Category Archives: life

My Daily Read

When we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves.” ― Viktor E. Frankl

How to Determine What Motivates You

By Leo Babauta
I was talking to a 19-year-old recently and he has been struggling with motivation.

His problem goes like this: he gets excited about starting a project or plan, and is very motivated at the start … but after a few days, that feeling dies down, and he starts procrastinating.

He really does want to do the project or follow through on the plan, but the motivation inevitably drops away.

I told him this is something he should devote some effort to figuring out, because very few problems are as important to solve as this one.

I suggested experiments in motivation. Every person is motivated differently (and in fact, that can shift), so finding methods that motivate you personally is a matter of experimenting.

I’m writing this post for him, and anyone else who might want to try these experiments.

 

How does it work? You try each experiment for a week, and note the results. After a couple months of doing this, you know more about your personal motivation style than ever before.

Here are eight motivation methods you could try:

  1. Un-ignorable Consequences. Set a deadline for the task(s) you want to complete, and a consequence you won’t be able to ignore. It’s best to share this deadline and consequence with an accountability partner or publicly. Example: I post on Facebook I’m going to write 1,000 words in my book every day this week, or I can’t watch TV for a week. (That only works if you really care about the consequence.) Another example: if I don’t write my first chapter by Saturday at midnight, I have to donate $200 to Donald Trump (or whichever candidate you don’t like) and post about it publicly. The idea is that the consequence should be embarrassing and something you can’t just ignore.

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  2. Completion Compulsion. Many people, myself included, have a strong desire to complete a list. For example, if you’ve watched 15 out of 20 episodes of a show, you might really want to finish watching the show. This is “completion compulsion,” and I think everyone experiences it sometime — especially if finishing the list seems doable. So the method is this: make a list of 10 small actions (10 minutes or less to complete) that you want to finish this week on a certain project, or 5 small actions you want to finish each day, and make it your goal to finish the list. You could combine this with the un-ignorable consequences method (if I don’t finish my list each day, I can’t have wine).
  3. A Powerful “Why”. Understand the deeper reasons you want to complete this goal or accomplish this task. It should be a reason that really resonates with you, that you deeply want to achieve. Now write your “Why” in a phrase (like, “compassion for myself” or “to help others in pain”), and post it somewhere visible, so you won’t forget it.
  4. Get Excited Daily. It’s easy to be excited about a project or goal when you first start, but that dies out. So renew it! Each day, start by setting a goal for the day that you can accomplish and that you care about. Find inspiration, visualize your accomplishment, find some music that motivates you, find an inspirational quote or video … anything to get you excited to accomplish your goal for the day!
  5. Focus on Being True to Your Word. One of the most important things in life is to be trusted, to have people believe that when you say you’re going to do something, you’ll do it. If people don’t trust in that, you won’t have good relationships, romantically, with friends, or at work. Imagine hiring someone and not knowing if they’re going to show up, or do the work if they do show up. So you should make it one of your priorities in life to live the motto, “Be True to Your Word.” That starts with small things: tell someone you’re going to do a small task that will only take 10-30 minutes. Then do it. Repeat this several times a day, building other people’s trust in you and your own trust in yourself. Post the motto somewhere you won’t forget it.
  6. Find a Group. Humans are social animals, and you can use that to your advantage. Create an accountability group of friends or colleagues who want to achieve a goal or finish a project. Agree to set daily or weekly targets, and check in with each other daily or weekly (form a Facebook group or subreddit, perhaps). Set rewards and/or embarrassing consequences for hitting or missing the targets. Have weekly “winners” for those who did the best at their targets. Encourage each other and help each other when someone is faltering.
  7. Focus on a Sense of Achievement. With every task you complete, pause at the end of it to savor your feeling of accomplishment. This is a great feeling! Share your victory with others. Savor the feeling of building trust in yourself. As you start a task, think about how good you’ll feel when you accomplish it.
  8. Small Starts, Quick Rewards. Create a system where you have to do short tasks (just 10 minutes) and you get a small reward at the end of it. For example, I just need to write for 10 minutes, then I get to have my first coffee of the day. Or I clear my email inbox for 10 minutes, and then I get to check my favorite sites for 5 minutes. Don’t let yourself have the reward unless you do the task! The smaller the task, the better, so you won’t delay starting.

OK, these are eight experiments, but you might think of others, like the Seinfeld Method or the Pomodoro Technique. All that matters is that you try the experiments, and note the results. At the end of each weekly experiment, write a brief review of how it went. Rate your productivity on a scale of 10. Then try another experiment.

At the end of these, you’ll have tried a bunch of great methods, and figured out what helps you most. You might combine methods, or use different ones at different times. And maybe after all of this, you’ll have a trust in yourself that’s so strong, you don’t need any methods!

About the Author: Leo Babauta is the owner of ZenHabits.net, a website devoted to providing clear and concise wisdom on how to simplify your life. He’s also the author of, “The Power of Less.”

