Dark Triad, Bright Triad – Finding Friends In a World of Foes

If you’ve ever ignored the red flags of a relationship, romantic or otherwise, you might feel like an idiot, that you SHOULD have seen it coming. But the truth is that most good-natured people will end up in this trap at some point in their life. As it turns out, being a good person means taking risks and sacrificing some of your safety as a sign of good faith to others.

The Dark Triad – Narcissism, Psychopathy, and Machiavellianism

You have probably heard of the Dark Triad before, and if you haven’t yet, you’re extremely likely to have encountered it within your lifetime, either in high school, college, or one of your coworkers. I’ve got a quick guide below to get you up to speed on what I mean when I use these terms:

Narcissism: In general, narcissists are extremely self-centered, and can dip into the political side of life. To them, they are the single most important person, or at least that they should be, and to them, the world really does revolve around them. They take vanity to the edge, overestimating their own abilities and downplaying the talents of others to elevate themselves. You’ll find them as teacher’s pets, bosses right hands, and if you’ve ever had someone who absolutely could not accept when their skills failed them, they might be a narcissist.

Psychopathy: Anti-social, low empathy, and a sense of grandiose self combines into this ugly corner of the triangle. Although incredibly rare, a true psychopath can wreak havoc in your life, manipulating you and those around you into false notions. Their constant need to stimulation leads them to compulsive lying, spreading rumors, and potentially disrupting an otherwise peaceful and productive workplace. Not everyone who shows these traits is a psychopath, but in general these traits should be avoided to minimize their impact on your life as well as the life of others.

Machiavellianism: Derived from Machiavelli, author of The Prince, Machiavellianism is a philosophy that at its core is completely void of moral code. In his book, Machiavelli describes a method for those in political power to work towards goals without concern for moral judgment, instead he proposes that leaders should always keep the end in mind, leaving the means to the most effective method. Machiavellianism draws on that philosophy of power over people. If you’ve ever dealt with someone who sees it as their duty to report every mistake, to go behind your back and pull strings so that they can get a leg up on you or a coworker, then you’ve likely encountered someone with this philosophy.



Fortunately, it is rare for a person to develop this trifecta of traits, but the risk is still one that should be considered, as it only takes one encounter to brutally change your life.

The way that the modern world works reflects this risk well. If you take, for example, a city block, millions of dollars of buildings, cars, and utility infrastructure, you would know that it likely took many hours of hard work to accomplish this. However, if you were to give an ill-intent man with $100 of gasoline and a box of matches, left unattended, he would be more than capable of destroying millions of dollars and thousands of hours of work, for a fraction of the price, and in a fraction of the time. That is the nature of the dark triad, rare, but gone unimpeded can shatter dozens of lives, and thus why it is important to protect yourself by avoiding these people and to expose them whenever you can.



The Bright Triad – Clarity, Maturity, and Stability

This is going to be an interesting take, but after reading through The Tactical Guide to Women (You can see my overall opinion of it by clicking the link, as well as another link to buy it directly from Amazon) by Shawn T. Smith, I realized that finding a suitable partner is much like finding good company elsewhere. In fact, most of what Dr. Smith has to say can be construed to other aspects of your life, including study groups, business partners, or coworkers.

The first Bright Triad trait mentioned is Clarity, which is a rough estimate of how forward someone is about their emotions, thoughts, views, and understanding of the situation. Clarity is important as a counterweight to regret and resentment. As Shawn mentions, one of the greatest downfalls in couples is that there is a disconnect between values, which are sometimes obscured by traits that you may find appealing now, but will become trouble for the relationship later.

Maturity, the core of the bright triad, is like the foundation of a house. In this instance, maturity is based on three major factors; The ability of someone to accept themselves and others, the resilience to maintain their code of ethics, and their general ability to be kind to others, without need of approval. Dogs are excellent purveyors of these traits, and it is for good reason that they have found their place in the world as man’s best friend. Someone who is eager to help you and reluctant to harm others, while understanding themselves and holding onto their beliefs, will certainly do nothing but great things for yourself and those around you.

I will add one more thing here, one of the pieces of advice I have ever been given is that to become great, you only need to surround yourself with great people. To clarify, becoming a mature, clear-minded, and stable person can greatly impact your life and those around you. The key to greatness is simple, find good people, and make them great, so that you too can be great.

Stability runs hand in hand with maturity, as it focuses on your ability to see yourself for who you are, whereas maturity allows you to express that self. One of the best ways to improve yourself is to first find your flaws, and then understand those flaws, their history, their reason for becoming part of your life, and then to remove them.

Conclusion

I’m going to go ahead and wrap it up here, I’ve got more articles in store for the bright triad theory, as I find it very interesting and highly applicable to the social world. If you have any questions or would like to request an article, feel free to drop it down in the comments below or you can email me directly at alexb@projectedinfluence.com, that way you can be ABSOLUTELY sure that I get it. As always thanks for reading and have a great future!

Activity Vs. Action – The First Step to Great Results

Whether you’re spending time studying hard, working, creating, or otherwise producing anything, you might sometimes feel like all your hard work goes to waste. This happens to virtually everyone, and is partially due to what I will refer to as Sticky Mind (if you’ve ever dealt with sticky keys you know what I mean).

This is commonly referred to as Einstellung, where you can become caught up in a way of thinking despite better options being right around the mental corner. I’m going to break down some ways to circumvent this and explain a bit about how you can use this to understand your own habits and improve your productivity, so sit down, relax, and open your mind!

Osho: Master of Action

Osho is a relatively famous spiritual teacher and philosopher who gained most of his attention during the 1970s. He has a few books, some of which I have read, and some of which I will read when I have time. This article is going to primarily focus on his understanding of creativity, and how to harness it to its fullest extent.

To begin, action is the focused, precision approach to problem-solving. It is the conscious effort of analyzing and existing problem in your life and using your full attention to find a solution. Action is the result of planning, which as I’ve said before is the cornerstone of success, you can read about it in full here. You must be prepared before you take action, or your actions simply become activities, aimless and ineffective.

Action is often your best bet when it comes to handling life’s difficulties, but as I will explain later, there is a crucial balance that I believe Osho was too reluctant to address.

Activity Vs. Action

Activity, as described by Osho, is a passive activity, one of habit that keeps us stationary in our thoughts and in our life. Activities are those things that do not require much thought and sort of take over for us when we are not using our focused thoughts to dictate action.

These activities can be benign or malicious depending on the habits we have formed. Some people prefer to chew gum, check their phones, find something to snack on, or otherwise distract themselves when they are not in total control of their actions. Checking your phone once or twice while waiting on a bus ride is most likely not the reason you are stuck in your habits. The problem I see most often is that people do not know when to change their behavior from activity to action, or how to make the most of their activities.

Not all activities are benign, heavy alcohol consumption and overeating will surely hamstring your success and create a mess of problems beyond the time spent indulging in those activities. The good news is that there are positive activities, which Osho either did not see the use for, or did not see a need to discuss. These activities will improve your life, and make your actions more effective.

Positive Activity

Positive activity might have sounded like an oxymoron after my initial definition, but this is only true in part. Activities are most often unplanned or require little thought to carry out, but when used properly can supplement your actions and even become useful in their own right.

