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2011/09/21

How to Plan Anything (Dynamically)

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In my earlier post, I shared a little about dynamic planning, this post will address how to go about planning anything, dynamically. Whatever you are planning towards (How to bring in more money, how to be more positive, how to be happier, etc.), these few effective tips can be your general blueprint in planning to achieve those goals without letting any change of plans delay you.

#1 What are you planning for?

The first thing to do is to always state your goal – define it and visualize it. Stating and defining your goals can be difficult if you haven’t figure out what you want. So start with that; Stephen Covey would say “Begin with the end in mind”. This is what you are planning toward.

What do you really want? What are you trying to achieve? What’s the meaning of having/achieving it? Why do you want it? Why does it matter?

If you cannot answer the questions above, you will never achieve your goals. You will quit at the first signs of hardship because achieving it may not mean much at all; You will throw in the towel when you don’t succeed at the first attempt because you don’t know why you even want it; You will give up after several more attempts because you think it does not matter anyway.

On the other hand, if your goal is crystal clear and you know the precise answer to the aforementioned questions, you are ready to proceed. Remember, know what you want and why you want it.

#2 What’s the first strategy that comes to mind?

Most of the time, when planning to achieve what you set out for, your mind auto-suggests several methods that you’re most keen on trying. Go for that; get a clear grasp of the idea and dive right into implementation. Don’t over-think, just do. Don’t worry too much about the details because you’ll sharpen it along the way, bear in mind that the plan will change in the long run so there’s no need to get fussy.

And if you’re saying, “Hey, that’s just pure impulse, we must think before we act” – Correct; we must think before we act, but who says you haven’t thought about it? You have, you’re just not aware that you had thought about it.

This first thing that comes to your mind is not something that sprung up coincidentally. It was produced by your sub-conscious mind; an idea buried deep in the back of your head that was suddenly shoved into your conscious mind. What most people don’t realize is that a subconscious decision has been made.

Inspirations happen this way. Ideas happen this way. Even the law of attraction happens this way. You know a lot of things, but you can’t be aware of all the things you know at the same time. Your subconscious mind digests the vast subconscious information you didn’t know you had, and passed on the final suggestion to the conscious mind.

#3 Take action and continue taking action.

Execution is always important. What most people believe is that planning is thinking, WRONG! Planning is not purely thinking, planning is both thinking and doing. If you believe that planning is thinking and not doing, you’ll continue to plan, plan, plan, and at the end of the day you’ll simply fail to take action and your goals will simply not be achieved.

On the contrary, I’m not saying that thinking is not important, but it is only as important as taking action. If you find that you’re thinking more than you’re actually doing, then you aren’t actually going anywhere (even if you think you are). The purpose of having a plan is to take action according to the plan, so ultimately the execution part is vital; more importantly, the persistence of execution in the face of failure.

When results produced are less than expected, it forces you think that you’ve taken the wrong actions or that your actions weren’t good enough. You would quickly come to the conclusion that you didn’t put enough thought into your actions and you’ll start shifting into analysis mode (where you are convinced that there is a flaw in the plan that needs to be fixed before you take another step).
If you break out of this, chances are you’ll move along to the next stage of the plan just fine. But if you’re stuck here, you might quit or give up altogether. Planning demands constant thinking and doing at the same time. You need to dig for more information before making decisions; you need tools to get you going; you need

Persistence plays an important role in getting you out of any failure and moving on toward your goals. Here’s a comprehensive guide on Persistence should you need it.

#4 Reflect from time to time.

When you start changing plans, you start taking actions in accordance to the change of plans. From time to time, it would be wise to reflect upon the changes in the plan you have made. Take some time to evaluate the effectiveness of your plan.

Where were you just several weeks or several months ago? And where are you now?

Did any real progress take place?

Has the plan changed?

Are you satisfied with where you are currently and why?

This is also the time to determine if the plan has been changing for the better or for the worse. Often, a large goal comprise of several smaller but integral objectives. Meet all the objectives and you would’ve achieved the goal. As your plans and actions change, has more objectives been met? Or have you actually wandered further away from the objectives?

Reflection is the pivotal point between changing plans. Know the full purpose of changing plans; why you are doing it, what it will achieve or how it is expected to help ease you closer toward realizing your goals. If the change of plan does not serve a purpose, then why change? If there is a purpose but the change of plan does not serve its purpose, know what you want to do next: change the plan (again) or change the implementation of the plan?

#5 Improvise when there’s an opportunity.

Most people only improvise their plan when the need arises. If they find that their plan is working fine, they would rarely change plans. If your goal is to be more positive for instance, and your strategy of using positive affirmations seems to be working fine, you may well believe it will keep you within your zone of positivity for the long-term – i.e. no need to improvise.

But when the time comes when positive affirmations are no longer effective, what will happen? Will you change plans i.e. change strategies and take a different approach towards adopting a positive mindset?

If you were weaker, you might just get negative. However, I’m not saying that you’ll stay negative forever; you could still come back to a positive state, but then you’ll pretty much be bouncing back and forth without ever landing on the positive side indefinitely. The goal of being positive then slowly ceases to be a goal altogether because there wasn’t a dynamic plan that seeks out improvisation opportunities to begin with. You start off good, but it just didn’t follow through as good.

Had you started off with a sound strategy and continued to improvise them as you meet new opportunities, you may have accumulated an arsenal of other positive strategies such as adopting an attitude of gratitude, reframing your perception, positive mental rehearsal, etc. Be a student of your passion or goal; the student that continuously learn new things about their own goals until they are the master of their goals.

Closing Notes:

To summarize the entire article, planning starts with a goal – state it. Know what you want and why you want it. Next, let the first idea flow to you seamlessly and use it. Details do not matter at this point of time; you can make a mental note to tweak certain important details later on. Take action and ensure that you persist toward the achievement of your goals. If your plans are still not working, reflect. Have you been making or faking progress? Are you on the right track? Whether the plan is effective or not, always seek opportunities that can improvise your plan.

“If you fail to plan, you plan to fail.” That may sound cliché, but it doesn’t make it any less true.

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2011/09/09

How to Stop Procrastinating

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Everyone knows the danger of procrastination. We've all heard it before; if we don’t stop procrastinating, sooner or later we’ll turn everything into "tomorrow’s task" and it will continue indefinitely until it's completely forgotten and forsaken in the end.

This post is for the lazy people out there like me who finally realize that there is a dire need to stop procrastinating once and for all, or live an eternal life as an under-achiever, but who are still having trouble taking action. These few steps will help you move away from procrastination and make progress towards taking action.

#1 Make it a conscious choice.

Are you procrastinating consciously or subconsciously? If you are doing it subconsciously, it has become your habit already; your everyday life is an adaptation of Bruno Mars’ lazy song – not good. What you need to do: Make procrastination your conscious choice.

Make your decisions in advance, well before it is time to do it. For example: Remind yourself that you’ll need to do what-you-need-to-do in 5 hour’s time (or in a day’s time, etc.), then ask yourself if you would like to just go ahead and do it at the intended time, or would you prefer to delay it to a later date or time.

If you want to choose to postpone, go ahead. I’m not saying it’s wise to choose to procrastinate, but it is wiser to choose consciously than to succumb helplessly to it. This way, you’re at least fully aware that you’re doing it out of your own freedom of choice, and just as easily, you can choose consciously NOT to procrastinate (when you're ready).

#2 Eliminate excuses.

If you are constantly putting things off because you have an endless list of excuses, then you need to raise your level of consciousness in order to adopt a behavior that accepts only sensible reasons as the cause of your decision in procrastinating, and not let mindless excuses dictate your decision.

You may think it’s not as important as it seems so you could just delay, but do you really have something else more important to do right now? I bet you don’t. Use your reason in determining what is more important and focus your attention on it; everything else is a distraction.

You may think it’s not worth the trouble to do it immediately, so therefore you choose to postpone. But will postponing be worth it? i.e. If you procrastinate, will the troubles that is created from procrastination itself be worth it? At best you’ll delay it to a later date, but you’ll still have to deal with it anyway; at worst you’ll never achieve anything and be a failure for life. So is procrastinating really worth it?

#3 Shift your mindset.

When you’re negative, it’s easy to procrastinate. Everything is perceived in a negative light; outstanding outcomes are seen as mediocre results; wonderful opportunities are seen as deadly threats, and just about all good things are seen as nothing, and nothings seen as bad things. All these can lead to procrastination.

Shift your perspective and change your mindset. Be positive, not the "Oh… everything’s so wonderful, life’s so beautiful" kind of ignorant positivity, just the kind that decides to look past negativity and take action. "An ounce of action is worth a ton of theory." -- Ralph Waldo Emerson.

