The world is full of abundance and opportunity, but far too many people come to the fountain of life with a sieve instead of a tank car... a teaspoon instead of a steam shovel. They expect little and as a result they get little - Ben Sweetland

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Tuesday, May 27, 2008

We’re all going to die!

Look at everythingas though you were seeing it either for the first or last time.then your time on earthwill be filled with glory.Betty Smith, novelist (1896-1972)Today as I was eating lunch, a shiver ran through my body. My mother used to say that when this happens, someone has walked over your grave. Not a pleasant thing to say, you might imagine, but it got me thinking (again) about death, something I haven’t done for a very long time.You’re going to die. Of course you are. Everyone over the age of about ten knows that. And today we are nearer to our own death than ever before. Last week we were further away. Yesterday we were further away. But today is the closest we have ever been to that moment when life finally gets snuffed out.We don’t know when death will come to greet us. It’s quite possible that today will be our last day on this Earth. maintains a meter which clicks up how many people are dying all over the world – I can’t keep up with it: it’s more than one per second anyway. Only two things re certain: one day we’ll be one of those numbers, and we have no idea when that will be.

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Monday, May 26, 2008

The 80/20 Rule

Joseph Juran died on 28 Feb 2008 at the age of 103. He was the man who coined the ‘Pareto Principle,’ named after the Italian economist Vilfredo Pareto, who observed that 80% of income in Italy was received by 20% of the Italian population.

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To compete or cooperate?

The world seems to be full of competition. Kids at school sit exams, compete for grades and try to get into the best universities. Universities compete for the brightest students. Sports teams compete for the trophy or cup. Political parties compete for power. Democrats compete to become the presidential candidate. Businesses compete for customers and market share. You get the picture.

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Going Against the Flow

Change happens so gradually, we almost don’t notice it. It ripples outward in a series of connected events. One day we wake up, look around, and no longer recognize what we thought to be true. That’s change in effect.

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Friday, May 16, 2008

Increasing your net worth


Being rich is a state of mind. Your mind is like a garden which contains rich, fertile soil, and it will bring forth whatever you sow in it. You can sow a mentality of lack and poverty or a mentality of abundance. The harvest will be a life of poverty and struggle or one of ease and comfort. Which one would you prefer? The answer is obvious, but it is surprising how many people choose the former. The rich have sown an abundance mentality, and here are ten ways you can start to tend your own garden of riches.

Think more about money. Our experience of the world starts in our mind, and what we focus on will expand and push its way out into the physical world. If we focus on lack and poverty, this is what we will experience, but if we concentrate on wealth, it will start to appear in our lives. I have noticed that the rich spend a lot of time talking about money. So do the poor, in fact, except that they are talking about the lack of it.

Admire people who have money and associate with the wealthy. How do you feel when you see someone who you know is rich? Whether it be a movie star, the boss at work or a guy who lives down the road, if you are jealous about the success and wealth of others, you are never going to attract it into your own life. You need to admire these kind of people and ask yourself ‘what can I learn from them?’ The best way to learn from the wealthy, of course, is to be around them, so you should try to associate yourself with successful and wealthy people.

Be comfortable carrying money around. What do youy find when you open your wallet? I used to withdraw money from the ATM only when I needed it and I was habitually running short of money. The message an empty wallet sends to your subconscious is ‘got no money.’ So sure enough, this will play out in your life. Maybe you say to yourself ‘I can’t carry money around or else I’ll spend it!’ Well, if you can’t trust yourself with cash on the hip, you’re never going to be rich.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Ten Tips for Healthier Living


I do not usually write about health, but our health is part of a balanced, life. Without your health, you cannot enjoy your career, your success or your relationships, so you must pay attention to this area. Here are ten simple things anyone can do to make a real difference to your level of health and fitness. Doing all thee simple things will probably add years to your life, too! As with all things, good health starts in the mind and then takes form in the real world - opportunities arise naturally and we must take them, acting in a natural and easy way to achieve our goals.

Know that you are in control

In The Seven Habits of Highly Successful People, Steven Covey tells us that between stimulus and response there is a gap, and within this gap lies all our happiness. Between what happens around us and our response to it, there is a choice. Yes, we have been scripted through our childhood to respond automatically in certain ways to certain events, but we can unhook from our scripting and switch off the autopilot. We can assume manual control and take charge of our own experience of life. Realizing this can be frightening, but it is also immensely liberating and, ultimately, it is the fist step to a successful, abundant and healthy life. You must decide to get up and do something!

Live in ‘Easy World’

‘Easy World’ is a phrase I have borrowed from Julia Rogers Hamrick. In her blog, she writes, ‘when you are in the Easy World reality, harmony and ease prevail and things work out as if by magic’ and ‘as long as you relax and allow yourself to align with Easy World, you are there.’ This is a nice way of saying that life should not be a struggle. Effortlessness is our natural state and, whatever our circumstances, we should relax and go with the flow of things, not out of laziness and apathy, but out of a realization that to swim against the tide is tiring and futile – there is a grain to the universe and we should go with it. The benefits of a low stress life are enormous and scientifically validated – those of us with less stress in our lives live longer, healthier lives.

Exercise three times per week

It’s vital that you take some time to exercise several times per week. Do some weights and then either some cardio or interval work. This will build muscle and increase your metabolic rate. The benefits of exercise are astonishing. You will be less prone to diabetes and, since your gastrointestinal transit time will be reduced, it lowers your risk of colon cancer. Exercise strengthens bone making you les prone to osteoporosis and you will also be less likely to suffer lower back pain. It also increases your HDL (good) cholesterol and lowers your blood pressure. People who exercise regularly live several years longer than those who do no exercise.

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Why write a mission statement?


What is the difference between people who are successful (however you might define success) and those who are not? Well, there is a long answer and a short answer. I know the short answer, but I'm not going to tell you (just yet - this is for another article!) but one of the key differences is that successful people have a compass. They have a clear direction, a sense of where they are going and, as importantly, why they are going there. This compass is a mission statement and, like all successful organizations, individuals who aspire to success need this guidance system. I have written about the importance of a personal mission statement elsewhere. Here, I would like to expand a little on why mission statements are so important.

Steven R. Covey, in The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, tells us that ‘all things are created twice,’ once in the mind, and once in the world. Although this idea that ‘thoughts become things’ (to use Earl Nightingale’s expression) has been widely disseminated by self-development books and movies such as ‘The Secret’ in recent months and years, most people do this without any conscious awareness of the process. It is happening all the time, but most of us simply create our experience by default through reactive and habitual thought patterns that we have picked up from parents, friends and society at large.

Successful people are conscious of this process and use it more deliberately, but there is another, vital aspect to our ability to orchestrate our own experience, and it is this – life is all about flow. We need to give and we need to receive, and Covey tells us that ‘paying attention to the development of self in the greater perspective of improving one’s ability to serve, to produce, to contribute in meaningful ways’ will enable us to create in a sustainable way. To ignore this give and take is to cause stagnation and decay, like a pool with no outlet stagnates and dies. I am reminded here of the story of the goose who laid the golden eggs. The farmer focused too much on the eggs and, in his greed, killed the goose. We need the eggs (what we create) but we also need to keep the engine of creation going, and we do this by honoring the fact that all life is about giving and receiving.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Why the rich get richer

For whoever has, to him more shall be given, and he will have an abundance; but whoever does not have, even what he has shall be taken away from him
Jesus of Nazareth (Matthew 13:12)

When I was a child, I used to look out at the world, watch the news, and think to myself how unfair it is that some people are so rich and others so poor. But now I have come to the conclusion that if all the money in the world were divided equally between everyone, within a short time, the rich would be rich again, and the poor would be poor again. Why? Simply put – money is a symptom or an effect. The cause of money is our attitude, our thoughts, and our self-image.

