BLOG#17 The Staircase

In all of the stories ever told about winners and losers, failures and successes, there is just one thing that separates the two: the failure gave up, the winner didn’t.

It’s that simple.

In an interview I saw yesterday with Al Pacino, he proclaimed:

“Determination can beat talent!”

…and it made me think about how we classify some things as being optional and others as guaranteed.

How long do you give a child to learn to walk? At what point do you decide to give up on them and accept they will have to crawl around the rest of their life?

Learning to walk, learning to have a conversation, learning to write… these things we conquer as children are immeasurably more difficult than the things we routinely quit as adults: Getting a 6 pack, becoming a millionaire, publishing a book, building a successful business…

Why doesn’t everyone with any goal succeed?

Why don’t we just get it done, then move onto the next? Like kids do.

I think it’s all down to the staircase…

My little boy Jake is 14 months old and learning to walk (we’ve not given up on him yet), but he’s been an avid stair climber for months. He loves the stairs and any time he gets himself to the bottom, I stand behind him and follow him up to catch him if he falls. His Sherpa.

I will never forget the historic moment he first made it to the top unaided.

The first few stairs, no problem. He paused only slightly about a quarter of the way up to glance over his shoulder at me. Already he was as far as he’d ever been before.

The next few stairs, mechanically reaching up one arm and then pulling up one leg at a time, he was on a mission and now he was past half way.

Then, for no apparent reason, he paused, uncertain, looking up at the path ahead and peering back down where he’d come from. I could see he didn’t have many stairs to go, but he was close to reaching for my help, which meant the end of the expedition.

I lowered my head to his level, “Keep going Jakey” I told him close to his ear, with as much proud dad enthusiasm as I had ever had.

But before I stood back up, I glanced upwards and downwards as he had and immediately I realised something: to him the staircase was never ending.

Looking up it was just more of the same as he’d already climbed, more hard work with no end in sight. He was so close to the stairs he couldn’t see the top!

And looking down, all he could see was how high he’d climbed and how far he had to fall. His confidence was disappearing and fear was taking over.

But from my view, standing back up, l could see was how far he’d come and how close he was to the top. I had to get him to keep going just a little longer.

“You’re nearly there, keep going Jakey!” I banged on the stairs “go go go!”

I mimicked him crawling up the stairs with a beaming smile at him.

He looked at me blankly, then suddenly smiled at me and, with a crazed look on his face, grabbed the next step, pushing himself upwards with his chubby little legs and just a few seconds later he was sat triumphantly at the top of our staircase, looking down at how far he’d come from a whole new world he could now get to.

I thought what an awesome lesson he’d just learned, stick at it and you get there. I hope that spirit never leaves him and I reinforced the satisfaction of getting to the top with an over the top celebration of cheering and whoop whoops! so that the emotions might help to embed the lesson into his nature.

Who knows if it will.

I’ve thought a lot about the staircase metaphor, the relentless grind of anything we set out to achieve, the lack of any visible progress along the way or any hint of the destination in sight.

And without anyone around you there will be little to no encouragement along the way (some arseholes will even revel in seeing any glimpse of you failing), no rewards or pats on the back for sticking at it, nothing but the same pain and discomfort you had yesterday without any promise of it ending soon, the fear of it all going wrong and a fading desire to even reach the destination any more.

Talking yourself out of achieving your own goal.

Ask anyone who’s done Weight Watchers and they will tell you that it was the group that helped them reach their goal; the regular encouragement they received, the success stories from people just like them and not wanting to let the team down.

But out there on our own, no wonder we give up. The staircase is unforgiving.

But it’s just a staircase. Ask anyone who’s climbed it; the guy with the 6 pack, the millionaire, the best selling author… they see a different view. They know that all you need to do is keep going.

It’s that simple.

Now, keeping going might not mean keep banging your head against a wall, it might mean stopping for a breath, taking a fresh look at what you’re doing.

If you don’t want to succeed then listen to the opinions and advice of people who’ve never accomplished what you’re going after.

If you want to succeed then only listen to the people and stories of those who’ve climbed the stairs already.

Regroup. Adapt. Improvise.

If we keep going we will get there.

It’s that simple.


p.s. If you want more from your life and work than average, my blogs are written just for you. Enter your email address and hit subscribe to get every one of them. Or if you know someone who might enjoy reading this article then click below to share.

BLOG#16 The Bangkok Flip Flop Technique

In the heavy, sticky afternoon heat of Khao San Road market in Bangkok, I was the innocent victim of an ingenious sales strategy a few years ago.

In the years since, I’ve identified a lot that I’ve learned about selling, marketing, decision making and pricing psychology (psychophysics) at work in the assault.

Like many of the most potent forms of influence, it’s likely that the seller knew very little about why it worked so well (at least it did on me), but I’m equally sure he doesn’t care… it just worked.

Here’s what happened and the major lesson, so it can put more in your pockets too…

How I got Flip Flopped

Khao San Road and Thailand in general (if you haven’t been) is crammed with cheap replicas of big brands. It’s also common to haggle over every sale.

Tori and I were about to head home after a long trip and wanted to take Christmas gifts home for our families. We decided on a pair of Haviana flip flops for my brother in law Andrew and I spotted a stall with a big display.

I chose the light grey soles with banana yellow straps that were labelled as being $9 and told the stall holder (confidently!) I would pay $6 for them.

My undoing had begun.

He grabbed a very similar pair of grey and yellow flip flops from the back of his stall and told me that these ones were $6 if that’s what I wanted to pay.

I stood my ground and said I wanted the $9 pair but I’d only pay $6.

$$’s chi-ching’ed across the salesman’s eyes for an instant, his lips trembled as he fought back an evil laugh – he’d seen it all before.

He took one of the cheaper and one of the “high end” flip flops, placed both in front of me next to each other and explained the difference between them:

The $9 pair were made in China, they had a good quality (a better fake) brand logo embossed in them and they also had an authentic-looking branded tread in the sole.

The $6 ones were made in Thailand and, when you looked closely, they were a little bit more fake; The badge wasn’t made very well and instead of a branded pattern in the sole they had just a criss-cross pattern.

(Yes – he pointed out all the flaws in his product!)

So I now had a clear choice: The $9 decent quality fakes or $6 poor fakes.

