of shortcuts that arise unexpectedly. Other times you should stick to your original plans and avoid minor distractions that would take you further from your goals. Be tight on your goals but flexible on your plans.

I believe that having a clear goal is far more important than having a clear plan. In school I was very clear about my end goal — graduate college in only three semesters — but my plans were in a constant state of flux. Every day I would be informed of new assignments, projects, or tests, and I had to adapt to this ever-changing sea of activity. If I tried to make a long-term plan for each semester, it would have been rendered useless within 24 hours.

Use single handling.

Instead of using some elaborate organizing system, I stuck with a very basic pen and paper to-do list. My only organizing tool was a notepad where I wrote down all my assignments and their deadlines. I didn’t worry about doing any advance scheduling or prioritizing. I would simply scan the list to select the most pressing item which fit the time I had available. Then I’d complete it, and cross it off the list.

If I had a 10-hour term paper to write, I would do the whole thing at once instead of breaking it into smaller tasks. I’d usually do large projects on weekends. I’d go to the library in the morning, do the necessary research, and then go back to my dorm room and continue working until the final text was rolling off my printer. If I needed to take a break, I would take a break. It didn’t matter how big the project was supposed to be or how many weeks the professor allowed for it. Once I began an assignment, I would stay with it until it was 100% complete and ready to be turned in.

This simple practice saved me a significant amount of time. First, it allowed me to concentrate deeply on each assignment and to work very efficiently while I worked. A lot of time is lost in task switching because you have to re-load the context for each new task. Single handling minimizes time lost in task switching. In fact, when possible I would batch up my assignments within a certain subject area and then do them all at once before switching subjects. So I’d do all my math homework in a row until it was all done. Then I’d do all my programming assignments. Then I’d do my general education homework. In this manner I would put my brain into math-mode, programming-mode, writing-mode, or art-mode and remain in that single mode for as long as possible. Secondly, I believe this habit helped me remain relaxed and unstressed because my mind wasn’t cluttered with so many to-do items. It was always just one thing at a time. I could forget about anything that was outside the current context.

Failure is your friend.

Most people seem to have an innate fear of failure, but failure is really your best friend. People who succeed also fail a great deal because they make a lot of attempts. The great baseball player Babe Ruth held the homerun record and the strikeout record at the same time. Those who have the most successes also have the most failures. There is nothing wrong or shameful in failing. The only regret lies in never making the attempt. So don’t be afraid to experiment in your attempts to increase productivity. Sometimes the quickest way to find out if something will work is to jump right in and do it. You can always make adjustments along the way. It’s the ready-fire-aim approach, and surprisingly, it works a lot better than the more common ready-aim-fire approach. The reason is that after you’ve “fired” once, you have some actual data with which to adjust your aim. Too many people get bogged down in planning and thinking and never get to the point of action. How many potentially great ideas have you passed up because you got stuck in the state of analysis paralysis (i.e. ready-aim-aim-aim-aim-aim…)?

During college I tried a lot of crazy ideas that I thought might save me time. I continued reading time management material and applying what I learned, but I also devised some original ideas. Most of my own ideas were flops, but some of them worked. I was willing to fail again and again for the off chance I might stumble upon something that gave me an extra boost.

Understand that failure is not the opposite of success. Failure is an essential part of success. Once you succeed, no one will remember your failures anyway. Microsoft wasn’t Bill Gates’ and Paul Allen’s first business venture. Who remembers that their original Traf-o-Data business was a flop? The actor Jim Carey was booed off many a stage while a young comedian. We have electric light bulbs because Thomas Edison refused to give up even after 10,000 failed experiments. If the word “failure” is anathema to you, then reframe it: You either succeed, or you have a learning experience.

Letting go of the fear of failure will serve you well. If you’re excited about achieving a particular goal, but you’re afraid you might not be able to pull it off, jump on it and do it anyway. Even if you fail in your attempt, you’ll learn something valuable and can make a better attempt next time. If you look at people who are successful in business today, you will commonly see that many of them had a string of dismal failures before finally hitting on something that worked, myself included. And I think most of these people will agree that those early failure experiences were an essential contributing factor in their future successes. My advice to anyone starting a new business is to begin pumping out products or devising services and don’t worry much about whether they’ll be hits. They probably won’t be. But you’ll learn a lot more by doing than you ever will by thinking.

Do it now!

W. Clement Stone, who built an insurance empire worth hundreds of millions dollars, would make all his employees recite the phrase, “Do it now!” again and again at the start of each workday. Whenever you feel the tendency towards laziness taking over and you remember something you should be doing, stop and say out loud, “Do it now! Do it now! Do it now!” I often set this text as my screen saver. There is a tremendous cost in putting things off because you will mentally revisit them again and again, which can add up to an enormous amount of wasted time. Thinking and planning are important, but action is far more important. You don’t get paid for your thoughts and plans — you only get paid for your results. When in doubt, act boldly, as if it were impossible to fail. In essence, it is.

It is absolutely imperative that you develop the habit of making decisions as soon as possible. I use a 60-second rule for almost every decision I have to make, no matter how big or important. Once I have all the data to make a decision, I start a timer and give myself only 60 seconds to make a firm decision. I’ll even flip a coin if I have to. When I was in college, I couldn’t afford to waste time thinking about assignments or worrying about when to do them. I simply picked one and went to work on it. And today when I need to decide which article to write next, I just pick a topic and begin writing. I believe this is why I never experience writer’s block. Writer’s block means you’re stuck in the state of thinking about what to write instead of actually writing. I don’t waste time thinking about writing because I’m too busy writing. This is probably why I’ve been able to write hundreds of original articles very easily. Every article I write spawns ideas for at least two more, so my ideas list only increases over time. I cannot imagine ever running out of original content.

Too often people delay making decisions when there is no advantage to be found in that delay. Usually delaying a decision will only have negative consequences, so even if you’re faced with ambiguity, just bite the bullet and make a decision. If it turns out to be the wrong one, you’ll know it soon enough. Many people probably spend more than 60 seconds just deciding what they’ll eat for dinner. If I can’t decide what to eat, I just grab an apple or a couple bananas and start eating, and sometimes I’m full of fruit before I figure out what I really would like to eat. So my brain knows that if it wants something other than fruit, it had better decide quickly. If you can speed up the pace of making decisions, you can spend the rest of your time on action.

