20 Inspiring Quotes on How to Build a Successful Startup – Thomas Oppong

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Startups have always been hard. Even when you think you are putting in your best, it may not be enough to pull it off. Truthfully, most people fail. But don’t give up on your dream just yet. If you really believe that you have something amazing to share with the world (and there is a market for it), go for it. Don’t be discouraged by the number of times you have tried and failed, but be inspired by the number of people who have failed and bounced back as successful entrepreneurs.

Here are some of the most important insights from amazing founders on building a great startup.

1.”User experience is everything. It always has been, but it’s still undervalued and under-invested in. If you don’t know user-centered design, study it. Hire people who know it. Obsess over it. Live and breathe it. Get your whole company on board.”
–Evan Williams, co-founder of Twitter

2. “No growth hack, brilliant marketing idea, or sales team can save you long-term if you don’t have a sufficiently good product.”
–Sam Altman, president of Y Combinator and co-founder of Loopt

3. “The product that wins is the one that bridges customers to the future, not the one that requires a giant leap.”
–Aaron Levie, co-founder of Box

4. “The last 10% it takes to launch something takes as much energy as the first 90%.”
–Rob Kalin, co-founder of Etsy

5. “Mistakes will not end your business. If you are nimble and willing to listen to constructive criticism you can excel by learning and evolving.”
–Meridith Valiando Rojas, co-founder and CEO of DigiTour Media

6. “Make your team feel respected, empowered and genuinely excited about the company’s mission.”
–Tim Westergren, co-founder of Pandora

7. “Make something people want” includes making a company that people want to work for.” –Sahil Lavingia, founder of Gumroad.

8. “As an entrepreneur, you have to be OK with failure. If you’re not failing, you’re likely not pushing yourself hard enough.”
–Alexa von Tobel, founder of LearnVest

9. “Unless you are a fortune-teller, long-term business planning is a fantasy.”
–Jason Fried, founder of 37signals

10. “The strategy is to first know what you don’t know, the tactic is to grind, and the value is to remember: there are plenty of places to innovate.”
–David Friedberg, founder of Weatherbill

11. “Even if you don’t have the perfect idea to begin with, you can likely adapt.”
–Victoria Ransom, co-founder of Wildfire Interactive

12. “Micromanage the process, not the people.”
–Joe Apfelbaum, co-founder of Ajax Union

13. “The secret to successful hiring is this: look for the people who want to change the world.”
–Marc Benioff, founder of Salesforce

14. “Bad shit is coming. It always is in a startup. The odds of getting from launch to liquidity without some kind of disaster happening are one in a thousand. So don’t get demoralized.”
–Paul Graham, co-founder of Y Combinator

15. “Be undeniably good. No marketing effort or social media buzzword can be a substitute for that.”
–Anthony Volodkin, founder, Hype Maching

16. “If things are not failing, you are not innovating enough.”
–Elon Musk, CEO of SpaceX and Tesla Motors

17. “I think not focusing on money makes you sane, because in the long run it can probably drive you crazy.”
–Kevin Systrom, co-founder of Instagram

18. “We must learn what customers really want, not what they say they want or what we think they should want.”
–Eric Ries, author of The Lean Startup

19. “Don’t start a company unless it’s an obsession and something you love. If you have an exit strategy, it’s not an obsession.”
–Mark Cuban, serial entrepreneur and investor

20. “Sustaining a successful business is a hell of a lot of work, and staying hungry is half the battle.”
–Wendy Tan White, co-founder and CEO of MoonFruit

Failure hurts, but it’s your response to it that matters.

Rather Than Trying to Reinvent the Wheel, Be Inspired by These 5 Books – Clay Clark

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To not run a venture into the ground, entrepreneurs need to learn what it takes to succeed. Often this just comes from not making the mistake twice — but there are a few proactive strategies entrepreneurs can make to not make the error in the first place.

While it helps to talk to mentors, colleagues and customers, picking up a book can also be extremely beneficial.

As a business consultant, I am a voracious reader of self-help books, case studies of thriving companies, and the biographies and autobiographies of the world’s most successful people. I relentlessly implement the best ideas into my businesses.

The five books listed below absolutely must be read if you are looking to change your life and your path to success.

Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill1422032723-think-and-grow

The author of Think and Grow Rich was personally charged by Andrew Carnegie with the task of compiling the world’s most comprehensive research into the science of success. With the help of personal introductions by Andrew Carnegie, diligence and an absolute burning desire to teach the world how to become successful, Napoleon Hill devoted nearly his entire adult lifetime creating practical content entrepreneurs need to become successful.

The habit of doing more than you are paid for can benefit any business that sells a product or service. Learning and understanding the principle of the mastermind philosophy of networking can increase the value of your network and your net worth.

How to Win Friends & Influence People by Dale Carnegie

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To secure financing, close a deal, get married, build a team, motivate your staff and do anything in life, you must be able to positively influence people in a sustainable way. And How to Win Friends & Influence People teaches you just that.

Most formal educational curriculums teach you business skills you need, but without the ability to communicate and lead others, your dreams will never turn into reality. If you are an aspiring entrepreneur, businessperson, or human who just wants to move up in life, this book is a must read.

Rich Dad Poor Dad by Robert Kiyosaki

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The entire focus of this book is teaching you the practical steps you need to know to make your wallet grow. Robert Kiyosaki’s detailed training on the cash flow quadrant and pathway shows you how to go from being an employee to becoming self-employed and a successful investor. Reading Rich Dad Poor Dad is a must for anyone looking to go from poverty to prosperity. This book will teach you how to get out of the “financial rat race.”

The E-Myth Revisited by Michael Gerber

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In The E-Myth Revisited, author Michael Gerber explains that most entrepreneurs have a unique skill or product, but it does not make them great business owners. Gerber methodically teaches how over-worked and underpaid entrepreneurs change their businesses to be scalable and duplicable. The knowledge you will obtain from this book will empower you to start or grow a business in any industry. Once you learn to build a scalable business system, you are no longer limited based on your skills. Building a successful business comes down to documenting your values, processes, systems and checklists.

Soft Selling in a Hard World by Jerry Vass

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During the course of Soft Selling in a Hard World, the reader is taught how not to sell and why most sales presentations come across as tacky, high pressure and cheap. The reader will learn how to change her entire mentality about the sales process to help solve a problem for the buyer by purchasing the seller’s products or services. This can be achieved by writing compelling call scripts or learning how to overcome objections, two tactics this book touches on.

