Give Me 3 Minutes and I'll Make you a Better Decision Maker

Do you make completely rational, logical decisions when you purchase items? Do you compare prices and features and make the best decision based on the facts? Are these decisions free of emotion?

I don’t think so. They are entirely emotional and I’ll explain why.

A letter writer to Will Femia’s Clicked blog wrote this in response to my 10 Things I Wish I had Never Believed:

Who buys cars or houses because of the way they make one feel? Well, not me. Especially with the car. For both purchases, I made lists of factors for inclusion and exclusion, and then found the best match for the list. None of the factors was “makes me feel good.”

I used to think the same way as the letter writer. I used to believe I was a very rational decision maker and it led me to make poor decisions. To understand how and why you make the decisions you make, you need to recognize how emotional your decisions really are. Let me give you a couple of personal examples…

In 2001, I wanted a new car. I had $12,500 to spend on the car and I didn’t want to borrow any money. I wanted the best car I could get for the price. I desired these things in a car.

  • Less than $12,500
  • Low Miles – Under 30K
  • Four doors
  • ABS brakes
  • Radio
  • Clean service history
  • Clean accident history
  • Neutral color like silver or gray

I bought a Silver 4-door 2000 Oldsmobile Intrigue with 22,000 miles, ABS brakes, a radio, and a clean history for $12,100.

Was that a rational logical decision?

No it wasn’t. It was purely emotional.

The first decision to challenge is…

Why do I need a car? Driving is a privilege and luxury. Billions of people live without cars. People without cars don’t shrivel up and die. I could live without a car, but I feel better owning one. So why do I want one? Because a car gives me more freedom and that increases my quality of life. And a better quality of life leads to a happier state of consciousness – maybe.

But let’s say I concede that I am a special case and a car is an absolute life necessity. Why do I want these specific features?

Low Miles – I don’t want to worry about the car breaking. I don’t want to spend money on repairs.

Four Door – I want it to be easy to get kids in and out of the back seat.

ABS Brakes – I want to feel safe on the ice and snow.

Radio – I like to listen to music in the car.

Clean history – I don’t want it to break down frequently. I’d feel like a fool buying a totaled car that was refurbished.

Neutral Color – I don’t feel good in flashy colors.

Every one of my required features is emotional. Couldn’t I have gotten by with a hot pink 1990 Ford Escort with 200,000 miles? Sure, why not? I see people driving stuff like that all the time.

Now let’s look at the house I purchased in 2004.

This is what I wanted:

  • 3000+ Square Ft.
  • Less than 10 years old
  • Cul-de-sac location
  • Good school district
  • Nice neighbors
  • Neighbors with kids
  • Large open room for an internet based retail business
  • Access to high speed internet
  • Less than 30 minute commute to work
  • Low crime area
  • Less than 400K

The first question…

Why do I want a new house?

I lived in a 920 Sq ft. house for ten years. It met most of my requirements. I could have lived in my old house for the rest of my life, without a problem. In fact, I could live my life in a much smaller space without a problem. But I wouldn’t have felt as good about it.

We wanted the house because we wanted more room. We didn’t like to feel crowded. I wanted to buy more toys. My wife wanted to expand her business and buy new furnishings that wouldn’t fit in the old house.

My point is we could have stayed in the old house or even moved to an apartment in the slums and saved a lot of money, but we wouldn’t have felt as good.

The features:

3000+ Square Ft. – We didn’t want to feel crowded.

Less than 10 years old – We didn’t want to be bothered with time consuming and costly renovations.

Cul-de-sac location – Wanted to feel safe when the kids played outside.

Good school district Wanted the kids to get a good education.

Nice neighbors – We wanted to enjoy our neighborhood.

Neighbors with kids – We wanted the kids to enjoy their neighborhood.

Large open room for an internet based retail business – We wanted to expand our home based business.

Access to high-speed internet – OK, I would shrivel up and die without internet access. I don’t know how I lived my first 25 years without it.

Less than 30 minute commute to work – I wanted to spend more time with my family instead of on the road.

Low crime area – We wanted to feel safe.

Less than 400K – I didn’t want to worry about debt. My loan officer said I could have borrowed 700K. But I didn’t want the stress of a large mortgage. I felt better putting my money other places.

You can see that every one of my housing requirements is emotional. I think most people would say that these are logical desires. Desires most people have. But they still meet emotional needs.

Many people brag about their bargain hunting ability as a testimony to how rational and logical they are. I have never met a man that was taken to the cleaners by a used car salesman. I always hear the story about how he took the used car lot to the cleaners. Listen to a group of men discuss their big-ticket purchases and you will hear story after story about how they paid less than all the other poor suckers. Your desire to believe you got the best price is purely emotional. It makes you feel smart. With men it’s competitive. The guy that gets the best deal is smarter, tougher, and more masculine. With women it’s a little different. They don’t brag about their negotiating prowess. Don’t kid yourself that your focus on price isn’t emotional. It is. Good marketers and sales people know it. Many people shop at Wal-Mart because they’d feel stupid paying a dollar more for diapers even though they feel like vomiting while they shop there. They value feeling smart more than they value feeling healthy.

An economist once told me that all human decisions are irrational once we have met the basic needs for food, shelter and clothing. Once you have those base needs met, everything else is an emotionally driven desire for status, comfort, and entertainment. After all, we could all wear gray sweat suits, eat beans and powdered milk three times a day, and live in 300 sq ft apartments, but we wouldn’t feel very good about it – would we?