Being a cheapskate, but not wanting my brother in law to know I was a cheapskate, I picked the better quality fakes and paid $9. And I was happy because I knew what I had paid the extra for.

The Flip Flop Technique Lesson: Offering a Quality-Based Choice

The stall holder had done two very clever things by offering me a choice – He’d not only made it very difficult for me to argue for a discount, he’d also taken his competition out of the equation.

The question in my mind at the stall initially was “should I buy these things here or not”

By giving me a choice and clearly explaining the differences, my brain became busy weighing up the different outcomes and was now thinking “which ones should I buy”.

How to Become a Flip Flop Master

There’s a broad spectrum of people shopping for what you sell. At one end there are those that just want the best and will pay for it because it makes them happy to know they have the best. At the other end are those who just want the cheapest.

In every business I have ever worked with, these 2 extreme groups are the minorities.

In the middle are the majority of people who want to get something in particular from your product or service and will buy if they are convinced they will get it. If they aren’t convinced, they will default to buying on price.

What was most important to me was 1. I wanted Andrew to be happy with his gift (and I know he likes good quality stuff) and 2. Me to look good for getting him something good (i.e. not a cheapskate)

If all you offer is one option, you make your potential customers choose to either buy from you or look elsewhere.

Instead, if you offer a higher-value (more benefits) option and lower-value (less benefits) option, clearly explaining the difference in value between the two, the customer customer can’t walk away before they have decided what matters to them most and whether they are willing to pay extra for it.

You have switched their minds from “should I buy here or not”, to “which is best for me” and significantly increased the chances of them buying from you.

The way our minds work is to try to simplify our decisions as much as possible. A single option can leave a lot of unanswered questions and doubt in a customer mind, so they will defer the decision to later (when it’s more critical) and walk away to “think about it” rather than risk making a bad buying decision on the spot.

The other extreme is when someone is faced with too many options, where the brain can’t process all the possible outcomes on the spot and come up with a clear winner. So, again, a person will decide not to decide right there and then and will walk away.

BUT, if you can give someone a very simple and clear choice, explaining the different outcomes of their decision, they will be much more likely to choose one of your options than delay the decision or add the complication of shopping elsewhere.

We tend to opt for the simple clear choice, even when it may not be the overall best choice to make. That’s why people don’t tend to take a long time considering all the ins and outs of the policies of political candidates, they simply vote for who they like, which is usually the person they understand most clearly (regardless of the insanity of what they say).

Of course there are always exceptions to this, but if you can come up with 2 options for every customer, where you’re able to clearly explain the differences in the outcome of their decision, your sales will increase.

Give it a Try

I hope you’ve found this useful and would love to hear about you testing it in your business. My best success has been applying this technique to a boat polishing service business, changing a standard polishing package (the only option previously) to a “Silver Package” and adding a full-shebang “Gold Package” (with every add-on we could think of) which not only boosted sales of the standard option but also added some new Gold price sales.

In most cases it won’t cost you anything to offer your customers 2 different value options and you’ll get immediate results. You’ll find that far fewer people will ask for discounts and you’ll get people buying quicker from you because they aren’t shopping around as much.


p.s. If you want more from your life and work than average, my blogs are written just for you. Enter your email address and hit subscribe to get every one of them. Or if you know someone who might enjoy reading this article then click below to share.

BLOG#15 The Only Reason You Do Anything

About 9 years ago, for around 3 months every Friday afternoon I spent 1 hour in a little wooden cabin chatting to a guidance counsellor, who was helping me overcome a problem that was very close to ending my relationship.

He fixed me. The girlfriend is now the wife and we’ve had an amazing life together so far.

I’ll never forget the final session.

He told me when we met for the first time, after I’d explained the problem and we’d chatted for a while, that he believed I could pretty much (if not entirely) overcome the issue. But it was impossible to know how many sessions it would take. Only that we would both know when we were done.

He was blunt, but warm and I immediately liked him and I trusted his judgement.

At every session after that, he just asked the occasional question and let me do all the talking.

It’s strange to have someone really listen to you. I think just having someone sit and listen to you, without judging you or trying to think of a smart reply, is a big part of the therapy process.

The simple, selfless act of just listening to each other is something we should all do a lot more.

He never made notes (at least not during the session) and it baffled me how he always remembered the finest detail of what I’d talked about, even bringing things up from several weeks before that I’d never have remembered.

It was maybe session 9 or 10, only around 20 minutes in. I was chatting to him and when I finished my sentence, where he’d usually pause and think for a while before asking the next question, instead quite abruptly he said “I think we’re done, do you?”

It jolted me as I realised what he meant. He was right and I agreed.

In those moments, as how far I’d come sank in, a weight literally felt like it lifted from me, something I’ve never experienced before. I sat back in the chair I’d sat in for so many weeks, and felt like I’d never relaxed in it until then.

After explaining to me what I should expect over the coming weeks and months, he asked me if there anything I wanted to ask him for a change.

The first thing that jumped into my head was “is there a common problem people come to you with or is every problem unique?”

“Yes there is” he nodded thoughtfully. I was really just trying to ask an intelligent question and it caught me by surprise that I’d poked him in an area that he clearly felt quite strongly about.

He confided in me:

“There are some exceptions, but often, people come to me from all walks of life and on the face of it they have everything that’s supposed to make you happy. But they are very unhappy and feel helpless.

An example is a guy who has a really good job, right at the top of his company. He lives round here and has a lovely house and he’s married with a couple of kids. What anyone would describe as doing really well for himself. No reason to feel down.

But he comes to me, tells me about all the good things in his life and then says…

‘…but I’m miserable. I feel so unhappy, so depressed all the time and I just don’t know why or what to do about it.’

…and in my experience I believe that many people live that way; with a level of unhappiness or dissatisfaction with their lives. And I know it’s completely unnecessary.”

“You mean you could fix them?” I asked

“In most cases, yes.”

I’ve thought about that conversation a lot over the years.

There’s no doubt in my mind that a lot of people live with a degree of feeling unhappy, or dissatisfied, or unfulfilled with life.

I know some of them; some battling to fix it, some masking it superficially with binging and addiction, and some just accepting ‘that’s life’ and complaining. A lot.

But I’ve also met and know people who are content with their lives. Who seem to have more time than anyone else, are interested in what you have to say and always leave you thinking ‘I need to me more like that’.