How Entrepreneurs Can Design Their Lives and Businesses for Success – Carol Roth

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You may not know her name, but Pernille Spiers-Lopez knows a thing or two about design. She served in executive-level roles at furniture company IKEA for more than a decade, namely as CEO for IKEA North America and later as global chief human resource officer. Today, though, her design passion is something entirely different — helping entrepreneurs to design their lives and businesses in a way where they can plan for the kind of success that suits them.

While you may subscribe to the old adage that if you fail to prepare you prepare to fail, you may not realize that you have more control over how you set up the plan to coincide with the goals and objectives you value the most.

As a personal friend and mentor of mine, I asked Spiers-Lopez — who also serves on boards as a corporate and non-profit director in both the U.S. and Europe for Save the Children, Meijer Corporation and Coop DK– if she could share some of her best lessons for entrepreneurs from her new book, Design Your Life, so that you can design your own life and business for the kind of success that you desire. Some of her top tips are recounted below.

Take on big challenges.
Pushing yourself to take on challenges that you think sound impossible is a critical component for success, says Spiers-Lopez. “We learn the most — and grow the most — in challenging situations that stretch us beyond what we think our limits are. Often, it’s our own mindset that limits us.” Not only do the big challenges and goals create energy, passion and interest for you, but for those around you, such as team members and investors.

To accomplish the big ideas, Spiers-Lopez advises, “Have a mindful, long-term plan that you can break down into small, achievable steps or milestones to make execution possible, while keeping your eye on the bigger picture.”

Focus on your strengths rather than what you lack.
Spiers-Lopez believes that one of the biggest challenges for entrepreneurs, especially women, is overcoming our own negative thoughts. She shares, “I find that, women in particular, we talk ourselves down. I have been the only woman in the board room and even found myself doing this. For example, I remember thinking ‘Why is nobody listening to my ideas?’ Instead of talking myself into being small or not good enough, I turned it around to see how I could change my communication. I asked myself why I wasn’t being heard and how I could reframe or change my communication so that it would be heard.”

She advises that instead of focusing on what you lack or what’s going wrong, emphasize your strengths, whether you are selling to capital providers, customers, team members or otherwise.

Diverse perspectives are a leading asset.
Further, Spiers-Lopez recounts that her favorite phrase for businesses is one that she heard from a friend: “Great minds think unalike.” Entrepreneurs and businesses get into jeopardy when groupthink takes over. The businesses that embrace diversity in perspectives and a 360 degree view can make sure that they see not just what’s in front of them, but what could lie ahead.

Use elimination to make choices, especially overwhelming ones.
Whether a new entrepreneur is deciding which business to pursue or an existing entrepreneur is deciding between directions to grow the business, choices can be overwhelming. Spiers-Lopez suggests that instead of making your head spin wondering “What do I want to do?” to instead focus on “What do I not want to do?”

Being clear about what doesn’t interest you, what doesn’t align with your core values, core business, and what you are not good at can help you see the forest through the trees as you clear away the unwanted foliage.

Build a strong, supportive network.
“Success in life means being successful personally as well as professionally,” says Spiers-Lopez. “I wouldn’t be where I am today if it weren’t for surrounding myself with the right people. At home, this is having the right partner in my husband, who is supportive so that we both can put our time, energy and resources where they need to be when they need to be there.” She advocates that having the right life partner, where your choices are viewed as supporting mutual goals vs. sacrifices is a big part of business success.

On the business front, Spiers-Lopez also says to surround yourself with a variety of supporters, including those with more experience and a variety of skills that you can learn from. Even better, she advises that entrepreneurs create a formal advisory board and make sure that it is filled with people who are willing to challenge you and ask “are you crazy”? Having “yes men” (or women) around won’t help you to get to the next level.

Be patient.
“Success takes time,” says Spiers-Lopez . “Be patient and don’t panic during the journey. It’s a long ride and those that make bad choices borne out of impatience or panic are the ones who won’t be successful.”

While she acknowledges that there are some overnight successes, Spiers-Lopez says that they aren’t the norm and that you shouldn’t be discouraged if you aren’t the next Snapchat. “It would be like hearing that someone made $200,000 at the racetrack and then being upset because you went there and didn’t. It’s not normal and it certainly shouldn’t be your plan.”

This Strategy, Used by the Red Sox, Can Elevate You Above the Competition – John Brubaker

There might be 31 flavors at your local ice cream shop, but most are just variations of vanilla. It’s really the only place vanilla sells.

In an era where consumers can purchase individual tracks on the iTunes store to make their own playlists and design their own dress shirts delivered to their door, both customization and the customer are king. If you don’t listen to them, someone else will. Now more than ever is a critical time to be connected to your stakeholders to learn and understand what matters most to them.

Walk into virtually any store, look at the shelves and you’ll see products getting lost in a sea of sameness. Ask a clerk to differentiate one product from another and often they can’t. It is said that a confused mind doesn’t buy. A confused mind can’t help sell your product either. This leaves most brands competing on price, which is a race to the bottom and a race virtually everyone loses. Sadly, it’s how must businesses try and compete in every industry.

What can you do to avoid this commoditization trap? One simple thing: hit the road — literally, go on tour. This is the single greatest success strategy I teach my coaching clients. Go on a listening tour visiting all your clients. It’s an idea I got from the Boston Red Sox.

For a number of years right after John Henry’s ownership group took control of the Red Sox, its front office diligently kept its ears to the ground by listening to its most important customers, the fans. At season’s end, front office personnel would travel from Portland to Providence and everywhere in between holding town hall-style events throughout New England. They called it a listening tour.

These listening tours were viewed by Red Sox management as a fundamental operating principle. They would listen to questions, fan feedback and ideas from members of “Red Sox Nation,” who are arguably the most passionate fans in professional sports. Additionally, they fielded comments and questions via webcast and posted the listening tour videos on the team’s website.

Key ideas that have been implemented as a result of listening-tour feedback are gluten-free food vendors, ticket sale policies and incorporating social media into the ballpark experience. This can also be a powerful way you can elevate and separate yourself from the competition.

A company that executes the listening-tour strategy to perfection is Anderson Bean Boot Company. I recently sat down with its general manager, Ryan Vaughan, to discuss how the company differentiates itself from the competition.

Vaughan has created his own version of the listening tour by hiring tech reps to be the eyes and ears on the floor with retailers. They don’t visit the retailers to sell, just to listen and help. Vaughan mentioned that having tech reps visit retailers is very different than simply sending sales reps. A sales rep is typically looking for the next order, whereas the tech reps are listening and helping to find solutions for the retailer. Think of their store visits as reconnaissance missions where they gather intel.