Don’t think what you’re going to succeed? Don’t think it’ll be worth it? Don’t feel like doing it? Do it first, think about all that later. You can’t be sure it’s impossible until you take the first step, you can’t be sure that you’ll fail until you make an attempt, you can’t be sure it’s not worth it until you try it, and you can’t be sure you won’t like it until you do it.

#4 Determine what needs to be done.

When you don’t know what to do, it’s easy to put it off. It can be like, "I want to start a new project that can supplement my existing income" or "I want to get out of debt and stay out of debt" but I don’t know what to do so I’m not going to do anything until I know what to do.

Do you see the problem?

You don’t know what to do so you don’t do anything. But if you don’t do anything, you’re never going to know what to do - it’s an endless loop of doom. Don’t trap yourself in that. In this situation, instead of putting them off, you should get busy and do everything it takes to find out what needs to be done so you can get to where you want to be.

Instead of thinking "I don’t know how to do this", start thinking "Where can I learn how to do this?". In the process of learning and determining what needs to be done, it is a ‘do’ in itself and you’re no longer procrastinating.

A word of caution: Don’t go bonkers trying to determine what needs to be done. As mentioned previously in my planning post: Whatever your plans are, it will need to be dynamic to work so forget the details, just layout a general direction and proceed to the next step.

#5 Take action.

You know this, I know this, we all know this. As soon as we start taking action, we stop procrastinating. The first 4 steps gear you towards taking action, and this step is the crucial one – it all boils down to whether you take action or not. Sad but true, many fail here; even the smartest, brightest and those with much potential for success can fail because they didn’t take action.

The chain of preparation has led you from choosing consciously NOT to procrastinate, to the elimination of all excuses, to the shifting of your mindset to a "do-first-and-we’ll-see-what-happens-later" attitude and down to determining what needs to be done. There’s simply no need to think anymore at this point; just ride the wave, work your muscles and do what you need to do.

• Start now, not later
• Do it immediately, not afterwards
• Make it instantly, not in a while
• Execute at once, not soon
• Begin right away because you’re ready

Closing Notes:

Make a conscious decision – regardless of what your decision is. Eliminate all excuses by raising your consciousness. Shift your mindset and decide to do first, make judgments later. Determine what you have to do, especially when you don’t know what to do. Finally, take action and just do it. You've already covered everything else.

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2011/09/08

Where to Invest? (A tip for Beginners)

This is a guest post by C.L., thanks for sharing!!

Where should I invest? What should I invest in? These are often the questions asked by people with some money, who want to let their money to work for them but don’t know where to begin.

I first accumulated $100,000 after 3 years of working hard, spending smart & saving as much as I possibly can. The journey was excruciatingly slow and arduous, too often, I was tempted to throw in the white towel because it was an agony; holding myself back from possessing all the beautiful things money can afford.

If I continue at this rate ($100K @ 3 years), it will take me 30 years before I make my first million. By then I’ll be in my sagging late-fifties and 3 decades long of inflation will render my million dollars almost worthless.

I might as well splurge and live happily and extravagantly with nil savings and heavy liabilities like what average people do these days.

I knew I had to put my money to work but I was clueless as to how then. Here’s an account of my first unsuccessful attempt to make money out of thin air:

The first 10 grand I had, I unwittingly invested it in a Capital Guaranteed Fund (inclusive of insurance coverage for as long as the fund was active which was 3 years) with a local renowned bank, with the promise of average returns of 12.33% per annum IF the market performs at its optimum (the lady at the counter said).

Hearing that, I did a mental calculation and figured I would be banking on 37% ROI (Return on Investment) by the end of the 3rd year upon the maturity of the fund.

The same lady also warned me that IF however market crashes, the projected returns will merely be 4.33% per annum (which is nonetheless better than fixed deposit) which is equivalent to 12.99% after 3 years.

Before I could change my mind, she went on to reassure me that based on the history of their WORST performance; during the Asian Financial Crisis; they’d easily managed 9% annual returns.

That’s 27% after 3 years, a proven track record during the previous economic downturn. How can I not be hooked at that point?

As gullible as most 23 year olds were when it comes to the subject of investment, I signed the contract on the spot; I clearly remembered that was year 2007.

I reasoned and consoled myself with the notion that even if things were to go absolutely awry, I’ll still emerge fairly safe from fatal wounds as my capital of $10,000.00 was guaranteed.

The next year, the “credit crunch” of ’08 came knocking on my front door and everyone else’s. Although the market in general recovered by 2009, the fund I invested in didn’t (Coincidence?).

Consequently, when the highly anticipated year 2010 came, I was appalled, disappointed and indignant to find only $10K (the same amount I invested 3 years ago) was returned to my bank account.

What ever happened to the sales pitch of "at least 9% returns each year"?

I was determined to speak to someone from the bank and demand an explanation on how this thing worked. The lady in charge of this fund was not at her desk, I took from her colleague her contact number and her DDI but no one ever came to the phone. Two days later, I returned to the bank only to learn she had gone on leave.

It was pointless because upon recollection; there was a clause (for ants, mind you) on the brochure of the investment fund that stated: “All figures are based on projections only”.

Even before the maturity date, my boyfriend had been reminding me not to get my hopes up high; “You’ll never know how much your returns are until you receive them as it’s a Capital-Guaranteed fund, not a Returns-Guaranteed fund.”

I swore there and then never to leave my money in the hands of another ever again.

The first thing you need to know (if you’re asking 'Where to Invest') is that no one can answer the question except for yourself. Never, ever, let someone else answer that question for you.

There are a number of places one can invest their money besides the conventional method of starting a business. Here’s how; what works for me may not work for you, so read and find the one that fits best to your personality and preference.

WHERE TO INVEST #1: Stocks

Owning a stock is like owning a business. When the business makes money, its value or worth increases. As the value of company increases, the value of your investment appreciates and this is where you profit from your investments.

Most people however, view stock investing as a process of buying and selling stocks. They are looking for stocks whose price would increase so they can sell it and make a profit -- Not something that I would recommend.

While the concept of buying low and selling high is widely accepted as the philosophy of investing, the difficulty arises in determining how low is ‘low’ and how high is ‘high’. Value investing helps address this concern.

Early 2010, a very wise and kind man took the time to explain to my accounting/economics-averse brain the theory of value investing for the very first time. I was thrilled to learn this same theory was what made Warren Buffett the multi-billionaire that he is today. What I picked up from these informal lessons completely changed my life.

Suddenly, life didn’t seem so hopeless and bleak after all. After months of poring over financial reports from various companies and reading up on any books (on value investing) I could get my hands on and the many painful hours spent trying to make the right decisions, I took the plunge in Aug 2010 with all the cash on hand and purchased my first shares on the stock market.

It was a decidedly momentous event of my life because almost a year after that, the paper profit on the stocks I now own is 32.88% even while the stock market is in a tumultuous state due to a "possible US default".

Now although 32.88% ROI a year doesn’t make me an instant millionaire, it has reduced significantly my futile 30 years’ quest to only 8 years. In the years to come, I must continue to work hard, spend way below my means & save as much as possible and besides my day job, I’ve to constantly monitor the progress of the financial market to manage my investment portfolio effectively.

While value investing is a viable investment vehicle and everyone can try investing for themselves, an amateur must be aware that the stock market is volatile and carries great risk if one does not do sufficient research or practice due diligence.

WHERE TO INVEST #2: Mutual Funds

Instead of taking investing into your own hands, one can seek to invest conservatively with institutional investors in mutual funds which is usually managed and monitored by a fund manager. I ruled out this option for myself because I prefer to manage my own money and portfolio.

Conservative investors usually prefer mutual funds than fixed deposits because they provide a greater return in the long run (usually 8% to 10%) while the latter are usually under 3% depending on the capital invested.

Not all mutual funds are created equal and some may impose more fees than the others. Therefore, investing in mutual funds will also require prudence and research in order to make a well-informed decision and in the process helps to reduce or eliminate risks.

WHERE TO INVEST #3: Property

One of the reasons why this investment avenue is so popular with majority of investors is that it allows the use of leverage. Investors buy property with the bank’s money and reimburse the bank loan using rental income from tenants.

Besides the monthly rental income, investors also yield a profit at the time of disposal as the value of the property (if well-maintained and strategically located) understandably appreciates over time.

However, not all properties appreciate in monetary value. In places where new houses are built in abundance and can be obtained at reasonable prices, old houses have been known to depreciate in value.

As far as passive income go, investing in properties isn’t as passive as one thinks. To protect the investor’s interests, they would typically have a rental agreement signed with the tenant to ensure sufficient notice is given by either party in the event of vacating the unit. Most landlords will also make it part of the agreement to collect at least a month’s deposit.

