Why Sales Should Matter to You

Sales 101

Too many people have a negative connotation about the term sales. Some think that engaging in sales in unimportant or even dishonest. I would like to clear the air about what sales really is and why it matters to you. This may blow your mind, but every single person is engaged in selling. Everyone. Sales or selling is simply the ability to communicate the value of whatever you are doing. When you were interviewed for a job, you were selling your abilities. If you started a company, you had to sell prospects on the value of your ideas or products. If you are a parent, you must persuade or sell your children on the importance of doing things a certain way. Even if your job is cleaning, or something not directly associated with sales, you must still sell the idea that what you are doing is useful to your bosses and keep your performance of a high caliber if you want to retain your position. We are all salespeople.

Most of us think that only those involved in direct sales, like selling a product or service and overseeing the transaction of money, is sales. But the truth is that in the marketplace, we are all salespeople. Christopher Columbus was a great salesman because he persuaded the Queen of Spain to give him three ships so that he may find a faster route to the East by sailing West. He didn’t offer any guarantees, but his expedition turned out to be more profitable for the Spain than he or the Queen ever imagined. It’s very important to remember that persuasion is sales. Nothing sells itself. One must be persuaded to buy something, or join something, or hire someone. That is why I believe sales is the most underestimated skill that one can have.

Of course, there are good and bad salespeople. If you’re not where you want to be, it’s because you haven’t sold enough people, or the right people, on the value of what you bring to the marketplace. You can be bad at sales through lack of communication, lack of confidence and lack of empathy for the other party. You can also be a bad salesperson by being an outright liar, but that relates back partially to not having empathy. Take note: the three keys to being a successful salesperson are 1. Having incredible confidence in yourself and your product. 2. The ability to communicate value so that others are persuaded into agreeing with you. 3. Having empathy for the other party so that you can properly meet their needs. The last key is the most important because it ensures that you are meeting the customers needs in a way that benefits both parties. This will lead to many more sales and clients coming your way. Having all three is what leads to becoming a great salesperson. The best part is that all of these skills can be learned. No one is born a salesperson. They must develop the skills to persuade.

As the marketplace changes and more jobs and workplaces are becoming automated, sales will be the one skill set that will continue to be needed by all companies. As I mentioned earlier, nothing sells itself. So the people that are able to meet client needs by communicating the value of a product or service will always be in demand. I’m always looking for incredible sales people. I love people who have so much confidence in themselves and the product that they believe not selling someone on the product is actually a disservice to that person because nothing else will meet their needs as well! I hope that this cleared up the air on sales. You are in sales. I am in sales. The kid who convinces his parents to let him eat candy is in sales. Everyone is in sales! Now go out and show others how you can meet their needs the best.

In health,

Sean

The Problem With Passion

We are often told to find something we are passionate about to do for our work because it will make us happy. I think this is terrible advice. How many people tried out their passion in the marketplace and ended up on unemployment and food stamps? Where do you think the term “starving artist” comes from? Don’t get me wrong, if you can find something you’re passionate about and also make a good living doing, that’s fantastic! But first and foremost, making money is about providing value to others in the marketplace. Finding an occupation that others value and are willing to pay for is the fastest way for most people to produce income. You may not be passionate about what you are doing, but at least you can fulfill financial needs. After you accumulate some savings, you may be able to start a side business based around something you are really passionate about and make it flourish. However, there are a couple of warnings that I would offer regarding mixing passion and work…

1. What you are passionate about today may change in the future. I can tell you from personal experience that what I was really passionate about in the past, I no longer have any interest in. Some things I believe I will always be passionate about–fitness, business, and writing. But some things, like Magic the Gathering and wrestling, which I used to be very passionate about, no longer do it for me. If I had decided out of high school to start a business selling comics and playing cards, or becoming a wrestler, I imagine that I’d be wildly unhappy today. I’d probably also be struggling to make ends meat.

2. Work and business have a tendency to make you question whether you are really passionate about something. In other words, it can lead some people to actually hate what they used to be passionate about. For example, I learned very quickly after I opened a health club, that my passion for bodybuilding and fitness had nothing to do whatsoever with actually owning and running a health club. My skills as a bodybuilder did not translate into increased revenues, decreased business expenses, higher employee morale, or anything necessary to make my businesses a success. Also, as some members of my clubs will tell you, I have a problem with buying too much new equipment because I personally want it, rather than examining whether it truly adds value to the customer experience or the value of the business as a whole. If I’m being totally honest, my passion for fitness has faded at times because now I associate many new problems and stresses with something that is my passion. That is a very difficult thing for most people to handle emotionally. It has taken me many years to figure out how to separate training with the realities of owning a training facility.

