Education

Blinkist (Copy)

Are you sure you want to delete this entry?

No

The Miracle Morning

The Miracle Morning

The Not-So-Obvious Secret Guaranteed to Transform Your Life (Before 8 A.M.)

By Hal Elrod

What’s in it for me? Find out how changing your morning can change your life.

If you want a fulfilling and happy life, your morning routine is the place to start. Many successful people, multimillionaires, top managers and TV stars are early birds and probably get more done before you have even brewed your first coffee. But it’s not just about waking up early. In The Miracle Morning, Hal Elrod explains the importance of creating a morning ritual consisting of six simple activities that you can utilize to start creating the life you’ve always wanted.

In these blinks, you will find out exactly which techniques you can employ to change your way of thinking and your daily habits in order to achieve your dreams and goals.

You will also discover

• what professional athletes do to reach their goals;

• why hitting the snooze button costs you more than you think; and

• how to follow through with a healthy habit.

Many of us live a mediocre life, though we all have the potential to be successful.

The average American wallows in $10,000 of debt, is overweight, doesn’t like their job, has fewer than one person to call a close friend, and is mildly depressed.

Evidently, most Americans are traipsing through a life that falls far short of its potential.

The Social Security Administration says that if you select a hundred people at the beginning of their working life and observe them for 40 years, only one will have become wealthy, four will be financially stable, five will need to continue working, 36 will have died, and 54 will lean on friends and family for financial support. These statistics paint a grim picture indeed.

Assuming that none of these people had planned to just “get by” throughout their life, this means that a shocking 95 percent of them aren’t living the life they wanted for themselves.

Being financially successful is tied to a sense of freedom, as you don’t have to worry about paying your bills or being trapped in debt.

Furthermore, studies show that more prescription drugs are being taken than ever before; one in two marriages in America are falling apart; Americans have more individual debt than ever before; obesity has become an epidemic; and heart disease and cancer are on the rise. However, despite all of this, we’re capable of leading a successful and happy life; it’s possible to turn things around.

The author, Hal Elrod, is a stunning example of this. Elrod actually died for six minutes following a car accident. After spending several days in a coma, he awoke to doctors telling him that he had permanent brain damage and might not be able to walk again.

Yet he was able to recover.

He accepted his circumstances, instead of wasting time wishing that they were different, and was able to create the life of his dreams and fulfill his potential.

Rearview Mirror Syndrome and Isolating Incidences prevent people from reaching their full potential.

Have you ever considered that the way you think about your life might be the very thing that is preventing you from fulfilling your potential?

The majority of us tend to make decisions based on our past and in doing so suffer from something known as Rearview Mirror Syndrome (RMS).

If you’re an RMS sufferer, you believe that who you used to be is who you are now, and your choices and decisions are informed by the limitations of your past experience. So when you come across new opportunities, you often turn them down on the grounds that you’ve never experienced them before.

For example, someone who can’t commit to their partner because of failed relationships in the past probably suffers from RMS.

Aside from RMS, another reason we don’t reach our potential lies in our habit of Isolating Incidents.

This means we treat events in our life as though they’re disconnected from everything else – which is contrary to reality.

For example, perhaps you think it’s perfectly fine to skip your workout today, since you can always do it tomorrow. But rather than your decision just affecting this moment in time, you’re actually affecting the person you’re becoming.

Author and businessman T. Harv Eker highlights the significance of this habit in his book Secrets of the Millionaire Mind when he states, “How you do anything is how you do everything.”

So, if you look at incidents in isolation, you end up being more lenient on yourself, and the events that you think of as mere exceptions will become the norm. As a result, your ability to achieve your dreams is stunted and you succeed only to the level which your excuses allow you.

If you want to create life on your own terms, you need to change the way you think about it. Dwelling on the past and making excuses will only hinder your success.

To start the day well, stop hitting the snooze button and change how you think about sleep.

So maybe you’re convinced that you need to change your life. But where do you start? Well, first a quick question – did you hit the snooze button this morning?

Many of us would be guilty of this. So what’s the problem? Well, hitting the snooze button keeps us from waking with a sense of purpose. Each time you reach for that button, you are subconsciously saying to yourself that you don’t want to rise to your life, your experiences and the day ahead.

Think about those who suffer from depression. For these people, mornings are often the hardest time of day. When you resist waking up, you reduce your chances of enjoying a satisfying day.

Conversely, if you wake up every morning with a purpose in mind, you’ll be on your way to crafting a happy life.

Take a look at Oprah Winfrey, Bill Gates, Albert Einstein and even Aristotle. All of these famous people have one thing in common: getting up early!

If you find you’re always sluggish in the morning, try changing the way you think about sleep.

Consider this – have you ever woken up completely drained on a special day? Probably not. If it’s your birthday, wedding day or Christmas morning, then no matter if you got only a few short hours of sleep, you likely woke up full of energy and anticipation for the day ahead.

This is because the beliefs we hold about our sleep play a crucial role in how we feel when we wake up.

The problem with most of us is what Elrod found out for himself – when you go to sleep thinking “this is way too little sleep, I will feel exhausted tomorrow,” you’re spoiling your morning before you’ve even dozed off.

When he told himself that he would feel good in the morning, he felt refreshed with as little as four hours of sleep.

Change your morning routine to increase your Wake Up Motivation Level.

So how do you stop wasting your life in slumber and start fulfilling your potential? One significant leap you can make is to change your morning routine by raising your Wake Up Motivation Level.

This level can be described on a scale of one to ten, where ten means that you’re eager to rise and greet the day ahead, and one means you would rather just roll back into bed.

Fortunately, employing just a few basic techniques can make you more alert and give you more of a spark during your morning routine.

First, before heading to bed, you should affirm to yourself that you’ll rise the next morning feeling refreshed. If you can get yourself to look forward to the next day somehow, waking up will be a lot less of a chore for you!

Next, place your alarm clock on the other side of the room to your bed. This of course means that you’ll need to actually get up out of bed when it rings in the morning in order to turn it off.

Once you’re out of bed and have switched off your alarm, head to the bathroom and brush your teeth. Doing this will give you a feeling of freshness and help you feel more awake first thing.

After this, go to the kitchen for a glass of water and drink it as fast as you can comfortably manage. This allows you to rehydrate after a night of losing water through breathing. It’s important to note that dehydration can actually make you feel extremely tired.

By completing these simple steps, you’ll wake up feeling brighter and prepared for the core practice of the Miracle Morning routine, which we’ll turn to now.

Practicing purposeful silence in the morning will help you fight stress.

It’s highly likely that you, like most of us, get stressed. One powerful way to reduce this is to use the first step of the Miracle Morning routine. This means carving out some time for purposeful silence after you wake up.

One example of purposeful silence is meditation – a popular technique that many people in high-pressure jobs use to combat stress.

The Huffington Post, for example, reported that Oprah Winfrey believed Transcendental Meditation® in particular helped her “connect with that which is God.”

A lot of well-known people such as Sting, Jerry Seinfeld and Russell Simmons state that meditation is an essential part of their life.

So how can you introduce purposeful silence to your routine? Well, you can try the Miracle Morning Meditation.

Before you start, take a break from your worries and concentrate only on yourself. Find a quiet, comfortable place to sit, like a pillow or the couch, and sit cross-legged and upright.

Next, close your eyes or look forward at the floor in front of you. Bring your attention to your breath, inhaling through your nose and exhaling through your mouth. Breathe slowly and into your belly, not your chest. Then set a pace for your breath – breathe in for three seconds, then breathe out for three seconds. Try to push away any thoughts but if they come, simply refocus on your breath.

Though this may be difficult at first, it will gradually become easier if you practice every day. Bit by bit, you’ll feel your stress levels reduce.

If you have already attempted such techniques and think it’s not your thing, you can also find other methods to help you relax.

This could mean taking some time to reflect on your life and the things you’re grateful for, or you may find that praying works better for you, if you’re so inclined.

Use affirmation and visualization in the morning to start creating your ideal life.

How do we go from a mediocre life to a life that we love and that truly fulfills us?

One way is to look at our self-talk. Our brains are subconsciously programmed by the way we talk to ourselves, but it’s possible to alter this by using positive affirmations.

All of us have constant streams of thoughts in our head which are grounded in our previous experiences and they can work for or against us, depending on how we use them.

To turn some of your thoughts into positive affirmations, you can follow these steps: articulate and note down how you want your life to look in every area, clarify your motives by asking yourself why you want what you want and ask yourself what you’re committed to doing to get your life there, or even just to get to the next level.

After you have created your affirmation, be sure to read it out loud to yourself at least once a day.

Another important tool to have at your disposal to achieve success is one that many professional athletes use: visualization or mental rehearsal.

You, too, can employ this technique to visualize your ideal life, your dreams and goals.

For example, if you want to write a book, visualize yourself feeling inspired and joyfully writing page after page at your desk.

Your affirmations can help you visualize the answers when you ask yourself questions such as, “What do I want?” “Why do I want it?” and “What am I committed to doing in order to get there?”

Affirmation and visualization are powerful tools. Visualizing the life of your dreams and affirming to yourself the action you’re willing to take to make it happen will change the perspective you have on your daily routine.

Morning exercise will keep your body healthy and spur your success.

We often find that we’re far too busy to exercise. It seems as though our lives are so packed with activities that we often feel totally depleted in the evenings. So why not try starting the day with some exercise to get it done first thing?

Exercise is vitally important to keeping our bodies healthy, so it’s a smart idea to make room for it in our lives.

Too few of us manage to exercise during the day, even though we’re all aware of the benefits, like a reduced risk of disease, and just feeling good because you’re in shape.

The thing is, we also know that our days will be busy: last minute appointments get scheduled and important tasks can crop up. So often we just collapse on the couch at the end of the day, too exhausted to go for a run or workout.

Even though we know exercise is important, we frequently push it to the side. Yet making time for it as part of our morning can really aid our success.

For instance, when asked in an interview what the number one key to success was, self-made multimillionaire entrepreneur Eben Pagan replied: “Start every morning off with a personal success ritual.” He then emphasized the value of morning exercise as part of this ritual, explaining how this gets his heart rate up, his blood pumping and his lungs filled with oxygen.

One way you can work out in the mornings is to follow a yoga DVD. The author makes time for 20 minutes of yoga every day by following an instructional DVD. This helps him focus, wakes him up and allows him to maintain increased levels of energy throughout his day.

Read and write in the morning to focus on personal growth.

Once you’ve exercised, it’s time to focus on your personal growth as the next stage of your Miracle Morning. Reading and writing are two significant activities that can help you reflect on your successes and move toward what you want out of life.

We can all find a little time to read, and reading books on personal development in the morning is one quick means of gaining insight from others who have experienced success.

There are books on all kinds of goals such as increasing your earnings, improving your relationships or building a business.

A good reading target to aim for is a minimum of ten pages per day. This means around ten to 20 minutes of reading per day, depending on how quickly you read. Surprisingly, this amounts to approximately 3,650 pages a year, which means you’ll be reading around 18 books a year.

Furthermore, re-reading, highlighting or circling useful information makes it easier for you to recall what is of most value to you.

Next up is writing. Why should this be useful to us? Well, writing for just five to ten minutes every morning will accelerate your personal growth.

Writing down your thoughts, feelings and insights in particular can be highly beneficial.

For example, Elrod noticed that he was far happier and felt more gratitude for his life because his writing allowed him to focus on the things he had already achieved, as well as on the goals he wanted to reach in the future.

He did this by splitting a page into two columns entitled Lessons Learned and New Commitments.

This helped him stop making the same mistakes, and committed him to the changes he wanted to make in his life.

By writing each day, you can review what you have learned, gain clarity on your problems and achievements, and acknowledge your progress along the way.

Customize your Miracle Morning to make it fit your own specific needs.

Now that you’ve been introduced to six morning habits that can bring you fulfilment and success, it is important to learn how to tailor them to fit your needs.

You can take less or more time, depending on what is best for you. If you like, you can use 60 minutes in the morning to prepare yourself for the day and divide the hour in different ways. For instance, you could do ten minutes of each activity or you could workout for 30 minutes and dedicate five minutes to all the other activities, if you think you’d benefit more from the exercise.

Even a few minutes is better than nothing. So if you are stressed out about the thought of adding anything else to your schedule, just take six minutes and divide them like so:

Minute one – sit in silence; minute two – recite your affirmations; minute three – visualize your day going perfectly; minute four – note down some things to be grateful for and what you want to achieve during the day; minute five – read two pages of a book; and finally, minute six – do some push-ups and crunches.

To add even more freedom to your new routine, the time and place of your Miracle Morning can also be flexible. For example, the author travels a lot and often carries out his Miracle Morning on the fly, taking with him some yoga lessons as well as a book and journal. By doing so, he can sit down anywhere to meditate or pray, recite his affirmations and visualize his goals.

If you work night shifts, you could also do your Miracle Morning when you wake much later in the day. The only vital thing is that you have some specific, dedicated time for self improvement.

Make your Miracle Morning a new habit by having an accountability partner and committing to a 30-day challenge.

Like any healthy habit, the Miracle Morning works best when you commit to it and do it regularly.

One effective way to make this happen is to seek out an accountability partner to help you stick to your commitment.

We’ve all had those days when we intended to go to the gym, but didn’t because we just didn’t feel like it. However, if we had a friend there waiting for us, we would be far more motivated to show up.

We’re more adherent when other people hold us accountable for our behavior. So find an accountability partner who wishes to do the Miracle Morning with you. That way you can both call each other to make sure you‘re on track. If finding someone is tricky, you could also join an online community.

We know that it takes around 30 days to form a habit, so you should be ready to dedicate yourself to the 30 Day Miracle Morning Transformation Challenge.

The Transformation Challenge can be divided into three phases. The first ten days can be difficult and particularly hard to bear; the next ten days become easier, but still feel foreign and somewhat disagreeable. However, during the last ten days, your new habit will become part of your identity and you will start to enjoy it.

For example, the author initially despised running, but dedicated himself to running every day for 30 days straight.

In the first ten days, he wanted to give up. Each day he fought with his inner voice, who told him it was OK if he wanted to quit. But he didn’t. During days 11 to 20, he no longer hated running, and it started feeling more normal to him. Finally, as the last phase rolled around, he felt that it had almost become enjoyable!

Final summary

The key message in this book:

The answer to a successful, fulfilling life lies in our morning ritual. Elrod encourages us to use six steps every morning to start living the life of our dreams: silence, affirmations, visualization, exercise, reading and writing. Completing these simple activities first thing every morning sets the tone for an effective, successful day ahead and, in turn, has a profoundly positive effect on our life in general.

Actionable advice:

Get happy about tomorrow!

Before you go to sleep, think about what you could look forward to in the next morning. Are you meeting with a dear friend? Are you simply looking forward to a delicious breakfast? Finding reasons to be excited about the next day will make it easier to get up in the mornings.

Find a Miracle Morning partner.

Significantly increase your chances of making a lasting commitment to Miracle Mornings by having a buddy system – you and a partner support one another and hold each other accountable to your new morning habits.

Organise Tomorrow Today

Organise Tomorrow Today - Dr Jason Selk, Tom Bartow and Matthew Rudy

Eight ways to Retrain your Mind to Optimise Performance at Work and in Life. 10 Key ideas.

What’s in it for me? To change your life for the better, change one bad habit at a time.

What’s so special about people who excel? Is it superior talent? Were they born advantageously?

No. Successful people come from all backgrounds and walks of life, and not every person starts out as a stellar success. But they all do share one feature – they all have awesome habits.

So what exactly are successful habits, and how do you get them, too? These blinks will explain in detail the eight ways to retrain your mind and change for the better. Even focusing on one new habit will help you go the distance when it comes to becoming more focused and productive.

In these blinks, you’ll discover

• why being abnormal is preferable to being normal;

• how multitasking is just a ruse to pretending you’re productive; and

• how establishing a ritual can help you to turn good behaviors into habits.

It’s just not productive to focus on more than one goal at a time if you want positive results.

Have you ever felt the need to make a positive change in your life? Maybe you’ve already made a list of all the small things you’d like to alter. But making a long list isn’t the most effective way to go about making improvements.

Why? It’s a fact that our conscious mind can only process between five to nine concepts, or pieces of information, at a time. This phenomenon is called channel capacity, and was first identified by psychologist George A. Miller in 1956.

No matter what you’re reading or looking at, from words to colors or numbers, your working memory can only store a limited amount of data at any given time. And working memory is all a person has from moment to moment, whether making an argument or trying to solve a math problem.

So given this limitation, it makes sense that trying to tackle too many tasks at once can be overwhelming. This also holds true when you try to change too many things at once in your life.

Since every task you try to complete requires its own amount of data, your working memory can suffer from information overload when you try to juggle multiple tasks. When this happens, important data can get improperly processed and you might make a mistake, or worse, your conscious mind will shut down. You can think of this like a computer freezing when you’ve opened up too many applications.

The author has witnessed this dilemma firsthand. People have told him that when they try to change two or three things in their life at the same time, they get stuck. But when they focus on only one thing, the results can be unbelievable.

So the best way to improve your life and get positive results is to commit yourself to changing just one thing at a time!

Prioritizing tasks and organizing tomorrow is the key to better time management and productivity.

People may look productive when they frantically hurry from one task to the next, or by multitasking to the point of distraction. But such behavior just points to a person who has poor time management skills!

The secret to having a productive tomorrow is to organize it today.

Organizing effectively means prioritizing your tasks by making a list of the Three Most Important things you want to achieve. Be sure as well to include the time needed to accomplish these tasks.

Then from your three tasks, pick one that absolutely needs to be done that very day.

In doing so, you’ll be sure to focus on what’s most important to you, and will be less likely to forget or push aside a task that might be more difficult in favor of an easier goal.

Plus, by only focusing on three tasks, instead of being overwhelmed, you’ll find increased confidence in being able to accomplish all your stated goals.

There are also three important things to keep in mind when making your list.

First: Don’t make the mistake of listing a big, complex project as one item. Instead, find smaller and more manageable tasks within the big project that you can add to the list.

Second: Prioritize and schedule wisely. Carefully identify your most important task for tomorrow and make sure you schedule enough time to complete it. For many, the period between lunch and 3 p.m. is a great window for uninterrupted work.

Third: Write it down. Putting your plan on paper is about more than just remembering what to do. Writing activates a specific part of your brain called the reticular activating system (RAS). This area acts like a filter and puts important information, such as the things you write down, at the forefront of your mind.

So with a prioritized, written plan of attack, you’ll be ready to conquer the day ahead!

Maximize the time you have by finding ways to structure goals and increase meeting productivity.

Do you ever look at your to-do list and wish there were more than 24 hours in a day? Here are four tips on how you can make the most out of the time you have.

Tip #1: Don’t waste time waiting around.

You might not think the time between appointments is valuable, but these short periods can add up to significant hours. So instead of twiddling your thumbs or checking Facebook, spend your extra time productively. Chances are there’s an email you can reply to, or paperwork that needs to be done.

Tip #2: Use the ask and chop technique to avoid procrastination.

This is a helpful technique when you’re confronted with a task that feels too overwhelming to even start. First, ask yourself: What is the first step that needs to be taken? Then simply focus on chopping off that first step by completing it, then repeat the question. By chopping away the task in small steps, you’ll make progress without being intimidated by the scale of the larger project.

Tip #3: Set your game clock.

Create a challenge by giving yourself a short amount of time for a small task. When you meet your deadline, you’ll see how efficient you can be and learn that you really can do more with less time.

And finally, tip #4: Pre-structure your meetings to meet solid goals.

Unstructured, aimless meetings are a waste of time. People end up jumping from topic to topic or spending the meeting focusing on minor details. Make your meeting productive by giving it a focus.

Open the meeting by articulating a clear goal that outlines what you want to accomplish. Everyone at the meeting will then be aware of the meeting’s focus, and you can spend the rest of the time productively in reaching that goal. Close the meeting by dedicating a short amount of time for questions or proposals.

With these tips, you’ll be well on your way to creating more time in your working day by using each minute as efficiently as possible.

Create a ritual of your new lifestyle goals to avoid procrastination and stick to new, positive behaviors.

Many people make New Year’s resolutions to kick a bad habit or to get into better shape. Unfortunately, it’s not uncommon to revert to old habits or bad behavior after just a few weeks.

So how can you stick to a plan and develop new, better habits? Start by making a ritual of the positive habit you want to adopt.

Making a ritual means doing something at the exact same time, each and every day. If you want to go to the gym more often, ritualize this new habit by setting a specific time to go, like 8:30 a.m. every day, and commit to it. By making your new goal a ritual, you’ll be less tempted to procrastinate or postpone.

But if you start to doubt or feel like slacking off, remember that changing habits gets easier with time!

As you start trying to change your habits, you can run into situations where old behaviors, like lying on the couch watching television, might feel like a better option. When this happens, resist the temptation by reminding yourself that this is a normal, temporary phase on the path to a great new lifestyle.

You might have to fight through these early stages – but it will get easier the longer you stick with it!

To boost your fighting spirit, ask yourself two questions: How will I feel when I win this fight and stay committed to my new habit? How will I feel if I give up? These questions will help provoke feelings within you that can motivate you to stick with your goals.

Finally, imagine how your new lifestyle will change things for you in the long run.

It helps to do this through visualization: imagine your new self as a healthy, productive and confident person. This technique keeps your goal in mind and will motivate you to keep going for it!

By applying these basic thinking techniques, anyone can stay committed to establishing new habits or making lifestyle changes – until the change finally becomes second nature.

Self-evaluation is effective as long as you focus on the process, not just the results, of your work.

Do you ever hesitate starting a task for fear that you may make a mistake or fall short of your own expectations? If so, you might be a perfectionist, and this can get in the way of evaluating yourself fairly.

When a perfectionist performs a self-evaluation, he is likely to focus more on shortcomings over whether something as a whole was done well.

By basing a self-evaluation on the highest of standards, you are simply setting yourself up for disappointment. You can either fail to reach those standards and let yourself down, or you can meet expectations and see no reason to appreciate good work.

This can result in negative feedback, which in turn leads to stress and low self-confidence.

The better method is to appreciate when you do things well! Take the advice of legendary basketball coach John Wooden. He said that the most successful people always give themselves credit when it’s due.

It’s also important to focus more on the process than on results.

By paying attention only to results, you won’t learn what needs to be done to get the results you want. When you focus on the process, you’ll learn what works best to reach your goals and what you might need to improve.

Consider creating a success log, or a daily journal that will help you evaluate your process in a useful way.

To start your journal, write down the realistic goals you hope to achieve each day, and take the time to evaluate your goals afterward.

You should answer three questions: What did I do well today? What is one aspect I’d like to improve for tomorrow? Is there one thing I can do differently? When you answer these questions, you are focusing on setting goals around behavior and not on the external results.

So be on the lookout for behaviors that contribute to success – they’ll point the way to continued progress!

How you think and talk to yourself can either build you up for success or let you down toward failure.

Have you ever talked yourself out of doing something? Maybe you were going to apply for a new job or ask for a promotion, but then you thought, “Why bother, it’s not going to happen, I’ll just end up getting my hopes crushed.” This is a bad habit that you can change.

How you talk to yourself impacts your self-confidence. Over time we tend to believe whatever it is that we tell ourselves. You can either convince yourself that you’ll fail by thinking negatively, or you can boost your confidence and increase your chances of success by encouraging yourself.

Even if you are doubtful in the face of a challenge, you’ll find that by continuing to feed yourself with positive thoughts, you’ll eventually feel the necessary confidence to get on with it.

After all, you’ll never even approach a challenge if you don’t allow yourself the belief that you will succeed!

Think of it like a coach: When a team is facing a tough match, it’s a coach’s job to rally the team with positive messages and keep them motivated. Without hope, no one would bother trying!

Another important technique is to keep yourself from overthinking a problem.

When you overthink, your mind turns the problem into an unsolvable obstacle, which can end up paralyzing you into inaction. Your brain releases stress hormones, leading to tension and the loss of any creative intelligence. This usually ends with the overthinker giving up to escape the stress.

A much better way to achieve a goal is to relax and, instead of focusing on the problem, concentrate on a solution.

Take stock of everything you have at your disposal, the tools that can help you solve your problem. Rather than becoming overwhelmed, take the task step by step, think positively and work out a gradual solution.

By writing thoughtful speeches, practicing often and speaking calmly, you’ll get your message across.

