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8 Ways To Become A Best-Selling Author With Your First Book

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I admit it. There are no guarantees—especially with books.

Mini Habits best selling bookBut while I can’t guarantee this will work for you, I can say it worked for me and I’ll do my best to share why. I’ve published one book (so far) called Mini Habits, and it’s been a bestseller for more than seven months straight, almost always being in the top 10 of competitive categories. So when I say best seller, I don’t mean that it peaked at #35 in one category one time and dropped back down into oblivion. It has sold 16,000+ copies in these seven months.

At its peak, Mini Habits hit #15 overall in the US Kindle store (and #1 in nonfiction). That was a fun day!

These are the 8 key factors that made my book a best seller. If you’re a current or prospective self-published author, you’ll want to bookmark this one. This is what made my book a mini-phenomenon… one which continues to grow.

 

1. Give Your Book A Chance To Succeed

Obvious, isn’t it? But how many self-published authors out there are paying enough for skilled editors and talented cover artists? I don’t know the answer, but I know that a lot do NOT invest much money into their book—only their time. The problem with only investing time is that publishing a book takes an alarming number of varied skills to pull off. The likelihood that you can do everything to a high standard is about as likely as North Korea being voted “friendliest country.”

To have a chance, you usually need to take a financial risk. I paid $150 for my first cover. It wasn’t horrible, but I did decide to pay $550 to have another one created that fit the book better and gave a more cheerful vibe. That’s $700 I put into the cover alone. Then you have editing, proofreading, and any other services you might need to fill in your skill gaps.

To compete at a high level in the marketplace, your book must be polished.

 

2. Launch Big Or Go Home

Book launches are like space shuttle launches—if there’s a problem in the beginning, your entire mission is in big trouble. The reason is a simple, yet powerful observation that any of us can identify as true.

The books that sell are the books that sell.

It’s unfortunate that so many gems are buried in obscurity, but it happens all the time. For your book to have a chance, at some point it must rise up the charts to a place where browsing readers can see it, and the best time for that to happen is right when you release it.

It’s not just visibility, either. Who wants to buy a book that has sold one copy in the past year? Psychologically, we’re wired to think that the books that sell the most are the best ones. That’s not always true, and the way in which it is most incorrect is in assuming books that don’t sell aren’t any good.

Perception and visibility make your book’s success or failure.

How do you launch big?

The most reliable way is with your own targeted email list. I had just over 4,000 email subscribers when I launched Mini Habits. It reached as high as #1,503 overall on Amazon in the first couple of days in which members of my list bought 100-200 copies.

The second best way is with another person’s email list. I was fortunate enough that Steve Scott—a prolific blogger and author—liked the book and shared it with his list of about the same size. This helped minimize the dreaded post-launch cliff and kept it visible.

If you don’t have an email list or know anyone who does, you’ll need to get creative and try to build partnerships with people of influence. One good idea that has worked for some is to give out advance copies of your book to bloggers in your book’s niche. Then ask them to share it if they like it.

The point here is that it’s unrealistic to think your book will sell if it doesn’t have a big push to get it into the spotlight. Just think about a best-selling author like Stephen King—the moment he releases a book, there are already thousands of people waiting to buy it, sending it up the charts and making it visible to even more people. That’s what you need to aim for (on a smaller level, of course). I did it by building a platform (my blog). I’m a poor networker, but I was still able to have a big launch. Play to your strengths and leverage email lists for a big launch! Even if you have to pay someone to advertise to their list, email is the best sales channel.

 

3. Publish In The Right Place(s)

Mini Habits is exclusive to Amazon. The reason for that is Amazon’s KDP select. There are three benefits of KDP select, which you gain when you only publish your ebook on Amazon.

Countdown sales (or free sales, which I personally think devalues books) — once every 90 days, you can put your book on sale, and there will be a countdown timer to show readers when the sale ends. Most authors find this helps increase sales over manual price changes (because of the official countdown timer).

Prime borrows — Amazon Prime members pay about $99 a year for free two-day shipping on Amazon. As a bonus, they are allowed to borrow one Kindle book per month. If you’re on KDP select, your book is included as an option. On average, Amazon pays you about $2 every time your book is borrowed. Depending on the price of your book, this is almost like another sale. And as for your book’s Amazon ranking, it seems to count as a full or partial sale too, which is obviously wonderful.

Kindle Unlimited — Amazon just announced a Netflix-like subscription model for books. Readers pay $9.99 for unlimited access to more than 600,000 books. Mini Habits is automatically one of those books because it is enrolled in KDP Select. So if a reader has Kindle Unlimited and downloads your book, does it count as a sale? A borrow? It counts as nothing, actually, until they read at least 10% of your book. After they read to the 10% mark, the transaction is counted just like a Prime borrow (which was explained above).

As a side note, guess what Kindle Unlimited is going to encourage? Shorter books, where the 10% mark can be reached more easily. The 10% mark in War And Peace is about the length of my entire book!

Amazon has a KDP fund that is split by authors in KDP select. Your split is determined by what percentage of borrows your book(s) were responsible for. It usually amounts to about $2 per borrow. Now that they’ve added the Kindle Unlimited monkey wrench, the big question is how—if at all—it will affect this $2 per borrow number authors have come to expect. We’ll have to wait and see the first KDP disbursement.

That’s Amazon’s deal and they control 50-60% of the market, so it’s a big deal. It has worked brilliantly for me, and I love the simplicity of only managing one platform. There are legitimate concerns, however, with putting all of your eggs in Amazon’s basket, especially when they’re making industry-shaking moves like Kindle Unlimited. The good news is that if you go exclusive with Amazon, it’s only for 90 days at a time. After that, you’re free to drop KDP select and put your book on other platforms.

I’ve gained thousands of dollars and hundreds of readers by going exclusive with Amazon through the borrows alone, and the Kindle countdown deal is what drove my book to #15 in the USA Kindle store for a few special days. It’s been beneficial to concentrate all sales in one location for sales ranking purposes, too.

That’s not to say it’s best for everyone. I’ve read plenty of authors who get plenty of sales by going multi-platform. I was going to experiment, but it’s gone so well with Amazon that I’ve stuck with it.

 

A total of seven self-published ebooks will make the New York Times bestseller list this weekend

 

4. Make Your Book Relevant, But Unique

I’m not saying you can’t write another vampire book. I’m saying you can’t write “Twi-lite.”

For fiction and nonfiction alike, it’s smart to look at what’s selling well already. That’s where the interest is, and a crowded market is not usually a bad thing. Many people who buy one book in a category will buy several more in that category! Looking at what people are buying now will help you stay relevant.

Now, I’m forever biased, but I think that “Mini Habits” has some intrigue to it. I know it’s at least a unique concept, and yet it’s within the popular habit formation niche (relevant, but unique).

Also important is that “Mini Habits” is a memorable and easily identifiable title, which helps greatly if someone wants to talk about the book or concept with friends. “Mini Habits” is also perfectly descriptive of the book’s topic—I didn’t just throw a catchy name on the cover (though a few copycats of my book did. One guy had “Mini Habits” in the title despite the phrase not being found one time in the actual book… classic).

And that’s another lesson you probably already know. If you want the chance to become a legitimate author yourself, do not blatantly copy other authors. It can work for blog posts to write “The 7 Habits of [blah blah],” but if you publish a book trying to use the same copycat formula, you’ll take a credibility hit.

That said, you can modify a working concept to make it less-than-obvious that you were inspired by a popular book. Maybe your book would be called “The 9 Beliefs Of Very Happy People.” That uses the same general formula as Steven Covey’s blockbuster, “The 7 Habits Of Highly Effective People,” but it’s not a blatant copy and it even tackles a different subject (and it’s a topic in demand as evidenced by other best-selling books on happiness).

The idea is to stay relevant to what people are looking for, but make sure your book stands out. It’s simple advice, but it’s invaluable if you want to sell books!

 

5. Price Your Book Like A Pro

Note: This strategy applies to Amazon only. I’m not familiar with how the other book markets operate (e.g. Barnes & Noble and Apple).

Just after I launched Mini Habits, I made a mistake. Seeing it as a premium book with premium information, I priced it at a premium price of $9.99. I quickly learned that selling a short book for $10 is a bad idea, especially with your first book. Sales dropped substantially when I increased the price. I expected a drop, but not that much of one! So I lowered it to $5.99, where it’s been selling successfully for months.

To price your ebook, you’ve got to understand the pricing environment you’re in. My book is exclusive with Amazon (and we’ll get to that soon), and so I’ve analyzed the price of hundreds of Amazon ebooks.

