Who am I?


As I look back at my past self, here is what I see.  I see a sad three year old who just lost his father.  I see a child with deep insecurities and hurt.  I see a teenager who was self loathing, and one who would do anything for acceptance.  This child and teenager followed and troubled me for most of my life. So what happened? 

I have always had a desire to help others deal with life’s problems.  This desire comes from empathy, because I know what it feels like to hurt. I know what it means to want to find value within myself, and find only lack.  I started what I thought would be an educational journey, but it ended up being a process of picking my own life apart.  

Early in this journey, the seed of an idea was planted in me. “You are not your thoughts, your past, or how you feel”.  I began to devour as much information as I could about how the human mind works, or at least as much as we know about it. I did this to see if it was possibly true, that I am not my thoughts, past, and feelings. 

At the psychological and neurological level there is irrefutable evidence that we don’t naturally have as much free will as we think we do.  When something would happen in my external world, I didn’t immediately choose what to think about it.  My first thought always just came up.  Oftentimes it would cause a response in me, that further confirmed the existence of that self loathing, people pleasing teenager.  Based on this I often didn’t choose to rethink or contradict these thoughts.  Even if I did it was usually an uphill battle to overcome the impact of the initial thought.  All this study of Psychology and Neurology was becoming more troubling.

One day Youtube videos were playing in the background while I worked. A video with a Psychologist talking about the benefits of Mindfulness came on.  I took notice.  Later that same day I heard a monk say in another video,  “you can’t pay attention because no one ever taught you how.”  Not long after that I started a Mindfulness practice. I would sit for as much as an hour or two at a time, just observing all the thoughts that entered my mind without reacting to them.  It was during this process that I started to notice another part of me who wasn’t the one having those thoughts, but was the one who noticed and experienced them. Someone who could choose his response.  I eventually read a book called “A New Earth” by Eckhart Tolle.  Much of what he wrote in this book confirmed what I was learning, and agreed with Psychology and science.  This was the beginning of an ongoing transformation that I am deeply grateful for.  

Before I started on this journey I loathed what I saw when I looked back.  Now I can look back with love and acceptance for myself.  I can treat myself like someone I am responsible for helping. I know that the hurt of that child, and the self loathing in that teenager was not mine but belonged to a world that I can live beyond. More than that I can function more effectively in my daily life here and now.  It is like someone lifted a hundred pounds from each shoulder, and I can now move through life with much more ease. 

Almost every post I write mentions that we are not our thoughts, our past, or how we feel.  The reason for this is simple.  Understanding what that means for you will change your life for the better.  You are so much more than what you see when you look back.  

Poison in “The Secret”


Should you become a millionaire and want to help the guy who shared this with you, we can talk about ways to contribute.  Until then please take and use what I have given you here today, to bring true riches into your life.

They say, simply envision and focus on what you want, and you will attract it. The universe will manifest it into your life.  The law of attraction is the foundation of “The Secret”.  There are a lot of businesses who promote the law of attraction, and in exchange for money will provide you the content.  In this post I will give you the truth for free, which is an infinitely greater value and infinitely more effective.  What I am sharing here is not a hoax, it is the real thing and it works.  

The poison pill in the law of attraction doesn’t come from the content itself, it comes from the intention of the consumer of the content.  Someone is seeking more in life, now they believe they have found Aladdin’s lamp in the law of attraction. The materially lustful wishes start flowing freely.  Pictures of expensive cars, homes, and exotic vacations flood their minds, and on their vision boards hanging about.  This puts their desires in a much higher state of focus than their belief they will receive it.  You see, true faith quells desire, because “it is the evidence for things not seen”.   Over a period of time they fail to receive the desires.  With this often comes discouragement, depression, and very often self blame. They are unable to manipulate the universe into magically manifesting their every desire.  They must not be good enough, they think.

When I first stumbled on to what I believe is the real secret, I was afraid it was the way to material poverty. The truth I found defies everything I ever believed about abundance.  The starting point of true abundance is gratefulness.  

