Last week, my wife, daughter, and I took our first vacation since the little munchkin came into our lives almost 8 months ago. It was a blast, let me tell you! We stayed in Oakland, CA for a week to attend my brother-in-law's wedding and see my sister and her family who live just outside of Oakland. (I could write this whole post about my cute little 7 month-old hamming it up on plane with her bright blue eyes, her golf-ball cheek smile, and her excited shrill, but we'll leave that one for another time. Lets just say she was a popular little thing :)). 

What I want to tell you about is how Monopoly ruined my life.  Not really, but it was a close call for sure.  One of the nights we were staying at my sister's house, we decided to pull out a childhood favorite, Monopoly, to have a game night. This quickly turned into a nightly, stay-up-til-2am tradition for the rest of our trip. What I learned? Number one, I stink at Monopoly. I was out within the first 10 minutes of our first and second round and it didn't get much better after that. Number 2, don't base my self-worth on winning Monopoly because, back to number one, I stink at Monopoly.

On a more serious note, Monopoly got me thinking about an all-to-common cultural belief about success. Let's call it something short and sweet like the 'I have to crush everyone else in my path because there's no way I can win if anyone else does' rule.  Yeah, that sums it up nicely.  The object of the game in Monopoly is to make everyone else go bankrupt. You win by putting everyone else out of business. Unfortunately, this behavior and belief have transcended boards games into real life.  It's a scarcity mentality.  Worry about me, take care of me, hold onto my resources so tight that my knuckles turn white because, if I don't, who knows if there will be enough for me tomorrow.  We can't even celebrate or encourage the success, happiness, and accomplishments of others because, apparently, there is a limited supply of those in the universe. (WIth that attitude you might as well start yelling at everyone you see to stop breathing your air because their taking your much needed oxygen).

I think it's time for a deep paradigm shift. Why can't you be happy when a friend, a colleague, or even a stranger for that matter does something great? Why do we have to play 'king of the mountain' all the time? First off, that was sooooo second grade, and second, last time I checked, God was king of the mountain. You don't see Him shoving people down so He can have a bigger piece of the pie. God is a builder and a helper. His focus is on people. We would do well to do the same. Be a builder; focus on people. 

Maybe your co-worker does get that promotion you've been desperately wanting. So what? Cheer him on. He has a family and a mortgage too. And guess what? If you put your time and energy leading up to the promotion into building your co-worker, and helping him be successful (instead of plotting his downfall with your best friend the 'me monster') he's likely to do the same for you with his new found influence. 

If you can't be happy unless you are the only one on top, don't be surprised if you end up exactly that: the only one on top. Alone. Life is going to be an empty, discouraging journey. Instead, help people. Build people up--instead of shoving them down and pushing them aside. Serve. Lift. Give. Celebrate the accomplishments of others. Break up with the 'me monster' (he's ugly anyway). Put your time, energy, and resources into making OTHERS happy and successful. I'm confident that better doors will open, greater levels of success will be reached, and life will be whole lot more fulfilling and happy. 

Monopoly sure is fun, but it's a lousy lie for living real life. 

The Emperor's New Clothes is a well-known, clever little tale by Hans Christian Anderson.  Here's a quick summary/refresher. (I am now talking fast so that  we can get to the good stuff)...
Setting: No clue. Greece. No, let's say France. Characters: vain emperor, phony tailors, the court, peasants, a child.  Vain emperor gets swindled by phony tailors into buying a suit that is so wonderful it is invisible to anyone 'stupid' or 'incompetent.' Believing and prideful little emperor goes parading around town, nose in the air, in his birthday suit while everyone oohs and aahs, too afraid to admit they don't see anything. Finally, a little child shouts out what they all already know, but are too fearful to say. Cover blown, the naked truth exposed, end of story. 