Key questions that get answered on the tour are:
What trends are you noticing in the market?
What’s working for the competition?
What can we do to make it easier for you to sell our boots?
Who are our strongest competitors?
When we lose a sale, who is it usually to?

A great example of listening to problem-solve for the retailer and differentiating as a brand came in the form of creating custom designs for specific retailers. Bold designs that are the farthest thing from vanilla help the individual retailer distinguish itself from local competitors and simultaneously prevents Anderson Bean from becoming commoditized.

The company has taken the listening tour to a higher level by holding what its calls “trunk shows,” where customers can set an appointment to be fitted for a custom pair of boots. This provides the customer the best possible level of in-store service and at the same time shows the retailer what customers really want.

How are you custom tailoring the experience to make it unique and memorable for your customers?

The leadership team at Anderson Bean walks the talk, literally. CEO and co-owner, Traynor Evans, walks the factory floor every day and stops to listen to his employees. The management offices are deliberately located inside the factory as opposed to next door for the very same reason, to be accessible and listen closely.

When was the last time you checked in with your employees to ask for feedback or suggestions to improve their experiences?

Vaughan has also flipped the listening tour on its head by bringing the company’s retailers down to the factory to experience it. They spend two to four days at a time on site in Mercedes, Texas, being shown product, manufacturing and designs. They are entertained during their visit, and at dinner, Vaughan and his team make it a point to simply listen and learn. Many retailers attend the site visit every year.

Back to the Red Sox for a moment, a key point most people outside of professional baseball would miss is that a majority of the listening tour was actually conducted during the team’s busiest time of the year, from Nov. 1 through the holidays. This is the time when player acquisitions happen. Amidst free agency, trades and coaching changes, the Red Sox invest time in getting out and listening to customers. This sends a clear message that they are never too busy to listen to their customers.

Often in business, when we enter our busy season, we develop a bunker mentality and get so busy we forget to invest time in listening. Is a listening tour easy? No. But when you do the hard things the right way you set a solid foundation upon which you can grow.

5 Reasons Why Being Unrealistic Is a Good Strategy – Zach Cutler

Business is about numbers, statistics and hard facts, and entrepreneurs must have a strong grip on reality to do well. But departing from reality can ironically lead to greatness.

Here are five reasons to leave reality, think outside the box, and be unrealistic:

1. The only constant in life is change.
Especially in today’s digital world, business changes at a rapid pace. Even the most deep-rooted industries can change overnight with a new, unexpected idea. The most successful ideas seem ridiculous and implausible at first. After all, obvious ideas have already been created.

Think about Facebook. In the golden age of MySpace, does another social network, created by a student exclusively for a select group of students, sound like a successful idea?

Instagram, a photo-sharing social network that offers filters, was bought by Facebook for $1 billion only two years after its launch among a sea of other social networks and apps.

Uber disrupted the long-established taxi and transportation industry in just a few years and is now valued at more than $40 billion. In a similar fashion, Airbnb, the social-networking hotel chain, is expected to outgrow the world’s largest traditional hotel chains in terms of value and bookings.

In each of these seemingly unlikely cases, the startups tackled well-established industries and competitors with new ideas that brought big results. Thinking unrealistically can shake up old ideas and businesses, invite innovation and create a lasting impact.

2. Reality is bred from thought.
It only takes one thought to change actions, behaviors and outcomes. When an entrepreneur commits to an idea, and are convinced he or she will accomplish something, he or she eventually will. No matter how unrealistic an idea seems, it can become reality if the mind is resolute about realizing it.

3. The most successful people are often the most unlikely.
Beethoven was deaf. Ray Charles was blind. Innovators who think unrealistically, despite potential roadblocks, are in the end perhaps the most likely to achieve greatness.

4. Unrealistic ideas create motivation.
Unrealistic ideas usually stem from, or center around, passions. With passion and determination to achieve the impossible, the team adopts an “us against the world” mentality, and will work to make the unrealistic goal a reality.

5. Technology changes everything.
Reality is constantly changing in the technology revolution, and the impossible is becoming possible. Unrealistic thinkers recognize this rate of change and think toward the future.

Products, ideas and services that are now a part of everyday life were unrealistic only a decade ago. The growth of smartphones, social media, apps and the ability to customize and personalize nearly everything were once unrealistic ideas.

Thinking ahead can help entrepreneurs become industry leaders, creating ideas that will address potential problems and satisfy future wants and needs.

What’s holding you back from going for your unrealistic ideas?

The Extraordinary Power of Visualizing Success – Matt Mayberry

All top performers, regardless of profession, know the importance of picturing themselves succeeding in their minds before they actually do in reality. Something I have been able to translate over to the business arena from athletics is the power of visualization. It is extremely effective when harnessed and used correctly.

Every Friday night after our team dinner, my college teammates and I would gather in the hotel conference room to prep for our game on Saturday.

We were led through a series of visualization techniques and practices led by a sports psychologist. Right away, I started to experience the incredible benefits of taking the time to picture myself succeeding before actually playing in the game. I visualized every little detail, from walking into the locker room, tying my cleats and having conversations with my teammates and coaches.

I would picture myself having the “perfect” game, executing the defensive game plan and making big plays. The more vivid I was, the better I seemed to play. I couldn’t believe it. Before the game even started, I had already played the entire game in my mind. This made a tremendous difference because it greatly increased my confidence and comfort level.

In turn, I have been able to harness the power of visualization outside of athletics. Before I take the stage and speak to a large audience, I always picture myself giving the “perfect” speech. I begin weeks in advance by picturing the audience, my choice of words and the reaction from the crowd once I am finished. Visualization can be applied to any area of your life, as I know it has become very beneficial throughout mine.

Consider these three examples:

Boxing legend Muhammad Ali was always stressing the importance of seeing himself victorious long before the actual fight.
As a struggling young actor, Jim Carrey used to picture himself being the greatest actor in the world.
Michael Jordan always took the last shot in his mind before he ever took one in real life.
These top performers, among many others, have mastered the technique of positive visualization and openly credit it as a success tactic.

When you think of a big goal or dream that you want to achieve, it’s natural to think of all of the obstacles that will come your way. The problem is far too often we allow these obstacles to become so big in our minds that it inhibits us from moving forward. This is when many become satisfied with mediocrity.

Don’t let this be you. Rather than creating larger-than-life barriers in your mind and dwelling on everything that will hold you back, envision yourself victorious like Ali. Picture yourself as the greatest at your craft like Carrey. Visualize your next shot as your winning shot like MJ.