3. Being passionate about something does not necessarily mean that you will be good at doing it for a living, nor does it mean that you were meant to do it. What I’m trying to hint at here is that your purpose in this life may not be what you believe you are passionate about. If you are very lucky, you will find passion in your purpose. If this is the case, you will be one of the few who can produce income, by doing what you like and also by helping others (purpose). I suggest that you look for purpose first, and then try to find what it is about fulfilling your purpose that you can be passionate about. For instance, as a bodybuilder and health club owner with autoimmune disease, I can build businesses for others to become healthy and transform themselves, and also serve as an example for overcoming certain disabilities. I can’t do that only by lifting weights though. No one is going to pay me for lifting weights and doing cardio. (I wish they would!) I can, however use my passion for lifting and mix it with my purpose (helping others overcome obstacles). This is why I continue to own health clubs as opposed to doing all passive investing in things like real estate.

4. Passion often does not mix with logic. The Stoics advised us to always use reason instead of emotion, because they understood that our emotions could deceive us. Have you ever been in an argument and said some atrocious things? Looking back you may realize that saying those things were not useful in the least and you regret not thinking before speaking. This is an example of letting passion overcome reason. Eleanor Roosevelt was once complimented on her “passion” for getting social legislation passed. She responded, “I hardly think the word passion applies to me.” The First Lady understood that she was driven by something more important than passion. She was driven by purpose. If she let herself become too passionate about anything, she may have forgotten reason to ensure that her purpose was realized. Eleanor Roosevelt understood that purpose is more useful and longer lasting than passion.

So beware of any advice suggesting that if you always follow your passion, you’ll be happy. You may not. Passions fade. Passions confuse our ability to reason. What we are passionate about today may change. Perhaps no one will pay us to engage in our passion. Instead, focus on mixing purpose with passion. Finding your purpose and then finding areas where you can be passionate about that purpose will lead to far more fulfillment and likely far more income than choosing to follow a career based on passion alone.

In health,
Sean

Secrets…

Why Secrets Matter

“The best entrepreneurs know this; every great business is built around a secret that’s hidden from the outside. A great company is a conspiracy to change the world; when you share your secret, the recipient becomes a fellow conspirator.” – Peter Thiel (Co-Founder of PayPal)

The best business are based on secrets. In other words, they start out to work on problems that no one else is working on or talking about. Think about Google; they saw there was a lack of efficiency in searching the internet. Their “secret” was that internet searches could be extremely relevant, even to the point Google could predict what you were searching for. Google is now essentially a monopoly for internet search. With electricity it was Benjamin Franklin and then Edison and Tesla who sought to uncover the secret force of electricity. Ford’s secret was to make automobiles available and affordable for every family. Alexander Fleming’s secret was to uncover and defeat deadly bacteria that claimed so many lives. His discovery was Penicillin and many millions of lives have been saved through this and similar drugs.

The uncovering of these secrets led to giant industries that have transformed life as we know it today. The people behind these giant companies would not have succeeded if they had simply tried to do what others were already doing. Most people and companies set out to do something slightly better than those around them. This is essentially copying what others are doing with the intention of doing it just a little bit better or faster, or less expensive. The problem with competing like this is that it’s very hard to build a truly great and lasting business if so many others are able to do what you are doing. The opposite of this would be to set out building a monopoly company- one that is working on solving the problems that no one else is. The uncovering of secrets will lead to incredible value for mankind. Focussing on secrets will also lead to a lasting company because no one else is really working to uncover what you are.

Two Types of Secrets
In his book Zero to One, Peter Thiel suggests there are two types of secrets to uncover: those about people and those about nature. Many believe that most secrets in nature have been discovered, but that’s not true at all. For instance, why does all matter vibrate? Why do people develop auto-immune disease? Why do we our cells have to age and deteriorate? There are many secrets in nature that need to be uncovered. There are perhaps even more secrets about people that need to be examined. For example, why are some people prone to violence? Why do a majority of marriages end in divorce? Why do people get married in the first place? Why do we find it necessary to lie in order to avoid discomfort? Why do some people succeed in their goals while others give up and quit? I’m sure that you can come up with come secrets as well. The main takeaway here is that secrets matter a great deal because working on them will lead to new technologies and innovations that will improve life for all mankind.

A secret by definition is keeping something hidden or unexplained. We can find secrets by asking, “what is nature not telling us?” Or, “what are people not telling us?” So what secrets are you working to uncover? You may just change the world for the better by solving a major problem for humanity. There are secrets all around us and they are possible to solve, we just have to know where to look for them and truly believe they are possible to solve. Sometimes we assume that others must be working on a problem because it seems so obvious or important. To that I would say that if you don’t believe you will discover the answer to a secret in nature or in people, you won’t! You will fulfill your own prophecy that you can’t solve it, or you shouldn’t bother because someone else “must” be working on it already. Maybe someone else is working on the problem, but it could be that you have the very insight needed to solve the problem. Do you want to change the world? Look for secrets. They are everywhere.  If you are working on secrets you might just create something new for mankind to use.  If you are working on what everyone else is, you will end up competing for the same slice of the pie…
In health,
Sean

33 Lessons I’ve Learned

33 Lessons:

Tomorrow I turn 33 years old. So, here is a lesson for every year that I have learned and find valuable enough to share with all of you.

