The Law of Procrastination – Make it Work for You

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If not now when

“You may delay, but time will not.”
― Benjamin Franklin

“Write your dreams down; make them vivid and specific; give them a concrete timeline for realization, and you’ve taken a giant step toward making them real.”
― Jeff Olson

Most of us have probably heard of the Pareto Principle, commonly referred to as the 80/20 rule.  In 1906,Vilfredo Pareto, an Italian economist, observed that 20% of the population in his country accounted for 80% of the wealth.  Subsequently, others started noticing similar patterns in other areas of study.  For example, in the 1940’s, Dr. Joseph Juran illustrated that 20% of the defects in a manufacturing environment caused 80% of the problems.  And today, many sales managers recognize that 20% of their sales force typically account for about 80% of their sales.

Recently I read a book by Jeff Olsen called the Slight Edge, wherein he suggests another application of the 80/20 principle that can apply to each of us personally.  In his book, Olson suggests that 80% of what we accomplish gets done in the last 20% of time allotted to a task.  I think most of us can relate to what could be referred to as the law of procrastination.  But how can we make this work in our favor?

In a previous post I wrote about the importance of writing down goals to make them real and to get your subconscious mind working for you  (“Make Your Goal Real“).  Another important practice when it comes to accomplishing your goals is to set a time frame.  In regards to the so called “law of procrastination” referred to above, this seems to make sense.  If 80% of what you accomplish gets done in the last 20% of the time allotted to the task, what would you expect to happen if there is no time frame established?  When does the 80% get done? If you don’t create a concrete deadline, it is human nature that the 80% of productivity gets delayed and delayed again, as it is spread over a longer and longer span of endless time.   Olsen refers to this as living in the realm of “someday — the day that never comes.”

So, to put the law of procrastination to work for you, establish a concrete deadline for each of your goals and tasks and avoid the trap of “someday” thinking.  Don’t let your goals slip away from you by failing to establish a time frame.  Live the life you imagine.  Live a life inspired!



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The Courage to Start

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Do you want to know who you are? Don’t ask. Act! Action will delineate and define you.
– Thomas Jefferson 

Last week I had the opportunity to meet with an inspiring group of amazing individuals in Kansas City, Kansas. It was my privilege to be able to share with them some of the things that have inspired me over the past several years. I also shared the awe-inspiring story of Diana Nyad with them (which I shared in my previous blog post earlier this week). At the conclusion of one of my presentations, we discussed the power that inspiration has in motivating individuals to take action. Often, what holds us back from realizing our own potential is taking the first step that simply puts things into motion. So, I asked some of them to share recent experiences they have had where they felt inspired to action by something or someone.

One of the women in the group volunteered to share some of the challenges and trials she had recently been through with her health. She had since recovered, but during the course of her health issues she had not been able to exercise for an entire year.  She felt so weak and was having a difficult time motivating herself to begin exercising again.  She came across an article about a woman named Joy Johnson who had completed the New York Marathon for the 25th consecutive time. She thought it was amazing that someone could run so many marathons, but what caught her attention even more was that this woman who just finished the marathon was 86 years old! She wondered if this woman had been a marathon runner all her life, but was astounded to discover that she was a grandmother when she had started her running career.  In fact, it all started after she and her husband had retired and she decided one day to take a 3-mile walk.  She was 59 years old and said she found it “energizing”. She did not even started running until about the age of 60. (To read the article about Joy Johnson click here).

After reading this article, she immediately cut out the picture of Joy Johnson and put it on her refrigerator to help inspire herself to action. She told herself, “If this woman could start running at the age of 60 and accomplish something like this, I can start right now with small steps just like she started.” And she did.  She was proud to report that she had started a running program, with the picture of 86-year old Joy Johnson staring at her every morning as her inspiration.

I love hearing stories such as this that illustrate the power that can come from being inspired by others. After all, you never know where it may lead when you turn inspiration into action. I’m sure when Joy Johnson took that first 3-mile walk, she never dreamed where it might lead — but it changed her life. And now her story is inspiring others to change their lives one step at a time.

