When You Visualize Success, You Can Achieve Success

Photo by Fortune Live Media

Photo by Fortune Live Media

[Excerpts from this post are taken from Larry’s book, Beyond Peace In Christian Finances: Accelerating Past Average With Your Money Plan]

Sara Blakley and Spanx

Sara Blakely may not be a familiar name in the average American home. Some of the products she has created for women, though, would be recognized through her company called Spanx. As a young woman, Sara pursued several different business opportunities that were not working out for her. Before starting her own company, she was selling fax machines door to door. Sara recalls that this time in her career was a great learning experience for her. She learned how to handle rejection through hearing lots of “no’s.” She also learned how to get to a “yes” as well. The art of the sale was a valuable lesson she learned as she finally launched her own company. She also learned another valuable lesson—visualizing becoming successful.

Photo by Mike Mozart

Photo by Mike Mozart

Blakey says she could see her business succeeding from the beginning. She visualized herself being the successful owner of Spanx. Blakely says, “I believe you can take mental snapshots of your future and what success looks like to you. If you mentally see yourself in a scenario, you’ll start to make decisions in your life that get you there.”

Sara Blakely thinks differently than most people. As a result, Forbes Magazine has recognized her as the youngest self-made female billionaire in the world.

Wealthy People Think Differently

Wealthy people think differently at many different levels. I’m not talking about the NBA basketball player who has the $10 million crib with ten expensive cars parked out front, either. One could make the argument that many professional sports athletes handle their money like poor people who have won the lottery. But, I digress.

Photo by Emma Lopez

Photo by Emma Lopez

When I mention wealthy people, I’m talking about people who have learned to generate income through the purchase of assets and not liabilities. This is the classic Robert Kiyosaki definition that he outlines in his book Rich Dad, Poor Dad. The world has too many people running around today who appear wealthy. If one dug down into their finances, though, they would find they are actually quite poor. They have too many liabilities and not enough assets that generate income for their families.

Wealthy People Ask Questions

Rich thinking doesn’t mean driving a hoopty and living in a double-wide trailer while being the rental house king in our respective city with thousands of dollars in savings and investments. But before signing up for a book of payments on a $40,000 SUV or buying a $750,000 mortgage for the most expensive house in a great neighborhood, many questions should be asked. Wealthy people ask themselves money questions, such as:

  • Am I buying assets or liabilities?
  • Is this the best use of my money right now?
  • Is there a better place or better opportunity to leverage my money?
  • Do I need this particular item right now?
  • Is this a true need or a want?
  • What is the wisest thing I could do with this money, today?

For the Christian who is attempting to live according to these principles, this adds another layer of spiritual thinking. Additional questions could include:

  • Would God be pleased with this purchase? Why or why not?
  • Will this purchase impact my level of giving in the future?
  • Have I prayed about this purchase, or am I engaged in a worldly mindset?
  • Is this the absolute best use of God’s money?
  • If I make this purchase, would God be able to say to me, “Well done thou good and faithful servant”? Why or why not?

There are several key differences between the rich and poor concerning financial thinking. Wealthy people process money information, ask themselves a lot of questions, and seek the wise counsel of others they trust. Poor people follow the poor money habits of the majority of people around them. The poor make emotional purchases based on popular opinion and feelings instead of an overriding financial plan.

The information shared in this post can be found in Larry’s book in the Amazon Kindle store: Beyond Peace In Christian Finances: Accelerating Past Average With Your Money Plan

According to Dilbert Cartoonist Scott Adams, Morning Habits Are A Key To Financial Abundance

Photo by David Kelly

Photo by David Kelly

[The information shared in this post can be found in Larry’s book in the Amazon Kindle store: Beyond Peace In Christian Finances: Accelerating Past Average With Your Money Plan.]

Dilbert Cartoonist Scott Adams Has Morning Habits

Scott Adams is the creative cartoonist who came up with the “Dilbert” comic strip. He has done many interviews with online magazines and podcasts about his own unique morning routines.

Several years ago, Mr. Adams created a morning routine in which he could manifest his best, most creative work in the early morning hours. Now, he is the first to admit that he isn’t always creative during this time. He structures his morning schedule in such a way, though, to allow himself to get into a creative state if possible. Adams says, “Creativity is not something you can summon on command. The best you can do is set an attractive trap and wait. My mornings are the trap. I wait for the ideas to arrive at their leisure, like a hunter in a duck blind. And in order for the trap to work, I exercise tight control over my physical environment.”

Scott wakes up early each day, anywhere between 3:30 and 5:00 a.m. His first twenty minutes of the day are always the same. He makes it to his home office desk within ten minutes of waking up. He then sits down, eats a protein bar, and drinks a cup of coffee to be energized for the morning.

