My most gut-wrenching failure

I’ve experienced many failures in my life, and the most tragically painful ones often involve other people who’ve failed me. There’s one kind of failure however that has a particularly unique sting to it, and that is the kind of failure only a creator experiences. This is the experience of pouring your heart and soul into a creation only to have it ignored, rejected, or worst of all completely ripped to shreds by a critic.

As a college student, I was getting my Bachelor’s degree in music composition. While my expertise was in playing guitar, I decided to step outside of my comfort zone and take on orchestration. This means I would be composing music for a symphony orchestra to play. There was a contest held by my college that would reward the winning orchestral composition with a live performance of the piece by the school’s orchestra. I have no idea why, but as soon as I heard about this competition a fire was lit inside of me and I had to win.

I suppose that was a bit unrealistic seeing as how I was completely outmatched. I was just some wannabe rockstar guitar player competing against composition students getting their Master’s degrees. One thing I did have though was a big enough ego to believe I could, and would learn how to write the greatest piece of orchestral music the school of music had ever heard.

In addition to honing my skills with a private instructor during the Fall semester, I ended up spending my entire Christmas break studying everything I could get my hands on about orchestration, analyzing classical and modern orchestral scores, and listening to endless hours of symphonic music.

When I returned to classes after break, the deadline to submit the piece was moved forward giving me less time than I anticipated. I now had about one week to finish my masterpiece that I had only barely started. So I did what any reasonable person would do that has a goal in mind – I went days without sleep, skipped classes, and simply did not leave my desk to stop working on my score until I had to go to the bathroom or eat. Never in my life have I worked so hard on something, although looking back it was less about working hard and more about being completely consumed in the work in the ultimate state of creative flow.

Somehow, I made the deadline and turned in what I believed to be the absolute greatest piece of music I had ever written. I smugly walked away imagining the judge’s jaw dropping to the floor after he hears such a masterpiece. Now I just had to play the waiting game to see the results of the competition that I was pretty sure I had in the bag.

I ended up being right about one thing, I was able to beat the other people I was facing off against. I didn’t however anticipate what would end up happening – they decided not to have any winner of the competition. They also offered reasons why my score, no matter how good it was, had its problems. Looking back they did have some good points, but I only remember rejecting everything that was said and adamantly defending my work as being more than good enough to deserve the once in a lifetime opportunity to hear it played by a live orchestra.

To have the greatest masterpiece you’ve ever created rejected can only be described as “soul-crushing.” Especially in light of going days without sleep and pushing the physical limits of my body to create it. That’s not counting the countless hours of study just to be able to pull off writing something like that in the first place with limited experience. Yet somehow despite all of the sadness, anger, and feeling of rejection, I still managed to walk away feeling proud of what I had accomplished. Little did I know this was only going to be the beginning of a series of failed creations.

Stay tuned for more epic fails…

Do THIS (and never fail again)

Is there a way to guarantee you’ll get started with your resolutions, develop great habits that stick, and change your life forever without ever relying on being super motivated?

There is, and that is by utilizing a practice Stephen Guise of Deep Existence calls Mini Habits.

What Are Mini Habits?

A mini habit is a “too small to fail” action that you take each day.  Here’s what some may look like.

1. Do one pushup a day

2. Read 2 pages of a book a day

3. Do 30 seconds of meditation a day (one of my mini habits)

At first this will appear to be too easy and unlikely to lead to any significant results, but that’s only if you don’t understand the science behind it.

Once you do a single pushup for instance, you’ll more than likely want to knock out a few more.  Then once the blood is flowing, next thing you know you may be doing some pull-ups too.  That’s what happened with Stephen, and that’s what happens with myself and countless others who take on mini habits.  They bypass the initial resistance to a behavior.

But EVEN IF you don’t go past your mini habit, that’s STILL a success.  The idea is that you’ll gain such consistency with your new behavior that it becomes second nature.  Then it becomes a part of your identity.  Then you do it (and a lot more) all on your own without needing any willpower or discipline.

People are raving about how much this is helping them finally develop great habits that stick, and it’s exactly the type of approach I recommend to make gradual and long-lasting changes to your life.

I suggest you check out Stephen’s book Mini Habits on Amazon to learn more about applying this in your life.

