Category: Positively Positive

What If Today Was the Day You Decided to Commit to One Thing?

All of the progress we crave starts with one step. Goals aren’t just a part of the endgame. They are the endgame. But your actions are what get you there. A reality so close to our faces is often ignored for the sake of seeming productive.

You see, the word progress is misused nowadays. It currently means to tack on more than we can handle in pursuit of what we think will make us happy. But do we know for sure? Of course not. The reason is tied closely with how distracted we are.

There is no way to walk in confidence if your mind is worrying about another commitment down yonder, behind you, or off to the side. (I’m only referring to tasks we voluntarily assign ourselves to — not family obligations or necessary responsibilities associated with keeping ourselves and relationships healthy.)

The issue here is not effort. Most of us have that. Instead, breakdowns come from splitting our energy into hundreds of pieces, then leaving it there to die.

“What we choose to focus on and what we choose to ignore — plays in defining the quality of our life.”Cal Newport

We are built to excel. But that doesn’t mean doing so in multiple ways, at the same time. You build excellence with intention, and intention is unidirectional.

In other words, you create sustainable growth in playing the guitar if you prioritize practicing the guitar. By giving yourself the opportunity to focus on one goal at a time, you gain traction and confidence.

We overconsume our minds with goals so much that we replace action with daydreaming.

Don’t get me wrong — it’s good to daydream. You give your mind a chance to roam free of toxic hustle culture syndrome and relish the idea of accomplishing the goals you set.

But at the end of the day, the only way you get from point A to point B is by doing the work. The question I’ve been asking myself lately, though, is…What work?

I’ve gained immense clarity in my life by doing the following:

Step 1 — Make a list of what is worth your focus. This could be the ultimate goal or micro-goals that lead to achieving it (or both). The point is to clarify where your attention belongs.

Step 2 — Make a list of what is not worth your focus. One of the best ways to figure out what matters is by getting clear on what doesn’t. In this way, you create a filter through which to live.

Step 3 — Set a time to come back to refine the lists. As you grow, your desires grow with you. How willing you are to step back and analyze the person you’re becoming plays a huge role in that.

I’m sure you’ve seen writers, entrepreneurs, and business minds who preach multitasking as if their lives depend on it. They spread the idea that if you really want to go places, you have to do it all.

I believe that idea is a dud. Why? Because you can only become an expert at one thing at a time.

I’ve tried to learn code and music simultaneously. I overworked my brain. My body begged for a break. And the only thing I actually accomplished was burnout.

That’s not moving forward; it’s moving backward.

Honest creators will confess that you need to become an expert at the most meaningful vein in your life.

That’s not to say that research should replace your creativity. Freedom of the mind is crucial to longevity in anything you pursue in life. If you put blockades in front of that, you won’t last long.

I liken the creative journey to a hike. It seems fun at first — and, in fact, it is. But then the struggle starts. The pain of repetition causes everything in your body to want to give up and call it a day. And yet, there’s nothing more rewarding than reaching the destination you worked so hard for.

Don’t miss the point. That hike required focus, consistency, and determination on one thing — wherever you set out to be. You can’t complete the trek and scuba dive.

You also don’t have time to worry about the experiences of others. At the same time, someone else’s experience may teach what you lacked the courage to learn. We are traversing the courses of our existence together and in our own way.

We are faced with decisions that affect the course of our journey each day. The questions and answers are ours to contribute to a culture absorbed in distraction.

For me, it’s been a lesson worth learning time and time again. I get caught up in how much I can do today instead of what stands as the most important thing.

A bunch of complete, minute tasks doesn’t give us the kind of traction we seek. That’s only found in intentional commitment to a specific space.

It’s time you decided to commit to one thing. Because one thing with your complete attention becomes life-changing. And that habit will translate into other areas of your existence.

Kevin Horton is a 24-year-old photographer, student, modest bookworm, and wanna-be web developer with a new-found love for writing. He writes helpful words about creativity, productivity, and the enjoyably simple life.

Image courtesy of Alexandr Podvalny.

How to Find Success Late in Life

When I was ten I wanted to be an astronaut, a writer, a spy, a superhero, and an advice columnist.

I wrote a play. I did spy on people. But I couldn’t figure out how to be a superhero. I read collected columns of “Dear Abby” (an advice columnist) every day.

The only advice I remember her giving was to a woman who was married to a guy who would go to clubs for “sexual favors”. The woman didn’t know what to do. Abby told her!

Then when I was in sixth grade I forgot all about the things in fifth grade. I wanted to be President! Then in seventh grade I joined a cult. And so on.

Now, people as young as 17 are sending me emails that say, “I’m 17 and I feel like I have done nothing in life! What should I do?”

There’s a simple answer: do whatever you want. Then it all adds up.

If you try to get 1% better each day at your health, at your relationships and the way you treat people, at your creativity, and at turning despair into gratitude, then that 1% compounds into an amazing person.

Do that 1%. Take one action. Even if the actions is for one minute. The 1/1/1 strategy.

I know this. Because I’m still compounding. What is 1%? Whatever you want it to be. The math of life is multi-dimensional.

What happens to amazing people? Everything happens to them. And you never worry about what you accomplish. Because there is no ONE thing. There is EVERY thing. And every day.

Here are some people who accomplished things late in life. I admire all of them. I’m 50, and one day I’m going to figure out what I want to do with my life.

James Altucher is the author of the bestselling book Choose Yourself, editor at The Altucher Report and host of the popular podcast, The James Altucher Show, which takes you beyond business and entrepreneurship by exploring what it means to be human and achieve well-being in a world that is increasingly complicated. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter.

Image courtesy of Marcus Aurelius.

How to Say No Politely (While Honoring Yourself)


When I got pregnant for the first time I got way better at saying no.

