Personal Development

“I Can Do Anything”: That Tingling Sensation…

“Personal Development” cynics look away now.

This might get a bit ‘self-help’. Those that believe they have reached their fullest potential in every respect need read no further. For I have been listening to an audiobook by the almighty Tony Robbins and I am full of the power of infinite possibilities!

The book is called ‘Awaken the Giant Within’, and as tacky as that might sound to your average low-self-esteem Brit, it’s damn fine stuff. One of the exercises in the audio version we just listened to consists of making two lists: ‘Beliefs that empower me’ and ‘Beliefs that limit me’.

Want to know mine? OK, the ’empower me’ list, which certainly DIDN’T look like this just a few months ago, before I embarked on this “development” journey, currently looks like this:

1. With hard work, I can do anything.
2. I am intelligent.
3. I know how to take ‘massive action’ to reach goals.
4. I can learn new skills all the time.
5. Happiness is available at all times.

Now before you all tell me what a conceited bstd I am, here is what my ‘Beliefs that limit me’ list still looks like all too often:

1. The world is trying to kill me
2. Am I clever and able enough to understand complex things like Spanish accountancy systems, legal stuff, errr… google adwords?

Hmmm. OK, lets start with list no. 1 and that apparently conceited contention that ‘I can do anything’.

I worked that out the other day. It’s not bragging, it’s logic. I probably got the idea from some other Tony Robbins type I was listening to at the time, but it goes like this: “If I can move to Spain, if I can learn Spanish, meet a Spanish girl, get married to her, set up a business with her, and have that business support us… then I can do anything!”

Right? Well, anything I choose to set my mind to at least… I mean, I don’t want to be Prime Minister or anything like that, but if I did… who knows? The point is that I think this logic works for anything, and anyone.

Pick one or two things you are proud of in your life, and say to yourself, ‘well, if I can do that… I can do anything!’ Once you realise that simple fact, your possibilities are limitless. Maybe it was a job you got, an exam you passed, a skill you’ve developed… if you could aceive that, then why couldn’t you acheive anything else you really set your mind to?

It’s all proof of your unlimited capabilities. All we need sometimes is a bit of personal development, or (god forbid!) ‘self help’ to realise it.

OK, back to the list. Items 2, 3 and 4 (I am intelligent, I know how to take ‘massive action’ to reach goals, I can learn new skills all the time) are obvious… even if I’ve had to work bloody hard to belive them! …but what about this ‘Happiness is available at all times’ stuff?

OK, hard to believe ALL the time, many of us have lived through life-changingly horrible episodes, but I have a book here at home that I try and pick up every now and again, the first chapter of which is called something like ‘a brand new 24 hours’. (I’ll list the book name in the reading list at the bottom).

It goes on to say that every day when we wake up we should be happy to have a brand new 24 hours ahead of us, and that we should enjoy every one of them. Pretty damn obvious when you think about it. What’s the alternative, being miserable about that fact? That seems absurd as long as we are basically healthy, fed, and alive… and alive with possible endeavors and encounters.

Now lets get to the juicy stuff, list 2, my ‘limiting beliefs’. How about point 1? I don’t truly believe that the world it trying to kill me as such, but I am mildly phobic and a touch on the OCD side when it comes to things like the imagined war of attrition between me, human being, and modern environmental unpleasantness like pollution etc, that I used to feel would invade my personal physical integrity at any given opportunity. (Not any more, now I know our defenses are strong!)

Number 2, am I clever enough to understand and properly implement tricky things that involve statistical analysis, like google adwords… or to work properly within the challenging Spanish accountancy sytem etc… I hate things like this, that appear to be such ‘hard work’, and beyond the analytical side of my brain that I never had much confidence in…

Now before this gets a bit ‘poor me’, the point of doing this exercise was to clearly point out that those 2 main limiting beliefs are ABSURD! And they have limited me hugely!

Belief 1, that the world is a scary place, helped put me off going to America twice this summer, to conferences I was keen to attend but just felt a bit overwhelmed by. Belief 2 has put me off doing things that would have made a huge difference to our business by now… luckily I still worked on a lot of other things that did make a big difference, but still there was a lot of avoidance going on…

The point is that the crushing power of limiting beliefs is obvious, and huge. What are yours?

Make a list like the one above though, and you might come to the same astounding revelation that I did: that the empowering beliefs clearly cancel out the limiting ones.

‘With hard work, I can do anything’, clearly beats ‘Am I clever enough to…?’, and ‘The world is trying to kill me’ is clearly no match for ‘I am intelligent’ and ‘Happiness is available at all times’.

Since listening to that Tony Robbins audio book (and other inspiring materials this summer), and making that list, those limiting beliefs are vanishing, faster that I imagined possible… I’ve started work on them, and I’m not going to let up.