We attract more of what we focus on. We create our own financial condition. Being rich is the effect of our thoughts, not the cause. Most people have got this the wrong way round. As in all spheres of life, what we sow is what we reap. Our thoughts create our reality and if we sow good, positive thoughts, thoughts of abundance, these thoughts will yield a harvest of money and abundance. If we sow thoughts of poverty and lack, we will manifest that in our lives. Some people’s minds are like rich, fertile soil where the crop can grow strong and healthy; others’ minds are more like rocks and dust which will not support a good harvest.

Many people spend their lives building a ‘money monster,’ made up of the negative thoughts about money and wealth. Many of these thoughts came from parents, teachers and other influential figures which they were exposed to when young, and those thoughts get built on and expanded until eventually they become a huge and terrifying monster which, eventually, turns around and devours them. Others, however, spend their life building a powerful and obedient genie, an unshakeable collection of positive thoughts and convictions which free you from worry and lack; the genie does your bidding and you are always rich. We must realize that money doesn’t control us, we control it – money is our servant, not our master.

We must take responsibility for this. Where we are now is a result of what we have thought and how we have acted in the past. We must accept this. Either we are responsible or we are not – which is it to be? Do you want to carry on feeling that you’re at the mercy of chance? Maybe you do – maybe you get something out of that. But know this – if you do not accept that you are responsible for your financial condition, you will always be poor.
That more gathers more is true on every plane of existence and that loss leads to greater loss is equally true.
Charles E. Haanel (1866-1949)

Many people have self-defeating beliefs about money (which I have written about elsewhere). We cannot be wealthy if we think of money in a negative way. Money is just a way to be free, and creating financial abundance should be top of our list of priorities. Clear out your old ideas about wealth and fill your mind with new and positive thoughts about money. Flaunting wealth is a sign of insecurity and tells of a poverty mentality, but to wish and strive for financial freedom is a good thing – as someone once said, ‘the more you know, the less you need to show.’ Know that whatever your beliefs, the world will support them – so think positive and abundant thoughts, and these will be played out in real life.

One of these self-defeating beliefs is that there is a shortage of money. But in reality, there is not a limited supply of wealth and abundance – if I go out in a boat and fill a few buckets with water, does that mean there is less water for everyone else? If I pump water from the sea night and day, does that mean the ocean will run dry? Hardly! There is so much of it that it can never run out! Even the wealth of the richest person in the world is just, well, a drop in the ocean!

Another reason the ocean never runs dry is that water is constantly on the move. Water evaporates, it forms clouds, the clouds release water as rain, the rain falls into streams and rivers, and the rivers flow back into the sea. Just like water, money needs to flow. If you try to hoard money, it will stagnate, like a pool with no inlet or outlet. But if you keep money circulating, it will grow, just as a pool with a constant flow of fresh water sparkles and teems with life.
Creative Commons License photo credit: teadrinker

In fact, money flows whether we like it or not, since that is its nature. If you try to hoard it, it will find a way of moving on – a big tax bill, an unexpected expense – so keep things moving, keep your money flowing. That doesn’t mean give all your money away or keep buying and selling investments; it means don’t let your money stagnate and die – don’t kill the goose that lays the golden egg. It's also important that you don’t try to control the process – who knows through which wonderful channels money and wealth will come to you? Your subconscious mind is wiser than you can know, and will orchestrate events in a marvelous and unexpected way to bring you what you desire. It is also important that you be ready to receive. Sometimes you don’t get what you want – you get something better. So be ready and be open to all possibilities.

Making money is not hard work – it’s easy when you do it right. Like all things in life, see which way the wind is blowing and sail with the wind, not against it. Sailing against the wind is madness – it will take all your energy and you’ll stand still (at best). So sail with the wind, go with the flow of life, and you can be effortlessly abundant.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Believe and succeed

Our life is what our thoughts make it.
Marcus Aurelius
A belief is something you consider to be true. You cannot decide to believe one thing this week and another, opposing thing, next week. You might think you can, but it really doesn’t work like that. I read recently that baby circus elephants are tied to a strong metal post with a heavy chain because they will try to escape and expend a lot of energy on pulling at their tether. After some time, they accept that they will not be able to escape and so stop pulling. The adult elephants are tethered to a wooden stake with a light rope: they could easily escape, but they believe they are unable to do so, and so the light tethering works as a kind of symbol of their bondage. It is clear that whether your beliefs are true or not is irrelevant. What matters is what you regard to be true. It seems to me that this is a good definition of ‘belief.’

People believe all sorts of things for all sorts of reasons. Some beliefs are trivial and others are very important, but two things are certain:

  1. Our underlying beliefs operate at a deep, subconscious level, and
  2. These underlying beliefs affect what we experience in life, including our level of success or failure in any endeavor

Where do these beliefs come from?

Philip Larkin said ‘They f**k you up, your mum and dad.’ Which might seem a bit cruel, but then he did admit that ‘they do not mean to, but they do.’ What he’s saying, of course, is that we learn our world view from our parents, and if our parents think that life is a struggle and that money and success don’t come easily, then this will be our ‘defaults mode,’ too. We spend many years being ‘drip fed’ these beliefs and they get embedded deep in our subconscious. It’s fine to say ‘just change your beliefs,’ but it’s not always so easy. We have picked up many limiting beliefs from parents, teachers, friends, religion (dare I say?) and society in general. Some of these beliefs are holding us back, so doesn’t it make sense that we should want to shed them?

Do we really want to get rid of these beliefs?

Actually, it’s no that simple. We can get a tremendous payback from some apparently harmful and limiting beliefs. I’m sure we all know people who seem to identify themselves as a victim, believing that they are helpless and needing someone to look after them or ‘save’ them. These people get a feeling of security (they don’t have to try to be better or take any risks because they know it’s pointless and they will fail), and they get people running around after them, looking after them.

We need to look at our beliefs and examine what kind of payback we are getting from them and so why we might not want to let go of them. Some examples of limiting beliefs might be:

  • Everyone is selfish
  • People are always trying to rip you off
  • There isn’t enough to go around so you have to grab what you can
  • You can be struck down by circumstances (illness, accident) at any time
  • It’s not my fault that my life is like this

All of these beliefs do something for us; they give us some validation or some comfort. But they are simply beliefs. Deeply engrained, to be sure, but only beliefs and so susceptible to change. Shedding these beliefs may cause some pain, but growth is often accompanied by pain, and I am confident that they pain of growth is a small price for the loss of a lifetime of limitation.

Change your beliefs and change your life

And so that brings us to the good news – you CAN change your beliefs. I suggest three steps for doing this:

  1. Identify a limiting belief (eg Things just happen. I’m not in control of my life)
  2. Cast the belief in a different way (I am in control and I consciously orchestrate my experience)
  3. Look around for evidence of this new belief. You WILL find it! After a while, this will sink in and you will start to think the new belief is ‘true.’

In a sense, I’m suggesting that you brainwash yourself. This may sound negative, but remember that you’ve already been brainwashed into negative thinking, so some reprogramming won’t hurt. Perhaps ‘condition yourself’ is a better phrase than ‘brainwash.’ It takes time, but you can do it if you really want to.

