You’ve heard it before but I’ll say it again - Everyone makes mistakes. We’re all human and we aren’t perfect. Occasionally we make a silly error, or read a situation wrong, or get forgetful about something. What’s important to think about is the perspective around those mistakes.
Maybe this is top of mind for me today because I made too bigger mistakes lately. In the last interview I recorded I had the microphone turned around backwards, so the audio quality was worse than usual. Whoops. And then with a live presentation I was giving on Zoom, I didn’t know until the end that my slides weren’t changing. My bad.
The unfortunate part to making mistakes is that there are real consequences to the action. It feels bad because you either let someone down, you feel vulnerable, or it hurts your confidence. However, people are usually pretty tolerant, because everyone makes mistakes, and if you acknowledge the error you can quickly make things better.
An important piece to this too - If you’re in a position to make a mistake then you’re trying! You’re putting yourself out there in a situation that you aren’t 100% confident in, and you’re giving yourself the opportunity to grow. With the lessons in your mistakes you become more self-aware, start seeing some of your blindspots and hone in on what are your strengths. Just like you can perceive rejection as one step closer to a “yes”, you can view a mistake as one lesson closer to understanding.
Don’t be afraid to make mistakes, mistakes are good - When you let them serve their purpose.
"Smile means friendship to everyone."
Let's dive into a subtle line in an iconic song, “It’s a small world”. The line goes “smile means friendship to everyone.” Fundamentally, wouldn’t the world better if everyone was our friend and we had no enemies? Well it’s not as far away as you’d think, The simple gesture of extending a smile to someone communicates a lot. In such a simple way, it expresses that you see them and respect the journey that has brought them to this very moment. It’s inviting and demonstrates not only that you’re not a threat to them, but your intention is to support them, and that you want the best for them. These are all things that your best friends would be thinking, and all of it is conveyed in a smile.
As you’ve probably heard before, it requires far fewer muscles to smile than to frown. So… smiling helps others, it’s easy to do, and last it’s good for you! Smiling serves as a bottom up trigger that informs your brain on its current emotional state, and causes it to secrete positive neurotransmitters.
Smiling is a universally good thing, it’s a mannerism that transcends culture, and at an evolutionary level it signifies that you’re not a threat. If you're not a foe then you must be a friend, and I don’t think it’s too far of a stretch to say that “smile means friendship to everyone”.
Breaking The Dream Into Smaller Goals
Goals are effective in helping us package our dreams and desires into attainable elements. They are milestones and checkpoints that you can reach to understand that you’re making progress and on the right path. It’s helpful to set goals because then you have something tangible and objective to orient yourself toward, but what’s equally important is knowing what the goal represents, so that you’re doing something you genuinely find meaningful.
Let’s say a dream of yours is to hike Mount Kilimanjaro. Sounds like a tall task (literally) that requires a lot of preparation. You could set intermediate goals to help make sure you can achieve that dream. For example, what’s the progression in training required to accomplish such a feat? You can set goals to make sure you're physically prepared. What are the requirements when it comes to travel, accommodations, visas, and everything that’s needed from a logistics standpoint? You can set a goal to get all of that done with enough advanced planning. And the resources required to do it, do you know what equipment you need?
The dream itself is made up of smaller, incremental actions that are required to pursue the dream, and the best way to do that is to set goals that quantify your progress along the way. So dream big, absolutely that’s one of my core values actually, but also be practical and actionable in pursuit of those dreams.
Things Take Time
You’d probably agree that in general, people are not very patient. Between the quick fixes, fast hacks, one day delivery and access to the internet at our fingertips, we don’t really need to wait around for things anymore. But what if I told you that impatience is actually an unnatural state? Just like other animals, humans evolved to be patient in order to secure resources that either exist in scarce quantities or require a long time to obtain.
So what’s happened here? It’s not that our nature has changed in any significant way. It’s that our expectations have changed, and those expectations are being inappropriately applied to areas where they shouldn’t have influence. This expectation was created by the very technologies I mentioned earlier, as well as the marketing we are exposed to that guarantees results immediately. But technology is a man-made intervention, it is unnatural, and therefore doesn’t work well when dealing with natural processes.
To provide a personal example - I started using the affirmation “I am worthy” every morning as part of my morning routine. I’d expected to feel instant results, because that’s just how things work these days… but after a week, or two, or three, I didn’t feel any differently. I even felt like I was faking it, but I chose to stay consistent. Then after 3 months of reciting the same affirmation everyday, a switch flipped and basically overnight I started feeling authentically worthy.
