7 Tips on Becoming an Active Listener

Becoming a more active listener will greatly improve your networking power. It’s amazing how most people don’t utilize the full potential of networking. This is especially true for the more analytical and technical minded like myself. A few years ago I realized how important it was for me to start developing my social skills. I realized that they usually account for at least 50% of ones success. Interestingly, they don’t teach you social skills at school, and they weren’t very obvious to my analytical technical mind either. One of the basic social skills is offering value to others. A really easy way to offer value is to become a more active understanding listener. This requires that you put others needs before yours, and maybe even give them the better side of the deal. However in the long run, you will gain a lot more advantages.

1. If a friend is talking about something that they are very passionate about, or maybe they are just venting by telling you about a situation that really upset you, let them finish and get it all out first. What we do a lot of the time is cut them off and talk about our own lives. Believe me, after they are done and have gotten it all off their chest, they will be much more attentive listeners.

2. When a significant other or a friend is talking about something your not really excited about or maybe you even find boring, quickly find a way to relate it to something else in your life. Find a commonality. Say the conversation is about salsa dancing, and your not really into dancing. However you enjoy music, you can easily shift the conversation to be about music.

3. If you are listening to someone and start drifting off, focus on maintaining eye contact with the other person. This will usually help you stay in the moment focusing on what the other person is saying.

4. Keep your primary focus on the person and the conversation. This sounds simple yet it can be difficult especially with all the possible frequent interruptions that will come up. Anywhere from your cell phone going off, to someone else walking in on the conversation. Basically if you cell phone goes off, and you have been expecting an important call, you can simply excuse yourself and take it. If someone else interrupts or walks in on your conversation, let the person your talking to finish what they are saying, and slowly start shifting your body to include the new person. If your the only one who knows the new person, introduce them right away, and quickly catch everyone up to speed on how you know each other.

5. Whenever you are unclear about something you heard or if it sounds vague, rephrase it back to the speaker in different words. This will do two things. It will ensure that you really understand what the other person is talking about. Additionally, it will make the other person feel understood and appreciated. Helping others feel understood and appreciated is actually why therapy is very popular. While therapy can be very essential for certain individuals, I would assume that for many others it simply helps them feel understood. Usually this is what therapists do with clients. They let the client explain everything, and then rephrase it to make sure they understood the client correctly.

6. Be sincere and honest. Being an active listener certainly doesn’t mean agreeing with everything the other person is saying or not questioning it. While you should try to be sympathetic and put yourself in their shoes, at the same time if you totally disagree with something they are saying you need to speak up. Let them finish what they are saying first. Then let them know that while you respect their opinion, you disagree. It’s also important to realize that conversations aren’t about who’s right and who’s wrong. Actively listening to another person doesn’t mean that they are right, it just means that you respect them enough to give them your focus and attention.

7. If there is someone you seriously hate talking to, don’t try to force yourself to be all nice and polite by talking to them. If you can’t stand the person, you wont be able to offer them any real genuine value anyway. Also being nice and polite doesn’t mean becoming the door mat that everyone simply walk all over. Being nice and polite works when for children yet as adults if it’s not genuine it’s useless. I myself find it very hard to trust a person who gets along with everyone else, and always agrees with everything I say. While it’s nice at first getting their validation, after a while it’s useless since it’s obviously not real. It could also mean that the other person simply hasn’t taken the time to define their own personal values and preferences. It’s very hard to genuinely trust that type of person because you simply don’t know what really makes them happy and what really makes them mad.