Chances are you don’t enjoy making speeches in front of large groups of people. But every professional can learn how to give a decent speech; here are some keys to help you learn how.

There are two important points to giving a good presentation: preparation and practice.

When you prepare a speech, you want to make sure your audience understands your main ideas. In previous blinks, we learned that the mind can only handle a certain amount of information. Building on this, be aware that your audience, to stay engaged, requires a well-structured speech.

You’ll also need to remove any elements in your speech that might distract a listener or obscure your message. To do this, write down your entire presentation and look at the first and last five minutes. Take out any details that seem superfluous.

With your presentation lean and organized, you can then rehearse delivering it to an audience.

If you’re overly nervous, you might appear awkward, fidgeting with clothes or hair. Before you take to the stage, reassure yourself that you’re well-prepared and boost your self-confidence by rehearsing the speech until you can recite it effortlessly. Take moments throughout the day, even during mealtimes, to mentally recite the details in your speech.

Don’t forget to talk slowly, and pause after you make a point. People who speak at a calm, measured pace are often seen as more confident than people who speak quickly. And by allowing for pauses, you’ll give your audience time to better process the points you are trying to make.

In contrast, if you’re preparing a one-on-one talk, there are two important things to keep in mind:

First, keep the tone of your voice calm and friendly. This will allow the other person to be at ease, and what’s more, the person will also be more receptive to your message.

Second, be sure to give the other person a chance to voice his thoughts, and listen carefully to what he has to say. If you speak slowly and pause frequently, this gives your partner the opportunity to respond.

Being a normal person can get in the way of achieving greatness. Seek to be abnormal!

Why are people so hung up on being normal? Can you think of any great artist, writer or scientist who was considered normal?

Normal people have traits, or “viruses,” that can keep them from achieving their goals. But abnormal people are immune to these viruses, and refuse to let them interfere with personal success.

The main virus that plagues normal people is procrastination.

The normal person is scared to pursue an ambitious goal, worried that failure awaits. And for that normal person, it is easy to find excuses not to start: laundry, a dirty kitchen, and so on.

But the abnormal person doesn’t look for excuses. Abnormal people look for ways around any obstacle. If the dog ate a notebook, the abnormal person will staple together some paper and make a new one. Abnormal people take control of their fate, convinced that they alone can achieve their goals.

A secondary virus, related to procrastination, is focusing on things you can’t control.

Normal people can blind themselves from the things they can control by obsessing over things they can’t. It’s too cold or rainy outside, the neighbor’s dog is barking, the coffee shop raised its prices, and so on. By focusing on such concerns, normal people distance themselves from the aspects of their life that they can actually improve.

For abnormal people, such concerns are a waste of time and energy. Instead, they pay attention to what they can control and the parts of their lives they can improve.

So do what abnormal people do: create a step-by-step plan of action on what you’d like to improve in your life and how to make it happen. You can even add a list of things that you can and can’t control, to make sure you don’t get distracted along the way.

Final summary

The key message in this book:

If you want to be highly successful, you need to know how to control your mind and talk with yourself in a positive fashion. Always remember to focus on the solution rather than on the problem. And even when you’re at the top of your game, never forget the process that got you there.

Actionable advice:

Build an evaluation ritual.

Next time you have a bad day at the office and you feel that your self-esteem is flagging, don’t focus on what you did wrong. It’s much better to write down everything you did well. Such a positive evaluation will immediately increase your confidence, motivate you and improve your performance tomorrow.

Practice the Mental Workout to reduce anxiety about a task.

First, relax your mind by controlling your breath. Inhale for five seconds, hold your breath for two seconds, and exhale for six seconds. Next recite a personal mantra, or a fixed set of encouraging statements. For example, “I’m strong, smart and confident and things will work out well.” Spend 60 seconds visualizing the situation you’re afraid of. Imagine what you’re going to see, how you’re going to feel, and what you’re going to say. Repeat your personal mantra and return to the breathing technique.

Got feedback?

We’d sure love to hear what you think about our content! Just drop an email to remember@blinkist.com with the title of this book as the subject line and share your thoughts!

Suggested further reading: The Miracle Morning by Hal Elrod

In The Miracle Morning, Hal Elrod explains the techniques that got him through the aftermath of a near-fatal car accident. Elrod realized that the key to a successful and fulfilling life was dedicating some time to improving ourselves every day. He details six crucial steps we can take every morning to help us jump-start our days and get us well on our way to a fulfilled life.

The Power of Habit

The Power of Habit

Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business

By Charles Duhigg

The Power of Habit (2012) explains what an important role habits play in our lives, whether they’re good ones, like brushing our teeth and exercising, or bad ones, like smoking. Filled with research-based findings and engaging anecdotes, The Power of Habit not only explains exactly how habits are formed, it provides easy tips for changing habits, both on an individual and an organizational level.

What’s in it for me? Learn to pick up or drop any habit you wish.

You’ve made the decision: no more cigarettes! Or maybe it’s: no more junk food! For a couple of weeks, things go swimmingly. You’re proud of yourself. But then, one day, the craving suddenly overpowers you – and, before you know it, you’re back to your old habits.

Sound familiar? If so, you already know the power of habits.

But where does the power of habits come from? As you’ll see in these blinks, habits go deep into the human brain and psyche and influence our lives in a myriad of ways. And while they make our lives a whole lot easier – just imagine if you had to figure out how to open a door every time you encountered one – habits can also cause problems and even ruin lives.

Luckily, by learning how habits work, you can begin to overcome their power. So let’s delve into the world of habits!

In these blinks, you’ll learn

why anticipation is at the root of habit formation;what resisting marshmallows can tell us about habits; andwhat the LATTE method is.

Habits are simple cue-routine-reward loops that save effort.

In the 1990s, a group of researchers at MIT were studying mice to learn more about how habits are formed in the brain. The mice had to find their way to a piece of chocolate that’d been placed at the end of a T-shaped maze. Using special equipment, the researchers could monitor the brain activity of the mice as they sniffed their way to the chocolate.

When the mice were first put in the maze, their brain activity spiked. They could smell the chocolate and they began searching for it. When the researchers repeated the experiment, however, they noticed something interesting.

As the mice gradually learned where the chocolate was and memorized how to get there – go straight, then turn left – their brain activity decreased.

This process of turning a sequence of actions into an automatic routine is known as “chunking,” and it forms the basis of all habit formation. Its evolutionary role is clear and crucial: it allows the brain to save energy and perform common tasks efficiently.

Hence, even a complicated act that demands concentration at first, like finding a piece of chocolate in a maze or backing out of the driveway, eventually becomes an effortless habit. In fact, according to a 2006 paper by a researcher at Duke University, as many as 40 percent of the actions we perform each day are based on habit.

In general, any habit can be broken down into a three-part loop:

First, you sense an external cue – say, your alarm clock ringing. This creates an overall spike in your brain activity as your brain decides which habit is appropriate for the situation.

Next comes the routine, meaning the activity you’re used to performing when faced with this particular cue. You march into the bathroom and brush your teeth with your brain virtually on autopilot.

Finally, you get a reward – a feeling of success and, in this case, a minty-fresh tingling sensation in your mouth. Your overall brain activity increases again as your brain registers the successful completion of the activity and reinforces the link between the cue and the routine.

Habits are incredibly resilient. In some cases, people with extensive brain damage can still adhere to their old habits. Just consider Eugene, a man with severe brain damage caused by encephalitis. When asked to point at the door leading to the kitchen from his living room, he couldn’t do it. But when asked what he would do if he were hungry, he walked straight into the kitchen and took down a jar of nuts from one of the cabinets.

Eugene could do this because learning and maintaining habits happens in the basal ganglia, a small neurological structure embedded deep in the brain. Even if the rest of the brain is damaged, the basal ganglia can function normally.

Unfortunately, this resilience means that, even if you successfully kick a bad habit, like smoking, you will always be at risk of relapsing.

Habits stick because they create craving.

Imagine this scenario: every afternoon for the past year, you’ve bought and eaten a delicious, sugar-laden chocolate-chip cookie from the cafeteria at your workplace. Call it a just reward for a hard day’s work.

Unfortunately, as a few friends have already pointed out, you’ve started putting on weight. So you decide to kick the habit. But how do you imagine you’ll feel that first afternoon, walking past the cafeteria without indulging? Odds are, you will either eat “just one more cookie” or you’ll go home in a distinctly grumpy mood.

Kicking a bad habit is hard because you develop a craving for the reward at the end of the habit loop. Research from the 1990s conducted by the neuroscientist Wolfram Schultz shows how this works at the level of the brain. Schultz was studying the brain activity of a macaque monkey named Julio, who was learning to perform various tasks. In one experiment, Julio was placed in a chair in front of a screen. Whenever some colored shapes were shown on the screen, Julio’s task was to pull a lever. When he did, a drop of blackberry juice (Julio loved blackberry juice) would drip down on his lips through a tube.

At first, Julio didn’t pay much attention to the screen. But when he happened to pull the lever at the right moment, thus triggering the blackberry-juice reward, his brain activity spiked, showing a strong pleasure response.

As Julio gradually grasped the connection between seeing the shapes on the screen, pulling the lever and getting the blackberry juice, he not only stared at the screen, but Schultz noticed that, as soon as the shapes appeared, there was a spike in Julio’s brain activity similar to when he actually received the reward. In other words, his brain had begun anticipating the reward. This anticipation is the neurological basis of craving and helps explain why habits are so powerful.

Schultz then altered the experiment. Now, as Julio pulled the lever, either no juice would come or it would come in a diluted form. In Julio’s brain, Schultz could now observe neurological patterns associated with desire and frustration. Julio got decidedly mopey when he didn’t get his reward, just as you might if you forewent your cherished end-of-the-day cookie.

The good news is that craving works for forming good habits as well. For instance, a 2002 study from New Mexico State University showed that people who manage to exercise habitually actually crave something from the exercise, be it an endorphin rush in the brain, a sense of accomplishment or the treat they allow themselves afterward. This craving is what solidifies the habit; cues and rewards alone are not enough.

Given the power of habits, it should come as no surprise that companies work hard to understand and create such cravings in consumers. A pioneer of this tactic is Claude Hopkins, the man who popularized Pepsodent toothpaste when countless other toothpaste brands had failed. He provided a reward that created craving: namely, the cool, tingling sensation that we’ve come to expect toothpaste to have. That sensation not only “proved” that the product worked in consumers’ minds; it also became a tangible reward that they began to crave.

To change a habit, substitute the routine for another and believe in the change.

As anyone trying to give up cigarettes will tell you, when the craving for nicotine hits, it’s hard to ignore. That’s why the golden rule for quitting any habit is this: don’t try to resist the craving; redirect it. In other words, you should keep the same cues and rewards, but change the routine that occurs as a result of the craving.

Several studies on former smokers have shown that, by identifying the cues and rewards around their smoking habit and replacing the routine with one that has a similar reward, such as doing some push-ups, eating a piece of Nicorette or simply relaxing for a few minutes, the chances of staying smoke-free increases significantly.

One organization that uses this method to great effect is Alcoholics Anonymous (AA), which may have helped as many as ten million alcoholics achieve sobriety.

AA asks participants to list what exactly they crave from drinking. Usually, factors like relaxation and companionship are far more important than the actual intoxication. AA then provides new routines that address those cravings, such as going to meetings and talking to sponsors for companionship. The idea is to replace drinking with something less harmful.

However, research on AA members shows that, although this method works well in general, it alone is not enough. In the early 2000s, a group of researchers at California’s Alcohol Research Group noticed a distinct pattern in their interviews with AA members. A frequent response was that the habit-replacement method worked wonders, but, as soon as a stressful event occurred, the old habit was simply too strong to resist, no matter how long the respondent had been in the program.

For example, one recovering alcoholic had been sober for years when his mother called to say she had cancer. After hanging up, he left work and went directly to a bar, and then, in his own words, was “pretty much drunk for the next two years.”

Further research has indicated that those who resist relapse and remain sober often rely on belief. This is why spirituality and God feature prominently in AA philosophy. But it’s not necessarily the religious component itself that helps people stay sober. Believing in God also helps participants believe in the possibility of change for themselves, which makes them stronger in the face of stressful life events.

Change can be achieved by focusing on keystone habits and achieving small wins.

When former government bureaucrat Paul O’Neill became the CEO of the ailing aluminum company Alcoa in 1987, investors were skeptical. And O’Neill didn’t improve matters when, during an investor meeting in a swanky luxury hotel in Manhattan, he declared that, rather than focusing on profits and revenues, he intended to make workplace safety his number-one priority. One investor immediately called his clients and said, “The board put a crazy hippie in charge and he’s going to kill the company.”

O’Neill tried to explain his reasoning to the lukewarm investors. No amount of talk would reduce injury rates at Alcoa, he argued. Sure, most CEOs claimed to care about workplace safety. But empty words would never lead to the formation of a company-wide habit, which is what would be necessary for real change.

O’Neill knew that habits exist in organizations. And he knew that changing an organization’s direction is a matter of changing its habits. He was also aware that not all habits are equal. Some habits, known as keystone habits, are more important than others because adhering to them creates positive effects that spill over into other areas.

By insisting that worker safety come first, managers and employees would have to think about how the manufacturing process could be safer and how safety suggestions could best be communicated to everyone. The end result would be a highly streamlined, and hence profitable, production organization.

Despite the investors’ initial doubts, O’Neill’s approach proved to be a huge success. By the time O’Neill retired in 2000, Alcoa’s annual net income had increased fivefold.

Keystone habits can help individuals change, too. For instance, research indicates that doctors have a hard time getting obese people to make a broad change in their lifestyle. However, when patients focus on developing one keystone habit, such as keeping a meticulous food journal, other positive habits start to take root as well.

Keystone habits work by providing small wins – that is, early successes that are fairly easy to attain. Developing a keystone habit helps you believe that improvement is possible in other spheres of life, too, which can trigger a cascade of positive change.

Willpower is the most important keystone habit.

In the 1960s, researchers at Stanford conducted what would become a very famous study. A large group of four-year-olds was brought, one by one, into a room. In the room, there was a table with a marshmallow on it. A researcher gave each child a choice: either eat the marshmallow now or wait a few minutes and have two marshmallows instead. The researcher then left the room for 15 minutes. Only about 30 percent of the children managed not to devour the marshmallow in the researcher’s absence.

But here’s the interesting part. When, years later, the researchers tracked down the study’s participants, who were now adults, they found that those who had exhibited the greatest willpower and waited the full 15 minutes had ended up with the best grades in school, were more popular on average and were less likely to have drug addictions. Willpower, it seemed, was a keystone habit that could be applied to other parts of life, too.

More recent studies have shown similar results. For instance, a 2005 study on eighth-graders showed that students exhibiting high levels of willpower had better grades on average and were more likely to get into selective schools.

So willpower is a key habit in life. However, as you might have noticed if you’ve ever tried to start exercising more, willpower can be highly inconsistent. Some days, hitting the gym is a breeze; on others, leaving the sofa is nigh impossible. Why is that?

It turns out that willpower is actually like a muscle: it can tire. If you exhaust it by concentrating on, say, a tedious spreadsheet at work, you might have no willpower left when you get home. But the analogy goes even further: by engaging in habits that demand resolution – say, adhering to a strict diet – you can actually strengthen your willpower. Call it a willpower workout.

Other factors can also affect your willpower. For example, Starbucks found that, on most days, all of its employees had the willpower to smile and be cheerful, regardless of how they felt. But when things became stressful – for example, when a customer began screaming – they would soon lose their cool. Based on research, executives at the company determined that if baristas mentally prepared for unpleasant situations and planned out how to overcome them, they could muster enough willpower to follow the plan even when under pressure.

To help them, Starbucks developed the aptly named LATTE method, which outlines a series of steps to take in a stressful situation: Listening to the customer, Acknowledging their complaint, Taking action, Thanking the customer, and, lastly, Explaining why the issue occurred. By practicing this method over and over, Starbucks baristas learn exactly what to do should a stressful situation arise, and can stay cool.

Other studies have shown that a lack of autonomy also adversely affects willpower. If people do something because they are ordered to rather than by choice, their willpower muscle will get tired much quicker.

Organizational habits can be dangerous, but a crisis can change them.

In November of 1987, a commuter at the King’s Cross station in London approached a ticket collector and said he’d just seen a piece of burning tissue by one of the building’s escalators. Rather than investigating the matter or notifying the department responsible for fire safety, the ticket collector did nothing. He simply returned to his workstation, thinking it was someone else’s responsibility.

This was perhaps not so surprising. Responsibilities in running the London underground were divided into several clear-cut areas, and, as a result, staff had formed an organizational habit of staying within departmental bounds. Over the decades, an intricate, hierarchical system of bosses and sub-bosses, each highly protective of his authority, had emerged. The nearly 20,000 employees of the London Underground knew not to encroach on each other’s terrain.

Under the surface, most organizations are like this: battlegrounds on which individuals clamor for power and rewards. So, in order to keep the peace, we develop certain habits, such as minding one’s own business.

Soon after the ticket collector returned to work as usual, a huge fireball erupted into the ticket hall. But no one present knew how to use the sprinkler system or had the authority to use the fire extinguishers. The rescuers, who were eventually called in after a long series of failures to act by several employees at the station, described passengers so badly burned that their skin came off when touched. In the end, 31 people lost their lives.

The failure at the heart of this tragedy was that, despite its complicated system of responsibility distribution, no single employee or department at the London Underground had an overview responsibility for the safety of passengers.

But even such tragedies can have a silver lining: crises offer a unique chance to reform organizational habits by providing a sense of emergency.

This is why good leaders often actively prolong a sense of crisis or even exacerbate it. In investigating the King’s Cross station fire, special investigator Desmond Fennel found that many potentially lifesaving changes had been proposed years earlier, but none had been implemented. When Fennel encountered resistance to his suggestions, too, he turned the whole investigation into a media circus – a crisis that enabled him to implement the changes. Today, every station has a manager whose main responsibility is passenger safety.

Companies take advantage of habits in their marketing.

Picture yourself walking into your local supermarket. What’s the first thing you encounter? In all likelihood, it’s fresh fruits and vegetables, laid out in lush piles. If you consider this for a second, it doesn’t make much sense. As fruit and veggies tend to be soft and are easily damaged by other products put in the cart, they ought to be displayed closer to the registers. But marketers figured out long ago that, if we begin our shopping by filling our carts with fresh, healthy items, we’re more likely to buy unhealthier products, like snacks and cookies, as we continue to shop.

This might seem pretty obvious. But retailers have figured out far subtler ways to influence customers’ purchasing habits. For example, here’s a surprising fact: most people instinctively turn right when entering a store. That’s why retailers put their most profitable products to the right of the entrance.

As sophisticated as these methods are, however, they have one big drawback; they’re all one-size-fits-all and don’t account for differences in the purchasing behavior of individual customers. Over the past few decades, however, increasingly sophisticated technology and data-collection have made it possible to target customers with breathtaking precision. One of the true masters of this game is the American retailer Target, which serves millions of shoppers annually and collects terabytes of data on them.

In the early 2000s, the company decided to use the full force of its data to target a particular segment of the population long known to be one of the most profitable: new parents. To get a leg up on its competitors, however, Target wanted to do more than market to new parents; it wanted to draw in expecting parents before their babies had even arrived. To accomplish this, it set out to determine pregnant women’s purchasing habits.

In the end, Target’s analysis worked so well that it marketed to a pregnant teenage girl who hadn’t yet told her family about her situation. Target sent her baby-related coupons, prompting her father to pay the local Target manager an angry visit: “She’s still in high school,” he said. “Are you trying to encourage her to get pregnant?!” When the truth came out, it was the abashed father’s turn to apologize.

But Target soon realized that people resented being spied upon. For its baby coupons to work, it figured out a clever way to bury them amid random and unrelated offers for things like lawnmowers and wine glasses; the offers had to seem like the familiar, untargeted ones.

Indeed, when trying to sell anything new, companies will do their best to make it seem familiar. For example, radio DJs can guarantee a new song becomes popular by playing it sandwiched between two existing hit songs. New habits or products are far more likely to be accepted if they don’t seem new.

Target got a lot of flack for its invasive approach to marketing, but that doesn’t mean it wasn’t a smashing success. Due in large part to its work with targeting pregnant women, the company’s revenues grew from $44 billion in 2002 to $65 billion in 2009.

Movements are born from strong ties, peer pressure and new habits.

In 1955, a black woman named Rosa Parks refused to give up her bus seat for a white man in Montgomery, Alabama. She was arrested and charged, and the events that followed made her a civil-rights icon.

Interestingly, her case, though it’s become the most famous, was neither unique nor the first. Many others had already been arrested for the same reason. So why did Parks’s arrest spark a bus boycott that lasted over a year?

First of all, Rosa Parks was especially well-liked in the community and had an unusually broad array of friends. She belonged to many clubs and societies and was closely connected to all kinds of people, from professors to field hands. For instance, she served as the secretary of the local NAACP chapter, was deeply involved in a youth organization at a Lutheran church close to where she lived and spent her spare time providing poor families with dressmaking services, all while still finding time to make gown alterations for young debutantes from wealthy white families. In fact, she was so active in her community that her husband would sometimes say she ate at potlucks more often than at home.

Parks had what is known in sociology studies as strong ties – that is, first-hand relationships with plenty of people from across different social segments of her community. These ties not only bailed her out of jail; they spread word of her arrest throughout Montgomery’s social strata, thus sparking the bus boycott.

But her friends alone could not have sustained a lengthy boycott. Enter peer pressure. In addition to strong ties, social spheres also comprise weak ties, meaning acquaintances rather than friends. It is mostly via weak ties that peer pressure is exerted. When a person’s larger network of friends and acquaintances support a movement, it is harder to opt out.

Eventually, commitment to the boycott began waning in the black community, as city officials began introducing new carpooling rules to make life without buses increasingly difficult. This is when the final component was added: a speech by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. advocating nonviolence and asking participants to embrace and forgive their oppressors. Based on this message, people began to form new habits, such as independently organizing church meetings and peaceful protests. They made the movement a self-propelling force.

We bear the responsibility for changing our habits.

One night in 2008, Brian Thomas strangled his wife to death. Distraught, he promptly turned himself in and was prosecuted for murder. His defense? He was experiencing something scientists refer to as sleep terrors.

Research has shown that, unlike sleepwalking, during which people might get up from bed and start acting out impulses, when a person experiences sleep terrors, the brain effectively shuts down, leaving only the most primitive neurological regions active.

Since he was in this state, Thomas thought he was strangling a burglar who was attacking his wife. In court, the defense argued that the instant Thomas thought someone was hurting his wife, it triggered an automatic response – an attempt to protect her. In other words, he followed a habit.

Around the same time, Angie Bachman was sued by the casino company Harrah’s for half a million dollars in outstanding gambling debts. This was after she had already gambled away her home and her million-dollar inheritance.

In court, Bachman argued that she, too, was merely following a habit. Gambling felt good, so when Harrah’s sent her tempting offers for free trips to the casino, she couldn’t resist. (Note that Harrah’s knew she was a compulsive gambler who had already declared bankruptcy.)

In the end, Thomas was acquitted and many, including the trial judge, expressed great sympathy for him. Bachman, on the other hand, lost her case and was the object of considerable public scorn.

Both Thomas and Bachman could quite plausibly claim: “It wasn’t me. It was my habits!” So why was only one of them acquitted?

Quite simply, once we become aware of a harmful habit, it becomes our responsibility to address and change it. Thomas didn’t know he would hurt anyone in his sleep. Bachman, however, knew she had a gambling habit, and could have avoided Harrah’s offers by participating in an exclusion program that would’ve prohibited gambling companies from marketing to her.

Final summary

The key message in these blinks:

Following habits is not only a key part of our lives but also a key part of organizations and companies. All habits comprise a cue-routine-reward loop, and the easiest way to change this is to substitute something else for the routine while keeping the cue and reward the same. Achieving lasting change in life is difficult, but it can be done by focusing on important keystone habits such as willpower.

Actionable advice:

Make your bed every morning.

In these blinks, you learned that not all habits are equal but some are more powerful than others. One such keystone habit that you can easily adopt is to start each day by making your bed. Research has shown that this can both increase your general well-being and boost your overall productivity.

Got feedback?

We’d sure love to hear what you think about our content! Just drop an email to remember@blinkist.com with the title of this book as the subject line and share your thoughts!

