How to Carve Out Your Life’s Passion


Listen to yourself.

Too many people simply go through the motions every day. The demands of life cause them to make convenient choices rather than heartfelt ones. But to tap into your passion, you have to know what you want. Look for clues. What excites you? What makes you dream? What makes your heart sing?

Continue reading “How to Carve Out Your Life’s Passion”


Want to Reach Your Potential? Then Be a Learner


Other family members were playing pingpong. They were reading novels, doing crosswords and giggling over a game of Bananagrams. But on a breezy night in the middle of summer vacation, my 10-year-old daughter and I sat hunched over laptops, muttering about the kitten from hell.

Our mission, set forth by an online course: Write lines of code that would put the creature’s fluffy, deceptively innocent picture on a webpage and let users click on it, zipping them to Wikipedia’s “kitten” entry.

“I have no way to figure this out!” Lily groaned from her end of the dining table. “It doesn’t make sense! This is impossible!”

“I’m sure we’ll find a way,” I lied.

And we returned for the umpteenth time to our laptops, to our muttering, and (in my case) to thoughts that this showdown with the evil feline was probably inevitable.

We’re living in the Age of Expertise, after all. Never have more people believed—with more reason—that success hinges on reading, workshopping, boot-camping, seminar-ing, and otherwise launching yourself into new realms of skill or knowledge.

It’s the most practical take yet on personal development.

Early bibles of the field (Napoleon Hill’s Think and Grow Rich, Dale Carnegie’s How to Win Friends and Influence People) urged workers to grow philosophically, to build qualities such as confidence and self-discipline. Leading business authors have focused on matters of character ever since, from the emotional intelligence of Daniel Goleman to the ambition of Jim Rohn to the “leaning in” and “playing big” of Sheryl Sandberg and Tara Mohr.

But while those books remain brisk sellers, there’s another bible in town. Make that an explosion of mini-bibles that promise mastery of almost any topic or technique you can name. Hacking. Carpentry. Forensic psychology. Running a food truck. The granddaddy of how-to guides, Wiley’s For Dummies series, has 1,800 titles in print in English—and 250 more scheduled for 2016.

Extension classes abound at colleges and universities. Slews of podcasts and tutorials (some free, some not) go online every day. Meanwhile, web-based academies like Udemy and Coursera, which collectively bill themselves as having offered more than 33,000 courses to 24 million students, peddle instruction in everything from abstract math to abstract painting, from “Become a Coffee Expert” to “Java 8: Make It Your New Cup of Coffee.”

“In a world of unprecedented change, employees have to be able to adapt to succeed,” says Dave Ulrich, who has written and co-written 25 books on human resources and leadership, including HR from the Outside In: Six Competencies for the Future of Human Resources. He notes that “learning agility,” deftness at gaining and using knowledge, is the “biggest predictor of long-term leadership success,” according to research by the Korn Ferry Institute. “Workers who take charge of their careers by learning and growing will be far more successful than those who are overwhelmed by change. It is far better to act than to be acted upon.”

Such mantras are popular with boomers and Gen Xers like me and maybe even more so with people in their 20s and 30s. “In broad terms, millennials get it, get that education is key to a better life and that education doesn’t necessarily stop when you get your first piece of paper, your first degree—you keep going,” says Liz Weston, a nationally syndicated personal-finance columnist. “I see it as a huge positive that these people are taking care of themselves. They’re not waiting for an employer to take care of them.”

The reasons behind all this studious zeal are as varied as the learners themselves. And they’re rooted in changes that began decades ago.


There was a time when your employer would take care of you. “Career development used to be part of HR planning,” says Charles H. Fay, Ph.D., who directs the Human Resource Management undergraduate programs at Rutgers University and edits Compensation & Benefits Review. “Companies would say, ‘Here are the people we have, here are the people we need.… How can we develop them?’ Nobody does that anymore.”

The shift away from in-house development began in the 1960s, Fay says, when people with MBAs discovered that “the way you could maximize your income was to leave one employer and go to another. It was the first time that really happened with professionals. Before that, if you switched jobs once, it was suspect. If you switched twice, you were a job hopper.”

In the decades since, the old model of staying true to one company has continued to erode—and employers’ loyalty to workers has slid correspondingly. “Some managers worry about investing in developing people who can then easily take those skills to a competitor,” says David G. Allen, Ph.D., another Human Resource Management professor at Rutgers. Such wariness only increases in a tough economy, since the “return on investment” of employee development is hard to measure.

Most companies hire people with the skills required for identified goals and fire them as needs fade or change, Fay says. “I remember a song by Janet Jackson, ‘What Have You Done for Me Lately,’ and I think that’s the philosophy of many employers now: What have you done for me lately, and what are you going to do for me in the future? If we can’t find positive answers to those questions, then we’ll part ways.”

There are exceptions to this attitude. Actuarial firms, for instance, invest a fair amount in employee development, Fay adds. In some high-tech fields, companies are widely seen as more generous to workers as well.

But most people who are developed by their employers are near the top of the job ladder (those being groomed for executive roles) or the bottom (machinists, welders and the like, being taught skills that are scarce in the marketplace), Fay says. “In the middle, the broad range of midlevel employees, the company’s not going to do it for them. They’re on their own. Many companies have tuition reimbursement programs of one kind or another, but that’s pretty much it.”


Employer-sponsored development is even scarcer, of course, when you lack a full-time employer.

One-third of American workers—almost 54 million people—earn a living partly or wholly through freelance, part-time or temp jobs, according to a poll released in October by contractor marketplace Upwork. When the U.S. General Accountability Office ran a similar study in 2006, only 31 percent of Americans fit these categories.

“There’s less trust in employers today,” says Rich Pearson, a senior vice president of Upwork, an online platform where businesses shop for freelancers (10 million of whom are registered with the site). “We have a whole generation of millennials and college grads who have come out of college seeing how their parents were perhaps treated in 2008 and are choosing income security over job security” by freelancing, temping and so forth. “It’s more important to be employable than, maybe, to be employed full time.”