Read the 10 part series on the 10 things I wish I had never believed:

#1 Why People Believe Money is the Root of All Evil
#2 Why Getting a Good Job isn’t the Best Way to Earn Money
#3 The Secret Great Leaders Know About Emotions
#4 Success is 99% Failure
#5 10 Tips to Secure a Management Position without a College Degree
#6 Always Question Your Doctor – Three Stories Why
#7 How the Public School System Crushes Souls
#9 Give Me 3 Minutes and I’ll Make you a Better Decision Maker

10 Tips to Secure a Management Position without a College Degree

I know this will work for you, because it worked for me and I’ve seen it work for dozens of others.

Warning: I gave these tips to a co-worker when she asked how she could get off the factory floor and into cubicle world. She listened to tips 5-8, and interrupted me saying, “But I don’t wanna do all that.” To which I replied, “then you better get back to school.”

  1. Make a list of small to medium sized business in your area. Start by calling the local Chamber of Commerce and asking for the names of the fastest growing small to medium sized businesses. Remember, you don’t want companies that are too large – above $250 million in revenue. Large corporations rarely hire or promote non-degreed people. I’ve seen it happen, but it is so rare, I wouldn’t count on it. Small to mid-size companies will promote anyone with ability and allow them to learn any job in the company.
  2. Remove all retailers, restaurants, and hotels (really most of the travel industry) from your list. Retailers, restaurants, and hotels of all sizes are likely to exploit you, promote you to assistant manager, pay you less than 20K, burn you out, and never promote you. Find a fast growing business in the technology, manufacturing, construction, real estate, or transportation sector.
  3. Research the companies on your list. Read every page on their websites. Look for bios on the founder, president, executives, and other people that work for the company. If the leadership bios stress educational achievement above business achievement, cross them off your list. Rate the companies on your list numerically.
  4. Go get a job at one of these companiesany job. Start with the company you like most. First memorize their website, their products, services, history, leaders, and then apply for any open position, even if it is – beneath you. But apply for the best job you qualify for. If they don’t have any openings, go to the management bios on their website and find a manager or executive you can identify with, then stop by the company in person and ask for that manager and tell her how much you love the company, what you can do for the company, and how much you’d love to work there. Dress professional, and leave a cover letter and a resume. If she won’t see you, leave a hand written note. Don’t rely on email only. Do everything you can to meet them in person. Persistently pursue employment at your top choices for several months then continue down your list. If you follow these tips you will get a job, probably at one of the top companies on your list. But the job will suck and it will pay little.
  5. Learn to do your job better than anybody has ever done it before. Tell your manager you want to learn every job in your department because you want to backup anyone that leaves or takes a vacation. When another department is hurting, walk over to the department head and tell her that you are willing to help anyway you can. When you see a problem, never complain, look for a solution, and offer to implement your solution on your own time over the weekend – for free. Even if no one notices, keep busting your ass anyway. When you see a problem, question management only if you have better idea and are willing to articulate the solution. If you have a solution, good managers will love to hear it. If you don’t have a solution – it’s a complaint. Don’t ever complain.
  6. When asked to work late or over the weekend without pay, don’t complain. Volunteer for it and do it with a smile on your face… without exception.
  7. Volunteer for everything that you can. If a new team is created – volunteer. If they need people for a booster club – volunteer. If they need people for the safety committee – volunteer. Volunteer for every educational opportunity offered. Volunteer willingly at every opportunity.
  8. Never stop talking and thinking about how great the company is and how great its products are. Never go to the bar and sit around complaining about the company. Show your passion for the company, its products, and its leaders in everything you do.
  9. When you meet an executive say this, “I’m am so grateful to be here at Company X. This is the greatest company I have ever worked for. I want to know everything there is to know about this business. I want to know how you guys come up with new products and services. I want to know your sales processes; I want to know operations. I want to help this company grow. Will you help me learn more about this company? How can I be of more service and value? I have no problem learning and working at night or on the weekend. I love this place.” Make this speech your own and memorize it. Tell it again and again to the executives, the founder, and every manager. Plan to put in 70-80 hours a week because they will take your offer. Learn every valuable piece of information you can about your company.
  10. In 1-4 years you will be one of the most valuable employees in the company. In many cases you will know more about the company than most of the managers. When management openings arise, apply for every opening you are interested in, even if it requires a degree. If you are persistent, someone will eventually give you a management position, because you know so damn much about the company. This entry-level management job will likely pay 40-70K depending on your industry, company size, and geographic location. Congratulations! You’ve reached the entry point of a college graduate. From here you can try to continue to climb the corporate ladder and your soft skills and intelligence will matter far more than your educational record. Good Luck!

So you still think it can’t be done? Read about ninth grade dropout Guy Mingo.

Want more information…
Read the Go-Getter, a short story about succeeding in the corporate world. Peter B. Kyne wrote it in the 20s and it is timeless (if you can overlook the political incorrectness).

These tips will work wonders for your career even if you have a degree.

Note: These are tips to acquiring a management position without a college degree. These are not tips on how to acquire a management position in the company of your choice, in the industry of your choice, at the best salary. If you want to do that…
Get a degree.

Read the 10 part series on the 10 things I wish I had never believed:

#1 Why People Believe Money is the Root of All Evil
#2 Why Getting a Good Job isn’t the Best Way to Earn Money
#3 The Secret Great Leaders Know About Emotions
#4 Success is 99% Failure
#5 10 Tips to Secure a Management Position without a College Degree
#6 Always Question Your Doctor – Three Stories Why
#7 How the Public School System Crushes Souls
#9 Give Me 3 Minutes and I’ll Make you a Better Decision Maker

The Secret Great Leaders Know About Emotion

I used to believe my emotions were a weakness, and I’m sharing this information with the hope you can avoid the painful lesson I had to learn.

