Struggle Precedes Success

This morning I was struggling to find a way to start this blog, when an email popped up on my screen from one of my graduates and the first words I saw were, “If you’re afraid of dying – innovate; If you want to live – evolve”. Those words, and I don’t know who the source is, so perfectly describe what I want to share with you today and that is any great success in life is usually preceded by struggle.

When life and plans don’t turn out the way we expect it’s very easy to play the blame game, give up and walk away, usually settling for less than we really want. There is a better way and it’s one I have used time and time again, that is to use your setbacks and struggles to be innovative and evolve.

Failure and struggle is how we learn

Trial and error is how we learn. Struggle can motivate us. But when people are so afraid of failing they don’t even try. If you never have any errors, you also don’t have any successes either.

Some success can be a drawback too. When you need to maintain your reputation as an achiever, you may be afraid to make mistakes and hence you stop trying.

Like it or not the world is changing and we have to keep us or suffer the consequences. On a personal level the consequences are that we disconnect from others and the world we live in, on a business level it means death. In the 1920’s the average lifespan for a major company was 67 years, now it is just 15 years.

There is an inspirational poster created by the Wall Street Journal on struggle and success which says:

Don’t be afraid to fail

  • You’ve failed many times, although you may not remember.
  • You fell down the first time you tried to walk.
  • You almost drowned the first time you tried to swim.
  • Did you hit the ball the first time you swung a bat? Heavy hitters, the ones who hit the most home runs, also strike out a lot.
  • Were you able to skate or jump rope the first time you tried?
  • H. Macy failed seven times before his store in New York caught on.
  • 3M Corporation, one of the most successful companies in the world, was a dismal failure during its first 10 years.
  • English novelist John Creasey got 753 rejection slips before he published 564 books.
  • Babe Ruth struck out 1,330 times, but he also hit 714 home runs.
  • Don’t worry about failure.
  • Worry about the chances you miss when you don’t even try.

It’s impossible to achieve great success without some struggle. Every problem holds within it the seed for greater happiness and success. Every weakness has the potential to become your greatest strength. Embrace your struggles, thank them, and look for the good. And remember, someone else will get your dreams, why not you?


Self Love Leads to Success & Happiness

When Mastin Kip decided to start the Daily Love he envisaged a website with over a million readers and he set the intention to become the Huffington Post of personal growth. Not long after he was invited to a party where he met Agapi, who turned out to be Arianna Huffington’s sister. When you read Mastin’s story of how powerful people such as Tony Robbins and Oprah just turned up in his life and helped turn his dream into reality, it sounds like a fairy tale. What most people don’t realise is that same help is available to all of us, and that includes YOU. First, though we need to be open to receive and understand that self love is the foundation upon which we build a happy life, we do this by being willing to love ourselves exactly as we are, where we are, right now.

Of his own journey to loving himself Mastin said[1], “I didn’t realise that there is a middle path – a place where self-love and serving others meet. Instead I got on board with ‘narcissism’ and it took me for a ride. I went from thinking God was fully outside of me, to thinking God was fully within me. In fact, I started to think that on some level I was God, not a piece of God (as we all are)”.

Many people interpret self love as putting yourself first, but there is much more to it than that. It is feeling good about yourself. This is more than just making time for yourself and doing things you enjoy, it is being willing to accept yourself exactly as you are. It is having the courage to go into the world as the imperfect person you are because you feel called to do something. It is about acting on your inner wisdom and guidance on a daily basis and making your opinion of you more important than anyone else’s opinion of you.

Self love takes you into the energy field I call the Dharma Zone, which is the space where life flows, where people and opportunities simply come into your life. We don’t have to be perfect to live in the Dharma Zone, we just have to be willing.

I’ve been in the Dharma Zone many times. When I decided I wanted to write a magazine column I visualised my photo and the column each day for about a month, I practised writing columns and within three months I was writing for 2 major magazines and several newspapers. When I decided to write a book I took one day a week off work to work on book. I contacted publishers and within months Doubleday made me an offer. When I decided I wanted to live in a more beautiful area the opportunity presented itself within a couple of months. Any obstacles I encountered after these opportunities presented themselves resulted from my inability to accept what is and my lack of trust.