After eating, he then “primes the creative pump” with positive news. His favorite news source is Business Insider. He claims they have a good mix of business and technology, which is the perfect fit for the “Dilbert” comic strip.

He says that four hours of creative time each morning flies by. He hardly notices the clock, and by 10:00 a.m. he states that he has written “two ‘Dilbert’ comics, a blog post, a few experimental comics posted on Twitter, four clever tweets, a ‘Dilbert’ movie scene, and an email about a new idea for my startup team at CalendarTree.com.

By late morning, Adams finds he has spent his creative energies. As he approaches lunchtime, he prepares to go workout at the gym. He will repeat the same routine the next day.

Photo by Dennis Amith

Photo by Dennis Amith

Do The “Big Rocks” First!

In Stephen Covey’s classic book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, Covey gives us the well-known illustration of the glass jar. In this example, you take a large clear container and attempt to fit water, sand, pebbles, rocks, and then several large rocks. In this visual illustration, Covey demonstrates that in order for everything to fit in the jar, it must be put in the jar in descending order: large rocks first, followed by smaller rocks, then pebbles, sand, and water. This illustration is a visual representation of our daily schedules. In order to accomplish the “big rocks” in life (in Covey terminology, the important but not urgent), important items must be scheduled first before all the smaller stuff crowds them out.

In the life of Scott Adams, we see the “big rocks” principle at work. Adams knows exactly what he needs to do in his creative work life to be successful and generate the income he needs to accomplish his goals. He has engineered his entire morning routine to complete all those important tasks before anything else gets done in his day.

Life Circumstances Created My Own Morning Habits

A few years ago, I went through a process of establishing a regular morning routine. My routine came about as a result of going through one of the absolute worst experiences in my entire life.

Professional counselors have ranked divorce as the second most stressful life event. According to the Holmes-Rahe Stress Inventory it carries a stress level of 73 out of 100. I can testify from personal experience that this statistic is true.

During this challenging time in my life, I dove deep into an early morning routine just to keep my sanity! I would usually wake up around 5:00 am and spend some time reading through my Bible. Then, I would spend time on my knees in prayer, asking God to bring healing to an impossible situation. After that, I would spend time writing a couple of pages in a journal about my problems and personal journey. I would wrap up my morning routine with writing blog posts on my first Christian personal finance blog.

My own experience with establishing a solid morning routine for the last seven years has been nothing but positive. I am more productive and focused in every area of my life, including the spiritual, emotional, physical, relational, and financial. By setting aside time in the early morning hours, I am also working on my major life goals with intentionality and consistency.

I believe practicing these morning habits on a consistent, daily basis over time will produce amazing results in all areas of life. I can testify that these routines are just as critical to financial success as a well-diversified retirement portfolio.

Having a solid, purposeful morning routine will propel a person on a path to successful living that translates to every area of life.

[The information shared in this post can be found Larry’s book in the Amazon Kindle store: Beyond Peace In Christian Finances: Accelerating Past Average With Your Money Plan.]

How To Deal With An Inescapible Role That You Don’t Really Want To Fill

Photo by Chuck Olsen

Photo by Chuck Olsen

Funeral Minister For A Day

He’s dead?

There’s no way that could have happened. He’s still relatively young!

These are the thoughts I had a few weeks ago when I learned that one of my former church orchestra members had past away in his sleep.

My friend had moved out-of-state a few years ago for a new job position, so I hadn’t seen him in quite some time. As the news sunk in and became reality for me, I thought about my friend and our relationship. I reflected back on my memories with him.

I was under the assumption that his funeral would be out-of-state where he currently lived, but then, the phone call came. His wife asked me to officiate his funeral here in town. They were shipping his body back in order to do a local funeral for all the family members. She told me that he would want me to officiate his service.

Deep down, I knew she was right.

[Gulp]

What do you say to a request such as that? A request way outside of your comfort zone.

Honestly, I’m not a huge fan of attending funerals, let alone officiating one for someone I know.

I’m Not Qualified

I have officiated several weddings, but only one funeral. That one funeral was relatively “easy” to officiate because I didn’t personally know the person who had passed away. I had no emotional connection.

But, with my friend, I did have an emotional connection. I knew this was going to be difficult for me to do.

So, how do you deal with a challenging, uncomfortable role such as this that you really don’t feel capable of fulfilling?

