The 3% Personal Development Investment Rule

September 30, 2009

Time to look back into the archives at a concept I learned long ago from one of my favorite personal development authors and speakers Brian Tracy. In his book Time Power he mentions the concept of spending at least 3% of your monthly take home income on some form of improving your skills within self-help and personal development.

This of course can take many forms. The easiest of which would be books that you purchase from your local bookstore or online through sites like Amazon. In my case that would be buying 4-5 books a month on a variety of subjects, from working on my finances to improving my relationship skills with my wife and children all the way through to better time management, communication, productivity, mental fitness, physical fitness and a whole host of other topics under this umbrella. My wife knows how much I love reading material to not just read for knowledge and enjoyment, but as author Harvey Mackay mentions in the interview on the latest November 2009 Success magazine CD to “study” success- you must take this knowledge and then apply it in your life, your business, your relationships.

You can apply your 3% one month to a purchase of 1 or 2 audio books. Turn your workouts at the gym or your drives to and from work into a learning environment, where you can gain the chance to learn new insights and applications. There’s nothing wrong with learning a new language, listening to a business person explain his rags to riches story, improving your vocabulary, exploring new interests, etc. and once again taking notes on what you learn. There are times that you can accelerate your learning curve and take something that someone else did right and save yourself years of struggle and heartache to gain those same accomplishments.

You may have to save up a few months of your 3% personal development investment fund to take in a day or weekend long seminar- but think of the rewards of being able to be face to face with some of the best minds in your topics of interest. Imagine the impact of being surrounded by other like minded individuals that you can share the experience with, learn from and with, and make lifelong connections. This is an area that I plan on exploring over the next year or two as I believe I can accelerate my personal and professional goals a hundred fold if I surround myself with a nurturing, learning environment and gain the chance to meet face to face some of the people I’ve had the pleasure of reading and listening to through the years.

And there’s nothing wrong with investing in coaching- at any topic large or small. As I’ve stated before when it comes to bowling, I’ve spent hundreds of dollars on lessons even as an adult, because I wanted to not only improve upon what is strong within my skill set but also be able to add a few new tools to my toolbox. I know successful people who have multiple coaches based on what they want to know best. Would you trust your financial coach to help you with your personal relationships? Would you trust a bowling coach to be able to teach you how to play the piano or guitar?

If you are in a time where you can’t invest 3% of your monthly income, start with 1% and go from there. Get a library card and get cracking on materials that are at your disposal for free. Find a friend and partner and develop a weekly book or mastermind club where you are able to share, debate and grow based on these new materials at your disposal. The point I’m making is: there’s no better time to improve, grow and blossom than today. We can’t gain back time once it’s spent- so you might as well be as productive and successful as possible in the here and now.

And another important aspect of your development- become a buyer of journals. Record your thoughts daily- explore what you learn and question what ruminates in the depths of your mind. Have a wonderful day.

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Inspiration: What’s Your Calling in Life?

September 29, 2009

We are all here on this earth for some purpose. To lift people up, to aid with our gifts, we all have some sort of talent that we can display and provide for the greater good of mankind. I’m always inspired when I see others working within their true comfort zone- something that would be very difficult for me to accomplish yet appears effortless to them.

My best friend growing up in my neighborhood was a natural at bowling and at film making. He just had this passion and vision for how he wanted things to go in his life, and he wouldn’t except anything less than the best every time he went on the lanes or he would be doing a film project for school. I used his talent when I had to film a special 15 minute presentation for one of my psychology classes- he would storyboard the entire concept and when it came time to filming, he had everyone ready and comfortable to make nothing less than the best film of the class.

My mother could make the best cakes for birthdays or anniversary celebrations. She could take pictures and mirror what the customers would want. She had the same gift when it came to making blankets and comforters for people. It made her happy to see other people pleased with her talents in these areas.

My father is the master at woodworker. You should see some of the works of art he has made- rocking horses, toy boxes, personalized clocks, musical jewelery boxes, I could think of a hundred other things that I’ve seen him do through the years. He’ll visualize and experiment at times to get things just right.

You may think you can’t do anything to make an impact in your world. I’m telling you that yes you can. If you haven’t discovered what your true calling is, take out a piece of paper and write down 20 things in your life that come very easy to you. Talents, hobbies, or skills that just put you at ease and you would lose all track of time if you could participate in them 24 hours a day. Brainstorm from there and see if you can take any of these skills in a new direction.