I say this to demonstrate that when it comes to the natural process of personal development, things take time. It goes against the precedent technology sets for you. But with consistency, and a faith in the process, you can succeed. And showing up for yourself day in day out will bear fruits three months from now that you couldn’t even imagine.
March 8th, 2021 is International Women’s Day. It’s a day dedicated to celebrating the social, economic, and political achievements of women. If I’m being honest, I didn’t realize there was a difference between how men and women were being treated in the world and in the workplace until I went to college. I think that’s a testament to the incredibly strong women I have in my family - my mom, grandma, and sister in-law, but it’s also something I’ve tried to be more aware of so that I can be part of a more equitable future.
So let’s speak some truth today! Women are incredible. The strength, resolve, and selflessness of women throughout the world inspires me to be a better person. If you identify as a woman, then take today to own it! Get involved and amplify this message so that girls who come after you are brought up in a world with better treatment and equal opportunities.
If you don’t identify as a woman, then get introspective. Think about the potential biases you’ve held, the ways you’ve taken action in a sexist or non-inclusive way, and commit to being better. Send a note to a woman in your life that you love and respect acknowledging her for her gifts and contributions. That’s not to say you’ve been treating women poorly your whole life, but explore that room for improvement so you can best advocate for women and their future.
No matter who you are or where you come from, I encourage you to take this simple action today. Learn more about She’s The First. This organization ensures that women and girls in more oppressive areas are given opportunities to thrive!
Narrow Your Focus with Tammy Tibbetts
As it relates to the work you do, you need to spend time applying certain skills. In relationships you can only make time for so many people. In service, there is only so much you can do to counteract the inequities you see in the world.
That's where Tammy Tibbetts, founder of the international women’s rights and advocacy non-profit She’s the First, comes in. Tammy has made a huge difference in her life and career but only when she narrowed her focus and began applying her resources in a specific way.
If you don’t concentrate your resources on a few things then it’s very possible they will be diluted among many things, and not really move the needle. As Tammy said, just because you pick something small doesn't mean you’re neglecting everything else… it’s important that you feel aligned with where your resources are going so that you can play your role in the change you wish to see, and have faith that others will serve alongside you to fill in the other gaps you see.
"Happiness is within you."
Let’s bring it back to what it’s all about. Ultimately in life we should enjoy what we do and the moments we are a part of. We deserve to be happy. And we don’t need to overcomplicate it, you already have everything you need. “Happiness is within you.”
I truly believe this. You are capable of being happy and your intuition knows what makes you happy, but one fundamental piece of it is that you need to define happiness for yourself. You need to have that north star to pursue in order to start making progress toward it.
What keeps many people from accessing their happiness is living to the standards and expectations of other people. This creates barriers to happiness because you are prioritizing someone else’s desires over your own. But you are in control - Every thought you have originates from you. It is your interpretation of the context around you that produces the thought, and it’s your relationship with different topics that creates the way you perceive things.
Your responsibility in life is to keep yourself happy. Does that mean sometimes you need to do things you don’t like to do? Of course, but it’s because those things are necessary to make sure you are fulfilling your personal, overall priorities. Things like making sure you have a roof over your head, you are physically and emotionally safe, and that your loved ones are taken care of.
Whatever happiness means for you, how you want to feel when you show up in the world, the right answer is already inside you. You just need to listen to it and trust it. “Happiness is within you.”
BJ Fogg's Behavior Model
I love thinking about behavior change, and in the coaching and programming I offer it’s the majority of what I teach. I wanted to share how my philosophies are very much based on what I’ve learned from others who have pioneered the space, one of those people being the legendary psychologist BJ Fogg.
BJ Fogg’s behavior change model is a formula: B=MAT. Behavior = Motivation x Ability x Trigger.
To talk about each of those elements one by one:
The behavior is the activity you do. Good or bad, the activity is dictated by the other parts of the formula, which holds the keys to positive behavior change.
Motivation is your desire to do it. It’s how appealing a reward or incentive is at the end of doing the behavior, and the source of that motivation has both extrinsic and intrinsic forms.
Ability is how possible it is that you can do the behavior in this moment. You need access to the resources required, the physical capabilities to do it, and the time necessary to complete it. That all is bundled into ability.
And last is the trigger. Something needs to prompt you to take action. As Nir Eyal puts it, It could be an internal trigger which originates from your own feelings, positive and negative, as well as external triggers and the various ways you’re notified of the happenings around you.