6 Thoughts On Filling A Role You Really Don’t Want To Fill

Here was my approach to filling this role that I was asked to do:

  1. Acknowledge the need. The family needed an officiant for the funeral. It would need to be me or another minister. Deep down, I knew my friend’s wife was right. I couldn’t argue with her. I knew that my friend would want me to officiate his service. I had to accept this role, even though it was going to be extremely uncomfortable and emotional for me.
  2. Be confident in whatever experience you do have to help you. The biggest argument I had against doing this service was lack of experience. I had only preached one other funeral several years ago. But how do you gain experience preaching funerals? There’s only one way, by preaching funerals. Yes, I do have public speaking experience. Yes, I have script writing experience. Putting together a funeral script and preaching that script may be challenging for me, but I know that I have enough experience to do this. Be confident in the abilities God has given you.
  3. Seek advice. As soon as I knew I was going to need to prepare this funeral service, I started emailing a couple of other pastors I know for advice. They gave me some great ideas, and I was off and running in getting the funeral script and service put together.
  4. Prepare heavily. I spent quite a bit of time writing and re-writing the funeral script. Then, I spent additional time reading through and practicing the script. I visualized myself standing before the family and his friends as I delivered the various elements of the service.
  5. Pray for strength. When I was in the car driving to the funeral that morning, I spent quite a bit of time praying to the Lord for supernatural strength. He provided exactly what I needed, when I needed it!
  6. Be Authentic. I’m an emotional guy. I’ve been this way since I was a small boy. I probably could have done a better job fighting back the tears as I preached my friend’s funeral, but I allowed myself to feel the emotions of losing him. I was really in tune with the words that were coming out of my mouth. I wept occasionally as I spoke. I was overcome with emotions. In many ways, I felt like a failure as a funeral minister, but I had several friends and family members approach me after the funeral saying what a wonderful job I did. People appreciate authenticity over “having your act together.” Isn’t it strange how that works?

Questions: Have you ever had to assume a role that you really didn’t want to do? Do you agree or disagree with my approach? What was your approach?

5 Ways to Achieve Critical Mass Momentum Like The Kansas City Royals

Photo by Keith Allison

Photo by Keith Allison

Momentum.

It’s one of those aspects of life that is very difficult to quantify.

When an individual or an organization achieves momentum, how in the world are they able to accomplish that?

At the time of my writing this article, my hometown baseball team the 2014 Kansas City Royals have been able to achieve somewhat of a miracle for their franchise. For the first time in 29 years, the Royals have finally been able to make postseason play. The last time they made the playoffs was the year they won the championship in 1985.

The Royals were off to a great start at the beginning of this season but lost their way in June and July when they fell 8 games behind the Detroit Tigers. But since July 22, the Royals have been on a 41-23 tear that landed them a spot in the American League Wildcard game with the Oakland A’s. And now, the rest is history, at least up to the point of my writing this on October 8. The Royals have won their last four postseason games in a row.

So how has a wildcard team, a come from behind team such as the Royals, been able to accomplish great things over the last few months? Simply put, they are riding a tremendous wave of momentum.

But how did this momentum happen? How have the Royals been able to manufacture momentum while other perhaps “better” teams have not been equally successful?

Here are my thoughts on how some teams are able to achieve momentum while others are not.

5 Ways The Royals Have Achieved Momentum

  1. They posses team unity. A few days ago, I was watching the ALDS series with the Royals and Angels, and one of the commentators mentioned that what made the Royals unique was the fact that this ball club is not a collection of superstar players like other teams. The Royals seem to be able to check their egos at the door and do whatever they need to do for their team to win. Sometimes superstar players have a way of making decisions that benefit themselves and not necessarily the team. If you want momentum, focus on the team and less on yourself.
  2. They are focused on their strengths: speed, defense, pitching, and bullpen. These are the core strengths of the KC Royals. They are not big home run hitters. Most of their games have low scores because they are not the best offensive players. But, they also understand if they excel in their strengths, they don’t necessarily need a lot of runs to win ball games.
  3. They are working hard. Left fielder Alex Gordon is somewhat of a legend for his passion, desire, and work ethic. It is well-known that Gordon often arrives to the ballpark before even the coaching staff gets there. He has “heart and hustle” and helps the team every way he possibly can.
  4. They benefited from excellent timing. Many times, momentum builds completely on the “luck” of good timing as has happened with the Royals. But who knows. Perhaps the timing has been right because the team has put in the hard work and focused on their strengths? Maybe it’s more than just “luck.”
  5. They are having fun! You can tell the Royals are really enjoying this season. Royals outfielder Lorenzo Cain recently said, “We’re going to enjoy it, going to have a blast, and hopefully we can just celebrate like this. This is awesome.”

Questions: Have you ever been part of a team that experienced a tremendous surge of momentum? What would you attribute that surge to? Are you a Royals fan? Am I missing any other big reasons why the Royals have done well this season?

Feel free to leave a blog comment for me and join the conversation.

3 Career Course Corrections To Propel You Farther, Faster In The Information Age

Photo by Don Urban

Photo by Don Urban

Turning Back The Clock

If you had a time machine, what would you do with it?

