Winning the Game of Life

Winning the game of life takes perseverance. Winners don't quit. Each action is a step toward their goals. The winning attitude wins. #gameoflife #success #motivationThe original working title of this post was If You’re Rich You Don’t Quit. I loved the title, but it didn’t encompass the entire theme I wanted to present. Life isn’t just about money! (Sounds crazy coming from a wealthy accountant, right?) Money is important when in need of life necessities like food, clothing, shelter and medical care. After the basics are covered money is either a game, and for some even an annoyance, since it distracts them from what they are really interested in.

Motivation is a powerful tool. Life is a never-ending series of groin kicks. People want to knock you down. Sometimes it’s life. Sometimes it’s a malicious act. Regardless, the only way you can get from where you are to where you want to be is find the motivation deep inside your soul.

“Winning isn’t everything; it’s how you play the game.” True. “It’s the journey, not the destination.” Another true adage. These short catchphrases can be used by your own mind as a way to stop striving for your goals. Self-talk will drive you forward or into the ground. Best to be cognizant of your thoughts!

Winning is important to me. (Surprise, surprise!) My interests are catholic (little c). This requires I find the most important interests so I can focus on the ones that matter most. The other interests may live as hobbies or may go unsatisfied. The mark of a true winner is focus on the single goal (or few complimentary goals).

Failure is for Winners

We all know the story of Edison and the light bulb. He tried 1,000 times and failed. He kept pulling himself up by the bootstraps and eventually produced a working incandescent light bulb on try 1,001 (or something like that).

Closer to home we have an unnamed accountant who likes to write. I wrote my first complete novel my senior year (or was I a junior) of high school. It was never published, but it gave me experience telling a story, building a world, creating characters.

After I graduated I bought a Tandy computer at Radio Shack. That bugger set me back $4,000 and it didn’t even have a hard drive! You had to insert a 5 ¼ inch floppy disk and twist a lever down to lock the disk in place before turning on the computer for it to boot. Yeah, that was one awesome OS! I think it was DOS 1.0. (Really!)

I still have 5 ¼ inch floppy disks floating around someplace with short stories on them. My second novel and two (or possibly three) nonfiction books also exist in a format I have no way of accessing anymore.

My writing sales were dismal. I sent out a lot of stories, and—being an optimist—never kept the stack of rejects. A few still float around the office, but most rejects had no value to me. I always focused on learning from each experience and moving on to the next level. What I’m saying is that I didn’t exit the womb with pen and paper ready.

In the late 1980s, shortly after I went full-time in taxes, I started a financial audio newsletter called The Wealth Builder’s Guide. Six times a year you would receive a wonderful (it’s my story so I’ll tell it the way I want) cassette tape with 90 minutes of financial advice from me along with a printed newsletter with information on which banks had the best investment rates nationally and other important financial articles.

Successful people never give up. You can have the career, family and financial success you want as long as you strive forward each day. #Success #motivation #personalfinanceI wrote, edited and produced the whole kit and caboodle. It was a lot of work. After three years it was time to hang up my cleats. My tax practice had grown too large to do both.

If you are lucky enough to still have an original copy of my audio newsletter I hear they go for a pretty penny on eBay. (Yes, that is a joke. If you find one of those suckers on eBay I would like to buy it so I have my own copy.) My basement was filled with audio equipment, tapes and booklets. After enough years went by I dumped the remaining stuff in one of my intermittent personal belongings purges.

It doesn’t sound like much, but I had around 100 subscribers at the peak. If memory serves, I charged $199 per year. I wasn’t getting rich, but it covered costs and once again, I was learning.

Up to this point you might consider my writing efforts a success. Let me help you gain perspective. My total writing sold to traditional press earned me less than $1,000 over ten to fifteen years. The newsletter, while somewhat successful, wasn’t putting food on the table. All the money brought in went to recording and dubbing machines.

I still wasn’t ready to quit, dammit!