Technique to ensure you have a breakthrough

There is one common characteristic among the world’s most successful people (whether in business, relationships, fitness, etc) that I rarely hear anyone talk about.

Fortunately, one of my mentors shared this secret with me and it has often kept me from one of the biggest traps I see people fall into where they go from self-help book to self-help book (or seminar) and constantly look for answers only to spin their wheels and go nowhere.

It could be said that a characteristic of success is “constant learning,” but that’s a little too simplistic. Instead, it’s about HOW people learn that makes or breaks their results.

Being an author and coach myself, one piece of feedback I occasionally get from people either about my own work or another person’s is that “it isn’t anything new.”

And my response would be something like “do you want to learn something new that doesn’t work, or learn what’s age old and has worked for thousands of years?”

To me, I’d rather go with the time tested and proven approach any day. After all, there’s really nothing new under the sun. Most things written in a self-help book in the last 50 years can probably be found in spiritual and philosophical book dating back thousands of years.

Now I’m not just trying to defend my place in the world as an author and coach. Rather, I want to make it clear that no one else teaches you anything. Instead, YOU teach yourself.

All a mentor, coach, author, friend, or other individual can do is show you a different perspective which you can either adopt or reject.

It’s not only in seeing something new that you learn, but also in seeing something old in a new way.

In order to do this, you must adopt something called “beginner’s eyes” where you imagine you’re coming across this information for the first time.

Many of the world’s most successful people re-read the same books over and over again. Obviously they’re not getting new information, but they’re still learning because each time they read, they’re coming from a different place internally.

Most of us already kind of know what to do, but we don’t apply it for a number of reasons. So instead of focusing on the basics we know, we turn to distraction in the form of novelty.

That novelty could be TV and Facebook OR it could be seeking out “shiny new objects” in the form of books and trainings where we want something new and different instead of doing what we already know works. This is referred to as being a self-help junkie. I’m speaking from a LOT of personal experience here. :)

Recently I was feeling really down and depressed and couldn’t quite get to the source of it. Now as the author of “Why You’re Stuck” you might think I’m immune to this, but far from it. I’m still human, but fortunately I often know how to dig myself out of these states.

To make a long story short, I ended up spending some time focusing on forgiveness towards someone I didn’t even consciously realize I was holding ill feelings towards. After that, things started to get a lot better.

Practicing forgiveness isn’t anything “new,” and I make it a big focus in my book. Yet, I went for weeks suffering needlessly because I was overlooking such an obvious thing because I lacked the AWARENESS of what my issue was.

The answers are often simple, it’s finding them within ourselves that’s the real challenge.

As you go through your week, start to observe all the information you take in both from EXTERNAL sources and INTERNAL sources (thoughts, feelings) as if you’re experiencing them for the first time. See them as fresh new information sent to you to raise your awareness as to what’s most important right now in your life.

I promise life will get a LOT more exciting – and breakthroughs will be guaranteed with enough time and practice.

Where Do Good Ideas Come From

I saw this video on youtube the other day on where great ideas come from and found it to be spot on with my own experience.  Check it out at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NugRZGDbPFU

Many times people are looking for the “silver bullet” or “magic formula” to success.  I know for a couple years I was caught up in the idea of just finding the right program to go through that would give me quick success and take care of all my problems.

But time and experience has shown me that coming up with successful ideas is often a result of continuous effort and education and not something that happens in a flash of inspiration.

Even when I have had flashes of insight, I realize now that those flashes of insight came AFTER a period of time of studying and taking action.  By constantly surrounding myself with educational books, audio programs, seminars, masterminding with others, listening to mentors, etc., eventually pieces would come together until I had a winning formula.

So if you’re still trying to figure out what kind of books to write or how to set up your business, just remember that it’s not necessarily an overnight thing.

Take action on what you DO know you can do, be in a constant state of learning and growth, and trust your intuition through the process.   And trickiest thing of all, let go of wanting to have all the answers.  You’ll never have all the answers (even if you think you do), and it’s a lot more fun to enjoy the journey not knowing where it will take you.

Resisting Your Own Success

Does it ever feel like there’s some sort of unseen force keeping you from achieving success?

Perhaps it feels like you keep spinning your wheels and going nowhere.  Or maybe you can’t even get yourself started with something and don’t know why.