The first order of business is to do whatever it takes to become truly grateful for what you currently have, and have faith that everything is as it is supposed to be.  If you are thinking  you don’t have anything to be grateful for, notice that you have just taken another breath.  One breath provides the opportunity for you to turn things around.  Do you think your job is terrible, think again.  Within that job lies the starting point for a greater life.  The truth is that most of what is so terrible is not our current situation, but what we think about our current situation.  If you have something “terrible” in your life right now, I want you to just explore what it feels like.  Get curious about it.  Don’t give in to the desire to label it as bad, just experience it, and ask yourself what it is.  Lean into it and feel it, without thinking about it as good or bad.  If you do this you will see that what I am telling you is true.  What you think about something is really what makes it bad.  Otherwise it just is. 

Once you are thankful for what you currently have, your life will be better.  Now it is time to get your head out of the past and future and into the present moment.  If you are goal oriented, you can look at it this way.  You can’t act in the past, and you can’t act in the future.  The only time you can act is right now. In light of that, take those goals and think about what you think they  would bring into your present moment if they were fulfilled.  Take time to really think this through for every goal.  I have found that what most people really want is to feel loved, respected, appreciated, and be happy and secure in themselves.  Chances are that achieving any or all of those goals would not give you a long term sense of happiness and security.  What gives you contentment and security is focusing on what is going on right now without adding any thoughts of the past or future to it.

Once you are grateful, and living in the present moment you will have not only gained happiness, but through this process you will have gained discipline over your own mind.  You will feel abundant, and now it is time to add the goals you want.  Most people who find themselves in this state of gratefulness and discipline set goals not only for their own comfort, but to share this process with others.  It gives me great joy to share this with others, because I know what this has meant to my life.  The biggest and most valuable benefit of this process for me was that for the first time in as long as I can remember I am not depressed, not plagued by insecurities, and as financially fit as I have ever been.  This is a lifelong process, but most of the benefit was realized after only a few months of practicing mindfulness, and realizing that I am not my thoughts, my past, or how I feel.   

Freeing Yourself


The power of the pictures we paint in our mind can be the catalyst that either traps us or sets us free.  Here is a powerful picture that will help you free yourself.  

There is a fundamental way that most of us see the world and it keeps us trapped.  When we decide we want to improve ourselves, we unconsciously picture a hierarchy.  Way up and out there is the weight of the world, and everything going on.  Then there is our thinking self who is struggling under the weight of the world.  Finally there is this core being that is our true self who is under the weight of the world and everything we think about it. 

If this is the way we picture the world, how will we ever be able to lift or get out from under the weight and change our circumstances?   This is the lie that traps us.

Get a picture of this hierarchy clearly in your mind.  Now turn it upside down, putting who you truly are at the top of the hierarchy.  We are not done yet, otherwise you might get the idea you are God, and the whole world is subject to you.  The truth is that when you are at the top of the hierarchy it frees you to move up and down and around the hierarchy.  It allows you to detach who you truly are from the rest of the hierarchy.  This frees you to move about to the areas where you can make a positive difference.  

The key to making this picture serve you, is to keep your head out of the past and the future, and only deal with what is in front of you right now.   Almost every post on this blog repeats the idea that “You are not your thoughts, your past, or how you feel.”  You are so much more than that. This is the truth that freed me. If you can turn this picture upside down, and discover this truth for yourself you will be free.   

Selfish Or Self Respect?


It is important to understand the difference between being selfish, and having some self respect.  I thought about it this week when I briefly encountered a young lady who needed to improve her grades.  It was as if she thought the world would end if she didn’t.  It was also somehow apparent that these good grades would mostly be to please other people.  There was no opportunity for me to really communicate with her on the matter, other than to give a quick suggestion not to be too hard on herself.  

This encounter made me think about the reason that our relationship with ourselves is so important.  It is a good goal to improve your grades, but if pressure from the outside causes you to engage in self-criticism then it is more important that you take a stand for yourself and not worry so much about pressure from the outside.  I am reminded of a wise quote by Indian guru, Sadhguru. “It is your mind. Things should be the way you want them in there.. Isn’t it?”  He was talking about the state of your mind to handle the things coming at you from the outside.  It is up to you to decide how you react to what happens to you.  I think the one thing that really helps us do this is when we begin with the assumption that we are enough.  That we are whole and complete within ourselves.  This doesn’t mean we think that we are perfect, it means that we think enough of ourselves and understand that we are not literally perfect and that’s OK.  Understanding that we are truly valuable, and at the same time understanding that we are flawed helps us to not only extend grace to ourselves, but to others as well.  When your view of yourself and others is obscured with insecurities, making good decisions is nearly impossible. Taking pressure off yourself makes it easier for you to do better.  The intention to be better is good enough if you have a healthy view of yourself.  Do you perform better when you self ridicule, or do you perform better when you believe you are up to the task?  Pretty obvious right?

