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Archive for April, 2015

The Kryptonite of the Potentially Great

When I work with my clients and students there is one thing that I see hold them back more than anything else.


I am no different, this is probably my biggest challenge as well.

Nothing is more efficient at shutting down your accountability, your creativity, your problem solving ability, and your energy than excuses. It is the fast track to mediocrity and unhappiness.

But what really is an excuse? Here is one definition – A reason or explanation put forward to defend or justify a fault or offense.

Excuses are a great self-defense mechanism. They protect you from having to put yourself out there. It gives you a free pass because it is not your fault! It is a convenient way to shift the blame and accountability from yourself to someone else, or even better – external circumstances.

Sometimes they come automatically without us even realizing it and stop us in our tracks.

My challenge to you

When is the last time you felt true pride and accomplishment from something that came EASY? It is through fighting adversity that we really discover what we are made of. It is the adversity that shows us how strong we are and gives us our greatest sense of accomplishment.

A challenge is something that can often be overcome, but doesn’t necessarily come easy. This is where real growth and accomplishment is born.

Who doesn’t like a challenge? Something that gets our attention, gets the juices flowing and gets us engaged. When I find myself making excuses, i do my best to turn it into a CHALLENGE.

Next time you think, or verbalize an excuse. Stop and clarify. Is this a fact that is truly insurmountable? Many times it is not.

Has anyone else ever overcome something similar? If someone else is capable, you are as well. Think of someone you greatly admire or respect. A role model or mentor. What would they do in this situation, would they stop, or engage the challenge and find a way?

This simply shift in moving from an excuse to a challenge can be the catalyst to get you headed in the right direction. You see, an excuse is a dead end. A reason to throw your hands up without accountability. A challenge will allow you to see solutions you wouldn’t otherwise see.

My favorite “excuse” is that I don’t have enough time. I am too busy, I am too overwhelmed to workout, to write more blogs, to update my website, and to get together with friends. As soon as I accept that excuse it absolves me from figuring out a way to make it a priority. It shuts me down. It is the easy way out and I know it.

I often think of the quote I have heard many times.

“If it is important you will find a way, if not, you will find an excuse”.

When I am truly honest with myself (not always an easy thing to do), I often end up admitting the real challenge is that I don’t “want it bad enough”.

The TRUTH is that I have 24 hours each day and 168 each week just like everyone else. The challenge is to prioritize the time I do have and figure out systems to be more efficient. To make best use of the time I do have. To say No to things that aren’t important and to schedule and commit to the things that are.

When I eliminate excuses, I take back accountability and put the focus on what I can control. When it is a challenge that can be overcome I am willing find a way through experimentation and trial and error. When it is an excuse, I give up.

What about you? Are you making any excuses that are really challenges just waiting to be solved?

No Excuses!


Your partner in success,

Josh Paulsen

Am I the only one battling with these thoughts?

You can’t do that, what if it bombs, what will others think?

I used to believe that most people didn’t deal with that inner dialogue that second guesses, points out all your flaws and is hyper sensitive to criticism and what other people think. That maybe I just wasn’t “built” to be someone  who is fearless, willing to take risks, or get up after getting knocked down ten times.

Now to be fair, I have only lived inside my own head for 40 years. I am sure there are people that are more predisposed to adventure, not caring what others think and are able to let things bounce off their chest like Superman.

However, I have been surprised and relieved to find example after example of people who have accomplished great things, but dealt with the same challenges. It is not that they don’t face the same type of thoughts, they just don’t allow themselves to live there for too long.

In fact, our brain is designed to give priority to and pay more attention to the negative.  

Let’s say your ancestors were walking along in a forest and came across a delicious fruit tree, their favorite! But a split second later along comes a Tiger. Now they could be really hungry and really want that fruit, but the danger of the Tiger is going to get their full attention. If it didn’t, if your ancestors ignored the Tiger you wouldn’t be here today!

When I learned to view some of these thoughts as a benefit and not a hindrance it helped….. a little. I understand this “logically”, but many of our negative thoughts bring with them pretty powerful emotions, so I still struggle with it sometimes like anyone else.

One thing I have noticed as I read more and more books and speak with people I admire and respect, they face the same challenges. They deal with fear before they hit the “publish” button. They wonder what people will think about their book. They thought about giving up and wondered if they were good enough. They get hurt when they get bad reviews or receive negative comments online. It is not that they are immune to all that. It is how they handle it when it occurs.

