Monthly Archives: February 2016

How to Build the Perfect Morning Routine

When you arise in the morning, think of what a precious privilege it is to be alive — to breathe, to think, to enjoy, to love.” — Marcus Aurelius

How to Build the Perfect Morning Routine

By Craig Ballantyne

Imagine Joe, an average guy with a regular office job. His day starts with waking up to an alarm. He hits the snooze button two, sometimes three or four times, leaving him late for work. He doesn’t have time for breakfast at home so he grabs a large coffee — with plenty of sugar — and a donut on the way to the office. He barely makes it in to work on time — if he’s lucky.

He starts his day without a plan and wastes an hour just getting organized, reading email, and checking Facebook. He’s hungry because he skipped a good breakfast. Lunch ends up being a trip to a fast food restaurant. At 2 p.m. he’s nodding off in his chair.

The next thing Joe knows, it’s almost 4 p.m. and he still has three hours of work to finish. There’s no way that he’ll be able to leave on time. It’s only in this last mad dash under a deadline that he’s finally able to get a few priorities completed, but he is never able to complete his to-do list because of the chaos of his day.

Looks like another late night is in his future. He phones home to let his family know the bad news. He won’t be able to attend little Joe’s ballgame, and he’ll be late for daughter Katie’s dance recital…but he’ll try to make it for the end. Rushing out of the office at 7:30 p.m. he arrives just as the crowd launches into applause. Joe threw away his chance at freedom because his day lacked structure. Another day wasted because it started with chaos, not with control.

Now compare Joe’s life to John, the CEO who knows how to have the Perfect Day.

John spent last night getting to bed on time, thanks to his rules. He sleeps well and wakes up five minutes before his alarm clock goes off. His number one priority at work is managing his team, so he uses the first 15 minutes of his day preparing to run effective meetings.

John exercises and eats a healthy breakfast before heading into the office well prepared for his first appointment. He is on time and energized, not stressed. His day is scripted. Meetings are focused. Projects are finished before their deadlines.

He wraps up on time and makes it home for his kids’ activities, time with his spouse, and he even has 15 minutes for himself that he can spend in prayer, meditation, or gratitude.

John is free. Joe is not. Why? John is structured. Joe is not. John has rules. Joe has none. John is successful. Joe is lost.

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If you’ve had the privilege to experience both sets of days, surely you’d pick John’s results. This is the epic battle for your life. This is what The Perfect Day Formula is all about. It all starts with building the Perfect Morning Routine. Here’s how…

Step #1 – Get Off to a Great Start

The wonderful thing about mornings is you know they are coming. It’s a not surprise, like when your in-laws suddenly knock on the door on an otherwise peaceful Sunday afternoon.

You know your alarm is going to go off. You know you have things to do, places to be, people to see, and teeth to brush.

By age 40, you’ve gone through your weekday morning routine over 6,000 times as an adult. There’s no reason not to do it right.

All it takes to get off to a great start each morning is a little planning and preparation the night before. Get to bed on time. Know what you need to do first thing upon waking, and make it easy to get started.

Step #2 – Make Your Morning Activities Automatic

Imagine you’re a writer, like the prolific horror master, Stephen King, and each morning your goal is to sit down and write 2,000 words. If you spend five minutes the night before preparing a quick outline for your morning writing, it will go much easier than if you begin without any preparation at all.

You’ll also get results faster if you arrange your writing space so that you can sit down and get to work immediately, without fussing over yesterday’s edits or the mail that you tossed on your desk.

Know what you need to avoid, such as the icon that opens your Internet browser on your computer. Eliminate your temptations so you get up, go to it, and hit your word count.

If you want to make morning exercise a habit, lay out your workout gear beside your bed. You can even sleep in it (clean clothes only, of course!). That way, you get up and are 50% of the way to getting started.

No matter what you want to accomplish first thing in the morning, be prepared to get off to a great start — automatically.

Step #3 – Get Up 15 Minutes Earlier

If, like Joe, you wake up chasing the tail of the world each morning, the answer to improving your morning routine is obvious. You need to get up earlier. That starts with getting to bed on time. Follow Mark Ford’s 12-step program here. [] or use my secrets for better sleep [].

Getting up 15 minutes before anyone else in your house gives you a significant amount of time to spend in solitude working on the most important task if your life. If your number one priority is to get out of debt, you can spend this time pouring over your finances, identifying ways to cut expenses, and brainstorming new ideas for increasing your income.

These extra 15 minutes are golden no matter what your goal in life, just as these three steps are perfect for getting off to a great start each morning.

You don’t need to make huge changes in your life. You just need to start with these magic minutes and a few automatic actions so that you can end every day with a sense of accomplishment, being ahead of the curve at all times, and never falling behind like poor ol’ Joe.

Control your mornings, own your days, and you’ll take a big step forward towards living your Perfect Life.

About the Author: Craig Ballantyne is the editor of Early to Rise (Join him on Facebook here) and author of The Perfect Day Formula. His straightforward, sometimes “politically-incorrect” advice has helped millions of people transform their lives both physically and financially. Craig’s secret weapons for success include his personal commandments, his 5 pillars, and his Perfect Life vision.


What Fake Progress Looks Like

A good traveler has no fixed plans, and is not intent on arriving.” — Lao Tzu

What Fake Progress Looks Like

By Steve Pavlina

One of the big traps in life is believing you’re making progress when there’s no actual evidence of it. It’s easy to keep learning and studying new ideas, methods, and techniques that don’t improve your results — while convincing yourself that you must be making progress simply because you’ve invested a lot of time and effort in learning and growth.

It would be nice if effort equaled results, but it’s very common to apply effort without generating measurable results.

Let me share a personal story to illustrate this…

Based on my efforts at studying and practicing the game of blackjack, I could make a case that I’m an expert blackjack player.

