What is your plan for life?

I have been through the first step and developed my belief system and a set of values that represented that belief. My next step was to develop a plan for my life. Many have asked me what I mean by this. What is a plan? For me, it was defining my purpose in life and a plan to fulfill that purpose. These are my thoughts on this step.

The first point I thought of was, most people I know don’t sit around developing a plan for their life. Most of the people I know just react to life as best they can. So, I am thinking that it is a stretch to spend time creating a plan. Now that I have worked my way through the procrastination stage I am doing a plan.

Most of the research I have done suggest that there are four areas of life (Emotional, Physical, Intellectual, and Spiritual). These areas should be in your life plan, but they do not have to be in balance. They should be in harmony. So I developed a vision of the future with these four areas, with no conflicts. For example, if I wanted an intimate relationship with my soul mate, I did not put under spiritual a solo trip to Tibet to live with the monks for a year.

Let’s say that I thought out my plan and all contingencies. The first obstacle I hit is someone else wants me to do something else and can see no possible reason why my plan would be more important. If I wanted a relationship, I start to prioritize and rationalize and “Bang” my plan shifts. When I realize that has happened, I get miffed. Miffed, of course, is a technical term for being upset with myself. The other person does not understand my plan. They may not even be part of my plan. So why am I going off my well thought out plan? The easy answer is, I wanted a relationship. You have to decide on what you want and be flexible.

The main reason people do not have an abundant life is that their intentions do not agree with their attention. If you are not following your path, then you must be following someone else’s! If you are not clear on your life purpose, you will find it hard to say “no” to what other people want you to do. Discover your purpose and stay on the path.

My intention is to create a plan for my life that includes a relationship that is in harmony with my perceived purpose. My goal is that my intentions are in alignment with my attention. I want to become a person happy to get out of bed in the morning, ready to go on with life. It’s all about finding your passion and living it out! Once you have learned to love yourself, dare to do what you like doing, and you are following your plan, you will find joy.

When we truly accept and acknowledge that we are responsible for our fate, there is a profound increase in our ability to control it. When we were teaching self-mastery, I found this concept the most difficult for my audience to accept. Nobody wants to take on responsibility. Perhaps that is why many people do not have a plan. If they had a plan, there would be the potential for some responsibility for the results. It is reflected in the self-discipline to refrain from blaming others for your results.

You want to find more joy in your life, figure out what you want to do and how you plan to do it. You will learn along the way and improve your plan. The hardest step is the first step.


Let’s talk about denial

This week the most asked question was about denial. We have written about the four paradigms of self-mastery (fear, duty, achievement, and integrity) and the five stages of grief (denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance). The only reason that there are five stages of grief and four for self-mastery is, you must get past the denial stage of grief to get started on the path to self-mastery. Denial is a defense against realities that threaten us, and it can be a good defense in the face of bad news.

We have many events that happen during the day, and they are not all the same level of impact. I could take a simple event like not getting the last piece of chocolate cake, and it is no big deal to me but is a very big deal to someone else.   We may only be in denial for a few seconds, but we start there. You may deny the reality to avoid humiliation, pain, or many other reasons. In an extreme case, I have seen people deny any knowledge of past statements, contracts or events regardless how well they are documented because they do not want to deal with it.

If you can understand the stages you go through, you have a better potential to shorten your path to Joy. This is what your journey looks like after an event happens. Your first reaction is shock and denial – almost disbelief. You may add to that some guilty feelings due to your contribution to the event. Life feels chaotic and out of control. The degree of the severity is dependent on your belief system, your current state of mind and the circumstances involved with the event. Someone with a positive outlook on life and a positive belief system will not be in denial very long. Someone that expects negative things to happen or has a negative belief system will reinforce the impact.