Many people, like me, get into contingent work because we enjoy the freedom of it, the ability to weave jobs around family and other commitments. Others find it less a choice than an essential, as businesses trim full-time staffs.

All of which means that for plenty of us, personal development is something you do on your own time and dime. As Fay points out, why would employers help one freelancer add skills when they can easily hire another who already has those skills?


That’s something Britta Noack knows well. As a freelance German-English translator in San Diego, she sees personal development as a professional necessity. “It’s part of my job,” she says—a part she spends about 100 hours and $3,000 to $5,000 on each year as she takes seminars and travels to conferences. “Translation is a very cutthroat market. There’s a lot more people going into work for themselves because it’s so much more flexible and a lot of companies have cut out their in-house translators. To stand out, you don’t have a choice. You have to better yourself in any way possible.”

The same is increasingly true in many fields, whether you’re freelance or on the payroll. Developers (aka computer programmers and engineers), for instance, are highly competitive, Pearson says. As technology changes, so do the most marketable skills. “We recently ran a survey among top-rated developers. They are constantly learning new programming languages.”

Even people in less high-tech jobs feel the pressure to beef up their expertise. “Any of the professions, even doctors—with technological advances, think about it—there’s so many developments that if you don’t keep up with them, you’re obsolete,” Fay says.

Plus, if your industry hits the skids, you’d better have some options.

“Almost everyone has either been unexpectedly displaced or knows someone who has been unexpectedly displaced,” Allen says. “If that happens and you are not prepared to market yourself as current, it can be quite traumatic.”

Weston, the syndicated columnist, couldn’t agree more. In the 1990s, as a business reporter in Southern California, she began taking financial-planning courses. Now, while newspapers around the country shrink, fold and lay off people (including papers where she used to work), she is polishing the fifth edition of Your Credit Score, one of five popular books she has written. “You never know when an industry will disappear beneath your feet, or an employer will, or there’s going to be a better opportunity out there,” Weston says.


When SUCCESS asked me to take a coding course with Lily and write about it, I became that rare freelancer being paid to learn new tricks. But as glad as I was about this, and as much as I looked forward to mother-daughter time that didn’t involve one of us nagging the other to practice the piano, I felt nervous.

The last time I studied anything to do with computers, I was in college, taking a course in the programming language Pascal. My fellow students (mostly guys) seemed to understand the professor instantly. To me, he appeared to speak Klingon.

Although I didn’t know it, my experience was classic for women first dipping a toe in high-tech waters. “Research shows us that parents are more likely to give a computer or computer toy to little boys,” or at least give it later to girls, says Nicole Noll, co-founder of Boston-based Women’s Coding Collective (WCC), which runs the course Lily and I took. When girls finally try to catch up, “a lot of the boys, because they’ve had exposure to it before, are doing really well or it looks easier for them, and so girls get this idea I’m not good at this.

Noll has heard from countless women (including me) whose solution at such times was to seek help from experienced folks—who proceeded to “jerk the keyboard out from under them.” Some people may think this is helpful (I know my rescuers in college did), but “it’s really hard to learn this stuff if you can’t do it yourself.”

WCC is one of at least a dozen organizations that offer do-it-yourself coding classes just for women (and the occasional girl), in person and online. Lily and I were among 30 students in a two-week intro to HTML. Once it began, with everyone introducing herself online (“Hello. I’m Elizabeth. I’m here to start something completely new in my life.” “Hi, I’m Chelsi. Coding always felt extremely foreign to me.”), I knew this wouldn’t be half a month of Klingon-laced despair. We were teachers, artists, a librarian, a biotechnician. Three times a week we received clearly worded challenges in topics such as “tidy code” and “retired tags to avoid.” True, some were tough, but if we got stuck, the instructors posted easy-to-understand suggestions.

“It just felt like a really comfortable environment to learn in,” says our classmate Alexandra Molnar, a freelance writer and communication assistant in Northborough, Mass. “I really felt a sense of community and making friendships. We had a common bond of female empowerment, so it’s not like we were excluding males but more just boosting the skills and values that women can bring to the table.”

From one challenge to the next, Lily and I moved closer to our goals: for Lily, making a webpage for the pop band she’s started with three friends; for me, being less dependent on others to manage my website or the online poetry journal I edit. We did happy dances when we got things right. We gave each other nerdy nicknames, Em and Strong, after the HTML terms for emphasized and important text.

Sitting across from Lily day after day, I often gazed delightedly at the face above her open laptop: serious, focused, and for a change intrigued by something other than Taylor Swift lyrics. Not that I have anything against Ms. T-Swizzle, but who knows where coding might take my daughter?

Noll thinks along similar lines. Like organizations such as Girls Who Code, Black Girls Code and TechGirlz, WCC is part of the movement to give girls more savvy in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM). She and her colleagues have brought coding instruction to Girl Scout troops, schools and science festivals, and offered a workshop (not the one Lily and I took) for mothers and daughters.

“We’re not looking at this as some pure technical skill,” Noll says. “It’s life preparation. Coding is a way of speaking; programming is a way of thinking. And if you’ve got this whole other way of thinking, it’s going to open up all kinds of possibilities.”


People of many stripes are tapping new opportunities for growth.

For 28 years, Greg Owens has worked for a national paint company where he’s now a branch manager. “I was raised real conservative: Go to college, get a business degree, get a good job with good benefits and security, work for the man until you retire,” he says. A few years ago, though, it dawned on him that “that’s not what I love.” What he really wanted was to become a coach, speaker and leadership-skills trainer, with a humorous twist. So Owens has spent hundreds of dollars on standup and comedy-improv classes; he’s been doing open mics in upstate New York and braving “Funniest Person in Rochester” contests. “I’ve got a safe and secure job, a good job [at the paint company], but I’ve peaked at it, and I think I’ve got more to offer other people in the business world.”

