10 Things I Learned from My 4-Year-Old

When my son was born, I imagined how I would teach him about life. Little did I know that he would be the teacher. He taught me:

  1. To use positive words
    One evening at the dinner table my son said, “Dad this food is disgusting.” I thought – where did that word come from? Another time while I was explaining the rules to a game he said, “Now that’s just ridiculous.” A minute later he said, “this is stupid, I give up.” At that moment it dawned on me… He’s getting this stuff from me. From now on I better choose my words carefully.
  2. To look for opportunity everywhere
    My son views the entire world and every new person, new object, or new event as an opportunity to learn something. When a new person walks in the room he wants to know who they are and if they would like to play. If I drop a new object into a cluttered room, he will spot it, touch it, pick it up, ask questions about it. Nothing new goes unnoticed.
  3. A new synonym for persistence
    Santa Claus brought my son a white board and a set of dry erase makers for Christmas (can you tell I’m in IT). My son learned to write very early. He spent months obsessed with writing letters on the white board. One day I looked at the board while he was writing and I saw this combination of capital letters – SHHANDSHOWBO. He also knows how to sound out words, so I asked him what it was. He said, “It’s a word I made up – Sha-hand-show-bo.” I asked, “What does it mean?” He said, “To keep trying even when it’s hard.” Now when I get frustrated I think – Sha-hand-show-bo.
  4. To ask big questions
    A few weeks ago our cat was dying. So I explained death to my son and told him our cat was going to heaven. I was amazed that he grasped the permanence of death. Like the other members of my family he was very sad for several days. Then he asked, “Dad, how do you get to heaven?” I said,”Well everyone goes there when they die.” He said, “No I mean, how do you get there? Do go out the door and get in the car? Do you take a rocket?” I had to admit to him that I didn’t know how you get to heaven, I just believe in it. A few days latter he asked, “If God made me, who made God?” Good question. I haven’t thought about that one in years.
  5. To accept mistakes
    Watching my son grow and learn, it became clear that all learning is based on trying something new, making a mistake, adjusting your actions, trying again, repeating until you get the results you desire. That is how he learned to walk, speak, read, write, build lego walls, set up train tracks, jump, run, and pedal. I can’t think of one thing he did right the first time. It is a good thing he has an abundance of sha-hand-show-bo.
  6. To pay attention to little details
    When my son was 2, he was pointing in a box and saying, “ate, ate, ate, ate.” I said no you don’t want to eat the box. He said, “no, ate, ate, ate.” I looked in the box and it was empty. I looked at him puzzled. He stuck his face in the box and said, “ate, ate.” I looked again closely. On the bottom of the box, in the corner, printed in a small font was the number 8. He sees things I don’t see, because he pays attention to little things everywhere, like the tiny red dot on the white sheetrock wall he called an “owie.”
  7. To stop complaining
    Recently my son went through a phase where he complained about everything. His food was too hot, playtime was too short, he didn’t want to go to pre-school, everything was “too hard.” This experience forced me to think and come up with a plan to help my son through this phase. I developed some techniques to help him stop complaining. His phase taught me how irritating it is to listen to complaints without solutions. His complaining taught me to listen to myself when I start to gripe and realize complaining isn’t going to get me the results I desire. It is one thing to identify something
    uncomfortable or painful you wish to change, and another to sit and complain about it and do nothing. Solutions provide value – gripes sap energy. Besides, how can I expect my son to stop complaining, if I complain – see #8.
  8. To strive for consistency
    If I am inconsistent with my expectations and actions my son won’t understand what I expect. For example, if I tell him I won’t allow him to jump on the furniture and then let him do it occasionally; he becomes confused and jumps on the furniture trying to understand his limits. The consequences for jumping on the couch are random and he never understands my expectations. If I let his little brother jump on the couch, rest assured, he will say “you let him jump on the couch. Why can’t I jump on the couch?” and I won’t have a meaningful answer. Since I have seen inconsistency lead to chaos with my 4-year-old, I now believe it will lead to chaos in every area of my life.
  9. How to build a maze with random items in the garage
    Garage MazeGarage Maze
    Garage Maze
  10. To experiment
    My son learns everything by experimenting. He learn the rules of the house by experimenting. He must ask questions in his mind at some level – like what will happen if I flick this spoonful of mash potatoes at my little brother? or how will mom react if I eat this bug? Now I’m not recommending that you or anyone else start flicking food at each other or start eating insects just to find out what happens. What I am suggesting is that my son illustrates how we learn. We learn by experimenting. Never stop experimenting.