People shopping at Amazon have specific expectations of how a book will be priced. Generally what you’ll see is self-published ebooks in the $2.99-9.99 range (with almost all at or below $5.99) and traditionally-published ebooks are often greater than $10. Since Amazon gives a 70% royalty for ebooks in the 2.99-9.99 range, that’s why you see so many books between those boundaries. Books priced outside that range only earn a 35% royalty for the author.

If you “fight the market” and stubbornly price your book at $15 “because it’s worth it,” enjoy having no sales! If you’re like me and you cringe a little bit at selling your baby for too little, consider the other great thing you get from a lower price point—readers! Writers need readers, right? And generally speaking, gaining a loyal reader is more valuable than making a couple bucks more per sale. So if you’re going to be a rebel, choose another way besides pricing. Believe me, you want to conform to market pricing.

 

6. Categorize Your Book Like A Pro

Let me ask you a question. After you launch your book and place it in the proper categories, what do you do? If you said anything besides “change categories,” listen to this. When I made a change to ONE category Mini Habits was in (you can put your book in two categories), sales doubled. That needs all caps, doesn’t it? SALES DOUBLED.

To properly categorize your book, there are only two factors to consider—where your book ranks in the category and how well it sells there. Generally speaking, my strategy is to get in the most popular category where I can rank well. For my sales volume now, that means a popular category in which I can get on the first page (top 20 books). For someone just starting out with lower sales or a very competitive niche (e.g. Mystery), you might be aiming to break the top 100, which is where the bestseller list cuts off.

Keep in mind that being #83 in a popular category might get much more traffic than being the top 20 of a less popular category. Fiction readers especially are voracious, and will scour the deepest depths of their favorite categories to find a new gem.

To get an idea of a category’s popularity, look at several of the first 20 books. Click on a book and scroll down until you see its overall ranking. If it’s a competitive category, you’ll see several books rank in the top 1,000 books overall. If it’s not a very competitive category, the #1 book might be ranked as low as #5,000-#15,000 overall. Now find your book’s overall ranking to see where it would be in the category you’re analyzing.

These should be your priorities:

  • Break top 100 in a category
  • Break top 20 in a category (first page)
  • Become #1 in a category (this might help with Amazon’s system recommendations, and Amazon shows “#1 best seller in ____” next to your book in search)

You have to think carefully though. Being #3 in a popular category will most likely serve you better than being #1 in a lower-traffic category, but only experimentation can confirm this. I’ve had the best results by jumping into a popular category when my book can rank in the top 20, and when I can’t manage that, jumping down to a less popular category and aiming for the top 5.

Chances are, your book can fit in a number of different categories. Some categories are better fits for your book than others, but choosing the “best fit” is not always the best decision for getting your book more sales and exposure. That said, if you pick a completely irrelevant category, you won’t be happy with the results!

These are good guidelines to follow, but you’ll still need to experiment. And that’s the key. Many authors do not experiment, and let their book die young in the wrong category. Sometimes I wonder where Mini Habits would be if I didn’t experiment with categories.

 

professional writer amateur quote

 

7. Know Your Reader And Overdeliver On Value

When people read Mini Habits, they probably expect to think, “that was a cute idea,” or some adorable phrase like that. But what they get is a compelling and carefully-crafted case for taking seriously this ridiculous-sounding strategy of habit change. I loaded the book with science and straightforward logic. I also know the strategies people currently try to succeed with, so I effectively and ruthlessly attacked them as inferior strategies for change. If you’ve been doing something for 25 years and a person presents a compelling case for why you shouldn’t do it anymore, it will get your attention.

After reading my book, people come away with a new perspective. For many of the people who’ve read it, it’s been a life-changing decision for them. That’s why Mini Habits is rated 4.7 stars from 197 reviews as of writing. I’m not trying to brag, I’m trying to explain that people have to like your book in order for it to succeed. But what determines that?

Give the reader tangible results.

Whether it’s a fun experience or a new strategy that solves a problem for them, delivering a result that meets—and hopefully exceeds—what the reader expects from your book is the single most important thing your book must accomplish to succeed.

If your book only rehashes things that have been said and done before, it’s unlikely to make too many waves. One of the most common critical reviews I see is, “nothing new.” That happens when people don’t do in-depth research. They parrot out what other authors are parroting out.

Readers like to be surprised by novel situations in fiction books and novel ideas in nonfiction books. They read books to learn and experience new thoughts and ideas, and if your book doesn’t accomplish that, it will be tough to win people over.

But I want to go a little bit deeper. Overdelivering isn’t just some fancy catchphrase that means “do a good job.” It means to “do more than what’s expected.” And this is critical with books because expectations are largely based the price of your book and how the content measures up to the competition—two things that you can control. We just talked about overdelivering and standing out, so now let’s talk pricing and categories.

 

8. Promote The Smart Way

Note: Some authors will cheat the system and buy positive reviews. People read reviews to see what real people thought of your book. If you can’t get ahead without cheating, you should play a different game! That’s my philosophy, and I think that the trust I build with my book and blog readers will be THE key factor that sustains my business. Not only is review tampering highly unethical, but I find it unnecessary.

Cheating gets you ahead today; honesty builds a foundation for life. It feels good to know that people will look at Mini Habits’ reviews and see nothing but honest feedback. Fortunately, the feedback has been positive, and that’s why overdelivering is important.

Mini Habits has sold like hotcakes for 7 months in a row. Why do you think that is? Whenever sales drop, and even when they don’t, I’m hustling to promote it! Writing and publishing a book is only the beginning. Promotion is a neverending job because when you stop promoting, your book will fade away (unless it’s a rare exception).

Too many authors write a book and wait for the sales to come, but in order to compete, marketing your book is mandatory.

For promotion, the king on top of the mountain is Bookbub. There is no arguing against it, and their role in the book industry is only going to grow moving forward. Bookbub is a book deal site that has email lists of hundreds of thousands of subscribers in different categories. They let subscribers know when there’s a great deal on a great book.

Remember how I said the email list was the key to a big launch? That’s why Bookbub is king. They have, by far, the largest email lists of interested readers (for example, they have 1.5 million emails for the Mystery category alone)!

If you submit your book and are lucky enough to be accepted, you get to pay them several hundred dollars. Wha-whaaat? Yes, and if you know what you’re in for, you’ll have a huge smile on your face when you do it. I often read message boards and laugh when people say Bookbub and “risk” in the same sentence because of the cost. I’ve not heard of one person who hasn’t easily covered their cost with a Bookbub promotion. One measly email from them will trigger hundreds or thousands of sales of your book.

I didn’t mention this, but do you know how Mini Habits rose to #15 overall? It sold 4,000+ copies in two days. And it wasn’t just the Kindle countdown deal, it was Bookbub. And the residual effect of moving up the charts like that is substantial. Sales are still higher months after the promotion, because the books that sell are the books that sell.

But it’s difficult to be accepted on Bookbub because of the demand, and you can understand why. Getting on Bookbub with a diamond in the rough book might just change your life. It changed mine!

If you think the whole point of this article is “get on Bookbub,” that’s not correct. You can absolutely succeed without Bookbub, and your book will need to be somewhat successful already in order to have a chance with them anyway. Keep in mind that the reason they accepted Mini Habits is that it was already selling well, was rated 4.9 stars, and it had that combination of unique, but relevant I mentioned earlier. Bookbub just took my book’s success to the next level.

Bookbub isn’t the only one, either. There are dozens of other ebook promotion services. Many of them will give you disappointing results, so be careful and google “[their name] results” to see others’ experiences with them. I’ve found this to be a reliable way to see if a promotion is worth it or not. I’ll go ahead and tell you that Pixel of Ink and eReaderNewsToday are the other two to look at first.

 

Alternative Promotion Strategies

Guest posting—I’ve had success with guest posting and linking to my book in my bio. As expected, it works best when the post is related to the topic of your book. This is easier for non-fiction writers, since the content is suitable for a larger number of blogs.

Funnels—This isn’t a “best-selling first book” approach because it requires multiple books, but many authors have success with funnels. An example of a funnel is having the first book in a series free, which draws in a larger amount of people than a for-sale book would. Then, the second book in the series might cost $2.99, and readers who get “hooked” on the first book will likely purchase the second book. After that, maybe you’ll sell them an even higher priced book or related product. The idea of a funnel is to ask for very little at first until you build trust with the reader. If your books are good, it works very well. If people read your first book and hate it, well, you know…

Advertising—Conventional advertising with Google adwords or Facebook is always an option. I don’t do it, but it’s another way to get sales and increase awareness of your book. Just keep a close eye on your ROI, because losing a lot of money for a few sales isn’t ideal.