I was amazed to learn that when I had dinner with James Clear , an amazing writer with one of my favorite blogs, that he wrote for a year without publishing ANYTHING! He kept it on a document and was too scared about what his friends or family would thing to even post that material.

We ALL face these thoughts, doubts and insecurities.

So what do we do about it? Here are some ways to get you over the hump when that negative voice starts holding you back.

  • Acknowledge it and say “thank you” – Thank you? Yes, your brain is simply trying to protect you. That is its job, it is YOUR job to decide what is best for you in the moment. Just that simple awareness can help you realize that these are natural thoughts, but that you are not your thoughts, you can choose to move forward and push past the doubts.
  • Remind yourself of past successes – When the negative thoughts start flowing, it is common to start thinking of all your failures and where you have gone wrong in the past. Instead, take a deep breath and force yourself to head in the other direction. Replay all the things you have done well, your accomplishments, the adversity you have overcome, the people you have helped. Stick with it long enough and you WILL reverse the path.
  •  Stare down the worst case scenario – This may sound counter intuitive, but often times, even the worst case scenario is not fatal. Other people might judge you? So what? Is that your problem, or their problem? By facing the fear head on, it removes some of its power over you. Many times, you will see quickly that even a failure is only temporary and that it is not worth holding you back from moving you forward.
  •  Realize that you are a work in progress – Many fears and negative thoughts stem from a fear of failure. Carol Dweck wrote a great book called MINDSET (LINK) that discusses the difference between a fixed mindset and a growth mindset. When you are in a fixed mindset, failure isn’t an event, it is an indictment on you as a person. It is a label. You didn’t lose the game, you are a l-o-s-e-r. Having a growth mindset is realizing that you aren’t perfect and are always growing. You realize that knowledge, wisdom and success come from experience and experience often includes missteps. Did you just hop on a bike and ride off into the sunset on your first attempt? Probably not. Any new skill requires a period where you just aren’t very good.
  •  Just take the first step – Action is often times the antidote to fear. Jump off the cliff. Force yourself to take that first step. The hardest part is almost always just getting started. Once you get started. Establish that habit of just jumping in, ready or not!

When you find those negative thoughts popping up and holding you back, give some of these suggestions a try and see what works best for you.

Do you have any other approaches that work for you? If so, share them in the comments!

Your partner in success,

Josh Paulsen


The toothbrush for your Brain!

How often do you brush your teeth? Once a month? A couple of times a week? I hope not! I am sure most of you brush your teeth at least twice a day, once in the morning and once before you go to sleep. In fact, it is probably on autopilot at this point.

Would it be just as effective to brush your teeth longer, like maybe for 30 minutes once a month? I am no dentist, but I doubt it. The really large gains and progress in life usually comes from small, consistent daily habits. In fact, if you improve just 1% each day, you will see 100% improvement in just 70 days.

I want to share an activity that can be done in less than 10 minutes a day that can have a profound impact on the other 23 hours and 50 minutes. Think of it as the toothbrush for your BRAIN.

I have long heard about the benefits of journaling.

– Reduces stress and clarify thoughts and feelings

– Strengthens immune cells

– Helps remove mental blocks

– Increases focus

– Helps to harness creativity

Even knowing the benefits, the thought of staring at a blank page wondering what to write was a roadblock to me getting started. Like many people, I am also short on time, then I across the Five Minute Journal. Five minutes? I can come up with Five minutes. But the best part is that it provides a simple structure that is backed by research of proven principles from positive psychology.

I have been using this journal now for two months and it has had a huge impact on the days I utilize it, so much so that I wanted it with you.

It is incredibly simple. Each page or day has you complete three short sections in the morning and two sections in the evening. That’s it!

blog 5 min insert in body


Each day at the top of the page is quote or a weekly challenge. Today for example:

“If you want to conquer fear, don’t sit home and think about it. Get out and get busy!” – Dale Carnegie

These are great to get you jump started and in the right mindset.

Next are three lines to complete the sentence I am grateful for.….

We have been given a great gift of being able to choose where we focus our conscious thoughts at any moment regardless of the external circumstances. We have this power, but many rarely use it, instead being pulled from event to event, thought to thought in the river of the day’s activities and distractions.