In my 20s I read a dozen or so books about the game of blackjack and a dozen more about casino gambling in general. I did some independent study on games of chance in college, both for fun and as part of my education for my math degree. In high school I even programmed my Casio fx-8000G calculator to play blackjack, including drawing all the cards pixel by pixel.

However, I soon learned that it’s one thing to hold this knowledge in my mind, and it’s quite another thing to apply it as a real-world skill to get positive results.

Shortly after my 21st birthday, I made my first adult trip to Las Vegas with some friends. Before we left, I practiced counting cards just as I had learned from books. It took hours to memorize the correct play of every hand and to practice counting down a deck until I could do it in 13-14 seconds consistently (about as fast as I could physically flip through all the cards). I felt very well prepared before I ever set foot in a real casino.

On that first trip, I played the lowest limits available, mostly varying my bets from $2 to $10. I won $125 total, giving me a nice reward for my efforts.

This positive result encouraged me to keep playing. I made the 4-hour drive from L.A. to Vegas dozens of times, taking advantage of the cheap rooms and food that were in abundance at the time. I continued to invest in learning more about blackjack. I studied advanced techniques that could add a bit more edge. I learned more about the social aspects of the game. I started betting a bit more, usually $5-25 or $10-50 ranges, sometimes $25-125. I got used to bigger swings, such as losing $700 or winning $900 in a single sitting. I got kicked out of a casino for winning $200 in a few minutes, so I learned to disguise my play better. I learned how to get comps. I was very disciplined and never risked rent money or went on tilt. For me it was mostly about the challenge. I loved the combination of mathematics and emotional discipline that was required to do well.

Now, fast-forward 20 years. I’ve been living in Vegas since 2004. There’s a popular casino just 5 minutes from my house. I can walk there if I want. I could go play blackjack at any time of day. But I rarely do these days. And if I do play, I don’t count cards. I would only play for fun, and only at a betting level that’s so far below my means that it can’t possibly make a difference in my finances. I would never go as high as risking even half a percent of my income over the course of a year.

So on the one hand, I can claim that I have a lot of expertise in this area. I invested a lot of time in learning, and I have many hours of real-world practice. But what are the actual results? I certainly didn’t do anything like the M.I.T. blackjack team did. Given my low betting levels and infrequent play, I wouldn’t even earn enough to reach minimum wage. Over the long run, my results were insignificant from a financial perspective.

If I evaluate this pursuit through the lens of study, and effort, and practice, then I could argue that I’ve grown tremendously in my skill at blackjack. But if I use the lens of real-world results, then I must admit that I have virtually no results to speak of. I never did what would have been necessary to generate serious results from this pursuit. It was merely a side hobby that I explored for fun.

So can I claim to be an expert blackjack player? That may be an issue of semantics, but I certainly can’t claim to have won any serious money at the game, which is generally how a blackjack player would measure their long-term success.

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Evaluating Your Progress

How do you assess your progress?

Do you feel you’re making progress if you’ve studied and practiced a great deal? Or do you only give yourself credit for real-world results that other people can perceive as well?

I think that both types of assessment are valid. I don’t think we should completely discount learning, study, and practice as ends unto themselves. However, I also think many of us need to move our evaluation criteria further in the direction of measurable, real-world results.

Here are some questions to get you thinking about the differences between study and results…

Study: Do you think you know a lot about relationships? Have you read books or attended workshops on relationships? Do you know how to approach people and start conversations? Do you know how to build rapport? Do you know how to communicate well with people?

Results: Are you currently enjoying positive relationships in your life? Are you happy and fulfilled in this part of your life? Do other people notice how happy you are with your relationships? How many people would name you as a friend? How many invites do you get in a typical month?

Study: Do you think you know a lot about making money? Do you have ideas about what you can do to increase your income? Do you have goals, plans, and to-do lists? What financial skills have you acquired?

Results: How much money have you earned so far this year? What does your financial balance sheet look like? If an independent financial consultant looked at your balance, would s/he say you’re wealthy, average, or pretty much broke? Would s/he see evidence of positive change over the past 3 years?

Study: Do you believe you’re a caring and compassionate person? Do you care about people, animals, and the environment? Do you have ideas regarding how to make the world a better place? Do you ever wish more people would think as you do?

Results: What is the measurable evidence of your ongoing contribution in the real world? What results are other people now getting that they weren’t before, thanks to you? Which specific people will testify that you’ve helped them, and how will they say you’ve helped? Which parts of the environment are better off now, thanks to you, and how are they better? Is your caring and compassion flowing out into the world and affecting real people, or is it just a feeling you have?

When you look back at how your life was 3 years ago, which areas would seem to be about the same if examined by an impartial observer? Where would this observer testify that you’ve made measurable progress? Where would s/he testify that you’ve failed to make any discernable progress?

Have you been assessing your progress as objectively and fair-mindedly as this impartial observer would? Have you been giving yourself credit for non-existent results? Have you been failing to credit yourself for results you really did achieve?


If you’re beginning to realize that you have a strong bias towards over-crediting yourself for study, effort, and practice as opposed to real-world results, I’d encourage you to shift your evaluation criteria to the results side. This may feel a bit alien at first — perhaps a bit harsher than you’re used to — but I think you’ll like it better in the long run.

I’m a person who loves to read, explore, and experiment, so it’s easy for me to get caught up on the learning side and convince myself that I’m making real progress simply by making an effort. But I’ve learned over the years that my study tends to flow much better when I’m working towards a results-based goal.

