The Month of Courage: Overcoming the Fear Factor

“There is an infinite quantity of confidence available in the universe- feel free to take all you like.” -unknown

What is the one thing that terrifies you more than anything else in the world? What great things could you accomplish if fear was not holding you back? Why are you afraid?

Fear. Just hearing the word causes a visceral reaction. What are we so afraid of?

This past month has been the month of integrity, and I am confident in saying that the Month of Courage will be much more challenging. It is not easy to develop integrity, but at least we understand it. We know what it means to be honest, for the most part, though living honestly is a challenge. Courage is different. Both courage and fear are such abstract concepts that they can be hard to wrap our minds around.

For us to understand, and properly implement the month of courage we must eliminate the fear factor. The more you try something that terrifies you, the greater your capacity to beat with that fear. Here are a few pointers to help you overcome your fear, and set good goals for the month of Courage.

1. Sometimes it helps to scream. I used to love jumping off of cliffs in Lake Powell, Utah. When the cliffs were higher than 30 feet, it was impossible to convince myself logically to jump. But, if I screamed some goofy quote like, “the only thing to fear is fear itself” or “give me liberty or give me death” as I jumped, it would help me override my natural instincts. Our natural instincts are very powerful, but they are extremely outdated.

Think about the lest few thousand years of human existence. They have been filled with famine, war, and numerous other terrible threats to our lives. The vast majority of these threats have completely vanished. When you stand up to give a speech in front of a hundred people there is zero chance you are going to be mauled by a tiger, or harpooned by a rival hunting gang (although I don’t know the actual statistics on that), yet your mind doesn’t get that- it still sends you this fight or flight response. You need to scream (even if it is silently to yourself), and use that adrenaline to give you strength to override your fear.

2. Abandon irrational fears. As a society we have been programmed to fear all strangers. This becomes a huge liability for us. Say I am taking an elevator up to the 8th floor of my building, and there is a man in a suit standing next to me silently- why on earth should I be scared of this person? It makes no sense. I should not be afraid to strike up a conversation. So I speak to him. The same holds true with talking to strangers in almost any context, what is the worst that could happen? If you try and start a conversation with a stranger, or even someone you are hoping to meet, and it doesn’t go anywhere, what have you lost? What did it cost you? This is the month of courage, so stop fearing strangers.

3. If we are prepared, we will not fear. Have you ever done a group project where one member of the group does not want to practice the presentation out loud? They make an excuse like, “I will be ready, I just don’t like to practice in front of people.” If they are too afraid to practice in front of their own group, how will they possibly be ready for the real thing? Practice out loud over and over again if you are making a presentation, sales pitch, or important call. Before I give a talk I practice out loud as many times as possible within 24 hours of the presentation. There is nothing that helps overcome our fear of speaking more than being prepared.

Hopefully this provides everybody with some good ideas for their April goals. Good luck, and I hope the Month of Courage can be a meaningful one!

5 Ways To Make Your Blog Twitter Friendly

1. Add a “follow me” button. This is an easy way to let people know you use twitter, and there are tons to choose from-

http://www.twitterbuttons.com/ is a good site, but there are many others to choose from.

2. Put a “retweet” button in your blog posts. This way viewers don’t have to cut and paste, they just click on the “retweet button” and they can be on their way. Step by step details are here-

http://tweetmeme.com/static.php?page=button

Looks like this:

Try it, its fun!

3. Talk about twitter…. sometimes. People on twitter love to talk about twitter and they love to hear about twitter. So, if you see a great question on twitter, write a blog post about it- this is a great way to drive traffic to your site. (If you’re reading this, it already worked)

4. Thank people on twitter for posting comments to your blog using @replies- this makes you appear much more accessible and gives positive reinforcement to your visitors.

5. Don’t tweet multiple announcements about your new blog post. Instead, use the back door method. You don’t want to be spamming your new blog post all over- so send DM’s to some close twitter friends and let them know about the new post. I’m sure they will gladly re-tweet it! But remember, do unto others – don’t ask someone to tweet about your new blog post if your not willing to do the same.

We are all still learning here, so I would love other ideas people might have. How else can blogs be more twitter friendly?

Book Review: Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell

Outliers– 4 stars, two smiley faces, and whatever other award a book should receive for being awesome.

In this book Mr. Gladwell takes a well accepted premise- that extremely successful people pulled themselves up by their bookstraps- and completely turns it on its head.

Here is one example from the book:

Public perception: Bill Gates was smarter, brighter, and harder working than anybody else and he is a truly self made man.