-Think about business from a customer centric angle to find insight.
-Save money. At least 20%. if you don’t, you’ll be at the mercy of those that did save.
-When you first date someone, you’d do anything for them including rubbing their feet and taking out the trash. Don’t lose that if you want a lasting relationship.
-Don’t always react immediately. Acting without thinking is usually worse than not acting.
– Don’t let fear drive you. Life is scary. If you want security, go to a mental ward. They’ll take care of you.
– All government is force. It is a monopoly on violence. Nothing more, nothing less.
– You and I owe to each other to look out for our common good. But I have no right to rob another because I believe I can use their property better than they can. (That’s called taxation)
– Read to your children and spend most of your days with them.
– Only you can teach yourself. Others can provide information, but you must do the learning.
-Read at least a book a month to ensure a better future.
– Work harder on yourself than you do on your job and you’ll get better at both.
– You are not poor because someone else is rich.
– Don’t wait to be wealthy;start helping others today.
– You don’t know everything. But God(the Universe if you prefer) does, so it might be wise to ask for guidance.
– Treat everything as if it was the last time you will see it. You quality of life will improve dramatically.
-Whoever has will be given more; whoever does not have, even what they have will be taken from them. Mark 4:25. ( This is talking about gratitude)
– Crap attracts flies. Don’t have crappy thoughts.
-Music makes life fulfilled in every way. It makes your mind vibrate at higher frequencies and attracts love to you.
– Your success will always reflect the standards of your peer group.
– Start everyday by writing down ten things you’re grateful for.
– The quality of your life will be determined by how comfortable you are with uncertainty (risk).
– You are not a goose. You don’t have to fly south during winter. Choose your own direction.
-Carbohydrates make you fat because of insulin. Earn your carbs. Don’t just eat them without training to use them.
– You can change your attitude by changing your state. Do some push-ups or train to operate at a higher level.
-Most people believe they desire Liberty, but sell themselves into a slave- like existence for false security or because of a lack of creativity.
– Skip a meal once in a while, it can help you feel better and get in touch with yourself.
– Any disease can be defeated if the reasons behind beating it are strong enough and the mind believes it can be done.
– If you want a great life focus on appreciation instead of expectation.
– Use your money to buy assets that produce income and not liabilities.
– Energy is something you produce, not something you have.
– The quality of your life is determined by your philosophy towards life.
– Disciplines are the keys to success in any area. The first discipline to learn is controlling your thoughts.

-You become the story you tell yourself. To change your life, start telling yourself a different story that serves you.

In Health,

Sean

What Really Matters

What Matters Most

What really matters in building a great life? Your individual answer will differ from others, but I believe it’s very useful to reflect on what really matters versus what does not. Not enough thought is given for reflection and meditation about the important matters of life. Moreover, so many of the negative experiences we have in life stem from focusing too much on things that do not truly matter the most. I can tell you from personal experience that when I have the most stress, I tend to be focusing on things that don’t truly matter, like what others think of me and so on. What follows is a list that I’ve compiled of things I believe are truly important versus things than are not important, but receive too much attention. This list is not complete and will likely never be, but my goal here is to provoke some thought about what really makes a good life, compared to what we think makes a good life.

Here’s What Matters:

 

What you can control

Meaningful relationships

Doing the best you can

Being resourceful

Being a good person

Reflecting on your life

Having a philosophy that serves you

Helping others where possible

Growing as a person

Contributing to something greater than yourself

Having thoughts and emotions that serve you

Fulfilling goals

Having a team of people you can rely on

Living according to your values

Finding internal strength

Taking care of your family

Finding purpose for your existence

Experiencing joy

Learning

Reading

Knowing what makes you feel good

Surrounding yourself with good people (the right people)

Having adequate financial resources

Adding value to others

 

What Doesn’t Matter:

 

Controlling others

Being powerful

Being rich

Being famous

Being liked by others

Adopting the values of others

Doing what others want of you (you’ll violate your own values)

Making others upset (it will happen because you have different values)

Being happy all the time (not possible)

Feeling upset once in a while (it’s normal)

Letting others down (you cannot control how others feel)

External events outside your control

Entertainment

Paying too much attention to emotions (They can deceive you)

Buying a House (it’s not a great investment)

Criticism from others

Staying in relationships that don’t serve you

By focusing on what really matters in life, we can avoid unnecessary stress and negative emotions. Staying focused on what matters will also steer our thinking and actions towards living a great life. How many of the things on the unimportant list are you guilty of thinking about too much? How has it impacted your life? Let me know what you think is important versus what is not by commenting below!

