Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Success Videos - Milton Friedman

The Idea Channel is streaming (for free) the late Dr. Milton Friedman’s classic free-market documentary “Free To Choose” in both the 1980 version and the 1990 version. Dr. Friedman died recently and the streaming video of his world-famous documentary is in tribute to his memory.

We often forget that one of the greatest “Success Secrets” is a free market in a free country. Milton Friedman’s classic program is a timeless reminder of that fact.

There are also printable transcripts of the show here.


Saturday, March 17, 2007

Success Master Skills - Reading

Someone (Jim Rohn?) once said that the only real changes you can make in your life come from the books you have read and the money you have saved. I certainly believe this: reading is unquestionably a Success Master Skill – a skill that opens the door to many other skills and achievements. Like my previous Success Master Skill article on Saving Money, these are skills the lack of which will weaken all of your other skills.

Charlie Munger, billionaire and vice Chairman of Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway is a voracious reader, as is hedge-fund manager/investment strategist Barton Biggs, author of Hedgehogging. Biggs mentions Munger in his book, and also mentions that many investment managers in his field read through huge stacks, even car-trunks full of material, on a regular basis.

And you? You’re going to outsmart these guys with a tip from your firned at the health club? Not likely.

Reading provides such an unfair advantage, that most totalitarian governments drastically block access to books of all kinds, and often burn them.

To expand this concept, let’s assume you get a lot of your knowledge from a few of your closest friends, or from items on TV and in the paper. Unless your circle of friends includes the very best in every field of modern life, from health, to investing, real estate, consumer goods, science, religion, politics, economics, etc, you will be out-gunned by those who do have access to these sources of knowledge. And, for most of us, that source is generally going to be books or focused articles. TV? Fuggedaboudit!! Most items and ideas featured on TV are based on PR sources either biased by the source, or based on a “common denominator” level of dumbdness that is far below what you need to really benefit from important new material.

Some more points:

Reading will help you avoid “reinventing the wheel”. By reading, you take advantage of the billons of hours of trial-and-error by those who have gone before you in every field from gambling to gardening. You are falling hopelessly behind every time you do not consult an expert source on any topic.

A consider the development of stealth technology. It was a Russian scientific paper, read by an American engineer, that inspired stealth technology. Obviously, someone in Russia was not reading enough !!

One book by Jack Nicklaus changed Greg Norman’s life and jumpstarted his golf career. I am sure he never regrets sitting down for that read!

Reading can alert you to trends, which come from multiple data points, as opposed to the isolated packets of information you can get from pickling up a newspaper or listening to your car radio. What is going on in the house next door? The company next door? The country next door? If you just know your immediate landscape you are hopelessly behind those who know more.

Reading can teach skills that can leverage your one hour of reading into thousands of saved hours. Skills such as thjose found in David Allen's Getting Things Done(GTD) have , for many people, saved astronomical amounts of time for the people who have taken a few hours to read Allen's book.

Reading can save you mistakes costing huge amounts of money. Let’s say it’s 1999 and you hear that the Nasdaq is making historic highs. If you had read about diversification, you would not be dangerously concentrated in tech stocks. If you had read about dollar-cost averaging, you would have been in the market for many years, and thus not “getting in at the top”. If you had read about valuation, you definitely would not have put your life savings into Pets.com. All in all, only a broader, longer-time perspective, attainable through reading, would have saved you from the devastating financial and psychological trauma of the bursting stock market bubble of 2000-2002 .

Reading can align your expectations more closely to reality. There are a lot of dreamers in the USA, and perhaps we could use a few more realists. Ben Stein’s brilliant book “How Successful People Win” explodes the myth of instant, lasting success, Success, he tells us (and he should know), takes years, and is never secure: it must be won again and again, day by day. Reading a book such as this can disabuse us of the notion that we can “make it big” either quickly, or permanently. This knowledge can help us re-frame our efforts into a marathon rather than a sprint, while keeping us from being too discouraged in the immediate term. If we read the book.

Presidents read. Great generals read. All good writers read. Innovators, warriors, artists, leaders all read constantly. And yet I rarely meat asingle person who is in the course of reading a single nonfiction book! While sad, this finding allows all of us a significant and easily attainable advantage over the non-readers. It may be the most basic, proven, reliable Success Master Skill of them all.