What will it take? What sacrifices will you make? How can you handle any obstacles and still have enough to make it to the finish line? The key is to make your positive vision stronger than anything that can set you back.

The truth is, if you can’t picture yourself achieving a goal, chances are you won’t. The more vivid you can get, the better it will work for you. Start thinking of your personal goals in life. Spend about 10 to 15 minutes picturing yourself achieving each one.

Get as detailed as possible. Picture what you will do once your goal is reached. How amazing does it feel? How will this change the course of your life? Remember, the little details increase the likelihood of the big picture.

You don’t need to spend endless hours. Simply get in the habit of putting together a positive vision into your everyday life. Visualize yourself succeeding, achieving every goal, completing every task. See what it does for you and how it makes you feel. This will likely become a pivotal part of your success arsenal.

The bottom line is this: If you can’t picture yourself in your own mind being extremely successful, dominating your market, and running a phenomenal business, then chances are you never will.

5 Things ‘America’s Most Dangerous Underdog’ Can Teach Us About Success – Phil Dumontet

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You can’t talk about success in the running world without mentioning Mebrahtom “Meb” Keflezighi. When Keflezighi’s family settled in San Diego in 1987, he didn’t speak English and had never raced a mile. Yet, he went on to win a silver medal in the 2004 Olympics and became the first American man in decades to win both the New York and Boston marathons.

To succeed, Keflezighi training consisted of doing four-and-a-half-minute-mile high-speed circuits and running at 4,000 feet (and sleeping at 9,000 feet) in the mountains of Mammoth Lakes, Calif. He pushed his personal limits to the max, and it paid off.

The most successful athletes are driven by the desire to accomplish their goals and hit new personal records, something business leaders should also be doing.

If you want to follow their formula for success, do these five things:

1. Focus on your signature strengths.
Your signature strengths are what you do best — the talents that distinguish you from others. The first step is to discover what those strengths are. Analyze your victories, identifying the qualities that helped you achieve them.

Keflezighi, for example, won major marathons by focusing on his consistency. While some marathoners’ times fluctuate, his best times span a 90-second range, which helped him focus on the mark he needs to hit.

Using your signature strengths will make you happier, driving your ability to perform. “Studies have shown that the more you use your signature strengths in daily life, the happier you become,” writes Shawn Achor in his book, The Happiness Advantage: The Seven Principles of Positive Psychology That Fuel Success and Performance at Work.

2. Define success and visualize achieving it.
Consider what motivates you. Is it a passion for doing the work you’ve chosen, making a positive impact, receiving public recognition or something else? Winning doesn’t always mean generating the most profit. It sometimes means loving what you do and who you do it with.

You can’t let anyone else define success for you. Once you’ve defined it, visualize achieving it. Keflezighi’s goal in each race is to win, no matter the length or number of competitors. Guard yourself against people who distract you from your goal.

3. Compete against yourself, not others.
Not everyone is comfortable with the competitive nature of sports. Competition can evoke ideas of cutthroat tactics, ruthless opponents and a zero-sum game. Although these exist, eliminate the idea of competing against others. Instead, embracing a sense of inner competition will help better prepare you for success.

Keflezighi focused so strongly on his own preparation, not on others’ or on gaining media attention, that The Wall Street Journal called him “America’s most dangerous underdog.”

Push yourself to continually improve upon what you can control as you seek your personal best. By focusing on your own game, you’ll likely surpass competitors along the way.

4. Keep things in perspective.
Don’t let anything overshadow what’s most important to you in life. These things often include maintaining good health, spending quality time with the people you love and savoring the moment.

Keflezighi hasn’t limited his success to marathons; he’s also raising three daughters with his wife.

5. Recognize failure as opportunity.
“Only those who dare to fail greatly can ever achieve greatly,” Robert F. Kennedy said. It takes determination and grit for marathon runners to push through the pain at mile 20 and failure is a real possibility.

Keflezighi faced failure on and off the course — after being sidelined by injuries, he lost Nike as his sponsor. He rebounded by enlisting Skechers as his new sponsor and winning the next Olympic trial.

A single-minded focus on your challenges and the decisiveness to act to overcome them can help you triumph over seemingly insurmountable odds.

Though you won’t hit every goal, you must take risks to make gains. Whether they turn into victories or injuries, they’ll offer you the opportunity to learn and train to do better next time.

It’s this ability to gain strength from successes and failures that separates the best from the rest.

If You Want Great Results, You Need to Be Committed – Joe Ludson

In the game of life, I have never known anyone who achieved great success by simply being interested in what they do. The road to success is littered with people who are interested in achieving something, but it takes more than interest, or even passion, it takes commitment to be great at something.

This concept of interest vs. commitment is something I share with my sons regularly. At their ages, 13 and 11, this life lesson is easily illustrated through sports. My oldest son has played nearly every sport imaginable and has been interested in all of them. Guess whose time and money have been spent on his interests?

After many speeches about the difference between being interested and being committed, he now understands that I am not purchasing one more football, basketball, baseball or lacrosse stick if I don’t see a commitment to the sport. I now see him practicing a little more than he was just six months ago! He is starting to understand the difference and see the direct correlation between his commitment to practice and the newfound success in his athletic life.

This concept translates to all areas of life, especially business. As a CEO it is my responsibility to set expectations for our organization and show my commitment to those expectations. I suspect there isn’t a single employee at our organization who doubts my daily commitment to the company or to my own development and success. I expect the same from each employee who joins our organization.

When evaluating employees, you need to see commitment in their actions and not just hear a bunch of words about how great they want to be and what they want to accomplish. Talk doesn’t get the job done.

From a sales perspective, if you have a team of people who are interested in being successful or hitting their quota, trust that you will end up investing a lot of time and money for little return. If you invest in developing and helping committed individuals become great at their craft, you’ll surely see a positive yield from that investment.

Everyone has tough days, and there will be days when leaders in the organization will need to challenge personnel to be committed. How do you accomplish this? Find out what drives and motivates the team members, either personally or professionally. Ask them about their goals, what aspects of the job they like or find challenging, where they want to be professionally and even financially over a six to 18 month period.

Keep these conversations restricted to timeframes that are realistic. Talking to people about five years down the road is hard for them to get their head around, especially for young people who are accustomed to instant gratification. People want success now, and few are willing to be patient. However, if you can find those who are committed, you can help them build momentum and ultimately achieve great things for themselves, for you, and ultimately, for the organization.

Building a team or a company is no easy task, and if you don’t currently have committed individuals on your team, rethink your strategy and make the necessary changes. It really is that simple. To have a great organization or a great team, you need the buy-in and commitment of those on the team. Moreover, you as the leader must have an unwavering commitment to the success of yourself and those on your team.