Shannon Gardner, who works in human resources for a biotech company in Boston, is used to talking with people who feel just as restless. “Personal development today is about investing in yourself and thinking about your career as much more flexible, as opposed to getting rich,” she says. “I think it’s about fulfillment in your personal life and career.”

Gardner (another WCC classmate) aims to start a business as a coach and consultant. Coding will help her build a website. “My parents said to me, ‘Your generation wants this instant gratification—you’re not satisfied,’ and I said, ‘Well, why do we have to be?’ We’ve seen industries that totally didn’t exist when we were little that now exist. We know there’s opportunity for endless amounts of things.… It’s definitely a shift from years past where companies spoon-fed everybody—here’s your career, here’s your path. It’s a lot more employee-driven. I think there’s a much larger pattern of people wanting more. A traditional career path­—I’m not sure it exists anymore. You can bounce around and have three or four different careers in a lifetime.”

Sometimes, people acquire new skills purely because they love the careers they’re in.

“Routine is a terrible thing as far as I can tell, for our profession in particular,” says Jason Silverstein, a New York City journalist who devours books about his chosen field and recently attended a daylong reporting camp. To do your job to the best of your ability, “you never want to be any less curious or skeptical or open to new ideas.”

Katie Grace McGowan, a Detroit artist and art consultant, learned to speak Croatian to get the most out of an artistic residency in Croatia. She not only met that goal but also wound up marrying a local man and being able to speak with her mother-in-law in “my slow cavewoman Croatian.” Would studying a new language have been worthwhile even without such unexpected perks? The answer seems clear. “Learning keeps you alive!” she says. “I can’t imagine living a static life. In order to grow and develop, I think we all have to keep learning.”


The morning after our first encounter with the demon kitten, I gave Lily a few hints. (I had stayed up late, inching my way toward a solution.) She nodded and got back to business. Minutes later, her face was brighter than her laptop screen. “It worked! Oh my gosh! I clicked on the kitty, and it took me to Wikipedia! Oh my gosh! This is so awesome!”

High fives. Happy dance.

Like so many in the Age of Expertise, Lily and I were feeling the boost that a little know-how can bring. In fact, I realized, we were feeling plenty of things that Carnegie, Hill and their ilk started preaching about generations ago. The confidence. The discipline. The drive.

Maybe this new personal development wasn’t so different from the old, after all.

“Lily, after we finish our class, do you want to keep going?” I explained that HTML wasn’t enough to yield a cool website; we’d probably need CSS (Cascading Style Sheets) and JavaScript, too.

“Yes, totally!” she said. “Let’s sign up.”

“Go, Em!”

“Go, Strong!”




Turn potential into performance by winning at each phase of success.

Chimaobi Iroha

“The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena; whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs and comes short again and again; who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions, and spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement; and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly.” —Theodore Roosevelt

The degree of our success is directly related to the degree in which we excel in and balance certain segments, or principles, of our life. Every person, organization and business can, and should, operate out of the following seven arenas.

Here’s how:

1. I Am: Arena of Values

Every person, organization and business has values, and they may not know or be able to articulate what they are, but they have them. The values of a business are what they believe in: What do they think is important?

What a company values will affect the way the business runs and the employees act and work, so it is important to know what those values are. Here are some questions for you to ask: What do we think is important? What do we hope to accomplish? What do we believe in as we go about our work?

Is there clear indication in your workplace or home that you are operating in the Arena of Values? Can you say without a doubt that “I Am,” or “We Are”?

2. I Should: Arena of Responsibility

What are the responsibilities that we must live by?

  • To be a person and company of high integrity. Ultimately we are only a success to the degree that we are honorable people. This means that we are honest, hardworking and forthright. I don’t think it matters how much money one accumulates if they are not a person of integrity.
  • To make our families priority. Sometimes I think of all the people I help and work so hard for day by day and realize that none of them will be at my side when I breathe my last breath. My wife and children will fill those spots—so they get the most from me.
  • To give to charity. One of the things that rounds us out as healthy, successful people is to give away money, time and possessions, free of all strings. Instead of a N2,000 check every now and then, put it into your budget to give away a certain amount every month—make it big, make it a sacrifice. At first you will think it is impossible, but it will come around. At the end of your life, you will be able to look back and see the difference you have made.

3. I Could: Arena of Possibility

People often get so caught up in the day to day that they lose their zest for life. They get the nose to the grindstone, and may be doing important work, but they forget to dream. They forget to think of what could be.

How is your business in the arena of possibility? What would happen if at your next staff meeting, whether you have 30 people or just you and your partner, you asked the question, “What are the possibilities for this business to really do something great?”

I think that you would probably be astounded at what you might hear.

People have great ideas, dreams and possibilities inside of them—they just need someone to stop the treadmill and ask the question, surrounded by an atmosphere of acceptance.

4. I Would: Arena of Negotiation

Every possibility has a cost associated with it. At this point, an organization not only says “we could” but also internally negotiates with questions about the tradeoffs, like:

If this is to come about, what will the cost be? Is it worth it?

If this comes about, what will the ramifications be in other areas of my business? What other adjustments would have to be made, and are they worth it?

What would the reward have to be in order for me to pursue this possibility?

How long will it take me to reach this possibility? In light of that, do I want to read just the organization for that period of time?

Take some time to measure the costs of your possibilities. Then, when you find the ones that are good for you, go for it.

5. I Want To: Arena of Vision

Now, of those possibilities, what ones would you really like to do? The ideas that stir our passions for excellence become things that we can easily “see.” They can become our “vision.”

In order for something to happen, someone has to first see it happening long before it actually does. If money, and time, were no object, if you knew that you couldn’t fail at your attempt, what would you want to try? Then, why not try? This is your vision. And a vision is a powerful thing—it’s what drives success and accomplishment.

Great things come when we dream, and vision drives us to attempt things far beyond where we are right now.

“Far better it is to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs, though checkered by failure, than to rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy, nor suffer much, because they live in the gray twilight that knows neither victory nor defeat.”