We can hold ourselves to a higher standard without all of the self abuse.  Sometimes when we set out to achieve something we are more focused on the consequences of how it will turn out.  We worry about a future moment that hasn’t happened yet.  This increases the pressure on us, but doesn’t help us to actually do better work. You literally can’t do anything in the past or future.  Now is the only time you have to act, so doesn’t it make sense to focus on the task rather than worrying about the consequences if you fail, or thinking about your past failures?  When we have a healthy view of ourselves we are free to quit self criticism, and focus on the task at hand.  Eliminating all the background noise makes the task so much more bearable.  Think about trying to do something that requires focus in a room full of loud talking people.  Your thoughts about the past and future like the room full of noisy people inhibit your ability to focus. 

The foundational belief that helps you to be better is the belief that you are enough.  You are a perfectly imperfect human being.  You have great value that extends well beyond your past, your thoughts, and your feelings.  I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that this is true for all of us.  Finding that truth and giving  yourself grace is the first step to a better life.      

Life Doesn’t Need to Be So Hard


We have plenty of things to keep us busy.  We have responsibilities around work, school, family, and finances among many other things.  For most people there is a lot to do, and then we step in and add our thoughts about the consequences of not getting it all done. We weigh ourselves down with the expectations of ourselves and others.  There are two separate aspects to living life.  There is performing all the activities that need to be done, then there is all of the added pressure of our thoughts about the activity.  

What if you could take half the pressure off yourself, and only focus on the activities without adding the additional pressure of thinking about consequences, and expectations?  We have the activity and then we have our thoughts and beliefs about these activities.  These thoughts influence how well we perform the activities. If you put a board on the floor and attempt to walk across it, this is easy for most people.  Take that same board and lay it across the distance between two tall buildings and then walk across it.  It is the same task, but the stakes are much higher if you fail to stay on the board while walking between buildings.  The location of the board is very similar to your thoughts about the task you are about to take on.  Assuming the board doesn’t flex, and there is no wind, it is the same task. The great thing about most of our activities is that if we mess up, nothing really bad happens.  

Famous author Mark Twain said “I’ve lived through some terrible things in my life, some of which actually happened.” In this quote he was pointing to the fact that it is our worries about what might happen that is the source of many of our perceived problems.  If we really stop and think about it, this is an undeniable truth. So what do you do about it? 

Part of a mindfulness journey is learning to live in the present moment, and just acknowledging these worries without reacting to them in any way. I remember when I was learning to just have these thoughts, acknowledge them and not react to them.  I was afraid that if I quit reacting to these thoughts, that my world would fall apart and nothing would get done.  I took a leap of faith and just quit reacting.  Exactly the opposite of my worry happened.  I became a lot more effective, and got more done without all the stress.  I also found that I naturally started taking time to think through what had to be done, but then once I started doing it, I focused all of my attention on the task. I was no longer worrying about consequences. 

It is almost as if life just started unfolding.  I am not ready to give an explanation of why or how this happens, I just know that life is much easier and more gets done when you stop worrying about the future or reliving the past.  Learning to let these thoughts pass is important.  Please reach out here if you want to know more about how to let go of your stressors.  There are lots of free resources out there to help you with this. 

How We Make a Difference


When we think about those who make a difference in the world we tend to think about the renowned and famous of the world.  The thing we should always keep in mind is that they are one person just like we are, and the real difference in the world is made by hundreds of millions of people who are equipped with the means to help others in some way.  Mother Teresa of Calcutta was known for having the attitude of helping one person at a time.  Even if that help was just comfort in the final moments of one person’s life.  Countless others looked to her as an example and helped countless other people as a result of that inspiration.  She had this impact by focusing on one person at a time, and did not seek out attention to herself.     

Mother Teresa understood the point I am trying to make today.  We should not endeavor to necessarily be the difference makers for the world.  Instead we should endeavor to help people one at a time.  We are all connected at a much closer level than we know.  “Six Degrees of Separation” shows that there are six degrees of separation between you and everyone else in the world.  Helping just one person could greatly impact the lives of countless others.  We are more effective in helping others if we keep our focus on helping one person at a time to the best of our ability.