Here's what we learn from it:

     1. Perception is what we believe to be true. It is the way we see the world, not necessarily reality
Reality is "the state of things as they actually exist, rather than as they may appear or might be imagined." The emperor believed he was wearing 'the suit to end all suits,' but was he? Of course not. His perception or his belief was flawed. It was contrary to reality and thus led to a negative outcome. So it is for us. We each have collected, literally, hundreds of thousands of beliefs/perceptions. They begin accumulating when we are very young and continue to pile up the older we get. Some align with truth/reality, many do not. Here's the scary part, our beliefs determine our actions. Let me say it again. Our beliefs determine our actions--however subconscious they may be. If the emperor believes he's wearing new clothes, what will he do? He will go show them off. If I believe generic brand stuff is junk, what will I do? I will always buy name brand stuff. And on and on and on. So what is the solution? Take your beliefs to the boxing ring and knock out any that don't align with truth/reality. It may take you all 12 rounds to make it happen, but it needs to be done. Until we do, until we align our beliefs/perceptions with truth/reality, we are resigned to similar fates as our naked emperor.  
For more on this check out The Power of Perception by Hyrum Smith. 

     2. Pride undermines leadership.
I can't say that I'm the leadership expert yet, I'm not, but I can say that from this story I can see that pride undermines leadership. When presented with the new clothes, the emperor could not see the many colors or feel the softness of the fabric, but he was too prideful to admit it. Admitting the truth would, in this story, label him as stupid and incompetent. So he held on to his pride, suited up, and went marching around town naked. The outcome? He did look stupid and incompetent. Being a leader requires a foundation of trust. People have to trust you, or they will not follow you. Trust is built through integrity, humility and, service. Pride goes against all three. If you want to lead, get rid of pride.

     3. Fear cripples progress.
Fear is a relentless little bugger that keeps far too many of us, far too often (including me) from progressing. It keeps us from achieving our goals, it keeps us from living our dreams, it keeps us from exploring, and experimenting, and going to new heights. At just the thought of greatness, fear shows up at our front door with enough suitcases for an extended vacation. We fear the crowd; we fear failure; we fear the lions, tigers, and bears along the road to success. So we stay put. We don't speak out, stand out, or stand up. We stay seated, quietly, but safely. I love that in this story it is a child that finally shouts out the truth. As you've probably observed, children are fearless (and honest to a fault :)). They dream big, and they go big. They are not crippled by fear. Neither should we be.

     4. Be true to your gut. 
This one is simple, yet tremendously important. Not only will your gut lead you to a good burger, but it will lead you to the right path and help you make good decisions in critical moments. If the emperor, or his court, had just trusted their gut they would have avoided paying for a suit that only bought them humiliation. (Given, that if they would have done that the story would have been horribly anticlimactic). Trust your gut. It will help lead you right.   

Next time your read this funny little tale to you kids, remember these four lessons: 1. Perception is what we believe to be true. It is the way we see the world, not necessarily reality. 2. Pride undermines leadership. 3. Fear cripples progress. 4. Be true to your gut.

photo by http://roweig.deviantart.com/                                                        

Want to be truly happy? Serve. Look around you. Keep those eyeballs pointed in the direction they were made to point, out. (You look funny cross-eyed anyway). There are people all around us that we can help; people with more challenging problems than ourselves. Help in small ways, help in big ways, help in any way you can... and do it consistently. There's no better way to live. Don't believe me? Try it. Focus on it for a day or two. "You'll like the way you [feel]. I guarantee it!" :) 
Learning search engine optimization, for me, has been like trying to read a calculus book upside down, in a foreign language, underwater, ......in space. Yeah, I know, impossible. I have many strengths, but I optimize, or SEO, or whatever you call it, about as good as I tango. 

Lucky for me I've got a genius for a friend, Google. My wife introduced me to him a couple of years ago. She goes to him for everything so I figured I better meet my competition. We hit it off pretty good. My friend recently showed me his keyword search tool. Pretty cool. Here's how it works: I type in a word or a phrase and Google shows me how many times that word is searched every month. It then gives me a list of closely related words and phrases and how many times those are searched. I can then use those to help optimize my site.

Here's where I fell over backward, literally (Ok, maybe not literally, but I should have). Get this: there are 68 million monthly searches for 'give me money.' 68 MILLION! As in 6 8 zero zero zero zero zero zero. Are you serious?! That is ridiculous.  No wonder the Mayans predicted the end of the world. We've digressed to a mentality of entitlement and 'quick fixes' where we want to get, and get, and get some more with out ever giving back.

