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I had a conversation with a friend the other day about books. Since I began my personal development journey just over two years ago, I’ve read about 200 books on either personal development or business and marketing.
I do this because I am slower than most people to take action, and this is what it takes for me to get moving. I am so stubborn and it is so difficult to shift my will into the right direction, that if there weren’t a constant stream of the right information going into my mind, I don’t think I’d continue to be focused on forward movement.
Years ago, I would have thought that this would make me sad, to know that without constant input and disciplines I would just fade back towards the normal negative. I would have said, “you mean I need to keep reading? Keep taking classes? Keep learning? Keep up all these disciplines?
In fact, if two years ago I could see all of the stuff that I do now, I honestly would have said, “that’s too hard. It’s not worth it, and I’m not going to do it.”
I would have said that because I would not have understood the joy and sense of direction and meaning these things have given me. The purpose in life I now have, and the missions that I intend to accomplish with my time. I wouldn’t have known how much of a difference I could make in my own lives and the life of others. So I would have quit, and I don’t even like to think about where I’d be now if I hadn’t decided to walk down this path.
I was talking to my friend about applying the things that I learned from books to my life, and he asked what that looks like? He was having a difficult time understanding exactly what to do. And I remembered that at one point I also had the same questions, so I want to answer here and now, because it’s only been in the last several months that the answer has become clear to me.
How do you apply the things you learn to your real life?
At the beginning it seems like it’s always arbitrary – it’s always a guess about how to apply the information. That’s because we, in our attempt to go with the flow of the normal negative, make things more difficult than they need to be. We add layers of complexity on top of complexity, confusing ourselves about what steps to actually take.
But here’s what it really looks like. I read a book called The Common Path To Uncommon Results by John Lee Dumas. In it he talked about batching his podcasts to one day of recording, and record enough episodes so that you are getting a little bit ahead each time you do it. So for my two episodes per week, I write and record three episodes every Monday. I am just at the beginning of this process, so right now I’m recording the episode that will be released two Mondays from now. Every two weeks, I gain one week ahead in recordings. Then I schedule them, and forget about them. In one year, I will be six months ahead of schedule. I read it, and I applied it. I didn’t spend a ton of time figuring out what batching would mean to me, how hard it would be on that day I had to write and record three episodes, or what if I couldn’t come up with enough material to do it. I just plowed forward, and here I am. That’s example one.
I read a book called The Seven Levels of Communication, by Michael Maher. One piece of advice I picked up was to have a networking schedule – to make certain that I stayed in contact with your network. So I made a list of all the people I want to stay in touch with, and people I want to have me in mind, and then I created a schedule of contacting 2 or more people a day, just to say hello, just to see how they are doing, and just to see if there’s anything that I can help them achieve. I read it and I applied it. That’s example two.
I read a book called the Compound Effect by Darren Hardy, and he mentions making sure that you plan the time you want to spend with your family, and then make sure it happens. I thought that sounded good, so I began to actually put in my planner the times and activities that I would spend with those people who are exceptionally important to me. Yesterday was Sunday, I had in the planner that we were going to go for a drive as a family, hit the outdoor flea market and walk around, and go to lunch together. I didn’t feel like doing it in the morning, but I had planned it, and after driving for three minutes I knew I had made the right decision, and my heart and mind were into it. I read it, and I planned it. That’s example 3.
Example 4 is a little more difficult. I read that if you forgive someone, you are letting go of it yourself. And that if you don’t forgive someone, you are holding on to the pain and it hurts you even more. So forgive people. I read it, and applied it. I said that I’m going to start forgiving people. More than just saying, “I forgive you,” to the person who wronged me, it is that every time it pops up in my mind – this wrong thing they did to me, instead of mulling it over and letting it float around in my mind causing runaway emotions, I just remind myself that I forgave them, and that part is over. It’s not like the thoughts go away immediately, it’s not like pain goes away immediately. But what’s forgiven is forgiven, so every time the thought comes up I remind myself that I did forgive them, so why keep reliving the pain. I’ll think of something else, something I’m grateful for, and the thought is gone until it pops up again. I read that it’s good to forgive people, and I applied it. That’s example 4.
I could add layers of complex issues to each of these, especially example 4 – but to apply something to my life, I have to make it as simple as possible. Let me not make it confusing or difficult, but if I read an idea that seems wise, to just do the idea and sort the rest out as it comes. That is how to apply what you learn from a book.