Transform your struggles into far-reaching influence in only 4 minutes

What you’re struggling with is exactly how you can begin helping others.

“You will seek only what you have partially already discovered and therefore seen as desirable”. — Richard Rohr

Or, in other words, what you’re sensitive to right now will guide you in your growth.

In just 4 minutes, and a simple shift in mindset, you’ll learn to take that thing you’re struggling with and turn it into powerful influence that will create recovery for yourself and for countless others.

Start by addressing the fake reality you’re creating in your mind

So often we view our pains and struggles as things that are inflicted upon us that can’t be fixed. But, we can shift our thoughts and turn pain into strength…

“We suffer more in imagination than in reality” — Seneca

We focus so much of our time developing a story we can tell ourselves. It's what our ego is. And we believe it to be entirely true without questions.

Eventually, the story that we repeat to ourselves becomes our behaviors.

For example, when you spend your time focusing on how much you lack compassion, your life is going to be cold. You’ll naturally gravitate towards actions that withhold compassion. After all, that what you tell yourself you are.

Or, when you spend your time focusing on how much you lack love, you’ll never be able to receive love when it’s right in front of you. It’s the story you keep telling yourself.

We have the tendency to aggrandize our own opinions of ourselves and define every behavior with a forced narrative.

You have the power to retell a story to yourself… to stop defining yourself as an addict or as lonely or as anxious or as lost.

Because, in reality, that’s not who you are.

It’s simply what you keep telling yourself, and those thoughts are turning into actions so you can keep the false, internal narrative alive.

Stop letting people tell you who you are

Most people are afraid of changing themselves because they think people will notice.

And they’re right. People will notice. But why care? They're not invested in your long-term growth...

I’ve always struggled to express my emotions. So, for the longest time people would make fun of me saying I didn’t have any emotions. And I began to believe them…

I believed it so much that I wouldn’t show my emotions even when I wanted to because I was simply following the narrative they were telling about me.

And eventually, I got tired of it. I started understanding more about myself and who I can become rather than what people say about me.

You cannot live your life following the orders other people tell you about your life direction and growth.

Never listen to the people who try to box you in and say that you’re always depressed or lonely or stubborn. Never let them have the power to control who you’re constantly evolving to be.

Instead, listen to who you’re telling yourself that you are. And base that in reality and in the desire for a life well lived.

Want to have lasting influence but don’t know where to start? Try what you’re sensitive to

We all have a sensitivity to something… some of us are sensitive to feeling lonely. Some are sensitive to feeling overlooked.

In the Christian faith tradition, we call these spiritual gifts: natural sensitivities and intuitions we’ve been given so we can be keenly aware of how we can help others.

For example, so many people I talk to struggle with loneliness. Who am I kidding… I struggle with it too.

I’ve been given a sensitivity to loneliness and feeling like an outsider… which gives me the exact knowledge for how to remedy it in others.

I could spend all day wallowing in loneliness and expect someone to reach out and make me feel loved.

Or, I could realize that the exact thing I want from someone else is the exact thing the world needs from me.

If you want to be influential, you don’t need a stage and an audience. And you don’t have to speak about business leadership.

If you want to be influential, you must first recognize what you struggle with and use that to connect with people who struggle with the same thing.

Influence isn’t about telling people how to live. It’s about living with them in an invested and intentional way.

Empathy equips you to have deep and far-reaching influence

“Empathy is one of the greatest creators of energy” — Angela Ahrendts

Recognizing what you struggle with allows you to develop sincere empathy that will help others gain strength and encouragement.

If you struggle with anxiety, wouldn’t you want someone who understands how that affects your life to walk alongside you?

You have two choices: self-pity or empathy.

Self-pity convinces you to never change. It seeks your undivided attention as it slowly steals your joy.

Empathy is the transformation from struggle to influence. It energizes you, it strengthens others, and it delivers fulfillment as you use it to become an advocate for someone else.

You need to become the help you’re waiting for

Instead of waiting around and sitting in misery, you’ll find healing in championing the health of others. In the process, you’ll find health for yourself.

It is not until you can step outside of your situation that you’ll find true growth.

Helping others overcome what you’re struggling with will create community. And together you’ll overcome the weight of your struggles that you both could not bear on your own.

This is where you power is: turning struggle into influence.

Turning self-misery into inclusive joy.

When you take your loneliness and turn it into community.

When you take your shame and you use it to ascribe value to someone.

When you take your doubt and choose to embolden someone with courage.

Next step

Address the fake stories you tell yourself: focusing on who you’re becoming and give yourself relentless grace. When you focus on negativity you leave no room for growth.

Stop giving people the power to write your story: they don’t know the depth of you. They have no investment in your growth. So don’t let them control you now.

Recognize what you’re sensitive to: be honest about what you’re struggling with. Now, use that to seek out people who are right there with you. And growth together through vulnerability and empathy.

Stop the cycle of self-pity and become empathetic: self-pity is a relentless trap while empathy grants you freedom to be vulnerable to and to help others flourish.

What you struggle with will only be fixed by your response. And you’ve been given the sensitivity and wisdom to help others while helping yourself.

Whatever you’re struggling with, someone else is struggling with that too. They’re waiting for someone to help them just like you are.

Make the move and give someone what you’ve always wanted and then you’ll be opened to exactly what you need.

How To Stop Your Obsessive Personal Development Book Addiction

“That will be $8.99”, the cashier said as I purchased my 7th notebook in the span of 2 months...

I picked up the habit of reading with the ambition of becoming a better, wiser person. And I was entirely convinced that I had to retain every piece of knowledge I read so that I could quote it later.

I tried countless ways to cram more and more information into my brain hoping that the wisdom from the pages I was reading would ooze out into my personality.

So I tried journaling notes. And it would never stick. So I journaled so more. And continuously failed.

