This should be broken into 4 different blog posts

Purpose of this post: focusing on your strengths, developing your own philosophy, the importance of self-education, and everything you need to know about self-improvement.

First Question: Do you have the opportunity to do what you do best every day?

Chances are, you don’t. All too often, our natural talents go untapped. From the cradle to the cubicle, we devote more time to fixing our shortcomings than to developing our strengths. A book that helped me uncover my talents was StrengthsFinder 2.0, the #1 Wall Street Journal and #1 BusinessWeek bestseller. Image result for strengthsfinder 2.0Gallup introduced the first version of its online assessment, StrengthsFinder, in the 2001 management book Now, Discover Your Strengths. The book spent more than five years on the bestseller lists and ignited a global conversation, while StrengthsFinder helped millions to discover their top five talents.

I took my assessment roughly three years ago since several potential employers asked me to complete it. If any of this sounds useful, go ahead and check it out here. According to the assessment, one my top five strengths is Input, which I’d like to focus on for a moment.

Input as a Strength

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If you possess input, you are inquisitive. You collect things. You might collect information — words, facts, books, and quotations — or you might collect tangible objects such as artwork, memorabilia, or photographs. Whatever you collect, you collect it because it interests you. And yours is the kind of mind that finds so many things interesting. The world is exciting precisely because of its infinite variety and complexity. If you read a great deal, it is not necessarily to refine your theories but, rather, to add more information to your archives. If you like to travel, it is because each new location offers novel artifacts and facts. These can be acquired and then stored away. Why are they worth storing? At the time of storing it is often hard to say exactly when or why you might need them, but who knows when they might become useful? With all those possible uses in mind, you really don’t feel comfortable throwing anything away. So you keep acquiring and compiling and filing stuff away. It’s interesting. It keeps your mind fresh. And perhaps one day some of it will prove valuable.

Kudos to the assessment: I found this to be a pretty accurate characteristic description of myself, (chances are it was a gene passed down by my mother who has always had a storage room packed full of “valuable” antiques) which leads to my next topic…

No one can live a life that’s fulfilling without a sense of meaning. We’ve been put here for a reason. The question is why. And the answer is different for every one of us…

80 Philosophies/Ideologies That Shape My Life

A while back, I started my collection of words, facts, books, and quotes to help find my answer. It’s an ever-growing collection, and has helped shape my philosophy on finance, relationships, business, sports, politics, life, etc. Some simple and obvious, some abstract and profound. Really it’s all over the board. Ranging from Gandhi to my late-night thoughts recorded in my iPhone notes. Each one has its own significant meaning and story behind it. Rather than going in depth with the story behind each one, I decided to list them all and let you interpret as you will. See if you can recognize where I obtained them, and if you find one particularly intriguing, let me know.