Beliefs I live by

  • I believe the following to be true and I see evidence of these statements around me all the time.
  • Everything in my life works out well
  • I orchestrate my own experience of life
  • Life is naturally abundant. There is enough for everyoneLife, when lived properly, is easy and happy
  • Abundance – health, happiness, money and success – flows to me endlessly and easily. All I have to do is reach out and take it
  • I don’t have to improve myself – I am already as valuable and worthwhile as anyone else
  • I can do anything if I apply myself in the right way
  • Circumstances arrange themselves and opportunities are presented for my greatest good
    The tragedy of much adult life is that our vision is so limited. Like the elephant, we can walk away from our tether any time, but we often don’t because we are shackled by our false and limiting beliefs.

I want to end with a wonderful fable from Anthony de Mello, a man who really seemed to understand the human condition.

An eagle lays an egg but somehow the egg finds its way into a chicken coup. A chicken incubates the egg with all her others and when it hatches, she rears the eaglet as if it were one of her own chicks. It learns to peck the dust for food, to flap its wings and to strut around the farmyard. One day, an eagle flies by overhead. The little eagle looks up and sees this, and says to himself, ‘I wish I were an eagle – how majestic, how free, how beautiful to be like that and have such a life.’ The eagle lived like a chicken and died like a chicken, because that’s hat he thought he was.

Friday, April 11, 2008

The law of attraction is a lie!

As I mentioned in another article, the ‘law of attraction’ seems to have grown into something of a cult, with people wanting to identify themselves as ‘believers’ of ‘non-believers.’ Some people have taken this quite far and are defending their position, one way or the other, quite vociferously.

There has recently been quite a backlash to the ‘law of attraction,’ in the form of websites, e-books and blogs propagating an idea called the ‘lie of attraction.’ For example, people like Sam Crowley and Michael Cheney have some significant objections to the law of attraction as it is popularly presented. People are becoming very emotional about it all. An anonymous writer on one blog, for example, writes ‘The law of attraction is BS…Though the basic idea for the law of attraction is nothing new, it has been misconstrued into a materialistic pile of voodoo nonsense.’

What are we to make of all this? Is the ‘law of attraction’ a dangerous lie, as Crowley and others claim, or is it really an inherent feature of the universe that we can harness to bring wonderful results into our lives?

Napoleon Hill, in ‘Think and Grow Rich,’ wrote that ‘whatever the mind of a man can conceive and believe, it can achieve.’ The only limit to what you can achieve is your imagination. I firmly believe that, in the words of A Course in Miracles, ‘We are Powerful Beyond Measure.’ ‘Think and Grow Rich’ is full of examples of ‘possibility thinkers’ who were scorned and laughed at, but who had a vision and saw it come to fruition. Who could have thought that the systemic racism in the US in the 40s could have been swept away to the point that we now have a black candidate for the democratic presidential nomination? Who could have imagined the end of apartheid in South Africa? Who could have imagined the end of slavery in the British Empire? People like Martin Luther King Jr., Nelson Mandela and William Wilberforce – they all had a dream, they had a vision, and the results of their visions are with us now. Surely no one can deny the power of the mind.

You cannot expect to get anywhere unless you have a clear idea in your mind. All of the people mentioned above, and the may others mentioned in ‘Think and Grow Rich’ all had a clear vision of where they were going. Of the many people I have known, the most successful all knew where they were going. Not that they weren’t flexible, but they knew what they wanted and they knew they were going to get there.

Jonathan Fields writes ‘even the most dogged focus on the attainment of a goal will bring you nothing without an equal commitment to action.’ If you sit around all day visualizing and saying affirmations, you’re probably not going to get anywhere. You must act. Napoleon Hill is very clear about this. Persistence and determination are key, not letting failure get you down and keeping on going will eventually yield excellent results.

This said, your action must be the right kind of action, it must ‘flow.’ Moving water can be a powerful force – it can generate electricity, it can destroy cities, it can be exhilarating and it can be deadly. But there is no effort in water – it seeks out the path of least resistance, it moves to the lowest point, it goes around things, does not push through them. It achieves everything by making no effort. This is what Alan Watts called ‘The Watercourse Way,’ and is what Lao Tse wrote about in the Tao Te Ching, a book I always keep by my bedside. The right action should not be competitive or confrontational, there should be no force, no strain, no stress. Whenever you are putting in a lot of effort, you are doing something wrong. This way of doing things is the basis of effortless abundance. Our society values work, effort, energy, and industry. The roots of this system of values lie in Puritanism and Calvinism – we take it for granted that work and effort are needed for good results, but there is another way, a more ancient way, a better way.

‘The Secret’ is becoming a belief system. People are starting to miss what is being pointed to, and instead they are grabbing hold of the signpost and defending it to give themselves an identity. Some of the detractors are doing the same. In this way, the idea of the law of attraction is becoming very dominant. It may be interesting to examine the way it is propagating as a meme (According to Wikipedia, ‘any unit of cultural information, such as a practice or idea, that gets transmitted verbally or by repeated action from one mind to another.’ Richard Dawkins has been a famous proponent of the idea that religion is a meme).

‘The Secret’ has over simplified the message of ‘Think and Grow Rich.’ It is jingoistic and simplistic and superficial. It misses the subtlety which has been explored in earlier books on the way mind and action work together to produce outcomes. It has pulled in some pseudo Science, and been blatantly marketed to attract gullible and needy people looking for quick fixes and easy solutions to their problems. (Some proponents of the ‘lie of attraction’ are beginning to do the same. Just take a look at some of their materials). For this reason, I believe that real success and real happiness will continue to elude most people, and they will simply move on to the next big, hyped up idea which they hope will ‘quick-fix’ their lives. I have read forum posts where people expect to win the lottery by ‘visualizing’ the money. This is not a dangerous thing, but surely that is absurd. We have a wonderful vista before us, but most people will continue to keep their eyes closed.

In a very balanced and well-written article, Jonathan Fields offers a simple and common sense explanation of ‘the secret,’ avoiding any need to invoke quantum mechanics, harmonic resonance and other Scientific ideas. The ‘law of attraction,’ he cays, is a psychological phenomenon. If you keep thinking about something, keep dwelling on it, keep believing it, you will start to behave in slightly different ways; you will say things you might not otherwise have said, you will go to places you might not otherwise have gone, you’ll dress differently, and so on. Eventually, all these little things add up to help you achieve your goal. Essentially, he is saying that you can brainwash yourself, or be brainwashed, either in a good way or a bad way.

The reality is that life is a subtle thing, and we must resist the temptation to over simplify and generalize. If we keep our mind on something and act in accordance with this is a natural, easy and non-forceful way, the universe works out the details and things work out well, though often not as we had planned (usually better). Then we will be effortlessly abundant.

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Thursday, March 27, 2008

Do you want to be rich? Just say yes!

Money isn’t real. If you were on a desert island with a suitcase full of money – I mean millions and millions of dollars – and nothing else, you’d probably starve to death. Your only chance would be to learn, and learn fast, how to keep warm (possibly by burning the money, though that wouldn’t last very long), how to catch your dinner, what kinds of plants you can and can’t eat, how to build a shelter, how to treat your inevitable injuries, and so on and so on. You money wouldn’t help you. You might survive, but I doubt it.

