You Belong Here. Act Like It.

The world isn’t doing you some kind of great favor by letting you exist.

You have as much of a right to pursue happiness as anyone else. You have as much of a right to carve out your own path as anyone else. You have as much of a right to form your own ideas as anyone else. If you don’t have a right to be here, no one else does. If everyone else has a right to be here, so do you.

Hold your space with confidence. Stand your ground with poise. When you walk, walk with dignity. You don’t need to avert your gaze when standing in the presence of others. You don’t need to bow your head and whisper softly when you ask questions or express opinions. Be who you are without apology.

No one owns the air you breathe. Inhale it freely. No one owns the thoughts you think. Dream freely.  No one owns the convictions you feel. Feel what you want to feel. No one owns your body. Stand how you wish to stand. No one owns your voice. Say what you truly want to say. No one owns your capacity to choose. Live as you believe.

Some people say you only get one life to live. Others say you’ll get an afterlife when this one is over. Then there are those who say you’ll get many lives after this one.  Here’s my question: which life do you have to be in before you give yourself permission to live with a little self-respect?

All you will ever have is the present moment. The future is an idea that you’re contemplating right now. The past is a memory that you’re contemplating right now. The notion of another life at another time is an idea that you’re contemplating in this life at this time. When the future finally gets close enough for you to actually experience it, it will become the present moment. Whether you have one life or many lives, you always have only one moment in which you can live it: now!

Always keep working to increase your future value, but don’t wait to start carrying yourself like someone who has current value.

Start respecting yourself now. Start thinking for yourself now. Stop putting other people on a pedestal now. Stop waiting for external validation now.

You belong here. Act like it.

Now.

No Time for Begging

If you have to beg someone to be in a relationship with you, you’ll have to beg them to stick around down the road.

If you have to beg someone to be your friend, you’ll have to beg them to remain loyal when times get hard.

If you have to beg someone to buy your product, you’ll have to beg them to keep liking it after they buy.

If you have to beg someone to invest in your business, you’ll have to beg them to not regret the decision when they start to question themselves.

If you have to beg someone to go to a party with you, you’ll have to beg them to have a good time once you get there.

If you have to beg someone to believe what you want them to believe, you’ll have to beg them to stop falling apart once doubts begin to creep in.

If you have to beg at the beginning, you’ll have to beg midway through.

If you have to beg midway through, you’ll have to beg at the end.

Begging always begets more begging.

When people aren’t interested in what we have to offer, we often make the mistake of twisting their arm in an effort to guilt-trip them or frighten them into changing their mind. That kind of strategy might bring short-term relief, but it’ll also guarantee long-term headaches.

Here’s why:

No matter what course of action a person decides to take, there will be inevitable challenges and inconveniences along the way. This is true of every person and every path.

Do you know what happens to people who choose their own path? They almost always own up to the obstacles they face. Even when they suffer, they almost always take responsibility for their experiences. Do you know what happens to people when they feel like they’ve been coaxed into doing something that didn’t initially feel right? They almost always react with a spirit of bitterness and blame when things go wrong.

When you use desperation tactics to get what you want, you’ll almost always get more than what you bargained for. In addition to getting what you want in the short-term, you’ll also get a babysitting job in the long-term because someone is going to expect you to comfort and console them whenever they’re inconvenienced by the situation you dragged them into.

Avoid these kinds of situations with haste. As Mike Murdock once advised, “Go where you’re celebrated, not where you’re tolerated.”

Work with people who are happy to work with you. Surround yourself with people who are happy to have you in their circle. You don’t need to require a hero’s welcome everywhere you go, but you can always do better than begging.

Speak your truth, walk with conviction, and let your life speak for itself.  If someone isn’t buying what you’re selling, run quickly in the direction of the next possibility. Sell yourself well, but don’t sell yourself short. Keep pushing yourself to be great, but don’t push anyone to acknowledge how great you are.

As Jack Canfield wrote, “Some will. Some won’t. So what. Someone’s waiting.”

Adventures with someone who cherishes you and your gifts are waiting. There’s no time for begging. Move on with your life and don’t waste any more time on those who are unmoved by your life.

Prospering as a Franchise Entrepreneur with Terri Jacques | Small Business Edge Podcast

With the rise of outsourcing jobs overseas, automating jobs, and rapid advancements in technology making certain industries obsolete, many people feel helpless in their careers.

Terri Jacques, a prolific Massage Envy franchisee, knew that her job in IT would someday be outsourced and decided to go into franchising to build her own career and her own life.

Terri went from struggling to get a small business loan to now having 100+ employees, and is going on four (extremely successful) franchise locations.