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How To Move Forward

Take These 7 Steps to Get Unstuck

By Mark Ford

When you agreed to do it, it seemed like a wonderful challenge.

Now, your deadline is fast approaching… and you haven’t even started.

Getting the job done is a priority — yet it somehow doesn’t happen. Instead, it stays there on your daily task list — highlighted for attention but never attended to.

What causes this pernicious process? Why does a great opportunity turn into a very big chore… that turns into an overwhelming enigma… that threatens to turn into the big job you never even started?

There are many causes. But only one solution always works for me.

The solution involves seven steps:

  1. If you’ve been stuck for more than three days, you’re stuck. Admit it. Stand in front of the mirror and repeat: “I shot my mouth off. I’m stuck.” You’ve been waiting for inspiration to save you, but it hasn’t appeared. Stop waiting.
  2. Change the status of the job. It started as one priority among many. Now, make it No. 1 on your daily task list.
  3. Don’t even think of attacking the whole mess at once. Break it up into small pieces. If it’s a 40-page report you have to write, break it up into pages. If it’s a bunch of people you have to talk to, think of each conversation as a separate task.
  4. Working back from your deadline, figure how many discrete units (pages, calls, etc.) you need to do each day. Then figure out how long it will take you to do that many units.
  5. If each unit can be done in less than 15 minutes, you’re in luck. Give yourself the job of doing just one 15-minute task each day. If you’ll have to spend more than 15 minutes a day to finish, then begin — still — with 15 minutes… but increase your daily time commitment as you get rolling.
  6. Start immediately. Complete your first 15 minutes — even if you don’t think you’re doing the task well.
  7. Keep going until you break through the psychological barrier you’ve been up against.

The secret here is to reduce each day’s work to 15 minutes.

It’s such a small amount of time — you won’t have any trouble doing it. This gets the ball rolling… even if it doesn’t seem to be rolling in the right direction.

Sooner or later — and this is guaranteed — you’ll get the inspiration you’d been waiting for while you were stuck.

Then, you’ll find you’ve already done a good deal of the grunt work (thinking, planning, researching, whatever).

This method is particularly useful when you get to the point where you don’t even like a project anymore. Unless you have the discipline to hack away at it every day, you’ll avoid it. And it will never get done.

Some days, you’ll want to work more than 15 minutes. That’s fine.

In fact, that’s the idea. It means your creative mind is starting to kick in.

One day — and this can happen at almost any time — you’ll see the big picture… and you’ll be able to get the whole project done right. You may decide to scrap — or change — some of what you’ve been doing.

But from that point on, you’ll work quickly and easily.

What are you waiting for? Get to it.

Editor’s Note: Mark Ford is hosting an online training event all this week. It culminates with a two-hour webinar event on Thursday. He’ll explain the ideas behind his favorite wealth-building methods and show you how to create a sizable net worth in 7 years or less… without touching stocks, bonds, or options. If you’re ready to increase your cash flow starting tomorrow — and to stop being a slave to a paycheck — go here to sign up for 100% free access.

About the Author: Mark Morgan Ford was the creator of Early To Rise. In 2011, Mark retired from ETR and now writes the Palm Beach Letter. His advice, in our opinion, continues to get better and better with every essay, particularly in the controversial ones we have shared today. We encourage you to read everything you can that has been written by Mark.

What Happen When a Real Leader Enters a Room

 


5 Things That Happen When a Real Leader Enters a Room

By Benjamin P. Hardy @BenjaminPHardy

“There are no bad teams, only bad leaders.” –Jocko Willink

Leadership is what determines how successful you and those around you are. If there is minimal success, there is minimal leadership.

There are very few real leaders:

  • Who genuinely stand for something and brightly reflect those standards.
  • Who are willing to put everything on the line for what they believe in.
  • Who create change and lead.

Here’s what abruptly happens when you take ownership of your life and situation:

1. Inject a winning standard of performance before you start winning.

“How would your life change if you made decisions TODAY as if you were already the person you want to become TOMORROW? We tend to live up to our own feelings of ourselves (for better or for worse). If we plan to become something else, what better way to do so than to step into that skin now?”  — Richie Norton

It doesn’t matter what your current circumstances are. Winners act like winners before they start winning.

Your mindset is what you grow into. Mental creation always precedes physical creation. Who you are in your head is who you eventually become.

The first thing that happens when you step up as a leader is that you and everyone around you begin looking toward success. You start craving it, and believing it’s possible. In turn, your behavior starts changing.

It all starts with you.

2. Constancy among chaos and success.

“Consistent effort is a consistent challenge.” Bill Walsh

Most people can’t handle failure or success. They’re on a behavioral roller coaster depending entirely on external circumstances. When things aren’t going well, they’re overwhelmed or depressed. When things are going well, they’re overconfident and lazy.

However, when you show up as a leader, your mindset and behavior remain constant regardless of success or defeat.

You are marching forward to the beat of your own drum. Everything outside you is noise. You’re compelled forward by intrinsic vision and values. Your consistency reflects your conversion to your cause.