One study showed that the best managers in the world tend to have an extremely high tolerance for ambiguity. In other words, they are able to act boldly on partial and/or conflicting data. Many industries today have accelerated to such a rapid pace that by the time you have perfect data with which to make any decision, the opportunity is probably long gone. Where you have no data to fall back on, rely on your own personal experience and intuition. If a decision can be made right away, make the decision as soon as it comes up. If you can’t make a decision right away, set aside a time where you will consider the options and make the decision. Pour the bulk of your time into action, not deciding. The state of indecision is a major time waster. Don’t spend more than 60 seconds in that state if you can avoid it. Make a firm, immediate decision, and move from uncertainty to certainty to action. Let the world tell you when you’re wrong, and you’ll soon build enough experience to make accurate, intelligent decisions.

Triage ruthlessly.

Get rid of everything that wastes your time. Use the trash can liberally. Apply the rule, “When in doubt, throw it out.” Cancel useless magazine subscriptions. If you have a magazine that is more than two months old and you still haven’t read it, throw it away; it’s probably not worth reading. Realize that nothing is free if it costs you time. Before you sign up for any new free service or subscription, ask how much it will cost you in terms of time. Every activity has an opportunity cost. Ask, “Is this activity worth what I am sacrificing for it?”

In college I was downright brutal when it came to triage. I once told a professor that I decided not to do one of his assigned computer science projects because I felt it wasn’t a good use of my time. The project required about 10-20 hours of tedious gruntwork that wasn’t going to teach me anything I didn’t already know. Also, this project was only worth 10% of my grade in that class, and since I was previously acing the class anyway, the only real negative consequence would be that I’d end up with an A- in the course instead of an A. I told the professor I felt that was a fair trade-off and that I would accept the A-. I didn’t try to negotiate with him for special treatment. So my official grade in the class was an A-, but I personally gave myself an A+ for putting those 10-20 hours to much better use.

Ask yourself this question: “Would I have ever gotten started with this project, relationship, career, etc. if I had to do it all over again, knowing what I now know?” If your answer is no, then get out as soon as possible. This is called zero-based thinking. I know a lot of people that have a limiting belief that says, “Always finish what you start.” They spend years climbing ladders only to realize when they reach the top that the ladder was leaning against the wrong building. Remember that failure is your friend. So if a certain decision you’ve made in the past is no longer producing results that serve you, then be ruthless and dump it, so you can move onto something better. There is no honor in dedicating your life to the pursuit of a goal which no longer inspires you. This is another situation where you must practice integrity in the moment of choice. You must constantly re-assess your present situation to accurately decide what to do next. Whatever you’ve decided in the past is largely irrelevant if you would not renew that decision today.

Identify and recover wasted time.

Instead of watching a one-hour TV show, tape it and watch it in 45 minutes by fast-forwarding through the commercials. Don’t spend a half hour typing a lengthy email when you could accomplish the same thing with a 10-minute phone call. Batch your errands together and do them all at once.

During the summer between my second and third semesters, I found an apartment across the street from campus that was slightly closer to the engineering building than my on-campus dorm room. So I moved out of the dorms and into that apartment, which saved me some walking/biking time every day. I was also moving from a two-bedroom dorm which I shared with two roommates into a smaller single-person studio apartment. This new apartment was much more efficient. For example, I could work on programming assignments while cooking dinner because my desk was only a few steps from the stove.

Trying to cut out time-wasting habits is a common starting point for people who desire to become more efficient, but I think this is a mistake. Optimizing your personal habits should only come later. Clarity of purpose must come first. If you don’t have clarity, then your attempts to install more efficient habits and to break inefficient habits will only fizzle. You won’t have a strong enough reason to put your time to good use, so it will be easy to quit when things get tough. You need a big, attractive goal to stay motivated. The reason to shave 15 minutes off a task is that you’re overflowing with motivation to put that 15 minutes to better use.

For example, you might have a career you sort of like, but most likely it’s not so compelling that you’ll care enough about saving an extra 15 minutes here and there, even if your total savings might amount to a few hours each day. But if you’ve taken the time to develop a sense of purpose that reaches deep into your soul, you’ll be automatically motivated to put your time to better use. If you get the highest level of your life in order (purpose, meaning, spiritual beliefs), the lower levels will tend to self-optimize (habits, practices, actions).

Apply the 80-20 rule.

Also known as the Pareto Principle, the 80-20 rule states that 20% of a task’s effort accounts for 80% of the value of that task. This also means that 80% of a task only yields 20% of the value of that task. In college I was ruthless in my application of this principle. Some weeks I ditched as many as 40% of my classes because sitting through a lecture was often not the most effective way for me to learn. And I already noted that I would simply refuse to do an assignment if I determined it was not worth my time. There was one math class that I only showed up to twice because I could learn from the text book much more quickly than from the lectures. I only showed up for the midterm and final. I would pop my head in at the beginning of each class to drop off my homework and then again at the end of each class to write down the next assignment. I actually got the highest grade in that class, but the teacher probably had no idea who I was. The other students were playing by the rules, not realizing they were free to make their own rules. Find out what parts of your life belong in the crucial 20%, and focus your efforts there. Be absolutely ruthless in refusing to spend time where it simply cannot give you optimal results. Invest your time where it has the potential to pay off big.

Guard thy time.

To work effectively you need uninterrupted blocks of time in which you can complete meaningful work. When you know for certain that you won’t be interrupted, your productivity is much, much higher. When you sit down to work on a particularly intense task, dedicate blocks of time to the task during which you will not do anything else. I’ve found that a minimum of 90 minutes is ideal for a single block.

You may need to negotiate with the other people in your life to create these uninterrupted blocks of time. If necessary, warn others in advance not to interrupt you for a certain period of time. Threaten them with acts of violence if you must. In school I would lock my bedroom door when I needed to work, so my roommates would know not to disturb me. While each individual bedroom in the two-bedroom dorm suites was designed for two people (four people per suite), I paid a bit extra to have a bedroom all to myself. This way I always had my own private room to work. When I had time to be social, I’d leave the door open, sometimes playing computer games with one of my roommates. If you happen to work in a high interruption environment that’s negatively affecting your productivity, change that environment at all costs. Some people have told me that giving their boss a copy of this article helped convince him/her to take steps to reduce unnecessary interruptions.

While for some people it’s helpful to block off a specific period of time for a task, I find that I work best with long, open-ended stretches of uninterrupted time. I’ll often allocate a starting time for a task but usually not a specific finishing time. Whenever possible I just allow myself to stick with a task as long as I can, until I eventually succumb to hunger or other bodily needs. I will frequently work 6+ hours straight on a project without taking a break. While frequent breaks are often recommended to increase productivity, I feel that suggestion may be an artifact of industrial age research on poorly motivated workers and not as applicable to high-motivation, purpose-driven creative work. I find it’s best for me to maintain momentum until I can barely continue instead of chopping a task into smaller chunks where there’s a risk of succumbing to distractions along the way.