I thought that maybe buying my 7th notebook would help. A fresh start! After all, this one was leather and that would make me write better...

I had this idea that if I couldn’t retain the information I was reading, then it would never come to fruition and I would never be the person I wanted to be.

It wasn’t until I read this quote…

“I cannot remember the books I’ve read any more than the meals I have eaten; even so, they have made me.” - Emerson

Emerson’s insight was eye opening to me. No longer was I stuck in the cyclical anxiety of retaining information in every conversation and interaction.

Rather, the information and the personal development tools I was learning were simply shaping who I was… slowly.

My struggle to remember the exact techniques and skills from personal development books got rough over time.

Instead of investing in the present person in front of me, I remember trying so hard to remember personal development tools from How To Win Friends And Influence people or from Ask or others. And I would entirely miss out on what was happening in front of me…

Like the really smooth time I went up to a girl I liked and stepped on her foot while giving her a hug and was flustered the entire conversation….

Mainly, because I was stuck in my head the entire time. Keenly focused on how I should be acting rather than simply acting.

Neural pathways slowly shape us

Our intelligence and memory are shaped by the repetition of neural pathways being fired. Essentially, this is why repetition is so crucial to memory and critical thinking.

But it’s not just repetition alone. It’s repetition from different angles and styles and techniques.

If we only memorize something from one angle, then we’ll never obtain the critical processing skills that are needed to actually be good at something.

For instance, I remember a kid from my high school who was obsessed with Metallica. He learned all of the riffs. And he was incredibly good Fade to Black (it was his go-to song).

But he had no idea how to play anything other than Metallica.

He simply memorized one dimension of the guitar, but didn’t understand how it all works together.

The same applies with personal development books. Or anything else you’re learning.

You can spend all your time trying to memorize and regurgitate information.

Or, you can relax in the understanding that you don’t have to memorize or even understand everything.

In the process of continuously treating ourselves to observation and information, we form new neural pathways that mold us into who we are.

I used to be consumed with understanding and applying all of the principles of every self-help book I’ve read.

Now, I crack one open, glean some knowledge, and then forget about it.

Because I don’t have to remember everything about an experience for it to shape me.

Instead, I choose to constantly expose myself to things that will help me grow. And then I trust the process.

How to live your ideal future tomorrow

So many of us have goals and dreams for a meaningful future… for a life well lived.

Visions of authenticity, growth, family, and influence.

But often we let those future constructs lie years ahead of us. We play a waiting game…

And we think that one day something big will happen and all that we’ve dream of and envisioned will come true.

We will never become anything more than what we habitually practice.

The person you want to be in future and the life you want to have exists inside you right now.

This is exactly how you can grow into the person you want to become

When entering into college I thought I had to have it all figured out. I allowed myself to feel pressured into believing that there was only one right choice. And that somehow I could miss my purpose.

I had this fear that if I picked the “wrong major” then I’d be a failure. A failure to myself and to other people.

I initially tried to think of majors that seemed perfectly lined up with were I was at right then. I loved music so I thought “why not major in music?”.

I started to choose a path based on my current emotions. And I almost missed out on a path that would shape my long-term vision…

Because I was good at music, I thought that it was something I was supposed to do.

I took the narrow understanding and limited experience I had and wrapped it up into major. Wrapped it up into a life-altering direction.

I took a present emotion and presumed that if this is who I am now, then this is who I will always be...

So often when people ask what their purpose is, people just respond “what are you good at?”.

I think the intention is right, but it’s missing so many components that make us who we dynamically are.

I had to realize how powerful finding and practicing my life purpose was. I also had to realize I could become more than my present thoughts, actions, and skills.

10/10/10: Make decisions like Buffet

To create a life well lived, saturated with purpose and fulfillment, we must elevate our thinking and shift our perspective.

After I realized purpose in my own life, I began to explore who I want to be 20 years from now instead of 2 years from now.

Then, my major didn’t become who I am, it was simply a tool used to become who I want to be. So, I chose a major that I thought we best equip me for my 20+ year vision.

My identity wasn’t being controlled by the present. Rather, my identity was constantly being shaped by my vision for the future.

Warren Buffet uses the strategy of 10/10/10 to help him make high-level thinking decisions. It simply goes like this:

When making a difficult decision, ask yourself:

  • How will I feel about it in 10 minutes:

  • How will I feel about it in 10 months:

  • How will I feel about it in 10 years:

This practice will broaden your perspective. Coupled with understanding your life purpose, you’ll allow yourself to make decisions that aren’t rooted in present circumstances that neglect your long-term vision.

What are you doing now to live out your vision?

I remember several times when I’d talk to people in college and they’d tell me about their major and their classes. I’d ask one simple question that usually went unanswered…

“What are you doing now to live out your vision?”

For example, I talked to a nursing student who loved his classes and was super excited about getting hired. I asked him “how are you currently helping people who are hurting?”.

After all, that’s what the job is about.

Although he was taking classes and working towards helping people in the future, he was missing out on a huge opportunity to practice living out his purpose right now.

I see so many people in college supplement their purpose with their major… They recognize their life mission, but instead of living it they assume the daily practice of purpose will be bestowed upon them when they get handed a diploma.

And this isn’t just in college, we do this with our careers and relationships too…

We believe that somehow a future event will eventually change us and mold us into the person we want to become if we just dream hard enough.

We believe that graduating, or a new job, or a promotion, or a new city will flip some switch that transforms us into the person we’ve always wanted to be.

We constantly cast the burden of transformation on our future self. But, eventually the weight becomes so grand that we crumple and never start.

If we continue to believe a life well lived can only exist in the future, then we will continue to feel sluggish and frustrated.

Dreaming is nothing without action

I love dreaming. I absolutely encourage it. But, I also love action.