Although I’ve noticed these types of people over the 9 years since that conversation, it’s only in the last few months I’ve started to understand what makes one type and what makes the other.

Think about this:

If you play the part of the annoying kid and keep asking yourself “why?” about anything you do, you will always end up with the same answer.

There is only one reason we do anything – because of how it makes us feel.

And usually there is a choice involved. Do this or do that, do it this way or that way.

We make our choices based on what feelings are most important to us right there and then.

But this is the fork in the road.

Making your choices based on what feelings are most important right there and then, is how the people who are dissatisfied with life make their choices.

The people who are content with life, make their choices based on a bigger picture – of what they believe is right and fair, what is most important to them, what they value most.

Making your choices because of what you feel is important right there and then, will probably make you feel good for a short time. But it’s unlikely to make you feel good in the long term, or in other words, short term decisions are unlikely to give you any long term satisfaction.

More often than not, these types of short-term choices are based on false beliefs, programmed into us from the day we were born, that external things and people are what make you feel satisfied with you life:

‘I need to have a career to make my parents happy’
‘I need to earn this much money, own this house, own this car, to feel successful’
‘I need to wear these clothes to impress these people’
‘I need to lose this weight, look this thin, to make someone love me’

Like a human ping pong ball, getting batted around by whatever belief is strongest in our minds at the time, we are emotionally drained and never feeling like we’re getting anywhere.

People who are dissatisfied with life may constantly be making choices to try to feel better, but the way they make choices is the cause of their dissatisfaction. Time to make choices differently.

When you make choices based on what you believe is right and fair and important, it gives you confidence and satisfaction. Those 2 feelings combined add up to feeling content with your life.

Like a moral compass, your values will only ever point you towards the choices that give you real satisfaction.

How can you decide what is right and fair and important? How do you discover what you value most?

I’m sure there are many ways, but for me personally what worked is imagining the best funeral I could ever have. Gathered around are all the people that are most important to you in your life.

The exercise (which is well worth doing with pen and paper if you’re feeling a bit lost) is to write down something that each of those people would say about you. Not what they would say right now, but what you wish they could say about you, if you lived your life in the best way you could for them.

What you end up with is a list of the things that are most important to you, the things you value more than anything else.

I really had my eyes opened by this. A lot of the things I was chasing, spending most of my time on, would have been ridiculous for anyone who I cared about to say at my funeral.

BUT (and this is a big old BUT) it doesn’t necessarily mean you need to change what you’re already doing.

For me, the major focus of my time was building my business – making more money. What this exercise changed were my reasons.

Whereas before, my reasons were to prove to myself that I could be a success on my own, prove others wrong, impress certain people etc. my reasons became to give my family security and to be able to be able to spend more time with them than I could ever do if I was working for someone else.

That’s just one of many things from the list I made, but getting real clarity on what mattered to me has changed how I make decisions about my work and my time.

The result since doing this exercise, ironically, is that my business has grown faster than ever before, I’ve spent more time with my family than ever before and I’ve only taken on new projects that lead me directly towards more security and free time.

You don’t realise how much power you have to feel good about life right now, with what you have.

Only when you take the time to understand what’s most important to you, then use those values as your compass, will you see that the real satisfaction with life comes from the small choices you make all day long.


p.s. If you want more from life than average, my blogs are written just for you. Enter your email address and hit subscribe to get every one of them. Or if you know someone who might enjoy reading this article then click below to share.

BLOG#14 You Are Creative

My wife Tori was once told she wasn’t creative.

My blood boiled slightly on hearing this.

Firstly because I could tell how much it hurt her and must have stomped on her confidence.

Second because being told that has almost certainly prevented her from trying things she would have loved.

But most of all because it’s not true: Everybody can be creative. No exceptions.

Creativity is the communication of something in your mind.

Experiencing creativity, as we all have, sparks the feelings and emotions that make life worth living. That’s why “creative people” are worshiped.

But I believe that every one of us has the ability to thrill and excite ourselves and others with our own creations. I’ve written this article to convince you why, just like everybody else, you have that ability…

The baseline of creativity is thinking. But everybody in the world thinks and everything created in the world began as a thought in a person’s mind.

So thinking alone isn’t creative, its automatic.

Creativity is the reproduction of a thought from your mind into the real world. It is creation.

There isn’t a single profession or vocation that doesn’t have creative people.

Typically we think of the arts as being the home of creativity, but they are no different to other professions. Computer programming, engineering, negotiation, science, marketing, gardening, plumbing, teaching, medicine, sports…

I challenge you to find any area of life where there is no creativity.

I believe that in everything we do, no matter how mundane, there is someone who is amazing the people around them with their approach to it.

And to me, if there is no limit to the things we can be creative at, everyone can find something to be creative in.

So why are some people more creative than others?

There is one common factor of creativity in every area of life – creativity only comes once you have learned the practical communication skills of your profession or art form.

Wherever you find a creative person, you will find a person who has first spent the time practicing (at least) the basics of their craft. I believe this is the reason many people never get to experience the joy of creating – because it takes time to learn the skill that will unleash your creativity and persistence is in short supply.

Ever started something and felt like you gave up a bit too easily? That’s your creativity itching to get out and express itself.

Creativity can manifest itself, in other words appear to the outside world, in many forms. But we’re all born with the 2 tools to create – our minds and our bodies.

Creation always starts with a thought, which we communicate with our bodies using a skill we learned.

We all have thoughts, we all have bodies, it’s only learning a skill that stands in the way of your own creativity.

To find your creativity, just follow a single idea when it comes with a feeling that compels you to do something. Then learn the skill to make it real.

Once you experience the thrill of creating and the joy in others who you share it with, you might find it becomes an addiction.


p.s. If you want more from life than average, my blogs are written just for you. Enter your email address and hit subscribe to get every one of them. Or if you know someone who might enjoy reading this article then click below to share

BLOG#13 The Next Best Thing to a Gun to the Head

Let’s be brutally honest:

You already know how to accomplish anything you want. Or if you don’t know exactly what to do, you certainly know how to find out.

If you want to lose weight, you know which foods are healthy and you know you have to work your arse off every day exercising. So eat nothing but healthy food and do a tonne of exercise every day. It’s that simple.