If you’re looking to replace some of your counterproductive activities, I’ve drawn up a short list below, which is by NO means exhaustive:

  1. Showering: Taking a nice cold shower or bath can be a good way to unwind and recollect your thoughts from the day, and there are numerous benefits to cold showers alone, including boosts to immune system, focus, and reduction in anxiety.
  2. Meditation: Something I personally have fallen in love with as a method of readying myself for a long day of action, meditation and prayer are good ways to give your mind a break so that it can “reboot” for more focused thinking.
  3. Working Out: If you are still new to exercise, this may still be an action for you, but if you are comfortable with your routine and already have an idea of what your workout will consist of, exercise can be a great way to set your mind free, and reduce stress in the process.
  4. Music: Listening to music, especially music without lyrics, drowns out the world and lets your brain roam.
  5. Art: Any sort of relaxed art, such as freely drawing or painting, will put your brain into activity mode, and make it easier to form connections between other parts of your brain.

    These are good habits to start you off, and you can find plenty more that will give you the same benefits. Look for something that your are well practiced in, and does not require an excessive amount of focus to take part in.

 If you have trouble forming habits, you can read more on forming habits here, and some more about it here. 

If you feel like your schedule is strangling you, and that it would be impossible to find time to implement these into your life, I have created a handy article for that too. Here is an article I wrote to help you define the most important parts of your life and reduce unnessecary clutter in your schedule, and here is one that will allow you to power through even the toughest problems life can throw at you, and keep you on track to becoming great!

Balance: The Key to Great Action

With positive activity in mind, we have a great place to start building a strong backbone to carry our actions through. The key to efficiency and effectiveness is to find a balance between action and activity. If you spend too much time on activities, you will only move in the directions you’ve chosen, and leaving yourself little time to step back, analyze, and redirect your limited energy.

On the other side of the equation, if you spend all of your time focused on actions, you will find yourself losing your edge, becoming less effective in your ability to take actions. If you’ve ever gotten into regular excersise, too much action looks a lot like trying to only work out your arms, all day, every day. It is extremely important to take time to rest and recoupourate between action, just like shifting between groups of muscles, and allowing them to rebuild and become more powerful, you need to find time to step back from actions and let activity take over.

To me, this balance looks like an 20/80 split. I spend roughly 20% of my time on action, which includes writing articles, reading, researching and testing new methods to improve myself. 80%, which includes R&R, friends, family, creative writing, and games take up about 20 hours per week, out of 168 that comes out to around 12% of my time, and another 96 hours are split between work and sleep. Realistically, you can spend up to 40% of your time on action, but it will require a long time to build yourself up to that, and only for actions that you are experienced in. 

Conclusion

I really hope this gives some insight into the world of success-building, I will have another article with some more scientific points that will really help press out some of the wrinkles in this article and bring everything tohgether. In the meantime tell me what your schedule looks like down below, and if you want I will help you find time you might not know you had before. As always thanks for reading and be sure to check out some of the other articles, I have written them to be used with each other to offer multiple views into personal growth to maximize their effectiveness. Have a great future!

How to Manage Time – Become the Master of Chaos

Have you ever had to study for an exam, finish a project for work, or make time for an event, only to realize that you’ve spent triple the time you intended only to get halfway done with whatever you were working on?

Well, I’ve been there, and I still work every day to improve my time efficiency. Today, I’m going to show you some of my personal tricks for squeezing more effectiveness out of my days, courtesy of the most productive people I know.

Put a Wall Between You and the World!

    Everyone gets distracted once in a while, and most of us can be distracted very easily. I’ve lived with all sorts, from your classic party animals to human mice that you would never know lived with you if it weren’t for the extra dishes appearing out of nowhere.

    Sometimes we allow distractions into our lives. If I don’t lock my phone into a time-sealed reinforced-steel lock box buried in ten feet of cement, I will inevitably try to look at it, waste five minutes of my day, and then repeat it two minutes later.

    Being able to identify and remove distraction from your life while working is a great start to keeping yourself productive, and being more productive means more time doing what you enjoy!

    Here’s a handy guide for anyone who might be looking for better ways to keep themselves on task, even for those with rowdy roommates and noisy neighbors:

  •     Try to find an agreement with the people you live with, establishing hours and days of the week reserved for work. This might include days that the others regularly leave or are otherwise outside of your dorm/apartment. If you can find some peace in those few hours to get things done, it won’t bother you as much when they are distracting while you are relaxing.
  •      Alternatively, you can change your schedule to better utilize your time, waking up a few hours earlier than everyone else, and staying up later than others can be a good option as long as you maintain a roughly similar sleep schedule.
  •     Try putting away anything that you KNOW will distract you, even if you REALLY don’t want to. Keep you phone in the other room, if you work online, disable any applications that don’t need to be open, take them off your desktop if that helps.
  •      Find a way to get into the mood – music and meditation can help you block out unnecessary distractions and reduce wasted time.

 This list is absolutely NOT exhaustive, so if you’ve got any personal tricks you use to keep the distractions away let everyone know by putting it down in the comments, everyone will appreciate the help!

Set Goals AND Stick to Them!

    Goals are a great way to increase productivity. Having a clear idea of what needs to be done stops you from wasting time on things that are less than useful. Its like distraction repellent. Any time you see yourself doing something that you shouldn’t be, you can just tug yourself back into the mindset you were in before, because you know EXACTLY where you need to be. No ifs ands or buts about it.

    Something I’ve talked about before is the proper way to manage your schedule, which plays heavily into goal-setting and effective use of time. You can read the full bit here, but in general you want to be able to create a few “hard” goals, which MUST be finished by a certain date, going day by day is fine here. Anything that does not need to be done by a certain day but should be by the end of the week needs to have a rough sketch about the time you can work on it.

    This is where that time from before comes in handy. Your roommates take off for 2-3 hours for sports/parties/study groups and BAM, you’ve got an opening to work on weekly tasks. This is extremely useful, because it means that should something come up earlier in the week, for instance something fun or more important, you have wiggle room in your schedule that won’t lock you down to a certain time. Overall it is a great quality-of-life improvement.

Eating Your Frogs, Even the Extra Slimy Ones.

   Eating a frog sounds like one of the worst things you can imagine, which I guess is why that phrase has become so popular when referring to doing the thing you hate.

    Now, I’m not suggesting you go grab a little green friend and hork him down, but you might reconsider doing the things you hate after what I’m about to tell you. Typically, the best time to finish your worst problems is when you are at your full potential, which for some people will be early in the morning sometime between 4-6 A. M, while personally I only hit that sweet spot around 10. Figuring this out is a case-by-case experience, and should come pretty naturally to you.

     If you want to find your peak, it is probably hiding a few hours after your body normally wakes up, so for me that’s around 10, but some days I can be ready to go by 8-9 if I wake up especially early. Once you find this, you can use it to time your projects and hardest portion of work with the best time of day to tackle it.

It also helps to do things that are easy before you reach this point, this is a psychological trick I refer to as snowballing. Below I’ve written out a short checklist to get you on your way.

  1. Find your sweet spot of productivity, this is usually a few hours after naturally waking up, and will vary with your sleep schedule. Its best to find this when you are on vacation/break from school/work so that you are more likely to find that natural waking point.
  2. Once you’ve found this, set some easy goals for yourself early on, just something simple like fixing breakfast, playing a game, or working out is a great way to start out and prepare you for your prime-time!
  3. Use that sweet spot to burn through any tough problems you have that day, and make sure to block out distractions as much as possible to maximize your productivity.