6. I Will: Arena of Dedication

Perseverance is the most important thing in work. I have come to believe that much of what separates the successful from the unsuccessful is simply determination. The successful are not always the brightest, the best looking or those with the most prestigious diplomas. Instead, they are the ones who say, “I will do this!” and “Hardship will not deter me!” These people have entered into and continually live in the arena of dedication. Staying there long enough usually puts them on top.

Dedication is a key to success. So the next step? Hard work! Recognize all of the hard work that will be involved in achieving your dreams, then spend some time preparing to meet the challenges. Here are some questions to help you get through the process, prepare yourself for the job ahead and come out on the end of success.

  • What are the obstacles we will face?
  • How will we overcome those obstacles?
  • What kinds of attitudes and dedication will we need to exhibit when the time comes to face difficulties and uphill battles?
  • What are the rewards our dedication will bring to us as individuals and corporately?

Focusing in on these questions will help you prepare for the times when you will need to show dedication, perseverance and inner fortitude. The mental preparation now will strengthen you to succeed later.

7. I Do: Arena of Accomplishment

Accomplishment comes when the job is complete. What is important at this stage? A few things:

  • A little rest. It isn’t time to sit back for good, but resting can be a much-needed reward for all of the hard work you have shown up until now. After the pace of pursuing your dreams, your body and mind need some well-deserved rest.
  • A little celebration. Celebrations are great for us. What is all the work for if one can’t enjoy the fruit of his labor? Maybe it is a small dinner out. Maybe it is a huge celebration for 100 of your closest friends and business associates. Maybe it is an exotic vacation.
  • A sense of fulfillment. The greatest reward is, as the old saying goes, “the satisfaction of a job well done.” Not many people make it to the accomplishment arena very often. Enjoy the satisfaction!
  • A new high bar. One of the great things about life is the challenge of new heights. You have accomplished your task, and that’s good, but… what’s next?





When I was having a conversation with business leaders for my articles in my blog Seen life from afar / faceook page be mindful of your mind; I didn’t realize the impact it would have on me. Getting the opportunity to talk to dozens of successful people, inspiring individuals has been nothing short of incredible.

Through our conversations, I got access to some of their secrets and advice, what motivated them, what helped them to get where they are today.

Here are nine of their best success lessons (so far!), from them to me to you:

  1. You are the sum of the five people you spend the most time with

My mom always used say, “Tell me who your friends are and I’ll tell you who you are.” And she was right on—because millionaires surround themselves with other millionaires.

If we really are the sum of the people who surround ourselves with, it’s so important to surround yourself with the right ones. Successful people are always networking with each other at events, conferences and mastermind groups.

  1. Money in itself won’t make you happy.

But money can buy you the freedom to do the things that can make you happy. True happiness comes from filling your time and your days with meaningful pursuits that you’re passionate about.

I’ve met rich people who are incredibly unhappy and poor people in Third World countries who are some of the happiest people I’ve ever encountered. The point is that it’s possible to be happy right now, whether you have N20 or N200 million. By being grateful for what you have, for being alive and for having this day, you’ll be more present and have better perspective.

  1. “It’s not about the goal. It’s about becoming the type of person that can accomplish the goal.”

The great Tony Robbins probably knows what he’s talking about.

Most millionaires will tell you it’s not so much about making the money; it’s about growing as a person, growing your business to a point where it’s capable of making money. The journey is far more valuable than the destination.

And once you’ve arrived, the question becomes, Now what? That’s why it’s so important to enjoy the ride and be grateful for how far you’ve come and what you’ve achieved so far.

  1. Get a mentor so you can get growing.

Almost every successful person you ask will tell you they had a mentor at some point along the way.

Find someone you admire, look up to—someone who’s where you want to be—and ask them for guidance to help you improve who you are and what you want to become. With their advice, you’ll learn best practices, you’ll be challenged, you’ll be better prepared to succeed.

  1. Like to learn.

Every entrepreneur and successful person I’ve met is a lifelong learner. They understand the importance of constantly improving, constantly growing.

Driven people self-educate through books, audiotapes, online courses, seminars…. They’re determined to always learn new skills, to keep developing as a person—to never become stagnant. They never stop. Want to Reach Your Potential? Then Be a Learner

  1. Two (or three or four) income sources are better than one.

Millionaires know how to put their money and resources to work for them. And almost all of them have at least two or more sources of income—investments in financial securities, real estate, angel investing, partnerships.

While multiple sources of income certainly help them increase their wealth, they are laser-focused on one income stream first then diversify once they’ve hit a level of stability.

  1. Hate the gym? Well, learn to hate it a little less.

Almost every millionaire I’ve spoke with has some sort of rigorous workout routine—weightlifting, marathons and triathlons, running. They are elite in business and at the gym.

There’s a correlation between breaking down barriers in fitness and breaking them down in business and in your mind. They’re both about strength and confidence, discipline and commitment. Weak won’t cut it. So get working on your fitness—and the rest will seem a little less daunting.

  1. Read—a lot.

I’ve yet to meet a millionaire who doesn’t do a lot of reading.

And I’m not talking about Harry Potter or Hunger Games. I’m talking books with real, practical tips—for personal and professional growth, for people who want to constantly improve themselves and their businesses.

Books are a great way to learn from successful people who may have been where you are now and have something valuable to teach you. It’s like having some of the best business minds of our generation mentor you. Read a lot and read often.

  1. Write down your experiences.

You don’t have to blog to be a millionaire. But it wouldn’t hurt. A lot of successful people are getting their start from blogging.

Blogging is a powerful tool, because by documenting your journey and inspirations, you go through a sort of self-discovery, while also growing your reputation and business. If you’re not ready to share everything on a public blog, try keeping handwritten journals instead. The introspective writing process reminds you of what you’ve been through and where you want to go. And writing down your goals is an incredible way to make sure they happen.

