Achieve Success through FEAR

September 9, 2020

Fear is like a warning sign. It alerts us whenever we’re about to travel from the known to the unknown, from safety into danger. It is a by-product of our beliefs—an enforcement tool we utilize whenever we confront a conflict between what we believe about ourselves and the world around us, and the reality we see in front of us. It is like a wall we construct that blocks access to any place, person, or situation that is outside of our self-constructed, limiting comfort zone.

Some fears are reasonable – they keep you safe, like the fear of growling dogs. Not approaching a violent animal can help you to maintain all of your digits. Other fears motivate us. Fear of poverty can push you to seek an education and become productive and prosperous. Both of these fear shields keep you moving smoothly along your life path. They keep you safe and motivate you to succeed.

Some fears, however, are not helpful. They restrict life unnecessarily. They don’t facilitate progress as much as they impede – like glossophobia, the fear of public speaking. Fear of giving presentations to groups could severely limit your career path.

So this can get confusing.

When you feel your stomach twisting into a knot and have a sudden urge to find the nearest bathroom, how do you know if the fear you are experiencing is helpful, even essential to your survival and achievement of your goals? Or if it is limiting your experience, holding you back from enjoying life to its fullest?

First, be aware of the fear and curious about its origin and purpose. How do we do that? Remember why you create your fears—to block you from going where you believe you should not or cannot go—to feel safe and secure within the world of your creation.

Imagine being raised in a small town. You are taught from birth that life outside your village is fraught with danger and that the only safe path would be to find work and a suitable local mate and settle down for a lifetime within the town limits. What imaginary fears might you concoct to keep yourself at home; Fear of crime in the “big city,” fear of people with different colored skin or accents, fear of being discriminated against as an uneducated yokel? It doesn’t matter if your rationalizations are valid or even reasonable. All that matters is that you believe them to justify your limited life experience.

So, the key to living a more happy, fulfilling life is not to eliminate fear – but to eliminate or modify beliefs you identify are holding you back, limiting your experience of life. And, becoming aware of fear helps you to identify those beliefs.

EX: To protect their children, many parents give them the time-honored admonition; “Don’t talk to strangers.” Wise advice for first graders walking to and from school. But when you grow up, get a license, and try selling real estate, not talking with strangers could limit your income.

So how do we eliminate or modify limiting beliefs? That will be the topic of my next blog – teaser!

We Live in Interesting Times.

June 19, 2020

We are truly living in interesting times. Meditating over the challenges of the past few months, I was reminded of something Robert F. Kennedy said in his address to the University of Capetown, Capetown, South Africa, June 6, 1966:

Robert Kennedy“For the fortunate amongst us, the fourth danger is comfort; the temptation to follow the easy and familiar path of personal ambition and financial success so grandly spread before those who have the privilege of an education. But that is not the road history has marked out for us. There is a Chinese curse that says ‘May we live in interesting times.’
Like it or not, we live in interesting times. They are times of danger and uncertainty, but they are also the most creative of any time in the history of mankind. And everyone here will ultimately be judged – will ultimately judge him or herself – on the effort he/she has contributed to building a new world society and the extent to which his/her ideals and goals have shaped that effort.”

Sound familiar. In 2020, we are in a time of danger and uncertainty. It is natural feel anxious, frightened, to moan and groan a bit when life changes in ways we don’t expect or appreciate. At times like this, it helps me to remember that we live on an inhospitable rock with a molten interior and shifting landmasses, spinning along the equator at roughly 1,000 mph while hurling around the sun at nearly 67,000 mph, while our solar system is swirling around the galaxy at about 490,000 mph. Can we really expect that nothing will go wrong – climate change, earthquakes, hurricanes, tornadoes, pandemics?

When the rules change (and they always do), we are challenged to crgirl in maskeate new ways to play the game. Just look at the many ways in which we quickly adapted our “normal” lives in response to the pandemic. And I’m sure there will be a plethora of new ways to cope and thrive no matter what challenges we face going forward. We always have options as to how we respond to change. We can deny, resist, get angry, depressed, and even violent. Or we can accept the inevitability of change, adapt to those we can live with, or even think may be better than the “old way.” Or we can engage our talents and skills to make make our world better.


June 2, 2020


More Success – Less Stress

Events don’t cause stress. Resistance to events triggers a stress reaction. Or, as my old friend Dan Millman said:

“Events may create physical pain, but they do not in themselves create suffering. Resistance creates suffering. Stress happens when your mind resists what is. The only problem in your life is your mind’s resistance to life as it unfolds.”  — Dan Millman, author of Way of the Peaceful Warrior

Before I go on, let me emphasize that we are not saying you should just accept social injustice or personal affronts, allowing them to persist unabated. But we are better prepared, more able to fight for what we believe is right when we focus on correcting the event rather than defending our egos, fighting to redeem ourselves, proving that our original assessment of the situation was correct.