Do something every day that makes you feel good about you. This encompasses the way you treat others, the way you treat yourself and the way you allow others to treat you.

Often we think we will feel better about ourself when we lose weight, have more money, become successful, or when someone loves us, and that may be true, but trying to achieve goals when a part of you resists what is just keeps you stuck in the same old cycle. It is not just about doing something regularly that makes you feel good, it’s doing something regularly that makes you feel good about you.  

Living in the Dharma Zone is never about living a problem free life or not feeling fearful, in fact it is the space where it is wise to embrace your fears, because fear is all that stands between you and love. Love always starts with self, then as we become more comfortable it naturally flows from us to all mankind.

Loving yourself is about appreciating who you are, valuing the effort you make to be the best person you can be, it is never based it upon anything external. It is being able to look at criticism and see if there is any merit in it, if there is do something, if there is not, simply accept it is just someone’s opinion that you don’t agree with.

Self love is feeling good about who you are and the way you are living your life, and if you are not quite there yet, it is having the courage to take whatever steps necessary to get yourself to that state.

[1] Daily Love, Mastin Kipp, Hay House.

Embrace Change

Borders Books are an example of a company who did not embrace change.  They wanted to create superstores and they had an amazing model, but they didn’t pay enough attention to the effect that the Internet and digital books would have on their business.  They started an online store but after a while felt it distracted them from their core business so they made the decision to outsource their e-commerce to Amazon.  It was a fatal decision from which they never recovered.  Although they reversed this decision in 2008 it was too late.  From 2006 – 2010 their annual income dropped by $1 billion and the shops closed world-wide in 2011.

We all know that change in occurring at a rapid pace, but I was surprised to read these statistics. Denis Waitley says: ‘Every 15 seconds a new website is launched. Every 15 minutes a new technological breakthrough occurs. Every 15 days a new product or service is introduced, that didn’t exist before.’

There are very few areas of our lives that the Internet and technology have not affected, from the way we communicate with each other to the way we shop, and those who refuse to stay abreast of change often get left behind. Unless you are a person who loves change the natural response for many people is to resist the unfamiliar, but rather than do this, pause, then ask yourself these questions:

What gifts could these changes bring into my life?

What opportunities that I’ve never even thought about wait for me?

How can I use this change to create a life far grander than I ever imagined?

While change continues at such a rapid pace we need to be aware that some change is good and some weakens us.  It has been reported that Generation Y, while much faster at learning that previous generations have smaller memories as they have don’t have the same need to need to memorise numbers and information as previous generations. They are also a generation whose need for instant gratification is stronger as they have been raised with so much information and access is at their fingertips.

Embrace Change

On the other hand, a study into how technology changes the human brain in older people found that frequent users of the Internet showed twice as much activity as novices and this strengthened neural circuits in the brain, which could keep us mentally active for much longer.

Resistance is an automatic response that makes life more difficult.  What we need to develop is our ability to be mindful.  To pause before we say ‘yes’, ‘no’, or react.  When you combine mindfulness with discernment you gain wisdom.  At this time in our world we need to embrace change by retaining the good from the older generations and combining it with the knowledge and eagerness of the younger generations to enable us to create the best possible world that serves all mankind.

The Seduction Of Security

At one time I worked as an accountant for a major publishing company and I thought I’d found my dream job.  I loved books. I liked the people I worked with. I met some interesting authors. After being self-employed for several years it was nice to have the security of a regular income.  But before long I realised that the work I was doing was so boring I started dreading going to work.

Talking to my family one night I said, ‘I think I’m going to resign’.  My security conscious dad begged me to reconsider.  Dad said, ‘But Anne you’re an accountant!’  My dad had a very valid point as such jobs weren’t always easy to get without formal qualifications.  I knew I did the job well, I was valued, my job was secure and there was the potential to move up within the company.  I also knew that I couldn’t do this work long term because it was soul destroying.  I needed a creative outlet and I needed to work with people.  So I resigned and it’s a decision I’ve never regretted.