The state of flow, where you are totally absorbed in a task and lose all sense of time, takes about 15 minutes to enter. Every time you get interrupted, it can take you another 15 minutes to get back to that state. Once you enter the state of flow, guard it with your life. That is the state in which you will go through enormous amounts of work and experience total connection with the task. When I’m in this state, I have no sense of past or future. I simply feel like I’m one with my work.

While sometimes I suffer from the problem of the task expanding to fill the allotted time (aka Parkinson’s Law), I often find that it’s worth the risk. For example, when I do optimization work on my web site, I’ll frequently think of new optimization ideas while I work, and I’ll usually go ahead and implement those new ideas immediately. I find it more efficient to act on those ideas at the moment of conception instead of scheduling them to be done at a later time.

Work all the time you work.

During one of these sacred time blocks, do nothing but the activity that’s right in front of you. Don’t check email or online forums or do web surfing. If you have this temptation, then unplug your Internet connection while you work. Turn off your phone, or simply refuse to answer it. Go to the bathroom before you start, and make sure you won’t get hungry for a while. Don’t get out of your chair at all. Don’t talk to anyone during this time.

Decide what it is you should be doing, and then do nothing but that. If you happen to manage others, periodically ask them what their #1 task is, and make sure they’re doing nothing but that. If you see someone answering email, then it should be the most important thing for that person to be doing at that particular time. If not, then relatively speaking, that person is just wasting time.

If you need a break, then take a real break and do nothing else. Don’t semi-work during a break if you feel you need rest and restoration. Checking email or web surfing is not a break. When you take a break, close your eyes and do some deep breathing, listen to relaxing music and zone out for a while, take a 20-minute nap, or eat some fresh fruit. Rest until you feel capable of doing productive work again. When you need rest, rest. When you should be working, work. Work with either 100% concentration, or don’t work at all. It’s perfectly fine to take as much down time as you want. Just don’t allow your down time to creep into your work time.

Multitask.

The amount of new knowledge in certain fields is increasing so rapidly that everything you know about your line of work is probably becoming obsolete. The only solution is to keep absorbing new knowledge as rapidly as possible. Many of the skills I use in my business today didn’t even exist five years ago. The best way I know to keep up is to multitask whenever possible by reading and listening to audio programs.

When watching TV, read a computer magazine during commercials. If you’re a male, read while shaving. I use an electric shaver and read during the 2-3 minutes it takes me to shave each day. This allows me to get through about two extra articles a week — that’s 100 extra articles a year. This habit is really easy to start. Just grab a couple magazines, or print out some articles you wouldn’t otherwise have time to read, and put them in your bathroom. Whenever you go out, carry at least one folded up article with you. If you ever have to wait in line, such as at the post office or the grocery store, pull out the article and read it. You will be amazed at how much extra knowledge you can absorb just by reading during other non-mental activities.

Listen to educational audio programs whenever you can. When you drive your car, always be listening to an audio program. One of the best ways to save time is to learn directly from people who already have the skills you want to master. Audio programs often contain more practical material than what you would learn by taking classes at a university. Whereas people with degrees in marketing or business have been taught by college professors, you can learn about these subjects from millionaires and billionaires who’ve learned what works in the real world.

Multitasking was perhaps the most important low-level skill that allowed me to go through college in three semesters. My average weekday involved about seven or eight hours of classes. But on Tuesdays during my final semester, I had classes back to back from 9am until 10pm. Because I was taking about a dozen classes each semester, I would have several tests and projects due just about every week. I had no time to study outside of class because most of that time was used for my job. So I simply had to learn everything the first time it came up. If a teacher wrote out something on the board, I would memorize it then and there; I couldn’t afford to learn things later and risk falling behind. During my slower classes, I would do homework, work out algorithms for my programming job, or refine my schedule. You can probably find numerous opportunities for multitasking. Whenever you do something physical, such as driving, cooking, shopping, or walking, keep your mind going by listening to audio tapes or reading.

The idea of multitasking may seem to contradict the previous piece of advice to work all the time you work. But whereas the previous tip refers to high intensity work where you must concentrate all your mental resources in order to do the best job you can, this tip addresses low intensity work where you have plenty of capacity to do other things at the same time, like standing in line, cooking dinner, flying on a plane, or walking from point A to point B. Multitasking shouldn’t be used where it will significantly degrade your performance on a crucial task, but it should be intelligently used to take advantage of excess capacity. Take real breaks when you need them, but don’t waste time in a state of partial effort. It’s more efficient to cycle between working flat out and then resting completely.

Multitasking allows you to take your productivity to a new level. You might think it would be draining, but many people find it has the opposite effect. For me it was tremendously energizing to be getting so much done. The harder you work, the greater your capacity for work, and the more restorative your rest will be.

Experiment.

Everyone is different, so what works for you may well be different than what works for everyone else. You may work best in the morning or late at night. Take advantage of your own strengths, and find ways to compensate for your weaknesses. Experiment with listening to music while you work. I use the free WinAMP player, which can stream commercial-free radio directly to my computer all day long with a variety of channels to choose from. I find that classical and new age music, especially Mozart, is terrific for web development work. But for most routine tasks, listening to fast-paced techno/trance music helps me work a lot faster. I don’t exactly know why, but I’m twice as productive when listening to really fast music as compared to listening to no music. On the other hand, music with vocals is detrimental to my productivity because it’s too distracting. And when I really need to focus deeply, I’ll listen to no music at all. Try a simple experiment for yourself, and see if certain forms of music can increase your productivity. For me the difference was dramatic.

Whenever you come up with a wacky new idea for increasing your productivity, test it and see what effect it has. Don’t dismiss any idea unless you’ve actually tried it. Partial successes are more common than complete failures, so each new experiment will help you refine your time management practices. Even the ongoing practice of conducting experiments will help condition you to be more productive.

Cultivate your enthusiasm.

The word “enthusiasm” comes from the Greek entheos, which means literally, “the god within.” I really like that definition. I doubt it’s possible to master the art of time management if you aren’t gushingly enthusiastic about what you’re going to do with your time. Go after what really inspires you. Don’t chase money. Chase your passion. If you aren’t enthusiastic about your work, then you’re wasting your life. Switch to something else. Consider a new career altogether. Don’t beat yourself up if your current career has become stale. Remember that failure is your friend. Listen to that god within you, and switch to something that excites you once again. The worst waste of time is doing something that doesn’t make you happy. Your work should serve your life, not the other way around.

If you’re like most people, you can get yourself motivated every once in a while, but then you get caught up and sink back down to a lower level of productivity, and you find it hard to continue with a project. How easy is it to start a new project when your motivation level is high? And how difficult is it to continue once your enthusiasm fades? Since most people are negative to one degree or another, you’ll naturally lose your positive charge over time unless you actively cultivate your enthusiasm as a resource. I don’t believe in pushing myself to do something I really don’t want to do. If I’m not motivated, then getting myself to sit down and work productively is nearly impossible, and the work is almost painful. When you’re highly motivated though, work feels like play.

