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!