Inspiration from Stephen McCranie, Jim Rohn, Albert Einstein and More

Once a month (or so), I share a dozen things that have inspired me to greater personal, professional, and financial success in my life. I hope they bring similar success to your life.

1. Stephen McCranie on failure

“The master has failed more times than the beginner has even tried.” ― Stephen McCranie

The thing that people always forget about incredible success is that it is always standing on the top of a mountain of incredible failure.

Wayne Gretzky, likely the greatest goal scorer to ever step out onto the ice, missed more than 75% of his shots in the NHL.

Barack Obama spent years of his life as a community organizer, but most of the time when he knocked on someone’s door, they shut it in his face.

Michael Jordan, arguably the best basketball player to have ever played the game, missed the majority of the shots he took during his NBA career.

Me? I have posted over 6,000 articles on The Simple Dollar. I’ve started at least ten times more than that and thrown away more than 90% of them.

If you want to do something well, assume you’re going to fail and fail and fail and fail at it. It’s only through the forging fire of that failure that you occasionally manage to do something great, and the more you fail and fail and fail, the more often you’ll be able to pull off the magic – still only on occasion, but that’s enough.

2. The Miracle Morning

The core idea behind The Miracle Morning is simple. Just develop a morning routine where you spend the first hour or two of your day setting yourself up to have a great day. The rest of the book basically boils down to specific ideas on how to do that.

I can’t agree more. For me, having the right morning routine sets the tone for the rest of the day. I find that I am absolutely at my creative peak for the day when I first wake up in the morning, about ten minutes after opening my eyes. The ideas flow through my head like wine, but they gradually slow down throughout the day.

So, for me, a “miracle morning” means I get up, drink something, eat just a little bit, and then get in the most productive hour of work of my entire day before anyone else in the house even wakes up. In fact, the noise of Sarah rising in the morning and taking a shower is usually a sign that I need to wind that hour down.

That routine, one I figured out in the last year or two, has changed my life. When I’m able to do that day in and day out, it makes each day better and makes my whole life better. It all starts with the right morning routine.

3. Jim Rohn on discipline and regret

“We must all suffer from one of two pains: the pain of discipline or the pain of regret. The difference is discipline weighs ounces while regret weighs tons.” – Jim Rohn

I find that I always dread making a change right now and giving up something that I value, but once I’ve made that choice to give something up, I almost never regret it.

What I do regret is overindulging in stuff, and I regret that all the time. The trick is always figuring out exactly what “overindulgence” is, and I’ve learned that being on the less indulgent end of that spectrum is almost always the right place to be. I might suffer a bit of the pain of discipline, but I never suffer the pain of regret.

In the end, I’ll choose the pain of discipline every time. It’s small and it’s not a pain that I’ll feel a week or two from now. The pain of regret? That’s a different story.

4. Andreas Ekström on the moral bias behind your search results

From the description:

Search engines have become our most trusted sources of information and arbiters of truth. But can we ever get an unbiased search result? Swedish author and journalist Andreas Ekström argues that such a thing is a philosophical impossibility. In this thoughtful talk, he calls on us to strengthen the bonds between technology and the humanities, and he reminds us that behind every algorithm is a set of personal beliefs that no code can ever completely eradicate.

Google is useful for extracting very specific pieces of information, the types of things that can be expressed in a sentence or two. The problem is that you rarely find those facts in such a short form. They’re always surrounded by more, and the more stuff that surrounds them, the more bias gets introduced into your head.

You can’t avoid it. There is nothing out there that isn’t biased. Even the selection of facts that is given to you on a particular topic is biased – the facts individually might not be, but the specific ones chosen to be shared while others are not chosen? That’s always biased.

The only way I’ve found to overcome this even a little is to try to expose myself to lots and lots and lots of different sources of bias in the hopes that they all cancel each other out. I get my news from a huge range of sources, ranging from very conservative biased sources to very liberal biased sources, and I learn as much from what each side excludes as what they choose to include.