Reality: Bill Gates was lucky. First, he was likely the ONLY Jr. High private school student with access to a mainframe computer terminal, and then in High School he was within walking distance of one of the few Universities with a mainframe terminal. He figured out how to get free access after hours to unlimited programming time in high school while even graduate students were limited to only a few hours per week. By the time Bill Gates made it to the University, he likely had more practical programming experience than anybody else in the world. He was conveniently positioned to personally lead the dawning of the computer age.

The lesson: Most “self made” men require luck as well as hard work to be successful, Bill Gates himself admits he was lucky.

In the second section of the book, Mr. Gladwell looks at our cultural legacies and how our behaviors are affected by cultural traditions going back hundreds of years. Here is one of my favorite examples-

Public perception: Chinese students are naturally better at math than American students.

Reality affected by culture: Reality 1- Chinese people have grown rice on rice paddies for thousands of years. Caring for a rice paddie is a year round endeavor that requires intense focus and attention to detail. This tradition of hard work is ubiquitous in Chinese culture. Chinese proverbs encourage working 360 days a year to become rich, and school is practically year round. Reality 2- Counting in the Chinese language is far simpler than in English, allowing Chinese kids to count to 50 easily, while American kids of the same age can only count to 15.

These cultural histories provide Chinese people with a much better environment to learn math. If American students worked year round, and had a similar work ethic starting at a young age, there would likely be no difference between Chinese and American test scores.

Perhaps the part most interesting to me was the section about our American cultural biases. Americans came, for the most part, from an agrarian society where people worked hard during the growing season, and then largely had time off for months in the winter. How has this affected our culture?

These are common ideas that are culturally accepted in our society
– Summer vacation is important for kids.
– Kids shouldn’t have to do so much homework.
– Kids need plenty of recess during the school day.

Can we break free of these cultural norms? Do we want to? Identifying them is the first step, and then asking the hard questions- is it really best for our kids to have their summers off? Do we expect too much vacation? Why do we believe these things?

I can’t say enough good things about Outliers. This book is extremely well researched and thought provoking. It has changed the way I think about success, and it will likely change the way the world will forever view success, and that is a pretty amazing accomplisment by Mr. Gladwell. Outliers is an extremely fast read, so go grab a copy- its been #1 on the best sellers list for weeks for a reason.

Intergrity: Its More Than Just A Code of Ethics

This month 100% of my Virtue Volunteers set goals to live this month with integrity. Many of those goals are in my earlier post.

I asked all of my volunteers to email me with their results. These emails taught me two things: 1. living every day with integrity can be hard, and 2. living every day with integrity can bring greater happiness and greater peace.
Here was one comment from a volunteer:

Well I’ve been putting this email off trying to come up with some profound story to tell or some way that integrity really changed me this month. I have (like I told you) a whole document of stories at home on my computer. I think it would be best for me to say however that I don’t have anything specific to say.

I can think of several instances these past 21 days where I have remembered the challenge I am doing, and changed the decision I would have made. More then once, I have been in line at stores where my total has come to less then what it should be, and I told them the truth. More then once, I have caught myself speeding and slowed down so that I could live an honest life even with something so simple. And yes, more then once, I have stayed clear of pirated movies.

I told you that I have tried studying the topic of integrity each day. I think that this has given the challenge more meaning to me because it has helped make it more of “my own”. As far as my goal is concerned, I think I made too broad of a goal. I need to be more specific. I did find myself however making WAY less commitments instead of following through with them because I knew I didn’t have time for it. This was a good month for me, but I would say that I still have a lot to learn about Integrity and it didn’t effect me profoundly, however, it did make a small difference in my life that I think will have a small, but lasting effect. Thanks for the opportunity!
-Tiff

Integrity is a very personal thing, and I did not set out to encourage or discourage particular behaviors, but more importantly to help people focus on what THEY believe integrity is, and set goals accordingly. In addition, it takes a lifetime to develop integrity- there is no lolly pop cure to make you an honest person. It takes real work.
Here is another response on the month:
My goal of “saying that I’m going to do something, then really doing it” is coming along nicely. Usually I make plans to get together with people, then feel tired and drained and often cancel. This month I am following through and going out to the dinners/lunches that I’ve been talking about and I find myself enjoying life a lot more. It’s really helped me out of my “winter slump” and I’m having fun.
Keeping promises can be very rewarding. When we keep our promises we are more at peace with ourselves. What is the purpose of speech if it isn’t 100% truthful? Many of my volunteers independently set goals to be honest, and keep their commitments.