So, the next time you feel inspired to do something, let it lead you to action. Let it give you the courage to start.  You never know where it may lead. Live a life inspired!


Never Give Up

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Never Give Up

“Never, never, never give up.”
– Winston Churchill

“It is impossible to live without failing at something, unless you live so cautiously that you might has well not have lived at all, in which case you have failed by default.”
– J. K. Rowling 

Last week, a close friend of mine shared a short documentary video on YouTube with me about Diana Nyad.  Diana is a world record long-distance swimmer who is famous for her swim from Cuba to Florida. The documentary shares an inspiring story of acting on inspiration, overcoming tremendous adversity, and ultimately achieving the extraordinary.  Diana’s first attempt to swim from Cuba to Florida was when she was 28 years old in 1978.  After being in the water for more than 42 hours, she was unable to complete her goal.  A couple years later, she retired from swimming and didn’t swim a single lap for more than 30 years.  However, at the age of 60, a thought entered her mind that reminded her she had not completed her goal from many years before.  This thought prompted her into action as she contemplated doing something great before she “got old”.

Acting upon her impression, Diana immediately started training for the historic swim, planning and gathering the required training and financial support required to make her next attempt.  After a valiant effort made by her and an entire team of experts, she failed!  In my mind, this would have been an inspiring story even if it ended right there.  The lesson being, you are never to old to keep your dreams alive.  Or don’t let the fear of striking out keep you from playing the game.  After all, she had set out to accomplish something no one had ever done, and look what she accomplished. At 60 years old it is an inspiring story that she tried again and actually made it further than she had when she was 28 years old. However, the story didn’t end there.

After failing in her first attempt at the age of 60, Diana failed again on another attempt, and then another, and yet another. Different obstacles prevented her from accomplishing her goal each time. However, she learned from each of her failures and kept trying. Finally, on her fifth and final attempt, after more than 52 hours in the water, she did it!

If you want an inspiring story of perseverance and overcoming insurmountable challenges, take the time to watch the documentary of Diana Nyad by clicking here. It is a story you will never forget. And if you know someone who needs encouragement to keep trying and a reminder to never give up, please share the remarkable story of Diana Nyad with them. Live a life inspired!



Make Your Goal Real – Write it Down!

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“A goal is a dream with a deadline.”
– Napoleon Hill
“If you want to reach a goal, you must ‘see the reaching’ in your own mind before you actually arrive at your goal.”
– Zig Ziglar

I recently came across a study on the effectiveness of goals that was conducted by Dr. Gail Matthews at Dominican University in California.  Dr. Matthews’ research showed that people who wrote down their goals, shared this information with a friend, and gave a regular accountability report to that friend were 33% more successful in accomplishing their goals than those who just formulated goals in their mind.  I found this research study interesting as it seemed to validate my own experiences with setting goals for myself.

When I was in my youth, my mom introduced me to numerous books on self improvement and personal development.  Many of these books suggested there was a power that comes from writing down one’s goals.  So, I decided to put this theory to the test.  I wrote down approximately twenty specific short-term and long-term goals I wanted to accomplish throughout my life.  These goals ranged from things like learning to surf to who I envisioned I would marry some day and when.  I can still vividly remember sitting in my room trying to write down the specifics of each goal I envisioned and assigning a time-frame to each one.  I kept this list of goals in a spiral bound notebook and occasionally I would come across it in my room and read through the list.  Although I cannot say I shared all of these goals with a friend or that I reviewed my progress regularly, I do remember reflecting often in my mind on what I had written down.  By writing these goals down they had become tangible and real.  And many years later when I happened to come across this notebook containing my list of goals, I was astounded by how many of these goals I had achieved and how accurate I had been with the specifics I had written down regarding my goals.

