Archive | August 2012

The Best Solutions in Life

In anticipation of Labor Day Weekend, I’ve decided to release the post early since I’m sure everyone will be off having fun on Monday. So, to kick everything off, I hope you’ll take five minutes to watch the following speech from Kenneth Cole – “The Birth of a Shoe Company.” This lecture is different from the typical TED Talks in that it is only a few minutes long and is an anecdote about how Kenneth Cole created a successful company amidst a recession.

If I were to select the single most memorable moment in the entire lecture, it is the following statement:

“Invariably, we remind ourselves that the best solutions are not the most expensive but are the most creative.” – Kenneth Cole

Although it seem incredibly obvious, it still blew my mind as to how simple and true his statement was. Yet, when I looked at myself and the others around me, I couldn’t help but wonder why so many of us seem to purposely avoid the creative solutions.

Let’s take the following example:

In the pursuit of the idea of entrepreneurship, I thought that it might be a good idea for me to get an understanding of marketing. After all, how can I make a successful business without an understanding of marketing? So with that in mind, I immediately hit Amazon to find all the best books in marketing I could find. Before I knew it, I had about $100 in books that I was ready to order. Then, on top of that, some of the books mentioned some brilliant marketers who were selling courses online. Next thing I know, I’m waist deep in online course material from people who’ve “made it big” and created “viral online products” that “generated thousands of dollars in passive income.” 

If we take a step back, I’m sure it doesn’t take a scientist to notice that my immediate approach at the solution was to spend money. Perhaps it is because that in my mind I equate spending money on something with obtaining something of value. To some extent, it’s not completely invalid. For instance, by purchasing a credible and informative book on marketing, I will have obtained the value of marketing knowledge in the form of a book.

Here’s where the problem occurs:

A. Most people who buy the book feel satisfied in simply buying the book, and the next thing they know the book is collecting dust on the bookshelf.

B. The 10% of people who actually read what they buy will then decide they need more knowledge and go purchase more books or even enroll in a some seminar or class.

C. The cycle repeats itself and no one gets to where they originally intended: obtaining the skill of marketing.

While there are some people who go through Situation B and actually obtain something of worth, let’s be realistic with ourselves in knowing we are not that 0.01%.

So the question is how we avoid these types of common pitfalls.

#1. When approached with a problem or goal, your first solution should NEVER be to spend money.

#2. Once you’ve suppressed the impulse to spend money, do your research online. Let’s not forget everyone, the chances are extremely high that someone else has already encountered your problem and posted about it online. So why don’t we just take a minute or so to see what the vast internet has for us?

#3. If it seems that you need to purchase something, make sure you’re well aware of what you already have and see if you can re-purpose anything you have instead of spending more money.

#4. Roll your sleeves up and dive right into the problem. Don’t make excuses for why something can’t done. Just take action and by doing so you will progress forward.

At first it may be a little difficult to be creative with what you have and make clever use of your time and energy, but the great thing about starting this process is that it will get easier and easier over time. And before you know it, you’ll be coming up with things that seem common-sense to you; but brilliant in the eyes of those around you.

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Happiness: Elusive or Illusive?

Happiness. It is a simple concept that every person would say they are familiar with and could explain to another person. Yet, in actuality, how many of us truly understand what the meaning of happiness really is? After all, is being happy simply a chemical reaction of feeling elated? If so, would one readily agree that putting everyone in a drug induced state be the equivalent of making everyone happy?

In “Don’t Indulge. Be Happy.,” Elizabeth Dunn and Michael Norton approach the whole notion of happiness from the idea that happiness is connected with money. They even bring up an interesting notion regarding how $75,000 is considered to be a comfortable salary. In many regards, I’m sure most of you would agree with that sentiment. After all, it’s difficult for most people to envision a “happy life” where they did not have the means to support themselves or buy the things they wanted.

Yet in reality, money ends up being a short term goal that society has informed us to chase like dogs on a racetrack. We are told that we should focus on getting “high paying jobs” so we can “afford” things that we want. In addition, we are told that we “need” to make a certain salary to survive in this world. After all, isn’t that why we all went to school? For the opportunity of making more money?

Although it can be a fantastic distraction that can serve as a motivator for some, the sole pursuit of the acquisition of money always ends in an empty life. And unless you have any evidence to the contrary, my research and experience in life has taught me that there is no lasting happiness to be found in money.

So we know that drug-induced highs and money isn’t what happiness is, but where does that leave us? Family? Friends? Career? Power? Politics? Self-actualization? Love?

After a great deal of thought and soul searching, I’ve been thinking that maybe there is no such thing as happiness.

Think about it. Happiness is entirely relative is it not? Let’s take the following example:

You and your team have just finished a big project for your company that you are really proud of. The next day, your boss comes into your office and congratulates you on a job well done and hands you a $50,000 check for doing such a great job.

I’m pretty sure most people would describe their current feeling as “happy” no? After all, there are some people who’s annual salary is that much!

Now ten minutes later, your fellow teammate comes in to inform you that the boss stopped by his office as well and gave him a $60,000 bonus check.

Wait a minute… that so called “happiness” probably faltered for a moment there didn’t it? In fact, if you are like most people, you may even have felt the completely reverse emotion. I mean after all, what did your teammate do that made him earn $10,000 more than you? Aren’t you worth it?

Within that short time frame, the thing so many call “happiness” becomes “jealousy” and even “anger” or “hatred.”

Curious no?

In that case, perhaps  it’s just that society’s portrayal of happiness is an entirely empty notion. And with that in mind, the conclusion I’ve managed to draw from my own experiences is the following:

True happiness is the ability to appreciate the present moment regardless of the conditions around us.

I know that this may seem downright crazy, but this is one concept that many people fail to grasp their entire lives. They spend all this time and energy trying to pursue this notion of happiness that society has defined to only end up never really getting to truly enjoy their lives. Think about it: perspective is everything. What seems amazing in one respect can be completely awful from a different perspective. Being able to grasp this can make all the difference in your life.

Orson Welles once said, “If you want a happy ending, that depends, of course, on where you stop your story.” Remember that no matter what tragic event has befallen you, it is not the end of your story. There is no telling when your story will end, but you would be selling yourself short if you were to choose your story to live out as a tragedy.

The time you have now is the best opportunity of all. There is no guarantee of tomorrow, and there is no way to change the past. The present is the only time you have complete control over, so stop letting that time pass you by any longer. After all, the grass isn’t greener on the other side. It’s greener where you water it.

Today’s post is inspired by Don’t Indulge. Be Happy. – NYTimes.com.