Instant Gratification Paradox

image credit:cathyse97
Instant gratification, we all fall for it it’s when:

  • we eat that greasy fatty junk food, that tastes oh so good in our mouth yet is bad for our health, energy levels, productivity, and our weight loss plan
  • we skip doing a chore like going to the gym, buying groceries, cleaning the house and instead watch useless mind numbing tv
  • we get red of our hobbies, and forget about our dreams just because they require too much work, time and effort
  • we overspend, buy stuff we don’t need, and maybe even get in debt instead of investing and saving our money
  • we are always looking for the magic pill, whether it’s to lose 30 pounds in 30 days without getting off the couch or becoming the next millionaire by following the newest get rich quick scheme

We all know instant gratification doesn’t work, it’s a rip off.  We eat the junk food, and while it tastes amazing, afterwards we feel too full, dehydrated, sleepy, lazy, and want to take a nap.  We skip our chores, watch some tv, and afterwards realize that we just wasted our a block of really valuable time.  We give up on our dreams, and discard our hobbies and live like zombies doing the least we have to do to get by.  We go on shopping sprees, buy things we don’t need and know we can’t afford and eventually encounter financial problems and might even get in debt.  We want to lose weight without putting in the effort so we order that magic diet pill and are disappointed when it doesn’t work.  We want to become millionaires without putting in the hard work and the long hours so we order that new get rich quick program yet are disappointed later when we find out it’s either a rip off or is a lot tougher and requires more effort than we initially thought.

Instant gratification is a paradox.  It’s a lie, however it’s one that we keep buying into.  Marketers know this, that’s why advertising works.  Does that mean advertising is evil? No, it’s what you make of it.  If it wasn’t for advertising and marketing you might have never found out about the last great book you read, movie you watched, or product you bought.  A great example of this is the 4 hour work week.  It’s a great book, yet it takes a lot of work to setup a business that only requires 4 hours of your time to manage per week.  It took the author himself over a year just to get his business to make him good profits, and another year to automate it.  It’s also important to point out that this wasn’t his first business idea, he’s certainly tried and failed plenty of times in the past.  While the 4 hour work week is a great book, and is becoming more and more popular, how many people do you think will end up creating their own 4 hour work week?  how many people are willing to put in 2 years or more of hard work into setting such a business up?  how many people are willing to try and fail with different business ideas until they find the right one?  I’d like to be optimistic and say many, yet in reality it’s very few.

Can you wake up one day and just eliminate all of the temptation of indulging in instant gratification? No.  Besides you wouldn’t want to go to the other extreme of always thinking long term.  While thinking long term is a healthy habit, it can certainly distract you from enjoying the moment and making the best of your current life situation.  Besides many people get too hung up on long term thinking that they live their whole lives to create a better future, yet that future never comes, how could it when they are always busy creating it and can never stop to enjoy their present?

How to deal with instant gratification?

Step 1: Start looking at your choices and actions and see if they are motivated by instant gratifcation.  Take some time right now and write down at least 3 choices/actions in your day to day life that are an attempt to indulge in instant gratification.  Don’t judge those choices, and don’t be hard on yourself.

Step 2: In the next 7 days become conscious of when you make those choices and take those actions and how you feel afterwards.   Start becoming more conscious of how instant gratification is a paradox, it doesn’t really exist.

Step 3: After a week of conciousness, start taking small steps to decrease the frequecy of those 3 choices/actions or even to eliminate them if possible.  For example if you chose to watch tv regularly, try to watch less tv, eliminate one of the shows you watch etc.  If your eating a lot of junk food try to incorporate one healthy meal into your diet each day.  If you are living from paycheck to paycheck try to go shopping less often and mostly buy necessaties instead of luxuries.  There isn’t an easy way to do this, it’s just a matter of knowing that you need to do the right thing and doing it anyway whether or not you feel like it.  Of course after making the right choices for a while, they become habits that are easier to maintain.

20 Tips to Create Value Like a Millionaire

Wanna become a millionaire? All you gotta do iscreate value for others.  Whether you want to create the next cool electronic gadget, the next best selling book, the next medical break-through, or simply help others just for the fun of it, all you gotta do is work on creating value for others. Creating value is simply building or creating something that others find valuable.  Something that improves the quality of their life, helps them break a bad habit or simply gives them pleasure.  And here are all the tips you need to create value.