Each morning I spend 25 minutes meditating on the dreams and goals I have for myself. (Sidenote: pick up the book Psycho-Cybernetics to understand why you should do this too).

But, that exercise is useless if I don’t do anything the rest of the day to do those goals.

If we don’t translate our ideal future into practical steps we can start tomorrow, we will never grow.

Think of who you want to become. Paint a vivid picture. How does your life look. What does it feel like. Each morning, what’s the first thing you see. How does the breeze smell.

Now, what’s in the way of you obtaining a life well lived?

Is it money? Is it genuineness? Is it vulnerability? Is it compassion?

It’s amazing how we cast off the growth of these skills until the future.

That’s exactly what I did. I would dream about what success and happiness should look like in my life. And then I’d go to bed and spend hours just imagining how great life could be one day.

There’s a big problem with that mindset…

You will never encounter a life switch so grand that you’ll be thrust into your ideal life. It will always be a process of persistent growth.

The true path to a life well lived is to discover what your ideal life looks like and then start practicing it every single day.

If your vision of a great life is to have deep, giving relationships, then start that tomorrow...

It’s going to be sloppy and awkward and uncomfortable, but you can rest in the fact that you’re one step closer to bringing your ideal self into the present.

Next step

Don’t supplement your major, or job, or promotion, or relationships, or any other distraction for purpose.

Explore what you want a life well lived to look like. Paint yourself an obtainable picture of the future.

Next, look for what’s in your way… what do you need to grow in?

And start practicing those traits right now…

  • If you want a life filled with wealth: start reading on how to invest, get a mentor, and start investing.

  • If you want a life filled with compassion: join your community’s local initiatives to help the homeless.

  • If you want a life filled with joy: start exercising joy and gratitude with your friends in tough situations.

You will always feel frustrated and trapped unless you capture your purpose and start living it now. Take is slow, each day you’ll draw closer and closer your ideal self.

In the process of growth you’ll find a life well lived.

How responding quickly is ruining your relationships

Just the other day I was talking to a friend who was sharing an experience they had at work. They were sharing how frustrated they were and what they were going through and all of a sudden I did it…

I did that thing when you reply to someone else’s story with your own in a subconscious attempt to relate or look better (or some strange mix of the two).

I had to correct myself midway and apologize for trampling over what my friend was sharing just because I wanted to talk.

Each story has a subtext the speaker is trying to communicate

So often we excitedly share our own story with a friend who is seeking connection and vulnerability and affirmation. And in the process we neglect the connection they longed for.

I can remember countless times when I’ve shared a story with someone and they respond with a story of their own. And that only shifts the focus to their experience and their problems.

All I was looking for was affirmation and vulnerability...

How often does this happen to you?

We often share stories and experiences with people because we’re looking for something deeper than the story being told.

We’re looking for the community-saturated narrative that is shared in the exchange of stories and experiences and ideas.

But, sometimes we forget this critical aspect of communication: that there is a subtext to each word. A deeper longing that exists below the text and phrases.

Because although we share stories, we really longing to communicate our desire for connection and affirmation and feedback.

How a quick reply will damage your relationship

When someone tells you a story, it’s so easy to quickly bounce back a story of your own... and the time you dealt with the same problem… and the grand recovery you had… even if your story was about 6 years ago and the person you’re talking to is dealing with something very real right now!

We don’t realize how we trivialize the person in front of us by dismissing the connection they’re looking for and shooting off a quick reply.

And we trample over the subtext of what is being communicated when we reply with a story that has no true value behind it.

Quick replies that don’t carry value or substance will only rot the trust and communication between two people.

How to reclaim connection with meaningful replies

Sometimes, responding to someone with a story of your own can be incredibly helpful when used with care.

Story responses can help in 2 ways:

  • They help you empathize by contextualizing what someone is saying through experiences you’ve had

  • They help the other person understand your empathy and how you had a similar experience just like them

The key in replying to someone with your own story is empathy.

Most people go wrong by telling a story that only paints them as the hero. But, having empathy helps you communicate with story as a way to come alongside someone instead of pushing them down.

Discernment is key to your role as a listener. Ultimately, it’s the listeners job to understand the subtext behind a story. Is the speaker seeking affirmation or support?

Having discernment and empathy allows us to understand the appropriate response by searching for the speaker’s true intent behind their story.

I’ve found the most valuable thing to facilitate meaningful conversation is to simply ask good questions.

Learn to become engrossed in the stories that people tell you. Investigate the narrative arc and display your empathy.

If you become genuinely interested in the lives of the people around you, you’ll find yourself exceeding at relationships.

“Instead, your job is just to be with them. Give them a space to express their feelings. Give them a space to talk if they want. Give them the assurance that even though you can’t fix their problem, they don’t have to face it alone.” - Daniel Wendler

Next step

Our role as a listener is never to impress. Our role as a listener is to always be actively aware of the speaker’s intent and discern how to respond with true empathy.

Sometimes that looks like a thoughtful question, sometimes that looks like affirmation, sometimes that looks like a similar story that shows compassion.

When we can remove our ego, we can respond with life-giving speech.

Make it your goal to always have a response that communicates “I’m in this with you” instead of a response that says “now it’s my turn to speak and talk about my stories”.

Crush creative avoidance with these 2 tactics

How often do you try to get something done, but you’re dragged down by small details that seem to keep piling up?

Like you’re feeling stagnant and not actually moving towards your goals...

It’s amazing how easily we find a million things to do when we’re faced with an important task.

For example, when you need to finish a report and somehow cleaning the top of refrigerator becomes interesting.

Or, how just the other day I spent 30 minutes making a Facebook header the perfect size instead of writing a post…

This is creative avoidance: tasks we do that don’t directly create results. Creative avoidance is just wasted time, but we act like it’s valuable… usually, because we don’t want to get started.

