The #1 Reason Most People Fail

Don't Give Up!

In 2004, I started an online business. My long-term goal was to build something that would earn a part-time side income and allow me to stay home while my husband was in law school.

I never would have dreamed that ten years later, I would be running a large blog, writing books, speaking to audiences around the country, and have an amazing team working for me.

Many times, people look at me and only see the accomplishments and success. What people don’t see is the hours, days, weeks, months, and years I worked very, very hard and saw little return on all my investment. They don’t see the many, many times I’ve come this close to shutting it all down from frustration and discouragement.

There have been some gloriously rewarding moments in the process, but there have been many more mundane and difficult seasons along the way.

But I believe one of the greatest reasons this blog has been so successful is not because I’m really smart (I’m not — I struggled in many subjects in school), or because I’m naturally techie, (oh goodness, it’s scary how pathetically non-techie I am!), or because I had a background in marketing (In reality, I didn’t go to college and I was a waitress and a violin teacher in my teen years).

The reason this blog has been so successful is because I refuse to give up.

When my first few online business attempts didn’t work, I didn’t give up. When I only sold a few copies of my first ebooks in the first few months, I didn’t give up. When I about pulled my hair out over technical issues while trying to set up my first few blogs, I didn’t give up. When the articles I submitted for publication were rejected, I didn’t give up. When other people told me I was crazy to pursue many of my ideas, I didn’t give up.

For the first few years, it really felt like I was spinning my wheels and making very little progress. But I kept researching, kept experimenting, kept networking, kept reading books, kept watching what other people were doing, kept asking questions of anyone who had any experience at all with running a business, and kept getting back up when I failed yet again.

And little bit by little bit, the hard work, the long hours, and the effort began to pay off. It didn’t feel like much return at all at first, but those little trickles of traffic eventually turned into a small stream that morphed into a river.

I don’t say all of this to hold myself up as someone who has arrived or has it altogether. Honestly, there are still many days when I feel like I’m so inadequate, I still fail regularly, and I still often have moments when I want to pull my hair out. Instead, I share this to encourage those of you who are struggling to start something right now.

Maybe you’re a few months (or a few years!) into a project or idea and it just feels like it’s not working or getting anywhere. Perhaps you set a goal or dreamed a big dream, went for it, and now it seems like it’s all crumbling right in front of you.

Whatever it is, wherever you’re at in life right now, I want to encourage you: don’t give up. You may need to change your plans, tweak your dreams, or alter your course. You might need to shelve the idea and start a new one. You may need to extend the deadline or revise your game plan. That’s all part of learning and growing.

But no matter what, don’t give up. Winners aren’t quitters. Keep going, keep pressing forward, keep learning, keep experimenting… and someday soon, you will start to see fruit from your effort.

Don't Give Up!

Note: This post was inspired by Jon Acuff’s post: We want greenhouses but don’t get them.

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Sign Up for the FREE Online Author Platform Summit!

Free Author Platform Summit

Want to write a book or take your writing career to the next level? Sign up for the Author Platform Summit that will be held online from May 15-18, 2014.

During this special free online summit experience you will learn from best-selling authors, publishing industry experts and leading authorities who will share strategies to help authors and anyone with something to say or sell build a platform of success. On May 15-18 you will have free, on-demand access to watch video teachings from each of our speakers. You can watch online whenever you want. Each teaching will share a few specific tips from our experts with a focus on actions that you can take immediately.

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I’ll be sharing at the summit along with a number of other best-selling authors and experienced book marketers. I’m excited about this and can’t wait to soak up all the great information and practical advice that will be shared.

And did I mention this is FREE? Yes, it is. What a great value!

Sign up for the FREE Author Platform Summit here.

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52 Different Ways to Save $100 Per Year: Develop Contentment {Week 52}

Contentment

Every week for 52 weeks, I’m sharing a different way you can save $100 this year. If you do all of these things, you’ll be able to save over $5,000 this year alone! Many of these things will likely be things you’re already doing, but hopefully all of you will pick up at least a few new ideas or some inspiration from this series.

