The Bucket List Accomplishment Week

I’ve heard it said that most people overestimate what they can do in a week and underestimate what they can do in a year.  I couldn’t agree more.

Zorbing? I just put “find out what Zorbing is” on my bucket list. Image from

I like a new week, that’s how I roll.  I like Sunday night because I’ve clicked the odometer again.  There’s a good mile behind and a good mile yet to come.

If you’re the kind who keeps a bucket list, do you ever marvel at how overwhelming it looks?  Mine is still three pages long and in some places the handwriting is so tiny that only I could ever decipher it.  There are arrows pointing to items that are related to each other, point-form lists in margins, you name it.  It’s the same paper it was written on when I was in grade twelve, before they were even called “bucket lists”.  Even when I cross things off, I still have yet to toss the paper out because there are things on every page I have yet to do.

One thing that has helped tremendously is to view a year as nothing more than a sequence of weeks.  This sounds pretty obvious, but here’s the thing:

I tried breaking it down into smaller chunks, with a daily approach, but that didn’t fit the way I do things.  Nor did it help to view goals on a monthly basis.

A week is a small enough period of time to manage in your head, and not so far away that it’ll never get here.  If it’s Monday and you’re gearing up for something to happen on Thursday, it’s a lot easier to work it backwards and know what you have to do now in order to reach that stage.  I’ve noticed, however, that by the time I start thinking in terms of the month ahead, I lose focus.  And when it comes to a year, forget it.  I do have things planned out on a dry-erase calendar eight months from now such as “…by now we should have contract firmed up with Carib island” and here’s why:

There’s a huge difference between focus and action in the sense that your focus lies down the road, in the future, but you can only take action in the present.

When a year has gone by and you’re thinking about all the things you wanted to do over the past year but didn’t, I’ll guarantee that although your long-term focus may need to be adjusted, it’s your short-term action strategy that’s the problem.  If you’re overestimating what you can do in a week, you’re going to be that much more prone to give up when what you want doesn’t immediately appear.  You’ll get frustrated and quit, or worse, if you can’t do it in a week you won’t even bother trying.  You’ll still want what you wanted before, but your actions were miscalculated, and now it seems as though what you want is never going to come.

Don’t let this happen to you.

It’s great to plan your life out a year in advance.  Hell, don’t stop there.  Do you have a five-year plan?  That seems to make people feel good, a five-year plan.  Never mind that things have happened to you in the last five years that you never could have seen coming, and could have dealt with a lot better if you’d been thinking of your week instead of your year.

Here’s the thing:  If you put a dollar in a jar every year, at the end of the year you’d have $365, obviously.  Do it every day and it’s a habit, you don’t have to think about it.  Coming up with seven dollars a week requires only a tiny bit more thought – the perfect amount, in my view, because the thought it requires makes you stop and assess where you are versus where you want to be.  It takes a few minutes, then you continue on.  But at the end of the year, if you’ve done nothing, now you’re scrambling to find $365 and thinking to hell with it.  And another year down the tubes.

One year is going to come and go whether you like it or not.  One year of surprise job offers, breakups, new dates, all kinds of things you had everything from a huge hand to no hand in planning.  But one thing I can tell you is that it’s going to come at you one week at a time.  Learn how to manage a week, and do that fifty-two times, and suddenly your year has made a lot more sense.

Download The Right Question and you’ll never have this problem again.


TRQ gets an interesting mention…

One thing I’ve noticed that people have in common who berate themselves for being unsuccessful is that they don’t take action.  It seems to me that they’re waiting until they want to do something about it before they take that action, but because they feel that everything is futile, they know that they’re never going to want to take action towards a better life because it means that they would have to have a certain degree of faith in a positive outcome before they even bothered trying.

It came to my attention that someone had posted a short mention of my book on a website called  I had never heard of this site before and I read through it.  If you haven’t been there, trust me it’s an eye-opener.

It’s a very simple website, not choked up with ads or anything.  It’s basically a blog site where anyone can vent their troubles to the world at large.  If you feel that nothing is working, you go to imatotalloser and share your story.

The post that TRQ was mentioned in was several months ago. If you read the post you’ll see why I’m flattered in a rather…unique way, you could say.  But I’m glad that the person who wrote it found some value in my book, and I want to address more about it.

Imatotalloser is crammed full of very similar stories.  The details vary but the underlying philosophy behind why the contributors feel that they’re losers is strikingly similar.