3. A clear point of reference is established to keep you consistent.

When you decide to lead, you provide a clear standard of excellence. Your standard of excellence becomes your point of reference, keeping you honest and consistent in all circumstances.

It ensures you don’t have too many bad days in a row. Or get derailed by haters. Or get overconfident when successful.

Your point of reference is what you really believe in. It’s why you do it.

When you’re struggling and failing, you look to your point of reference. When you’re crushing it, you look to your point of reference.

What’s your point of reference?

4. Clear performance metrics are established to keep you accountable.

“Where performance is measured, performance improves. Where performance is measured and reported, the rate of improvement accelerates.” — Thomas S. Monson

What does success look like for you, behaviorally? What is your actual job? What do you need to do?

How do you determine if you’re failing or succeeding?

There should be clear metrics to measure yourself against. However, simply knowing what you should be doing isn’t enough. Clear accountability needs to be put in place.

That accountability, if possible, should be to an actual person, not just a spreadsheet. When you are required to report your progress — especially to someone you respect — your performance will improve.

5. As the leader, you reflect the standard of excellence and recognize you are the ultimate bottleneck.

You are the example of what optimal performance looks like. You become the living and breathing standard of excellence for others to emulate. You reflect your mission and values.

One thing is absolutely certain: Those following you will mimic your performance — whether good or bad. Thus, you are the ultimate bottleneck. Your failure to get to the next level hinders everyone relying on you. You can’t take people beyond where you currently are, personally and professionally.

Hence, Darren Hardy, author of The Compound Effect, has said, “Never take advice from someone you wouldn’t trade places with.”

Who you follow determines where you get in life. If your leader isn’t moving forward, you’re not moving forward, because your results are a reflection of your leader’s results.

Conclusion.

The better you become, the more clearly you can help others get where they need to go, because you’ve been there yourself. The essence of true leadership is pure ownership. You’re no longer doing it for yourself, but so you can take those you lead further.

Way To Sucess

“The surest way to success is to add value to the world. Find your calling as quickly as possible and help as many people as you can.” – Craig Ballantyne

Teach Your Way to Success

By Craig Ballantyne
Last Friday, at my 6th annual Turbulence Training fitness summit, I stood on stage at the Westin Hotel in Westminster, Colorado, and preached. My sermon taught the audience how to use the 5 Pillars of Success to change any aspect of their life and overcome every obstacles in their way.

But during my presentation, it dawned on me that I could also be doing a better job of taking action and overcoming my own limiting beliefs. It was clear I needed this speech as much, if not even more than they did. It was time to take my own advice.

As I wrapped up and stepped off the stage, it hit me. The teacher had become the student. Even though I had just taught for an entire morning, I felt like I was the person in the room that had gotten the most benefit from the content.

“While we teach, we learn,” said the Roman philosopher Seneca.

From ancient history through to today, humans have realized that when you teach lessons to others, you end up learning more than the student. That’s why the best way to develop a greater understanding of any material is to play the role of the teacher and explain it to a student.

It’s even better when your students challenge you. The more questions they ask you, and the greater their skepticism, the more you have to properly articulate your answers and justify your beliefs. It’s much better to teach actively engaged minds than passive people.

Nothing is better than working one-on-one with a cynical student. It demands that you think critically about your beliefs, and it forces to build a stronger argument for your position while also simplifying your message. The best teacher is someone that can take a complex topic and distill it to easy-to-understand principles.

Finally, you learn and become a better teach through adapting your tone and delivery based on their non-verbal responses. For example, if you notice your audience scrolling through their smartphones during a section of your sermon, you’re getting critical feedback that this part of your presentation needs work. It’s not that the audience is being rude, it’s just that you’re being boring!

.*************************************************

Back in my days as a personal trainer to the richest men and women in Toronto, my favorite clients were the ones that demanded to know why I was giving them a specific exercise, using a new technique, or encouraging them to eat a certain way.

If I struggled to explain something, their critical gazes would let me know loud and clear that my reasoning wasn’t sound. This caused me to put more work into my study and honing my craft so that I delivered an even better and more effective fat loss program. It also helped me improve my own body transformation results.

That’s why, if your goal is to transform your life in any way, it’s helpful to become a mentor to someone else that seeks the same goals. By explaining your new habits, you will better understand their importance, and furthermore, you will become more committed to these new behaviors. When you act as a teacher you want to maintain integrity and act in a way that is consistent with what you just taught. After all, a hypocrite is a lousy teacher… and a lousy person.

But teaching goes beyond just strengthening your knowledge. Teaching makes you a better human being, too.

I’d like to update Seneca’s quote with a dose of 21st-century personal development. To do this, we’ll turn to my friend Frank McKinney, who once said, “You cannot brighten another’s path without lighting your own.”

I believe it. I’ve experienced it time and time again. There’s not much work in the world that can make you feel as fulfilled as teaching others. Each time I step on stage to teach and preach, I forget my selfish worries and problems, and leave the stage a better man. Each time I create a video explaining fitness tips, time management, productivity or creative writing techniques, it elevates my mood and leaves me with a satisfied smile.

