Communication 101

There’s a popular book by John C Maxwell named Everyone Communicates, Few Connect. After reading it, and from my experience in the marketplace, nearly 15 years, I’m convinced that most people are not communicating well, although they think they are. In fact, I would break down all communication into three categories, which I will explain below. I believe that most people never truly make it beyond the first category. My belief is easily supported by the lack of harmony in the workplace, governments, and even in partnerships and marriages. Perhaps the hardest thing in life is to effectively communicate so that others not only understand what you are saying, but can logically and maybe even emotionally connect with what is said and take action. Let’s explore what I believe are the three levels of communication:

SAYING SOMETHING. This is the most basic level of communication. We all say things through speaking, writing, signing or some other form of communication. Unfortunately, much of what we say is not necessarily heard, read, or seen, and much less is fully understood by our intended recipients. I cannot tell you how many times I’ve asked a manager about some unfinished task or some other issue and was met with the reply, “I told him or her to do it…”. Therein lies the problem—just because something was said, does not mean that the message was understood well and acted upon. I believe most communication falls within this first category—things are said, memos are written, laws are signed, but they are not effectively communicated so that the recipient truly understands the message.

EFFECTIVE COMMUNICATION. This level of communication occurs when a message is properly understood by the intended recipients and can be repeated back essentially verbatim to the person who originated the message. I rarely see this in relationships or companies anymore. We are so distracted by smart devices and screens in our cars, kitchens and even bathrooms that it is difficult to understand what is being communicated to us and even more difficult to understand the messages being conveyed. Moreover, often the message being communicated doesn’t effectively state why the intended recipient should pay attention to the message. Too often we ask people to do things without explaining exactly why it is important that they do it. Without a sense of importance, no message will be effectively communicated.

CONNECTION. This is the ideal in regards to communication. Connection goes beyond just speaking and effectively communicating, it creates an emotional response in the recipient that causes him or her to reflect on what is being said and possibly take action. Martin Luther King Jr., John F. Kennedy, Socrates, Winston Churchill, Ayn Rand, Ralph W. Emerson and even Karl Marx and Hitler went beyond speaking to and communicating with people, they all connected with and influenced people on a high level. The ultimate goal of any leader is to connect with people. I believe this is the reason leadership is so difficult. It’s very difficult to actually connect with people on a high level. It’s easy to “say something” or even have your message understood. Connection is hard.

When you are speaking, writing or engaging in any form of communication, it may be useful to ask yourself, “What level of communication am I engaging in?” It could very well be that you think you are connecting with an audience, when in reality you are merely speaking, and what is being said is just as easily being ignored. It’s difficult to connect, especially in our very distracted world but connection is the key to building real relationships and creating massive action. Connection is the ideal when communicating, although it is rarely achieved. My suggestion would be to work on effectively communicating so that your recipients actually understand what you are saying and why you are saying it. Too many words are wasted nowadays. Don’t let your words be wasted as well!

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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

What You May Be Lacking

What’s the most important thing in life? Money? Family? Love? I’ve often said in my writings that personal philosophy—a set of guiding principles—is the biggest determining factor in the quality of your life. I’ve said this for years, but it wasn’t until this year that I realized what truly underpins the development of philosophy and fulfillment. I have had more personal development this year than in the last 10 years. After really focusing on why, I’ve come to the realization that I discovered the most important thing in life, and took advantage of it. So what is it?

The most important thing in life is the relationships we develop with others. Simply put, our associations with others develops in us our philosophy, sense of fulfillment, joy, frustration, depression, ecstasy, anxiety, fear—nearly every emotion we experience as humans stems from our interactions with other people. Humans are social creatures. The reason we have survived so long as a species against larger, more powerful creatures, against the forces of nature, against disease, is because of cooperation and the development of language and communication. We tell stories and write about our experiences and discoveries so that other generations may learn. The length of human existence will depend largely on the harmonious relationships that can be sustained.

This is also the case with all our individual lives. The quality and harmony of the relationships we build will affect the quality of our lives more than any other aspect of life. This year I have been lucky enough to develop incredible strong relationships with people that have solidified my faith in others and myself. These relationships have also led to incredible experiences that have helped transform my philosophy towards life. All of this has led to an increase in fulfillment in my day-to-day experiences because I am grateful most of the time. Before I focused more on expectation. Today I focus more on appreciation. And that has made all the difference.

So, my advice would be to get out in the world and develop quality relationships that serve you and shape you into the person you’d like to be. Look for honest, gracious and humble people that you admire. Look for mentors you can learn from. Don’t just look in your local area. Relationships can by built across the world today, something not possible even just a few decades ago. Look for people you can be in harmony with, so that you may work together to build something greater than yourselves.