Can you believe it? We’ve made it to the end of this 52-week series. It ended up taking me a few months longer than 52 weeks, but I’m just going to celebrate the fact that I followed through with writing all 52 weeks! :)

For our final installment of this series, I want to talk about contentment. Because truly, this is the heart of frugality.

I’m slowly reading through In a Pit With a Lion on a Snowy Day (it’s so good!) and this section challenged me at a deep level:

Man’s Search for Meaning ranks as one of the most thought-provoking books I’ve ever read. In it, Holocaust survivor Viktor Frankl writes about his experiences in a Nazi concentration camp.

Everything was taken away from the Jewish prisoners. They were stripped of their clothing, their pictures, and their personal belongings. The Nazi captors even took away their names and gave them numbers. Frankl was number 119, 104. But Frankl said there was one thing the Nazis couldn’t take away: ‘Everything can be taken away from a man but one thing: the last of human freedoms–to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances.’

The most important choice you make every day is your attitude. Your internal attitudes are far more important than your external circumstances. Joy is mind over matter.”

-In a Pit With a Lion on a Snowy Day, page 68

When you learn that stuff doesn’t buy happiness, your life suddenly becomes much richer. As I wrote about in this piece on contentment (stop right now and go read this post, if you haven’t already!), when we were first married and our budget was so tight, I quickly learned that contentment is a choice.

You can choose to be contentment — whether you are in the middle of a feast or a famine. Why? Because contentment isn’t about what model of car you drive, how big your house is, what brands of clothes you wear, what kinds of foods you eat, or how much money you make.

Contentment is first and foremost about your heart. It’s an attitude you can get up and choose to have (or not have) every single day.

Contentment

If you struggle with contentment, I encourage you to read my post on 16 Ways to Become More Content and 6 Things That Will Help You Have a More Positive Attitude.

Also, here’s a snippet from a guest post published in 2012 on How to Be Content With Less by Tessa who blogs at The Recreational Word Slinger:

3 Ways to Be Content With Less:

1. Expect less.

Stop expecting to buy something every time you run an errand. I was so guilty of this before we switched to using cash. I would think that I deserved a little treat for having to get out and grocery shop or run errands. Direct your thinking towards expecting less.

2. Ignore the urge for more, more, more.

This is easier said than done in today’s society. We are constantly bombarded with different advertisements telling us that we need more. We have to retrain how we listen to or pay attention to such ads. When you become immune to advertising, you might find that your desire for more decreases.

3. Look at what you do have.

This idea is by far the one that has helped me get over my obsession with stuff. One way to do this is by verbally thanking our Creator for what He has given us. When I am more mindful of the blessings that I have been given, then I find that I am less mindful of my humanistic desire for more.

Read the full post.

What practical suggestions and ideas have helped you become more content? I’d love to hear!

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We Paid Cash: A New HVAC System

We paid cash!

A testimony from an anonymous reader

We’ve known for several years now that our HVAC system was dying. As a family, we were all uncomfortable and the unit often reminded us of its impending “death” with loud rattling that shook walls.

Knowing that we had waited and patched the units as long as we could, we began to get quotes for a new system. When the time came to receive our first quote I almost fell out of my chair when they handed me the paperwork showing a total cost of $12,000 to replace both our units and repair the duct work.

This company did however offer financing, and it looked like we might have to utilize the “financing option” to purchase the new HVAC system.

After a few more quotes and some discussions with the companies I started asking if we could get a discount if we paid in cash. To my shock, we were quickly offered discounts from 5-8% if we paid in cash! On a $12,000 bill that is not an insignificant amount of money.

With this new knowledge in hand, we put our nose to the ground and decided to save, save, save! We had less than one year to save before we would face another blistering summer in Georgia.