The only reason it helps you in your non-desert-island-life is because we live in a big community where everyone has different skills and we trade those skills (sometimes in very indirect and convoluted ways) with the brilliant concept of money.

And that’s all money is. A sophisticated form of barter. There is nothing intrinsically good or bad about money. It’s just money. In our community, it helps us get along, and if we have more, we can get along better.

So far so good. Unfortunately, the concept of money has become mixed up with all sorts of other concepts over the years. How about these? Blessed are the poor. Rich people must be dishonest, cruel, selfish, greedy. How can rich people live with themselves when there are people starving out there? Why can’t all those rock stars give their money away instead of holding charity concerts? It’s outrageous that CEOs and footballers get paid so highly when doctors and teachers get so little. Filthy lucre, dirty cash, Balh de blah de blah …

Heard any of this before? Ring a bell? Do you believe this stuff? If you do, then you’re saying NO to money. Sure, some rich people are horrible, cruel and selfish. But so are a lot of poor people. Sure, a lot of poor people are lovely, kind and giving. But so are a lot of rich people. I’ve met a lot of selfish, bitter and twisted poor people, many of whom use the beliefs I mentioned above to justify being poor (it’s not their fault; it’s the way of the world, if only things were different…). And for the record, I’ve also met a lot of kind and generous and wonderful rich people.

Money is just money. Many rich people have done untold good with their wealth. Money allows you to live the life you always wanted and to do good. You can use money to make the world a better place – and you can have a wonderful life at the same time. Who says that you should suffer just because everyone else does? That’s just another of those self-defeating beliefs. If you choose it, it’s yours.

Money doesn’t go to the smartest, the best qualified, the most refined, the most in need. It goes to those who choose it. The rich are not all alike – they are from all walks of life, they have all sorts of backgrounds, businesses and careers (including none), they adhere to all sorts of codes of ethics, all religions (including none) and philosophies, the full range of IQ and EQ, … the only commonality is that they all said YES.

They say if you give a man a fish, he ca feed his family for a day. If you teach him how to fish, he can feed them forever. Well it’s the same with money. You can write a cheque but soon the money will be gone. But if you teach other people the right attitude and help them to make more money themselves, they’ll generate income for the rest of their life.

Don’t be ashamed. Don’t be embarrassed. Don’t think that money is bad and you have to hide it. It can give you everything you ever wanted, including the ability to make the world a better place.

So why not say yes?

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Shattering the fishbowl – the paradox of choice

The law of attraction is about choice. We are free to choose our experience. I recently watched a short lecture given by the American psychologist and social scientist Barry Swartz. Here I will summarize the lecture and offer some thoughts on its content as it is relevant to the law of attraction.

The lecture is about the consequences of the amazing levels of choice we have to deal with now, choice which just a few years ago was hardly imaginable. It’s certainly true – to give a rather trivial example, just look at the number of social bookmarking options you have for submission of this article – you can digg it, Stumble Upon it, add it to dropjack or technorati, there’s,, blogmarks, frazzle, linkroll, scuttle, reddit, not to mention Myspace, facebook … the list goes on and on. And social bookmarking didn’t even exist a short time ago.

In the lecture, Swartz expresses the view that the explosion of choice which has taken place in recent decades is a bad thing, and that although the conventional thinking that more choice is a good thing because it produces more freedom and hence a better quality of life, in fact this explosion of choice impoverishes our experience of life. He gives the following reasons for this.

1. It produces paralysis. When faced with too much choice, people do not act because it is too hard to choose.

2. When we do choose, we are less satisfied with our choice, since we are always comparing our choice to the options we didn’t choose and so we are always left with the feeling that our life could be better.

3. Our expectations increase and this, naturally, produces less satisfaction. We can never be pleasantly surprised because we are already expecting an excellent experience. In a sense, he claims, the secret to happiness is low expectations.

4. Responsibility is transferred to the individual. Given that we have to choose and that our choice seems to lead to less satisfaction, we are left feeling that our action has been ineffective. Swartz sites statistics about how clinical depression has increased greatly in resent decades and attributes this to the misery brought about by too much personal choice.

As far as I can tell, Swartz is arguing that we need to be restricted and live in a metaphorical fish bowl. He uses a cartoon of two fish in a bowl, one is saying to the other ‘you can be anything you want to be – no limits.’ Of course, the cartoon is absurd – the fish has no options at all but cannot see this. But another reading of the cartoon is that, as Schwartz puts it, the fish knows something; it knows that if the bowl is smashed and ‘everything is possible,’ you don’t have satisfaction, you have paralysis. So we all need a fish bowl of some kind and the absence of such a fish bowl is a recipe for misery and disaster.

I hope I have done justice to the Swartz's lecture, which is here - I suggest you watch the whole thing: it's about 20 mins long.

So is this all true? Is choice really a bad thing? Swartz appears to argue that yes, too much choice is inherently bad. I am going to make a few brief observations.

Firstly, change is inevitable. I don’t think anyone would disagree with this. In all aspects of life, change is unavoidable. It is the only real constant, the only thing that’s truly predictable. Change in the level of choice we experience, both personally and at a social level, is therefore inevitable, and so we may experience an increase or a decrease in our level of choice at any given time.

However, it is the nature of things to grow, to expand, to increase, as I have written about elsewhere. This is why biological life becomes ever more complex through evolution, why computers become more advanced and why language develops, to name but a few obvious examples. So it is also inevitable that, on the whole, the level of choice we experience will keep growing, since we cannot avoid ever increasing levels of complexity and specialization. Look at any area – Science, society, music, art – you will see a proliferation of complexity. (The underlying structure of all this may, in fact, be quite simple, but this is a topic for another article).

Thirdly, we are free to choose our experience. We create our own reality, and we have always been able to do so. More complexity, more choice, means that we can experiment more, try out new things, more easily attract new and exciting experiences into our life.

Finally, there are always those who thrive and those who fail in response to any change. When the environment changes and you are not suited to the environment, the choice is stark – either adapt quickly or die. This is life; this is how the universe works. It is true of business, of language, of culture, of religion, of Science, of biological life, … and it is true for you and me. An increase in complexity and choice has made people successful apparently beyond their wildest dreams – look at India, China and Russia – entrepreneurs have taken on the new opportunities which choice affords and made a fortune. Others have bemoaned the changes and gone to the wall.

What is needed is a new paradigm, a new way of looking at the world, whereby we are able (at least) to navigate our way though the complexity and, better still, to find a way of turning it to our advantage. My mission is to teach as many people as possible how to live a happy, fulfilled, wealthy, abundant life – could I ever have got my message across without the Internet? Well, yes, but the proliferation of social networking platforms, blog catalogues and carnivals, link exchange programmes, search engines, and all the rest of it actually makes it more likely that I can reach a big audience.

What we need is a light, playful attitude, not taking the world or ourselves so seriously, celebrating and reveling in wonderful and ever increasing complexity. This fish bowl has been shattered and we cannot go back to the water – now we need to learn how to live in a new world.

If you have enjoyed this article, there's a full archive here.
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Friday, March 7, 2008

Can the law of attraction work for YOU?

According to the many exponents of the ‘law of attraction,’ when we really want something and when our desires, thoughts and actions are in alignment, the thing we want will manifest. But is it really that simple? If so, then why are there examples of passionate, hardworking, dedicated people who don’t get what they really, really want. What about the candidates in the run up to the US presidential election this year? Presumably they all really, really want to be president, they are all passionate about this and they are all working hard to achieve it – isn’t everything in alignment? But only one of them can be the winner. Does all this ‘law of attraction’ stuff really work?