While in college I could not afford to let my enthusiasm fade, or I’d be dead. I quickly learned that I needed to make a conscious effort to reinforce my enthusiasm on a daily basis. I always had my Walkman cassette player with me (there were no portable MP3 players back then), and while walking from one class to the next, I would listen to time management and motivational tapes. I also listened to them while jogging every morning. I kept my motivation level high by reinforcing my enthusiasm almost hourly. Even though I was being told by others that I would surely fail, these tapes were the stronger influence because I never went more than a few hours without plugging back in.

If your enthusiasm level is high, you can work so much more productively and even enjoy the normally tedious parts of your work. I’ve always found that whenever I want to take my business to a new level, I must take my thoughts to a new level first. When your thinking changes, then your actions will change, and your results will follow. Unless you’re a naturally hyper person, your enthusiasm is going to need daily reinforcement. I recommend either listening to motivational tapes or reading inspiring books or articles for at least fifteen minutes every day. Whenever I’ve stopped doing this, I’ve found that self-doubt always returns, and my productivity drops off. It’s truly amazing how constantly feeding your mind with positive material can maintain your enthusiasm indefinitely. And if you multitask, you can get this benefit without investing any extra time into it.

Eat and exercise for optimal energy.

During the summer before my last semester in college (1993), I became a lacto-ovo vegetarian, and I noticed a decent boost in my energy and especially in my ability to concentrate. Four years later (1997) I became a complete vegan (no animal products at all), and this yielded an even bigger boost. For details on why I made this change, see the article Why Vegan?

What you eat can have a profound effect on your productivity. Animal products take significantly more time and energy to digest than plant foods, and when your body must divert extra energy to digestion, it means you have less energy available for productive mental work. Effectively your work will seem harder while you’re digesting meals containing animal products, and you’ll be more inclined to succumb to distractions. So if you find yourself having a hard time focusing on mentally intense work after lunch, your diet may very well be the culprit. Even Benjamin Franklin credited eating lightly at lunch time as being a significant factor in his productivity. While his colleagues were sluggish and sleepy in the afternoon, he could continue to work productively the rest of the day.

Regular exercise is also necessary to maintain high energy and mental clarity. In college I would go running for 30 minutes first thing every morning before breakfast. And of course I’d be listening to motivational and educational tapes at the same time. This daily renewal kept me in good physical condition and helped me maintain my ideal weight. Furthermore, my class schedule kept me zigzagging around campus each day to attend all my classes, and I’d usually have to carry a 20-30 pound backpack full of textbooks with me. So even though I spent most of my weekdays sitting in classrooms, I still got plenty of daily exercise.

If you want to master time management, it makes sense to hone your best time management tool of all — your physical body. Through diet and exercise you can build your capacity for sustained concentrated effort, so even the most difficult work will seem easier.

If you currently find yourself overweight, take a trip to a local gym or a sporting goods store, and find a dumbbell (or two) that weighs as much as the excess fat you’re carrying around. Pick it up and walk around with it for a while. Become aware that this is what you’re carrying around with you every day. Imagine how much lighter and easier everything would be if you could permanently put that weight down. Carrying some extra weight for training purposes is one thing, but if that weight is in the form of body fat, then you’re never able to put it down and enjoy the benefits of that training. Make a committed decision to shed those extra pounds, and enjoy the lifelong benefits of living in a more efficient physical vehicle.

Maintain balance.

I don’t think it’s easy to sustain long-term productivity, health, and happiness if your life is totally unbalanced. To excel in one area, you can’t let other areas lag behind and pull you down. While in college I made an effort to take off a full day each week to have a personal life. I exercised, went to parties, attended club meetings, played computer games and pool, and even had time to vacation in Las Vegas during my final semester. The high turnover rates at the end of “death march” projects are caused by a lack of balance. To focus exclusively on your primary work at the expense of every other area of your life will only hurt you in the long run. Maintain balance by paying attention to every area of your life. As you grow in your career, be sure that your personal life grows as well.

Probably my biggest regret about going through college in three semesters is that I never had a girlfriend during this time. While I had plenty of good friends (both male and female), got involved in clubs, and enjoyed fun social activities every week, I didn’t have enough time to pursue an intimate relationship on top of everything else. I remember one instance where a girl I knew was clearly interested in pursuing a relationship with me, and she started machinating to spend more time alone with me, but I couldn’t take the bait because I just didn’t have time for dating. I wouldn’t have made a very good boyfriend at the time.

If I had to do it all over again, I think my college experience would have been even better if I’d stretched it to four or five semesters and allowed myself time for a girlfriend. It would have been great to have someone else to share my life with, not to mention all the other benefits of intimacy. At least I had plenty of time for dating after graduating. Within a few months I had a steady girlfriend, and four years later we were married. She and I actually went to the same college at the same time, but we never happened to meet while we were there, although it turned out we had a few mutual acquaintances.

I believe the main goal of time management is to give you the power to make your life as juicy as you want it to be. By getting clear about what you want and then developing a collection of habits that allow you to efficiently achieve your goals, you’ll enjoy a much richer, more fulfilling life than you would otherwise. When I look back on my college days from more than a decade in the future, I feel a sense of gratitude for the whole experience. I set an enormous stretch goal and grew tremendously as a person in the pursuit of that goal. It was one of the best times of my life.

If you wish to become more productive, then do so with the intention of improving the totality of your life from top to bottom. The reason to master time management is to take your good life and transform it into an exceptional one. Time management is not about self-sacrifice, self-denial, and doing more of what you dislike. It’s about embracing more of what you already love.

10 Qualities of Real Men

By Steve Pavlina

What does it mean to be a man today? How can men consciously express their masculinity without becoming cold or closed-hearted on the one hand… or wimpy and emasculated on the other? What’s the most loving way for a conscious man to express himself?

Here are 10 ways to live more consciously as a man:

1. Make real decisions.

A man understands and respects the power of choice. He lives a life of his own creation. He knows that life stagnates when he fails to decide and flourishes when he chooses a clear path.

When a man makes a decision, he opens the door he wants and closes the doors he doesn’t want. He locks onto his target like a guided missile. There’s no guarantee he’ll reach his target, and he knows this, but he doesn’t need such guarantees. He simply enjoys the sense of inevitability that comes from pushing the launch button.

A man doesn’t require the approval of others. He’s willing to follow his heart wherever it leads him. When a man is following his heart-centered path, it’s of little consequence if the entire world is against him.

