‘Tis the Season to Be Aware!

As the holidays quickly approach, I want to caution you to be extra aware as to how your spending often reflects and impacts your inner mood and perception of yourself. In several of my recent blogs, I have shared my thoughts regarding America’s obsession with financial obesity, one’s obsessive and self-sabotaging need to constantly overspend and remain financially unhealthy.

The holidays often affect one’s mood positively or negatively. It’s time to reflect upon all the great things that have been attracted into your life, as opposed to getting all caught up in the self-defeating negativity, that often results from dragging yourself down with the potentially false idea that there have been no significant changes this year.

The retailers and advertisers strategically time their can’t-resist offers, discounts and other attention-getting techniques during the holidays to exploit a person’s emotional outcomes. As a result, we often tend to become blinded by the supposed emotional gratification that comes with spending. Yet we also tend to neglect our focus on the needed fiscal responsibilities that, if not kept in check, could seriously derail one’s future success.

bookIn my book, Demystifying Success: Success Tools and Secrets they Don’t Teach You in High School, I dedicate a chapter of my book to explaining good savings habits, an important concept you need to start adopting from an early age. This skill helps you to become a better money manager, which will help you to constantly generate income and ultimately create new wealth opportunities for success.

Here’s an important concept to raise your awareness of, especially as you begin to plan your holiday shopping list: a good understanding between ‘good debt’ versus ‘bad debt’. Bad debt includes any form of debt that requires you to pay interest on any monies that you borrow from a lender in order to either purchase or acquire something that will never generate any possible revenue (profits) for you in the future. Good debt is when there are some times when it is okay to borrow money from a bank, investor or credit card company, but ONLY if you use this borrowed money to purchase things that will ultimately help you to generate more revenue (profits) in the future and restore the original amount borrowed plus any interest required to the lender. Most importantly, you need to learn from an early age that successful wealth creators acquire excellent money management skills in order to balance both types of debt and understand this distinction.

Within my chapter on Personal Finance, I also carefully explain the concept of FICO scores and how they may positively or negatively impact your future decisions and success. FICO stands for the Fair Isaac Company, named after the company that first created and computed this popular credit score. Banks and lending institutions rely on your FICO score as a way of determining how trustworthy you are in terms of managing your money and repaying your debts.

To end on a festive note this year, I highly suggest that you sit down and draft out a realistic budget for yourself before you begin indulging in your creative or last minute impulsive holiday shopping. Don’t get me wrong, being creative with your gift ideas can be both fun and inspiring, but you also need to keep your expectations and spending in check.  Too often, we carelessly choose gifts that we think others will want based upon unrealistic expectations or desired outcomes and we may go overboard. By taking the time to really sit down and carefully draft a manageable budget, you can still be creative. Simply choose something that you know the recipient would truly appreciate and enjoy (e.g. buying something fun that they would never think to buy for themselves or something that will be a nice reminder of you) that does not have to result in you spending a lot of money.

To help you get started, here are five questions to ask yourself before you decide to start spending your hard-earned cash or, even worse, incur any future unnecessary credit card debt and interest:

1. Why am I really buying this product or service?

2. How will I or the recipient use this product or service in the future?

3. How long do I plan to use this product or service before it becomes useless?

4. Does this purchase provide me with any immediate revenue-generating opportunities? And the hardest question of them all:

5. What would happen if I chose to wait another two to six months until I could truly afford to buy this purchase without using borrowed money (credit or loan)? If not, consider waiting, or to use an old cliché, “Sleep on it”.

Please remember, the financially obese are not broke; they are broken! Do not let fear or unfounded expectations prevent you from achieving the personal and financial success you desire.

I want to wish you a happy, healthy and successful holiday season.

How to Co-Exist with Emotional Parasites—A Cultural Epidemic

A lot of my blog readers have been reaching out to me and asking me to further explain my definition of “emotional parasites.” They ask me how they can identify who these potentially disruptive people are. The more important question they should be asking is how and why they are so harmful to one’s success.