Two years later I was offered the position of starting and managing The Financial Woman, a financial planning business for women.  That job changed my life. It suited my essential nature. It launched my writing and speaking career. It set the foundation for the work I do today.  Eight years after I resigned, my first book was published by the very company I once worked for.

Although I like security it is nowhere near as important to me as it is to some people.  Recently one of my daughters said to me, ‘I’m worried that if I don’t leave this job soon I am going to get locked into a career and lifestyle I don’t really want.’  My daughter has been very successful, after just a few years of working she was offered the role of setting up and managing a large medical specialist centre.  She enjoyed the job and liked the people she worked with but her passion is writing.  She eventually left that job to travel the world, a decision she now says is one of the best she has ever made.

The Seduction of Security

Most people start their adult life with so many hopes and dreams and within the span of ten years so many settle for less than they really want. They get trapped by security, financial obligations and the expectations of others until they become so locked in they feel they have no other choice.

Ignoring the call of your heart can lead to confusion or a midlife crisis.  Driven by the need to find a better way to live some seek the services of a life coach, or look for the answers in books.  If you are willing and open you can rewrite the story of your life.

Look at your life as it is today and ask yourself these questions:

  • Do you get more enjoyment from a leisure activity than you do from your job?
  • Do you feel as if something is missing no matter how successful you are?
  • Are your weekends the highlight of your week?

If you answered ‘yes’ to any of these questions, it’s time to let go of the illusion of security and reassess your life.  I’m not suggesting you throw in your job or do anything reckless, just take time to reassess. Be open to finding a way even where there appears to be no way. Ask for help. Hire a life coach.  It’s scary to step out of your comfort zone and follow your heart, but the joy that comes from being true to yourself makes the journey so worthwhile.

Have You Downsized Your Dreams?

At one time I had an amazing holiday in America where I visited New England, a region I had wanted to visit for many years. Seeing the fall leaves in New Hampshire, the beautiful houses in Maine, the sheer beauty of Martha’s Vineyard as well as the magic of New York reminded me that I had downsized my dreams.

The first time I became aware that I had a tendency to downsize my dreams occurred when I visited Hearst Castle in San Simeon, which is located between Los Angeles and San Francisco. At that time I was just getting back on my feet after a difficult financial period and I hadn’t realised how much I had stopped being honest with myself about what I really wanted. Hearst Castle itself is rather dark and dreary, but the palazzo in front of the castle is a different story. It is magnificent.

When I sat there enjoying all the beauty around me I said to myself, “I am thinking way too small”. I came home from that trip, prepared my house for sale, and as often happens when we prepare for what we want, I saw an ad for a house in the suburb that I really wanted to live that was within my means. I had thought living in that suburb was out of reach, so I never looked.  If I had continued thinking small I would never have looked and recognised the opportunity. Moving into the area I really wanted to live was just the start.  Soon after my business took off. My book became a best seller. My whole life improved because I acted as if I believed I could have what I really wanted.

Have You Downsized Your Dreams?

When I worked as a financial planner I met many people who came into money unexpectedly, and so many of these people made poor choices and lost that money within a short period of time. Statistics back this up as four out of five lotteries winners revert to their original state within five years.

Within each of us is a very detailed picture of the person that we think we are. This image encompasses our appearance, skills, wealth, intelligence, and sets our comfort zone. This picture is only how we perceive ourselves. It may not necessarily be true but we make it true by our actions. Our perception results from decisions we made and then consistently acted upon. We change our perception – you could say downnsized your dreams – and allow more into our life in the same way.

Make the new decision that you can have what you want, then support that decision with all of your choices.

When you work and socialise with the same people, live in the same area and holiday in the same place time and time again it’s only natural that you start to believe that is all you can have. Do things differently. Holiday in a different place, take regular weekends away to places you’ve never been. Contact an old friend you have lost touch with. Start acting as if you can have what you want now. Dress up, set the table nicely, pick flowers for the house, redo or replace one piece of furniture or one corner of a room at a time. Change one small thing about your appearance.