GoodreadsYou must get on Goodreads if you’re an author. It’s like the world’s biggest book club. I’ve run two paperback giveaways through Goodreads, and I can’t say it’s done a lot for sales, but I don’t know that for sure. It has greatly increased my presence on Goodreads, which can only help. My guess is that it’s had a small-to-moderate positive long term impact on sales (but no short-term sales boosts).

 

Conclusion

The truth is that most authors give their books absolutely no chance to rise to the top. First, position your book to succeed, and it will have a chance to be read. If it’s read and people love it, it might just become the next blockbuster. But don’t let that get you too excited or discouraged—there’s a middle ground. There are a lot of authors just like me who aren’t in the paper, but are still making a decent living from their book(s).

Unlike any time before now, every writer has a chance. The gatekeepers have been overthrown with the rise of self-publishing. Now it’s the wild west, and these strategies will help you compete.

Check out my book “Mini Habits” to discover the life-changing strategy of taking small, daily actions. Mini Habits has sold 80,000+ copies worldwide. I’m Stephen Guise, the founder of Deep Existence, a blog about focusing, habits, and the power of small steps. Join Deep Existence to gain access to more than 50 exclusive articles, download 40 “focus wallpapers,” and read my stress management book for free!

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11 Comments

11 Comments

  1. Cloris Kylie

    Oct 16, 2015 at 11:02 pm

    Spot on, Stephen! Great article! This is exactly what I share with my clients–who are authors wanting to sell more books. Thank you!

  2. Cindy Griffin

    May 13, 2015 at 2:24 pm

    My debut novel is a rock romance and currently at the editor. I wanted to thank you for this article with all of these helpful suggestions. I never considered when I started writing that I would need to be a publisher and have a marketing degree! I simply wanted to write great books.
    Through Internet searches I have now learned so much valuable information about both areas, more than I want to know actually. I am going to follow your advice from these steps and see how my book does. The info makes the most sense to me from ALL of the publishing tips out there (there must be 1000s).
    I do not want to jumble my mind with publishing and marketing info. As I said, I simply want to write great books.

  3. James Jean-Pierre

    May 6, 2015 at 1:43 pm

    Took me a while to land on this post and I can’t say I regret it. I’ve read a lot of posts, and I mean a lot, but this is different, not repeating the same thing everyone else is.

    The three promotions you suggested, I found a while back but had put them in a don’t use folder, but I will bring them back to see if I should reconsider. Thanks a lot, this was really helpful.

  4. Lidiya K

    Jan 17, 2015 at 11:52 am

    Excellent advise! Thanks for the article.

  5. Rev. g

    Nov 21, 2014 at 6:17 pm

    This was very helpful. Currently in the process of the ‘marketing stage’ of my first book and have just written my second. Both genres are spiritual/inspirational. The first is published and available in hard/soft covers and ebook (we used multiple platforms). I didn’t have much say in the pricing except for the ebook and after reading your article perhaps I need to lower the price (currently at $7.99) My 2nd book going to the production stage. I self-published with the help of a publisher. Since this is all very new to me, your tips have been extremely helpful. I look forward in using them – thanks again… This has truly been a learning yet positive experience!

  6. Mohammad Izdiyan Muttaqin

    Aug 17, 2014 at 7:08 am

    thank you very much for sharing it is a really valuable lessons, i am really motivated to try it

  7. Phil Janecic

    Aug 16, 2014 at 8:21 pm

    This is an awesome post! I’ll be publishing in the future so this was full of really useful information. I only have one question – you only covered the “ebook” part. I see that Amazon also offers your book as paperback.

    How do you set up publishing physical books? I can only assume it’s expensive and complicated.

    • Stephen

      Aug 18, 2014 at 3:55 pm

      Thanks Phil. If you publish your paperback through Createspace (amazon Subsidiary), it’s the opposite of expensive and complicated.

      1. Format the book to look good on paperback (this is the hardest part because you have to wrestle with word processing software). As opposed to the ebook, you’ll need page headers, page numbers, etc.

      2. Have your designer create a PDF cover.

      3. Upload the interior and cover for review and they’ll let you know of any issues you need to fix.

      4. I remember it being free. Then it’s print on demand and they take a cut.

      Createspace has info on how to format the interior and also the needed dimensions of the cover. But yeah, I was surprised at how easy it was.

      Cheers,
      Stephen

      • Phil Janecic

        Aug 20, 2014 at 8:45 pm

        Wow, sounds awesome. Thanks for the tips!

  8. Ben Kyle

    Aug 11, 2014 at 9:39 pm

    This is a great article….
    Writing and publishing(Point 3) a book is one thing, but getting it to top the charts is another.

    From what I’ve been able to observe and the extensive market research I’ve done there are a few specific ways you can become a bestselling author:

    1. Luck – think Fifty Shades of Grey: Book One of the Fifty Shades Trilogy

    2. Notoriety – think J.K. Rowling or Anthony Robbins – the simple fact of them publishing a new book almost guarantees it will shoot up the charts to #1.

    3. Buy your way to the top – many Internet gurus have been known to buy massive quantities of their own book when it first comes out and force the book to the top of the chart.

    4. Great writing(point 7) – this is how many new bestsellers reach that coveted position.

    5. Great marketing(point 8) – some authors wrote a decent book, but the power-house marketing behind the launch is what propelled them to the top of the charts.

    Other than the first way to become a bestselling author, I’d say that most of the other types of authors on the list become a bestseller by having a very clear and focused goal.

    By that I mean that you set in your mind that your book will top the charts, you hold that vision and you take massive action to make that happen.

    • Stephen

      Aug 12, 2014 at 6:04 pm

      Thanks, Ben.

      Based on your list, I think people should aim for #5 and work their way up to #1 as far as strategy goes (though I think #3 is unethical).

      I think that marketing makes a bigger difference than writing quality in many cases (it’s not ideal, but it seems to be the case). But you need both to have a sustainable presence on the bestseller list.

      And your last point is quite true. I believe so strongly in Mini Habits that I’ve been determined to make it highly visible and successful, and that’s helped. If I was half-hearted about the book I wrote or not confident in its value, it’d be much harder to promote it like I have.

      I love Amazon though. Their platform makes it more likely for the cream to rise to the top. Biases are negated through an impartial algorithm, which gives all writers a chance to succeed.

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Success Advice

2 Ways To End Suffering Forever.

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This year I have learned so much. I’ve learned that we all suffer no matter what. No one can avoid it. That’s not what I want to share with you though. What I want to tell you is that you have the power to end suffering.

I have proven it in my own life. We don’t need to suffer. We can end it all and the silly thing is it’s so simple. I do not want you to avoid this advice any longer. I want you to use it even if you think it’s a load of mumbo-jumbo.

Here are the two ways I’ve found to end suffering forever:

 

1. Find a way to give to other people.

You only suffer when life is all about you and your success. Once you move from being all about you, into a state of mind that is focused on giving, your problems become insignificant.

I had a couple of situations this year that have nearly knocked me flat on my ass. One was my romantic life falling to pieces and the other was my career collapsing. When both these events occurred, I used giving to other people as the way out of the maze that my mind created.

The moment suffering begun, I went straight to finding ways to serve other people. I helped friends with their businesses, I spoke at events to inspire people, I did some volunteering and I doubled down on my blogging so I could inspire as many people as possible.

Shifting the focus away from what was wrong and using my focus to give to others ended the suffering.

“There wasn’t time to suffer because the purpose of my life during those months was far bigger than me and my stupid life challenges. Giving to others gave me a way to find happiness when I probably would have hidden away and suffered in silence”

Seeing the solutions to other people’s problems and sharing them, gave me a way to put my career and relationships into perspective.

Giving is the example you need when times get tough and things get complicated. You suffer the most when you get stuck in your head and repeat the pattern of telling yourself how wrong your circumstances are.

Suffering can make you depressed, feel lonely, become selfish, go into a downward spiral and take away everything that’s good in your life.

Finding ways to give on the other hand, can cure all of those problems. I know it sounds so cliché what I’m saying but it surprises me how many people never use this strategy. Like I always say: the answers we seek are right in front of our nose.

Next time you feel yourself suffering, get out of your head and try this strategy.