If you remember nothing, it’s this: even a list of facts is biased because of the facts the author chose to include or exclude from that list. The author wants you to think certain things when you read that list of facts. Keep that in mind always whenever you read or listen to anything.

5. Albert Einstein on shabby things

“If most of us are ashamed of shabby clothes and shoddy furniture, let us be more ashamed of shabby ideas and shoddy philosophies.” – Albert Einstein

If you are making a positive choice for yourself, never, ever be ashamed of that choice. That choice may not match what other people are doing… but that does not matter at all. Maybe they’re making a choice that’s best for them, but that doesn’t mean that their choice is best for you.

Similarly, if you have an idea in your head and you refuse to challenge that idea in any way, it’s a shabby idea. Any idea worth having is one that you challenge again and again and again in different ways so that you know where it is strong and you know where it is weak and you understand it thoroughly. “Just because” is always a horrible reason to hold an idea in your head.

6. An appreciation of Fred Rogers

When I was a little kid, I watched Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood almost every day like clockwork. It was on in the afternoon on our local PBS station.

In fact, I held onto watching that show until I was older than I probably should have for two reasons. One, he was the only person on television that actually made me feel like he liked me. Two, the show was really calming for me and it was between the ages of about five and nine that my life was pretty chaotic for a number of reasons.

I’m not much of a fan of television these days, but I cannot deny that Fred Rogers, through the medium of television, had a profound positive impact on my life.

7. Uisce Beatha (Gaelic for “Whiskey” or “Water of Life”)

From the description:

Set in 1912, ‘Uisce Beatha’ (Gaelic for Whiskey or Water Of Life) is the true story of Tom, a young Irish man who leaves his home in rural Ireland to cross the ocean on the ill-fated ‘Titanic’. But a night of celebration beforehand results in a twist that will affect Tom’s fate drastically….

There are moments in all of our lives that feel like an enormous tragedy, but in the rubble of those moments, there is often fertile ground for new seeds to take root and blossom into something amazing.

I’ve had many opportunities in my life that didn’t work out and many moments that felt like giant tragedies. I’ve lost friends due to life tragedies and because I wasn’t mature enough to know how to be a friend.

Quite often, though, great things came out of tragedies. The Simple Dollar came out of my own immaturity with money and, to an extent, with professional relationships. My relationship with my wife was in part borne out of the complete disaster of an earlier relationship.

Painful things happen in life, but they often give rise to great opportunities.

8. Laird Hamilton on your worst enemy

“Make sure your worst enemy doesn’t live between your two ears.” – Laird Hamilton

It’s my own worst enemy. That voice in my head tells me to eat another slice of pizza or to spend money on something silly. It whispers so subtly and when I don’t give the situation full attention, I’ll often just follow along with the whispers.

It’s that “full attention” that’s the key. I’m aware that I make really good choices when I give those choices my full attention. Thus, I try really hard to eliminate distractions in my life, especially in those situations where I’m making decisions that matter. I also like to put obstacles in the way of potential bad impulses, like putting the pizza away after I’ve put a couple of slices on my plate.

My own worst enemy is in my head, but I know how to do battle against him.

9. Daniel Levitin on how to stay calm when you know you’ll be stressed

From the description:

You’re not at your best when you’re stressed. In fact, your brain has evolved over millennia to release cortisol in stressful situations, inhibiting rational, logical thinking but potentially helping you survive, say, being attacked by a lion. Neuroscientist Daniel Levitin thinks there’s a way to avoid making critical mistakes in stressful situations, when your thinking becomes clouded — the pre-mortem. “We all are going to fail now and then,” he says. “The idea is to think ahead to what those failures might be.”

The idea here is something that I’ve talked about a lot on The Simple Dollar. It’s all about thinking ahead and planning for and visualizing difficult situations before they happen.

What exactly would I do if, say, Sarah died in a car accident on her way home from work? It is horrible to think about this scenario, but thinking about it today, at least a little bit, will make it easier to handle that situation when it arrives.