Jim Rohn said it best: “It is challenging to be a student of your own life, your own future, your own destiny. Don’t trust your memory. When you listen to something valuable, write it down. When you come across something important, write it down. Take the time to keep notes and to keep a journal” (or in my case, a podcast or blog!).

You Can Learn a Lot From a Rich Girl





Driving home from the bar one evening, my friend Marilyn confided in me that she was afraid. In six months, she would be graduating from grad school and her parents were going to cut her off financially for the first time in 26 years. Marilyn works twice a week (8 hours total) waiting tables to pay for pot and shoes, but everything else from her rent to her groceries has been paid for by her parents. Marilyn, at 26, doesn’t know how to balance a checkbook and has no idea what a gallon of milk costs. On top of that, she managed to secretly charge up some credit cards to the tune of $12,000 and that debt alone was overwhelming her. She couldn’t imagine what it would be like when she had to pay all of her own bills, plus the credit card debt. She fucked up big time and rather than admit that to her parents (who amassed their wealth through careful, responsible investments) she was desperately confiding in her older friend hoping for a magic solution to her problems.

I suppose she came to me because I’ve been there. If any of you consider me obnoxious and self important now, you should have known me when I was in high school. At that time, I hadn’t ever had to struggle for anything in my life. Everything from material things to academic achievements were mine without the slightest bit of work or effort on my part. So when I sat in my high school physics class and the theories being taught did not instantly become clear to me, I turned up my little nose, crossed my arms, and refused to learn the material at all because it was obviously beneath me. Physics were beneath me. This was my response to a challenge that required more than a few seconds to accomplish.

This was also my mentality when I began college. Unlike Marilyn, my parents cut me off financially the day I graduated high school, but that didn’t matter because I was able to maintain my style of living through credit cards. I applied for 11 of them and used them to purchase things like lattes, kegs of beer, and plastic Jerry Garcia bear beads to decorate my apartment. I thought credit cards were free money and in six months, I had maxed out every one. I would have gotten more, too, if my credit at that point wasn’t in the shitter. But it didn’t matter because I really had everything I needed at that point.

It was just….the bills…..eleven of them on top of all of my regular bills. I was having a hard time keeping track of them. I’d lose them, forget about them, and then I’d come home at night and find out that my electricity was turned off. Again. But instead of sitting down and working out my financial situation, I deemed all the credit card bills too hard and inconvenient to manage, so I decided to quit paying them. In true spoiled brat fashion, I refused to so much as open the bills for a solid four months.

You all know what comes next, don’t you? Oh yes, the phone calls. Vicious phone calls from angry creditors at all hours of the night who refused to be ignored. I had never connected a human face to my debt, so I was stunned when this happened. And when I opened one of my bills for the first time and saw that the balance had almost doubled? Well, you could have bowled me over with a feather.

So I sat down with all of my bills and a calculator and struggled to figure out the damage. I didn’t understand simple concepts like interest, over-limit fees, late fees, or annual membership fees, so it took me a while. The end result was that if I put forth every spare cent of my spending money towards paying this debt, I would be free of it in 24 years. The rarified microbiologist is in a bit of consumer debt right now and he describes it as one of the most soul crushing feelings in the world. Sitting there with my bills and the knowledge that I had sold a quarter of my life into slavery for some plastic beads, I couldn’t think of a more apt way to describe it.

In the end, I went to some pretty extreme measures and paid off my debt in 3 months. I cut up all my credit cards and foolishly thought it would improve my credit situation. Little did I know that paying the bill doesn’t turn a bad debt good again. The only thing that would fix my credit was for me to learn to establish new credit responsibly. It took me over four years to quit making rookie mistakes. To date, it was the most difficult thing I have ever forced myself to accomplish.

Marilyn is not quite like me. She has a lot of pride, but not enough to force herself out of her comfort zone. Knowing this, I advised her, “Better to ask your parents for help now when it’s only $12,000 and not really a big deal than to have to ask them for help later when it’s gotten completely out of control.”

If this was just a cautionary tale for young rich snobs, then I wouldn’t bother telling it. The problem is that the middle class are making these same credit mistakes without the safety net of wealthy parents to fall back on. We are sending our children out into the world without any idea of how to manage credit, balance a checkbook, or devise and follow a feasible budget. We are doing this not out of maliciousness or desire to see the future fail, but because we don’t know how to accomplish those things. Because of this, we are cheating ourselves and our children out of retirement.

I’ve spoken to a lot of college kids lately who regularly spend $200 for a pair of blue jeans. When I ask them how long it takes for them to earn that kind of cash, the answer usually falls in the realm of a week or so. At this point, I will stress that not even the very wealthy spend an entire weeks worth of salary on one article of clothing. College kids disagree because they’ve seen wealthy people wearing more expensive clothing than their jeans. So I explain that while they may wear more expensive clothing, that it doesn’t constitute a week of their salary. Normally, they earn the price of expensive jeans in an hour, often less. On the off chance that the kid understands the picture that I’m trying to paint for him, he expresses shock that I would suggest he should never spend more than $8 (his hourly wage) on a single article of clothing….or alternatively buy significantly less clothing. But most of the time, the idea that they might be living well above their means only confuses them and they just stare at me blankly.

My Mother in Law, who is respectably middle class, will die in debt and the worst part is she rarely buys anything for herself. Every Christmas we go over to her house bundled up in sweaters and jackets, swathed in a layer of blankets because she can’t afford to turn the heat up. But everyone will be plowed with the presents that she couldn’t control the impulse to buy. It pains me to see and I just want to say to her to please take back the bracelet and the sweater and the gift certificate and the 20 presents you bought the children that will most likely be donated to charity without them ever playing with them because they have so much already and please, turn your heat up. Seeing her live her adult life with some semblance of physical comfort is more valuable to me than any present she could give.

I guess what I’m trying to find out is why the fuck are we doing this to ourselves?