By the mid 1990s my tax practice hit full stride. I was taking market share and I was able to find time to write. A competitor jealous of my success almost destroyed my business. It hurts (and still hurts). But I never quit. Wouldn’t think of it.

The new millennium had me punching the keyboard more than ever. Another novel ended up unpublished and several false starts kept the number of unpublished novels at a reasonable level. This was actually good news. I was starting to realize good writing from bad. Bad stories that just didn’t have a chance were ended. To prove the point, some material was selling to online sites, though the pay was a pittance.

To further hone my skills I wrote for content farms like HubPages for a few years. Most articles there were bad, but it was a place to write things I needed to get out and to build my skills.

Not all of my work was bad. Stuff was selling. Even my fiction got some notice. A few hubs on HubPages were picked up by industry journals. Traffic was growing. I was learning to write and market online.

There was one area which drove me crazy: flash fiction. I had periodic moments of brilliance in all areas I wrote with the exception of flash fiction. The money in flash fiction would never feed a parakeet so I wasn’t too upset until a chance opportunity accidentally fell in my lap.

A flash fiction blog ran across my screen. I quickly noticed the traffic was massive—millions of pageviews per year. I researched similar blogs and realized many get modest to good traffic. None monetized! The accountant in me couldn’t help himself.

I started writing flash fiction for my new blog in said genre. A small amount of research showed me how the other guys were getting their traffic. My traffic never rose as high as the best in the category, but still was respectable. I started a second similar blog once the first got going. Both those blogs had many millions of pageviews.

I quickly reached a ceiling in the genre. The reason these bloggers didn’t monetize is because you could only make so much unless you also wrote and sold genre specific novels to compliment your site. I wasn’t willing to spend that much time on the topic involved since I wasn’t really interested in the topic. (For the curious, it involved transgender issues; something dear to my heart since my youngest daughter was born intersex.)

I earned reasonable money on the flash fiction blogs, but I didn’t want to spend a lifetime repeating the same genre drivel. I was burning out the flash fiction bug.

The good news is that it allowed me to hone my skills even more. I was learning brevity. Storytelling is an important part of writing. When it works the reader steps into your world for a short while and enjoys the experience. They also tend to return like a good friend.

Failing All the Way to the Top

Decades of writing prepared me for the big event I wasn’t even planning on attending. Mr. Money Mustache asked to be my client and he was going to publish on his uber-blog how I helped him. The words weren’t even out of MMM’s mouth when people started asking about my blog. Ahhhhhh.

Yeah, you get what I mean.

This blog was an idea I hadn’t moved on. The URL was purchased to preserve the link. I played a bit with Bluehost (too much work). I hired a local firm to whip my blog into shape. They dropped the ball. The big push came while my blog was still a mess.

A year and nine months later this blog won the Plutus Award for Best New Personal Finance Blog of the Year. Now I know what you’re thinking. It seems so easy for me. I write for a bit more than a year on this blog and get a massive reward. True, but did anyone consider the 10 million words I wrestled to the page over three and a half decades?

I threw my hat in the ring this year for Blog of the Year. You can vote/nominate here. (That reminds me; I still need to vote!)

The amount of time I put into writing is obscene. It was something I loved (well thought out communication), but it never came naturally to me. I had to work on it.

Traffic still bugs me as more is always better in my book. Maybe the blog isn’t failing, but growing is very important to me. (I have a secret I think I’ll publish in a flash post this Saturday.)

After peer acknowledgement and traffic, money is a powerful guide to gauge success. I haven’t published much in the way of blog financial progress reports. Let me give a taste of the trailing twelve months here:

Ad Revenue: $11,000

Amazon: $1,200

Credit Cards affiliate: $4,000

Miscellaneous affiliates: $2,000

Specialty affiliate 1: $9,200

Specialty affiliate 2: $6,000

Specialty affiliate 3: $4,800

Consulting: $23,500

Tax clients from blog: I don’t know? Maybe half my practice already.