We are limited in our capacity to achieve by the time and energy spent resisting. How much more could be accomplished by eliminating all the blocked energy caused by resistance? Understanding the relationship between resistance and acceptance is vital to the ability to succeed, and to do so with a minimum of stress. I offer the following example to clarify this distinction.

Imagine that you have always dreamed of opening a pizza parlor. You drive by the perfect vacant building for your business and see a “For Lease” sign in the window. This is it! Time to make your dream come true. You create a vision board with photos of pizzas, of people laughing and enjoying life with a slice in one hand and a brew in the other. You research everything you can about opening a small business in this industry. You do some self- analysis. Do you have the knowledge and skills necessary to open and run a successful pizza parlor? If not, you read books, take a class or two at the local community college, perhaps even go to work in a pizza joint to learn the trade from the ground up. You are so ready and so confident that you quit your high-paying job in the securities industry and begin taking actions to make your dream a reality.

Because you’ll need a use permit from the city, you prepare a detailed, thoughtful presentation for the next planning commission meeting. To your dismay, the commission turns you down, based primarily on the testimony of several local merchants who show up to protest that pizza parlors promote juvenile delinquency with their video games and loud music. Not to mention the health issues created by all that cheese, pepperoni, sausage, and lard. The merchants want something more sophisticated in the location like another dress store—which would be #31 in the small downtown area.

Just like that! Rejected after one meeting. Do you respond with resistance or acceptance?

Resistance Response: The contrast between the actual result—no pizza parlor—and your vision of the idyllic unfolding of your lifelong dream hits you like a ton of mozzarella—your ego rails at this horrible injustice. You go home and tell your partner how you’ve been treated. She/He leaves you. Well, hey, you did leave a good job and failed to deliver on the promised replacement. You decide to have a bottle of rum for lunch, write a scathing editorial in the local paper about the “scumbags” on the planning commission – and get sued by the city. To prove the merchants wrong, after hurling flaming dog-poop bombs onto all their storefronts, you open a pizza place in a ratty, rundown part of town where no use permit is required. You fill it with violent video games and a loud jukebox. The cops arrest you for promoting gang violence; you receive 6 months of community service, which gets extended to 1 year because they find your fingerprints on the unburnt portion of the dog poop bags.

Acceptance Response: You accept the conclusion of the planning commission, understanding that they were only responding to the wishes of many dissenting merchants. You hire a land-use attorney and begin planning for your appeal to the city council. In the meantime, you schedule meetings with several of the merchants who spoke against your plan. You share with them research as to the positive community effects of pizza parlors, invite them to a taste testing, giving them a role in the selection of your menu, and make concessions about the number and types of video games you’ll provide and the style and volume of the music. No gangster rap allowed. You obtain a permit and open shop.

If you try to solve events while resisting, you are not dealing with the facts; you’re dealing with resistance, with fears and desires—instead of dealing with the event. You compare the actual result with your preconceived image of how it should be.  If they are too disparate, driven by fear of diminished security, your mind clicks into high gear, working to manipulate reality so that it matches your mental image. You are so focused on redeeming yourself, proving that your original assessment of the situation was correct, that you forget to respond to the actual event. If instead of defending your ego, you dealt with the situation, you could focus on the best outcome for all involved, including yourself.

Your life path is long, unpredictable, and unlimited. You can insist that your journey follows, precisely, the map you hold in your mind, and suffer each deviation.  Or you can enjoy the journey and choose to embrace each bend in the road with curiosity and gratitude. The choice, as always, is yours.


May 29, 2020

Doors opening

I love quotes. They are part of our folklore – historical epiphanies that help guide us along the river of life. The intended meanings of some of our most cherished and durable quotes, however, seem to evolve over time to support changing societal mores. For example: In 1935, after Alexander Graham Bell’s passing, the Winona Times quoted him as saying, “When one door closes, another door opens.” This is generally thought to mean that we often look so long and so regretfully upon the closed door that we do not see the one which has opened for us – a warning that if we focus on our losses, we may fail to see serendipitous opportunities that may appear. Heeding this warning can help to shorten the process of mourning a loss and moving on to the next opportunity. But is this the message Bell intended? By all counts, this Scottish-born American inventor, scientist, and engineer was a meticulous researcher and persistent experimenter – much like his contemporary, Thomas Edison, who, when asked about his many failed attempts to invent a workable lightbulb said, “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”

If you study the processes powerful, innovative people embody, the current reading of Bell’s quote seems far too passive. Motivated, goal-oriented people might want to consider a more aggressive, self-directed interpretation: First, the fact that a door is closing is not a failure, but an indispensable step in the process of success. Seen in this light, why spend countless days, weeks or years sadly observing the closing door. Recognizing that it will not lead to our desired destination, we slam it shut then actively seek the next door or create one that did not previously exist. And rather than waiting for it to open, we push it open, kick it open or, if that fails, knock it off its hinges with a battering ram – whatever it takes.