In his book “Eat That Frog“, author Brian Tracy suggests that when we write down our goals it immediately activates our subconscious mind, which goes to work trying to figure out how to make our plan a reality. Writing it down creates something tangible that allows our mind to help us start formulating a plan.  Even when we may not consciously be thinking of our goals and how we are going to reach them every moment of the day, our subconscious mind is constantly at work noticing things around us that support our goals.  This is why once we make our goals real by writing them down, it often seems that things around us start to happen to make our dreams become a reality.

So give it a try — take the time to write down your goals and put your subconscious to work for you.  Let your mind go to work and create the plans that will make your goals become a reality.  Live a life inspired!


Find Your Greatness in 2014!

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Find Your Greatness

“Your greatness is revealed not by the lights that shine upon you, but by the light that shines within you.” 
― Ray Davis

This year my son entered high school.  Following the Christmas break he started training with the Davis High track team under Coach Talley.  My son has always been a good athlete and he has had some excellent coaches for baseball and other sports that he has participated in.  As a parent I am always grateful for coaches who not only teach him about how to be a better athlete, but also teach him how to be a better person.  So, when my son forwarded me the email he received from his new track coach last week I was thrilled to read an inspiring message that can be applied to life as much as it can be applied to track.  I thought I would share part of the email from Coach Talley below.  As you read this, think about how this message might apply to you as you look forward to a new year.

It is a great day for a fresh start and an opportunity to really commit to being your best this entire year. You can already ask yourself “What did I do today to make me better? To make me stronger? What goals am I chasing this year and how am I going to get there?” 

I hope you approach this year with determination to be your best in school, to be a good family member and a good person, and to be your best as a track athlete. Approach each day and each workout with purpose and with a positive attitude. Use each day as an opportunity to learn and progress. Life is full of challenges and ups and downs, but with some hard work, positive thinking, and will power, there is greatness to be found in each of us. Find your greatness in 2014! 

What a great message to start out a new year.  So, how are you going to define your greatness in 2014?  What are you going to do to make youreself better and stronger this year?  What goals have you set for yourself?  Goals in your relationships, your career, your family, your health, and your personal development?

I love Coach Talley’s advice to approach each day with purpose and a positive attitude. and to take advantage of the opportunities in each day to learn and progress.  Make 2014 great!

Live a life of greatness.  Live a life inspired!



Count Your Many Blessings

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Count Your Many Blessings

Prior to Christmas this year I took my wife to see the play White Christmas.  I had seen the movie with her before, but we had never seen the play on stage.  During the play one of the songs stood out to me.  It is a song written by Irving Berlin called “Count Your Blessings (Instead of Sheep)“.  Here are the lyrics from the first part of the song:

When I’m worried and I can’t sleep
I count my blessings, instead of sheep
And I fall asleep
Counting my blessings

I love this simple, yet profound message and have thought of it often since seeing the play.  In fact, it reminded me of another song that we often sing in our church meetings that conveys this same message of peace that can come from counting our blessings.  Below are the words from the hymn “Count Your Many Blessings“:

When upon life’s billows you are tempest-tossed,
When you are discouraged, thinking all is lost,
Count your many blessings, name them one by one,
And it will surprise you what the Lord hath done.

Count your blessings, name them one by one,
Count your blessings, see what God hath done!
Count your blessings, name them one by one,
*Count your many blessings, see what God hath done.
[*And it will surprise you what the Lord hath done.]

Are you ever burdened with a load of care?
Does the cross seem heavy you are called to bear?
Count your many blessings, every doubt will fly,
And you will keep singing as the days go by.

When you look at others with their lands and gold,
Think that Christ has promised you His wealth untold;
Count your many blessings— money cannot buy
Your reward in heaven, nor your home on high.

So, amid the conflict whether great or small,
Do not be discouraged, God is over all;
Count your many blessings, angels will attend,
Help and comfort give you to your journey’s end.

What a wonderful message and reminder of the power that is in each of us as we count our blessings and choose to live in a world of abundance rather than scarcity.  Live a life inspired!


The Joy of Inspired Giving

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nobody has every become poor by giving

I have shewed you all things, how that so labouring ye ought to support the weak, and to remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he said, It is more blessed to give than to receive.