They’ve been on top of me for about 30 years, and no matter what their origin, I have a feeling they were reinforced by a heavily competitive private school education. A school that prided itself on telling us we were “above average”, but that only a precious few could be top-flight, triple A students…

I came out of that school system at 18 with ABB A-level results, probably above average and pretty damn good, but about all I’d been lead to think I could achieve. I wasn’t considered a Triple A student, and didn’t consider myself one.

Well now I do. Thank goodness for all those personal development books, and all the things I’ve done as a result of reading them, that helped me come to that conclusion.

They’ve helped us pay off a significant chunk of our mortgage this month, the result of setting a goal in September that I thought was just plain stupid at the time… and then achieved two months early… …by taking massive action on everything I’ve been learning and getting what I think are some of the best damn Spanish learning materials on the net (our work at into the hands of as many people as possible.

Those books and audio programmes mean we are now booked to go to America next year to a conference just like the ones I backed out of twice this summer. They mean that I can clearly see those limiting beliefs for what they are, and shall not be controlled by THEM any more.

Why do I write about all this? Because I always like to share what I am passionate about, and I always work on the assumption that there must be at least one other person out there that is interested in what I have to say at any give time.

If that’s you, and you’ve got that tingling sensation that you too need to get your beliefs in order, that you are ready to embrace the idea that “I can do anything” and realise any of your goals and dreams… be it changing your job, starting a business, getting that boy/girl, changing country, learning a language, moving house, writing that book, breaking out of a mould, being as successful as someone you admire in your field or beyond … then here’s my ‘get to it’ reading list. Let me know how it works out:

Personal Development:

Awaken the Giant Within: Anthony Robbins (Start here. I liked the audio version, from DO the exercises, and don’t be put off by his exuberant, almost preacher-like style. His energy is what got him where he is, and wants you to be too.)

Peace is Every Step: Thich Nhat Hanh (Wonderful vietnamese monk in the Dalai Lama mould. This is where the ‘Brand New 24 Hours’ extract comes from – infinite peace and wisdom lies within.)

Working for Yourself, Business, ‘Entrepreneurship’ etc

If you want to be an ‘entrepreneur’, work for yourself already in any respect, or hope to start a business, then these are ‘musts’, no matter what field you are in:

No B.S. Wealth Attraction For Entrepreneurs – Dan Kennedy (He is a big, brash, super-capitalist no BS pain in your limiting-beliefs ass, but he’s totally what you need to be reading if you are responsible for your own professional and financial present and future).

No BS Time Management for Entrepreneurs – Dan Kennedy (Right on the nail about setting goals and more, it’s not just about time management…)

The Emyth Revisited – Michael Gerber (If what you do or want to do can in any way be considered a ‘business’, small like ours or otherwise, this guy will make sure it doesn’t fail in the first 12 months… 5 years… etc)

These books have helped me a great deal. You will discover many others as a result of reading these, and don’t be put off if some of them were written 10, 20, even 50+ years ago… there are underlying truths that don’t change… But do remember this: Personal Development leads to incredible results, usually in a very short period of time, say 12 months, even 6, but you MUST implement everything you learn, fast, and without hesitation. Do let me know how it works out.

Personal Development

Why didn’t they teach us this sh*t at school?

I’ve just finished the most extraordinary book. It’s called The Game, by Neil Strauss, a shy and slightly introverted writer who goes from being an “AFC” (Average Frustrated Chump), the typical guy who’s terrified of meeting women, to the world’s most celebrated and successful “PUA” (pick up artist).

One of his editors asks him if he knows anything about the underground world of the art of seduction, and he decides that the best way to write about it is to learn it.

He immerses himself in the wisdom and teachings of every guru, guide and organised group he can find, soaks up all their teachings like a sponge and, by a third of the way into the book, he’s walking up to any group of girls anywhere (club, mall, restaruant) and coming out with the sexiest one’s phone number, or company, every time.

What’s more he tells you exactly how to do it. Damn, why didn’t anyone teach me that when I was 18?

But that isn’t what I wish they’d taught me at school. What I wish they’d taught me at school was how to get anywhere with anything. How to achieve stuff. How to be even mildly successful at getting where I wanted.

What I mean is this. We all have moments of great success in our life, where we set our mind to something, and we do achieve it. Normally, we don’t have a clue how this actually happens, we are just really proud to have got where we hoped to.

After thinking about it a lot though, I think what really happens is this:

Having a Goal + Educating Ourselves + Taking Action = Success!

I’ve experienced this phenomenon twice in the last 10 years, but only understood it the second, most recent time round. If only they’d taught me this stuff at school.

Goal + Education + Taking Action = Success

Breaking it down, it looks like this:

Goal: If you want to get anywhere, you have to know where it is you want to go.

You have to have goals, be they financial, personal, work, relationship, or health-related.

Examples might be: I want to be a great dad, I want to pay off my mortgage by such and such a date, I want to become a pick up artist… if you don’t set the goal, you don’t know where you’re going, you don’t know why you are doing any of this ‘stuff’ we do every day.

