Over the last few years I’ve been fortunate to interview some interesting, outrageous, and successful people. Whether they practiced medicine, started their own company, or acted in Hollywood, I noticed that their advice had common themes. If you’ve ever read success-oriented books or YouTubed commencement speeches, they all have similar principles. You’ve got “Think and Grow Rich” by Napoleon Hill (1937), Stephen Covey’s “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People” (1989), and Steve Jobs’ commencement speech at Stanford (2005). These took place at least a decade apart, and still, their messages never centered on a specific industry, but rather universal laws that have stood the test of time. Some are little more cut and dry than others, but generally, they’re the same content in different packaging. This isn’t because they’re unoriginal, it’s because they are different people who internalized the principles differently, and therefore prove they are not exclusive to anyone or any discipline.

Yet, many of us still believe that the advice of wise, intelligent people is not applicable because of our circumstances. They don’t get it. We get caught up in what we can’t do and convince ourselves that while those speeches are inspiring, they “don’t apply to me.” Somehow, accepting the negative things in life is easier than telling yourself you deserve better. You feel like you’re stuck majoring in something you don’t even like, headed for a job you’re going to hate, and yet in our generation, people are making money just by Instagramming. Realistically, you could read all those books, watch all those videos, attend as many leadership programs as you want, and none of them could work. It’s a matter of figuring out what you think is stopping you from being “applicable.” There’s a reason why personal development is a never-ending process, why you can’t “do it all” yourself, and why your life makes your ambition so hard to accomplish: It’s because you’re human.

Just because you’ve figured out your insecurity doesn’t mean that three years later you won’t develop a new one that you’ll have to overcome all over again, bringing a whole new set of issues. The people in your inner circle who support you may not always be there. They might be on their own path that you don’t fit into, which you’ll have to deal with. And your ambition? There won’t always be a spark to keep the fire burning. Some days you’ll be over it and some days you’ll panic at the thought of it being a tragic mistake. But not all hope is lost, I promise. What I’m trying to get at is that being successful takes a lot of flexibility in handling your emotions, decisions, and curiosity. Even people who love their jobs still deal with challenges, because that comes with the territory.

At the end of the day, the only thing that keeps people going is that they believe in the decisions they’ve made. Burning out is much less likely to happen when you don’t feel like you’re forced into the nuances of your day. But if where you are right now is far from what you daydream about, don’t feel like you lost time. You are here on purpose. It’s not by accident that you’re failing class, or are going through something difficult, or have nothing exciting coming up. It’s exactly where you’re supposed to be, and you can always start somewhere. There is a person out there who wishes they were you, while you’re wishing to be someone else.

So the next time you pick up one of those books about success, or read another blog, or watch another catchy motivational video someone shared on Facebook, ask yourself what’s stopping you from taking their advice. Deciding to change one small part of your life at a time is not as inspiring as it sounds, but it probably seemed just as annoying to Steve Jobs when he was starting out, too. So what’s stopping you?

Image: Gratisography


If you’re looking for ways to improve your physical or emotional health, productivity, memory, focus and energy, meditation can truly help you do that. Even better, it’s free.

There are many ways to meditate, and while I’ve just scratched the surface with my practice, I’ve already seen some of its positive effects working in my life.

The thing is, a lot of people just don’t know how to get started, think it’s strange, or have tried it but were discouraged. After all, meditation sometimes gets a bad rap; people think they have to sit cross-legged, chant Om, be spiritual or religious and completely empty their minds. Those feats range from awkward to intimidating.

But getting started really isn’t so bad. I’ll break down some of the common roadblocks that keep people from meditating. In part two, I’ll actually walk you through a meditation sequence so you can try it yourself.

Roadblock 1: “I’m not calm or patient; I can barely sit still.”

Being calm and patient is not a requirement for meditating. In fact, one of the main reasons people do meditate is to increase their calmness, patience and inability to sit with themselves and their emotions. The practice will help you find those qualities in yourself and shed your impatience or angst.

Roadblock 2: “Meditation is too time consuming. I’m busy.”

Start with five minutes a day and slowly increase it as you begin to see its benefits. It is said, though, that if you think you’re too busy to meditate for five minutes, you should meditate for 15. It basically means that meditation will help you put your schedule and stress levels into perspective.

Roadblock 3: “I’ve tried emptying my mind, but I can’t.”

Meditation isn’t about creating a blank mind; that’s not normal. If you’ve been trying to force your mind to stop all activity, it’s no surprise you’ve had trouble with it. Meditation is actually just a way to view your thoughts without trying to change them or force them to do anything.

Roadblock 4: “I don’t see how meditation can help me.”

Over time, meditation has tremendous health benefits, including reduced stress levels, improved sleep, greater emotional balance, increased immunity, reduced blood pressure, relief from conditions like irritable bowel syndrome, and reduced depression, anxiety and anger issues. Overall, it can relieve all kinds of emotional and physical ailments while giving you more clarity on what’s really in your heart and mind.

Roadblock 5: “I don’t have anywhere to go that’s silent or isolated.”

The great thing is that you can meditate anywhere. Being aware of the sounds around you without letting them distract you is part of it. Of course, being interrupted by coworkers or roommates can be tricky, but don’t worry about finding total silence and isolation. You can sit on a park bench, in an airplane, at your desk, anywhere. As you continue meditating, you will start to learn how to be mindful of your thoughts and feelings anywhere, without even closing your eyes.

Stay tuned for a walk-through of a beginner’s meditation sequence!

Image: Caleb Roenigk, Flickr