Maintenance works such as repairing leaks and faulty facilities are impossible to avoid and can also be rather cumbersome.If running errands and seeing to the tenant’s comfort in your unit is deemed as too much of a hassle, it is crucial to reconsider these facts before making a decision.

WHERE TO INVEST #4: REITs

REITS (Real Estate Investment Trusts) trade like shares on the stock markets. Although investing in REITs are in essence similar to buying stocks, they generally undertake large commercial real estate projects and generate income from rents (based on long term lease agreement).

As the value of the real estate increases, the value of the REIT also increases, thus gradually pushing the share price of the REITS up as well. Because it trades like shares, unlike property investment which are illiquid, REITs are easily acquired and disposed of.

The same advice of caution applies here : To ensure REITs provide the consistent stream of income you expect to derive from this investment method, research carried out upon the projects invested on (location, location, location) and its development potentials will assist you in making sound judgment and avoid taking unnecessary risks.

Some REITs are known to be portfolios which comprise of properties of shabby value. These were properties that weren’t appealing to property investors and in an attempt to conceal their unpopular locations or unattractive market values; these properties were subsequently collated and converted into REITs to garner interests from unsuspecting investors.

Result: The initial property owners prosper at the expense of new investors. Beware not to fall into the latter category.

WHERE TO INVEST #5: Gold

One of the advantages of investing in gold is that it protects one’s wealth and assets from inflation. The price of gold rises in proportion to the depreciation of the currency as the economy undergoes booms and busts. But the value of gold remains steadfast with regards to the goods and services one can get with its value.

In simpler words, invest in $1 gold today and it may appreciate to $2 in 5 years’ time, but you’ll find that the $2 you have then is only worth $1 today. This means the ‘value’ of gold has not increased at all, it’s merely inflation-proof.

Being inflation-proof does not make it an investment, rather, an asset protection avenue which I highly recommend. When there are no investment opportunities, it would make sense to store your savings in the form of physical gold.

Though this is thought to be very conventional investing method, it has its advantages as gold is an entity that is rarely undervalued. When was the last time you heard that the ‘gold market crashed'? :)

Learning to invest is a way of life. It is a lifestyle you’ll be glad to have in the next 20 to 30 years to come.

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2011/09/06

How to Reduce Spending (The Right Way)

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There was once in my life when I couldn't control spending, let alone reduce spending. I was fresh out of high school, young, ignorant and oblivious to the concept of personal money management.

I just spent on whatever it is that money can buy - which 'so happens' to be everything, and there was a great sense of freedom (at the time). It wasn't until 2 years later did it dawned upon me that I didn't know how to manage my spending. I just looked into my bank account one day and there sat $0.00. I had nothing, nada, zilch. It was a wake up call.

I knew immediately that I had better reduce spending or face an eternal net worth of zilch. But how do I do that? Where do I begin?

The internet, of course, provided a wealth of information on how one can reduce spending - cut this, cut that, reduce this, lower that. Some are just a complete turn off. The more I read, the more I feel like I was enrolled in some kind of how-to-be-a-miser program.

I really wanted to reduce spending, but not to the point that I'll have to forgo the things that make me happy. So I just sat down, equipped with a paper and pen, and began drafting how I was going to reduce spending - without compromising on my happiness.

Slowly, I realized that reducing spending by means of cutting expenses and not buying or not using things, is NOT SPECIFIC enough.

To reduce spending the right way, I need cut out the things that don’t matter, and keep the things that matters most. This way, I'll get to reduce spending, without giving up on my true wants.

Those ideas then manifested into this article :) If you are looking to reduce your spending without giving up on the things that you truly want (which truly makes you happy), here's how.

Just ask yourself: "What are the things I spend on that don’t matter?" and "Which ones do matter?"

When you’ve identified them, think about how you can get what you want (what truly matters), without spending on the things that don't matter.

Here are some tips to help you get started – few tips that I came up for myself personally so please don’t judge or laugh at me :)

Eating out – I spend roughly $200 each outing (for luxury dining) and that’s not even considered that luxurious, just some really nice place that serves some really good food. On normal (non-luxury) dining, I spend an average $40-$60 per outing.

I spend money to eat out, but what was it exactly about eating-out that truly mattered? In other words, do I absolutely have to eat out in order to fulfill the happiness that I derive from eating out? That was the real question.

I quickly ruled out restaurant service because it didn't matter. Sure, having great food service would be much appreciated but the thing is, the restaurant's service is not going to matter 5 years from now (or even a year from now). It'll just be a small and irrelevant life experience.

Ambience didn’t matter as well since 90% of the time I'll be completely immersed in conversation with my dinning companions. I didn't care how my food looked like under dim lighting or if the walls of my dining area had paintings by Picasso or Michelangelo.

What I truly wanted, was the company of my family and the happiness of having delicious and wholesome food together :) Subsequently, I asked myself, is there an alternative that doesn’t require me to spend as much?

You guessed it: Great home-cooked food! :) so I decided to learn how to cook.

2 months later, I was able to share great healthy food with my family without spending on things that didn’t matter – The expensive 'service', the pricey 'ambience' and most important of all, someone else's "profit margin".

I only spent time learning to cook and spent time learning where to hunt for fresh and affordable ingredients (which was what truly mattered anyway).

These days, I would cook and whip out something nice and we would all sit in the living room with all our food and enjoy a great movie (something all my family members were happy doing), and this was how I was able to reduce spending on eating-out, while still having what I truly wanted :)

Shopping for new clothes – my partner loves to shop. Spending for each outing can range from $200 - $1000 and the sky is the limit :) Not that there's anything wrong with that of course.

But one day, I decided to ask her anyway: “What was it about clothes or shopping that really mattered?”

She said she wants to be able to buy new clothes and fill her wardrobe because clothes are essential in staying fashionably trendy.

So I probed further, did designer brands mattered? She said yes, but even if she has designer brands she would still want many, many varieties since she would get bored (for instance: bored with having just one designer handbag).

So this tells me varieties matter too. And since the main thing that truly mattered is staying fashionably trendy, I asked her if a fashion-trendy 'look' can be pursued without going for expensive or designer clothes (& stuffs)?

WHAT WAS I THINKING...

She said ‘No’ and stared me with the ‘I don’t care, you’re going to buy me what I want’ look.

We made a pact, I know she truly wants designer clothes. WHICH 21st CENTURY WOMAN DOESN'T...

We promised to attain a financial position sufficient to give ourselves a monthly ‘luxury’ shopping allowance first, before becoming "occasional spendthrifts".

In the mean time, she understood that she'll have to remain patient (while we both worked on our personal finances) and has since been searching for an alternative to stay fashionably trendy without going for new clothes (to reduce spending).

She turned to ‘creativity’, instead of ‘buying designer’s creativity’: A different match of top and skirts, shirts and pants, a change of some accessories and a mixture of cardigans with the same clothes to keep her looking fashionable and trendy. Now that's what real fashion is all about - creativity! :)

Socializing was one of the most expensive activities that I ever came across. I would just hang out with a bunch of friends, sipping drinks and chatting on normal weekends and certain weekdays, play a game or two at the bowling alley or go at it at a game of pool.
What I didn’t realize was, my spending on socializing averages $600 per month. Again I asked myself, ‘What really mattered?’ and the answer was simple and direct: The company of my friends and having a great time with them.

So if I can have that, everything else didn’t matter. The solution was easy.

I would invite them over for barbecue party (or somebody will volunteer to organize one), a few guys would be in charge of booze and other light-alcohol beverages, while others would bring whole varieties of BBQ food such as pastas, macaronis, salad and what not.

Result: A wacky good time with friends by having an absolutely-affordable BBQ-beer party. This of course could evolve into greater varieties of parties: Pot-Luck parties, Steamboat parties, etc. Got a better idea to reduce spending on socializing? By all means, go for it!

Coming up with a cheaper alternative does not mean you have to use this alternative all the time. Once in while, I still dine out, I still shop for expensive designer items with my partner, I still socialize in bars and clubs. Why? Because I was able to afford it by managing and reducing my spending. Ironic, isn't it? :)

Reducing your spending is easy, and to reduce spending on things that don't matter to us is even easier. Just ask yourself:

• What truly matters?

• How do I obtain what truly matters without taking up the extra baggage of the things that don't matter?

Remember, the best things in life come for free and if you really open your eyes and free your mind, you’ll begin to think of ideas and see proof that you can have what you truly want (i.e what really matters) without spending much at all.

Please share this blog post if you liked it :)

2011/09/04

Don't Get a Job

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We all want highly paid jobs because we believe that it can provide us the kind of money that we want. We want a lot of money because it would give us the freedom and time to do what we want, when we want it.