The Mind-Killer – Multitasking

If you think about your brain as having multiple gears, forward, reverse, low, neutral, and parked, multitasking is like trying to shift between all of those as quickly as possible. Do that for a few hours and you will destroy your transmission.

The key to high productivity is having the end in mind before you even begin. No matter how many times you’ve been told that you are a great multi-tasker, or how much you think so yourself, I implore you to try shifting gears going top speed down the highway, and tell me how far you get before someone pulls you over.

So if you want to waste your own time, multitasking a great way to do that, but if you want to become the best you can be at literally ANYTHING you put your mind to, just stop putting your mind to other things while you’re doing it.

Conclusion

This is just part of my Project:Influence line-up which will be expanded on as I do more research into ways to become the best version of myself, which I will pass on to you guys. Any feedback is greatly appreciated, so tell me what you think down in the comments and if you have any ideas I would love to hear it!

If you have any questions for me personally I will answer them, usually within 12-24 hours via my email: alexb@projectedinfluence.com

Feel Like There’s Never Enough Time? – Use Priorities to Live More Fully!

Have you ever felt like you’re being pulled into a thousand tiny pieces by life? The dogs need a bath, someone needs to take out that two week old trash, mow the lawn, take the kids to practice, finish the dishes, do the laundry, and the next day it starts all over again!

If you haven’t had these experiences there’s a good chance that you’re either super rich, or I need to install higher grade anti-spamware to keep the robots out. One way or the other, I’m here to lend some personal and professional advice to keep yourself on track while building towards the life you want to live.

Let’s get started!

Don’t let time melt away! Learn to handle even the busiest schedule with a few simple tips!

First, Focus Your Energy

So you’re busy, like too busy to remember when you last ate, or where you left your keys and now you’re late for work and the whole day snowballs out of control very quickly.

The first thing to do is to take the following into consideration when making decisions. Take a quick moment to think about, and then write out the list in order from most important to least important, this will clear up some of the smog for creating your most effective schedule:

  • Work
  • Downtime (Reading, TV, Internet, Games)
  • Home Maintenance (Trash, Laundry, Dishes, etc.)
  • Children
  • Pets
  • Religion
  • Money
  • Friends
  • Family

Some of these will naturally rank higher than others, children and pets need constant attention, and depending on your religious/spiritual convictions it may seem pertinent to place them highly on the list. Keep in mind that this is only a rough draft and you can make changes to it as you grow and change yourself.

Keep these in mind or the paper you wrote handy in the next couple of steps!

Loafer Vs. Workaholic – Finding Balance

It’s easy to let things slip away when you are constantly rushing to finish the next chore in your list, and from my own personal accord, I can tell you that people fall into one of two categories, the loafer, and the workaholic. Here’s what you need to know before I move on:

1. Loafer: These are your typical procrastinators, the kind that will always “get to it tomorrow”, and believe it or not that mentality can be useful when tempered with some old fashioned diligence. If you fall into this category you might have made it here only because you were trying to forget about the other things you have to work on, which is possibly the best mistake you’ve ever made, so welcome.

2. Workaholic: On the COMPLETE opposite end of this spectrum are the workaholics, you know, the guy who has three jobs, drives a fantastic car, lives in a cardboard box, and hasn’t seen home for at least two weeks due to sleeping in the parking lot of his workplace. You might think this guy has it all, that this is the ideal for getting bread and making yourself into a success, but just like the loafer, too much of anything is bad.

The key to living an effective life is to find balance between your inner loafer devil and the workaholic angel on your shoulders, which can be very difficult if you’re too far to one side or the other.

Basically, you want to work on projects as long as you are being effective with your time, which means being at full capacity. To do this, take a few minutes to look over this checklist of self-maintenance to make sure that you have everything you need to function properly:

  1. Sleep: This is a big one, and in certain circumstances can be the biggest threat to your mental AND physical health, along with your ability to achieve greatness. There is a lot of talk about “hustle” in success communities nowadays and the honest truth is that there’s no sense in losing sleep just to run yourself into the ground. In worst cases, sleep deprivation will reduce your awareness, comprehension, learning and motor skills, which by the way are everything you need to obtain the excellence you deserve!
  2. Nutrition: Eating anything is better than eating nothing, but knowing what your body needs and being able to incorporate that into your lifestyle will let you get out of bed every morning ready to do what you need to. This includes drinking plenty of water throughout the day.
  3. Peace of Mind: Potentially the most important way to keep yourself on track is by keeping your mind clear and ready. Meditation is a great way to relax yourself and give you the perspective needed to change your thinking.

 

By making these into habits, you will spend less time working on them and still reap the benefits of their effects. Starting out it will be an investment but with time it will pay itself in dividends when you take less effort each day to finish simple chores, allowing greater effort to be placed towards your long-term goals.

 

 

The Right Way to Schedule:

There are three major schools of thought when it comes to scheduling:

  1. Chunking: This is the method that most spreadsheet maniacs will end up using. The soccer mom itinerary with minute-by-minute breakdowns of everything where the kids should be in the bathroom by 7:32 A.M. to be read for breakfast by 8:01 A.M. This is a good way to create a rough draft of everything that needs to be done in a day, but should be reserved for time sensitive tasks that have extremely strict limitations, such as a business meeting.
  2. Long-Term: Creating long-term goals with set-yet-flexible goals is a good way to keep yourself from going off the rails just because Timmy didn’t make it to breakfast until 8:02, but it falters when dealing with time-sensitive tasks and can make it easy to delay projects that would otherwise improve your life.
  3. Median Scheduling: This is the half-way point between chunking and Long-term planning, and is the style I have personally adopted. Every week I write out a list of non-time-sensitive tasks that need to be completed at some point within that week, and then fill the gaps around the fixed, time-sensitive tasks that MUST be completed at a certain day/time of the week, giving me the freedom to move things around if other more important things come up, such as making time for friends and family. The weekly schedule is only half of the equation. Outside of that week I am aligning my tasks with improving my life and moving myself closer to the success that I desire, which mostly involves education and deepening relationships with friends and family.

This is just a rough draft of my scheduling efforts, so be sure to tell me how you would write out your schedule down in the comments, and tell me what you think of the three types of time management I’ve mentioned here!

 

Never Forget To Take a BREAK!!!

It will always sound counter intuitive, but making the most of a few relatively short breaks, about 20 minutes each, can give you time to regain your strength and will while giving you the opportunity to step back from the problems you have long enough to find a better solution.

I typically wake up early to get a pre-work break in, something like an hour just to relax, eat, read, or work out before I have to start my day. This gives me the start I need to keep the ball rolling as I keep on task, usually once I’m done with work I take another 30 minutes for dinner, sometimes more if I decide that I need something other than reheated leftovers. And on days off from my day job I will take around 20 minutes ever hour or two just to read, listen to music, or get some fresh air.

This will vary from person to person as everyone has varied levels of busyness and some can find time to rest more often than others, but those 20 minutes you take to figure out how to get things done will potentially save you hours of fumbling around your house or office with too much to do.

If you’ve got a particularly busy schedule tell me about it in the comments and I’ll help you find that extra 20 minutes a day to relax, trust me, its worth the effort!

 

Conclusion

I hope you’ve learned a bit about keeping things on track, this is mostly just to bring a few future topics into focus for recurring readers, and I would love for you to become one of them. I’m going to dive into the best ways to relax and more effective methods of scheduling, so be sure to stick around.