Would you go back to see historical events in real-time? Would you go back to see what your parents or grandparents were like as children? Would you rush ahead to the future to see what life is like in 25 years?

For some unknown reason, I was contemplating this question the other day. I believe I know exactly what I would do with a time machine.

I would attempt to go back to when I was 18 years old and explain to my younger self what the world is like in the future. I would also give myself a better, faster, more elegant path to achieve career success.

I would be my own best mentor. I would give myself the following advice.

The information age is dominated by people who have a specific skill set and connections. To me, these are the folks who seem to be the most successful in their careers. They dare to do the things that other people dislike to do.

I’m talking about people such as Michael Hyatt, Tim Ferriss, Pat Flynn, Dave Ramsey, and the late Steve Jobs.

And, what do all these people have in common? They are creative. They are excellent communicators. They are skilled at writing blog posts and influential books. They are podcasters (or traditional radio personalities). They produce popular YouTube videos. They are dynamic public speakers. They have developed important mentor and industry relationships that have propelled them farther, faster.

These leaders have embraced the key aspects of being successful in the information age and have been highly rewarded for it.

A Change In College Focus

Now that I’m in mid-life looking back at my college experience and present calling, if I could back up and do it all over again, I believe I would take a different path that would have perhaps gotten me where I now want to go, faster.

You see, when I originally attended college in the late 80s and early to mid-90s, I went a very specialized route – music performance and education.

With this specialized knowledge and experience, I believe I have been relatively successful and enjoy what I have the opportunity to do each week. I’m grateful for God’s blessing in my life in this area. I know other musicians and creative-types who have gone the music school route and have struggled to make a living at what they do.

Observing our current culture and the direction it’s heading, though, I would make the following course corrections if I could go back in time. If I were to mentor a younger person now, these are the areas I would encourage them to pursue for (potentially) greater and faster career success.

3 Course Corrections For Future Career Growth

  1. Personal Relationships: This is a key area of life I wish I was better in. If I could go back and do it all over again, I would definitely be way more proactive in seeking out mentoring relationships with people who are successful in these critical career areas.
  2. Writing Skills: I would spend more time studying the skill of writing and spend more of my available free time developing this critical skill. I would start a personal blog as early as possible. I would attempt writing books at an earlier age as well.
  3. Presentation Skills: I would have joined a Toastmasters Club at an earlier age, maybe take acting classes, worked on video presentations, and read more books on the craft of public speaking.

Why These Areas?

So, why would I even want to go back and tackle these specific areas?

Partly due to the fact that these are the areas people claim they hate and are frightened to pursue.

I always hear statements from various people like, “well, Larry, I’m not really a writer and don’t enjoy it at all.” I also hear statements such as “I always get so nervous standing before a group and giving presentations. I hate public speaking.”

All I can say from personal experience is that I have had similar thoughts to these as well. But, I have found that the more I attempt to do these uncomfortable skills, the more I seek out information and training on how to do a better job, the better and the more comfortable I get.

Isn’t it amazing how that works?

The big picture, though, is once you are able to get comfortable in these areas, the more of a connection you are able to make with people, and the greater the contribution you are able to have in people’s lives. This should be the ultimate payoff for us, anyway – connection and contribution.

Questions: What do you think of these three specific areas for greater, faster career success? Agree or disagree? Have you found yourself backing up and working on these areas to move forward in your career like I have?

Do You Have A Messed Up Life? How To Influence People’s Lives By Sharing Yours

Photo by Alan Levine

Photo by Alan Levine

I Was One Messed Up Trumpet Player

In the late 1980s, I was an undergraduate trumpet student at a prestigious music conservatory. My trumpet teacher at this school is a well-known principal trumpet of a major symphony orchestra. He is a very natural, incredible musician. In his trumpet career, he has never really encountered any personal playing problems.

I, however, have always struggled with a couple of different playing technique-related issues. My teacher at the music conservatory had no idea how to help me. At the time, he just didn’t have enough teaching experience to help me correct my trumpet playing problems. We struggled through two semesters in my sophomore year and nothing was helping. As a matter of fact, I was actually getting worse with each passing lesson.

After two difficult years in music school, I ended up dropping out defeated and discouraged. I ended up moving back home with my parents, applied at a local university, and changed my major to electrical engineering. I was done with music, altogether.

But then, I connected with a couple of different trumpet teachers who understood my playing problems and were able to help me tremendously. Because of their own personal playing problems, they brought a wealth of experience and knowledge into my trumpet lessons. As a result, I was able to move forward and be successful in my music career. To this day, I owe them a debt of gratitude and appreciation for their help in getting me back on track as a musician. I seriously doubt I would have enjoyed the life of an electrical engineer!

The more problems you have experienced and the more mistakes you have learned from actually makes you WAY MORE qualified to help others.