During college I got a contract job to program some computer games for a local game company. At the time I only knew DOS game programming, and they were developing games for Windows 3.1. Windows game programming was a whole different animal, so I committed myself to the project before I really knew what I was getting into. But as “luck” would have it, I got jury duty right when I was supposed to begin working on the first game, so the start of the project had to be delayed. I went to a bookstore and bought a stack of books on Windows game programming. Since there was so much downtime during the court case, I was able to go through those books in a matter of days. Since my learning was results-driven from the get-go, I was able to learn a lot faster. I could focus on the concepts that I would need to apply and ignore the irrelevant bits.

Consequently, I had a working demo of the first game running only 9 days after I started the project. About six months later, I got to see the 4-pack of games I had programmed selling in stores like Comp USA and Software Etc. I also received royalty checks for more than $20,000 in addition to my contract pay. My learning efforts generated measurable results. I wasn’t just learning for the sake of learning. Later I applied those skills to design, program, and publish other games as well. And I helped teach other independent developers how to do the same.

When I engage in learning just to learn something new, I almost always learn more slowly. I learn fastest when my learning is results-oriented, such as if I’m figuring out how to implement some particular feature for a specific project.

Learning just to learn can be very seductive. Read any random nonfiction book, and you may be able to convince yourself that you’re doing something valuable and worthwhile. But what are you going to do with that knowledge? Will it be largely forgotten a year later? Or will you apply it in the real world?

I’ve read so many books that it’s hard to keep them all straight. I have bits and pieces of knowledge about a great variety of subjects. At the time I studied these topics, they usually seemed important. Yesterday I was reading a fascinating book about the history of Goldman Sachs, a powerful investment bank that started in the 1800s and took a lot of flak for its role in the financial crisis. But what can I do with this knowledge? How will it generate fresh real-world results? It may be an educational, eye-opening read, but since I’m not reading it with any results-orientation in mind, I could say that I’m better off learning something else that I can apply right away.

Learning for the sake of learning can indeed be pleasurable, and it can offer up hidden benefits over time. But my experience suggests that learning for the sake of creating real-world results can be just as pleasurable — and a lot faster too. You not only enjoy the learning process, but you also get to experience new results.

What are the results you’d like to achieve next? Can you direct your learning to help you achieve those results faster?

About the Author: Steve Pavlina is one of the most widely read personal development bloggers in the world, with his website attra cting 2.5 million monthly readers. He’s written more than 1200 free articles on personal growth, productivity, relationships, online business, and more.

3 Big Life Lessons From A Dog

You can say any foolish thing to a dog, and the dog will give you a look that says, ‘Wow, you’re right! I never would’ve thought of that!’” — Dave Barry

3 Big Life Lessons From A Dog

By Craig Ballantyne

Years ago a research study revealed the “pet effect.” Scientists found that if you want to lower your resting blood pressure and heart rate, all you have to do is pet a dog.

When I heard that, my first reaction was, “Great, something to do when I’m an old man.”

Turns out my old man days would come sooner than I thought.

One morning in March of 2006 I woke up with a sense my world was not right. I was coming off another long weekend of late nights spent in big city bars and early mornings with my personal training clients in the gym (where I suffered through a hypocritical hangover). As a result I was anxious, and both physically and mentally exhausted.

Mid-morning the fire alarm went off in my apartment. Exiting the building, I made my way across the street and sat on a park bench in the sunshine. The alarm had made things worse. I tried to inhale slowly and deeply, but could barely catch my breath. My body was seizing up. This would be my prison for the next three months.

I tried everything to escape the tightness in my chest, the tingling that ran from the top of my skull to the end of my fingertips, and the worry racing through my mind. Sleep came in fitful four-hour bursts, and always with strange dreams, before the anxiety would wake me in the middle of the night.

I started attending weekly Qi Gong sessions (a type of standing meditation, like Tai Chi). I hired a yoga instructor. I tried — and failed — to take up meditation. I began listening to classical musical. And one day, remembering what those scientists had found in their research study, I bought a dog.

One of my clients, an animal lover, helped me find a breeder north of the city.

“You better hurry,” the gruff old breeder said when I called him on Thursday morning, “We only have two pups left, and there’s another family coming on Saturday afternoon.”

That weekend I made the 2-hour drive to a small country home tucked into a small forest. Behind the house was a large kennel filled with beautiful dogs, including the patriarch, prize-winning “George.” Weighing 80 pounds and with paws the size of my face, George sprawled out like a lion on the grass, surveying his brood.

True to his word, the breeder showed me the last two puppies left in the litter. Scampering around the lawn clumsily, a little brown puppy caught my eye, and he made his way over to me.

He sniffed my leg. He peed near my foot.

“He’ll do,” I thought, “He’ll do just fine.”

“What do you want to name him?” the breeder asked as we filled out some paperwork.

“Bally,” I replied. “Bally the Dog.”

Finally, I thought, a furry little savior that would deliver me from hell on earth.

Let’s just say this didn’t go as planned.

For the first weeks he did nothing but raise my blood pressure and add to my anxiety. So much for the “pet effect.” Stubborn as could be, he refused to go for walks, preferring to park himself in the middle of the sidewalk where strangers stopped to adore him. Nor would he play fetch.

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Each night he’d cry when put in his crate, so I slept on the floor beside him. It was a pain in the neck, literally. After three nights I gave up and let him sleep on a mat beside my bed. When I left him alone, even for 10 minutes, he barked so much my neighbors left angry notes on my door.

Sigh. This wasn’t going as expected.

Eventually I overcame my anxiety. That’s another story for another day, and since then old Bally the Dog has been one of my greatest mentors in life. Today I want to share with you the 3 greatest life and love lessons the little fella has taught me.

Lesson #1 — You Can’t Control Others

Bally is never going to be invited to the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show, the annual televised spectacle that takes place at Madison Square Garden. He’s simply not the best-behaved dog. Of course, that’s entirely my fault. His master did not train him well.