Read. As if your success depends on it.

It does.


Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Success Tools - The Affirmation Library

As I was reading Sandra Anne Taylor’s Quantum Success: The Astounding Science of Wealth and Happiness, I was impressed that she chose to end each chapter with a series of affirmations related to the subject of that chapter (confidence, Love, Energy, etc). It occurred to me to begin creating an Affirmation Library based on the affirmations in her book. I have been adding to my computer-based library each day from the affirmations in her book, keeping them in the categories she used in her chapters.

This way, I get to re-read each chapter’s affirmations as I type them into my WORD file, which could help impress their message into my subconscious. These affirmations also allow me to quickly review the messages that each chapter had to offer. And, down the road, I can easily review any or all of the affirmations when I need some for a specific area of my life.

Beyond the specific affirmations in the book, one could further add to one’s Affirmation library by creating specific affirmations for one’s specific life challenges (or successes): anything from a golf shot to a mother-in-law could be included in one’s personal Affirmation Library.

No one should consider distributing copyrighted material, of course, but certainly for one’s own archival purposes, an Affirmation Libray can be extended over a lifetime.

I am already finding that just a review of Ms. Taylor’s affirmations enables me to achieve a serene and positive frame of mind. A nice way to take a break during the day, too.

Related Posts:

My Success with Written Affirmations

The Unconscious Mind Part 1

The Unconscious Mind Part 2

How To Attract Good Luck


Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Success Tools - A New "Twist" on Affirmations

I am going to suggest a new category of affirmation called “Feedback Affirmations” or “Reinforcement Affirmations”. Ever since the time of Benjamin Franklin, the self-improvement literature has suggested that we:

a) Decide what we want then ...
b) Write it down, and then ...
c) Go about our day trying to achieve it.

But there hasn’t been as much literature on reinforcing the desired behavior when we do it. And yet, reinforcement is what instills good habits, and even “hooks” us on repeated success. Certainly, a personal coach or friend can give us a "pat on the back", but how about at the "micro level" , moment to moment, down in the "trenches" where it really counts?

So here is my suggestion:

Pick a habit or goal

In a pocket notebook, write at the top of the page : “I am fulfilling my commitment to _________________ by: "

Then as your successes go forward, immediately write them down as they occur to you.


I am fulfilling my commitment to better serve my clients by:

1/1/05 Returned all calls within 1 hour
2/2/05 Turned proposal around 3 days in advance of deadline
3/3/05 Chose to help the client make changes instead of fight with the client.

I speculate that the unconscious will then begin to look for opportunities to fulfill those commitments, knowing that we will have the opportunity to write them down immediately. I further speculate that we will find ourselves concentrating throughout the day on fulfilling these commitments, and not just at the time we make the affirmation (i.e. in the morning, etc).

As the commitments get fulfilled, and the successes mount up, this technique may prove valuable, and even create a “virtuous circle” of more affirmations/more reinforcements, etc. as we “catch ourselves in the act of doing something right”.

Related Links:

My Success with Written Affirmations

The Unconscious Mind Part 1

The Unconscious Mind Part 2

How To Attract Good Luck


Monday, March 12, 2007

Success Tools - Your Intentions for Today

I am continuing to study Sandra Anne Taylor’s Quantum Success: The Astounding Science of Wealth and Happiness, a treasure-trove of personal development techniques. Time and again, she draws a parallel with quantum physics: the observer is a component of the observation. In quantum physics, the results of a measurement are, to some extent, dependent on the intentions of the measurer. Why is this true? They don’t know. Are we picking “one of many possible worlds” when we make the measurement? Are we “collapsing” a probability wave? Speculation continues.

It is easy to see how this translates into life. First and foremost, life is a series of probabilities, not certainties. How we prepare ourselves is, arguably, more certain than when and how we receive the results of our preparation. Even more closely parallel to the quantum metaphor, every single action we take is only one of a vast series of actions that we might take. Every word we utter, every route we take walking down the street, is only one of a myriad of choices we make from moment to moment. But, now we throw the concept of intention into the mix. If we assume that what we see, do, and experience is related to the intention of the measurer (i.e. our own intentions), if we truly believe that the “world out there” is only observable through the lens of our intentions, then the entire concept of our daily intentions assumes immense importance. We are going to see what we look for.

