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11 Ways To Become A Master Communicator – Colin James

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When we talk about success one of the biggest factors that determine whether we will reach our goals, is our communication. To make life easy for everyone on Addicted2Success, I decided to interview the world expert on the subject, Colin James.

The part of the interview that left me speechless was when Colin talked about his recent battle with cancer where he had half his bottom lip cut out and cancer on his face. He told me that we are all going to die at some point, and a lot of people live in denial of this fact.

Colin’s way of thinking is “hey I survived cancer twice… so who really cares about anything – just go for it.” I absolutely loved the way he reframed this difficult experience and how he is 100% committed to delivering the best knowledge and insights he can to help people in different area’s of their life.

The business that Colin has run for 27 years is mostly centred on teaching corporates and individuals in the areas of leadership, communication and followership. Leading up to the interview I attended one of Colin’s master classes to find out if all the talk was just marketing hype or genuine.

That night, while watching Colin, I took pages and pages of notes and laughed harder than when I used to watch Seinfeld. It usually takes a lot to make me laugh, but Colin had me thoroughly entertained and educated the whole time. Check him out; he will redefine who you are!

Below are Colin’s eleven ways for anyone to build mastery as a communicator.

 

1. Belief is part of the skill

One of the difficulties with communication is that people don’t believe that they can master it. Everything in your life that you believe is an arbitrary intellectual construct that you created and can be changed at any time.

During one of Colin’s events, he proves this by getting the audience to draw a three-dimensional, artist quality picture in sixty minutes that most believe they can’t do. One hour later, Colin, has them holding their finished portrait in their hands. Every skill can be learned.

After deconstructing the ‘talent vs skill’ paradigm (for example, the belief that artistic ability is a talent), he then tells them “if it’s possible in the world then it’s possible for you. It’s only a question of how, and a skill is just the how.”

 

2. Follow what good leaders do and pretend you know how

Good leaders pretend they know what they are doing. When you are the leader, there is an assumption or a presumption that you know what you’re doing in regards to managing the business and the strategy. This phenomenon creates an artificial sensibility that these leaders are somehow in an elite level of capability.

Have you ever been in a room when the CEO walks in? The whole vibe of the room instantly changes and people all of a sudden become self-conscious, they talk differently, they change their posture, their tonality alters, and they become more formal

The moment the CEO walks out of the room people then visibly start to relax again. What’s going on here is that a human being has walked into the room and the assumption of this person is that they have some sort of prowess or elevated state. The reality is that this human being is just making things up as they go along just like everybody else is.

“Everyone tries to make up their version of reality and then try and encourage other people to comply”

The future leaders will be the ones who have the courage to say and reflect that they too are in a state of creation on a daily basis. What the CEO has isn’t some special capability or gift, but more likely a result of circumstance and intent, rather than a gift they have been given.

This trait amongst senior leaders is a weakness because it creates a divide between the senior executives and their staff. Finding more of a sense of equality would be a lot healthier for the business.

“Millennials aren’t impressed with status anymore; they are impressed by competence”

3. Become “other conscious”

Always think and design everything you communicate from the audience’s points of view. The way you position or frame your messages needs to be within their reality.

Let’s say you have an idea or strategy you want to get across. You can’t persuade someone from your position towards theirs, you must start with their world view first. There are a couple of benefits to this way of communicating. First of all you start to think the way that they think which means you understand their frames of references and what’s important to them – this will give you the framing references for your content.

The other benefit is that you are focusing on someone other than yourself. The biggest mistake people have in communicating is that they become self-conscious, and they worry what people will think of them. I am sure everyone has been in an interview where you have thought to yourself while communicating an idea, “I hope this is making sense, and I am making a good impression.”

An internal dialogue that is self-conscious in its origins will immediately impact on your ability to communicate a concept to someone. Become what Colin calls “other conscious.”

 

4. Change the self-talk in your head

Try to get yourself familiar with the idea of consistent commitment to excellence, which is that you never have a bad day or an average meeting. Every meeting you attend, you should go in with the intent that the meeting is going to be significant rather than being in cruise control like most people.Colin James Interview With Tim Denning 2

Tell yourself that this meeting will be useful and that what you will say, do and participate in will leave the people you encounter better off as a result of your contribution – this is how reputation is built.

Most people will have good days or moments rather than having excellence as the norm. Ever noticed how in sport the great players are consistently great? The reason this occurs is because of their consistency, which ends up building their reputation.

 

5. Your smartphone determines your status when communicating

Most people are drawn to their smartphone rather than communicating with people around them. In more sophisticated countries like Japan and Korea, it’s already becoming socially embarrassing if you are looking at your device in a social context. To be on public transport in one of these countries and to be looking at your smartphone, is considered to be as bad as spitting on the ground.

“Technology has changed the way young people think, and they don’t necessarily think in hierarchies anymore but rather in networks”

In places like Singapore, if you go to a meeting and put your smartphone on the table, it instantly signifies you as low in status. This one act shows that you are a junior because you are at the beck and call of others and are not important enough to be fully present in the room.

At the start of a meeting, from now on, ask everyone if they can put their phones away and off the table. Watch how this transforms the way you communicate. By creating some boundaries around this smartphone requirement in meetings, you will find that people respect the rule.

You need to be committed in meetings to context and context means to be present. As the communicator, it is your role to set the context, and this goes for technology as well.

“Everyone’s busy. The person at the reception is as busy as the executive sitting at their desk. Somehow there appears to be a hierarchy of busyness these days “

 

6. Tell stories that meet your contention

Stories are the most powerful way to influence and a core skill that any communicator has to develop. The best stories are true, from your experience and link to your communication outcome. It’s best delivered in a punchy way without excessive detail.

