LIFE 101
Everything We Wish We Had Learned About Life In School -- But Didn't



The only reason I would take up jogging is so that I could hear heavy breathing again.

ERMA BOMBECK The words "I am " are potent words; be careful what you hitch them to. The thing you're claiming has a way of reaching back and claiming you.


Affirm means to make firm, solid, more real. Thoughts--not very solid--when repeated over and over, become more and more firm. They become feelings, behaviors, methods, experiences, and things. What we think about, we can become.

We affirm all the time. Sometimes we affirm negatively; sometimes we affirm positively. In the words of Henry Ford, "If you think you can do a thing, or think you can't do a thing; you're right."

I, of course, am going to suggest that you consciously affirm the positive. Many of us already have the unconscious habit of affirming the negative. To change that, I quote Johnny Mercer, "You've got to accentuate the positive, eliminate the negative, latch on to the affirmative."

Affirmations often begin with "I am ." "I am a happy, healthy, wealthy person." "I am joyful no matter what is happening around me." "I am loving and kind." If you're affirming for material things, it's a good idea to start even those with "I am ." "I am enjoying my new house." "I am creative and content in my new career."

Affirmations are best expressed in the present. "I want a new car," affirms wanting a new car. If what you want is wanting a new car, then that's a good affirmation. What you probably want, however, is the car. "I am safely and happily enjoying my beautiful new car." Affirm as though you already have what you want, even though you don't yet have it. (The operative word is "yet.")

No matter how "impossible" something may seem, put it into an affirmation and give it a try. Say it, out loud, at least one hundred times before you decide how "impossible" something might be. After one hundred repetitions, you may find yourself quite comfortable with the idea.

You can write affirmations on paper and put them in places you will see them often--on the bathroom mirror, refrigerator, next to your bed, on the car dashboard. You can also record them on endless-loop cassette tapes and play them in the background all day (and night).

A powerful technique is to say your affirmation while looking into your eyes in a mirror. All your limitations about the thing you're affirming are likely to surface, but persevere. Outlast the negative voices. Plant the seed of your affirmation deep.

Your purpose is already an affirmation. Say it to yourself often. Create affirmations for each of the experiences you want. They can be very simple: "I am content." "I am joyful and calm in the peace of my mind." "I am feeling love." "I am strong and powerful." Also, write several affirmations for each item on your top-ten list.

I'd love to see Christ come back to crush the spirit of hate and make men put down their guns. I'd also like just one more hit single.


Affirmations work if you use them. The more you use them, the more they work. They can be used anywhere, anytime, while doing almost anything.

It's a good idea to end all your affirmations with " this or something better, for the highest good of all concerned."

The " this or something better " lets ten million come in when you merely asked for a million, and " for the highest good of all concerned" assures that your affirmation is fulfilled in a way that's best for everyone.

Learn to automatically turn all your wishes and wants into affirmations. Then start catching your negative thoughts, switching them around, and making affirmations out of them. By only slightly revising the negative chatter (changing "can't" to "can," "won't" to "will," "hate" to "love," etc.), you can turn all those formerly limiting voices into a staff of in-house affirmation writers.

Affirmation of life is the spiritual act by which man ceases to live unreflectively and begins to devote himself to his life with reverence in order to raise it to its true value. To affirm life is to deepen, to make more inward, and to exalt the will to live.


Here are a few to get you started, but this is a very brief list.

Effectiveness vs. Efficiency

It's no good running a pig farm badly for thirty years while saying, "Really I was meant to be a ballet dancer." By that time, pigs will be your style.


The best comparison between effectiveness and efficiency I've heard is this: Efficiency is getting the job done right . Effectiveness is getting the right job done.

People who excel in life--the so-called "winners"--don't do twice as much or five times as much or a hundred times as much as "average" people. Winners, it has been shown, only do a few percentage points more than everybody else.

The winner of a two-hour marathon need only be a few seconds ahead of all the other runners to win. First, second, and third place winners can all come in within a minute of each other. The 20,000 other runners are simply numbers.