Good leadership is invaluable to one’s career trajectory. Too often, people give half-hearted effort, leading to mediocre results. Success in anything is rarely accidental — ask any successful individual and I bet they would tell you there is no such thing as luck. Luck is created, and it starts and stops with commitment, not interest.

Commit to being successful or get ready to be passed by those who are.

The Startup Marketer’s Guide to Sponsored Online Content – Matthew Kammerer

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Today’s startup marketer may be aware that while creating a blog is an important first step in finding an audience, placing sponsored content in online publications can be an unrivaled catalyst for growing readership and finding qualified customers.

Here’s how to find the right publishers, craft targeted content and track results:

1. Realize when native ads may bring a boost.
Marketers today are moving further away from interruptive advertising channels, such as text, banner and popup ads, and toward more native, educational tactics. If you can deliver your message in the same format as the content someone is already consuming (blog posts, newsletters and podcasts), you will generate real engagement based upon natural interest.

Many times this can be done via paid-content placements with specific publishers. Not only is it a more targeted expenditure of the marketing budget but it can be a much classier way to reach an audience.

2. Find the right publishers.
Here’s how to hone in on publishers of sponsored content that reach your audience profile and marketing goals.

Topical match. Perform some keyword searches to see which publishers specialize in certain topics.

Traffic volume. Use Alexa to determine and compare overall traffic volume on different websites that offer native advertising. This will tell you if a publisher has the reach you need. Be careful with this metric, however. Purchasing sponsored content on a site that carries quality content might be more worthwhile than buying a native ad on a blog with huge traffic.

Content promotion. Does a given site promote its content — even from sponsors? Does it have active social-media channels or an email newsletter? Some sites may offer to give a sponsored article an extra tweet or include it in the newsletter.

Decision-making audience. Be sure the publishers you’re evaluating reach decision-makers for your product or service. Many publishers have an ad-buying kit on their site describing their audience.

Platform options. Working with a content marketplace like Contently, OneSpot or Syndicate (owned by my company, BuySellAds) saves time by letting you execute a curated multisite campaign through one contact rather than having to manage dozens of external relationships for a large purchase.

3. Craft content.
Before approaching any publisher of sponsored content, first fully understand the topics it focuses on and the voice. Publishers aren’t likely to accept content if it’s off topic or the tone doesn’t match.

Adhering to these crucial steps will ensure that your content will be a perfect match:

Tap into the spirit of the audience. What do these consumers care about? What are their problems? What makes them take action?

Craft your content into a great story that educates people about what your company does, while developing loyal readers and converting them into customers.

Take cues from popular content. Most sponsored publishhing sites will list their most popular content. Scan this and look for common themes in titles and topics.

Educate readers with value. Give the audience something of great value while simultaneously showcasing your company’s product or service. Creating content that benefits the customer, the publisher and your business will ensure a mutually beneficial partnership.

If your team is strapped for resources, understand that many publishers will even offer to write content for your company at an additional cost Since they already know how to talk to their audience, this can be a big help.

4. Measure results.
Setting expectations for metrics of sponsored content is a tricky thing since it differs by industries and audiences. Advertisers should go into this with an open mind, ready to test and learn. Establish your own benchmark metrics after a few placements, and your gut instincts will often tell you if something is worth the investment.

Recurring sponsorships perform best, in giving a steady platform to tell your story in a compelling, educational manner while also bringing back interested visitors.

The Courage to Live Consciously

The Courage to Live Consciously

Security is mostly a superstition. It does not exist in nature,
nor do the children of men as a whole experience it.
Avoiding danger is no safer in the long run than outright exposure.
Life is either a daring adventure, or nothing.
To keep our faces toward change and behave like free spirits
in the presence of fate is strength undefeatable.
– Helen Keller

In our day-to-day lives, the virtue of courage doesn’t receive much attention. Courage is a quality reserved for soldiers, firefighters, and activists. Security is what matters most today. Perhaps you were taught to avoid being too bold or too brave. It’s too dangerous. Don’t take unnecessary risks. Don’t draw attention to yourself in public. Follow family traditions. Don’t talk to strangers. Keep an eye out for suspicious people. Stay safe.

But a side effect of overemphasizing the importance of personal security in your life is that it can cause you to live reactively. Instead of setting your own goals, making plans to achieve them, and going after them with gusto, you play it safe. Keep working at the stable job, even though it doesn’t fulfill you. Remain in the unsatisfying relationship, even though you feel dead inside compared to the passion you once had. Who are you to think that you can buck the system? Accept your lot in life, and make the best of it. Go with the flow, and don’t rock the boat. Your only hope is that the currents of life will pull you in a favorable direction.

No doubt there exist real dangers in life you must avoid. But there’s a huge gulf between recklessness and courage. I’m not referring to the heroic courage required to risk your life to save someone from a burning building. By courage I mean the ability to face down those imaginary fears and reclaim the far more powerful life that you’ve denied yourself. Fear of failure. Fear of rejection. Fear of going broke. Fear of being alone. Fear of humiliation. Fear of public speaking. Fear of being ostracized by family and friends. Fear of physical discomfort. Fear of regret. Fear of success.

How many of these fears are holding you back? How would you live if you had no fear at all? You’d still have your intelligence and common sense to safely navigate around any real dangers, but without feeling the emotion of fear, would you be more willing to take risks, especially when the worst case wouldn’t actually hurt you at all? Would you speak up more often, talk to more strangers, ask for more sales, dive headlong into those ambitious projects you’ve been dreaming about? What if you even learned to enjoy the things you currently fear? What kind of difference would that make in your life?

Have you previously convinced yourself that you aren’t really afraid of anything… that there are always good and logical reasons why you don’t do certain things? It would be rude to introduce yourself to a stranger. You shouldn’t attempt public speaking because you don’t have anything to say. Asking for a raise would be improper because you’re supposed to wait until the next formal review. They’re just rationalizations though – think about how your life would change if you could confidently and courageously do these things with no fear at all.
What Is Courage?
Courage is not the absence of fear, but rather the judgment that something else is more important than fear.
– Ambrose Redmoon

Courage is resistance to fear, mastery of fear – not absence of fear.
– Mark Twain

Courage is being scared to death, but saddling up anyway.
– John Wayne

I like the definitions of courage above, which all suggest that courage is the ability to get yourself to take action in spite of fear. The word courage derives from the Latin cor, which means “heart.” But true courage is more a matter of intellect than of feeling. It requires using the uniquely human part of your brain (the neocortex) to wrest control away from the emotional limbic brain you share in common with other mammals. Your limbic brain signals danger, but your neocortex reasons that the danger isn’t real, so you simply feel the fear and take action anyway. The more you learn to act in spite of fear, the more human you become. The more you follow the fear, the more you live like a lower mammal. So the question, “Are you a man or a mouse?” is consistent with human neurology.