Put it all together and you have your reason to take the action, the realistic possibility of taking the action right now, and the prompt to take the action. All of these components are present in obvious and non-obvious ways, and you can learn a lot from being curious about how they play a role in the different behaviors you engage in throughout the day.
A Perspective Around Regrets
This is a difficult topic to tackle, but let’s try. It’s not necessarily about having regrets, or why they exist, but more a perspective around regrets that might be new to you.
To quickly define it, you feel regret when something happened that didn’t produce the result you wanted, but more particularly, you realize that you could have done something differently that would have influenced the result. This goes for steps that you did or didn’t take, and the action or inaction that in hindsight was the wrong decision.
What happens with regret is it consumes us. We let it hold more mental bandwidth than it’s worth and preoccupy us. But in every moment we are making more decisions that generate results, and if we aren’t as present as we should be in those moments we’re more likely to do things incorrectly and do things we’ll later regret.
For example - And I don’t know the first thing about this but let’s say you almost bought Bitcoin 10 years ago. You regret having not taken action, and that regret distracts you from seeing the opportunity to invest today, because it very well still could be the right decision.
Or, let’s say you didn’t study a topic as hard as you wish you did in college because it would be valuable for you now. You could feel sorry for yourself and regretful for not making the most of that opportunity, or you could take the time to bridge that knowledge gap right now.
Regrets have a compounding nature to them, one thing leads to the next and leads to the next, but being mindful that you’re still making decisions about that thing today allows you to start correcting it.
Small Decisions With Big Implications
Personal development doesn’t have to always be an uphill battle. Believe it or not, there are small things you can do that produce far bigger results. It’s just about getting creative to identify these ideas so that you can leverage them for yourself, and accelerate your journey without much work.
For example, something I just realized and started doing last week is I started setting my alarm for 5:59 am instead of 6:00 am. What does that mean? Well, it means I’m waking up one minute earlier than I used to. That sounds pretty reasonable doesn’t it? It’s basically imperceptible. But then the outcome is far greater than the investment. Now, instead of being someone who wakes up at 6am, I can honestly say I’m someone who wakes up BEFORE 6am. The subtle shift in language helps me identify more as a go-getter, and sacrificing one minute of sleep has much bigger effects on my psychology.
Another idea - If you move your social media app icons to a new folder, with the intention that you’re doing it to be on social media less, then you have that decision in place to remind you throughout the day.
So that’s it! Make a small decision, that you know is best for you, and watch it generate results that are much bigger than the effort it takes to make the decision.
Don't Talk Yourself Out Of It
You’ve probably heard the expression “Talking yourself out of doing it”, and if you think about it, what that literally means is you tell yourself that you can’t do what you want to do. You have an idea that you want to pursue and you actively keep yourself from doing it. This happens because we have defense mechanisms installed in our brains to keep us safe, two of those being rationalization and justification. When you rationalize or justify you use logic to come to the conclusion that what you want isn’t actually in your best interest. This is often misplaced, and what it is actually doing is protecting you from the discomfort of change.
So what I’d suggest, is when you feel that hint of inspiration, trust that feeling and pursue it. Don’t limit yourself because it’s the comfortable thing to do. Your brain will want to tell you something else but your intuition knows what is truly best for you.
Take Your Shot
This topic is the summary of a few different quotes all wrapped into one simplified expression - Take your shot. It was probably most inspired by my recent obsession with "Hamilton", and the song that goes “I am not throwing away my shot”. Hamilton had the slightest opportunity in sight, and even though he probably was going to fail he chose to act and take his shot, becoming one of the most influential historical figures in the United States.
Then there’s the quote by Wayne Gretzky, featured by Michael Scott in one of my favorite shows The Office “You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take”. I love the perspective of putting two outcomes side by side - Taking action and failing versus not trying at all. In not taking the shot at all, you guarantee that you’ll fail because you never give yourself the chance to succeed.
Then last, one of my all-time favorite quotes, “Don’t pump fake the money shot”. The money shot is the shot you take when everything is on the line. It decides the game, and if it goes well, you’re the hero. To pump fake is to second guess, to not take decisive action, and if you hesitate during the most pivotal moments then you’re going to miss the opportunity.
So basically in three different ways I’m saying the same thing - Take your shot. Trust yourself and go for it, even in the face of failure and resistance, because it beats the alternative every single time.