The first sign of acceptance is often a reaction with anger and frustration. You will look for someone or something to blame. You do not want the burden of responsibility, the pain or the negative impact on your life, but you start to accept reality. Using the terminology of self-mastery, you enter the fear paradigm. How long you are in the fear paradigm will determine your loss of joy. If you are in the fear paradigm, you are unable to accomplish anything. In an extreme case, you may even show the world how painful this all is and look for sympathy. In the fear paradigm you will find anger, bargaining, and depression.

One of the first actions used by many is bargaining. You will attempt to bargain your way out of this instead of accepting what has happened. When I was diagnosed with a muscle disease my first reaction was “this is a mistake”. I would bargain within my belief system. Finally, I will accept what has happened. With acceptance, I have the potential to move on. Instead of feeling sorry for myself or blaming others I start to climb out of depression. I am ready to move to the duty paradigm. I will do whatever I think is expected of me. With the results of my muscle biopsy, I decided to do whatever the doctors asked of me. I became the perfect patient. I am learning to deal with reality.

After I have accepted my reality and started on a solution in the duty paradigm of Self-mastery, I now have the potential for achievement. I have a new reality, and I am ready to improve my situation. In the achievement paradigm of self-mastery, I take charge and move forward. I have learned many lessons as I went through the duty paradigm. In the achievement paradigm, I have the potential for joy. At first, it is a lot of work. I not only have to learn new facts and skills; I am making a lifestyle change. The event that happened could be a change in health status, a new job, a new relationship, a change in finances, or any of the events that change our life. It is in the achievement paradigm that I become comfortable with my new reality.

The last stage of self-mastery is called integrity. I take all the lessons learned and modify or reinforce my belief system. I may modify my values. All elements of my life are now in concert, and I experience joy. Through all the stages there were periods of happiness, but I now experience joy. My father would say that I am at peace with myself.

Many of us get stuck in one of the early stages. We may be in denial or duty where there is no potential for joy. We may be stuck in achievement that has periods of happiness, but it is a lot of work. Sometimes this happens because there are so many events happening that we are not capable of handling all of them without help. Worse case, we are stuck in denial and do not even recognize that we need help.

What is true in life is true in business, find a trustworthy partner who shares your beliefs and values. Learn to ask for advice and listen to differing points of view.


Let’s be Honest!

There is a lot of talk about honesty after the election. People were tossing around words like trustworthy, truthfulness, and a few more. Many think that honesty meant not lying or just telling the truth. The most common definition of a lie is a false statement made with deliberate intent to deceive. The truth is most often used to mean being in accord with fact or reality, which is not as straightforward as you may think. Often truth is based on a belief and becomes subjective. There is a Chinese proverb that goes like this: “There are three truths. There’s my truth, your truth and then THE truth.” So, what the heck does honesty mean?

I realized that the word Honesty refers to a moral character and suggests positive attributes such as truthfulness, straightforwardness, along with the absence of lying, cheating, theft, etc. If you look through literature, I believe Honesty is used to mean being trustworthy, loyal, dependable, and sincere. With all that said, honesty is an important element of business and can be subjective.

Honesty is the foundation upon which a person builds any relationship such as family or friends. By being honest, a person will make you feel that they are trustworthy and capable of exposing their true self. A person may endanger their relationship with others if they tell lies. For example, a child tells their mother that he will go to the library to study. However, he ends up going to a friend’s party and gets caught. After that incident, you will not trust the child as much as before and doubt what he says later. Honesty produces trust which is needed for a relationship. I have also seen that people have a tendency of relying on an honest person. Just remember that there is a subjective element to honesty.

Consider a person that breaks promises, ignores commitments or hides information. It would be very difficult to trust or form a relationship with such a person. First of all, most would conclude that this person is not trustworthy, not dependable and not sincere.

I also believe that being honest all of the time can backfire on a person. There are situations when being honest would inflict pain and stress on somebody else. Sometimes, you need to justify what is the best solution because not telling the truth, in certain cases, is the best way to protect someone from being hurt.

