Tag Archives | traverse city bloggers

Use Keystone Habits to Launch a Lifelong Winning Streak

“You’ll never change anything in your life… until you change something you do daily.”
– John Maxwell, The 15 Invaluable Laws of Growth

Over the past few weeks, I’ve been exploring the transformational potential that simple, repeatable disciplines (or habits) can have on your personal brand — your ability to present the best possible version of yourself every day.

In 2012, NY Times columnist Charles Duhigg published an enormously popular book, The Power of Habit, in which he introduces a powerful tool: Keystone Habits.

A keystone habit is a behavior or routine that naturally pulls the rest of your life in line. I call it a ‘habit of disproportionate impact on your life.’ To identify a keystone habit, ask yourself: What is a consistent discipline I can develop that will make the rest of my life easier and more productive?

Image: Jordan McQueen via stocksnap.io

The Keystone Effect of Exercise

For me, exercise is a keystone habit. If I get to the gym, then it creates a ripple effect in other areas of my life. Not only do I get the benefits of working out, I focus better after the workout. I tend to eat better when I’m working out consistently. I sleep better at night and wake up with more energy in the morning.

Notice that I didn’t try to build better habits for my focus, my nutrition, my sleep, or my energy. I just practiced this one keystone habit (exercise) and those other areas were improved as well. This is why keystone habits are powerful. They cascade into other areas of your life!

If you recall from my earlier post, Roald Amundsen’s keystone habit was the 20 Mile March. What are yours?

For some people I know, it is drinking a large glass of water when they get up in the morning, alleviating dehydration from a night’s sleep and creating more energy and a stronger immune system. For others, it is prayer and meditation, or budgeting and spending quality time with their spouse.

Imagine how much easier and more fulfilling your life could be if you discovered one or two keystone habits that naturally put the rest of your life in place.
Personal development icon Earl Nightingale famously said, “An hour a day is all it takes; one hour of study in your field will put you at the top in three years, five years of learning and improvement will make you a nationally recognized expert and seven years makes you one of the very best.”

What would it mean to your life if you could identify and consistently practice one or two keystone habits? What is keeping you from starting? Leave me your comments — I’d love to get your feedback.

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Change Your Smile… Change Your Life

Recently, I came across a 2011 Ted Talk by Ron Gutman called The Hidden Impact of Smiling, he shares some fascinating research on this most basic human expression. Consider these findings:

  • A 30-year University of California study found that, by measuring the length of students’ smiles in a 1950’s high school yearbook, they could predict the duration of their marriages as well as how well they would score in standardized tests of happiness and self fulfillment.
  • A 2010 Wayne State University study of pre-1950’s Major League Baseball cards found that players who smiled in their photo lived an average of eight years longer than those who didn’t smile.
  • According to British researchers, smiling produces the same neurological stimulation as receiving up to $16 lbs sterling in cash. (approximately $25,000).
  • The simple act of smiling has been found to measurably reduce the amount of stress-producing hormones like cortisol and adrenaline while increasing brain-enhancing endorphins.

Last spring, in an article titled Smiling for Dollars in Dealer Magazine, automotive marketing expert Jim Boldebook described a study conducted by a psychology professor at a university in upstate New York involving three Albany, NY auto dealerships. The study focused exclusively on exploring what the professor termed the “smile factor” of sales consultants in influencing transactions. The results revealed that the sales consultants who smiled the most had a 20% higher conversion rate and 10% higher average gross profit per transaction than those who smiled the least.

While it’s self evident that smiling is associated with happiness and a greater sense of well being, this research goes much further; namely, that smiling more means living longer, having stronger relationships — even earning more income.

So how’s your “smile IQ?”

via MOMcircle

For example, of the sixteen-plus hours you spend awake every day, how much of that time do you spend smiling? When you approach a stranger walking down the street, do you wait for them to smile first before smiling back, or do you initiate the exchange of smiles? Does it matter?

If you believe even half of Gutman’s findings, it not only matters, it has life-changing potential.

Based on these surprising facts, what would it mean to the quality of your life if you smiled more frequently? Here’s a challenge: Change your smile… Change your life. Take ten minutes every day during the next week to intentionally focus on smiling, wherever you are — even if you’re alone (researchers have found that smiling enhances your mood). Then let me know how it goes!