  1. Understand Value.  Value is in the eye of the beholder. What you think is valuable is great, however others might not necessarily care for it ;) So how do you create value?
  2. Target a Group.  Since value differs from one person to the next you need to focus.  Focus your efforts on a group that has a certain need.  Maybe they want to lose weight, learn Irish-dancing, get a date, travel the world, or stop smoking.  Whatever need that group has, focus on that need, and create value with that group in mind. What would they find valuable?
  3. Put Others Needs First.  Once you’ve focused on a group, you need to put the group’s needs first before your own.  Let’s say you decided to help lame guys – myself included ;) – get a date. While it would be pretty funny to take them out and tell them to approach women with some obscene comments, and see the women’s reactions, guess what? That will probably traumatize the guys.  Instead you need to try seeing things through their eyes, see what they need and offer it.
  4. Master the Skills.  In order to help that guy get a date, you have to be able to get one first, I know it stinks but talk is cheap ;) You have to lead by example. However you don’t need to master a skill before you can start.  If you can get more dates than the average guy, then you can start helping average dudes.
  5. Don’t Judge.  In creating value you have to be very open minded.  If you have a lot of judgments, no one will listen to you, or want your help.  If you look down on those you’re trying to help, this will become obvious sooner or later.  So how do you become more open-minded?
  6. Walk in Their Shoes. Whatever group you are trying to help, you must really know and understand very well before you can create anything of value for them.  An easy way to do that is to frequently speak with members of the group, hang out with them, or even spend a whole day with one them.
  7. Become Creative.  Maybe you want to help others lose weight yet you realize that there are already tons of books, diets and programs out there.  How could you create value in such a crowded market? While there are many solutions, guess what? Most people are still overweight, so obviously most of the solutions out there aren’t working.  So what’s missing? That’s what you need to figure out.
  8. Laser Focus. Maybe trying to help others lose weight sounds like a huge project. This is why you need to focus your efforts. Maybe you should help new mothers drop the weight they gained during pregnancy.  Now that’s a much easier project for you to focus on and learn about.
  9. Start Reading. Once you picked a group of interest, and narrowed your focus down, you need to start reading about that group.  Find out what solutions are out there for their need, and find out if those solutions are working.  Often times you will find that there are many solutions, yet none of them is very effective.  This is when you know you found an opportunity :)
  10. Offer Free Help.  Since you are no expert, no one will probably be willing to pay you for help. Lucky for you, people never turn down FREE help.  So you have to pick your first victim ;) I mean client and offer them some help. Maybe you remember that your cousin’s wife just had a baby and is now trying to drop off those last few pounds. So next time you talk to her, you let her know that you would like a walking partner, and go for walks with her. During the walks you can get to find out about her experience dropping off those pregnancy pounds, and even give her some tips from some of the books you read.
  11. Start a Support Group.  Once you have had some success helping someone, then start helping others, eventually create some kind of a support group. This could be an online forum, a group that meets over dinner at a restaurant, or even a group that has a teleconference.
  12. Take Notes. Take notes on what you learn about your support group members.  Their needs, techniques that helped them succeed, their frustrations etc. This will help you create a valuable product for them in the future.
  13. Start Creating Your Product. Based on what you learn start creating a product that would help the group you chose to focus on.
  14. Use Your Skills.  Creating a product might sound like a big deal yet it’s a lot easier than most people think.  You can simply write an ebook or create a video.  Going back to helping new mothers drop off pregnancy pounds, all you need to do is get a personal trainer from your local gym to come up with a custom workout based on your findings/research etc.  You can even videotape the personal trainer performing it, and that could be your product.  You can outsource the video manufacturing and copying, just do a quick google search and you’ll find many duplication services.
  15. Test Your Product. Before selling your product, or investing a lot of money in creating a 100 units of it, test it within the support group you created.
  16. Listen to The Feedback.  Listen to the feedback you get during your product testing and adjust your product accordingly.
  17. Finalize Product. Once you have created a more ideal product that members of the support group enjoy, it’s time to go live.
  18. Do Not Become a Perfectionist.  You should not be aiming for creating the perfect product, rather one that’s good enough.  You can always improve it later.
  19. Get Some Free Testimonials.  Have some members of your support group try out your product, and get some testimonials from them.  This will help you in making your sales pitch.
  20. Start Selling Your Product.  Make a sales pitch, present the product to investors, or even sell it directly to potential customers.