Through the telling of a story it allows you to embed a recommendation around behaviour, an invitation to overcome resistance and objections, alleviate stress and anxiety, or it can be social proof to validate your argument or theory.

In other words, your story needs to have a point and link to your outcome or theory. Stories also have to have the little touches of truthful detail that give it context and legitimacy like a persons name, the time, and the location.

 

7. Stop killing people with weapons of mass destruction (Powerpoint)

“Death by Powerpoint” has become a popular catchphrase and the best way to avoid this is to rarely use it. If you must use Powerpoint slides, keep them outcome focused and make sure they validate what you’re saying, not act as a script of what you’re saying.

Love the B button!

If you have a Powerpoint showing for the whole time you are communicating with an audience, the attention of your audience will be unconsciously drawn to the slides rather than you. The best way to use Powerpoint is to display a slide that validates your point, and then once you have made your point, flick the presentation back to the all black screen.

“Powerpoint should only be on when it’s adding value otherwise it should be off”

Powerpoint is starting to become banned in large companies like Australian Banks, Yahoo and Apple because people are using Powerpoint for their own benefit, so they can remember their talk, rather than for the benefit of the audience.

 

8. Reframe your thinking to deal with public speaking nervousness

With public speaking, a lot of nervousness is linked to self-belief. This self-belief is sometimes clouded by a lack of perspective or being too focused on what the audience will think of you.

Shift your attention to the audience and only think of being generous and giving value. This one adjustment can be a significant game changer in anyone’s capacity to communicate and will immediately eliminate self-consciousness.

“Focus on what you can give, rather than what people might think”

If you have ever been in the emergency section in a hospital late at night you would have seen that there are drunks and drug addicts yelling at the nurses, but even with all the shouting, the nurses just focus on being professional and caring for them as a patient. They don’t take it personally – that’s how you need to be with public speaking. The nurses weren’t self-conscious, they were doing their jobs.

Your job in public speaking is to deliver the content. Getting that matter of fact about it can help with the nerves. While you’re thinking about presenting in front of a group, this same group hardly even know you’re alive, and they will more than likely forget that you exist the moment you leave the room.

What they want is to hear something that will make their day to day challenges easier to deal with and their outcomes, easier to achieve. Help them to do that and they will love you…they won’t care if you aren’t word perfect and polished. To demonstrate this point, Colin told me about a woman that attended his seminar who was a high profile, actuary.

Colin James AudienceBefore Colin’s training, she was terrified of public speaking and lacked communication confidence. After two days of Colin’s seminar her voice filled the room, she stood with total confidence and spoke with such eloquence that people were shocked by her transformation.

When Colin asked the woman how she changed so rapidly she said it was all about the shift in her perspective. At first she thought public speaking was all about her, but when she realised it was about the audience, she no longer felt nervous and she began to feel free and completely liberated.

Even though this woman was a subject matter expert, she learned that all she had to do was stand in her strength and deliver her content; after all she knew it better than anyone else. The shift began when she believed that she could be of immense value when she stood in front of a group and spoke.

 

9. Communication is not a perfectly practiced play

Memorising speeches is death. A good communicator does not go off and memorise text. A good communicator has a structure and free forms around this structure. This is more elegant because then you can adjust to the audience in front of you. Memorising text is a play, and that’s not communicating.

 

10. Be careful using acronyms out of context

It’s all about context. As an example, describing scientific processes can be a challenge because the full terms will make your sentences very long, and science has convoluted descriptions for almost everything. In this scenario, acronyms can be very handy when communicating your point.

Where the risk is with acronyms is that there is a presumption of understanding. When presenting acronyms to an audience, it’s always best to do it this way:

– Say the acronym in its long form description

– Introduce the acronym

– Repeat the long form of the acronym

– Reinforce the acronym

Before using an acronym ask yourself, does it serve the context and does it provide a neat shorthand, if it ticks these two boxes then its use is valid. The way you know not to use an acronym is if its use is lazy, doesn’t respect the audience’s level of knowledge or makes assumptions that people know what it means.

 

11. Your body has a language of its own – USE IT

Posture the way you carry yourself communicates something about you. All of us have been in situations Colin James - Posturewhere someone walks into the room, and you say to the person next to you, “who is that person?”

What makes you say that is because the person looks like they carry themself with dignity and authority. There is an assumption of some competence just in their physicality, and most of this is posture related (this doesn’t mean that you strut around like some arrogant peacock, though).

So if you are going to walk up to the front of the room to deliver a presentation, you should be walking as tall as you can be right from the start.

 

Gestures you need to develop a gesture vocabulary Colin says. One habit to avoid with gestures is your hands becoming a distracter. If you have ever seen someone speak who is flapping their hands all over the place, it becomes very distracting, and the hand becomes the focus instead of what the person is saying.Colin James Hand Gestures

To demonstrate this, imagine you’re in a room with a speaker and the speaker says, “are there any questions?” If they did this with their hands open (palms facing up), you would feel that they are genuinely interested in the audience asking questions.

If they did this with their palms down it means the exact opposite and that they’re closing the conversation. Your hands have their own vocabulary, and they can give very different meanings to what you are saying.

 

Movement if you are going to move then move with purpose – you’re not just supposed to waltz around a Colin James Movementspace. If you’re in a meeting, and you’re facing somebody, and you’re trying to influence them, everything you do should be from their left to right, not your left to right.

As an example, if you are tapping the table with your hand to signal three things that you want to talk about, you would tap them out from your right to left (their left to right). That’s the linear progression for them to follow what you are doing in the clearest possible way.