Experience Is Pure Gold

Interestingly enough, those of us in our 40s who have experienced some pretty horrific failures have the tendency to think we may have disqualified ourselves from being able to help others. We have this messed up view that we have to be “perfect” in order to dispense advice to others.

Believe it or not, the opposite is true.

The lessons learned from your own personal experience make you uniquely qualified to share and help others going through similar circumstances.

Sharing Is Caring

When you care, you share.

And, if you’re over 40, then chances are you have built up a wealth of valuable knowledge and experience.

By this stage in life, you have probably had several failures and a few successes. You generally have a firmer grasp on life than those who are younger than you. For the most part, you have entered life’s “sweet spot.” You have learned from your mistakes and are typically making better choices in your mid-life journey.

There are many younger people in the generations directly behind you who could learn a lot from your experience.

Why not grab some of the younger people in your sphere of influence, especially the ones who are really struggling right now, and take them out to lunch. Listen to their stories and share yours.

Maybe, just maybe, you can help someone in a generation behind you that nobody else can reach.

Question: What life experiences do you carry around inside of you that could possibly benefit others?






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How To Enjoy Life And Make A Greater Contribution In The Lives Of Others

Photo by John Catbagan

Photo by John Catbagan

The Starfish Story

This story has been around for some time. Perhaps you’ve heard it before? In any case, I believe this story sets up this post well.

Strolling along the edge of the sea, a man catches sight of a young woman who appears to be engaged in a ritual dance. She stoops down, then straightens to her full height, casting her arm out in an arc. Drawing closer, he sees that the beach around her is littered with starfish, and she is throwing them one by one into the sea. He lightly mocks her: “There are stranded starfish as far as the eye can see, for miles up the beach. What difference can saving a few of them possibly make?” Smiling, she bends down and once more tosses a starfish out over the water, saying serenely, “It certainly makes a difference to this one.”

The Impact Of A Book

Have you ever read a book, seen a TV interview, or perhaps watched an online video that causes you to have one of those “AHA” moments? You know, when a light bulb goes off in your mind and you feel like a major shift in your thinking has taken place?

This happened for me about 7-8 months ago, when I watched a Youtube video of an orchestra conductor named Ben Zander and then read his book “The Art of Possibility.” You can read my book review on “The Art of Possibility” here.

In several chapters of his book, Ben discusses some of his challenges of being a conductor of a volunteer orchestra. As I continued to read through the book, I kept having these “Aha” moments of realization and learning.

For a large portion of his life, Ben Zander struggled with the drive to be to be successful as well as a fear of failure. He claims that this struggle caused both himself and those around him considerable suffering. The greater his success as an orchestra conductor, the worse this tension became in his life.

The tipping point for Ben came when his second wife walked away from their marriage. He began re-thinking how he was “doing life.”

He came away with the realization that he was living a life of selfishness. He was more inward focused on his own success. When being inward focused, he had more of an attitude that there was always another orchestra – aside from the one he was currently conducting – that he suspected would bring him more success, and so he was never fully present when he was on the conductor’s podium.

When he began playing the game of contribution, on the other hand, he found there was no better orchestra than the one I was conducting, no better person to be with than the one he was with; in fact, there was no “better.” In the game of contribution you wake up each day and bask in the notion that you can be a contribution to the lives of others.

A Shift Takes Place In My Thinking

This personally hit home with me about my own relationships within my family, as well as the volunteer orchestra I direct each week. I started asking myself questions about whether I was more interested in achieving success in my family or ministry, or am I truly more interested in living a life of contribution. This subtle but important shift in my mindset has (I believe) created a more enjoyable experience for those that I love and lead.

For example with the orchestra at church, in the past, I would get frustrated or upset with various problems such as excessive absenteeism for orchestra rehearsals on Wednesday nights as well as worship services on Sundays. My mindset before was too focused on having a successful orchestra and the roadblocks (in my mind) that my volunteer members were causing me to be a successful director.

Once I made this shift in my thinking, though, I started focusing on the orchestra members who decided to be present for a particular Wednesday rehearsal or Sunday worship service. I began realizing I could and should be a contribution in their lives spiritually, musically, and personally.

And you know what has happened? I’m enjoying my life and ministry a whole lot more by living a life focused on contribution rather than success versus failure. And, I hope those around me are enjoying life at a deeper level as well.

The Generous Life

Playing the game of contribution should really be of no surprise to those of us who are believers in Christ. The Bible has much to say about living a life of generosity versus selfishness.

In Proverbs 11:24-25 (MSG) we read these words:

The world of the generous gets larger and larger;
the world of the stingy gets smaller and smaller.

The one who blesses others is abundantly blessed;
those who help others are helped.