His canine instincts dictate his behavior. When I lived in the big city of Toronto, he lunged at half-eaten chicken wings discarded on the sidewalk. He chased every feral cat that ran down an alley. Now that we live out in the country, he chases skunks, rabbits, and even deer, ignoring my commands to “stay.”

It’s not his fault. It’s mine. He’s just doing what a dog does. I can’t control him, just like you can’t control the people around you, just as you can’t control the weather or the traffic. When your boss gets in a bad mood, you can’t change it, you can only cope with it. If your relatives are rude, you can’t change them, you can only control your reaction and your attitude.

Understanding what I can’t control, and having the wisdom to focus on what I can control, have made a big difference in my life. I’m less stressed, more forgiving, and frankly, spend far less energy on the drama that can fill my days.

Oh, and I also learned to keep the dog on a tighter leash on garbage days.

Lesson #2 — Time is 700% More Important Than You Think

Everyone knows that one human year is about seven dog years. Even though Bally was born in late 2005, he and I were around the same biological age in 2010. Today he would be eligible for the Senior’s Discount at Denny’s. I don’t know if dogs go to heaven, although it would be hard for even St. Peter to deny Bally entrance once he looked in those big puppy dog eyes.

Owning a dog is a harsh reminder that our lives are passing even faster than you think. It’s inspired me to focus, to concentrate on what counts, and to make the most of my days and our minutes together. Let this be a lesson to you to identify what matters, both at work and at home. You’ve only got one life here on earth, and you better make it count in the short time you have.

Lesson #3 — I’ve Learned to Love a Lot More

The first time my dog met his “Grandma” (my mother), I thought he was going to die. He was just 12 weeks old when she visited us at my small apartment in Toronto. For Bally, it was love at first site. I literally thought his little puppy heart was going to burst with joy.

It was a ridiculous thought, I know. Your heart doesn’t explode because you’re in love, but I had never seen any dog, let alone a person, so happy. Every time she spoke to him he became more and more excited.

Over the years I’ve watched Bally greet everyone he meets with unconditional love. He and I couldn’t be much more different. Growing up I was skeptical of other people, and closed off to strangers, always looking for that one thing ‘wrong’ with them that would allow me to disqualify their friendship.

He and I couldn’t be much more different. Growing up I was skeptical of other people, closed off to meeting strangers, always looking for that one thing ‘wrong’ with them that would allow me to disqualify their friendship.

This served me well in college, where being critical of research studies allowed me to expose fitness myths and create a better weight loss system.

But beyond that, my cynicism handcuffed my relationships and slowed my personal — and professional — growth.

My dog has taught me to live and love with an open heart. He taught me to forgive quickly, to love unconditionally, and to welcome people warmly.

The heart of a dog knows no limits.

Now I know that mine has none, either. And neither does yours. So, take these lessons from my dog to heart. Love more, forgive more, and make more of the time you have with the people you love.

Why the Best is Always Hard to Find

“The quality of a leader is reflected in the standards they set for themselves.” — Ray Kroc

Why the Best is Always Hard to Find

By Ryan Holiday

It’s totally messed up if you think about it. There are millions of people out there dying to be writers. Yet when a good writer puts together a book proposal (that is, a potential book), publishers actually bid against each other for the privilege of publishing it.

And before you say “Oh, that’s only for established authors,” let me tell you that it isn’t. My first book started a bidding war. All sorts of first-time authors experience this. Some guy you’ve never heard of just got $2 million for a 770-page historical novel. As desperate as people are to be writers, publishers are apparently as desperate for good writing.

Thought Catalog did a piece on young people who had their dream jobs. Considering the economy, there are undoubtedly a bunch of other struggling kids (and adults) out there dying for those jobs. At the same time, the sad irony is that those young kids with the dream jobs probably fend off job offers from other companies on a regularly basis.

So what’s going on? Why do some people live the dream while others are grinding it out in obscurity, waiting for their shot?

Well, some people would say those lucky few at the top have some natural talent advantage. That’s probably part of it, but most of the smart analysis of mastery show us that those things are relatively minor factors when it comes to achieving greatness. Or they’ll say it’s a matter of “privilege” — but if that were so, how did any disadvantaged people make it through?

Which leaves us to the explanation that always seems to come up in people’s gripes: The System. We have a broken system that holds people back, we tell ourselves. It doesn’t care about me. It’s just luck. It doesn’t appreciate my work.

But that’s just bogus.

The system is not a person. It is not sentient. But as far as it is, we’ve got to realize that it wants only one thing: good stuff.

Do you think store owners are sitting around going, “We can’t possibly fit another hot product in our stores. We have no more room for things, even though they’ll sell”? I have to have the same discussion with my clients who are nervous or intimidated about marketing and publicity. I ask them, “Do you think reporters are sitting around complaining, ‘Man, there are just too many great stories to write about’?”

Of course not. It’s the opposite. There’s never enough.

They want you as much as you want it. Provided that you truly deliver the goods.

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Here’s what you’ve got to realize: that is super rare. Good stuff is the ultimate scarcity. And the market for it is basically infinite. That is why the people who have it command insane, illogical compensation for it. But everyone is too focused on the wrong things and so the spoils go only to an elite few.

There is a story about George Clooney, who struggled early on in auditions as an actor. His problem was that he just wanted everyone to like him. Then he remembered that they were trying to hire someone. That was their job. And his job as an actor was to solve their problem.

No one is keeping you from your dream job. In fact, the people hiring for your dream job are sitting around wondering where they can find some good applicants. The same applies to basically everything else.

Writing a book isn’t about getting a good agent. Making something that sells isn’t about lining up the right investors. Getting press or attention isn’t complicated.

You have to do something that’s good. That means: drastically better than existing stuff, different than existing stuff, or easier to work with than existing stuff.