Do you believe your emotions are weaknesses you must suppress to succeed? What if I told you that your emotions were not an obstacle to success but a critical ingredient in your success?

I believed my emotions were a weakness, and the results were ugly.

About two years ago, I read a couple of books that explained my problem and what to do about it. The first was Executive EQ and the second was Leadership: The Inner Side of Greatness.

Here are some of the secrets in these books:

Great leaders accept their feelings and allow themselves to feel their feelings fully. That’s right! They allow themselves to feel their fear in all its intensity. They don’t try to suppress it or step around it or deny it. They don’t fight it. They accept it and feel it. A great leader doesn’t believe something is wrong with him when he feels a particular feeling. Wow! What an eye opener! Tiger Woods feels fear too! He knows that denying his feelings leads to physical and emotional exhaustion. I never knew that. I thought I was a freak for feeling the things I felt.

Great leaders know the difference between conscious emotional action and impulsive emotional re-action. Some might call this emotional maturity. When children feel angry they may hit people or break things. This is an emotional re-action. Some of us don’t know how to stop re-acting impulsively to our emotions and it carries into adulthood. When we feel a particular way, we re-act negatively or we channel one emotion to a different emotion and re-act incongruently. For example – a man may feel that he cannot re-act to his sorrow, so he channels his sorrow into anger and re-acts violently instead. It is impulsive re-action most people think of when they imagine an emotional person.

Great leaders feel their emotion, name their emotions, and act on them. For example: A great warrior will feel her fear in battle, understand that she is afraid, and interpret it as a message to act with courage. A Native American friend once told me, “In my culture, we are taught to trust our feelings. We do not shun feelings. We understand they are messages from nature that we need to take action. Feelings are messages from the spirit world.”

Great leaders trust their intuition. Intuition is the art of knowing without reasoning. Great leaders know that intuition is the shortcut to making great decisions quickly. We can all access our intuition if we learn to listen to our hunches. As a child, I solved complex math problems correctly using only intuition, and the teacher punished me for cheating and told me what I was doing was impossible. I had no desire to write out pages of work to solve a problem that I already knew the answer to. After that, I gave up on math and my intuition. I learned the lesson my teacher was teaching. It took me almost thirty years to unlearn that lesson.

Great leaders broadcast positive emotions. Great leaders have learned to use their minds to feel and broadcast Love, Hope, Desire, Sex Appeal, Confidence, Joy, Trust, and Faith to other people. Watch the great speeches from MLK to Steve Jobs. How do they make you feel? Where do you think that comes from?

Great leaders do the seemingly impossible using imagination combined with positive emotion. They create a novel, a piece of artwork, a political movement, a military victory, an invention, or a great theory, by first imagining it in detail while feeling positive emotions like passion, love, and faith. Without intense focused emotions, there would be no world changing creations.

My Story

When I was child, people told me I was overly sensitive. Since the second grade, I believed I had an emotional birth defect that I had to overcome.

I’ve always felt that I was able to walk into a room and sense other people’s feelings. If someone was secretly angry, I could feel it. If someone was genuine, I could feel it. If someone held resentment or hate, I could feel it. If someone was full of love, I could feel that too. This whole situation seemed insane and voyeuristic. I don’t mean that I knew how other people felt; I mean that I actually felt their feelings. So if someone was talking to me while feeling afraid, I felt afraid too.

At some point I realized, that boys aren’t supposed to feel that way. I began to suppress and deny my emotions because I believed they were a weakness. So in order to control the re-actions which revealed my emotions, I suppressed and denied my sadness, fear, or any other emotion that could lead to a socially damaging re-action.

The results of this method of self-denial were devastating. I turned into an emotional black-hole, devoid of empathy, with all my denied emotions manifesting in destructive actions (substance abuse, criminal activity, violence) and psychiatric issues (depression and panic attacks). My wife once described me as “completely black and empty on the inside.”

My experience is an extreme example. But I believe most people suppress their emotions to some degree. Suppressing your emotions won’t solve your problems because emotions will always find a way to manifest. But there is a solution.

Your emotions are your strength, not your weakness. It just depends upon how you think about them.

To be great, learn to feel great.

This post has been listed on the Cultivate Growth and Blog Success Carnival at Cultivate Success. – Thanks Travis

Read the 10 part series on the 10 things I wish I had never believed:

#1 Why People Believe Money is the Root of All Evil
#2 Why Getting a Good Job isn’t the Best Way to Earn Money
#3 The Secret Great Leaders Know About Emotions
#4 Success is 99% Failure
#5 10 Tips to Secure a Management Position without a College Degree
#6 Always Question Your Doctor – Three Stories Why
#7 How the Public School System Crushes Souls
#9 Give Me 3 Minutes and I’ll Make you a Better Decision Maker

Why Getting a Good Job isn't the Best Way to Earn Money

There is a better way to make money. I’m not telling you to quit your job and become an anarchist. And I am not saying you’re stupid because you have a job. I have a job. So you ask, what did you mean?

A job is a way to earn money. It’s how most people earn money. It’s what I do today. It just isn’t the best way to earn money. I wish I would have known this twenty-five years ago. I wish my parents had taught me this, I wish the schools had taught me this. In a minute, I’ll share the secret with you.

I’ve had one job or another for 24 years. I’ve made all my money working for someone else.

I’ve had a job…

  • Picking Pumpkins
  • Peeling Shrimp – worst thing ever!
  • Driving a Truck
  • Maintaining Networks
  • Developing Software
  • Managing Customer Service

Today I have a great job that helps put my family in the top 5% of income earners in the United States. I am grateful for my company and my job.

I manage a team of software developers that enhance and maintain our Oracle e-business Suite. For me it is the perfect job, at the perfect company, with the perfect people. Like you, I worked hard to get where I am. I can’t imagine a job being much better. I don’t complain about my job and I have few worries about money.