If you want to get rich, millionaires write books that tell you exactly how they did it. Some people have spent their lives studying rich people and written books that tell you step by step formulas that have worked consistently. Read them. Then do what it says.

If you want to learn a skill, find the people who are best at it, ask their advice, read their books, watch their videos, practice every day as many hours as you can until you have it.

If you want to find a partner, quit smoking, adopt a new habit… in the same amount of time it takes to watch Eastenders, you can find several proven experts who will tell you pretty much exactly how to go about it, or at the very least where to learn how to go about it.

Then when you know what to do or where to start, do it! Every day for as many hours as your body and mind can tolerate it, and don’t give up until you achieve it.

Accomplishing pretty much anything is that simple. You know it and I know it.

Now we’ve removed the “I don’t know what to do” excuse, we’re left with the only reason you haven’t already done it:

You don’t have the self-discipline.

It can be masked as all sorts of different excuses you tell yourself, but there are examples everywhere you look of people in much tougher situations than you who have accomplished what you want to do.

The only real excuse you have is that you’re unable to make yourself do what you need to do consistently.

We’ve all made promises to ourselves when we’re charged up with enthusiasm, and probably stuck to it for a few days or even longer. But as soon as you slip up once, it’s easier to slip again because you know inside that you’ve lost the battle.

Ok, I feel like we’re making progress (said one part of my brain to the other a couple of days ago).

We’ve admitted that knowing how to achieve our goal isn’t an issue. What’s stopping us getting there is our own self-discipline.

Now, an extreme solution that’s guaranteed to work:

If I put a gun to the head of the person you love most in life (your partner / your child) and promise to shoot them if you don’t do what you need to do every day to succeed in your goal, you will achieve it. No question.

That’s called Motivation – from the Latin meaning “the compulsion to get off your arse and do what needs to be done”

So the question is – how can we create this level of motivation without the gruesome scenario?

Well yesterday I signed up for something pretty close. It’s called and here’s how it works:

Step 1 – Choose a commitment. It can be anything you want to achieve, whether it’s giving something up, improving something, adding something new to your life… and it can be a one-off (with a deadline) or an ongoing commitment.

If you’re like me you probably have one thing in particular in mind, mine is “Get up at 6am every day”. It’s something I’ve been trying to do consistently for way too long now, but the snooze button nearly always beats me. Pathetic!

Step 2 – Set the stakes. This is where Stickk is more effective than anything else I’ve tried before. First you select a recipient of your money (yes your hard-earned cash) if you don’t stick to your commitment.

The options are super smart: you can choose a charity you like or a person you like (which isn’t that much of an incentive), or (a much bigger incentive) a charity you hate or a person you hate. Ah-ha! I chose a charity I hate from their selection.

Then you set the amount at stake. This is putting the “gun to your head” entirely in your hands, so if you really want to succeed then the gun needs to be as scary as possible.

I chose $100 per day, which means if I miss even a single morning its going to cost me $700 for the week which I seriously can’t afford to lose.

Then enter your credit card details. No joke.

Step 3 – Get a referee. This is where you nominate a person you know who will honestly report whether or not you stuck to your commitment. Just enter their email address and they will receive an email explaining what you’re doing and they click a button to agree. You can then agree with them how you’ll prove you’re sticking to your commitment and once a week they will get an email from StickK asking them to give you the thumbs up or down.

I’d recommend choosing someone brutal who won’t let you get away with any excuses. I chose my wife.

If she reports that I stuck to the commitment, all good. If she reports that I didn’t, my cash is debited from my card right there and then. It’s a real transaction, you’ve signed an electronic contract so no crying to your card provider. It’s fully legit.

And this is no dodgy back-street business. As I write this article, there are just short of $25,000,000 on the line in StickK contracts. This is obviously working for a huge number of people.

Step 4 – Share with your friends for their support and banter.

This isn’t just some twisted idea, its based on long-established research about how we make decisions. The phenomenon is called Loss Aversion and in basic terms it means we’re all wired to prevent losing something above gaining something of equal value. In real numbers that means you will work harder to prevent losing £100 you have, than earning an extra £100.

In other words, it means that keeping something tangible that you already have is more motivating than getting / achieving something which is just in your head or would be “nice to have”.

Although StickK will let you out of a commitment contract if you can prove you have a genuine reason (like you’re very sick or dying), its pretty much impossible to get out of the contract. And if you’ve chosen your referee well they shouldn’t let you off the hook either.

Just as if some maniacal mentor really did have a gun to the head of your loved one, you have no choice but to achieve what really is important to you and improve your life. Son of a bitch!

If you’re like me and have something you want to accomplish but struggle with self-discipline, this really could be the answer. I’m 2 days in and going strong (which is nothing to be proud of yet) but I’ll report back at the end of my 8 weeks, which incidentally I’ve chosen as a duration because it should be more than enough repetition to embed a new habit.

If you create your own commitment contract (which is completely free by the way) then please share it with me at

Good luck!


p.s. If you want more from life than average, my blogs are written just for you. Enter your email address and hit subscribe to get every one of them. Or if you know someone who might enjoy reading this article then click below to share.

BLOG#12 Taking Control of Your Mood

The wake of the boat are the waves it leaves behind, as it pushes the water out of its way.

You might be sat on a beach and suddenly 4 or 5 waves seem to come from nowhere, crashing onto the shore.

That’s because the waves that the boat leaves behind continue to travel long after the boat has passed, spreading wider and wider, disturbing water that can be miles away from where the boat traveled.

For a while now I’ve been thinking about the idea that people leave a wake behind them.

A wake that affects other people, far beyond them, in ways you can’t imagine.

Then one Sunday morning a couple of weekends ago, something happened to me that cemented my belief in this idea and its disturbing effects on us.

Before I tell you what happened…

My Theory: Without realising it, even the briefest encounter you have with another person has an effect on both of you, which in turn has an effect on the people you both go on to encounter afterwards and so forth.

The effect of a person’s wake is on our feelings, which take place in the part of the brain that is responsible for making most of our day to day decisions.

A person’s wake can be positive (having a positive effect on others) or negative (with the corresponding negative effect).

What dictates whether the wake of a person is positive or negative at any given time is the mood that the person is in.