P.S. Don’t allow just anyone into your life. Make sure they have your best interest at heart. Even if you’ve known someone for years, make sure they fit your criteria for a harmonious relationship.

In Health,

Sean

25 Things I Wish I Knew in High School

I don’t have any regrets in life. I would not go back in time and change anything for fear that it would alter my current reality. I like to think that I drive through life looking mostly out the windshield rather than just using the rear-view mirrors. That said, there are some things I have learned in my life that I wish I had known in high school. Having known these things, I believe, would not have necessarily changed my path through life, but rather allowed me to deal with circumstances with more calm and poise than I have in the past. So here we go… 25 Things I Wish I Knew in High School.

1. You become what you think about most of the time. So monitor your thoughts.
2. The only thing you can control is yourself and your choices, not others.
3. Your friends may not necessarily share you values, so be willing to make new ones.
4. Know that you are not thinking clearly unless your thoughts will lead to a positive outcome for you and you loved ones.
5. Building disciplines now will lead to a life of freedom.
6. The pain of a breakup will not last forever, although you think it will.
7. You family wants you to do well, but may not understand what drives you. Show them by communicating clearly what you are doing and why.
8. Don’t think local. Think global.
9. Be careful whom you take advice from.
10. Seek out mentors rather than jobs.
11. Training your body now will help you for the rest of your life.
12. Alcohol, weed and cigarettes can destroy self-discipline, so be mindful of these substances.
13. Start to build multiple flows of income.
14. Do not go out and “get a job.” Instead, learn how to live and get financial independence.
15. Start developing a philosophy for how to live now! Hard times will come. You will need a philosophy of how to deal with them.
16. Everyone has value. Don’t disregard or underestimate someone. They may become your friend or you may do business with them years later.
17. The highest ideal is individual liberty. Don’t forget that, but don’t waste time lecturing others about it.
18. Never say, “I can’t afford that.” Instead, “How can I afford that?”
19. Be humble but confident. Don’t let your ego control you.
20. Believe you can do anything you set your mind to do, and never, ever let anyone tell you can’t.
21. There is nothing you can’t do if you take enough actions and educate yourself on the right strategy.
22. Don’t operate from a place of scarcity. Your biography is not your destiny.
23. If you want something, give it away first. If you want friends, be friendly. If you want love, give love. If you want recognition, give it first. If you want happiness, be grateful.
24. Sometimes the girl sitting next to you in math class will become the love of your life, your soul mate, your queen. So treat her better all the time.
25. The best revenge is massive success. The best revenge is to “not be like them.”

There you go. These are 25 things I wish I would have known in high school that I know now. Had I know these things would my life be different today? It’s impossible to tell. I will say this: while I can’t go back in time and teach my younger self these lessons, I’m eternally grateful that I have discovered them now. I guess the one thing time affects for all of us is perspective, if you allow it to. Time has given me incredible perspective and I don’t take that lightly. I’m curious, what would you teach your younger self?

Don’t Major in Minor Things

“I can’t get no satisfaction.”- The Rolling Stones

There is an area of my life where I am not satisfied. It’s true! Call me insatiable. Call me ungrateful. Call me whatever you like, just don’t call me comfortable, because I’m not. This area of my life nags at me for attention. It keeps me up at night. It forces my mind to work overtime on how to quash this unease. This dissatisfaction in my life has forced me to question why I have not paid more attention to it before. The answer I have arrived at is the purpose for this article.

The reason I believe that many experience dissatisfaction, sadness and a feeling of lack in their lives is because they focus on things that don’t matter rather than designing a life. In other words, if life was a university, they are majoring in minor things. Many are well versed in sports statistics, celebrity gossip, the new flavor of Ben and Jerry’s ice cream and so on. I’d liken this type of trivia to pouring trash into your mind. The mind’s capacity for knowledge is so great, yet we fill it with information and stories that keep us from achieving our true potential. I think we are guilty of this to a certain degree. Why? I would suggest the answer lies in our human desire to seek out pleasure and avoid pain. Trivia is fun, it’s exciting, it’s good in conversation. However, the pleasure gained from it is fleeting.

Disciplined thought and action on the other hand, will lead to long term pleasure and avoidance of many day to day pains that plague us. However, it’s not sexy. Talking about your disciplined routines and life goals at a party or family event will likely get you awkward stares, and rolling eyes. Thus, we go back to majoring in minor things–to avoid the social pain we might face. We all have the desire to be liked by others and our ability to do so determines a great deal of success. However, in our desire to be liked by others, the danger of being distracted by things that don’t matter becomes very real.