– Acts 20:35, King James Version (KJV)

No-one has ever become poor by giving.

– Anne Frank

I grew up in a home where my parents tried to provide opportunities where we could experience the spirit of giving.  I will be forever grateful for them instilling in me the philosophy that it is better to give than to receive.  Perhaps the most influential experience I can remember in this regard happened on Christmas Eve many years ago.

My mom’s close friend told her of a family who had experienced some very difficult setbacks.  The father of the family had recently lost his job and they were not going to have any money for Christmas.  My mom found out the ages and clothing sizes of each child and then my parents gathered our family together to explain the situation.  They asked us if we would be willing to give up some of what we might get for Christmas in order to help this other family be able to have a Christmas.  We all agreed with some coaxing from my parents and then we were each assigned a child to go Christmas shopping for.

I will always remember shopping together with my brother and sisters for a special “family night” that winter.  We split up in the store to find specific clothes and other presents we thought would be perfect for the child we were assigned.  Who would have thought it could be so much fun buying presents for someone you didn’t know.  Well, Christmas Eve came and we had wrapped all the presents and piled them in the back of our Ford Bronco to make the delivery that night.  It was cold and dark outside as we drove slowly through the neighborhood searching for the address.  As we approached their home my dad turned off the lights as we passed the house and pulled over to the side of the road.  With the car still running, I helped my family unload the presents and take them up to the front porch of the house.  Then I watched my dad slip an envelope into one of the packages and he said, “Jeff, as soon as I’m in the car, I want you to ring the doorbell and run.”

This was ten times more exciting than any doorbell ditching I had ever done.  I waited for the signal from my dad and then rang the doorbell.  As I was running down the street toward our car I heard the door open and a man yell out, “Come back, wait … come back.”  I jumped in the car with my heart pounding and we drove off together as a family, thinking … this is the best Christmas ever!

Well, this would have been a great memorable experience, even if the story ended there.  But, there was more.  A couple weeks later, my mom’s friend called her and said, “Karla, I have to tell you about the family you provided Christmas for.”  She said that the Sunday after Christmas she was at church.  The father of this family stood up and addressed the congregation.  He said he wanted to share his personal witness that God is mindful of us and blesses us as we put our trust in Him.  He recounted some of their recent struggles as a family and said he and his wife had prayed about what they were going to do for Christmas.  They had always faithfully paid 10% of their income each year in tithing to their church.  They had just enough left in their savings to pay their tithing, but that would leave nothing for Christmas and they didn’t think their children would understand.

After praying about it together, he and his wife felt strongly they needed to keep their commitment to the Lord.  They decided to pay their tithing and then try to explain to their young children that Santa wasn’t going to come to their home this year.  He said it was heart wrenching as a father, as they literally could afford nothing for their children for Christmas.  So, when their doorbell rang on Christmas Eve and he opened the door to a porch full of presents, it was a true Christmas miracle.  Santa did come that year and their faith was strengthened as they and their faith was strengthened as they recognized this as a blessing from God.

My mom later shared the rest of the story with our family and I have never forgotten it.  In fact, to this day when my brother, sisters and I are asked what our most memorable Christmas was, we never think of the gifts we received as children.  We always think back to this experience and the story of the Christmas miracle, where we played a small part in being God’s hands in helping a family in need.  The Christmas when we truly learned it is “more blessed to give than to receive”.

May we all experience the joy in giving this Christmas season.  Live a life inspired — GIVE a life inspired!


Live to Give, Give to Live

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We make a life by what we give

“We make a living by what we get, we make a life by what we give.”

– Winston Churchill

“When we reach out and help someone else, we become the beneficiary of our own positive actions as our heart is touched and our soul is rewarded.”

This past week I read an excerpt from a book titled The Secret to Living is Giving by Mac Anderson.  Mac Anderson is the founder of Simple Truths and Successories, Inc.  In this book he suggests that developing a giving heart is a guaranteed road to happiness.  He says that you do not need lots of extra money to do this, but really all you need is a big heart and a little time.  I’m sure we have all experienced the “helper’s high” when we do something for someone who cannot ever repay us.  The truth is, when we reach out and help someone else, we become the beneficiary of our own positive actions as our heart is touched and our soul is rewarded.