First, there’s contempt for themselves because they aren’t contributing anything.  A lot of the posts are just one person after another saying how they can’t seem to get their act together.  Some of them are getting good grades, some aren’t, some are married and wish they weren’t, others aren’t married but wish they were, but they are in the same boat in the sense that they just can’t bring themselves to be productive members of society.

Another thread running through them is a feeling of hopelessness, as though there is no point in wanting anything or working towards anything.

In my view, these two things are inextricably linked.

We all know that we respect people who take action.  They may be the wrong actions but we usually don’t know that until later.  People who do nothing don’t earn respect.  Obviously there is a part of our psyche that knows very well that taking action is something that mentally and emotionally healthy people do.

But who wants to take action when there is no faith that things will turn out the way we want?  And if there’s no faith that things will turn out the way we want, then why would we bother doing something in the first place?  This goes back to the entire reason why I wrote The Right Question in the first place – the fact is, it’s pointless to wait until we want to take action.  Because if our lives aren’t working, it’s going to be a very, very long wait.

Instead, ask The Right Question, spend a minute or two on the answer, and you’ll never post to a site like that again.

Make Your Own Basics

Cook it first, maybe? Or is that not a “basic”?

If you’ve ever tried to master anything, you’ve learned the importance of “the basics”.  And there are a few things about the basics that it’s important to remember, re-learn, or learn the first time if you never discovered them.

I’m going to share it a little anecdote here.  It concerns a monk who went to study martial arts.  There are many variations of this, but I’ll simplify it.

For many months, the monk’s teacher told him to stand at a large bowl of water and slap the surface to see if he could keep it level.  Invariably there would be waves in the water.  Some were created by the slaps he made, others by wind, and so on.  He found this boring but he kept at it.  Then when he was allowed to make his way home to see his family, he was attacked by thieves.  Instinctively he defended himself with expertly-delivered slaps, perfectly placed where they could do the most damage, and made good his escape.

Learning the basics of any pursuit is an experience colored by our perception of how difficult the activity is, what we want to learn it for, what we think we’ll gain by learning it and so on.  But invariably, everything you do is built upon a relatively few number of fundamental concepts.

Leonardo da Vinci, one of the most imaginative and prolific minds the world has ever known, once remarked that, “Simplicity is the highest form of sophistication”, and it’s as true today as it was then.  One of the reasons for this is that it’s sometimes difficult to push our own egos out of the way for long enough to forget about dazzling our audience with our technical skills, and just deliver what they need.

When it comes to your success, the same rules apply.  That’s one of the reasons why I wrote The Right Question.  Out of the countless thousands of self help and success books out there, all the great ideas they contain really only come down to a very basic concept when you’re discussing your results.  The rest of it is nice to know, but they aren’t basics.  They aren’t what you need to know.

One of the reasons is because “the basics” change depending on who’s teaching them and what their expectations are of the student.  To one group of students learning music, the basics will consist of memorizing the notes on the staff, and not much else.  To others, the basics will consist of being able to not only name those notes but sing them when they see them.  In this regard, there’s no such thing as a basic in the sense that absolutely everything can be reduced to something even simpler.  You have to draw the line somewhere.

The Right Question was written with this concept in mind.  Ultimately the result you want in life is success in whatever form it means to you.  And regardless of your thoughts on setting goals, the Law of Attraction, motivation or anything else, what you achieve is the result of what you do.

That’s why I suggest you spend time thinking about your own basics, and make sure that they’re comprehensive enough to keep your skillset sharp.  Don’t bore yourself.  And don’t choose things that are easy for you already.  You want to progress in life, in whatever sense of that word means the most to you.  Ask yourself what the basics are in terms of your family life, for example.  Is it better quality time, making the most of what you’ve got with the people you love?  Or perhaps you think that your communication could be better, letting those you love know how you feel.  And when it comes to your money, the basic things that make you a success at your job or business could always benefit from being emphasized.

We all make our own basics.  Make a list of what’s helped you become good at what you do, or what you haven’t mastered yet that will help in the future.  And make that basic skillset fundamental but comprehensive.  Like a broad, flat rock – basic, but broad and strong enough to support whatever you choose to pile on top of it.  Those are your skills, your ideas, your commitments, and your life.

What you want is irrelevant, and here’s why.