2. Put your relationships second.

A man who claims his #1 commitment in life is his relationship partner (or his family) is either too dishonest or too weak to be trusted. His loyalties are misplaced. A man who values individuals above his own integrity is a wretch, not a free thinker.

A man knows he must commit to something greater than satisfying the needs of a few people. He’s not willing to be domesticated, but he is willing to accept the responsibility that comes with greater challenges. He knows that when he shirks that duty, he becomes something less than a man. When others observe that the man is unyieldingly committed to his values and ideals, he gains their trust and respect, even when he cannot gain their direct support. The surest way for a man to lose the respect of others (as well as his self-respect) is to violate his own values.

Life will test the man to see if he’s willing to put loyalty to others ahead of loyalty to his principles. The man will be offered many temptations to expose his true loyalties. A man’s greatest reward is to live with integrity, and his greatest punishment is what he inflicts upon himself for placing anything above his integrity. Whenever the man sacrifices his integrity, he loses his freedom… and himself as well. He becomes an object of pity.

3. Be willing to fail.

A man is willing to make mistakes. He’s willing to be wrong. He’d rather try and fail than do nothing.

A man’s self-trust is one of his greatest assets. When he second-guesses himself by worrying about failure, he diminishes himself. An intelligent man considers the prospect of failure, but he doesn’t preoccupy himself with pointless worry. He accepts that if a failure outcome occurs, he can deal with it.

A man grows more from failure than he does from success. Success cannot test his resolve in the way that failure can. Success has its challenges, but a man learns more about himself when he takes on challenges that involve risk. When a man plays it safe, his vitality is lost, and he loses his edge.

4. Be confident.

A man speaks and acts with confidence. He owns his attitude.

A man doesn’t adopt a confident posture because he knows he’ll succeed. He often knows that failure is a likely outcome. But when the odds of success are clearly against him, he still exudes confidence. It isn’t because he’s ignorant or suffering from denial. It’s because he’s proving to himself that he has the strength to transcend his self-doubt. This builds his courage and persistence, two of his most valuable allies.

A man is willing to be defeated by the world. He’s willing to be taken down by circumstances beyond his control. But he refuses to be overwhelmed by his own self-doubt. He knows that when he stops trusting himself, he is surely lost. He’ll surrender to fate when necessary, but he won’t surrender to fear.

5. Express love actively.

A man is an active giver of love, not a passive receiver. A man is the first to initiate a conversation, the first to ask for what’s needed, and the first to say “I love you.” Waiting for someone else to make the first move is unbecoming of him. The universe does not respond positively to his hesitation. Only when he’s in motion do the floodgates of abundance open.

Man is the out-breath of source energy. It is his job — his duty — to share his love with the world. He must wean himself from suckling the energy of others and become a vibrant transmitter of energy himself. He must allow that energy to flow from source, through him, and into the world. When he assumes this role, he has no doubt he is living as his true self.

6. Re-channel sex energy.

A man doesn’t hide his sexuality. If others shrink from him because he’s too masculine, he allows them to have their reaction. There’s no need for him to lower his energy just to avoid frightening the timid. A man accepts the consequences of being male; he makes no apologies for his nature.

A man is careful not to allow his energy to get stuck at the level of lust. He re-channels much of his sexual energy into his heart and head, where it can serve his higher values instead of just his animal instincts. (You can do this by visualizing the energy rising, expanding, and eventually flowing throughout your entire body and beyond.)

A man channels his sexual energy into his heart-centered pursuits. He feels such energy pulsing within him, driving him to action. He feels uncomfortable standing still. He allows his sexual energy to explode through his heart, not just his genitals.

7. Face your fears.

For a man, being afraid of something is reason enough to do it. A man’s fear is a call to be tested. When a man hides from his fears, he knows he’s fallen out of alignment with his true self. He feels weak, depressed, and helpless. No matter how hard he tries to comfort himself and achieve a state of peace, he cannot overcome his inner feeling of dread. Only when facing his fears does a man experience peace.

A man makes a friend of risk. He doesn’t run and hide from the tests of fear. He turns toward them and engages them boldly.

A man succeeds or fails. A coward never makes the attempt. Specific outcomes are of less concern to a man than his direction.

A man feels like a man whenever he faces the right way, staring straight into his fears. He feels even more like a man when he advances in the direction of his fears, as if sailing on the winds of an inner scream.

8. Honor the masculinity of other men.

When a man sees a male friend undertaking a new venture that will clearly lead to failure, what does the man do? Does he warn his friend off such a path? No, the man encourages his friend to continue. The man knows it’s better for his friend to strike out confidently and learn from the failure experience. The man honors his friend’s decision to reach out and make the attempt. The man won’t deny his friend the benefits of a failure experience. The man may offer his friend guidance, but he knows his friend must fail repeatedly in order to develop self-trust and courage.

When you see a man at the gym struggling to lift a heavy weight, do you jump in and say, “Here… let me help you with that. Maybe the two of us can lift it together”? No, that would rob him of the growth experience — and probably make a quick enemy of him as well.

The male path is filled with obstacles. It typically includes more failures than successes. These obstacles help a man discover what’s truly important to him. Through repeated failures a man learns to persist in the pursuit of worthy goals and to abandon goals that are unworthy of him.

A man can handle being knocked down many times. For every physical setback he experiences, he enjoys a spiritual advancement, and that is enough for him.

9. Accept responsibility for your relationships.

A man chooses his friends, lovers, and associates consciously. He actively seeks out the company of people who inspire and challenge him, and he willingly sheds those who hold him back.

A man doesn’t blame others for his relationship problems. When a relationship is no longer compatible with his heart-centered path, he initiates the break-up and departs without blame or guilt.

A man holds himself accountable for the relationships he allows into his life. He holds others accountable for their behavior, but he holds himself accountable for his decision to tolerate such behavior.

A man teaches others how to treat him by the relationships he’s willing to allow into his life. A man refuses to fill his life with negative or destructive relationships; he knows that’s a form of self-abuse.

10. Die well.

A man’s great challenge is to develop the inner strength to express his true self. He must learn to share his love with the world without holding back. When a man is satisfied that he’s done that, he can make peace with death. But if he fails to do so, death becomes his enemy and haunts him all the days of his life.

A man cannot die well unless he lives well. A man lives well when he accepts his mortality and draws strength from knowing that his physical existence is temporary. When a man faces and accepts the inevitability of death… when he learns to see death as his ally instead of his enemy… he’s finally able to express his true self. So a man isn’t ready to live until he accepts that he’s already dead.

Why Some People Are Richer Than Others

By Robert Kiyosaki

I was speaking on financial intelligence a while back to a group of university professors in Singapore. At the end of the talk, one of the professors asked me:

“Where did you learn about business and why do some people make more money than others?”