Here is what we did:

  • We held a family meeting
  • We examined our budget
  • We cut expenses on “non-essential” items
  • We planned to put our entire tax return to the new system

Our children are old enough to understand our budget and the need to replace the HVAC unit (they were hot!) After the family meeting, everyone was on the same page and we were all on board to save up for a more comfortable summer next year.

Already having a tight budget, at first we thought we would never be able to save enough, but soon, small decisions started adding up. Every time we saved any amount from a monthly bill, we diverted those funds directly into savings.

Because our budget was already tight we called our service providers for cell phones and internet and negotiated lower rates. The difference went straight to savings every month, we decreased the “food” budget which meant less eating out and we had very simple holidays. Soon we were on track to make our goal!

This weekend, we will have our new system installed and we will be paying CASH!

Our new HVAC system will cost us $8,000 — by paying cash and having the work completed before summer we were able to negotiate the best price, saving us $4,000. What a great feeling we have as a family to know that we all worked together to achieve our goal and we all be cooler this summer!

Have you saved up and paid cash for something — large or small? Submit your story for possible publication here.

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Help! I want to change my life but I don’t know where to start!

I Want to Change My Life But I Don't Know Where to Start

I can’t believe I am actually writing you, but I just feel like giving up. I bought your new book and read it. It was wonderful and filled with great ideas, but I truthfully don’t know where to start. I feel like I can’t keep my head above water. Do I focus on trying to tame the budget? Lose weight? Being more mindful when with my family?

I just feel like I am under so much stress all the time. My husband works a lot and I work from home as a freelance writer and we have two children, ages 10 and 11. My 11-year-old is on the autism spectrum and it is so draining — never-ending worries about this and that. We have no family around.

So what do you recommend as the best way to start getting things under control? Is it finances? (we do OK…but don’t have much savings) Get healthier? (I want to lose 10 pounds and frankly have no willpower and can’t say no to sweets) Get more organized?

Just feeling lost. – a reader

Hugs! I’m so sorry you have so much on your plate right now. I wish that you could come over and hang out with me at my house for a few hours and we could just talk over a cup of coffee.

But since there are miles and miles that separate us, I’ll do my best to share some of my thoughts to answer your questions in this post. I encourage you to just take whatever you find helpful and leave the rest. I’m all about grace not guilt!

I Want to Change My Life But I Don't Know Where to Start

1. Say No

The best thing you can do right now is to say “no” to everything that isn’t an absolute necessity. Make “no” your default answer to every request and opportunity.

Now is not the time to be taking on anything new. In fact, now is the time to be off-loading everything you possibly can. Remind yourself that saying “no” to the mediocre will then allow you to say “yes” to the best.

As I talk about in the first chapter of my book, giving myself permission to say “no” changed my life. I had thought that life was spinning out of control without my consent. But then I finally realized that most of the overwhelming things in my life were the result of my inability to say “no” and my feelings of obligation to other people — at the expense of my health and family.

When I realized that I was the problem, but I was also the solution, it changed my life. It allowed me to stop letting life happen to me and start happening to life.

I Want to Change My Life But I Don't Know Where to Start

2. Streamline Your Life

So often, we get so busy living life that we forget what it is we’re actually living for. Stop and consider what’s really going to matter in 25 years from now. This will likely change your perspective on what’s important and will make it much easier to prioritize.

I found it very helpful to create a Best Stuff List — a list of the few things that matter most right now and that I want to wrap my life around. I can exhaust myself trying to do it all, or I can choose to focus my time and energy on those few things that really matter.

My Best Stuff list serves as a guide for whether I say “yes” to commitments and opportunities that come my way. And it helps me to much more quickly be able to say “no” to those things that would only distract me from the Best Stuff.

I Want to Change My Life But I Don't Know Where to Start

3. Set Small Goals

If you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll get what you’ve always gotten. You have to change something if you want to see change.

