Unlimited Possibilities Limit You

I could do anything tomorrow, but by the time I considered [invalid operation] percent of infinite options, tomorrow would be gone and I’d be deceased. Frankly, an excess of possibilities paralyzes the mind as the first sentence, this speed dating study, and my experience all suggest.Read More

How To Avoid Arguments In Relationships

Arguments are the second-worst human invention (behind pogs, obviously). Unproductive at best, damaging at worst – they remain a popular activity for the whole family to enjoy suffer through.

I was talking to my cousin one night about arguments, pride, vulnerability, and similar topics.  During our conversation I realized something about human interactions – we rarely have the information we need and this creates many feuds!

I’m going to give an example of a petty argument because when an argument lacks substance, we know it exists for purely psychological and emotional reasons that can be identified. “Heavy” arguments on politics and religion are too convoluted with the “who is right?” question to examine psychologically.

Fluff - A Frisky Cat

This is Fluff the cat. He argues, "I do NOT have fleas. You don't understand me. You NEVER will!" Fluff gets frisky too easily but we still love him.

Josh and Alexandra Have An Argument

Josh: “The Detroit Lions are going to the Super Bowl.”

Alexandra: “I don’t care about football.”

Josh: “You don’t have to be so snappy about it.”

Alexandra: “I wasn’t. What’s wrong with you?”

Josh: “What’s wrong with me?? I was just wanting to talk to you and you were being rude.”

As you can see from that ridiculous example, there was a clear disconnect between the two friends.  The conversation seems simple on the exterior, but much complexity hides in the shadows. This is a great example of how oversimplifying conversations can result in absurd, trivial arguments.

Earlier this year, I had a heated argument with my housemate about whether or not shepherd’s pie typically contains peas or not! I’m not kidding! Just like all arguments, it was a string of misunderstandings. For where there is mutual understanding, there is no argument.

What Went Wrong?

Now I’ll explain what went wrong with Josh and Alexandra.  You’ll see that the conversation starts off with key information that the other person is unaware of. As a result of not knowing this information, the words are twisted and assumptions are made – hence the argument.

The critical missing information is green

The results of not knowing the information are red

Josh: “The Detroit Lions are going to the Super Bowl.”

Missing Info: Josh wanted to connect with Alexandra. He has an indirect style of communication so he started off with small talk. Football was just the first thing that popped into his head because he knows she is from Detroit.

Alexandra: “I don’t care about football.”

Missing Info: Alexandra was fine with talking, but she does not like football. She thought she was making it clear she’d rather talk about something else. She has a direct style of communication.

Josh: “You don’t have to be so snappy about it.”

Result: Josh took what she said as a sign that she was not interested in talking to him. Being offended and hurt by this perceived disinterest, Josh unjustly accused Alexandra of not considering his feelings (in his indirect style).

Alexandra: “I wasn’t. What’s wrong with you?”

Result: She was offended by the accusation.

Josh: “What’s wrong with me?? I was just wanting to talk to you and you were rude.”

Result: Josh, already feeling like the victim, couldn’t believe Alexandra had the nerve to talk to him like she did. I hope they can work this out, but you can see they will have to do a lot of backtracking to find the root of this argument.

Learn From Their Fictional Mistakes

Be very scared aware of your emotions. When a negative emotion flares up in conversation, do not brush it aside. Some people might find this weird, but saying the emotion you’re experiencing out loud can be very effective in conversation. But start stuffing emotions in the closet and they’ll jump out unexpectedly and destroy the world.

Once you’re aware of your emotions, you can learn to trace them back to a source. Josh felt rejected, angry, and hurt by Alexandra’s comment. If he had paused before reacting without thinking (easier said than done!), he could have directed the conversation towards finding the missing information.

He could have asked, “Oh, do you want to talk about something else?” Alexandra would have said “Sure, did you hear about Kelly Clarkson?” to which Josh would respond, “I don’t care about Kelly Clarkson.”  Eventually, they’d find common ground. 😛

The key to all of this? Assume you’re missing information – because you are!

We are always missing information when talking to others. In many cases, it results in argument. Seek to find the missing information before you find yourself deep in argument and searching for some semblance of how it started.