First, it’s important to realize that the ‘Law of Attraction’ isn’t just wishful thinking – it has a scientific basis.

The last thing we want to do is get bogged down with quantum theory. I have a Science degree from Oxford, and believe me, quantum mechanics is not a ‘light’ subject. But what we can say for sure (as far as we can say anything for sure) and in simple terms is that, in a sense, nothing is real – everything is energy; every person, every object, every thing is a disturbance in an energy field which pervades the universe. In a very important sense, we are all connected together and vibrations in the energy field tend to accumulate with other, similar vibrations. In other words, like attracts like. When you think about something habitually, you tend to attract it. I will be exploring the area of the Science behind the law of attraction in future articles. In the meantime, an excellent book to read on this subject is The Tao of Physics by Fritjof Capra.

Where you are currently is a result of your past thoughts, beliefs and feelings

You need to accept you current situation. You created it, you chose it, so you need to take responsibility for it. But your current reality is, in a sense, always just an echo of your past thoughts, beliefs and feelings. What you are thinking and feeling right now is creating your new, future reality. What’s in your mind is more important than anything else, because this is where you’re headed.

Be clear about what you desire to create

Because what’s in your mind is so crucial, you need to make sure you’re clear about what it is you’re trying to create. Most people create by default by a random and endlessly changing streams of thoughts and feelings. By becoming conscious of your habitual thinking patterns and how they are making you feel, you can start to replace them with better, more carefully constructed thoughts. Only with consistent and habitual thoughts and feelings will you start to consciously manifest your desires.

Don’t try to control the process.

Once you have chosen, then the universe does everything else. You don’t need to figure out how it will happen – you couldn’t orchestrate things as well as the universe can even if you tried.

Bob Proctor says, ‘everyone that ever accomplished everything did not know how they were going to do it. They only knew they were going to do it.’

Things are going to happen, people are going to turn up in your life, you’re going to see something or get something in the mail that turns on a light. Whatever happens, it isn’t going to be through your manipulation of events. A farmer doesn’t make crops grow by going out every day, watching them, measuring them, pulling them – all s/he can do is to sow the seed and let nature do the rest. We tend to get impatient, to say ‘this isn’t working – I need to do something’ and then we revert to the old patterns of doing things our way. Look back on your life – could you have planned it like that? We need to be open to the fact that we don’t have a clue – not a clue – about what is going to happen tomorrow. But if we relax, let go and trust the universe (or God) to get things done, it will happen, and you will find yourself looking back in amazement at how events lined themselves up and everything came together to deliver what you chose to manifest.

Don’t be too desperate
As I have written about elsewhere, when we try to achieve something too hard, we tend to push it away. The awkward teenaged boy who is desperate for a girlfriend just comes across as desperate and needy, whereas the confident, self assured guy attracts girls effortlessly – this ‘law of reverse effort’ seems to be a constant theme of nature – sometimes it’s called detachment – when you act and believe that all will be well, detached form the specific details of the outcome, then all will indeed be well.

Abraham-Hicks wrote, ‘No matter what it is, if you really want it, and if you get out of the way of it, it will happen. It must be. It is Law. It can be no other way. It’s the way this Universe is established. If you want it and you relax, it will happen.’

Do you really believe what you are thinking and saying?

Affirmations work for some people, not for others. You can stand in front of the mirror every morning repeating your affirmations but, if you don’t really believe them, they’re not going to be effective. It seems to me that affirmations can serve some purpose – they can focus your conscious attention on what you are choosing to manifest, and that can’t be a bad thing. But what’s more important is your underlying beliefs and, even more important, the feelings you have about those beliefs. If you truly believe what you’re saying to yourself, and you feel good about it, then everything is ‘lined up’ and the law of attraction will deliver what you want.

According to Joe Vitale, ‘It’s really important that you feel good, because this feeling good is what goes out as a signal to the universe and starts to attract more of itself to you.’

But often there is a conflict between the way we feel, the things we believe and the things we tell ourselves. And there’s the rub – you’ve got to make sure that every part of you is in agreement. But before you give up or decide to get psychotherapy or make an appointment with a hypnotist, the good news is that it’s not that hard – basically you need to find a way of making yourself feel good about what you are saying to yourself. If you’re saying ‘I am rich’ and then feeling envious about the guy driving the new Mercedes, then you’re associating being rich with the feeling of jealousy, defeating your self-talk.

How you make yourself feel good is something I will be exploring in future articles. There are some techniques such as the Sedona method, the Emotional freedom technique (EMT) and Neurolinguistic programming (NLP) which will be the subject of future posts.

The timing needs to be right

Things will happen at the right time. When everything has come together, the result will manifest. How and when this happens is not for us to say. An oak tree takes a long time to grow, a cress seed will develop into a full grown plant in a matter of days. But you are a magnet, and you are endlessly attracting things to yourself – if the magnet is more powerful then things will naturally manifest faster. Like anything, practice makes you better. But don’t be anxious; don’t keep trying to figure out how things will happen and when. It’s very important to be happy with the current situation – feeling good now is the best way to create an abundant future.

In the end, the key is to keep holding on to the thought, and truly believe it, and find a way of feeling it – thoughts become things.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Making Money: Ten points

The first point: passive income is better than working for money

Talking about income, the bottom line is this: the best income is a passive income. No doubt about it. Interest, dividends, royalties, money from web-based schemes, lottery winnings, being left money by your long lost great aunt who just died. All far better than actually working. When you work as an employee, you swap your time for money. This is OK if you have an employer who compensates you very well for your time or if you don’t really want a lot of money. But I don’t think many of us fall into these categories. So the only really sensible way to go is to generate passive income. It takes work up fron, of course, but when the work is done, the money keeps on coming and coming and coming … Which lads us nicely onto …

The second point: the magical power of leverage.

Or not reinventing the wheel. Or getting the same thing done over and over again without actually doing it all those times yourself. For example, you can set something up and leave it to do a job over and over. Take this article, for example. I wrote it once and it can be read an endless number of times. Now if everyone who reads it pays me a dollar, I could get very rich. Being such a generous guy, I’m putting it out there for free, but you get the idea

Or I could give a lecture, as many life coaches and trainers do. If I give the lecture once to a small number of people and charge an entrance fee, I can make a bit of money. But I have to keep on doing it, so instead I could rig up video links all over the place and pay people to watch all over the world. I could record the lecture and sell it. Does it sound far fetched? Well, it’s just an example, but people are really doing it right now!

The third point: it’s quality not quantity that matters.

You’ve heard it a million times, but maybe that’s because it’s so true. It’s the value that you deliver that makes a difference. I used to know the regional manager of a big bank. During one of our regular drinking sessions, he told me the secret of being a good salesman. He said that you have to find out what people want and then give it to them. Sounds obvious right? Well, it’s amazing how many salespeople just try to sell you anything, just try to get commission with a one-off deal. But you know from your experience – if the property agent or the car salesman or the tailor or (fill in the blank) takes the trouble to get to know your needs and then delivers something to really address those needs, you’ll go back again and again. You can make a hundred one-off sales and you’ll still have to work as hard to chase down every prospect, but if you deliver value, people will come back of their own accord. That’s the power of delivering value.
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The fourth point: Don’t be lazy

What stops people getting rich? I would say that number one is this: laziness and procrastination. What more can I say? Decide what you want, come up with a plan, and do something! Although honestly, I don’t think a plan is that important. You can plan and plan and plan and plan …. Better just get on with it.