So you’re probably thinking – so why do you wish you never believed a job was the best way to earn money?

Because If I knew ten or twenty years ago what I know now, I would have created far more value for myself and everybody else.

The best way to earn money is to build assets. When I say assets, I’m not talking about your home, an IRA, or a 401K. Let me explain.

Until recently, I believed entrepreneurship was the same as working for someone else, except with greater income potential. And instead of working for your boss, you work for your customer. For some entrepreneurs this is true, but for smart ones it isn’t true.

I read Rich Dad/Poor Dad and The E-Myth Revisited and it hit me…


I should be building assets for my family. I wish I had spent the last twenty-five years building assets for myself instead of trading my time for money while building assets for someone else.

So this might be your next question – If you aren’t talking about my home, IRA, or a 401K, what assets are you talking about?

Real Estate – Rental Income
Twenty-Five years ago, a guy in my neighborhood had this figured out. He was a blue-collar union guy that worked a printing press for the Star Tribune. He saved his money over a decade and purchased several apartment buildings. The income from the rental property allowed him to quit his job and he used the time he saved to build a construction company. He told me once – do what you love and never work a day in your life. I didn’t get it then; I thought he was nuts. I get it now.

Businesses that are systems
If your business doesn’t run without you, it is a job. To be free, you need to own a business that generates income whether you are there or not. I know another guy that started a franchise restaurant when he was about twenty. He built the business up and trained good managers, which allowed him to step away. The restaurant produced income that paid his bills while he pursued other opportunities. He built a second restaurant and stepped away. Built a third restaurant and stepped away. Now he owns multiple restaurants that produce income – without him working at any of them – so he can spend his time fishing and golfing. Another example of this type of asset is Steve Pavlina’s website. Some people commented that Steve is telling everyone to quit their jobs and start blogging. That’s not what Steve is saying. Steve is telling you to be creative and build yourself an asset that works for you so you have time to pursue new opportunities. Blogging is just one of infinite ways you could do this. The only limit is your imagination.

Intellectual Property
When you create intellectual property, you only work on the initial creation. Once it’s finished it can generate income for many generations. For example – Let’s say you wrote a book, and the book became popular, your family could receive income from it for several generations after you were dead. You’re making money from the grave!

A few types of intellectual property:

  • Books
  • Software
  • Audio
  • Music
  • Video
  • Scripts
  • Art
  • Patents

In my opinion, intellectual property is the best of the best ways for you to make money.

There are probably many other asset categories too.

So, since I wish I had never believed that getting a good job is the best way to earn money, I am not going to teach my sons this adage – get a good education so you can get a good job.

I’m going to teach my children this:

If you learn how to create value for other people – doing what you love – you’ll never have to get a job.

Read the 10 part series on the 10 things I wish I had never believed:

#1 Why People Believe Money is the Root of All Evil
#2 Why Getting a Good Job isn’t the Best Way to Earn Money
#3 The Secret Great Leaders Know About Emotions
#4 Success is 99% Failure
#5 10 Tips to Secure a Management Position without a College Degree
#6 Always Question Your Doctor – Three Stories Why
#7 How the Public School System Crushes Souls
#9 Give Me 3 Minutes and I’ll Make you a Better Decision Maker

Why People Believe Money is the Root of all Evil

#1 False Belief: Money is the root of all evil
First – I know this is not the actual quote. But I believed the misquote and internalized it. I am not alone. The words people choose indicate they have internalized a similar belief. The phrase I hear the most is ‘filthy rich’. Politicians use language that leads me to believe they understand millions of people have internalized this belief too. When a politician says that she is going to “fight for you the working family that has no voice”, I cringe. I’ve been there and lived working class life. It’s irresponsible to exploit people’s envy and misguided belief that they are powerless and dependent. We are all powerful and independent! Everyone of us! I wish a politician would say this instead – You are powerful; every one of you. Stop looking outside of yourself for money and power. Stop waiting for something or someone to come along by chance and bestow money and power upon you. You already have money and power; it is inside of you. You just need to release it into the world. Don’t look to me to do that. I can’t do it for you. Only you can do it for yourself. – I’d vote for that politician.

To give you an understanding of how I acquired the belief that money was evil, I need to give you some context. I spent my teenage years in Bloomington MN, the largest suburb of the Twin Cities. It was and still is an economically diverse city.

Today I reject most social labels, but for the sake of illustration and history, I will use these generalized social classes:

  • Poor
  • Working Class
  • Middle Class
  • Rich

In my formative years, I viewed the world through this social lens. I didn’t understand it at the time. But looking back, I can clearly understand my myopic view.

Poor people lived in welfare projects like this:
The Projects
Or apartments like this:

Working class people lived in houses like this:

Middle class people lived in houses like this:

Rich people lived in houses like this:

I know all of this is relative, and we were all rich by worldwide standards. All my ‘poor’ friends had three TVs, cable television, and a fridge full of Mountain Dew and Budweiser. But that’s not my point. My point is the above social construct was embedded in my sub-conscious and I perceived clear boundaries and differences.

I was working class. My family may argue that we were middle class, but based on where and how we lived, I’d say we were working class and I identified with other working class kids. My wife said I could have titled the last post (10 Things I Wish I had Never Believed) – The 10 Great Working Class Lies. But I thought the beliefs transcended basic class constructs. But essentially, she was right.