Suggested further reading: Rewire by Richard O'Connor

Rewire is about why we sometimes fall into self-destructive behavior, and how to move past it. It delves into the brain activity behind addictions and outlines strategies for rewiring yourself for improved self-control over your bad habits. To find these blinks, press “I’m done” at the bottom of the screen.

The Power of The Subconscious Mind

The Power of The Subconscious Mind

by Joseph Murphy

What’s in it for me? Tap into the power of your subconscious.

Imagine an iceberg floating along in the Arctic. While you see parts of it above the surface of the water, most of it is hidden beneath. The same can be said of your mind: the part we are aware of – the conscious mind – is visible and known to us, while the other, and at least equally large, part constitutes our subconscious. So how do we tap into such a vast and seemingly inaccessible part of our minds?

That is exactly what we will look at in these blinks of a classic book from the early 1960s. You will discover how to unleash the potential that is hidden in your subconscious to tackle a wide array of issues and problems, coming out at the other end feeling both wiser and happier.

You’ll also find out

how a doctor used his subconscious to reduce mortality rates;why you need to visualize your house being sold; andwhy you must learn to love the boss you don’t like.

The subconscious mind is prone to suggestion, which you can use to your advantage.

Do you remember when you learned to ride a bike? It likely required intense attention and focus from your conscious mind. But after a while, your subconscious probably started to get the hang of things and, pretty soon, riding a bike was a natural, almost automatic task.

This is a great example of conscious to unconscious learning, an incredible tool at your disposal. Using it only requires harnessing the power of your subconscious mind through the repetition of positive thoughts.

Just take Enrico Caruso, the Italian opera tenor. In the late nineteenth century, he performed at famous opera houses throughout Europe and the United States. However, he used to suffer throat spasms and would find himself drenched in sweat moments before he was supposed to sing.

Why?

Well, his mind was filled with negative thoughts; he always imagined the crowd laughing him off the stage or heckling a poor performance. Nonetheless, he got over this stage fright by telling his “small me,” or conscious mind, to stop interfering with his “big me,” or subconscious mind. By repeating this meditative practice, he eventually gave his subconscious mind the ability to ignore his fears, freeing up more energy for his powerful voice box.

In other words, the subconscious mind is tremendously powerful. In fact, it can absorb and manifest any idea that you suggest to it.

For instance, psychologists have done a number of experiments in which a seasoned hypnotist puts his students into a hypnotic state before suggesting to them that they are cats. The students then go on to act the part with total authenticity; their subconscious minds simply accept whatever their conscious minds believe to be true.

Or consider the Scottish surgeon, Dr. James Esdaille. Between the years 1843 and 1846, he performed some 400 operations, including amputations, well before the development of anesthesia. The mortality rate for his procedures was incredibly low, at just two or three percent, and it was all thanks to his technique of hypnotically suggesting to his patients that they would not contract an infection. This hypnotic tool was sufficient to prompt a response on the part of their subconscious minds and, in turn, their bodies.

You can use the power of positive thinking and visualization to realize your dreams.

Back in the eighteenth century, priests would heal the sick by convincing them that God would make them well. Incredibly, this approach often worked. But it wasn’t the work of some mysterious deity; the subconscious mind was the real healer.

This seemingly supernatural effect can be explained by the fact that positive thoughts give your subconscious the power to heal diseases. For example, after one of the author’s relatives developed tuberculosis, the man’s son became determined to heal him. He told his father that he bought a cross from a monk who recently visited a healing shrine in Europe – but, in reality, it was just a piece of wood he picked up off the sidewalk.

He said that simply touching the cross had already healed countless people. So, his father gripped the object, praying with it in his hand as he fell asleep. The next morning, he was completely healed.

In fact, the father was so convinced that he was healed by the cross that nobody ever told him the truth; breaking this illusion would likely have caused the disease to resurface.

In a similar way, simply imagining something you desire can help make it a reality. A good example here comes from the author’s teachings at the Church of Divine Science, which became a weekly radio show with millions of listeners.

In one segment on this show, the author discussed the mental movie method while advising people on the process of selling their homes. In this method, visualization is used to create and hold a mental image until the subconscious mind makes it real.

For a home seller in the example above, the first step was to build confidence that she had set a reasonable price. Then, while in a sleepy state, she would envision celebrating the day the sale finally closed. As she dozed off, keeping this image in her head, her subconscious mind would connect her with the buyer.

This process worked so well that a number of listeners sent in letters, thanking the author for helping them sell their homes.

Visualization and passion can help you achieve tremendous results.

You now know how visualization can help you sell your house – but that’s just the beginning. This powerful tool can do much more. It can even help attract money and, for it to do so, you need only picture your desired result and rely on your subconscious to make it happen.

Just take the story of an Australian boy who dreamed of becoming a doctor and a surgeon, despite lacking the money he needed to start on the path toward this dream. Every night for months, before he fell asleep, he would imagine a medical diploma hanging on his wall with his name written on it.

Eventually, a doctor who knew the boy saw potential in him and trained him to sterilize instruments, give injections and eventually paid for his medical school tuition.

Another way your subconscious can help you is by overcoming envy, a feeling of inferiority that can obstruct your path to wealth. For example, seeing another person cash a huge check might make you feel envious, but you can easily defeat this response.

The solution is to wish greater wealth upon others, which will signal to your subconscious that you deserve the same for yourself. If you instead remain envious, you’ll only preclude your own potential affluence.

And finally, you can reap tremendous benefits by pairing visualization with passion. For instance, the author knew a young pharmacist who was in love with his work and often dreamed of having his own pharmacy.

He focused his mind on conjuring images of himself distributing prescriptions and, one day, began a new job at a major chain store, where he worked with the passion he had always imagined. Eventually, he became the manager and, after four years, he had saved enough to open his own pharmacy. Through passion and visualization, he rose through the industry and was able to realize his ambitions.

Use your subconscious to guide your choices and attract the kind of partner you want.

Did you know that humans spend a full third of our lives asleep?

But that’s not to say this is all lost time. In fact, lots of things happen while you sleep; your body restores its energy, heals faster and digests properly. With your physical body so active during rest, you better believe that your subconscious is working through the night as well, striving to protect you.

Incredibly, these intuitive powers of your subconscious can help guide you. Just take one of the author’s Church of Divine Science radio show listeners, a woman from Los Angeles. She was offered a job in New York City at double her current salary but couldn’t decide whether or not to take it. In the end, she sought guidance from her subconscious, trusting that the answer would come to her in her sleep.

She practiced meditation as she dozed off and the next morning had a strong feeling that she shouldn’t take the job. Months later, her choice was validated when the company filed for bankruptcy. Her subconscious mind’s intuition had guided her to the correct decision.

And that’s not all your subconscious can do for you in your sleep; it might even be able to find you your dream partner by simply focusing on the qualities that you desire in a better half.

For instance, the author knew a teacher who had three ex-husbands, all of whom were passive and weak, despite her attraction to the opposite qualities. What was happening?

Her masculine, dominant personality had subconsciously attracted submissive partners. However, by mentally constructing her ideal husband every night, she succeeded in breaking the pattern. She took a job as a receptionist in a doctor’s office and immediately knew that the physician was the healthy, successful man she had been imagining. To make a long story short, they got married and had a happy life together.

You can choose to be happy, and lose the negative thoughts that stand in your way.

Just about everyone has known the glee you can experience upon finding a great deal at a flea market or a $20 bill on the street. But we also know that such happiness is fleeting. Luckily, there are ways to get more happiness into your life. It begins by changing your thoughts.

In order to be happy, you need to choose happiness. For example, a salesman once asked the author for advice because, despite consistently outperforming his colleagues, he had never received recognition for his work.

He blamed this discrepancy on a belief that the sales manager disliked him and therefore treated him poorly. His mind was full of hostility and anger toward his boss and, eventually, these thoughts began to obstruct his progress.

However, he realized that he had the power to choose happiness instead by switching to a positive mind-set. He began wishing health and success upon his boss and practiced visualizing his manager congratulating him, going in for a friendly handshake and shooting him a beaming smile.

One day, his boss called him up and promoted him to sales manager, giving him a huge raise in the process.

The takeaway here is that negative thoughts are highly detrimental and can even prevent you from attaining peace of mind. Just take one of the author’s associates, who worked every day until one in the morning, neglecting his wife and two sons and causing himself to suffer from high blood pressure.

Why was he such a workaholic?

Well, it wasn’t immediately clear. But when he dug a little deeper, he found that he felt remorse for not doing right by his deceased brother, who had passed away many years earlier. Because he was racked by such guilt, he was punishing himself by working ceaselessly and preventing himself from seeing his family.

To finally end this suffering and heal himself, he first had to forgive himself. Now, he makes plenty of time for his family and works regular hours.

Replace fears with positive thoughts to overcome obstacles and stay young.

When you were a kid, were you scared of monsters hiding under the bed?

If you were, as many children are, you probably remember that feeling of relief when your mom turned on the light, revealing that everything was safe. The truth is, all fears are built upon such false thoughts and terror can be eased by countering them.

Some of the most common fears are of failure and powerlessness. Just take the story of Mr. Jones, who couldn’t control his impulse to drink excessively. He would at times remain drunk for two weeks on end.

His constant failure to quit drinking had left him feeling powerless, and the fear that he would fail again made him give up trying. Finally, only after losing his family did he decide to face these fears. He put himself into a relaxed state and imagined his daughter praising him for getting sober. Through this process, he was able to gradually give up drinking and eventually reunite with his family.

Another common fear is that of aging, which can also be overcome by modifying your thought processes. After all, you only age when you stop dreaming and learning new skills, which means staying young is really just about staying active.

Consider an executive who lived close to the author. He retired at the age of 65 after spending the vast majority of his life studying and working. Rather than fearing his later years, he saw retirement as an opportunity to pursue the things he had always wanted to; he took photography classes, travelled the world taking photos and eventually became a lecturer on the subject.

His simple enthusiasm for this hobby drove him to continue learning, keeping him young at heart and prompting his mind and body to follow suit.

Or take the author’s father who, at 65, learned French and became a specialist on the language by the age of 70. After that, he studied Gaelic, teaching the language until his death at the ripe age of 99.

Final summary

The key message in this book:

Your subconscious mind is constantly at work, and you can harness its power for your own benefit. This dormant force can help you tackle any issue in your life, improving the way you feel both emotionally and physically. Ultimately, this entire process hinges on visualizing success and banishing negative thoughts.

Actionable advice:

Use a simple technique for overcoming fear.

If you struggle with a fear, no matter what it is, try a simple approach to overcome it. Take five or ten minutes, three times a day, to sit down and imagine doing the thing you’re afraid of. Vividly picture the experience as a joyous one, with people cheering you on. By mentally practicing overcoming your fear in this way, the idea will take root in your subconscious mind, even when you’re not imagining it, and eventually the fear will disappear.

Got feedback?

We’d sure love to hear what you think about our content! Just drop an email to remember@blinkist.com with the title of this book as the subject line and share your thoughts!

Suggested further reading: Success Through a Positive Mental Attitude by Napoleon Hill

Success Through a Positive Mental Attitude (1960) shows how to achieve the life of your dreams by developing a positive mental attitude. Near the turn of the twentieth century, at the behest of Andrew Carnegie – one of the wealthiest men of his time – Hill interviewed hundreds of famous and successful people in an attempt to uncover the secret to success. This book is one of the outcomes of his findings.

Everything Is Figureoutable

Everything Is Figureoutable

By Marie Forleo

What’s in it for me? Learn a pragmatic philosophy of self-empowerment.

When Marie Forleo was a child, her mother always seemed to be tackling one household repair project or another. Whether it was a broken radio or a leaky roof, money was too tight to buy a replacement or hire a repairperson, so she insisted on fixing it herself.

Now, she didn’t have a technical background, and this was back in the 1980s, so she couldn’t just look up an instructional video on YouTube. Baffled by her seemingly endless supply of knowhow, Marie asked her about it one day: “Mom, how do you know how to do all of these things?”

Well, she didn’t. She simply had the conviction that “everything is figureoutable” – meaning that every problem has a solution, as long as you’re willing to put in the work of figuring it out.

Since then, “everything is figureoutable” has been a mantra, an attitude and a philosophy by which Marie has tried to live her life. And as we’ll see, it’s applicable not just to DIY projects, but to all of our personal, professional, financial and practical problems.

Marie Forleo’s life story illustrates both the inspiring and realistic underpinnings of her personal philosophy.

As human beings, we have an incredible gift: the ability to turn our ideas into realities. It’s almost magical, if you stop to think about it: a little spark of our imagination can eventually become a life-changing personal decision, technological innovation, artistic creation or professional ambition.

The story of Marie Forleo’s success provides a case in point. Back in the late 1990s, after she graduated from college, she was having trouble finding a fulfilling career path. She’d been bouncing from one job to another: assistant trader at the New York Stock Exchange, ad sales assistant at Gourmet magazine, fashion assistant at Mademoiselle magazine. Nothing felt right.

Then, one day, she came across an article about life coaching. It was a new profession at the time, so she’d never heard of it before, and it came as a revelation to her. This is what she was meant to do – helping other people achieve their personal and professional goals. The idea kept beckoning to her, and when the publishing company Condé Nast offered her a promotion to a position at Vogue magazine, she decided to decline it to pursue her newfound dream of coaching instead. Fast-forward to the present, and Marie is now providing life advice to millions of people through her online TV show, podcast and business training program.

Of course, our ideas don’t just automatically turn into realities by themselves. There are all sorts of obstacles, challenges and problems standing in our way, and it takes a lot of hard work, skills, resources, knowledge and courage to overcome them.

In Marie’s case, she first had to shrug off her self-doubts. “I’m only 23 years old,” she thought. “Why would anyone trust me to be their life coach?” She was also saddled with tens of thousands of dollars of debt, and she had to take on extra shifts as a bartender just to put up a website. From waitressing to cleaning toilets, it then took her seven years of working various side jobs before she could stabilize her finances enough to focus on her life coaching business full-time.

The road from initial idea to successful reality is rarely a short or easy one, and the philosophy of “everything is figureoutable” does not ask us to pretend otherwise. Indeed, as we’ll see in the blinks ahead, it encourages us to embrace the inevitable difficulties of life and tackle them head-on.

Our beliefs can be self-limiting or self-empowering.

Despite what some self-help guides would have us believe, no amount of positive thinking can make our difficulties magically disappear.

That being said, negative thinking can make our problems seem unsolvable, which can lead us to self-defeating passivity. As clichéd as it might sound, we really do need to believe in ourselves and our ability to overcome our challenges if we want to achieve anything. After all, why would we attempt to accomplish something if we didn’t think it was possible for us to accomplish it? By telling ourselves it can’t be done, we’re essentially giving up before we’ve even tried.

This leads to a vicious circle. As long as we’re convinced we can’t do something, we’ll never even attempt it. And as long as we never attempt it, well, then we will, indeed, never be able to do it. But that’s not because our abilities themselves are limited; it’s because we’re letting ourselves be constrained by our self-limiting beliefs about our abilities.

For example, let’s say your finances are a mess, but you believe you can’t do anything about them because you’re not good with numbers. Well, as long as you keep telling yourself that, you’ll never sit down and try to figure out a better budget – in which case, sure enough, your finances will remain a mess.

Conversely, if we believe we can do something, we’ll be more motivated to try to do it. And if we try to do it, we’ll probably make at least some progress with accomplishing it. This will then lead to a positive feedback loop in which we’ll increasingly prove to ourselves that we can, in fact, do the thing in question – dispelling any lingering self-doubts in the process. For instance, when Marie decided to fulfill another one of her dreams by becoming a dance instructor, she initially felt like a fish out of water. But the more she taught, the more progress she made as a teacher, and the more comfortable she became in the role.

The same arguments apply to our beliefs about the external world as well. These can also be either self-limiting or self-empowering. For example, whether or not you believe it’s possible for you to get a promotion will play a large role in whether or not you’ll put in the work to get one.

For better or worse, our beliefs end up becoming self-fulfilling prophecies.

The belief that “everything is figureoutable” is a powerful weapon against our self-limiting beliefs.

From thinking we’ll never have enough talent to “make it” to assuming there are just not enough opportunities out there anymore, all of us have a variety of self-limiting beliefs about our abilities and the world around us. In theory, we could try to identify all of them at once and then replace each of them with a self-empowering belief – but that would be a pretty arduous, time-consuming task.

Fortunately, there’s a more practical way of doing this. We can simply adopt the belief that “everything is figureoutable.” It’s the ultimate self-empowering belief, and it provides a universal antidote to all of our self-limiting beliefs.

Think about it this way: at bottom, every self-limiting belief boils down to the notion that this or that problem isn’t solvable. For example, if you think you can’t start a new relationship because you’re too old, the underlying premise of your belief is that there’s simply no way of figuring out a way around the supposed problem of your age.

Thus, by adopting the belief that “everything is figureoutable,” you can immediately dismiss any self-limiting belief as it arises and replace it with the core premise of the opposite belief: this or that problem is solvable. You might not know what the solution is, but you’re assuming that one exists from the offset. Your task then becomes figuring it out and implementing it.

In other words, “everything is figureoutable” is a pragmatic assumption rather than a scientific hypothesis. There’s no iron-clad empirical evidence to prove it’s 100 percent correct. But that’s okay, because the point isn’t to make a grandiose claim about the nature of the universe; rather, it’s to spur you on to as much proactive problem-solving as possible, while minimizing the degree to which you give up on things unnecessarily.

It’s like an instant-encouragement tool you can carry around in your back pocket, always ready to help you out in a pinch. For example, one time Marie was at the airport with an important flight to catch, but when she got to the check-in counter, an airline employee told her, “Sorry, you’re too late. The cutoff time for checking your luggage just ended.”

At first, Marie’s heart sank. She thought, “Oh no, my trip is ruined! There’s no way around this.” But then she reminded herself that “everything is figureoutable,” and she sprang into action, looking for a creative solution. She found it in the airport travel shop, where she bought some carry-on bags. She quickly stuffed her belongings into them and ran straight to the security gate. It turned out there was no need to check in her luggage after all!

At bottom, most of our self-limiting beliefs are really just excuses.

Before we continue with our quest to vanquish our self-limiting beliefs, let’s take a step back and ask a question that gets to the heart of the problem: Why do we become beholden to these beliefs in the first place?

Well, if we’re being honest with ourselves, the truth is that our self-limiting beliefs are often just a convenient way to justify or conceal the fact that we simply don’t want to do something, for one reason or another. Maybe it’s too much work. Maybe we don’t want it enough. Maybe we’re too scared. Whatever the case, the motivation to act just isn’t there – not yet, at least.

In other words, a self-limiting belief usually amounts to an excuse. When we tell ourselves we “can’t” do something, what we’re really doing is putting a self-absolving spin on the fact that we won’t do it – not because we’re unable, but because we’re unwilling to do it. As the old saying goes, where there’s a will, there’s a way. If we really wanted to do the thing we supposedly “can’t” do, we’d figure out a way of getting around whatever obstacles were in our way.

For proof of this, just think back to the last time you desperately wanted to do something, despite it seeming out of reach. Whether it was a personal or professional goal, you probably didn’t just give up on it, and you most likely found a creative solution to your problem.

Here’s an example from Marie’s life: early in her career, she learned about a retreat in South America. It sounded fantastic, but she didn’t have enough money to pay for it. Now, she could have simply said “I can’t afford it” and given up. But it wasn’t just a passing fancy; it became a burning desire that she just couldn’t shake. She had to attend the retreat. So she found a way – taking on three extra side jobs and calling the retreat organizers to arrange a special payment plan.

It might seem semantic, but the distinction between “can’t” and “won’t” is absolutely critical. If we can’t do something, our inaction is out of our control. If we won’t do something, it’s a choice we’re making. After admitting this, we might still continue to choose our inaction, but at least we’re owning our decision, taking responsibility for ourselves, recognizing our agency in the matter and acknowledging the possibility of taking a more proactive course of action.

The excuses of not having enough time, money or know-how don’t hold up under scrutiny.

There are many excuses we make about why we “can’t” do things, but there are three that are especially common. Let’s take a look at them and pull them apart one by one.

The first is “I don’t have enough time.” Most of us have pretty packed schedules, so this seems like a plausible excuse. But here’s a simple thought experiment that quickly reveals its flimsiness. Imagine that your doctor told you that you had a fatal disease, and the only way to cure it was to sit still and do nothing for two hours per day.

Faced with the alternative of death, you’d probably be able to figure out a way of freeing up your time, regardless of how busy you were. You could stop watching TV, log off social media, limit the hours that you respond to emails and find quick recipes for meals you could cook in multi-day batches. There are all sorts of ways you could reclaim your time.

Think about what this means: in theory, you already have two hours per day just waiting for you, ready to be devoted to the pursuit of your goals. Imagine what you could do with that time. Even if you just seized a fraction of it, you’d still be able to accomplish all sorts of things. A mere 30 minutes per day would yield you the equivalent of 22 full eight-hour workdays per year – plenty of time to create a new website, learn how to meditate or develop abs of steel. Increase that to one hour, and now you have the equivalent of 45 full workdays per year – enough time to write a book or generate a new revenue stream.

The second excuse is “I don’t have enough money.” The first question to ask here is do you actually need money to do what you want to do? Sometimes the answer turns out to be no. For example, if you want to learn a new skill, there are plenty of free resources online. And if the answer is yes, there are all sorts of ways you can gather the funds for, say, starting a business or earning a degree: side jobs, scholarships, grants, crowdfunding, selling things on eBay, saving money by cutting your expenses – the list goes on and on.

The third excuse is the flimsiest one of all: “I don’t know how to do it or where to start.” Again, you can learn just about anything online, and there are plenty of workshops, classes, books and potential mentors out there. In today’s world, there’s an incredible abundance of information available to us.

Fear is not our enemy; we don’t have to let it hold us back, and we can even use it to our advantage.

Now that we’ve dispensed with the excuses of a lack of time, money and know-how, let’s look at another one of the main obstacles that we often allow to hold us back: fear.

Whether it’s starting a business or learning to ride a motorcycle, there comes a point with any new endeavor where we need to put ourselves out there and take a plunge into uncharted waters. That’s an inherently scary thing to do, so it’s perfectly normal to feel fear in the face of it. But we don’t have to let that fear control us. In fact, instead of allowing it to hold us back, we can even harness it to impel us forward.

It all depends on how we interpret the emotion. Consider the physical sensations of fear: a faster heartbeat, sweaty hands, a pit in your stomach and so forth. When we allow fear to inhibit us, we interpret these sensations as signals telling us, “No! Don’t do it!” But we can also interpret them in the opposite way. For example, Bruce Springsteen feels all of those same sensations before he goes on stage to perform, but he interprets them as meaning that he’s “excited, pumped up and ready to go.”

Here’s another way of reinterpreting your fear: if you feel afraid about doing something, it’s often a sign that the task is important to you. This is especially true of dreams your mind keeps coming back to over and over again, like writing a book, running for political office or moving to a new city. If you didn’t care about it so much, you probably wouldn’t feel like there was much at stake with it, so the idea of it wouldn’t fill you with fear. With that in mind, you can reinterpret your fear as a compass pointing in the direction of what you really want in life – a pretty useful tool to have!

Either way, the key is to stop thinking about your fear as an enemy that you have to defeat or escape before you can do the thing that provokes it. Your fear is never going to go away, so if you keep waiting for it to vanish before you pursue your dreams, you’ll be stuck at the starting line forever. There’s only one way to outmaneuver it, and that’s to move straight through it by taking action in spite of it.

To gain clarity and overcome indecisiveness, we need to take action – but small steps can move us forward.

Whenever we have an important decision to make, it’s all too easy to find reasons to doubt ourselves and hesitate. The result: indecision – one of the biggest obstacles in the way of achieving our goals.

We can waste an incredible amount of time and energy just wondering, “Can I do this? Should I do this?” Marie herself spent years fretting about whether she could or should pursue her dream of becoming a dancer before she finally decided to go for it. If we’re not careful, years can turn into a lifetime, as indecisiveness turns into permanent paralysis.

Now, that’s not to say we shouldn’t think, plan or do our research before we decide to pursue a goal. If your business plan is half-baked, you want to know that before you invest in it. But you’ll never get anywhere sitting on the fence, and ultimately, there’s only one way to test out an idea and find out whether it’s a winner for sure: taking action.