The numbers are estimated as I’m writing at home late at night while my data is at the office behind a very secure firewall.

The specialty affiliate listings are unique situations I created. When I saw a few powerful products I helped create an affiliate program for me only. There is no competition meaning the revenue is encouraging.

Bloggers underestimate the power of consulting with readers. Consulting may reach as high as $40,000 this calendar year with the new tax laws in place. I handle consulting sessions Tuesday and Thursday only, except for tax season and wide spaces around holidays.

Traffic peaked at slightly over 130,000 pageviews per month last year leading up to the Plutus Awards. To my disappointment, traffic is now a hair below 70,000. (This is my own fault. I expected with a Plutus Award I could focus on writing instead to promoting. Didn’t work any better than it does in my tax practice.)

There are plenty of failures along the way as I reached for my writing goals. Each failure was a corpse I could pile higher so I could climb to my goal. I turned the corner on traffic as I’m now focusing on my ego blog as a business.

More failures will bump along as I strive for new heights. It is never easy! Each failure is really just a lesson on the road to success. Remembering this makes it a whole lot easier.

One More Goal

When I entered the demographic as a blogger I received some harassment. Early retirement (ER) is MMM’s shtick; not mine. Many people found this blog through Mr. Money Mustache. My readers only mesh slightly with the ER movement. The ER folks are still good people and welcome to drop in.

People started to remind me I had “one more year-itis”. Well, I do. And I have a feeling it will not end until they plant me six feet below sea level. I enjoy what I do even when I complain. Remember that.

Taking on too much work leads to burnout. Elon Musk is a business hero of mine who has recently concerned me. A recent investor conference call was handled in what I considered a very unprofessional manner (investors have a right to know how they’re investment is being managed). We see some Twitter issues and Musk doesn’t have Teflon skin like President Trump. Part of Musk’s issue, I think, is his heavy workload. Tesla is a huge time demand. Musk is building cutting edge products nobody else is either thinking of or feels is impossible. Then Musk does it. He also admits to fatigue. Reports say he has slept on the factory floor to achieve numbers; no time for driving to work or other distractions when in crisis mode.

You win at life if you don't run the race. RUN THE RACE! You can do anything you set your mind too long enough. Your financial goals are within reach. #goals #winning #earlyretirementAt a fraction of the workload Musk carries, my back shows a serious strain. I look like a mule carrying a heavy weight in a Bugs Bunny cartoon. Tax season is the worst. I cut back from publishing three times a week to two. I think it helps with quality. Quantity should be a secondary consideration only.

Tax season stress doesn’t end instantly and clients sometimes think I have nothing to do all day April 16th so tax season really stretches into June before things really slow. I was so stressed I threatened a countdown clock and wrote (published) about it. I also published a countdown clock on the Where Am I page. When the number on the bottom of the page hits zero I will have published 500 posts here. (I checked statistics last week and can proudly proclaim this blog has 713,000 words already.) Then I walk away.

Except, I probably won’t.

By publishing a countdown clock, I reminded myself of the Warren Buffett 20 slot rule. You only get so many chances to tell a story so you better tell it right the first time. (I’m batting around .500 which is awesome in baseball; not so awesome when writing.) The countdown clock reminds me a day will come when the typewriter stops clicking. It focused my attention and got me thinking about life without writing. It wasn’t a pretty fantasy.

The Plutus Awards published an interview with me earlier this spring. I let the Plutus Awards know about the countdown clock and that I probably wasn’t headed for the sunset.


I tell the story of my writing life for a reason. There were plenty of painful moments when I didn’t know what to do. I was lost and spent hours thinking about how I would learn to communicate effectively in the written form. Even when I met success I felt pain. As soon as I reached a goal I made another bigger goal. I get nominated for a Plutus; I want to win a Plutus. I get 130,000 month of pageviews; I want 200,000 pageviews. This 70,000 pageview stuff ticks me off.

Success is defined in different ways. My marriage has different goals with less stressful demands. Career is what causes me to push. I want it all when “all” isn’t possible.

