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!

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 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.

 

 

 

 

With the Past Long Gone, The Future Is Nigh: About Me

Hello, if you’ve managed to find yourself here then you’ve probably come to the same realization that I have, that you are not the best version of yourself and something needs to change. As you will find out as you take a look around, becoming better doesn’t mean that there’s something wrong with what you are now, it just means that you’ve got places to be. That being said, my journey has just begun, and as the old saying goes “have friends, will travel”.

The Story of Us.

To me, life has always been a journey, and in both good times and bad I realized years ago that every step we take is a stone to carry us across the river and into the future. Knowing this, I still made poor decisions, sometimes impulsively, sometimes because I didn’t know what I was doing, and sometimes because I just needed to prove someone wrong. If any of that sounds like you, you’re in the right place!

I’ve personally made great strides in my life within the past few years, including picking up my first job and learning the ins and outs of adult life, which by the way isn’t nearly as glamorous as it might seem growing up. I have learned my way around a budget, maintaining a car, Christmas shopping for people who won’t tell you what they want(oh boy don’t get me started on this one), and how to keep the right people in my life. Even knowing what feels like three times as much as I did two years ago, I still feel that there is much more to life, and I intend to learn everything that I can to make the most of it.

Overall, I think I’ve made pretty good progress in my life, and I’d like to see others feel the same with theirs, so if you’re the underdog, the scrapper, the one-time rapper, then welcome home.

 

Where are you going?

Now that you have a brief understanding of where I’ve been, I want to tell you a little bit about where I’d like to go. For me, I am more than happy to help anyone I can, and to do that I need to learn more and more, become an expert in all things people. I want to help others find their purpose in a world where it can feel like hope has left us, and to give them the power to become the best version of themselves. By the end of it I’d like to leave knowing that there’s a dent in the universe because of what I’ve done (I would settle for a scratch though, like maybe just a little one by the door handle, that’ll show’em).

Wishing you a great future,

Alex
Projectedinfluence.com