Throw yourself into life as someone who makes a difference, accepting that you may not understand how or why. Just like our starfish story at the beginning, don’t get overwhelmed and give up because you can’t help everyone. Focus on being a contribution to the few that you can be.

Questions: Are you living a tension-filled life based on a drive for success and a fear of failure? Is your life enjoyable or full misery? Do you need to consider a shift in mindset from success versus failure over to contribution?






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Book Review | The Art of Possibility by Ben and Rosamund Zander

The Art of Possibility BookDiscovering A Book Through A TED Talk

The information within books has the potential power to completely and radically transform your life.

Over the last few years, I can count a handful of books that made a deep impression that has changed my thinking and ultimately my life in amazing, powerful ways.

The Art of Possibility by Benjamin and Rosamund Zander (note: this is a husband and wife duo) is my latest addition to this list of life-changing books.

I actually discovered Benjamin Zander through his amazing TED video (you have to watch this), visited his personal website, and then ordered his book through the Kindle store on Amazon. Money wisely spent!

Benjamin Zander’s biography reads:

Benjamin Zander is the conductor of The Boston Philharmonic Orchestra and a guest conductor around the world. With London’s famed Philharmonia Orchestra, he is recording the complete cycle of Mahler symphonies for Telarc, recordings which have been received with extraordinary critical acclaim and several awards. Their latest recording of Bruckner’s 5th Symphony was nominated for a 2010 Grammy, and has received critical acclaim both for the performance and Zander’s now famous full-length disc explaining the music for the lay listener. They recorded their next release, Mahler’s 2nd Symphony, in January 2012 and it is scheduled for release later this year.

In 1967, Mr. Zander joined the faculty at New England Conservatory, where he taught an interpretation class, conducted the Youth Philharmonic Orchestra, and conducted the conservatory orchestras. For the past 28 years, he was the Artistic Director of the joint program between New England Conservatory’s Preparatory School and The Walnut Hill School for the Performing Arts in Natick, Massachusetts.

Mr. Zander is one of the most sought after speakers in the world. He gave the opening Keynote address at the World Economic Forum in Davos, where on another occasion he was awarded the Crystal award for “outstanding contributions in the Arts and international relations. In 2002 he was awarded the “Caring Citizen of the Humanities” Award by the International Council for Caring Communities at the United Nations. In honor of his 70th birthday, and 44 years of teaching, he was recently awarded an Honorary Doctorate by the New England Conservatory.

His partner Rosamund Zander and he have collaborated on a best-selling book, “The Art of Possibility” which has been translated into fifteen languages.

Yes, this book has a lot to do with music, orchestras, and conducting.

But, it goes way beyond that. I view this book more as a roadmap to be a successful leader and to live out a life of transformation. Whether you’re a musician or not, you need to read this book. It will turn your life upside down, inside out. The ideas that Ben and Rosamund present here will cause you to rethink your approach to life and relationships.

[PLEASE NOTE: this is not a “Christian,” sanitized book. There is some adult language and themes here and there (especially under Chapter 6: Rule Number 6 and Chapter 7: The Way Things Are). I don’t support or condone the language or subject matter, but I do agree with the primary principles presented here. If you choose to read this book, you will need to keep this mind. You have been warned.]

My 6 Takeaways From The Book The Art Of Possibility

After reading The Art of Possibility, I came away with six actionable concepts that I have already started applying to my life. I’m seeing amazing things happen in my life as a result.