That’s the simple part. The hard part is that this takes a long time and a lot of work. You have to pay your dues. Read the books. Study the best — the ones who came before and the ones who are doing it now. Find a mentor. Don’t phone it in — find that thing that really, passionately compels you. Apply yourself at more than one thing and then roll it all together into something special and new.

When you do this, eventually you become the solution to a common problem across basically every section of the economy. They are all trying to separate the really excellent people/ideas/companies/things from the crap. Because there is so much crap. There is so much sameness. There is so much “looks good on paper but totally under delivers.”

You don’t have to be one of those people. One of those sad, resentful cases who doesn’t have what they want and think someone else is preventing them from having it. On the contrary, they need it! And they’ll pay you well if you promise to keep up the supply.

Ryan’s latest book, The Obstacle Is the Way: The Timeless Art of Turning Trials into Triumph was released by Penguin on May 1st, 2014. He is also the bestselling author of Trust Me, I’m Lying and Growth Hacker Marketing. He is currently an editor at large for the New York Observer and contributes to Thought Catalog from his home in Austin, Texas.

‘Perspective-Taking’ and How to Close an Investor in 3 Minutes


‘Perspective-Taking’ and How to Close an Investor in 3 Minutes

By Evan Loomis

Now that you have your big idea, how do you launch the venture of your dreams? This question is a tough one to answer. Your friends, family or colleagues will advise you that the next step to launching a venture is raising money. But raising money for a startup is insanely hard when you have no network, no track record and, at best, only conceptual knowledge of a term sheet.

Even harder is raising money without a network, we hear from friends and fellow entrepreneurs. With that in mind, my friend Evan Baehr and I decided to share one of the biggest secrets we wished we’d known when we launched our own ventures: Successful fundraisers don’t raise money; they raise friends.

And to raise friends, you must first build relationships with investors, not simply present an idea accompanied by a fancy pitch deck.

So, how do you build those relationships that turn into fund-raising conversations? One way is to master the art of what psychologists call “perspective-taking”: the science of recognizing and even anticipating initial reactions from the person you’re talking to.

Want to learn to do it? The next time you meet a new investor, here’s how to use perspective-taking to close that investor in three minutes.


There are certain clues and cues — the presence or absence of eye contact, tone of voice, body language — that give us insight into what a person is thinking. If we pay attention to those cues, we can understand the world from that person’s viewpoint. If we understand his or her view of the world, we can anticipate that person’s behavior and whether he or she will want to invest in the deal.

And we can anticipate that before it actually happens.

In the first moments you interact with someone, your brain moves through a series of conclusions, some conscious, some not. With perspective-taking, you can learn to recognize and even anticipate those initial reactions. Understanding someone’s world through his or her eyes allows you to anticipate the next move or comment.

People often confuse this perspective-taking with empathy, but the two are distinct. Empathy is about emotionally connecting with someone else or feeling what he feels. Perspective-taking is about understanding someone’s thinking, about seeing what he or she sees. Perspective-taking asks questions like:

  • What might this person have been thinking and feeling before he or she entered the room?
  • What is he or she doing here in the room?
  • And, most important,why?

The first three minutes

Psychologists have found that humans begin to categorize the people around them within 150 milliseconds of meeting them and, by the end of a first meeting have likely made character judgments that can endure for a very long time. In the very first moments of your interaction, here are some of the questions a person may be asking:

  • 15 milliseconds: Should I trust you?Long before you have said a word, the person you are meeting has made an unconscious mental judgment of you, while you’ve made your own. The amygdala — the part of your brain that you share with reptiles that tells you whether or not to punch someone, run away or play dead — makes a nearly automatic conclusion about your surroundings that answers the questions: Do I trust this person? Does this person look like someone I might like?
  • 10 seconds: What kind of person are you? Are we connecting? In the seconds that follow, two other processes begin. The first, which one researcher calls “prototype matching,” searches through the listener’s preconceived notions and stereotypes to compare and contrast you with what he or she already knows.Are you the creative type? Can you tell a good story? Can you get the job done? Do you have what it takes? The second process is self-reflective; it pays attention to what the listener is doing and feeling in order to find clues as to the kind of relationship being formed. It asks: Am I being “swept along in the magic of something bigger?” or, “Am I bored and distracted?”
  • Three Minutes: What Am I Going to Do?Eventually (in around three minutes), the prefrontal cortex kicks in to start making decisions about what to do with the information the person is taking in. It starts by coming up with a set of potential actions — invest or not invest, for instance — and then does a risk/reward calculation for each of those actions. Before long, you have a pretty strong idea of which action is worth pursuing.


Exercises to improve your perspective-taking

  • Read more literary fiction.A recent study found that reading literary fiction can increase a person’s ability to recognize someone else’s mental state. These kinds of works, according to the research, cause people to use their imaginations to make inferences about what someone might be thinking.
  • Take an improv class.Improvisers have to pay attention to subtle clues in their partner’s words, movements and body language, to fill in the gaps of knowledge between them. In other words, improvers have to learn to read one other’s minds.
  • Lead with the most controversial part of your venture. Choose the most controversial aspect of your pitch, and the next time you meet with someone, make it the first thing you talk about. Then, watch his or her response. Use it as a litmus test for gauging his or her interest in your venture.

How to Grow Your Wealth for Decades Without a Single Losing Year

“Let others lead small lives, but not you. Let others argue over small things, but not you. Let others cry over small hurts, but not you. Let others leave their future in someone else’s hands, but not you.” — Jim Rohn

How to Grow Your Wealth for Decades Without a Single Losing Year

By Mark Ford

Maybe I’m lucky. Or maybe it’s just common sense.

I’ve been involved in the investment advisory business for 30 years. And except for a few early mistakes buying real estate, the big financial hoaxes and bubbles that devastated so many investors never burned me.

That made a huge difference over time. It allowed me to grow my net worth year after year without a single year of loss.