Lifestyle Changes vs Life Changes
It’s important to recognize that self-improvement is a dynamic process. As a past interview guest Brian Mazza says, “Nothing changes if nothing changes”, so making progress in your life requires you to do things differently. When it comes to making these changes there are two schools of thought that have different implications, and that’s the difference between lifestyle changes and life changes.
A lifestyle change is an adjustment to the way things already are. It’s a subtle shift in intention that makes something new more of a priority. You implement a new morning routine that includes gratitude and meditation, you start eating healthier, or you schedule more time to be with loved ones. You use a lot of the same resources you previously had available, but you just use them in a different way.
A life change is different. It’s a permanent shift in the way things are in your life, and it comes from more major decisions and commitments. You move to a new city, break up with your partner, or start a side hustle. Life changes bring on periods of transition where you need to choose how to allocate resources in a new context, which actually is a great opportunity to set new expectations. Naturally as you set new standards, you will be making lifestyle changes that align with your evolving circumstances.
So there’s a place for both lifestyle changes and life changes. Life changing events don’t come around everyday, and rightfully so because they are challenging and exhausting, but when they do come you need to seize them.
This is something that causes so many people to fall short, and I don’t want that for you. Let me start by saying I admire you and your thirst for knowledge. You accessing this resource right now means that you value education, and probably identify as someone who enjoys learning. That’s a trait that will take you far in life, but only so far if you don’t apply what you learn.
When it comes to the books you’re reading, the podcasts you listen to, the courses you’ve purchased, even the conversations you have with mentors and colleagues, are you actually using that knowledge in a meaningful way? The content of the learnings can feel good in that it satisfies your curiosity and entertains you to some extent, but beyond that does it actually make a difference in your life?
That’s where I want you to be honest with yourself and really think about this. Think about how the things you’ve learned have actually helped you to think differently, feel differently, and most importantly how you’ve started doing things differently. Your actions are the truest expression of your intentions, and if your behaviors and mannerisms don’t change, then it’s likely that the lesson didn’t create a lasting effect.
There’s no 'one size fits all' to this approach, but what I do know is that you need to take action in some capacity to truly use the information you’ve acquired. It’s not enough to learn, at some point you need to apply it to generate results in your life.
How To Stop Procrastinating
One of the biggest enemies of personal development is procrastination. In order for you to grow, you need to take action. You need to acquire new experiences and get in the habit of doing the right things in order to truly accelerate toward your potential. Procrastination is often bad because it prevents you from taking the actions you know are best for you, leaving you short of becoming the person you know you can be.
Procrastination occurs for a few reasons. First is laziness, not being able to summon the energy you need to get up and do something about it. Don’t be too hard on yourself though, laziness (aka “the law of least effort”) is actually an evolutionary adaptation, and it’s difficult to overcome it. Also, you might procrastinate because of doubt. You don’t think you’re capable of succeeding in the task or behavior you need to do, so you put it off as long as you can to avoid that overwhelm and discomfort. Embedded in this is the fear of failure, which can even keep you from trying in the first place.
So, how do you stop procrastinating? You design your life in a way that makes the action you want to take easier, so you rely on less energy and effort. You cultivate necessity through accountability and commitments to give you a boost of motivation and willpower. And you consistently do the small things so that you overwrite the habit once and for all.
How do you do that? The Stop Procrastinating Program.
A Diversity and Inclusion Lens with Jimi Vaughn
Something that is finally becoming a more common conversation, thank goodness, is diversity and inclusion. Our world has a sad history as it relates to persecuted and oppressed people, and even though it might not seem like it I do think we’re slowly making progress. To best understand the dynamics at play, and how we can respectfully and responsibly exist within them, we need to generate a new awareness. This is something Jimi Vaughn articulates incredibly well.
When it comes to diversity and inclusion, we need to get in the habit of being critical about our environment. We need to be intentional about inviting people and groups who are underrepresented to participate so that all voices are heard. I’m challenging myself to be extra aware of this, and I encourage you to do the same!
Belief Is Where Thinking Ends
Let’s talk about beliefs. Your beliefs are the deeply ingrained “truths” that you see in the world. What’s interesting though is that those “truths” are actually opinions that have been formed from your unique life history. So while you might believe something to be true, someone else can believe with the same conviction that the opposite is true. This is both an important and dangerous part of our lives, because it allows for there to be diversity in opinion, which is so crucial to innovation and collective well-being, but it’s also the root of many of the issues we experience in society.