And just doing this everyday living/working stuff without knowing why eventually gets disconcerting.

Education: Once you know what your goal is you have to immerse yourself in material that will teach you how to get there. You have to find (out about) successful people who have got where you want to be and see how they did it. (This is also known as ‘modeling’).

Essentially, you have to find your way to the very best information.

I think an awful lot about this part of the equation. It fascinates me. I’ve come to the conclusion that the best skill one can develop, is knowing how to hone in on the right sources to learn the best possible information about a given subject.

It’s not about using google, it’s about knowing HOW to use google best. It’s not about asking on a forum, it’s about knowing which forum to ask on. It’s not about reading books, but knowing which books to read.

It’s about learning who, what, when and where to best ask about what you want to know.

How do you develop this skill? I think it’s all about the immersion. If you immerse yourself in enough sources it’s easy to see how they match up to each other, to set up a comparative scale that evenutally leads you upwards to the very very best sources.

The more you study and analyse, the quicker you develop a sense of which sources are ringing the right bells.

Read only one book and you never know whether it’s the right one or not. Read five (after making sure they are the best five to read through an exhaustive reading of Amazon book reviews) and you’re going to know which 2 or 3 of those five have really got the good stuff in.

So the more you learn about a subject, and the more you investigate, the closer you get to the best information. And once you immerse yourself in the best information, there’s only one thing left to do:

Take action. So you’ve got your goal, you’ve immersed yourself in the best information and opinion you can find that relates to it… what do you do next? One of 3 things.

a) You Do Nothing. Which means no goals reached.

b) You do a bit. Goals might get sort of reached. Probably not.

c) You Do Everything. Which means surprising yourself by reaching the goal, surprisingly successfully, sooner than you imagined. When I say ‘everything’, I mean that everything you learn in the ‘Education’ phase, you put into practice, (ideally massively and repeatedly).

Conclusion: you decide what you want to do, teach yourself everything you possibly can about it, and then relentlessly do something about it, until you succeed at it.


They taught me geography, history, maths and religion. They turned me into a walking talking pretty-average-score-in-a-pub-quiz, (and I really am grateful for all that knowledge) but they never told me how to get stuff done.

When I decided to come to Spain I basically followed the Goal + Education + Taking Action = Success! equation above, and it paid off. But I had no idea what I was doing.

So after my first wonderful year in Madrid, I found myself in a three year period where I slumped in a shitty teaching job that drove me mad and provided me with absolutley no fulfillment, and I had no idea at all what to do about it.

Even though I’d managed to apply this magic formula already to change a life I was unhappy with in London for a much better one in Spain, when I got lost again, I had no idea what to do. I became depressed, difficult, obsessive compulsive and a total hypercondriac. No goals. No idea what to do.

This was between years three and six in Spain. Not long ago. Then I discovered the internet and became obsessed with that. I set one goal after another: get myself out of teaching… get myself out of translating… get my wife out of her shitty 9-5 office job and her 90 minutes of commuting…. meanwhile obsessivly learning and applying.

Learning about how to write webpages, then writing them (and learning about uploading them and finding hosting for them). Learning how to make podcasts, then podcasting (which meant learning how to plan, record and edit audio). Learning about ecommerce websites, then setting up and customizing one…

But I still didn’t really understand why it was all working. I only worked that out recently when I decided that if we had set up a limited company, we better learn everything possible about running one.

And I found that these business gurus are always banging on about having goals and ‘taking massive action’ and I thought, hey, I did that! And so I came to work out this magic formula.

And now I know it, things are so much clearer.

I’ve spent the last three months enrolled in a fascinating Masters degree in running a business. It’s a Masters degree entirely of my own making.

I don’t think there’s a university or college on earth that could give me a better course right now than the one I’m constantly devising and refining for myself. I work out which sources I trust, and exactly what it is I want to learn, or who I want to learn from, next. It’s certainly a lot more fun that my philosophy degree was.

And as often as I can I put what I learn into practice, and so far the results have been remarkable. I’ve set some pretty lofty goals and I think I’m going to meet them, without killing myself or exploiting anyone in the process. (Hopefully it’s going to involve helping a LOT more people learn Spanish).

So here it is for the umpteenth and final time:

Having a Goal + Educating Ourselves + Taking Action = Reaching Those Goals

Did they teach us that at school? Maybe I just didn’t care then, or wasn’t listening.

Back to Pick Up Artists. Neil Strauss became fascinated by pick up artists. He knew he wanted to be one, to experience the success with women they enjoyed. So he nearly drowned himself in their world, in their beleifs, their knowledge, and their way of doing things.

He tirelessly tested and put into practice everything he learned from them, and he became the best Pick Up Artist in the world. Read the book, the guy is astonishing. Just your average-looking, short, shy guy, who set his mind to something, is good at learning, and took plenty of action. Do read the book. It’s fascinating.

Further Reading: That Tingling Sensation…