Courageous people are still afraid, but they don’t let the fear paralyze them. People who lack courage will give into fear more often than not, which actually has the long-term effect of strengthening the fear. When you avoid facing a fear and then feel relieved that you escaped it, this acts as a psychological reward that reinforces the mouse-like avoidance behavior, making you even more likely to avoid facing the fear in the future. So the more you avoid asking someone out on a date, the more paralyzed you’ll feel about taking such actions in the future. You are literally conditioning yourself to become more timid and mouse-like.

Such avoidance behavior causes stagnation in the long run. As you get older, you reinforce your fear reactions to the point where it’s hard to even imagine yourself standing up to your fears. You begin taking your fears for granted; they become real to you. You cocoon yourself into a life that insulates you from all these fears: a stable but unhappy marriage, a job that doesn’t require you to take risks, an income that keeps you comfortable. Then you rationalize your behavior: You have a family to support and can’t take risks, you’re too old to shift careers, you can’t lose weight because you have “fat” genes. Five years… ten years… twenty years pass, and you realize that your life hasn’t changed all that much. You’ve settled down. All that’s really left now is to live out the remainder of your years as contently as possible and then settle yourself into the ground, where you’ll finally achieve total safety and security.

But there’s something else going on behind the scenes, isn’t there? That tiny voice in the back of your mind recalls that this isn’t the kind of life you wanted to live. It wants more, much more. It wants you to become far wealthier, to have an outstanding relationship, to get your body in peak physical condition, to learn new skills, to travel the world, to have lots of wonderful friends, to help people in need, to make a meaningful difference. That voice tells you that settling into a job where you sell widgets the rest of your life just won’t cut it. That voice frowns at you when you catch a glance of your oversized belly in the mirror or get winded going up a flight of stairs. It beams disappointment when it sees what’s become of your family. It tells you that the reason you have trouble motivating yourself is that you aren’t doing what you really ought to be doing with your life… because you’re afraid. And if you refuse to listen, it will always be there, nagging you about your mediocre results until you die, full of regrets for what might have been.

So how do you respond to this ornery voice that won’t shut up? What do you do when confronted by that gut feeling that something just isn’t right in your life? What’s your favorite way to silence it? Maybe drown it out by watching TV, listening to the radio, working long hours at an unfulfilling job, or consuming alcohol and caffeine and sugar.

But whenever you do this, you lower your level of consciousness. You sink closer towards an instinctive animal and move away from becoming a fully conscious human being. You react to life instead of proactively going after your goals. You fall into a state of learned helplessness, where you begin to believe that your goals are no longer possible or practical for you. You become more and more like a mouse, even trying to convince yourself that life as a mouse might not be so bad after all, since everyone around you seems to be OK with it. You surround yourself with your fellow mice, and on the rare occasions that you encounter a fully conscious human being, it scares the hell out of you to remember how much of your own courage has been lost.
Raise Your Consciousness
Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one’s courage.
– Anais Nin

Courage is the price that Life exacts for granting peace.
– Amelia Earhart

You gain strength, courage and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You are able to say to yourself, “I have lived through this horror. I can take the next thing that comes along.” You must do the thing you think you cannot do.
– Eleanor Roosevelt

The way out of this vicious cycle is to summon your courage and confront that inner voice. Find a place where you can be alone with pen and paper (or computer and keyboard). Listen to that voice, and face up to what it’s telling you, no matter how difficult it is to hear. (The voice is just an abstraction – you may not hear words at all; instead you may see what you should be doing or simply feel it emotionally. But I’ll continue to refer to the voice for the sake of example.) This voice may tell you that your marriage has been dead for ten years, and you’re refusing to face it because you’re afraid of divorce. It may tell you that you’re afraid that if you start your own business, you’ll probably fail, and that’s why you’re staying at a job that doesn’t challenge you to grow. It may tell you that you’ve given up trying to lose weight because you’ve failed at it so many times, and you’re addicted to food. It may tell you that the friends you’re hanging out with now are incongruent with the person you want to be, and that you need to leave that reference group behind and build a new one. It may tell you that you always wanted to be an actor or writer, but you settled for a sales job because it seemed more safe and secure. It may tell you that you always wanted to help people in need, but you aren’t doing so in the way you should. It may tell you that you’re wasting your talents.

See if you can reduce that voice to just a single word or two. What is it telling you to do? Leave. Quit. Speak. Write. Dance. Act. Exercise. Sell. Switch. Move on. Let go. Ask. Learn. Forgive. Whatever you get from this, write it down. Perhaps you even have different words for each area of your life.

Now you have to take the difficult step of consciously acknowledging that this is what you really want. It’s OK if you don’t think it’s possible for you. It’s OK if you don’t see how you could ever have it. But don’t deny that you want it. You lower your consciousness when you do that. When you look at your overweight body, admit that you really want to be fit and healthy. When you light up that next cigarette, don’t deny that you want to be a nonsmoker. When you meet the potential mate of your dreams, don’t deny that you’d love to be in a relationship with that person. When you meet a person who seems to be at total peace with herself, don’t deny that you crave that level of inner peace too. Get yourself out of denial. Move instead to a place where you admit, “I really do want this, but I just don’t feel I currently have the ability to get it.” It’s perfectly OK to want something that you don’t think you can have. And you’re almost certainly wrong in concluding that you can’t have it. But first, stop lying to yourself and pretending you don’t really want it.
Move From Fear to Action, Even if You Expect to Fail
When a resolute young fellow steps up to the great bully, the world, and takes him boldly by the beard, he is often surprised to find it comes off in his hand, and that it was only tied on to scare away the timid adventurers.
– Ralph Waldo Emerson

Most of our obstacles would melt away if, instead of cowering before them, we should make up our minds to walk boldly through them.
– Orison Swett Marden

Courage and perseverance have a magical talisman, before which difficulties disappear and obstacles vanish into air.
– John Quincy Adams

Now that you’ve acknowledged some things you’ve been afraid to face, how do you feel? You probably still feel paralyzed against taking action. That’s OK. While diving right in and confronting a fear head-on can be very effective, that may require more courage than you feel you can summon right now.