The fifth point: the benefits of passive income

I’ve read about how some people think that employees are ‘slaves’ and that the only way to escape from your boss / society / “the system” is to generate income yourself and not rely on an employer There’s nothing wrong with working. I think the issue is that you shouldn’t be working for a living. You should be working for the joy of it. What’s that? You don’t love your job? You don’t bounce out of bed every morning and skip to work? I passionately believe that you should not be working for an income. Money comes when you choose to have it; it comes when you think about it and dwell on it and intend it. Doffing your cap to a boss because you need money shows that you havn’t got a clue about how the world really works, just like Jennifer Aniston in this clip from Office Space, one of my favorite comedy movies.

Put it another way:

Morpheus: The Matrix is everywhere, it is all around us. Even now, in this very room. You can see it when you look out your window, or when you turn on your television. You can feel it when you go to work, or when go to church or when you pay your taxes. It is the world that has been pulled over your eyes to blind you from the truth.

Neo: What truth?

Morpheus: That you are a slave, Neo. Like everyone else, you were born into bondage, born inside a prison that you cannot smell, taste, or touch. A prison for your mind.

Couldn't have put it better myself. Of course, choosing the red pill gives you ...

The sixth point: freedom...

… from schedules, being told how to dress, how to behave, who you hang out with (you aren’t forced to share a room with moaning, whining people who you despise for eight hours a day). Let’s face it, money makes you free. It isn’t everything – far from it, money can be the source of untold pain and suffering. But it can also give you a wonderful life. When you need a holiday, you can choose where to go, how to get there, where to stay. When someone you love gets sick, you can choose how and where they get treated. If you get tired of your job, you can walk out and go somewhere else or even just take a break. Maybe never work again. Money is a good thing because it makes you free.

The seventh point: not working for money gives you a reliable stream of income

Yes, it sounds counterintuitive, but a passive income stream is arguably more reliable than working for a living. While you’re working, your boss can fire you at any time, but if you rely on passive income, it’s much less likely to dry up, especially if you have multiple income streams. The companies whose stock you own aren’t suddenly going to stop paying out dividends (assuming you bought the right stock, of course); the bank isn’t going to stop paying you interest.

In fact, in the end, you’re going to be relying on a passive income anyway. Where does your pension come from? Basically it comes from a portfolio of bonds, dividend stocks and mutual funds – all generators of passive income.

The eighth point: do what you love!

Doing what you love and not thinking about how it will bring you success and money is, paradoxically perhaps, the surest way to attract money into your life. You can't possibly tell how it will happen, but if you do what you love and trust the universe to figure out the details, you'll look back with amazement about how things worked out. I found a wonderful story recently, recounted by Steve Jobs - he had just dropped out of college and came across a calligraphy class which he was interested in. Later on, it changed everything but at the time he couldn't have predicted it. Here's his story:

Reed College at that time offered perhaps the best calligraphy instruction in the country. Throughout the campus every poster, every label on every drawer, was beautifully hand calligraphed. Because I had dropped out and didn't have to take the normal classes, I decided to take a calligraphy class to learn how to do this. I learned about serif and san serif typefaces, about varying the amount of space between different letter combinations, about what makes great typography great. It was beautiful, historical, artistically subtle in a way that science can't capture, and I found it fascinating.

None of this had even a hope of any practical application in my life. But ten years later, when we were designing the first Macintosh computer, it all came back to me. And we designed it all into the Mac. It was the first computer with beautiful typography. If I had never dropped in on that single course in college, the Mac would have never had multiple typefaces or proportionally spaced fonts. And since Windows just copied the Mac, its likely that no personal computer would have them. If I had never dropped out, I would have never dropped in on this calligraphy class, and personal computers might not have the wonderful typography that they do. Of course it was impossible to connect the dots looking forward when I was in college. But it was very, very clear looking backwards ten years later.

Again, you can't connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something — your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever. This approach has never let me down, and it has made all the difference in my life.

The ninth point: trust yourself

You know best. You know what's right for you. Nobody can tell you the best path to take. Sometime, you need experts - when you're sick, you need to go to a doctor (though this is arguable - but that's another post for another day), if a pipe bursts in your house, you need to get a plumber in. But for the most important thing in your life - you - you don't need them. In fact, they will probably do you harm. I used to rely on financial experts, but every one of them has let me down with the wrong product, the wrong package - now I take care of all my own investments and I'm doing great. When people give me advice or tell me their opinion about what I should do, I listen, I consider, and then I decide what's best for me. Do you think this is selfish? Well, I can't live my life for other people, and neither should you. And I don't expect anyone to live their life to accommodate my expectations and for my convenience - now that would be selfish. So follow your heart, do what you love, and the money will surely follow.

Sunday, March 2, 2008

Life begins at forty!

We are continually bombarded by images of youth and success and it seems to me that we are often beguiled by these images into believing that success is for the young - that if, by a certain age, we have not achieved a certain level of achievement, that we have essentially failed and are doomed to a life of mediocrity. Some successful people made it when they were young, but I contend that success can and does happen at any age. In fact, success coming early in life is the exception, not the rule.

Often, when success comes early, it just causes damage to the individual - look at recent news involving Briney Spears and Paris Hilton, look at the lives of Kurt Cobain and countless other young 'stars.' In Hong Kong everyone is taking about Edison Chen and his sex tapes.

In Think and Grow Rich, Napoleon Hill tells us that 'seldom does any individual enter upon highly creative effort in any field of endeavor before the age of forty' and that they 'do not strike their real pace until they are well beyond the age of fifty.'

When I look back over my own life, I think money and success would have ruined me at a young age - I wasn't ready for it and I wouldn't have known what to do with it. By moving quietly through life, slowly accumulating experiences and learning along the way, I have reached a point where I can freely manifest these things in my life and am able to handle them. In short, I am wiser now. According to Napoleon Hill, we should approach the age 40-60 with hope and eager anticipation since this is the most productive time of life. Many of the successful people Hill interviewed had not even started on the road to success before the age of 40. Abraham Lincoln said 'If I had eight hours to chop down a tree, I’d spend six hours sharpening my axe.'

Success is a good thing, and we should seek to manifest it in our lives. But we should also remember that everything has its season - there is a time of preparation, a time of harvesting and a time of leaving fallow. This is the nature of things. There is an old saying that goes something like this: When the nut is ripe, just a light tap will open it. Before it is ready, you need a hammer, and the fruit inside is bitter anyway.

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Friday, February 29, 2008

The Power of Now

It's been a long time since I read Eckhardt Tolle's book, The Power of Now. I've read it several time since I fist found it and I always love reading it again. Tolle's message is very simple and it's a message that's repeated again and again in the work of those who write about the law of attraction. He is saying that 'the now' is all that exists and so we should fully embrace it, immerse ourselves in it and accept it totally.

Like so many things, there seems to be a paradox here: how can we be satisfied with the here and now and also be driven to change the future?

