Tag Archives | self development

5 Ways Reading Will Make You A Better Version of Yourself

Ever since I was a kid, I’ve been an avid reader. It started with magazines like Time and Sports Illustrated as a teenager, then evolved to include biographies, self-help, the Bible, business books and, occasionally, novels. As a self-described content addict–I even listen to podcasts while mowing the lawn–consistent reading has been an integral part of who I am. And among the many benefits, reading has helped me build my personal brand.

There are few life skills as important to personal development as reading. As author and business consultant Bill Zipp puts it…

Reading forces us to think. Really think. It compels us to consider different—sometimes radically different—perspectives. And reading provides us an inexhaustible resource of ideas and insight, wit and wisdom.

by Josh Felise | unsplash.com

If you’re looking to build your own personal brand, I believe that developing the habit of reading is indispensable. Here are 5 ways reading will propel you on your journey to becoming the best possible version of yourself:

1) Reading is linked to lifetime success.
According to a recent article in the Traverse City Record Eagle by the Education Trust-Midwest, the development of reading skills in elementary school children is vital to their development. “(It is) a predictor of everything from high school graduation and college success to long-term employment.” In other words, if you want your kids to succeed in life, helping them become avid readers is perhaps the single best thing you can instill in them.

2) Reading improves your Emotional Intelligence.
Defined as the ability to identify, understand, and harness your emotions to improve relationships, Emotional Intelligence, or EQ, is responsible for 58% of your success, according to research from TalentSmart. Biographies and novels help provide insights on human nature that, according to many CEO’s, has made them more empathetic and relational—two critical attributes of EQ. I can attest to that; in fact, in an earlier post, I shared how an article on Peyton Manning inspired me to start writing personal thank you notes to my employees, a leadership habit I’ve maintained for years.

3) Reading keeps your brain young and healthy.
Reading produces the same positive benefits to your brain that working out delivers to your body. According to a detailed study reported in Prevention, adults who engaged in reading and other creative or intellectual activities showed a 32 percent slower rate of cognitive decline later in life than those who did not. Another recent study found that older adults who regularly read or play mentally challenging games like chess or puzzles are two and a half times less likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease.

4) Reading increases your influence.
Ask any effective leader and chances are they will share how reading has leveraged virtually every other skill. I have found that my consistent reading habit has helped me develop my writing, speaking and facilitation skills, all of which are important tools of leadership.

5) Reading improves your vocabulary.
Researchers estimate that 5–15% of all the words we learn we learn from reading. If you want to positively influence others, using the right language to cast vision, set direction, and simplify complex issues is critical.

“That sounds great… but I just don’t have the time to read.”

This is the most common excuse whenever the issue of reading comes up. My response, as I share in one of my presentations, is:

Imagine if, on New Years’ Day, I handed you a stack of 16 books with a challenge to read all of them by the end of the year. Chances are, you would either laugh at me or tell me to get serious. But what if, on January 1st, you committed to reading just 15 pages a day, which, depending on the content, might take anywhere from 5 to 20 minutes. Allowing for two weeks off, by year end, you would have read 5,250 pages. And since the average book on Amazon.com is approximately 325 pages, you would have complete all 16 books and even started on a 17th book.

That’s the power of the Slight Edge–an excellent book on habits by Jeff Olson.

It also illustrates a parallel principle: the power of consistency. That is, consistent actions repeated daily. Before I learned this important insight, most of my reading happened on a plane, where I would cram in as much content as I could until the next time I traveled (which wasn’t very often). When I finally started to think in terms of small, incremental actions repeated consistently instead of occasional big moves toward my goals, my reading exploded. Today, I complete between 15 and 25 books a year–in the midst of a pretty busy schedule.

Consistency is one of the most overlooked forces not only in developing a reading habit, but in living the life you really want.

If you want to become the best version of yourself in 2017, reading is one of the surest paths to get there. It will help you develop important qualities that will have a disproportionate impact on every other area of your life.

Question: How many books did you read last year? What would it take for you to double your reading in 2017?