However, working or employment is based upon exchanging freedom FOR money. And sometimes it requires forgoing or compromising certain freedom. A rather contradictory approach if you are using this strategy to achieve freedom by having money.

And have you ever given thought as to how much a job cost you?

Below are some of the costs you bear as an employee, but my disclaimer is: Not all cost applies to everyone so be critical about what I share below; if it applies to you then take note. Otherwise, it's someone else's cost and not yours so read consciously.

Cost #1: Time

On a job, when you stop working, you stop receiving money. This coupled with the fact that you need money to survive means your freedom and time are completely tied down by your work.
And if you’re going: “Hey, 40 hours-a-week is not that bad. My life does not revolve around working for survival.”

You are greatly mistaken my friend, 40 hours-a-week is what your corporate employer tells you and that’s based on 8 hours-a-day.

What about your 1 hour lunch break, doesn’t that count as time? Don’t you rather spend that 1 hour with your family or maybe your close friends? 1 hour at work is equivalent to losing 1 hour with loved ones. So that’s 9-hours-a-day gone my friend.

What about the time taken to commute to work? If you are working normal hours, the average time spent on travelling to-and-from work would be 2 hours (if not more). That’s 11 hours-a-day gone, my friend!

And if you take into consideration that you sleep 7 hours-a-day that’s 18 hours-a-day gone again my friend! This leaves you with just 6 hours (out of 24 hours), which is equivalent to having only a quarter of your total time, to do what you really want with the people you love. One quarter! WAKE UP!!!

Cost #2: Adapting to being ‘Handled’ or ‘Managed’

In every company, the chain of command works upward. You report to your superiors, and your superiors report to their bosses, etc. The whole corporate structure is designed based on an adult-managing-child mentality. Your boss is the adult, you are the child and your boss is responsible for your actions.

“Do this, do that, be nice, listen, etc…”
“Good boy, good girl, etc.”
“Here are some treats, now return to your seats and do your own thing, etc.”

Sounds familiar?

In the real world, when an adult makes a mistake, we try to reflect how the mistake was committed, take a quick mental note, learn a lesson and move on to learn new things. In the corporate world, when a ‘child’ makes a mistake, he/she is brought to a corner and lectured:

• “Why did you do that?”
• “Sit there, and think about what you’ve done!”
• “How can we help to avoid this going forward?”
• “Help us help you.”

Tough being human and an employee at the same time, isn’t it? Humans learn through mistakes while employees must learn without making any mistakes. Mistakes usually mean trouble, instead of a valuable lesson or experience.

Cost #3: Employment = Enslavement

Honestly, why do we even call that ‘employment’? We should call it ‘paid slavery’ since an employee is no different than a slave other than the fact that employees are paid a salary:

The master still makes all the money, and you get paid peanuts for doing the heavy lifting and the master decides your life and death with just two words, "You're Fired".

Sure, you get medical benefits, just like how all masters feed their slaves to ensure that they are healthy and can continue doing the master’s heavy lifting.

And the older you get, the further your value as a slave depreciates. Who wants an old and sickness-prone slave anyway? More of a liability than of use. Older slaves usually find it hard to look for a new master when they've been kicked out by the old master.

If you show some initiative, the master may also make you lead a team of slaves. And as the slave leader, you are to ensure that the master’s orders are carried out effectively and efficiently. Should any slaves step out of line, the master will deal directly with you. How empowering!

And if you do not perform your slave duties well enough, your master will release you back into the ‘slave’ market and you will have to find a new master. Oh no, that’s devastating. Why? Because you can’t live without a master :) Other slaves will look down on you and say, “Look at this man, he is master-les.” And you would be so ashamed.

Sometimes you also try harder to be a more valuable slave. You go to college, pursue a post-graduate qualification just so you become a ‘Certified Slave’ so bigger and more dominant masters can enslave you.

However, I’m not saying that being a slave doesn’t have its benefits. As slaves, the roof over your head, the clothes you wear and the food you need are all taken care of. Unfortunately the same cannot be said if you were an employee; you’re paid a salary to take care of all the above by yourself. If you make a bad decision with your money and lose all your food, clothes and shelter, that’s your problem!

But nevertheless, a job offers great 'security', doesn’t it? You are basically safely 'secured' to your master’s wishes :) Great to be employed, right?

Cost #4: Stress

A job gives you stress; stress that you are not in control of, stress that’s created when someone exerts control over you. This is another COST you are bearing as an employee. Some may argue that without a job, life can be stressful as well because if we're jobless, we’ll be financially unstable and that would lead to stress anyway – Not true and totally irrelevant.

Financial stability has nothing to do with being unemployed. Open your eyes and look around you, lots of employed people are still financially unstable. What they don't realize is that the stress from financial instability is caused by the lack of control over their personal money (income, spending, saving & investing), not due to being jobless.

If you have a stable income, wise spending habits, ample savings and good returns on your investments, would you still need a job? :)

To reduce the stress levels from financial instability, the correct and only method is to successfully manage your personal money. By having healthy income, balanced spending, healthy savings and investing, your finances would be stable; there’ll be no financial stress.

Most people let themselves believe that job stress is normal. All jobs have stress and you need jobs anyway so stress is only part of the job. Sure it is, but do you know the price you pay in taking up all these stress in addition to the financial stress that you already have?

Here’s the list of what you may be experiencing due to stress:

• Emotional exhaustion (Burnout)
• Psychosomatic illnesses (Sickness caused by mental stress, not by viruses or malnutrition)
• Physical health illnesses (Sickness such as heart diseases, hypertension, etc.)
• Physical deterioration of sex drive (Losing interest in sex altogether)
• Memory problems
• Inability to concentrate, poor judgment
• Anxious / anxiety (racing thoughts)
• Moodiness
• Feeling overwhelmed
• Depression or general dissatisfaction (unhappiness)
• Eating way more, or eating far less
• Sleeping too much or too little

All the effects of job stress could damage other areas of your life: Personal Development, Relationship, Social Interaction, etc.

After seeing all these costs, I really have to ask: "IS IT TRULY WORTH IT?"

"All paid jobs absorb and degrade the mind."
- Aristotle -


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2011/09/03

How to Spend Money Wisely

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Spending occurs when you need or want something and you are willing to exchange money for it. Are you truly willing? Or are you the type that is far-too-willing?

If you are then you need to know how to differentiate between what is worthy of your will-to-spend, and what isn't.

Smart spending is paying money only if you are receiving some kind of value in return. No point spending money on things that do not give you any values.

And the definition of value is quite broad, I have narrowed-down the definition of 'value' to simplify the process of identifying them: Value is what makes you happy, through the fulfillment of a need or want.

If you have what you want and have what you need, you'll be happy. If you want what you need and want what you have, you'll be happy :)

However, wants and needs may vary and they are highly subjective. What you want and need today may not be so tomorrow. And because we are humans with emotions and moods, wants can be triggered by a sudden impulse.

If these impulses take control, in the long run you’ll find that you will not be able to manage your spending. An impulse to spend is nothing more than an emotion urging you to spend. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with that, because impulses could be right.

You may have an impulse that there is something that would make you truly happy, and a few months after you’ve bought it, you found that your impulse was right after all; this thing you bought is still giving you happiness that you are truly grateful for.

But there are also wrong impulses, and after a few months of having 'this-impulse-driven-purchase' at home with you, it didn't make you feel that fantastic after all.

So the logical solution here is to UNDERSTAND your impulses (not ignore them), and you do so using rationale. One method that I love to use when it comes to measuring the things I want is using a time-horizon rationale.

Before deciding to spend money on something, ask yourself: How long will I want it for?

If you only want it for a few days or a few weeks, then very soon the happiness derived from spending money on this will simply fade, leaving you with this 'thing' that you no longer want or need, as well as no longer having the money which you had spent.

If you don’t know or if you are unsure about how long you will want it for, then it is definitely not a REAL want. It is only a REAL want if you are absolutely sure that you will still want the same thing 10 years from today.

And don’t go thinking, "but I still think I want it' because you know you don’t, so don’t spend on it.

The TRUE wants will never change, they are the REAL wants. These wants make all the difference in the world to you and these are things you will want 10, 20 and even 30 years from now.

Smart people know what they want. They don’t want what others want, and they don't want what others have. They know what makes them happy and what truly matters.

Smart spending is none other than spending money on these ‘values’ that you will ‘want’ for the ‘rest of your life’ and cutting spending on things don’t really make you happy (things that in the long run, will not matter).

And, smart spending is NOT JUST about knowing what to spend on, where to spend it on, etc. It’s also about knowing yourself; Knowing who you are and what makes you truly happy.

If you don’t know what truly makes you happy, you will never be able to practice smart spending.