This post was entered in the Carnival of Family Life. Please visit it for more on family life.

How to Break a Negative Thought Pattern

The power button on my flat screen monitor broke yesterday.

  • My first thought was – How stupid, a little #%#@! plastic button has ruined my monitor.
  • My second thought was – I am such an idiot. I know better than to keep turning the monitor on and off. I know I should leave my monitor on. I know the most common problem with a monitor is the power button. I work in IT for crying out loud.
  • My third thought was – What kind of manufacturer makes junk like this? They should be ashamed to make this garbage.
  • My fourth thought was – I bet Chris (my wife) screwed up the power button. If she was more careful this crap wouldn’t happen.
  • After learning the monitor was just days out of warranty, I thought – Jerks, I bet they built it so it breaks after a year, then they can sell me a new one.
  • My last negative thought was – Why do I buy all this stuff? It all breaks anyway. I’m a slave to my stuff. I should sell it all and go live in a tee-pee.

You can see where this was going. My first thought attracted similar thoughts – all negative. My thoughts were not leading me to a solution, they were leading me away from one. So how did I break the spiral?

  1. The first step (also the hardest step when you are caught up in the emotion of the moment) is to identify that you are in a negative thought spiral. My first clue I was in a negative thought spiral was my use of profanities and words like idiot, stupid, jerks, and disgusting. My second clue was I was blaming. Name calling and blame never lead to a solution. I consciously thought – I have identified I am in a negative thought spiral and I need to break it.
  2. I Interrupted my negative thought spiral by consciously forcing a positive thought into my mind. Any positive thought would work. I looked around the room for something positive, saw my son and thought – I love you. Then I said it out loud.
  3. I took a deep breath and waited for more positive thoughts so I could build a positive thought pattern. I expected more positive thoughts. The next one came – Those area rugs make this room look great. That one wasn’t forced – it floated up from my sub-conscious. More and more positive thoughts followed.
  4. Once I felt I had established a positive thought pattern, I focused back on the monitor – my problem at hand.

My sub-conscious handed me these thoughts about the monitor:

  • A monitor isn’t that important. Don’t fret. It’ll be fine
  • Get the old monitor you have in the basement and use it until the broken one is fixed
  • Bring the broken one to work tomorrow and ask your hardware savvy friends if they have any idea how to fix it

Today I fixed the monitor with help from my smart friends.

5 Empowering Beliefs

For me, these beliefs are newborn infants I am swaddling and nursing to life.
I believe…

1. I become what I think about

  • Do I think about wealth or poverty?
  • Do I think about vengeance or justice?
  • Do I think about freedom or control?
  • Do I think about winning or losing?
  • Do I think about war or peace?
  • Do I think about success or failure?
  • Do I think about living or dying?
  • Do I think about what I intend or what I fear?
  • Do I think about goals or obstacles?
  • Do I think about illness or health?

My thoughts are mine alone. I am responsible for my thoughts. I choose my thoughts, so I become what I choose to become.

2. People (including me) are my greatest resource

  • When I disagree with someone, do I withdraw, attack, or listen and learn something?
  • Can I set aside my pride and ask for help?
  • Do I treat others the way I would like to be treated?
  • Do I listen empathically to people, including myself?
  • Do I celebrate other people’s successes, or envy them?
  • Do I help others and expect nothing in return?
  • Do I ask others to join with me to reach shared goals?
  • Do I reward people for their efforts, including myself?

3. I really don’t know much of anything… yet

  • What am I?
  • Why am I here?
  • How did I get here?
  • What is the universe? Why does it exist?
  • Why can I feel emotion?
  • Why can I create?
  • Why am I conscious?
  • Why do I dream?
  • Why is the universe so large? Why not just one sun and one planet? Why the rest of it?
  • Why can I learn? Why am I not pre-programmed?
  • Why do I intuitively know the answer to some questions? Where does that come from?
  • Does time exist? Can I ever experience the past? Can I ever experience the future? Am I stuck only experiencing the present?

The more questions I ask, the more I realize how little I know. I find this belief empowering because I no longer feel the need to know everything, just the desire to know more. There is no end to what I can discover. While I believe I really don’t know much of anything, I also have a strange intuition that the answers to all my questions reside within my consciousness and all I need to do is remember the answer.