I loved my newfound clarity about what was and wasn’t allowed into my life and I knew I wanted to hold onto it even after the baby was out.

So, I’ve been practicing ever since.

For me, saying yes has never been a stretch. It’s the “no’s” that have tripped me up.

If you’re a recovering “yes-aholic,” too, read on.

Here are my go-to strategies for saying a clear “no,” which is a gift to you and those around you. Because remember:




A woman walked up to me and asked me if I would review some of her work to give her my feedback. She was delightful, and I’m sure the piece she wanted my eye on was equally wonderful. However, I knew it would sit in my inbox, and I would delay looking at it. And it would bug me. And cause mental friction. And after all the delaying and hemming and hawing, if I did get around to reviewing it, I wouldn’t give it my best attention.

Why? Because it’s not a priority for me. Because I have several of my own projects that are requesting my immediate attention. Because it felt like a no. (By the way, something feeling like a no is reason enough. Those other justifications are nice if they’re true, but they’re not necessary.)


In the past I would have told her to email me and I’d see what I could do. Then I might have let her down over email.

Instead, I told her the truth in real time. I said that, while I loved what she was up to, I didn’t want to tell her I would do something that I know deep down isn’t a priority for me right now. It felt uncomfortable to say, but I said it politely and kindly. It felt freeing, too. We both knew where we stood. I wished her the best and gave her some other resources she might find helpful.

Take home message: if someone asks you to do something and you immediately know that you won’t, don’t say that you will. It doesn’t serve you and it doesn’t serve them. Keep it clean, people.


Your no does not require justification. Here’s a great sentence you can use, inspired by my friend Andrea Equihua:

“Thank you for your invitation/offer/request. I’m not able to do it at this time, but if that changes, I’ll let you know.”

Gracious. Kind. Simple. Clear. Non-apologetic.

You don’t have to apologize for not being able to fit into someone else’s agenda. You don’t have to give 57 reasons why it doesn’t work. You can say it politely while still giving a simple no.


There are moments when someone asks you to do something, and you don’t know whether or not you can or want to.

There are also moments when you’re caught off guard when someone asks you to do something in person, and a direct “no” feels like too much of a stretch. (This is often the case when your “no” muscles are still developing.)

These are moments when asking for 48 hours to get back to the person is ideal.

They feel acknowledged. You don’t feel cornered.

Then you can give yourself a moment to check in while you’re not in their presence and get clear.

You can also take the time to compose a response that’s polite, kind, and respectful if it is indeed a no. When you’re just starting out practicing saying no, coming up with this kind of response in the moment can be quite challenging. Giving yourself a day or two helps you get your wits about you.


You’ve likely heard this one before, but it’s one I remind myself of nearly daily, so it’s worth repeating.

If it’s not a hell yes, it’s a no.

That’s it. It works the same on choosing where to eat dinner as it does who you’re going to marry.


The gift of your no is that everyone in your life knows that when you do say yes, it’s real. They know where they stand with you. It puts everyone at ease.

And you honoring your “yes’s” and your “no’s” means that you get to trust yourself more and more, each and every day. Since you’re the only one you’ll be spending your entire life with, that’s a pretty big deal.

May we all have the cojones to say no when we mean no and yes when we mean yes. And may we all have the courage to keep the volume turned up on that voice that always knows. It serves us, and it sure serves the world.

Want to practice saying no together? I’m hosting The NO Challenge and we start in a couple of weeks. For 8 days, we’ll say no to 1 thing a day and by the end of it, you won’t even recognize yourself you’ll be so liberated.

Join The NO Challenge.


Have you ever said yes when you really meant no? What did it feel like? What are your “saying no” strategies? This is a growth edge for many in our community, so please share your best tips in the comments below!

Kate Northrup is an entrepreneur, bestselling author, and mother who supports ambitious, motivated and successful women to light up the world without burning themselves out in the process. Committed to empowering women entrepreneurs to create their most successful businesses while navigating motherhood, Kate is the founder and CEO of Origin Collective, a monthly membership site where women all over the world gather to achieve more while doing less. Her first book, Money: A Love Story, has been published in 5 languages. Kate’s work has been featured by The Today Show, Yahoo! Finance, Women’s Health, Glamour, and The Huffington Post, and she’s spoken to audiences of thousands with Hay House, Wanderlust, USANA Health Sciences, and more. Kate lives with her husband and business partner, Mike, and their daughter Penelope in Maine. Find out more and receive your free copy of the 5 Simple and effective ways to get the results you want in your business at

Image courtesy of Joshua McKnight.

Dating: How Shifting Your Lens Can Change the Game

Dating. It’s supposed to be fun. It’s supposed to feel good. It’s supposed to be a great adventure. But somehow, that’s not always how it goes. Why? Why do women (and men) often find dating to be a stressful, confusing experience? There are many reasons, but today I want to focus on the lens. The lens, the way in which one sees their environment.

Let’s back up. Let’s start with what women are taught as young girls. Simply put, we are taught, ‘you aren’t good enough unless you have a partner or get married.’ This societal teaching leads women to be focused on securing a partner versus securing the right partner for her. In turn, we end up acting from a place of insecurity and low self-esteem, when we need someone else to validate our worth. The flipside, when we are secure and confident, teaches us to think ‘what do I actually need?’ and to focus on making choices that fulfill ourselves.

Let’s look at how the insecure and low self-esteem lens affects us in dating.

We have all been in this situation….girlfriends sitting around at brunch reading and rereading texts sent from an on again/off again boyfriend. Everyone is scrutinizing the texts to determine what they mean. Does he like me? Does he want to see me? Is he making up excuses? Is he REALLY that busy? This insecure lens is all about HIM. How does he view everything? What does he think? Now, let’s flip this on its head and try a different lens. The secure and confident lens asks ‘do I like HIM?’ It isn’t your job to take care of his feelings about you. It is your job and your responsibility to take care of yourself and your feelings about him.