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Why Habits Trump Goals in Building your Personal Brand

In a previous post, I shared the story of Norwegian explorer Roald Amundsen’s epic 1912 victory over British rival Robert Falcon Scott in becoming the first to reach the South Pole. Amundsen’s disciplined travel plan, known as the 20 Mile March, was one of the key factors that separated him from Scott, who’s reliance on bold moves and creative bets led not only to defeat, but to his tragic death.

Scott’s approach is emblematic of our culture’s fixation on what author James Clear calls “the myth of quantum change,” which he describes as a cultural obsession with the overnight success, magic bullet, miracle cure, killer app, etc. We love to feed ourselves on stories of those who win millions in the lottery, lose 80 lbs in twelve weeks, or go from lounge singer to American Idol winner overnight.

Just like them, we want to earn more, do more, and be more right now. So in an effort to seize the moment, we set big goals in hopes of propelling ourselves towards our desired future.

The problem is, most of those big goals end up on the trash heap of self improvement. Consider these findings on New Years Resolutions from a 2014 Scranton University Study:
⋅ 40% of people abandon their resolutions before reaching the month of February.
⋅ The average person makes the same resolution ten times without success.

Since the biggest focus of New Year’s Resolutions is weight loss and health, consider this: Only 5 percent of those who lose weight on a diet keep it off—95% regain it, and a significant percentage gain back more.

The Problem with Goals

via pexels.com

Like the New Years Resolutions in the study, most goals are simply visions of some desired future outcome. And though there’s certainly nothing wrong with crafting a clear vision of a bright future, the problem is, we have little control over whether or not we achieve those outcomes. Imagine setting a goal to lose 20 lbs in six months, for example. When you really think about it, you have very little control over whether or not you will shed those pounds based upon envisioning the outcome–you really don’t.

But, by contrast, you have almost complete control over how often you go to the gym every week, how accurately you record everything you eat, or how much water you drink each day.

To be more accurate, the problem isn’t with the goals themselves, it’s the type of goals you set. I used to be a huge proponent of outcome-based S.M.A.R.T. Goals which stands for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Results-Focused and Time-Bound, but, through countless personal experiences as well as coaching others, I’ve discovered that activity-based goals–simple, repeatable disciplines consistently executed–have the greatest potential to produce real change.

The problem is, that takes time… something our ‘microwave, download-on-demand’ culture strongly resists. But consider these facts:

⋅ If you read 30-60 minutes a day in your chosen field, that translates into one book per week, resulting in over 50 books per year. In three years, that is 150 books in your area of focus – quickly allowing you to become an expert in your field and, according to self-development expert Brian Tracy, putting you in the top 1 percent of all earners in our society.
⋅ A 25-year old who invests $100 a month in a conservative Roth IRA will have accumulated over 1 million dollars by age 65.
⋅ Several years ago, author Nathan Barry, as an alternative to setting goals for his writing career, instead committed to the discipline of writing 1000 words a day (light work for a writer). By the end of the year, he had enough content to publish two books, earning him over $300,000 in profits.

These are impressive facts, yet how many people do you know make and keep commitments like these? Despite our obsession with lofty goals, massive gains and big wins, it is our habits–repeatable daily disciplines compounded over time–that produce the most significant results in our lives.

Your assignment: Think of one habit you could develop that, if consistently committed to for a significant amount of time, would dramatically impact your life in 2017? What would it mean to the quality of your life in three years, five years, ten years? What is keeping you from starting?

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Make Your Future Bigger Than Your Past

In one of my earlier posts, I discussed the differences between what author and Stanford professor Carolyn Dweck describes as a fixed mindset verses a growth mindset.

In a fixed mindset, people believe that talent and intelligence are fixed traits. They spend their time documenting and defending their brains and talent instead of developing them, creating an urgency to prove themselves over and over. By contrast, in a growth mindset, people believe that their most basic abilities can be developed through dedication and hard work. Seeing themselves as a work in progress, growth mindset people tend to embrace feedback and accept failure as a learning opportunity.