4. I can change my beliefs

  • Scientists once believed that man could not build a flying machine
  • Academics once believed the world was flat
  • Theologians once believed that cats were possessed by evil spirits

I once believed that I had to pick a set of beliefs (religious, political, philosophical, spiritual, economic) and hold on to them like the breath of life – that I had to defend my beliefs and justify my beliefs. I believed those beliefs had to fit into some pre-defined category. At times, I even believed it would be okay to kill for my beliefs. Paging back through my memories, I realize that my beliefs evolved as I learned and matured, so if my beliefs stop changing I have likely stopped learning and maturing too. Being open to new beliefs is to be open to growth. This belief doesn’t mean I should change my beliefs, it means I can choose to change them.

5. The results I get from life are the direct result of my beliefs

  • If I believe I have something to fear, that’s what I will get – fear
  • If I believe it won’t last – it won’t
  • If I believe I can do it – I will
  • If I believe I am independent – I am free
  • If I believe I am wealthy – I will not want
  • If I believe in others – their creativity will flourish
  • If I believe I can change my beliefs – I will grow

If you aren’t getting the results you desire or expect, try on some new beliefs, look in the mirror, and see if you like what you see.

For more see Steve Pavlina’s podcast #5

How a Stay at Home Mom Lives Her Dream Selling Books Online

When I mention I am a stay at home mom who sells books online, people’s ears perk up.Christine Olson I bet they would perk up even more if I told them I am going to do over $70,000 this year working 3-4 hours a day. Some things are better left unsaid – that kind of information is better spread by gossip. I could causally mention it when asking a neighbor if they know a good accountant. It’s fun to brag, but one needs to be careful.

Exactly one year after I had my first son I was aching to fill a gap in my life. That gap was selling books. I had managed a bookstore for the previous 12 years. I was ready to give it all up to be a full-time stay at home mom. I started to get the itch after a few months, but at the one-year mark, I was going crazy.

So I …

  • Got myself a credit card
  • Registered with the IRS
  • Registered with the state
  • Opened a bank account
  • Made room in my basement
  • e-mailed a wholesaler
  • Asked for a current booklist
  • Ordered $500.00 worth of books

Book in Home OfficeIt took a week and about 500 bucks and I was in business! I was able to pay the $500.00 back in 2 months. Since the initial $500.00 investment I have never gone into debt. After that, I just kept on ordering and kept on selling. The books crept out of the space I had set aside into more common areas of the house. It was obvious that if I wanted to keep expanding the business we were going to need more room. 2 years into the business we bought a bigger house and had another baby boy. Now I have 500 square feet set aside set up with industrial steel shelving. That space is quickly filling up.

  • There is no secret to making money online – it’s like any other business – I provide value to my customers
  • People assume I buy most of my books at garage sales or library sales and sell them for a small, tidy profit – they are wrong – I buy them wholesale
  • I’ve been in the book business for over 12 years – but it doesn’t take 12 years to build wholesale relationships. I’ve never met most of my wholesalers or even talked to them on the phone
  • I order all my products online, from my cozy basement home office
  • Once in awhile I will go to a trade show to find a new wholesaler, but honestly, I haven’t done that in over 4 years

If you think I’m going to tell you who my wholesalers are, forget it. No one making a good income selling online is going to hand over a list of their wholesalers, so don’t ask. The bookselling business is insanely competitive. My wholesalers sell online to the public; competition can’t get much tougher than that. I’m convinced that I can reach $150,000 or more per year without sacrificing my customer service and small business feel. I am constantly trying to figure out how to get technology to become my surrogate employees.

Read this to learn more about selling books online.

To find out more about how you can start your own internet based business check out Skip McGrath’s site.

How do you define success?

After reading Paul’s post at Homeowners Blog. I asked myself the question – how do I define success? Here is my answer:

  • Success means knowing I do the right things for the right reasons.
  • Success means not compromising integrity.
  • Success means I share with those who need my help.
  • Success means I give my time to my family.
  • Success means providing value to others.
  • Success means living up to my commitments.
  • Success means building a community – not a network.
  • Success means looking in the mirror and liking what you see.

Notice how money and title isn’t in my definition? Title means nothing to me.

I believe money is the by-product of living a successful life – not the measure.

I want to know your definition of success. Go ahead and post it in comments.

For more on the definition of success, check this out.

How rigid beliefs affect relationships

I believe you should always be on time. I get angry when people are late because I believe it is disrespectful.

Joe does not believe being on time is important. He has said so. He is usually late.

So who has the problem here? I do.
Why? Because I am angry. Joe is happy.