One of the foundations of the LOA is that you need to feel something before it will manifest. Hence, the importance of feeling good here and now cannot be overstated. In Ask and it is Given, Abraham Hicks says ' when you understand the power of feeling good now, no matter what, you ill hold the key to the achievement of ... anything you desire.' The future never gets finished - there is always more to experience, more to have, more to choose. We need to accept, embrace and feel wonderful about our present reality and choose the future we desire, releasing our intenti0ns to the universe and then letting things take thier course, detached from the outcome, knowing that all is well.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

You need to feel wealthy to attract wealth

In the course of my regular reading of other blogs, I came across an interesting idea from Creation Thoughts called the “Prosperity Seed Game.” The point of the game is to try to get you feeling wealthy, given that one of the basic principles in the law of attraction is that you need to feel something before it will actually turn up in your life.

In the game, you take some money (large denominations if you can) and plant the bills in various places so that you will 'find' them at a later date, having forgotten about them. For example, you can put a $10 in the pocket of a jacket you don't wear very often or use a bill as a bookmark in a book you refer to regularly but not too often. When you find the money, you'll naturally feel excited and happy, and you can keep 'planting' more money to put yourself into a continuous state of feeling more wealthy. In fact, you'll find more and more money turning up.

It's a bit like another idea I read about somewhere - you take quite a bit of money and stuff it in your purse or wallet. As you walk around and see things you like in shops (or wherever), you just know that you can buy them with the cash you have with you - by feeling this way all day long, you start to reset your subconscious to feel wealthy.

I have taken this a step further, by actually going ahead and buying stuff that I really like, stuff that I would never have bought a few years (or even months!) ago because the stuff is 'a waste of money' and 'I don't have enough.' I don't spend in a reckless way, and I regard saving and investing a large portion of my income as a key element in building long term, sustainable wealth, but spending money on high quality goods and services has improved the quality of my life and I'm no worse off. In fact, I'm better off. And that's just the thing - if you feel wealthy, you will attract more wealth into your life. I am now living in the biggest and best house I've ever lived in and my quality of life is better than ever before. This is the power of attraction at work.

Another method is blogging - just thinking about the law of attraction and how it's working in my life keeps me feeling wealthy. Whatever method you choose, make sure you feel rich, and I guarantee that abundance will flow into your life

Monday, February 25, 2008

Intention and desire

In The Seven Spiritual Laws of Success, Deepak Chopra writes about 'The law of intention and desire.' In what he calls the field of pure potentiality, we can introduce an intention and so 'put the cosmic computer with its infinite organizing power to work for you.' Intention, he goes on to say, 'lays the groundwork for the effortless, spontaneous, frictionless flow of pure potentiality seeking expression from the unmanifest to the manifest' (p.72).

But what is this thing called intention? Deepak defines intention as 'desire combined with detachment.' To quote: 'The future is something you can always create through detached intention, but you shuld never struggle against the present' (p.73).

So many people do exactly this - struggle against the present. The present is what it is, and one must accept it. But one can also intend a new future. It seems to me that a more helpful term is to choose. 'Intention' or 'detached desire' basically comes down to choosing the future. Don't just desire it, don't just dream about it, don't work hard for it, choose it.

Talking of the law of attraction as expounded by the movie 'The Secret,' jmsherer ( says that

'there is a key element that needs to be inserted into “the secret” in order for it to truly work miracles. (Warning the following statement may ruin the law of Attraction for many) Unfortunately, the element that makes law of attraction work miracles is no secret at all.
The element that I speak of is unrelenting uncompromising DESIRE. The DESIRE to get what you want out of life comes only after you have ABSOLUTELY made up your mind that you WILL achieve something. The ability to burn all bridges, cut all ties, and accept no defeat will instantaneously bring us our hearts desires. The DESIRE must be firmly ingrained in a persons mind before thought can actually transform into an object of reality. I am a big fan of “the secret” and I believe the creators of the film would agree with me on this point. '

I think that this is another way of saying the same thing. If you have made up your mind to do something or have something, then you have chosen it. And that's that.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Is greed good?

I've just been reading a book by a guy called Bruce Sullivan. The book is called 'Hanna's Christmas Gift' and it's about how to live a better, happier and more peaceful kind of life. The aim of the book is excellent, and much of the content is also very worthwhile, but I feel that some of it really misses the mark.

He basically advocates five premises:

1. Free your heart form hatred
2. Free your mind from worries
3. Live simply
4. Give more
5. Expect less

I have absolutely no problem with 1-4. These are great aims, things we should all be striving towards. But it's a shame that Mr Sullivan has included 'expect less' in his (to quote) 'amazing principles.' Although he does say here and there that possessions and wealth are not bad in themselves, the overwhelming tone of the book is that these things lead to unhappiness. This can be true, of course, but I would make two points:

1. You can and should expect and have more;
2. You cannot tie your happiness and self esteem to (the pursuit of) possessions and wealth.

Let me elaborate.

First, life expands. Life grows. Life gets bigger. This is the nature of the universe. This is why evolution happens, why Science advances, why artists keep looking for new avenues of creativity; it is why we all want to learn more, to get more qualifications, to improve ourselves. Wanting more happiness, better health, more wealth and more success - in short, more abundance - is good. As Gordon Gecko (Micheal Douglas) so famously said in the 80's classic Wall St, 'greed, for want of a better word, is good.' It's good to want more. It's good to get more. Not to compete with people and trample over them, not to take what's their's for yourself, but to grow and expand in all areas. There is enough for everyone to have everything they want. Really there is. But you have to go about things in the right way.

Second, you have to THINK in the right way, otherwise you'll just end up with debt and pain and unhappiness. You cannot link together happiness with physical possessions of money. You cannot RELY on money to make you happy. It won't. You should be abundant in all areas, which means being happy, healthy, wealthy and successful in your personal and business life. These things are independent of each other - none depends on the others. If you choose to be happy, then you're happy. And that's that - it doesn't relate to anything else. If you choose to be rich, then that's that - it doesn't make you happy.

So greed, for want of a better word, and assuming that we are defining it as a natural tendency to grow, to expand and to become more than we currently are in all respects, and so long as we don't confuse the acquisition of money and wealth with happiness is, indeed, good.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Advice for Novice Investors

Are you new to all this investing stuff? Just trying to learn what it's all about. Here are a few pointers. Don't take them too seriously, they're just bits and bobs I've picked up over the years, though (of course) I think it's pretty valuable stuff!

1. Don't visit financial advisers. No less a man than Peter Lynch starts his wonderful book 'One up on Wall Street' with 'Rule number one is: Stop listening to professionals!' They have no better chance that beating the market than any other thoughtful person, AND they are usually trying to sell you something on which they earn commission. Their mediocre advice plus their (often inflated) fees adds up to a mediocre investment, at best. I have NEVER bought a good investment from an adviser. As Lynch points out, you SHOULD take advice from a doctor, a lawyer, a teacher etc., since these people really do have specialist knowledge which you can't easily come by, but financial professionals have no greater insight that anyone else who is prepared to put in a BIT of effort.

2. Be wary of mutual funds. Same thing as #1, really. A fund house is selling you a product which probably won't even beat the benchmark (the market index) AND they will take an up front fee and a yearly management fee, regardless of how well the fund does! Now that is one scam you should aviod. Of course, there ARE good funds, but they are hard to find, so if you don't have the time or inclination to invest, shall we say 'actively,' it may be better to...

3. Use ETFs. These exchange traded funds usually try to track an index or a sector. Since the stockmarket has returned about 11% a year on average (though with huge swings up and down, of course), ETFs are good investment for the long term. They have very low fees since they require almost no management, and you can buy 'em and pretty much forget about 'em. But for the mpre 'active' ...