 

Facial expressions be aware that your face is another communication tool. People seek meaning and cue off your facial expressions and voice tone more than off the words you are speaking. Colin used an example of a video he saw of me where he said that my words were very passionate, but my face came across very masked and not reflecting the same passion. It could cause a person to doubt my words.

Colin James - Facial Expression (Jim Carrey)A tip Colin gave me to help solve this issue when shooting a video for Youtube, is to make my facial expressions exaggerated and animate my face. To animate my face I could say something like “I am passionate,” so my whole face now goes into an expression of passion.

This might result in my mouth opening, my eyes closing, my face lighting up. After you have the first take, you go back and have a look at what you have recorded. If you have followed Colin’s tips, your face might look over the top although sometimes, Colin says, you look fine.

The reason for this is because at first we can think we are being over the top but in fact we are being appropriate, ask others for their feedback. On the second take, you might just modify your facial expressions to be one notch back if the first take looked too over the top.

Learn your face, play with expressions in the mirror. Go for exaggeration initially and then pull back a little bit from there. Most people in a corporate environment mask their face and become very formal which is why a lot of presentations in this context become very dull.

Colin James Standards Quote

If you would like to know more about Colin’s training programs or watch some videos of him in action, then visit his website colinjamesmethod.com

Tim is best known as a long-time contributor on Addicted2Success. Tim's content has been shared millions of times and he has written multiple viral posts all around personal development and entrepreneurship. You can connect with Tim through his website www.timdenning.net

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Success Advice

Instead of Always Trying to Be Right, Do This Instead

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stop trying to be right
Image Credit: Twenty20.com

A colleague of mine was obnoxious, over eager, and completely out of line. Yet, all of this was overshadowed by the fact he was just plain wrong. If he were to go through with it, it would derail the company by at least 6 months. Yet, arguing with him when he was in this state was of no use. While hitting him over the head with the laptop seemed appealing for a second, it was probably not a great long-term strategy for the business or my laptop.

Galileo once said, “You cannot teach a man anything, you can only help him find it within himself.” This is especially true when it comes to emotionally charged matters and negotiations.

When you are right, you become attached to that idea. It’s so clear, how can they not see it? Yet, your meticulously clear logic might as well be written in braille as your focus intensifies on proving yourself right, instead of reaching an agreement.

Below are 3 ways you can step out of your emotions and help someone find the right answer when money and time are on the line:

1. Separate the Person From the Issue

Imagine if a four-year-old child was adamant about something. You wouldn’t try to reason logically for hours in such a case. When trying to speak through a person’s emotions, often you might have better luck with the four year old.

In order to break this barrier you must stop seeing them as the problem and see the issue at hand. Instead of seeing the other person as stupid or obnoxious, try viewing them as simply lost or misguided. The job now becomes not to prove them wrong, but to guide them to the truth. Adopting this mindset changes your entire approach as you get out of your own emotions and take control of the situation.

“Each of us guard a gate of change that can only be opened from the inside.” – Stephen Covey

2. Show Them A Mirror

Somewhere in between trying to hammer a point, both sides usually forget to listen. No matter the situation, you must make sure that person is never you. Instead, shift the focus from “me vs you” and make it completely about the other person. Really listen and validate their emotions, creating enough trust and safety to begin a real exchange. Make sure they feel heard and slow the conversation down. When you slow the process down, you also calm down.

Remember, it’s not what you say, but how you say it. About 93% of communication is nonverbal, thus maintaining your body language immediately provides an edge. A playful (not childlike or mocking) voice puts someone in a positive frame of mind, where they are more likely to collaborate and problem solve.

Always remember to repeat back the most important three words from their sentence and make them elaborate on whatever they said. The more a person is allowed to speak, the more they feel heard. The more they feel heard, the more open they are to receive new information.

3. Lead With Empathy, Not Sympathy

Taking the time to make sure the other side feels heard and understood does not mean you bend to their will. It does not mean you give up, agree, feel sorry for, or even compromise. Empathy is the ability to recognize another’s perspective and the vocalization of that recognition. This is the difference between empathy and sympathy.

When you can label a person’s emotions in an argument, you seize the chance to discover what is behind those feelings. As you begin to drill down, you gain leverage. This should be done very gracefully. Instead of saying, I think you’re angry and being stubborn, trying saying, It seems like you are feeling frustrated because you really care about this and wish it was moving along quicker.

“Sometimes all a person wants is an empathetic ear; all he or she needs is to talk it out. Just offering a listening ear and an understanding heart for his or her suffering can be a big comfort.” – Roy T. Bennett

Using labels, you mold their feelings into words, moving information from the emotional part of the brain to the rational. Whatever behavior a person may be presenting, there is always an underlying feeling triggering it. Your job is to make the person aware of that feeling. The faster you do this, the faster you eliminate the risk of a complete breakdown in communication.

After their emotions are labeled, asking how or why calibrated questions allow them to solve their problems for you. In order to do this effectively you don’t need to study every type of calibrated question there is, but rather adopt a specific mindset. You are not their opponent, but a guide, leading the lost to the truth. Your truth.

In my case, the presenting behavior of my colleague was an obnoxious know-it-all attitude. However, the underlying emotion was fear of falling behind. Once I was able to stop asking the question, “Why is he doing this to me?” and focus on looking deeper, the conversation took a turn. The conversation was no longer about my ideas versus his, but about him and his fear.

Instead of arguing with me, he spent the rest of the time, essentially, arguing with himself. After helping him dissect his fear in the rational part of the brain, he realized that many of the worst case scenarios were highly improbable and acting hasty might exacerbate things. Most importantly, at the end of the conversation, he said, “I think I made the right choice.”