5 steps to avoid argument:

  1. Negative emotion flares up in conversation.
  2. Recognize it and trace it to a comment or gesture.
  3. Assume you’re missing information and ask a relevant question.
  4. The situation is clarified and no argument occurs (unless the clarification was that the person thinks you’re an idiot, in which case, let ’em have it!)
  5. Proceed with discussion of football and/or Kelly Clarkson.

Why The Most Successful People Work Hard Even After They’ve “Made It”

Isn’t the goal of financial success to be able to live the Caribbean life?

Then why do we see so many millionaires working like sled dogs?

The answer: Success has a unique taste (it’s similar to ice cream). It tastes so good that it makes you want to stuff yourself and try all the flavors.

Girls and Ice Cream

Women and ice cream - what more could you ask for? Sprinkles.

If logic had its way, you would work harder as you needed more money, right?  From what I see, the opposite is true. People rely on unemployment checks and medicaid to support them as they watch TV. Meanwhile, the rich are still working 12 hour days.  This is insanity!  Why are the people who already have money working harder than those who need it most?

The cop-out answer is “that’s why they’re successful.”  I’m not content to stop there. I want to know why some people work harder than others.

Note: I’m not talking about the success mindset here, but the traditional way that success is defined – accomplishments.

A Compelling Reason To Work

For every action or inaction, there is a motive.  When we think about the motive of a millionaire or billionaire to keep working hard, what are the broad possibilities?

  1. Make more money – Hmm…maybe millionaires might still want more, but billionaires? There must be something else.
  2. Gain more power/influence – this is a possibility.  I’m still not convinced though.  What could be the common factor?
  3. They enjoy it? Bingo.

“A man can do nothing better than to eat and drink and find satisfaction in his work. This too, I see, is from the hand of God” ~ Solomon in Ecclesiastes 2:24

If you’re not familiar with Ecclesiastes, throughout it, the author speaks of the vanity and pointlessness of “everything under the sun.” Our time on this sphere is so short that it is hard to argue with him.  We will all be forgotten.

If you have enough money to retire, move to paradise, and relax but you’re still working, you MUST love the work you do.  When you’re seeing a great deal of validation (i.e. success) coming from your work , work can be a true joy.  But is success itself enough to satisfy us?  I think not!

Passion Is Traction

Success is much easier to achieve if you enjoy the journey to reach it. Passion is a slow-burning fuel that can last a lifetime.  Greed and the desire to be rich is a quick-burning lust that fades as the burden of work saps your life force.

Productive business woman

Is she playing tic tac toe over the phone?

Do you know of anyone who “suffers” through jobs they hate on the path to wealth? I can’t say this for sure, but I believe many of them find themselves empty inside when they “reach the top.” They realize that they just made $100 million, but they wasted 30 miserable years of their life to get it.

“Don’t aim for success if you want it; just do what you love and believe in, and it will come naturally.”  ~ David Frost

Back To Success

In the beginning I talked about the taste of success.  I mentioned that success has such a wonderful taste that you want to try all of the flavors.  I say that because I’ve tasted it – just a tiny sample of it – and it is potently delicious!

I started this blog in mid-March. One night in my apartment in Charlottesville, I received an email from Problogger saying that my submitted guest post was accepted. I started running around the apartment (in circles) saying words that don’t exist yet (I am weird, but it makes life fun). Problogger is one of the biggest blogs in the world!

The more you taste success, the more you want it.  It’s like blood in the water for a shark, but not as dangerous for swimmers.

This was my first taste of success. It was my first taste of success doing something that I loved to do (career-wise). It gave me a bit of validation that I could write well – and when the post was very well received – I had validation that I could write content that people wanted to read. I can see how people become workaholics. The realization of tangible progress towards achieving your dreams is exhilarating.

This positive energy improves your creativity (I will write about this sometime), boosts your confidence, and gives you the drive to taste more success. Don’t believe me? You should, because I’ve been featured on Problogger four times now. If the first one didn’t happen, neither would the rest.

This “taste of success” has been very important to me in the times when I’m disappointed in my subscriber numbers or traffic (which are both decent for my young blog, but could be better).