(Your mood is the instantaneous measure of how you feel – in particular how much you feel like you’re getting what you want, or how well you feel things are going your way)

So you can think of any group of people, such as a household, a classroom, a community, a company, a country or even our society as a whole, as a set pin balls all bouncing round in a box together.

At any one time, some pin balls are negative and some positive to different degrees.

And as they glance off each other or collide heavily together (interacting), the pin balls (people) are continually altering each others’ positive or negative states (moods).

Now back to my story…

I first thought about this human wake effect when I noticed very few people looked at me, smiled or said hello when out for a run one particular morning.

I thought quite a bit about why so few people would be happy or friendly enough to say hello, especially when we’re all out for some morning exercise you would imagine that would create some sort of friendly ice-breaking bond.

Apparently not. Something stronger was at play.

So I began paying more attention to my own and other people’s reactions as I passed them on the street, whether it be out for a walk, run or bike ride. Here are the patterns I’ve observed:

1. Whenever someone smiles at me, I automatically smile back. Their positive wake causes a positive reaction in me.

2. My smile usually continues after I’ve passed them, in other words my positive reaction is genuine.

When someone smiles and adds a hello or good morning, I reflect back an equally friendly greeting and my smile will continue for even longer after we’d passed. I noticed on at least 2 occasions when someone made a friendly passing joke, it put me in a good mood for quite a while after.

3. Therefore, the more genuine and friendly the greeting, the longer I felt the positive after-effects.

4. Anyone passing me shortly after a friendly interaction would only have to hint at a glance in my direction to receive a friendly smile and hello from me. I now had my own positive wake.

On the other hand…

5. Whenever a passer by didn’t look up, or looked but didn’t greet, that had a negative effect on me. “Miserable bastard” or something similar would cross my mind (and no doubt cross my face too).

6. After a negative interaction, instead of getting my immediate friendly greeting, the next passer by would be scrutinised to see if they were as miserable as the last. In other words, my treatment of others after a negative interaction would be cautious, or reactive (rater than positive and pro-active).

I discussed this with Tori who’d noticed something similar, but said that when someone didn’t look at her she could instigate a friendly hello simply by smiling and saying hello to anyone regardless of whether they looked at her or not. And she said it always got a positive response.

So I tested it for myself and it worked – whenever I took the initiative and smiled a friendly “good morning”, every single time it would cause the other person (or people) to reflect the smile and friendly greeting back at me.

7. Therefore, a positive greeting trumps any latent neutral or negative mood in the passer by.

Then a couple of Sundays back something weird happened.

Out running for about 25 minutes, every single person I passed (maybe 6 or 7) beamed a smiling hello or good morning at me as I passed.

I was struck by how weird it was for every single person I saw to smile and greet me. (Weirdos!)

Then by the sad fact that people staring at the floor and not saying hello is what we accept as normal.

There’s no doubt in my mind that it was a random occurrence for every person I saw that morning to beam a friendly hello at me.

But what really interested me was the effect those friendly greetings (100% positive from everyone I saw) had on me and my mood.

By the time I got to the fourth passer by, the stupid grin must have been plastered across my face as we greeted each other. Maybe my own mood was so positive and obvious by then that it was affecting other people before I opened my mouth?

All I know for sure is that, as a result of all the group out that morning having a positive wake, I was infected with a good mood for the whole run and it continued into the rest of my day.

As the circle of my theory closed in my mind, it became clear that these very small interactions of just passing someone, are a magnified snapshot of the feelings, decisions and moods we experience in our daily lives.

On an average day, we see, greet and chat to tens or even hundreds of people. Some in very minor ways, such as seeing someone interviewed on the news. Others in much more depth, like telephone conversations or meetings at work.

And if my mood can be affected, even slightly, in a moment by an anonymous passer by, then there’s no doubt that my mood all day long is being influenced much more heavily by everyone I interact with.

So how can knowing about the wake effect help us make our days (and lives in general) better?

Well being in a good mood is self-perpetuating. In other words, when things are going well for you, the way you communicate with people is naturally more open, friendly and agreeable, all of which will increase the chances of more things going your way because you will have the patience and empathy to reach more mutually-beneficial outcomes.

But in a bad mood, your appearance (demeanour) and communication will be more defensive, selfish and disagreeable, which will have the same mirroring effect on how others deal with you, meaning you’re less likely to get what you want. Both of you.

So how can we beat negative wakes and bad moods?

Just being aware of a psychological effect isn’t always helpful. You could quite easily get moody at someone complaining to you, if you’re aware they are making the rest of your day worse in the process.

So in this case, attack is the best form of defence.

We already know that when a negative wake hits you, it’s going to start your negative thoughts and feelings churning.

But if you take the initiative with your own positive wake, it will trump the effect of the negative wake before it has chance to effect you.

And the more positive your wake, the greater the effect.

So, if you want your mood to be good and things to go your way, an effective method is to go out of your way to start every interaction (no matter how brief) by being genuine, friendly and selfless.

Genuine is the key word here. Humans in general are very good at spotting bullshit, you simply can’t fake a positive wake.

And in particular, for the toughest occasions when you aren’t feeling in the best of moods yourself, cure your grumpiness by (just for a few seconds) focusing 100% of your attention on making someone else’s day better.

With a little awareness and very small amount of effort, you can have a major influence over your mood and the likelihood of getting what you want in life.

One last thing to think about: Any group of people, whether it’s a household, a school classroom, a community, a company or even a country… is just a box will positive and negative pin balls bouncing around inside.

What defines the overall state of the box at any time can only be the sum total of adding up all the positive and negative pin balls together. The box itself is just a container, an idea or an imaginary line and has no power to influence your mood.

In other words, how content or satisfied you feel with your life in all these different areas (as part of your household, or your school, or community, or your company, or your country… ) all comes down to the attitudes and actions of the individuals that you share these areas of your life with.

Complainers don’t complain because of the box they bounce around in, as they would have you believe. They complain because they have a bad attitude and they will pollute the overall mood of any group they are part of until they become more positive (whether that’s by their own initiative or by force when all the negatives around them are replaced with positives).

And for the leader of any group, wanting to influence its success, positive words and promises will have very little effect. In fact, empty words are what fuel the complainers and turn positive pin balls into negatives.