In health,

Sean

The Right Things

One of the Harder Things in Life

Sometimes it’s really hard to know if you are doing the “right” thing. It’s often hard to even know what the right thing is. No matter what my age is or how much experience I’ve gained, I continue to wonder if what I’m doing is really the right thing to do. I don’t think anyone can know for sure until time passes and they can see the look at the result of their actions. Therein lies the hardest part- you have to wait to find out whether the actions you have taken were actually the right ones in getting you towards your goal. The waiting part is what drives me nuts. I’m the type of person that likes to see results as quickly as possible and I despise waiting long periods. I know that this is the source of most of my anxiety. I’m constantly questioning, which can be good to a point, but will quickly lead to either analysis paralysis or can lead to me second-guessing myself.

I don’t think I’m alone here. If you are a parent, a business person, an athlete, or a partner in a relationship, I think it’s very common to second guess whether your are doing things the best way possible. I’m all of these things, so some of the questions that run through my head are the following; “Should I have gotten angry with my kid?” “How do I communicate well enough to make an impact?” “What is the best way to teach this person?” “How do I know what the best way to invest is?” “Are they acting this way because of something I’ve done?” “Am I doing things the best way possible?” “Is there a better path that I’ve ignored?” “Am I a good father?” “How can I be a better athlete, husband and business person.” “Am I spending money on the wrong things?” “Why do I always second guess myself?” I’m curious, do any of these questions sound familiar?

Of course, all of these questions stem from the possibility that I could in fact be wrong. And being wrong about anything could have some consequences. We are fearful of the consequences of being wrong because our most basic fears are that we are not enough, and that we won’t be loved. Being wrong can lead to both of these fears. For instance, if I spend money in the wrong areas of my business, I could go out of business, significantly affecting the lives of my family and employees as well as my customers. If I yell at my wife or kids, they could grow to resent me and I won’t be loved. If I train a certain way because I think it’s the best way for me to train, I could be hampering my ability to reach my full potential as an athlete. These are all things that I fear. Although I realize the harm and futility in allowing this fear into my thinking, I also realize the dangers of being too naive about the consequences of all my actions.

I bring all this up, not to complain or admit that I have weaknesses, rather I’m writing this to remind us all that doubt and fear is normal. It’s truly very difficult to know if you are doing the right things in every area of your life. There are some things that I’ve recently been doing that I believe have eased my anxiety in this area. The first is meditation. I can’t honestly say that I’m great at clearing my head of all thoughts, but meditation has helped me distance myself from my thoughts and take a more rational approach to analyzing whether these thoughts are helping me or hindering me from my desired outcome. The second thing that has helped me is to remember the times when I did something extremely well and how I felt before, during and after. This exercise helps me gain perspective on how I was able to deal with other obstacles and events in my life and how I felt during those times. If I remember that I was nervous and stressed out during a past event, but I still achieve the desired outcome, I can ease my mind about the stresses I currently have by reminding myself that it will work out. If I was absolutely confident, that will help me to realize I need to replace my current thoughts or doubt with those of strength and confidence.

The last exercise that has helped me is to visualize who I have to become to attract the things and feelings I truly want in my life. For example, the current version of me is only capable of achieving a certain level. But, how would the best version of myself act right now? What could he accomplish? I like this exercise because it reminds me that to “get more than I have, I have to become more than I am”. By focussing on how the best version of myself would act, I find that negative thoughts fall away quickly, because my highest self understands the futility of constantly criticizing and second guessing myself. “How would my highest self act right now?” I think that’s a great question we should all ask more.

Remember, doubt and fear is a normal part of life. It’s not shameful to admit that you have both fears and doubts. But, remember also that there is something you can do to overcome the fears and doubts that creep in. By distancing yourself from your thoughts, changing your state and focussing on times that you did extremely well, you can change the biochemistry of your brain and switch the focus from fear to confidence and tranquility. After all, I think one of the most truly helpful beliefs is that you should remain calm that it will all work out! If we believe it will work out, many new possibilities will open up to us. We must have faith in ourselves that we can figure it out and live an incredible life.

In health

Sean

Business and Finance 101

Get Your Money Right!

I’ve had a large number of requests to write about business and personal finance. So many thousands of books and essays have been written on these subjects that I feel it will be difficult for me to add much more. However, I will cover a few crucial areas that I believe most businesses and households neglect when it comes to managing finances. The subject of money is often stressful, so I understand the temptation to avoid looking at your bank account and just praying that it will all be ok. Every time I get hit with a huge tax, fee, rent increase or my businesses have a lousy month for revenues I feel the stress as well. However, if it’s one thing I’ve learned, pretending it will all be okay without any strategy or action to back it up is useless. As Jim Rohn liked to say, “You can’t go in your garden and chant ‘there’s no weeds’!” The weeds will grow right up over your toes if you don’t recognize them and pull them out. So, here are the areas I think most households and businesses should pay attention to on a weekly basis:

1. Cashflows and income. It’s absolutely imperative that you track your income regularly. If you are in business, this will help you identify trends throughout the year and allow you to plan accordingly. If you get paid a paycheck once or twice a month, count that too. Make sure that you’re netting the correct amount. I can’t even tell you how many people I come across that don’t know how much was in their last paycheck. The same goes for business. Most small business people I know don’t know how much they made last month! They just keep grinding, spinning their wheels and getting nowhere! I’m asking you to keep track of the amount of money coming in on at least a weekly basis. If you only get one paycheck monthly, try to increase your streams of income so that you are getting paid multiple times a month from different sources.