I realize that this is rather a quick outline of how value is created.  However if you are interested in learning more about this topic, provide me with your first name and email, and I will explore it much deeper.

Forget Success – Try to Fail Instead

Say what? This is a great piece of advice I heard originally from Steve Pavlina the Personal Development expert. He was asked how being an authority on personal development impacts his own personal growth? If he ever feels intimidated, as if he can’t fail and always has to be successful to be a good role model.

His reply was simple: “think of authority as authenticity“. This hit deep home for me. One of the biggest challenges about writing personal development articles is feeling like a hypocrite.  How can I give weight loss advice when it’s something I myself I’m working on still?  How can I write about biphasic sleep when I couldn’t finish my own experiment with it?

What we often do is hold our deepest darkest secrets and failures inside of us.  This creates an overwhelming feeling of guilt and shame.  And it holds us back from being authentic.  Think of authenticity as a glass wall, you can see through it. An authentic person is very transperant.

Everyone can easily relate to an authentic person.  An authentic person isn’t usually the picture perfect success model.  Rather he’s the biggest failure ever.  He’s open about his short-comings, and past failures.  People as a result feel like they can relate to him, rather than putting him on a pedastal.

Failure is what breaks our egos.  Failure is what helps us get beyond our pride, our sense of superiority, our perfectionism.  Failure is what helps us learn and grow.

Immediate success usually leads to lots of trouble.  Look at the hollywood stars or pop music artists that make it, and go crazy with all the new money, power and fame.  Often they abuse drugs or alcohol.  I personqally can’t blame them, if you can buy your way out of anything, how much trouble would you get yourself into?

Does that mean that success is bad?  Certainly not.  But success has to be earned.  Otherwise it doesn’t last and more importantly can’t be fulfilling.  Hear the statistic that most lottery winners are usually in more debt a few years after winning than they were before?

Try to fail as quickly and as cheaply as possible to grow the quickest.  An easy way to fail is to get out of your comfort zone.  Outside of your comfort zone is where all the growth happens.  Just think of the last tough skill you learned.  Remember those first few days of constantly trying and failing?

Some quick ways to get out of your comfort zone:

  • Try to learn a new skill or take on a new hobby, the more intimidating the better.  Try a dancing class, an improv comedy class, or skydiving.  All great activities I tried and highly recommend ;)
  • Make new friends.  Start talking to new random people on the street, at social events, in the elevator.  Meet some new neighbors.  Talk with people you usually avoid.  This will help you get a broader perspective on life.  It will also help you relate to different kinds of people with different backgrounds.
  • Travel.  Travel internationally if possible.  Otherwise travel to big cities and small town in your country.  Any kind of travel is a learning experience.  Me and friend promised each other to travel once every 3 months and it’s been amazing.  We went to Las Vegas in March where he somehow made $400 playing roulette.  Then we went to Los Angeles for a seminar where I got to meet some of the biggest internet entrepreneurs ;) I gotta admit it was a very humbling experience.

Get Off Your Butt

Please Note: This is a guest post by Marcus Smith, read more of his posts at his blog.

If you would like to write a guest post, get extra traffic and exposure for your blog, click here.  Once again I would like to thank Marcus for submitting this great post.  Now on to the post…

First of all let’s get this out of the way.  I love to read.  I live to bounce ideas off other people. If I didn’t brainstorm I’d probably die.  I agree that process maps bring clarity to any endeavor.  I know that planned courses of action are absolutely necessary for extended success.

These things are all well and good.  They all have their place in a successful lifestyle.

All the planning, brainstorming, and process mapping in the world won’t amount to anything if you fail to get off your butt and take measurable action.

For the rest of this article I will open your eyes to what it takes to see a personal project/task/undertaking through to a successful end.  I’ve used these methods to shed 50 lbs of fat, create powerful business connections, attract clients into my business, and build traffic to my website.

Are you being lazy?

Create Blocks of Time

Everybody wants to get in better shape.  Most people want to be millionaires/billionaires.  A select few want to be the rock, paper, scissors champion of the world.