Let’s face it, we’ve all done the “what if” scenarios, as in, “what if you had unlimited time and money”.  Where would you go, what would you do, what would change, what would be the same?

As I cover in The Right Question, you don’t necessarily know that.  There are a lot of reasons for this, but the most important reason is that it simply isn’t real yet.  So there’s no reliable way to tell exactly what you’d do.  You probably think you know, and I’m sure you’ve thought about it, but you can’t know.  None of us really can.

I remember once when I got off the phone with a good friend who works in the film industry.  She occasionally rubs shoulders with some pretty big names, and always has a hilarious story to tell about how this big Hollywood star or that threw a hissy fit and stormed off the set.  It happens so reliably that it’s comical.  And the way she tells her stories are so engaging, so humorous, and so full of detail and life that it makes me want to run away and join the circus myself every time we talk.  On this one particular occasion I remember hanging up the phone and realizing that my very idea of who I was faced a challenge because of this.  I knew enough people in the film industry to get myself working; I taught acting, I’d worked with these people before in some capacity or another.  Involving myself in that world was a distinct possibility if I wanted to.

And there’s the issue – we can all do anything we want.  Any one of us can.  There’s nothing different or special about any one of us that makes one life easier or more achievable than another.  Whether we know it or not, the lives we’re living are our answer to the Question.  The ones who succeed are ones who’ve asked the Question, and that’s all there is to it.

Now here’s a guy who succeeded simply because he answered the Question. LIfelong dream? No. Wanted it furiously? No. Just asked the Question a few points along the way.

After that phone call, I knew that a few days would go by, and I’d find myself enjoying the life I already had.  Flying my airplane, lying on the beach, tending to my little house in the country, writing a song.  Connecting with people on the internet through sales of The Right Question.

Was that because I didn’t want to get into film?  I don’t know.  I remember it being fun, the times I did work with those people, but I also remember thinking that since I feel comfortable anywhere doing anything, it wasn’t really a pull to me one way or another.

It doesn’t matter what you want.  What you get in life will be the result of asking the Question.

I remember when all the things I do now frightened me.  I imagined myself getting my pilot’s license, but nothing could have prepared me for my first cross-country flight when I had passengers and the rain was coming down really hard.  The first time I stepped out on a stage to sing a song I’d written myself.  The first class I ever taught.  All these things have a quality about them that completely changes once they become real.  And the biggest thing about them that’s different is how we relate to those experiences based on who we actually are.

When we think about what we want in life, an excellent question to ask is this:  Am I thinking about what I really want, or just what I think I want?

I’ve said in The Right Question that in regards to what you’ll actually achieve in life, what you want is irrelevant.  It doesn’t matter what you want.  What you get in life will be the result of asking the Question.  Everything else is in the category of “nice to have” or “maybe someday”.  Wanting something is a fun mental exercise, and it can be an emotional exercise too if we get really good at projecting ourselves into that situation or that life and really feeling it, but the fact is that we’re only ever going to get what we discover and decide in advance by answering the Question.

Am I thinking about what I really want, or just what I think I want?

The point is this:  Instead of thinking about what’s possible, realize that the answer is “Anything”.  Instead of thinking about what you want, think about who you are.  Ask The Right Question, and you’ll never go wrong.

A Better Way To Think About Choices

There’s a sketch by Mary Engelbreit, justifiably famous, of a girl setting off down a path into a forest.  She’s just come to a fork in the road.  One sign says, “Your Life”, and the other one says, “No Longer an Option.”  It’s brilliant.  But seldom are choices ever this clear.

If only every choice was this clear!

By now you know I’ve read an endless string of self help books.  And all had at least one good thing to say.  Despite my mildly skeptical stance on self help, what I don’t say as often is that without it, a lot of people would be in a lot of trouble.

There’s a book I’ve held onto even though I’ve only read it once, called The Breakthrough Factor by Olympic track star Henry Marsh.  There is one concept I took from it that I’ve thought about in much higher proportion to the amount of time I spent reading it.  (Shameless plug:  That’s what you’ll get with one reading of The Right Question).  And it’s a good one.

Basically, the idea is this:  Don’t give up what you want most for what you want now.

See, the idea behind it is that very often our long-term goals aren’t compatible with our short-term goals.  We want to be slim, which is a future ambition, but the present ambition of enjoying a beer or a piece of cake is easier to satisfy in the short term.  Or when it’s time to work harder toward a long-term goal, it’s easier to take the day off and satisfy a short term goal of improving our golf swing.  Marsh’s take on this is that by choosing the path of least resistance, you’re missing an opportunity to get closer to your loftier ambition.  And he frames it in the perspective of giving up what you want most for what you want now.