Many adults and kids in my life used terms like these:

  • He’s filthy rich
  • That house is a waste of space, can you imagine the heat bill
  • He’s got money coming out his ass
  • Whadda ya think money grows on trees
  • He’s got money to burn
  • It’s easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to get to heaven (I know… I know… It’s misquoted…chill out)
  • How much money does a person need?
  • He could use twenty dollar bills for toilet paper
  • Republicans are for the rich
  • Democrats look out for the workin’ man
  • What a bunch of Fat Cats
  • F***ing cake-eaters
  • There so rich they think their S**t don’t stink

My favorite was, “I wouldn’t say they’re rich, I’d say they’re comfortable.” You could use this one to acknowledge someone was doing well financialy without applying the pejorative term – rich.

I could probably think of a lot more, but I’ll spare you. In working class culture, if you didn’t work hard for your money, people implied something was wrong with you. If you had great wealth, you were either a spoiled brat or a crook. It would have been shameful, embarrassing, and insulting to be called rich. Right now as I write this, I can feel the shame associated with the idea of being rich.

Another thing adults told us – America’s going downhill, you are going to be the first generation that didn’t have it better than your parents. How depressing is that? That’s like saying – you don’t have a chance so don’t be too disappointed when you fail. I heard this repeated at school, on TV, at church, and at home.

Now imagine it’s 1982. Half your friend’s dads are unemployed (national unemployment is at 10% and interest rates are 16%). The country is at the end of the first wave of mass de-industrialization. Your family is pinching every penny, and it’s the first quarter of 8th grade…

Setting – 1980s public school science classroom…

They paired us up in science class alphabetically by last name, so my science partner was Amy Olson. After a month, I noticed that Amy hadn’t worn the same clothes twice. So I asked her, “What’s up Amy? You haven’t worn the same clothes all year. How big’s your wardrobe?”

Amy said, “Oh, I don’t have a wardrobe, I get new clothes everyday.”

In disbelief I said, “What!? You get new clothes everyday? Who the hell buys all your clothes?”

Amy replied, “My mom’s personal shopper.”

I said, “You gotta be freaking kidding me. A personal shopper!? What do you do with your clothes once you’ve worn them once?”

Amy said, “We give ‘em to charity.”

At that point, I hated her with a deep gut felt hatred. I remember the moment in HD and 5.1 surround. I can feel twinges of hate and disgust as I write this and it scares me. I asked the teacher to move me and I never spoke to Amy again. So Amy, if you ever read this, I’m sorry I hated you and I no longer hate you. Please forgive me.

That same year a kid said quite innocently, “I’m going to the Caribbean for my spring trip. Where are you going for your spring trip?”
I responded, “Go F yourself – freak.”

A few years later another kid got a new Porsche 911 for his 16th birthday. Working class students ran keys down the sides of the car in the high school parking lot until he quit driving it to school.

You’re probably thinking – what were kids that rich doing in public school? In Minnesota, twenty-five years ago, most of the local private schools had the reputation for taking the public school rejects. If public school expelled you, you’d land in Catholic School. It’s the opposite today.

This was life for me twenty-five years ago. I can only imagine what it is like for kids today.

Like many of those around me, I suffered from Zero-Sum thinking. The more money one person has the less someone else has. Zero-Sum thinking creates a hostile social environment and a feeling of helplessness. Zero-Sum may be true in a Kleptocracy but it isn’t true in a free-market. In a free-market, your creations grow the economic pie and everyone benefits.

Over the years, this internalized belief has manifested different ways. I found it impossible to be happy for someone else when he succeeded in making money. I always thought he sold-out, did something crooked, or just got lucky. But the worst part was, I believed other peoples successes were at my expense. The belief stopped me from doing anything creative. Why be creative? It might lead to wealth, which is evil. So I sat around miserable, driving a delivery truck, and wondering why the world kept changing and I was still the same.

My awakening was slow. It took years of work to drop the belief. Sometimes I still feel the anger, hate, and insecurity when I see someone else succeed. But today, I usually recognize those feelings, acknowledge them, and consciously tell myself that someone else’s success is an opportunity to share in their joy and learn how they did it.

Today I frequently see the belief manifested in this question:

How much money does a person need anyway?

It’s a fallacious question. In Minnesota, you don’t personally need any money. I could quit my job, leave my family, and stay at the Dorothy Day Center in downtown St. Paul. The charity would feed and clothe me and give me shelter at night. If they didn’t do it, the government would. Since you don’t need any money, what is a better question to ask yourself?

How about this…

What do I want to accomplish with my life and how much money will it take?

Aim, think, and plan for that number, even if it’s a billion dollars.

Believing money was evil led me to act horrible and feel terrible. I believe millions of people still hold this belief today and it binds them in the chains of servitude and criminality. The envy this belief creates results in hatred, anger, crime, and a host of financial and social problems.

By hating the wealthy, I thought I was fighting evil, but I wasn’t – I became evil.

Steve Pavlia has a great post about why making money is not immoral.

Read the 10 part series on the 10 things I wish I had never believed:

#1 Why People Believe Money is the Root of All Evil
#2 Why Getting a Good Job isn’t the Best Way to Earn Money
#3 The Secret Great Leaders Know About Emotions
#4 Success is 99% Failure
#5 10 Tips to Secure a Management Position without a College Degree
#6 Always Question Your Doctor – Three Stories Why
#7 How the Public School System Crushes Souls
#9 Give Me 3 Minutes and I’ll Make you a Better Decision Maker

10 Things I Wish I Had Never Believed

I’m writing this list for you because I wish somebody had sent me this list years ago.