This approach is simple to apply in our own lives. Whatever you know, you can simply follow these two rules for becoming a wiser and better person. First, you must practice what you preach. Second, you must practice preaching it.

Try it today. Teach someone something. It could be showing your child how to tie their shoes, or it could be sharing a simple productivity tip with a colleague. No matter what you teach or preach, you’ll feel better for it.

The big lesson for you is that if you want to improve yourself, then you MUST become a teacher and mentor to more people.

The teacher always learns as much, if not more, than the student.

And the more you learn, the more you can help others, and the positive cycle continues and expands, making you better and better at what you do, and allowing you to help more and more people.

Teaching others can also lift you out of the dark dips we all experience in life.

When you’re down, and troubled, and you need a helping hand, your best solution is to become the helping hand to someone else.

When you teach others what you know, when you share your knowledge, when you add value, this can deliver you from mild depression, from a scarcity mindset, and from a lack of clarity. Teaching will give you a natural high. You’ll do something good for others, and better yet, you’ll do something great for yourself. All the while you’ll improve your understanding of the material at the same time.

That’s why you actually benefit more from teaching than the student does.

Trust me, every single time I’ve opened my expertise and shared it with others, I’ve left with new ideas, a better understanding, a clearer vision of the problem (and the solution that can be implemented), a feeling of gratitude for the knowledge that I have, and thankfulness for the ability to shine a little light into someone’s life.

As an ETR reader you know more about success, productivity, building a business, and sales than 99% of the world. You could share a tip or two each day with colleagues that struggle in any one of those areas. Not only would it boost their performance, but you’d also improve your own work habits. When you did that, you would also benefit because it would make you more aware and committed to making similar changes in your own life. And of course, it will leave you with a smile on your face when you see the light bulb go off in their eyes.

Don’t tell me you don’t have anything to teach the world. In most areas of life, you don’t need to be a certified instructor or a genius in order to impart a little wisdom to a friend, a colleague, or a mentee. You just need to pass along what you know. Everyone wins when you do that.

It doesn’t matter if you are teaching a physical skill or a mental attribute, you cannot be a good teacher without making yourself better. When you instruct by example, it leads you to live by example. The lessons become more deeply ingrained in your mind. Keep on pushing and teaching. And that will make all the difference in your life.

“Show your character and commitment through your actions.” – Epictetus

Genius

William Beaty
William Beaty, 35yrs Elect Eng, Tesla fanatic since 1973, built devices from Tesla patents

334.3k ViewsMost Viewed Writer in Nikola Tesla with 30+ answers

Wealthy

WEALTHY

The 5% Rule

By Bedros Keuilian

Get a sheet of paper. Draw a line down the center. Write “95%” at the top of the left side and write “5%” at the top of the right side. In the right-hand column list all the things that make you money and move your business forward. Selling is one of them. Marketing is another. Delegating to your staff is another. Inspiring your team to be on the same vision, to be on the same page as you. In the left-hand column, list all the things that someone else should be doing, like bookkeeping, writing payroll checks, taking out the garbage, cleaning the office, paying the office rent, changing out the light bulbs and cleaning the carpets, etc.

Following this 5% rule is what separates very successful people from ordinary or struggling people. For example, if you and I both have eight hours a day to work and we have the same knowledge base, but you’re doing 100% of these activities every day and I’m only focusing on my 5%, I’m going to be miles ahead of you. I’m focusing only on the actions that grow my business, make me more money, get more clients, and make a big impact while you’re too busy focusing on the trivial matters that should be done by someone else.

Selling

People will do anything for those who encourage dreams, justify failures, allay fears, confirm suspicions, and help them throw rocks at their enemies.” – Blair Warren

How to Leverage Human Nature to Sell More

By Jonathan Fields

We’ve hit that time of year where rumors about the next iPhone are starting to bubble about.

There’s one particular one that’s got people scratching their heads. Leaked cases show a design that looks largely indistinguishable from the iPhone 6 or 6s.

Why is it this interesting, even if you have no interest in the iPhone?

Because it’s about the dance between seduction, status, value and human nature. And, how you might explore leveraging this relationship both for well and for good.

Here’s the thing…

On a purely rational level, when we look to buy something we are looking for value. We want to either solve a problem or experience delight and we want to feel like our money is being well spent.

So far, so good. Except for one little problem.

We are not purely rational beings. In fact, we may well be more irrational than rational.

We want value. But our brains are also wired for status and seduction.

We’re led around by an unconscious bias toward status and seduction.

On the seduction side, we want desperately to be lulled and lured, teased and tantalized. We buy something not just because it’s the best solution to a problem, but because the lines, colors, sweep, aroma or even sound touches some emotion. Because it provokes a reaction. It makes you feel. It triggers a primal call and, often, a memory and a story. An association. And that deeper yearning fuels a compulsion to seek, to want, to need, to have. You don’t need a behavioral background or market research to prove this, just open your eyes. The people and things in your life very likely make the case.

