Category Archives: Principles

The Mechanics of Success

Since inception the tagline of this blog has been “Simple Tools For Your Success”. But recently I changed it to “The Mechanics of Success”.

When people think of mechanics people think of people who fix cars- I assure you this site isn’t switching it’s focus- we’re still getting you to success. There will still be tools. This is about the focus on fundamental and trying to turn success into a science.

The Best Time For Spiritual Renewal

New Years Day i.e. January 1st is a time for physical reflection- many people make resolutions to work on their weight etc. I mentioned that on labor day should be your time for career resolutions (see part 1 and Part 2). Today is the Jewish New Year- that’s the Jewish time for spiritual renewal. Even if you’re not Jewish you too should work on your own spiritual renewal. Dates are just random- start now.

Are you doing your best? Can you do better? Can you improve relationships? Do you enjoy everything you are doing?

Decide one thing you want to improve in your life and get started today.

Today can be the start of your New Year or spiritual growth and success.

Happy New Year.

Rich Lessons From David in Diamondonia

I recently wrote about a tale “David in Diamondonia” I heard when I was a child that still resonates with me years later. There are numerous lessons that can be learned from this simple story.

Here’s a few and then I’ll tell you about the one I thought of now decades later- that’s even more powerful than all of these.

  • Know your goal. While working hard to get were you want you should keep in mind the goal. Often while working we forget the main goals and principles that cause us working so hard. (Martin Wildam)
  • Think ahead. Instead of bringing money he should have brought candles – sell them for expensive and buy diamonds for those. (Martin Wildam)
  • Value is a completely relative thing. It depends on: Who, Where, When (Martin Wildam)
  • Give people what they want, not what you want.
  • Trust but verify. Even the best and brightest aren’t always doing the best thing. They need to have some monitoring.
  • Small gestures (of the right kind) can be worth much e.g. the diamond in his shoe.

But the lesson I recently thought of is that Diamonds (and money) are just our candle. Diamonds don’t do anything- they don’t make people happy, healthy or successful. Think about it- a diamond is just a glittery rock. Similarly dollars are just paper. Diamondonians aren’t stupider than us, we just have different value systems so we chase diamonds instead of candles. Because our world places such a high value on “diamonds”(material objects) we constantly strive for diamonds when we may be missing something more valuable. Certainly money or candles have value and are needed but at the end of the day they are only there to get you to your goal- they aren’t a goal.

Are We Collecting Candles or Diamonds?

When I was around 10 years old I heard a parable that made such an impression on me that I never forgot it. The story had an important lesson that is just as important today as an adult- maybe more so.

David in Diamondonia

Once upon a time deep in the mountains of Russia a small community was in trouble. The harvest was weaker than the normal tiny output and there wasn’t much optimism for the future. There was little food, the houses were falling apart and many were residents were sick. The elders in the town got together and discussed their dim situation. They went through their options but there were none. They had tried all options in previous years and each year was just getting worse. There weren’t any good new ideas that the elders could came up with. Finally an old man spoke up and told of a far away land called Diamondonia. It was always dark in Diamondonia but it had diamonds for sale so cheaply that they were almost treated like rocks. The road to get to that land was long and dangerous. After much debate the elders of the town decided that this was their only hope. They decided to send a messenger to the far off land.

For a mission this important they needed to pick their smartest and ablest citizen a man named David.  They collected as much money as they could and sent him off with for his treacherous journey.

David traveled for months over mountains through the coldest cold he’d ever felt and across deserts with the hottest hot. There were many times he wanted to give up but he thought back of his town and continued on. Finally after almost a year of travels he was getting close to Diamondonia the sun was disappearing and it was getting darker. It was so dark that he could barely see.

Finally he came to a peddler selling candles. He asked about Diamondonia and got directions to the town- just one month away. He was excited. But the peddler warned him “You’ll need to buy many candles to make it to there and this is the last place you’ll be able to get it so cheap.” The candles were quite expensive, it cost five times more than it did in his town. He was wise and surmised that this peddler was honest. He needed the candles to keep going so he bought a bunch with almost all his remaining money.