We likely won’t know all of those we had a hand in helping, but we will know we did the best we could for each person we encountered. If we do that it will bear fruit in our lives.  One of the most desirable results of this idea is that you have less to stress about, but your impact is much greater in the long run.  This is an idea that is counterintuitive to many and they doubt that focusing on one person at a time is the most effective way.  Even those who lead the largest most successful companies in the world, would have never grown to that size were it not for a handful of individuals.  Some even contribute their success to a single idea by one influential person in their lives.  We indeed make a difference one person at a time. 

This Too Shall Pass


I thought this would be a good opportunity to share this blog post. Have you ever had one of those days where you were just discouraged and feeling really insecure? As I sit and start to write this blog post, I am there. I went to the gym this morning, and then came home and tried to get some things done, and had a very frustrating day. I just didn’t do well at what I was working on and ended up wasting a lot of time.  The negative thoughts really started to dig in without my immediate awareness. You know that voice that quietly asks you questions like, who are you to think you can do this right? 

I learned something a few years ago. “This too shall pass.” Your body is complicated. The events of the day,  and your brain and its biology can coalesce into a recipe for a bad day. The difference is what you decide to do with it.  Those who won’t admit to having days like this will lie about other things too.  There is a process that you can use to get out from under down days. 

  1. Acknowledge to yourself that you are struggling and that it’s OK.  Treat yourself like someone else you are responsible for encouraging in this way.   
  2. Get curious about the negative feelings.  Don’t think about them, just notice how it feels in your body and your psyche.  
  3. Review what happened at a high level.  Maybe make a list of the events that happened.  Don’t get too deep, and don’t start judging yourself. This often uncovers the otherwise obvious.
  4. At this point, get up and do something even if you don’t want to.  
  5. Just keep going until it passes.

The most important thing to remember when you are having one of these days, is that “this too shall pass.”  One thing older entrepreneurs and investors know very well is that business and markets go up and down.  So will our lives. Some periods of time are good and others aren’t.  We all go through seasons. Things happen outside of our control. It is OK to have a down day, or periods of time surrounding a bad event.  What matters is what you do with it.

Awareness Builds Momentum


Bringing awareness into your life is a process, it isn’t something that happens overnight.  It isn’t something that intense effort will bring you.  While awareness practices can be found in every religious tradition from Christianity to Zen Buddhism, the awareness I am talking about here is a practical approach for quieting the mind. This will allow you to sense your environment in a way that will help you grow awareness.  

One of the primary problems we face is that we are constantly reacting to things in our environment. We can’t help but to judge them on some level.  True awareness comes when you can learn to quiet your mind and not immediately add your own thoughts to everything that happens to you.  

The first step in achieving this is learning that we are separate from those autonomous reactions created by our brain and biology.  Notice the thoughts that come up when something happens in your environment.  We don’t choose to think these thoughts. They just arise naturally.  It is your ability to stand outside those thoughts that is awareness.  We rarely question those thoughts, even though they could be a result of past events that we wrongly judged.  If we can just experience our environment without adding our own thoughts we can add a level of insight.  This insight can cause exponential growth in our lives.  It is often like we are experiencing things for the first time, that we have experienced many times before.

This is an ongoing process for me.  I stumbled on this idea, in an effort to improve my attention.  I heard a Youtuber say something that really hit home for me.  “You can’t pay attention, because no one ever taught you how.”  I wish I had a nickel for every time someone told me to pay attention growing up, but never offered to show me how.  It is possible that I would be very wealthy.  

So how do you learn to pay attention?  The answer is pretty simple.  You start by  intentionally setting aside five or ten minutes a couple of times a day to practice paying attention.  Relax and take a few deep slow breaths, and focus on something happening around you.  It can be anything from the noises around you, to two or more people interacting.  You also commit to not adding your own thoughts to it, and watching it like it is the first time you have seen anything like it.  Two or three of these daily mindfulness breaks could help you to begin a significant growth journey. 

I am sharing this with you, because this is one of the things that turned the direction of my life around.  I was being held back by a lot of self critical thoughts that I just assumed were true.  Once I became aware of the thoughts that were coming up, I naturally started questioning them.  This process allowed me to see that we are truly, not our thoughts, how we feel, or our past.  Once I started to see that 90% of these thoughts had no foundation in reality, my life began to change in positive ways.  I believe yours will too. 