That is just some of the problems with a position of always telling the truth. So, there is more to it than just not telling a lie. Whatever the absolute or literal definition is of honesty, I believe it is best to have the intention, to be honest.

I would be curious what you think. We have people that have been proven to be dishonest 75% of the time, and they seem to be successful. So, is honesty a key element of success?


It was not my fault

In honor of “Blame Someone Else Day” (which is January 13th, 2017) I offer this entry.

Are you 100% responsible for your life? The 100% figure throws many people off because there are some events that may not have been under their control. For years, I taught self-mastery and included the idea that we are responsible for everything that happens to us. The concept was that if we were not responsible, we could not fix it.

Today I would say that we are not responsible for everything that happened in life. For example, I was diagnosed with a muscle disease that was inherited. I didn’t have much control over that. Accepting the idea that we are responsible for everything still has the advantage. Taking responsibility for your life is great but, you can’t control how someone reacts to what you say or what you do. The problem is, we tend to look outside ourselves for the culprit. We do not take any responsibility. We are all conditioned to blame someone, to make excuses, or to complain when something does not go the way we would hope. If we were frustrated, upset or mad, we would often blame the event. Blaming the event or complaining about the event shifts the responsibility.

Here is a fly in the ointment, as my father would say, to find joy this concept would suggest that we give up:

  • Making up excuses
  • Complaining
  • Focusing on what is wrong with no plan to fix it (my favorite)
  • Playing the victim

Well, sometimes I don’t want to fix it. I just feel like complaining. My current problem is, I don’t have a lot of time to waste on being frustrated. I have wasted too much of my life trying to prove that I was right or that outside forces caused my results. When something happens, or doesn’t happen in life, ask these questions to get back on track;

  • What thoughts/beliefs got me here?
  • What did I say or not say that led me to this outcome?
  • What do I need to do differently next time to get the result I want?

By asking yourself the right questions, you can move past the emotions you may be feeling (anger, guilt, resentment, frustration, etc.) to change the results.  There is the assumption that you want to find joy. Like I said earlier, sometimes you just want to feel miserable. Either way, don’t blame anyone but yourself except, of course, on Blame Someone Else Day.



I see a lot of conflict between happiness and joy.  My best definition is that happiness is immediate and short term, and joy is internal, slowly developing and long term.  For example, a lot of things make me happy.  If I think about it, I can come up with a list something like this: oatmeal cookies, boats, apple pie, recognition, validation, etc.  Relatively easy to make me happy.  If you look at the list, you will realize that all these things are immediate and short term.  Back in the good ole days’ cookies could make me happy, and still do, but there is this diet thing.  Happiness from a new boat may last a few months.  The apple pie about 3 minutes.

As for joy, that is much more complex.  It gets into things like peace of mind.  Joy projects into the future and is long term.  Many gurus have come up with their answer for joy.  Some would tell you it is faith in God; others may say that it is financial security.  I tend to think it is personal relationships.  The remaining question is; how do you find joy?

I believe that it is a process, then again I think everything is a process.  No matter how you express it, I believe it starts by discovering your belief.  Faith can be an interesting element of any belief system.  Once I work out my belief system I can express my purpose or vision for my life.  Now I have some boundaries to work within, and I can more easily discover things that make me happy.  Ultimately realizing my purpose will give me joy.  In fact, if I believe that I am on my path to realizing my vision I will be filled with Joy.  Anything that knocks me off my path or interrupts my journey will steal my joy.


Are you happy and full of joy?

A dictionary defines happiness as “a state of well-being, a pleasurable or satisfying experience.” The definition of the word “rejoice,” from which the word “joy” comes, is “to feel great delight, to welcome or to be glad.” All that is good, but what is the real difference between Joy and Happiness? I being the curious type had to know, so I decided to do some research.