Because she was a woman, Marie Curie was prohibited from higher education in her native Poland (then controlled by Russia). Not to be deterred by poverty and political persecution, she moved to Paris in 1891 seeking alternative education for women. Perhaps best known for the development of the theory of “radioactivity” and for developing mobile radiography units to provide X-ray services to field hospitals during WW1, Madame Curie was the first person and the only woman to win the Nobel Prize twice, and the only person to win the Nobel Prize in two different scientific fields. In addition to adding two elements to the Periodic Table, polonium and radium, Marie Curie created innumerable previously non-existent doorways to innovation – doors through which unknown thousands have passed on the road to achievement of their goals.

Be Careful What You Say; You May Be Listening.

May 19, 2019

self-talk-designHow you communicate with others is important. How you talk with yourself is critical.

“You can think of self-talk as the inner voice equivalent of sports announcers commenting on a player’s successes or failures on the playing field. Unlike that sports commentary, which athletes never hear while they’re competing, you can actually “hear” what your self-talk is saying. When this is upbeat and self-validating, the results can boost your productivity. However, when the voice is critical and harsh, the effect can be emotionally crippling.”

— Susan Krauss Whitbourne, Ph.D., writing for Psychology Today

Ever wish you could predict the future? Now that would be a handy SuperPower. You will get a pretty good idea of where your mind is headed—and therefore your life—if you listen to the things you say to yourself. Self-talk is a compelling window into the conversation that goes on, constantly, between your subconscious and conscious minds. This conversation can affirm your strengths, or it can argue for your weaknesses. Because of the Negative Bias phenomenon, discussed in Chapter 8 of my book Ignite your Dormant Superpowers, most of these thoughts will probably be negative.

Let’s say you are at lunch with colleagues from work (in the year 2043) and the conversation moves to the 30th installment of Pirates of the Caribbean. You hated the movie and say so. You point out that the series was dead after the 5th sequel and that by the 30th, and after a hip and two knee replacements, Jack didn’t have to fake his drunken walk, and that pairing him with a 24-year-old love interest smacked of pedophilia. No one at lunch agrees. Most of them think that it was the best since the first installment. Self-talk kicks in:

Well, that was a stupid thing for me to say. I believe what I said, but everyone disagrees, and some even seem angry. If my boss hears of this, she’ll think I have a problem getting along with others. There goes my promotion. I really screwed up this time. Why can’t I just keep my opinions to myself?

By the time you finish with this internal conversation, you feel worse than Jack looks. You run to the kitchen, pop an antidepressant and chase it with a tall glass of wine.

Change the Dialog

The first step in turning your self-talk positive is awareness. Be aware of the conversation going on inside. When the negativity begins to flow—stop it. Silva Mind Control, a self-help and meditation program developed by José Silva in the 1960s, taught that when you hear the negative dialog starting up, you say, “cancel, cancel.” This is a triggering mechanism that tells your subconscious to cut the crap. You can then consciously direct the conversation to the positive—with affirmative self-talk like:

I’m glad I spoke up. That movie sucked. If my colleagues all liked it, fine, but I am welcome to my own opinion.

I am glad that I had the guts to voice my opinion. I’m sure that some of them hated it too but were afraid to say so. Speaking my mind demonstrates that I am an independent thinker, do not fear criticism and have leadership qualities that the company will respect.

Positive self-talk can lift you up, bolster self-confidence and strengthen your self-image. The critical thing to remember is that, even though this is a conversation, both sides are you. You are not just listening to these negative messages; you’re sending them. They are the doubts and fears that reside within your comfort zone.

Listen with Beginner’s Mind

March 2, 2019

beginners mind

“In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities, but in the expert’s, there are few.” – Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind, Shunryu Suzuki. Also known as Suzuki Roshi, he founded the Tassajara Zen Mountain Center and the San Francisco Zen Center.

You achieve a beginner’s mind by dropping all expectations and preconceived ideas—shutting off autopilot—and seeing things with an open mind and fresh eyes—like a beginner, like a child.