I’ve felt both of these things many times and continue to feel them.  In the book “The War Of Art,” Steven Pressfield talks about a force called “resistance.”  I think this word sums up quite nicely what a lot of us feel whenever we’re trying to create a business, write a book, or just better our lives in anyway.

Why in the world would we feel resistance to doing something that would improve our lives or when we’re about to do something we would even enjoy?

For instance, sometimes I’m about to help someone and a little voice says “You don’t want to do that!.  Don’t waste your time.  No one wants to hear this.”

Do you have a voice like that?

Chances are you do because WE ALL do!

It’s the voice of our inner (and sometimes an outer) resistance coming up trying to keep us where we’re at.

The first way to overcome this resistance is to be aware of it.  Realize that voice isn’t you!

For myself, whenever this comes up, it’s usually a sign that I’m about to do something very important.  I even felt it before thinking about writing this email, so I made sure to go straight to my computer and write it before I could distract myself with something else.

The second way to overcome this resistance is to realize why it exists.  It’s not something bad that we need to rid ourselves of.  Rather, we should recognize it as a force that’s there to empower us.

Just like you can’t grow physically stronger without putting your muscles under resistance, you can’t build your character without pushing through internal resistance.

Virtues of character can only be developed when there is some opposite “dark” force to overcome.

A simple example would be courage.  Courage isn’t action without fear, but action IN SPITE of fear.  Courage actually requires fear to manifest itself.

And this goes for the other virtues.  Even things like forgiveness and compassion can only be happen if wrongdoings take place.

The point is to recognize the resistance you feel for being what it is, to THANK it for serving you in its own way, and to let it be a force to help build your character and resolve.

In other words, you don’t fight against the resistance (resisting the resistance) such as trying to eliminate fear all together.  Rather you fight FOR what the resistance is trying to help you develop, such as courage in spite of fear.

If you feel like you could use some help in overcoming your resistance, then reply to this email and we can set up a mentoring session.

Act Then Analyze

I was sitting down with a friend today who was asking for advice about a book she was writing.  She was struggling with what many authors struggle with, and that is how to turn her stories into something exciting and captivating for the reader.  In other words, she needed to find her message or “hook.”
She was facing a common challenge that many people face in all areas of business.  That is figuring out how to proceed when you don’t have all of the answers.  I’ve dealt with this quite a lot myself and continue to deal with it.  That’s because there’s NEVER a point where you’ll have all the answers.  It’s a continuous journey.

My advice for her and the rest of you is to remember this formula: Act first, then Analyze, then repeat.

Where some people get stuck is they try to analyze everything from the start and they never take action.  They trying to figure it all out ahead of time, but it’s almost impossible to figure things out until you start taking action.

The other alternative is some people just blindly do things without ever stopping themselves to see if what they’re doing is really working well.  They end up spinning their wheels but going nowhere.

In my friend’s case, she had already started writing the first few chapters of her book.  So she had the “act” (or take action) part down.  But after looking at it so far, it could use a lot of improvement since it lacked anything to really captivate a reader.

What she needed to do is STOP writing and analyze what she was producing.  She needed to look her work as well as study other people’s books to figure out how she can make her’s better before continuing on with the rest of the book.

If she would just keep writing and writing without ever stopping to analyze what she was producing, she would have ended up with a complete book (better than nothing), but the quality of her work would have been sub-par.  She would then have to go back and rework everything she had produced.

I advised her on taking some time to read similar books, analyzing what they do well, and go back over her own work to tweak a few things to make it more engaging.

She’ll likely have to keep repeating the entire process of acting, analyzing, acting, analyzing, etc. until she gradually finds her groove and how to present her message.

They say an airplane is off course over 90% of the time, but in the end it gets there because of constant course corrections.  It’s also like the positive and negative terminals of a battery where the charge goes back and fourth between two extremes.  You don’t want to get stuck on all action or all analyzing, but maintain a steady flow back and fourth.

So don’t worry if you don’t have all the answers.  Be sure to take your first steps and THEN analyze afterwards, and then get back into action.  It might be a bit more work compared to what you wish it would be, but I promise it’s all worth it in the end when you find the path that’s right for YOU.