In business, the winners often make only five more phone calls per day than average or read five more journals per month or get five more good ideas per year.

But it's not volume or speed I'm necessarily talking about. In athletic competition, as in life, it's not how many events you win, but which ones that determine the champions.

Some explain this distinction with what's called the 80/20 theory: 80% of your effort produces 20% of your results, and 20% of your effort produces the other 80% of your results.

The theory claims that you spend 80% of your time wearing 20% of your clothes, and 20% of your time wearing 80% of your clothes; you spend 80% of your time with 20% of your friends, and 20% of your time with 80% of your friends; you spend 80% of your career resources producing 20% of your results, and 20% of your resources producing 80% of your results; and so on.

I take my children everywhere, but they always find their way back home.


These aren't precise figures, of course. They do, however, show that effort and r esults are not necessarily in direct proportion--not even close, in fact.

If the 80/20 theory is even partially true, imagine what would happen if you started taking time and resources from the less effective 80% activities and moved them to the highly effective 20% activities. One percent more effective action would produce 5% more results.

How can you tell the 20% more effective action from the other 80%? Watch. Look. Listen. "I keep six honest serving men / (They taught me all I knew); / Their names are What and Why and When / And How and Where and Who" (Rudyard Kipling). Keep track of what you do and the results it produces.

You'll notice patterns emerging. "I spend as much time doing A as doing B, but B produces twice as many results." When you notice that, take a little time from A and give it to B. See what happens. You will probably get less from A, but do you get proportionately more from B?

Here's my nursery rhyme for today (if it's good enough for Rudyard Kipling ): "Life's experiments are great fun. / This is but another one."

It's Not That People Plan to Fail,
They Just Fail to Plan

While one person hesitates because he feels inferior, the other is busy making mistakes and becoming superior.


Here is the truth about making a plan: The plan itself never works. If, however, you do make a plan, the chances of getting what you want significantly increase.

Let's say you made a plan to do something. You broke your goal into action steps, and estimated the amount of time each step would take. The plan called for step A to take one week, step B to take two weeks, step C to take one week, step D to take a month, and step E to take a day. This would lead you to F, which is what you want.

When you get to F, however, you may look back on your original plan with amusement: Almost nothing went "according to plan." Step A took only a day. Step B took a week. Step C, as it turned out, had five subsets, taking two weeks each. When you got to step D, you discovered that nobody did step D anymore. Step E took ten minutes.

Without the faulty plan, however, you might never have ventured forth to learn all you needed to know to get to F. F is where you wanted to go; F is where you got. You just didn't get there the way you had planned. So, even though it's probably not going to be accurate, make a plan anyway.

If you don't already have one, get a date book of some kind with room for daily planning. Then start laying out your step-by-step progression to accomplish each goal on your top-ten list. I strongly suggest you plan at least one activity to move toward each of your top ten each week.


Ready for a hard truth? If you're not actively involved in getting what you want, you don't really want it.

Zeus does not bring all men's plans to fulfillment.


People kid themselves for years--decades, sometimes--with a goal that, in fact, they don't really want. How do I know they didn't want it? Because they never really did anything to get it. If they really wanted it, they would have, over the years, consistently done something to get it.

People look back and say, "I coulda been " or "I coulda had ." Maybe, but they also "coulda" done more to obtain it. I don't want you to face a case of the coulda's. Please do something about each item on your top-ten list every week.

After a few months of doing something each week, you may discover you don't want one of your goals after all. Without the action, however, you might not have known it. If you decide you don't want it, a slot in your top-ten list has just opened up.

If you're scheduling things not related to your top-ten list, and finding you "don't have time" for things on your top-ten list, I suggest you either (a) rearrange your top-ten list, or (b) rearrange your schedule.

Break each of your top-ten goals into next doable steps. A doable step is something you can actually do. "Learn to use a computer," is too vague. "Call friends who have a computer and ask the best way to learn to use a computer," is a doable step. You can schedule that one--give it a date, time, and duration. (April 16, 4:00 p.m., two hours.) If you can't assign it a date, time, and duration, there's probably a more doable next step available.