Rick Hanson, Ph.D., offered this parable to describe beginner’s mind:  “Once upon a time, a scholar came to visit a saint. After the scholar had been orating and propounding for a while, the saint proposed some tea. She slowly filled the scholar’s cup: gradually the tea rose to the very brim and began spilling over onto the table, yet she kept pouring and pouring. The scholar burst out: ‘Stop! You can’t add anything to something that’s already full!’ The saint set down the teapot and replied, ‘Exactly.’”

Full-cup thinking is the process of prejudging what we see in the world so that we “know”—can act without analysis—without even listening or noticing the nuance that exists in everything and everyone. We “fill up” our comfort zone with beliefs that are the product of judgments we have made about the world and how it works.

In his discussion about “Beginner’s Mind,” Jack Kornfield, Buddhist teacher, and author, tells a story of Seung Sahn, a Korean Zen master who urged us to value what he called “don’t know mind.” He would ask his students questions such as: “What is love? What is consciousness? From where did life come? What is going to happen tomorrow?” Each time, the students would answer, “I don’t know.” “Good,” Seung Sahn replied. “Keep this ‘don’t know mind.’ It is an open mind, a clear mind.”

Here are some significant benefits of listening with “Don’t Know” or “Beginner’s Mind.”

Learning: You can’t learn anything while speaking. One of the most common mistakes humans make when communicating with one another is assuming that they know what the other is saying—but those assumptions are based on their unique experiences. If, on the other hand, we realize that we DO NOT know what the other is saying, we create a vacuum which they will happily fill. Create the vacuum by asking questions, then listen intently to the answers. Don’t interrupt. Don’t talk about your own experiences. Don’t interpret their words through your perceptual filters.

Build a Bond: When you ask questions and listen intently to the answers, you build a lasting bond. With the dismal state of communication today, feeling heard and understood is a rare experience. When was the last time you had a conversation with someone who made you feel that your opinions and feelings were the most important things in the world to them at that moment? How did it make you feel? Did you want to spend more time with that person? Sure. We all like to think that our opinions count, or that they should at least be listened to and taken seriously. When they are not, we feel discounted, put down, perhaps angry and darn right crappy. When someone is apparently not interested in what you have to say, how much time do you want to spend on them? That’s a rhetorical question.

Better relationships: If you are always comparing what others say to what you believe, based on your stored belief system, you will experience frustration and disappointment because they aren’t meeting your ideal, your expectations. The person you are speaking with will feel criticized and diminished. If instead, you look at others with fresh eyes, open to the fact that they are not you—that they have had an entirely different stream of experiences—it transforms your relationship. You see that they are just navigating down the river of life and encountering as many challenges and hardships as you. Instead of a contest, life becomes a collaboration.

Less anxiety: If you are anxious about an upcoming interaction with someone—instead of worrying about how and whether you will convince them to accept your point of view—open yourself up to being curious about what will happen, let go of your preconceived ideas about the outcome and instead embrace not knowing. Embrace being present and be thankful in the moment for what you’re doing and who you’re meeting.

When we abandon our need to know, we are free to listen and learn.

Time for a Change?

February 19, 2019

ChangeMany have made the mistake of trying to change circumstances rather than changing themselves; this flawed tactic is sometimes called the “geographic cure.” My 35-year career as a real estate office manager was like a masters course in human behavior. Real estate agents are a very mobile sales force: every year a high percentage of agents change brokers. Their business falls off due to the economy, rising interest rates, too many bad hair days, a sudden interest in daytime soaps, early-onset narcolepsy or whatever, so they decide that changing where they work will somehow energize them—“take my career to the next level.”

You probably know someone who moves from job to job, career to career, but never seems to experience an increase in their income or sense of accomplishment. The problem with changing where they work, where they live, or what career they pursue is that it prevents them from effecting real, lasting change—change that can only come from within. Thus the saying:

“No Matter Where You Go, There You Are.” —The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension

You can’t escape yourself by running. You can change your circumstances, your location, your profession, your friends, but wherever you go and whatever you do, there you are. And if you are not willing to change, to adapt, to learn, no matter where you go, you will do whatever it takes to perpetuate the status quo, replicate your old environment, no matter how dysfunctional.

Dr. Richard Carlson, author of Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff, once had a man who lived on the East Coast ask him, “What are people like in California?” To which Dr. Carlson responded, “What are people like in New York?” The man answered, “They’re greedy and selfish.” Dr. Carlson told the man that he would probably find the people in California also to be greedy and selfish. Why? Our judgments, beliefs, perceptions, and habits do not change just because of a change in location or circumstance—we carry them with us.