I often plan ahead for difficult scenarios like this. I think about small stresses, like what to do if our family dog runs out the front door without his leash on and inevitably runs away. I think about big ones, like what to do if one of my parents passes away.

The amazing part is that I’ve found that this kind of “pre-planning” helps a ton when those situations occur. I do feel stressed, sure, but I feel much more like I know what to do in those situations. The right thing to do just bubbles up naturally through me and I handle it well, both for myself and for my family and friends.

10. Karen Lamb on starting today

“A year from now you will wish you had started today.” – Karen Lamb

There is almost no major life change that I don’t wish I hadn’t started earlier. Whenever I put off making a change in my life, I end up regretting it big time.

Think about what the biggest change you wish you could make in your life is. Now, imagine what your life would be like right now if you had made that change a year ago.

That’s what your life will be like in a year if you start making that change today.

Start today. You’ll never, ever regret doing it.

11. One Minute Time Machine

(Before watching, be aware that there is a bit of adult conversation in this short film, as one might expect from someone trying and failing to make a love connection.)

From the description:

Every time the beautiful Regina rejects his advances, James pushes a red button and tries again, all the while unaware of the reality and consequences of his actions.

Part of the reason I liked this movie so much is that it’s so simple. It required two people, a park bench, a book, a camera, and two buttons to make. That’s it. Nothing else needed.

Yet, out of that simplicity comes a great story, one that leaves you thinking about opportunities and how the people we interact with also have wants and needs and desires. It’s a strong and universal human truth, but one that we often overlook in our day to day lives.

It doesn’t take much to create something thoughtful and memorable. It’s not the expensive equipment or sets or props or other materials that make the difference.

It’s what you find at the core of all of that. It’s the real sentiment and the real ideas contained inside. If those things are good, then everything is good.

12. Slavoj Zizek on the morning after

“The biggest problem with revolution is the morning after.” – Slavoj Zizek

This quote, more than anything else, has slowly made me into a moderate in almost every aspect of my life.

It’s easy to desire some kind of radical change that, on the surface, reshapes the world into the kind of place that you think it should be. Perhaps, for you, the ideal is a place where everyone’s basic needs are met. Perhaps, for you, the ideal is a place where everyone has maximum personal freedoms. Perhaps, for you, the ideal is a place where the disadvantaged are guaranteed a strong quality of life. Perhaps, for you, the ideal is a place where people can do research unencumbered by the ethical demands of society.

Everyone has different ideals and if we suddenly changed the world to match those ideals, it might seem like an amazing place.

At first.

The problem is that every big dream has consequences. It affects the lives of others in infinite unintended ways. Even minor changes like raising (or lowering) the minimum wage would have profound effects that would ripple outwards throughout society, many of which we can’t even predict.

You might want to change the world, but what happens the day after that? And the day after that? You might dream of and plan for your big change, but you need to also think about what happens after that change. Is it going to really make the world better? The change you dream of might make the world as it is right now a better place, but there are going to be ripples, and what are those ripples going to do?

Every action of significance that we take has consequences. Bombing a group we don’t agree with has consequences – they’re not going to like it and they or their allies will probably strike back eventually. Lowering or raising taxes has consequences as it opens and shuts doors and opportunities for people throughout society, sending them on different life paths.

For me, the real frontier of change is personal change. Make yourself into the ideal that you want to see in the world. Forcing everyone to save for retirement might cause a ton of societal problems, but if you do it for yourself, all you’re doing is securing a good future for you. Forcing everyone to care for the poor would cause all sorts of ramifications, but choosing to drop off some canned goods at the food pantry and volunteer there an hour or two a week creates a good future for you and the people immediately in your community.

Plus, you actually have the power within yourself to bring about that little revolution.

Stop worrying so much about the big picture. Stop stressing and being angry about giant sweeping changes in society. Instead, worry about what’s going on in your own life and your own community.

Make little revolutions happen, and then see what happens tomorrow. You might like it.

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