Maybe you can start up a part-time business from them. Maybe you can volunteer with others and learn more about this talent, hobby or skill. You can probably find a message forum or group online through one of the social networking websites to connect again with new people. There is so much power when you team up- even if it’s one person, the multiplicity of its power goes up exponentially.

Now more than ever do we need to not only help ourselves but we need to serve for the greater good of mankind. If you can help your favorite charity through playing a benefit show as a musician, please do so. If you are a writer and have the chance to volunteer your time and energy to a cause that deserves recognition, throw your hat in as well. Look closely at the needs of your own community and gather a team to help others.

I know that as I get older my talent and drive remains twofold: to explore my natural abilities to impact as many as I can, and also to teach others the talents that come easy to me so that they can pass this on to future generations. It makes me feel good to hear stories where my former classmates remember the times that I helped them achieve better grades at math or English- because when you give of yourself without any expectation that’s what being human is all about. To serve, to love, to care.


Are You Scared Of Success?

September 28, 2009

Tonight my oldest daughter talked to us about what’s going on within our community that worries her. We’ve had a couple of school tragedies hit home where lives on all levels- family, community, school- have been affected. As a teenager, she twists things around and wonders if she’s worthwhile, if she will be remembered in a positive light and where she’ll be going in the next few years.

The bottom line that scares her is we had a temper tantrum free weekend in our house. To those of you who’ve known my family since the girls have been in our lives, I believe this has been the second time it’s occurred in 3 1/2 years.

Why would that scare my oldest daughter? Well, she fears that if my youngest is doing well, she will be forgotten, so there has to always be chaos in this house for her to feel safe. I know that this seems very strange, but change in this instance in her mind is not something she believes is a good thing for this family.

We reminded her of all the people that love her outgoing personality and the impact she makes with every experience, be it the kids she babysits on up to the grandparents who look forward to her long-winded social stories. We let her know that if she needs some special one on one time with each of us in order to reinforce her place in this family, we will do so this week. I think she’s always dreamed of living in a “normal” family, but doesn’t know if it’s going to be everything she’s envisioned and thus wants to take a cautious approach to this development.

Does this ever happen to you in your life? Where you may venture into a new realm of possibility, and it’s easier to stay within your own comfort zone no matter how destructive it may be? Are you scared of succeeding and it’s easier to admit defeat before you’ve even given a new opportunity a fair chance?

I don’t want to say that the roller coaster has leveled off permanently. There will I’m sure be additional stresses that hit my youngest daughter, and she may revert back to her older temper tantrum ways. But I welcome this newer, more open level of communication and behavior we are receiving. She seems willing to talk about her feelings in the moment. She knows what we expect of her, and while getting temporarily frustrated she is willing to take direction much better.

I’m working on asking my children more questions instead of just hammering them with lots of talk. I think it’s important to understand exactly what’s going on in another person’s mind, and the only way is to hone in on the details. I like to give my kids a few minutes after school to decompress before plunging head long into homework. I want them to know I’m genuinely interested in their school life, what’s going on around them and what seems to be fun as well as troubling them.

I’m so happy that some spark, some trigger finally settled in within our family and now this next level of closeness can take place. It’s going to be exciting and frightening for certain family members, and I will keep everyone posted on the developments.

So don’t be afraid of success- embrace the challenge. Sure there may be obstacles and set backs- they will make you stronger. Success doesn’t come easy- it’s a continuous, moment by moment development to make you a full, vibrant person.


Spending Time Versus Money: Which Runs Out First?

September 27, 2009

The age old question: which do you need more? When you are younger, you believe that money is finite and time is infinite. Of course the youth believe that, you have 75-85% of your life to look forward to, so you may spend every last dollar you get your hands on as if it were your last.

I’ve found that after my 20’s, time matters more to me than money. You can’t chase time. Once you lose it, time is a commodity you can’t get back. We have the same amount in any part of the world- 24 hours in a day, 365 days in a year.

So I want you to think about this comparison when you are deciding what you wish to do and accomplish in your lifetime. Do you want to help the world with experiences? Do you want to fund your dreams? Do you want to be a giver? How you apply your effort and your energy has a lot to do with your money, your goals, your dreams and your time.