  1. You can do 3 things in life: have fun, become wealthy, and change the world. If you don’t accomplish 2/3, you fail.
  2. Healthy body = healthy mind. Run everyday. Ask for a salad instead of fries.
  3. Hard Work + Opportunity = Luck. You make our own luck.
  4. Embrace the grind. Have grit.
  5. Success = the progressive realization of a worthy ideal.
  6. Progress = happiness.
  7. Make your bed every morning.
  8. Choose joy.
  9. Smile, it makes people wonder what you’re thinking.
  10. Genuine wisdom is usually conspicuous through modesty and silence.
  11. Practice being the last person to speak.
  12. Kindness is the highest form of wisdom. Show genuine appreciation. Always say please and thank you. Practice humility.
  13. You’re inferior to everyone you meet in some way shape or form. Look for the best in everyone you meet.
  14. What goes around comes around. The universe unfolds as it should. With every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. As you sow, so shall you reap.
  15. Do unto other as you would have others do unto you.
  16. Look good, feel good, play good. Dress for success. Dress to kill. Don’t leave the house unless you’re ready to meet the love of your life for the first time.
  17. Fake it till you make it. Act like you’ve been there before. It doesn’t matter if it’s in the end zone at the Super Bowl or on a private plane.
  18. Act as if it were impossible to fail. The only thing to fear is God and fear itself.
  19. The only way to win an argument is to avoid it. Be wiser than other people if you can; but do not tell them so.
  20. What’s right isn’t always easy. What’s easy isn’t always right.
  21. Never criticize, condemn, or complain.
  22. Never assume. Guessing is taking your cousin to prom.
  23. Never be offended.
  24. Never say, “it is what it is.”
  25. Never say, “you’re wrong.”
  26. Don’t be nervous, be excited.
  27. Low man wins.
  28. Aim small, miss small.
  29. Slow is smooth and smooth is fast.
  30. Once you’ve tasted excess, everything else tastes bland.
  31. Tip more than you should.
  32. Don’t split a check. Yes, of course you have to buy her dinner.
  33. If you believe in evolution, you should know something about how it works.
  34. Be spontaneous. Buy the ticket.
  35. Read more. It allows you to borrow someone else’s brain, and will make you more interesting at a dinner party.
  36. Statistically, those who read more will earn more. (More on this later)
  37. Statistically, those who speak publicly more will earn more.
  38. Rules are for the obedience of fools and the guidance of wise men.
  39. Measure yourself only against your previous self. Stop comparing yourself to others.
  40. FOE: family over everything.
  41. Don’t work for money, make money work for you.
  42. Keep your asset column higher than your liability column. An asset is something that puts money in your pocket. A liability is something that takes money out. Acquire assets, and you’ll be rich.
  43. Spend less, save well, invest often.
  44. Don’t confuse brains with a bull market.
  45. You don’t get rich at work, you get rich at home.
  46. Own it. Make a difference. Think as if you are the owner of the company. How are you going to step up and grow your business?
  47. When someone asks for a volunteer, saying “I’ll do it” is the simplest way to become a leader.
  48. All leadership is social.
  49. Woo the teacher.
  50. Location, location, location.
  51. It pays to ask.
  52. Pray, meditate, reflect and give thanks for the day every morning after waking up and every night before falling asleep.
  53. The world does not pay men for what they know. It pays them for what they do, or induce others to do.
  54. Deeds, and not words, are what count the most. Tell the world what you intend to do, but first show it.
  55. The money you are paid by the company you work for will always be in direct ratio to the need for what you do, your ability to do it, and the degree of difficulty involved in replacing you.
  56. It’s not the lawyer who knows the most about law, but the one who best prepares his case, who wins.
  57. Success is not the result of making money. Making money is the result of success. And success is in direct proportion to your service. Your rewards in life will always be in exact proportion to your contribution.
  58. Imagination is more important than knowledge. For knowledge is limited to all we now know and understand, while imagination embraces the entire world, and all there ever will be to know and understand.

  59. It all starts with an idea. The time to nurse a good idea is at its birth. Ideas can be sold where merchandise cannot.
  60. Ideas are worthless unless you act on them.
  61. The sixth sense is the faculty which marks the difference between a genius and an ordinary individual.
  62. Sales cures all. For every person you meet, if they invest in you the light of day, then you will make sure they have invested well. It is the ability to get the other person’s point of view and see things from that person’s angle as well as from your own.
  63. You can make more friends in two months by becoming interested in other people than you can in two years by trying to get other people interested in you.
  64. The day of the go-getter has passed. He has been supplanted by the go-giver.
  65. Real networking is about finding ways to make other people more successful.
  66. People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it. The goal for business is not for everybody to buy what you have, the goal is for people to believe what you believe.
  67. Fall in love with your customer.
  68. Don’t just market– add value to people, teach them, give insight, supply more info, give them something valuable that costs nothing.
  69. Follow-up or die.
  70. An intelligent person hires people who are more intelligent than he is.
  71. You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with. You are the average of the five colleagues you spend the most time with.
  72. Who you work with is as important as what you do.
  73. Make new friends, keep the old, one is silver, the other is gold. Never burn a bridge, unless it’s a bad one.
  74. As you believe, so shall it be done unto you.
  75. We become what we think about. A man’s life is what his thoughts make of it. A man is what he thinks about all day long.
  76. If you think in negative terms, you will get negative results. If you think in positive terms, you will achieve positive results. Believe and achieve.
  77. Decision is the ultimate power. Your life today is the summation of every decision you’ve made up to this point. Every man is the sum total of his own thoughts.
  78. Ask and you shall receive, seek and you shall find, knock and it shall be opened.
  79. Love is a verb.
  80. All a man needs in life is purpose and faith.
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The International Library of Matt Stiles: a collection of 71 books including everything from nonfiction and fiction to poetry and finance. Disclosure: 6 are leftover post-secondary texts I forgot to sell back to the campus book guy at a tenth of the price I bought them for (and yes, they are sitting on a treadmill. Running outside is exponentially times better anyway).