In this episode of Small Business Edge, Terri talks with me about her path to franchise entrepreneurship, the difficulties she had to overcome, and the period of her life when she worked 100-hour workweeks.

There is Only One Way to Save Our City

MORPHEUS: Commander we need a presence inside the matrix to await contact from the Oracle.

LOCK: I don’t want to hear that s***. I don’t care about Oracles or prophecies or Messiahs. I care about one thing…stopping that army from destroying this city and to do that, I need soldiers to obey my orders.

MORPHEUS: With all due respect commander, there is only one way to save our city.

LOCK: How?

MORPHEUS: Neo.

LOCK: G*dd*mmit Morpheus, not everyone believes what you believe.

MORPHEUS: My beliefs do not require them to.

The Matrix Reloaded

When free markets succeed, people bet against the unknown by saying “Well, sure, that one situation worked out okay, but we can’t be absolutely certain that the free market will successfully handle every possible situation. So don’t jump to any optimistic conclusions.”

When government fails, people gamble on the unknown by saying “Well, sure, that one incident turned out very poorly, but we can’t be absolutely certain that better politicians won’t come along and make everything better in the future. So don’t jump to any overly pessimistic conclusions.”

When it comes to free markets, people encourage relentless skepticism and unyielding caution. When it comes to politics, people encourage relentless faith and unyielding loyalty.

No matter how much good the free market produces, we’ll always need to see more evidence before we place faith in it. No matter how much evil or inefficiency is produced by politics, however, we’ll always find a way to keep placing more and more faith in it.

When it comes to free markets, we wait to believe. When it comes to politics, we refuse to doubt.

“Don’t lose faith in politicians just yet,” they say. “Reform is on the way.”

Ah, yes, “reform.”

I’m beginning to fear that when people use the word “reform”, all they really mean is something like “no matter how many times the existing system fails, I will continue to assume that everything will be okay as long as we can get an honest man to pull the lever.”

Will a great man or great woman actually come along and save us?

Yes, but that great man or great woman has to be you, me, and everyone else. We can’t afford to keep placing our faith in a worldview that says “Just wait until we get the right person or the least evil person in a position of power.” We need to understand power in terms of voluntarism and individualism. There is only one way to save our city and it’s you. You are The One.

While many of my friends and colleagues wait in hope of “reform”, I’ll continue my quest to change the world by investing my voice and my votes in an entrepreneurial theory of social change. While the world at large insists on celebrating and fearing great leaders, I will celebrate the power of the individual as expressed through innovation and voluntary interaction in the marketplace. While political commentators debate over which system of coercion is best, I’ll devote myself to spreading faith in the power of creativity.

The majority of people will probably never come around to believing that free markets are more ethical and efficient than authoritarian interventionism, but that’s the beauty of the entrepreneurial theory of social change. In politics, you don’t get to be powerful unless you can get the majority of people to think like you. In the marketplace, however, you can alter individual lives and entire incentive structures simply by creating value regardless of what people claim to believe.

If you’re still placing unshakeable faith in politics, have fun. Have fun being angry at all the people who vote differently from you. Have fun trying to change the minds of thousands of people that you can’t control. Have fun knowing that no matter how much you seem to be winning at the present moment, that you will still have a moment in the future when you’re forced to acknowledge someone you despise as your overlord.

If you’re interested in another way, however, try the free market. Instead of living as if the fate of the world relies on your one tiny little vote that you get to place on election day, vote with your dollars and deeds multiple times every single day for the rest of your life. In the free market, you can create products, services, and experiences that allow people to gain more enjoyment from their already existing freedoms. In the free market, you can create tools and technologies that allow people to fight for new freedoms in ways that are more accessible, efficient, or creative than their previously existing options.

Instead of spending all your energy trying to change the way people see the world, use your creativity to change the world that people see.

I truly believe that this is “the only way to save our city.” Perhaps you do not believe as I do. My beliefs do not require you to. That’s why I’m going to keep creating regardless of how much people trouble themselves over politics. While I may never alter people’s beliefs about the world, I at least have some hope of altering the world that people form beliefs about.

In spite of traditional schooling’s emphasis on the myth of the great man as the key to societal change, I’m free enough from the matrix to realize that revolutions have always been the result of small remnants who subverted outdated systems through innovation while the confident majority lulled itself to sleep through the same old tired debates about who should get to control the existing system.

Rise Up From Your Chair of Self-Condemnation

“Take back your right to be yourself and get up from the chair of the defendant.” -Vadim Zeland, Reality Transurfing Book I

You vowed to exercise at least three times this week and you failed.

You set a goal to blog every day for a week straight and you missed a day.

You promised yourself you’d cut down on the sodas, refined sugars, or whatever your personal vice happens to be and you stumbled a little.