2. Expenses. How much does it cost to run your business every month? How much does your family spend monthly? From my experience, the majority of people sorely underestimate their monthly expenses. Every business and individual should have a very detailed breakdown of every single category in which money was spent. Once you see how much you are actually spending, I guarantee it will be eye opening. When it’s all said and done, how much money did you have left over at the end of the month? Everything else was an expense that needs to be accounted for. If you had a little too much “month left at the end of the money” so to speak, it’s time to cut back your expenses and try to simultaneously to increase your income. If you can do both, you have discovered the fastest way to becoming financially free.

3. Know your numbers and what they mean. TRACK EVERYTHING!!!! This is the area that most businesses are neglecting. For example: what are your payroll hours as a percentage of revenues? What about rents as a percentage of revenues? What is the lifetime value of a new customer? How much new revenue does a new client produce in their first transaction? How much revenue does each billable payroll hour produce? What are the total costs per operating hour in your business? How much net revenues or expendable income are you left with at the end of the month? What is your best quarter for growth historically? How much are your COGS, or Costs of Goods Sold? You must know the answers to these questions and more if you want your business to succeed for longer than just a few years.

4. Work on your business and not in your business. If your business depends on your daily efforts to succeed, you are self-employed. You do not actually own a business. There’s nothing wrong with that either, just don’t be fooled into believing that you are an entrepreneur when you’re really working 80 hours a week and only making a few thousand a month. You may just be the lowest paid employee in your business. A true business owner spends most of his or her time reading market trends, strategizing, optimizing systems and making sure the business follows the regulatory and tax requirements. If the owner is not present, the business should still function well. The owner simply works to optimize the profits and expansion of the company and then decides how best to spend or reinvest the profits.

5. For households, follow the 70-10-10-10 RULE. When you determine your monthly profits or wages, never spend more than 70% of the money you earn. This includes all expenses like housing, cars, insurance, food and entertainment. 10% of your left over money should go to active capital, or starting your own business, which will produce additional monthly income. 10% of your income should go passive capital, or an investment run by others that will produce monthly passive income. The last 10% should go to charity or helping others that you care about. I strongly believe in this last one because the secret to living is truly giving. Helping others succeed will result in you doing even better. What goes around comes around and when you help others, you will reap the benefits. (If your monthly expenses are taking up more than 70% of your income currently, work immediately to reduce your expenses and increase your income. Eventually, as your income increases greatly, your expenses may only by 50%, leaving you with more to invest in businesses and spend more on helping others.

6. Know how much it costs to acquire a new customer. Track your marketing ROI, or Return on Investment. Many companies with advertising budgets are not properly tracking the lifetime value of a client, the efficacy of their marketing, or the total cost that goes into acquiring a new customer. I have made this mistake many times. I’ve spent hundreds of thousand on marketing without calculating my exact return from the ads. My new rule is that if I spend one dollar in advertising, it must produce more than a dollar in revenue in the first month. Other companies use a longer time frame as their metric depending on what they sell, but this rule has helping me control my marketing costs significantly. I also focus as much as possible on direct marketing so I can track who is engaging with an advertisement and then I can subsequently track what marketing pieces led to new clients. Another cost associated with new customer acquisition is the payroll hours it takes to call prospects and past clients, and the creation of media (such as signage inside and outside the business), etc. Just be sure to track all costs associated with new customer acquisition. As a general rule, the companies that can afford to spend the most to acquire a new customer and then have that customer produce higher than market average revenues for the business will win!

7. Love the business you are in, but fall in love with the customers more. Business is hard, so it helps greatly if you are passionate about the business you are in. I love health and fitness and bodybuilding, so this is easy for me. But I’ve learned that companies do best obsess over their customers, rather than the products or services they produce. Customers are the ones who pay all the bills at the end of the day. They are the real bosses. Every one needs to feel special or significant, so if a company can solve a problem with their products while making the customer feel special, they will do better than companies who do not.