Bundled on top of the near-ancestral pull of seduction, there’s another seemingly irrational compulsion that directs our actions. A wiring that leads us to measure our own success not by some inner, objective metric, but in comparison to the perceived success of others. We are status-seeking beasts.

As Alina Tugend recently wrote in The New York Times, summarizing findings or researcher, Erzo Luttmer:

“…most of us feel better if we make, say, $100,000 if the majority of our neighbors make $75,000 than if we earn $150,000 when most of our friends bring in $200,000.”

This is why living in a place like New York City, where I call home, can be, on the one hand, quite magical, and on the other, maniacally futile and demoralizing. Because, no matter how much you earn or have, you will always be able to surround yourself with those whose relative wealth, power and access dwarfs yours. And, because while a part of this unfortunate wiring is simply “knowing” you’ve got a respectable seat at the status table, the other part is a merciless yearning to “let others know” you’re “of their caliber, too.” You’re worthy. It is a compulsion that is very likely compounded, if not outright driven by another primal impulse, the need to belong.

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In the time it takes someone to drive down to their local Crossfit, you
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Try these NO-equipment workouts and compare.

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So, when a new iPhone is rumored to hit the streets, devotees don’t just line up for hours to be first to get a new device because of improved utility. Sure, functionality matters, that’s the theoretically more objective value side of the equation. That’s the rational brain at work. But deeper down, we’re buying status and seduction. We want something that’s cool and sexy, however we define it. We want something that satisfies that inner comparison Jones. We want to feel like we’ve got the Benjamins to afford it and, while we might not be winning the mobile-tech comparison game, at least we’re in it. And, we want those whose approval and acceptance we seek to know we’re one of them, too. We want the world to know we have the latest device money can buy. And, we telegraph that by whipping out a phone that is observably different than the old model.

At first blush, the notion that our happiness and fulfillment is tied to status and seduction is, well, pretty messed up. We’re not “supposed” to be this way. So, we try to deny it. That doesn’t work, so we try to change it, to train it out of our conscious process. Except, the script that runs these two impulses runs deeper than conscious thought. Changing wiring on that level is a near herculean task that requires extraordinary motivation that most people just don’t have. It’s not impossible, but it requires real work.

You can practice mindfulness, cultivate gratitude and exalt generosity as benchmarks of success. You can shift your lens on what matters and why. These are all a part of my daily practice. They help. A lot. Still…

It’s brutally hard to train the sex and comparison impulse entirely out of your brain.

Are there outliers, folks who’ve learned to live from a place where seduction and status are truly not drivers of behavior? Maybe. But, often it’s accompanied by fierce and enduring effort, along with a removal from the physical and social setting that reinforces these impulses on a level very few people are willing to embrace. On the whole, most of us remain and will remain keenly aware of and fueled, at least on some level, by status and seduction.

Manufacturers and marketers have known this for years, and leveraged these dual impulses to drive consumption, and not always with regard to genuine value or benefit.

And, that’s got me thinking. What might happen if instead of denying or trying to change this quirk of human nature, we embraced it?

What if we turned the primal yearning for status and seduction into an ally?

What if we tapped it to build products, solutions, stories and conversations that leveraged these impulses for individual and societal good? To improve the human condition? Starting with the one human who decides what to do and buy. You!

What if we took more of an Aikido approach to status and seduction?

What if, instead of labeling them as “bad,” we simply saw them as a form of energy that is not only capable of driving behavior, but of being harnessed? What if, rather than pushing against our seduction and status “opponent’s” energy or trying to destroy it, we worked with and redirected it to create better outcomes, not just for us, but for those we seek to serve?

In fact, a handful of change-makers in the cause-venture and non-profit world are beginning to do just that. They’re owning and harnessing status and seduction on a level rarely seen. And, in doing so, they’re making huge strides in fundraising and expanding the impact they can have on the lives of those they serve, and those who help them serve.

Take the now global philanthropic organization, charity: water. Before founding this fast-growth foundation, Scott Harrison lived about the most opposite life you could imagine. He was a club promoter. Status and seduction were his domain, and he wielded them expertly and largely for personal gain. Awakening to a call to re-orient his life, he talked his way onto a floating hospital ship off the coast of Liberia, where he eventually came face to face with the reality of a global drinking water crisis that he saw as solvable. He felt called to do something and, so, started charity: water as a vehicle to bring water to those in need.

He also realized, drawing upon his promoter days, that there was a tremendous untapped fundraising and contribution asset that was being largely ignored in the world of foundations and non-profits; status and seduction. Actually, it wasn’t so much being ignored as it was being targeted in a way that left Gen X and Millennials, the club audience he knew so well, anywhere from unmoved to repelled.