I learned several lessons about growing wealth and avoiding the biggest mistakes average investors make.

The financial life of the typical investor is marked by a plethora of hopeful speculations. Only a few dozen, at best, achieve their promise. My investment history is less exciting but more profitable.

I get into trends only after they’re proven, I get out as soon as they don’t make sense, and I turn my back on nine out of 10 opportunities that come my way.

For example, in the 1980s, penny stocks were the rage. The financial press was full of stories about investors who got rich by buying little-known companies at 50 cents per share.

My boss invested in one and tried to convince me to do the same. I was tempted… but something inside me said to let this bus pass me by.

I’m glad I did. My boss, a very savvy investor, lost 100% of his money on that deal. It turned out to be a scam.

I remember thinking, if a sophisticated investor could be fooled by one of those cheap stock deals, I stood no chance.

Another example: the recent real estate bubble. By that time, I’d been investing in real estate for more than 10 years. I knew the game. I’d made a lot of money.

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But by 2006, the houses I’d been buying were selling for 20 times their yearly rentals. I knew it was time to get out.

I stopped buying, and I advised my friends to do the same. They thought I was crazy. I’m sure they wish they’d listened to me now.

I’m telling you these stories not to brag, but to illustrate an important point: You don’t have to be a sophisticated investor to avoid making big investment mistakes. You can do so by applying a little bit of common sense.

Here are the five biggest mistakes most ordinary investors make:

  1. Being swept away by exciting stories.

    The business my boss got suckered into had an amazing story. A company in Central America was turning beach sand into gold. The company had “proof” of their success—in the form of audited financial statements, geologist reports, and endorsements from investment experts.

    My partner even went down there to see the operation. He saw the sand going in and the gold dust coming out.

    I didn’t invest because the story sounded so fantastic. I remember telling him, “This sounds like alchemy.” I didn’t know anything about geology or gold, but I didn’t need to. The story itself was just too crazy.

    When I hear stories like that nowadays, I’m totally turned off. One part of my brain might get excited, but the smarter part tells me, “Stay clear!”

  2. Investing in businesses you don’t understand.

    My boss was a sophisticated investor. He had his own seat on the stock exchange when he was in his 20s and had been successfully investing since that time. But he knew nothing about gold mining.

    His ignorance allowed him to be duped by the reports and by the fraudulent factory tour. The scam was exposed by a few people in the mining business. They understood the industry and knew how to read reports with the sophistication of experience.

    If you don’t understand the business you’re investing in, you’re investing blind.

  3. Allowing yourself to be bullied by good salespeople.

    I mentioned I made some bad investments early in my real estate career. They were due to a combination of the two mistakes I just enumerated. Plus, I buckled under pressure from a real estate broker who also happened to be my landlord and — I thought — my friend.

    I agreed to make the investments even though I had a hunch they wouldn’t work out. I ignored my instincts because she was so good at manipulating my emotions.

    Nowadays, whenever someone tries hard to sell me something, I take that hard selling to be a signal: Stay away!

  4. Investing in trends too late — when the only chance of making money is to find “the bigger fool.”

    I got into real estate investing at a good time, when prices were already going up but the values were still good. I made a lot of money as the market rose.

    When I could no longer buy properties at eight or 10 times yearly rentals, I realized the only way to profit was to ride the bubble to the top.

    But riding a bubble when the economics are bad is a fool’s game. Your only chance of winning is to find someone else willing to buy you out… someone who knows less about the market than you do.

    Insiders call this “the bigger fool theory.” You’d think anybody with common sense wouldn’t fall victim to this impulse. But millions of Americans (including bankers and brokers) did.

    There’s a time to get into a trend and a time to get out. Neither is particularly difficult… so long as you pay attention to the fundamental economics of the deal and ignore the excitement caused by the bubble.

  5. Investing without a way to limit your losses.

    Sometimes, even if you use your common sense — and avoid the four mistakes I’ve already explained — you can lose money because something unpredictable happens.

    To avoid this, I have a rule: I never get into an investment unless I have a way out.

    When you’re investing in a business deal, that “way out” might be a buy/sell agreement.

    When you’re investing in real estate, the way out is the income you can get from renting it if you can’t sell it for any reason.

    When you’re investing in stocks for yearly gains or income, the way out is the trailing stop loss.

    There is always a way to limit your downside as long as you identify what that is before you make the investment — and stick to it. Even if you feel like you shouldn’t.

Those are the five biggest mistakes ordinary investors make. As you can see, they’re all pretty obvious — the kind of mistakes you can avoid by applying common sense. Avoiding these mistakes is part of how I’ve managed to get richer, year after year.

Think about your own investment experiences and the investments you’re making right now. Ask yourself honestly: “Am I making any of these five common mistakes?”

How to Know When It’s Time to Let Go of Your Business

When I let go of what I am, I become what I might be. When I let go of what I have, I receive what I need.” – Lao Tzu

How to Know When It’s Time to Let Go of Your Business

By Jonathan Fields
It was a conversation I’d had before, and I will have again.

Look, she said, I’ve been at this for five years. I’ve developed programs and products. I’ve built a brand. I’ve paid people to help me build it. I have a serious community. I’ve written more than 100,000 words of content. I’ve built a list. I’ve given up nearly everything to get here.

I’ve dropped tens of thousands of dollars into making it work. And walked away from so many other opportunities that would’ve been worth tons more. The opportunity cost, alone, is likely in the hundreds of thousands.

Oh, and this thing you’re telling me to kill, it’s working. I’m making money. And, by all accounts, I’m making a difference.

Then, what’s the problem? I asked.

I’ll tell you the problem, she replied…it’s killing me.

And I hate going in to work at the company I’ve created.