"We are ruined, not by what we really want, but by what we think we do: therefore never go aboard in search of your wants. If they be real wants, they will come home in search of you; for he that buys what he does not want, will soon want what he cannot buy." -- Charles Caleb Colton

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2011/09/02

Planning

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What is Planning?

Conventionally, planning is the process of determining what needs to be done in order to get from where you are, to where you want to be. It is done by simply listing out the activities that needs to be carried out in sequential order, to achieve a specific goal or objective.

Why the need to plan?

The need to plan arises when there is a goal but you don’t know how you’re going to get there. It applies to goals such as wanting to start a business, wanting to start a money making website, wanting to live a healthier life, wanting to have more time, wanting to be more productive, etc.

Conversely, there is no need to plan if it’s a ‘been there, done that’ kind of situation; where the actions required to get there is known, the solution to the problems that may arise is known, and it is as simple as recalling what needs to be done and what’s the best way to do it.

What’s wrong with conventional planning?

The idea behind conventional planning has its flaws. The main assumption is that the completion of each planned activity brings us closer to the achievement of our goals. In reality however, some activities do not bring us any closer to the desired end-result (some, in fact, bring us further from it) – a rather disconcerting setback.

Secondly, the process of planning is largely based on our ability to imagine. We plan according to what we can imagine by creating a number of ‘What if’ scenarios: What if this happens, what if that happens, and so on. Again in reality, a lot of things (that weren’t planned for) can still happen – another setback.

Because of this, some were led to believe that "Nothing ever goes according to plan, so why bother? Just go with the flow."

People then started undermining planning because they believe that execution supersedes planning. They prefer to take action than to plan their actions; they put all emphasis on doing and put less emphasis on thinking.

Know what the implications of jumping into execution without planning are. I mean, sure, you can walk blindfolded and still reach somewhere, but will it be where you want to be?

How are we supposed to plan then?

Good question. In order for planning to be effective, a plan in itself must be flexible and dynamic. Plans are supposed to change. If it does not change, then there’s something wrong. "Insanity is doing the same things over and over again and expecting different results." -- Albert Einstein.

Let me attempt to illustrate this in the simplest of ways:

In the plan above, Point C is the goal. Armed with the knowledge that only Point B leads to Point C, our plan is to first get from Point A to Point B, then move on to Point C from there. But in reality, it may not be as simple:

In the journey to Point B, something gets in our way. This obstacle wasn't seen in the original plan; why did we miss it?? Well, because we were not in a position to notice it at the time. Nevertheless, a solution is required:

By simply maneuvering around the obstacle (just making a point), we arrive at Point B and can then proceed to Point C.

But then, out of nowhere a set of thick gray fog appeared. If we continue, everything’s a blur and we won’t know if it’ll get to Point C eventually because we can’t see where we’re headed. But it is also at this point that we are made aware of a new path towards our goal:

We discovered Point D, serendipitously. So we detour to Point D, and then double-back down to Point C. Voila! We’ve finally achieved our goal.

Now, the whole point in drawing the 5 brainless diagrams above was to show you than a plan constantly changes and there’s nothing wrong with that. Notice the difference between the first plan and the final plan? This is what I mean when I say plans need to be dynamic.

In some instances, the original and the final plan can differ even more complexly, but that’s not unusual. We draw a plan because we don’t know what to do, so we can’t expect what we thought were the best actions (in the pre-execution stages) to turn out to be absolutely the right thing to be done in the end.

A plan is changed when our perspective of the problem changes; when our consciousness and knowledge about the problem increases; as well as when our goal is defined in greater detail than before. Changing plans is part of the process toward the achievement of our goals. If the plan isn’t working, we have to change it, right?

And the problem with this is: Many people feel frustrated having to let circumstances dictate the changes of the plan but when in fact they can choose to see consciously, that they are the one that has the power to change the plan.

Instead of thinking, "Ah fuck! This shit doesn’t work." They can choose to think, in a similarly vulgar way, "Now that this shit doesn’t work, what fuck should I do next?"

That’s dynamic planning in progress. Everything changes, so keep changing plans until your goal is achieved.

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2011/08/31

How to Say No

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Don't you just hate to use the 'N' word? You want to say no but it's difficult. Difficult because you believe there's a negative consequence in saying no. You fear that it may back-fire on you in future, you fear that they may react negatively or perceive you in a negative light; in the end, you just prefer to say yes than to worry about any of the above.

There are several common reasons on the surface that could explain why you find it hard to say 'No'.

#1 You feel guilty all the time.

You don't want to appear selfish and you don't want to appear like you're not helpful. You feel that it's your social responsibility to say yes to your friends and it's your professional responsibility to say yes to your boss or colleagues.

If this is why you find it difficult to say no, then ask yourself if that's true.

• Is it true that just because you're saying no, you're not a helpful person? Haven't you already help them so many times in the past which more than qualifies you as a helpful person?

• Is it true that it's your responsibility to help your friends, family, boss or colleague? Or is it their responsibility to help themselves to begin with and they are just dumping their responsibilities onto you?

Realize that if it's not your problem and not something you like to deal with, it's your right to say 'No' because you have no obligation to say 'Yes'. You have the freedom to choose consciously to say yes, but that's only if you really want to.

#2 You don't have a good reason to say 'No'.

Just admit it. Sometimes, we feel lazy and just don't want to do anything. Saying no becomes difficult because laziness is not exactly a concrete reason for us to say 'No'; it'll just make us look bad.

If this is your case, ask yourself if there's any valid reason to say yes.

If the request is important; a matter of life-and-death, I believe you would've said yes because the importance of the circumstances transcends your laziness. But if what they're requesting is not exactly a matter of life-and-death, you shouldn't worry what they'll think when you say "Nah… I'm feeling lazy."

Come on, do you seriously think that people don't know you're a lazy bum by now? If you have any real friends they'll know you're lazy. So there's no need to hide, just tell them the truth. If it's something unimportant that will not matter in 5 years or even in 5 weeks, it's not going to be a big deal for anybody.

Do you remember the last time somebody turned you down on a small and unimportant request? Of course not; no one does.

Okay, now we go into the real stuff. If you know it in your heart that the answer is 'No', here are some difficult people to say no to and how you can say no to them:

(1) THE AUTHORITY

The authority can mean your boss, a senior colleague or a person of a higher circumstantial rank. This is usually someone who intimidates you, so saying 'no' naturally can be difficult (especially when you're not on very comfortable terms with them so to speak).

So if you need to take 'soft' approach, start with a sincere apology when you reject or decline their request, offer a concise explanation because they'll need it, and end your explanation with an offer for a possible solution. Examples as below:

• "I'm really sorry but I cannot say yes to this now, I'm up to my nose with work and I really need to take a break. If it's not urgent, can I get back to this later?"

• "I'm really sorry but I'm not able to take this up now, I've several other reports with deadlines closing in fast. But looking at this, I do have someone in mind who might be able to get this done, would that help?"

• "I'm sorry, the current circumstances does not allow me to do this. I'm in a middle of something important that needs my utmost focus. Do you need me to get someone else to handle this for you?"

• "I'm sorry but I'll have to say no, I'm a little stretched too thin right now and I'm worried if I take this on I might not be able to do a good job. Can I get back to you on when I'll be able to take this on? Just need to check my schedule."

If you have a better reason or a better solution in mind, by all means, use it. The key though, is to be honest and sincere. Seniors can spot a junior's honesty and sincerity; make no mistake about that. Once your rejection has been accepted gracefully by the other party, end the conversation with a: "Thanks for your understanding, much appreciated."

Again; honesty and sincerity is of utmost importance. Be grateful that "the authority" has just accepted your rejection: they came out as the bigger person by letting you off the hook. So say thank you and mean it!

(2) THE PUSHER

The pusher is someone who always has a personal agenda in getting you to say 'Yes'. It could be they're trying to make you do something for them or they're trying to sell you something, etc. They push because they think they can make you bend over if they push hard enough.

The key is to stand firm and reject them confidently: a short "No, thank you." would do.

They may follow up with a "Why Not?"

If you have a solid reason, by all means go for it. But if you don't have one, don't worry. You don't owe them an explanation and you can repeat your answer without answering their question, "No thanks, I really want to pass."

However, my personal favorite (when I don't have a solid reason) is to always tell them: "I'm NOT going to make up excuses and lie to you. I'm going to say no, as I've said before and I hope you can understand. Can we change subjects?"

That's a very useful line. The key is to say it with total conviction, don't raise your voice, don't appear confrontational, and don't show the slightest hint of fear or uncertainty. I'll usually focus my intonation on the question, and show just a slight tone of irritation. They'll usually get the message and stop pursuing.