Retirement goals and financial independence are important issues. If you’re rich you don’t quit because the “rich” mindset never quits. Before you amass your first dollar, you are already rich if your mindset is right. Your body just has to wait for the money to catch up.

That is why I changed the title of this post. Winning the game of life is the most important part of life. Money plays a modest role. The quality of your life, your dreams, career, goals, family, health and joy, are what count. “Rich” means you’re always looking for the next challenge when a task is complete because you know that it is what brings meaning to life. Rich people never settle for mediocre.

But rich people also know mediocre days are the price you pay to get to the top.


More Wealth Building Resources

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Embrace Failure

Show me a successful person and I’ll show you someone with deep seated pain. Pain is a powerful motivator. Few can reach lofty heights and keep pushing without underlying pain driving them forward.

Steve Jobs said you have to be “. . . insane to do this. . . ” when he discussed why he worked so hard to achieve so much because “. . . it hurts so much.” He expanded the insanity to include all successful people. It doesn’t matter what it is you are the best in. Being the best and marching forward after attaining the top is an exercise in pain regardless the field.

Some are satisfied with “good enough”. They are the lucky ones. Normal people attain a certain level of success and sit back and enjoy it. You see these people everywhere. They are the upper middle class people lucky enough to have reached the level of “having it” or “made it” without the grinding pain from earlier in life driving them on.

Then there are the people we see in the news on a regular basis. These are the business leaders and entertainers who never are satisfied with their performance even when they have reached so high they have cut new ground. They climbed to the top of the mountain and started building the mountain higher. What drives these people? And are you one of them?

The Pain Train

You don’t choose where you are born or the family you are born into. Throughout life, things out of your control mold who you are. Some people cower and hide. Others leave the safety of the nest and go on a mission of discovery, driven by the pain, looking for the control they so desperately need to understand their own life.

One doesn’t need to look far to hear the pain these super-performers deal with daily. It is no surprise to learn the Loony Tunes artists who gave us the classic Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck and Elmer Fudd cartoons frequently came from a painful past filled with abuse. Abusive fathers warped these young boys who later grew up and made us laugh so hard. They made us laugh, and laughed themselves, because the alternative was even worse. They worked hard and never stopped working once they had enough to step back. The pain cut too deep. They ran and kept running to keep the pain at bay.

Today we see the same thing with modern performers. The popular music group Imagine Dragons has numerous hits to their name and still they keep performing. Why? Maybe the words of their songs can give us a clue. Listen to the words of their hit: Shots:

Oh, I’m going to mess this up
Oh, this is just my luck
Over and over and over again

And later in the song:

I’m sorry for everything
Oh, everything I’ve done
From the second that I was born it seems I had a loaded gun
And then I shot, shot, shot a hole through everything I loved

Of course this could be a one-off song written in moment of depression. Perhaps we should listen to the words of their massive hit single: I Bet My Life:

Remember when I broke you down to tears
I know I took the path that you would never want for me
I gave you hell through all the years

The words drip with pain and anguish. We can even imagine what it is they are suffering from as they struggled to perfect their art and gain recognition for their work.

We could go on about entertainers who sing, act or write about the painful loss of a child or loved one. We could talk about the super successful business owner with millions to her name, fame and respect within her community, enjoying parties with the in-crowd, running from the demons that just will not die. Running from the memory of a drunken father hitting her again and again or raping her repeatedly. Running from a brutal date rape. Running from the betrayal of a friend that took advantage of her.

The key word is running.

Now we will hit closer to home. We will talk about me as an example. Don’t worry. We will talk about you and your pain next.

Can I Do Anything Right?

Recently I gave my first ever comedy skit. It went over well. People were practically on the floor (except for the sourpusses) laughing. They even chanted my name at the beginning. I’d say it was a rush, but it wasn’t. I kept thinking about what wasn’t working. It has been a week and I am still playing the scene over and over in my head working the entire skit for areas I could improve. Good is never good enough for me.