Something to note is that these beliefs exist at the level of your subconscious. They are thought patterns that have been primed and reinforced with repetition throughout your entire life, and exist at a level that is not within your conscious awareness. Ultimately, your beliefs are tied to your identity.
Thinking is a very conscious, cognitive process, and through thinking we have the ability to make intentional, conscious choices. We don’t have the same luxury when it comes to our beliefs, which to me indicates that belief is where thinking ends.
So the takeaway to this, if you really want to grow, is to challenge your beliefs. Try to make them more conscious, observe the way you see the world, and ask questions about why you believe things to be a certain way. With curiosity you can invite a new perspective into your life that may liberate you from the layers of defense and the bottlenecks that are keeping you from reaching your potential.
"Make your life a story worth telling." - Adam Braun
Today I wanted to share an inspirational quote from one of my absolute favorite books, “The Promise of a Pencil” by Adam Braun. In this book, Adam details how he took a small observation he had while traveling and turned it into the international education non-profit Pencils of Promise. One of his final pieces of advice in the book is today’s quote “Make your life a story worth telling.”
Basically, when you look back at the way you spend your time, do you feel like you did anything meaningful, significant, noteworthy, or interesting? Did you make progress serving notable causes? Did you create something extraordinary? And did you leave people and things better along the way? There is so much to do these days, and so much being asked of you, so using this lens helps you to filter out the junk and focus on the things that matter for you and others.
If you think about it, what makes up a good story? It’s the challenges you overcame, the risks you took, and the experiences you cherish. It’s the way that you moved forward during high-stakes moments to make progress on something that is meaningful. I call it Do It For The Story, I gave a TedX Talk about it, but this quote carries a similar sentiment. In order to live you need to put yourself in moments where you feel alive, and win or lose, when you make it through you’ll have more of a story to tell. “Make your life a story worth telling.”
Breaking Down Encouragement
In order to understand what 'encouragement' is we first need to talk about its applications. When someone is indecisive about something, you want to encourage them to take next steps. If someone is afraid, you encourage them to step through it. When someone steps into their own, you encourage them to continue pursuing that. Encouragement is about giving hope or support to someone else so that they are more emotionally prepared to take action.
If you put it this way encourage literally has the words “in courage". It’s offering someone the strength and courage they need to proceed, which begs the question, "When is courage required?" The definition of courage is “strength in the face of pain or grief; The ability to do something that frightens one.”
The fascinating thing about encouragement is that nothing changes outside of your mindset, your willingness to face off with the fear you’re feeling. It’s the exact same challenge, with the same road ahead of you, but a little bit of encouragement gives you the lift you need to have a new perspective toward what scares you and persevere through the emotions that are holding you back.
To summarize, encouragement is literally to offer courage so that someone is more willing and mentally prepared to take action in the face of fear. And it helps you to embrace discomfort, which we all know is the greatest catalyst to our growth.
Let's talk about an African philosophy that I learned from my friend Tunde Daniel, a Nigerian who founded of the non-profit Chess In Slums. The philosophy is "Ubuntu", which is a Zulu word that loosely translates to “being self through others”. It encompasses a few fundamental values all in one thought - Respect, human dignity, compassion, solidarity and consensus.
Respect is about seeing the value in someone else’s unique path. Human dignity is applying that same respect to humanity at large. Compassion is about being empathetic to the soul behind the person you see. Solidarity is standing with others to protect something you find mutually valuable. And consensus is a general understanding that what’s best for the group is best for the individual.
Essentially, Ubuntu captures the shared nature of life. Our personal well-being is intricately woven within the well-being of others. African communities live this Ubuntu philosophy, sharing what they have and only taking what they need, in order to care for all.
In Western cultures, there’s a lot we can learn from this. Capitalism and the individualism that is embedded in our society rejects this notion of interconnectedness. There’s only so much to go around and you need to make sure you get yours, right? Wrong! And if we choose to be the leaders that provide more visibility to an Ubuntu alternative, we can start shaping a more cooperative society.
Now, back to my friend Tunde. As a kid that grew up in a slum in Nigeria, he depended on Ubuntu for his own survival. And now he’s in a position to pay it forward, and has founded a non-profit called Chess In Slums where he’s helping to inspire kids in poverty to take an interest in education through chess. At For Purpose, we have plans to support him, and if you want to hear more about how, please provide your email at the bottom of our website www.forpurpose.com.