"A 'No' uttered from the deepest conviction is better than a 'Yes' merely uttered to please, or worse, to avoid trouble." -- Mahatma Gandhi

It will take some time to muster sufficient courage to say that – if you are the type that hates even healthy debates or rational confrontations. But I assure you that mastering the courage to say 'No' will help you go a long way in life: The more you say "Yes" to the things you don't want, the more you say "No" to the things you do want.

Read that last sentence again and think about it.

(3) THE PULLER

The puller is the opposite of the pusher. Instead of pushing, they get on your guilt-nerves. Sometimes they're so good you just can't be sure if they're doing it intentionally or if they're doing it subconsciously.

Either way, it sucks if you have a weak spot for guilt. They'll usually ask, then beg, then try to make themselves appear as desperate as ever and it kills you to say 'No' to a helpless friend.

Dig into your memory, "Pullers" are creatures of habits. You can always remember previous similar occasions when they asked, then begged, then appeared desperately in need of your help. They also usually prey on those who always say 'yes' to them!

So if you've already said 'yes' a few times to a "Puller", you're only digging a bigger and bigger grave for yourself. Shucks!

• Again, it might be helpful if you are courageous enough to say: "Gee Paul, I've helped you with ten other things before, and every time you come back asking for more help. I'm not responsible for your problems you know, I'd love to help you once in awhile but I've got my own problems to deal with too. I'm going to have to say 'No' this time. Sorry, but I'm really busy."

• And if you're not that straightforward with your words, you can always try "Hey Paul, I hate to say no but I gotta say this is really a bad time as I'm in the middle of some issues that I need to deal with. Can you look after your problems first and I'll give you a call once I'm done with mine and have time to help you with yours?"

And here's a very important tip, never commit yourself. These pullers would usually start a conversation with a "What are you doing tonight?" or "this weekend?" or "later?"

NEVER, EVER SAY 'NOTHING'. Always assume that they need help and ask them "Is there something you want me to do? I can't promise you I can do it, but what's up?"

It may catch them off-guard and they may quickly say "Nah... I was just calling to check... bla, bla, bla…"

But if they've got the cheek, they might just put out their request openly and you may have to learn how to muster sufficient courage to tell them square in the face that you don't appreciate constantly having to help them by sacrificing your own time.

I've a "friend" who has got lots of cheek to ask for everything he wants from me, and I really told him off – after 1 and 1/2 years that is, so you can imagine how far I went. Just didn't appreciate friends as liabilities, don't think anyone would either :)

Closing notes:

To put it simply, saying "No" requires some courage, but it shouldn't be that difficult. Using a combination of confidence, certainty and detachment from the false sense of responsibility to say 'yes', it should be as easy as saying "Hi" - a single syllable response, with no emotions involved.

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2011/08/27

How to be Positive (When you're feeling negative)

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This is my second “How to be positive” post, here I take a crack at how we can be positive when we're already negative to begin with.

I’ve always been advised that I should quickly and immediately replace negative thoughts with positive ones. My first reaction to that was always: “Easier said than done, Sherlock!”

Here’s the thing, when I’m feeling negative, I think about negative things. This then feeds itself into a negative-loop: Negative thoughts leads to negative emotions, negative emotions fuel new negative thoughts. I won’t necessarily spiral down into depression, but I’m still stuck at being negative.

At this point, it’s almost virtually impossible to push any thoughts of positivity into my mind. No matter how hard I try to be positive, I just can’t seem to switch into a ‘positive’ mood or mindset. I’ll receive a strong resistance from a negative voice that tells me: "The truth is ugly even if you try to be positive, the reality is painful even if you choose run away from it,"

This is because positivity and negativity are mutually exclusive - a lesson I later learnt. They simply cannot exist harmoniously because you cannot be positive when you’re negative and you cannot be negative when you’re positive.

This also explains why when I’m in a positive mood, nothing can seem to stop me. No negativity can get to me; complaints, hurtful comments, criticisms simply wouldn’t affect me – precisely because I’m already positive.

So when you’re feeling down, sad, disappointed, frustrated and angry, the first thing you need to do is rid yourself of all negative thoughts and emotions, before even attempting to be positive.

Detach yourself from the negative situation mentally and emotionally. Let go of everything that you are unhappy, disappointed or frustrated about. Give up and surrender it to the universe. The key is to detach the emotion completely – be an emotionless freak.

As soon as you’ve let go by declaring that you are giving it up, all your mental and emotional negativity gets released along with it. You will experience an inner peace like no other – your emotion calms, your thoughts collected.

All puzzle pieces will fall to the ground and you’ll be able to see the big picture of things - in a complete state of neutrality. When you've achieved this, choosing to be positive is easy.

Here are 3 tips on how you can eliminate negative thoughts or feelings to return to a state of neutrality, they are commonly effective.

#1 Stop whining and stop complaining.

These are two negative affirmations that will fuel your bitterness. We complain because it makes us feel better for awhile. It allows us to vent our frustrations and somebody will usually hear us out, or (worse still) complain along with us. This creates a false and unproductive sense of camaraderie.

Complaining only wastes time and effort. It does not change anything and you are probably attracting more of the things which you do not want. Instead of whining, do something to change it. If there's nothing you can do, make fun of it; create a joke so everyone can just laugh it off. Laugh it off and return to your prior state of calm and peace.

#2 Stop blaming, take responsibility and take action.

"It's your fault, your problem, your responsibility. You fix it, you make it right." Sounds familiar? :) You can't feel positive even if you 'delegate' the problem to someone else. Sitting around and waiting for him or her to fix the situation will probably frustrate you further.

If it's truly someone else's problem don't make it yours - (once again) just let go of what has happened. If you decide to do something about it (other than blaming someone else), then grant yourself "the serenity to accept what you cannot change, courage to change what you can, and wisdom to know the difference."

There's absolutely no need for negativity.

#3 Excuse yourself.

When I say 'excuse yourself', I don't mean make up excuses, I mean 'GO AWAY'; leave the room, take a hike, walk it off, sleep on it, beat it; do whatever else you can to distance yourself from the situation so you can (as discussed previously) detach yourself emotionally.

Once you're out of the situation, think (from a neutral position) about what kind of emotional state do you want to return into it. You can return to it feeling negative, or you can return to it feeling positive. It doesn't matter which you choose, for as long as you make a choice, you are at least doing it consciously - and you'll therefore more likely to choose NOT to be negative.

#4 Understand why you feel negative.

When we rationalize the negative emotions or thoughts, we raise our consciousness. Our negativity usually stems out of fear or uncertainty. The good thing about feeling negative out of fear or out of uncertainty is that we can overcome or conquer them.

"A clear understanding of negative emotions dismisses them." - Vernon Howard.

To conclude this post, always remember that to be positive when we are negative, we must first return to a state of neutrality. From there on, being positive is as simple as making a choice.

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2011/08/25

How to solve any problems

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This is a simple guide on how to solve any problems, old or new, based on what I’ve observed and learned in the course of solving some of life’s inescapable problems – Financial, Health, Individual, Relationship, etc.

Every once in awhile, we come head-on with a foreign problem that requires more than just recalling the known solution because there is no memory or experience to be drawn upon: It's simply a new problem that we've not dealt with before and the following tips may very much help you overcome it :)

#1 State the problem. Not all problems are problems - even if the initial 'symptoms' of the situation tends to suggest it. Take a step back and re-examine the situation and perhaps you’ll realize that it actually isn't a problem. If there’s a problem, state it: What is the problem?

A problem only exists when there is a difference between what it is currently and what you want it to be. If it is exactly what you want it to be, then there’s no problem. If you don’t know what you want, figure that out first, otherwise there’s no problem either.

#2 Weigh the worthiness of the problem. If there is in fact a problem, is it worthy of your attention? Does it necessarily need to be solved? Sometimes we have this tendency to sort all problems whenever we meet them, without weighing if it’s worth the effort.

And when the problem proves to be persistent, we become frustrated, stressed and upset. All these are unnecessary if you know that it’s not worth it to begin with. But if there’s fruitful reward (greater than the effort it takes to solve the problem) at the end to be savored, then that’s a different story altogether.

#3 Get creative. Creative people have no problems solving problems. Give them a problem and they’ll break it down, tear it apart, reassemble it and repackage it into an opportunity that they can actually seize and benefit from.

We’ve all experienced the joy and exhilarating feeling of solving a problem, so a problem CAN actually motivate you – IF you are creative. Take a step back, look at the problem again, is there a solution that you can come up with (create) easily at first thought?

If you consider yourself somewhat creative, capitalize on it and look at the problem from all sorts of different perspectives to see if there’s a different root or a different cause of the problem. Only through identifying the right roots can the right solutions be found.

#4 Don’t focus on just one solution. We (as in humans) have this habit of preferring to reuse a solution that has worked for us before, and stereotype every problem based on similar problems we’ve faced in the past.