I’d rather give my children experiences over just handing them money and letting them spend it where they will. The family trips. The conversations in the car. The laughter about unique moments. The birthday parties. The crushes the girls had at school. The subjects they were learning each year. The growth spurts- not only physically but emotionally and intellectually.

I’ve learned throughout my many years in personal development that abundance is there for everyone- so the money really isn’t as big of an issue for me as time. My daughters only stay young for so long- so my wife and I have tried our best to give them experiences they will treasure as adults. They look forward to trips in Vermont in the spring time- where they’ve had the chance to go on ice cream factory tours, make teddy bears or even just get their swimming on at the hotels we may stay at.

You have a finite time to truly develop their values and hopefully shape them for a productive, healthy and happy adulthood. Sure the school system is handling the main subjects, but as parents we have to teach them about social graces, finances, choice making, how to handle certain conversations and hundreds of other little matters. I know that they’ll still come back to my wife and I even when they leave the nest- as the journey in adulthood can still be tough for them.

People remember experiences- so give as many as you can. In a moment you can effect a person’s life.


Unwind for the Weekend

September 26, 2009

Ah yes, the freedom to awake when I want. To do what I desire. I’m enjoying an early weekend day without the children. Both are sleeping over different houses which gives my wife and I time to relax and unwind.

I love my children. They certainly take a lot out of me though. I think now a month into school, they are getting used to the routine and have less anxiety about their teachers and know how to relax themselves a little bit before attacking anyone in the family emotionally.

Having a pre-teen and a teen in the house can seem like you are parenting aliens at times. One day you may think everything is going good- and then in a split second you are dealing with another personality. As a parent I’ve had to learn when to talk and when to just keep quiet and listen. My children feel like they aren’t being heard- and to them that means really probing and listening to their thoughts, their feelings and helping them sort through their daily events.

My oldest daughter for instance attempted to sneak out of the house earlier this week to meet with her friends, while I was out on the road going to bowling and my wife would be at work. What she failed to take into account though, would be the following:

1) Twice when I asked her to come out of my bed room, she played it off like she was busy doing something important on the computer.
2) She called a half hour into my trip to the league, claiming she forgot to tell me she had to babysit for a family where we live. My wife would be checking into matters.
3) The babysitter we have was smart to text my wife to look into the situation.

I know it’s not beyond her teen years to want to do something behind our backs to get to see her friends. The funny thing is, had she asked outright we probably would have said yes! In her mind though, she assumed a no so it was better to scheme and plan… although she’s not good at the execution of deceiving us.

So I’ll be spending some of my time this weekend at my great-niece’s birthday party, and I also plan on going to another library book sale. I can’t have enough reading material to read these days. I bought a cool new book at my local Barnes and Noble the other day called The Unemployed Millionaire by Matt Morris. At 21 homeless and doing a sales job out of his car, in 8 years he became a millionaire on his own- and so far it’s a fascinating book about the mental skills and experience you need to be able to get to the top.

I’m sure I’ll be spending a lot of time taking notes, quotes and reapplying this information to my life. For now though, I’m going to enjoy the figurative brain stretching that will go on as I can get a breather without my children.

Sometimes it’s a good thing to just focus on yourself, your life with your wife, and just have silly conversations and fun with adults- it brings you back to how wonderful and special your relationship is in the first place.


How Free is Free These Days?

September 25, 2009

It saddens me that I may have to find another European writing gig because of a friend of a friend’s incompetence when it comes to music. I’ve always been upstanding in my regard that it’s a privilege to gain the chance to hear a lot of my favorite artists and their material before the general release dates of their new albums. Over the past few years, the debate rages about uploading and downloading and its influence on album sales.

For record companies, this piracy certainly eats into their budgets. More people who seek music out for free in their eyes equals less overall album sales. If you can’t give a band an adequate studio budget, pretty soon you will see these bands folding if their audience will not help them generate enough revenues to even survive on the road.

During the 1980’s I participated in a phenomenon known as tape trading. You would find like minded people who had lists of underground bands with demos, rehearsals, live or rare tracks and offer to tape them items off of your list for items off of theirs. But I found if I really enjoyed the artists, I would buy all of their discography in the record stores. Owning second or fifth generation copies made me want to buy the real thing in it’s highest quality condition.