  1. Money is the root of all evil *
    Money isn’t good or evil. It’s a tool like a hammer or a saw. You can create with it or destroy with it. People use it to build infrastructure, to build research facilities, to find cleaner sources of energy, and to create timeless art and literature. If you use your money to create value for yourself and others, your money will grow – and you will have all the money you’ll ever need. However, if you hoard money selfishly or spend it frivolously, you will never have enough. Don’t you think you could contribute more to society, the world, and other people if you had great wealth? So what’s wrong with intending to be wealthy? Do you believe you have the capacity to create value in other people’s lives? Those that think and act create wealth, so if you intend to become wealthy, don’t wait around for a government grant or the winning lotto numbers, get out there and start creating value for other people today.
    Why People Believe Money is the Root of All Evil
  2. Getting a good job is the best way to earn money
    Ask any entrepreneur if she’d like to quit and get a job. Then ask most people with a job if they’d like to quit and work for themselves. Most wealthy people will tell you a job is the worst way to make money.
    Why Getting a Good Job isn’t the Best Way to Earn Money
  3. Emotional people are weak, vulnerable, and easily manipulated
    It’s the exact opposite. Strong emotions are a source of strength and power. The stronger your emotions and the better your ability to focus your emotion, the more creative and powerful you are. Denying your emotions creates weakness and vulnerability.
    The Secret Great Leaders Know About Emotions
  4. Admitting a mistake is a sign of weakness
    If you aren’t making mistakes you aren’t learning anything. Fearing mistakes is the real weakness. Denying your mistakes, repeating them, and expecting different results is insane.
    Success is 99% Failure
  5. You can’t be successful without a college degree
    This one was drilled into my head for years and I believed it. The results of this belief were devastating. I didn’t earn a decent living until I was able to squash the belief. 85% 76% of Americans do not have a degree. I want to be very clear about this – I know I am on dangerous ground – so here goes – All of you with college educations are valuable and you have tremendous ability to create value in the world. This is not a criticism of your achievements. But I also must say – if you are one of the 85% 76% that do not have a degree, you are equally valuable and you are not inferior. You have equal potential to create value in the world, even if you never get a degree. People with and without degrees create amazing results everyday. If you hate flipping burgers or ringing orders at Wal-Mart don’t continue just because our culture tells you it’s your lot in life. Don’t listen to the voice in your head that tells you what you can’t do. Tell it to shut-up. Then start to visualize what you desire to be and you will slowly become what you visualize.
    10 Tips to Secure a Management Position without a College Degree
  6. Your doctor is the best source of medical or psychiatric information
    Medical information is expanding so rapidly doctors are increasingly using Google to diagnose patients. According to studies, 30% of patients are misdiagnosed and treated for a condition they do not have. Obviously, if you have a medical or psychiatric problem you should see a doctor, but question what they tell you. Don’t accept it on blind faith. Use your critical thinking. Ask difficult questions. Many people are afraid to question their doctor. Don’t be afraid! I believe questioning my doctor saved my life (I plan to do a post on that experience). Do research online about your condition and you may find that you know more about the condition than your doctor. If that happens, it may be time to find a new doctor. Remember there is nothing special or magical about doctors, they’re people just like you and me. Many of them are extremely busy, and they make mistakes – lots of mistakes. So be your own advocate. See your doctor, but do your own research in the library and online. And if you need to make a big medical decision, get a second, third, or fourth opinion. Your health is in your hands. You make the final decision.
    Always Question Your Doctor – Three Stories Why
  7. School is the best place for kids to learn
    It’s probably the worst place for kids to learn. I wrote this in my last blog post:Bob Proctor said that the problem with education is that it teaches us what to think, not how to think. Bob is wrong. It’s much worse than that. Our schools teach us to think destructive thoughts, which produce negative results in our lives and in the world. I know this sounds crazy and defies conventional wisdom, but it isn’t an attack on teachers or intellectuals. They are victims of the same monolithic government system as the students. Most teachers know intuitively how screwed up the system is and they know they are powerless to change it. So instead of explaining my position, I’ll let the New York State Teacher of the Year John Taylor Gatto make the argument in his essay The Seven Lesson School Teacher and his interview in Fast CompanyRead my follow up: How the Public School System Crushes Souls

  8. Personal Development or Self-Help is a left-wing hippy thing
    You may have a preconceived notion about Self-Help, but if you look closely I think you’ll find it is an inaccurate stereotype. When some people think of a ‘hippy’, they think of a bunch of scruffy unshaven kids in tie-dye shirts tripping on acid at a Grateful Dead show. When they think of ‘left-wing’, they think of socialism, communism, and atheism. All the Personal Development gurus I’ve seen are clean cut, positive thinking, deeply spiritual, entrepreneurs awash in wealth. Hardly a bunch of scruffy, atheistic, drug abusing, socialists. I highly recommend a Personal Development program regardless of your political or religious beliefs. My program has created amazing positive results.
  9. I should ignore my feelings and make decisions with hard reason and logic
    This is a lie I used to tell myself. You buy the house you buy because of how it makes you feel. You bought the car you drive because of the way it makes you feel. You eat the food you eat because of the way it makes you feel. You choose the relationships you have because of the way you feel. You choose a career because of how it makes you feel. There is no such thing as an emotionless rational decision. All good marketers and sales people know this. Accept the role your feelings play in decision-making. So if you are getting lousy results in your life, it’s probably because of the decisions you are making. You can only change the way you make decisions by changing the way you feel. Hard reason won’t change anything. Trying to plan your life with hard reason and logic results in inertia.
    Give me 3 Minutes and I’ll Make You a Better Decision Maker
  10. That I Should Put Political Opinions on This List
    Big mistake on my part. See #4. I used to have a political opinion as #10 and it tainted this list. This isn’t a political blog. My goal is to help everybody, regardless of political opinions. I apologize to anyone I alienated. I’ll view it as an opportunity to learn.