Part of the reason we let indecisiveness get the best of us is that we think we need to achieve clarity before we can act, but the reality is the other way around: we gain clarity by acting. Thinking alone will never get us there. It wasn’t until Marie actually stepped into a dance class for the first time and started moving to the beat that she felt certain that this was something she wanted to do.

Another trap we get ourselves in is that we think we have to make a big decision right away in order to pursue one of our dreams. But notice what Marie did; she didn’t quit her coaching business and devote herself entirely to dancing. She just signed up for a class. That’s all we have to do to escape the clutches of indecisiveness: take a small step forward and get our feet wet.

For instance, if you keep wavering about whether to move to a new country, you could just visit it to see what it feels like to be there. If you find yourself wondering whether you should break up with your partner for the umpteenth time, you could just take a couple of days apart.

You don’t have to immediately go big or go home, once and for all. You just have to do something that takes you one step closer to gaining clarity and making a decision one way or the other.

Stop waiting to be “ready” to pursue your dreams; the time to act is now.

The last obstacle we’re going to remove from our path is one that’s closely related to fear and indecisiveness: the idea that you have to wait until you’re ready before you take action.

At first glance, this seems like a logical notion; of course you want to be ready before you pursue something, right? But here’s the problem: if by being “ready” you mean being 100 percent prepared with all of the skills, knowledge, confidence and motivation you need to succeed, well, you’ll never be ready in that sense. That’s because the only way to acquire those ingredients of success is by engaging in the task at hand.

After all, we master skills by practicing them. We obtain knowledge by gaining experience. We build our confidence by seeing results. We boost our motivation by feeling the empowerment and benefits that come with action.

For example, consider the motivational aspect of exercise. If you wait until you’re fully motivated to start a workout routine, you’ll probably never get off the couch. But once you get moving, you’ll start feeling more and more energized, and your inertia will turn into momentum. Pretty soon, you might even start craving your next trip to the gym!

Notice what’s happening here: doing something creates the desire to do it – not the other way around. Paradoxical as it might seem, the only way to become ready to do something is to start before you’re ready.

So get going – not some day in the distant, hypothetical future when you’re “ready,” but right here, right now! No, seriously. When you’re done with these blinks, do something – anything – to take yourself one step closer to one of your goals. To keep yourself focused, choose just one goal to tackle for now – whichever one feels the most important. Identify a small, manageable and concrete first step to take. And then take it. It could be as simple as signing up for a class or making a phone call to a potential mentor. The goal is just to get the ball rolling.

Remember: Rome wasn’t built in a day, and the only way to win a race is by taking one step after another. But you’ll never get anywhere if you don’t take the first step. So stop just standing around at the starting gate, and take that first step today. Your dreams are waiting for you at the finish line.

Final summary

The key message in these blinks:

When we’re faced with the problems of life and the challenges of accomplishing our goals, our beliefs can either be self-limiting or self-empowering. The belief that “everything is figureoutable” can help us replace all of the former beliefs with the latter. This is crucial to success, because whether or not we think we can do something ends up turning into a self-fulfilling prophecy. Self-limiting beliefs like “I don’t have enough time, money or knowhow” are usually just flimsy excuses for inaction, and they don’t stand up to scrutiny. All of these problems are solvable. The same is true of the problems posed by our fear, indecisiveness and tendency to hold off on taking action until we feel “ready” to pursue our dreams.

Actionable advice:

Remember your higher purpose.

If you need an extra kick in the pants to get going with the pursuit of your dreams, remind yourself of this. There’s only one person on Earth with your exact combination of values, desires, skills, capabilities, knowledge, background, perspective and personal traits: you. The unique blend of qualities and potential that you bring to the table are a gift that you should be giving to the world. If you’re not making the most of them, you’re essentially withholding that gift from other people. It’s not just your dreams at stake; there’s the higher purpose that your realization of them could and should be serving.

Got feedback?

We’d sure love to hear what you think about our content! Just drop an email to remember@blinkist.com with the title of this book as the subject line and share your thoughts!

What to read next: Big Magic, by Elizabeth Gilbert

As you’ve seen, fear is one of the main obstacles standing between us and our goals. It’s an inevitable part of life, so we cannot just remove it – but we can find ways of pushing through it. Of course, that’s easier said than done.

If you’d like to get some more practical advice on how to prevent fear from paralyzing your ability to pursue your dreams, we recommend checking out the blinks to Big Magic, by Elizabeth Gilbert. While the writing is addressed primarily to artists and other creative types, the ideas are applicable to anyone who’s ever felt unable to begin a project or endeavor because of fear.

Doesn't Hurt to Ask

Doesn't Hurt to Ask

Using the Power of Questions to Communicate, Connect, and Persuade

By Trey Gowdy

What’s in it for me? Learn how to advocate for your beliefs by asking questions.

When you’re trying to convince someone of something, you likely often take the route of stating the facts, arguments, and opinions that corroborate your belief. But the author knows a better way. In his work as a prosecutor, and later as a congressman, he discovered a much more powerful tool of persuasion: asking questions.

Asking the right questions doesn’t just work in court or Congress. It’s a skill that can serve all of us, whether it be in the boardroom, at school, or during a family Thanksgiving dinner. By learning how to nudge others in your direction, you can increase your argumentative power in almost every area of your private and professional life.

Whether you’re trying to convince someone to give you a job, a loan, or a second chance, these blinks will teach you how to harness the power of questions.

In these blinks, you’ll learn

why a stupid question is better than a stupid answer;how you can turn any silly argument into a passionate speech on freedom and justice; andwhy you should occasionally “flog a dead horse.”

Persuasion is a subtle art, and questions are its greatest tools.

Are you ready to start winning every argument you ever have? Are you ready to grind your opponents into the ground with your debating skills?

Then these blinks are not for you.

Persuasion isn’t about annihilating your opponents. It’s about listening to them, communicating with them, and advocating for your own beliefs in a compelling way. Think about it: how many times have you changed your mind because someone kept bombarding you with their opinions?

Questions work so well because they put the focus on your conversation partner, and nudge them in the right direction without making them react defensively. The author knows about this firsthand. He only got into law after a friend’s mom asked him a bunch of really great questions.

The key message here is: Persuasion is a subtle art, and questions are its greatest tools.

The author had always planned to work construction jobs with a friend when he’d finished high school. One day though, his friend’s mom picked up on the topic. She asked him, “What are you going to do next, honey?” After he answered, she asked a follow-up question. And then another one. And another one. By the end of the interview, he had decided that he wanted to become a lawyer.

His friend’s mother didn’t make a single evaluative statement to persuade him – she simply let him persuade himself. That’s the power of asking questions.

Now, let’s make one thing clear before you get started: there is such a thing as a stupid question. One time during a robbery trial, the author’s witness reported that the suspect “had a blue bag in his hand.” The author immediately fired off a follow-up question: “Okay, what color was the blue bag?” The laughter that ensued in the courtroom should be proof enough that stupid questions do exist.

Still, any stupid question is better than a stupid assertion. Imagine someone asking you, “Who wrote Hamlet?” That question reveals a pretty big knowledge gap. But now imagine someone telling you, “George Washington wrote Hamlet.” That’s not just a knowledge gap; that’s a knowledge gap the person isn’t even aware of. Who would you trust more in an honest debate – a person who is uninformed, or a person who is misinformed?

Know your objective, your facts, and your jury.

In a court case, the prosecutor needs to convince the jury to almost 100 percent. If there’s even a little bit of doubt about the defendant’s guilt, there likely won’t be a conviction.

In real life, though, it’s nearly impossible to convince someone beyond a doubt – and that’s especially true when it comes to topics like politics, business strategy, or family values, which almost always involve opinions and value judgments.

Real-life persuasion is more about gently moving your conversation partner closer toward your own beliefs. For that to happen, you need to know where you’re going, how to get there, and how to take them with you.

The key message here is: Know your objective, your facts, and your jury.

Before you start arguing with people, you need to know what it is you’re trying to achieve with your argument. Convincing someone 100 percent, as we’ve seen, isn’t usually a realistic objective.

But convincing people 30 to 50 percent is a reasonable goalpost. At 30 to 50 percent, your opponent has begun to see your point and is already challenging some of his own beliefs. At this point, for example, your spouse might have acknowledged that you do more chores than him. Or someone might have agreed to invest a small sum in your start-up.

The more clearly measurable you make your objective, the easier it’ll be to plan out your argument. So make sure you know exactly what you’re trying to achieve.

If you want to use questions to make a point, they need to be based on facts, just like any other argument. This means you'll have to gather evidence that supports your point. With the internet and a critical mind at your disposal, this shouldn’t be too much of a problem.

Your burden of proof will depend on how lofty your objective is. Getting someone to invest $10,000 in your business, for example, requires more fact-based arguments than getting them to invest $100.

As for how you present your argument, that will depend on your jury – whether that’s 12 people on a courtroom bench, a bunch of coworkers, or a family member. Questions can help you understand what they believe and why they believe it – and how you can best talk about it. They can also help you gauge whether your jury is open to being persuaded at all. A simple “Are you open to hearing about this?” can save you a lot of wasted breath!

Different types of questions work in different situations.

The author once found himself in a live TV interview with President Trump on the topic of fairness in politics. He could have started by simply stating his opinion on the issue at hand. But instead he asked, “Why is our justice system more respected than our political system?”

Without stating his opinion outright, the author still made a comparison between the two systems. And he set up the president on a path to discussing why that is – even though the author had his own opinion on that, too. The author had chosen the right question, at the right time.

The key message here is: Different types of questions work in different situations.

Generally speaking, there are two big categories of questions. First, we have softball questions. Softball questions are easy questions that give your counterpart lots of room to answer and typically don’t aim at making a point. They are non-leading, meaning they include words like who, what, and when, allowing the questioned person to guide the direction of their answer. A good example of a non-leading, softball question is: “So, governor, what inspired you to run for office?”

Softball questions can help you map out the ground for the debate. They show your conversation partners that you’re interested in what they have to say, and can lead into your argument in a neutral way. For example, “Honey, when did you last take the trash out?” is a pretty inoffensive way to start a broader conversation on household duties.

Sooner or later though, you’ll want to ask harder questions that help you either confirm your point, or slow down and contradict your opponent's point. This is where hardball questions come in. These are leading questions that put the focus on the question itself rather than the answer. Consider the question: “Didn’t I tell you to take out the trash this morning?” The question itself already implies the answer is yes.

Most questions are either hard- or softball. But there’s another question that’s in a category all of its own. That’s the question “why?” Why can change everything. Just consider if you asked someone why they killed their husband. How would you react if they said, “because he was abusing our children”? What if instead they said, “because he was snoring”? The difference is monumental.

To be convincing, be sincere.

The author was once told that the secret to being a successful litigator is learning to fake sincerity.

Now, that’s a bit of a paradox. You can’t really fake being sincere. But you can draw on real emotions that will make you seem more genuine, credible, and likable to your audience.

Showing sincerity is easier said than done. Luckily, there are some simple dos, and a few crucial don'ts that will guide you along the way.

The key message here is: To be convincing, be sincere.

The first no-go when it comes to sincerity is insults. Think about it: How often have you come around to someone’s side after they insulted you? All insults achieve is making the other side defensive and aggressive, and making you come across as petty and insecure.

The second sincerity killer is hypocrisy. Holding your opponent to a different standard than your own will call the moral basis of your argument into question.

But the third sincerity killer is by far the worst – lying. Most people are willing to forgive an honest mistake. But they won’t forgive someone who intentionally twists the facts to mislead them. And once you’ve lost the trust of your audience, you’ve lost your argument.

What about the dos of sincerity? To win your audience’s trust, you need to show that you’re genuinely passionate about your beliefs. Genuine emotions are so important because they show your audience that you really care. So try and get emotional about the point you’re trying to get across. Sometimes, this will be easy. If you’re trying to convict a man who murdered a child, for example, you’ll probably be full of deep emotions.

But how does it work for more mundane issues, like getting your kids to show up for dinner on time?

What you’ll need to do is find a bigger principle to get passionate about. In the case of dinner time, you could make your kids understand that the issue isn’t really about them missing a meal or two; it’s about them not respecting your time, and your shared time as a family. If you can latch onto a higher ideal, like family values, fairness, or justice, you can get sincerely passionate about the smallest of issues.

Impeach an argument by questioning someone’s facts, logic, or character.

You’ve just learned about the three main killers of sincerity and credibility: insults, hypocrisy, and lying. If you’re not careful, they can easily destroy your argument. But if you know how to use credibility killers against your opponent, they can work wonders for you.

Credibility killers, in a word, can help you impeach. Now, you might only have heard the term impeachment when referring to a president. But here the word has a different meaning.

In the art of persuasion, impeachment means killing the credibility of someone’s argument via one of three routes. Let’s learn how.

The key message here is: Impeach an argument by questioning someone’s facts, logic, or character.

The first way to impeach someone’s argument is by disputing the facts they’re basing their argument on. Impeachment via facts can be as simple as asking your opponent how he’s come to know what he’s claiming. If you can show that his so-called “facts” are really just hearsay, his argument suffers a huge blow.

If your opponent’s facts are correct, but she still reaches a completely different conclusion than you, you may have to use the second method of impeachment: disputing her logic. The author once used this technique against Julián Castro, Obama’s secretary of Housing and Urban Development. Castro was arguing the case for granting millions of undocumented immigrants citizenship on the basis of the achievements of some of them. The author undercut Castro by pointing out that his conclusion didn’t logically follow from his argument. Why, the author asked, should a few exceptional cases determine the policy for the whole group?

The third form of impeachment is the most effective but also the hardest. This is impeachment of character. Ideally, you’re trying to prove to an audience that your opponent is habitually lying, unfavorably biased, or morally corrupt.

Sometimes, you can even impeach someone by impeaching a person they’re connected with. This is called hitchhiking, and it’s a strategy the author used when questioning former FBI director James Comey during the investigation into the Hillary Clinton email scandal.

The author wanted to call Clinton’s credibility into question via Comey. So he asked several questions that he knew Comey had to answer with a definite no. For example, he asked Comey if it was true that Secretary Clinton had never emailed classified material to anyone from her government account, as she had claimed. Comey had to admit that this wasn’t true.

The author never accused Hillary Clinton of lying, but by making Comey answer question after question like this, he succeeded in calling her credibility into doubt.

Fine-tune your persuasion skills by measuring, repeating, and repackaging.

“Do you agree America is more respected worldwide now than under President Obama?” A friend once asked the author this during a round of golf.

Instead of answering the question, the author asked his friend to define his terms. He asked, What does “worldwide” mean in this case? What does “more respected” mean? And where is the cut-off for either? His friend didn’t have an answer.

Too often, people use imprecise terms that they aren’t prepared to define. That’s why asking your opponent to clarify her terms can sometimes be enough to tear holes in her argument. But remember, your opponent can also do the same to you.

The key message here is: Fine-tune your persuasion skills by measuring, repeating, and repackaging.

To seal your questions against attack, you need to measure your words. Your questions should be worded simply and precisely. For starters, it’s rarely a good idea to use big, generalizing words like everybody, always, or never. They invite rebuttals like “So you’re claiming I never do any chores?” In this case, a more precise and effective question would be “Why didn’t you unload the dishwasher?”

Once you’ve finely crafted your question, use repetition to drive it home. Repeating ourselves isn’t a rhetorical skill we usually strive for – but we should. Because the more you repeat something, the more your audience will understand how important it is.

The author once questioned a man who was accused of stabbing his own wife to death. The author’s strategy was to ask him a different version of the same question over and over: “What did your wife say after you stabbed her the first time? What did she say when you stabbed her the second time?” By the end, the jury had heard the phrase “when you stabbed your wife” so many times that it didn’t take much more to convince them of his guilt.

If you’re struggling to take down an opponent’s argument, you can try repackaging it. Repackaging is when you reduce an argument to absurdity by putting it in different words. The author often used this strategy when advocating for victims of domestic violence. If a defense attorney suggested a woman should have known better than to go back to her abusive partner, the author would twist this statement to the extreme: “So you’re saying it’s her fault she was abused?”

If your argument is failing, divert, deconstruct, double-down, or play the victim.

Even if you’re a master of persuasion, you can’t always nail it. Sometimes, you’ll just have to cut your losses and walk away. But there are a few strategies that can help you mitigate the damage of a failed argument.

The best cure, as always, is prevention. You can avoid backing yourself into a corner by having a good sense of your weaknesses. When preparing your argument, you might be tempted to linger on the bits and pieces that work particularly well. But you should spend just as much time preparing and padding your weakest points – instead of simply hoping that they won’t come up.

If preparation fails, and your argument is tanking, there are still some last-minute rescue strategies you can use.

The key message here is: If your argument is failing, divert, deconstruct, double-down, or play the victim.

There’s a popular saying that goes, “When you’re in a hole, stop digging.” And this definitely applies to persuasion. If you find yourself backed into an argumentative corner, don’t keep arguing as you did before. You need to cover your losses.

The first thing you can do is create a diversion. People usually don’t like to be interrupted. But if you interrupt them with questions, you can stop their momentum and steer the conversation in a different direction, while keeping the focus on them.

Strategy number two is deconstruction. When someone is trying to lay the founding blocks for a devastating argument, try to challenge each tiny assumption they make. Questions like “How do you know that?” and “How can you be sure of this?” will slow down your opponent tremendously.

Our third strategy stems from another old saying: “There’s no point in flogging a dead horse – but then it can’t hurt either.” If you have a fact or argument on your side that works particularly well, just double down. Actually, you can keep on doubling and doubling down until you figure out how to get out of the argument.

If all else fails, you can always play strategy number four: the victim card. That’s not particularly dignified, but there’s a reason why it works – people are naturally empathetic to victims. Former speaker of the house Paul Ryan played the victim card when President Obama attacked him during the debate around the Affordable Care Act. Obama claimed Ryan cared less about children than he did. Ryan responded with a series of questions that highlighted the unfairness of Obama’s attack. One of these was, “How do you think it makes me feel when you misrepresent my faith and my spiritual beliefs?”

To master the art of persuasion, set the right expectations and stay open.

As a district attorney, the author recruited many young litigators. But before he hired anyone, he would make them prove their persuasion skills with a simple task: they had five minutes to convince him to go see their favorite movie.

Sounds easy enough, right? Still, even these young law professionals often did very poorly. The good news, though, is that they got better at persuasion over time as they practiced on real-life cases in court.

You already have all the skills you need to advocate for your beliefs with thoughtful questions. With time and practice, you can truly hone them. But there are a few things you’ll need to remember along the way.

The key message here is: To master the art of persuasion, set the right expectations and stay open.

Persuasion isn’t about winning – it’s about successful communication. And in order to succeed, you need to set the right expectations.

How many times have you seen someone’s view changed by a single conversation? Probably not very many, especially when it comes to deeper, contentious issues like gun control and abortion. That’s why it’s inadvisable to get over ambitious with your aims. If you do, you’re just setting yourself up for failure.

As the old adage goes, “You can lead a horse to water but you can’t make it drink.” Your aim when persuading shouldn’t be to force your listeners to agree with everything you say. It should be to guide them to draw their own conclusions based on the merits of your argument.

That’s what the art of persuasion is all about. Questions are a great way to gently nudge your audience in the right direction, but you’ll have to let them take the final steps of persuading themselves on their own. And you’ll need to remember that everyone listens in their own unique way – even if you’re talking in front of a big group. Always think about how you can appeal to and touch each and every member of your audience in their real lives.

There’s one final thing you need to remember as you practice: when you’re trying to persuade others, you need to be persuadable yourself. This means staying receptive to new facts and perspectives, and adjusting your beliefs when you’re confronted with contradictory evidence. After all, you can’t expect others to change their minds based on a good argument if you’re not willing to do the same.

Final summary

The key message in these blinks:

When it comes to persuasion, it’s all about asking questions. If you know exactly what you’re trying to achieve, which facts are relevant to your argument, and who you’re talking to, the right questions can help you bypass people’s defenses and win them over. Questions give you the power to repeat key points, show a fault in an opponent’s argument, and lead people to draw conclusions of their own that confirm your beliefs.

Actionable advice:

Start with your best.

Questions are a great way to present facts without actually stating them outright. But which fact should you start with? The author recommends starting strong: weave your best fact into one of the first questions you use. Then, continue with your third-best fact, and save the second-best fact for your very last argumentative blow.

Got feedback?

We’d love to hear what you think about our content! Just drop an email to remember@blinkist.com with Doesn't Hurt to Ask as the subject line and share your thoughts!

What to read next: The Coaching Habit, by Michael Bungay Stanier

These blinks taught you how to use thoughtful questions to better argue your beliefs. But persuasion isn’t the only area of human life where asking questions can help you – and others – to get ahead.

In The Coaching Habit, author Michael Bungay Stanier shows how thoughtful questions can help you coach and mentor your work team and become a better leader. If you want to expand your new skill of asking smart questions, head on over to our blinks to The Coaching Habit.

High Performance Habits

High Performance Habits

by Brendon Berchard

What’s in it for me? Perform your way to the top.

Are you a hard worker whose efforts still don’t set you above the crowd? And, despite aiming for the stars, do you still tend to get caught up in answering emails and checking off tedious to-dos? Then you’re probably like most people: an average performer, stuck in the hamster wheel of life.

Luckily, these blinks demonstrate why this needn’t be the case forever. In fact, a new body of research shows that the highest performing people in this world aren’t born with an extraordinary ability to achieve, and neither does their success stem from some specific kind of personality.

Instead, the key to long-term success lies in certain habits – and with the help of just six of them, identified through research on high performance, you’ll be well on your way to extraordinary achievements.

You’ll see why seeking clarity, generating energy, raising necessity, increasing productivity, developing influence, and demonstrating courage will help you perform your way to the stars.

You’ll also learn

what CEOs and professional athletes have in common;why you’d benefit from having your mother depend on your success; andhow to understand and tame the seductions of email.

The key to high performance isn’t personality or inherent gifts; it’s good habits and high confidence.

Have you ever met someone who makes it all look so easy? Maybe she’s earned multiple degrees while working two jobs, all without breaking a sweat. Or maybe he’s the kind of guy with a Midas touch, and every project he tackles turns into a smashing success. Chances are they’re what’s known as a high performer.

The author, Brendon Burchard, has conducted one of the biggest studies on high performance in history, examining people from over 190 countries to understand exactly how they achieve their long-term success.

He concluded that gender, race, age and personality traits have very little to do with high performance. What really matters are certain key habits, like keeping yourself physically fit.

In other words, it’s not who you are, but rather what you do that’s important. The author also discovered that these habits didn’t form by accident. High performers took them on deliberately.

Now, don’t confuse these habits with “life hacks” or some simple, magical changes that take zero effort to implement. High performers outperform their peers because they consciously and consistently practice these habits.

Another common trait is their confidence in being able to master even difficult tasks, like big new projects at work or learning new languages. Again, this isn’t an inherent trait; it’s an earned confidence achieved through diligent practice.

This is good news for you, as it means you too can gain this confidence through practice. With continued practice, you’ll gain more knowledge, master more skills, and your confidence will grow, making it easier to keep learning and growing. This loop of continual growth and self-improvement is the hallmark of high performance.

So far, so good, right? Now, without further ado, let’s look at those habits.

High performers have self-awareness and a clear purpose in life.

When was the last time you asked yourself the big questions, such as, how do I want to be remembered? Or, what do I want to do with my life?

Many will only think about these questions on their birthday or New Year’s Eve. But high performers ask these questions all the time; it’s a habit the author calls seeking clarity, and it keeps them goal oriented.

It also gives them a strong purpose, direction and focus in everything they do, since they know precisely how their actions are helping them reach their goals. Conversely, when you lack clarity, you can end up sulking, mired in negative emotions.

Clarity comprises four fields that you need to work on to improve:

First is the self and knowing exactly what kind of person you want to become.

High performers are focused on becoming the best version of themselves and being remembered this way. This could mean, for instance, being kind, attentive and humble. Once you determine the self you want to be, the question becomes: Have you behaved this way so far and if not, what do you need to change?

Second is the social sphere and being aware and intentional about your interactions with others.

High performers don’t have an autopilot for socializing. If there’s a lunch date, meeting or party coming up, the question becomes: How can I shape this meeting in a positive way?