When we realize that the problem we are currently facing is indeed "different" and the "assumed-solutions" are not effective, we panic because we believe we’ve hit a dead-end. The lack of creativity and imagination then harvests negativity which is counter-productive.

Again, use your imagination. Come up with as many possible strategies of solving the problem. Remember those times when you’ve heard or read somewhere that problems provide learning opportunities? Well, now’s the time to learn so max out your brain juice.

#5 Eliminate. Your quest of finding the right solution is a game of elimination: Which solutions didn’t work? Dump them out the window. Which ones worked half-way? Improvise. Slowly and surely, you will be able to eliminate what does not work, and arrive at a solution that does.

If you don’t think you have the patience to persist that far, return to point #2 :)

#6 Divide and conquer. Problems can be broken down into smaller bits and pieces. This enables us to solve the easiest parts first. Split them into categories and you can try to solve each part one at a time – depending on what your priorities are.

A financial problem such as trying to get out of debt is a good example. You’ll have credit card debts, auto-loans, mortgage loans, personal loans and what not.

Financial advisors will most probably suggest that you take care of high interest debts first (credit cards) as these are urgent in nature. Afterwards, you can work on personal loans which are usually smaller and easier to sort than the larger auto-loans or mortgage loans.

Not all problems can be broken down, but most complex problems that are difficult to solve can. So take advantage of the ‘Divide and Conquer’ strategy, and take one small step at a time.

#7 Build self confidence. The lack of self-confidence causes us to question a lot of things. This leads to self-doubt, skepticism, and worst of all – INACTION. Doing nothing and going nowhere means the problem is definitely going to stay.

Confident people on the other hand are able to solve problems because they take action. They are fully aware of their own capabilities and fully conscious of how they can convert those capabilities into results.

Identify what you can do; and do what you’re good at. If you lack certain knowledge or skills, courageously admit it. If what you lack is ESSENTIAL in solving the problem, then acquire it. Self confidence empowers you to do what it takes and obtain what you need in order to get to where you want to be.

"It’s not that I’m so smart, it’s just that I stay with problems longer."
- Albert Einstein -


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2011/08/23

How to be Positive (The simplest answer)

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Being positive is about reading situations positively, taking positive action in response to situations, and maintaining a positive and proactive attitude at all times.

We live in a world of duality: Good-Evil; Day-Night; Love-Hate; Yin-Yang; Positive-Negative. In this, life presents us with choices. It’s only difficult to be positive when you choose NOT to be positive.

The following excerpt is taken from “A Cup of Chicken Soup for the Soul”. I had the blessed opportunity to come across this book thanks to the internet; a beautiful story shared by Brian Cavanaugh:

Jerry was the kind of guy you love to hate. He was always in a good mood and always had something positive to say. When someone would ask him how he was doing, he would reply, “If I were any better, I would be twins!”

He was a unique manager because he had several waiters who had followed him around from restaurant to restaurant. The reason the waiters followed Jerry was because of his powerful attitude. He was a natural motivator. If an employee was having a bad day, Jerry was there, telling the employee how to look on the positive side of the situation.

Seeing this style really made me curious, so one day I went up to Jerry and asked him, “I don't get it! You can't be a positive person all of the time. How do you do it?”

Jerry replied, “Each morning I wake up and say to myself, ‘Jerry, you have two choices today. You can choose to be in a good mood or you can choose to be in a bad mood.’ I choose to be in a good mood. Each time something bad happens, I can choose to be a victim or I can choose to learn from it. I choose to learn from it. Every time someone comes to me complaining, I can choose to accept their complaining or I can point out the positive side of life. I choose the positive side of life.”

“Yeah, right, it's not that easy,” I protested.

“Yes, it is,” Jerry said. “Life is all about choices. When you cut away all the junk, every situation is a choice. You choose how you react to situations. You choose how people will affect your mood. You choose to be in a good mood or bad mood. The bottom line: It's your choice how you live life.”

I reflected on what Jerry said. Soon thereafter, I left the restaurant industry to start my own business. We lost touch, but I often thought about him when I made a choice about life instead of reacting to it.

Several years later, I heard that Jerry did something you are never supposed to do in a restaurant business: he left the back door open one morning and was held up at gunpoint by three armed robbers. While trying to open the safe, his hand, shaking from nervousness, slipped off the combination. The robbers panicked and shot him.

Luckily, Jerry was found relatively quickly and rushed to the local trauma center. After eighteen hours of surgery and weeks of intensive care, Jerry was released from the hospital with fragments of the bullets still in his body.

I saw Jerry about six months after the incident. When I asked him how he was, he replied, “If I were any better, I'd be twins. Wanna see my scars?” I declined to see his wounds, but did ask him what had gone through his mind as the robbery took place.

“The first thing that went through my mind was that I should have locked the back door,” Jerry replied. “Then, as I lay on the floor, I remembered that I had two choices: I could choose to live, or I could choose to die. I chose to live.” “Weren't you scared?” I asked. “Did you lose consciousness?”

Jerry continued, “The paramedics were great. They kept telling me I was going to be fine. But when they wheeled me into the emergency room and I saw the expressions on the faces of the doctors and nurses, I got really scared. In their eyes, I read, ‘He's a dead man’. I knew I needed to take action.”

“What did you do?” I asked.

“Well, there was a big, burly nurse shouting questions at me,” said Jerry. “She asked if I was allergic to anything. ‘Yes,’ I replied. The doctors and nurses stopped working as they waited for my reply. I took a deep breath and yelled, ‘Bullets!’

Over their laughter, I told them. ‘I am choosing to live. Operate on me as if I am alive, not dead.’

Jerry lived thanks to the skill of his doctors, but also because of his amazing attitude. I learned from him that every day we have the choice to live fully. Attitude, after all, is everything.


As you can see, every situation is a choice – a simple fact of life. Being positive all boils down to the simple fact of making a choice; we need only choose, consciously, to be positive.

How to be happy? Choose to be happy.
How to let go? Choose to let go.
How to persist? Choose to persist
How to be strong? Choose to be strong.

WHAT WILL YOU CHOOSE?

[Related Post: How to be Positive (When you're feeling negative)]

2011/08/21

What is Positive?

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This first post of my positivity series addresses the "What is Positive?" question.

Positivity is about responding to reality confidently and optimistically, instead of aggravating the already undesirable situation to build up further disappointment, frustration, and anger (which of course does not help in any way).

However, there are some misconceptions about being positive; some think that being positive is to carve a constant state of positiveness like chanting in their heads continuously: "Oh… everything’s so positive… life’s good and great… nothing is bad, everything is beautiful… yada, yada, yada…" whenever they face an obstacle.

Well frankly, that’s just plain ignorance. Positivity isn’t to turn and run away from the ugly truths or painful facts of life and hide away in a mental state of ‘utopia’. It also doesn’t mean enslaving our thoughts in a constant state of "Everything is fine, nothing is wrong" mentality and completely ignore reality.

To properly illustrate what being positive is, compare the two versions of the same story below:

Joe #1 is an average guy on a typical weekday driving to work. He has an important meeting in an hour and he’s stuck at a traffic jam. He looks at his watch and curses with disbelief, only an hour left and if he’s late, he’ll be in big trouble.

And there’s that issue at home with his daughter – She’s just not putting enough effort into her school work. Her math teacher has threatened to fail her if she does not work on improving her grades. If that happens, Joe will need to enroll her in summer school which also means he’ll have to cancel the summer vacation he has planned for the family. Tough luck, he really needed that break away from work, now it just looks like there’s no vacation until the next summer. Good god!

As the traffic slowly crawls ahead, an idiot suddenly cuts in front of him. No signal, nothing, came in just like that. Joe stomps on the breaks, slams his fist onto his horn and cursed at the inconsiderate driver at the top of his lungs.

Loosening his tie, Joe thought to himself "It’s going to be a long day alright".

Joe #2 is an average guy on a typical weekday driving to work. He has an important meeting in an hour and he’s stuck at a traffic jam. He looks at his watch and sighs with relief, he still has an hour and he can use the traffic jam as an opportunity to rehearse his presentation.

Not forgetting the issue at home with his daughter – She’s just not putting enough effort into her school work. Her math teacher has threatened to fail her if she does not work on improving her grades. Joe thought perhaps he could sit down with her this summer and help tutor her to get her back on track. He’ll have to cancel the summer vacation he has planned for the family – which ultimately means the money can be saved for the next vacation (and he can probably make the next vacation grander too).

As the traffic slowly crawls ahead, an idiot suddenly cuts in front of him – no signal, nothing, came in just like that. Joe stomps on the breaks, checked his rearview mirror to ensure the car at the back had sufficient space to stop in time as well.