Then start writing these steps in your date book. Schedule your time. Budget your time as you would budget your money. Use a pencil, as you're apt to make changes, but do commit to the steps you put in your book. Be flexible, of course. This is meant to be a spur to action, not a hog-tie.

For the next few weeks, plan hour by hour. The next month, day by day. The months after that, week by week. When you project a project to completion, pick another and start scheduling that.

Sitting with the days of your life before you--all the time you have to spend on everything --and allocating time can be confusing, exhilarating, painful, exciting, and fearful.

But please do it. One thing's for sure: you'll spend that time doing something. The only question is: do you want to control your time, or do you want your time to control you?

We can act as if there were a God; feel as if we were free; consider Nature as if she were full of special designs; lay plans as if we were to be immortal; and we find then that these words do make a genuine difference in our moral life.


Make no little plans; they have no magic to stir men's blood.


Get Off Your Buts!

You said, "but." I've put my finger on the whole trouble. You're a "but" man. Don't say, "but." That little word "but" is the difference between success and failure. Henry Ford said, "I'm going to invent the automobile," and Arthur T. Flanken said, "But. . ."


You know what life is for; you know what your limitations are; you know the true identity of your Master Teachers; you have tools, tools, and more tools; you know what you want; you've planned it out--all right--ready, set Do it!

When the time comes to do it, panic descends.

The unworthiness warriors march out in full regalia. Rebellion says, "But why should I do it his way? I'll do it my way in my own time." Unconsciousness stumbles forward and says, "But this is all too much to keep track of." The approval seeker compliments me on the book's cover, but claims to be already overcommitted.

In situations of action vs. status quo, however, one of the unworthiness tribe stands head and shoulders above the rest: the comfort junkie.

Consider this: people have precisely what they want in their lives--not what they think they want, but what they actually want.

Victory belongs to the most persevering.


What we have is based on moment-to-moment choices of what we do. In each of those moments, we choose. We either take a risk and move toward what we want, or we play it safe and choose comfort.

Most of the people, most of the time, choose comfort. In the end, people either have excuses or experiences; reasons or results; buts or brilliance; they either have what they wanted, or they have a detailed list of all the reasons why not (rationalize = rational lies).

Almost all excuses and reasons are motivated by fear--fear of fatigue, fear of not doing it perfectly, fear of looking foolish, fear of mistakes, fear of losing, fear of being let down, fear of facing unworthiness, fear of getting angry; in short, fear that we might be uncomfortable.

We tell ourselves, "I won't do this now; I'm too tired, but I'll do it tomorrow when I can make a fresh start." The next morning, "I'm not in the mood, but I'll do it this afternoon." Come afternoon, there's some other "important" activity. Our original "plan" is postponed till evening, when friends just happen to stop over, but everything is put off until the following morning--but again.

The reasons for the postponements, by the way, are not always unpleasant. Sometimes they are the most wonderful, positive "opportunities" imaginable: a party, a trip, a dinner, friends, relationships, "easy money," and so on.

I call them all--positive or negative--the same thing: distractions. If they're not definite steps on the way to your goals, they're distractions.

When a distraction arises, ask yourself: would you rather have the distraction, or would you rather have your goal? It's tough to see it that way, because the goal of, say, writing a book may mean an entire evening spent researching a dull but important detail. This research cannot compare to the fun of the party to which you've just been invited.

The right question to ask yourself is: which is more important, the party or the book? Not: which is more appealing at this moment, the party or the dull research? After a thousand choices--distraction vs. work--you will have either (a) an extensive collection of party favors, or (b) a book.

These choices are made daily, hourly, moment-by-moment.

If you want to achieve more, declare your reasons unreasonable, your excuses inexcusable--and get off your buts!

The Comfort Zone

In Endymion, I leaped headlong into the sea, and thereby have become better acquainted with the soundings, the quicksands, and the rocks, than if I had stayed upon the green shore, and piped a silly pipe, and took tea and comfortable advice.