He believed that the decision was entirely his. He never acknowledged the fact that I was right and announced to everyone the sudden spark of genius that hit him. Yet, at the end of the day you need to ask yourself what is more important to you; being right or doing whatever it takes to win.  

How do you handle conflict? Let us know your tips and advice in the comments below!

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Success Advice

What You Can Learn From My Ultimate “I Am Screwed” Moment.

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Image Credit: Unsplash / Gold Chain

When I was 16 years old, I had the ultimate “I am screwed moment.”

Everything from this point on happened in slow motion. What I’m about to describe probably happened in the space of thirty minutes but it felt like five hours.

I was walking down the street with my buddy one night, eating a paddle pop ice cream. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw a group of about twenty teenagers running towards us, dressed in black.

I instantly knew that something was up and as they got closer, we both realized we were screwed and there was nowhere to run to.

Seconds later the gang of teenagers came straight towards us as fast as they could.

“I got lucky and copped a baseball bat to the head. My friend wasn’t so lucky. He was repeatedly stabbed by several different people and there was blood everywhere.”

As I saw what happened to my friend, I knew I’d be next. I was hit so many times with the baseball bat that I was numb from the pain. Everything started to go white.

Then I heard a faint voice. The voice was calling my name out.

I listened to what the young man was saying and realized he was saying that his little brother knew me. All of a sudden, he put out his hand, lifted me off the ground and told me to run in the other direction, or I’d end up like my friend.

I somehow managed to get on my feet and run, but I was not giving up on my friend. I ran around the back of the shopping center that we were standing outside of and entered the building. I ran to the first security guard I saw and told them I needed help.

In my search to get help, miraculously, my friend had made it into the shopping center and he was being treated by a number of bystanders for his massive knife wounds.

I went over and spoke to him. He was okay and things looked better than I expected. I had about sixty seconds of calmness. Then I looked to my left.

Through the glass doors, I could see the same gang of teenagers running into the shopping center. Everyone including the two security guards ran in opposite directions.

My friend with his multiple knife wounds also ran and there were bandages everywhere as he made a run for it (I’m not even sure how he was able to move).

This time I was the unlucky one. I ran into the part of the shopping center that was closed for the night and three of the youths followed me. I’d never been so afraid because I saw what they did to my friend.

I ended up in the shopping centers food court and I hid in the darkness. I tried to control my breathing, but it was hard to silence the fear inside of me. I still remember the white Nike pants I was wearing and the bright red Sean John jumper I had on (I later discarded them because of the memory they left).

Again, through some kind of miracle, the three boys did not see me. They ran off in another direction and I stayed under the table.

The pain of my wounds started to set in. I knew deep down I was safe and so the fight or flight response was turned off. All of a sudden, moving and walking felt very painful.

I could feel broken bits of teeth in my mouth.


The aftermath.

After some time had passed, I manage to reconnect with my friend. By that time there was an ambulance on the scene and he managed to get his knife wounds treated. He got lucky and no vital organs were affected.

The next day I went to school and people could see I had gone through one hell of an ordeal. One of my friends in the year level below, came and found me and explained to me that it was his older brother and friends that attacked me.

They had mistakenly thought that we had come from a party, because of the direction we came from, where he was beaten up. He told me that because they had recognized me, to some degree, I was spared.

The story doesn’t end here though (I wish it did). Even after the brutal event, one of the attackers was still upset with me. I didn’t know why and it made no sense. I had multiple times where he and his friends were waiting for me in certain places and I was told they would harm me.

Through a mutual friend, I was able to resolve the conflict and I found out that a few of them were close friends with a few of my friends. In the coming years, I got to know my attackers.

“They were not the horrible violent people I encountered on that night. They slowly changed their ways and one of them has gone on to do extraordinary kind acts all over the world.”


A revelation from this “I am screwed” moment.

After this horrible event had occurred, I tried to make sense of it. I was not a violent person in any way but in a way, I had created this path for myself.

During my teenage years, I let rap music and violence dominate my life. I thought they were both cool.

The revelation from all of this was that I knew I had to change my life. I knew that the path I was on had led me to this moment and only I could change things. The next time an attack like this happened, I may not be as lucky.

I gave up rap music, I changed my group of friends, I started a business with my brother, I quit smoking and I disengaged from anything that was violent. Looking back, an “I am screwed” moment can be extremely valuable. It’s during these difficult times that we learn about who we are and what we can do to change our lives.

I would never have become obsessed with legacy, giving back and personal development if I hadn’t had this life or death experience.

I’m now fully aware of my mortality and I’m never going to take another day for granted.

Everything can change in a split second for better or for worse. What you do in that moment is up to you.

Nothing happens randomly (even this attack). Everything happens for a reason and when you ensure you get the lesson from it, you can go on to do extraordinary things.

I’m typing these words and reaching millions of people with them, partly because of this “I am screwed” moment.


If you want to increase your productivity and learn some more valuable life hacks, then join my private mailing list on timdenning.net

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Success Advice

3 Things We Can Learn About Success From a 13 Year Old Girls School Project

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Dog Do or Dog Don’t
Image Credit: Aiden Horwitz

Success comes in all shapes and sizes. So, when I read about a 13 year old that was solving a major problem in the dog adoption industry, I was intrigued. It turns out that many families often choose the wrong dog for their family and end up giving them up to a shelter.

When a school project came up, this young girl decided she would try to tackle the problem. First, she created a survey that would help potential dog foster parents determine which dog would be a good fit for them. Then, she teamed up with a local shelter who gave her information on the dogs. Finally, she added the survey to a website she built called Dog Do or Dog Don’t. So far, it’s seen success in just a few months by pairing 5 dogs with the perfect home.