Creative avoidance looks like this:

  • Needing to follow up with clients, but spending time cleaning your desktop and decluttering your hard drive so you’ll be more “productive” when you eventually follow up with them (hopefully).
  • Needing to study for your exam, but you also have to sort through your email and texts and make sure your iguana gets fed (well, maybe you should feed him).
  • Needing to set aside quality time with your spouse, but the laundry needs done and the stovetop is greasy and how can you have a healthy marriage when the gutters are full of leaves?

Creative avoidance is the illusion of progress

“Creative avoidance is a different beast. It covers its own tracks by creating the illusion that you are making progress. It lets you feel productive without prioritizing. This is so much more dangerous” - Greg Faxon

Creative avoidance is so dangerous because we finish a day feeling exhausted, and sometimes overwhelmed, and we can’t figure out what we actually did to create lasting results.

We buy into the illusion that our busyness equates to productivity. In reality, busyness without direction equates to frustration and stalling.

Feeling like you’re working exhaustively but not moving anywhere?

2 lessons business can teach you about productivity

(I’m going to run through a couple of business concepts, but these can easily be applied to any area of your life)

  1. Spend most of your time on results generating activities

Businesses heavily invest most of their time and energy on “income generating activities”... activities that directly create money for the company.

For example, a lawncare business would have income generating activities of mowing lawns. It would also have other activities liking filing paperwork. Although filing paperwork is important to the business, it doesn’t directly create income for the business like mowing does.

The business would quickly go under if most of its time was spent filing paperwork instead of mowing. Or if workers only cut half of a lawn and then left to file paperwork because they didn't feel like mowing anymore.

This sounds crazy, but we do this same thing all the time!

For our intents and purposes, let’s change “income generating activities” to “results generating activities”...

Businesses are constantly streamlining and trimming down any extraneous tasks that don’t generate results.

To be productive with your time and escape creative avoidance, you need to be spending most of your time on results generating activities.

If you need to ace an exam, studying is just about the only results generating activity. Everything else is creative avoidance.

If you need to work on your relationship, spending meaningful time together is your only results generating activity. Everything else is just a wash.

The time you invest outside of results generating activities will only leave you exhausted and unproductive.

To start being focused with your time, you need to understand what results you’re looking for by understanding your KPI’s.

2. Understand and track your KPI’s

KPI stands for Key Performance Indicator. It’s a common term in business used to identify key metrics that directly relate to results.

If you want to increase revenue, then your sales volume is a KPI because it’s directly related to the result you want.

The idea of KPI’s can translate outside of business, too. They give us a clear way to define what success looks like so we can see our progress.

For example, I want to grow my writing ability. So, my KPI is how many posts per week I write. Since I know that metric is key to growing my writing ability, I pay close attention to it and work to make sure my posts per week KPI is where I want it to be.

For you, it might be how many chapters you read per day. Or maybe it’s how much time you spend with a friend. Or maybe it’s how many clients you talk to.

No matter what your desired result is, you need an activity you can quantify that directly relates to your result.

i.e. The number of sales calls is a KPI that creates results for you. Cleaning your desk isn’t a KPI and creates no direct results for you.

Start to find the KPI’s that directly contribute to the results you want. Then, start focusing your time on results generating activities by constantly chasing after your KPI’s.

How to quit avoiding and finally start moving

Ready to start spending time that actually produces results?

Start by spending at least 10 hours per week on results generating activities.

Define what success looks, understand you KPI’s, then chase after them.

Now, this sounds all fine and dandy for about an hour. And then you might get overwhelmed. Or bored.

This is where creative avoidance steps in. Creative avoidance shows itself when we feel overwhelmed or exhausted.

To fix this, start by breaking your results generating activities into small chunks (I wrote a nifty post on how to do that here).

Instead of saying "I'm going to write a blog post tomorrow", say "Tonight I'm only going to work on the outline". Then, tomorrow you can take an hour to flesh out the outline. Grab lunch. Then, take an hour to finish the post.

The small chunks of time will keep your more focused and help you create better work. Don’t believe me?

Creative avoidance also creeps up when we can’t learn to say no to the things that steal away our time and energy. Learn to say no to the things that don’t directly help you create results.

Next step

To finally come home from a day of work and actually feel productive, you’ll need to index your time and energy and understand if your work is contributing to something that creates valuable results.

It’s like the Pareto Principle:

“Which 20% of sources are causing 80% of your problems and unhappiness? Which 20% of sources are resulting in 80% of your desired outcomes and happiness?” - Scott Hudspeth

Most likely, 20% of those sources are creative avoidance. Eliminate that and you cut back on a significant amount of frustration.

Here’s the game plan

Start with the big idea… what results do you want?

Distill that idea down further into KPI’s you can understand and track… what metrics directly reflect the goal you have?

Create a list of results generating activities and start practicing those a minimum of 10 hours per week instead of creative avoidance.

Are you envious because I am generous?

Why someone else’s success isn’t a threat to your wellbeing

For the longest time, social media was becoming a massive source of jealousy and comparison in my life.

It seemed like whenever someone else succeeded or had something I wanted, it distorted my view of joy and contentment.

And I think a lot of us are there, too.

The wrecking power of the scarcity mentality

There’s this prevalent idea that someone else’s success means we’ll receive less.

… like there is a limited amount of giftedness and joy and resource in the world and someone else receiving it means I won’t get as much.

This plagues so many of us.

And it drastically distorts our view of people and satisfaction.

When was the last time you were on Instagram on Facebook and saw someone living part of a life that you’ve always wanted?

And you had this gut reaction that was filled with contempt and envy.

A scarcity mentality will only create anxiety and contempt in your life. It will never produce life-giving value to anyone.