Finally after one month of traveling he came to Diamondonia. There was a large commotion in the nearby market and he quickly ran there to buy diamonds. To his surprise the merchants weren’t selling diamonds- they were selling candles. There were all kinds of candles in all kinds of colors giving off all kinds of beautiful lights. Some candles even danced, others illuminated large areas and still others gave the most beautiful combination of colors he’d ever seen. Then there were even candles that acted as fireworks, fireworks like he’d never seen. There were more candles there than he’d ever seen in his life.

He asked about purchasing diamonds. The merchants looked down on him. “Why do you need that?!?” one merchant replied. “Can’t you see it’s dark in this town. Diamonds wont give you any light.”

Finally he was referred down an alley to a dimly lit shop. In there he saw all kinds of diamonds small ones for a few rubles. Large ones for 50 rubles. Even the smallest diamond would be worth a lot  back home. Unfortunately at this point he’d used up almost all his money on getting to Diamononia and he still needed to get back.

He purchased two small ones and told the diamond dealer “I’ll be back with more money” and he started to walk out.

The diamond dealer just smiled and said “they never come back”.

He planned on spending the next few days working hard and earning money. There was no place to get light, so to do anything at all he needed candles. But candles were very expensive. Even cheap ones could cost hundreds of rubles. He bartered his efforts for money. He sought out bargains and learned to negotate well. He was able to purchasing many candles and even got a few beautiful ones at very reasonable prices. He had an eye for bargains. In his work he befriended some of the richest people in town who showed him their candle collections. One showed him the most beautiful light he’d ever seen- the cinderella. He vowed to himself that he’d work very hard so he could one day purchase a cinderella. He was sure that the people of his town would be similarly amazed by this most beautiful light.

He worked hard everyday motivated by buying that beautiful light so his town can share its majesty. His little town can be the only one in the region with a cinderella. Finally after two years of hard work he was able to purchase that cinderella. He was the envy of his friends in Diamondonia. He realized that although he enjoyed his time in Diamondonia it was time to head back to his own town. He packed up his bags and gingerly put in his candle collection. He’d amassed a small collection and he stuffed every last piece in his bags. His bags that came bare were leaving full. He was proud of his accomplishments.

It took another year to arrive back home and although the cold seemed colder than he remembered and the heat was hotter than he remembered, the road back seemed to go a little quicker. He couldn’t wait to tell the elders how hard he’d worked and show them how successful he was.

Finally one cold winter day he came walking up the snow covered path to town. Word quickly spread that he’d arrived and the entire town was out to greet him. The children were screaming his name, their parents were singing and even the old people of the town came out on their canes, happy that the mission was successful. After a four year journey he was getting a warm welcome. Although the people were a little older and the town was a little more warm, the welcome was more warn than he could have imagined.

Finally he went in the town hall and opened the contents of his backpack and showed the town his collection of candles. The elders were confused.

“Are these candles made of diamonds?” they asked.

“Of course not,” he laughed. “They are worth more than diamonds.”

He then pulled out the cinderella. Everyone agreed it was the most beautiful candle they had ever seen. But the whole town, even the children, also agreed that David was the most foolish person they’d ever seen.

“You can’t sell a candle for more than a diamond in Russia. Even one as beautiful as the cinderella.” they said.

Just then David looked around the town hall and realized his folly. He feverishly searched through his bag  and found the two small diamonds he bought on the first day in Diamononia. He also had a few others he’d picked up around town as souvenirs. He even remembered about one in the heal of his shoe to make his shoe fit better.

The town was happy again. The diamonds were enough to get them through a few winters.

But David was sad- he realized his backpack could have been filled with diamonds.

The Moral

Any story you hear when you’re 10 has a moral. The moral I was told was that we are in this world but a short time we shouldn’t be sucked in by the bright lights of this world but we should be collecting diamonds through kindness and good deeds.

As a 10 year old I remember being struck by how stupid David was. The message made it’s point.

More Morals

As I look back there are many more lessons to get from this story. Some of which I see more clearly today. I’ll talk about those another time.

What lessons did you learn from this story?