  1. It’s all invented (p. 12). The interpretations of the world vary from person to person, depending on our culture, environment, and upbringing. We all tend to become rigidly attached to certain ways of thinking and specific ways of viewing the world. The Zanders have concluded that “It’s all invented anyway, so we might as well invent a story or a framework that enhances our quality of life and the life of those around us.”
  2. Orient your life toward abundance (p. 21). It is very easy for any of us to slip into a poverty or scarcity mindset, thinking that we don’t have enough money or resources to accomplish what we would like. The Zanders encourage us with these words, “you are more likely to extend your business and have a fulfilled life if you have the attitude that there are always new customers out there waiting to be enrolled rather than that money, customers, and ideas are in short supply … resources are more likely to come to you in greater abundance when you are generous and inclusive and engage people in your passion for life. There aren’t any guarantees, of course. When you are oriented to abundance, you care less about being in control, and take more risks.”
  3. Radiate possibility to everyone around you (p. 65). When the people you lead are not everything you envision them to be, who do you blame? Do you blame them, or do you blame yourself? Ben Zander puts forth the question for all of us who are leading others, “Who am I being that they are not shining?” (p. 74). The only person we can truly blame is ourself. We are the leader who is radiating possibility to others. So how do we effectively radiate this universe of possibility? The Zanders believe that “Purpose, commitment, and vision are distinctions that radiate possibility” (p. 179).
  4. Give people an “A” (p. 26, 39). Too many times, we judge people with very little information. If we feel like they have done us wrong one too many times, we put these people on our “naughty” list. The Zanders challenge us to give the grade of an “A” to “anyone in any walk of life – to a waitress, to your employer, to your mother-in-law, to the members of the opposite team … When you give an A, you find yourself speaking to people not from a place of measuring how they stack up against your standards, but from a place of respect that gives them room to realize themselves … This A is not an expectation to live up to, but a possibility to live into.”
  5. Lead from the second chair (p. 41). There is a disease that infects many music ensembles. This problem is sometimes called “second fiddle-itis.” The problem occurs when people perceive their role in a group to be of little significance (second violins for example), mostly due to the fact that many people are duplicating the same part. This is not true of other key positions within an orchestra, such as the primary brass and woodwind roles. They act more as soloists. But, this in no way diminishes the role and importance of the “second part.” Ben Zander tells us the story of Robert Koff, the founding second violinst of the Julliard String Quartet: “I came away convinced that the real leader of the string quartet is the second violin. Not because Koff dominated the rest of us, but because in his part he had all the inner rhythms and harmonies, and he gave them such clarity and authority that we were all tremendously influenced by his playing. He was leading us from the ‘seconds.’”
  6. Rule Number 6: don’t take yourself so seriously! (p. 79-80). The practice of Rule Number 6 is to lighten up, which may lighten up those around us. We can utilize the power of humor to defuse tense and awkward situations. All of us take ourselves way too seriously at certain times and under specific circumstances. When you find yourself getting way too serious and stressed out, just remember Rule Number 6 and observe what happens!

Questions: Have you ever read The Art of Possibility? If so, what were your own takeaways from this amazing book?






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Focus On The Line Of Your Life, Not The Dots

Photo by robinparmar

Photo by robinparmar

Inspired Musical Performance

As a musician, it’s easy for me and other music-types to get hung-up on technique. We try really hard to play the right notes at the right time at the right pitch. We think we have achieved success if we can nail that musical trifecta and then stick the landing!

While technique is vitally important to achieving a successful music performance, we’re definitely missing the boat as musicians if that’s our only concern. The purpose of performing any piece of music is to communicate the intended interpretation of the composer. We need to consider the overall line, shape, musical structure, and phrasing. We need to be more interested in communicating the message of the music rather than playing a technically perfect rendition of the song.

The greatest musicians of all time have been able to detach themselves from their performance technique and communicate the message of the music. They have inspired us with beautiful performances that have transcended the written notes on the page. These musicians passionately touch our lives in amazing ways.

Your Greatest Performance: Living Life

I believe several analogies can be drawn between musical performance and our own life performance.

As with too much focus on musical technique, so too can we get hung up on the proper technique of living our lives. We get focused on the individual points of our lives, instead of connecting these dots into an incredible life line that communicates an amazing message to those around us.

Let me give you some examples of what I’m talking about.

When I speak of the “individual points” of our lives, I’m mostly talking about those BIG life events that we think about being able to accomplish: graduating high school, graduating college, establishing your career, getting married, having 2.5 children, getting those children raised, socking enough money in IRA’s to retire, retiring, traveling the world, crawling into the casket, and passing away.

What happens, though, when we get focused on the technique, the main points of our lives?

A number of things can happen. We can lose sight of the big picture of our lives. We can get bogged down in one area (such as finishing college – I know I did!). We can desire the act of marriage so much that we lose sight of our life line and marry the wrong person. We can get so worked up about putting enough money away for retirement that we’re working too hard in a job in which we feel unhappy and unfulfilled.

So, what if we flipped this whole life process around? What if we started living out the line of our lives instead of getting hung up on these individual parts of our lives?

Focus On The Line

The best way to overcome this point-by-point, event-by-event living is to stay focused on the line – your unique path to your ultimate, desired destination.

Stephen Covey called this type of thinking, “Beginning with the end in mind.” This is visionary, possibility thinking.

Have you ever sat down and figured out your life destination, where you intentionally want to end up? In your mind, you may have a general idea, but have you purposely crafted a statement of life intention? Have you created an extraordinary vision that you are running toward each and every day?

Perhaps you desire to live to age 100 and be the reigning patriarch of an amazingly large, Christian family of 5 kids, 15 grandchildren, and 30 great-grandchildren! How amazing would that be?

So, how are you going to get to there? How would you live if this was your desired destination?

I can just about guarantee you won’t get there if you’re out partying each weekend, you and your spouse fight constantly, and your family is an absolute train wreck. In this situation, your daily actions don’t line up with your intended life destination. So you’re going to need to stop and spend a little time on your life technique so your life can play out to its intended conclusion.