Of course that is a symptom. This pattern in me did not magically appear in the last week. I have a successful business and plenty to retire on, yet I never rest. As Jobs said, You have to be insane because it hurts so much. Am I insane? (Don’t answer that.)

The way I act today is a direct result of the events in earlier times of my life, most notably when I was most impressionable as a child. There are stories to tell, just not today. Some wounds never really heal and some stories need time to see the light of day and some have to wait.

From an early age I was driven. My family joked about all the crazy business ideas I had growing up. I was an entrepreneur before I knew the word existed. I still need to look up how to spell entrepreneur.

Self deprecation is a powerful speaking device to gain acceptance. Rarely do I make someone else the butt of my jokes. I expose my failures frequently as a learning tool for me, but also as a learning tool for you. Success is a poor teacher. Showing someone else’s failures never has the punch of exposing your own. It also allows people a peek inside my life to see it isn’t all glory as it sometimes appears to people who don’t know me well.

Frequently I refer to my writing as “hack”. I guess it is a matter of opinion. This blog has received accolades for the writing and editors and agents have requested to the point of demanding I turn over a recently written work for consideration for publication. Rare is the instance when I do. Publishing here is easier because I don’t have much time to think about what I wrote before hitting the “Publish” button. I love writing fiction, but what if my fiction sold well? I’d have to keep writing more! I have it in me; the stories that is, but the time necessary to do it right is another story. (Doing it “right” by my definition.)

So I run like all those before me. It is a natural response. A human response. To run from pain. To run from the devils haunting my mind.

And Now We Talk about You

I see you cowering in the corner, kind reader. Yes, I know what you are going through. I have felt your pain, your anguish. I see the worn soles of your shoes, worn from all the running. I see you struggle and fight for acceptance. I see you struggle and fight to achieve your goals.

How many goals did you already conquer? What did you do once the goal was achieved? Made another goal! Financial independence is NOT enough. I get it. FI is so easy in our modern world it is almost a laughable joke. Ten to fifteen years is all it takes if you are serious. The newsfeeds are riddled with people retiring by age 30 or soon thereafter. It’s almost like you failed if you haven’t broken seven figures in your index fund by 35.  What have you been doing with your life?

FI is not a goal! It’s a situation. Your savings rate drives your FI date. Period. FI is not something you do; it’s something you want; it’s something that is. No more. People say they are FI like it is a person. It isn’t anymore than poor is a person. It is a state of being.

You see, Steve Jobs, the guys at Imagine Dragons and your favorite accountant are not unique. We have pain just as you do. That thing you did as a child that ended up with someone hurt still haunts you. Nobody probably even remembers it anymore other than you.

Too many children are abused. Why does one child crumble under the weight of abuse and another climbs the highest mountain and keeps climbing to the sun? The answer is here (pointing to my temple).

Every faux pas is not a disaster. Your brain sometimes interprets it that way. Something you did 30 years ago still haunts and drives you. The driving part is okay if it isn’t excessive and harming your health. The haunting needs to go, however.

How you deal with your pain determines how healthy and well-adjusted you are. You made a mistake. So what! I have news for you. You will make more! Many more! I know it is cruel to say it, but it is true. You will, with the best of intentions, fail. The alternative is to crawl under a rock and wait for the Grim Reaper. Not much of a choice.

An Inside Look

This post started as a very, very dark listing, indeed. I started writing notes a few days ago and the notes extended longer than the actual post would be. And it was dark. It was so depressing I started walking to the barn with a rope it was so bad. It was the wrong message I wanted to send.

Many times I know where I want a post to end. In this case my dark post had a happy ending, but it was too short on happiness and hope compared to 1,500 words of dire. Even the ending dripped with pain.