Successful Reading: Some Interesting Reads

I actually had some time to read over the summer for the first time in years. I read only non-fiction books. Actually I didn’t read all of them- I listened to a few on tape(or CD). I’m a harsh grader so you can see a difference between books. Ratings of 2.5 and above is recommended. Here’s a rundown of a few highlights (not many low-lights):

The Radical Leap: A Personal Lesson in Extreme Leadership

The first part of the story was interesting, but not enough substance. the last chapter had substance but although an interesting wasn’t sustaining. Plus I don’t agree with the premise of OS!M- you shouldn’t need to embarrass yourself in front of people to win them over.

Rating: 3 of 5

The Art of Friendship: 70 Simple Rules for Making Meaningful Connections

Interesting read. makes you thin about friends- which is good. each chapter is really short making it an easy read.

Rating: 3.5 of 5

The 4-Hour Workweek: Escape 9-5, Live Anywhere, and Join the New Rich

Good book. Made me think (which is all I can ask) and inspired me. It makes you really think about outsourcing. Don’t like all it’s concepts on the “new rich” as it’s too “vegabond”, overall worth the read.

Rating: 4 of 5

Freakonomics: A Rogue Economist Explores the Hidden Side of Everything

Interesting to see the “real” cause of many seemingly obvious occurrences. I can’t point to anything except sceptisim that I got out of this though.

Rating: 4 of 5

Manhunt: The 12-Day Chase for Lincoln’s Killer (P.S.)

My only real story in five years (but still non-fiction). A little too many unnecessary details but interesting read showed what really happened.

Rating: 2.5 of 5

More Of The Best Diet: Control Your Food

Recently I’ve been telling you about The “Best Diet” where you can eat what you love and lose weight. I even told you how you can eat more and lose weight. Today I’ll tell you a fundamental way to diet without real sacrifice- eat less.   With the techniques below you will not feel hungry or deprived at any point.

The problem: in today’s super-sized world it’s easy  to keep eating (especially because of the productivity curse) as we get bigger portions and food is everywhere (meetings, occassion etc). What I’m suggesting is eat just a little bit less of what you don’t need. I’m not saying you need to starve yourself. Just cut back a little at a time and before you know it you need less to be satisfied.

Stop and Think

Sometimes people eat just because the food is there. Stop yourself. Think am I full? Then turn your attention to something else besides food.

Take a Drink

Sometimes when you think you’re hungry when your thirsty. Take a drink (plain water is best) and then reevaluate.

Take a Break

It takes a few minutes for you brain to realize that you’re full. Take a break and come back. If you’re still hungry eat.

Take Less in Your Plate

We’re all achievers- we want to finish what we start. If you take less in your plate you wont feel like you have to finish it. You may also realize that you don’t want as much as you think.

Think Of The Money You’ll Save

For some people financial incentives help them succeed. There’s a potentially large one here- the less you need to eat the less you pay for food. This is especially true in restaurants where food is expensive.

Split The Meal

If you get a super-sized meal split it with a friend or family member. Or just take a doggy back and save it for the next day.

Only Have Food When/Where You Need It

Don’t have food readily available when you don’t need It. If you don’t need the food keep it away. This means don’t have it at your desk at work, in your car etc. Before a recent long trip (3 hours) with my sister she offered to bring snacks (chips- which are my favorite) in the car. I just had a good dinner so I knew I didn’t need the food. So I told her “it’s better if you don’t bring it- I’ll eat it all” (and I would have).

So do you control your food or does it control you?

Quick Money Saver: Review Your System


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Mobile Phone with Money in Kenya

One of the foundations of a Success Making Machine is setting up systems that work and let them run automated. For example, I have my utilities (gas, electric, phone) set up with automatic recurring payments. As long as charges are within range I need to take no action. But I make it a point to review my utilities periodically to make sure I’m still paying market prices. Here’s my successful recent “system review”. I’ve had equivalent success with reducing auto insurance (50%), gas(5%) and other utilities.

Here’s my latest story. My internet/cable/phone (triple play) company sent me a notice that they were increasing their price by $15 a month. That was the last straw- their fees were inching up monthly and I was being bombarded with ads from their competition that their prices were lower.

Try to work it out

First I called my old company to see if they had a better (or at least equivilant) deal. This has been a helpful strategy in the past. It’s worth it for me to keep the old company even if they just match the deal because I’ll save the headache of switching. They couldn’t do better than the new deal- but still offered me something better than what I currently had. I wanted to make sure I wouldn’t be missing something- so I asked. They admitted that the new deal was superior. With a superior deal and without any loss of features I knew it was time to switch.