How does one identify and protect oneself from these so-called predators? Like colds or viruses, people tend to attract these types of “parasites” (e.g. emotional vampires) when their self-esteem or emotional guards are down. Like a magnet, we tend to attract those individuals that seem more than willing to aid in our self-loathing rather than challenge us to get out of our own way. The boggled and debauched, as I liked to call them, are unhealthy, dysfunctional people that often intentionally or unknowingly manipulate or use others for their own personal entertainment or distraction. These people tend to deflect their own negative self-worth rather than deal with their own self-sabotaging issues. They often pretend to be concerned or supportive of an unsuspecting victim’s uncertain or negative circumstance, but, in reality, they silently gain satisfaction and enjoyment by disclaiming and intentionally diminishing the success, spirit or character of their unsuspecting target.

To make matters worse, these emotional parasites will even go as far as making their victims feel guilty, and even responsible for their needs, playing on their guilt or misguided loyalties. I cannot begin to tell you how emotionally debilitating these cowardly people can be. They rarely own their own crap. They rarely apologize when wrong, and most importantly, they rarely respect YOUR needs, goals or requests unless it somehow benefits their own short-term purposes.

“When you say ‘yes’ to others, make sure you are not saying ‘no’ to yourself.” ~ Paulo Coehlo

Like anything important in your life, you always need to weigh the pros and cons. This especially holds true regarding the people you choose to include in your life. As I said earlier, the emotional parasites often tend to strike when you are most susceptible so I want to share three different scenarios that I have experienced that may make you more aware in the future:

1. The Bait and Switch – Unfortunately, there are individuals you will come across that have become master manipulators.  They study you and learn very quickly how to make you feel comfortable in their presence. They often tell you what you want to hear, pretend to like the things you like, or worse, create a false sense of security so that you take their bait. The only problem is…their actions are not sustainable over time because they are not being authentic to who they are. They are simply trying to get you to befriend them or, even worse, fall in love with them. NEWS FLASH: These manipulators have an agenda! So, you need to put their words on mute and study their actions. If you ask them questions and they become defensive, clearly you have unearthed a chink in their deceptive armor.  If this uncomfortable moment occurs, do not apologize; just continue to trust your instincts, keep your eyes open and be aware of any future inconsistencies.

2. Dismissive of needs – Recently, I witnessed a good friend of mine who reached out to a group of so-called friends requesting space and time to re-collect his thoughts while going through his tunnel of transformation. In the past, my friend had hit some tough times and these same so-called friends gleefully cheered him on by supporting his bad decisions and choices simply because it fueled their own unfulfilled needs. Yet, when my friend finally figured out that his choices were no longer productive in helping him find his success, he decided once again to reach out to these same so-called friends for support and understanding. Lo and behold, some actually became irate and dismissive with him because he changed his mind about how he had been leading his life—the same life they had been cheering him on with because it fulfilled their needs, not his.

3. Defensiveness (yeah, but you did this…) The last red flag that I would like to bring to your attention is a parasite’s failure to apologize.  Have you ever noticed when you call someone out on something you did not like, rather than receiving a simple apology from that person, you get a defensive response? It is almost like they are pissed off that you called them out on their agenda. In any healthy relationship, there are going to be times when you intentionally or unintentionally do something that upsets or hurts the other person. At this time, the correct response is to own and acknowledge your actions and not use it as yet another opportunity to point out an additional flaw or weakness because someone made you feel uncomfortable.

At the end of the day, an emotional parasite is simply projecting their fears. A successful person learns to manage their fears, as well as their relationships. As I share in my upcoming book, Growing Success: A Young Adult’s Guide to Achieving Personal and Financial Success, there are several reasons why successful people learn how to protect and cultivate healthy relationships and, at the same time, navigate around unhealthy people in order to achieve their desired outcomes.

I am hoping that the information and clarification I have provided in this post will allow you to recognize the warning signs early so that you can continue to grow your success.

Tunnel of Transition

“When someone says ‘you’ve changed,’ it simply means you’ve stopped living your life their way.” This is an interesting quote that I read this week, and it got me thinking about life shifts and transformations. One of the hardest yet most enlightening moments in a person’s life is when they finally decide to leave their unhealthy comfort zone and change the things in their lives that are no longer working.

In one of my recent blogs, I shared that my “a-ha moment” and my personal transformation toward success started with a simple question, “So, how is that life working for you?” As I have explained in that post, this was a simple question that really required me to be honest with myself and address those things in my life that were no longer supporting my desired probable outcomes for success. No excuses and no blame necessary; just me agreeing to take complete ownership of my life, right at that moment.