The third is the field of skills and knowing precisely which talents need to be developed.

High performers will focus on a primary profession or field of interest and work on giving themselves time to practice while avoiding all distractions. If you want to be a great writer, this would mean setting aside time to write, not just learn about writing, and then getting feedback to learn what needs improving.

The fourth field is service and finding a way to give back to others. High performers excel at working on behalf of others and not just themselves. Doing so helps motivate them while also endowing them with a passionate drive and granting meaning to their work. The question to ask here would be: Who needs me?

High performers have a positive outlook on life and are physically and mentally fit.

If you were to list the habits you imagine a successful CEO might have, you might think of efficient scheduling and the ability to keep distractions to a minimum. But you might not think of exercise.

People often associate CEOs with mental fitness, but research shows that they’re also physically fit, and their energy levels tend to be similar to those of professional athletes. The author calls the second habit generating energy, and it’s key to maintaining a high performance level.

Neuroscientists have found that regular exercise increases the production of new neurons in the areas of your brain that are related to learning and memory. Exercise also improves mood and reduces stress, all of which adds up to greatly enhanced leadership performance.

But everyone knows that exercise is good for you, right? High performers stand out because they make routine exercise a habit and stick to it, while underperformers are great at coming up with excuses to avoid working out.

As for generating mental energy, this is achieved by having a positive outlook on life.

Data shows high performers are more cheerful and positive than their peers, even though their personal and professional lives are no less difficult and troubled. They continually and intentionally focus on the good while avoiding getting mired in negative thinking. And the research suggests that this positive thinking directly relates to high performers leading happier emotional lives and having more mental energy.

To get yourself into the habit of positive thinking, take a moment each morning to ask yourself what you have to look forward to in the day ahead. Maybe you’re meeting an old friend for lunch or celebrating a coworker’s birthday.

Keep in mind that this isn’t just about staying in a good mood: Neuroscientists believe that anticipating positive events releases as much dopamine – the hormone associated with happiness – as experiencing the event itself.

In this way, having a positive outlook is a very powerful tool since you get twice the joy – both in anticipation of the event and again when it actually happens!

High performers use inner and outer expectations to stay motivated.

Let’s imagine two runners about to start a race, waiting for the starting pistol to go off. Both have a similar track record, and each has put in the same amount of training. But there’s one difference: one racer is thinking about the personal glory of winning, while the other is thinking, “I have to win this for my mother.”

Who’s going to win?

Probably, the latter.

That’s because raising the stakes improves performance. The author calls this third habit raising necessity.

High performers will bring an extra urgency to the work they’re doing, usually in the form of an outside obligation that is added to their own internal desires. This provides them with more motivation and increases their likelihood of success. Underperformers, on the other hand, will rely solely on their own desire to succeed. This makes their success a preferable outcome, but not a necessary one.

So, to put this into practice, you first need to set a high standard for yourself. Remember, you want to master your craft, so don’t settle for simple and easily achievable goals.

Now, you’ll also want to attach your personal goal to an external obligation so that a positive outcome will also benefit someone else in your life. If your local charity will gain exposure and a massive windfall of donations as a result of your project’s success, you’ll likely work twice as hard to ensure it comes together.

Another high-performer habit for raising the stakes is simply to share your goal with a lot of people.

Outside expectations are created, and the act of voicing your goal out loud can increase its importance. No one wants to fail publicly, so the more people you tell, the more committed you’ll feel.

When the author set a goal to create an online video course on personal development, he not only told his friends and family about it, he also invited them to be the first to try it out and offer feedback. So his closest social circle was both aware and looking forward to him completing this project, and these expectations all-but guaranteed that Burchard would meet his deadline.

High performers avoid distractions and are smart with their deadlines.

It’s terrible to always feel busy and run down, yet still not getting enough done. This is a clear sign that there’s an imbalance between the energy you’re spending and the results you’re seeing.

This brings us to the fourth habit of high performance: increasing productivity, which you can do by learning how to separate the important work from the unimportant work. This way, you only spend energy on the tasks that really matter.

It’s common for underperformers to pay a lot of attention to small tasks that make them feel productive in the short run but add up to very little in the long run. One of the main offenders is email, on which people spend an average of 28 percent of their working week. This is because the simple act of answering an email can give you a reassuring feeling of accomplishment, even though it’s likely distracting you from more important work.

Another important aspect of productivity is timing. Data shows that underperformers are over three times more likely to fall into a false deadline trap, which means that they set a deadline that’s not strictly enforced. Knowing that the due date is preferable, not a must, you won’t feel any motivation to meet it. In short, you’ll be unproductive.

But high performers are great at planning, which means creating clear and challenging deadlines and goals. Having a visible finish line ahead of you is a great way to maintain focus, fight distraction and keep your energy levels up, and data shows that a person with a clear and challenging goal will always outperform someone with no strict deadline.

Big projects that are carried out over long periods of time can be especially challenging, especially when it comes to staying focused and keeping the momentum going. In these cases, you’ll find it helpful to break the long-term goals down into subgoals of four or five small steps that will get you to that finish line. This way you can stay focused and move forward, even when there are months or years still to go.

High performers are appreciative, giving and aware of what others need to succeed.

There’s a popular notion that it’s “lonely at the top,” meaning that once you reach the highest rung of the professional ladder, there will be no one around with whom to share your achievement.

But this isn’t the case for high performers, as the research shows them to be quite capable of establishing meaningful and lasting connections with their peers.

High performers are appreciative and giving people who aren’t afraid to also challenge those they work with and expect the same from others.

In 2016, the American Psychological Association's Work and Well-Being Survey revealed that only half of the workers in the United States feel valued and recognized by their superiors. High-performing managers wouldn’t stand for this. In his study, Burchard found high performers routinely praising and cheering on their staff. They’re also more likely to notice and appreciate good work.

High performers were found to have a giving mind-set – the fifth habit. They’re well aware of the struggles and desires of others and use that knowledge to provide people with what they need.

They also know that their staff need the trust and freedom to make their own decisions. Having this power is a great motivator, and high performers are both aware and respectful of this.

Being perceptive and aware of what people need to grow allows high performers to assign the right tasks to the right people so they can reach the next level.

And when a high performer needs something themselves, they don’t hesitate to ask for a favor. This is something underperformers often resist for fear of being judged or rejected, even though statistics show that the average person will get a positive response three times more often than they expect. In fact, fears of being harshly judged by our peers are generally overestimated. The truth is, most people are too busy to spend time thinking about you, so relax!

High performers aren’t afraid to take risks and are open about their ambitions.

Are you the kind of person who prefers to be left alone in their comfort zone? If so, how much pressure does it take for you to break out?

For high performers, risk-taking isn’t unusual at all. In fact, demonstrating courage is the sixth and final habit of high performers, and it goes hand-in-hand with gaining a positive perspective on challenging situations.

Again, attitudes like these aren’t inherent personality traits; they’re characteristics that high-performing individuals have practiced and worked at over time. They recognize that taking bold action involves a higher risk of failing – that’s why these moves are considered bold! But high performers have learned how to overcome their fear and take action.

With practice, you too can make bold decisions. And just like high performers, you can even come to enjoy the thrill of taking risks.

Making a risky move is like any other learned skill – it gets easier the more you do it, so all you need to do is start taking those leaps. Like parachuting, the first time is always filled with panic and dread, but after each jump, it gradually becomes a little easier and less stressful.

Most people will avoid any kind of struggle, but being extraordinary and reaching your goals means learning how to greet challenges with a smile. It’s all about having the right perspective, and rather than complaining about life being difficult, higher performers will see each new challenge as an opportunity to grow.

One of the commonest bold acts is being open and honest about one’s true ambitions. This is another behavior that many will avoid due to unwanted judgment or ridicule.

While the average person prefers to work toward their dreams in silence, high performers don’t hold back despite being fully aware that someone might call them “delusional,” “unrealistic” or even “crazy.” For them, it’s all part of life’s precious struggle.

So don’t waste another day. Now’s the time to open yourself up to the world and all the good and bad it has to offer. By being open, you’ll find that there are a lot of people out there just waiting to help turn your dreams into reality.

Final summary

The key message in this book:

High performers are not born extraordinary; they grow through steady and persistent practice that involves a conscious attempt to master certain habits. They are highly aware of the purpose of their work, stay energetic, use external motivators, know how to increase productivity through careful planning, regularly connect and give to those around and take bold risks.

Actionable advice:

Seek clarity in your social interactions.

Don’t just enter a social interaction on autopilot. Ask yourself beforehand: How can I be a good person in the upcoming situation? What will the other person expect? What kind of mood and energy do I want to create, and how can I act to achieve that outcome?

Got feedback?

We’d sure love to hear what you think about our content! Just drop an email to remember@blinkist.com with the title of this book as the subject line and share your thoughts!

Suggested

further

reading: The Code of the Extraordinary Mind by Vishen Lakhiani

The Code of the Extraordinary Mind (2016) unveils a method for overcoming the madness of everyday life, one that enables anyone to stand out from the pack and become an extraordinary individual. The author lays down ten laws that anyone can easily follow to experience a radical transformation and find meaning and happiness in each day.

The Barefoot Investor - The Only Money Guide You’ll Ever Need

The Barefoot Investor

The Only Money Guide You’ll Ever Need

By Scott Pape

What’s in it for me? Financial stability needn’t be a distant and unachievable aim.

You can count yourself in the overwhelming majority if you’ve ever struggled to juggle your finances and plan for the future. Most likely it’s easy not to think about it. But face it. Even if you close your browser to hide your account or throw away your bank statements as soon as they arrive in the mail, you’ve still got to deal with your finances some day.

So why not now? No matter what your income is, you can still achieve financial stability. It requires a little bit of effort to get started, but it’s well worth it.

Being in charge of your money is as simple as opening a few extra bank accounts and automating the entire process. Let’s join the Barefoot Investor Scott Pape as he shares the benefits of his financial wisdom.

In these blinks, you’ll learn

where billionaire investor Warren Buffett will put his money when he dies;the best place to store your credit cards; andthe connection between a fire extinguisher and saving.

Everyone has the potential to have more money thanks to a little canny planning.

None of us like thinking about our financial situations. We most often do it as a last resort when we’re in trouble. And when we do that, the solutions we come up with aren’t just drastic. They’re often downright silly. We might imagine we have to starve ourselves to save money, or maybe even stop having fun. It doesn’t have to be that way: the best methods for feeling like you have more money are sustainable and effective.

First, stop making excuses. Classically, people think that it’s too late for them to resolve their financial situation and turn things around, but that is never true.

You should take charge by making changes that fall within the realm of possibility. That way, you’re more likely to stick to them for the long haul.

Quick fixes tend to be extreme and prone to failure – unless you have the discipline of a monk, of course. But few do outside religious communities.

You're much better off making small changes as these deliver larger paybacks more effectively over time.

People on low incomes also give up more easily and think it’s impossible to have better financial futures. But that excuse can be overcome. You need to make changes according to your own means.

If you’re living on a minimum wage, then naturally your financial planning won’t look like a banker's. But even so, it’s possible to be smart with your money and live your life to the fullest. We’ll discover how to do that in the upcoming blinks.

Second, accept that saving is the key to securing your financial well-being.

This isn’t the same as saying that money is the key to happiness – we all know it isn’t.

Nonetheless, research has shown that the feeling of powerlessness associated with a poor financial situation is actually not dissimilar to physical torture. It’s therefore imperative for you and your family to learn a little self-discipline. Good practices in the present moment and in the future will keep you all secure in the knowledge that there’s always a financial safety net on which to fall back.

Bank accounts make money more manageable.

You’d be hard-pressed to find someone who spends much time thinking about bank accounts.

Mostly we give them little thought and just let them be, but a little effort will secure the foundations of your financial security.

You need five bank accounts. Seriously. You should make sure you open ones that charge no fees. Also, try to find one with a high interest rate where you can stash away your savings.

The five accounts all have different functions. One should be for your daily expenses, another for little indulgences like eating out or a new pair of shoes. The third should be where you set aside savings for more expensive treats like holidays, and the fourth is where the money for paying off crucial costs like debts and big purchases like homes or cars goes. The final account should be used to save for retirement.

It may sound complicated, but these accounts will work in tandem and in synchronicity with each other.

You should ensure that your monthly income goes into your daily expenses account. Sixty percent of it will stay in there. This is where you’ll get the money to pay for rent, bills, food, insurance and normal travel costs. In other words, it’s the cash you need to sustain your daily life.

Next, set up a monthly transfer of 10 percent of your monthly income into your treat account. Get a separate debit card for this account – it’s there for having fun, though not in excess. The money will run out every month, so be sure to calculate your fun wisely. And no cheating! Once this account is empty, you have to wait until next month to fill it up again.

Another monthly transfer of 10 percent will go into your fun account for holidays.

The final 20 percent should be transferred to your fire-extinguisher account, which you’ll use for bigger expenses that come up along the way, like getting your car fixed if it suddenly breaks down, or paying off debts.

Do the math and you’ll see that we’re at 100 percent, but it’s only in four accounts. So from where does the money for retirement come? Before we get there, we’ll have to tidy up your debts.

Get rid of your debts and cut up your credit cards.

The biggest block to financial security and comfort is debt.

It may feel like it’s impossible to shift, but it can be done. What’s more, once you’re in the black, saving and securing your financial comfort will be much easier.

The first thing to do is recognize that credit cards are not your friends.

Take a pair of scissors and cut them up. Credit cards are basically little encouraging notes sitting in your wallet to coax you to spend beyond your means.

You then need to calculate how much debt you have sitting on each card.

Call up your credit card issuer and tell the bank that you want zero interest on your debt for 18 months. Just say that you want them to match another bank’s transfer offer. Of course, there’s no way they’ll actually do it, but there’s a good chance they’ll cut your interest at the very least if you stand firm. Don’t let them boss you around!

Now, use money from your fire-extinguisher account to pay off the debts month by month until they’re all gone. Critically, it’s the fact that you’re no longer adding to this pile of existing debt that makes this happen. You’ll even find that the process is a lot quicker than you might at first think.

Once you’ve wiped out your credit card debt, the next stage is to use your fire-extinguisher fund to pay off any other debts.

So, for instance, imagine you have a car you haven’t yet paid off.

What should you do? Sell it. It’s completely pointless paying interest on something that’s depreciating in value every second.

Now, with the money you save, you should just buy a car outright. You need something that works and does the job, nothing more than that.

Anything fancier than basic is just a status symbol that you don’t need. You may think that a plush home or fancy car indicates wealth, but if it’s making you poor in the long run, then it’s not doing its job.

When you think about it, it's better to be financially stable and do without the empty emblems.

Now, once you’re debt free, you can start to make plans.

Go the extra mile to save for your retirement and get a bucket while you’re at it.

Footloose and debt-free, now let’s talk about what to do with your fifth bank account.

Remember, it’s never too early or too late to start saving for your future. This account is the best way to ensure a comfortable and secure future, whatever life might throw at you.

Let’s call it your mojo account. It’s going to be working at full steam at a high interest rate. You’ll be topping this saving account up whenever you earn more through overtime, from selling stuff around the house or from picking up extra work.

The idea is that once money goes into this account, it never comes out. Well, at least not until your working life comes to an end, or unless you’re faced with a serious and massive emergency that means you’re not able to work.

So that’s the five accounts covered. But there’s one thing more you need to do. You need to get yourself a grow bucket where you can stash some more money away.

It’s called a bucket rather than an account because the money in it isn’t just sitting there. It’s used for investments such as shares or property. Remember that investing is the way to secure your financial future. And they need to be smart investments too: they should still be making money for you even after you stop working.

To most laypeople, investing appears pretty daunting. But it’s actually pretty simple.

The best way to begin investing is to find an index fund. This will buy shares in the 500 biggest companies when their stock prices are low and sell when stock prices are high. You don’t actually need to do any of the work or research yourself. The trick is to find an index fund with low management fees.

Index funds are no gimmick, either. Warren Buffet, the world-renowned billionaire investor, has himself stated that he’ll be putting 90 percent of all his money into an index fund for his wife when he dies.

The rationale is sound. Despite fluctuations in the stock and bond trading markets, if you'd invested a dollar in 1802, it would be worth $930,550 today.

That’s despite massive downturns like the Great Depression, the recent financial crisis, as well as every other wobble in the market.

Just one more thing: be sure to reinvest the dividends from your investments to the bucket.

One thing at least is undoubtedly clear: it’s always worth investing.

Once free of financial stress, you and your children will be able to live comfortable lives.

It’s a myth that only the rich can live without worrying about money. If you follow the rules in these blinks, you too can join the ranks of the wealthy. That’s because wealth really isn’t about what you own, but rather how much money is yours.

Let’s apply that thinking to your home. There are steps you can follow that’ll enable you to save up for a property or even pay off your mortgage faster.

If you organize your finances by using different bank accounts and with a set of regular standing orders, it’ll be smooth sailing before too long. That’s because those processes will all be done for you.

Automated saving systems, as well as funds for daily expenses and fun money that are sent to different accounts without you thinking about it, will take the pressure right off.

Also, once you’re free of debt, you’ll have enough money in your “fire extinguisher” account to start paying off your mortgage or save for a deposit on a home.

You might previously have thought it impossible, but it’s not!

On top of all of that, such financial prudence and care are sure to set a great example for your children.

The simple fact of living debt-free will make you happier. But also, you’ll be able to spend more time with your children as you’ll no longer need to work as much, trying to clear that mountain of debt.

Not only will you be able to amass more positive experiences with them, but you’ll also be setting a good example. They’ll know now that living on credit is no option.

Consequently, it’s far more likely that they’ll live happier and more financially-intelligent lives as adults, free from the credit trap.

It should be clear from these blinks that financial security isn’t something you can manufacture out of thin air. It needs patience. But you’ll feel the benefits of taking control of your finances the moment you decide that your financial stability is your goal and in your hands. No excuses.

Final summary

The key message in these blinks:

It’s possible to get a grip on your finances. You can even organize them so that after a few initial steps the mechanics of investing will take care of themselves. However, to secure your future financial security, you’ll have to begin by clearing your debts and destroying your credit cards. Then you can invest for your retirement.

Actionable advice:

Don’t accept any fancy add-ons for your mortgage.

When you’re on the hunt for a mortgage, take the most basic one available. You don’t need extras like so-called repayment holidays because they’re a way of making you pay more for things you’ll almost certainly never need.

Got feedback?

We’d sure love to hear what you think about our content! Just drop an email to remember@blinkist.com with the title of this book as the subject line and share your thoughts!

Suggested

further

reading: The Intelligent Investor by Benjamin Graham and comments by Jason Zweig

The Intelligent Investor offers sounds advice on investing from a trustworthy source – Benjamin Graham, an investor who flourished after the financial crash of 1929. Having learned from his own mistakes, the author lays out exactly what it takes to become a successful investor in any environment.

Atomic Habits - An Easy & Proven Way to Build Good Habits & Break Bad Ones

Atomic Habits - An Easy & Proven Way to Build Good Habits & Break Bad Ones

By James Clear

Atomic Habits (2018) provides a practical and proven framework for creating good habits and shedding bad ones. Drawing on scientific research and real-life examples, it shows how tiny changes in behavior can result in the formation of new habits and help you achieve big things.

1. What’s in it for me? Learn how small habits can have a big impact on your life.

In these blinks, we’ll look at how to make positive change in your lives. It turns out, the easiest way to bring about positive change is to cultivate the right habits. Listen on, to discover all about habits; what they are, how you can form them, and crucially, how you can make the best ones stick. By following the few simple instructions and changing a few small behaviors, you can achieve unbelievable results. So, let’s get started!

2. Small habits can have a surprisingly powerful impact on your life.

Imagine a plane taking off from Los Angeles en route to New York. If, during takeoff, the pilot decided to adjust course 3.5 degrees to the south, the plane’s nose would move just a few feet. Outside of the cockpit, no one on board would notice the small movement. But over the course of a journey across the country, the impact of the change would be considerable, and the confused passengers would alight from their plane in Washington, DC, not New York.

We don’t notice tiny changes, because their immediate impact is negligible. If you are out of shape today, and go for a 20-minute jog, you’ll still be out of shape tomorrow. Conversely, if you eat a family-size pizza for dinner, it won’t make you overweight overnight. But if we repeat small behaviors day after day, our choices compound into major results. Eat pizza every day, and it’s likely you will have gained considerable weight after a year. Go jogging for 20 minutes every day, and you’ll eventually be leaner and fitter, even though you won’t have noticed the change happening.

If you want to make a positive change in your life, you should recognize that change requires patience, as well as confidence that your habits are keeping you on the right trajectory – even if you aren’t seeing immediate results.

So if you find that your behaviors and habits don’t seem to be paying off, try to focus on your current trajectory rather than your current results. If you have little money in the bank but you are saving something each month, then you can be confident that your trajectory is right. Your current results might not be great, but keep going in this direction and, in a few months or a few years, you will notice a major improvement. By contrast, a millionaire who outspends his earnings each month may not be worried about his bank statements from one month to the next, but, in the end, his trajectory will catch up with him.

The key to making big changes in your life doesn’t have to involve major upheaval; you don’t need to revolutionize your behavior or reinvent yourself. Rather, you can make tiny changes to your behavior, which, when repeated time and time again, will become habits that may lead to big results.

3. Habits are automated behaviors that we’ve learned from experience.

When you walk into a dark room, you don’t think about what to do next; you instinctively reach for a light switch. It’s a habit – a behavior that you’ve repeated so many times that it now happens automatically.

So how are habits formed? Well, our brain figures out how to respond to new situations through a process of trial and error. Nineteenth-century psychologist Edward Thorndike famously demonstrated this with an experiment where cats were placed in a black box. Unsurprisingly, each cat immediately tried to escape from the box, sniffing at its corners and clawing at its walls. Eventually, the cat would find a lever that, when pressed, would open a door, enabling escape.

Thorndike then took the cats that’d successfully escaped and repeated the experiment. His findings? Well, after being put in the box a few times, each cat learned the trick. Rather than scrambling around for a minute or more, the cats went straight for the lever. After 20 or 30 attempts, the average cat could escape in just six seconds. In other words, the process of getting out of the box had become habitual.

Thorndike had discovered that behaviors that give satisfying consequences – in this case, gaining freedom – tend to be repeated until they become automatic.

Like cats in the nineteenth century, we also stumble across satisfying solutions to life’s difficulties and predicaments. And, thankfully, we now understand a little more about how habits work.

Habits begin with a cue, or a trigger to act. Walking into a dark room cues you to perform an action that will enable sight. Next comes a craving for a change in state – in this case, to be able to see. Then comes our response, or action – flicking the light switch. The final step in the process, and the end goal of every habit, is the reward. Here, it’s the feeling of mild relief and comfort that comes from being able to see your surroundings.

Every habit is subject to the same process. Do you habitually drink coffee every morning? Waking up is your cue, triggering a craving to feel alert. Your response is to drag yourself out of bed and make a cup of joe. Your reward is feeling alert and ready to face the world.

But, of course, not all habits are good for us. Now that we understand how habits work, let’s look at building positive ones that improve our lives.

4. Building new habits requires hard-to-miss cues and a plan of action.

All of us have cues that trigger certain habits. The buzz of your phone, for example, is a cue to check your messages.

And once you understand that certain stimuli can prompt habitual behavior, you can use this knowledge to change your habits. How? Well, one way is to change your surroundings and general environment to encourage better habits.

Just take the work of Boston-based doctor Anne Thorndike. She wanted to improve her patients’ dietary habits without requiring them to make a conscious decision. How did she pull this off? She had the hospital cafeteria rearranged. Originally, the refrigerators next to the cash registers contained only soda. Thorndike introduced water, not only there, but at every other drink station. Over three months, soda sales dropped by 11 percent, while water sales shot up by 25 percent. People were making healthier choices, just because the cue to drink water rather than soda was more prominent.

So simple changes to our environment can make a big difference. Want to practice guitar? Leave the instrument out in the center of the room. Trying to eat healthier snacks? Leave them out on the counter, instead of in the salad drawer. Make your cues as obvious as possible, and you’ll be more likely to respond to them.

A second great way to strengthen cues is to use implementation intentions.

Most of us tend to be too vague about our intentions. We say, “I’m going to eat better,” and simply hope that we’ll follow through. An implementation intention introduces a clear plan of action, setting out when and where you’ll carry out the habit you’d like to cultivate. And research shows that it works.