Read the 10 part series on the 10 things I wish I had never believed:

#1 Why People Believe Money is the Root of All Evil
#2 Why Getting a Good Job isn’t the Best Way to Earn Money
#3 The Secret Great Leaders Know About Emotions
#4 Success is 99% Failure
#5 10 Tips to Secure a Management Position without a College Degree
#6 Always Question Your Doctor – Three Stories Why
#7 How the Public School System Crushes Souls
#9 Give Me 3 Minutes and I’ll Make you a Better Decision Maker
* I realize the original biblical quote is “The Love of Money is the Root of All Evil.” But many people, me included, misunderstood the quote, and that’s why I wrote it the way I did. The belief was rampant in my working class subculture. People looked down on you if you wanted to achieve wealth. Many people viewed you as a sellout or a crook. They believed in the virtue in being poor. They also believed that most wealthy people were unethical crooks that became wealthy on the backs of the working class. In some cases, this was true, but in most it wasn’t and the belief trapped the working class into a life of servitude. I plan to do more posts on working class culture.

The Seven-Lesson School Teacher

My wife sent me this email the day after we watched ‘The Secret’ together.

Are we born onto earth knowing the laws of attraction? Babies are loved by most, they attract people, people want to be near them, people want to hold them, they feel the energy babies give out and feel refreshed.

What do you think when you see babies? Look how active they are, look how they take everything in, look how they absorb and learn. Even toddlers and young preschoolers have this. They attract attention because of their life force. Babies learn how to walk because they are determined; they learn how to speak because “that is what you do”.

Somewhere it starts to slow down and stop. Somewhere you stop wanting to learn, you start to think it’s too hard, you start thinking I can’t do that. Babies don’t, they try even though all odds are against them. What happens? When do we stop? Why do we stop? When do we start getting cynical? Where do we learn “I can’t have that”?

I believe she is right; we are all born knowing how to use and harness the powers of the universe. After observing my sons grow, it’s obvious to me they have no problem harnessing the Law of Attraction. But where does it go wrong?

We learn to deny our inner-self in our homes and other institutions like church and school. In America, it goes wrong for most people in school. Sometime between the 4th and 8th grades, the kids become jaded about learning. I even see indifference in the kids in my neighborhood where many parents have advanced degrees. I believe the American school system teaches us 6-8 hours a day for 13 years to quit using our God given powers by punishing us when we fail to follow blindly. Bob Proctor said that the problem with education is that it teaches us what to think, not how to think. Bob is wrong. It’s much worse than that. Our schools teach us to think destructive thoughts which produce negative results in our lives and in the world. I know this sounds crazy and defies conventional wisdom, but it isn’t an attack on teachers or intellectuals. They are victims of the same monolithic government system as the students. Most teachers know intuitively how screwed up the system is and they know they are powerless to change it. So instead of explaining my position, I’ll let the New York State Teacher of the Year John Taylor Gatto make the argument in his essay The Seven Lesson School Teacher and his interview in Fast Company.

I am sorry to say – as a child – I learned all of John’s seven lessons and today my Personal Development program is necessary – because to grow – I desperately need to unlearn the lessons Mr. Gatto so eloquently describes.

I believe this is what Personal Development is…

Replacing destructive thought patterns from our past while remembering what we really are and what we are here to do.

This post has been listed on the Personal Development Carnival at Creating a Better Life. – Thanks Lyman

This post has been listed on the Cultivate Growth and Blog Success Carnival at Cultivate Success. – Thanks Travis

This post has been listed on the Personal Growth Carnival at – Thanks Bryan

Is This Funny and Cute or Should I Be Locked Up For Posting It?

The picture is of Bill Lindsey the lead singer of Impaler and his 4-year-old son. (circa – 1988)

Do you and I share any of the same reactions to this picture?

I laughed out loud when I first saw it and felt warm and fuzzy at the same time. I was curious if it would provoke similar emotions in other people. A Heavy Metal dad and his pre-school son isn’t something you see everyday.

It’s thought provoking because it defies convention.

I love the irony. The over the top imagery of Heavy Metal combined with the innocence of childhood – like Spinal Tap meets Donna Reed.

I was afraid to post this. Humor is risky. But then I read this post about risk and improv by Jane Chin, and then I read this from Copyblogger and it was sealed and delivered.

I take life way too seriously and I need stuff like this to break that habit. I get the impression – surfing the web – I’m not the only one taking life too seriously, especially around Election Day. It appears there are millions of people in the world without a sense of humor and it scares the crap outta me! 🙂

The negativity surrounding Election Day was getting to me and I needed to do something light hearted. Somebody once said to me “You know the problem with Liberals? They got no sense of humor.” A day later someone else said, “You know why I hate Conservatives? They’re too uptight. They can’t laugh at anything.” So who’s having fun? The independents? 🙂

Christine Ulrich who sits outside my office has this picture pinned up in her cube. When I saw it, my intuition said, ‘you gotta post that on your blog’. It says something; I’m not sure what it says, but it says something. Maybe it says – quit taking yourself so seriously and have some fun. I wrote Bill and asked him for permission to use the photo, and he said I could use it as long as I only ripped him and not his son.


I’m not going to rip on you or your son. Christine tells me you’re a wonderful dad and you’ve been doing what you love for over twenty years, that’s more than many of us can say. Thanks for letting me use the picture. You’ve been at this a long time; your persistence will pay off – Good luck opening for Twisted Sister.

I’ll leave you with a couple of my favorite personal development rock and roll quotes…

Free your mind and your ass will follow
– George Clinton

Ain’t No Fun Waitin’ ‘Round to be a Millionaire
– Bon Scott – AC/DC

Crazy, but that’s how it goes
Millions of people living as foes
Maybe it’s not too late
To learn how to love
And forget how to hate
– Ozzy Osbourne

How to Get Your Son to Behave at Swim School

This technique allowed me to perform a simple miracle.