 

 

2. Practice gratitude.

Okay, I thought this strategy was so dumb when I discovered it. It’s so obvious and it sounds way too easy. I mean how can writing down a few things you’re grateful for really end your suffering?

I mean you could lie to yourself and pretend that you’re grateful for something when you’re not. Well, that’s exactly what I did at the beginning. When I was suffering this year, I started writing down three things each day that I was grateful for.

In the first week, I lied about things I was grateful for and found the exercise completely ridiculous. This advice is so common that I decided to persist with this ridiculous self-help hack anyway.

What I found as I kept doing it was that your brain makes a shift subconsciously. Instead of being pissed off and suffering, your brain has to work extra hard to find three things every day to be grateful for.

To make this habit work even better I forced my brain to describe in detail each thing I was grateful for and ideally why. Some days sucked so bad that I thought I would never find three things. Once the challenge became a must, I spent my days working my butt off trying to find things I was grateful for.

While doing various activities during the day, I’d find moments when I was grateful for something and stop. I’d stop and see how I felt at that moment and I would have a mini celebration because I knew I had something for my gratitude list.

Then I tried to aim for five things each day instead of three. This shifted my focus even more. I should have been suffering but because I was forcing myself to see good things that were happening to me, I was distracted.

As I said earlier, this new habit seemed so dumb at the beginning. Once you really do it for a while, you see how it has the power to end suffering. You can’t be pissed off and be grateful at the same time. So, choose gratitude and then your suffering will be sidelined, and in my case, forgotten about.

 

***Life doesn’t need to be full of low points***

The suffering that we all experience is a choice. It probably doesn’t seem like that but these two hacks will demonstrate this to you. Your decision-making power is incredible and all you need to do is select one of these hacks to end suffering.

Don’t let the quality of your life be jeopardized by your default human mode to suffer. You’ll find these two hacks will not only end your suffering; these two hacks will give you purpose.

Here’s what I learned: most people are pissed off and suffer because they have no purpose. Once you find a purpose for your life, you’ll become addicted.

Now that’s a huge win don’t you think? You can end suffering and find purpose, all by using these two hacks. That’s the best gift I can give you.

Don’t just read this advice. Try these two hacks yourself.

It’s time to end suffering forever.

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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7 Steps to Conquering the Fears That Are Holding You Back From Success

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I remember the day in vivid detail. I was on a weekend trip visiting my girlfriend at the time in Arizona. She had decided that we should join her friends to go “cliff jumping.”  We were early on in our dating and she obviously had no idea that I was not fond of heights. So “cliffs” and jumping off of them… No thanks!

I inevitably found myself on the edge of a 40-foot cliff peering down at a vast blue canvas of water. Then I realized if I didn’t jump, I’d have to start the walk of shame back down the cliff. This was a lose-lose situation for me.

Fear had me. I didn’t want to jump, but I also didn’t want to look bad in front of my girlfriend’s friends. So I jumped and in that moment, I had defied my brain and my neurochemistry.

Our brains are wired to protect us, not to push us towards our goals. Our brains are wired to look for anything that could be potentially dangerous or threatening and keep us as far away from it as possible by using fear. The problem is not all situations warrant fear.

There is a saying in neuroscience that says, “the brain wires the way it fires”, meaning the more you do a certain activity, the more the brain lays down wiring to make that action or activity easier.

‘Fears are educated into us, and can, if we wish, be educated out.’ – Karl Augustus Menninger

When we let fear keep us stagnant and we continue to do the same things that are comfortable, our brain gets “hardwired” to stay comfortable. We become “stagnant.” This can become debilitating for some of us and prevent us from encountering the very experiences we need to grow and succeed.

When we, in spite of our fear, do the challenging things that are outside our comfort zone, we begin to hardwire into our brain change, adaptability, creativity, growth, perspective, and happiness because we stretch the boundaries of our brain’s capabilities and force it to adapt rather than “playing it safe.”

An elite athlete didn’t make it where they are today by going into their training and never pushing past their comfort zone. They constantly pushed their limits of comfort to force their bodies and minds to grow to that of a top performer. The same principle applies to our brains. If we let fear dictate our actions in any area of our lives, it will stunt your growth in that area.

So what’s the first step? How do we go about conquering our fears whether it’s public speaking, starting a business, or launching the product or service? See below:

1. Journal Your Fears

Write down all the fears you have, big or small. Contrary to opinion “size does not matter.” Your brain still operates the same with all types of fear. The key is to first acknowledge what you are fearful about and bring it to light. Be as specific as possible.

2. Prioritize Your Fears

I then rank my fears from highest to lowest in terms of how often I think about this fear and/or how much it disrupts my life. You may find some fears combine into a broader category and that’s ok — we’ll get to that. So for now identify your biggest fear.

3. Support Your Belief in Yourself

I don’t mean just “believe in yourself.” What I mean is to build in support systems that will support your belief in yourself, so that when you start taking action, your support systems will solidify those new experiences and form deeper, more meaningful, and lasting beliefs in yourself.

It may look like building a list of affirmations that you say every morning or a meditation. Whatever it is, it needs to be uplifting and empowering you towards conquering your goals.

4. Take Action & Start Small

Look at your list and identify what your biggest fear is. That’s the beast we’re going to tackle long term, but for some that may seem like a big stretch at first. So instead, see what your 5th biggest fear is, and that’s where you’ll start.

What we will then do is build our way up and take a ride on the “Momentum Train.” Starting small with taking actions toward your lower priority fears and then building up helps your brain build momentum, which provides your brain with plenty of courage and motivation to tackle the #1 fear on your list.

‘Avoiding danger is no safer in the long run than outright exposure. The fearful are caught as often as the bold.’ – Helen Keller

5. No Time Limit, Just Consistency

Most goals should be limited to a time domain. For the goal of tackling a fear, time can be a challenging factor to set. Some of these fears may have been unknowingly building up for decades without your knowledge. So I don’t recommend setting a time on when you are “going to conquer your fear.”

Instead set appointments to regularly meet and address your fear. If you’re fear is public speaking, then go to a local Toastmasters once a week. The more consistent you can be, the better.

6. Reframe and Reinforce

As you begin to address these fears, make sure you are reinforcing the experiences you have in a positive perspective. For instance, if you want to be less fearful of public speaking and decide to try out a local toastmasters group, your first time speaking to the group might feel like a train wreck, but when you look back on the situation you can acknowledge that that actually pushed past your fear and accomplished your goal.

7. Rinse and Repeat

This isn’t a quick fix. It may take some time. There’s always a new fear or challenge awaiting us. The key is to have systems like this in place to address those challenges properly rather than allowing ourselves to succumb to fear and derail our lives from their fullest potential.

How do you handle your fears? Comment below!

Image courtesy of Twenty20.com

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30 Straightforward Reminders to Help You Supercharge Your Life in 2018

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This time of year it’s easy to be overwhelmed by well-meaning advice. Everyone seems to have a solution to your procrastination or a remedy for your lack of motivation. Unfortunately, most advice is either too general or irrelevant because it doesn’t address your main concerns.

I’ve spent the last year trying to hone in on some of the best tips and tricks I’ve learned to stay ahead and maintain a positive mindset.

Here are 30 straightforward reminders and tips to help you supercharge your life in 2018:

1. Get the basics right. Take care of your body, your mind and your soul. Make a list of what you know is good for you and what you know is bad for you in each category. Consider ways to reduce the bad and increase the good.

2. Reduce distractions that sap your energy. When you’re planning big changes, it’s easy to get pulled into many different directions. You get excited about a certain idea which pulls you down the rabbit hole into numerous other directions. Focus on one thing at a time.

3. Make a new friend. Start a conversation with a stranger in the elevator. Compliment someone. Provide some positive reinforcement. Do something without expecting anything in return.

4. Smile more. Smiling takes less effort than frowning. It’s also scientifically proven to make you feel better even if you don’t necessarily feel like smiling.

5. Walk 30 minutes a day. Just 30 minutes of exercise a day can help you stimulate your immune system, increase your metabolism and improve your mood.

6. Do one push-up for every year old you are. Or do twice as many sit-ups for every year old you are. Making sure you work the muscles in different parts of your body stimulates hormone production and helps increase fat burning.

7. Find your intrinsic drivers. Intrinsic drivers are what inspire you based on internal motivation, rather than external motivation. Find something you think of as beautiful, peaceful, relaxing. Embrace it. Appreciate it. Try to understand why you like it

8. Speak to an old friend. Reach out in an email, a text, a phone call. Check in and just let them know you’re thinking about them.