You lost your cool again, said a few hurtful things you shouldn’t have said, and now you feel like a jerk.

Here’s a distinction that might be useful for you:

Remorse versus Self-condemnation.

Remorse is when you feel bad for violating your moral code, for failing to live up to your standards of right and wrong. It’s when your conscience tells you “That wasn’t right.”

Self-condemnation is when you respond to the sensation of guilt by berating, belittling, and beating yourself up.

“Yikes! I really dropped the ball this week. My behavior was unacceptable. I need to make some changes and step my game up.”

That’s remorse.

“I’m such an idiot. I always do stuff like this. I just feel so horrible.”

That’s self-condemnation.

Notice a few key differences here:

  1. Remorse focuses on the specific pattern of wrongdoing that needs to be fixed. Self-condemnation focuses on personal identity. The former says, “What I did was wrong.” The latter says “I am a bad person.”
  2. Remorse focuses on a specific time frame (ie. “this week”). Self-condemnation focuses on permanent-sounding conditions like “always” or “never”. The former says “What I said yesterday was wrong.” The latter says “I always put my foot in my mouth.”
  3. Remorse focuses on what needs to be done in order to get back on track. Self-condemnation focuses on wallowing in the feeling of unworthiness and shame. The former says “I messed up. Therefore I’ll clean it up.” The latter says “I always mess up everything and it just feels so horrible to be this way.”
  4. Remorse leads to constructive change. Self-condemnation traps you in a negative feedback loop where you feel bad for failing, wallow in feelings of shame, and keep on failing because you feel too unworthy to try again.

Here’s the ironic thing: Most people get stuck in guilt-trips because they sincerely believe it’s the morally right response to have towards personal failure. After all, what could be more irresponsible and disrespectful than walking around with an inspired countenance after you just let everyone down? A truly good person, it seems, would be one who punishes himself or herself after doing something wrong.

The logic makes sense, but it’s still flawed. For starters, being self-confident and inspired doesn’t have to take the form of rubbing your enthusiasm in someone else’s face. You can still feel inwardly motivated while also understanding and respecting the fact that other people are upset.

Imagine walking into a funeral ceremony for a complete stranger. Your life is going well and you’re in a peaceful mood, but everyone at the funeral is sad. You’re not sad, but everyone else is. Do you run around giggling while trying to cheer everyone up? Do you engage in a bunch of happy-go-lucky chatter about how awesome your life is to everyone there? No. Because you have respect for the moment and what it means to others, you conduct yourself compassionately and considerately while remaining grounded in your own internal sense of well-being.

The same is true of remorse. You don’t have to put on an exaggerated display of guilt-ridden sadness just to establish the fact that you mean business. In fact, this kind of behavior usually has the opposite effect. When you engage in melodramatic performances of “whoa is me”, people might begin to wonder if you have the stability and resilience to handle the job of turning things around. Moreover, by making the whole issue center around how bad you feel, you cause valuable time, energy, and attention to be spent on comforting you. Do you know where else those resources could have gone? That’s right: towards creating and executing a concrete plan that would have made things better.

Instead of relying on dramatic declarations and theatrical gestures to prove to others that you really feel bad, carry yourself with confidence and dignity as you showcase your seriousness with action.

Avoid the mistake of equating moods with morality. You are never righteous or sinful merely because of what you feel. Your integrity is determined by the responsibility you to take for making good things happen.

Have you failed recently? Go ahead and own it, but from now on start owning your commitment to winning as much as you own your confession to wrongdoing.

This Blog Post is ………….Not That Good…

Full disclosure: I stole the title of this blog post….from a YouTube comment.

Here’s the evidence…

This is a screenshot from the comment section of a trailer for the movie Inception.

How did I end up there? Well, I have a little ritual that I perform every month or so. It’s simple. I begin by identifying some person, philosophy, or project that I feel deep admiration or respect for. Then I go on YouTube to see how long it takes me to find a video comment where someone says something like “I’m not impressed” or “This is overrated” or “I don’t trust this.”

Whenever I conduct this experiment, I time myself. It’s never taken me longer than 90 seconds to complete. I’ve never failed to find a comment like the one in the screenshot. Today’s choice was Inception. As expected, Inception turned out to be just like all the other past candidates. It took about 20 seconds to find someone who wasn’t impressed.

Why do I do this to myself? It keeps me grounded. It purifies me of my illusions. It reminds me of the simple little fact that there are always people talking smack about the things I believe are cool. My loves are someone else’s laughs. My inspirations are someone else’s irritations. My standards for success are someone else’s standards for stupidity. And if this is true of the things I consume, it’s probably true of the things I create.