Often times, because of what we are told from childhood, our lens is desperation. When we are insecure, we worry about what others think of us and quickly forget what truly matters. When this lens is shifted to a place of confidence and security, we no longer have to judge what is shared with us by a partner or anyone else, but rather value ourselves. The internal dialogue shifts from ‘do they desire me’ to ‘they are lucky to have me.’ The soundtrack in our mind is suddenly placed on our own value and worthiness!

This shift from external to internal can change the entire dating experience from stressful and unfulfilling to an engaging supply of personal growth. While simple on paper, in practice it is much harder because it is opposite of what we are taught from day one. But, we challenge you, try and stop for a moment and think is this about my needs and what I want or is this derived from my desire to feel worthy? You may be surprised at what you find and how much happier you will be when you shift your lens.

Joanna Hakimi is a proud entrepreneur and can often be found singing in the car with her two kids. Starting her first successful business when she was 17 and being president of the Young Entrepreneur’s Society at the University of Georgia, she never closed the door on opportunity. She then went on to Northwestern University and attained her Masters in Science, becoming a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist. After being a successful LMFT in the northern suburbs of Chicago for more than 15 years while simultaneously running a mindful goods boutique for 5 years and accomplishing a 200 hour yoga teaching certification, Joanna was itching for a new adventure. After a phone conversation with a friend in California discussing ways to grow her Life Coaching business, the idea came about that independent professionals, such as Life Coaches, Health and Wellness Coaches and other similar people in the life changing business, needed a resource to connect potential clients with the LifeChanger they were seeking. That’s how her newest venture, LifeChangers.Info was born. LifeChangers has a mission to connect professionals with a new client base using a simple and inclusive site. When she’s not seeing clients or working to grow LifeChangers.Info, you can find Joanna hiking, making terrariums or, well, singing in the car with her kids…likely to Billy Joel or Indigo Girls. You can follow Joanna on Instagram.

Image courtesy of cottonbro.

Why You Need a Vacation: 5 Benefits of Disconnecting

Are you among the 55% of Americans who don’t take their allotted vacation time from work? That may not be such a good move for your health, happiness, or productivity. There are important reasons why you need a vacation instead of burning the candle at both ends.

Because I travel so much for all the seminars, workshops, trainings, and speeches I give — as well as all the time I spend writing books or recording new online courses and video blogs when I am home — my wife was becoming upset about the lack of time we were spending together.

She suggested we take a month-long vacation together to reconnect and deepen our relationship with each other. So we rented a house on the ocean in Maui, Hawaii, for a whole month.

At first, I was nervous about being away from my work for a whole month, but with the success of our online programs that don’t require my live presence every week, and the ability to prerecord video blogs and social media messages, it turned out fine.

I made an agreement with my wife that I could write and handle critical emails for a maximum of two hours a day, and the rest of the time I would spend with her.

As I reflect on the month, here are five valuable insights and lessons that I learned about the value of disconnecting through taking a vacation. Hopefully, they’ll help you discover why you need a vacation too.

Disconnecting Brings Balance to Your Life

The first is that once we made it a priority and made the decision to do it, I was able to find all kinds of ways to make it work.

My fears (of getting too far behind on my emails and writing projects, not being there to make important decisions for the future of the company, being bored without my work, and so on all turned out to be unfounded.

I was able to delegate more of my work to others, realize that some things simply didn’t need to be done, practice saying NO to more people than I usually would, and see that my high standards of perfection were sometimes getting in the way of having more time to simply be and enjoy life. I was able to live with the belief that sometimes “good” is good enough.

I’ve been home for over a month now, and I am still living a more balanced life, getting more sleep, exercising more, saying NO more often, and delegating more. My life is much more balanced.

Absolute Beauty Can Be Just Beyond the Jagged Rocks

Another big lesson I learned came the day we drove over to the south side of the island to go to Makena Beach. We had heard about a place called La Perouse Bay just a little beyond Makena that was a great area for snorkeling, so we decided to explore it.

When we arrived, it was around 2:30 in the afternoon, and it was partly cloudy and a strong wind was blowing, and there was a pretty strong surf. Plus the entrance into the water required walking barefoot over a lot of uncomfortable-looking rocks, not sand.

My wife Inga was all gung ho to go into the water anyway, but I decided to stay on the beach and read while she snorkeled. My reluctance to get into the water was further strengthened as I watched her struggle walking over the rocks as she got into the water.

So I felt very content to find a place to sit on a log that had been washed up onto the rocky shore and read.

After a few minutes, she had swum quite a distance, and then she started waving and screaming “You have to come in; it’s amazing!” I just waved her off with a “No way” waving of my hands.

Then, she swam all the way back to where I was and said it was the most amazing snorkeling ever. She said, “It’s like being inside an aquarium; you have to come in!”

Because she had taken the time and effort to swim all the way back to convince me, I decided to brave the rocks that I had to walk and stumble over to get in. (And in fact, it did turn out to be extremely uncomfortable.)

And am so glad I did it.

I had never seen so many different varieties and sizes of fish. There were so many of them — sometimes in schools of 100 or more.

Some of the fish were two feet long and so colorful. The coral reef itself was amazing in its size, its colors, and its different kinds of coral.

We must have spent more than an hour swimming around in this magical wonderland, and I have to say that it was one of the top visual experiences of my life — and I almost totally missed it due to my not wanting to experience the discomfort of the rocky entrance into the ocean.

Good Things Await Us Outside Our Comfort Zone

Another lesson I learned from this is how many times I have said NO to something I was invited to do because of how I assumed it would be uncomfortable or it wouldn’t be worth time and effort.

My wife is almost always up for any kind of adventure. She is always hiking, swimming in the ocean, going on spiritual pilgrimages to India, Nepal, and Bhutan, and coming back with great pictures and amazing tales of her experiences.