The most important point I want you to learn from this article is that real courage is a mental skill, not an emotional one. Neurologically it means using the thinking neocortex part of your brain to override the emotional limbic impulses. In other words, you use your human intelligence, logic, and independent will to overcome the limitations you’ve inherited as an emotional mammal.

Now this may make logical sense, but it’s far easier said than done. You may logically know you’re in no real danger if you get up on a stage and speak in front of 1000 people, but your fear kicks in anyway, and the imaginary threat prevents you from volunteering for anything like this. Or you may know you’re in a dead end job, but you can’t seem to bring yourself to say the words, “I quit.”

Courage, however, doesn’t require that you take drastic action in these situations. Courage is a learned mental skill that you must condition, just as weight training strengthens your muscles. You wouldn’t go into a gym for the first time and try to lift 300 pounds, so don’t think that to be courageous you must tackle your most paralyzing fear right away.

There are two methods I will suggest for building courage. The first approach is analogous to progressive weight training. Start with weights you can lift but which are challenging for you, and then progressively train up to heavier and heavier weights as you grow stronger. So tackle your smallest fears first, and progressively train up to bigger and bigger fears. Training yourself to lift 300 pounds isn’t so hard if you’ve already lifted 290. Similarly, speaking in front of an audience of 1000 people isn’t so tough once you’ve already spoken to 900.

So grab a piece of paper, and write down one of your fears that you’d like to overcome. Then number from one to ten, and write out ten variations of this fear, with number one being the least anxiety-producing and number ten being the most anxiety-producing. This is your fear hierarchy. For example, if you’re afraid of asking someone out on a date, then number one on your list might be going out to a public place and smiling at someone you find attractive (very mild fear). Number two might be smiling at ten attractive strangers in a single day. Number ten might be asking out your ideal date in front of all your mutual friends, when you’re almost certain you’ll be turned down flat and everyone in the room will laugh (extreme fear). Now start by setting a goal to complete number one on your list. Once you’ve had that success (and success in this case simply means taking action, regardless of the outcome), then move on to number two, and so on, until you’re ready to tackle number ten or you just don’t feel the fear is limiting you anymore. You may need to adjust the items on your list to make them practical for you to actually experience. And if you ever feel the next step is too big, then break it down into additional gradients. If you can lift 290 pounds but not 300, then try 295 or even 291. Take this process as gradually as you need to, such that the next step is a mild challenge for you but one you feel fairly confident you can complete. And feel free to repeat a past step multiple times if you find it helpful to prepare you for the next step. Pace yourself.

By following this progressive training process, you’ll accomplish two things. You’ll cease reinforcing the fear/avoidance response that you exhibited in the past. And you’ll condition yourself to act more courageously in future situations. So your feelings of fear will diminish at the same time that your expression of courage grows. Neurologically you’ll be weakening the limbic control over your actions while strengthening the neocortical control, gradually moving from unconscious mouse-like to conscious human-like behavior.

The second approach to building courage is to acquire additional knowledge and skill within the domain of your fear. Confronting fears head-on can be helpful, but if your fear is largely due to ignorance and lack of skill, then you can usually reduce or eliminate the fear with information and training. For example, if you’re afraid to quit your job and start your own business, even though you’d absolutely love to be in business for yourself, then start reading books and taking classes on how to start your own business. Spend an afternoon at your local library researching the subject, or do the research online. Join the local Chamber of Commerce and any relevant trade organizations in your field. Attend conferences. Build connections. Enlist the help of a mentor. Build your skill to the point where you start to feel confident that you could actually succeed, and this knowledge will help you act more boldly and courageously when you’re ready. This method is especially effective when a large part of your fear is due to the unknown. Often just reading a book or two on the subject will be enough to dispel the fear so that you’re able to take action.

These two methods are my personal favorites, but there are many additional ways to condition yourself to overcome fear, including neuro-linguistic programming, implosion therapy, systematic desensitization, and self-confrontation. You can research them via an online search engine if you wish to learn such methods and increase the number of fear-busting tools in your arsenal. Most of these can be easily self-administered (implosion therapy is the notable exception).

The exact process you use to build courage isn’t important. What’s important is that you consciously do it. Just as your muscles will atrophy if you don’t regularly stress them, your courage will atrophy if you don’t consistently challenge yourself to face down your fears. In the absence of this kind of conscious conditioning, you’ll automatically become weak in both body and mind. If you aren’t regularly exercising your courage, then you are strengthening your fear by default; there is no middle ground. Just as your muscles automatically atrophy from lack of use, so your courage will automatically decay in the absence of conscious conditioning.

Now this may sound overly gloomy, so here’s a positive way to look at it. Heavy weights can be a physical burden, but they are helpful tools to build strong muscles. You would not look at a 45-pound dumbbell and say, “Why must you be so heavy?” It is what it is. Heaviness is your thought, not an intrinsic property of the dumbbell itself. Similarly, do not look at the things you fear and say, “Why must you be so scary?” Fear is your reaction, not a property of the object of your anxiety.

Fear is not your enemy. It is a compass pointing you to the areas where you need to grow. So when you encounter a new fear within yourself, celebrate it as an opportunity for growth, just as you would celebrate reaching a new personal best with strength training.
Catch a Glimpse of Your Own Greatness
Everyone has talent. What is rare is the courage to follow the talent to the dark place where it leads.
– Erica Jong

The highest courage is to dare to appear to be what one is.
– John Lancaster Spalding

Whatever you do, you need courage. Whatever course you decide upon, there is always someone to tell you that you are wrong. There are always difficulties arising that tempt you to believe your critics are right. To map out a course of action and follow it to an end requires some of the same courage that a soldier needs. Peace has its victories, but it takes brave men and women to win them.
– Ralph Waldo Emerson

So what do you do with your newly developed courage? Where will it lead you? The answer is that it will permit you to lead a far more fulfilling and meaningful life. You will truly begin living as a daring human being instead of a timid mouse. You will uncover and develop your greatest talents. You will begin living far more consciously and deliberately than you ever have before. Instead of reacting to events, you will proactively manufacture your own events.

Courage is something you can only truly experience alone. It is a private victory, not a public one. Summoning the courage to listen to your innermost desires is not a group activity and does not result from building a consensus with others. Kahlil Gibran writes in The Prophet, “The vision of one man lends not its wings to another man.” The purpose of your existence is yours alone to discover. No one on earth has lived through the exact same experiences you have, and no one thinks the exact same thoughts you do.

On the one hand, this is a lonely realization. Whether you live alone or enjoy the deepest intimacy with a loving partner, deep down you must still face the reality that your life is yours alone to live. You can choose to temporarily yield control of your life to others, whether it be to a company, a spouse, or simply to the pressures of daily living, but you can never give away your personal responsibility for the results. Whether you assume direct and conscious control over your life or merely react to events as they happen to you, you and you alone must bear the consequences.