A study of voters in the United States found that the citizens who were asked the questions “At what time will you vote?” and “How will you get to the voting station?” were more likely to actually turn out than those who were just asked if they would vote.

So don’t just say, “I’ll run more often.” Say, “On Monday, Wednesday and Friday, when the alarm goes off, the first thing I’ll do is don my running gear and clock two miles.” Then leave your running shoes out where you’ll see them. You’ll be giving yourself both a clear plan and an obvious cue, and it may surprise you how much easier this will make it to actually build a positive running habit.

5. Humans are motivated by the anticipation of reward, so making habits attractive will help you stick to them.

In 1954, neuroscientists James Olds and Peter Milner ran an experiment to test the neurology of desire. Using electrodes, they blocked the release of the neurotransmitter dopamine in rats. To their surprise, the rats simply lost the will to live. They had no desire to eat, drink, reproduce or do anything else. Mere days later, they all died of thirst.

The human brain releases dopamine, a hormone that makes us feel good, when we do pleasurable things such as eating or having sex. But we also get a hit of feel-good dopamine when we simply anticipate those pleasurable activities. It’s the brain’s way of driving us onward and encouraging us to actually do things. So, in the brain’s reward system, desiring something is on par with getting something, which goes a long way toward explaining why kids enjoy the anticipation of Christmas so much. It’s also why daydreaming about your upcoming hot date is so pleasurable.

We can also turn this knowledge to our advantage when trying to form habits. If we make a habit something we look forward to, we’ll be much more likely to follow through and actually do it.

A great technique for this is temptation bundling. That’s when you take a behavior that you think of as important but unappealing and link it to a behavior that you’re drawn to – one that will generate that motivating dopamine hit.

Ronan Byrne, an engineering student in Ireland, knew he should exercise more, but he got little enjoyment from working out. However, he did enjoy watching Netflix. So he hacked an exercise bike, connecting it to his laptop and writing code that would only allow Netflix to run if he was cycling at a certain speed. By linking exercise – literally – to a behavior that he was naturally drawn to, he transformed a distasteful activity into a pleasurable one.

You don’t need to be an engineer to apply this to your life. If you need to work out, but you want to catch up on the latest A-list gossip, you could commit to only reading magazines while at the gym. If you want to watch sports, but you need to make sales calls, promise yourself a half hour of ESPN after you talk to your tenth prospect. Soon enough, you may even find those unattractive tasks enjoyable, since you’ll be anticipating a pleasing reward while carrying them out.

6. If you want to build a new habit, make that habit as easy to adopt as possible.

We often spend a lot of time on behaviors that are easy. Scrolling through social media, for example, takes zero effort, so it’s easy for it to fill up lots of our time. Doing a hundred push-ups or studying Mandarin Chinese, in contrast, requires a lot of effort. Repeating those behaviors daily until they become habitual is tough.

So making behaviors as easy as possible is key to turning them into habits. Luckily, there are a few tricks we can embrace to make anything seem easier. The first is to focus on reducing friction.

The author has always been hopeless at sending greeting cards, while his wife never fails to do so. Why? Well, she keeps a box of greeting cards at home, presorted by occasion, making it easier to send congratulations or condolences or whatever is called for. Since she doesn’t have to go out and buy a card when someone gets married or has an accident, there’s no friction involved in sending one.

You can also use this approach to increase friction for bad habits. If you want to waste less time in front of the TV, unplug it and take the batteries out of the remote. Doing so will introduce enough friction to ensure you only watch when you really want to.

The second trick for making a habit easier in the long term is the two-minute rule, a way to make any new activity feel manageable. The principle is that any activity can be distilled into a habit that is doable within two minutes. Want to read more? Don’t commit to reading one book every week – instead, make a habit of reading two pages per night. Want to run a marathon? Commit to simply putting on your running gear every day after work.

The two-minute rule is a way to build easily achievable habits, and those can lead you on to greater things. Once you’ve pulled on your running shoes, you’ll probably head out for a run. Once you’ve read two pages, you’ll likely continue. The rule recognizes that simply getting started is the first and most important step toward doing something.

Now let’s take a look at the final rule for using habits to improve your life.

7. Making your habits immediately satisfying is essential to effective behavior change.

In the 1990s, public health researcher Stephen Luby, working in the neighborhood of Karachi, Pakistan, achieved a huge 52-percent reduction in diarrhea among the local children. Pneumonia rates dropped by 48 percent, and skin infections by 35 percent. Luby’s secret? Nice soap.

Luby had known that handwashing and basic sanitation were essential to reducing illness. The locals understood this, too; they just weren’t turning their knowledge into a habit. Everything changed when Luby worked with Proctor and Gamble to introduce a premium soap into the neighborhood for free. Overnight, handwashing became a satisfying experience. The new soap lathered easily and smelled delightful. Suddenly, everyone was washing their hands, because it was now a pleasing activity.

The final and most important rule for behavioral change is to make habits satisfying.

This can be difficult, for evolutionary reasons. Today, we live in what academics call a delayed-return environment. You turn up at the office today, but the return – a paycheck – doesn’t come until the end of the month. You go to the gym in the morning, but you don’t lose weight overnight.

Our brains, though, evolved to cope with the immediate-return environment of earlier humans, who weren’t thinking about long-term returns like saving for retirement or sticking to a diet. They were focused on immediate concerns like finding their next meal, seeking shelter and staying alert enough to escape any nearby lions.

Immediate returns can encourage bad habits, too. Smoking may give you lung cancer in 20 years, but, in the moment, it relieves your stress and the craving for nicotine, which means you may ignore the long-term effects and indulge in a cigarette.

So when you are pursuing habits with a delayed return, try to attach some immediate gratification to them.

For example, a couple the author knows wanted to eat out less, cook more, get healthier and save money. To do so, they opened a savings account called “Trip to Europe,” and every time they avoided a meal out, transferred $50 to it. The short-term satisfaction of seeing $50 land in that savings account provided the immediate gratification they needed to keep them on track for the ultimate, longer-term reward.

However pleasurable and satisfying we make habits, we may still fail to maintain them. So let’s take a look at how we can stick to our good intentions.

8. Create a framework to keep your habits on track, using trackers and contracts.

Whether you’re trying to write your journal or give up smoking, managing your own behaviors can be hard. Thankfully, there are a few simple measures that can help.

Habit tracking is a simple but effective technique. Many people have kept a record of their habits; one of the most well known is founding father Benjamin Franklin. From the age of 20, Franklin kept a notebook in which he recorded adherence to 13 personal virtues, which included aims like avoiding frivolous conversation and to always be doing something useful. He noted his success every night.

You, too, can develop a habit tracker, using a simple calendar or diary, and crossing off every day that you stick with your chosen behaviors. You’ll find it effective, because habit tracking itself is an attractive, and satisfying, habit. The anticipation and action of crossing off each day will feel good and keep you motivated.

A second technique is to develop a habit contract that imposes negative consequences if you fail to stay on track.

Bryan Harris, an entrepreneur from Nashville, took his habit contract very seriously. In a contract signed by him, his wife and his personal trainer, he committed to get his weight down to 200 pounds. He identified specific habits that would help get him there, including tracking his food intake each day and weighing himself each week. Then he set up penalties for not doing those things. If he failed to track food intake, he would have to pay $100 to his trainer; if he failed to weigh himself, he would owe $500 to his wife. The strategy worked, driven not just by his fear of losing money but by his fear of losing face in front of two people who mattered to him. Humans are social animals. We care about the opinions of those around us, so simply knowing that someone is watching you can be a powerful motivator for success.

So why not set yourself a habit contract? Even if it isn’t as detailed as Harris’s, consider making a commitment to your partner, your best friend or one of your coworkers. If you agree upon a set of consequences for failing to follow through, you’ll be much more likely to stick to your habits. And as we’ve seen, sticking to a positive habit, however small, is a surefire way to achieve big things in life.

9. Final summary

The key message in these blinks:

A tiny change in your behavior will not transform your life overnight. But turn that behavior into a habit that you perform every day and it absolutely can lead to big changes. Changing your life is not about making big breakthroughs or revolutionizing your entire life. Rather, it’s about building a positive system of habits that, when combined, deliver remarkable results.

Actionable advice

Use habit stacking to introduce new behaviors.

If you want to build a new habit, you could try stacking it on top of an existing habit. Let’s say you want to start meditating, but you’re struggling to find the time. Try thinking about those things you do effortlessly each day, like drinking coffee in the morning. Then just stack the new habit on top. Commit to meditating each morning when you’ve finished your coffee, and build on the natural momentum that comes from a habit you already have.

Relationship Goals - How to Win at Dating, Marriage, and Sex

Relationship Goals - How to Win at Dating, Marriage, and Sex

By Michael Todd

Relationship Goals (2020) offers a blueprint for developing long-lasting relationships with your friends, your spouse, and God. Narrating his own experiences of heartache and healing, author Michael Todd examines common obstacles in modern relationships and gives tips for overcoming them. He also demonstrates how to set precise goals to help you aim for the right relationships.

1. What’s in it for me? Learn how to form godly relationships that last.

In today’s world, many of us are cynical when it comes to relationships. With so many marriages ending in divorce, and with so many celebrity breakups plastered across the news every day, it can be hard to imagine what a healthy, enduring relationship actually looks like.

Pastor Michael Todd has seen every relationship problem on the planet, from singletons unable to find “the one” to veteran spouses struggling to keep their marriages alive. And many of these scenarios have one thing in common: a lack of direction.

Whether we’re single, dating, married, or somewhere in between, we all need relationship goals if we want to create and maintain lasting bonds. These blinks will demonstrate how you can do just that, using teachings from the Bible.

Along the way, you’ll learn

how our ideas about relationships are distorted by the media; why dating shouldn’t be long-term; and how to shed toxic relationships.

2. Above all, relationship goals have to be realistic.

If you’re active on social media, you’re probably inundated with pictures of perfect-looking couples. We’ve all seen them – images of happy pairs posing in clubs, kissing on the beach, or cuddled up in bed next to a caption reading #relationshipgoals.

These images represent modern relationship ideals. But here’s the problem: these images are only snapshots of relationships. They emphasize all the good things and exclude all the bad. They don’t represent reality. Therefore, they’re not realistic relationship goals.

The issue isn’t just social media. Magazines, newspapers, and TV shows sell us an illusion of “perfect” relationships that we all buy into. As a result, we have unrealistic expectations about what kind of partners we should be looking for.

The key message here is: Above all, relationship goals have to be realistic.

Often, our ideas about what makes a perfect partner are based on superficial things like looks, career, or a person’s financial situation. They reflect what we want and desire from a partner, rather than what we actually need.

This was the case for Sarah, a member of the congregation at Transformation Church in Tulsa, Oklahoma, where the author is a pastor. Long past the age by which she’d thought she’d be married, Sarah was still single. This concerned her, and she’d often chat with the author about her relationship problems.

On one occasion, the author asked Sarah whether she had a clear idea about what kind of man she wanted to meet. She replied with a long, long list of requirements.

Sarah saw herself marrying a successful business owner, one who was also a preacher and funny and athletic. On top of all that, he had to come from a two-parent home – a requirement that eliminates about a third of the population!

As the requirements piled up, the author struggled to keep a straight face. Then he was honest with Sarah. Her relationship goals, he said, set the bar way too high. In fact, they had led her to reject great potential partners for years!

The thing is, relationship goals can be great — if they help you aim for what you really want and need from a partner. But to do that, they have to be realistic.

In the blinks that follow, we’ll look at creating the right relationship goals, ones that help you fulfill your life’s purpose and keep you in line with God’s eternal truths.

3. The most effective relationship goals align with God's teachings.

Imagine you’re an archer. You’ve got your bow and arrow, and a single clear goal: hit the center of your target.

But what if, when you step up to aim, you realize that there’s no bull’s-eye in front of you? Well, technically, you can shoot wherever you want, but your arrow won’t hit anything meaningful.

Sounds pointless, doesn’t it? Yet many of us handle relationships in exactly this way. Without knowing what exactly we’re aiming for, we take whatever comes and do whatever’s comfortable. We don’t really know where we’re going, or why.

The key message here is: The most effective relationship goals align with God's teachings.

Our aimlessness when it comes to relationships plays out in a number of different scenarios. For example, some of us date pretty much anyone who shows interest, without ever stopping to think whether that person might be right for us.

Married people can be just as aimless. All too often, they let the passion drain from their relationship as things like raising children and managing finances seem to become more important.

No matter what your marital status is, creating and maintaining a strong relationship comes down to having the right relationship goals. Luckily, we can turn to God to help us figure out what those are.

According to the Bible, the most crucial goals for those in a godly relationship are being able to show kindness and integrity and forgiving one another. That isn’t all, though – relationships are also about helping partners achieve their life purpose.

Take the author’s parents, who are both Christian ministers.

It’s common for couples in the ministry to be led by the man, with the woman in a support role. Not the author’s parents, though. His mom took on a leadership role and sang, preached, and prayed for people all over the world, while his dad worked in the background, carrying the bags and managing his wife’s itinerary. His support allowed her to achieve her God-given purpose and have a huge influence on many people’s lives.

This just goes to show that the right partner can really help you move farther along the path God lays out for you.

So when it comes to setting relationship goals, think back to what the Bible says: the person you’re meant to be with will love and support you, help you fulfill your purpose, and, ultimately, bring you closer to God.

4. To have healthy relationships with other people, you first need one with God.

Did you know that relationships existed before there were humans?

Before there was a single person on earth, a relationship already existed among God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. In the Bible, this relationship is called the Holy Trinity. It represents the idea that God is three entities in one.

How exactly this works is far beyond human comprehension. But all of humanity was created from this everlasting relationship. The Trinity basically clubbed together to create human beings. Therefore, it’s only natural that we humans desire a relationship with God.

The key message here is: To have healthy relationships with other people, you first need one with God.

We were born from God’s love – which is why our relationship with Him should come first. That gives us a strong foundation for our other relationships, including those with our brothers and sisters, our parents, and our lovers. And if we stray too far from our relationship with God, then naturally our other relationships start to suffer.

This is what happened to the author’s old friend Doug. Doug had a loving wife and children, a thriving business, and a strong connection with God. But unfortunately, something happened that shook Doug’s faith. After that, he became pessimistic, judgmental, selfish, and less devoted to things like praying, reading the Bible, and helping his community.

Eventually, Doug stopped believing in God and as soon as he did that, everything changed. His business partnerships failed, his marriage ended in divorce, and his children were damaged in the process.

This proved to the author that no one is exempt from needing a relationship with God. In fact, we should all be seeking to cultivate a closer relationship with Him every day.

How? Well, it’s important to have a daily devotional practice. That means reading the Bible every day, in order to stay in touch with God’s Word. It’s also about talking to God on a daily basis – about anything and everything. You could ask Him to grant you patience when you’re stuck in a traffic jam, or give you comfort when you’re uncertain about your next career move.

Ultimately, it doesn’t matter how you connect with God; the most important thing is to be close to Him. If you are, He’ll teach you how to create, maintain, and progress in your relationships, all while keeping you encircled with love.

5. Successful relationships start with being single.

Growing up in church, the author learned many things about how to live according to God’s Word. One thing no one ever explained to him, though, were romantic relationships. When he reflects on his childhood, the only lesson he can remember being taught is, “Don’t have sex until you’re married. Period.”

Unfortunately, relationships are one of those real-life issues that the church hasn’t been great about addressing. As a result, many people instead turn to movies, TV shows, or celebrities for insight into the topic. This leads them to believe that there’s a simple formula for relationships and the way they progress: you fall in love, you get married, and then you have a baby.

But how do you get to those big relationship milestones? Well, God has a roadmap for that. It all starts with you and you alone.

The key message here is: Successful relationships start with being single.

According to the author, God has given us a way of progressing in relationships that involves six key steps. They are singleness, dating, engagement, marriage, love, and children.

Let’s take a look at just one of those steps: singleness.

Being single is arguably the most important time of our lives: it’s when God reveals to us who we are and what our purpose in life is. The single phase also gives us time to figure things out and develop as people before we commit to someone else. That prepares us to be good partners in the future.

Of course, being single is no picnic. Long periods without a partner can leave you feeling lonely and unwanted. But there are ways to get past these feelings. One is to remind yourself that singleness is the time for “I.”

What does that mean? Well, when you’re single, “i” is for investing in aspects of your life you’d like to develop – putting your energy into a creative passion and transforming it into a career, for example. It also means imagining what you could be doing in the future, as you do when you plan a big trip to a destination you’re passionate about visiting.

Finally, “i” is for inspiring others to make a difference in the world, as you do when you offer mentorship to a young person.

All of these things give you time to understand and improve yourself while helping you achieve the purpose God has given you. And that helps you build a good foundation for future relationships.

6. To find the right person to marry, it’s important to date intentionally.

When the author was fifteen, he met the love of his life, Natalie. It was at a friend’s birthday party – when Natalie walked into the room, the sight of her long black hair and black dress made the author think, “I’ve never seen anything so beautiful.”

Nine years later, the pair were happily married. Their relationship hasn’t always been smooth sailing – they’ve had a few bumpy patches here and there. But, ultimately, every problem they’ve encountered has taught them just how right they were to focus on each other from the very start.

Here’s the key message: To find the right person to marry, it’s important to date intentionally.

In his early adulthood, the author broke up with Natalie for a short time because he wasn’t ready for their relationship to get serious.

Eventually, he came to his senses, and God brought the pair back together. But in their ten months apart, a lot of suspicion and mistrust had grown. Their relationship suffered, and they had to work at it every day to get it back on track.

Given all this heartache, was the breakup worth it in the first place?

During the "ten months of insanity" that the author and Natalie had spent apart, he'd pursued recreational dating – that is, one-night stands and short-term relationships. But in the end, all it did was distract him from the right person: Natalie.

The problem with recreational dating is that it doesn’t have a destination. Many of us pick relationships at random, then hope they’ll go somewhere. When they don’t, we’re shocked and disappointed.

But the Bible tells us that marriage is the ultimate goal of romantic relationships, so any partnership we enter into should lead to that goal. That’s why it’s important to date in an intentional way.

How? Well, start by being selective about whom you’re dating. The person you’re with should be dependable and supportive, with a strong faith in the Lord. That person should also see marriage as the main goal of your partnership.

And there’s a simple rule you can follow that will save you a ton of heartache: if a person isn't mateable, they’re not dateable. The meaning of this is simple: If you wouldn’t marry the person, then don’t go out with them.

7. Intentional dating helps you get to know a potential partner.

Meet Taylor and Brandon, a couple who met at Transformation Church. When they first got together, they decided that they didn’t want to date the same way they used to.

Why? Well, Taylor and Brandon had both been burned by past relationships – mostly because they’d gotten involved with the wrong people. What they needed was a new approach, one that would help them find long-term partners without risking their hearts in the process.

The key message here is: Intentional dating helps you get to know a potential partner.

When Brandon and Taylor wanted to start dating, they knew exactly whom to go to for advice: the author and his wife, Natalie.

Over the years, the pair have been relationship coaches for many people at Transformation Church. And over a period of ninety days, they coached Brandon and Taylor through an intentional dating process.

How? Well, the idea was to take the heat off a little and give the budding couple time to get to know each other as friends. That way, they could see whether they were really attracted to each other and whether their values lined up, without committing to anything too soon.

After the ninety days were over, they could get out of the relationship easily if it hadn’t worked out. Or they could continue the journey.

So how does the process work? The first step is discussing your relationship fears with each other. These could include “Not being treated like I’m important,” or “Having my hopes built up, only to have them ruined.”

Doing this allows you to understand each other’s expectations and figure out whether or not the other person respects yours.

The next step is agreeing on boundaries. For example, if you don’t want to have sex before marriage, then perhaps set a curfew for each date you go on. You could also agree not to hug for longer than thirty seconds, or set a limit on sexual activity – nothing more than French kissing, for example.

It’s also important to have focused discussions about topics that interest you. This will help you get to know each other and establish whether you have common interests.

After the ninety-day period, you may want to go ahead with dating each other, or you may decide to call it quits. If your relationship does end there, at least you’ll have had some fun, gotten to know somebody new, and picked up some relationship tools along the way.

8. If you want to live a purpose-filled life, shed the relationships that no longer serve you.

T and Valeria seemed like the perfect couple. They both had dedicated relationships with God and were living their lives with purpose.

But eventually, something changed. Their relationship turned into a wrestling match characterized by harsh words, controlling behaviors, and emotional turmoil. It was only a matter of time before the relationship ended.

The author, who is friends with both T and Valeria, spoke to each of them separately about why they broke up. They both said the same thing: the relationship had taken priority over their own individual relationships with God.

That took away their most important source of meaning. No wonder things went sour so fast.

The key message here is: If you want to live a purpose-filled life, shed the relationships that no longer serve you.

Our relationship with God is more important than any other. So when people come into our lives, we have to decide whether they’re helping us strengthen our ties with God or leading us away from Him.

Look at it like this: some relationships in life are more like liabilities than assets. For those in the room who aren’t accountants: assets give you something; liabilities take away.

When we enter a relationship, romantic or otherwise, we should consider whether the person we’re with is adding to our lives or taking things away. If your relationship is zapping your time and energy without enriching your life in any way, then it might be time to consider whether you still want this person around.

If you’re feeling like some of your relationships might be weighing you down, then it’s time to take an inventory. Write down a list of all of the people in your life and ask yourself, “Is this person adding value to my life, or taking value away?”

This is exactly what the author did. And he discovered that many of his problems were caused by certain people in his life.

After that, he made the intentional decision to invest only in reciprocal relationships ones in which both parties bring something to the table. Since then, the author’s relationships have been deeper and richer than ever before. No wonder, since the people he now chooses to support are the ones who support him back!

If you feel guilty about cutting off relationships that don’t add to your life, then just consider this: God wants us to have relationships that fulfill us. And He supports our decision to let go of the ones that don’t.

9. Keep working on your singleness to keep your marriage alive.

Did you ever play house when you were a kid? Maybe you had Barbie and Ken dolls, which you pretended were happily married, with a big house and a pink convertible parked out front. Maybe they even had some little Barbies and Kens running around.

Barbie and Ken have a “perfect” marriage, the kind that many of us grow up wanting for ourselves. But one thing that never makes it into playtime is just how much effort it takes to sustain a marriage.

The key message here is: Keep working on your singleness to keep your marriage alive.

Some people get married and have kids, and they think that’s it. In their minds, they’ve arrived at the finish line, where there are no more relationship goals to pursue. That attitude might work for a while, but when the kids move out of the house, new problems can arise.

This is because many couples put their relationship aside while caring for their children. They get busy helping with homework, packing lunches, and driving to soccer practice. Then, when the kids are grown up and move out, they lose the one thing they had in common.

If you feel like the passion has drained from your marriage, what can you do? Well, it might sound counterintuitive, but you have to go back to the beginning of the relationship process and be single again.

This doesn’t mean that you should get a divorce and start playing the field; it means that you need to spend time working on yourself.

This could include self-improvement projects, like quitting smoking or learning how to speak French. Doing these things will help you be the best version of yourself, and keep you on track to achieving your godly purpose.

Another way to restore the vibrancy in your marriage is to go back to intentional dating – and this doesn’t just mean watching movies in bed.

If you’re serious about keeping your relationship fire burning, you have to show continuous interest in your partner and find new ways to connect. For example, you could try discussing things that you’re passionate about instead of covering the same old mundane topics, like finances and what the kids are up to.

Here’s the most important thing to remember: both you and your partner need a marriage that continues to be mutually supportive, whether or not there are kids in the house. So keep working on your singleness, and date the one you love throughout your marriage.

10. Final summary

The key message in these blinks:

Many of us aspire to have long-lasting, healthy relationships but don’t know how to achieve them. This is partly because we don’t set clear goals for ourselves and are unaware of what we really want and need from a partner. Having relationship goals doesn’t mean writing a lengthy list of criteria for a potential partner based on superficial things like looks and financial success. It means finding someone who has a strong faith in God and who will support you in fulfilling your life’s purpose.

Actionable advice:

Know the power of words.

We’ve all had those days. Sometimes, your spouse says or does something that irritates you, and you can’t help but let a stream of negative, or even cruel, words come out of your mouth. The thing is, this kind of language isn’t productive at all; it just creates bad feelings within the relationship. So, next time you feel yourself on the verge of saying something critical to your partner, stop for a second and think of something for which to praise him or her instead. This will help you avoid an argument, and remind you of the good in the person you chose to marry.