As a result of that day underwater, I have made a commitment to step outside of my comfort zone and by saying YES more often and assuming something good will come from it.

Knowledge Is the Antidote for Fear

Another thing I learned during our month off was more about how to deal with fear.

Whenever we went snorkeling, which we did a lot, I would always have the fear of sharks come up. Unfortunately, years ago I had seen the movie Jaws, and sometime later a friend of mine had told me, “Whenever you enter the ocean, you enter the food chain.”

So whenever I would get into the ocean, I would be aware that a fear of sharks would emerge unbidden into my consciousness. To make matters worse, while we were on Maui for the month, a man was bitten by a shark while swimming in the ocean and bled to death. SO it would seem a fear of sharks made rational sense as well.

Two things changed that.

The first is that I was seeing a chiropractor two or three times a week while we were there. Turns out he is an avid surfer and had been surfing nearly every day for about 20 years. When I asked him if he was ever afraid of being bitten by a shark, he replied, “NO.” He said, If you know the rules, you’ll be fine. So what are the rules?

Simple, don’t swim in the morning and around sunset and after. That’s when the sharks feed. Don’t swim too far from the shore. Sharks are basically fearful so they attack when things are murky and you can’t see them coming.

Don’t swim in the estuaries where there is runoff from a stream entering the ocean. The muddy water makes it hard to see the sharks. And you’re safer when you swim in groups.

The man who had been bitten by a shark and bled out had broken three of the four rules. He was 60 yards out in the ocean, swimming in the early morning and swimming by himself.

By following all of those rules, I felt much safer swimming in the ocean. Gaining more information about the reality of any risk rather than letting your imagination run wild, always lessens any fear.

Positive Thoughts Silence Negative Ones

The other thing I noticed when I focused on increasing my awareness was that any time I was scared in the water, it was because I was thinking about or imagining a shark.

Based on what I know about fear, which is that it is created by imagining something bad happening in the future, whenever a thought or image of a shark came into my consciousness, I simply refocused my awareness back to the present moment and on the beautiful fish and coral that were all around me.

After a few days of that intentional practice, along with following the rules my chiropractor taught me, I always felt totally safe in the water.

If the fear had continued, I could have also used tapping, which I have talked about in previous videos, to release the fear, but I never had to do that.

Consider Why You Need a Vacation Too

Anyway, I hope what I have shared with you will inspire you to say YES more to the potential adventures in your life, and to not let fear stop you from having a lot more fun and success in your life.

Think about the benefits that you can personally gain from disconnecting. What potential learning and fun have you been saying no to because you thought it might be too uncomfortable or scary?

What connections can you make with the people you love by spending more distraction-free time with them?

Take the time to plan a vacation each year and receive the benefits it brings to your personal and professional life. Remember that everything you want that you don’t have is right outside your comfort zone, and you have the power to step outside it any time you wish.

To learn more about these principles, download my free Positive Thinking Guide. And remember, everything in your life will only change for the better when YOU CHANGE first.

As the beloved originator of the Chicken Soup for the Soul® series, Jack Canfield fostered the emergence of inspirational anthologies as a genre—and watched it grow to a billion dollar market. As the driving force behind the development and delivery of over 100 million books sold through the Chicken Soup for the Soul® franchise, Jack Canfield is uniquely qualified to talk about success. Jack is America’s #1 Success Coach and wrote the life-changing book The Success Principles: How to Get From Where You Are to Where You Want to Be and Jack speaks around the world on this subject. Check out his newest book The 30-Day Sobriety Solution: How to Cut Back or Quit Drinking in the Privacy of Your Own Home. Follow Jack at and sign up for his free resources today!

Image courtesy of Mateusz Dach.

How to Be Undefeatable

Phil has an incurable disease. His esophagus doesn’t work. It gets worse and worse and eventually he might not be able to talk or eat.

But he seems fine. “I am fine,” he told me. “Because of the same method I use to elect Presidents.”


“Is this the most important election ever?” I asked Phil Stutts. I asked him because he is one of the few people that has actually helped elect a President of the United States.

For the past 12 months, Phil has been collecting data on hundreds of millions of people. He told me a year ago, “People think they are going to die of COVID. They think everyone is going to die. They want to know they are safer than the media says.”

And because Phil told me that, I upped my podcast from two days a week to five in order to have more epidemiologists, virologists, etc. in order to properly analyze the data and assure people they were safer than they thought.

Throughout the past year I called Phil to ask, “What are people concerned about? I want to help.” And he would tell me. Just like he would tell candidates or corporations.

When everyone was insisting, “This is the most important election ever,” I wanted to know.

I went to, which has an archive of every newspaper article in the past 250 years. I searched for “most important election ever”.

Guess what?

Every election since 1800 was “the most important election ever.”

In 1844, for instance, “The Democratic Party of Perry County…assembled at the commencement of a political campaign which will terminate in one of the most important elections ever held in our country…”

In 1868, “Freemen of Vermont! You are called to attend the polls on Tuesday at the most important election ever held in this country…”

In 1892, “As all of the speakers have told you, this is surely the most important election ever…”

In 1944, “This is the most important election since 1860. It is more than that — it is probably the most important election ever.”

Were all of these headlines wrong? No. They really were the most important elections ever. Just like 2020 was.

Without realizing it, we were also thinking whatever the campaigns wanted us to think. They were spending billions of dollars to spread a message. They use data to figure out what scares us.

Presidents do it. Corporations do it. Media does it. We have to fight it.

For 18 years, Phil Stutts has been on the front lines of using a unique new technique for spreading a message that has impacted tens of millions of people. This technique never existed before. In 1940 it didn’t exist. In 1852 it didn’t exist. Even in 2000 it didn’t exist.