Responding to the first half of his question, I referred to my book Rich Dad Poor Dad and explained to him that I had a father who was just like him, a respected and highly intelligent career educator.

My other dad, my best friend’s father, who also spent many years raising me, was a school dropout, but was a natural financial genius. My business education came from him.

Thinking Rationally vs. Thinking Emotionally
To the second half of this question I replied: “The best business school I attended was Vietnam. In Vietnam I learned what I believe to be my most important life skill.”

“And what is that?” the professor asked.

“To know if I am thinking rationally or emotionally,” I replied. “While in combat, l learned to be a master of my emotions and to think clearly, even under extreme pressure.”

I went on to tell him of a day in 1972 when the engine of my helicopter gun ship suddenly quit. There was a loud bang and then deathly silence followed by the most horrible of sinking feelings. We were falling out of the sky like a huge rock.

Every part of me was screaming, “Pull back on the stick and add power.” But my three years of pilot training had taught me to think rationally and override my emotions.

Instead of pulling the nose of the aircraft up, I pushed the nose of the aircraft down and dove the aircraft straight for the ocean below me. To this day, my mind is burned with the vision of the deep green ocean coming up at me at blinding speed.

As we faced what appeared to be our certain death. If I had done what I felt like doing, which was pull the nose up, I would have died that day, taking four other people with me.

Most People Live in Fear of Losing Money
“And how has being the master of your emotions been important to your success?” the professor inquired with even greater curiosity.

Wanting to stay in his world, I replied using his frame of reality, “Have you ever had very smart students with great grades go out into the world and not do well financially or professionally?”

The professor nodded.

“When it comes to money,” I replied, “it is the emotion of fear that keeps most people poor. Most people live in fear of losing money or risking money so they say things like ‘play it safe’ or ‘don’t take risks.'”

The professor immediately interjected, “Are you saying be careless? Live dangerously?”

“No,” I replied. “all I am saying is that you need to know when you are thinking emotionally and when you are thinking rationally. When you are emotional, thinking rationally is often the hardest thing to do.

“Money, sex, religion, and politics are emotional subjects. So when it comes to those subjects, most people are not thinking rationally. When it comes to money most people are so afraid of losing that they wind up losing. That is not too intelligent.”

The professor was beginning to nod his head.

I continued on, “Another example of emotional thinking versus rational thinking is when someone says, ‘I don’t feel like doing it.’ Many people are not successful because they let their feelings do the thinking for them.

“For example, every morning I get up and say, ’I it feel like going to the gym,’ but hopefully my rational mind overrides my emotional mind and sags. ‘Come on, one hour, and it’s over.’ If my rational mind wins I ride my bicycle to the gym, and if my emotional mind wins, I snuggle up in bed for another hour.”

How You Respond to Fear Makes The Difference
“And to you, that is the primary difference between successful people and unsuccessful people?” asked the professor.

I nodded my head. “When it comes to money, I am often going in when most people are getting out. Or I take risks, while the masses are playing it safe.

“I feel the same fears they do, I just use my mind differently. That ability to do what is necessary, in spite of my feelings screaming at me to do otherwise, is the single most important life skill I have learned.”

“But aren’t you afraid?” asked the professor.

“Yes.” I replied strongly. “I have the same fear as everyone else. It’s how we respond to that fear that makes the difference. As I said, most people would have pulled back on the stick when the engine died, and l was trained to push the nose forward.

“The same thing happens financially. People pull back, play it safe, terrified of making a mistake, while life’s opportunities pass them by.”

The professor seemed to be understanding so I kept going. “There is another aspect of fear that also causes people to lose money, and that is the fear of ostracism, reportedly the number one fear of most humans.”

“Why the fear of ostracism?” asked the professor.

“Ostracism is the fear of being different, or standing alone, or being ridiculed by peers. That fear causes people to conform rather than risk being different. In Australia it’s called the ‘Tall Poppy Syndrome.’ In investor language, the fear of ostracism leads to the ‘thundering herd’ mentality.

“The fear of being different causes people to band together, so they wait for social proof that what they are doing is right. It is also called the ‘madness of the crowd.’

“So they enter markets late, buy what their friends are buying, and get slaughtered. After an experience like that, they spend the rest of their lives living in perpetual fear, continuing to go along with the rest of the crowd that is not going anywhere financially.”

“So how does that affect financial intelligence?” asked the professor.

“Financial intelligence is a 50/50 proposition.” I began to summarize slowly. “50% of financial intelligence is what you learn in business school, or in my case what I learned from my rich dad. It is the so-called technical knowledge about money, accounting, finance, investing, and business.

“The other 50% of financial intelligence is knowing when you are thinking rationally and when you are thinking emotionally. To simply say, ’play it safe’ is not a rational thought because it is a thought that is generated out of emotion. To say, ’play it smart’ is a thought coming from the rational brain.

It is that 50/50 relationship that is the basis of financial intelligence, and to answer your original question, why some people make more money than others.”

Building a Pipeline to Wealth: The Cashflow Quadrant

Each of us resides in at least one of the four Quadrants of the CASHFLOW Quadrant™.

Where we are is determined by where our main source of income comes from. Many of us rely on paychecks and are therefore employees, while others are self-employed.

Employees and self-employed individuals reside on the left side of the CASHFLOW Quadrant™. The right side of the CASHFLOW Quadrant™ is for individuals who receive their cash from businesses or investments they own.

My Rich Dad told me a simple story when I was 12 years old that has guided me to great wealth and financial freedom. It was Rich Dad’s way of explaining the difference between the left side of the CASHFLOW Quadrant™, the ‘E’ and ‘S’ Quadrants™, from the right side of the ‘B’ and ‘I’ Quadrants™.

Once upon a time there was this quaint little village. It was a great place to live except for one problem. The village had no water unless it rained.

To solve this problem once and for all, the village elders decided to put out to bid the contract to have water delivered to the village on a daily basis.

Two people volunteered to take on the task and the elders awarded the contract to both of them. They felt that a little competition would keep prices low and ensure a backup supply of water.

Self-Employed Thinking
The first of the two people, Ed, immediately ran out, bought two galvanized steel buckets and began running back and forth along the trail to the lake which was a mile away.

He immediately began making money as he labored morning to dusk hauling water from the lake with his two buckets. He would empty them into the large concrete holding tank the village had built.

Each morning he had to get up before the rest of the village awoke to make sure there was enough water for the village when it wanted it. It was hard work, but he was very happy to be making money and for having one of the two exclusive contracts for this business.

Business Owner Thinking
The second winning contractor, Bill, disappeared for a while. He was not seen for months, which made Ed very happy since he had no competition. Ed was making all the money.