8. Know the difference between good and bad debt. We live in a debtor nation. The country itself has a 20 trillion dollar federal debt and household debt is at record levels. Debt cycles are the reason for booms and busts in economies and a business or family that takes on too much debt will face significant financial hardships. However, there is a difference between consumer debt and business debt. The latter is a type of debt that produces income and is paid for by others. For instance, if I take out a mortgage to buy and apartment complex that produces cashflow, the tenants are paying for that debt. I am using the debt to create profit. This is called leverage and can be a good thing if used wisely. Consumer debt on the other hand is debt that is paid by the debtor. This includes home mortgages, student loans and auto loans as well as most credit card debt that we are familiar with. Do not let debt sink you or your business!!!! Go back to the 70-10-10-10 rule and see how much of your monthly expenses are debt service, or paying back money you’ve already spent.

There are so many more business lessons, but I think these eight rules are a great start for any business owner or head of the household. I’m hoping any of these tips will lead to financial abundance for you and your family for many years to come.

In health and riches,

Sean

Living With Disabilities

I asked the question on social media, “What topic would you like to read about most?” The majority of people asked me to write about business, but there were a good number of respondents who requested I write about living with disabilities. I should note, I’m hesitant to state that I have a disability. There are so many millions around the world who have much more restrictive afflictions than me. I don’t consider my life to be restricted by my disability, however, that does not mean I do not have to cope with incredible discomfort, pain and mobility issues all the time because of autoimmune disease. Autoimmune diseases are very prevalent today. Over 24 million (or 7% of) Americans suffer from an immune system disorder and there are over 80 autoimmune diseases that have been identified, including Lupus, Type 1 Diabetes, and Rheumatoid Arthritis. I live with a form of reactive arthritis called ankylosing spondylitis in which my joints, my spine and hips in particular, are plagued with long-term inflammation and pain. This disease can lead to fusion of the vertebrae as well as damage to the eyes, bowels and heart in some cases. Most people that live with this condition have terrible back pain, stiffness and fatigue almost every day. The limited mobility of many sufferers of this disease can lead to vascular disease and reduced life expectancy is severe cases.

This disease, which I think is fair to call a disability, used to control my life. After my diagnosis, I used to take anti-inflammatories daily in addition to other painkillers. (An interesting side note, I did not do this before I was properly diagnosed. I used to just deal with the pain.) The quality of my life from medication had decreased significantly. I was depressed, I was angry and I felt like a zombie. Moreover, my pain did not lessen. My rheumatologist recommended I take immunosuppressant and chemotherapy drugs, and to never lift weights or work out with any sort of intensity. Based on how I was feeling just from painkillers and over the counter medications, I decided against taking these to further to modulate my immune system. To be frank, part of this decision was based on sitting in a waiting room full of people on these drugs who looked tired and miserable. I decided I did not want to further alter my immune system and instead I turned my life’s work to exploring how to ease my pain with diet and exercise. Funny story, after the doctor suggested that I not engage in sports or lifting weights I told him that if I was going to be disabled, I at least wanted big muscles so I could push myself around or pull myself up if need be. Fast forward 14 years and I’m now a professional bodybuilder who still plays sports, plays with my kids, and obviously lifts weights. I still have pain and stiffness, but it is nowhere near what it used to be. My mobility is decent (could be better) and I have more than enough energy to get through the daily activities of life and the demands of physical training. I get questions on how I have been able to carry on a normal life without the aid of prescription drugs. I believe there are a few decisions I made that have allowed me to persist which I will share here.

I made the decision to not let my disease or disability define me as a person. In fact, I rarely even think about my condition. Even when I’m feeling pain or stiffness, I focus on how to get myself into the physical state needed to accomplish what I need to get done. When I think about myself, I don’t think about a man with a disease. I refuse to give anything that much power over me.

I made the decision that I would exercise all the options within my control to ease my symptoms. I believe that we always have choices available to us. In fact, I believe that it’s not what happens to us in life that defines us. Rather, it is how we choose what to do about what happens that defines us. For me, I knew there were a number of choices available to me that I could control including diet, physical therapy, supplementation and physical exercise.

I made the decision that I would always try to feel my best rather than focus on how bad I am feeling. I knew this meant that I had to go full tilt with my physical training because I always feel great when I am lifting weights and my muscles are pumped up. Lifting weights makes my body feel powerful and that gives me an emotional high. Motion is the root word of emotion. When I’m in motion, my emotions are positive and this allows me to think clearly. Even when I’m in pain, I make the decision to move something. I have found there is always something I can do to feel better.

I became obsessed with researching ways to alleviate my symptoms. It’s the body that is responsible for all the healing that takes place. I knew that whatever was wrong with my immune system, at the end of the day I had to give the body what it needed to facilitate healing. This is why I consider myself fortunate. Despite my affliction, I still have the ability to aid my body in healing itself through movement, diet and supplementation. Others with disabilities do not have this option. By remembering this, I remain grateful. By the way, what has worked for me may not work for you, but I suggest you research all options available to you. There are often more options than we can initially conceive.