If you are not where you would like to be physically, financially, emotionally, it’s because you are not making that area of your life a priority–A MUST, if you will. You always get your MUSTS in life. You find a way to make them happen. But, if you are focusing on other areas instead, you are essentially HOPING for change without making those areas a priority above all else. So, be careful what information you pour into you mind. Choose you majors well and take massive action be sure that you are getting what you determine you MUST have. If it must happen, you will find a way. I have decided to refocus attention on those areas I believe are lacking. I hope you find the will to do the same.

In health,

Sean

7 Qualities of a Leader

Everyone wants to make more money, but few are willing to take on the responsibilities and execute the duties associated with bringing more value to the marketplace. Value is really what we are talking about when we talk about money. Now, everyone has value. As a person, a husband, a wife, you name it. But in terms of income, value to the marketplace is what determines your pay. Sure, you may be able to fool or scam some people short term and make a bunch of cash, but you can’t fool all the people all of the time as the saying goes. Eventually, the laws of compensation will catch up with everyone and everything in this universe. That said, here are the Seven Qualities that will ensure your income rises regardless of the economic climate. They just also happen to be the Seven Qualities of Leaders.

    1. VISION—To ensure more income for yourself and to be a great leader, you must have the capacity to see what is not yet there. You must have vision. You must tap into creativity—the energy source that brings life to all new things. Yes, you must see things as they are, but not worse than what they are. THEN, you must have vision for what could be better. After that, massive action is necessary to see your vision become a reality.
    2. COURAGE—This, in my opinion, is the most important trait to have. Without courage, nothing happens. Fear will always cloud your thinking and get in the way of your success. An example of courage in the marketplace is making cold calls to prospects or asking existing clients for referrals. That takes courage. Simply showing up to work and going through the motions takes no courage. In other words, to utilize courage, you must be willing to be uncomfortable—that’s the only way you can grow. All growth comes from a period of discomfort, and making more money requires doing what others are not willing to do.
    3. INTEGRITY—No one will follow a person without integrity for a sustained period of time. Being a person of ethics and values—having a code and living by it—will cause others to trust you and trust your judgment because they believe that you have their best interest at heart. This matters a great deal in every relationship, including those in the marketplace.
    4. HUMILITY—Having a modest view of your own importance as it relates to others is vital for any leader. Of course you are important, but no more important than anyone else as far as they are concerned. Understand that everyone is the star of his or her own movie! You are merely the cameo appearance. So, if you want to succeed in being a leader and making increased income, check your ego at the door. If others see you as being a person who lacks the humility to accept the importance of others, you may do well, but it will not last. People like to follow others they respect. And employers love to pay respectable people more.
    5. STRATEGIC PLANNING—This quality is so needed today, I could write hundreds of pages about the subject. The bottom line here is that the tactical work of doing the job as it is required and the strategic work of planning the future work that must be done for increased levels of success are two very, very different things. Most believe that by showing up and doing the job as required is enough to be compensated more (because there exist so many people who can’t even do that!). The truth, however, is very different. The truth is that in today’s marketplace, strategic planning is required to ensure that you become irreplaceable. Look at great leaders in history—they all had the capacity for strategic planning: Disney, Jobs, Washington, Churchill, Marshall, and Khan—all of these people were incredible planners and that’s why their names will be cemented in history.
    6. FOCUS ON STRENGTHS AND USING THEM—Great leaders focus on their own strengths as well as the strengths of others and plan a way to best employ those strengths. In other words, they don’t complain that “everyone around here is stupid” or “I’m the only one who really works hard.” Those are limiting beliefs that will ensure you never get to where you want to be. Those who focus on the tools they have and how they can possibly be used to accomplish a goal will usually figure out a way to get it done, even if they are lacking a certain tool or trait. This is due to the fact that they are more mindful than those who only see faults in others.
    7. FOCUS ON RESULTS—At the end of the day, RESULTS RULE. PERIOD. END OF STORY! If workplace morale is down, month over month or year over year revenues are down, or there exists an exponential increase in the costs associated with doing business or some other massive problem, you must figure out what is not working right. What needs to be optimized? What needs to be innovated? Who do you need around you to accomplish your goal? Who is not a right fit? What must happen to make your world incredible both at work and outside of it? Results rule. Do not keep going down the same road because you’re used to it. What if a giant tree or sinkhole was blocking the road? Would you still consider the route? Of course not. A great leader would formulate a new plan of action and then implement it to get the desired result. Change your approach until the result you want is reached.

 

There they are: seven qualities of a leader. Remember though, it’s not enough to understand something intellectually. You must embody it. You must live it and keep on living it so that others will follow you and help you achieve your desires!