If you commit to following the path of courage, you will ultimately be forced to confront what is perhaps the greatest fear of all – that you are far more powerful and capable than you initially realized, that your ultimate potential is far greater than anything you’ve experienced in your past, and that with this power comes tremendous responsibility. You may not be able to solve all the woes of this planet, but if you ever do commit yourself 100% to the fulfillment of your true potential, you can significantly impact the lives of many people, and that impact will ripple through the future for generations to come.

What is the difference between you and one of those legendary historical figures who did have such an impact? You both had many of the same fears. You both were born with talents in some areas and weaknesses in others. The only thing stopping you is fear, and the only thing that will get you past it is courage. What you do with your life isn’t up to your parents, your boss, or your spouse. It’s up to you and you alone.

Catching a glimpse of your own greatness can be one of the most unsettling experiences imaginable. And even more disturbing is the awareness of the tremendous challenges that await you if you accept it. Living consciously is not an easy path, but it is a uniquely human experience, and it requires making the committed decision to permanently let go of that mouse within you. Going after your greatest and most ambitious dreams and experiencing failure and disappointment, running butt up against your most humbling human limitations instead of living with a comfortable padding of potential – these fears are common to us all.

The first few times you encounter such fears, you may quickly retreat back to the illusory security of life as a mouse. But if you keep exercising your courage, you will eventually mature to the point where you can openly accept the challenges and responsibilities of life as a fully conscious human being. Continuing to live as a mouse will simply hold no more interest for you. You will acknowledge within the deepest recesses of your being, I have awakened to this incredible potential within me, and I accept what that will require of me. Whatever it costs me, whatever I must sacrifice to follow this path, bring it on. I’m ready. Even though you will still experience fear, you will recognize it for the illusion it is, and you will know how to use your human courage to face it down, such that fear will no longer have the power to stop you.
Embrace the Daring Adventure
Before you embark on any path ask the question, does this path have a heart? If the answer is no, you will know it and then you must choose another path. The trouble is that nobody asks the question. And when a man finally realizes that he has taken a path without a heart the path is ready to kill him.
– Carlos Castaneda

The deeper that sorrow carves into your being, the more joy you can contain. Is not the cup that holds your wine the very cup that was burned in the potter’s oven? And is not the lute that soothes your spirit, the very wood that was hollowed with knives?
– Kahlil Gibran

Inaction breeds doubt and fear. Action breeds confidence and courage. If you want to conquer fear, do not sit home and think about it. Go out and get busy.
– Dale Carnegie

As you develop a sense of your true purpose in life, you may begin to feel an uneasy disconnect between your current life situation and the one you envision moving towards. These two worlds may seem so different to you that you cannot mentally conceive of how to build a bridge between them. How can you balance the practical reality of taking care of your third-dimensional obligations like earning money to pay your bills and taxes, pleasing your boss, raising your family, and maintaining social relationships with people who can’t even relate to what you’re experiencing vs. the new vision of yourself you desperately want to move towards? A whole host of new fears may crop up related to this seemingly impossible shift. How will you support yourself? What will become of your relationships? Are you just deluding yourself?

The best advice I can give you here is to forget about trying to build a bridge. Focus instead on independently beginning the process of manifesting the new vision of yourself from scratch, as if it were a totally separate thread in your life. If this creates a temporary incongruence in your life, just do it anyway. For example, suppose you currently work as a divorce attorney, but your courage tells you that you must eventually abandon such adversarial work. You envision yourself passionately teaching couples how to heal their broken relationships. But you can’t even fathom yourself as a trial lawyer trying to speak about healthy relationships, and on top of that problem, you can’t see any way to make a decent living in this new career, at least not quickly. There’s just too big a disconnect between this new vision and practical reality. So instead of trying to bridge this gap, just begin building your new vision completely from scratch in whatever time you have, even if it’s only an hour or two each week. Keep doing your regular work as an attorney, but in your spare time, start posting anonymously on relationship message boards to give couples advice on how to heal their relationships. Use the oratory skills you developed as an attorney to begin speaking to small groups about healing relationships. Perhaps create a new web site, and start writing and posting articles about your new passion. You don’t have to hide the fact that you’re an attorney, but don’t worry about bridging these two worlds. Live in paradox. Just start developing the new you, and allow the old one to continue in parallel for a while.

What will happen is that you’ll develop skill in your new undertaking, and you’ll eventually be able to support yourself from it, even if you can’t see how to do so right away. You may not be able to see a way to support yourself in your new vision right now, and that’s fine. Just begin it anyway, doing it for free, without any concern of how to turn it into a new full-time career. Patiently wait for clarity; you will eventually find a way to make it work. Then when the time is right, you’ll be able to peacefully let go of the old career and focus all your energy on the new one. At some point you’ll be able to commit fully to your new self. Your passion for your new work will eventually overwhelm your fear of letting go of your old source of stability. So instead of trying to transform your old career into your new one, just start the process of building your new one, and let your old one gradually fade. Even if you can only invest an hour a week in your new undertaking, you will probably discover that this hour is more fulfilling to you than all the other hours put together, and that passion will drive you to find a way to gradually grow this presence until it fills up most of your days. The most important thing is to begin now by introducing your new vision of yourself to your daily life, even if you can only initially do so in a small way.

No matter how difficult it may seem, make the choice to live consciously. Do not succumb to that half-conscious realm of fear-based thinking, filling your life with distractions to avoid facing what you feel in those silent spaces between your thoughts. Either exercise your human endowment of courage and progressively build the strength to face your deepest, darkest fears to live as the powerful being you truly are, or admit that your fears are too much for you, and embrace life as a mouse. But make this choice consciously and with full awareness of its consequences. If you are going to allow fear to win the battle for your life, then proclaim it the victor and forfeit the match. If you simply avoid living consciously and courageously, then that is equivalent to giving up on life itself, where your continued existence becomes little more than a waiting period before physical death – the nothing as opposed to the daring adventure.

Don’t die without embracing the daring adventure your life is meant to be. You may go broke. You may experience failure and rejection repeatedly. You may endure multiple dysfunctional relationships. But these are all milestones along the path of a life lived courageously. They are your private victories, carving a deeper space within you to be filled with an abundance of joy, happiness, and fulfillment. So go ahead and feel the fear – then summon the courage to follow your dreams anyway. That is strength undefeatable.

Steve Pavlina.com

Personal Development for Smart People