Reading Habits: The Rich vs. The Poor

Two weeks ago, my roommate barged into my room as I was reading Blue Ocean Strategy – a book that helped mold Stilesforce’s unique value proposition – and asked, “Why are you always reading self-help books?” He wasn’t the first to criticize or ask me the this question. To answer, I’ll refer to this article from Business Insider.

According to Tom Corley, the author of “Rich Habits: The Daily Success Habits Of Wealthy Individuals“, research finds that rich and poor people alike are cracking their fair share of spines, but the key difference is that less financially successful people read for entertainment, while rich people read for self-improvement.

Here’s how the numbers break down:

  • 11% of rich people read for entertainment, compared to 79% of poor
  • 85% of rich people read two or more education, career-related, or self-improvement books per month, compared to 15% of poor
  • 94% of rich people read news publications including newspapers and blogs, compared to 11% of poor people

“The overall conclusion that I reached in my research is that your daily habits will dictate your financial success in life, and there are four or five key ones,” says Corley. One of those keys, he explains, is self-education. “The rich are voracious readers on how to improve themselves. They’re reading self-improvement books, biographies, books about successful people, things like that.”

If you have absolutely no desire to visit the Self-Improvement section at Barnes & Noble, no sweat, I’ve summed it up for you…

90% of Self-Improvement Books In a Nutshell

Roughly 90% of Self Help books contain the same advice repeated over and over. The advice may be worded differently or geared toward a specific target audience (e.g. men, women, various ethnic and social groups), but the underlying message is pretty much always the same. Here’s a list of that advice:

  1. You create your own life… You are not a victim. You are 100% responsible for the life you have right now. If you are unhappy, you have the power to change your attitude and actions to begin making your life better. Always remember, whether you think life sucks or you think life is great, either way, you’re right.
  2. You make yourself feel the way you feel… Ever notice how some people are able to brush off insults, while others get furious and start throwing punches? Realize that nobody can “make” you feel anything. You are the one that “chooses” to feel good or bad about a particular event or action that occurs.
  3. Fake it until you make it… If you want to be more confident, happy, or positive, then “pretend” that you already are this way. Eventually, after practicing this long enough, you’ll realize that you’re no longer “pretending”.
  4. Follow your purpose… A purpose is what you enjoy doing that you never get tired of and you will do for the rest of your life. Is your purpose to write screenplays? Is it to help sick people? Write down on index cards a list of purposes and choose the one that speaks to you the most.
  5. Set goals and schedule your day… List out 5 to 10 goals that you want for your life. Break each goal up into smaller sub-goals and then break those sub-goals into individual tasks and action steps. Every night, plan the next day in advance. Create a daily “to-do list” with those tasks that you need to do to accomplish your goal.
  6. Live in the present… Regret and shame come from dwelling in the past. Worrying and anxiety come from living in the future. True peace of mind comes from living in the present. The more you become aware of being in the present, the more it becomes a part of your daily life.
  7. The power of attraction… The power of attraction is a powerful mental tool. The process works by focusing on something that you want while visualizing that you already have it. You then have a heightened level of awareness for recognizing opportunities that occur around you. These opportunities will then assist in bringing what you want into your physical reality.
  8. Expand your comfort zone… Your comfort zone (what you feel comfortable doing) is always in a state of either expansion or contraction. The more you get out in the world and do what you feel uncomfortable doing, the less inhibited you become, thereby allowing you to live a richer and fuller life.
  9. Be thankful for what you have… Every morning before you start your day, give thanks and appreciation for what you have. It’s only when we are thankful for what we have that life gives us more blessings and abundance to be thankful for.
  10. The power of asking… Don’t be afraid to ask for what you want. The squeaky wheel gets the grease. It’s the reason that children ask their parents for the same thing over and over again, because they know mom and dad will eventually cave in. The same concept works in the real world. If there is something in the world you want, ask for it…or at least ask how to get it.
  11. Learn from the pros and copy them… Find the successful people in your field and ask them for advice. Ask them what they do to be successful, take notes, and then copy them. A lot of people think that the pros don’t want to share. The opposite is actually true. Most successful people are more than willing to share their knowledge if you ask them.
  12. Ignore the trolls… Trolls are people who will try to discourage you from your dreams. Don’t listen to them. Realize that the only reason they are doing it is because by seeing you chase after your dreams, it’s reminding them that they aren’t chasing theirs. Misery loves company.