And it usually is so subtle that it will break you down while you’re unaware.

Because scarcity mentality usually sounds like “he gets all the breaks” “I wish I was born into a wealthy family” “it must be nice to have such an easy life”.

The scarcity mentality will seep into every area of your life and slowly choke out your view of goodness and satisfaction.

Scarcity mentality forces us to become a hoarder of goodness. Over time, we start to believe that goodness is limited. So, when goodness comes our way, we warehouse it.

We become hoarders of things and ideas and love. We end up with over-indulgence while other people barely have enough to get by. Physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually.

Honestly, I’ve seen it become so rampant in people’s lives that they become greedy and stingy.

And they transform into an oppressor that people have to cry out against.

Like a father who was treated poorly as a child so he treats his kids similarly… to him, goodness is limited, he must not give it freely.

Or a demanding boss whose marital strife led her to view joy as something only few can obtain… she must not give it out.

“The presence of generosity means the absence of greed, stinginess, and jealousy” - Rob Bell

I used to hate when other people succeeded. It made me feel dejected.

Quickly, I learned to realize that I couldn’t celebrate someone else’s light because I didn’t even value my own....

So, how do you avoid this dark spiral of the scarcity mentality?

You must relentlessly give of yourself. Serve. And become a champion of other people’s success.

Because joy and love and grace and hope are infinite. They will never run dry. You have the freedom to live your life freely granting prosperity wherever you go.

The favor of someone else will never be a threat to your wellbeing.

And the goodness that happens to your friends doesn’t mean you’re missing out on something more.

Do you really think goodness and blessing and joy are limited?

Let’s break the cycle

Recognize that goodness is infinite. And that you get to take part in that!

Stop hoarding joy. And stop envying those who have success.

You’ll find abundance in the release of anxiety filled envy.

Instead of envy, allow goodness to become a gift. Give it as freely as you receive it...

Jesus tells this great parable about a group of workers in a vineyard who worked unequal amounts but received equal pay.

The longer-worked laborers, clearly outraged, petition the foreman for an explanation.

To which he replies, “are you envious because I am generous”.

3 quirky conversational tricks that will make you profoundly influential

Influence is found in our ability to meaningfully interact with the people we encounter.

It’s not something just reserved for a stage or large audience.

You have the power to be profoundly influential in every conversation you have by becoming aware of how you interact and desiring to grow further.

I outlined 3 things I do in almost every conversation to help create trust, respect, and empathy.

1. Make eye contact to invite someone else to go deeper

“A gazer may invite interaction by staring at another person on the other side of a room. The target's studied return of the gaze is generally interpreted as acceptance of the invitation, while averting the eyes is a rejection of the request” - Adrian Furnham

Eye contact is one of the most subtle, yet powerful, communicators of our emotions.

And subconsciously, we’re able to understand conversational cues simply through the cadence of eye contact and direction.

When someone is speaking, or telling a story, and pauses, it’s easy to want to share our side of the story, our thoughts, and ideas.

But, when we interject, we miss the critical depth someone else might be wanting to share.

Instead of interjecting, simply continue a thoughtful and engaged gaze.

It may feel awkward for just a couple of seconds, but soon enough the person you’re talking to will continue to share more about themselves.

This will subtly prompt the other person to continuing speaking as your attention becomes an invitation.

Usually, people only share a small portion of what they really want to say.

To foster relationships with depth, it’s your responsibility to invite someone to speak about the things they truly want to talk about.

* Obviously, don’t over do it. Don’t stare intensely. Rather, create a warm, welcoming environment through your glances that welcome depth with empathy and grace.

2. Ask “What else?”

“So if you aspire to be a good conversationalist, be an attentive listener. To be interesting, be interested. Ask questions that other persons will enjoy answering. Encourage them to talk about themselves and their accomplishments” - Dale Carnegie

Influence is found in the questions you ask rather than in the wisdom you speak.

Most people think that to be influential and wise, they must constantly speak at people and have a response to anything that arises.

However, people already know what’s best for them. You are not more of an expert on someone’s life than they are of their own.

So, your influence will be found in guiding questions that help people explore themselves and environment rather than what you say to them.

Any time I’ve had someone say I'm wise or thoughtful I have to laugh a little bit inside. Mainly because I only did 10% of the talking and most of that was just asking thoughtful questions.

So, how do you ask inspiring and profound questions? Two words…

“What else?”

Start off with those two simple words and you’ll unleash a depth of conversation that will have true impact.

Questions that continue to generate depth will always revolve around “what else”... and you can change the way the question looks. It can look like: “how did you manage to do that”  “how did you accomplish that”  “how did you know that’d help”.

To have influential relationships, take the focus off of yourself and start to invite people into a welcoming space where they can explore themselves and environment better.

You can also use a technique that Solution-Focused therapists use that helps people ascend logical levels.

“Therefore, if people have differences in outlook, it is useful to lift the conversation to a hierarchically higher plane” - Fredrike Bannink

Ascending logicals levels means that when someone is talking about a fight they had with a friend, they’re really talking about how much they value that relationship and don’t want it to end.

And, higher than that, they value relationships, and security, and fidelity.

Finding these higher logical levels will give your guiding questions direction.

3. Copy their body language

“Social synchrony underlies the development of affiliative bonds and, thus, its detection in social contexts may be important for bond formation and, consequently, for adequate social functioning.” - (Atzil, Hendler & Feldman)

You’re strolling through the park and suddenly someone gets smacked in the face by a rogue frisbee. Immediately you wince at what just happened. And probably laugh.

This is because mirror neurons allow us to understand and feel what other people are experiencing.

They’re responsible for us shuttering when someone else gets hit or crying when we binge watch military homecoming videos.