Phil Stutts started working for political campaigns in the 2004 presidential campaign. He spearheaded this new unique technique and it’s gotten more and more sophisticated ever since. Which is why he is among the very first and most experienced to use this technique to help businesses. To even help  people like me.

Phil knows more information about you than you think. Not because he spies on you. But because you give your data to many different companies and services. If you read the fine print, you’ll see that this data is shared with other companies. And political campaigns, led by people like Phil Stutts, get this data, understand it, and then use it to spread a message.

What information? They know when you will buy your next car, they know how many strawberries you ate this month, how much exercise you get, what issues your closest family members most care about. Where you are even thinking of vacationing this year.

With that data, they can send one message to you, and another message to your cousin, and another message completely to a voter who lives on the other side of the country.

If this feels manipulated, it is. And it isn’t. This is now what every candidate does. This is the way politics works. And why not hear about the issues that are important to me?

During this pandemic and the economic lockdowns, I called Phil on a regular basis.

“What’s new?”

Every week he was polling thousands of people and getting data on millions more. Phil is perhaps the first to take the techniques from political campaigns and use them for marketing of…anything. Businesses, political campaigns, even my own personal social media accounts. What do my readers like? What are they looking for?

Businesses listen, I listen, because we want to address concerns that people have. Help people where they need the most help.

Every week, Phil had his finger on the pulse. Sometimes (often) people are worried about their economic situations. But sometimes they were scared of all the misinformation in the media.

Or they wanted to know that their local communities were safe. Sometimes people, as a whole, didn’t care about material goods. They just wanted to know this virus wasn’t going to destroy the world. Other times they wanted to know if their jobs would come back.

Every week it was different. Every week I called Phil. Because he knew the answers.

Phil has been on my podcast close to 10 times. Alongside people like Richard Branson, Mark Cuban, Peter Thiel, Tyra Banks, Danica Patrick, and even Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. Phil is my go-to guest when I want to really learn what is going on in the world.

Phil has represented Republicans, Democrats, and now businesses from every industry. What I like is that he is not blindly ideological. He works with data to see what the concerns of the world are and how businesses and political candidates can best meet the needs of the people.

I asked him, “Do people lie in order to fit the data? Do they say what the people want instead of what they believe?”

“No,” he told me. But candidates (or corporations, or writers) believe many things. And they want their message to be heard. So they talk about the issue they believe in that is most important to people at that moment.”

And the data doesn’t have to be expensive. We can test and experiment and observe all the information around us.

Is a business idea good? Figure out an experiment that can get you data.

Want to start a restaurant? Make all the food and invite people over to try it. Is a book cover good? Do what I did and post it on Facebook with a $20 ad budget and see which cover people click on.

He has helped businesses make hundreds of millions of dollars. He has helped candidates become Presidents of the United States. He has helped me and others write good articles for their readers.

His book just came out. The Undefeated Marketing System, by Phil Stutts. And he was also just on my podcast to lay it all out.

  • Get data
  • Come up with a plan.
  • Figure out how to communicate about that plan.
  • Test your plan.
  • Launch.

“I used it to find my amazing wife. I used it when I had an incurable disease and I needed help. I use it to help candidates get elected. And I use it with my customers.”

“And you helped me use it with my podcast!” I said.

And now I don’t have to call him anymore. He told me on the podcast and in the book how he does it.

This election was harsh and dirty and surprising. But let’s not forget that many elections in American history have been like that. Let’s not forget that in the 1850s one Senator almost beat another Senator to death in the halls of Congress.

Or that John Adams was jailing journalists in 1800 thanks to the “Alien and Sedition Act” that he passed — and that Thomas Jefferson, in the “most important election ever” swore to overturn.

If elections are going to determine the true representatives of the people, and businesses are going to serve the needs of their customers, we need to determine what those customers and voters want. What are their concerns?

This can only be done with data. Not opinions. This can only be done if you know how to interpret that data. Not just guessing. There are no shortcuts.

It’s hard to find someone you trust. It’s also hard to find someone who isn’t a sucker for all the scripted thoughts inside the echo chambers of social media.

Instead, it’s good to find someone to trust who is unbiased. Someone who has mastered using data to make life-changing decisions for elections and businesses. Someone who is willing to share those techniques with us. Someone who is a friend. Phil.

“Was this the most important election ever?” I asked Phil.

“No,” Phil said, “But the next one might be.”

James Altucher is the author of the bestselling book Choose Yourself, editor at The Altucher Report and host of the popular podcast, The James Altucher Show, which takes you beyond business and entrepreneurship by exploring what it means to be human and achieve well-being in a world that is increasingly complicated. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter.

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Do Hard Things Because They Are Hard

Last week I went to Utah to run an unusual marathon. My time was well over two hours slower than any marathon I’ve done, but that was by design—I was running with someone who was doing a series of extreme events back-to-back, every day for 100 days in a row.

The pace, therefore, was slow.

His name is James Lawrence, more popularly known as the Iron Cowboy. I’d heard of James a year or two ago after watching a documentary of his previous quest where he attempted (and completed, with a few small variations along the way) 50 Ironman-distance triathlons in 50 states in 50 days.

For his new quest, he’s attempting 100 “full-distance triathlons” in 100 days, all from his home base in Utah. (He can’t call them Ironman-distance because the Ironman brand is, shall we say, a little touchy about such things.)

If it sounds like this is easier than dealing with the logistics of travel, that part is probably true, but consider what’s involved:

  • A 2.4 mile swim that starts at 5:30am
  • A 112 mile bike ride (approximately 7:30am-2pm)
  • A 26.2 mile run (starts around 3pm, usually ends between 9pm-10pm)
  • Repeat every day for 100 days

Did you catch that last part? There’s no margin for error. If he gets behind in any event, the times stack up—and this has happened more than once already, where he finishes the run close to midnight, then gets in the pool again at 5:30am. All day long, no days off.