4. Buy stock. Stock in companies has been bar far the best investment over the last hundred years. The stock market has violent mood swings, and this is something you need to be prepared for, but in the long run this, if anywhere, is where you will make big money.

5. Do your 'Due diligence.' Don't just buy any stock. Alot of companies are terrible and getting worse by the hour. I personally don't go in for any kind of detailed security analysis myself - it would take far too long - but I do read up on the companies. there's alot of free stuff available, but try to get the opinions of experienced people: The Motley Fool CAPS is a good place to start, and TMF offers several newsletters dedicated to giving stock picks. Morningstar also carries reports on companies and it's star rating can be quite helpful. This is where paying for a service may be a good thing. You're not paying professional advisers with a vested interest in your buying a financial product; you're paying for objective advice and informed opinion. Of course, your own opinion is just as valuable, but listening to others, weighing it up, and engaging with a community will give you a head start.

6. Be patient. Investing is a long term thing. Stock doesn't just rise (well some does). Stock in good companies can fall, and when it falls, it often keeps falling. Stock in bad companies can keep on rising, and all this is very infuriating - the market is not rational! But in the end, if you buy good companies (and take advantage of the market dips to buy more) then they should eventually rise.

7. Be prepared. The market WILL tumble at some point and your investments will go with it. Be ready, and know that things will change. Use this as a chance to buy. Keep some cash in readiness.

8. Be rational. If you bought a good company at a good price, then keep it, even if the price falls a great deal. In fact, the rational thing to do under these circumstances is to buy more. We are not speculating, day trading or whatever. Sell when the stock becomes over valued or if the company changes for the worse.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

The common thread

I have read all sorts of books on spirituality over the years: The Power of Now by Ekhart Tolle, Awareness by Anthony de Mello, How to Know God and The Seven Spiritual Laws of Success by Deepak Chopra, The Wisdom of Insecurity by Allan W Watts, The Tao of Pooh by Benjemin Hoff, The Art of Living by Osho and Conversations with God by Neale Donald Walsch, to name but a few. I’ve also read books on Buddhism and Hinduism, I’ve read the Baghvad Gita and the Tao Te Ching and I’m quite familiar with the Bible.

All these books seem to be saying the same kind of things. Different metaphors and different styles, but they all contain a few basic ways of seeing the truth, waking up, becoming enlightened, whatever.

One is awareness of the present moment. Meditation is a way of focusing on the present moment in a very intense kind of way, and the practice of mindfulness is a way of being present throughout the day. It just means watching yourself, being a silent witness to your own feelings, thoughts and reactions so that ultimately you can see that everything you do, feel or think is a choice or a creation. Through unconscious repetition of conditioned responses we fail to see this, but it is true to say that everything in one’s life is exactly the way one has intended it to be. We have called our own experience of life into being. Indeed, the purpose of life is to create or intend.

We are not here to discover the truth of who we are since we already know it (though we’ve covered it up with all sorts of clutter and it’s our purpose to remove the clutter and see the magnificence of what we really are). We are here to experience ourselves as we wish to experience ourselves. That’s it. The way we do this is though intention. The universe is our extended body – not in an allegorical sense, but in reality – and it does our bidding. Whatever I say to the universe comes to pass.

If I say that I want something, the universe responds and gives me ‘wanting something.’ To want something is to say I lack it, and if I say I lack it, then I lack it. If I intend something, if I know something will happen, then the universe makes it happen. The energy which supplies this creative process comes from the present moment. Most people who dream about their future never have their dreams fulfilled for two reasons. Firstly, they are making a statement of lack, that they do not have what they want. Secondly, their energy is wasted by focusing on the future.

Be aware of the present moment as it is, accept it fully, for this is where your life is. There is only the now. Intend the future, choose the future, accept that the universe is already working to make that future happen, then sit back, relax, let the universe do the work and go with the flow. Don’t keep pushing and trying, this will get you a bad result. Let the universe take care of the details, and accept that things might not end up exactly as you planned, but if they are different, they will certainly be better. We’ve always been taught to strive, to fight, to work, to battle against the odds. That’s all nonsense. Relax.

All this creating is just a game, of course; it’s what we do with the raw materials of our surroundings and circumstances. We can have whatever we choose, just choose it and it is ours. But beyond this game, there is the eternal, blissful now, perfect in every detail.

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Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Dividend Stocks - the best passive income stream?

There are two kinds of income: active and passive. Active income streams are what you get in exchange for effort - your day job is the best example: you put in the hours, you get paid. Passive income streams are like getting interest from a bank account - you do absolutely nothing and the money rolls in. In between are things like maintaining a Website: it (potentially) generates money for you all the time, even as you sleep, but it does need to be monitored, updated and maintained, and so there is work involved.

You might love your job and love the work of running a business, maintaining a Website or whatever, and this is desirable because for most people their active income makes up the lion's share of all their disposable cash. But what we are thinking about here is the ideal passive income stream. Its characteristics are:

(1) It is completely passive - you don't need to do anything at all to maintain it.
(2) It is a safe and stable source - it should not change unpredictably
(3) It is rising - at least at the rate of inflation, preferably alot more.

Although some people (including no less illustrious a man than Peter Lynch) don't seem to bother much about dividends, as passive income streams go, you don't get much better than owning stock in good, solid businesses with good yields and rising dividends. Acording to The Motley Fool, If you had invested $10,000 in Ibbotson's large-cap companies back in 1980, you could sell them today for about $130,000. Say what you like about Walmart, but it's been increasing dividends since 1974 and is up 100,000% since its initial IPO. Money invested in solid dividend stocks like this, or Pepsi, Phillip Morris or Johnson & Johnsons would have go you similar results, all on the back of dividends.

Just buying the highest yielding stocks won't do, however - there's more to it than that. You need to be sure that the dividend is secure and that it will go on rising. You don't want to be monitoring the stock and the company constantly. One of the best dividend advisor services I have come accross is MorningStar's dividend Investor newsletter. For a very reasonable price you get a comprehensive monthly newsletter and a stack of e-mail updates.

We tend to get caught up by the excitement and the 'game' of buying and selling our stock in the daily circus of the market. But Warren Buffet said something like 'I never made any money in the stock market,' meaning (I guess) that it's owning the right companies at the right price (and perhaps the right dividend) that is what actually makes the money. If you do this, you can sit back and watch the money roll in, and watch the lemmings fall off the cliff along with all their hard (actively) earned cash.

Saturday, February 9, 2008


equiring or apparently requiring no effort; "the swallows glided in an effortless way through the busy air"
not showing effort or strain; "a difficult feat performed with casual mastery"; "careless grace"

an extremely plentiful or over sufficient quantity or supply: an abundance of grain.
overflowing fullness: abundance of the heart.
affluence; wealth: the enjoyment of abundance.

It is my belief that life, in all its aspects - health, money, success, happiness - is by its very nature abundant, and that because abundance is the nature of life, that it necessarily involves no effort. To strain to achieve that which is inherent in our nature is a sign of a deep rooted problem.

Through this blog, I will explore some ways of seeing, perhaps for the first time, what has always been there.

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Friday, February 8, 2008

About Me and Why I'm Writing This Blog

Having spent much of my adult life musing, reading, writing about and exploring all things spiritual, it is time to do something practical.

I believe that

... freedom and abundance is our natural state of being

... we are free to choose our own path and we can manifest abundance deliberately in our lives

... we should follow our heart and our dreams and, in so doing, will achieve effortless abundance

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