You Can Taste Success In Four Difficult, Worthwhile Steps

  1. Set aside time for a deep thinking session.  In this session, you will determine what you are passionate about – look at how you spend free time, what excites you about life, and what abilities give you the greatest satisfaction in using.
  2. Figure out a way to get paid for your passion – consulting, blogging, working for a company, creating products, etc.
  3. Focus on ONE milestone that would mean a lot to you.  Is it guest posting on a huge blog? Is it getting a job for a certain type of company? Is it to finish creating a product? Is it getting your first client?  Don’t make the milestone big – make it small.  You’re just getting a sample of the success ice cream – not the large.
  4. Pour your soul into this mission.  Fail several times. Get up again and work 80 hours a week. Chase it. Tackle it.

I’ve tasted success a few times. Right now I’m looking forward to the satisfaction of completing an ebook I’m working on. It’s going to be free, by the way, to prove to you that I can write a book worth buying before trying to sell you anything.

I’ll be taking my own advice with the ebook. I’m going to work on it until I get carpel tunnel syndrome.  Then I’ll have to wear one of those fashionable wrist braces.

Once you taste it – you should dwell on your success.  Reward yourself. Failure is to be learned from. We all know that. But success is to be celebrated and recycled. Success has a way of replicating itself if you know how to leverage your first taste of it.

The challenge is in the beginning. Deep down, we all know we’re capable of doing great things – but we still have to prove it to ourselves. I knew I could write fairly well and that I had some good ideas – but I couldn’t really believe it until I saw myself doing it.

Get started today.  Chip away at that intimidating project by focusing on the first success milestone. Once you get it – and you WILL – you’ll see that nothing can stop you if you’re focused, persistent, and passionate about what you’re doing.

Do you have an example of tasting success that created more success for you? I’d love to hear about it.

Ask This Question To Connect With Your Hair Stylist

Are you sick of asking your stylist dead-end questions?  So was I.

I had a very lively haircut yesterday.  If you had seen how it started, you’d never believe how it ended – it started out in complete silence.  I was silent because I did not want to ask my stylist the same dull questions that I usually asked.  They rarely amounted to anything worthwhile.

Getting a haircut is great practice if you are shy when meeting new people.  You’re stuck in a chair for a solid 10-15 minutes (or maybe more if you’re female).  I realize that many smart people have a “go-to” stylist that they know and know won’t destroy their hairstyle, but I’m not that smart yet.  Every haircut is a gamble.  😀

I’m not shy when meeting new people, but I find the typical procedure rather formulaic and boring. Wouldn’t it be nice to just skip to the chase and really get to know someone?  How can we do that?

Yesterday, I found out how.

*Snip snip*  So….

Woman's Haircut

"You wanted the Vin Diesel, right?"

Sitting in the chair – losing hair on purpose for once – there was no conversation to be found.  As I said before, I did not want to break the silence just to ask the same lame inquiries that I usually go for.  The lame inquiries I speak of:

“How long have you been cutting hair?”  2 years.

“Do you like cutting hair?”   Sure.

THREE words total can answer both of those questions in full.  This time, I wanted to go deeper and learn more about the person behind the clippers.  So I tried a new one and it worked out very well!

“When did you decide to cut hair?”

To give you an idea of where that took things, she stopped cutting my hair several times just to talk and make eye contact – we were really connecting.  At different points we were both talking about our deepest passions in life.  This happened almost immediately after asking that question.

She talked about her passion first – mentioning she lived in Florida and had a home design business. Now in North Carolina, she didn’t have any clients and so she cut hair.

She said that she was scared and hesitant to start her business.  I should have suggested that she read about failure and living with the vigor of a shipwrecked sailor.  Seriously, I wish I would have. It may have helped her.

After talking a bit about her story, she took an interest in my story and I ended up telling her about how I graduated college last year, moved away, and eventually moved back in with my parents.  I explained that I was going to help people with computers to make money while I work on my blog (passions!).

Me: “Have you considered having an online presence for your business?”

Stylist: “I have no idea about any of that.”

I gave her some basic first steps to setting up a website so that she could do more research for herself.  I thought of offering my computer services to her, but my experience outside of WordPress blogs is minimal and that reminds me I need to make some business cards (any recommendations?). The next time I go in there, I might see if she’d be interested in my computer skills.

Why This Question Provokes Deeper Conversation

On the surface, this question seems somewhat plain, but it actually conveys great interest and encourages your conversation partner to open up.

Whenever we make a decision, whether it is to work at a factory, start a blog, or move to Texas, there is an underlying motive.  The question being discussed targets that motive. The question again (in case you forgot) is…

“When did you decide to cut hair?”