I have been told that happiness is external and based on situations, events, people, places, things, and thoughts. So, happiness is the result of outside situations, people, or events that align with your expectations. Joy is internal and comes when you make peace with who you are, where you are, and why you are (Psychology Today, https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/pathological-relationships/201212/joy-vs-ha).

I was getting a better idea of the difference but I wanted to see how the words were used. Just about every reference I found referred to a religious text. Depending on the translation, the Bible uses the words “happy” and “happiness” about 30 times, while “joy” and “rejoice” appear over 300 times. A little research showed me the word “happy” comes from the Hebrew root word ashar and means “to set right or be blessed.” The word “joy” comes from the Greek root word chara and means “to be exceedingly glad.” Found that at http://www.gotquestions.org/joy-happiness.html. Getting closer but still not real clear on what the differences are. After reading several of the verses where the words were used I concluded that happiness tends to be fleeting and depends on circumstances. There was always an event that preceded happiness. Joy, on the other hand, is true contentment that comes from internal factors like our faith or self-mastery skills. True joy is not dependent upon circumstances.

It would seem to me that happiness can be acquired. I can purchase a car or earn a degree and be happy. It is more dependent on my ability to control my future, define my vision and stay on my path to success. Happiness is always passing through. I can be happy for the few minutes that it takes to have my morning coffee. Joy seems to need a bit more work. I believe that joy is dependent on my faith, attitude and self-confidence. Activities like meditation are better suited to joy. So, consider having my morning coffee while I meditate. I can go forth and be happy or joyful.

If I wanted to be happy I would head to the boat dealer and buy that Grand Banks yacht that I always wanted. Of course, happiness may be short lived when the first payment notice arrives. If I wanted to be joyful, I would sharpen my self-mastery skills and learn to meditate. I chose meditation because if Joy is internal, that skill is best suited to find it. I also prefer being joyful because I can’t afford to buy a yacht every week.

My bottom line on finding joy is this; develop a faith that melds well with your culture. With that faith develop a set of values and a vision. Define your path guided by your values headed towards your vision. Now consider skills, relationships, career, and memberships that will reinforce your faith and help you realize your vision. Now here is a wonderful thought, if you did all that you could be both happy and joyful.


Who is in control?

I have noticed a few lively discussions over issues where both sides seem to be saying the same thing. I thought about that and decided that perhaps the real issue was a need for a sense of control. I doubt that either side would have absolute control, so I will say that the need is for a sense of control, not just for control. I believe that this is more than a quest for power. I have witnessed people getting real frustrated and upset. Now I had to wonder how often do I do this myself.

I do not think that it is any secret that I have been diagnosed with a muscle myopathy. One of the most disturbing things about having a terminal illness is the feeling of powerlessness, of being unable to do anything about it. Being unable to control the illness and knowing that others cannot help either can be a little unsettling. With this need for a sense of control, I noticed that I was doing a few other things.

  • Completion of outstanding things, so I don’t have to worry about them. I started to view everything on a short schedule. I had to do it now. This was a little more than a need for control. It was a need to unclutter my life.
  • Understanding of how things work. For example, I started reading every article on myopathy I could fine. There was a naïve thought that if I had the knowledge, I could gain control.
  • Being able to see what will impact my day. I had a real focus on putting everything on a calendar. If I did not know what was happening, I could not plan. If I could not plan, I could not get control.

I started to become a real control nut! When I look around and watch what people do, I see a lot of control nuts. A significant portion of our everyday activity is related to achieving our much-needed sense of control. We have rules, rituals, and social conventions everywhere. Our values tell us what to do, what is right and wrong, what is good and bad. When everyone in the group follows the rules, all is well.

For me, this is not about power… it is about trust. Trust and control support one another. Not only does trust allow me to give up control, but the need for a sense of control drives me to trust others. That does not always work because once I determine there is a pattern of not doing what they said, trust is gone. Expectations become a burden, and I am frustrated again.