I decided to never, ever, ever give up. Living with a disability or battling a disease is a scary proposition. When I was diagnosed I decided that my best option was to take action and try to heal myself to the best of my ability. I knew that I was going to deal with this disease for the rest of my life in one way or another. Given that prognosis, I believed this meant I had to fight daily to live the life I wanted, rather than become comfortable in a life I didn’t want. Some days this battle is harder than others. I still deal with pain, stiffness, fatigue to a certain degree, but this simply means I have to take more action to achieve what I desire.

I decided that I could become a better person because of this disease. Having spondylitis has allowed me to learn a great deal about what I am capable of and what type of person I am. Sometimes we don’t really know who we are and what we are capable of until we are faced with incredible adversity. All growth comes from discomfort and perhaps the greatest discomfort in life is being afflicted with a disability. As strange as this sounds, I believe my disease has become an asset for me. It has forced me to examine my life in new ways. It has reminded me daily that I am mortal and I can be hurt. This alone has put much in perspective and inspired me to live better. Spondylitis has helped me to empathize with others in pain. It has also allowed me to meet and even help others that live with similar diseases. Lastly, I changed the direction of my life from entertainment and communication to health and fitness. This led me to become a personal trainer, bodybuilder and eventually open a successful health club chain that helps thousands get stronger daily.

This disability is something that I will live with forever, but it does not define who I am. Again, I am usually hesitant to even acknowledge that I have this affliction. Not that I want to live in denial, but I find it a waste of mental energy to even think about it. I have it. I can’t magically make it disappear. All I can do is what is in my control to design my life the way I want. So I focus on what I can control and try to keep my mind off of what I cannot. I think it is worth repeating what has worked for me may not work for you. There is no guarantee my current actions will even work for me in the future. Things change over time and I may have to adapt and evolve my methods for living. I suggest you research and find what works for you and decide to keep on taking action daily to design the life you like. That’s all we can really do! Life is a battle for us all, especially those living with disabilities. Keep on fighting and live an incredible life.

In Heath,

Sean

Winning Matters

In our culture, there is far too much emphasis placed on the virtue of failure. Sure, failure can be valuable if you can ascertain the exact reason for failure and learn from it, but the truth is that we don’t always know why we fail and there are often many causes for failure. Sometimes it is impossible to determine exactly all the reasons why we failed. If you believe you failed because of X, but in reality, you have failed because of X, Y and Z, you will not have truly learned anything and the failure will be a tragedy. That’s what I believe every failure really is–a minor tragedy that should be avoided if possible. Furthermore, I think the biggest cause of failure is not doing the very best we can at the tasks we are charged with. In other words, not performing your very best at whatever job you have is the biggest cause of failure, disappointment and unhappiness.

Many claim they have lousy jobs that don’t deserve their highest level of effort. So what? If you have a lousy job, do the very best you can at it. That is your fastest way to get out of the job and into a better position. The disease that pervades every single business is the mindset that “What I do doesn’t really matter, so I’m not going to try.” This type of thinking leads to an unhappy workplace because it is so contagious. I have been guilty of it myself. It leads to a destruction of the culture and a slowdown of progress in the business as well as a slowdown in personal growth of the employees of the business. Of course what you do matters! Otherwise, there would be no reason for your job to exist. If you are unhappy with what the job has become, try doing even better at it and see what happens to your level of happiness. I strongly believe that mastery leads to happiness. If you do something well, anything at all, your level of pride and confidence will increase and will result in being happier than if you were to do poorly or not try at all. We all have an innate desire to do well at something in life.

Of course this all seems basic, but the basics are worth repeating. The number one reason to do well is because it leads to happiness. If you do well in a sport, on a test or at work, you’ll likely be much happier than if you do poorly. This happiness, just like sadness or negativity, is also contagious. Energy flows to whatever you focus on, and those around you will emulate your mental attitude and how you carry yourself. This is another, and perhaps the most important, reason to do well–it will lead to a happier workplace. Winning (doing well) is important. People want to be a part of a winning team. The best players in the world want to be around other great players. Winners are attracted to success. Failures are attracted to more failure, because they don’t have to try as hard. They are off the hook from responsibility. Failure is the easy road and it becomes addictive. In fact, both success and failure is addictive, but it’s better to be addicted to success so that you are trying constantly to do well and grow.

There is a term, “feed the beast.” It means, essentially, that you should focus on what you are exceptional at doing so your level of happiness and confidence is high, while you work on correcting areas where you are lacking. Whenever you are feeling down, “feed the beast.” Remember what you’re good at to get the confidence and vitality you need to succeed back into your life. A simple shift of focus–to working hard instead of taking it easy, to things that you are great at instead of what you are lousy at, to what makes you feel incredible instead of what makes you sad–will lead to incredible results. Winning (which is doing the very best you can) is important. The first step to winning is action. Taking action by doing the very best you can will not only lead to eventual success, it will create happiness in yourself and the workplace. Do well, and those around you will also start to do well. Hard work is infectious, as long as it is part of the expectation and the culture of the workplace. So, find a place where people like to work hard and then begin to do the very best to master the job. Mastery leads to happiness and fulfillment.