When he decided to start charity: water, Harrison understood the need to also pay almost maniacal attention to the visual brand, the mission, the messaging, the design, the website and the way he told the story both of the people and villages he hoped to serve and of the more subtle, yet powerful benefits of being associated with this next-generation engine of impact. He effectively engineered status and seduction into the brand on a level that hadn’t been seen before. The very same impulses that he’d leveraged on a more hedonistic level in a past life, Scott now tapped to move the seemingly unmovable to a life of deeper and more public service and contribution. As I write this, charity: water reports having funded more than 20,000 water projects, providing drinking water to more than 6,000,000 people in 24 countries.

Point is this…

We spend so much time labeling the evolutionary armature of the human condition as bad, morally or socially repugnant, and trying to snuff it out. There are, no doubt, certain generations-old neural grooves or even outright pathologies that, to the extent possible, can and should be rewired or extinguished, if possible.

But, what of those quirks of consciousness that, while often expressed to the detriment of self and others, just might be capable of being channeled to serve a “higher purpose?”

What if, instead of rejecting the neural predisposition of the masses and working to rewire what most people have no interest in rewiring, we instead learned to harness this quirk of behavior as fuel for meaningful action, service, and contribution?

What if we dropped the labels and, instead, took up the quest to redirect, rather than annihilate the energy that flows through these impulses?

What if we harnessed status and seduction as a path to meaningful contribution?

Is it the best way to get there? Maybe, maybe not. But, as the Dalai Lama famously said when asked if it was okay to serve others with the knowledge that you’ll benefit as well, while the motive might not be as pure, the net effect is still the elevation of others, and that’s a good thing.

Something to ponder as we all explore how to build what we’re here to build, and tell the story in a way that taps our innate conditioning as fuel for positive action and impact.

About the Author: Jonathan Fields is a dad, husband, author, speaker, A-list blogger and serial wellness-industry entrepreneur. Fields writes about entrepreneurship and creativity at www.JonathanFields.com and interviews emerging world-shakers at www.GoodLifeProject.com. His latest book, Uncertainty: Turning Fear and Doubt Into Fuel For Brilliance, was named the #1 personal development book of 2011 by 800-CEO-Read.

Important Steps For Parents to take after an Autism diagnosis

After an Autism Diagnosis: 13 Crucial Next Steps For Parents

BlogHer Original Post

If your child has recently been diagnosed with autism, as my son was in 2003, here’s what I want you to know: Learn from me, don’t be me.

Leo Around the Time of His Autism Diagnosis

Leo, around the time of his diagnosis. Photo: © Jonathan Mandel, used with permissionWhen professionals first started suggesting that my Leo might be autistic, I reeled. I didn’t know anything about autism at the time, except as disability version of a child-stealing bogeyman. When my son’s diagnosis was confirmed, I was terrified. And then I was depressed. And then I got to work on figuring out how to parent an autistic kid. And then I made a lot of mistakes. And then I rued those mistakes and tried to do better. And then I wished it hadn’t taken me so damn long to figure out the best ways to support, help, advocate for, and express my love for my now-teen son—who has always deserved better than a reeling, terrified, depressed, confused, and regretful mom.

The funny thing is, the happy photo of my family and parents you see above was taken around the time Leo was first diagnosed. Look at that cute, sweet little guy, radiating and reciprocating joy! Yet that sweetness and that joy was not my focus at the time, because I was so preoccupied by negative assumptions about autism, and also by the urging I was getting from so many sources to “fix” Leo, to hurry up and get him into various therapies so he wouldn’t miss any supposed windows of opportunity.

I wish I’d known then what I know now: that I should have given myself more time to recognize my wonderful autistic boy for who he is, rather than what people assumed autism made him. I also wish I’d been able to recognize and dismiss all that debilitating ignorance, fear, and confusion.

Ideally, I’d go back in time and advise (and pinch) my former self. But since that’s not currently possible, my next best option is to share some hard-earned wisdom with parents who are just starting out, so they can avoid some of the mistakes I made, and do right by their autistic kids.

So here it is: the advice I wished I’d been given, when my son Leo was first diagnosed with autism.

1. Give yourself time to adjust.

Negative messages and images dominate media coverage of autism, and are the main reasons autism scares the crap out of parents and parents-to-be. What most don’t realize is that they’ll be parenting the same kid they were parenting before the autism diagnosis arrived, and that diagnosis just helps steer you and your parenting approach in the right direction. So give yourself time to be cautious and thoughtful, and adjust your course as needed.

There’s no denying that autism can bring challenges for your kid or your family, no matter your child’s personality or specific needs. But please know that most problems you encounter will be due to lack of understanding and accommodation about autism from other people and society in general, and not because of autism. This is especially true when your child’s needs are less evident: if they don’t appear to have a language delay, or if they need support with filtering overwhelming everyday environments, as in processing delays or sensory sensitivities.

You also need to give yourself time to understand why those nasty and ever-present cultural messages about all autistic kids being lost in their own worlds, isolated, lacking affection or empathy, etc., are so hurtful and mistaken, so you can push back against them. Those messages are based on misunderstanding of autistic people and how they interact with and perceive the world, and are just not true. By pushing back, you can help make the world a better place for your child right now, and also for the adult they will become.