If you would like to explore this idea further, you can take advantage of a free, no strings attached thirty minute life coaching consultation.

Toxic Self Help


If you are a regular consumer of self help content, I would encourage you to watch James Jani’s “Toxic Self Help” video at the end of this post. Well written self help books can make us feel good, and give us a dopamine boost. We momentarily feel better. We set out to change our lives, only to end up frustrated again. The cycle takes us back to our next self help book. I was caught up in this cycle in my late twenties. I bought more of these self help books and programs, than I should have. It all lead to more frustration.

I want to be careful not to throw the baby out with the bath water. I have read some great books, and picked up some good information even from the bad ones. Much of it I still use today. The problem is not reading the books, it is believing that any book or program will be the catalyst to transform your life. Any real success is going to come by taking right consistent action over a period of time. You don’t need a book for that, but there is definitely useful information you can take from them.

If you find yourself relating to James’ video stop buying self help books, and move forward with what you already know. Feel free to contact me here. You can use a free thirty minute consult to chart a new course.

Cut Out the Middleman


Any worthwhile endeavor you take on is going to involve planning, preparation, and doing. There are some who do too much planning, and suffer not getting as much done as they could.  On the other end of the spectrum is the person who takes on the endeavor without proper planning, and paints themselves into a corner. What is the right way to think about the balance between planning, preparation, and doing? 

A lot of the problems around these challenges are likely caused by thoughts that we are not aware of on the surface. Let’s take the example of someone who does too much planning.  Our unconscious will naturally try to keep us out of uncomfortable situations, and it knows as soon as the planning is over the discomfort begins. The problem is that the person experiencing this thinks that careful and long term planning sessions are just the right way to do things. They believe this because their unconscious supports them.

On the other end of the spectrum is the person who subscribes to the “Just Do It!” marketing campaign. It is true that nothing gets done without action, and that is important for the over planner to remember.  The over doer would do better without this reminder.  

I want to share something with you that will help you naturally balance planning, preparing, and doing.  In short we just need to cut out the middleman. It is important that you get this next part because it isn’t intuitive for most people. Consider the following statement. “I am happy with myself”. Who is the “I” and who is “myself”.  

When we stand back and look at our lives, there seems to be an awareness that notices what we are up to, and another us who is the doer. The awareness is what’s left when we put aside our incessant thoughts about everything, and just experience the world with our five senses. It is a sense of seeing without judgement. The doer is constantly responding to whatever thoughts arise.

This may be uncomfortable for some, but we don’t really know why we think most of the thoughts we do. Notice the thoughts that naturally arise. Then ask yourself, where did that come from?  You can speculate about all the past events that might have caused the thought, but If you are honest you don’t know why you had that thought at that moment.

Have you ever had a dream, and spent part of the next day wondering where in the world it came from? Have you ever had a stray thought, and wondered why you would even think something like that. This is your unconscious mind, and it doesn’t appear to have any free will.  

Let’s get back to the point at hand. What does all of this have to do with balancing planning, preparation, and doing?  Who is the middleman? The middleman is the thought generator that produces the thoughts that you have little control over. Conscious awareness through your senses is the route to cutting out the middleman. 

Practical mindfulness is the way we cut out the middleman. There are two parts. The first part is to practice mindfulness by spending ten or fifteen minutes twice per day just sitting in a quiet place focused on your breath, or the sounds in your environment. Whichever you choose, this is your anchor.  When you notice a thought just gently go back to focusing on your anchor. Take heart if you get caught up in thought, and have to constantly focus back to your anchor. This is a good sign, because you are starting to notice those unconscious thoughts come up.    

The second part is just taking a minute or two out of every hour. Take a few deep slow breaths and notice whatever thoughts are arising.  Don’t react to them just notice them.  This will do two things.  The deep breaths will settle you down physically, and being consciously aware of your thoughts will help you to increase awareness.  Over a period of time you will begin to overcome the influence of your thought generator. You will in effect start cutting out the middleman.  

When you start to become more aware you can take all the noise out of figuring out how much time you should spend planning vs. doing.  You will also be more aware of the circumstances around the task.  This isn’t a silver bullet, but it will greatly help you to become more effective at picking the right amount of planning vs. doing. 

Feel free to reach out if you are interested in learning more.