Here are 3 important points we can learn about success from this little girl’s innovation:

1. Focus on your why

No matter what we do in life, we need to know why we are doing it. This girl didn’t care about the end result of making money or getting attention from local news channels. She wanted to solve a problem and her why was clearly defined. “I wanted to come up with a way to help get dogs adopted or help people get the right dog for them and their family,” she says on her website. That was her why and it drove her to the success of what she eventually created.

When we have a goal in life, we need to focus on why we want to achieve it. It doesn’t matter if it’s being successful in business, raising our family or traveling the world, we need to clarify why. Without passion behind what we are doing, the dedication required to achieve success is hard to come by. Only when we focus on our why will we really be on the path to success.

“People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it.” – Simon Sinek

2. Define what success looks like

It sounds simple when I say to define success, but oftentimes we don’t. We set goals of working out more or making more money or even adopting more dogs. However, if we don’t define what that actually means, it’s really hard to know when we have hit the success we are working toward.

Success can quickly become like a bully on the playground that draws a line and when you cross it, he draws another line. When that happens, it’s hard to understand what we have achieved and keep moving onto the next goal.

When this survey for the dog adoption was built out, the goal was to adopt a dog to the perfect home. Now that the goal has been achieved, it’s time to set another goal and keep moving forward. By defining success clearly, we can make sure that when we work our plan and hit our goal, we will know it. Then, we can define another goal and work toward that.

3. Do the important work

What I didn’t mention earlier was that this was actually called the “Passion Project” and they were given an hour and a half each week to work on something they were passionate about. She found her topic through research and discovered that about half the dogs at shelters were there because they were the wrong type for the family.

This girl didn’t do this for accolades or attention as she was focused on doing the important work on something she was passionate about. It was only then that she found the problem she could solve and decided it was important to do so.

“We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.” – Albert Einstein

Real world problems are all around us from financial issues to poverty to famine and much more. Often, we look at a problem and think to ourselves that it’s too big for us to solve or there’s nothing that can be done about it anyway.

This young girl has a lot to teach us about looking at a problem and finding a solution for it. We need to pay attention to the things she has taught us about achieving success by doing the important work which is close to our heart.

What do you think is the most important aspect to success? Let us know in the comments below!

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Success Advice

How to 10X the Likelihood of Completing Your Next Big Project

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project management
Image Credit: Unsplash

According to Bob Proctor, you have a 95% chance of making personal change happen if you make a plan and set a specific time to share your progress with someone. At the opposite end of the spectrum, you only have a 10% chance of making a change if you say “that’s a good idea” to your next inspirational brain wave without doing anything else.

Now think about it, how many times have you thought “that’s a good idea” and been inspired to do something without actually pulling the trigger to take one single, simple step towards doing something? This is one of the biggest challenges standing in the way of people from achieving their fullest potential.

Here are 6 steps to help you jump-start your next project and take action right away:

1. Identify which ideas are actually good

Not all ideas are created equal, and not all ideas are worth pursuing. In fact, some ideas and goals should be actively avoided. Warren Buffett tells a story about having someone write out their top 25 career goals on a piece of paper. After looking at the list, he asks the individual to circle the top 5 goals on their list. After that, he tells the person that the 20 remaining goals should be “avoided at all costs” until the first 5 goals are met.

It is a mistake to think that you can split your energy in multiple directions and succeed at anything. Instead, focus on the top 2 or 3 things that are most important to you, and actively avoid anything that takes you away from pursuing those goals or ideas.

2. Tell yourself you will do something with this new idea

Once you’ve decided that something is important enough to pursue, make a point of telling yourself you will do something to further explore the idea. This doesn’t mean making a commitment to quit your day job to pursue a vague idea for a startup. Nor does it mean dropping everything to travel the world for 6 months. Rather, it means that you commit to looking into something to get a better idea of what’s involved before taking the leap on a project.

“Ideas are commodity. Execution of them is not.” – Michael Dell

3. Choose a deadline or create a window of time to get something shipped

Outline a specific window of time to accomplish something, and then write out that plan in a calendar. The most important thing is to make sure the deadline is reasonable and that you are realistic. If you make a goal to double your income and launch a new business in the next 12 months, you may find yourself becoming disheartened when things aren’t working out after 3 weeks. I typically choose to work on tasks and projects in 1-3 month sprints, at which point I check in and reevaluate my progress.

4. Outline a specific plan of action on how to do it based on the timeline you have created

I use a variety of tools to help plan out my tasks and remind myself what I’m supposed to be working on, but at the end of the day, the best tool I use to schedule activities is a simple Excel spreadsheet to track tasks on a day by day basis. Check out the book “12 Week Year” for some ideas on how to choose specific action items and tasks which will help you move the needle on your work.

“Ideas are easy. Implementation is hard.” – Guy Kawasaki

5. Make a commitment to accomplish something specific based on the timeline and plan

Now that you have spent the time to research your idea, develop a timeline for the idea and structured a plan with specific tasks to accomplish this idea. You must make a commitment to yourself to carry out the tasks on your list and to strive to complete everything on time.

This task is incredibly important because it requires that you tap into a deeper level of motivation that goes beyond acceptance by the group or fear of failure. Instead, you need to reach deep down and make a commitment based on a deep need to accomplish the task that goes beyond recognition.