To me, if you want the highest efforts from a band, you need to reward them by support with your hard earned money. It’s not enough to just have 10,000 MP3’s in your hard drive to say that you are the ultimate music fan. When you want to see your favorite bands on the road, they need to know that they have a solid sales base to ensure a turnout. Transportation, gas, time off from a job, food, hotels, etc. need to be covered somehow. A record label or booking agent may front the money- but much like a bank it’s merely a cash advance that has to be paid back.

That’s why I go out of my way to buy records from bands that I like. I love physical product. I know that every sale will hopefully ensure more product from the band and the record label they are on in the future. I’ll buy their merchandise at a show- because I know that the live arena is where a lot of bands can break even in their efforts.

I think Myspace, YouTube and other social networking sites are a perfect avenue to hear some of your favorite artists and gain the chance to sample their material. I just think that people who expect bands to give away their music all the time for no cost are kidding themselves if you think the bands will be able to survive that model 3-5 years down the road.

Would you be able to go into a grocery store and consistently take what you want without paying for it? Artists spend thousands of dollars in their equipment- should they go into their gear stores and just take what they want for free? I’ll let my friends know where to go to hear samples of artists I think they should check out- but I never go out of my way to burn tons of material or upload these albums to blogs and file sharing websites.

I’m hoping my friend doesn’t get prosecuted for the poor rash judgment of another writer’s ill advised sharing. This has been one of the best music sites I’ve had the chance to write for, and I’ve discovered hundreds of new bands I would otherwise never get the chance to hear.

Reward something you consider valuable and that not only entertains but touches you in your heart and soul. This keeps the world going around.


Are We Ourselves: Who Shapes Your Tastes?

September 24, 2009

Think back at what initially sparked your interest in some of your favorite sports, hobbies, tastes in music, books, even foods that you love through the years. How many of these things did we plunge into ourselves, and how many others did we get into through friends, family members, the media, or other outside people sources?

Who shapes your tastes in this day and age? Do we really seek to do things on our own or are we seeking validation through the comfort of others?

Bowling for me started when I was 4. My parents bowled 6 nights a week at the lanes. Living in a small town it was one of the major hubs for entertainment. I loved watching it, so picking up a ball was a natural thing for me. 34 years later it’s still exciting for me to learn more about the game, enjoy the friendships I’ve made and also become very good at this.

Music became a passion during junior high. I would devour any music magazine I could get my hands on and listen to late night hard rock shows on the weekends to keep up on all of the latest bands. My record collection grew exponentially as I had a part time job to fund my habit, then I would go to shows monthly at the big arena 20 minutes south of where I lived. Once I started deejaying school dances in my teens, I think I spent about $25,000 on music and equipment to keep up with our shows.

Writing is something I’ve always done hand in hand with reading. I think my mother always read to us as kids, so I developed an interest in this during my early elementary years. I would sit in my bed room thinking up plots, character names and outlines, and plunge right into telling stories. When I’ve wanted to learn more, I’ve never hesitated to plunge headlong into finding the right book or magazine to know more and grow more.

Adoption has been an interest since meeting my wife. We knew that we were destined to adopt early on within our marriage. We had deep discussions about where we stood in terms of trying to use fertility medications and once we both saw a Wednesday’s Child episode on our local television program, we knew that adopting children from our state program would be the best course of action for children.

I attempt to influence my friends in some of these interests, but I also respect the fact that not everyone I know will be into all of the same hobbies and interests that I champion. My wife for instance isn’t a fan of all the self-improvement books I read or audio material I take in. We can agree to have our own interests and still find enough common ground to love and grow.

Look into your own world and see who has shaped your tastes through the years. How many things that you do are things you discovered on your own? How many have you kept up on from childhood through today?

Remember that you can take up a new hobby or interest today- it doesn’t matter how young or old you are. If you feel like your life is stagnant, go take that new college course to improve your skills- be it acting, singing, computers, history, finances, whatever. Sign up for that gym membership and get those endorphins running daily. Go to the library and seek out language skills through audio or visual materials.

Encourage your children to discover their passions. They may not be your own- and that’s perfectly acceptable. You may learn a thing or two from their excitement that you can channel into your own life.

Signing off for now as my wife watches one of her major passions- the Criminal Minds season five premiere. I feel like in another life she should be a detective, she so enjoys the investigation process…