It seems to be the case that everything will be criticized, everyone will be hated on, and everybody will get to experience what it’s like to be disliked. Like Inception, I am no exception. And precisely because of that, I find it a little bit easier for me to be exceptional.

Don’t Let Questions Kill Your Curiosity

What happens if X occurs? And then, what about Y? While we’re at it, what about Z? What if X, Y, & Z all happen at the same time?  What if X & Y occur for 75% of the time, but Z only occurs 50% of the time? What if X, Y, and Z work for me, but not everyone else? What if there are variables involved that I don’t even know I should be asking you about? 

Questions: They can help you get exactly where you want to be, but they can also take you in the opposite direction if you’re not clear about what you’re asking for, how you’re asking for it, and why you’re asking in the first place.

A compelling or pointed question might reveal important information to you, but it might also reveal equally important information about you. Questions don’t just solicit information, they also signal information.

Sometimes a question signals things like “I care enough to think things through” or “I’m curious and intrigued” or “I would like to connect with you, but I don’t know how” or “I need to understand this so I can explain it to others” or “I already know the answer, but I want others to know what I know” or “I’m great at conversation” or “I’m good at reading people.”

Sometimes a question can signal things like “I’m unwilling to take action unless I have a guarantee” or “I can’t stop worrying about every unpleasant hypothetical scenario” or “I don’t want to be here, but I’m trying to find a way to say how” or “I don’t trust you” or “I don’t like you” or “I have power over you and I want to watch you squirm in the face of my interrogations” or “this is how I tend to act when I don’t get enough sleep” or “I’m not a very patient person to work with” or “I like to ask a ton of questions” or a host of other things.

While it isn’t always easy to discern what every question signals, it’s undoubtedly true that every question signals. Our questions not only shape how we see the world, but they also shape how the world sees us.

If you’d like to conduct a little experiment to see if this is true, try the following:

Walk into a jewelry store and ask “do you guys have security cameras here?”

That simple little question is almost guaranteed to modify your experience at the jewelry store.

The takeaway here is not “stop asking sincere questions lest other people see you as a nuisance.” The takeaway here is that questions are never completely neutral or one-sided. Everything ranging from the way you frame your questions to the tone of voice you use is a factor that alters your chemistry with the other party.

When we ask questions, the urgency we feel about getting a reaction or response often subverts our sensitivity to how others are affected by the timing, tone, and texture of our inquiries.

Some people use questions like pistols: they point them in your direction and give you no choice but to take them seriously: “I ask the questions. You supply the answers. Now, go fetch me some data.” While this approach can be highly effective for getting intel in the short-term, it overlooks the most powerful factor that determines our ability to get great answers in the future: relationships.

If you like asking thought-provoking questions and you’re passionate about getting to the bottom of things, then there’s nothing more rewarding than mastering the art of getting others to feel open, unsuspecting, and excited about giving you the information that you want from them.

The goal of asking a question shouldn’t be to merely obtain one piece of information in the present moment, but rather to build an enduring bridge to future knowledge. A good question is one that helps you accumulate intellectual capital while simultaneously helping you create social capital.

If your style of questioning leaves people feeling ignored, or irritated, or interrogated, they will run the other way while encouraging their friends to do the same.

How do you avoid this? How do you use questions to build bridges?

I can’t give you a skeleton key that will open the heart and mind of every person you decide to question, but I can offer you three words of advice that will get you closer to that goal than any other strategy I’ve seen: question your questions.

Are you asking questions in a way that makes others eager to assist you or are you asking in a way that makes others feel defensive? Are you paying attention to other people’s reactions when you ask questions? Do you care? Should you care? 

Does this moment present you with the best opportunity to be heard and received? If you were the one answering this question, would this be a good time for you? 

How much do you actually need this answer? If you had an amazing answer to this question, would it truly make you happy? Would your course of action change in some substantial way? 

Are these questions your own or are you asking them for the sake of others? Are you looking for an answer or are you looking for an exit sign? Are your questions designed to help you find your way into something or are they motivated by a desire to find your way out of something? 

Are your questions moving you closer to some kind of constructive action or are they leading you further down a rabbit hole of greater restlessness?

Being honest with others about what you want to know isn’t enough. Asking questions is the complete opposite of being curious if you’re close-minded and careless about the way you request information from people. Curiosity might be a cat-killer, but it has never been a conversation killer.

If you’re a true seeker of knowledge with a genuine thirst for understanding, you’ll be relentless in your efforts to adopt communication strategies that are designed to keep conversations alive.

Curiosity is a beautiful thing and nothing stifles it more than a mind too stubborn to reimagine and reinvent its own questions. Be bold enough to ask whatever you want, but make sure you stay curious enough to keep exploring new and better ways of asking.