What I quickly came to realize was that I was no longer pursuing my passions and goals, but instead found myself surrounded by unhealthy people (e.g., emotional parasites) that did not support me and who did not have my best interests at heart. I recognized that I was simply making excuses as to why my life went off course, while at the same time continuing to enable my own bad decisions rather than deal with my immediate despair. Let’s face it: I had a bad case of mood-poisoning.

When I first began to write my upcoming book, Growing Success: A Young Adult’s Guide to Personal and Financial Success, I had to ask myself a lot of difficult questions. It forced me to reflect on how and, more importantly, why I allowed myself to feel this way. Once I began to own the decisions and mistakes I had made, I started to re-claim my life. I soon began to realize that the awakening (e.g., the realization) phase of the transformation process was relatively simple. Through my own heightened awareness, I started to identify my bad behaviors including the negative programming and emotions I was feeling and projecting, as well as the re-alignment of my goals and probable outcomes. I did this by letting go of the people who had been unhealthy influences in my life and about my goals… It was exciting and reinvigorating. I was starting to become stronger as I felt things shifting. Then, as if I was running a marathon, I hit the wall. It was my tunnel of transition.

I define this “tunnel” as that uncomfortable phase of the transformation that resides between awakening and the new paradigm (e.g., the shift). And just like traveling through a real tunnel, at times it can feel claustrophobic. The darkness and uncertainty often trigger the anxious feelings you may get when you start to feel overwhelmed, especially when you begin questioning all the negative behaviors and obstacles you will have to overcome in order to break out of your current unhealthy comfort zone.

Despite these feelings of anxiety, I can assure you it is worth your efforts. As you enter your “tunnel,” you will need to remind yourself that you have chosen this new path for a reason; “your old life didn’t work anymore.”  If you choose to be patient, focused and disciplined, the discomfort you are likely to encounter on your personal transformation will result in your desired probable outcome of achieving success.

I am extremely fortunate that I did not allow fear and uncertainty to derail me from my new life. I had to persist until I found the light at the end of my tunnel. As a result, I was able to figure out how to re-align my future goals with my desired outcomes. I felt compelled to share the necessary steps you will most likely need to take if you choose to do this for yourself through these blog posts and in my upcoming book.

I hope I can inspire you as well to commit to growing your own future success.

Have Nerds Become the New Cool in the 21st Century?

I was recently lecturing to a class of students at Indiana University when it suddenly dawned on me: are Nerds really becoming the new cool for the 21st Century? During my lecture, I kept referring to one’s need to be self-aware, which I believe is crucial for enhancing one’s chances for success.

Unlike “Cools”, Nerds tend to be more authentic to themselves. They are not as concerned about what people think. They are more focused on how they choose to present themselves to others. Their intelligence and skills (e.g. abilities), not their fashion, dictate their identities.

Nerds pay attention to the details! They are not afraid to ask “why”. In fact, Nerds thrive on understandingthe why and occupy themselves with challenging the status quo, especially if something no longer makes sense, or even worse, becomes obsolete. “Cools” are way too concerned about “how” something will be perceived or “how” they will continue to “keep up with the Jones.” As a result, the “Cools” waste a lot of unnecessary energy trying to impress others, or even worse, trying to attract superficial professional and personal relationships that they cannot cultivate because they are constantly trying to maintain or improve their status or image instead of learning about the new things Nerds are already plugged into.

Nerds, on the other hand, attract like-minded people and choose to participate in groups and clubs because of common goals and a shared purpose. As a result, Nerds inspire and support each others’ successes.  They seek deeper meaning and connection with others, while at the same time, growing their network of potential employers, employees and business partners.

Nerds commit, they plan, and quite often execute their visions and goals, which is why so-many “Nerds” continue to attain such success within this new century of uncertainty.  They succeed because they choose to plan and thrive to be distinct. In his book, What They Don’t Teach You in the Harvard Business School, Mark McCormack asks why only 3% of all the Harvard MBAs make ten times as much as the remaining 97% combined. From his research he surmised that having clear, written goals for the future and creating plans to accomplish them was truly the underlying formula for their success.

In 1979, interviewers spoke with new graduates from the Harvard’s MBA Program and concluded:

  • 84% had no specific goals at all
  • 13% had goals but they were not committed to paper
  • 3% had clear, written goals and plans to accomplish them

In 1989, interviewers once again spoke with Harvard MBA graduates and:

  • The 13% of the class who had goals were earning, on average, twice as much as the 84 percent who had no goals at all.
  • Even more staggering – the three percent who had clear, written goals were earning, on average, ten times as much as the other 97 percent put together.