After thinking about it for a few days I found a way to convey the message in the manner I wanted. I hope you agree it was worth the extra effort. The ending I have in my notes is too important to leave on the cutting floor. Here are the final words I had originally planned without edit. I hope they move you as they did me:

Your pain and failures will make you better if you allow them. But they must not consume you. At some point you must let go of the pain. It is okay to relax. The monster will take a break when you stop. When you are ready to run some more, the monsters will renew its pursuit.

I am so tired. So are you. It is time to stop running. To rest. You have already made it. There is nothing left to prove. And after your nap, when your energy is renewed you can RUUUUUN!!!

Here is to all the losers of the world. No matter how high we fly we will never reach the sun.  So we fly harder and harder until death gives us the peace we always dreamed of.

Tough Times Make You Rich

Berkshire Hathaway Inc. held their annual meeting this past weekend. Warren Buffett noted some of his failures over the previous decades (missing Amazon, for example) and Charlie Munger added Google as a big miss. Both men agreed they’d continue missing many opportunities in the future. Buffett and Munger made it clear they learn more from their mistakes than from their successes. They felt winning was a poor teacher as it fooled people into thinking they were right.

Steve Jobs had some Syrian blood and was raised by adoptive parents. Armed with only this information it would be hard to imagine a path that would lead to Jobs creating a company which would become the largest on the planet by the time of his early death at age 56. The odds were stacked against Jobs, yet he rose above the travails and changed the world.

Elon Musk was born in South Africa. His parents divorced when he was nine. It would be hard to see a path for this young boy where PayPal would be part of his future followed by SpaceX, Tesla, Solar City and a growing list of additional companies.

Tough times. We hear about them all the time. Rarely is found a successful person who doesn’t have baggage in the closet. Show me someone who never had problems and I’ll show you someone who is mediocre. The exceptions are exceedingly rare.

Yet, most people have hard luck stories in their past. Why does a difficult time in life, especially early on, define so many successful people? And why do people with the odds stacked in their favor frequently end up average at best?

When the Going Gets Tough

Everybody has those days. Steve Jobs was raised by adoptive parents and later lost his company only to get it back and send Apple to heights no corporation has ever scaled before. Yet so many people fold when difficulty arises. One abused child grows up and does incredible things while another ends up in prison, a product of her own demons.

Buffett was right; mistakes, and how you deal with them, define who we are. Tough times should not be feared! Tough times are an opportunity to build character and learn. When life is roses we tend to party because we delude ourselves we know it all. A bat to the side of the head has a way of focusing attention.

Failure motivates. Winning in a must-win situation requires drastic actions.

Cortez, when he arrived in the New World, ordered his men to burn the ships. Cortez knew it had to be done. His men were outnumbered in strange new world. If there was an option of retreat his men would eventually find a reason to take it. Cortez knew the only way forward was to remove any possibility of retreat.

Tough times are like Cortez burning the ships. Think back on times in your life when things were really bad. I bet you had little to no control over the situation. It was bad and you could not see a way out, at first.

What changed? Maybe you faced the death of a loved one or divorce. Worse, maybe you were abused as a child or a battered wife. You felt helpless and out of control.

The ancient Stoics knew what to do. Epictetus taught us to let go of the things we do not have control over. Since the only things we can control is how we interpret a situation and how we respond in our mind. A child suffering abuse cannot control an evil parent. All they have is what is inside.

I wish no one such a tragedy. Learning from tough times is one thing, but it doesn’t have to include abuse. But it happens. It happens to prisoners of war; it happens to children; date rape happens among so-called friends; divorce and death of loved ones will happen. Not might happen; will happen. And there is not much you can do to prevent it. If cancer is going to strike, it is going to strike. Your only recourse, your only control, is your head. Only you decide what goes on there.

Small Examples

I throw around household names, yet there is an endless supply of examples in your own community. I bet if you look behind the curtain of successful people in your community you will find terrors. The abuse shelter is run by women who suffered abuse. They can’t change the past, but they can do something about the present. A police officer suffered a terrible crime as a child; the wealthy businessman was so poor as a child she sometimes missed meals. These people suffered to such an extent that it left a scar, a scar so deep it defines who they are today.