We all live within the comfort zone. It's the arena of activities we have done often enough to feel comfortable doing again. For most, this includes walking, talking, driving, spending time with friends, making money in certain ways--all those once-difficult and fearful things that we now find easy and comfortable.

Imagine the comfort zone as a circle: Inside the circle are those things we are comfortable doing; outside is everything else. The wall of the circle is not, alas, a wall of protection. It is a wall of fear; a wall of limitation.

The illusion is that the wall keeps us from bad things and keeps bad things from us. In reality, the bad things get in just fine (perhaps you've noticed). In reality, too, the wall prevents us from getting what we want.

When we do something new, something different, we push against the parameters of our comfort zone. If we do the new thing often enough, we overcome the fear, guilt, unworthiness, hurt feelings, and anger, and our comfort zone expands. If we back off and honor the limitation, our comfort zone shrinks. It's a dynamic, living thing, always expanding or contracting.

When our comfort zone expands in one area, it expands in other areas as well. When we succeed at something, our confidence and self-esteem increase, and we take that confidence and self-esteem with us into other endeavors.

When we "give in" to our comfort zone, the zone contracts. Our belief that we "aren't strong enough," "can't do it" and are, basically, "not good enough" often prevents us from even thinking about approaching "the wall" again for some time.

For some, the comfort zone shrinks to the size of their apartment: they never leave home without anxiety; some people never leave home at all. They sit and watch the news on TV. The news certainly supports the notion that it's a hostile, dangerous place out there, and it's better to stay home.

For a few, the comfort zone shrinks to a space smaller than their own body. We've all probably seen or heard of institutionalized people who are afraid to move any part of their body in any direction. That is when the comfort zone "wins" its greatest victory.

That and suicide. The "it" some people refer to when they "just can't take it anymore" is the need to constantly be confronting the fear of leaving the comfort zone just to keep the fear at bay.

Life is either a daring adventure or nothing. Security does not exist in nature, nor do the children of men as a whole experience it. Avoiding danger is no safer in the long run than exposure.


Here is one of the great ironies of life: Those who are doing what they want to do and are consciously expanding their comfort zone at every opportunity experience no more fear than people who are passively trying to keep life "as comfortable as possible."

Fear is a part of life. Some people feel fear when they press against their comfort zone and make it larger. Other people feel fear when they even think they might do something that gets them even close to the (ever-shrinking, in their case) boundary of their comfort zone. Both feel the same fear.

In fact, people in shrinking comfort zones probably feel more fear. They not only feel fear; they also feel the fear of feeling fear; and the fear of the fear of feeling fear; and on and on. The person who develops the habit of moving through fear when it appears, feels it only once. It's the old "A coward dies a thousand deaths, a brave man dies but one."

Some people don't just honor their comfort zone, they worship it. When they feel fear, they think it is God saying to them, personally and directly, "Don't do this." Some have, in fact, found scriptural references to support their inaction. Not doing new things becomes a matter of morality . Those pagans who "don't listen to God" and have the audacity to try new things are not only damned, they should be locked up.

A coward dies a hundred deaths, a brave man only once But then, once is enough, isn't it?


For these dear souls, I have two quotes: "And the angel said unto them, `Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people'" (Luke 2:10). Those shepherds who were afraid to "try something new" (listening to an angel in a field) never made it to the manger. And then in 1 John 4:18: "There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear." This is my favorite method of expanding the comfort zone: Love it all.

In the air conditioning trade, "the comfort zone" is the range of temperatures on the thermostat (usually around 72 degrees) in which neither heating nor air conditioning is needed. It's also called "the dead zone."

That's the result of honoring the comfort zone too much, too often: a sense of deadness; a feeling of being trapped in a life not of our desiring, doing things not of our choosing, spending time with people we don't like.

The answer? DO IT! Let's Get Off Our Buts. At your local bookstore, or call 1-800-LIFE-101. Feel the fear, and do it anyway. Physically move to accomplish those things you choose. Eventually, learn to make friends with the Master Teacher fear.

Learn to love it all.


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