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Listen to this 1956 Earl Nightingale recording.*Disregard the title and don’t watch the video*

Two things can be said of each and every one of us: each of wants something, and each of the us is afraid of something.

Ask yourself. What do you want more than anything else?

Instead of worrying about the past or fretting over tomorrow, do yourself a favor and for the next 30-days follow each of these steps every day until you have achieved your goal.

1. Write on a card what it is you want more that anything else. It may be more money. Perhaps you’d like to double your income or make a specific amount of money. It may be a beautiful home. It may be success at your job. It may be a particular position in life. It could be a more harmonious family.

Write down on your card specifically what it is you want. Make sure it’s a single goal and clearly defined. You needn’t show it to anyone, but carry it with you so that you can look at it several times a day. Think about it in a relaxed, positive way each morning when you get up, and immediately you have something to work for and something to get out of bed for, something to live for.

Look at it every chance you get during the day and just before going to bed at night. As you look at it, remember that you must become what you think about, and since you’re thinking about your goal, you realize that soon it will be yours. In fact, it’s really yours the moment you write it down and begin to think about it.

2. Stop thinking about what it is you fear. Each time a fearful or negative thought comes into your mind, replace it with a mental picture of your positive and worthwhile goal. And there will come a time when you’ll feel like giving up. It’s easier for a human being to think negatively than positively. That’s why only five percent are successful. You must begin now to place yourself in that group.

“Act as though it were impossible to fail”

No matter what your goal and if you’ve kept your goal before you every day and you’ll wonder and marvel at this new life you’ve found.

3. Your success will always be measured by the quality and quantity of service you render. Most people will tell you that they want to make money, without understanding this law. The only people who make money work in a mint. The rest of us must earn money. This is what causes those who keep looking for something for nothing, or a free ride, to fail in life. Success is not the result of making money; earning money is the result of success and and success is in direct proportion to our service.

Most people have this law backwards. It’s like the man who stands in front of the stove and says to it: “Give me heat and then I’ll add the wood.” How many men and women do you know, or do you suppose there are today, who take the same attitude toward life? There are millions.

We’ve got to put the fuel in before we can expect heat. Likewise, we’ve got to be of service first before we can expect money. Don’t concern yourself with the money. Be of service … build … work … dream … create. Do this and you’ll find there is no limit to the prosperity and abundance that will come to you.

Don’t start your test until you’ve made up your mind to stick with it. If you should fail during your first 30 days, and by that I mean suddenly find yourself overwhelmed by negative thoughts, simply start over again from that point and go 30 more days. Gradually, your new habit will form, until you find yourself one of that wonderful minority to whom virtually nothing is impossible.

Above all … don’t worry. Worry brings fear, and fear is crippling. The only thing that can cause you to worry during your test is trying to do it all yourself. Know that all you have to do is hold your goal before you; everything else will take care of itself.

Take this 30-day test, then repeat it… then repeat it again. Each time it will become more a part of you until you’ll wonder how you could have ever have lived any other way. Live this new way and the floodgates of abundance will open and pour over you more riches than you may have dreamed existed. But what’s more important, you’ll have peace… you’ll be in that wonderful minority who lead calm, cheerful, successful lives.

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