Here was one not so positive review on the month of integrity from one of my good friends Rachel Nielson:

It’s the end of the month, and in terms of my goal, I failed.

I think my goal was too ambitious, and so I got discouraged early on. Have I been running? Yes. Have I been running six days a week? No. Have I been running enough miles to truly be training for a half marathon? No.

I think I should’ve been more honest with myself before I set this goal: I used to run half marathons, but I had a different life then. It isn’t realistic for me to be running 5 or more miles a day when I am teaching full-time, plus grading, plus volunteer work for church, plus cleaning, grocery shopping, laundry, plus recruiting and training volunteers for a non-profit program at an orphanage in El Salvador.

I have MUCh more going on in my life than I used to, and if now is not the time to train for a half marathon…so be it. I think I can deal with that.

If I were to have more integrity and therefore be honest with myself, I’d have to say that just running 30-40 minutes four days a week is a much better goal for my current life.

I’m not sure if we can ever truly “fail” at a goal, because the very act of setting the goal makes a difference. By making a goal you have already changes your perception, and that is valuable. I want to congratulate all those who made this a month of Integrity.

How was your Month of Integrity?

(Next up, the Month of Courage)

Interview With Fred Castaneda

This past Saturday I was interviewed by Fred Castaneda for a podcast posted on his website-

http://www.strugglingentrepreneur.com//

83- Experienced Entrepreneur and Business Attorney- Adrian Dayton

March 10th, 2009

In the interview I give a few tips on the following subjects:

– How to choose partners in starting a business
– How to know if you are a true entrepreneur
– How to get the most for your money out of legal services
– How to deal with some of the challenges of being an entrepreneur.

I May Have Found My Publisher

Friday night I got my first positive feedback from a publisher. They sent an email asking if my manuscript is still available for purchase.

Here is an excerpt from the email:

“I love the concept, I love the stories, and I love the potential this [book] has to create life-changing behavior.”

(Yes! this made me so happy to hear. My brothers and friends told me they liked my idea, but it was very validating to hear positive feedback from an actual publisher.)

Here is how it all started. Back in December a friend introduced me to a buyer at Deseret Book, a publisher, located in Salt Lake City, Utah. I called to ask if they could recommend a good editor for me to hire. After I explained my concept, they told me not to hire an editor, but instead to just submit a few sample chapters to them because they might be interested in publishing the book with their Shadow Mountain imprint.

I was pretty excited until I got a form email back saying, “Your manuscript has been entered into our database and we will read it in the next 2 to 3 months.” This was pretty discouraging to me at the time, so I just kept working on my manuscript and submitting it to other publishers.

Then late Friday night I got the first email response, and it was very positive. I am stoked about this, but there are a few questions that remain-

Should I continue to submit to other publishers? OR Do I take this and run with it?

Blogging for Progress: The Experiment Begins

This month 16 individuals set out to better understand what integrity means. They were all asked to think about integrity, and make a personal goal to have the Month of March be their Month of Integrity. The variety of goals were instructive, showing that integrity means very different things to different people. Here are some of the great goals individuals from the experiment chose:

– Never criticize another person when they aren’t around, unless you are willing to criticize them to their face.
– Train for a half marathon: show integrity by keeping to the goal of running 6 days a week.
– Goal for lent- eat no cheese for 40 days- and be 100% faithful to that goal.
– My word is my bond, follow through on 100% of my commitments, if I say I’d like to watch American Idol with my neighbor- I will watch American Idol with my neighbor.
– Learn to speak Spanish, specifically- learn 60 new words per week.
– Truly live my religion, seeking after things that bring me closer to God.

I am hopeful the members of my virtue experiment will achieve all of their goals, but if not, the process of picking these goals, and sharing them with the group has already created a vision of their potential that will hopefully create unexpected opportunities and serendipitous results.

Here are a few tips I would like to share for setting powerful goals this month:

GOAL SETTING TIP #1

Trees grow because they reach for the sun. For personal growth to occur, we have to leave our comfort zone- explore undiscovered country. The best goals will terrify us a little, demanding we take a step into the unknown.

GOAL SETTING TIP #2

Expect discouragement. Nobody can be perfect in accomplishing their goals, and we must anticipate falling short sometimes. Be honest with yourself in setting goals, but also be honest with yourself in your shortcomings- do not be discouraged if you fall short of perfection.

I want to invite anybody reading this to join us for the month of integrity. Think about what integrity means for you, and set a goal to make this your Month of Integrity. Feel free to comment below, (publicly or anonymously I’ve changed the settings) and let us know what your goal is!