Loosening his tie, Joe thought to himself "That was real close, what a lucky day".

Now that puts a very clear perspective of positivity, doesn’t it?

In life, things big and small are happening every second of the day. How it happens is not within our control, but how we respond to them is. Choosing to respond to situations positively sets the right mindset and helps us maintain the right attitude when dealing with problems.

A positive mindset enables a much broader perspective thus allowing us to search for better and more creative solutions.

"Positive thinking will let you do everything better than negative thinking will." -- Zig Ziglar

Being positive is about how we make a conscious decision to take the best appropriate action in whatever circumstances (fortunate or unfortunate). In the next posts, I will be sharing several strategies on how to be positive – mainly on how we can set a positive mindset and attitude towards the interpretation of circumstances happening around us.

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2011/08/18

How to Build Self Confidence

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Learning how to build self confidence is not difficult, this blog post highlights 5 simple tips of building self confidence.


#1 Trust that with TIME, your true wants can be achieved.

This method has worked effectively for me. Whenever I’m not certain about my abilities or the outcome of a certain venture, I remind myself that there’s nothing that I won’t be able to do if given sufficient time.

That’s because time enables planning, practice, learning, execution, evaluation, improvement, persistence and whatever else that is required, to be successful. It is a simple rationale that makes perfect sense and an intelligent break down of your irrational lack of confidence, consider the following:

• "I don’t think I can achieve it" – With time, you can do whatever it takes to achieve it.

• "I don’t think I’m good enough" – With time, you can practice until you are.

• "I don’t know how to do it" – With time, you can learn how.

• "I don’t know where to learn this" – With time, you can find out.

• "I’m not familiar with this" – With time, you will be.

Surely upon understanding this, there is no valid reason for your self-doubt?

We have to understand that whatever goals we set for ourselves, success in achieving those goals is a destination. And like the journey to all destinations, so long as we are on the right track, getting there is only a matter of time – an eventuality. If you are willing to do what it takes to get there, you should have utter confidence that success is inevitable.

However, do keep in mind that the phrase "With time" does not mean "with the passing of time". Time passes naturally but if we do nothing, obviously nothing will manifest. "With time" means taking time to plan, prepare, learn, do, evaluate, improve and persist toward the achievement of our goals.

#2 Understand that mistakes are not signs of weakness.

With each failed attempt, my confidence usually takes a round of self-beating or self-bashing; little doses of spirit and enthusiasm are drained with it. The fear of making mistakes hampers my confidence to take new steps, new actions and make new decisions.

"Confidence comes not from always being right but from NOT fearing to be wrong." -- Peter T. Mcintyre

If you’re feeling the same way, then understand that instead of letting these mistakes take away our confidence, it should quite be the opposite: The more mistakes we make, the more knowledge and experience we expose ourselves to, and we should learn from it and come out feeling more confident than before.

Secondly, we must realize that mistakes are part of the process, so we should not be discouraged nor feel insecure (especially if the mistakes are not life-threatening ones). We should only be worried if we are constantly making the same mistakes over and over again, without learning from them. Are you?

#3 Let bygones be bygones.

Similar to the 2nd tip; I read about this in a book by a motivational speaker (Nigel Risner). Nigel talked about how each of us has 3 roles within our minds: The commentator, the coach and the player.

The commentator is the voice that keeps reminding you of what has happened. Be it an experience failing at something or making a mistake, the commentator constantly reports this negative memory that eats up your confidence over-time.

The coach on the other hand is the voice that keeps telling you what to do next, "Take this risk, you can do it", "Do this, it's good for you". The coach's voice empowers you to take action and works to improve your confidence.

You are the player, and your job is to ignore the commentator and listen to what your coach tells you. Whatever negative experiences that you have had, it's in the past and you can't do anything to change it. If you choose to focus on the commentator, you will never able to move forward.

"Do not dwell in the past, do not dream of the future, concentrate the mind on the present moment." -- Buddha

Seize the "NOW" and confidence will manifest.

#4 Do not be influenced by what others think of us.

In the aspects of my life which I’m fully aware and fully certain (conscious) of, I usually don’t care about what other people say, think or feel – because I know the truth.

In the areas of my life which I’m not fully certain of however, my confidence levels can still gyrate whenever someone criticizes me. We need to expand our areas of "certainty" in order to build stronger long-term self-confidence. This is one thing I’m still working on (even up until today).

Just because someone else thinks less of you, it doesn’t mean they’re right. What you need to do when it comes to receiving criticism, judgments or even disapprovals, is to assess whether if there’s any truth to it and if the truth is worthy of any response.

If what they say about you is true, what do you want to do about it? If you don’t think it matters enough for you to do anything, then move on and don’t let it affect you. If it matters, then make changes and work towards what or who you want to be.

"Nobody can make you feel inferior without your consent." -- Eleanor Roosevelt

I usually ignore criticism or judgments from strangers as what they say usually don’t matter (unless they were able to pinpoint a truth that strikes a nerve). But, I welcome their praises greatly as it takes effort to praise someone you don’t know, and that’s something I’m very grateful for.

Family or close friends are usually comfortable enough to tell me the truth, so I respect that and pay extra attention to their criticism. Their praises (though sometimes biased) are equally appreciated as words of encouragement.

#5 Spend more time with confident people.

Conversely, stay away from people who aren’t confident of themselves – Birds of a feather flock together.

"Confidence is contagious; so is lack of confidence." -- Vince Lombardi

If you spend time with confident people, their confidence will begin to brush off on you and you’ll feel more certain and more assured of yourself. Remember this emotion; how confidence truly feels on the inside when you’re mingling with confident people, so you can draw upon this memory whenever you need to summon confidence.

We’ll start to feel negative whenever we’re around people who are negative as well, this is the same principle. If you’re the type that is easily influenced by what’s happening around you, then this tip becomes even more useful.

Closing Notes:

Always remember that with time, everything you want to achieve can be. Never let mistakes bring you down as confidence comes from not fearing to be wrong. Never dwell on past failures and instead, focus your attention on the present. Asses the accuracy of judgment others pass on us, and take appropriate action to improve ourselves IF necessary. Mingle with confident people to learn how to be confident, no matter where you are.

Before ending this post, I have to say that reading this post alone isn't going to make you any more confident (sadly), you must take action. In the words of Dale Carnegie:

"Inaction breeds doubt and fear. Action breeds confidence and courage. If you want to conquer fear, do not sit home and think about it. Go out and get busy."

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What is Confidence?

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What is Confidence? Confidence is the belief and assurance that you can rely and count on someone or something. Self confidence on the other hand, is the belief and assurance that you can rely and count on yourself.

The purpose of building confidence is NOT just to feel good about ourselves or to boost our self-esteem (though it is handy in these areas as well).

Having a strong sense of self-confidence means believing in our ability to bring about change in our lives, as well as believing that we can bring about the outcome we want. Confidence empowers us to take action, and continue taking actions.

Conversely, the lack of confidence causes us to stop in our tracks, despite having taken the first step. This is evident where a sudden inspiration or motivation causes us to start something, but after some time, the lack of self-confidence causes us to give up.

"It's not who you are that holds you back, it's who you think you're not." -- Anonymous

Confidence is a state of mind, an emotion or even a feeling. It can be summoned if you know how to control it, regardless of what’s happening externally.

It is possible for someone to stare at the face of Death and still say, “I’m confident I will not die.” Ever witness the anti-hero of a movie that shows arrogance even in the face of death? That’s confidence – well, one form of it.

And similarly, it is possible for someone to tell themselves “I don’t think I can do it” even though they have the power, knowledge, experience, skill, ability, capability, competency, and potential to succeed.

[Related Post: How to Build Confidence]

Confidence unlocks the many of the great elements within us:

• Instead of worrying about a new day at work, you’ll wake up feeling excited about life and you’ll also feel motivated to solve all problems that you encounter - You’ll see them as interesting learning opportunities.

• Instead of a feeling trapped in a negative mindset, you’ll feel there’s nothing that cannot be done and there’s no tasks that cannot be accomplish. You’ll also have all the motivation to start taking action, and finish what you started.

• You’ll also begin to perceive everything in a new way; you’ll start seeing yourself in a positive and more optimistic light.

• You’ll be able to keep a clear mind even under stressful situations. And this enables you to make the right decisions and avoid the common mistakes that people make under pressure.

While confidence has its merits, we should also take note that over-confidence has its dangers. A person that is overly confident can under-prepare, under-plan, under-practice, under-execute.

Confidence is not being arrogant or egotistical. Remind yourself that confidence will not guarantee success, it merely kick-starts your journey – you’ll still have to act on your goals to turn them into reality.

“With confidence, you have won even before you have started.” – Marcus Tullius Cicero

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