6. Set a specific time to review and be accountable for your plan and progress with someone else

We all know that even the most powerful source of internal motivation may not be enough to keep you going when times get tough. This is why you should make a habit of meeting up with a friend, mentor or colleague to review your progress on a certain project and to get ideas on how best to proceed. Make this meeting at a time that you both agree on well in advance, be clear on the feedback you want, and then don’t miss your deadlines!

At the end of the day, taking action is perhaps the biggest deciding factor that will directly contribute to your success and your ability to achieve your goals. If you don’t act, you’re dead in the water. So make a commitment to yourself today to give this a shot.

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Success Advice

Instead of Always Trying to Be Right, Do This Instead

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stop trying to be right
Image Credit: Twenty20.com

A colleague of mine was obnoxious, over eager, and completely out of line. Yet, all of this was overshadowed by the fact he was just plain wrong. If he were to go through with it, it would derail the company by at least 6 months. Yet, arguing with him when he was in this state was of no use. While hitting him over the head with the laptop seemed appealing for a second, it was probably not a great long-term strategy for the business or my laptop. (more…)

Dan Elias is passionate about helping people develop creative strategies for unlocking their potential. He is the director of marketing at Motivate, an app dedicated to helping people achieve their goals.

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Success Advice

Instead of Always Trying to Be Right, Do This Instead

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stop trying to be right
Image Credit: Twenty20.com

A colleague of mine was obnoxious, over eager, and completely out of line. Yet, all of this was overshadowed by the fact he was just plain wrong. If he were to go through with it, it would derail the company by at least 6 months. Yet, arguing with him when he was in this state was of no use. While hitting him over the head with the laptop seemed appealing for a second, it was probably not a great long-term strategy for the business or my laptop.

Galileo once said, “You cannot teach a man anything, you can only help him find it within himself.” This is especially true when it comes to emotionally charged matters and negotiations.

When you are right, you become attached to that idea. It’s so clear, how can they not see it? Yet, your meticulously clear logic might as well be written in braille as your focus intensifies on proving yourself right, instead of reaching an agreement.

Below are 3 ways you can step out of your emotions and help someone find the right answer when money and time are on the line:

1. Separate the Person From the Issue

Imagine if a four-year-old child was adamant about something. You wouldn’t try to reason logically for hours in such a case. When trying to speak through a person’s emotions, often you might have better luck with the four year old.

In order to break this barrier you must stop seeing them as the problem and see the issue at hand. Instead of seeing the other person as stupid or obnoxious, try viewing them as simply lost or misguided. The job now becomes not to prove them wrong, but to guide them to the truth. Adopting this mindset changes your entire approach as you get out of your own emotions and take control of the situation.

“Each of us guard a gate of change that can only be opened from the inside.” – Stephen Covey

2. Show Them A Mirror

Somewhere in between trying to hammer a point, both sides usually forget to listen. No matter the situation, you must make sure that person is never you. Instead, shift the focus from “me vs you” and make it completely about the other person. Really listen and validate their emotions, creating enough trust and safety to begin a real exchange. Make sure they feel heard and slow the conversation down. When you slow the process down, you also calm down.

Remember, it’s not what you say, but how you say it. About 93% of communication is nonverbal, thus maintaining your body language immediately provides an edge. A playful (not childlike or mocking) voice puts someone in a positive frame of mind, where they are more likely to collaborate and problem solve.

Always remember to repeat back the most important three words from their sentence and make them elaborate on whatever they said. The more a person is allowed to speak, the more they feel heard. The more they feel heard, the more open they are to receive new information.

3. Lead With Empathy, Not Sympathy

Taking the time to make sure the other side feels heard and understood does not mean you bend to their will. It does not mean you give up, agree, feel sorry for, or even compromise. Empathy is the ability to recognize another’s perspective and the vocalization of that recognition. This is the difference between empathy and sympathy.

When you can label a person’s emotions in an argument, you seize the chance to discover what is behind those feelings. As you begin to drill down, you gain leverage. This should be done very gracefully. Instead of saying, I think you’re angry and being stubborn, trying saying, It seems like you are feeling frustrated because you really care about this and wish it was moving along quicker.

“Sometimes all a person wants is an empathetic ear; all he or she needs is to talk it out. Just offering a listening ear and an understanding heart for his or her suffering can be a big comfort.” – Roy T. Bennett

Using labels, you mold their feelings into words, moving information from the emotional part of the brain to the rational. Whatever behavior a person may be presenting, there is always an underlying feeling triggering it. Your job is to make the person aware of that feeling. The faster you do this, the faster you eliminate the risk of a complete breakdown in communication.

After their emotions are labeled, asking how or why calibrated questions allow them to solve their problems for you. In order to do this effectively you don’t need to study every type of calibrated question there is, but rather adopt a specific mindset. You are not their opponent, but a guide, leading the lost to the truth. Your truth.

In my case, the presenting behavior of my colleague was an obnoxious know-it-all attitude. However, the underlying emotion was fear of falling behind. Once I was able to stop asking the question, “Why is he doing this to me?” and focus on looking deeper, the conversation took a turn. The conversation was no longer about my ideas versus his, but about him and his fear.

Instead of arguing with me, he spent the rest of the time, essentially, arguing with himself. After helping him dissect his fear in the rational part of the brain, he realized that many of the worst case scenarios were highly improbable and acting hasty might exacerbate things. Most importantly, at the end of the conversation, he said, “I think I made the right choice.”

He believed that the decision was entirely his. He never acknowledged the fact that I was right and announced to everyone the sudden spark of genius that hit him. Yet, at the end of the day you need to ask yourself what is more important to you; being right or doing whatever it takes to win.  

How do you handle conflict? Let us know your tips and advice in the comments below!