Is anything that you own worth living paycheck to paycheck for? Is the extra square footage and the swimming pool and the new car worth it knowing that something as little as a traffic ticket can screw you up for the month? Is a playroom full of toys for the kids necessary when all you’re doing is teaching them that mindless consumer excess is not only normal, but the key to happiness?

You know what makes me happy? Not being a slave to the things I want to buy. But hey, that’s just me. I also plan to retire early and I feel that I’ll be pretty alone in that endeavor unless I can convince a few now to come with me later. There are legions of people who are going to come face to face with the hard, cold reality that their debt doomed them to a life of dependency on a job at Walmart passing out smiley face stickers and shopping carts. They will find out, too late, that the things that they had to own cheated them out of retirement.






Getting motivated is a challenge, and it often takes more than good intentions to really get going. When we first come up with an idea, our heads are filled with scattered thoughts and a vague plan of action. The problem is that good ideas don’t go anywhere on their own. Without a tangible force behind us nothing happens. Do you work harder when faced with a deadline? We all do because we have no choice but to produce.

So how do we force ourselves into action? A great way is stepping up and putting some hard earned cash on the line. Investing money in a goal does two things. First, it provides you with a valuable resource towards reaching your goal. Second, it gives you something to lose. If you don’t do anything at this point you’re wasting your own money.

I was first exposed to this idea in a post by Violent Acres that explains why the poor have a higher rate of obesity than the rich. V points out that poor people don’t lack the willpower to get in shape, they lack the resources. Only the rich can afford personal trainers, expensive gym memberships, and high priced groceries. With all these resources available it’s hard not to stay in shape.

At first I disagreed. Why can’t someone get a great workout for free by running outside and doing pushups and situps at home? In theory this works, but practice is different. Say you decide not to buy the gym membership and resolve to work out at home. Excuses always turn up. One day the weather is bad so you don’t run. The next day you come home tired, turn on the TV and never get up. Without a monetary investment to lose, there isn’t pressure to perform. By investing in a gym membership, you’re not just buying a place to workout, you’re buying motivation.

In effect, you become your own employer. When someone is hired, an employer pays for office space, a computer, training, etc. If that person doesn’t produce, the employer loses money. That’s why he also pays a supervisor to ensure the employee works hard. If you decide pay a consultant or personal trainer, you hire you own supervisor. By investing money in your goals you become employer and employee.You have something to lose if it fails and everything to gain if it works. It’s harder to be lazy when it means wasting your own money.

Any savvy entrepreneur will tell you that it takes money to make money. If you aren’t willing to spend a nominal sum to further your cause then how committed are you? By all means be frugal, but look at the big picture. Free resources are great but you can’t rely on them alone. What is the worth of a $30 book that helps you make thousands in the long run? Spending on valuable assets that grow your business is the sign of a wise investor.

We’re only human. We have good intentions, but our willpower can fail us. Over time we wear down and need an extra push. Don’t let the fear of wasting money prevent you from investing in your goals. If you know you want something, invest in it financially and mentally. Give yourself a resource and a reason to push yourself. Don’t be afraid to make a mistake. One great investment can make up for scores mediocre ones. With hard work you’ll make back the money you spend, but you’ll never be able to get back lost time.

We’ve all faced the disappointment and guilt that comes from setting a goal and giving up on it after a couple of weeks. Sustaining motivation for a long-term goal is hard to achieve, and yet the best goals can usually only be accomplished in a few months or even years.


Want to run a marathon? First create the habit of running every day. Want to get out of debt and start saving? Create the habit of brown bagging it to work, or watching DVDs instead of going to the movies, or whatever change will lead to saving money for you.

By focusing not on what you have to achieve over the course of the next year, but instead on what you are doing each day, you are focusing on something achievable. That little daily change will add up to a huge change, over time … and you’ll be surprised at how far you’ve come in no time. Little grains of sand can add up to a mountain over time.

I used this philosophy of habit changes to run a marathon, to change my diet and lose weight, to write a novel, to quit smoking, to become organized and productive, to double my income, reduce my debt and start saving, and to begin training for an Olympic triathlon this year. It works, if you focus on changing habits.

Now, changing your habits isn’t easy — I won’t lie to you — but it’s achievable, especially if you start small. Don’t try to change the world with your first habit change … take baby steps at first. I started by just trying to run a mile — and by the end of the year, I could run more than 20 miles.

How do you change your habits? Focus on one habit at a time, and follow these steps:

  1. Positive changes. If you’re trying to change a negative habit (quit smoking), replace it with a positive habit (running for stress relief, for example).
  2. Take on a 30-day challenge. Tell yourself that you’re going to do this habit every day, at the same time every day, for 30 straight days without fail. Once you’re past that 30-day mark, the habit will become much easier. If you fail, do not beat yourself up. Start again on a new 30-day challenge. Practice until you succeed.
  3. Commit yourself completely. Don’t just tell yourself that you might or should do this. Tell the world that DEFINITELY will do this. Put yourself into this 100 percent. Tell everyone you know. Email them. Put it on your blog. Post it up at your home and work place. This positive public pressure will help motivate you.
  4. Set up rewards. It’s best to reward yourself often the first week, and then reward yourself every week for that first month. Make sure these are good rewards, that will help motivate you to stay on track.
  5. Plan to beat your urges. It’s best to start out by monitoring your urges, so you become more aware of them. Track them for a couple days, putting a tally mark in a small notebook every time you get an urge. Write out a plan, before you get the urges, with strategies to beat them. We all have urges to quit — how will you overcome it? What helps me most are deep breathing and drinking water. You can get through an urge — it will pass.
  6. Track and report your progress. Keep a log or journal or chart so that you can see your progress over time. I used a running log for my marathon training, and a quit meter when I quit smoking. It’s very motivating to see how far you’ve come. Also, if you can join an online group and report your progress each day, or email family and friends on your progress, that will help motivate you.

Most important of all: Always stay positive. I learned the habit of monitoring my thoughts, and if I saw any negative thoughts (“I want to stop!”) I would squash it like a little bug, and replace it with a positive thought (“I can do this!”). It works amazingly. This is the best tip ever. If you think negative thoughts, you will definitely fail. But if you always think positive, you will definitely succeed.