Making one small change will make you feel good in the short term but it won’t do much to change your perception over the longer term. However, by adding more into your life on a regular basis you start to believe you can have what you really want.

Put how you are going to achieve your dreams aside and focus on how you will feel once you have what you want. Choose it, then support that choice with your thoughts, words and actions daily. Then watch the miracle occur.

How Positive Thinking Helped me Become a Best-Selling Author

When I was 22 a friend at work lent me the book The Power of Positive Thinking, it changed my life and from that day forward I applied the principles of positive thinking to most areas of my life.

I have always loved to read and I usually read two or three at the one time, so for me it seemed only natural to dream of writing a book one day. With the exception of my mother, no-one else thought I had any talent. They were right—I didn’t.

From a young age I submitted the occasional story to magazines, only to receive rejection after rejection, then one day at work I happened to tell my boss that I wanted to write, he said I could start by compiling the office procedures manual. Now that wasn’t quite what I had in mind but I saw it as an opportunity so I put a great deal of effort into the task, and waited anxiously for his feedback. He took a while to come back to me and when he did he, ‘Anne, forget about writing!’

Now one of my strengths is that I don’t get put off by other people’s opinions. I wasn’t prepared to give up my dream and although I knew I didn’t have any great talent as a writer, I felt I could learn.

My career progressed and I was appointed manager of a women’s financial planning business. I was asked by a major magazine to write a column for them, but my employer refused to let me write it, instead my firm had their public relations person write it under my name. I was delighted when the magazine turned the column down and I started getting serious about writing a column myself.

Applying the principles of positive thinking a couple of times a day, just for a few seconds, I would visualise my photo and name at the top of a column. As I was often contacted by the media for comments on financial matters I started telling every journalist I came in contact with that I wanted to write a column. One day a freelance journalist rang and said, “Cleo magazine is looking for a financial columnist, I mentioned you and they would like you to submit something.” I did, and they offered me a monthly column.

Now I still didn’t have any great talent, but I was known in the industry and I had expertise in money and investments. The magazine obviously decided this was enough and their editor refined the articles I submitted to make them more reader friendly. Each month I would take the column I had written and check it word-for-word against the edited version that appeared in the magazine. As I took note of the changes the editor made my writing style improved and within six months I was writing for two major magazines and two local newspapers.

When a leading magazine editor of Australia’s best-selling magazine, The Women’s Weekly, said I was a very good writer and that I wrote like a journalist, I nearly floated out of her office I felt so happy. I knew it was time to write my book.

I took one day a week away from the office to devote to my book. The first day I sat at my desk and said to myself, “How on earth do you write a book?” It wasn’t as easy as I thought it would be. After several hours of pondering this question I went to my bookshelf and took out several books from my favourite authors and studied their style. The ones I liked best wrote in a very conversational style and that’s what I did, I imagined myself talking to a client and wrote down what I would say.

When I had a rough manuscript I sent it off to several publishers and it was accepted. I didn’t know you weren’t supposed to do this and I didn’t know that very few people get accepted. Sometimes ignorance is bliss. My book was accepted by Doubleday and my publisher Rex Finch appointed two wonderful editors to work with me. Those editors taught me how to structure a book, how to rephrase a sentence. It took me three years and countless rewrites to complete that book, Financially Free, which went on to become a runaway best seller, and while that book is now out of print, copies are still regularly sold on Ebay, 25 years after publication.

Since that time I have written six books, ghost written three books, and adapted two of Suze Orman’s books for the Australian market. I now write a weekly blog.

In the book Outliers Malcolm Gladwell refers to the 10,000 hour rule. In study after study of writers, chess masters, musicians, sports people and even master criminals they found that that while some people have innate talent, that wasn’t enough to make them successful. True mastery was achieved on average after 10,000 hours of practice, and anyone with the will to put in the work can attain a high level of mastery.

That’s the power of a dream coupled with positive thinking and the will to do the work. Never let anyone tell you it can’t be done when you know in your heart it can.