In my upcoming book, Growing Success: A Young Adult’s Guide for Achieving Personal and Financial Success, I discuss several tools and models that address planning and goal-setting, as well as awareness and good decision-making, which are imperative for enhancing one’s probable outcomes for success.

Look around and take notice! Nerds HAVE become the new cool. Just ask Sheldon, Leonard, Howard and Raj, the cast of the hit television series, The Big Bang Theory. The cast and writers have made being nerdy cool.

So the next time you find yourself sitting next to a so-called “Nerd” in class, you better befriend him or her quickly because there is going to be a good chance that in next 10-20 years they will become your star employee, partner or BOSS.

As for me, I simply choose to embrace my inner “Cool Nerd” and continue to dedicate my time to helping you grow your success.

So How’s That Life Working For You?

For anyone who has truly accomplished something important in his or her life, each person had to realize early on that ongoing success was something that did not come automatically, but rather something that had to be earned through a lot of tough commitments and hard work.

It is my personal experience that the true definition between a victor and a victim is simply one’s ability to own one’s mistakes and/or personal obstacles. Rather than acknowledging bad habits, decisions or mistakes, victims blame others for their lack of success and accomplishments. I am sure you have come across these self-loathing individuals that choose to blame the world rather than own their own crap, haven’t you?

I call these unfortunate people “the boggled and debauched” because they prefer to deflect their own negative self-worth issues by simply disclaiming others’ points of view, as well as intentionally diminish the success or character of others rather than deal with their own self-sabotaging issues. Unfortunately, unhealthy dysfunctional people often act as emotional parasites by either intentionally or unknowingly manipulating or using others for their own personal entertainment or distraction. In my upcoming book, Growing Success: A Young Adult’s Guide to Achieving Personal and Financial Success, I share a story about a frog and a scorpion and one’s ongoing need to be aware of others’ intentions despite inconsistent actions and words.

Luckily, successful people become acutely aware of unhealthy individual’s intentions, and as a result, ultimately learn how to engage and maneuver around them in order to protect themselves from potentially sabotaging outcomes.

In addition, successful people do not enable or make excuses for their own failures or bad behavior, but rather learn and grow from them. Recently I read a great anonymous quote, “Sometimes I win, sometimes I learn, everyone should replace the word loser with learner.”

As a life-long learner, my personal transformation for success started with a simple question that I had to look in the mirror and ask myself, “So, how is that life working for you?” A simple question that required no excuses, no blame, but simply a need to be honest with myself and my own fears. Yet despite its simplicity, this one question can elude and prevent the boggled and debauched from getting out of their own way and taking an honest look at themselves because it is easier for some to continue to live in denial and remain in their unhealthy comfort zone rather than accept their own shortcomings and disappointments.

If you are someone that finds yourself stuck or incapable of owning your own crap, STOP! Use this same unhealthy energy to become accountable for your own fears, decisions and outcomes. OWN IT!

If you want to be successful, take the time to look at yourself in the mirror, eye to eye, and ask yourself, “So how is that life working for you?”

Choose to finally be honest with yourself and ask yourself what steps can be pursued that will finally allow you to create your desired goals and passions.

What additional educational pursuits and/or authentic relationships are currently available to you that will help you achieve probable outcomes simply because you asked yourself an overdue question?

Most importantly, it’s time to stop projecting an unproductive victim mentality and the emotional use of others.

Right here, right now: it’s time to commit to fixing the problem, and not the blame. Start growing your future success now.

Can an Iced Tea Really Impact Your Overall Success?

I know this may sound really silly or petty, but I was recently in a restaurant and asked my server to bring me an iced tea with no lemon. A few minutes later, she returned with my iced tea and, sure enough, there was a wedge of lemon floating on the top of it.

For a moment, I replayed the conversation I just had with my server – less than five minutes ago – to determine if I had omitted the fact that I did not want a slice of lemon in my iced tea. The simple realization I made was that either the server failed to communicate my request to omit the lemon from my iced tea when she placed my order, or she failed to recognize that the preparer added the lemon despite both of our requests. Needless to say, the server was wrong because she was unaware of the error, not to mention that she may have even ignored it herself if she was the one who prepared it.