Where do you want to be in six months from now? Think of a few areas that will have the biggest impact on your life. If you’re not sure what to start with, consider which areas are the greatest stress-inducers right now. Is it your weight? Is it your lack of organization? Is it your finances?

Pick two areas that are causing the most stress and set a realistic, specific, and measurable goal for those two areas.

For instance, if you want to lose weight, set a goal to lose 10 pounds in six months. That’s a little less than two pounds in a month — or about a half pound every week.

Once you have the specific goal, it’s time determine your action plan. What specific things are you going to do each day to accomplish your goal of losing half pound a week? Write your action plan down and find an accountability partner you can check in with each week to report your progress and success.

I Want to Change My Life But I Don't Know Where to Start

4. Celebrate Your Success

The best way to change your life is to set a specific goal, create a doable action plan, put some accountability in place, and then go for it. Don’t over-think or over-plan. Just do it!

Focus on the progress you’re making, not on how far you still have to go. You probably won’t hit your goals every week, but so long as you don’t give in and give up, you’re still moving forward. And moving forward — even at a microscopic rate — is progress.

So celebrate your success — no matter how small — and keep charging ahead. Even if you just make four small changes each year, that’s 40 changes over the course of a decade — and that’s massive!

Don’t give up! You don’t have to live life stuck in survival mode, constantly feeling overwhelmed and exhausted. Instead, you can live with intention, enthusiasm, passion, and purpose. It’s an amazingly rewarding way to live — and it starts with taking tiny little steps in the right direction!

What advice do the rest of you have for this reader? Please share in the comments!

I Want to Change My Life But I Don't Know Where to Start

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52 Different Ways to Save $100 Per Year: Stay Home More {Week 51}

Stay Home More

Every week for 52 weeks, I’m sharing a different way you can save $100 this year. If you do all of these things, you’ll be able to save over $5,000 this year alone! Many of these things will likely be things you’re already doing, but hopefully all of you will pick up at least a few new ideas or some inspiration from this series.

My number one tip for keeping things simple and saving money is to stay home more. Staying home is one of the easiest ways to have more time, spend less money, accumulate less clutter, and well, to plain just live a less frantic lifestyle.

Staying Home = More Time

A lot of times I’m asked how I get so much done. Let me tell you, I’m no wonder woman, but I do know that one of my “secrets” to efficiency is that I stay home a lot.

I love quiet days at home and I find that we function best when we have at least a few days every week where we are home all day. It’s not always possible for this to happen every single week, but I do my best to make it a priority that we have at least 1-2 full days at home every single week.

I’ve purposely said “no” to a multitude of outside activities and opportunities because I know that running around with three children not only wears me out, it is a surefire way for me to spend more money (i.e. trips through the fast-food lane while we’re out, swinging by to check out a sale I see signs for when I don’t really need anything, or ordering carry out for dinner because I’m exhausted and didn’t have time to make anything for dinner) and get less done. It’s just not worth it, folks.

Now, am I saying you need to cut out every outside activity and commitment and never step foot outside your doorstep? No. What I am encouraging you to do is to carefully evaluate all outside commitments and see if there are some that are really necessities or if they are just cluttering up your life for no good reason.

Save Money By Staying Home More

Staying Home = Fewer Expenses

It’s pretty much always true that the less you shop, the less you buy. Stay out of the stores and you won’t be tempted to purchase things you didn’t know you needed in the first place!

Challenge yourself to stop spending money for a period of time — whether that’s a day, a week, a month, or longer. {Well, start small if this is a brand-new idea to you!} You’ll likely find that you begin to have a whole new appreciation for what you already have… and you’ll realize that you spend a lot more money than you need to.

When you think that you need to buy a replacement or just something new altogether, see how long you can make do without it. I’ve sometimes gone for years without replacing something that I once that was a must-have!

When you feel like you “don’t have anything to wear”, shop your closet before going shopping at the mall. See if you can come up with some new outfit combinations that you hadn’t put together before. It will feel like you went shopping — and you didn’t leave your house or spend any money.