It takes her back to the point in time that she decided to pursue what she is currently doing. Whatever the answer is, it will be meaningful to her and an integral part of her story.  Possible answers?

1. A couple years back, she had the credentials and needed the money – though it wasn’t really what she wanted to do long term.  This was the case for her, and it naturally brought her to talk about what she truly desired to do for a living.

2. A couple years back, she realized she loved cutting hair and was passionate about it.  It was her chosen field.  If this was the case for her, she would have enjoyed talking about what first ignited her passion for it.  People love to talk about their passions if someone is willing to listen.

When I think of when I decided to blog, I don’t think of a date – I immediately think of the reason for that decision at that time.  “I want to be judged on my own ability for once, I love to write, and I want to help people think actively.”  My decision was made after having been rejected by hundreds of companies for months without reasonable cause and without being given a chance – another major part of my story.  That struggle gave me the desire to make something myself. This question is the gateway to our stories.

What if I just asked her why she styled hair?

It sorta kinda gets to the same idea, but the focus is not on her passion.  “Why do you style hair” only shows interest in the hair-styling aspect of her life and doesn’t encourage her to open up about her real passion if hair-styling isn’t it.  Her full response might be: “To make money while I try to figure out my design business.”  She only mentions the design business on the side because she thinks I only wanted to know why she styles hair.

On the other hand, the question I did ask probed to see if hair-styling is her passion or not. If it is not, then she knows that I’m interested in what she really wants to do.  This was clearly evident from her response!  It was a great experience to see a mundane haircut turn into a lively conversation about passions.

How To Do This When You Meet Someone

I already knew her profession, but when you meet Jim for the first time, you would need to first ask, “What do you do?”  Once he responds, “I’m a farmer,” then you can ask him the follow up question, “when did you decide to be a farmer?”

1. Farming runs in his family, so he decided to continue the tradition.

2. He enjoys the lifestyle, working outside, and being close to nature.

3. He believes it is important to directly provide food for his family (subsistence farming) and does not want to be dependent on others for food.

All of those possible answers are interesting and have to do with the Jim’s story and passions! When you inquire about someone’s decision to do something, you’re inquiring about their worldview and motive.  When it involves something as important as their career, you are bound to discover what they are truly passionate about.

Now I ask you the question – “When did you decide to _____?”   You may fill in the blank and answer in the comments if you so please.  🙂

The Motivation Experiment

Life can be rough sometimes.

I’m still struggling to be productive since I moved back home recently. I have had spurts of productivity, but it feels as if I’m fighting an uphill battle. When you’re fighting an uphill battle, your motivational strength is sapped easily.

As I wrote about in a prior article, the key to using motivation correctly is to set smaller goals that you can accomplish. Once you accomplish a goal, you’re ready to tackle the next. This is an experimental post that involves an actual experiment.

The Experiment

I’m less motivated now than I have been in months.  It’s weird. It’s hard to pinpoint any one reason, but generally I’ve been failing to focus.  There is so much I want to do at this very moment that I’m being pulled in 568 directions.  When you are being pulled in every direction – you stay in the same spot.

So my experiment is to test the motivation method I talked about earlier. I have several hours left for the rest of the day and SO much I want to do.  Today, I have literally accomplished nothing so far (how’s that for honesty?).

An interesting tidbit is that the motivation article was not talking about intra-day motivation, but I am going to apply it in this way.  I also think that having this information online where hundreds of people can see it will serve as a motivator.

My goal is to build momentum by motivating myself to accomplish tasks one after another.  Each accomplished task will take me incrementally closer to my goal of regaining my vigor for life (which is typically there).  If all goes as planned, I will go to sleep tonight being very pleased with the day and excited about my success.

Here’s What I’m Going To Do

I’ll post a list of things I want to accomplish by midnight tonight (US Eastern). At midnight, I will update this page with my results and thoughts on this experiment.  If I fail…well, I’m not going to fail.

The motivation-building list (start simple and build up to more difficult tasks):

  1. Exercise for a minimum of 30 minutes
  2. Read one chapter in a book
  3. List three items on ebay
  4. Clean my room to satisfaction
  5. Write 1,500 words in the e-book I’m working on
  6. Organize my bookmarks toolbar to satisfaction (such a mess right now – flooded with links)
  7. Transfer MS Word blog post ideas to Excel SS

I have a whopping 8 hours and 10 minutes to do this.  I’m gonna go for it. You know what?  Just making this orderly list and setting clear daily goals has my motivation climbing rapidly.  I’m excited! I’ll update this post a little bit after midnight with results.  🙂

Wish me luck!