“Friendship is the only cement that will ever hold the world together.” – Woodrow T. Wilson

9. Invest in your health. Join a gym. Buy some type of sports equipment or clothing that is comfortable and that you enjoy being in. Consider joining a pick up sports team.

10. Study something that interests you. Buy a book about someone you admire. Pick a time period that you’re fascinated with. Make a point of becoming an expert on something that matters to you.

11. Teach someone something. Take a topic, any topic, and try to break it down into its component parts so that you can teach someone how to do it. The concentration and the effort it takes to teach someone something is often exactly the kind of effort that is required to truly understand it for yourself.

12. Delegate to someone. Find a task that needs to be done that you could do. Don’t do that task. Instead, look for someone you can ask to help you. Pay them or ask them for a favor. The key is to learn to delegate actions to others.

13. Meditate. Mindfulness and meditation are trending right now, but that’s not the reason you should consider adopting a meditation practice. The real reason is that meditation will help you focus on your key goals while cutting out the noise in the world around you.  

14. Learn to manage your personal finances. One of the biggest causes of stress that we as humans experience is the pressure to make money and control our finances. There are tons of free resources available online to help you learn about finances and help get your money in order.

15. Read more. No, I’m not talking about reading your Facebook News Feed. Read more books. Try to read a book a month, either fiction or nonfiction. At the beginning of the month choose a book and break down the number of pages. See how many you have to read a day to finish… then get started.

16. Cook at home at least 5 days a week. Cooking at home is cheap, easy and fun. You can hone skills in creativity and planning all at once, and it’s a great way to save money.

“My New Year’s resolution is to stick to a good workout plan that will keep me healthy and happy.” – James Lafferty

17. Sell someone. No, not into human bondage. Sell someone on an idea or a product. Learn to market yourself and your skills. Everyone sells as they move through life, but most of us are average salespeople.

18. Hone your principles. What principles define your life? What are your strongly held beliefs? Be honest with yourself and what principles you feel you must uphold.

19. Embrace the power of positive thought. Listen to positive audio tapes, surround yourself with positive people. Look at the positive side of life. Easier said than done, but truth be told one of the best ways to improve your mood is to look for sources of positive mood and inspiration.

20. Practice willpower. Habits are formed over time. Willpower is one of the most important habits you will ever build, so it is integral you continue to practice it through all aspects of your life. Look to the stoic philosophers for a primer on how to tackle this.

21. Write better hooks. A hook is the bit of a song that catches a listener’s attention and repeats your core message in an intriguing way. Similarly, in writing a hook is the quirky or fascinating intro that makes readers want to continue to read. Think about your own hooks and how you can get people interested in what you have to say.

22. Don’t sweat the small stuff. We often become obsessed with daily minutiae and avoid thinking about the big picture. Don’t let yourself worry too much about the small day-to-day struggles. Instead, put your head down and get to work.

23. Don’t overthink the big stuff. Too often we avoid taking leaps of faith because we’re worried about making a mistake on something big. We don’t buy the new house. We avoid marrying the person we love. We put off going to the doctor for that regular scan. Try not to overthink the big decisions (or seemingly small decisions) that may have larger ramifications. If it’s not overly dangerous or illegal, take the plunge and go for it.

24. Learn a new word a day. Increasing your vocabulary helps you see the world in different ways and makes you rethink your core beliefs.

“You don’t learn to walk by following rules. You learn by doing, and by falling over.” – Richard Branson

25. Become a moderate. Extremists are divisive and often at odds with a large portion of the population. Look for ways to bring people together through collaboration and consensus rather than through division.

26. Think big(ger). Many self-help books talk about setting big goals or envisioning massive success in your lifetime. If you want to become a true leader and attain greater fulfillment. Look for ways to think beyond creating success in your lifetime. Think about the legacy you’ll leave for future generations.

27. Learn universal processes. Assess how you work best and find ways to carry standardized processes over into other aspects of your life.

28. Develop support structures. What do you do if things aren’t going according to plan? Do you reach out to friends for support, meditate on the problem alone, or use some mixture of different coping mechanisms? Be aware of what works for you, and what doesn’t.

29. Don’t compare yourself to others. We fall into this trap far too often. We use others as a benchmark for our own progress, but we must remember that it is unhealthy to put too much weight on comparisons, as everyone has their own background and their own perspective.

30. Know when to let go. At the end of the day, you must try your best and let the cards fall as they may. All you can do is put your heart and soul into your effort and learn from the results.

Which one of these things are you going to implement into your life immediately? Comment below!

Image courtesy of Twenty20.com

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5 Things Generation Z Needs to Know in Order to Succeed

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If you were born from 1995 through 2012, you are part of a special demographic—Generation Z. Congratulations! You are a very important person. First, you make up the largest percentage of the US population at 25.9 percent. Second, you’re an iGeneration kid, which means people like you write product reviews, click web ads, and build online businesses. In short, you run the Internet show.

Finally, you contribute $44 billion to the American economy. You have great potential, but your Internet addiction and reckless behavior are your biggest roadblocks to success. How do you limit the time you spend on Snapchat, focus on building a career, and break through the bars that block your way to success?

Try these five hacks for success:

1. Have a bold vision

Your life is your business. If you’re serious about making it profitable, you’ve got to have a bold vision and work tirelessly to achieve it. Start by redefining yourself. Just because you grew up with Snapchat and YouTube, doesn’t mean you have to use them carelessly. Of course, you can watch the dancing cats on YouTube, but you’ll have to find time for that.

Be a doer, not a chatter, watcher, or browser. Great visionaries are doers, not chatters. If you want success, examine your purpose in life, just like a CEO spends time crafting his company’s mission, then start doing.

Create your vision. Once you make sense of your goal in life, you can set a vision so high that it scares you. Finally, keep working—not chatting—to realize your vision.

2. Never dilute your vision

When I was in high school, I always had the highest grades in my class. However, a new student came to my school, and she began to outshine me in class, answering every question and making me look dumb. One night, I told my mom that I had disappointed her.

I told her that I had new competition, and didn’t have the intellectual capability to face the new girl in the arena. My mom’s response? She laughed out loud before saying anything. She then reminded me, “You told me, remember, that you’ll always be the top student. Why let this girl, a stranger that I believe is no match for you, change your mind?”

Those few words changed my mindset completely. I ended up taking the first position for that year. The moral of the story? Never dilute your vision. It’s scary to face competitors or naysayers who laugh at your idea, but bear in mind that all masters were laughed at before they were revered.

“The only limits are, as always, those of vision.” – James Broughton

3. Win big with small tasks

How do you keep winning and moving closer to realizing your vision? You win the small tasks. I get it, you truly want to create your own app making you the next success story in your industry. In addition, you want to start blogging and profit in the gig economy.  

However, accomplishing these things, all of them, is not possible. They are bigger projects that you can’t accomplish all at once. What is possible is to pick only one thing and work fiercely on it. Deconstruct the dream job.

If you have decided to become a successful blogger, break down that blogging job into smaller tasks. Determine your niche, buy a domain name, design your WordPress site, and start writing and publishing your posts. Successful people move from zero to hero by accomplishing the smaller tasks first. So, get each task done, one step at a time.

4. Stay laser focused on one task

Focus is the secret key that will unlock the code for your success. Unfortunately, for post-millennials living in the world of instant notifications, staying focused is hard. How can you stay focused, for one whole hour, on the single most important task of your day?

Well, here are some simple tips that worked for me:

  • Dedicate certain days to your work. These are your creative days. Whether it’s weekdays or weekends, whatever you choose, just make sure that you do nothing but work on those days.
  • Go tech-free on your creative days. Turn off your Wi-Fi. Power off your Smartphone (or leave it in another room on silent). Divorce the Internet before you sit down to work because too much online activity is dangerous for your physical health, mental faculty, and productivity.
  • Pick one task, only one task, and work on it for an hour.

Of course, you can’t get it done flawlessly when you first start. You’ll feel the urge to look at your phone and possibly check your social media feed or play a game. However, you must keep focusing on the task at hand over and over until it becomes a habit. Consider limiting your Internet time on your non-work days, too.

“The biggest challenge is to stay focused. It’s to have the discipline when there are so many competing things.” – Alexa Hirschfeld

5. Stay consistent

One of the most crucial success hacks is consistency. The rule is to show up every day and do the work required if you truly want to succeed.

Learn from the former American tennis champion Andrea Agassi. Before he made a name for himself, Agassi’s father instructed him to hit 5000 balls every day. Just lace some sneakers, show up at the court, hit 5000 balls, and go home to relax.