So, how do we “set up the measurement” so we see a world full of fulfillment and achievement?

One specific exercise that I found in Taylor'sbook, seemed to focus on the Intention concept with great clarity. She recommends spending “ a few minutes each morning meditating on or writing about your intentions for that day”. I suspect the results of this meditation would be very powerful, because such an excercise would “set up the measuring apparatus” for our day: what we intend to see, how we intend to feel, what about ourselves do we intend to honor, how and why we will go about our activities. The frame for the picture.

When we think about it, isn’t that what truly great people, people on a mission, people who have grasped their destiny…isn’t that what they must be doing? I cannot imagine a Bela Bartok saying to himself “gee, hope I write some good music today” or a Michael Dell saying “gee, I hope I run the company OK today”. Clearly, they have a rock-solid conviction that then plays out in results. Now most of us are neither Bela Bartok nor Michael Dell, but Ms. Taylor’s exercises very well might inculcate the kind of mindset, that bedrock of clear intention, that produces such towering achievements by those great ones among us.

Do you intend to find out?

Related Links:

Changing our Thought Patterns

Taylor's "AQ" Technique


Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Success Tools - Taylor's "A.Q." Technique

I have been reading Sandra Anne Taylor’s Quantum Success: The Astounding Science of Wealth and Happiness” and here, I noted a really original technique she used to help erase negative self-talk. Indeed the book is filled with many novel insights on how to re-write those negative energies that seem to be “hard wired” into all of us . I would like to mention another technique that, again, goes beyond more traditional modes of personal affirmations.

In her chapter on ”The Power of Energy” she asks the reader to take a simple 10-question “A.Q.” (“Attraction Quotient”) test which allows you to score yourself on several dimensions of your personality (i.e. “Do you feel optimistic about your future?”). Then , she suggests, you write specific affirmations focused on the weakest-scoring questions in the quiz you just took.

Again, as in the "negative though replacement" technique mentioned in my previous post, this is truly a practical use of affirmations. It is specific to each individual and laser-focused to improve those exact areas in which we may be letting ourselves down.

Needless to say, I strongly recommend this book, and there are countless other techniques here that I have never seen anywhere. I think the “Quantum” in the title is surely justified.


Monday, March 05, 2007

Success Secrets - Changing Our Thought Patterns

I am reading Sandra Anne Taylor’s fascinating Quantum Success: The Astounding Science of Wealth and Happiness and, while this is not a standard “book review”, I want to highlight one very original (at least to me) technique that Ms Taylor suggests, because it seems to be a potential “breakthrough technique” related , but different from , affirmations and visualizations.

It is often said in the motivational literature, that we need to change our thoughts to change our lives, and certainly affirmations (oral and written) seem to have that effect. But how do we change our actual thought patterns? Sure, we can say affirmations throughout the day, but how do we change those reflexive habits of, for instance, judging others, or obsessive worry?

Ms Taylor suggests a two-part technique:

1. Write down the negative thought , such as “What if I don’t get that new job?”

2. Then replace that thought with a more optimistic conclusion, or multiple conclusions:

What if I do get that job?

If I don’t get that job, another will come along

What I like about this exercise is that an actual “erasure”, if you will, of the old pattern, occurs, right at the time we are experiencing the worry, self-criticism, etc.

I believe this exercise really has the potential to change our thoughts as we initiate them. I would guess that, over time, the repeated “canceling out” and replacement of that pattern might result in major life changes.


Sunday, March 04, 2007

Success Secrets - Keep Options Open

Guy Kawasaki’s blog has an interesting interview with Michael Raynor, author of The Strategy Paradox: Why committing to success leads to failure (and what to do about it). One of the many points in this interview which is applicable to personal success, is that individual, highly focused, “brilliant” strategies can either be brilliantly successful or brilliant failures, while a portfolio of multiple strategies can be a better way to allocate resources, because further developments in the markets (or in life) can then validate one or more of the strategies. If your one "brilliant" strategy fails, well, you know that creek-and-paddle thing. Since randomness plays a role in all of business and life, more strategies may yield a better overall probability of some success, rather than "brilliant" success or failure.