Sure, it’s making a bit of money, but I honestly couldn’t care less about it. I thought I’d feel differently once I’d “made” it. But, I don’t. And, if I’m really being honest, it’s not doing anywhere near what I thought it would. It’s not giving me the money I need, it’s not really catching on or making the difference I thought it would and I really, really don’t like the work.

Again, I ask, so what’s the problem?

Can’t you see, I’ve given up five years of my life to make it work, tons of money, most of my friends. I can’t just walk away when I’ve invested so much, given up so much.

If I do that now, it’d all be for nothing.

And if you don’t? I asked.


Two roads, I offer.

One road is the path of blind allegiance to the past.

It’s sticking with the living you’ve built out of attachment and shame.

Attachment to the need to feel what you’ve given up was “worth it.” Attachment to need to feel you haven’t “wasted” the last five years. Attachment to the ethos that’s been burned into your psyche that says “I’m the type of person who finishes what they start, even if it kills me.”

And, the shame or judgment you feel will touch down in your life, should you own the fact that it failed to become what you’d hoped and walk away.

So, you stick with it, continue to give up even more of your life, money, friends and health. Not because you’re doing the thing you can’t not do. Not because it will ever give you what you need. But, because…

You let your decisions be guided too much by what’s in your rear-view mirror, rather than your front windshield.

It doesn’t matter if you’re an entrepreneur or you’re a lawyer or doctor and you’re talking about a six-figure education, venture capital and time spent building your business.

Either way…

You’ve become a prisoner to your sunk costs.

The second road starts by wiping the slate clean. But, not really.

You walk away from everything you’ve invested. Your money, your time, your sacrifice and suffering. You realize, though, that walking away doesn’t mean “it was all for nothing.”

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You’re not really walking away, that’s just the voice of shame speaking. What you’re really doing is reframing the cost. Viewing the entire thing — the money, the time, the energy, the sacrifice — as the price of your “continuing education.” One that can only be forsaken by leaving it unexamined and untapped. And you have complete control over that decision.

So, you examine it. You tap it.

You integrate what you’ve learned, and then let this wisdom guide your decisions from this moment forward.

You ask yourself:

Knowing what I know today, would I start the same venture or career?

You find yourself answering a clear and resounding no. So, you kill your current business. Or you sell it, or find someone to run it who does love it. You decide to begin the process of transitioning into the path that willow allow your best self and, along with it, your best life, to emerge.

You take the short-term hit to your ego and emotional bank account, then put all you’ve got into crafting a more-informed future. Sure, there’s a short window of shame and even judgment.

But, the joy and excitement created by the freedom to now build something you’re truly drawn to, something that’s actually working on a level the old business never did or could, lets you leave those feelings in the rear view mirror with ease.

And, the judgment you thought would come your way?

Well, it does. But like most of us realize…

The world is far less interested in us than we perceive it to be.

People move on and when those same people who judged you see you flourishing, somehow you magically make the shift in their eyes from loser to lunch-pal.

Question is, which road will you choose?

The one that binds or the one that frees?


When you allow sunk costs to become your religion, you end up with a sunk life.

Learn from what got you here, but live into what will get you there.

3 Red Flags That You Are Losing Yourself in a Relationship A relationship should make an individual thrive not constrict. One should grow not wither. Read more at

No one should lose themselves in a relationship. On the contrary, one should become more of the person that they are and not less.

A relationship should make an individual thrive not constrict. One should grow not wither.

It’s imperative that an individual self-protect to ensure the relationship is a healthy one. A relationship that causes one to lose their sense of self is contrary to the word itself. It is by definition, “a connection between people,” not the abandonment of one for another.

The 3 Red Flags That You Are Losing Yourself in a Relationship:

Powerlessness: When a relationship becomes unbalanced with one person caring or trying more than the other, there is a shift. No one person should hold the power in the relationship, but no one should be powerless either. This is further heightened when a relationship is deteriorating and only one of the individuals is attempting to fix the problems. The unhealthier the relationship becomes and the more the focus switches to getting the other person to care enough to not lose it – one is, in the beginning, stages of losing themselves. The individual who is the only one trying to save the relationship loses sight of themselves while focusing all the energy on the significant other in an attempt to save the relationship. In fact, it takes two to care enough to save a relationship. The one who becomes powerless through their loss of self-gets used up.


Roles: The more a relationship develops into roles the greater the chance of losing one’s self. When a spouse takes on a role in a relationship they can become less of the individual. Partners can transition from respect to expected. It becomes two people with duties and roles rather than individuals sharing responsibilities. It also creates an imbalance in the partnership because roles generally involve one spouse tending to the other and the other providing the income. It creates a hierarchy in a relationship rather than an equilibrium. It fosters, spousal role related jokes, taking advantage of a spouse, and the income earning spouse potentially becoming more powerful. The spouse that takes on the tending role will lose them easily.

One Sided: Compromise is good. However, over compromising is not. It leads to giving too much of one’s self away. It leads to a one-sided relationship. If one is abandoning the majority of their needs, wants, interests, and pleasures to live how the significant other wants them to live then they are losing themselves. The more one sacrifices what is a part of themselves or important to them, the more they fail to live as themselves and the more they begin to live in the world of their spouse. A relationship should accentuate someone’s world, not ask them to live in another’s at the complete abandonment of who they are.

No one should have the power in a relationship, but no one should be powerless either. A person should strive for a healthy relationship that makes them blossom and grows, not wilt and wither and grow in someone else’s shadow.

The Man Who Gave Me the Shortcut to Success

A man must be big enough to admit his mistakes, smart enough to profit from them, and strongenough to correct them.” — John C. Maxwell

The Man Who Gave Me the Shortcut to Success

By Craig Ballantyne

Ten years ago my life changed for the better.

I was a young personal trainer working nearly twelve hours a day while also trying to build an online business.