The Bullet Journal Method - Track the Past, Order the Present, Design the Future

The Bullet Journal Method

Track the Past, Order the Present, Design the Future

By Ryder Carroll

The Bullet Journal Method (2018) by Ryder Carroll breaks down bullet journaling: the planning and productivity system your most organized friend is definitely already using. Use bullet journaling to clarify, prioritize, schedule, and reflect on your tasks and goals. You’ll never miss an appointment or lose track of a great idea again.

What’s in it for me? Plan to perfection!

When is a planner more than a planner? When it’s a to-do list, calendar, journal, and mindfulness meditation tool all in one. In short, when it’s a bullet journal. The bullet journal offers a surprisingly simple method for tracking experiences, collating tasks, and organizing information.

Best of all? Bullet journaling isn’t just about optimizing productivity. Use your bullet journal to track goals and reflect on experiences. Learn to interrogate how you spend your time. You won’t just keep track of what you do; you’ll habitually reflect on why you’re doing it.

Feeling inspired to start your own bullet journal? These blinks will show you how.

In these blinks, you’ll learn

• how to decipher the code of “rapid logging;”

• what time-management strategies will set you up for success; and

• how you can turn your daydreams into tangible goals.

Edit your tasks before you commit them to the page.

Skim through the bullet journal hashtag on Instagram, and you’ll find over six million posts. That’s six million-plus images of crisp white notebook pages embellished with beautiful handwriting, intriguing symbols, and elaborate color-coding.

These images may leave you itching to pick up a pen and paper. Resist the urge! The goal isn’t to mindlessly fill up pages. Your bujo, as bullet journals are often called, should be reserved only for what’s truly important to you.

The key message is: Edit your tasks before you commit them to the page.

Your bullet journal isn’t a regular notebook to be filled with random jottings that you never revisit. Used properly, a bujo is a tool to help you find your focus. And let’s face it, these days true focus can be hard to come by. Life is filled with distractions, like that pile of urgent emails in your inbox. And it’s saturated with choices, too, like the shows sitting in your Netflix queue.

Bullet journaling shouldn’t add to your stress. Instead, it should help you focus on what’s actually important so you can accomplish your authentic goals.

That’s why the bujo process doesn’t start with journaling. It begins with a mental inventory designed to declutter your brain. Here’s how to do it:

Take a loose sheet of paper and divide it into three columns. In the first column, list all the things you’re currently doing, both at work and in your personal life. In the second column, list all the things you should be doing. In the third, list all the things you want to be doing.

This exercise might take a long time, and you might need more than one piece of paper. That’s fine! Keep going until your mind is emptied.

You’ll be left with a map of how you spend your days. In other words, you’ll see a snapshot of your time and the choices you’ve made about how you spend that time. Are they the choices you want to be making? Look at each task and ask yourself, is this task important to me? Is it necessary? If the answer is “no,” cross it off your inventory. It’s not going in your bujo.

Before you’ve even cracked your notebook open, you’ve learned one of bujo’s key lessons: what you leave out of your bullet journal is just as important as what you put in.

You can do a lot with simple tools and the bullet journal method.

Now, you’re ready to begin bullet journaling. Let’s go through a list of things you’ll need, starting with the most obvious: A notebook. You can choose any type of notebook you like – from a simple composition notebook to a leather-bound journal. Your notebook can have plain paper or lined pages.

Sometimes bujo novices wonder: why a notebook? Why can’t journaling be done in an app or on a laptop? Easy. Because wifi is distracting, and bullet journaling is about paring down distractions, remember?

The second thing you’ll need is something to write with, like a pen or pencil. Yes, you’ll be writing by hand. It’s old-school, for sure, but it also helps with flow and minimizes distractions.

Then you need – well, nothing. That’s it.

The key message is: You can do a lot with simple tools and the bullet journal method.

Now that you’ve got a handle on your tools, what can you do with them? Let’s take a quick look at the components of bullet journaling. Bullet journals aren’t ordered into rigid sections, but instead, use adaptable modules known as collections. Everything inside your bullet journal is a type of collection. The core collections include the index, daily log, monthly log, and future log.

The index lives at the beginning of your notebook, and it will save you from ever losing that winning idea or forgetting that crucial appointment. It’s an at-a-glance table of everything your bullet journal contains.

Your logs are where you record key events and information. Your daily log is the repository for all those notes, reminders, and stray bits of information that you collect over the course of a day. Your monthly log is an up-to-date overview of your month, showing what’s been done and what still needs to happen. Your future log is the place where you park all the tasks and ideas you won’t get around to this month, but you don’t want to forget.

While the index and these three logs are the core collections of your bujo, you can add different, personalized collections wherever you like. Collections can help you organize information around a specific theme or track your progress on a particular goal. The group of collections that you’re actively working on is known as your stack.

So, how do you actually record things in your journal? Using rapid logging, a system of notes and symbols that lets you capture your thoughts at a pace much faster than typical longhand writing. Let’s dig into that next.

Rapid logging lets you log tasks and events quickly.

Think quick! When’s your boss’s birthday? Have you sent that email to your accountant? What movie did you see on date night two weeks ago?

Even with a sharp memory, it’s hard to recall every experience and piece of information you take in over a day, let alone the details of what happened last month or what needs to happen next Tuesday. Rapid logging can help with that.

The key message is: Rapid logging lets you log tasks and events quickly.

Before you start logging, assign your page a topic, with a header at the top of that page. The more detailed and systematic your topic, the better – this is true for almost every aspect of bujo! So, instead of “Job Interview,” try “September 7, Interview, Marketing Director Position.” Assign a page number, too. That’s important for your index.

Whether it’s in your monthly log, daily log, future log, or a special collection, the content you log will fall into three categories. Tasks or things you need to do. Events or what’s happened. And Notes or important information. Your job interview log might include events like “met with HR representative,” tasks like “send HR rep thank-you email,” and notes like, “job requires travel.”

To log these, use the distinctive bullets bujo is so well known for, called signifiers. Each category has its own signifier. A task is denoted with a solid bullet. Completed a task? Cross over the bullet with an “x.” To reschedule tasks inside the month, use the bullet as a base for a right-facing arrow. To move a task to your future log, convert your bullet into a left-facing arrow. Use an asterisk to denote urgency.

Events are marked by an empty bullet: a small unfilled circle. Record events as neutrally as possible, whether they’re good, like a promotion, or bad, like car trouble. Why should you include events as well as tasks? Jotting down the day’s events will, over time, give you a clear picture of key habits and trends.

Notes are represented with a dash. What should you note? Anything that captures your attention! Mark a particularly inspiring note with an exclamation point.

It’s often useful to use tasks or events as anchors in your bujo and to expand on these anchors using notes. Elaborate on an event like “Performance review with boss” with notes like “try and collaborate more with other departments.”

Bullet journaling embraces chaos with a flexible modular system.

OK, OK. Bullet journaling sounds great, but you’ve been burned before. You’ve tried other organizational strategies. Nothing’s worked. You have yet to find a system that imposes order on your particular brand of chaos.

Why should bujo be any different?

Good question! Because bujo doesn’t try to bring order to chaos.

The key message is: Bullet journaling embraces chaos with a flexible modular system.

A regular diary allocates the same amount of space for each day. A bujo embraces the fact that every day is different. So, how does it work?

The daily log is where you note the day’s tasks and capture its experiences. Jot down a page number and the date, and you’re good to go! Don’t allocate space for your daily log in advance. Some days your log will run to a few pages. Other days you’ll have less to log.

The monthly log is your month-at-a-glance, and it typically takes up a double-page spread. The left-hand page is your calendar page. On the outer edge of this page, list the date for every day in the month, followed by the first letter of the weekday – so, M for Monday. Leave space to write down events and add in signifiers to denote upcoming tasks or note memorable experiences next to each date as you go through the month. The right-hand page is your tasks page, where you list the things you need or want to do that month.

Want to note a task that falls outside the current month? That’s where the future log comes in. This is where you queue all your upcoming tasks. At the start of each new month, scan your future log, and add the next tasks you want to tackle to your new monthly log.

Tracking a goal or establishing a habit? That’s where custom collections come in. These are special logs devoted to a specific topic. Fertility planning, your freelance side hustle, a meditation practice – anything you like!

How do you keep track of all these collections? Through the index, which lives at the front of your notebook. Plan to devote four pages to your index. Use your index to list your collections as you add them to the notebook, along with their page numbers. For collections that are interspersed throughout your notebook, simply list all the pages where they live. For example, “Meal Planning: pg. 18-24; 67-69.” Don’t worry if you run out of index pages. Simply continue your index on the next free page, making a note of that page at the end of the old index.

Migrating tasks and events is key to finding your focus.

There’s something deeply satisfying about crossing tasks off your to-do list. But while checking off to-do’s can make us feel like we’re being productive, this approach might actually hamper our long-term productivity.

See, when we’re robotically completing one task and moving onto the next, we can lose sight of the big picture. We don’t recognize trends or habits in our approach to these tasks, let alone stop to question how completing these tasks helps us fulfill our long-term goals.

Luckily, the bullet journal is far more than a to-do list. Big-picture reflection is baked into the system, thanks to monthly migration, the process of sifting through and evaluating everything you’ve logged for the month.

The key message is: Migrating tasks and events is key to finding your focus.

So how does the monthly migration work? At the end of each month, set up your log for the next month. Start by scanning through your stack, or the collections you’re currently using. You’ll probably find some unfinished tasks. There’s no shame in that! Now, consider each one. Is this task still vital or meaningful? If yes, migrate it to your new monthly log, a custom collection, or your future log. Perhaps the task no longer feels necessary. Great! You can simply cross it out.

Plan to do another migration at the end of your year of bullet journaling. This time, migrate from your old notebook to a new one. Your yearly migration is an opportunity for mindful reflection. When you look through your stack of collections after one year of journaling, you’ll get a snapshot of how you spent your time and energy in the previous 12 months.

Here’s where you’ll need to make some hard decisions. How does the “life snapshot” from your old bullet journal compare to the life you want? Have you spent too much time and energy on things that don’t give your life meaning? Think carefully about what tasks, habits, and experiences you want to try to bring with you into this fresh year – and which you’d prefer to leave behind.

When master martial artist Bruce Lee shared his formula for success, he advised: “Hack away the unessential.” With every migration, you’re following Lee’s advice by leaving behind what no longer serves you and getting closer to the core of what’s important.

Clarify and prioritize your goals to make them a reality.

Your bullet journal can help you achieve your goals. And goals are good! Setting and working toward a concrete goal can fill your life with purpose and meaning. Pursuing a goal can push you out of your comfort zone, opening you up to new experiences and perspectives.

But when our goals aren’t meaningful, we’re way less likely to achieve them.

So, how can we set sustainable, meaningful goals? And, equally important, how can we achieve those goals?

The key message is: Clarify and prioritize your goals to make them a reality.

Use your bullet journal to organize and clarify your goals by creating a goal collection. This is a page or two where you list your goals, no matter how big or small. Simply writing down your goals will help you transform them from vague desires and daydreams into concrete objectives.

Next, create a timeline for achieving them. Here’s a simple trick you can try: the 5-4-3-2-1 method. Go through your goals collection and identify goals you’d like to achieve in the next five years. Then, find goals you’d like to achieve in the next four months. Repeat the process for the next three weeks, two days, and finally, for the next one hour.

You might have a lot of goals at this point. So, it’s time to prioritize. Look through your 5-4-3-2-1 list and interrogate each goal one by one. Does this goal really resonate with you? Will achieving this goal be worth the time, effort, and resources you’ll need to complete it? Ideally, you should identify one personal and one professional goal in each of your timeframes. That’s ten goals in total.

Now, just because you’ve set your priorities doesn’t mean you have to stick to them at all costs. Particularly when it comes to long-term goals, it’s crucial to check in with yourself periodically and re-evaluate whether those goals still hold meaning.

One fun way to do this is a goal sprint: a method used to break a big-picture goal down into smaller components. Let’s say it's your goal to become a published author. Your sprint could be to write the first three chapters of a novel. By doing this, you’ll get to test whether your heart’s really in it and get a taste for the amount of work involved in reaching this goal.

Train yourself to be present through time-management strategies.

The universe is governed by certain spatio-temporal laws that can’t be bent or broken. One such law? There are only 24 hours in a day. There’s nothing you can do to change this simple objective fact.

But bujo can make you feel like you’re defying the laws of time. Time may be a finite resource, but our experience of time is relative. When we’re unfocused, simple tasks can take hours to complete. When we’re on autopilot, hours can slip by in what feels like minutes. But when we’re fully present, we can accomplish great things in a short amount of time.

The key message is: Train yourself to be present through time-management strategies.

Are there certain tasks that you dread? It’s easy to drag your feet over tedious to-do items. Before you know it, you’ve scrolled mindlessly online for five hours, all to avoid sending a five-minute email. Fight your procrastination with time-boxing. Don’t just write down a task; allot a chunk of time or a time box in which to complete it. Try to keep that time box short, too. You’ll be amazed how quickly you can find your focus when you only have 30 minutes to get something done. Break down larger tasks, like filing taxes, into smaller components, like gathering receipts or compiling expenses, and allot a short time box to each.

Another simple yet effective time-management strategy is scheduling. The order in which you tackle your tasks can seriously impact your success rate. Be honest: do you deal with the day’s most demanding or unappealing tasks first? Or do you create a false sense of productivity by front-loading your to-do list with easy and enjoyable tasks?

Don’t schedule your hardest task last. Your attention and motivation will be frayed by the time you tackle it – if you tackle it at all. Getting difficult jobs out of the way early and saving the fun stuff for afterward will make the rest of your day feel more manageable and more enjoyable.

Don’t just think about what you need to do. Make it a practice to consider when you need to do it and how long you should do it for. You’ll soon feel like you’ve found extra hours in the day.

There are no limits to your bullet journal’s potential.

You’re nearly finished with the blinks to The Bullet Journal Method. You’ve learned about collections, like your index and logs, and how to migrate important tasks. And you’ve picked up strategies, from goal sprints to time-boxing, to ensure that your to-do list turns into a to-done list. In short, you’ve nailed the basics of bujo!

But why stop at basic? Now it’s time for the fun part: experimenting with hacks, add-ons, and extra-credit activities that will take your bujo practice to the next level.

The key message is: There are no limits to your bullet journal’s potential.

Here are a few nifty ways you could consider customizing your bullet journal.

Your monthly and yearly migrations are a great opportunity to pause and reflect on your goals and take stock of the progress you’re making toward them. But if there’s something specific you’re working toward, daily habit tracking can help keep you on target.

Let’s say you’re trying to save money, so you’ve decided to bring a packed lunch to work. Add a column to your monthly log with an intuitive header, like “L” for lunch. Make a checkmark in the column each time you bring your own lunch. You’ll be able to see how well you’re meeting your goal. You’ll also be able to cross-check with other events to see how they impact on your goal. For example, you might notice that days when you stay late at the office are followed by days where you’re not motivated to pack your own lunch.

A bujo isn’t a traditional journal where you unpack your thoughts and feelings. But it can be! It’s easy to incorporate long-form journaling into your bujo practice. As you fill out your daily log, you may find there are some notes you’d like to think about further. Simply convert the dash symbol used before a note into a plus-sign symbol, signaling that this is a note you’d like to come back to and reflect on. When you have time – perhaps once a week – dig out those plus-sign notes and spend some time journaling about them.

These are just two of the ways you can customize your bullet journal. Hungry for more? Get involved in the bujo community through social media platforms like Instagram and Pinterest. There, you’ll find countless bujo fans sharing the inspiring ways they’ve personalized their own journals, through gratitude logs, custom calendars, and more.

Final summary

The key message in these blinks:

Using a bullet journal is a simple, streamlined, yet highly effective way to track your life and organize your time. What’s more, the bujo philosophy builds in moments of mindful reflection, designed to make sure your productivity is meaningful, not mindless.

Actionable advice:

Keep at it!

Some people take to bullet journaling immediately. Others find it hard to form a bujo habit, and feel their enthusiasm wane after a few days of journaling. Try not to give up until you’ve journalled for one month. Many bujo users report that their first monthly migration was the moment the method really clicked for them.

Got feedback?

We’d love to hear what you think about our content! Just drop an email to remember@blinkist.com with The Bullet Journal Method as the subject line and share your thoughts!

What to read next: The Happy Mind, by Kevin Horsley, Louis Fourie

After listening to our blinks for The Bullet Journal Method, you might be ready to grab a notebook and pen and start your bujo practice at once! Then again, you might be hungry to learn more about techniques that, like bujo, help you on the path to a more productive and fulfilling life. If that’s the case, then try the blinks to The Happy Mind by Kevin Horsley and Louis Fourie. They’ll walk you through the mistakes you may well be making in your search for happiness and teach you how to cultivate an authentically fulfilled life.

Subscribed - Why the Subscription Model Will Be Your Company’s Future

Subscribed

Why the Subscription Model Will Be Your Company’s Future – and What to Do About It

By Tien Tzuo with Gabe Weisert

Subscribed (2018) looks at a business model that’s currently enjoying unprecedented success around the globe: subscriptions. Whether it’s Netflix, Spotify or Uber, companies have realized that more and more people are interested in services rather than ownership – they want the ride rather than the car. It’s an insight that’s literally worth billions. But more than that, it’s the future. If you want to make it in today’s crowded marketplace, it pays to take a closer look at the phenomenon.

What’s in it for me? A scintillating study of subscription-based business models.

Business revolutions change the world. The division of labor that Adam Smith associated with pin factories shaped the industrial revolution, for example. And the technological progress of the twentieth century is barely conceivable without Henry Ford and the introduction of the assembly line.

Today, we’re in the midst of another great transformation. The business model of the future? Take a look at your browser history or the apps on your phone. The familiar names you’ll find there – Amazon, Spotify, Netflix – are the standard-bearers of a new way of doing business: the subscription model.

Its basic premise? People don’t care about owning things. They want services. As Tien Tzuo likes to say, it’s the milk rather than the cow that customers are really interested in.

This insight isn’t just worth a lot of money. The subscription ethos is transforming the very way we eat, travel, shop, watch movies, listen to music and – as you’ll know if you’re using this app – learn.

That means it’s well worth familiarizing yourself with this new economic landscape. Luckily, there’s a tour guide on hand whose entire career has been devoted to helping companies navigate its unfamiliar terrain.

In these blinks, you’ll learn

• how the data revolution fuels the subscription-based economy;

• why the internet of things is the next big thing for manufacturing; and

• how to start transitioning your company to a subscription model.

Ever more companies are moving to subscription models to reflect their customers’ changing needs.

In 2015, Tien Tzuo wrote an article for Fortune in which he argued that business school was a waste of time. His reasoning? You generally only learn one basic idea there: create a hit product and sell lots of it.

The world, he suggested, has changed and so have consumers. Nothing reflects this better than the rise of subscription-based business models.

So what’s so great about the subscription model?

Two points stand out – access and service.

Today, people are less interested in owning products. What they really want is to be able to use them. Cutting-edge companies don’t sell CDs or cars. Rather, they sell access to music or transport.

That’s what some of the world’s most successful businesses have common.

Take Spotify, Uber or Netflix. Customers don’t own the actual albums, vehicles or videos; they pay a subscription fee to access them whenever they need them.

People value services more than physical products. The music matters more than the silver disc on which it’s stored, just as getting from point A to point B is more important than the cumbersome machinery that makes the trip possible.

When companies focus on what their customers actually want and need, they’re much better placed to tailor their products to the people who buy them. And that means better service!

But it’s not just about riding the waves of changing tastes to gain a market advantage – it’s a case of sink or swim. Shifting to a customer-oriented subscription model is increasingly vital for a company to survive.

Only 12 percent of the companies in the 1955 Fortune 500 list – an index of the 500 most profitable companies in the United States – are still on it today. Those that remain are barely recognizable because of the major renovations they’ve undergone.

General Electric, for example, was ranked fourth in 1955 and thirteenth in 2017. In the mid-twentieth century, it was known as a manufacturer of light bulbs and fixtures. Today, most of its revenue is generated by digital subscription services, such as data services.

The same goes for IBM. The company rose from sixty-first in 1955 to thirty-second in 2017. The secret to its success? It went from selling commercial scales and measuring equipment to offering IT and business subscription services.

So what happened to the 88 percent of companies that didn’t make it into the new Fortune 500? Well, they couldn’t keep up with the pace of change. They just weren’t adaptable enough.

The video, music and even retail industries are already dominated by subscription services.

Companies like Netflix, Spotify and Amazon are ubiquitous today. In fact, it’s difficult to imagine what life was like before they arrived on the scene. Chances are, you have an account with at least one of them. So how did they come to exercise such an influential role in our lives?

Well, subscription access to music and video has grown enormously over the last few years.

The internet and the arrival of file-sharing sites like Napster kick-started that growth spurt around the turn of the millennium.

It was a panicky time for big film studios and record labels. Worried about having the rug pulled out from underneath them, they went on a legal offensive and tried to have their upstart competitors shuttered.

What they failed to notice, however, was the huge potential of this new market.

Start-ups were much quicker on the uptake. They calculated that if they found a way to enter this market, they’d be able to compete with and possibly even dominate established companies.

It was a savvy gamble. Netflix began streaming films in 2007. Over the next decade, it went from zero to 100 million subscribers! Today, around two-thirds of all Americans subscribe to video streaming services.

Spotify meanwhile went from zero to 500 million subscribers in under nine years. It now accounts for around 20 percent of global music industry revenue.

Big companies also failed to anticipate a side effect of the rise of streaming services: namely, that easy access to obscure music would actually boost retail sales and arrest a 15-year period of decline!

Subscription services have also changed the way people shop, thanks to ecommerce – another market that’s growing rapidly. Its annual expansion is estimated at around 15 percent and ecommerce now accounts for 13 percent of the total retail market.

That’s in contrast to just three percent annual growth for physical stores and the closure of 7,000 US stores in 2017 alone.

Commerce is increasingly taking place online. Amazon has over 90 million US Prime members – that’s just under half of all American households, adding up to $9 billion annually in subscription fees and $117 billion in sales!

What makes it all work is the advantage companies like Amazon have when it comes to data retention. Because they know what their customers buy, they can guess which other products they might like.

That means they can tailor their service to individuals and make shopping a much more personal experience.

The way people move around and get their news is being revolutionized.

Many of the industries currently being shaken up were built by executives who traveled in planes and trains with newspapers in their hands. In this blink, we’ll take a look at how those two markets – travel and news – are being revolutionized by subscription models.

Let’s start with transport, an industry that’s already been partially transformed.

The obvious examples of that change are ride-sharing companies like Uber and Lyft.

Their rapid expansion means that they already serve over 60 million riders, radically undercutting many Americans’ need to own a car.

In fact, the number of Americans aged 20–24 with a driver’s license dropped from 92 percent in 1983 to 77 percent in 2014!

Those inclined to drive themselves can meanwhile enjoy the services of high-end carmakers like Porsche, which provides access to a range of cars for around $2,000 a month.

Surf Air is also mixing things up in the aviation industry. For a monthly fee, members can take an unlimited number of flights on its private jets. That doesn’t just cut out a lot of wasted time in airports; it’s also much more flexible.

Even better from the company’s point of view is the fact that, unlike most airlines, they know in advance how much money they’ll be making in a given month, allowing for smarter scheduling.

So how about newspapers?

Well, the digital revolution has well and truly arrived.

Early fears that the internet would kill off established outlets were wide of the mark. A recent study shows that over 169 million Americans still read a newspaper every month. That accounts for almost 70 percent of all adults in the country!

Young people are also increasingly likely to subscribe to online news services. Whereas just 4 percent of Americans aged 20–24 were subscribers in 2016, 18 percent were in 2017.

The reason newspapers are thriving in the digital age is simple. People might love free content but they don’t love the endless churn of clickbait put out by ad-driven outlets like BuzzFeed.

Newspapers, on the other hand, have retained their famous ability to inspire reader loyalty. They literally invented the subscription model back in their infancy, and what was true then is still true now: people would rather pay for quality than rely on shoddy free content.

Newspapers have also realized the benefits of flexibility that online formats offer.