To really have a lasting positive effect on others and elevate any group as a whole, consistent and genuine positive action is all that counts.


p.s. If you want more from life than average, my blogs are written just for you. Enter your email address and hit subscribe to get every one of them. Or if you know someone who might enjoy reading this article then click below to share. Thank you

BLOG#11 The Real You Beats Any Diet

I believe that dieting is a symptom of misery.

It isn’t a cure, which means as long you’re on a diet you are destined to remain miserable.

Why do we go on diets?

Because we look in the mirror and don’t like what we see.

But what you see when you look in the mirror is the result of everything you have done from the day your were born until right at that moment. Your genetics have either dampened or amplified the effect.

The person looking back at you in the mirror is what someone looks like who’s done exactly what you did with your life so far.

How much you slept, the work you did, the stress you suffered, the good times you enjoyed, the booze you drank, the food you ate, how far and fast you walked, the thinking you did, the arguments you had, the exercise you did, the time you spent sitting down, the holidays you went on, the overtime you worked, the afternoon snoozes you took, the tv you watched….

The mirror does not lie, it can only show you what a person looks like who does exactly what you do.

I think that everyone has a vision of how they would like to look in the mirror.

But how we choose to think about that person is where we have the power to control who is looking back at you.

A destructive way to think about it, ensuring you’ll never be fully satisfied with what you see, would be to think of the person in the mirror as “Ideal Me”. In other words “the person I wish I looked like”.

I’ve started to think about it differently.

I think of the person I wish were looking back at me is actually the “Real Me”. In other words “the person I really am”.

I think that we know, with every decision we make all day long, whether or not it is a decision that Real Me is making.

But the majority of the time, right up to the moment you look in the mirror, someone else in in charge.

The greedy, selfish, lazy part of you who is also a liar. I’ll call him “Disgusting Me”.

Disgusting Me makes all my greedy, selfish, lazy decisions by telling stupid immature lies in my head:

“there’s nothing healthy on the menu”
“I deserve a rest”
“I’ll do it tomorrow”
“I’m happy enough”…

Disgusting Me specialises in coming up with reasons not to do what Real Me would do. And the more intelligent you are, the more convincing the reasons are that your Disgusting Me comes up with.

But the result of letting Disgusting Me make lots of small decisions all the time, is that the person looking back in the mirror disgusts you.

Occasionally Real Me may get his way, but over a whole lifetime it’s barely a drop in the ocean of hundreds of thousands (maybe millions) of decisions that Disgusting Me has made for you.

If you’re like me then you sometimes get mad because you know exactly why the person looking back in the mirror looks like that. Not only do you feel fat, but you also feel stupid.

Now the good news…

Staring in the mirror feeling fat and stupid is a powerful motivator to make a change.

You have 2 options:

Option 1: The Miserable Temporary Solution
The temporary solution we’ve all opted for is a diet. It is a compromise – accepting you won’t be happy with some parts of your life (like what you eat) so you can be happy with others (like when you look in the mirror).

But you know that what you see in the mirror is just a reflection of the decisions you’ve made every day for years. So a diet can only work by being the complete opposite to the life you’ve lived (not just the food).

And you need to sustain this temporary lifestyle for a long time for it to have an effect on how you look.

In other words, a diet means prolonged misery (the opposite of what you’ve managed so far with your life) to enjoy the brief moment you glance in the mirror.

That to me is insanity and the perfect definition of “a waste of your life”.

So if you look in the mirror, before you decide to go on a diet you should acknowledge that your unhappiness is not caused by your reflection. Its caused by letting Disgusting Me make your decisions.

Then you have to ask yourself, is there another option than enduring the misery of a diet just to enjoy the brief moments I look in the mirror?


Option 2: The Enjoyable Permanent Solution
The permanent solution is deciding to live the life that Real Me (the person you wish were looking back in the mirror) lives, right now.

Psychologically, you become Real Me instantly when you choose the permanent solution.

The first thing to know is that Real Me lives the life that you really want and know would be possible if it weren’t for lazy, greedy, selfish you.

He doesn’t eat like a pig and never exercise, neither does he live life on a cardboard diet and spend every minute at the gym.

Real Me enjoys everything life has to offer. He eats delicious and nutritious food, drinks when he wants to drink, enjoys his work and has strong relationships with his family and friends. (The latter has been proven at Harvard in the longest happiness study ever conducted to have the greatest impact on a long and happy life – watch the TED talk here).

Real Me spends time doing things he loves that keep his body healthy. He doesn’t promise himself he will exercise 3 times a week, that would be like saying he’ll only eat breakfast 3 times a week. Loving things that keep him healthy is part of who he is.

Real Me grabs opportunities that come his way and makes his own luck, because he isn’t lazy, isn’t selfish, gives a shit more about others than himself and (this is the important bit) as a result of the decisions he makes all day long, he always feels good about his reflection.

Real Me knows that tomorrow’s 24 hours will never come again so he doesn’t waste any of it making lazy, selfish or greedy decisions.

As soon as your Real Me starts making your decisions, he / she will start staring back at you in the mirror.

And the longer Real Me keeps making your decisions, the more Real Me starts to replace Disgusting Me in the mirror.

Think of it like Disgusting Me is a glass full to the brim of Coke. Then Real Me starts making your decisions and each day a drop of water gets added to the glass until the glass becomes clear all traces of your bad decisions are gone from your reflection.

You almost certainly will have to expend some effort to find things you love doing with your time that are good for your body, things you love eating that are healthy and nutritious, spending your time with family and friends who bring out the very best in you and making your work exciting and energising (I suggested one way to do that in BLOG#1)…

To me that’s all life is – The things you choose to do with your time each day and it’s in those milliseconds of making each decision that you have complete control over your happiness.

The Short Version…
Planning to go on a diet to feel good about yourself is like taking an Aspirin to cure cancer.

When you’re truly happy with the decisions you make all day long, you don’t need a mirror to make you feel good and you’ll find that you’re never unhappy with the person looking back at you.

I’m the first to admit I’ve got pissed off with the mirror a lot over the years. But in the last few months the Real Me has controlled more and more of my decisions and it’s made so many parts of my life (and those around me) more enjoyable.