Regardless of our mindset, I believe most people want to grow because growth is at the core of everything in our lives that gives us a feeling of satisfaction, accomplishment, and purpose.

What does “personal growth” mean? How do you define it? If you asked even the most successful people, few could provide a clear, cogent response.

Here are some great descriptions, gathered from some of my favorite authors. Which one of these resonates the most with you?

“Growth is a result of bad habits dropped, wrong priorities changed, and new ways of thinking embraced.” (John Maxwell)

“People who grow consistently are those who embrace the tension between where they are and where they ought to be.” (John Gardiner)

“You will never change anything in your life unless you change something you do daily.” (John Maxwell)

“In order to do more, I’ve got to be more.” (Jim Rohn)

“When your memories exceed your dreams, you’ve stopped growing.” (Andy Stanley)

And finally, here’s my favorite description, from author, business strategist and entrepreneur coach Dan Sullivan:

“Growth is always striving to make your future bigger than your past.”

look to the future | rangga aditya armien via stocksnap.io

I love this simple but compelling description. Think about what it means to “make your future bigger than your past.” It’s simple, but not always easy, especially as you grow older. Yet consider the implications of continuously enlarging your future. When you commit yourself to a lifestyle of making your future bigger than your past:

You’re living intentionally. That is, you’re constantly in pursuit of something bigger, better, and more purposeful.
You’re adding value–to yourself, and, more importantly, to others.
Your focus is forward, not neutral or backward.
You are often at the edge of your comfort zone, which is where life really happens.
You engage your imagination. You think BIG.
You’re not afraid to fail.
You are continuously challenged.

If these ideas arouse your interest in pursuing personal growth, I urge you to read Dan Sullivan‘s classic, The Laws of Lifetime Growth: Always Make Your Future Bigger Than Your Past. Each of the ten laws described in this insightful book are like mirrors you can use to reflect your behavior so you can see if it’s supporting or undermining your growth.

While no one wants to reach the end of their lives and experience regret, the truth is, many will. That’s why developing the daily habit of pursuing intentional growth–making your future bigger than your past–is the key to a productive, legacy-producing life.

Question: What is one thing you could start doing today that could make your future bigger than your past?

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Leadership, Money & Happiness

This week, I’m sharing a post from my friend Bill Auxier, Ph.D. Bill helps leaders develop and understand their personal definition of leadership for greater personal and organizational success by utilizing what he has learned about leadership real world combined with what he has learned about leadership in the academic world. He’s a contributing author to the Wall Street Journal bestseller, Masters of Success, founder of the Dynamic Leadership Academy™ and author of his award winning, best-selling book, To Lead, Follow.

via Bill Auxier | http://billauxier.com/

We’ve all heard the expression that money can’t buy your love. I have a different take on that expression; money can’t buy you love, but neither can poverty. I always thought that regardless of whether I was happy or sad, it was better to have a few of the comforts that money can provide.

I have witnessed first-hand individuals moving up the ladder, achieving higher and higher leadership roles. Along with that came pay raises, therefor, more money. While not everyone is this way, I have seen some try to use that money to bring them happiness. One individual confided in me, right after he purchased a very expensive sports car, he thought it was pretty cool the first week or two, but in less than a month he was thinking about how he had wasted his money. The car wasn’t making him happy.

Daniel Gilbert, Ph.D., a Harvard psychology professor and author of numerous books, wrote a paper published in the Journal of Consumer Psychology where he claims that if money isn’t making you happy, you’re not spending it right. “Money is an opportunity for happiness, but it is an opportunity that people routinely squander because the things they think will make them happy often don’t.” The study concluded that there are ways money can be used to boost well-being and life satisfaction. First, money is best spent on experiences instead of material things. Second, those who spend money on others experience greater happiness then spending on themselves. Finally, spending money on numerous small pleasures increases happiness more than splurging on a few large ones.

Money can’t buy you love, but neither can poverty. Money can boost happiness if used in a happiness boosting way. This is important for leaders to know for themselves, but even more importantly, how they can pass this lesson along to others so they can buy a happiness boost instead of squandering their money AND their happiness.

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