Joe doesn’t even know there is a problem, because I haven’t told him yet. Let’s say I never tell him and stew in my anger believing everybody believes you should be on time and that everyone believes being late is disrespectful. I will be angry with Joe and Joe will have no clue why I am angry because I have assumed he believes the same things I believe about punctuality.

Now let’s say I have told Joe that it makes me angry when he is late, but he is still always late and doesn’t understand why it is such a big deal. He doesn’t believe it is a big deal.

Joe is not going to change his belief in punctuality. He has demonstrated that. I can’t change Joe’s belief, only he can.

So what can I do?
I can choose to change my belief that Joe should always be on time and that will in turn change my belief that I have been disrespected and then I won’t be angry at Joe anymore.


I can stop making appointments with Joe.

As you can see…
Joe doesn’t make me angry…
I make myself angry because my beliefs don’t allow me to accept Joe as he is.

Once I put this in print, the whole concept appears absurdly obvious. But in all honesty, I didn’t truly comprehend the concept until yesterday when someone close to me had a problem in her personal relationships.

A Simple Formula for Weight Loss and Long-Term Maintenance

The secret to losing weight isn’t really a secret at all – It’s simple and it’s free. I’ll get to that later in the post, but first I want to give you some background.

In the past, it was difficult for me to lose weight because I choose to believe it was complicated. I choose to believe that thin people had a special genetic makeup that allowed them to be thin and that the only way I could be thin again was to find a magic solution. I never found that solution. I tried Atkins, South Beach, and other diet fads to lose weight and they worked for a while, but I always bounced back to where I started. Diet plans worked temporarily because they got me to change my lifestyle temporarily. As soon as I reverted to my old lifestyle the weight returned.

In order for me to lose weight and maintain the new weight, I had to change my beliefs about weight loss and weight maintenance. I had to dump my belief that somehow weight loss was complicated. I had to drop the belief that the solution lies outside of me. I had to dump my belief in a magic solution that I hadn’t yet discovered.

A weight problem is like a debt problem. We get into debt by:

  1. Not paying attention to how much we are spending
  2. Planning to earn more and failing to deliver
  3. Denying how deep we’ve gotten

The weight problem goes like this:

  1. Not paying attention to how much we are eating
  2. Planning to exercise and failing to do it…enough
  3. Denying how heavy we are

I did some research about my problem and implemented this simple plan.
Here are the numbers:

  • I am a 37 year old man
  • Starting weight 200 lbs
  • Goal weight 175 lbs
  • Mildly active and likely to remain mildly active
  • I burn about 2500 calories per day
  • Eating 2000 calories per day resulted in 4-6 lbs lost each month.
  • It took about 5 months to lose 25 lbs.
  • Now I can eat 2500 calories per day and maintain 175 lbs indefinitely

People design name brand diet plans to trick you into applying this simple formula without thinking about it. But that is the problem – you need to think about it. Long-term success requires you to pay attention to what you eat and understand the formula. Try solving a debt problem without paying attention to your spending. It won’t work.

The above formula is simple, healthy, safe, and available here. Plug in your numbers and put the plan into action – It worked for me and it will work for you. To determine the caloric value of the food you eat, visit this site. Remember I said it was simple, not easy. Sometimes it is hard to change your deeply held beliefs. But when you begin to believe the solution to your weight problem lies within you and not outside of you, your chances for success increase exponentially.

It only requires three things:

  • Pay attention to what you are eating
  • Believe the solution lies within you
  • Commit to long term lifestyle change

Weight loss is that simple. (with the exception of a few rare metabolic conditions)

Before I posted this, I asked my wife to read it. She said, “What’s new here? Doesn’t everybody know this?” I said, “If everybody knows this, why is weight loss a multi-billion dollar industry?” She answered, “Because everyone wants to believe their weight problem is bigger than them. It can’t be just about them.” Ah! Touche! Touche!

This post was entered in the ProBlogger Group Writing Project- How to.

First Post

Chris (my spouse) and I are on a quest… 

A quest for personal freedom.

  • The freedom to live as we wish to live
  • The freedom to think our own thoughts
  • The freedom to schedule our own time
  • The freedom to create
  • The freedom to lead
  • The freedom to nurture our children and allow them to remain free and independent spirits
  • The freedom to be ourselves every moment of everyday
  • The freedom to explore
  • Financial freedom

I recently realized that we have been on this journey since the day we were born. I plan to use this weblog to share our journey with you as it progresses. To share our successes and our temporary setbacks, in detail, so that our experiences can inspire you to live life as it was truly meant to be lived – free.