One last thought: Think about the times you’ve felt best about yourself in the past. For me personally they’ve never been after I’ve stuck to my diet for a day and they’ve never come from looking in the mirror or down at weighing scales. They are the times I feel like I’m making the most of life, when I’ve done the things I love best with the people I care about most. For me it’s surfing, drinking a few beers, eating good food with awesome people… It’s impossible to look in the mirror and not like what you see when the Real Me is in charge.


p.s. If you want more from life than average, my blogs are written just for you. Enter your email address and hit subscribe to get every one of them. Or if you know someone who might enjoy reading this article then click below to share. Thank you.

BLOG#10 The Two Best and Worst Reasons to Quit Your Job and Start a Business

I’ve always had a voice in my head whispering (sometimes shouting):

“Don’t settle for an average life”

So in 2009 I left a well paid career to start working for myself. To start building an extraordinary life.

I can’t begin to describe the immense ups and downs life has thrown at me since then. Its like starting work on a jigsaw puzzle where you don’t know what the final picture is supposed to look like and you don’t know how many pieces there are.

Around 2 years ago, my puzzle really started to come together. The massive (and I mean massive) number of mistakes and new problems I faced (and still come up against), forced me to learn more and work harder than I thought possible.

(Bearing in mind I’d just left a 72 hour / week job working for a year in the middle of the desert)

I now know that all the lessons were pieces of the puzzle, each one seemingly unconnected to another. But as I reached the tipping point, everything new I learned fit together with something I already knew. Problems were easier to solve and mistakes that had prevented progress started to become increasingly bigger steps in the right direction.

The picture was starting to take shape but I couldn’t believe how long it took for things to start getting easier. There were a handful of moments I sat staring out of my office window with tears in my eyes and felt like a failure to myself and my family. But those are in the past and now (even just this morning) I have quiet moments of real pride and satisfaction from my work.

Starting a business isn’t for everyone. It’s easy to start a business and be miserable, anyone can do it! But if you really want to take a step up from the average 9-5 life, looking back at my own reasons and having studied what makes businesses success for over 5 years now, I think there are 2 very good reasons to start a business and 2 very bad reasons.

Very Good Reason #1 – To Create Personal Freedom
If you want full control over everything you do in a working day. If you hate having to answer to others. If you want to do things your way. If you want to decide the hours you work and the work you do.

Starting a business for freedom means you’re going to need extreme drive and commitment to work harder than you’ve ever worked. To get started you may need to do work you don’t enjoy and you need to be willing to learn a huge amount to become very good at it. The quality and speed of your learning dictates how quickly you’ll progress, so you also need to accept it may take a while before you see the benefits of your business translate into a better life than full time employment could give you.

From my personal experience I can promise you that your hard work and persistence will pay off big time because one day you’ll realise the 9-5s that you envied when things were tough are now envious of the freedom you’ve created for yourself.

And when you reach that point, you never stop learning so life just keeps getting better.

Very Good Reason #2 – Passion to Improve People’s Lives
If you believe something should be done differently. If you believe you can do something better. If you believe something isn’t being done that needs to be done.

People who start passion businesses are the people who change the world. They are the people who believe in something so firmly that they make it come true and the only thing that can stop a passion business owner is losing belief and giving up before they succeed.

You will have to accept that practically everybody you know including close family, will tell you that it’s not going to work out. Persistently. The reason is partially because they care about you and don’t want to see you hurting from failure, but also because they’re subconsciously reassuring themselves that you aren’t capable of something they don’t have the balls for. Fact.

The stories you hear of businesses that were rejected by Dragons Den investors, who went on to become a huge success? Those are passion businesses, where the owner didn’t care what they were told, their belief and determination made their vision a reality.

Very Bad Reason #1 – For an Easy Life
You will have to work way harder for yourself than anyone (even the slave masters of the Egyptian pharaohs) could ever legally work you. Add to that the fact that nobody can tell you exactly what to do to succeed and you won’t earn enough to live until you figure it out, working for yourself is harder, more stressful and more demanding than just about anything you can decide to do.

The one benefit of starting a business for an easier life, is that the laziness that drove you to quit your 9-5 will be cured faster than you can say TGIF.

Running a business does 2 things for you. Firstly it highlights the worst parts of your character and forces you to fix them. Secondly it brings out the best in you, usually when your back’s hard against a wall, you get to see what you’re really capable of. That can ignite a real transformation in some people.

Very Bad Reason #2 – To Get Rich
Your income is directly proportional to how much value you’re providing (to your company or to the world). That means if your goal is just to get rich (i.e. a 100% selfish goal), your goal is to provide zero value to anyone else so you will struggle to survive.

The irony here is that the worlds most successful investors will tell you that starting a business is statistically the best way (in terms of ROI) to get rich. But (and this was a major part of reaching the tipping point for me) the more focused you are on providing value than earning money, the richer you will get. That’s why people who run passion businesses are some of the wealthiest of all, because their primary intention is to improve people’s lives.

So my advice if you want to get rich is either climb the corporate ladder or start a passion business (for the right reasons). Don’t make the mistake of starting a business just to make a lot of money or you may end up miserable, trapped in a prison of having to do something you hate to keep the cash flowing, which in turn makes your miserable because you don’t have the freedom to enjoy your cash. Depression is big business and the reason is that a lot of people have fallen for this trap (rich and poor).

My own jigsaw puzzle of life becomes clearer and more detailed with every new piece I add and I realise now that I’ll only see the finished picture on my final day. Which means there are no limits to how beautiful a picture I can make.


p.s. If you want more from life than average, my blogs are written just for you. Enter your email address and hit subscribe to get every one of them.

BLOG#9 If I Could Only Teach My Son One Thing…

If my time was up, right now, and I only had time to teach one thing to my son that I’ve learned in my 36 years, it would be this:

“Give to others what’s most important to them and you will have what’s most important to you”

This is the concept of VALUE and I’ve not found one area of life where it doesn’t dictate success or failure.

Value starts with shutting your mouth and forgetting about yourself, then opening your thoughts and your ears and focusing 100% on someone else.

If you want a stronger relationship, find out what’s most important to your partner and spend your time helping them to get more of it.

If you want to earn more money, find out what’s most important to your company or your customers and spend your time helping them to get more of it.

If you want to be happier (this is the big one), work out all the things that are most important to you and dedicate a part of every single day to them.