Thanks for reading, and if you have any of your own tips and tricks for making life a bit easier, let others know by tossing them down in the comments!

 

 

 

 

Unlimited POWER! – Exponential Growth and Why It Matters.

Ahh exponentials, the best way to tell everyone in the room how much of a nerd you are is to drop this beauty into a conversation. I’ve mentioned the effects of their growth a few times in the past, which is why I want to dive deep into their mechanics so that you can be sure of the power they have. If you want to check out some more examples, you should definetely check out some of my other articles!

 This is my personal guide to long-term success, a great read for anyone wanting to break the slump they’re in, improve themselves, and pursue their dreams. If you are the type who would prefer to view the world through the lens of a good book, or looking for a better reason to pick up this fantastic habit, I would recommend this article on the power of reading!

The Penny Vs. One MILLION $$$

Whether you are totally new to the idea of compounding or have been a long-time investor, this is one of those classic mind-blowing examples that will either change your worldview, or remind you why you changed it in the first place.

So the question goes a bit like this. “Would you rather have one million dollars or one penny doubled every day for 30 days?” Most people would just take the money and run, and I don’t blame them, but with a little patience that penny will grow into over 10 million dollars thanks to compounding.

The secret is relatively simple, no matter what value you take to start, you are multiplying multiples. So day one you have 0.01 dollars, which is then doubled, or rather increased by 100%, which means that the next day you are increasing the amount by 100% of 200% the original amount, and by the next day after that you would be increasing it by 100% of 400%, since that day you increased the starting number by 100%, and then doubled that, making the 200% of day two equal to 400% on day three. Now imagine if you could do that with $100, or even $1000?

Sitting on Money – The Slowest Way to Stay Poor.

If you don’t already know who Dave Ramsey is, I’ve thrown his name around quite a bit, and as far as I’m concerned, he’s one of the world’s best financial advisors. He has written numerous books including The Total Money Makeover, which I highly recommend to anyone with difficulty controlling money.

His methods are simple, but effective, and throughout his talk shows and his books he will consistenly refer back to the power of investing and how it can change your future. The penny method is a very simplified version of what the Ramsey method teaches.

Dave recommends investing roughly 15% of income per year into a series of investments, spread out over several industries and varied types of funds, which I will explain further in a different article.

You might think that 15% seems like a deficient amount of money to save, assuming that you will work from 25 to 65(I hope to God nobody has to suffer like that) to be able to retire comfortably. If you only make $30,000 gross, say around $25,000 after taxes each year, 15% would come out to a measly $3,750 per year, after 40 years of hard labor, would only come out to around $150,000, so if you expect to live for another 10 years without breaking your back until the reaper comes calling, you would need to ration out your savings to just $15,000 per year, a significant decline from your previous standard of living. Of course there are 401k programs that will match, and maybe $30,000 per year does seem pretty livable to you. Well, let me show you what you’re missing out on. 

Investing – The Ramsey Method

So let’s say that you don’t have ambitions to rule the world, or play the real estate lottery, or heaven forbid, the actual lottery. It is perfectly fine to live life 9-5 with time at home playing second fiddle, if that’s the life you want, go for it! 

Whether you are the average, hard-working man or woman that just wants to live life, have some fun, and make the most of what you’ve got, or the Amazon Mogul of tomorrow, investing will be crucial to long-term success.

Let’s take a look at those numbers again. but this time let’s assume that you we’re wisely investing for those 40 years and not burying jars of money in the back yard. 

So year one, you’ve got $3,500 just like before, but assuming that you’ve picked out some middle-pack investments and you average 10% per year (10% may be a little higher than middle-pack but the math is easy so bear with me). Year two, that $3500 has accrued 10% bringing it up to $3850, and the next year you’ve got $7350. 

350$ a year seems pretty insignificant in the grand scheme of retirement, but I did some number crunching with the help of Google Sheets, a free online resource similar to Excel. If you want to try it yourself you just need a Google acount, and then you can use the =FV function to calculate the growth over X periods with the same input each year. I’ve put the chart below with some explanation of the numbers involved:

Retirement Growth

The total growth is your end product, number of cycles is represented by years, and the growth per period is the average growth from year to year. 

Before, it would take 40 years of your life, grinding day after day, only to find yourself left with roughly $150,000 at the end of it all. If you instead were to invest $3500 per year, less than 15% of your income, it would take only 24 years to reach that same goal at 5% growth per year, cutting your time in half! And it only gets better the more capable you become with your investments. At 10% growth, it would take less than 20 years to reach that same amount, and that’s assuming you wanted to retire early, which as you are about to find out, probably isn’t worth it.

So, making just $30,000 a year, something the majority of people are capable of, given time and the will to improve themselves, in 40 years, with mediocre investing, you will be able to pool together a solid fund of $422,799.21, which would actually put you at a higher standard of living 10 years after you retire. That’s just the tip of the iceberg, because if you were to invest wisely enough to average 10% each year, that would bring you to a whopping $1,549,073.94, or about $150,000 per year for ten years, if you wanted to go out in style. (by the way, if you did the math from before, saving that same amount from the time you had a newborn i.e 18 years from college/tradeschool etc, you would have $159,597.11 to put toward their education, just a thought)

The beauty in all of this is that even someone who makes an average amount of money their entire life can one day become a millionaire. This isn’t just about you, its about your family, friends, children. It’s about your passion in life, and your ability to change the future. Save now, and one day you will have the security you want, and the power you need to make real change for the people you love.

Investing – Not Just for Stock

This goes back to the basic principle of dilligence. These principles go far beyond the realm of financial wealth. Understanding the power of exponential growth can give you better insight to handle other pursuits in life. Great athletes, mathemeticians, and public figures have spent years of their lives and countless hours to become the people they are today.

In short, if you start early and keep going at it, eventually good things will happen. You just need to trust in the curve. 

Conclusion

If you like what you read or have questions, I’m always happy to know what people think of my work, so go ahead and tell me what you thought in the comments.

In the meantime here are some other articles I’ve written on similar subjects, be sure to check them out and tell what you think, thanks for reading!

Great read for anyone looking to improve themselves totally and completely!

Another example of the power exponential growth has!

How to motivate lazy workers – Whipping Peons Into Shape

You know the struggle, “I told Bill in accounting that I needed that report two days ago and he’s still slacking on it!” or “Why does nobody clean up after themselves?” if you’re on the other end of this, you’ve been called a “lazy millennial” at least a dozen times… and there’s like a 30% you’re not even a millennial.

You might think they’re just born lazy, or maybe they just do it in spite of you, but either way I’m going to show you what really goes on behind the scenes and answer the time old question of “How do I motivate these lazy workers?”

Step into my parlor shop…

Geese and Golden Eggs – The Price of Impatience

If you don’t already know what I mean when I say Golden eggs, I’ll paraphrase.

Farmer man, circa who cares B.C. finds himself in the possession of a goose that can lay eggs made of solid gold, and as anyone else would do, he sells them and makes a small fortune for himself. Now, like most of us, he’s not always as patient as he should be and decides one day that “hell, if I can make a small fortune getting just one egg per day, imagine if I had all the eggs at once!”. And thus the troubles of B.C. farmer man started again, he strangles the golden goose, splits it open, and finds that he now has no golden goose, and worse, there are no eggs from which to take.

There ends the tale of B.C. farmer man.