Time to get off this train. I have been looking into meditation, and most of the books refer to a set of eight pathways. The first pathway is to have a wise view. With a wise view, you recognize that it’s not your job, nor is it in your power, to control what happens outside of you. You understand that instead, you can only control what happens within your mind. It is like what we teach in our self-mastery retreats and I tend to forget.

I will be out on the deck working on my meditation skills.


Are you being too negative?

Someone told me that I was negative. OK, what does that mean? I believe that we are bombarded with negative thoughts. For every positive/feel good story there is in the news; there are a lot of negative stories. After the bombing incident in Boston or the latest shooting incident, I would discuss gun control or homeland security. Was that being negative or was that a search for an answer?

I try hard not to be negative. I didn’t realize that every time I talked about how warm the house was that I was negative. I thought I was just making a statement of fact. How can you talk about something that you want to change without being negative? This becomes a bigger concern when my focus is helping people improve. I look for things that could be improved. OK, baby steps, I could have said I look for things that were wrong.

The negativity seems to come from the delivery of the message and interpretation by the recipient. I believe that part of the definition of being negative has to be your intention. If your intention was to prove someone wrong or make them feel bad, you are probably negative. Many times being negative is a perception. I don’t like being corrected, so I perceive that as being negative. When someone perceives that they are being challenged, they will tend to see the statement as negative.

If I take my example of the house being warm, I could get two different responses. If you agreed with me that the house was warm you would probably respond with – right, let’s adjust the heat. You were not challenged if you agree. If you didn’t agree with me, you might respond with – why are you so negative. If the statement is worded as a challenge, you get these results. The clue was when I said – I thought I was just stating a fact. But if I word it as my opinion and all about me there is no challenge. So instead I could have said “the house is getting too warm for me, can we adjust the heat?” If they agree, the temperature will be adjusted. If not, you put on a pair of shorts. The odds of changing the temperature is the same, but the odds of hurt feelings are much less.

The same observation pertains to an office. What if I walked into the work room and said the copier is out of paper? OK, a fact. What does that mean? Did someone forget to load paper? All of this challenges someone. What if I said; “I loaded paper in the copier so the next job would print.”

What I have discovered is that absolute statements tend to challenge. Instead, state how you feel or what you want. I am going to be doing a lot of copying, can we please make sure there is paper in the machine? Just saying the machine is out of paper is a challenge.

I also believe that there are times when a challenge is appropriate. There are times when you must be able to make a negative statement in such a way that they see the reality of the situation along with a solution that shows a course correction.  You must first make sure it is your role to deliver this statement.  At this point, it is important to have clarity with the statement, the purpose for the statement, and the suggested solution. Getting negative can be empowering because it allows you to see the reality of your situation and limitations. Without negativity, you may never find out that you could do better. I will admit that positive thinking produces amazing dreams, visions and goals. I am all for it. However negative thinking produces plans and strategies to improve. Make sure that your intention is to improve or help.


My Expectations

I was sitting on my deck this morning just thinking about life.  I was huddled around my fire pit with a hot cup of coffee at 5:15 this morning thinking about all the unfinished projects we had and wondered why they were not being worked on.  I decided to investigate one of the big projects and discovered that the person in charge didn’t feel good. He was well enough to work on his projects.  Just to put this into perspective; I have to mention that I was having trouble breathing, my legs ached, and my left hand was cramping, but I was ready to work on the project.  At 72 years young, “I just don’t feel good” seems like a good day to me. So why do we have so many unfinished projects?

OK, got to be careful here; I don’t want to wander into judgment land. That place is full of land mines and pot holes.  I found a lot of projects on hold and not one person said – I just didn’t want to do it. Perhaps I have unrealistic expectations. I tend to believe that if you agree to do a project, you do it. Well, that seems to be unrealistic at best.