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Success Advice

What You Can Learn From My Ultimate “I Am Screwed” Moment.

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Image Credit: Unsplash / Gold Chain

When I was 16 years old, I had the ultimate “I am screwed moment.”

Everything from this point on happened in slow motion. What I’m about to describe probably happened in the space of thirty minutes but it felt like five hours.

I was walking down the street with my buddy one night, eating a paddle pop ice cream. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw a group of about twenty teenagers running towards us, dressed in black.

I instantly knew that something was up and as they got closer, we both realized we were screwed and there was nowhere to run to.

Seconds later the gang of teenagers came straight towards us as fast as they could.

“I got lucky and copped a baseball bat to the head. My friend wasn’t so lucky. He was repeatedly stabbed by several different people and there was blood everywhere.”

As I saw what happened to my friend, I knew I’d be next. I was hit so many times with the baseball bat that I was numb from the pain. Everything started to go white.

Then I heard a faint voice. The voice was calling my name out.

I listened to what the young man was saying and realized he was saying that his little brother knew me. All of a sudden, he put out his hand, lifted me off the ground and told me to run in the other direction, or I’d end up like my friend.

I somehow managed to get on my feet and run, but I was not giving up on my friend. I ran around the back of the shopping center that we were standing outside of and entered the building. I ran to the first security guard I saw and told them I needed help.

In my search to get help, miraculously, my friend had made it into the shopping center and he was being treated by a number of bystanders for his massive knife wounds.

I went over and spoke to him. He was okay and things looked better than I expected. I had about sixty seconds of calmness. Then I looked to my left.

Through the glass doors, I could see the same gang of teenagers running into the shopping center. Everyone including the two security guards ran in opposite directions.

My friend with his multiple knife wounds also ran and there were bandages everywhere as he made a run for it (I’m not even sure how he was able to move).

This time I was the unlucky one. I ran into the part of the shopping center that was closed for the night and three of the youths followed me. I’d never been so afraid because I saw what they did to my friend.

I ended up in the shopping centers food court and I hid in the darkness. I tried to control my breathing, but it was hard to silence the fear inside of me. I still remember the white Nike pants I was wearing and the bright red Sean John jumper I had on (I later discarded them because of the memory they left).

Again, through some kind of miracle, the three boys did not see me. They ran off in another direction and I stayed under the table.

The pain of my wounds started to set in. I knew deep down I was safe and so the fight or flight response was turned off. All of a sudden, moving and walking felt very painful.

I could feel broken bits of teeth in my mouth.


The aftermath.

After some time had passed, I manage to reconnect with my friend. By that time there was an ambulance on the scene and he managed to get his knife wounds treated. He got lucky and no vital organs were affected.

The next day I went to school and people could see I had gone through one hell of an ordeal. One of my friends in the year level below, came and found me and explained to me that it was his older brother and friends that attacked me.

They had mistakenly thought that we had come from a party, because of the direction we came from, where he was beaten up. He told me that because they had recognized me, to some degree, I was spared.

The story doesn’t end here though (I wish it did). Even after the brutal event, one of the attackers was still upset with me. I didn’t know why and it made no sense. I had multiple times where he and his friends were waiting for me in certain places and I was told they would harm me.

Through a mutual friend, I was able to resolve the conflict and I found out that a few of them were close friends with a few of my friends. In the coming years, I got to know my attackers.

“They were not the horrible violent people I encountered on that night. They slowly changed their ways and one of them has gone on to do extraordinary kind acts all over the world.”


A revelation from this “I am screwed” moment.

After this horrible event had occurred, I tried to make sense of it. I was not a violent person in any way but in a way, I had created this path for myself.

During my teenage years, I let rap music and violence dominate my life. I thought they were both cool.

The revelation from all of this was that I knew I had to change my life. I knew that the path I was on had led me to this moment and only I could change things. The next time an attack like this happened, I may not be as lucky.

I gave up rap music, I changed my group of friends, I started a business with my brother, I quit smoking and I disengaged from anything that was violent. Looking back, an “I am screwed” moment can be extremely valuable. It’s during these difficult times that we learn about who we are and what we can do to change our lives.

I would never have become obsessed with legacy, giving back and personal development if I hadn’t had this life or death experience.

I’m now fully aware of my mortality and I’m never going to take another day for granted.

Everything can change in a split second for better or for worse. What you do in that moment is up to you.

Nothing happens randomly (even this attack). Everything happens for a reason and when you ensure you get the lesson from it, you can go on to do extraordinary things.

I’m typing these words and reaching millions of people with them, partly because of this “I am screwed” moment.


If you want to increase your productivity and learn some more valuable life hacks, then join my private mailing list on timdenning.net

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3 Things We Can Learn About Success From a 13 Year Old Girls School Project

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Dog Do or Dog Don’t
Image Credit: Aiden Horwitz

Success comes in all shapes and sizes. So, when I read about a 13 year old that was solving a major problem in the dog adoption industry, I was intrigued. It turns out that many families often choose the wrong dog for their family and end up giving them up to a shelter.

When a school project came up, this young girl decided she would try to tackle the problem. First, she created a survey that would help potential dog foster parents determine which dog would be a good fit for them. Then, she teamed up with a local shelter who gave her information on the dogs. Finally, she added the survey to a website she built called Dog Do or Dog Don’t. So far, it’s seen success in just a few months by pairing 5 dogs with the perfect home.

Here are 3 important points we can learn about success from this little girl’s innovation:

1. Focus on your why

No matter what we do in life, we need to know why we are doing it. This girl didn’t care about the end result of making money or getting attention from local news channels. She wanted to solve a problem and her why was clearly defined. “I wanted to come up with a way to help get dogs adopted or help people get the right dog for them and their family,” she says on her website. That was her why and it drove her to the success of what she eventually created.