The Only Way to Become Amazingly Great at Something


The Only Way to Become Amazingly Great at Something



“Only one who devotes himself to a cause with his whole strength and soul can be a true master. For this reason mastery demands all of a person.” – Albert Einstein


Very often you’ll see posts or books teaching you to “master” a skill in only 10 days, or 3 days … in fact, it used to be 30 days but the time frame to master something seems to be shrinking rapidly. I’ve even seen tutorials claiming to teach a skill in just a few hours. Pretty soon we’ll be demanding to know how to do something in seconds. Instant mastery of skills and knowledge! Unfortunately, the reality is something a little less magical.

Or maybe that’s a fortunate thing.

There’s only one way to become good at something:

  1. First, you must learn it by reading or listening to others who know how to do it, but most especially by doing.
  2. Then do some more. At this point, you’ll start to understand it, but you’ll suck. This stage could take months.
  3. Do some more. After a couple of years, you’ll get good at it.
  4. Do some more. If you learn from mistakes, and aren’t afraid to make mistakes in the first place, you’ll go from good to great.

It takes anywhere from 6-10 years to get great at something, depending on how often and how much you do it. Some estimate that it takes 10,000 hours to master something, but I think it varies from person to person and depends on the skill and other factors.

Want to be a great writer? It’s possible to be great within a few years, if you have the God-given talent of Fitzgerald or Shakespeare, but most of us toil for over a decade and are still trying to get better. We’re still learning, to this day, and if we look back on our first few years of writing — of any kind, we’ll tell you we sucked (for the most part) back then. You have to do it, make mistakes, learn, really begin to understand it, and someday, if you stick with it, you’ll be great. There’s no one who is great at his profession who hasn’t been doing it for at least 3 years — no designer, no programmer, no carpenter, no architect, no surgeon, no teacher, no musician, no artist … you get the point. I dare you to name one. Most have been doing it for over a decade, and are still looking to improve. It takes desire, it takes drive, it takes lots and lots of doing. So here’s the thing: don’t get discouraged if you’re just starting out. Have fun, If you have fun, you’ll learn to love it, and THAT’S when it clicks. When you love something, you’ll want to do it all the time, sometimes late at night and often, you’ll jump out of bed and want to do it before you move your morning bowels. THAT’S how you get great. By loving it so much your morning bowel movement takes second seat. “Everybody has talent, it’s just a matter of moving around until you’ve discovered what it is.” – George Lucas Find that desire.

Do it, don’t just read about it. Don’t buy a single product or book or magazine that claims to teach you something in minutes, hours, days. They’re lying to your face, with a hand in your pocket at the same time. Do it, keep doing it, then keep doing it some more. It’s the only way to get great, but the good news: anyone can do it. It just takes some time and some doing. When the world says, “Give up,” Hope whispers, “Try it one more time.”





“Goals” are like “New Year’s resolutions”…frequently made but rarely accomplished. You struggle to achieve your goals, my good friend Bill Bartmann, the author of “Bailout Riches” and once named by Inc. magazine as “The Billionaire Nobody Knows” gave me an awesome tip to trick your mind into accomplishing exactly what you want to, every single time. “Don’t think of your goals as goals.” Are you scratching your head right now? I know I sure was. Until I saw the white elephant sitting in the room… In our society most people describe a goal as “a lofty ambition,” something to “shoot for,” something to “strive for,” or something to “work towards”… Nothing wrong with any of that is there?

As long as you don’t care about your goal that much, it’s perfectly fine… You see the descriptions we give the word “goal” implies your objective will be difficult to achieve. There is a subtle undertone crafted by the implicit meaning of your words telling you it’s just as likely you won’t achieve your ultimate goal, as it is that you will make it happen. Too often this gives you an excuse making it okay (or at least forgivable) if you fail meaning the word “goal” by popular definition actually conditions you for failure. Here’s how it works. You start out “shooting for a goal,” wanting to hit it, but you also know by the sheer definition of the word it probably isn’t going to happen.

Unfortunately opening this door to the possibility it might not be achieved, works against you, weakening your power to manifest the “impossible”. But that’s not the worst part… Even if you hit your goals 90 percent or more of the time (which would be incredible), you’d still be failing 10% of the time, right? (By the way if you said a number anywhere near this high, you are one extraordinary human being,

How confident of success or how much momentum do you think you can give when you’re “trying” to do something you’ve previously failed at a rate of 30 – 40% of the time?

But what is the success rate for keeping a promise when you “promise” to do something? I bet it’s a higher percentage than the “goals” you’ve set to achieve because promises are protected by your morals, beliefs and overall value system. Even at a subconscious level, this system to honor promises makes them much more important in our minds than a goal for three basic reasons. Three very distinct reasons why a promise means more to YOU than a goal:

  1. A Promise Has Emotional Attachment: A promise carries a much deeper sense of responsibility to the person to whom it is made – whether to yourself or someone else. With these feelings, a promise also carries a higher emotional attachment. When you make a promise, your emotions are involved. Because of the emotional attachment, the file clerk in our mind will now give this promise an immediate priority filing in the filing cabinet.
  1. A Promise Has A History Of Success: Our mind recognizes that you have a history of success when it comes to making promises. It knows you’ve historically achieved an exceptionally high success rate of nearly 100 percent in many cases and strives to maintain this momentum. Based on this history your subconscious assumes you can and will keep this promise. Rather than being preconditioned for failure based on past performance, your mind is preconditioned for success because it knows it’s more than capable of keeping a promise. These prior successes carry a positive emotional attachment from how it felt when you did what you promised you were going to do. Your file clerk recorded this data in your file cabinet as a positive emotional reaction, working hard to keep your promises so you can feel “good”.
  2. A Promise Triggers: Your Subconscious Mind To Set You Up For Success By limiting your level of achievement to just Goal setting you are turning your subconscious into an “overprotective parent”. A parent who is contstantly attempting to talk you out of taking any risk, for fear you might fail. It actually works against your goals convincing you that you don’t have time for lofty dreams, quietly making it ok to “forget” about them. But when you set a promise, the opposite happens. Your subconscious mind switches from the role of “overprotective parent”, attempting to talk you out of your goal to the role of “helpful parent” who is going to clear the path and make it easy to achieve success! Think of the difference between setting a “goal” to quit smoking and “promising” someone you love you’ll quit smoking. If you’ve set a “goal” to quit smoking, it’s of little consequence to anyone but yourself you failed to achieve this “goal.” However, if you have “promised” someone you love you were going to quit and then later resumed smoking, you’d be afraid or embarrassed to admit you failed to keep your promise to your loved one, wouldn’t you? Why? Failing to keep a promise leads to an emotional reaction of shame, embarrassment, or disappointment. Your subconscious mind avoids these feelings of failure or suffering at all costs because its job is to keep you from suffering any of those things. In fact, its sole purpose is self- preservation. This subconscious need for “self- survival” is exactly what forces it to helps you keep your promise like a “helpful parent”. The part of you feeling almost as if you’ll die if you don’t keep your word is comforted as you move towards keeping your promise. By changing the way you think about the process, you’ve just increased your likelihood of success by a huge margin. You’ll still have some work to do, but now you’re positioned for success. And most importantly we now you have an easy way get your subconscious work for you, not against you. If you are ready to change your goals into promises, take the first step by leaving a comment and making a public commitment to yourself – TODAY, first list a goal you have now and then change it into a promise





There’s a big myth in our culture: that passion can only be spontaneous. You either love your job or you don’t. You either enjoy exercising or hate it. You are Interested in reading books or you find them boring. That passion can’t be forced or created. I disagree. Passion can be created. Even for things you don’t currently enjoy. By tweaking the activities and pursuits you engage in, you can find a passion for anything. All it takes is a bit of patience and an open mind. The benefit is that you end up loving the things you have to do anyways. Exercising, learning, studying, working and almost any pursuit can be made into a passion.

And if you know how to do it, existing passions can be turned from mildly interesting to exciting. The skill of finding your passion is like turning up the dial for the amount of color you experience in life.


  1. Get Curious – Curiosity is the basis of passion. Shake off your current understandings and begin from the view that you are almost completely ignorant on the subject. Then look for novelty to boost your interest.
  2. Make it a Game – Give yourself rules, objectives and strategic constraints. The more creative thinking required, the better.
  3. Set a Goal – Create a specific goal along with a deadline. This can infuse mundane activities with a sense of direction and purpose. Writing a report goes from being just another task, to a creative challenge that pushes you.
  4. Express yourself – Find hidden opportunities for self-expression. This could mean inventing a style for folding clothes. Changing the format you write code in or altering the style of your presentation. View each activity as an act of expression and originality.
  5. Focus – Cut distractions and eliminate noise. The more you focus on an activity the better you can notice interesting qualities about it. The only truly boring activity is the one you can’t pay attention to.
  6. Jigsaw Piecing A jigsaw puzzle has hundreds of uniquely shaped pieces of a picture. View your activities as pieces of a larger Image. This can turn dull activities into individual snippets of a more fascinating whole.
  7. Dial Down Cravings – Have you ever noticed how the hungrier you are, the less able you are to enjoy the taste of food? This works the same way with passion. The more you crave a goal (instead of the process containing the goal) the less likely you are to develop a passion for it. Goal-setting is good. Goal-obsession is not.
  8. Connect with Talents – How can you apply your existing talents to an activity? Find ways to use skills you already have in a new endeavor. An artistic person could draw pictures to help himself study. An athletic person might be able to use her strength and endurance as a speaker.
  9. Overcome the Frustration Barrier If an activity is too difficult for you to become enthusiastic about it, slow down. Worry less about results and more about experimenting until you build up skill. Whenever I try a new hobby, I strive to just try things out before building skills. This keeps me from getting frustrated and ensures the process is fun.
  10. Leech Enthusiasm Energy is contagious. If you spend time with someone who exudes passion about a subject, some of it will rub off on you. Seek out people who have the energy you want and get them to describe their -motivation. Often it will point you to key information you had no idea could be so interesting.
  11. Remove the Chains – Feeling forced into an activity is a sure way to kill any passion. Instead of flowing with the task, you rebel against it, making you miserable.

Be aware of the consequences for not acting, but remove the feeling that you don’t have a choice. You always have a choice.

  1. Tune the Challenge – For boring tasks, make them more difficult. For frustrating tasks, make them easier. This can be done by varying the speed or constraints you need to complete a task. Boring chores can be made more interesting by setting a time-limit. Frustrating assignments can be made easier by allowing yourself an awful first-draft instead of perfection.
  2. Get instruction – Finding a teacher can give you the basic level of understanding necessary to enjoy an activity. Sometimes passion can be drained just by not knowing the basics.
  3. Humble confidence – Confidence is necessary for passion, but arrogance can destroy it. Build a humble confidence where you believe in your abilities to handle the unknown, but you also have a great respect for it.
  4. Focus Immediately – Look at the next immediate step. Don’t concern yourself over what needs to be done next month or next year if it overwhelms you. Focus on each step of the marathon, not how many miles you have left.
  5. Play – If the process confuses or bothers you, just play with it. Don’t have a purpose until you can define one.
  6. Eliminate – This one might not apply, but it is always good to use. If you really can’t enjoy something, find a way to eliminate it from your life. Don’t waste your time doing things you don’t enjoy.

Either cultivate a passion or get rid of it.

Fear fighter


Fear is a poor chisel to carve out your tomorrows. If u are looking at your future from a position of fear, I want to let u know that your view is inaccurate and distorted. It is never safe to look into the future with the eyes of fear. The worst liars in the world are our own are your own fear.

One of the gallant discoveries you can make to fight without fear