As far as that goes, I’m with him.  Marsh spends some  time discussing how to reconcile the short term and the long term goals.  And it’s a valuable point to make.  You need to be able to have a good reason to forgo the short term pain for the long term gain.

A short term decision is a long term decision.  I don’t mean to paralyze you, in the sense that everything you do is going to be somehow responsible for your ultimate success or demise.  But if you’ve read The Right Question you know that it’s scalable; you can ask it anytime, anywhere, about anything.  So it occurred to me one day that really, I didn’t have to think about them as two different goals at all.

Here’s what I mean.  Let’s say you’re facing a choice between an opportunity to further your career by attending an evening workshop, or date night.  Normally you wouldn’t think twice about passing on the date, but this person is super sweet and you don’t want to cancel because you’ve done it before.  So in light of the circumstances, it actually is beginning to look like a choice between long term and short term.

Well, it’s only a choice between a long term goal and a short term one if you frame it that way.  Realistically, the “best” option is the one that gives you the most satisfactory answer to the Question.

What I’m saying is that your choices may seem as though they’re competing with each other when the contrast between instant gratification and future success is highlighted, but it’s the same choice it always was.

You figure it all out by asking the Question.

Does Your New Year’s Resolution Answer The Right Question?

Happy New Year, everyone!  Let’s take our joy seriously!

Soon 2014 will be a memory.  Most of it already is.  And for the month of January, the gyms will be crowded with people who are all pretty sure they’re going to get fit this year; thankfully most of them will be out of your way by February and it’ll be business as usual.

For the rest of us, who take our happiness seriously, it’s a time to approach life for a checkup.  So grab a glass of wine and spend the next few minutes with me as I humbly offer something that might clarify things for you.

By now you know I’ve been a self help student for decades.  Self help, as you know if you’ve read my blog much, is something I both enjoyed and resented through the years.  I enjoyed it because it gave me hope that things would get better during dark and impoverished times, but I also resented it because in retrospect I feel strongly that really, hope is the only thing it gave me.  I didn’t realize that all I had to do was ask myself The Right Question.

It wasn’t all bad, though.  Every single book offered me at least something I could use.  And in the middle of all the rah-rah coaches there are quite a few thoughtfully-written and useful books.  I’d like to share a couple of ideas I learned from what I consider to be the best and most comprehensive one about goalsetting, All About Goals & How to Achieve Them by Jack Ensign Addington.

I’ve included a couple of pictures of pages I found particularly relevant, one with my notes on it.  My whole self help library is like this, dog-eared and worn books with my notes and underlining.

Is setting New Years’ Resolutions a waste of time?

I don’t advocate spending a lot of time on goalsetting.  Don’t confuse setting goals with “sharpening the axe” or practicing. I mean sitting down and thinking about what the next phase of your life is going to be like.  I don’t advocate it simply because if you already know who you are, you’ll be automatically moving toward things that motivate and delight you anyway.  When it comes to making a New Years resolution, let me remind you that talk is cheap.  Anyone can tell you they’re going to accomplish this or that this coming year.  So here’s what I’d rather do:

At the end of the year, tell people what your resolutions were.  Don’t bother telling them what you’re going to do, tell them what you did that you had resolved to do.

I’m a huge fan of what the French call a fait accompli, basically a short way of saying what’s done is done, and it’s easier to ask forgiveness than permission.

I’m not saying that setting goals is irrelevant.  I do it myself.  In fact, the last phrase in the Question is designed partly to get you thinking about your goal, whether in a specific situation or in an overarching life design session.  What I am saying is that you end up achieving things you never even knew should have been a goal in the first place as long as you’re aligned properly with who you are and what you feel is best for you in life.  I’m saying, spend enough time on it and move on.

From Addington, to me, to you

I made my book available with one caveat – that readers never divulge what the Question is.  I think if they pay me good money for the book, they have the right to have that investment protected (and so should I).  But I freely share thoughts in the book that aren’t the Question itself, and here’s one of them:  “In order to live the life of your dreams, you must become the person who could have that life.”