It really doesn’t matter what you aspire to be.  If you don’t make the time to do so it will never ever happen.  Oftentimes we don’t get what we want because we haven’t set the time to do it.

For years I struggled with my weight.  I wasn’t morbidly obese but I was still overweight.  At my worst I tipped the scales at 252 lbs and I sported a 40” waist.  When I walked the friction of my thighs would create tear at my pants and underwear.  For years and years I whined and complained about the issue.  I’d get on a “health kick” and watch my weight go back and forth.   The weight would always came back.

One day in late 2006 I made a change.  I decided that Monday through Friday between  5:30 – 7:00 PM was my work out time. That hour and a half was non-negotiable.

If I was working I stopped and worked out.  If someone wanted to make plans, no matter who it was, they had to wait until 7:00 PM.  I drove to the gym during thunderstorms, hailstorms, and traffic jams.

As soon as I set that non negotiable 1.5 hour time period I noticed a change in my body.  Those unwanted pounds grew wings and flew away.

Setting non-negotiable times for action is the first step to getting off your butt.  Good habits (like bad ones) are incredibly hard to break.

Set Goals

A google search of the term “setting goals” returns 4.17 million results.  My personal favorite is the tried and true classic S.M.A.R.T. goals system.

Let’s use the goal “I want to speak to 4 unique audiences in 2008” to show how S.M.A.R.T. goals work.

Specific  – Being vague will absolutely kill you.  I want to improve in public speaking is a vague goal.  I want to speak to 4 different audiences in 2008 is a specific goal.

Measurable – If you say you want to speak to 4 different audiences then you can measure your success or failure.  It’s an easy thing to do.  If you manage to get in front of 4 audiences you’ve succeeded.  If you don’t then you haven’t.

Attainable – I agree that we should all aim for the stars.  However, you can’t go to outer space if you don’t have a spaceship.  When setting goals do yourself a favor and set reasonable ones.  There is nothing more deflating than setting a goal and failing because your goal wasn’t realistic.  There’s a big difference between speaking to 4 unique audiences in2008 and speaking to 50.

Realistic – Setting a goal that you can meet is a good idea.  You have to take an inventory of your skills, available time, and motivation to achieve the goal in order to be realistic.  If you have the requisite skills, time, and motivation then the goal is realistic.  Setting goals that are outside of these constraints set you up for an unnecessary downfall (think 4 audiences in a year versus 50).

Timely – Providing a time frame gives your goal life.  A time frame adds the elements of urgency and closure.  There’s nothing more concise and motivating than a crystal clear drop dead date.

Take Action

The last section of this article is without a doubt the most important piece.  Taking action is essential to getting off your butt and making things happen.  Creating time and setting goals are both important but they mean nothing if no action follows them.

Right after I finished losing weight a close friend of mine asked me how I did it.  I looked him squarely in the eye and said “I went to the gym and worked out”.  He thought I was trying to be smart, but I was giving him the absolute truth.  I wouldn’t have lost a pound had I not done the work.

It’s a simple yet important piece of advice.  If you want to lose weight you need to eat right and workout.  If you want to be the top salesman you need to sell the most product.  If you want to get more dates with women you need to talk to more women.  If you want to attract customers into your business then create a marketing plan and implement it.  If you absolutely hate your job then find a new one.

Get it?

Got it?


Taking action is really the easiest part of the equation.  Setting time and creating goals are tedious (yet necessary) activities.  Putting your nose to the grind stone and reaping the benefits is the fun part.

Remember the Nike slogan (Just Do It!) and you can’t go wrong.


Getting off your butt and breaking the shackles of procrastination can be challenging.  Many people struggle with this.  I used to be a part of that crowd until I began following the steps outlined in this article.

Here’s a quick recap:

  1. Create non-negotiable blocks of productive time
  2. Set S.M.A.R.T. goals
  3. Take Action!

Sitting on your hands watching the world spin is an incredible waste of your time and talent.  Use these tips to get off your butt and start using what you have!