2. Give the people around you time to adjust, and keep them in the loop.

Like me, my friends and family didn’t know a thing about autism when Leo was first diagnosed. They also didn’t know what to say to us, beyond platitudes. I don’t really blame them; we were all in that ignorance boat together. But I do wish I’d been together enough to feed them lines like, “it’s okay to ask us questions, but we might not know the answers yet” and “feel free to keep inviting us over; we’ll say no if it doesn’t work.”

One way you can help your people become your team—and by helping them, help your child and yourself—is by inviting folks along for the ride. You can post status updates on private groups on Facebook, on blogs, or though periodic group emails (being mindful of your child’s privacy in the more public areas). You can let your people know it’s okay to absorb information without commenting. This way, you have less to explain when you see them in person, and the new information you’re figuring out won’t be foreign to them.

Hopefully, these efforts will mean you and your child become surrounded by people who understand and support you. (They may also decrease the number of well-meaning but insulting “I could never do what you do” comments.)

3. Give yourself time to process information critically.

There is so much bad autism information out there, especially the hawking of sciencey-sounding “cures” (there’s no such thing) or “recovery” (ditto). But there’s so much good information, too! And the more informed you become, the more your perspectives on and understanding of autism and parenting will change — ideally for the better.

Wired journalist Steve Silberman’s forthcoming book NeuroTribes*, for example, goes deep into the history of how we define autism, how who qualifies as autistic has changed over time, why there’s no autism epidemic, the dehumanizing history of Applied Behavioral Analysis, and the emerging leadership of autistic people themselves—and will change the way a lot of people think about autism. It’s a must-read.

While I’m not a huge fan of “mommy instinct,” I do think parents need to pay attention to their autism information spidey sense. If someone is pushing autism information that does not stand up to even the most cursory research—for instance, that autism is caused by misaligned energy pathways, or is avaccine injury—run away and find better information resources.

4. Give yourself time learn which organizations and people to trust.

Most people outside the communities consider Autism Speaks a trustworthy autism resource. Yet, in my experience, autistic people and their supporters tend to criticize Autism Speaks, for not including any autistic people in its leadership, and for basing their fundraising campaigns on fear of autism and pity for autistic people and their families.

Autistic-led organizations like The Autistic Self-Advocacy Network (ASAN) tend to focus on the needs of autistic people of all ages and abilities, and provide toolkits and other advocacy materials. When I’m looking for good information, I tend to watch what ASAN and their allied organizations are posting about.

My biggest shift in understanding happened when I encountered autistic people and their writings, and learned to trust them. Julia Bascom’s essay Dear Autism Parents felt scary and confrontational when I first read it several years ago, but now sounds impassioned and reasonable—as well as a wake-up call to parents who misunderstand autistic adults, their passion for helping today’s autistic kids, and their right to assert authority in understanding the autistic experience.

While evaluating whether an org or person is reliable, you may need to work on your own defensiveness. If you get angry at a person’s autism information or an autism org’s position, consider that you may actually be overwhelmed by the possibility that you had been getting your information from unreliable sources. Give yourself the space to walk away and think things over.

You also need to learn to differentiate between those who are legitimately angry over unfair treatment, and those who attack unfairly; you should at least listen respectfully to the former. And, for the sake of all that is holy, avoid toxic parenting groups—meaning parents who at first glance appear reasonable and compassionate, but would “understand” if you hurt your autistic child.

5. Give yourself time to figure out what autism means for your child.

Autistic brains and thinking processes can be very different from non-autistic brains. If you’re not autistic yourself, learning to recognize and understand these differences may take time, as well as trial and error. What a non-autistic person might think is emotional manipulation or callousness may be logic, executive function challenges, or genuine confusion: An autistic child may refuse to clean their room not out of defiance, but because they can’t comprehend taking on large multi-step processes without a checklist; or a child may laugh when other people are in trouble, not to be callous, but out of relief that they or their loved ones aren’t the distressed party.

Autistic perceptions of pain can also be atypical—some autistic people are hyposensitive, others are hypersensitive, some are both, and some just have a hard time interpreting pain signals. Be vigilant when your child appears to be injured, because they may not be able to tell you just how hurt they are, even if they are otherwise articulate.

Sensory experiences are also different for many autistic kids. They may not be able to filter out lights, sounds, or touch—to the point where just walking into a grocery store can cause a meltdown. If your child refuses to enter large, bright, loud, or bustling environments, consider that it may actually be painful for them to do so. If they’re not doing well in their classroom, consider that they might need noise-canceling headphones, or tinted glasses, to help filter out sensory stimuli so they can focus.

A large percentage of autistic people have clinical-level anxiety, and may learn to self-soothe throughstimming or creating elaborate, predictable, and therefore safe, routines. Try to understand why your child may be behaving differently than their peers, instead of getting embarrassed by your child behaving differently than their peers.