And they’re responsible for social synchrony: when people unknowingly mirror body language as a way to show understanding, support, and respect.

For example, when a close friend leans in to tell us a vivid story, we unconsciously lean in too.

This is because mirror neurons allow us to understand the intentions and feelings behind physical actions. And social synchrony allows us to socialize and empathize deeper with these mirror neurons firing.

Scientists used to think that analytical thought helped us understand other people’s motives and actions, but research has found that we understand each other through emotions… namely the reading of body language and automatically understanding the emotions behind them.

Mirroring, or social synchrony, is quite common in stronger relationships. But, sometimes we struggle to develop a conversational rhythm with people that develops trust, empathy, respect, and rapport.

Without mirroring, studies have shown that relationships are not as sociable and lack trust.

The easiest way to create the social synchrony that demonstrates trust is to simply mirror the person you’re talking to in subtle ways.

If they lean in, lean in too.

If they sit back and have a low tone of voice, do the same.

You don’t have to copy every small movement or make it obvious what you’re doing.

The ultimate goal is to become aware of mutual body language, and then allow yourself to naturally follow the other person with your body language.

Body language is also key in understand how comfortable someone is in a conversation. Simply look for signs of comfort and discomfort.

Some comfort signals look like: leaning in, moving closer, turning to face you, a tilted head, a head rested on a hand, a genuine smile, and physical touch

Some discomfort signals look like: neck/face touching or rubbing, turning away, crossing arms, pointing feet away, and little eye contact

“The trick is to start superficial, and then slowly go more intimate while keeping an eye on the other person’s comfort level. If you find that they start giving signs of discomfort, then you should ask less intimate questions. But if they are giving you consistent signals of comfort, then you can consider that a green light to continue digging deeper… this progression from superficial to intimate is something that happens over the course of a relationship, not over the course of one conversation” - Daniel Wendler

You don’t have to be an expert on body language. All you’re looking for is a general understanding of comfort and discomfort so that the person you’re talking to feels welcomed and understood the entire time.

For example, if you notice someone is rubbing their neck frequently, then maybe back off on the “what else” questions.

Or, maybe they show calm body language, then, you can continue asking questions and sharing about yourself on the same level

Next step

True influence is found when you can clearly articulate your life purpose and help people explore theirs.

But, you can only take people as far as you’ve gone yourself...

If you’re searching for a clear direction that will help you live a meaningful and influential life, sign up for our free life purpose course.

4 ways core values will dramatically change your life

Core values allow us to live our dream lifestyle anywhere, anytime, with anyone

Core values shape every single decision we make. They’re the lens through which we find value in tasks and people and place. But, often, they’re ambiguous and we don’t make an effort to clearly define them.

When you can clearly define your core values, you begin to reclaim energy in your life that will help you constantly move forward.

You can quite literally get paid to start pursuing your dream by practicing your core values at work.

Here’s how this works… Follow the instruction below (go here to download this sheet)

1. Habits transform your true lifestyle

"We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit" - Aristotle

You will never find satisfaction and purpose unless you start the habitual process of living your desired characteristics out now.

The person you want to be or the thing you want to do will never just happen one day. But it will happen slowly over time if you begin creating habits…

(e.g. if harmony is a core value for who you want to be, start by quelling the arguments you’ve been having with your family and resolve the unspoken tension)

2. Failure is just feedback

"I think the only way to get good at something is to do it over and over again. In front of an audience of people so you can get immediate feedback" - Yann Girard

 Practicing core values at work (or any regular environment) allows us to get direct feedback on who we are and how we act and think and communicate.

Failure is just negative feedback that guides us to new perspective and new actions. Failure is less of a losing process and more of a learning process.

(e.g. if you value love, but a relationship goes south, it doesn’t mean you don’t value it. You simply learn what could be done better next time and reiterate)

3. Core values are the strongest, most lasting form of motivation

"Get yourself a goal worth working for. Better still, get yourself a project. Decide what you want out of a situation. Always have something ahead of you to “look forward to”—to work for and hope for. Look forward, not backward" - Maxwell Maltz

 Hyped-up motivation will only spur you on for a short period of time.

You need a focused direction that will challenge you to be grounded in your purpose rather than swaying in and out of it.

(e.g. Motivation will cause you to energetically buy 48 books and become overwhelmed. But, a core value of growth will challenge you to view everyone and everything as a teacher as you assume the role of a student)

4. They actually help you get started

Dreams, goals, projects, and causes can seem so daunting to begin to tackle.

Maybe you don’t even know what you want to do with your life. Or maybe you do, but something is holding you back.

Most people just sit in this space and allow the void to hollow out their desire to ever get started.

Core values allow you to begin working toward who you want to be and what you want to do without needing any plan, money, staff, time, etc.

Instead of exhausting yourself with the idea of tackling a huge project, why not start slowly by practicing your values tomorrow?

Here’s the plan

  • List out the core values that resonate with the person you want to become: the person you want to become is already inside you, you just have to practice those traits
  • Memorize your core values: make a reminder, or sticky notes on your mirror, or go over them every morning when you wake up
  • Begin practicing in front of people: this will help you find new ways to help and give value to others while drastically improving your mood and performance
  • Allow yourself to fail: negative feedback is the only way to get better. Have a learning mindset instead of a losing mindset

You have a dream. Great. Now it’s time to start.

Fresh out of college, I learned just how potent the millennial dream is. This lofty ambition that seems to cloud the eyes of most of my peers with misty visions of future ambition and success.

And, let’s be honest, this dream is prevalent throughout all generations.

Every single one of us has had an ambition... a dream, a goal, a project, or a cause they want to champion.

But, we also have to pay bills and fund our unending and justified desire for Chipotle…

Sometimes we can feel helpless… like our job is suffocating our growth. In an attempt to escape, we lose ourselves in distraction and repetition that, one hidden, will arise again in a couple weeks.