Now you might be wondering what mythical golden-egg-producing geese have to do with your “lazy” peons. Allow me to give you some reference in that I have trained many a coworker in my time and they range from gods among men to absolutely worthless. You as a manager will have to do a bit of triage when it comes to new workers, the earlier the better, and learn how to differentiate between those who are capable of recovery, and those who need to be read their last rites in the form of a pink slip. It is vitally important that you understand this, like most statistics, is a bell curve. There are a few great workers, who probably need to be doing something better with their life, and there are a few workers who will make your life hell and will likely end up in prison within the next year, but the vast majority are drifting comfortably in between, and ready for you to hammer them into the position you need to fill.

The process for vetting will need to be summed up in a new article for the sake of brevity, and I’ll link it here when that’s finished.

Production and Production Capacity

So now that I have successfully transmitted the required wisdom of ages through parable, I’m going to (re)introduce you to a simple but powerful method.

1. Production: The work done.

2. Production Capacity: The ability to do the work that needs to be done, this includes the necessary resources, willpower, and desire to accomplish a task.

The relation between these two are extremely simple, production is the work you want Peon #324 to complete, and Production capacity is a sum of many variables in their ability to complete that work.

I’ve seen one manager, parent, or supervisor after the other fall into this deadly trap. You think “why don’t they just do the work, it’s not that difficult, they must be lazy”. The reality could be a number of other factors/ Keeping in mind that there are people out there who will never become anything more than they are because they’ve turned their life into a game of who has it hardest (barring the 0.2% of the population who statistically go against this despite all odds).

Let me give you some examples:

1. Lack of Desire: You might see someone who is otherwise a well-rounded individual struggling to keep up with deadlines, quotas, etc. Always keep an eye out for special interests or abilities that would be useful elsewhere. Jim loves to talk and knows how to help others sort out conflicts, possessing a keen understanding of the workplace and the politics and an uncanny sense of the environment, but has been lacking lately in his accounting job. He might just be the world’s worst accountant, but with the right training he could be a world-class HR manager.

2. Resources: I’ve been on the receiving end of this one multiple times. Never having the tools for a job can feel like an impossible uphill battle for attention. Someone is always working against a budget, even if it means the whole office has one stapler that should have been thrown out two decades ago. Another reason to keep your ears open to your workers and really try to understand their needs. As my father has said a thousand times, if you work hard for your people, your people will work hard for you.

3. Communication: If I really wanted to stretch it, I would just toss this under the resource category as something you should check on regularly, but I think it is important enough to warrant it’s own position.

The key to the first two is to have a deep desire yourself to know everything that goes on in your workplace, which all comes from communication. You won’t be able to spot talent playing on your phones in your office, and you will look like an oblivious nincompoop to every single person you ask about their day, when they’re saying “Good, and you?” it should be obvious that they’re really saying “My desk has been on fire for three hours and the bathroom is flooded, how do YOU think my day has been, Shannon?”.

An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

And for the Love of God, Be Honest.

Just a quick one-two finisher before I roll credits. If you’re going to take this as “I should go undercover so I can sniff out those filthy rats” don’t bother.

The ONLY way communication and understanding works is if you can be genuine in it. If you can’t make an honest effort, fake it, fake it well, and keep faking it until you make it. As long as you make sure that your goals are solid, you should be fine. Also, you should note that any time you make a change people are gonna tell you that you are a “poser” or “not being yourself”, but that’s a barrel of crabs argument and you can pitch it to the side as long as you are making a good faith effort to become a better supervisor/parent/manager.

But if you do try to cheat people, if it’s not genuine. They will smell you a mile away, and I can GUARANTEE that you will not only fail in your dishonest efforts, but you will be made into more jokes than you would like to imagine.

Show Me What You’ve Got.

So if you like the article and you want everyone to know that you do, and you should love it because why wouldn’t you, drop a comment down below. You can tell me anything, but I would prefer to keep it to stories of how you handled bad bosses or how you as a boss have employed the simple method of P/PC to help your workers. Also, if you want my opinion or for me to research another topic you can drop it in my mailbox at nexttopic@projectedinfluence.com.

Before I go, it really helps with reach whenever you share this, tell your friends, your wife, post me on your Facebook. All the advice in the world is worthless if nobody gets to see it!

How to Be a Good Person – Defining Your Principles For A Better Life

I touched on principles and their power in creating a foundation as part of an earlier article you can read here. I will elaborate on the process of building strong principles and how they can help drive you towards becoming the best version of yourself.

Beginning With the End.

Full disclaimer, you will hear me say this at least a dozen more times if you read my articles. It is impossible for me to stress the point of planning enough. As I have heard more or less a thousand times, failing to plan is planning to fail. If you don’t begin with the end in mind the probability of you reaching your goals drops to virtually ZERO. This is due to the fact that one, you do not have a goal to obtain, and two, if you did happen to land in a spot that you were satisfied with the value of the journey would be diminished.

Even if by some miracle you happen to have no plan at all and end up with a favorable outcome, you will not have the pride and honor associated with working diligently and ethically that the vast majority of successful people know.

 

If you’ve ever read or watched Dave Ramsey, you know that nobody wakes up a millionaire and wonders “How did that happen?”. Becoming successful in any endeavor is the result of clear goals and relentless pursuit of those goals. It is 20% knowing how to get there, and 80% having the burning, unquenchable desire to succeed in the plan you have made.

The easiest way to find your center is to look to the end. Take a moment to think about what you want from life, the people around you, your career, yourself. It is easy to find the core of yourself, your principles, when you understand that you make an impression on everyone in your life. Imagine your funeral, your friends, family, your spouse. Write down a few of the things you believe they might say about your life as it stands, and then write down the things you want them to say about you, what you want your legacy to be.

 

To Be Good to Others, First Learn to Be Good to Yourself!

(Insert content about being the best version of yourself, being about your business, improving constantly, refining your principles)

Generosity plays a major role in living a full and complete life. Giving to others and helping them along their journey is more important today than at any other time because of the specialized nature of modern life. In the modern world we are fortunate to have the opportunity to take on specific roles of our choosing, parts that include manufacturing, public welfare, transportation, and banking. With the rise of technology we are less dependent on our own ability to produce food and provide clean sources of water.

This is not an invitation to become completely dependent on others. It is to remind you of the strength that comes from unity, from all the gears ticking in unison. Understanding what it means to be independent, and then to use that independence to foster the growth of interdependence, is the core of generosity. Being generous does not mean that you bleed yourself dry for the sake of others, it means being strong enough that you can give without hurting yourself or the people for which you are responsible.

In short, the best way to be kind to others is to first be kind to yourself, to improve yourself, and then once you have mastered your own talents you can use them to benefit those around you, who will in turn use their mastery to benefit your life.

Finding Your Center – The Engine of Motivation

To understand the best way to become a good person, it helps to understand the things that drive you, and therefore what you are most capable of contributing to the people around you. Knowing what drives you can be as simple as “Why do you get out of bed every morning?”.

Below is a list of basic motivators known as “The Big Ten”, they are commonly used by therapists throughout the world to help understand the core values of individuals. (Pg 46 Tactical Guide to Women, needs proper citation)

 

1. Career: Its pretty self-explanatory but this is something that I feel needs a small amount of clarification. Everyone wants to chase their passion, and if you can do that while still supporting yourself financially, there’s no issue with that. The problem comes when you are scraping by following your dream and lose focus on what you love because of the pressing financial concerns hovering over your head. The solution is like most other things in life, simple, but difficult to execute. Find a job that keeps your head above water, and with the time you aren’t working, figure out what you love and pursue it relentlessly until you can do what you love for a living.