In with the New

I called the ad to make sure it was legit. It was. As I was deciding which package to get the company rep offered me better and better deals. I ended up with a free DVR, an extra install line and some more free channels- all for a lower price than I previously paid (before the increase).

Out with the old

After the new service was successfully installed I called to cancel the old one (I don’t cancel in advance in case something goes wrong). Interestingly, the “customer retention rep” who took my cancellation was prepared to offer me some good deals not offered elsewhere- I didn’t pursue the conversation because after installation it’s not worth it for me to switch again. An addition lesson here is talk to numerous people in the same company.

Next Action: Try this with your utilities. They should be reviewed annualy. Let me know how much you save.

photo credit: whiteafrican

What is Success?


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Ms. Wheelchair Texas 2008!

A while ago, Lifehacker posed the question How do you define success? It’s obvious that each person defines it different but I think the underlying theme is that success is achieving what you want. Acheiving what you want is the premise of the Success Making Machine– you can be successful at anything. Want it and then go get it the best way possible .

For me, success is “quality” time- I want all my time spent doing what I want and enjoy. Enjoy my kids. Enjoy my spouse. Enjoy my work. Enjoy my friends. Control my time. Make a difference in my community. Controlling my destiny and enjoying every minute of it. It’s important to enjoy the little things.

How do you define success?

photo credit: eschipul

Getting Dreams Done Part 2: The SMART Way To Reach Your Dreams


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Horizon of my LifeIn this series you will learn the steps needed to turn your dreams into reality. In the first part of this series we saw how to define your dreams. Dreams give you something to shoot for and strive for. In this part we’ll take dreams and turn them into goals. Without goals you wont know what needs to be done to achieve success.

SMART Goals
Let’s take the “standard” dream “I want to be rich and happy”. That’s actually touching two parts of your life (some would say one leads to another but that’s for a different post): financial and personal. We’ll take your financial goal first as that is easier to quantify. We need to turn rich into something we can quantify (not necessarily in terms of dollars but in terms of actions). Your gut reaction may be “I want a million dollars” (or even a billion if you’re “ambitious”) but is that really what you want? You probably want what that money can buy. I’m not talking about physical assets- a car, a boat, a house in Italy. I’m talking about a life style. When you take out the physical items what you really want is the independence, fun, excitement, prestige etc that goes with those objects. As you peel layers off your dream you find out what you really want. Then you can start defining your goals. Goals are the subset of results you want. In this case you may say: “I don’t necessarily need to be rich, but I want to be able to retire when I’m young and spend my time traveling- then life would be grand”. There’s a simple way to make the dream more realistic and aligned which what you can achieve. Let’s make the dream SMART- Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Timely- then you’ll succeed.

Specific

Use the 6Ws (Who, what, where, when, why and which) and how to get as detailed as you can about what you really want. Here you will pick the lifestyle you want your dream to achieve. You may decide that retire doesn’t mean not working- what are you going to do if you don’t work? Retirement may mean working the hours you want at a job you want. You may decide you want to teach or freelance etc. Perhaps you’ll want to join the peace corp- you get to experience more of the world, fulfill your consious and it doesn’t cost you an arm and a leg.

Measurable

What gets measured gets done.

How will you know when you reach your dream? I’m sure you’ve read about all these quotes from rich people. I just need a few more millions and I’m done. Then when they achieve it they keep trying until they work themselves into the grave. Usually this translates to a date and/or a number. What number is “young”? A 90 your old can consider himself young and a 26 year old can consider herself old. What age do you want to retire 30? 40? 50?

Achievable

Are you able to do this? Is it reasonable? Do you truly believe it can happen? Can you reach a billion dollars? You can’t assume that you’re salary will be increasing at 100% a year without some major changes.

Relevant

Is this something you can make an impact with? Is it important?

Timely

Give yourself a deadline. Nothing gets done without a deadline.

With a SMART goal you are more likely to know what to do to get it.

As far as your happiness goal. The more you succeed at achieving your dreams the happier we’ll be but I offer you this quote by Abraham Lincoln: “People are about as happy as they make up their minds to be.”

photo credit: krisdecurtis