Not only are you less tempted to spend money on things when you don’t go out shopping, but you’ll also spend less money on gas and have less wear and tear on your vehicle. It’s a win all around!

Staying Home = Less Clutter

One of the nice side effects of shopping so rarely is that we don’t have a lot of clutter. In fact, some would probably think our home looks really bare, but I’d much rather have only things we need, use, and love taking up residence in our home, than to have our rooms bulging with stuff we don’t need, haven’t used in a long time, and don’t like in the first place.

And when you have less clutter, you don’t need as much space and you will save money by being more organized.

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I want to end this post by sharing a post I wrote back in 2008 on how much I learned from our law school years when we didn’t have money to spend and I spent almost all day, every day at home:

A lot of you know that my husband and I spent the first three and half years of our marriage with him in law school and us living on a part-time income. We never went hungry and we always had a roof over our head and clothes to wear, but it was a very lean time.

During those years, we lived in a little basement apartment that only had four windows on one side. I could plug the vacuum cleaner into one outlet and vacuum the entire apartment without ever switching outlets.

We only had one old vehicle almost the entire law school tenure and Jesse usually used it for transportation from work and school. We knew hardly anyone in town we lived in–in spite of many efforts to try and make friends–and there were really not any safe places I could walk to from our apartment.

It would have been easy to have been swallowed up in despair and I won’t pretend there weren’t moments when I felt sorry for myself or wished we could be living in a little better circumstances. However, I decided, with God’s help, to try and make the most of what might seem like a less-than-ideal situation.

Maybe we didn’t have money to go out, but I challenged myself to think up creative ways we could still have fun without spending money. We’d check out a movie from the library and have homemade pizza. In the winter, we’d brew some coffee, pop some popcorn, and play a board game. Sometimes, we’d go to the park with a picnic or we’d browse the book selection at Barnes and Noble.

We didn’t have money to spend on decorating our home, but I still found ways to make it homey and inviting. For starters, I tried to always keep it clean and clutter-free–even if it wasn’t very pretty, at least it could smell nice and look clean! We tried to have music playing in the background and that always spruced up a rather bare home, too.

We couldn’t afford fancy foods or restaurant meals, but that didn’t mean we couldn’t eat well. I had fun trying new recipes, searching out good deals, and stretching our grocery budget as far as possible. I discovered AllRecipes.com and enjoyed using their ingredient search feature to come up with new recipes to use what I already had on hand.

Instead of going out and buying things, I’d go to the library and check out a stack of books. Sometimes we’d check out CD’s too, so we’d have new music to play in our home throughout the week.

It was also in this little basement apartment that I first began blogging and tinkering around with online entrepreneurial things. Had it not been for the free time and lack of friends, I would have never even considered pursuing blogging or had the time to learn about basic web design, online marketing, or producing an ebook or ecourse. Little did I dream that in a few years, those same skills would allow me to help supplement our family’s income by doing something I very much enjoy while keeping my priorities as a wife and mother first and foremost.

And guess what? It was holed up in this little basement apartment with sometimes only $20 to spare for groceries for the week that I was searching grocery deals online and came upon this store called CVS that everyone in a now-defunct savings forum was raving about. I could never have imagined what that simple search would uncover for me that day, nor how many thousands of other individuals I’d have the opportunity to introduce to CVS, as well!

Yes, living in that little basement apartment in an unfamiliar town barely squeaking by financially would never have been something I would have chosen for myself, but I’ll always be grateful God allowed me those three and half years of learning to be content, learning to love simplicity, and learning to make the most of what I had.  And I hope I never forget those lessons.

A cheerful attitude can go a long way in less-than-ideal situations; you can either complain about the thorns or you can savor the roses which bloom in the midst of those thorns. Choose to bloom where you’re planted–even if it seems like it’s among thorns!

How does staying home more save you money? I’d love to hear!

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