A couple of days later, I was sitting in the airport in LA and I stopped in one of those airport restaurant/pubs. I decided to order a cheeseburger with bacon and no cheese, which was a custom order because only cheeseburgers appeared on their menu. When the server finally brought over my food, there was no bacon as I had requested! Again, was this a failure on the server’s part to request the bacon burger I wanted, or was it her failure to notice that the order she picked up from the kitchen was not prepared as I requested?

These two isolated incidents had really brought the issue of awareness to my attention. In both instances, the servers clearly were not aware that they did not provide me with the orders I had requested. So this brought me to an even bigger realization: can an iced tea really impact your overall success?

If you have ever considered starting your own business or running a major corporation, your long-term success will not only depend on your creativity and advertising, but also on your keen awareness and attention to the details. Your clients’ needs and expectations are paramount to not only your business success but to their ultimate customer satisfaction.  Your mastery of the details will not only be crucial in obtaining and retaining a client’s trust, but your ability to be aware and cognizant of their needs will differentiate you from your competition.

“This is what customers pay us for – to sweat all these details so it’s easy and pleasant for them to use our computers. We’re supposed to be really good at this. That doesn’t mean we don’t listen to customers, but it’s hard for them to tell you what they want when they’ve never seen anything remotely like it.” – Steve Jobs, CEO Apple Corp, Inc.

So the next time you are in a position to assist someone, regardless of the task at hand, take that extra moment to really listen to what they are asking of you. Equally important, evaluate whether or not you have successfully provided them with their desired outcome. Not only will your efforts potentially sweeten a well-deserved tip, it could be the very thing that ultimately differentiates you from so many unaware individuals that will never ‘get it’ nor really understand why they are unable to achieve the success they desire.

You know, all this writing has made me a little thirsty. I would love an iced tea with no lemon, please.

Sliding Doors for Success

Did you ever have that feeling of disappointment when you really set your mind to doing or achieving something and it did not turn out quite the way you planned? You sat down and drew out all the action steps necessary to achieve your desired goals; you studied or learned a new skill; you spoke to others you believed were the right people that could help you get what you had been looking forward to for months and then wham; nothing.

My Dad used to refer to this unfortunate universal outcome as Man Plans; God Laughs.  Despite all your well-intentioned efforts, things don’t always turn out as you planned, but was that really by accident?

There was a 1998 movie called Sliding Doors with actress Gwyneth Paltrow that looked at one day in time and examined several possible outcomes based upon a series of different events. If this had not happened at that exact moment, then this would not have occurred, and on and on.  We all have experienced those moments at some time in our lives and it’s enough to make you crazy. But there may be some truth to all of this.

Disappointment, or more importantly negative emotions, that results from unpopular outcomes may simply be nothing more than a sliding door moment in your life ahead of something better in the near future. Although our immediate instinct is to get angry or upset at ourselves or others, maybe we just need to take that same moment to ask ourselves if that outcome was really something that we truly needed or wanted.

Rather than shutting ourselves off from other possible opportunities that may lie in our path, we could take this opportunity to pat ourselves on the back for attempting something that we thought we wanted. All the time and effort that we put in to learning something new or networking was not wasted because even though we did not accomplish our immediate goal, we did put other things into motion whether we realized it or not…and who knows what new opportunities will lie ahead as a result of those efforts?

As my friend Andrea Squibb recently reminded me when I got frustrated because things did not work out exactly as I planned, although it was nerve wracking for me, I still have my plan and I did take the necessary time to think things through. Although I did not get the immediate response that I wanted, I should still give things time to play out before I give in to my disappointment.

She also reminded me that some unexpected positive things have also recently happened to me, thanks to my good friend Jennifer Wilkov, and that I was on the right path. This was a great lesson for me to keep my eye on the positives and let the other stuff go.

I will plan to continue my efforts toward accomplishing those intended goals, but I will also remember to take the time to appreciate and accept things that may also come my way simply by keeping my eyes and ears open for unexpected detours.

Some great takeaways:

  • Don’t stay too focused on a desired outcome if it prevents you from experiencing or seeing other opportunities that lie right in front of you.
  • Keep things in perspective; “Rome wasn’t built in a day” as they say. Temper your expectations accordingly.
  • Most importantly, success is awarded to those that always follow their hearts and continue to practice patience and persistence.