How many of you have done this at work?  I’m not saying that you can’t have expectations, just that they have to be realistic. I’m not even saying that you have to lower your expectations, only be aware of how they can affect your day. Every time that an expectation bumps into reality, we have an event. If you remember your self-mastery exercise, you should know what an event kicks off. After further thought, it occurred to me that I had a choice. I could focus on the unfinished projects, or I could enjoy the beautiful morning.  I chose to enjoy the fresh air and my cup of coffee.  Of course, that didn’t help get the projects done.

What are your expectations, and are they based on reality? If you can’t walk beyond the end of the driveway, then don’t expect to win a 5K run.  This life isn’t that complicated if we follow some simple guidelines.  To begin, let us base our expectations on reality and second, communicate our expectations to anyone that needs to be involved to make it happen.  My best guess is that lack of communications is the source of the problem.  What I found was that people did not know what my expectation was.  I thought it a little strange but that was it.  So saying could you pick up the trash and getting an affirmative response is not clear.  It seems that I failed to specify when I wanted that to happen.

I have learned that unrealistic and secret expectations have the most potential to disappoint. Here is another thought, why expect anything? If you don’t expect anything, you won’t get disappointed.  Well, I guess if that was my attitude there would be no sense in asking anything of anybody.  That would be depressing.

That is my thought for the day.  As soon as I finish this coffee I am going to think about cleaning the garage. Not saying that I will get it done!  I am just saying that I am thinking about it.  I don’t want you to have any false expectations.


What about financial metrics for my Firm

I was asked to determine the Return on Investment (ROI) for a law firm. Return on investment is the “return” from an action, divided by the cost of that action. The first time I saw this metric, it was used to determine the effectiveness of a marketing program. The “ROI” for a law firm is not so obvious. My first thought was that it would be the total revenue generated minus the total expenses divided by the expenses. One problem with most law firms is that they make the lawyer’s earnings equal to any leftover profit. This was a problem because it makes the expenses equal to the revenue. My next idea was to assume a zero cost for the lawyer, and that gave me a false view of true cost. The compromise I came up with was to assign a base salary and make leftover revenue after expenses be a bonus. This provided an ROI I could use for trending.

I could see a problem developing. It is relatively easy to discover the revenue, but what was the dollar amount of the investment that created that revenue? One idea for getting the expense number is to eliminate any expense that did not directly contribute to generating the revenue. This is often referred to as overhead or indirect cost. For example, the cost of a building does not directly contribute to making revenue, so it is an indirect cost. Does that mean it is part of the investment or not? This can quickly turn into an interesting discussion.

Or, you can make the case that all expenses are part of the investment. I have found that it does not make much difference as long as you know where the numbers come from, and they are consistent.

But getting back to ROI. Once you get a clean number for the investment, the formula is ROI = (earnings – investment) / investment. Return on investment is, by definition the gain from the investment minus the cost of that investment and then divided by the cost of that investment. I have found that the number, by itself, is not very meaningful. I can play with the numbers and create any result you want. The best we can do is create a trend using an ROI measure and see if we are doing better. So is it a good metric or not? I think the trend can be a good indicator.

By “trend”, I mean calculating the ROI every month or quarter to see if it is going up or down. As long as the definition of the numbers is consistent you can develop a trend. I like to use a rolling average over a span of two years.

The exercise to determine expenses is also a good exercise. Remember that expense category we called overhead? Overhead describes all of the costs a business incurs that do not directly produce output. Overhead would be office rent, liability insurance, membership fees, firm vehicles, business taxes, office equipment and most administrative costs. Well, another good indicator is the percentage of total expenses that is overhead. You would want to keep this low and make sure that the trend is not going up. The tricky part is to agree to what you consider to be overhead. As long as you keep your definitions consistent you can create a good trend for this number.

One of the keys to all of this is a good financial system that can keep track of expense and revenue categories. Once you have that you can drop those numbers into a “bucket”, like overhead. I pull numbers from the financial system into an Excel spreadsheet and calculate any of the metrics I want. What metrics do you like?