Also: Become educated about autistic learning styles. Not all autistic kids are math prodigies. In fact, studies show that most don’t have superior math skills. Most have average or below-average skills. In addition, co-occuring learning disabilities like ADHD, dyslexia, or dyscalculia are quite common too, and can be overlooked or termed “laziness” if your child is perceived to have academic strengths in other areas, or if your child is a person of color.

6. Give yourself time to figure out what communication looks like for your child.

Everyone communicates. Even kids who don’t speak. But autistic kids who can speak fluidly may not be able to communicate all their intentions. Be very careful about this, as those seemingly fluid talkers often have their communication needs underestimated, and suffer as a result.

And for those kids, like my son, who don’t speak or are not fluid speakers: We need to be careful to presume competence, to treat them as though they can understand everything you say. But that’s not enough. As Julia Bascom writes about parents who discover that their child is more capable than they’d realized:

“…they think the problem was that they treated their child like they were intellectually disabled, and they weren’t. But that’s not the problem. The problem is that they thought their child was intellectually disabled, and so they didn’t treat them like a person.”

Your communication goals for your child should be to find their optimal communication strategy and style—whether that’s speaking, using a symbol-to-speech device, or typing—and not to prove to the world that there’s a hidden child locked away inside your actual child right there in front of you.

7. Give yourself time to figure out which supports, schools, therapies, and environments will help your child succeed.

Is an inclusive educational environment a possibility? Do you know how to differentiate between helpful and harmful therapies? Are you unknowingly subjecting your child to therapies that would never be allowed with non-disabled kids? Do you know how to write educational goals that will best serve your child’s needs?

(This is where you rely on those trustworthy resources, as much as you can.)

8. Give yourself the space to be flexible about needs, and pick your battles.

You may need to adjust your rhythms to those of a kid who doesn’t sleep much, whose limited diet means bringing their food along whenever you don’t eat at home, who thrives on medications you’d previously consider terrifying choices, who suddenly can’t tolerate certain environments and needs to leave. Remind yourself that your child isn’t doing any of those things by choice, and renew your commitment to understanding their autistic needs.

9. Give yourself time to find autistic role models for your child.

If your child doesn’t know any other autistic kids or people like themselves, they may feel alone and isolated (or even broken, or defective). Don’t let that happen if you can do anything about it. I have found good role models for my son in the blogs of autistic people, and in books about autistic people. And, of course, through hanging out with autistic people!

As much as you love your child and accept your child (and as much as those feelings may be reciprocated)—if you’re not autistic, then you’re not part of the community your child does belong to. So please help your child find their tribe.

10. Give yourself time to think about shared traits.

By this, I mean traits you might share with your child, and other family members might share with your child. Even if you yourself don’t have enough traits for a diagnosis, many parents and siblings get diagnosed with autism themselves after another family member’s diagnosis makes them more aware of what autism can mean. This is especially important for female siblings and family members, as autism in girls is different than autism in boys and is often overlooked due to gender bias in diagnostic criteria.

Having multiple people with autistic traits in a home can mean greater understanding, but it can also conflict: In our house, we have some people who like to make noise, some people who are rather insensitive to noise, and some people who are overly sensitive to noise. If the noise maker is happy, the noise-avoider is miserable, and the noise-oblivious person (okay, me) is too often wondering what the hell is going on. We are still learning to negotiate our space to suit everyone’s sensory needs.

11. Give your child space to grow and change.

Not just when puberty hits (boy howdy, this is where we are now, and it can be different for autistic kids—it can really scramble communication abilities, emotional stability, and coping capabilities), but in terms of autistic development being different than non-autistic development. I worry a lot about people whose families stop trying to teaching their kids skills because they’re past some imaginary development window, when autistic people actually tend to continue to gain skills throughout their lifetimes, more so than non-autistic people.

12. Give yourself time to figure out what your child really enjoys.

Surrender to that joy whenever possible. Your kid is a kid, after all. Don’t let people frame your kid’s enthusiasms in pathological terms like “special interest” or “splinter skill.” If your kid likes something, and they’re not hurting anyone, let them like liking it.

13. Give yourself time to plan for your child’s future without you.

For kids who do not have life-threatening health conditions, there’s no reason to think your child won’t outlive you. And that’s how you need to plan for their future—as one without you in it. Denial helps no one here, and could actually really imperil your child. So start figuring this out now, and then you’ll have one less thing to worry about.

I realize this is a lot (a lot!) of information to digest. Give yourself time to think it all over. If I just made you feel like you stepped into autism parenting information quicksand, come back later, or try to portion it out and think over various bits of advice as needed. Know that, even though I’ve been writing about parenting and autism since 2003, I honestly learn something new every day. I know I haven’t learned nearly enough yet—but I also know that my son and I both benefit whenever I learn something helpful. So keep on learning and loving, and let me know if I can ever help.

Note that I could put in a link for every assertion I made above, but then this would look even more like a research paper. If you want background on any unlinked topic, just ask. Please also know that this is a brief overview, and that I could write a separate essay on each point above.

*Disclosure: Our family was consulted in the writing of the book.

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