So, instead of viewing your job as exhausting work, start viewing it as a way you can practice your core values and get a head start on your dream lifestyle.

If you don’t start with small steps, your projects and causes will never actualize.

Take the first step of finding your core values and incorporate them into everything you do and you’ll dramatically change your life.

Kyle Seagraves

Author of Uncover Your Purpose


You should know that absolutely no one has life figured out

It’s so easy to see a culmination of other people's’ successes in front of us and assume we could never measure up.

And to feel like the work we do every day isn't worthy of the lives we see flying by with the flick of a thumb.

So, this is a simple reminder to not buy into the illusion that everyone has it figured out.

Because it really is an illusion.

It’s amazing how often we see people with the life we think we want and assume they got there overnight. Or that somehow life is perfect for them.

And we spend our time searching for this magic moment where life will be what we want in an instant.

The life you want starts now...

You can choose how you spend your emotional energy. You're either:

- exhausted by the limited perception you have of what’s going on in someone else’s life

- focused on your story and the continual value you give to people

How to stop feeling lost and start finding satisfaction

So, if you're feeling lost and wondering "what am I doing" or "where am I going", know that most people are there too.

Maybe you don't know what major to pick.

Or what job to take.

Or when your frustrating job will end.

Or when your friends will treat you well.

But, right now, we miss out on all you have to offer when you don't choose to be present.

You chasing after someone else's story leaves everyone at a loss. We miss the connection and joy and sorrow and vices and wholeness you can bring.

To stop feeling lost, disconnect yourself from everything that’s not a part of your story. To start finding satisfaction, reconnect yourself to where you’re at.

Because it’s great to see that your friend got a high-paying job in your dream city with a beautiful family... but thinking their situation makes you less likely to receive fulfillment is a lie.

The key to “making it” and living a successful life

To laugh often and much; to win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children; to earn the appreciation of honest critics and to endure the betrayal of false friends. To appreciate beauty; to find the best in others; to leave the world a bit better whether by a healthy child, a garden patch, or a redeemed social condition; to know that even one life has breathed easier because you have lived. This is to have succeeded. -Ralph Waldo Emerson

I love to dream. My head is stuck in the future all the time. And it’s so easy to have a golden dream where I instantly get everything I want without any work involved.

Most of us act like if we dream hard enough, then something will change.

This couldn’t be further from the truth.

“For success, like happiness, cannot be pursued; it must ensure, and it only does so as the unintended side-effect of one’s dedication to a cause greater than oneself or as the by product of one’s surrender to a person other than oneself” - Victor Frankl

Success is something we find because we chase after something greater than ourselves... the present moments within our story and timeline and space.

We will never find success and happiness in a distanced dream or in the life of someone else.

True fulfillment is a direct result of our desire to pursue the goodness in the present moments in front of us.

We encounter profound joy when we pursue something greater than ourselves. And each day we have to commit to small progresses that compounds over time.

How to create success tomorrow

To begin living with a sense of direction and clarity, you have to practice.

The person you want to become and the lifestyle you want to live will never appear on its own.

You must create it.

And it’s going to be rough at first…

Your first presentation will be terrifying.

Your first book will be exhausting.

Your first _______ will be rough.

But the only way you’re going to get better is to practice.

I’m an inexperienced writer. I’ve only written a handful of articles. But, I know that to get to my 1,000 article I’ll need to write my 800th. And to get there I’ll need to write my 374th. And to get there I’ll need to write my 29th. And to get there I’ll need to write my first.

Each step along the way I get better and better. I directly create success not by what I achieve, but by how I live...

“The only way I can get anything written at all is to write really, really, shitty first drafts….The first draft is the child’s draft, where you let it all pour out and then let it romp all over the place, knowing that no one is going to see it and that you can shape it later….Very few writers really know what they are doing until they’ve done it…Just get it all down on paper, because there may be something great in those crazy pages that you would have never have gotten to by more rational grown-up means.” - Anne Lamott

And I continue that mindset outside of writing. Each day I look for small ways to become more of the person that I want to be.

5 steps to practice present success

  1. Recognize the illusion that everyone has life figured out. Because they don’t, even if they did it’s irrelevant to your story.
  2. Disconnect yourself from useless obsession with someone else’s success.
  3. Reconnect yourself to the present moments. Slow down your day and enjoy the moments you have to connect with real people and places and emotions.
  4. Write down some descriptions of the person you want to be in the future. Are you generous, warm, a leader, courageous, wealthy, productive, etc?
  5. Start each day with a quick meditation on how you’re going to choose to live out those qualities today.

You will never simply wake up and be living the life you want. And you’ll be stuck in misery and insecurity if you spend your time obsessing over someone else’s story.

Find the qualities you want to have when you've "made it" and practice them now... in every situation and with everyone you meet and you'll be on your way.

You have the power to change your attitude and actions. Begin chasing after something greater than yourself. Then, you'll start living a fulfilled life.

How to challenge small talk and foster genuine connection

Photo by Felix Russell-Saw on Unsplash

How to transform small talk into powerful connection

Small talk terrifies my predominantly-introverted self. But in American culture, small talk is a social necessity.

I had this grand desire to have vulnerable and powerful conversations with the people I met. So, I tried to drop pointless conversations from my life and dive right into the core.

But this only left me confused and unfulfilled: thinking that people just didn’t want to talk about things that mattered…

“People mistakenly infer others’ attitudes from their behavior when their behavior is actually dictated by norms. In this case, people see everyone not talking and assume they don’t want to talk, but actually everyone is more interested in talking than they believe.” -Juliana Schroeder

It wasn’t until I changed my view about relationships that I realized how powerful and warm small talk can be. And how crucial it is to nurturing delicate relationships.