 

2. R&R: Leisure time is more important to some than others, but even the most battle-hardened workaholic can use a day off once in a while. If you’re the type of person that lives for the weekend, success will be a carrot and stick process for you. Keep your eye on the prize and the end in mind, and you will have all the free time you can imagine!

 

3. Caregiving: This is one of my personal motivators, and it is an excellent tool to carry with you throughout life. Helping others help themselves will benefit the whole of the system. One of the best tidbits of advice I’ve ever been given is that if you want to make a billion dollars, all you have to do is solve a problem for a billion people, and make a dollar of profit per person. Of course money is only part of the equation, inspiring others and helping them achieve their goals benefits everyone.

Every manager inspired to care for their workers, every spouse instilled with the wisdom to understand their partner, and every individual given the strength to solve their own problems, so that they can serve others, is one person closer to having a world of excellent people pursuing greatness.

 

4. Community: Not something I personally have done outside of the basic community service, but from the few I have seen who truly care about the community they live in, I have found some of the greatest and most caring people. This requires an extreme level of empathy, to understand the needs of the many and to appropriately distribute your efforts to their greatest benefit. If you love your community there are few limits to what you can accomplish.

 

5. Physical/Mental Health: Being a good person and giving to others should never mean neglecting your own personal journey to greatness. Keeping yourself physically fit is important to make sure that you can fulfill your duties, whether they be to family, friends, your community, or your partner. Mental health is equally important to maintaining healthy relationships and forming new bonds, and having the wisdom to avoid problems is a vital tool in achieving greatness.

 

6. Friendship: Friends, the people you keep close, but not as close as your enemies. No matter how informed you are, the people you associate with will eventually rub off on you. While it is important to find people you want to emulate, and to find people who are similar to you, one of the worst situations you can find yourself in is one where you are surrounded by people who don’t know how to tell you no. You are only as good as the company you keep, and that works both ways.

Being a better version of yourself will gradually improve the people you involve yourself with, and vice versa. That is why it is important to find people who understand their weaknesses and for everyone in the group to improve themselves as much as they encourage others to improve.

 

7. Family: If you consider yourself a family man/woman, there’s good news and bad news. The good news is that a family can be one of the greatest experiences of your life, the bad news is that it can also be the worst. You might be perfect for the family lifestyle, but your partner might be a nightmare. The full discussion is enough for a post of its own, and I’ll be sure to link it here when I’m finished.

 

8. Intimate Relationships: Similar to family in that it can be the best or worst decision that you will ever make. Having an intimate partner to share your success and failures with can vastly improve the satisfaction of those accomplishments. Men often earn more money as a result of healthy close relationships, and women on average work and spend less (shocker I know). Business Insider wrote an article going into more detail about the phenomona of marriage that you can read here.

 

9. Personal Growth: This is the big one. Mastery of yourself is the root of everything else you do. It is impossible to help others until you learn to help yourself. In short, the more you focus on yourself, the more you have to offer to those who have not taken the steps you have, and to guide them to become the best version of themselves.

 

10. Religion/Spirituality: Religion and spirituality are like the dark matter of your character. Having a desire that burns inside of you, driving you forward and keeping your world from falling apart. It doesn’t matter which religion or brand of spirituality you choose, or even if you choose to rely on your own personal ambition and purpose, as long as you are concrete in your principles and honest about the path you walk you are VERY likely to succeed.

Some of these have more of an effect your ability to become a healthy, stable, giving person than others, but as I have found, having principles and hierarchies of importance when making decisions can improve the clarity needed to make the most of your contributions. As Steven Covey mentions in his book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, a man who lives his life on principle has 99% of his decisions already made.

Taking a minute to filter out the most and least importance of each value is something that will almost always change as you grow and mature, as you can imagine family will become exponentially more  important once you have one of your own. The easiest method for finding the highest value center for yourself is to take out a handful of flashcards, and place the least important in the stack into a pile. Once you have reached the end you will have all of your values in roughly the correct order from top to bottom, most valuable to least. You can always change your mind later if you feel that they have changed.

 

Fin

I’m always interested in hearing about what other people think when they decide to become the best version of themselves, and what it means to be a “good person”. Whether you’ve already lived your success story or just starting, let me know how it has made you feel to invest in yourself in the comments!

 

 

 

 

How to Improve on Yourself – A Quick Guide to Long-term Success!

In the words of a wise old man, in the mastery of one’s self there is no finish line, it is a life long endeavor. You might think that this is a fatalistic view of life, since there is no possible way to become a perfect master of any one part of life. The truth of the matter is that life as a whole is one of the few things that can be more enjoyable without having an end set in stone. I’m not saying that you shouldn’t have a plan, or that it is futile to execute those plans to become a better version of yourself, but that it is just as important to realize that life can be chaotic, for better or worse, and that learning to thrive in that chaos and adapt your plans to unexpected changes is critical to living life to its fullest.

You’ve come here with that one burning question “How do I improve on myself?”, and in the next few paragraphs I’m going to outline a few simple steps to put you on the right track.

The All-Mighty Power of Habits!

If you’ve ever had an addiction you understand the powerful sway that habits can have on your life. You might be thinking, “Alex, I have had addictions and they did nothing but ruin my life, how is that going to help me?”, and I’m glad you might have asked. The key to greatness is incremental gains, and there is no better way to do this than to implement the things you want to improve on into your daily routine. A few minutes of exercise, reading ten pages of a book every day, or just eating one healthy meal per day can drastically improve your life when they become embedded into your cycle.

Anyone who has tried a crash diet knows that “going cold-turkey” only works for a handful of people who posses inhuman levels of willpower, and for the rest of us 99% of humanity it can feel impossible to get ahead at times. But what we forget is that even the great Usain Bolt, famous for his incredible running capacity, began his life just like the rest of us, by crawling around aimlessly until something clicked and he began walking. ONLY with great investment did he become and athlete of legendary speed.

I’m not going to tell you that anyone can do what he did, everyone has certain inclinations in life that bring them one place or another more naturally than others. What I am saying is that the most effective way to become great is to stop focusing on the things that set you back from your goals and just start hammering out the work needed to get you to where you want to be.

Later I will lay out a simple plan for forming habits and some tips for keeping yourself on track, but first I want to dive into the willpower aspect of forming habits, since it is the core of all production and often misunderstood by those trying to make changes to their life.

How Do I Harness My Willpower?

Willpower is the ability to do what you NEED to do, regardless of what you WANT to do. Viewing willpower as a resource, there are only two ways to maximize its effectiveness.

1. Increase the amount of willpower you can use: Willpower is only limited by your ability to control it. Once you have mastered yourself, through self-discipline, it will become easier to do the things you need to do, and there will be less friction between your needs and wants.

2. Reduce the amount of willpower needed to cooperate with yourself: Without increasing the amount of willpower your have, you can alternatively motivate yourself by making your goals clear and understanding the need and desire for the aspects of your life you have chosen to improve on.

The next step is a tandem leap that must be taken with your improvement of willpower usage.

Clarify Your Goals – Beginning With the End

The most important thing to remember when setting goals for yourself is to be very clear about the results you wish to obtain. This will require some time and a good bit of introspection.