You can probably tell I’m impressed, and I don’t even bike or swim (at least not well). All I do is run!

Is He Doing This to Raise Money for Something? Yes, But…

But wait, why is he doing it? Here’s where it gets interesting.

Not surprisingly, James is raising money for a charity. In this case, it’s an organization that works to end human trafficking. So far he’s raised well over $100,000 and will presumably end up with a significantly higher number before it’s over.

But is raising money the reason he’s putting himself under such extreme pressure every day? As someone who studied these things and wrote a book about it, I’m pretty sure that’s not it.

Don’t get me wrong—I’m not saying that James is being deceptive in any way. It’s great that he’s able to align his efforts with a cause. I just mean that this motivation, however noble, is secondary. And not only is it a secondary motivation, but the benefits of a project like this (for both James and many other people) go far beyond fundraising.

On his previous quest, James also raised money for charity. He ended up with a good amount of money donated—but someone as determined as James could probably find a way to fundraise even more without 14 hours of endurance exercise every day. So, like any good quest, it’s not efficient or optimal.

This is a key component of quests: they don’t necessarily make logical sense. Plenty of outsiders “don’t get it.”

That’s why I believe the true motivation for a quest like 100 Ironman-distance triathlons in 100 days is much simpler. When I wrote The Happiness of Pursuit (a book all about finding purpose and meaning through a quest) I discovered that almost everyone who undertakes a bold adventure has difficulty explaining why they’re doing it.

To the hero on his/her/their journey, it’s intuitive: they simply have to do it. Once they get it in their heads, there’s no turning back. If they don’t make the attempt, they’ll regret it.

For some, however, that answer feels insufficient. Society at large tends to be uncomfortable with ambitious individuals—so the hero on the journey feels like they have to tack on some sort of justification.

Hero: “I’m going to ride a unicycle to the moon, all without sleeping.”

Person who lives a boring life: “That sounds crazy, why?”

Hero: “Because I’m raising money for kids with cancer.”

Person who lives a boring life: “Oh, that makes perfect sense. Let’s get you on the Today show.”

Speaking of The Happiness of Pursuit, one of the stories I liked best in the book was about Nate Damm, a young guy from Maine who walked across America. Unlike many of my other case studies, Nate had no pretense about any secondary motivations. “I’m doing this for myself,” he said.

The interesting thing is that even though Nate walked across America “for himself,” with no other justification, he ended up creating all sort of positive change as a result. (Clearly I was inspired! And countless other people were, too.)

Why, then, does a person like the “Iron Cowboy” feel the need to package a heroic achievement through charitable fundraising? Again, it’s not his fault—it’s because that’s what everyone expects. It’s unusual to say, “I’m doing this thing because it’s really hard and I want to challenge myself.”

But he should! Or at least, he could, and his quest would have no less value. And if you are thinking about doing some Really Hard Thing, know that you don’t need to justify or rationalize it somehow. It doesn’t need to be dressed up for anything other than the remarkable achievement it is on its own.

What’s Really Inspiring

If you’ve read this far, you might think I’m criticizing James or belittling his goal in some way. Nope! I’m a fan.

After all, I got up at 4:30am and traveled to Utah just for the sake of being part of the event that day. I didn’t talk with James much during the run—I figured that every day he has people bothering him, and for me the value was in being a small part of a history-making achievement.

Even though I left James alone, I talked with many of the other people who showed up that day. It was Day 47, AKA the 47th day in a row that he’d been out there, and four days later he’d break his own world record for the most consecutive full-distance triathlons.

A few people in the group were ultrarunners, most were at my level (not an ultrarunner, but otherwise comfortable with running a lot), and at least four of them had never done a marathon before.

Those people—the ones who were inspired to attempt something they’d never done before—were the ones I was interested in.

The crowd for the day James broke his previous record. I was there four days earlier for Day #47.

  • One of them was a guy who’d been doing a strenuous workout program for the past 75 days. Before beginning the program, he was out of shape and not used to exercise. Many days were tough, but by sticking to the plan, he had already lost 40 pounds. He said that when he thought about quitting, he thought about what James was doing every day.
  • Another guy had ran a half-marathon once, but that was a decade ago and he hadn’t done much running since. (Note to non-runners: to go from a half-marathon to a full is not a small jump!)
  • Two other runners had been doing a plant-based diet for several months after listening to Rich Roll, podcaster extraordinaire and longtime friend of mine. Joining up with James was another step in their journey of self-improvement.
  • Finally, another runner told me they’d recently left an abusive relationship, and decided to get serious about cycling (and running an occasional marathon…) when they heard about the “Conquer 100” quest.

These are just a few anecdotes from the group I ran with in person on a single day of this herculean endeavor. Every day for 100 days, people from near and far are joining in to be part of the events. They’ll all go away with the story of a shared experience: I was part of that. For some of them, it might just be a nice memory. For others, it could be life-changing.

And of course, every day, tens of thousands are following online. Assuming that James is able to make it to day 100 (or, honestly, even if a serious injury forces him to stop sometime before then), countless numbers of people will be inspired and challenged. What do you think the impact of that is?

It’s impossible to quantify, but whatever is it, it has to be much, much greater than whatever amount of money he raises. The charity work is fine. But doing hard things just for the sake of doing them might be even better.

Here’s what’s really inspiring about a quest like the Iron Cowboy’s. It’s not the outcome—the money raised, the miles ran (and swam and biked, in his case)—it’s the pursuit. This is beautiful, meaningful, and entirely worthwhile by itself.

Chris Guillebeau is the New York Times bestselling author of The Happiness of Pursuit, The $100 Startup, and other books. During a lifetime of self-employment, he visited every country in the world (193 in total) before his 35th birthday. Every summer in Portland, Oregon he hosts the World Domination Summit, a gathering of creative, remarkable people. His new book, Born for This, will help you find the work you were meant to do. Connect with Chris on Twitter, on his blog, or at your choice of worldwide airline lounge.