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Five Podcasts That Will Up Your Game

As a lifelong student of self-improvement, I remember a statement by personal development icon Earl Nightingale that has always stuck with me.

“An hour a day is all it takes; one hour of study in your field will put you at the top in 3 years, 5 years of learning and improvement will make you a nationally recognized expert, and 7 years makes you one of the very best.”

While some may question the specifics of Nightingale’s formula, the point is that committing to a daily habit of intentional learning will, over time, produce profound results. One of Nightingale’s contemporaries, author Brian Tracy, puts it this way: “If you read just one book per month, that will put you into the top 1% of income earners in our society.”

I can hear your reaction: “I don’t have time to read.” When you consider all the time you spend driving, cooking, or working around your house every month, there are two great alternatives — audio books and podcasts.

For me, since I intentionally create time to read books, I use podcasts to supplement my learning and make great use of otherwise idle time. There are thousands to choose from on i-Tunes. And while I’ve discovered that many are glorified promotions for someone’s book or other products, there are also many excellent podcasts that will help you take your personal brand — your ability to present the best version of yourself every day — to another level. And they’re free!

Here are my current top five podcasts that will up your game, build your personal brand, and take your leadership to the next level:

 Photo: Jupiterimages

1) This is Your Life – Created by former book publishing CEO Michael Hyatt, this podcast is dedicated to intentional leadership. Michael’s goal is to help you live with more passion, work with greater focus, and lead with extraordinary influence.
2) Read to Lead Podcast – Each week, host Jeff Brown interviews what he calls some of the brightest minds of our generation — today’s top-selling nonfiction authors. Jeff is a former radio broadcaster who brings a high level of energy and insightful interviewing skills to this meaty podcast.
3) EntreLeadershipDave Ramsey leads lively discussions with tips on leadership from some of the best minds in business, sports, ministry, and entertainment.
4) Underground WellnessSean Croxton’s energetic weekly broadcast features the latest breakthrough research in nutrition, fitness, and enhancing your overall vitality, plus live interviews and caller questions.
5) Andy Stanley Leadership Podcast – Along with being one of the most recognized pastors in America, Andy Stanley is an author, communicator, and founder of North Point Ministries in Alpharetta, GA. His podcast delivers practical advice and breakthrough strategies to help leaders go further, faster.

If you are searching for ways to better use your time to grow and develop, try listening to podcasts. To download my recommendations and browse through thousands of others (like Amazon.com does for books, iTunes provides a list of other podcasts with similar themes and content for each podcast you search for), go to the iTunes Store and use the “search” bar. I’d love to know more about what you’re listening to and what you’re learning.

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A Complaint-Free World: One Man’s Mission

In one of my recent posts, I explored the life-changing potential of taking personal responsibility for everything that happens in your life.

Recently, I came across a similar story.

In 2006, a minister from Kansas City named Will Bowen laid out a simple challenge to people across the nation: Eliminate complaining from their lives for 21 days — the length of time it takes to make something a true habit.

His book, A Complaint Free World: How to Stop Complaining and Start Enjoying the Life You Always Wanted, got him featured on Oprah, The Today Show, Fox News and hundreds of other media outlets nationwide. He makes eight key points — both positive and negative about the impact of complaining.

  1. Complaining is about what you cannot have or get. Get over it.
  2. Avoid chronic complainers — the disease spreads.
  3. Patience is key: It takes 4-8 months to move from unconsciously incompetent to unconsciously competent.
  4. Complaining traps you in a constant state of “something is wrong.”
  5. Complaining is a form of manipulation; it pulls other people down.
  6. Instead of complaining, seek alternative language or be silent.
  7. Silence is mature self-possession.
  8. Commit to what you want and go after it without complaint when you encounter the inevitable obstacles.


Since the book, Bowen’s movement has persuaded more than 10 million people in over 100 countries to wear his purple bracelet symbolizing their commitment to go three straight weeks without uttering a single complaint. One of his many colorful quotes is:

“Complaining is like bad breath: You notice it when it comes out of somebody else’s mouth, but not your own.”

How would you respond to this challenge? Could you do it? Do you think you would have the self awareness, emotional control, sense of optimism and, at times, sheer willpower to eradicate complaining for 21 days? What would it mean to you — and to the quality of your life – -if you did?

Imagine… a complaint-free world! I’d love to get your feedback. You can reply by leaving a comment below.

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