Jack Ensign Addington's book "All About Goals" presents some good ideas
Jack Ensign Addington’s book “All About Goals” presents some good ideas

In part, that was inspired by the passage in Addington’s book, and the phrase that helped me form that idea is here.  He says, “…when we identify with our goal and mentally live in the atmosphere of the attained goal, we are well on the way of achieving that goal.”

What he’s saying is that if you live your life as though you’re the person in that reality, already having attained that goal, it’s much more likely to be realized.  When you slide behind the wheel of your dream car you’ll drive it like it’s yours, not like you’re borrowing it from a nasty ogre.  When you take the vacation you’ve been working so hard for, you’ll give it your all and therefore get the most from it.  The most relaxation, and also the most fun.  You’ll probably meet the most interesting people too.

I also discuss this phenomenon in The Lottery Winners (see Succeed at Anything), but basically, it comes down to this – lottery winners end up bankrupt and hospitalized for stress and depression more often than those who don’t win.  And that’s because the way the rich handle money versus the poor is very, very different.  Winning a lottery doesn’t make you rich, it only gives you a lot of money.  In the sense I mean it here, there’s a big difference.

The Secret Referent

The second phrase seems unrelated, but I think a lot of people need help with it.  It refers to what Addington calls the “secret referent”.

The secret referent is the person whose permission you feel you need before you really start living your life the way you want to.  We consider people brave when they act in the face of criticism from their referent.  Think of Romeo and Juliet, the unfortunate offspring of Shakespeare-era Hatfields and McCoys, from families sworn to destroy each other and therefore incurring wrath not only from their own families for fraternizing with the enemy but from their beloved’s families as well.

The idea of the "Secret Referent" from Addington's "All About Goals"
The idea of the “Secret Referent” from Addington’s “All About Goals”

The passage I underlined reads, “Many emotionally immature people never get past the secret referent stage.”  He asks, “Are we choosing (goals) for ourselves or to please someone else?”, and I made a note underneath that which reads, “OR steering away from a treasured goal because its completion will not please the referent?”

It should be obvious what is meant by this, but I’ll state it in a different way.  If you really want a goal, you need to be sure that this goal has been chosen for your own benefit and not for the benefit of others.  These are questions such as, Are you taking over the family business because you want to, or because you feel it’s expected of you, or conversely, Are you blazing your own trail because you secretly want to take over the family business but you feel that this way you earn more respect?  Either way it’s all about the referent, not the goalsetter (you).

It’s also just as unlikely that any of the traditional self help methods are going to get you closer to what you truly want if you allow the disapproval of your referent to steer you away from a treasured goal.

However, I must caution you against Damage to Desire or a misunderstanding of the Law of Attraction.  What I mean is that many times our dreams come true and we don’t even know it because we don’t understand that there’s always something changed in translation between our desires and our reality.

Make sure you understand this.  I explain it fully in The Right Question.

Goodbye 2014, and thanks for everything

As we say goodbye to 2014 and open our arms to welcome the New Year, it’s a good time to think about the course we chose to steer this year.  To use the lawnmowing analogy in TRQ, we all hit some rocks buried in the tall grass along the way.  Some of them dented and dulled our blades; we needed to stop for a while, sharpen them, take a break and steel ourselves before pushing on.

But mowing the lawn is what gets the lawn mowed.  Not wanting it, not trying to figure out “why”, not setting it as a goal, not sitting on a mat wishing for it to get mowed.  Only cutting the grass stimulates it to grow more lush, rich, green and healthy.  Anything else qualifies as glorified wishing.

In the same way, self help made me feel great about the fact that my lawn was overgrown and full of weeds, but it shouldn’t have.  There should have been somebody writing The Right Question long before I did.

But better late than never.

I’m a Self-Help Traitor (pt. II)

I feel like a self help traitor.  All the familiar faces, the names on the covers of the infinite number of success and self help books I’ve come to know over the years, I feel like they’re looking at me disapprovingly, reproachfully, shaking their heads and saying, “We taught you what you know, and now you’re turning your back on us.”

But I can’t shut up about it.  I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, the success genre of self help is virtually ineffective.  The points in it that get stressed the most are the biggest wastes of time.

You could argue that what made me successful was what I learned in these books and audio programs.  Isn’t using them what led me to the Question?

Emphatically I say no.  No, I can honestly tell you that what I learned from self help books could fit into one question.  And it took twenty years of banging my head against the wall to figure it out.