My own story is one of growing up in poverty in a very rural community. After the family farm was gone my dad had a business fixing agricultural equipment. Those early days were scary. One day my dad kissed my mother good-bye. I heard him tell my mother he did not have enough gas to get back home if he did not make a sale that day. There were no other options. He sold one link in an industrial sized chain for $50. My dad returned home that evening. His business grew well into the seven figures in sales and a modest number of employees year later. But it started from great tribulation.

That day has never left my mind. It was 34 years ago. In my mind there is no other option, the ships were burnt. In my mind there is no room for quitting. No retreat. We all run from our pasts and I run quite well from mine. Once we know a man’s story we start to understand why the man is as who he is. Only then can we empathize.

Your Success Story

What about you? Do you struggle with money? Relationships? Retirement? The reason could be things were never tough enough on you. When things go good all the time it is easy to delude ourselves we can run up the credit card bill and afford gas-guzzling SUVs. The problem with having the great job from an early age without risk of unemployment is that you have no incentive to change. Sure early retirement sounds nice, but things are pretty good as they are so you settle in at mediocre.

But who wants to be mediocre? Your dreams can be much smaller than those of Steve Jobs or Elon Musk. Changing the world is one thing; changing the life of your significant other and children is certainly a worthy goal everyone should have.

Yet, with life all roses, you stick to the old plan of long work hours in a job you despise. You miss the kid’s baseballs games and other school events. You are miserable inside, but this is not tough times, my friend. Tough times are more than just a mild inconvenience.

Artificial Tough Times

Tough times might be the ticket to higher levels of success, but who intentionally encourages tough times? A crazy man, that’s who! You don’t have to shoot yourself in the foot to gain the benefits and lessons of tough times.

I want to show you how to do an exercise called negative visualization. It’s nothing bad or harmful. What negative visualization does is allows you to see the worst possible outcomes and helps you deal with these possibilities. Once you are done with the exercise you will be refreshed knowing these bad things didn’t happen to you and if they ever do you have nothing to fear.

When I negatively visualize I do it in a quiet place so I am not disturbed. This works best when there is plenty of time for you to work through the exercise without interruption.

You can lie down on a bed or couch (my preferred method) or sit lotus-style with hands on knees. Close your eyes and relax. Steady your breathing. (You can also do this while taking a walk or running or clipping lawn, et cetera, anyplace where you can think uninterrupted.)

Each session should include only one issue. For example, imagine the death of a spouse, parent or child. Other things to visualize are poverty (loss of possessions) or disease (cancer, et cetera).

With your eyes closed and your breath steady, imagine the loss of a significant other. Really dig deep. What would you do? See it. Walk through the process. This takes time. Something as deep as the loss of a spouse can take an hour or longer and more than one session. The loss of a job might take less time unless job loss is imminent.

The important part is to really feel it. Your brain can learn from imagined hard times as well as real-world tough times. The deeper you feel it and internalize it the better. When you are done you should feel grateful you are so lucky as to have your spouse, job, heath. You also have the experience of the loss. The pain, if it is really felt, allows you to mentally burn the ships so there is no option of retreat.

We spend our lives avoiding the unpleasant. If we are really good at it and really lucky, we may never face many tribulations. This is a double edged sword. Living an awesome life is the dream, but a life too good all the time takes away the flavor or incentive to reach for more.

You must do this. Negative visualization helps us cope with serious issues when our minds are not under the stress of the actual situation. No matter how awesome your life, family members will die, disease will intrude, accidents will happen. By preparing now you give your mind the power to cope when the inevitable happens.

Tough times happen to all of us. It has nothing to do with how good a person you are. Job loss happens, businesses can and do fail, loved ones get sick and we all die. A few moments in quiet contemplation now can give you the strength to handle those moments of crisis. And by creating artificial tough times you will have reference points to motivate you to do what you know you must do.

You are the solution.