Show up and do the same tomorrow. This consistent routine was what elevated Agassi to becoming “the biggest worldwide star in the sport’s history.” If you want to achieve that level of success, set down your smartphone and get to work. “The doing,” as Arthur Ashe beautifully puts it, “is more important than the outcome.”

Which one of these tasks is more challenging for you? How will you improve on it this year? Let us know so we can help!

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10 “Brick-In-The-Head” Moments You’ll Encounter as an Entrepreneur

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The entrepreneurial life is one of the most challenging, stressful and risky avenues to success you could possibly choose. The issue with doing it alone in business ventures is exactly that; you’re alone. To be a successful entrepreneur, you have to be driven, thick-skinned, and ready for any curve balls. (more…)

Vladimir Yakimenko is a CEO, Investor and Founder of Kanbanchi, a popular project management add-on for G Suite. Kanbanchi is one of the fastest growing add-ons for G Suite and has over 80,000 active users. Our work has been featured on Today.com, Lifehacker, Lifehack and more.

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11 Comments

11 Comments

  1. Cloris Kylie

    Oct 16, 2015 at 11:02 pm

    Spot on, Stephen! Great article! This is exactly what I share with my clients–who are authors wanting to sell more books. Thank you!

  2. Cindy Griffin

    May 13, 2015 at 2:24 pm

    My debut novel is a rock romance and currently at the editor. I wanted to thank you for this article with all of these helpful suggestions. I never considered when I started writing that I would need to be a publisher and have a marketing degree! I simply wanted to write great books.
    Through Internet searches I have now learned so much valuable information about both areas, more than I want to know actually. I am going to follow your advice from these steps and see how my book does. The info makes the most sense to me from ALL of the publishing tips out there (there must be 1000s).
    I do not want to jumble my mind with publishing and marketing info. As I said, I simply want to write great books.

  3. James Jean-Pierre

    May 6, 2015 at 1:43 pm

    Took me a while to land on this post and I can’t say I regret it. I’ve read a lot of posts, and I mean a lot, but this is different, not repeating the same thing everyone else is.

    The three promotions you suggested, I found a while back but had put them in a don’t use folder, but I will bring them back to see if I should reconsider. Thanks a lot, this was really helpful.

  4. Lidiya K

    Jan 17, 2015 at 11:52 am

    Excellent advise! Thanks for the article.

  5. Rev. g

    Nov 21, 2014 at 6:17 pm

    This was very helpful. Currently in the process of the ‘marketing stage’ of my first book and have just written my second. Both genres are spiritual/inspirational. The first is published and available in hard/soft covers and ebook (we used multiple platforms). I didn’t have much say in the pricing except for the ebook and after reading your article perhaps I need to lower the price (currently at $7.99) My 2nd book going to the production stage. I self-published with the help of a publisher. Since this is all very new to me, your tips have been extremely helpful. I look forward in using them – thanks again… This has truly been a learning yet positive experience!

  6. Mohammad Izdiyan Muttaqin

    Aug 17, 2014 at 7:08 am

    thank you very much for sharing it is a really valuable lessons, i am really motivated to try it

  7. Phil Janecic

    Aug 16, 2014 at 8:21 pm

    This is an awesome post! I’ll be publishing in the future so this was full of really useful information. I only have one question – you only covered the “ebook” part. I see that Amazon also offers your book as paperback.

    How do you set up publishing physical books? I can only assume it’s expensive and complicated.

    • Stephen

      Aug 18, 2014 at 3:55 pm

      Thanks Phil. If you publish your paperback through Createspace (amazon Subsidiary), it’s the opposite of expensive and complicated.

      1. Format the book to look good on paperback (this is the hardest part because you have to wrestle with word processing software). As opposed to the ebook, you’ll need page headers, page numbers, etc.

      2. Have your designer create a PDF cover.

      3. Upload the interior and cover for review and they’ll let you know of any issues you need to fix.

      4. I remember it being free. Then it’s print on demand and they take a cut.

      Createspace has info on how to format the interior and also the needed dimensions of the cover. But yeah, I was surprised at how easy it was.

      Cheers,
      Stephen

      • Phil Janecic

        Aug 20, 2014 at 8:45 pm

        Wow, sounds awesome. Thanks for the tips!

  8. Ben Kyle

    Aug 11, 2014 at 9:39 pm

    This is a great article….
    Writing and publishing(Point 3) a book is one thing, but getting it to top the charts is another.

    From what I’ve been able to observe and the extensive market research I’ve done there are a few specific ways you can become a bestselling author:

    1. Luck – think Fifty Shades of Grey: Book One of the Fifty Shades Trilogy

    2. Notoriety – think J.K. Rowling or Anthony Robbins – the simple fact of them publishing a new book almost guarantees it will shoot up the charts to #1.

    3. Buy your way to the top – many Internet gurus have been known to buy massive quantities of their own book when it first comes out and force the book to the top of the chart.

    4. Great writing(point 7) – this is how many new bestsellers reach that coveted position.

    5. Great marketing(point 8) – some authors wrote a decent book, but the power-house marketing behind the launch is what propelled them to the top of the charts.

    Other than the first way to become a bestselling author, I’d say that most of the other types of authors on the list become a bestseller by having a very clear and focused goal.

    By that I mean that you set in your mind that your book will top the charts, you hold that vision and you take massive action to make that happen.

    • Stephen

      Aug 12, 2014 at 6:04 pm

      Thanks, Ben.

      Based on your list, I think people should aim for #5 and work their way up to #1 as far as strategy goes (though I think #3 is unethical).

      I think that marketing makes a bigger difference than writing quality in many cases (it’s not ideal, but it seems to be the case). But you need both to have a sustainable presence on the bestseller list.

      And your last point is quite true. I believe so strongly in Mini Habits that I’ve been determined to make it highly visible and successful, and that’s helped. If I was half-hearted about the book I wrote or not confident in its value, it’d be much harder to promote it like I have.

      I love Amazon though. Their platform makes it more likely for the cream to rise to the top. Biases are negated through an impartial algorithm, which gives all writers a chance to succeed.

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Success Advice

2 Ways To End Suffering Forever.

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This year I have learned so much. I’ve learned that we all suffer no matter what. No one can avoid it. That’s not what I want to share with you though. What I want to tell you is that you have the power to end suffering.

I have proven it in my own life. We don’t need to suffer. We can end it all and the silly thing is it’s so simple. I do not want you to avoid this advice any longer. I want you to use it even if you think it’s a load of mumbo-jumbo.

Here are the two ways I’ve found to end suffering forever:

 

1. Find a way to give to other people.

You only suffer when life is all about you and your success. Once you move from being all about you, into a state of mind that is focused on giving, your problems become insignificant.

I had a couple of situations this year that have nearly knocked me flat on my ass. One was my romantic life falling to pieces and the other was my career collapsing. When both these events occurred, I used giving to other people as the way out of the maze that my mind created.

The moment suffering begun, I went straight to finding ways to serve other people. I helped friends with their businesses, I spoke at events to inspire people, I did some volunteering and I doubled down on my blogging so I could inspire as many people as possible.

Shifting the focus away from what was wrong and using my focus to give to others ended the suffering.

“There wasn’t time to suffer because the purpose of my life during those months was far bigger than me and my stupid life challenges. Giving to others gave me a way to find happiness when I probably would have hidden away and suffered in silence”

Seeing the solutions to other people’s problems and sharing them, gave me a way to put my career and relationships into perspective.

Giving is the example you need when times get tough and things get complicated. You suffer the most when you get stuck in your head and repeat the pattern of telling yourself how wrong your circumstances are.

Suffering can make you depressed, feel lonely, become selfish, go into a downward spiral and take away everything that’s good in your life.

Finding ways to give on the other hand, can cure all of those problems. I know it sounds so cliché what I’m saying but it surprises me how many people never use this strategy. Like I always say: the answers we seek are right in front of our nose.

Next time you feel yourself suffering, get out of your head and try this strategy.

 

 

2. Practice gratitude.

Okay, I thought this strategy was so dumb when I discovered it. It’s so obvious and it sounds way too easy. I mean how can writing down a few things you’re grateful for really end your suffering?

I mean you could lie to yourself and pretend that you’re grateful for something when you’re not. Well, that’s exactly what I did at the beginning. When I was suffering this year, I started writing down three things each day that I was grateful for.

In the first week, I lied about things I was grateful for and found the exercise completely ridiculous. This advice is so common that I decided to persist with this ridiculous self-help hack anyway.

