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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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.

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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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