In personal finance, for instance, a big market downdraft in he stock market (such as we are currently experiencing) can be weathered more efficiently if we also have other investments besides stocks. For instance, bonds are doing fine right now, in spite of the tumbling stock market. In the tech bubble of 2001-2002, those most hurt were those with very narrowly-focused portfolios.

This is true, in more broad outlines, in other facets of life. Some of the most successful businessmen are voracious readers. Many read a half-dozen newspapers per day, and many books as well. One wonders how they have the time, stressed as they are with managerial duties. The answer: they don’t have time not to! They need that wide viewpoint to go beyond the narrow focus of their current business decisions. They need to "see around corners" and keep their mind open to a "portfolio" of possibilities.

The more options that are considered, in business or in life, the more input the organization, or even our personal unconscious, has available as a source of creativity and renewal.

In my previous field, I was very narrowly focused, and I suffered because I did not broaden my outlook. Now, as an investor, I have multiple strategies in play, with various bet sizes, asset classes, and time frames. Not only does this approach work for me, it keeps my mind open and sharp. Options put change on our side…too much focus ... and we might run off the road on a sharp curve.


Friday, March 02, 2007

Success Secrets - More on Doug Newburg

In a recent post, I mentioned an interview with Doug Newburg, and expert on the psychology of outstanding performers in all fields. He has developed a psychological model called the “Resonance Performance Mode” to gain insight into how high-performers think and act, and also how this model can help the rest of us achieve higher levels of excellence in what we do. There is an excellent paper on this subject , Resonance, Leadership, and the Purpose of Life which, it seems, is permissible to read, but not quote. I strongly urge people to read this excellent paper.

Another paper on the Resonance Performance Model , available online, is entitled “The process of performance of youg track athletes: A resonance-based intervention”.

The researchers created a methodology for applying and evaluating the Resonance Performance Model as their subjects (Student athletes) went about their sport and their lives over a period of 10 weeks.

Here are a few points that the study dealt with:

The athletes learned to identify and describe their Dream feelings - - the feelings that they want to feel when they are performing at their best

Though journaling, repeated interviews with the researchers, and other techniques, the athletes were able to more carefully refine the nature of their Dream feeling. They were able to discover what actions (internally, and in their outer world) aided them in achieving those states (such as eating habits, their choice of social situation, etc).

A fascinating finding: The athletes were then able to use this “reflection” technique to change their behaviors so as to be able to get back to the “dream feeling” in their competition more easily. In other words, beyond the technique of “visualization”, these athletes were able to use the “revisiting” of the Dream feeling as a motivation to change their behaviors, moving them more efficiently towards the feelings they were seeking.

To me, it is logical to believe that only a very small part of the population (those with very high abilities in introspection) could achieve this particular feedback loop without being guided as to how to do so. However, the results of such a process in any pursuit of excellence in our lives, could have an exponentially positive l effect on the success of all of our endeavors.

As I mentioned in my earlier post on this subject, this line of thought seems to me to be a step beyond the traditional methodology of goal-setting. Where goal-achieving seems more like working against an “obstacle”, it seems to me that using the re-capture of an ideal state as a motivation tool is the difference between “pushing against” a closed door, and being magnetically “pulled” toward a higher plane of experience. It also seems logical to me that the mind seeks “states” and not “things”.

In my own life, a few years back, I found that every night that I drank alcohol, I woke up either with an upset stomach, or a headache, or even just a “polluted” feeling dragging me around all day. I realized, as I grew clearer on this, that I valued a clear head, and the absence of physiological “static” more than I valued the drink of alcohol. On a given night, I could “project myself” into the next morning, desiring to have that “clear-headed” feeling without impediments to my functioning. So, I don’t drink alcohol very often. I find I can use the “magnetic pull” toward that good “morning” feeling. It doesn’t really feel like “abstinence”, because I am remembering how good I feel in the morning, and also, how bad I feel if I have had a few drinks the night before. I think the “Resonance” process is a good explanation for this. I look forward to some experimental journaling to pull me toward more “Dream” states in other parts of my life.

I must also mention how gratifying it is to see more and more rigorous studies of "success processes" that many of us believed were true, now confrming our intuitions. I recently mentioed some studies of the unconscious here and here.

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