Instead of buying two buckets to compete with Ed, Bill had written a business plan, created a corporation, found four investors, employed a president to do the work, and returned six months later with a construction crew.

Within a year his team had built a large volume stainless steel pipeline, which connected the village to the lake.

At the grand opening celebration, Bill announced that his water was cleaner than Ed’s water. Bill knew that there had been complaints about dirt in Ed’s water.

Bill also announced that he could supply the village with water 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Ed could only deliver water on the weekdays. He did not work on weekends.

Then Bill announced that he would charge 75% less than Ed did for this higher quality and more reliable source of water. The village cheered and ran immediately for the faucet at the end of Bill’s pipeline.

In order to compete, Ed immediately lowered his rates by 75%, bought two more buckets, added covers to his buckets, and began hauling four buckets each trip. In order to provide better service, he hired his two sons to give him a hand for the night shift and on weekends.

When his boys went off to college, he said to them, “Hurry back because someday this business will belong to you.” For some reason, after college, his two sons never returned. Eventually Ed had employees and union problems. The union was demanding higher wages, better benefits, and wanted its members to only haul one bucket at a time.

Work Smarter, Not Harder
Bill, on the other hand, realized that if this village needed water, then other villages must need water too. He rewrote his business plan and went off to sell his high speed, high volume, and low cost, clean water delivery system to villages throughout the world.

He only makes a penny per bucket of water delivered, but he delivers billions of buckets of water, and all that money pours into his bank account. Bill had developed a pipeline to deliver money to himself as well as water to the villages.

Bill lived happily ever after, and Ed worked hard for the rest of his life and had financial problems forever after. The end.

That story about Bill and Ed has guided me for years. It has assisted me in my life’s decision-making process. I often ask myself, “Am I building a pipeline or hauling buckets?” Am I working hard or am I working smart?”

And the answers to those questions have made me financially free.

The CASHFLOW Quadrant™ is about the four different types of people who make up the world of business, who they are, and what makes individuals in each Quadrant unique.

It will help you define where you are in the Quadrant today and help you chart a course for where you want to be in the future as you choose your own path to financial freedom.

While financial freedom can be found in all four of the Quadrants, the skills of a ‘B’ or ‘I’ will help you reach your financial goals more quickly. A successful ‘E’ should also become a successful ‘I’.

 

We Are All Born Rich

The following has been excerpted from Robert Kiyosaki and Donald Trump’s  book, Why We Want You to Be Rich: Two Men–One Message.

There are three types of investors in the world. They are:
1. People who do not invest at all
2. People who invest not to lose
3. People who invest to win
People who do not invest at all expect their family, the company they work for or their government to take care of them once their working days are over.
People who invest not to lose generally invest in what they think are safe investments. This is the vast majority of investors. These people have the saver’s mentality when it comes to investing.
People who invest to win are willing to study more, want more control and invest for higher returns.
Interestingly, all three investor types have the potential to become very rich, even those who expect someone else to take care of them. For example, the CEO of Exxon recently retired and was paid nearly half a billion dollars as a going-away present.
There Is a Difference Between Savers and Investors
Robert’s View
Many people invest in mutual funds. When I talk about not being a saver, many of them respond, “But I am investing. I have a portfolio of mutual funds. I have a 401(k). I also own stocks and bonds. Isn’t that investing?”
I take a step back and explain myself a bit more, “Yes, saving is a form of investing. So when you buy mutual funds or stocks or bonds, you are sort of investing, but it is more from a saver’s point of view and a saver’s set of values.”
Let’s look at the passive investor philosophy. Once again, most financial planners will advise you to
• Work hard
• Save money
• Get out of debt
• Invest for the long term (primarily in mutual funds)
• Diversify
Putting this in financial planners’ language, it often sounds like this. “Work hard. Make sure the company you work for has a matching 401(k) program. Be sure to maximize your contribution. After all, it’s tax-free money. If you own a home, pay off that mortgage quickly. If you have credit cards, pay them off. Also, have a balanced portfolio of growth funds, a few small cap funds, some tech funds, a fund for foreign equities, and when you get older, shift into bond funds for steady income. Of course, diversify, diversify and diversify. It’s not smart to keep all of your eggs in one basket.”
While not exact, I am sure this sales pitch, disguised as financial advice, has a familiar ring to you.
Donald Trump and I are not saying everyone should change and stop doing this. It is good advice for a certain group of people–people who have a saver’s philosophy or are passive investors.
In today’s environment, I believe it to be the riskiest of all financial advice. To the financially unsophisticated, it sounds like safe and intelligent advice.
Getting back to the difference between a saver and an investor, there is one word that separates them, and that word is leverage. One definition of leverage is the ability to do more with less.
Most savers do not use financial leverage. And you should not use leverage unless you have the financial education or financial training to apply it. But let me explain further.  Let’s look at this standard advice from the viewpoint of a saver and then an investor.
Work Hard
Let’s start with the advice “work hard.”
When most people think about the words “work hard,” they think only about themselves working hard. There is very little leverage in you working hard. When Donald and I think about working hard, while we both work hard individually, we mostly think about other people working hard for us to help make us rich. That’s leverage. It’s sometimes known as other people’s time.
Save Money
While I covered saving money in the last chapter, there are a few other points that are worth mentioning.
The problem with saving money is that the current economic system needs debtors, not savers, to expand.
Let me explain with the following diagram, as originally described in Rich Dad Poor Dad:

Take a moment to study this diagram. Your savings are a liability to the bank even though those same savings are an asset to you. On the other hand, your debt is an asset to the bank, but it is your liability.
For our current economic system to keep growing, it needs smart borrowers … people who can borrow money and get richer, not people who borrow money and get poorer.  Once again, the 90/10 rule of money applies–10 percent of the borrowers in the world use debt to get richer–90 percent use debt to get poorer.
Donald Trump and I use debt to get richer. Our bankers love us. Our bankers want us to borrow as much money as we can because borrowers make them richer. This is called other people’s money (OPM). Donald and I recommend more financial education for you because we want you to be smarter when it comes to the use of debt. If we have more debtors, our nation’s economy will grow. If we have more savers, our economy will shrink. If you can understand that debt can be good, and carefully learn to use debt as leverage, you will gain an advantage over most savers.
Get Out of Debt
Most savers think that debt is bad and that paying off the mortgage on their home is smart. And for many people, debt is bad and getting out of debt is smart. Yet, if you are willing to invest some time in your financial education, you can get ahead faster using debt as leverage. But again, I caution you to first invest in your financial education before you invest with debt.
There is good debt and bad debt. The purpose of getting financially smart is to know when to use debt and when not to.
Donald and I love real estate simply because our bankers love to lend us money to buy good real estate–real estate that is well-managed. Of course, there is good real estate and bad real estate.
Savers who invest in mutual funds have a difficult time using leverage, simply because most bankers will not lend money on mutual funds. Why? Apparently bankers think mutual funds are too risky and consider real estate a safer investment.
Just as my poor dad fell behind financially in the early 1970s because he was a saver, millions of people today are falling behind financially for the same reason.
In this economic environment, savers are losers and debtors are winners. You should always be careful when using debt for any reason.
Invest for the Long Term
“Invest in the long term” has many meanings.
  1. Look at this advice as a sales pitch: “Turn your money over to me for years, and I will charge you fees for the long term.” I call it a sales pitch because “invest for the long term” is like the airlines offering you a frequent-flier program. They want you as a lifetime, loyal, paying customer.
  2. It also means they can charge you fees for the long term. This would be like paying your real estate broker a commission for selling you your house and then paying the broker a residual commission for as long as you occupy the house.
  3. Mutual funds may not perform as well as other investments due to the fees paid for management of the fund.  While I do not mind paying fees, I do not like paying fees for sub-par performance.
Many people invest in mutual funds for the long term. However, mutual funds provide no leverage. As I said earlier, my banker will not lend me millions of dollars to invest in mutual funds, simply because they are too risky. There is also the lack of control (a subject that will be covered later).
One of the differences between mutual funds and hedge funds is leverage. Hedge funds often use borrowed money. Why do they use borrowed money? With borrowed money, you can increase your ROI, your return on investment, if you are a smart investor. In other words, the more of your own money you use, the lower your returns.
There is a time and a place for mutual funds. I invest in them occasionally. But to me, mutual funds are like fast food; it’s OK occasionally, but you do not want to make a habit of consuming it.
Diversify, Diversify, Diversify
Warren Buffett, reportedly the world’s richest investor, has this to say about diversification: “Diversification is protection against ignorance. (It) makes very little sense if you know what you’re doing.”
So the question is, whose ignorance are you protecting yourself from? Your ignorance or your financial advisor’s ignorance?
Again, there are multiple meanings for the word “diversify.” Generally, it means not putting all of your eggs in one basket, which is what Warren Buffett does. To this, I once heard him say, “Keep all your eggs in one basket, but watch the basket closely.”
Personally, I do not diversify, at least not in the way the financial planners recommend.  I do not buy a lot of different assets. I would rather focus. In fact, the way I get ahead is by focusing, not diversifying.
One of the better definitions I have heard for the word “focus” is using the word as an acronym.
            F  =  Follow
            O  =  One
            C  =  Course
            U  =  Until
            S  =  Successful
This is what I have done. Years ago, I invested in real estate until I was successful.  Today, I still invest in real estate. When I wanted to learn about bonds, I invested in them until I was successful. Once I was successful, I decided I did not like the bonds and so do not invest in them anymore. I have successfully taken two companies from startups through IPOs. I made millions and was successful, but decided I did not want to go through that process anymore. Today, I still prefer real estate.
To me, diversification is a defensive posture, so I see very little offensive leverage in diversification.
For most people, diversification is a good strategy only because it protects investors from themselves and from incompetent or unscrupulous advisors.
This traditional financial planning advice of working hard, get out of debt, invest for the long-term and diversify is good for the average investor–the passive investor who simply turns a little bit of money over each month for someone else to manage. It is good advice also for the person who is rich, but rich professionals, pro athletes and rich children with inheritances fall into this group. The key is to find a good financial advisor.
Know, however, that there is very little leverage in following this path–and leverage is the key to great wealth.
Leverage Is the Key
Ever since humans lived in caves, humans have sought leverage. Two of the first forms of leverage were fire and the spear. Fire and the spear gave humans leverage over their harsh environment. When a child was able, the parents would teach the child how to make his or her own fire and to use the spear as protection and for killing animals for food. Years later, the spear was reduced in size and the bow and arrow was developed, a higher form of leverage. Again, one of the definitions of leverage is the ability to do more with less.  A bow and arrow is an example of doing more with less … over a spear.
As time went on, humans continued to use their brains to develop more leverage. Learning to ride a horse was a powerful form of leverage. Not only was the horse used for transportation and the tilling of soil for planting crops, the horse also became a powerful force in warfare.
When gunpowder was developed, the ruler who had cannons conquered rulers who did not. Indigenous peoples such as the American Indians, Hawaiians, Maoris of New Zealand, the Aborigines of Australia and many other cultures were conquered by gunpowder.
Only a hundred years ago, the automobile and the airplane replaced the horse. Again, both new forms of leverage were used for peacetime purposes and for warfare. Today, the countries that control the world’s supplies of oil have leverage over much of the world.
Radio, television, telephone, this computer I am writing on and the World Wide Web are all forms of leverage. Each new breakthrough adds more wealth and power to those who have the access and the training to use these leveraged tools.
If you want to become rich and not be a victim of global changes, it is important that you develop the greatest lever of all: your mind. If you want to be rich and keep your wealth, your mind–your financial education–is your greatest lever of all.
Donald and I both had the advantage of having rich dads who introduced us to the world of money. But all our rich dads could do was introduce us. We still had to do our part.  We still had to study, learn, practice, correct and grow. Just as the father and mother in the cave taught their children to start fire and use a spear, we had rich dads who taught us how to use money and our minds to become rich.
I can hear some of you saying, “But I don’t have a rich dad. I wasn’t born into money. I don’t have a good education.” This type of thinking may be the reason why your chances for attaining and, more importantly, keeping great wealth are slim. Your chances may be slim because you are using your greatest asset, your mind, against yourself. You are using your mind to make excuses rather than to make money. Remember, your mind is your greatest lever. But all levers can work in two directions–for good or bad. Just as debt can be used to make you rich, debt can be used to make you poor.
I did not have a great education, nor was I born into a rich family. The one thing I did have was a rich dad who taught me to use my mind to make money … and not to make excuses. Rich dad hated excuses. He used to say, “Excuses are a dime a dozen.  That’s why unsuccessful people have so many excuses.” He would say, “If you cannot control your mind, you cannot control your life.” Today, whenever I meet someone who is unhappy, unhealthy and “unwealthy,” I know it is simply because he or she has lost control of his or her mind, the greatest tool given to us by God.
Although Donald and I have money today, we have both experienced financial losses. If we had used our mind to blame other or to make excuses, we would both be poor today.
We Are All Born Rich
So our message to you is the same message we received from our rich dads: “We are all born rich. We all have been given the most powerful lever on earth, our minds … so use your mind for leverage to make you rich rather than to make excuses.