Like my father has often said, you should always plan until the end. The best way to plan to the end is to begin with the results you wish to obtain. If you know the destination. It becomes much easier to chart the course you need to take in order to arrive at that destination. In the same way, if you clearly and concisely define your goals, it will become as simple as following the steps to that destination.

In the words of Dave Ramsey (If you don’t know who that is I would suggest reading his book The Total Money Makeover and watching his YouTube Channel The Dave Ramsey Show) financial success is only 20% head knowledge, the stuff you know about what you’re doing, and 80% behavior, as in what you actually DO with that information. While you might be building the perfect body or just trying to get a better understanding of your son/daughter, brother/sister or wife/husband, the principle holds true, because no body-builder will ever tell you that they got their body sitting around reading about how to be healthy. They will, however, tell you that what they learned was important when it came to following through with their goals.

Going back to the destination analogy, not getting the right information would be critically detrimental to your travel, as heading North when your destination was South may prove to be a harrowing journey. At the same time, all the planning in the world isn’t going to get you any closer to the place you’re going.

Hammer Out Your Principle Nature.

Now that you understand the importance of planning your path and putting in the blood and sweat needed to achieve your goals, I should also mention that there is only one thing more important than setting the goals and moving towards them. The truth of the matter is that, according to my experience, and an article published by Forbes, most people find themselves unhappy with the choices they have made and the ends they have met. Some of this is certainly due to lack of planning, but for the people who had their destination and route perfectly planned, it did not seem to work out for them.

The sad truth of the matter for these people is that while they set their goals and worked hard to achieve them, the issue was that they had chosen the wrong destination. That being said, it is vitally important to your happiness and success that you find the correct destination, before plotting your course.

The best way to start understanding who you want to be is to understand who you are, and the best judges of who you are come from the people around you. Beginning with the end in mind, imagine what you want your life to have been, and what people will think of you. Imagine what your friends, family, pastor, and fellow workers would say, honestly, if they were to speak at your funeral. I will go more in-depth into this concept in another article, but it is a great foundation to begin exploring your deepest motivations in life, and finding out what you will define as successful in your future.

Feedback – Always Appreciated

I love to see others setting goals and becoming better. Where do you see yourself in a year, five years, or even ten? A great way to start moving towards your goals is to put them into words and let other people know what you’re about. I’d love to hear what everyone wants to accomplish and you can start your journey today by putting your goals down in the comments below!

 

 

 

 

How to Make a Habit of Reading – The Fast Track To Success

I’m going to start off by clarifying the title. Reading is NOT a get-rich quick scheme, and it will not by itself turn your life around. It is a tool to expand your knowledge and wisdom beyond what someone of your experience would normally be capable of obtaining. As I will explain, reading is one of the most effective methods of self-improvement readily available to you, and its effectiveness only multiplies when you actively apply what you have learned to your daily life. In this article I will be your guide into the world of books, and at the end I will be explaining the steps to make a habit of reading in your life!

Hey before I get started I just wanted to mention that I have started a reading list that you can follow, it will be built from books I have read and those I am currently reading. If you want to check them out you can click here. Any purchases made through those links helps support these articles at no extra cost to you. Thanks for reading and be sure to let me know what you think in the comments!!

Reading is the Difference Between Crawling and Driving a Car.

You might have heard that to be considered a master of any craft, it requires roughly seven years or about 10,000 hours of work. That’s a lot of time invested in one aspect of life. The reason for this is simple, experience requires mistakes to be made, and mistakes take time to manifest. A master craftsman has potentially failed thousands of times in his career, just as Thomas Edison famously said, “I have not failed, I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”. Every great person in history has at one point in their life discovered the value in being a good loser and being able to look past the personal component of their failures to turn them into a growing experience.

The beauty in reading comes from the distilled wisdom that it offers. When written by great writers filled with valuable experiences, books become a gateway to wisdom beyond our years. A twenty-year-old apprentice under the wing of a master will have all of his master’s experience at his disposal. Instead of failing 10,000 times, he might only fail 1,000 times before surpassing his master’s wisdom. Books are a way for us to empower ourselves without the time and effort that success would have normally required. This does not however, mean that we should push ourselves less.

To sum this up, becoming a master solely through trial and error would be the equivalent of crawling through mud on a humid day in the middle of a swamp with a broken leg, and only after crawling several hundred yards discovering that there was a pathway parting the swamp and offering a clear way forward. That being the conventional method of gaining wisdom, reading books is like taking a cool, air-conditioned trip through the swamp, which you now see is a beautiful jungle with incredible scenery, and only once you have prepared yourself adequetely for the harshness of it do you have a need to step into the jungle and its harshness. How Reading Affects Your Career – Universal Application

Self-Improvement – Books as a Guide, Not a Manual.

The most important thing to remember when reading is that not everything is going to apply exactly to your life. If you are reading to learn, grow, and improve yourself, it is crucial to understand that no one book has the answer. The fact that one book does not hold all of the answers should not come as a surprise, and it shouldn’t blunt your enthusiasm for reading either. Reading is a beautiful thing because of the multiplicative effect it has on itself. A single book may only provide you with one book worth of knowledge and experience, as you would expect. What you might not expect is that when you read many books, even if they are in varying fields of study or even fiction, the lessons they teach build on and compound the effects of learning, so that while one book might only give you one book of experience, two may give you two and one half, and three may give you five.

For example, three of the books I’ve read for various reasons, The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, Selling 101, and How to Win Friends and Influence People all carry very different themes, but the overlap of experience helped me form a clearer picture of what I wanted and how to accomplish it. Selling 101, a book by Zig Ziglar that is a brief rundown of how to become a successful salesperson, emphasizes the importance of understanding the needs of you client and provides some basic techniques for building relationships and helping people define their needs. The point of listening is further reinforced in How to Win Friends and Influence People, where Dale Carnegie shows the power of using your ears instead of your mouth, and provides some understanding of human psychology while providing a basis for being a better person. The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People smooths out the edges of the foundation laid by the other two, and proposes that the path to true effectiveness comes from a deep understanding of oneself as well as the understanding of others.

With the understanding of personal growth from The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People in mind when using the techniques of the other books, it opens up the possibility of living a much higher quality life than if you had read the three of them individually and without consideration to one another.

Reading 10 minutes a day for one year would lead to over 60 hours of reading, at one page per minute, that’s over 3600 pages, or roughly 18 medium-sized books!

 

Developing the Habit Of Reading – Just Like Excersise.

Now for what everyone has been waiting. How DO you develop the habit of reading? The honest truth is to start, a little bit at a time, and to find what interests you. Personally, I like to read to improve myself, so naturally I began by identifying weaknesses in myself and began rounding them out, while hammering out the things that I do well in, but could excel at with practice.

If you read for entertainment, a good place to start is the news, where you can find a niche newsfeed for whatever you enjoy. Business insider provides updates on the business world, including a few articles on workplace sociology/psychology. Buzzfeed, however infamous for its nonsense articles, does pretty well to entertain with a few strange and oddly personal posts a week, while offering community involvement in the form of quizzes. The Verge is another popular newsfeed with Technology, science, and entertaining stories on current events. If you’re looking for something a little off the mainstream, Vice offers some less than PG stories, while also offering similar stories to Buzzfeed.