The Update (8 Hours Later)

Readers, I just had an incredible day.  Even with the terrible start, the finish was so incredible that it made up for the first half.  In short, the experiment was a ridiculous success.  I essentially combined shock treatment and my motivation technique with an added focus on momentum building to have one of the most productive 8 hours I’ve ever had.

1. Exercise for a minimum of 30 minutes  √

Yes, I am using the square root symbol as a check mark.  😛

For this I jogged 2.5 miles in 30-40 minutes.  Part of the way I ran while dribbling a basketball.  I wanted to start this list with exercise as it is suitable for the “shock treatment” aspect of this equation.

It worked wonders.

Not only was I out the door running 5 minutes after I published this post, but I literally had about 20 ideas for blog posts and websites during the run.  It makes me want to hire an assistant to run alongside me and take notes next time.

The run increased my motivation and positivity.  I haven’t mentioned this yet, but being positive is essential to being creative.  Knowing that, it wasn’t too surprising I came up with several good ideas.  The increased blood flow to the brain helps too.

2. Read one chapter in a book √

I read chapter one in The Hobbit.  It’s developing into a nice story.  I had trouble getting into it in the very beginning, but towards the end of the chapter I found myself very engaged.  Nice job, Tolkien!

After completing task #2, I was very encouraged by my quick reversal of a bad day.

Affiliate link above – by the way, nearly everything I link to that can be purchased will be an affiliate link to Amazon.com because I love Amazon, they sell everything, and affiliate links don’t cost you any money (but can help me a tiny bit).

3. List three items on ebay √

I did this quickly.  I could really sense the momentum from tasks 1 and 2.  It took me 30 minutes total to list three items.  This might be standard for most people, but I usually take longer with ebay when I should just focus on quickly getting rid of items for cash!

4. Clean my room to satisfaction √+

Here is the surprising MVT (Most Valuable Task).  Not only did I go well beyond my initial ideas for cleaning – I deeply organized – but cleaning up my work area resulted in an epiphany.  I believe my room being messy was the cause of my unproductive skid.

As I was talking with Tom about productivity (see it in the comments below), he mentioned that cleaning my room was busywork.  While the work itself is busywork, it unleashed a gargantuan amount of value upon completion.

Now, I can see why I instinctively placed a high priority on cleaning my room – because to me it is a cornerstone of productivity.  When my “sanctuary” is messed up, so is my life.  A cluttered environment gives me mental blocks and makes me unhappy.

5. Write 1,500 words in the e-book I’m working on √-

This is the failure in the list, but not really.  I only wrote 750 words in the book.  I’m not sure I should have set a specific word count to begin with because that can force terrible writing.

As I reached 700 words, my mind just wanted to move on to something else.  Eventually, I stopped fighting for the sake of reaching an arbitrary goal (a valuable lesson).  What I did write was quality content, however, and I look forward to finishing the book and setting it loose.

6. Organize my bookmarks toolbar to satisfaction √+

This had the same completely refreshing effect that the room cleaning did.  Life is twice as good because of this. Now my internet world is organized.  I even organized my computer files for extra credit!

7. Transfer MS Word blog post ideas to Excel SS √

This was wonderful.  I organized my blog ideas on a spreadsheet (still more to do here).

Conclusion of Experiment

I highly recommend trying this.

  1. Compile a list of tasks that you believe you have enough time to accomplish (if in doubt, aim a little low, but not too much that you can slack off!).  It is good to have a little bit of pressure that gets you focused, but too much will just overwhelm you.
  2. Once you have the list of tasks, organize them from easiest to hardest.  You’re building momentum with the small easy tasks and using that positive motion to help you complete tasks that you have been putting off.  It is a confidence-building process.

I like to start off with exercise as it serves as the shock treatment and sets a great tone for a productive day. After I ran, I was much more decisive than usual – something you need for getting things done.  I believe it had to do with increased brain activity and that “go go go” mindset carrying over from my run.

If you do decide to try this, please let me and the Deep Existence community know.  It’s cool that there is a community here.  Deep thinkers unite!  🙂

Until next time,

Stephen The Experimenter