On the other hand…

If you aren’t happy with your relationship, it’s because you aren’t helping your partner to get enough of what matters to them most.

If you aren’t happy with your income, it’s because you aren’t helping your company or your customers get enough of what matters to them most.

And here’s the thing: you don’t just get back what you give, you get back much more.

It really is that simple.


p.s. If you want more from life than average, my blogs are written just for you. Enter your email address and hit subscribe to get every one of them.

BLOG#8 The Terror Triangle – Your Part in the Start and End of Terrorism

Walking out of the local park yesterday, a young teenage boy wandered towards us.

He caught my eye because the park was busy with families and groups of friends enjoying the Good Friday sunshine, but he appeared to be completely alone.

As we approached each other I noticed that a black leather jacket hung from his slumped shoulders, not what you’d expect a kid his age to be wearing.

His feet occasionally scuffed the floor as he wandered, his eyes never leaving the ground to meet mine or anyone else’s.

As we passed, he drifted across the footpath towards the playground, as busy as I’ve ever seen it with noisy groups of kids swarming over the swings and frames and obstacles, parents clustered around half watching and half chatting with each other.

Over my shoulder, I watching him as his pace slowed a little and his head lifted slightly to survey the playground for a free seat where he could blend into the bank holiday crowd.

I noticed a couple of mums close to the fence stop chatting to each other as he approached. No friendly welcoming smiles, more like 2 bouncers eyeing a lone drunk stumbling towards their door.

As he found the playground gate he slowed right down, running his fingers over the backs of the curved steel bars in a sort of self-conscious daydream, silently contemplating.

Then his hand dropped back into his pocket, his gaze fell back to the floor and he continued down the path, away from the busy playground alone.

Once he’d passed the end of the fence, when it was safe, the bouncers went back to their chat.

My heart sunk for that boy, alone in probably more ways than just his wander through the park that day.

To me, he was a typical example of someone who doesn’t fit what we call “normal”. You’ve seen the type growing up at school and even now at work.

But just as obvious as it was to see on the outside of that boy, I know there are just as many (maybe a lot more) who may appear normal on the outside but feel like a complete misfit on the inside.

Two things really hit me on the short walk home from the park:

Firstly the sympathy I felt for that boy.

Secondly, for the first time I really saw clearly the very first step that “normal” people take down the path to becoming fundamentalists.

The starting point is simply the feeling of not fitting in, being different and rejected by the group you want to be part of. This feeling is built in very small increments over many years.

Just noticing people’s body language and facial expressions when you’re around, catching the end of a name being called as people glance at you or hearing giggles from kids at school, knowing you’re the punch line of another joke.

As sure as these things alone are almost inconsequential, the cumulative effect on a person over many years of childhood will unavoidably paint a picture in that person’s mind that they do not fit in to their world.

Imagine the feeling of rejection from knowing that you don’t fit in.

Then imagine the relief when one day you find someone else who feel just like you. Then finding a whole group of people just like you, who you can laugh and joke with for the first time. Finally feeling like you aren’t invisible and someone’s got your back.

Like the Fire Triangle we learned at school, I think that religious fundamental terrorism can only work with 3 ingredients. I’m calling them The Terror Triangle:

The Oxygen: Firstly there is peace, or everyday life as we know it and take for granted. Then a bomb goes off and people get killed just going about their everyday lives, just like you and me, and we realise we have something to lose. Something to fear.

The Spark: Secondly there is evil, in the form of the very (very) few individuals who want to cause pain and will influence others to commit acts of evil for them. Derren Brown demonstrated that it’s disturbingly easy to persuade “normal” people to kill (you’ve got to watch this show if you haven’t seen it – promise I’ve not spoiled it!).

The Fuel: Thirdly, for fundamentalist terrorism to actually happen the first two parts of the triangle alone aren’t enough. It needs an army of willing participants, people who don’t feel part of ordinary life, who feel rejected and simply want to feel normal and accepted, as we all do. These are the people most vulnerable, the easiest targets, for the evil influencers.

We’ll always have something we don’t want to lose, our ordinary peaceful lives and the people we love. And there will always be a very small number of evil doers in the world. We have no power to remove those 2 parts of the triangle.

But what we can influence, every one of us, is the fuel – the army of ordinary people who feel outcast and rejected and desperately want to feel important, not invisible.

In the moments after leaving the park, I was struck by the fact that I’m one of the people responsible for creating the fuel.

I’ve sniggered at racist jokes and used racist names and quips to make others laugh. Never in a hurtful way, just to feel more accepted myself as one of the group.

I’ve made racist comments and thought racist thoughts when someone’s upset me and its been easier to pick on the colour of their skin than to accept that people are just people and sometimes we piss each other off. Never in a hateful way, but I know my feelings have shown as expressions on my face and in my body language.

I know that over my life, I’ve contributed in a very small way to the feeling of a very small few of being rejected, outcast and not part of the group.

As I mentioned already, small discrepancies are merely increments in isolation.

But in an age of unlimited communication and connection, these many isolated small increments made by people like me, have been compounded on a global scale.

The result, by the time it has become visible to the naked eye, is a movement (a widely-held belief about the western world) which has so much momentum that it can’t be stopped. At least not overnight.

Cutting off the fuel supply to this movement can only be done with a real tangible change in the way we (the western world) accept and communicate with the people around us. People who appear different, but crave acceptance and feel rejection just as we can.

And it could take generations to undo.

So with this understanding of where the fuel for this fire is coming from, the question is how can we remove it? How can we cut off the fuel so the fire dies out?

Will building walls and blowing them up with our own bombs, reduce the fuel?

Of course not.

What that will do, apart from super-charging the fuel supply, is set the rules of the game to be an eye for an eye.

This is the primitive behaviour and mindset that got us here and, as Einstein said:

“We can not solve our problems with the same level of thinking that created them”

The power to remove the fuel from the fire lies with those who created it. Everyday people like me changing our attitude and reactions towards people who appear different, but inside are identical.

Choose not to laugh at the mildly racist joke, think twice before voicing an assumption or calling a name based on how someone looks and be the first person in the room to make the new kid feel welcome.

The fuel that’s already been created is unlikely to deplete, but we can stop producing more right now.


p.s. If you found this useful or know anyone who might, please hit one of the icons below to share. You can also sign up to receive my blogs by email at the top of the page.