Fix Your Technique

Let’s go back to my example above and think through the technique on how to possibly accomplish the following life statement:

“I desire to live to age 100 and be the reigning patriarch of an amazingly large, Christian family of 5 kids, 15 grandchildren, and 30 great-grandchildren!”

  • Part 1: “I desire to live to age 100.” [Personal note: I recognize that our time here on earth is totally in the hands of Almighty God (James 4:14). This is still a vision that we can live toward]. So, does your lifestyle currently support your being able to live a mostly healthy life to age 100? If not, what needs to change today in order for you to live into the possibility of age 100? Do you need to change your diet, start exercising, and get yearly physicals?
  • Part 2: ” … and be the reigning patriarch …” Are you a strong leader in your family? How do treat your spouse and children? Are you a servant leader to your family? What do you need to do, who do you need to become in order to be the respected leader within your immediate and extended family?
  • Part 3: ” … of a an amazingly large, Christian family …” Are you strong in your own walk with Christ? Does your walk match your talk? Are you in the Word and in prayer on a consistent basis? Is weekly church attendance a priority? Can you look your family members in the eyes and say with the confidence of the Apostle Paul, “follow me as I follow the Lord?” (1 Corinthians 11:1).

Work on your life technique just like a musician would, but also don’t forget to play the song of your life with everything you’ve got! Have a vision and live toward that vision each day.

Questions: How is your “life song” playing out, today? Are you hung up on performing the right life techniques or are you focused on your life line and ultimate destination? Have you ever crafted a vision of intention for the ultimate destination of your life here on earth?

As we begin a new year, now is a great time to work on the line, the ultimate destination of what you desire to achieve in this life.

The Lost Art Of Pruning: How Cutting Out Dead, Unnecessary Stuff Can Lead To A Better Life

Photo by Pictoscribe

Photo by Pictoscribe

Taking Care Of The Fruit Trees

When I was a kid growing up, my family had a bunch of fruit trees in our yard. We had a few different types including apple, cherry, and even a pear tree. I remember my dad having this old, green tank sprayer which he attached to the back of his riding lawn mower. Then, he would drag that sprayer around and spray the fruit trees a couple of times a year in order to control the various insects that liked these fruit trees.

He not only sprayed the trees, but he also took time to prune the trees back. He owned this really long, telescoping pruning rod with a little saw and limb slicer. I believe he normally did this at least once a year, probably in late fall after the growing season was over.

Why Pruning?

The goal of pruning is to produce strong, healthy, attractive plants. There are a number of reasons to prune your trees:

  • Pruning for safety. An example of this would be pruning back low hanging branches that may injure someone.
  • Pruning for health. An example of this would be pruning out all the dead, deformed, and diseased branches in a tree.
  • Pruning for aesthetics. Sometimes trees grow into strange, uneven shapes. You can use various pruning techniques to make trees more aesthetically pleasing to the eye.

The pruning practices for tree growth can just as easily apply to our own lives as well.

Pruning Principles For Life Growth

As time moves forward each day, month, and year, we grow in our personal lives. Stuff gets added into our home schedules. Work responsibilities increase. We may even add more children to our families. Our kids add-on more extra-curricular activities. Our churches add more ministries and associated events.

For some reason, our society seems to think that more is better. So, more and more stuff gets loaded on our plates, or we just plain get handed more plates to spin.

We start looking like gnarly, unhealthy, odd-shaped trees!

The safety, health, and aesthetics of our lives are now in jeopardy. We are life accidents waiting to happen. These increasingly busier lives are completely unsustainable. Something has to and will give at some point.

We get sick so that we’re forced to rest. A project at work that normally would be a slam dunk falls apart, and our job is now in question. We receive a bad report from the doctor so that we’re forced to slow down and examine our lives. Our children begin rebelling because we never get to spend quality and quantity time with them because everyone has way too much going on.

So, then what happens? Everything comes to a complete standstill – our lives, families, work, and church engagement – as we deal with the crisis.

We stop. We fix the problem (or, so we believe, anyway). We resume all the activity all over again. Nothing really changes, though.

An emergency crisis takes place next year, and we begin the cycle all over again.

Something has to change. We need to take out our pruning shears and saws and cut out the dead and unnecessary stuff in our lives. For our own health, safety, and maybe even aesthetics, we sometimes need to cut back to the bare essentials to have a life that works. The end result is a life that has been properly maintained and prepared for stronger growth in the future.

Assuming you have some downtime this holiday season, I would encourage you to take some time to examine and prune your life for a better year in 2014. We have the potential to grow stronger, faster as a result of the trimming back.

Questions: Is your life out of control? Are you spinning way too many full plates right now? Have you taken the time to fully assess where you are? What needs to be pruned out of our life? What are the core essentials that need to stay in place?