The Same Traps

I fell into all the same self help traps so many others do.  I remember when Tony Robbins discussed a similar time for him in Personal Power (which I have on cassette, purchased from a classified ad in a newspaper because I couldn’t afford to buy it new) when he was explaining to a friend that he had done everything right and still hadn’t succeeded.  His friend told him that maybe it wasn’t the system that was at fault, maybe Tony wasn’t using it right.  That scene was really important for me.  I still have that program but I don’t refer to it anymore.  It led me down too many paths that led nowhere.

I don’t mean to single Tony Robbins out.  I know that he believes what he says, he does have valuable insights to share, and there’s no doubt he has helped very many people.  He’s made a much bigger fortune than I have from self help (I made mine in a totally different area, and writing TRQ was something I did to share with the world, not to pad my pockets).  I’ve actually never met anybody who has ever become a known name in the self help genre and I probably never will.  But if I do, I know what I’m going to say.

Over the next few articles, I’m going to pick apart the major basic tenets of self help.  To reduce success and self help books down to their basics, they all revolve around a few key ideas:

  • Set goals
  • Find your passion
  • Visualize yourself successful
  • Think about how great it’ll be once you have it
  • Want it like crazy
  • Believe in yourself
  • Find out why you want it
  • Use the Law of Attraction
  • Find or make your motivation

All the above are mentioned to some degree or other in every single self help book I have, and they’re all a waste of your time.  They’re all nice to have, but unless you’re using the Question they’re meaningless.

There is one other idea in those books, that of stepping outside your comfort zone, that not only doesn’t get enough press but is absolutely necessary for success if not basic survival in some cases.  I agree with that idea completely, but by itself it isn’t much help.  If you constantly do push your comfort zone limits, I applaud you, and I hope you’re aware of when you’re doing it and are doing it on purpose.

I’ve already done an article on what I think of looking for “why” you want something, which you could say is Pt. I of this series, so today I’ll look at the common method of setting goals.

What’s wrong with setting goals?

First off, I’d be the first guy in the room to put his hand up when the overhyped brylcreemer at the front of the room asks, “Who here sets goals?”  I do, I do.  And they’re great.  But as anything more than a way to keep me focused?  No.

A goal is a dream with a date marked on the calendar indicating when it’s going to come true.  As such the idea behind a goal is that we are galvanized to take action to make it come true by a certain date, and put our efforts into its achievement.

Setting a goal should be worded in the positive, and in the present tense.  “I have my ____________ by June 1st” or whenever.  “I love enjoying my _________.  It’s mine.”

If you’re new to setting goals, there are tons of articles about it on the internet and in self help books, so I’m not going to go into it any further in regards to the recommended methods of going about it.  I’m good at visualizing things, (which helps immensely with my golf shots by the way) and I suggest you add visualization exercises to your goals whereby you see yourself fully in ownership of the thing, or doing the activity, or whatever it is that you associate to the goal, see yourself having it.

So far so good, right?  Sounds like a basic move everybody should learn.

After All That…

But here’s what I found:  It’s demotivating when you don’t achieve a goal.  In fact it can be downright demoralizing to set your sights on something that doesn’t come to pass.  And when it doesn’t happen, self-doubt sets in.  You end up wondering why you can’t make any of your goals come true.  Why can’t you make the money, lose the weight, buy the car, take the vacation, and win the game?  Didn’t you set it as a goal?  Didn’t you write them down?  Write them in the positive?  Didn’t you go around broadcasting to everybody who would listen that you would be a millionaire by this time?  Should you not have seen it coming, the date on the calendar looming and still no Maserati in the garage?  Didn’t you combine this goal with massive action, the Law of Attraction, knowing why you wanted it, and all that other stuff?

You did?  And you still didn’t reach your goal?

Well, you did remember that goals are elusive, right?  You did take into account the fact that you might have to change horses midstream, change your goal?  You did really expect it to happen, didn’t you?  Because if you didn’t expect it to happen so that you could avoid disappointment just in case it didn’t happen, well, you’re Setting Yourself Up To Fail, and that’s your fault, not self help’s.  Hm, maybe you didn’t “believe in yourself” enough, or weren’t “confident” enough.  You did remember to completely inventory your personality before you even bothered setting out after this cherished dream, so that you’d know if it was in alignment with who you are?  Sounds like a tall order, but what the hey, you weren’t doing anything important anyway, were you?

You did all that, and it STILL didn’t happen?