Below is a paragraph from Mac Anderson’s book that I thought was worth sharing regarding this topic.

The paradox about giving is how giving gives back. It is like sending a boomerang out into the open air—it comes right back to you.  In fact Alan Luks surveyed more than 3,000 volunteers of all ages throughout the country and documented the physical and emotional benefits of giving, including a full 50% who reported feeling a “helper’s high” after helping others. Since then, studies have shown that those who give to others experience increased health and happiness, and even reduced mortality rate. (The Secret to Living is Giving)

I always love the Holiday Season when we are reminded of the importance of giving.  In the coming weeks may we all recognize what is meant when Jesus said, “It is more blessed to give than to receive” and experience the helper’s high this Christmas Season.

Live a life of giving.  Live a life inspired!


What You Do Matters

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Live like it matters

“Every single thing you do matters. You have been created as one of a kind. You have been created in order to make a difference. You have within you the power to change the world.”  

-Andy Andrews

Thursday morning came early for me this week.  I typically play basketball on Wednesday nights with a group of guys in our neighborhood, and we had played until nearly midnight the night before.  By the time I got to bed it was after 1am, so when I heard my son getting ready to go to school early Thursday morning, I thought perhaps I would just stay in bed and try to get some extra sleep.  My wife was at the gym and I figured my son could get himself off to school, although that’s not generally the custom in our home.  We like to be there with our kids to send them out the door when they leave for school, so I decided to sacrifice a little extra sleep to get up and have breakfast with my son.

As I was waiting for him to get ready, I read a blog post called “Hear the Hard Things“, which talked about being willing to seek out opportunities to learn from a coach and always striving to improve yourself.  It was a great message and I thought of sharing it with my son that morning.  As a teenager, he isn’t always super interested in hearing advice from his dad, but fortunately there was a reference to LeBron James in the article, so that was the ticket to our conversation. We ended up reading this message of self-improvement together and talking about how it applied to both of us.  He appreciated the example of someone like LeBron James, who is one of the best basketball players in the world, constantly striving to become better and seeking out feedback and training from coaches and others.  My son immediately related these principles to his activities in track, baseball, and his school work. And more importantly, it provided a great bonding experience for my son and I as we learned a principle of greatness together.  I later wrote a quick thank you to the author of this article letting him know it had provided a learning opportunity and bonding experience for me with my son that blessed our lives.

So, this morning I woke up and read “the rest of the story” behind the article I shared with my son.  I wanted to share this story with you to illustrate how we never know the full impact our sacrifices and actions might have on the life of someone else, even when we think that perhaps what we do doesn’t really make a difference.

Excerpt from Steven Lee Elder – On Greatness: The Daily Choice (Friday, December 12, 2013):

Earlier this week I flew into Houston, Texas to visit the amazing Alytis customer loyalty team and wish them a Merry Christmas.  My flight from Salt Lake City landed at Bush Intercontinental Airport around 11:00 pm on December 11th, the day before my visit.  After picking up my checked bag, rental car, driving to the hotel and checking in I was in my room by around midnight.  By the time I settled in it was about 12:30 am and I was tired, ready for bed.  

The problem was I hadn’t written my December 12th blog post yet.  The thought crossed my mind that I would just miss a day and not write.  ”No one will really notice or care,” I rationalized to myself.  Then I thought about the notes and comments many of you have shared that my posts are sometimes the first thing you read to start your day.  I also thought about the 40+ members of the Alytis family who get my posts.  It is my daily opportunity to connect with them no matter where we are in the world. I then thought about my own children who often read my posts via social media and refer to them in conversation.  Thinking of these important people in my life began to stir a motivation to write, but I still was debating inside my head as I looked at the inviting pillows in my hotel room.