News flash: Everything good, everything worthwhile requires a fight. It requires hard, hard work, time, energy, effort, sacrifice, strength, courage, sacrifice, selflessness, hard work, and dedication to moral values. Did I mention hard work and sacrifice? Think of marriage, family, freedom, faith, health, fitness, any kind of dream or goal for that matter. It all takes work! I've said it before, true, lasting success and happiness comes from serving others, giving back, adding value. It's time to kill the entitlement mentality and stop wasting our life waiting for someone else to fix our financial problems, someone else to promote our freedom, someone else to give us rock-hard abs, and someone else to fix our marriage. Change your paradigm from, in the words of Captain Hook, "I want, I want, I want, me, me, me, me, mine, mine, mine, mine, now, now, now, now!" to 'What do you need? What do you want? and how can I help you be happy?' Be a contributor. That is when you will be successful. That is when you will be happy.

Following the crowd is one of the most common pitfalls along the road to success. Why? Because we are afraid of the consequences of being or thinking or doing something different. We want to be normal. We want to feel comfortable and accepted.... so we just tag along. Well, hanging out with the crowd might make you feel comfortable, and even accepted, but if you haven't noticed, "the crowd" is unhealthy, unhappy, divorced, and broke.  Not quite the life you want to live.

I'm trying to tell you that you are great--in every sense of the word--and that you can achieve excellence. The crowd, however, tells you 'no', 'you cant', 'you shouldn't', 'why would you?'. It tells you that your goal or your dream is impossible, stupid, and too risky. Think about it. When has "the crowd" ever been supportive of anything outside of the status quo. And we fall for it! We get lulled into some type of cultural hypnosis where we believe and do only what everyone else is believing and doing. Worse, we stamp out our own dreams and purposefully cripple our own potential just to not throw off that status quo. 

Here's my advice...stop it! The world would be a terrible place today if no one in the past had ever challenged the status quo or gone against the crowd. In fact, if that were the case, the world would still be flat; the sun would still be orbiting around the earth; the Bible would still only be in Hebrew and Greek; and the Wright Brothers would still be on the ground. Get the picture? Great success can only come when we are willing to go against the crowd. 

The crowd lies... so stop listening, stop following, and get out there and do your thing! It's a happy way to live. 

I just read a news article about a man (New York Comedian Craig Rowin) who was gifted one million dollars just for asking for it. He posted a video on YouTube pleading for the money, it went viral, and he got it. Crazy, right? Would I trade places? No. Perhaps that sounds overly idealistic, but I'm convinced that true, lasting success and happiness cannot come by way of a 'quick fix' or a short cut. I'm not saying I wouldn't appreciate a million dollars, I would. It would be sweet, but there is immense value in blood, sweat, and tears.

Curious, I googled 'how to be a millionaire' to see what advice I could find. Here are a few of the most common answers:
          1. Ask for it (uninspiring and finite)
          2. Marry into it (risky :))
          3. Win the lottery (improbable--more likely to get struck by lightning)
          4. Never spend a dime (impossible)
          5. Cross your fingers and hope the stars align (unproductive)
          6. Fraud (illegal, not to mention stupid)
          7. Save and invest (imperative, but incomplete)

From this advice, it's obvious why 'fame and fortune' seems to elude to most people. We spend our time and resources chasing mirages instead of buckling down, grabbing the shovel, and digging a well. Real, lasting success and happiness come from hard work and living according to correct principles. If you want to be a "millionaire" start implementing these instead: 
          1. Live a principle, rather than a feeling, based life
          2. Constantly improve yourself
          3. Be selfless and consistently serve others
          4. Be creative, honest, and innovative
          5. Go against the grain
          6. Work smart and work hard
          7. Choose to live with excellence in every area of your life

Recently, Marc and Angel posted an article of the 10 Enemies of Personal Greatness on their blog 'Practical Tips for Productive Living.' I thought I would share it with you because it is a perfect contribution to our mission here as one dollar millionaires. Check out these Goliaths that stand in your path and then knock 'em dead!
  1. Always taking the path of least resistance. 
  2. Comparing yourself to everyone else. 
  3. Worrying too much about what others think of you. 
  4. Ignoring your gut instincts. 
  5. Holding on when you need to move on. 
  6. Living in the past. 
  7. Doing the wrong things just because others are too. 
  8. Allowing small problems to overwhelm you. 
  9. Surrendering to the draw of comfort. 
  10. NOT believing that you CAN. 

Sound familiar? Not for long!!!

(check out the full post at: http://www.marcandangel.com/2012/06/06/10-enemies-of-personal-greatness/)