Starting off your day focusing on your blessings, what is going well and really appreciating what you have in your life can make a tremendous impact. In fact a study in 2008 involving brain scanners showed that people experiencing gratitude influenced in a positive way the part of their brain that directly impacts stress, sleep and eating.

I have challenged myself to come up with new things that I am thankful for each and every day. I try my best not to repeat them. It can be easy to jot down, family, spouse, kids or career without really giving it much thought. I have received the most value when I really sit and focus on the little things most of us take for granted, but truly aren’t that little.

– Clean water at my fingertips

– Spring weather

– Lazy weekends

– Air conditioning (I do live in Texas)

– My children’s innocence and curiosity

Some days they will come to me rather easily. Other times I need to sit for a few moments and really think about the little things that I take for granted. The power is in really “feeling” the appreciation and not rushing it.

The next section has three blanks to fill in the statement: What would make today great? I love this question and have been surprised at how difficult it is to answer some days!

It is easy to get caught up in the minutia of everyday life and to continuously move from one To Do List item to another. But is that really having an impact? I know I am guilty of sometimes being busy, but not necessarily productive, looking back at the end of the day and wondering what I really accomplished.

This question has really helped me get clear on what the highest priority is, what would make the biggest impact and where my focus needs to be for the day.

I will often ask myself, if I ONLY accomplish three things today and nothing else, what would make today a success? That seems to help me break through the clutter and get clear on what is really important. I have been surprised the impact of writing these items down has on the rest of my day. It really drives me to make sure I complete these three items and adds to my accountability.

 Tip: Focus on areas YOU have control over. It might be nice if you won the lottery, but you will have greater success and impact if you focus on the specific things you have control over.

 The last part of the morning session is two Daily Affirmations – I am (fill in the blank). This section is simply about how you want to show up to yourself and to others in the coming day. You are priming your brain for how you want to act, feel, think, or interact with others. There are distractions all around us, this helps you define your area of focus. Instead of just going with the flow and again being pulled in all direction from external events, you decide who you will be today. For more on Priming check out my previous blog post.

Examples from my journal:

– I am grateful for all the large and small blessings in my life and take time to appreciate them.

– I am relaxed and able to stay focused in the moment.

– I am focused, organized and spending my time on areas that have the greatest impact.

I have found that these three sections can take five minutes or twenty minutes depending on the day. I have found that the longer it takes, the more I NEED it!

That is it for the morning portion; get on with your day primed to optimize your success!


Just like you brush your teeth in the evening as well as in the morning, there are questions to be answered either at the end of your work day or just before you go to sleep. (Maybe even right after you brush your teeth).

3 Amazing things that went happened today

Research shows that most people pass through their accomplishments too quickly and tend to linger on the negative. Put another way, our brain is like Velcro for the negative and Teflon for the positive. This section helps you to relieve your magic moments, or victories no matter how small. It is similar to the way we started the day (gratitude), but in reverse. It allows you to relive great moments you might have otherwise dismissed along the way.

I don’t have huge accomplishments every day, but this exercise has really helped me to appreciate the little things that are so easy to overlook.

  • An interaction with my daughter
  • A funny comment from my son
  • Having a chance to read a book while I had coffee
  • Getting to the gym.

It is a great way to end your day and get ready to go to sleep. The best part is that no matter how your day was, your brain wants to answer whatever question you give it. If you give it some time as you replay your day, you will find 3 things to celebrate.

How could I have made today better? 

This last section reminds you that progress and improvement is the key to success. It is also a reminder that you have the power to learn from the past and improve for the future. Being future focused is a critical mindset for anyone to reach their potential. We have talked about priming your brain, this works the same way. You are priming your brain on how what to do “the next time”.

If you had a time machine and your day started all over again, what would you have done differently? Pick two areas and right them down. For example:

– I woke up when my alarm went off and went straight to the gym (instead of hitting snooze)

– I took a walk outside in the afternoon to reset my focus and energy level.

By priming your brain with how you want to act, you are training it for future opportunities.

This process in the morning and in the evening is very simple and doesn’t take much time, but I have found it to make a big impact in the rest of my day.

Note: You don’t have to purchase this particular journal to receive the benefits, you could model the same structure if you prefer on a blank notebook or piece of paper. You could also modify the approach and add additional questions. I personally feel like the notebook has been worth the investment. (

Give it a shot and let me know what you think!

Your partner in success,


Josh Paulsen