In health,

Sean

A Warning

How the Economy Works

Americans are not taught enough at young age about how money and the economy works. It’s an uncomfortable subject and most believe it’s impolite to talk about money. So, we go on through life not fully understanding the subject of finance or how succeed in accumulating wealth. Most of what I know, I had to learn through trial and error as well as reading about how ultra wealthy people think and act. Unfortunately, despite volumes of literature having been written about the subject, most people consider economics a boring and complicated issue that should be left to the experts. I feel the need to dispel some myths about economics so a better understanding can be reached about where we stand economically today.

Myth 1. The economy is complicated. This is false. An economy is simply the sum total of all the transactions that take place in a given market. Everything can be boiled down the basics, the broad economy is nothing more than individuals trading goods and services for something they deem more valuable than what they are trading. If people are spending less, the economy slows. If people spend more, it expands.

Myth 2. Savings doesn’t matter. We are told to save money at a young age, but if you look at the pundits on television talk about the health of the economy, rarely do they refer to how much a family has stashed away for savings. Instead, they talk about consumer spending. Now, spending is an important indicator of economic health, but so is savings because savings is a measure or future investment and spending. If you are saving your money, it’s because you intend to spend it at a future date for something you need at that time. If you are not saving, you are limiting your ability to spend money in the future, instead opting to spend it now. Savings is one factor that leads to the creation of new capital investments and businesses. If the savings rate is low, this is an indicator the future business creation may slow.

Myth 3. All debt is bad. This is wrong and it keeps people from thinking and expanding in a big way. Most big companies use leverage, (debt) as a way to expand business and income. There are two types of debt, consumer and business. Consumer debt can be bad because generally we are using it to buy goods and services that do not produce future income. Business debt can be good if it is used to produce future income.

Myth 4. People spend based on how much money they have. This is wrong. The ability to spend and the total economy is based on two things; income and the credit (debt). You can buy things with cash, or with credit, which is a future promise that you will pay. The biggest indicator is how people will spend is based on their available credit. Unfortunately, people buy things based on what they believe their future income will be, not what they make now. So, they use credit to buy things that don’t produce income. Eventually when the bills come due, if their income has not gone up enough to cover the new debt plus interest, the person has to default on their credit payments. The company that holds the debt must now take a loss of income and subsequently reduce the amount of credit to consumers. If this happens on a large scale with many people, the reduction of credit will lead to less available purchasing power and less transactions in the economy. Less transactions leads to a slow down in the economy, job losses because companies are selling less and often a reduction in pricing of products.

Myth 5. Wealth is money. False. Wealth is an increase in production and output. If you have a farm and are able to collect twice as much crop as the year prior, you have increased your wealth. People think that the government can just print money to take care of all debt and economic problems. If this were true, we could just all quit our jobs and have the government give us money. Obviously, this cannot happen or basic services necessary to living would never get accomplished. Moreover, an increase in the money supply, if credit levels are still high, without a corresponding increase in the production of goods can lead to an inflation in pricing. In other words, the ability of your money to buy products and services is reduced as more money enters the economy.

Where We Stand Today

At the time of this writing, household debt and government debt has reached record levels. (1.06 trillion for consumer credit card debt, 1.5 trillion in student loans and a total of 18 trillion if we include personal mortgage debt). Government debt has also reached a record 20.6 trillion largely due to unfunded liabilities such as pensions, MediCare and Social Security. The average cash savings of the typical American family is less than $1000 dollar. Nearly 40 percent of families have no cash savings at all, meaning the ability for these families to make future purchases is significantly reduced unless their income expands greatly. Already, auto loan defaults, student loan defaults and credit card defaults are on the high and expected to reach higher levels. In my own businesses, I have seen more credit card declines every month. We have a serious debt problem happening right at the same time the stock market is at an all time high.

What It Means

The American consumer is tapped out as far as their available credit. This likely means that despite all time record level stock prices (which have very little to do with the real economy for most people) their ability to make future purchases will decline, leading to a slowing economy. Of course, no one can predict the future, but if the numbers are any indication, we are at the peak of the debt cycle and what follows will likely be more defaulting on debts and subsequently job loss and a retraction for many businesses. Be warned. Invest in yourself, your skills, your health and save the rest of your money so you can capitalize on lower prices during a downturn. Remember, people always sell things for less when they believe times are bad.

Sorry for the negative note. I’m just trying to be clear on what I see happening so I can help you and your family thrive! If you want a great YouTube video on some of these concepts, look up Ray Dalio’s video on “How The Economic Machine Works.” I promise you’ll learn something.