What I found as I kept doing it was that your brain makes a shift subconsciously. Instead of being pissed off and suffering, your brain has to work extra hard to find three things every day to be grateful for.

To make this habit work even better I forced my brain to describe in detail each thing I was grateful for and ideally why. Some days sucked so bad that I thought I would never find three things. Once the challenge became a must, I spent my days working my butt off trying to find things I was grateful for.

While doing various activities during the day, I’d find moments when I was grateful for something and stop. I’d stop and see how I felt at that moment and I would have a mini celebration because I knew I had something for my gratitude list.

Then I tried to aim for five things each day instead of three. This shifted my focus even more. I should have been suffering but because I was forcing myself to see good things that were happening to me, I was distracted.

As I said earlier, this new habit seemed so dumb at the beginning. Once you really do it for a while, you see how it has the power to end suffering. You can’t be pissed off and be grateful at the same time. So, choose gratitude and then your suffering will be sidelined, and in my case, forgotten about.

 

***Life doesn’t need to be full of low points***

The suffering that we all experience is a choice. It probably doesn’t seem like that but these two hacks will demonstrate this to you. Your decision-making power is incredible and all you need to do is select one of these hacks to end suffering.

Don’t let the quality of your life be jeopardized by your default human mode to suffer. You’ll find these two hacks will not only end your suffering; these two hacks will give you purpose.

Here’s what I learned: most people are pissed off and suffer because they have no purpose. Once you find a purpose for your life, you’ll become addicted.

Now that’s a huge win don’t you think? You can end suffering and find purpose, all by using these two hacks. That’s the best gift I can give you.

Don’t just read this advice. Try these two hacks yourself.

It’s time to end suffering forever.

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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7 Steps to Conquering the Fears That Are Holding You Back From Success

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I remember the day in vivid detail. I was on a weekend trip visiting my girlfriend at the time in Arizona. She had decided that we should join her friends to go “cliff jumping.”  We were early on in our dating and she obviously had no idea that I was not fond of heights. So “cliffs” and jumping off of them… No thanks!

I inevitably found myself on the edge of a 40-foot cliff peering down at a vast blue canvas of water. Then I realized if I didn’t jump, I’d have to start the walk of shame back down the cliff. This was a lose-lose situation for me.

Fear had me. I didn’t want to jump, but I also didn’t want to look bad in front of my girlfriend’s friends. So I jumped and in that moment, I had defied my brain and my neurochemistry.

Our brains are wired to protect us, not to push us towards our goals. Our brains are wired to look for anything that could be potentially dangerous or threatening and keep us as far away from it as possible by using fear. The problem is not all situations warrant fear.

There is a saying in neuroscience that says, “the brain wires the way it fires”, meaning the more you do a certain activity, the more the brain lays down wiring to make that action or activity easier.

‘Fears are educated into us, and can, if we wish, be educated out.’ – Karl Augustus Menninger

When we let fear keep us stagnant and we continue to do the same things that are comfortable, our brain gets “hardwired” to stay comfortable. We become “stagnant.” This can become debilitating for some of us and prevent us from encountering the very experiences we need to grow and succeed.

When we, in spite of our fear, do the challenging things that are outside our comfort zone, we begin to hardwire into our brain change, adaptability, creativity, growth, perspective, and happiness because we stretch the boundaries of our brain’s capabilities and force it to adapt rather than “playing it safe.”

An elite athlete didn’t make it where they are today by going into their training and never pushing past their comfort zone. They constantly pushed their limits of comfort to force their bodies and minds to grow to that of a top performer. The same principle applies to our brains. If we let fear dictate our actions in any area of our lives, it will stunt your growth in that area.

So what’s the first step? How do we go about conquering our fears whether it’s public speaking, starting a business, or launching the product or service? See below:

1. Journal Your Fears

Write down all the fears you have, big or small. Contrary to opinion “size does not matter.” Your brain still operates the same with all types of fear. The key is to first acknowledge what you are fearful about and bring it to light. Be as specific as possible.

2. Prioritize Your Fears

I then rank my fears from highest to lowest in terms of how often I think about this fear and/or how much it disrupts my life. You may find some fears combine into a broader category and that’s ok — we’ll get to that. So for now identify your biggest fear.

3. Support Your Belief in Yourself

I don’t mean just “believe in yourself.” What I mean is to build in support systems that will support your belief in yourself, so that when you start taking action, your support systems will solidify those new experiences and form deeper, more meaningful, and lasting beliefs in yourself.

It may look like building a list of affirmations that you say every morning or a meditation. Whatever it is, it needs to be uplifting and empowering you towards conquering your goals.

4. Take Action & Start Small

Look at your list and identify what your biggest fear is. That’s the beast we’re going to tackle long term, but for some that may seem like a big stretch at first. So instead, see what your 5th biggest fear is, and that’s where you’ll start.

What we will then do is build our way up and take a ride on the “Momentum Train.” Starting small with taking actions toward your lower priority fears and then building up helps your brain build momentum, which provides your brain with plenty of courage and motivation to tackle the #1 fear on your list.

‘Avoiding danger is no safer in the long run than outright exposure. The fearful are caught as often as the bold.’ – Helen Keller

5. No Time Limit, Just Consistency

Most goals should be limited to a time domain. For the goal of tackling a fear, time can be a challenging factor to set. Some of these fears may have been unknowingly building up for decades without your knowledge. So I don’t recommend setting a time on when you are “going to conquer your fear.”

Instead set appointments to regularly meet and address your fear. If you’re fear is public speaking, then go to a local Toastmasters once a week. The more consistent you can be, the better.

6. Reframe and Reinforce

As you begin to address these fears, make sure you are reinforcing the experiences you have in a positive perspective. For instance, if you want to be less fearful of public speaking and decide to try out a local toastmasters group, your first time speaking to the group might feel like a train wreck, but when you look back on the situation you can acknowledge that that actually pushed past your fear and accomplished your goal.

7. Rinse and Repeat

This isn’t a quick fix. It may take some time. There’s always a new fear or challenge awaiting us. The key is to have systems like this in place to address those challenges properly rather than allowing ourselves to succumb to fear and derail our lives from their fullest potential.

How do you handle your fears? Comment below!

Image courtesy of Twenty20.com

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30 Straightforward Reminders to Help You Supercharge Your Life in 2018

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This time of year it’s easy to be overwhelmed by well-meaning advice. Everyone seems to have a solution to your procrastination or a remedy for your lack of motivation. Unfortunately, most advice is either too general or irrelevant because it doesn’t address your main concerns.

I’ve spent the last year trying to hone in on some of the best tips and tricks I’ve learned to stay ahead and maintain a positive mindset.

Here are 30 straightforward reminders and tips to help you supercharge your life in 2018:

1. Get the basics right. Take care of your body, your mind and your soul. Make a list of what you know is good for you and what you know is bad for you in each category. Consider ways to reduce the bad and increase the good.

2. Reduce distractions that sap your energy. When you’re planning big changes, it’s easy to get pulled into many different directions. You get excited about a certain idea which pulls you down the rabbit hole into numerous other directions. Focus on one thing at a time.

3. Make a new friend. Start a conversation with a stranger in the elevator. Compliment someone. Provide some positive reinforcement. Do something without expecting anything in return.

4. Smile more. Smiling takes less effort than frowning. It’s also scientifically proven to make you feel better even if you don’t necessarily feel like smiling.

5. Walk 30 minutes a day. Just 30 minutes of exercise a day can help you stimulate your immune system, increase your metabolism and improve your mood.

6. Do one push-up for every year old you are. Or do twice as many sit-ups for every year old you are. Making sure you work the muscles in different parts of your body stimulates hormone production and helps increase fat burning.

7. Find your intrinsic drivers. Intrinsic drivers are what inspire you based on internal motivation, rather than external motivation. Find something you think of as beautiful, peaceful, relaxing. Embrace it. Appreciate it. Try to understand why you like it

8. Speak to an old friend. Reach out in an email, a text, a phone call. Check in and just let them know you’re thinking about them.

“Friendship is the only cement that will ever hold the world together.” – Woodrow T. Wilson

9. Invest in your health. Join a gym. Buy some type of sports equipment or clothing that is comfortable and that you enjoy being in. Consider joining a pick up sports team.

10. Study something that interests you. Buy a book about someone you admire. Pick a time period that you’re fascinated with. Make a point of becoming an expert on something that matters to you.