Center your relationships around giving

Relationships are the most vibrant when they’re giving-focused instead of getting-focused.

We have to let go of our ego-centric view to find connection and community and give value more than we receive it.

Instead of viewing relationships with a mindset of “what I can get”, we must choose each moment to give.

We must seek the collective prosperity of others so we can join a community: a community that pushes each other further through rhythms of giving and receiving.

“Relationships don’t happen automatically. Apathy, fear, awkwardness – all conspire to thwart connection. You have to be prepared to fight for your relationships.” - Daniel Wendler

Small talk connects us to the present moment

“I’m still making my voice heard in a way that inspires people to advance their lives” - Nicholas Kusmich

Small talk is the entrance into a deeper level of relational trust and understanding.

So often I would spend most of my time meditating on the things I was wanting to do in the future. Or meditating on what I’ve done in the past.

You know, that thing you do when someone talks to you but you’re not paying attention so you just smile and nod hoping that’s what they were looking for….

Small talk is a subtle reminder of the real people in front of us. In real places. With real jobs. And real problems.

And the seemingly unimportant talk about the weather is a gentle reminder that the present moment has true power and meaning when we allow ourselves to enter into that space.

I had to realize that the time I spent meditating on the future and the past is simply my lack of participation in the present moment.

So, even though I was physically with my family, I was mentally absent instead of bonding. Or, instead of seeking connection with someone who was hurting, I would give canned responses and be somewhere else mentally thinking of excuses to leave.

"Presence is experienced in a participative way, outside the mind. The mind by nature is intent on judging, controlling, and analyzing instead of seeing, tasting, and loving." - Richard Rohr

Small talks allows us to loosen the controlled grip on our lives and focus entirely on the person and presence in front of us.

Small talk catapults our well-being

Countless studies have proclaimed the benefits of social interaction.

But so often we act like we’re fine on our own. We think we don’t need more friends. Or we simply don’t want to engage with someone else.

Those who care, give, or help in an unsolicited manner feel more positive, alive, and have higher self-esteem (Weinstein & Ryan).

Connecting with others, even superficially, allows us to express our humanity that is deeply connected in the exchange of ideas and emotions.

And we knowingly neglect an aspect of our humanity and health when we choose to opt-out of our natural, communicative make-up.

“People mistakenly thinking that isolation is more pleasant than connecting with a stranger, when the benefits of social connection actually extend to distant strangers as well. Connecting with others increases happiness, but strangers in close proximity routinely ignore each other… Human beings are social animals. Those who misunderstand the consequences of social interactions may not, in at least some contexts, be social enough for their own well-being. - Epley & Schroeder

Small talk is an invitation to engage

We thrive on narrative. We love stories and events and people and places and how they all mesh together in a divine dance.

Before I learned the power of small talk, I always felt so disconnected from my environment. I felt like stories were whirling around me and only displaying glimpses of a connection I longed so deeply for.

The problem was that I never realized small talk was an invitation to engage in a story greater than my own.

Each day I was presented with an invitation to a story and always declined: wondering why I felt so lonely.

Some of the stories we’re invited to don’t end up being part of our own. And that’s ok. Sometimes the stories we’re invited to captivate and liven us. But we never know how powerful a story is unless we’re willing to take up an invitation.

“This progression from superficial to intimate is something that happens over the course of a relationship, not over the course of one conversation.”  - Daniel Wendler

I think the biggest thing I struggled with was thinking that small talk always had to immediately transition into what I wanted to get out of a relationship.

When, in reality, strong relationships need to be seasoned by time and experiences to have meaningful impact.

I thought that an instantly deep conversation would be meaningful and valuable, but it was only dry and disrespectful. I had to change my mindset and focus on how I can serve others.

Small talk makes us giving-focused

“They may forget what you said — but they will never forget how you made them feel.” Carl W. Buehner

The biggest hindrance to my interactions was constantly thinking about what I want to say. I wanted people to think I was wise and that I said powerful, quotable things. Words that would be shared on Twitter with high distinction next to world-class tweets (like @realDonaldTrump…).

Instead of spending all my energy on getting praise out of a relationship, I transitioned my energy to understanding how I make people feel.

And I’m still not great at it. It’s a growing process.

But I’ve learned to listen more, and be empathetic, and show that I truly care with my words and actions.

Small talk grants a safe space to practice selflessness. Or, it can be a space where I try to get what my insecurities scream about...

Shifting my view of relationships to “what can I give” instead of “what can I get” meant that small talk needed to become an integral part of my life so I could always be exposed to people I can give to.

Small talk allows us to reclaim our intentions

I’m a recovering addict of my ego.

Left unchecked, our intentions will almost always drift to a getting-focused mentality.

Small talks allows us to reclaim our relational intentions. Every day I have the opportunity to throw away the desires of my ego and choose to give value and time and respect to the people I meet.

"People will do anything for those who encourage their dreams, justify their failures, allay their fears, confirm their suspicions, & help them throw rocks at their enemies" - Blair Warren

At the end of the day, people want to enter into loving and safe relationships. And small talk gives up a place where we can reclaim our intentions in small ways that compound over time.

Next step

Small talk used to suck the life out of me until I realized I was only viewing relationships with the intensity of my ego.

Once you let go of yourself and choose to be a giving-focused person, you’ll realize that each time you communicate with someone, you’re being invited to a story that is about union and heartbreak and love and presence.

Small talk allows us to directly enter into the present moment and cast away our shame and worry as we serve the people in front of us.

Challenge yourself to continually view relationships as an invitation to something greater than yourself: a broader story with greater depth and meaning that we could ever create on our own.

You don’t always have to pursue the depths of a story, but you’ll miss out on vulnerable community if you don’t at least chase after the invitation for something more.