Image courtesy of Pixabay.

The Salmon Teacher

When I was seven years old, my mom and her partner Stephan took me on a fishing day trip. We strolled for a while through the dense, shady forest until we finally found the ideal location to begin fishing: a secluded and peaceful spot beside the water’s edge.

We sat by the rapidly flowing river and took out our fishing rods. I was beyond excited, and my childish delight definitely showed. What I didn’t know about fishing is that patience is a virtue you must possess if you want to enjoy the process. Patient I was not, and my excitement gave way to extreme boredom in no time.

That day in nature was supposed to be about fun, togetherness, and enjoyment. In stark contrast, I was growing grumpier by the minute. Stephan, wanting to cheer me up, suggested that we go to a nearby salmon farm, where the odds of catching a fish were about 100%.

As we settled by the artificial lake, I threw my line into the water with gleeful anticipation. Instantly, the soft fishing line became tense, indicating an unlucky salmon had been cheaply tricked into thinking my hook was some kind of luxurious breakfast.

As I eagerly pulled the fish out of the water, the reality of what was occurring finally dawned on me. Attached to the other end of the line was a struggling creature, squirming on the dry ground where it did not belong, furiously fighting for its life. Worst of all, I had caused this to happen. This sight terrorized me on such a deep level that I turned around and ran for my life.

All I can remember of that moment was how frightened I felt—the salmon was determined to chase me down. The faster I ran, the closer he got to me. I screamed in fear while zigzagging in panic across the grass, like an ostrich on bad acid.

In the background, between my shrieking and my mom’s unrestrained giggles, I heard Stephan’s simple yet wise advice: “Emilie, drop the line! Let it go!” They both almost choked to death from laughter.

Even though “let it go” seemed like a simple and reasonable solution, I still chose to run wild and yelled for a little longer before putting the advice into action. When I had reached the point of exhaustion, I finally decided to drop the line.

I felt an odd mixture of surprise and relief, when I realized that the fish was no longer pursuing me, and my fiery ordeal was over. I quit fishing altogether on that day.

In our adult lives, most of the things that hold us back—those that cause us pain and stop us from living the life we truly desire—are like the salmon and me. We are connected by a fine, invisible cord, yet we sometimes forget that we hold the power to let go.

During the past few decades of my pursuit for spiritual alignment and my T-rex appetite for everything related to self-growth, I came to realize that the most powerful wisdom always comes in simple forms. I’ve also come to understand that simple rarely equals easy.

Whether it’s a relationship, a habit, a way of thinking, something in your past, or your own ego, it can be an overwhelming challenge to let go of your attachment.

There are no special tricks or mysterious ways to go about it. If we want to move on to the joyful, fulfilling life we envisioned for ourselves, we just have to drop that damn fishing line!

“I tried to eat healthier, but I don’t think it’s for me. Everything tastes so boring, and I mean, I don’t even drink, so I think a bit of food indulgence is totally fine. I’m letting go of this,” a friend of mine once said. This same friend had claimed just a few days before that she needed to make better food choices after complaining for months that she felt sluggish and unhealthy.

This is called abandonment. Even though the line is fine between both, letting go is not the equivalent of abandoning.

Abandonment is weakness. It’s an excuse we create to get out of a challenging situation that causes us temporary discomfort. If we simply persisted, it would allow us to achieve the goals we had set for ourselves, and leave our life enhanced.

Letting go is the opposite. It’s a lofty act of self-love, courage, mindfulness, and strength. It’s making the right call to move forward instead of backward. It’s a conscious choice to forgive and release all of our worries, insecurities, and fear about our past and future.

To let go can be a simple physical action. It can take many forms: walking out of your toxic job to never return; purging your closet and giving your excess clothes to charity after realizing you’re a shopaholic; throwing your wedding ring out of a moving car after signing your celebratory divorce papers; or shaving all of the precious hair from your head to leave society’s beauty standards in the dust.

However, in most cases, letting go is usually a tricky and complex mental process.

I say tricky because if it were so easy, we would all stop indulging in our negative thoughts and move on instantly from our trauma and exes in a heartbeat. We would all be bitter-free, forever-happy miniature Buddhas.

Instead, most of us just seem to want to punish and torture ourselves with the repetitive, awful stories playing in our minds. We indulge in the scariest (most unlikely) scenarios and replay awful memories on loop, over and over again. Why do we do this? It’s because of the way it feels. We literally become addicted to the familiar emotions that these stories create in our bodies. The repetition creates familiar neuropathways in the brainwaves; just like any other addiction, the more we activate them, the more we crave them.

For about three years, I held a vivid grudge about a coworker. When I was 20 years old, I began waitressing in a restaurant that sold anything chicken based. On one morning before my shift, me and three other coworkers were called one by one for an impromptu interview in the manager’s office.

A client from the previous evening had phoned in earlier to declare that someone had added a tip on his credit card receipt. He was certain he had left nothing, as he claimed the service had been awful.

Therefore, one of us waiting to be interrogated was responsible for the fraud. When my turn arrived, I found out that one of the girls had thrown me under the bus, even though I had nothing to do with the incident.

When they questioned me, they said that Anika already told them I was responsible. I instantly started crying from a feeling of deep injustice and betrayal (in retrospect, it probably made me look very guilty).

I was the newest employee, and to be completely honest, I was also pretty bad at my job. On top of that, I despised chicken. I was fired on the spot. I fiercely resented Anika, and recounted the infamous story countless times, each time funneling anger and drama into my inner world.

Three years later, I went back to eat at that same restaurant for a friend’s birthday party. Guess who was our waitress? Anika, the devil herself! I felt rage pulsating throughout my entire body, but kept it together so as to not ruin my friend’s special day. Anika recognized me immediately, and it was all very awkward.