When we have a goal in life, we need to focus on why we want to achieve it. It doesn’t matter if it’s being successful in business, raising our family or traveling the world, we need to clarify why. Without passion behind what we are doing, the dedication required to achieve success is hard to come by. Only when we focus on our why will we really be on the path to success.

“People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it.” – Simon Sinek

2. Define what success looks like

It sounds simple when I say to define success, but oftentimes we don’t. We set goals of working out more or making more money or even adopting more dogs. However, if we don’t define what that actually means, it’s really hard to know when we have hit the success we are working toward.

Success can quickly become like a bully on the playground that draws a line and when you cross it, he draws another line. When that happens, it’s hard to understand what we have achieved and keep moving onto the next goal.

When this survey for the dog adoption was built out, the goal was to adopt a dog to the perfect home. Now that the goal has been achieved, it’s time to set another goal and keep moving forward. By defining success clearly, we can make sure that when we work our plan and hit our goal, we will know it. Then, we can define another goal and work toward that.

3. Do the important work

What I didn’t mention earlier was that this was actually called the “Passion Project” and they were given an hour and a half each week to work on something they were passionate about. She found her topic through research and discovered that about half the dogs at shelters were there because they were the wrong type for the family.

This girl didn’t do this for accolades or attention as she was focused on doing the important work on something she was passionate about. It was only then that she found the problem she could solve and decided it was important to do so.

“We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.” – Albert Einstein

Real world problems are all around us from financial issues to poverty to famine and much more. Often, we look at a problem and think to ourselves that it’s too big for us to solve or there’s nothing that can be done about it anyway.

This young girl has a lot to teach us about looking at a problem and finding a solution for it. We need to pay attention to the things she has taught us about achieving success by doing the important work which is close to our heart.

What do you think is the most important aspect to success? Let us know in the comments below!

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How to 10X the Likelihood of Completing Your Next Big Project

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project management
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According to Bob Proctor, you have a 95% chance of making personal change happen if you make a plan and set a specific time to share your progress with someone. At the opposite end of the spectrum, you only have a 10% chance of making a change if you say “that’s a good idea” to your next inspirational brain wave without doing anything else.

Now think about it, how many times have you thought “that’s a good idea” and been inspired to do something without actually pulling the trigger to take one single, simple step towards doing something? This is one of the biggest challenges standing in the way of people from achieving their fullest potential.

Here are 6 steps to help you jump-start your next project and take action right away:

1. Identify which ideas are actually good

Not all ideas are created equal, and not all ideas are worth pursuing. In fact, some ideas and goals should be actively avoided. Warren Buffett tells a story about having someone write out their top 25 career goals on a piece of paper. After looking at the list, he asks the individual to circle the top 5 goals on their list. After that, he tells the person that the 20 remaining goals should be “avoided at all costs” until the first 5 goals are met.

It is a mistake to think that you can split your energy in multiple directions and succeed at anything. Instead, focus on the top 2 or 3 things that are most important to you, and actively avoid anything that takes you away from pursuing those goals or ideas.

2. Tell yourself you will do something with this new idea

Once you’ve decided that something is important enough to pursue, make a point of telling yourself you will do something to further explore the idea. This doesn’t mean making a commitment to quit your day job to pursue a vague idea for a startup. Nor does it mean dropping everything to travel the world for 6 months. Rather, it means that you commit to looking into something to get a better idea of what’s involved before taking the leap on a project.

“Ideas are commodity. Execution of them is not.” – Michael Dell

3. Choose a deadline or create a window of time to get something shipped

Outline a specific window of time to accomplish something, and then write out that plan in a calendar. The most important thing is to make sure the deadline is reasonable and that you are realistic. If you make a goal to double your income and launch a new business in the next 12 months, you may find yourself becoming disheartened when things aren’t working out after 3 weeks. I typically choose to work on tasks and projects in 1-3 month sprints, at which point I check in and reevaluate my progress.

4. Outline a specific plan of action on how to do it based on the timeline you have created

I use a variety of tools to help plan out my tasks and remind myself what I’m supposed to be working on, but at the end of the day, the best tool I use to schedule activities is a simple Excel spreadsheet to track tasks on a day by day basis. Check out the book “12 Week Year” for some ideas on how to choose specific action items and tasks which will help you move the needle on your work.

“Ideas are easy. Implementation is hard.” – Guy Kawasaki

5. Make a commitment to accomplish something specific based on the timeline and plan

Now that you have spent the time to research your idea, develop a timeline for the idea and structured a plan with specific tasks to accomplish this idea. You must make a commitment to yourself to carry out the tasks on your list and to strive to complete everything on time.

This task is incredibly important because it requires that you tap into a deeper level of motivation that goes beyond acceptance by the group or fear of failure. Instead, you need to reach deep down and make a commitment based on a deep need to accomplish the task that goes beyond recognition.

6. Set a specific time to review and be accountable for your plan and progress with someone else

We all know that even the most powerful source of internal motivation may not be enough to keep you going when times get tough. This is why you should make a habit of meeting up with a friend, mentor or colleague to review your progress on a certain project and to get ideas on how best to proceed. Make this meeting at a time that you both agree on well in advance, be clear on the feedback you want, and then don’t miss your deadlines!

At the end of the day, taking action is perhaps the biggest deciding factor that will directly contribute to your success and your ability to achieve your goals. If you don’t act, you’re dead in the water. So make a commitment to yourself today to give this a shot.

Think this system would work for you? Let us know!

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