My thoughts then turned to the purpose of my blog, which is to inspire greatness.  I’m still working on my own definition of personal greatness, but I do know that a key principle of greatness is sacrifice.  Giving up an hour of sleep in order to inspire someone to pursue greatness, even if it is only one reader, is why I post every day.  I decided to write. 

As many of you know I write about axiom leadership a lot, which is to teach and exemplify values, principles and truths so clearly that it inspires alignment of hearts and minds.  I have made it my personal cause to inspire the world to pursue personal and professional greatness.  The decision to write my December 12th post came down to whether I was willing to exemplify the principle of consistent effort and keep my commitment to axiom leadership.

I wrote my December 12, 2013 blog post on hearing the hard things and went to bed at 1:30 am.  Later that morning, I saw a comment posted at 7:16 am that a father had read the post with his teenage son and thanked me for writing it.  I smiled when I saw the comment and felt satisfaction that I had followed through on my commitment to write every day.  If my post contributed to a father and son having a conversation about pursuing greatness, then the lost hour of sleep was well worth it.

The commitment to a deeper cause and the choice to work and endure towards it is a daily one.  My choice whether to write or not to write this week was a small one compared to other choices I face in life.  However, going through that mental decision process is the same effort we all go through to decide whether we will put off old habits and beliefs and exercise the faith necessary to change and become someone greater.  

Make the commitment to greatness.  Live the values, principles and truths that are associated with greatness.  Choose to be an axiom leader.  

Choose greatness.

Steven Lee Elder

This was great reminder to me regarding the impact that the actions of others have on my life and the impact my simple daily actions can have on the lives of others.  I’m sure there are times when we wonder if what we are doing really makes a difference, but I am often reminded of the book The Butterfly Effect by Andy Andrews, wherein he states simply and boldly, “Every single thing you do matters.”

Live like it matters.  Live a life inspired!


The 12 Days of Service

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magic of Christmas - presence
The magic of Christmas is not in the presents, but in His presence

“It is Christmas every time you let God love others through you… yes, it is Christmas every time you smile at your brother and offer him your hand.”

– Mother Teresa

I am grateful for wonderful influences on my children.  Yesterday I received an email from my daughter’s Sunday school teachers.  My daughter is in a Sunday school class with ten other girls who are all 10 years old.  So, the two women who teach this class definitely have their hands full every Sunday.  I know, because I have been asked to sit in the class with my daughter in the past.

In their class this week, the girls chose three different people they wrote letters to and then talked about their plans to do the 12-days-of-service leading up to Christmas.  As a group, the girls came up with a list of ideas for things they can do to serve others each day.  On the Sunday before Christmas they are then going to each share what they have done to be “God’s hands” in helping someone else.  As parents, we were encouraged to remind our daughters of their plans throughout the coming weeks.  I thought I would share the list of service ideas that this group of 10 year old girls came up with.

  • Give a treat to someone (not yourself)
  • Shovel someone’s driveway
  • Do an extra chore without being asked
  • Give Jaron a gift (Guess who wrote this one?) J
  • Do the dishes
  • Help with laundry
  • Help my teacher
  • Be a friend
  • Play with someone without a friend
  • Make someone else’s bed
  • Smile at someone
  • Bathe or brush your pet
  • Help with meals
  • Be a mom’s helper to a mom with younger kids so the mom can wrap gifts
  • Build a snowman in a neighbor’s yard to smile at them
  • Give a compliment to someone
  • Read to a younger child
  • Donate a toy

As I read this list, I had to smile.  I also thought of what I might include on my list of different acts of service that I could do for others in the coming weeks.  I love the idea of the 12 Days of Service and it made me think of the scripture in the New Testament where Jesus says, “Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.” (Matthew 25:40, KJV) 

Inspired by my daughter’s teachers, I decided to participate with their class in doing an act of service for someone each day leading up to Christmas.  Feel free to join me, for in our busy lives it will likely be in serving others where we discover His presence and the magic of Christmas.

Live a life of service.  Live a life inspired!