Take the Brexit referendum weekend, during which the Financial Times dropped its paywall but clearly advertised its various subscription deals. The result? A 600-percent surge in digital subscription sales!

Tech companies took a hit after shifting to subscription models, but it paid off, and manufacturing is next.

So shifting to a subscription model has clear benefits but the payoff isn’t immediate. In fact, the process can be a painful one. To get through it, companies often have to follow Adobe’s lead and learn to swallow the fish.

Before we unpack that odd-sounding concept, let’s rewind to 2011.

That was the year Adobe decided to stop selling its software in the form of a physical product and switch to an online “Software-as-a-Service,” or SaaS, model.

It was a great move that opened up a new digital market, but there was a catch. The transition would require a period of decline, since subscription revenues were deferred for at least one year.

That’s known as a fish. It’s essentially a span of time during which costs increase and revenue decreases. Plotted out on a graph, those two curves give you the outline of a fish as the revenue curve dips below the expenses curve before climbing back up again.

As Adobe had forecast, stocks initially plummeted before slowly recovering. The long-term gains, however, were massive – it successfully swallowed the fish.

By 2014, Adobe Creative Cloud had been transformed. Whereas it had initially been a product almost exclusively sold in a physical format, it was now a product almost entirely bought in the form of subscriptions.

The company’s balance sheet doesn’t look too bad these days, either. Adobe stocks, valued at $25 in 2011, are at $195 at the time of writing and the price is rising by an astonishing 25 percent every year!

Tech companies led the way in embracing new business models. Today, it’s manufacturing’s turn.

That’s a scary prospect in many ways. After all, manufacturing industries are keen to avoid any further decline.

That said, manufacturing is still a huge industry. If the American manufacturing industry were a country, for example, it’d be the world’s ninth-largest economy!

So what will the coming revolution in this sector look like?

That’s where the Internet of Things, or IoT for short, comes in. Thousands of manufacturers have already invested in embedding their products on the internet by installing sensors and connectivity features in them.

It’s estimated that by 2020, there’ll be billions of smart cars, smart watches and even smart clothes capable of digitally monitoring performance and efficiency as well as managing information flows.

All that data can be analyzed and used to provide improvements for customers on a subscription basis.

That means the IoT has the potential to become the ultimate as-a-service business, with suppliers continually monitoring and updating their products in real time!

Innovation isn’t about creating new products anymore; it’s about tailoring services to customers’ needs.

So far we’ve been mostly looking at the way markets have adopted subscription services. In this blink, we’ll take a closer look at the ways the new business model is affecting actual companies.

Let’s start with innovation.

Traditionally, innovation is a linear process that begins with research and runs through to design and manufacture.

In that model, product managers, manufacturers, designers and engineers all share a joint responsibility: creating new products and getting them onto the market.

The product, in other words, moves in a straight line from an initial idea to its eventual release. At that point, the market decides its fate. If it’s successful, it sells; if it flops, it’s scrapped. Once it leaves the factory, there’s no further development.

Subscription-based models turn that on its head. Innovation, here, is all about continuous growth and tinkering. As far as companies that adopt the model are concerned, there’s no such thing as a “finished” product.

Industry insiders call that agile development.

The concept was coined in 2001 when a group of developers published the Manifesto for Agile Software Development.

It called for greater customer collaboration, functional software, the prioritization of customer needs over IT procedures and increased responsiveness to changes rather than rigid adherence to plans.

What that all boils down to is the notion that a product should change with a customer’s needs. That kind of adaptability is made possible by the constant stream of customer data provided by subscription models.

Take Google’s Gmail service, which kept the word “beta” in its logo for five years after its launch in 2004 – a reminder that the product’s designers were constantly working on improving it.

That was the company’s way of saying that its product wouldn’t ever really be “finished” because its customers’ needs were always changing.

That idea was given an interesting spin by musician Kanye West in 2016, the year he finished his album The Life of Pablo.

The record was officially released on February 14, but West continued working on the track order and even changed various lyrics to reflect his fans’ feedback.

Some rap enthusiasts might have found that confusing and annoying, but it was a true innovation – West had in effect created the first SaaS album in existence!

Subscription models have changed the traditional components of successful marketing.

“Marketing” – it’s a word that brings to mind things like Mad Men’s Don Draper, infectious jingles and massive billboards. But what’s its role in subscription-based models?

Well, to understand that you need to look at traditional marketing, which is all about the “four Ps” and “push and pull” factors.

Let’s start with the four Ps. They stand for product, price, promotion and place. Put differently, it’s about making something people want, making it competitive yet profitable, advertising it intelligently and selling it in the right places.

Promotion and place are usually understood in terms of push-and-pull factors.

You can push products through various channels to try to get customers to buy yours rather than those of a competitor – think paid product placements and sales commissions.

Pulling customers in, by contrast, is the job of advertising. When you do it well, customers go out of their way to find your product rather than those of your rivals.

But this classic model changes when you substitute “subscriptions” for “product.” The other three Ps also change.

Take place. Because place usually means a third-party retailer, there’s a disconnect between the producer and the customer.

But in the subscription model, customer service is crucial, so that gap must be bridged. The engineering software company Autodesk, for example, taught their retailers to also offer a service in the shape of an annual maintenance plan based on data the firm had collected from its customers.

Promotion, meanwhile, is less about straight-up advertising and more about storytelling in the subscription model.

The author’s company Zuora puts this into effect by focusing on a how, a who and a why – the product, its market and the reason it exists in the first place. Its “product” is helping companies transition to a subscription-model, their market is any company looking to do so and their reason for being is the notable trend towards subscription economies.

Finally, there’s pricing. The idea here isn’t to maximize profits by sinking manufacturing costs but to introduce a multi-tiered system, where prices go up according to the level of service offered.

That’s what companies like Dropbox or Spotify do when they charge users more for extra storage or upgrades to a premium service.

The new sales ethos is strategic and emphasizes building stable relationships with subscribers.

Sales teams sometimes get a bad rap because of their tendency to prioritize selling products rather than caring for the customer’s experience.

That attitude can lead to all sorts of problems down the road. When customers end up with broken or malfunctioning goods, there’s no one to turn to because the company already got what it wanted – their money.

Subscription-based firms take a different approach. Their ethos is built around maintaining stable relationships with their subscribers.

The best way of doing that is to highlight the concept of growth and tell customers that they’re entering a contract in which the company’s service will be constantly improving.

After all, you can’t just take the money and run when you’ve signed a contract with subscribers! If you want to maintain your business, you have to make sure you’re keeping your customers happy.

Zuora has identified several canny sales strategies that help them maintain long-lasting relationships with their subscribers. These focus on acquiring the initial customers, reducing the churn rate, increasing value through upselling and cross-selling and going international.

Let’s look at those in a bit more detail.

Your initial customers are vital because this is the group by which future subscribers will judge you. Get the right people in early and you’ll be much more likely to corner the market you’re targeting.

A company’s churn rate is the rate at which it loses subscribers. The best way of keeping it down is to chase the right kind of users rather than trying to trap people into signing lengthy contracts for services they don’t really need.

Upselling is a strategy to sell more-expensive high-end services. Cross-selling is about offering better solutions to a range of actual user problems to retain existing customers.

Going international is pretty self-explanatory. And in today’s globalized world, it’s easier than ever. But it’s also vital. If you don’t move into a new market quickly, you can be sure another company will spring up and claim your potential subscribers.

Of course, you can’t pursue all of these strategies simultaneously. But a healthy company will constantly be working on at least two or three of them to maintain its growth.

Traditional bookkeeping isn’t well-suited to estimating the real potential of subscription services.

The author remembers giving an enthusiastic presentation of his company’s annual-growth forecast in the early days of Zuora but getting a markedly cold response. The profit projections, his audience told him, just weren’t impressive enough.

But the problem wasn’t the company’s figures; it was traditional bookkeeping.

Classic bookkeeping methods balance credits against debits. That doesn’t work, however, when it comes to forward-looking revenues.

The old-school approach is known as double-entry bookkeeping. The idea is to ensure that there’s a corresponding credit for every debit. Do that, the thinking goes, and you’ll end up with a simple overview of revenue, outgoings and the amount that’s left in the bank.

Applying that to subscription services is misleading. After all, they make their money on recurring and future income. Traditional methods can make a healthy company look like its spending a lot more than its taking in.

The author and his CFO devised a new system to give a more realistic overview of Zuora’s finances based on annual recurring revenue, or ARR for short.

Here’s how it works. You start with the money you make from subscriptions annually (your gross ARR) and subtract your churn – losses from forfeited subscriptions. What you’re left with is your net ARR.

The next step is to deduct recurring costs like administrative fees and various overheads. That gives you your recurring profit.

But here’s where it gets interesting.

Sales and marketing costs come out of the recurring profit, but they are also added to future revenues. That’s because they’re spent on growth, so they will help increase the ARR for the next period. In other words, in this model, they are actually counted directly as future income.

Adding it to your net ARR gives you the gross ARR for the next period.

Since a lot of the recurring profit is spent on growth, it can look like there’s hardly any profit in most subscription companies, but when the ARR grows, the budget does, too – and growth is the most important thing for subscription companies!

Old IT solutions might have worked in the past, but they look positively clunky in the era of subscription services.

Most businesses treat their IT departments like engine rooms. It’s the place that keeps the operation running smoothly, improves efficiency and generally ensures that everything is ticking along.

But that’s changing. The old engines just aren’t fit for today’s purposes.

For a while, most IT departments managed to keep up when everything became cloud-based and external. They used marketing, management and even filing apps from other software providers to make it work.

But such stopgaps rely on counting units of production, from factory to customer, rather than subscribers that can’t be pigeonholed into a single system.

And that leads to major problems.

Editing subscriber experience, for example, becomes a major headache since it requires recoding multiple systems to handle a huge number of potential needs. The result? A messy web of hacks and shortcuts.

IT departments also find it virtually impossible to glean useful insights about businesses as a whole. That’s hardly surprising given that they’d need to gather large amounts of data from different systems that were never designed for compatibility.

Subscription services, therefore, require much more dynamic data systems, to match their own dynamism. A subscription-based business model is constantly running through a cycle of renewals, suspensions, upgrades and downgrades, and it needs a system capable of handling all that at once.

Say a customer hits a usage threshold. There needs to be a mechanism in place that automatically triggers a usage check and then prompts the customer to upgrade to a new tier.

The same applies if a subscriber is abroad: the system needs to register this and enable roaming services and connected costs.

IT, in other words, needs to focus on much more than how many products have been sold. It needs to keep an eye on multiple subscriber behaviors and respond appropriately and efficiently.

Transform your business into a successful customer-oriented service by using the PADRE system.

By now, you might be wondering how to start transforming your business into a successful customer-oriented subscription service. A good place to look for advice is Zuora. Realizing that the concept was far easier to grasp than it was to implement, the company came up with its own system to help manage the transition: PADRE.

PADRE is a way of visualizing the business with the customer experience always in mind, and it stands for pipeline, acquire, deploy, run and expand. Let’s take a closer look at what each component actually means.

Pipeline is the first step. It’s about raising awareness about your company and turning it into demand by marketing your product.

Next up: acquire. That’s the customer’s journey toward taking out a subscription. Your focus here should be on understanding your customers’ needs to ensure they complete the transaction.

Then comes deploy. This is about getting your customer set up with your service as quickly and efficiently as possible. If you take too long doing that, you risk people drifting away from your business.

Next comes run. This step focuses on the day-to-day running of your service and reacting quickly to the changing ways your subscribers are using it.

The next thing you’ll need to do is expand. That’s basically about innovation – retaining subscribers through growth and functionality. Subscribers appreciate new developments like UberPool, or the ability to use Spotify on their Sonos speakers.

In addition to the PADRE model, there are three other factors you’ll need to consider: people, product and money, or PPM for short.

To thrive, you’ll need to keep your customers satisfied. And to do that, you’ll need to staff your company with top talent. That’s the first P.

The second P is simple. Your product needs to keep improving to ensure that your customers’ needs are being met in the best possible way.

And, like any other business, you’ll need to allocate your resources efficiently and effectively. That’s the M.

Successfully implementing PADRE requires cross-functional coordination. Everyone needs to pull together to make it work. But when it works, it actually boosts coordination because departments all know how their own work feeds into the PADRE system. That’s great for problem-solving.

Problems in one area can be resolved by outsourcing the task of finding a solution to other departments because everyone is using the common language of PADRE. Look at Zuora itself, where an issue with “deployment” taking too long was solved by several departments: sales realized they were setting expectations too high, engineering began streamlining the deployment processes and customer support started gathering customer feedback to continue improving the experience.

Final summary

The key message in these blinks:

The internet is changing how people connect with companies and access products. Subscription-based business models are shaking up virtually every industry. If you want to make the shift to a subscription model, it’s a good idea to understand the shortcomings of traditional innovation, marketing, sales, finance and IT strategies. Do that while implementing systems like those used by the author’s own company and you’ll be set for success.

Actionable advice:

Start with the customer.

It might not be easy, but it’s vital to ensure that every business decision you’re making works backward from what your customer wants. It shouldn’t merely be what’s easiest or cheapest for you. Keep your customers happy by providing a solid service and you’re bound to retain their subscription and value.

Got feedback?

We’d sure love to hear what you think about our content! Just drop an email to remember@blinkist.com with the title of this book as the subject line and share your thoughts!

Suggested

further

reading: The Membership Economy by Robbie Kellman Baxter

Today, ownership is out. Consumer trends show that more and more consumers want temporary access, not permanent ownership. And within this changing landscape, membership-oriented businesses are king. The Membership Economy (2015) outlines key strategies and tactics based on real-world examples for successfully building a membership organization.

Made to Stick - Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die

Made to Stick

Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die

By Chip Heath and Dan Heath

Made to Stick explains why some ideas become popular, while others wither and die.

The book lays out the most important characteristics of “stickiness”; that is, what makes ideas “stick” in the mind, and how to make them work for you.

Every idea can be presented so that it sticks.

Great ideas aren’t always successful. Often, even magnificent insights go unrewarded and wind up gathering dust in file cabinets.

At the same time, far less worthy ideas like rumors and urban legends spread like wildfire.

Take, for example, the panic in America regarding adulterated Halloween candy. Millions of parents worried that unknown villains were giving their children candy laced with poison or razor blades.

What they didn’t know was that the story was a baseless urban myth.

But why do stories like this spread so quickly? And why are they so hard to stamp out?

Quite simply, they share two key qualities: they are memorable and people are eager to pass them onward.

By taking advantage of these two principles, any idea can be designed so that it’s sticky and popular.

A few years ago in America, certain health groups wanted to raise awareness of the fact that movie popcorn – at the time prepared with coconut oil – contained extraordinarily high amounts of saturated fat, making it extremely unhealthy.

Simply telling consumers that a bag of popcorn contained 37 g of saturated fat proved ineffective – the number was too dry and academic to stick in people’s minds.

So they tried something stickier:

“A medium-sized ‘butter’ popcorn at a typical neighborhood movie theatre contains more artery-clogging fat than a bacon-and-eggs breakfast, a Big Mac and fries for lunch, and a steak dinner with all the trimmings – combined!”

This vivid message stuck, spread, and eventually led to the replacement of coconut oil with healthier alternatives by all major American cinema chains.

A sticky idea must be simple.

It’s tempting to try to explain an idea as thoroughly as possible. But, when it comes to stickiness, too much detail is counterproductive.

Instead, cut the idea down to just one simple statement; any more detail will be instantly forgotten, along with the key idea behind it all. A simple statement makes an idea easier to grasp and understand.

This doesn’t mean an idea should be dumbed down unnecessarily – the art of simplifying is to encapsulate the core idea in terms that anyone can understand, without changing the meaning. Although this can be surprisingly tricky, it makes for sticky ideas.

Journalists have to master this skill to come up with good headlines that grab readers’ attention and convey the meaning of an entire article in just a few words. Journalists know a bad headline can prevent a great article from getting the attention it deserves.

A great example from the business world is Southwest Airlines’ slogan “THE Low Fare Airline.”

A catchy statement like this will stick. A complex comparative breakdown of their prices would be instantly forgotten and fail to make an impression.

A sticky idea must be unexpected.

The brain likes to save energy by running on autopilot whenever possible. This means it allows information to just whizz past unremembered. It does this by subconsciously paying no attention to familiar or expected things.

When confronted with the unexpected, however, the brain jolts out of autopilot and into manual control; the unexpected receives our full attention.

Imagine a flight attendant giving the standard pre-flight safety demonstration. The frequent flyers on board know the script inside out and pay absolutely no attention. But if she were to suddenly break from the normal briefing and declare that “Whilst there may be 50 ways to leave your lover, there’s only one way off this plane”, she’d have everyone on board listening.

It’s surprising just how quickly people come to ignore routine things. By presenting an idea in an unexpected or striking way, it gets the attention it deserves.

Curiosity gaps help make an idea stick.

The two main challenges in spreading an idea are getting people’s attention and holding it. Making use of curiosity gaps can help to overcome both these obstacles.

People allow themselves to go through everyday life on autopilot because they believe, to some extent, that they know pretty much everything they need to know to get them through the day.

The most effective way to grab someone’s attention is to show that there’s something important they don’t know – yet. This immediately jolts them out of autopilot by creating curiosity gaps – empty spaces in people’s understanding that they feel a compulsive need to fill, even if they previously weren’t interested in the subject.

Detective novels are the perfect example of this, using tantalizing clues and red herrings to keep the reader guessing “whodunit?” The curiosity gap technique is so successful that celebrity gossip magazines often use it several times on the front page; it’s proven to boost sales.

This is because the only way to satisfy the urge to fill the curiosity gap is by reading the rest of the story.

Curiosity gaps can only be created by something unexpected. Surprising facts and figures are great for this and are therefore a strong way of opening a successful pitch or presentation for any idea. For instance, “Why do 40 percent of our customers make up only 10 percent of our total sales?” immediately sticks in the audience’s mind and makes them want to hear more about the main idea.

Sticky ideas are concrete and descriptive.

People tend to express themselves in an abstract manner. The more we know about a subject, the more we couch explanations in abstract terms.

This is mainly because most people find it hard to put themselves in the listener’s shoes, or to ask themselves, “How does what I say sound to the other person?”

Here’s a classical experiment demonstrating this effect: a subject was instructed to tap out the tune of a given song (e.g., Jingle Bells) on a table with their fingers, whilst another subject listened and tried to guess the name of the song.

Although the listener heard only the taps on the table, the tapper also heard the melody in their head. Because of this, the tappers estimated that the listeners, on average, had been able to correctly guess the song 50 percent of the time, whereas the real figure was only 2.5 percent.

The problem is, people tend to forget that not everyone knows as much about a subject as they do, whether it’s a tune in their head or the details of an idea.

The same effect applies to verbal communication; abstract terms convey the message about as well as tapping on a table conveys a melody. Only by using concrete, understandable terms can we be sure that the message will be understood.

At the same time, it’s often helpful to give examples or use descriptive imagery to help convey a point.

Concrete, visually-descriptive expressions aren’t just easier to understand, they stick.

Concreteness means avoiding unnecessary jargon when speaking about real people or events. The retail worker hasn’t just “delivered outstanding customer service”; they’ve given a customer a refund on a shirt even though it was bought at another branch of the store.

The fox hasn’t “altered his tastes to suit his means”; he’s convinced himself that the grapes he can’t reach are too sour.

The more concrete and better described an idea is, the more likely it will stick and be passed on.

A sticky idea must be credible.

In general, ideas only spread if they are believed; otherwise they are immediately dismissed out of hand.

Credibility can be gained in several ways.

One tried-and-tested method is to have experts back a story up. An expert doesn’t necessarily have to be a doctor in a white lab coat – take, for example, the anti-smoking campaign which featured a woman in her late twenties who had smoked since the age of ten. Now facing her second lung transplant, she looked like a frail, elderly woman. Her appearance itself added credibility to her story.

People trust stories told by real, trustworthy people.

Another way of adding credibility to a story is to use realistic facts and figures to illustrate the point – but only if they paint a concrete, non-abstract picture. Over-reliance on statistics is a common and confusing mistake.

An example of effective use of statistics is the anti-war campaign that claims the world’s combined current nuclear arsenal has five thousand times the explosive power of the bomb that destroyed Hiroshima. This gives the audience a common reference point (the imagery of the destruction at Hiroshima) and challenges them to imagine five thousand times that force. As this is essentially incomprehensible, it underlines their key idea: that nuclear proliferation has gone too far.

As an added bonus, the audience now has a ready-made statistic to use to pass the message on to others.

Using the audience itself as a reference is particularly good at bestowing credibility. Ronald Reagan’s electoral slogan directly addressed voters: “Ask yourself, are you better off now than you were four years ago?”

People often trust their own judgment more than they do an expert’s, so if the audience can personally verify your message, it is particularly credible.

Emotional appeals inspire people to action.

To get people to donate to aid appeals for starving African children, there are two possible approaches:

Either present facts and figures that powerfully demonstrate just how many millions of children are starving and how many die every day, or show a picture of just one child in need who could be saved by a donation.

The first approach appeals to the analytical part of the mind. If the statistics are credible, we consider them but probably won’t take any action.

The second approach appeals directly to our emotions. We find it just as credible as the first approach – after all, we can see with our own eyes a human being who is clearly starving – but more importantly, it inspires us to take action.

This is because emotions are the main driving force behind human behavior, rather than reason and statistics.

So, if the aim is to get people to take action, the message needs to appeal directly to the emotions. An anti-smoking campaign will make a bigger impact if it shows pictures of people whose lives and bodies have been destroyed by cigarettes; these types of pictures move the audience, whereas facts and figures barely have any emotional effect.

Focus on emotional triggers rather than dry facts when presenting an idea.

Appeals to action are most effective if there’s something in it for the audience.

Emotional appeals work because people are more interested in other people than in facts and figures.

But people are most interested in one person in particular: themselves.

Before going out of their way to do something, people always ask, “What’s in it for me?” So an appeal will be most successful if it can demonstrate that there’s something in it for the audience.

To capitalize on this, a company shouldn’t just list the features of, say, its new TV; it should show customers how these features could benefit them personally.

The customer needs to be able to see themselves, in their mind’s eye, sitting on the sofa at home, enjoying the benefits of these great new features.

This mindset was applied in a campaign in Texas aiming to discourage young people from littering. It coined the phrase, “Don’t mess with Texas,” and had it read out by Texan celebrities and athletes from local sports teams that the young Texans could identify with.

The “What’s in it for me?” in this case was for the young people to feel connected with their role models through their behavior. The campaign made them think, “Real Texans like me don’t leave litter on the sidewalk.”

Ideas stick best when they’re told as stories.

A story is like a flight simulator for the brain. It allows us to get inside the action and anticipate how we might react in the same situation.

Often when trying to spread an idea, people make the crucial mistake of getting rid of the story behind it in favor of an empty slogan.

While slogans can be useful at getting an idea to stick, they’re not very useful at inspiring people to take action. This is where stories and examples are most effective.

For example, the fast food chain Subway profited immensely from the true story of Jared Fogle; a seriously overweight man who managed to slim down to a healthy weight with a simple diet of two Subway meals per day.

No slogan in the world can match a story like this.

Almost all good stories follow one of a few recurring patterns.

A typical example is the challenge, in which a “David” takes on a “Goliath”. Stories like these inspire a lot of people to take action, following “David’s” example.

Another common pattern is reaching out, in which a “Good Samaritan” helps a complete stranger in need. This type of story is particularly good at inspiring better social behavior.

Stories about creativity, such as the apple falling on Newton’s head and inspiring his theory of gravity, encourage people to see the world from a new perspective or think outside the box.

Final summary

The key message in this book is that every idea can be presented so that it sticks. Successful stories, advertising campaigns and ideas that stick generally share recognizable characteristics that can be summed up in the mnemonic SUCCESs.

Simple – find the core of any idea

Unexpected – grab people's attention by surprising them

Concrete – make sure an idea can be grasped and remembered later

Credible – give an idea believability

Emotional – help people see the importance of an idea

Story – empower people to use an idea through narrative

The formula for sticky ideas is SUCCESs.

Suggested further reading: Duct Tape Marketing by John Jantsch

Duct Tape Marketing outlines the most essential facts about effective marketing for your small business. It explains what techniques really work and how you can build a marketing campaign that will not only bring in customers but keep them and have them spread the word to their friends, too.