The Problem:

Every Saturday I take my 4-year old son to swim school. He loves it, but I stress about it. My son is spirited, active, and easily distracted and he is constantly testing his boundaries. He does crazy stuff just to see if I’ll stop him. I try to teach him self-control and one way I do this is by telling him that if he wants to go to swim school he has to respect certain limits – no splashing other kids, to wait his turn, not to throw toys in the pool, etc. I give him one warning and if he continues we leave swim school. I had to leave twice, but after that he stayed within the limits and his swimming improved. But recently it got complicated.

My son is smart and sensitive but he’s also controlling and he looks for any opening to control a situation. I think he does it sub-consciously. I know this is a positive trait, but only when it is channeled properly. He isn’t mature enough to be in control all the time. A few weeks ago his goggles were loose and water got in his eyes, so we had to stop the class, adjust his goggles, and he received oodles of attention. Once he saw this opportunity to get attention, he began to have problems with his goggles every five minutes, disrupting everything. This went on for three weeks. Last time I told him his goggles fit fine and if he kept complaining we would go home. He complained and we went home, which created a scene. On Saturday we talked about his goggles before class. I made sure they fit perfectly. I made sure he knew we would go home if he began to complain. Please understand I’m using the word complain loosely. His complaining is really a complete emotional meltdown or temper tantrum. It’s extremely disruptive and extremely stressful. Well, about five minutes into the class, he started to complain about the goggles fitting incorrectly. I checked them again; they were fine, and I warned him that we were going home if he couldn’t control himself. But he continued about the googles, and I could visualize an emotional breakdown any second. He started to bawl, my stress mounted, and I was about to pull my son out of the pool and take him home.

Then I thought about something Charles Haanel wrote about energy in chapter three of The Master Key System. He wrote that our connection with the universe and the infinite travels from our conscious mind through our solar plexus behind our stomach. He wrote when our solar plexus is free and open it receives energy from the infinite and allows us to channel it into our consciousness. I believe he is right. When I am stressed, I get a restriction and tightness in my solar plexus and my energy level plummets. I was experiencing the tightness and restriction. I could feel it like a knot in my chest.

This is what I did:

Right there, in the middle of a busy swim school, I closed my eyes and visualized my son swimming and happily playing in the pool. I mentally closed out all other stimulus. I focused on my breathing and eliminating tightness in my solar plexus. It was difficult and it took a few minutes of concentration and I may have looked like a nut to all the other parents, but it worked a miracle.

This is what happened:

As my tightness eased so did my sons emotions and once the tension in my solar plexus was gone, the entire reality in front of me had changed. The teacher moved to a new exercise, my son was engaged, and he enjoyed the rest of the class. He did so well the teacher decided he should move up a level.

If someone would have told me a story like this a few years ago, I would have said they were nuts. But I know what I saw, and to me it was a miracle.

I’ve never been into meditation, yoga, or anything like it, but doing these exercises is opening my eyes to the potential power of yoga.

This post was submitted to the Carnival Of Family Life. There is a lot of great stuff there. Check it out.

Who Else Wants to Help Create Happiness and Spread Joy?

For the last couple of weeks, at every business I visit, I look for positives about the person helping me, make note of his/her name, and take two minutes to leave positive comments. Most places have comment cards, but some don’t. At places that don’t have comment cards, I make a mental note of the location, the person and their strengths, and leave a positive comment about the person on the businesses website later.

In my experience, most people leave negative comments, so I decided to use this as an exercise to strengthen my positive thinking muscles and spread harmony, happiness, and joy in the process.

Here is one example from a McDonalds Restaurant – I know McDonalds isn’t politically correct, but I’m not politically correct, so put down the flamethrower 🙂

I submitted this to the McDonalds website:

One of the best experiences I have ever had at McDonalds:

A wonderful woman named Cordelia took our order. I had two small children with me that were acting up. She was patient, kind, and empathic.

My son lost his Happy Meal toy in the play area and was bawling. Cordelia brought him a new toy and brought a smile to his face.

My son spilled milk all over the play area floor, and Cordelia cheerfully mopped up the mess we made. She did it with a smile, kind words, and an aura of happiness that I rarely see.

Cordelia is a fantastic employee. Please take care of her.
Steve Olson

And I received this response:

Hello Steve:

Thank you for taking the time to share your complimentary comments with McDonald’s. It’s a rare person who takes the time to compliment. Thank you for being that person!

Please be assured that your nice comments will be shared with the franchise owner and restaurant team of the McDonald’s you mentioned. I know they’ll appreciate the time you took to share your comments with us.

Again, Steve, we know you have many choices when making your dining-out decisions, and we truly appreciate your choosing McDonald’s. We look forward to serving you again soon under the Golden Arches.

McDonald’s Customer Response Center

My wife and I worked service jobs for years (including McDonalds), and honestly, an awful lot of people treat you like crap. At one job, my wife served large groups of professional athletes (who ate for free), and they treated the waitresses like dirt and stiffed them on the tip. From experience, I know it’s difficult to think positive when you get so much negative feedback.

So this holiday season, will you help me appreciate the unappreciated, the people we take for granted everyday?

In about five minutes a day, you can help others feel great and it won’t cost you a penny.

Steve Pavlina suggests doing the same thing this holiday season – Heart Centered Motivation.

Leave a comment if you plan to help spread the love.

Season of GratitudeThis has been submitted to the Season of Gratitude Series. You can participate by sharing your gratitude moment, reading about others, or commenting. Click here for details.