Sometime before our food was served, I went to use the bathroom and ended up face to face with Anika.

“Look, I’m sorry for what happened a few years back. I could not afford to lose my job—I’m a single mom, you know? I panicked, so I said your name. I’m really, really sorry, and I hope you made it okay,” Anika told me, with tears in her eyes.

“I’m okay, Anika; we’re good,” I answered truthfully. In that moment, all of my resentment towards her vanished.

The truth is that I had been good since the first week after being let go. I quickly found a job that I did not suck at, it paid better, and I didn’t smell like of chicken after work. Win, win, win.

We obviously can’t bypass acknowledging and feeling all of our emotions.

It’s crucial to express them, whether that be through spoken words, writing, or other forms of art. We need to allow ourselves the appropriate amount of time to properly grieve before moving on—it is an important part of the process. In my situation with Anika, seven days should have been the correct amount of time to get over it, not three years.

This is where cultivating mindfulness plays an enormous role in the practice of letting go, unless you have some super-duper power to control your every thought (if so, hit me up—I’d love to befriend you and learn your magic).

My favorite mindfulness exercises are pretty traditional, and acutely effective: journaling, nature walk, meditation, and yoga. There is a plethora of practices at your fingertips, and you can choose whatever suits your world and brings you back to the present moment. Play a musical instrument, have a dance party, surf it out, focus on your breathing, or even hang out with a crew of baby goats.

To move on in positivity, we certainly need to make conscious choices about the thoughts that we indulge in (which is only about 5% for the average human). For all of the other 12,000 to 60,000 unwanted negative or repetitive thoughts that will flow in our mind without consent each day, the best approach is to release control, and allow them to pass by without judgment or engagement.

We must become the observer, and learn to not identify with our thoughts. It’s the engagement with these negative thoughts that creates inner conflicts, making them so real that we feel them as physical reactions in our body.

There’s absolutely nothing that we can change about the past, and it’s pointless to be worrying about a future which we have absolutely no control over (this pandemic is a pretty good reminder of that truth).

To let go is a sane, courageous decision. When trapped in the suffocating grip of what no longer serves us, we are robbing ourselves of the precious present moment. It is there that resides the opportunity to grow into the best version of ourselves. It is where we will find all the open doors leading us to infinite possibilities, allowing us to create the life that we truly desire. To choose to softly release, is sometimes the boldest action we can take.

Emilie Button is a passionate Transformational Coach, writer, and story collector. As a coach, she specializes in: Holistic wellness and spiritual and personal growth

Image courtesy of Roussety Gregory.

Using Gratitude to Grow Your Social Network

Friends, colleagues and casual acquaintances: lend me your ears! Would you like to have a more vibrant social network? Yes, I’m talking about actual people you can hang out with in person on a regular basis, who share your interests at work or at play. Did you know that expressing gratitude is a great way to strengthen all your relationships? It’s easy to do. Let me explain.

I’ve found that once I started to send out thank you notes on a consistent basis, all my social relationships just blossomed. This is because whenever you express gratitude to other people, they notice you!

Compassion and Kindness

Receiving a personal handwritten note is such a warm way to connect, even if you send it to someone you’ve just met or perhaps only know casually. Don’t be surprised if the other person wants to see you again! I think it’s because we all need more compassionate and kind people in our lives, and when you’ve expressed thanks to someone, you’ve shown them your true colors. They realize that you are a responsible individual who follows through and they’re more likely to view you as helpful to them in their social networks and friendship groups.

Mindset and Reciprocity

Once you start to spend more time together in person, don’t be surprised when other people notice that you’re quite a bit happier and more pleasant to be around than some other folks. Why would that be? Could it be because you make a point to express gratitude each day? Yes. Gratitude has been proven to change your mindset for the best and other people around you can sense that. They’ll realize that you know how to treat other people well and as a result, the people around you will respond in the same way, by reciprocating those warm feelings back to you.

Positive Feedback Loops

In essence, what you are doing is creating positive feedback loops between yourself and those around you. Your daily gratitude practice makes you more empathetic and understanding of diversity in others, and of course this opens you up to an even wider range of social interactions. As you open up and take an authentic interest in the well-being of others, this gives them the cue to react in a socially positive way toward you.

Once you are in a positive feedback loop like this, you can feel that the bonds of friendship and camaraderie become stronger and more consistent. Your circle expands. Everyone wins. And it started with a daily gratitude practice that only takes a few minutes each day. That is a superb return on your investment of time and energy, isn’t it?

The great thing is that as you continue to make a point to communicate your thankfulness, you’ll find that other people around you will begin to seek you out to talk about common interests, concerns or passions. They know you’ll listen and sincerely wish to help them because you’re just that kind of person!

Expansion and Connection

As you continue to share more of yourself, including your personality and your skills, it naturally strengthens and deepens the connections you have with friends and colleagues within your social networks. Suddenly your life is full of things to do, you’re getting out and about, having fun, and it just keeps getting better.

Wouldn’t you like a life like that? You can have it! Just pick up your pen and a notecard each morning and express thanks for something nice that someone said or did the day before. Don’t worry about perfect penmanship or the ideal wording, just speak from your heart through your pen. Send it off to them and when they read it, they’ll start to see you differently. And you yourself will feel different too — happier, more at peace, more satisfied with your life — gratitude has a way of doing that!

Once you get going, I’d love to hear how your daily expressions of gratitude are growing your social networks and helping you connect with more friends and colleagues that enrich your life. Life is what you make it, so make it count!

Elena Anguita is a change agent, speaker, and author of Spread Thanks! Create Miracles Through The Power of Ink who supports education and passionately believes in the transformative power of gratitude. You can connect with Elena on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and

Image courtesy of Adrienn.