Okay, if you’re not yet convinced that change must come from within, here are the words of some people you may have heard of:

Gandhi said:  “If you choose to change your world, begin with yourself.” “Be the change you wish to see in the world.”

And from Neville Goddard (1905-1972), a prophet, profoundly influential teacher and author:  “Good news! If you don’t like what you’re manifesting, you can change your mind about who you are.”

Not yet convinced? Let’s try Einstein—scientist, spiritualist, and well-known brilliant guy:  “The world as we have created it is a process of our thinking. It cannot be changed without changing our thinking.”

Let’s add some international flavor since WE ARE A COUNTRY OF IMMIGRANTS! This is from the Persian poet, Rumi:  “Yesterday I was clever, so I wanted to change the world. Today I am wise, so I am changing myself.”

Okay, one more, since we are trying to improve relations with Russia, from Tolstoy:  “Everyone thinks of changing the world, but no one thinks of changing himself.”

Deciding what you want out of life is essential. But you will only achieve your desires when they are congruent with who you think you are (your self-concept). Changing your world is an inside job.


February 7, 2019

Fear SeymoreOne way to become less of a slave to fear is to develop a conscious relationship with it. Talk with fear as if it was another person. You can even name it—let’s use Seymour.

“Thank you, Seymour. I appreciate that warned me not to pet that rabid dog. However, we need to talk about this fear of talking with strangers. It was useful when I was five, walking home from school—you kept me safe, and I do appreciate that. But now I’m a thirty-year-old real estate agent going broke because I’m afraid to speak to strangers about selling their homes. Time for an adjustment, dude.”

This may sound silly to you but try it. And remember, fear is not a real thing; it doesn’t exist in nature. It is you. It is your way of protecting yourself when you’ve decided you need protection. No more than that.

Now that you and Seymour are getting tight, notice how you become increasingly aware of his presence. Something doesn’t work out the way you want or expect, and the inner trash talk begins. Why did I say that? I’m sure my client is going to kill the sale now, which means no mortgage payment next month. I may even have to start drinking cheap wine, God forbid!  When life fails to meet our expectations, we tend to snap to negative, insecure thinking. Unchecked, negative, fear-based thoughts can spiral out of control, leaving us agitated, in no position to take command of the situation and solve the problem.

The solution to this downward spiral is to listen to the conversation you’re having with Seymour before it gains too much momentum. Recognize it for what it is—you talking to you in a manner that you have decided. You are Seymour’s scriptwriter. Heck— You are Seymour!

Time To Act!

January 31, 2019

I’m re-blogging this little article I wrote in 2011. It seems appropriate for the start of a new year:

Do not wait to strike till the iron is hot; but make it hot by striking.—William B. Sprague

act-nowThis is not the time to listen to the news and worry about whether the economy is in recovery or not. Turn off your TV sets! Set down your newspaper!

It is time to stop wondering, worrying, discussing, analyzing, listening.

It is time to take action! Who cares how “the market” is doing? You are not the market. You are the only you to ever walk the planet, an individual with unique talents, skills, motivations, desires, feelings, abilities. You are special!

The only question you should ever ask is, “How am I doing?” And the answer can only be found in your actions. Today, act as if you have no doubts, as if success were hiding right around the corner, so close that you can smell it. Take a leap of faith – dare to risk being called an optimist. Someone will have to be prepared to loan money to the pessimists.


Remain CALM in The Eye Of The Storm

January 29, 2019

Detach from the emotional chaos surrounding an issue, focus on the actual problem, and access your creativity and problem- solving abilities.

hurricaneThere is a calm in the center of hurricanes—the eye. The most violent and dangerous winds are those immediately surrounding the eye—as if the most intense, chaotic motion is attracted to this harbor of calm. Within your metaphorical eye— your center—you will find the power to shelter yourself and others from the raging human storm. Creativity and problem- solving abilities are most readily available when you remain detached from the swirling drama. It is hard to see clearly when you are lured out of the eye and into the human storm. It is difficult to be creative when focused on the chaos around you, and nearly impossible to be present.

Staying grounded can be a bit challenging when your 14- year-old daughter tells you that she is getting a tattoo, dying her hair green and wants to sleep with her boyfriend. Or when you take your car in for its regular maintenance and are told that you need new brakes, a new transmission and tires, so what you expected would cost $100 is now up to $5,000. Or your partner sits you down and tells you, in a panic, that he has run your credit cards up over $100,000 and wants you to declare bankruptcy.

But isn’t it selfish to lounge in the eye while people in the storm are crying for help? No! When a challenging problem arises, and those around you are freaking out, the last thing they need is for you to join them in their freak-out dance. They need a cool head who can come up with creative solutions. They need your undistracted best.