11. Teach someone something. Take a topic, any topic, and try to break it down into its component parts so that you can teach someone how to do it. The concentration and the effort it takes to teach someone something is often exactly the kind of effort that is required to truly understand it for yourself.

12. Delegate to someone. Find a task that needs to be done that you could do. Don’t do that task. Instead, look for someone you can ask to help you. Pay them or ask them for a favor. The key is to learn to delegate actions to others.

13. Meditate. Mindfulness and meditation are trending right now, but that’s not the reason you should consider adopting a meditation practice. The real reason is that meditation will help you focus on your key goals while cutting out the noise in the world around you.  

14. Learn to manage your personal finances. One of the biggest causes of stress that we as humans experience is the pressure to make money and control our finances. There are tons of free resources available online to help you learn about finances and help get your money in order.

15. Read more. No, I’m not talking about reading your Facebook News Feed. Read more books. Try to read a book a month, either fiction or nonfiction. At the beginning of the month choose a book and break down the number of pages. See how many you have to read a day to finish… then get started.

16. Cook at home at least 5 days a week. Cooking at home is cheap, easy and fun. You can hone skills in creativity and planning all at once, and it’s a great way to save money.

“My New Year’s resolution is to stick to a good workout plan that will keep me healthy and happy.” – James Lafferty

17. Sell someone. No, not into human bondage. Sell someone on an idea or a product. Learn to market yourself and your skills. Everyone sells as they move through life, but most of us are average salespeople.

18. Hone your principles. What principles define your life? What are your strongly held beliefs? Be honest with yourself and what principles you feel you must uphold.

19. Embrace the power of positive thought. Listen to positive audio tapes, surround yourself with positive people. Look at the positive side of life. Easier said than done, but truth be told one of the best ways to improve your mood is to look for sources of positive mood and inspiration.

20. Practice willpower. Habits are formed over time. Willpower is one of the most important habits you will ever build, so it is integral you continue to practice it through all aspects of your life. Look to the stoic philosophers for a primer on how to tackle this.

21. Write better hooks. A hook is the bit of a song that catches a listener’s attention and repeats your core message in an intriguing way. Similarly, in writing a hook is the quirky or fascinating intro that makes readers want to continue to read. Think about your own hooks and how you can get people interested in what you have to say.

22. Don’t sweat the small stuff. We often become obsessed with daily minutiae and avoid thinking about the big picture. Don’t let yourself worry too much about the small day-to-day struggles. Instead, put your head down and get to work.

23. Don’t overthink the big stuff. Too often we avoid taking leaps of faith because we’re worried about making a mistake on something big. We don’t buy the new house. We avoid marrying the person we love. We put off going to the doctor for that regular scan. Try not to overthink the big decisions (or seemingly small decisions) that may have larger ramifications. If it’s not overly dangerous or illegal, take the plunge and go for it.

24. Learn a new word a day. Increasing your vocabulary helps you see the world in different ways and makes you rethink your core beliefs.

“You don’t learn to walk by following rules. You learn by doing, and by falling over.” – Richard Branson

25. Become a moderate. Extremists are divisive and often at odds with a large portion of the population. Look for ways to bring people together through collaboration and consensus rather than through division.

26. Think big(ger). Many self-help books talk about setting big goals or envisioning massive success in your lifetime. If you want to become a true leader and attain greater fulfillment. Look for ways to think beyond creating success in your lifetime. Think about the legacy you’ll leave for future generations.

27. Learn universal processes. Assess how you work best and find ways to carry standardized processes over into other aspects of your life.

28. Develop support structures. What do you do if things aren’t going according to plan? Do you reach out to friends for support, meditate on the problem alone, or use some mixture of different coping mechanisms? Be aware of what works for you, and what doesn’t.

29. Don’t compare yourself to others. We fall into this trap far too often. We use others as a benchmark for our own progress, but we must remember that it is unhealthy to put too much weight on comparisons, as everyone has their own background and their own perspective.

30. Know when to let go. At the end of the day, you must try your best and let the cards fall as they may. All you can do is put your heart and soul into your effort and learn from the results.

Which one of these things are you going to implement into your life immediately? Comment below!

Image courtesy of Twenty20.com

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5 Things Generation Z Needs to Know in Order to Succeed

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If you were born from 1995 through 2012, you are part of a special demographic—Generation Z. Congratulations! You are a very important person. First, you make up the largest percentage of the US population at 25.9 percent. Second, you’re an iGeneration kid, which means people like you write product reviews, click web ads, and build online businesses. In short, you run the Internet show.

Finally, you contribute $44 billion to the American economy. You have great potential, but your Internet addiction and reckless behavior are your biggest roadblocks to success. How do you limit the time you spend on Snapchat, focus on building a career, and break through the bars that block your way to success?

Try these five hacks for success:

1. Have a bold vision

Your life is your business. If you’re serious about making it profitable, you’ve got to have a bold vision and work tirelessly to achieve it. Start by redefining yourself. Just because you grew up with Snapchat and YouTube, doesn’t mean you have to use them carelessly. Of course, you can watch the dancing cats on YouTube, but you’ll have to find time for that.

Be a doer, not a chatter, watcher, or browser. Great visionaries are doers, not chatters. If you want success, examine your purpose in life, just like a CEO spends time crafting his company’s mission, then start doing.

Create your vision. Once you make sense of your goal in life, you can set a vision so high that it scares you. Finally, keep working—not chatting—to realize your vision.

2. Never dilute your vision

When I was in high school, I always had the highest grades in my class. However, a new student came to my school, and she began to outshine me in class, answering every question and making me look dumb. One night, I told my mom that I had disappointed her.

I told her that I had new competition, and didn’t have the intellectual capability to face the new girl in the arena. My mom’s response? She laughed out loud before saying anything. She then reminded me, “You told me, remember, that you’ll always be the top student. Why let this girl, a stranger that I believe is no match for you, change your mind?”

Those few words changed my mindset completely. I ended up taking the first position for that year. The moral of the story? Never dilute your vision. It’s scary to face competitors or naysayers who laugh at your idea, but bear in mind that all masters were laughed at before they were revered.

“The only limits are, as always, those of vision.” – James Broughton

3. Win big with small tasks

How do you keep winning and moving closer to realizing your vision? You win the small tasks. I get it, you truly want to create your own app making you the next success story in your industry. In addition, you want to start blogging and profit in the gig economy.  

However, accomplishing these things, all of them, is not possible. They are bigger projects that you can’t accomplish all at once. What is possible is to pick only one thing and work fiercely on it. Deconstruct the dream job.

If you have decided to become a successful blogger, break down that blogging job into smaller tasks. Determine your niche, buy a domain name, design your WordPress site, and start writing and publishing your posts. Successful people move from zero to hero by accomplishing the smaller tasks first. So, get each task done, one step at a time.

4. Stay laser focused on one task

Focus is the secret key that will unlock the code for your success. Unfortunately, for post-millennials living in the world of instant notifications, staying focused is hard. How can you stay focused, for one whole hour, on the single most important task of your day?

Well, here are some simple tips that worked for me:

  • Dedicate certain days to your work. These are your creative days. Whether it’s weekdays or weekends, whatever you choose, just make sure that you do nothing but work on those days.
  • Go tech-free on your creative days. Turn off your Wi-Fi. Power off your Smartphone (or leave it in another room on silent). Divorce the Internet before you sit down to work because too much online activity is dangerous for your physical health, mental faculty, and productivity.
  • Pick one task, only one task, and work on it for an hour.

Of course, you can’t get it done flawlessly when you first start. You’ll feel the urge to look at your phone and possibly check your social media feed or play a game. However, you must keep focusing on the task at hand over and over until it becomes a habit. Consider limiting your Internet time on your non-work days, too.

“The biggest challenge is to stay focused. It’s to have the discipline when there are so many competing things.” – Alexa Hirschfeld

5. Stay consistent

One of the most crucial success hacks is consistency. The rule is to show up every day and do the work required if you truly want to succeed.

Learn from the former American tennis champion Andrea Agassi. Before he made a name for himself, Agassi’s father instructed him to hit 5000 balls every day. Just lace some sneakers, show up at the court, hit 5000 balls, and go home to relax.

Show up and do the same tomorrow. This consistent routine was what elevated Agassi to becoming “the biggest worldwide star in the sport’s history.” If you want to achieve that level of success, set down your smartphone and get to work. “The doing,” as Arthur Ashe beautifully puts it, “is more important than the outcome.”

Which one of these tasks is more challenging for you? How will you improve on it this year? Let us know so we can help!

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