Uh-oh.  Now what?

You go over what went wrong, if you can stomach it, and if you can’t, you chalk it up to experience and set a “more achievable” goal for next time.  And because you’ve been smacked in the face once already in pursuit of this thing, you’re more cautious the next time out.  And life starts to enter its gentle, floating, barely noticeable feather-in-the-wind-over-many-years downward spiral.

It can be pretty demoralizing to set your sights on a brand new gleaming Thing and honestly believe it’s going to be yours in six months when the rest of your life is a mess and you have no money, and therefore six months comes and goes and you still don’t have that Thing.  Self-doubt taps you on the shoulder and asks what you were thinking.  Don’t you realize the rest of your life makes no sense?  Who are you to set such a lofty goal anyway?  You’re not cut out for that.  Great living is for guys like Jimmy de Garmo, who climbs mountains and rents zoos for private parties, but not you.

If I could find your self-doubt I’d knock its teeth out for you and then take you ziplining in Haiti or to the Sahara for a Bedouin tea, or urban exploring in old Russia, or just sit with you at Starbucks and help you find what makes you smile.  Besides, let me toss this at you, there’s no such thing as “self”-doubt.  Think about it…

Anyway, back to goals.

As obvious as it sounds, as commonsense an idea as it is, there is nothing in goal setting to help us understand how close or how far away that goal is from becoming reality.  Sure, we’re told to adjust our actions accordingly, but what does that mean exactly?  If we’re setting a goal that seems unachievable because it seems so far away, something we’ve never done before, how do we know that what we’re doing will even get us there?

Obviously if you want a $60,000 vehicle in the next six months, you’re going to have to come up with either $60k or something valuable to trade.  You could use the Law of Attraction, but it’s pretty hard to measure your results as the deadline comes near. You know you’ll need $10,000 a month extra if you want to break it down into a monthly goal, but if you’re Max or Caroline from 2 Broke Girls, working at the diner and making cupcakes on the side just isn’t quite going to do it.  Yet.

But to hell with patience.  The self help books said your dreams could only come true if you take massive action, right?  So get out there, champ!  Go out the front door and “take massive action”.

I can see you already, standing on the step with your coat on against the rain, asking, “Um, what action exactly do I take?  I know it should be massive, but James, um…” and now the expression on your face begins to clear as you get to the bottom of the problem, “WHAT THE HECK DOES THAT EVEN MEAN?”

Ah, the problem clarifies.

So far, we’ve been concentrating on the goal.  That’s fine, as far as it goes, but it too often means we’re ignoring ourselves in this equation.  And that is the most dangerous part of it.

What we need is a way to discover and decide in advance how successful we’re going to be.

In my view, self help leaves too much of success up to chance.  I’m a very lucky guy, and I love European casinos for that reason (and also for the extraordinarily diverse clientele), but I sure as hell don’t think it’s luck that got me where I am.  Before I enter into any situation I ask the Question, align the three parts of it, and I know before I ever even begin how far it’s going to take me as a result of my own efforts.  Barring natural disasters and being zapped into an alternate dimension, I’ll have the best idea possible of what the future will hold.

When I fly home and throw my keys on the table after a fun trip somewhere, I know damn well it wasn’t goal setting or the Law of Attraction or knowing “why” I wanted to go that got me there.  Driving home from the airport in my G-Wagen and falling asleep listening to the surf through the linen curtains aren’t experiences that happened because I “found my passion”.

I am where I am because I used the Right Question.  I suffered through heartache, defeat, depression, and poverty.  I did almost two years of therapy.  I took jobs that only a few years before I would have considered beneath me, jobs that tested my emotional stamina every bit as much as my physical endurance.  And I was handed a few great chances in life that I completely wasted because I didn’t see them for what they were.

Hindsight did help me begin to understand that one of the keys in life is knowing a good thing when you see it.

I’m flying high now, not a care in the world.  I feel a kinship with good, sincere, successful people that I didn’t even know was possible.  I accept money because it loves me.  Think of that as the difference between petting the cat for the cat’s sake, and the cat coming to you.  But not because of the hundreds of books I’ve read telling me to believe in myself, set my goals, find my passion, figure out why, and all the other stuff that keeps selling again and again and again because it is virtually ineffective.  It’s because of a few chance conversations and my own synthesis of what I learned.

All of which led me to figure out the most powerful sentence in the world.

Download The Right Question and you can know it too.