News is a great place to start because it is light, compact reading that if well-written will be full of useful/entertaining information that has been condensed down to save you time. A common reason that people shy from reading is that they claim that it is a waste of time, that there are better ways of obtaining information. This is only true when what you need to learn is something that does not require an in-depth understanding. It will obviously be easier to fix your fire wall setting by a simple google or youtube search and skimming a three minute long video than it would be to whip out a manual for your computer and mull through it.

Reading is like excersise, you’re not gonna get a six pack by working out extremely hard for one day and then shoveling junk into your mouth, progress comes from small, incremental progressions that will eventually compound into a sum that is greater than its parts. The best thing you can do to make a habit of reading is to start small and work your way into whatever you enjoy. That is a very important statement, so important, as a matter of fact, that I will repeat it, in italics!

 The best thing you can do to make a habit of reading is to start small and work your way into whatever you enjoy.

Wrapping Up.

In short, reading is something that can add a whole new lens to your life, it can make you better than you could have ever imagined, but it takes steady, consistent work to make it as effective as possible.

Are there any books that you’ve read that have changed your life? Maybe a great novel that really inspired you or a non-fiction guide that changed your perspective entirely? If you’ve got a book you think that the whole world should read drop it in the comments and tell us the reason you loved it!

One of my personal favorites is the Seven Habits of Highly Effective People , a great read for anyone looking to improve themselves and increase the success they see in daily life, you can check it out by clicking the link above!

 

 

 

 

 

How to Build Healthy Relationships: Listening to Speak More Clearly.

If you want to be understood, first seek to understand. That is the first principle in creating trust, and one that fosters the growth of all close relationships. It is impossible to build a healthy relationship without first understanding the other person, and incredibly difficult if you do not understand yourself.

You’ve probably heard of some techniques for higher levels of communication, and maybe even used them to get what you want, but as the saying goes, there are no shortcuts to any place worth going, and there is no easy way to gain the trust of your fellow man.

 

The First Key To Healthy Relationships: Listening

The first, and most important key is listening. In war, it would be foolish to send soldiers into battle without first acknowledging the potential risks involved, without properly identifying the danger it would be impossible to recommend a successful strategy. Listening is the preparation before the storm. Sometimes this is as simple as asking someone how their day is, other times you may need to let barriers thaw before getting to know what someone really thinks. As people grow to value your listening, they will open up with what they really think, even if they didn’t show it at first.

As you might have heard, he who can be trusted in small matters will also be trusted with great ones. The key here is to dedicate yourself fully to listening, you don’t want to be so caught up in thinking of a response that you miss half of what they’re trying to tell you! Whatever you say after they are done should come naturally, and I will be going over some example responses in the next step.

 

Key #2: Understanding – Know Your Enemy and Your Friends

Now, to keep track with the analogy of war planning and listening, understanding is the assessment once the battle has completed, making sure that you have an accurate understanding of the aftermath is important to plan future war efforts.

It may be simple, but it pays dividends to understand that communication is a two-way street. Once you have that idea firmly planted in your mind, you should be ready to start the transition from listening to understanding. The most basic level of listening is hearing, simply letting the surrounding noises fall upon your ears and thinking nothing more of it. One level up from that you have surface-level listening, which is where you only hear what they are saying. The third level is where you begin to understand what the other person is trying to convey, the message behind the words, and this involves watching the person’s movement while still taking into consideration the actual words they are speaking.

Once you have reached the third level of listening, you will begin to see the world much more clearly. You’ve probably heard that 80% of communication is body language, and all it takes to confirm this is to take a look around when others are engaged in conversation. If you work in a social environment, such as a retail store or a relaxed office space that encourages cooperation between workers, try watching for a few weeks whenever other people are talking, with less emphasis on the words than their actions, and then put the two together. You can do this elsewhere, the gym, a park, or any social gathering.

Key #3: Empathize (Allow Others to Influence You)

Empathy comes naturally to most people, with rare exceptions often beyond the control of the affected. Empathy is simple, it is the ability to feel as others feel, and to see the world through their lens. Like living a good life however, it is not complicated, but it is difficult.

It can be easy to be entrenched in our own line of thinking to the point that the views of others seem incredulous or even outright immoral. In one example, I once had a co-worker who I had believed was entirely incompetent, incapable of completing even simple tasks. Had I not been influenced in the way that I had at that time, I would have forever labeled him as a dolt, a dull-witted, weak-willed individual who would never amount to anything. What I came to find out however, was that he had been misinformed about his position, he was told that he would be filling in only for a short time and then would be moved to his desired position. Four months later, coupled with the lack of training he was given, he was disgruntled and lost motivation in his position. While it might be easy to say that he should have just stuck it out, or used it as an opportunity to grow his influence, it is also easy to see that he had been dealt an unfair hand in those four months, and had I thought to ask in the beginning, it would have been much easier to gain his trust, and he might have even learned to enjoy his new occupation.

They key to empathy is to understand, even if you disagree on the most basic of principles, being able to clearly understand each other, and then communicate your point of view in a way that is easy to understand will pave the road to cooperation down the line, and lead to less expended effort in the long run.

Key #4: To Grow Trust, It Must Be Watered Each Day.

Key number four is your follow-through. In relationships, consistency is king. You don’t have to go out of your way to find opportunities to listen, just asking how someone is doing can be enough to get the ball rolling, a handful of kindness can become a mountain of good will if it is done genuinely. Most of this step is repeating what you have learned, pounding it into shape and sharpening your skills to a fine point. The most important thing to remember when listening is that the person speaking is just as complex in their understanding of the world as you are, and it may take time before they will tell you exactly what they think.

 

The Four Keys of Communication.

1. Listening: This is the stepping stone, the foundation upon which all of your relationship will rest, if there is something that you are unsure of, often times you only need to ask. It is also important to respect the wishes of others, including those who do not find a need to share with you. When it comes to those few people who are unwilling to share at all, never take it personally, as it is usually a product of their experiences, and not something you have done.

2. Understanding: If your advice is asked for, you should be honest in your belief, speak clearly and concisely. Otherwise, your responses should be to confirm your understanding of the situation. For example, “What I’m hearing is, you are (Frustrated, excited, upset) about (work/school) because (it is difficult, it exceeded expectations, it did not meet expectations?” It is not always necessary to put it so formally, but the idea is to convey your understanding of their viewpoint while leaving it open to their correction, should you misinterpret their expression.

3. Empathize: As mentioned before, this is something that comes naturally to many people, and can be learned through consistent exposure to the emotions of others. To put it simply, general is specific. Humans are unique on the surface, but all have a wired capacity for experiences and when open and honest about them can find common ground.

4. Growing Trust: There is a lot to say for persistence, it is the reason for the law of compounding in a nutshell. The more true you are to yourself and your intentions, the easier it will become to create healthy relationships. People will only learn to trust you when you learn to trust yourself. Just putting in a little effort where you can will put you miles ahead of the average listener.

 

 

Listening is one of the most important skills that you can learn, coupled with a strong sense of self and rooted principles, it will lead you to live the greatest life you could imagine.

If you have any questions or would like to request content you can reach me personally at alexb@projectedinfluence.com. Comments are much appreciated, I will keep up with them regularly and strongly encourage discussion of any post I write.

As part of my writing I would love to incorporate relevant stories into my writing, if you have any inspiring stories you can send them to ourstory@projectedinfluence.com. If you want specific names to be omitted you can simply refer to them as alternate names or specify that you want it to remain anonymous. If you would like the story to be added to our archives as a resource for later reference, you can note that at the beginning of the email as well.