Back then I could sense there was something bigger and better waiting for me, something more than just handing towels and dumbbells to wealthy men and women that wanted to kick-start their day with a workout.

Each morning I would drag myself out of bed at 4:30 a.m. and spend twenty minutes creating content for my online business. I’d do the same in every free minute I could find in the ‘slivers of time’ over the course of the day, to borrow a phrase from the author Margaret Atwood, who wrote her short stories while raising two children on her own.

Success came steady, but slow, including a small victory in 2005 when Early To Rise, this very newsletter, accepted my first health contribution.

But it wasn’t until after I hired my first business coach that I experienced my life-changing breakthrough. After years of being too cheap to change my ways, I finally decided to make the biggest — and best — decision of my career.

Within 3 months of working with Tom, my coach, we ran a product launch and I made more money in one day than I did in three months of personal training (and I was one of those expensive $100-an-hour big city personal trainers, too).

My mentor taught me the truth about success. He showed me just what was possible when you decide to get out of your comfort zone, to take back control of your days, and to play up a level in life.

It was exhilarating. It was as though I had discovered a secret passageway to success in life. I had long believed that the top 1% of successful people had secrets, and now I realized that all I had to do to get them was ask.

For the first time in my life I no longer felt like I was spinning my wheels.

In fact, I felt guilty.

“Should success really be so easy?” I thought.

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I wasn’t working any harder. I wasn’t any smarter. At some points it felt like my coach was doing all the work, and I was just reaping the rewards.

That’s the power of a mentor. They can make life that easy. A good coach lifts the obstacles out of your way. Often they even show you a path to success that is obstacle-free. This sure beats trying to go it alone on a steep and treacherous ascent.

Not only did my mentor show me the way to success, he asked me the right questions at the right time to identify exactly what I wanted to achieve in life.

It was the first question on our first call, ten years ago this month, where he asked, “What do you want your business to look like in 5 years from now?”

This was the turning point in my career.

It could have come straight out of the movie, The Secret. I kid you not. Don’t scoff.

When Tom asked me that, the answer came quickly.

“I want to have a business like,” I said.

There was no doubt about it. I had been a fan of ETR and Michael Masterson’s essays for years, and the thought of helping people, like you, accomplish not only their health goals, but also build their wealth and achieve financial freedom was the pinnacle of what I aspired to do with my life.

Tom’s question opened up the Universe to conspire with me to achieve this goal.

You can laugh at that if you want. Shake your head. Roll your eyes.

It doesn’t matter.

What does matter is what happened five years, three months, and seventeen days after Tom asked me that question. That’s when I bought, thanks to the help of my business partner Matt Smith.

Every time I tell that story I still get goosebumps, and that’s coming from one of the most skeptical people you will ever meet. I rolled my eyes at The Secret when I first watched it in 2007. I shook my head saying, “What a load of bunk.”

And then I lived my own version of it.

Of course, I didn’t just wish to own Early to Rise and then wait for someone to give it to me. Instead, I worked hard, followed my rules, put my 5 Pillars of Success into place, and concentrated on my vision every day.

I put my head down and I did the work. I hired more mentors, joined Mastermind groups, attended seminars, and invested in my education with DVD courses and books, and each year I continue to spend well over $50,000 on these resources, and it all comes back to me many fold.

If you follow these steps, you too can achieve your big goals and dreams. Life is that simple. It’s not easy, but it’s simple. You simply need a mentor to show you what steps to take, and then you put your head down and do the work. Success, freedom, and happiness will be yours with this blueprint in place.

I know today that no matter what happens with the economy, I’ll be okay. China can slow down. Real estate markets can blow up. The stock market can crash. Industries can change. Companies can be disrupted.

It doesn’t matter to me, because I have my formula.

“My knowledge will save me, and can never be taken away,” writes Ted Nicholas in his book, Billion Dollar Marketing Secrets.

Amen, Ted, Amen.

For me, it all started with taking that first step, of breaking out of my comfort zone, of hiring a mentor and get coaching from someone that had achieved all that I wanted to achieve in life.

When you get advice from someone that has “been there, done that”, you accelerate your learning curve and shortcut your success.

We all need a coach. Wayne Gretzky, Derek Jeter, Serena Williams, Tom Brady, and every athlete at the pinnacle of performance always had a coach. We all benefit from having a mentor. Mark Zuckerberg has one. Warren Buffett has one. Steve Jobs had one.

But you have to take that first step and ask for help.

Like most people, I was once seeking security in my little bubble, and too proud to ask for help. It’s tempting to remain in this cocoon, but we only grow when we are challenged, when we allow ourselves to be vulnerable, and when we seek the wisdom of mentors.

This has always been the case, from ancient times when students sought out teachers of philosophy, like Seneca and Epictetus, to today, where we are surrounded with more qualified coaches and experts than ever.

And so, if you’re struggling or just not succeeding as fast as you want, then realize you’re standing at a crossroads. Choosing the right path makes all the difference. It might be tempting to follow the crowd, to get caught up in the superficiality of the latest “can’t miss” television show, but that is not the path to success.

It is, as the old poem goes, the road less traveled that makes all the difference.

You are an original, and you can’t take the easy way out if you want to succeed and to make it to the next level in life.

You must take that first step of investing in yourself.

I am grateful that I overcame my skepticism, shed my ego, asked for help, and invested in the opportunity available to me. That decision has given me the confidence and connections that have brought forth an abundance of opportunity into my life.

No matter how negative the media makes the world out to be, this remains the greatest time in history to be alive. I hope you see it the same way, and I hope you make the right decision to take action and start your success journey today. Mine began ten years ago this month, and yours can begin now.

Let me share my success formula with you. You’ll discover how to create your rules for life, how to implement my 5 pillars for success, and how to create the vision that will serve as the guiding light on your journey.