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i’ve had a bunch of friends reach out recently around doing more consulting, writing books to build a business, etc.  and i have a business that’s on the way to being 7 figures, while working 25 hours a week (usually but not always – since specially lately i’ve had to work harder to keep up & for client travel).

so i thought i’d jot down a few ideas i’ve been sharing…


* focus focus focus on a niche!  aka unique genius

why: people don’t buy general help.  they buy very specific help for specific problems.  that’s why though i write books and blog about many ways of growing sales fast, 90% of my consulting is around outbound prospecting.  it’s my unique genius (at work), my specialty, what i’m the best in the world at.  and what i can charge real money for.   consider radio stations – every station has a single specialty, because who’d listen to a station that played a jumble of “rock pop jazz classical blue grass country etc etc”?   that’s confusing, and confusion = “no”.

how: one step: ask friends and clients the question, “what’s the one thing you hired me for, or would hire me for?”

the idea of focusing this way tends to scare people…you come up with fears like “it’s too narrow”, “it’s not interesting”, “i don’t want to be limited”, etc – but you will shoot yourself in the foot by being too many things to too many people.


* do as many free talks as you can to get started (whether live or webinars)

why: it might help finding clients, but for me it mostly forced me to crystallize my ideas and messages into a few, compelling ones


* don’t expect to make money selling books

why:  the royalties are nice…but you need to sell a LOT of books to make much $ (in my mind, six figures a year+).  5% of the money i make is from royalties, 80% is from consulting, 15% from speaking.  or something like that.

how: i self-published my first three books, and it worked great – but now i’m partnering with a “hybrid publisher” called  i would recommend you avoid traditional publishers – who don’t do squat for you – and find a good hybrid partner.


* sell money to make money  

why: i know you want people to feel good, to have more time, less anxiety, better teamwork… but people don’t really buy those things.  the frank truth is everyone wants money.   (and in some other areas, they’ll pay money for health & relationships and a few other niches).  but my speciality is in business, so to business experts/coaches i say “sell money to make money” – that is, you have to show them how they will make money, save money or have less risk of losing money, to be able to charge much money.


* figure out how to charge more per hour, usually by doing projects that have concrete outcomes

why: you’ll be limited to lower per-hour amounts, and smaller projects, when doing per hour work.   FYI – my effective rates (for different situations) are $1k-$3k+ an hour.

how: check out for ideas


* comfort is the enemy of success

why: i know how easy it is to coast along, doing just enough.  but when you’re comfortable, you’re not getting outside your comfort zone to push yourself in new ways that help you break through into the next level.    you should be doing things that make you nervous.  constantly.   this isn’t just about hours worked, though that can be part of it.   it’s mostly doing things that scare you – like doubling prices, public speaking, writing a book, or even reducing/limiting your hours.



so – what other questions do you have?




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on july 1st, 12:03a in the morning (just after midnight), our new baby daughter, Darcy Elizabeth Antoinette Ross, was born (9lbs, 1oz)!

thankfully it was an easy birth!  (Pari – who was 10lbs 1oz, was a lot harder).  darcy’s been home with us for a week, and she and mom are doing great.   she’s luckily a very easy baby.  she joins our other kids at home, Aurora (11), Valentin (9), Maverick (5), Pari (2).   we also have two more kids still in an adoption process.

i’m making July a family month, taking a break from work, which includes a new book with Jason Lemkin, The Predictable Revenue Guide To Tripling Your Sales.

and some pix…

baby darcy birth shots



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New ebook (free)…

Ebook cover - triple your sales



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6 Harsh Truths That Will Make You a Better Person

well done sir!


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i mentioned before that i’ve begun taking my bigger kids on business trips (valentin to boston), and over on, i put up a new post that aurora put together (with my help laying it out) about ‘how to make a boring conference fun‘ for kids.   pretty neat!

check it out here, and here’s a video of her on stage with me:

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Why I Work 20-30 Hours A Week

October 2nd, 2013

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Over on

Why I Work 20-30 Hours A Week

predictable revenue inside sales ideas insights hours work too hard

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for quite awhile i feel like most of my PebbleStorm has been mostly about family & adoption, rather than prior years’ focus on ‘Unique Genius’.  it’s funny how everything i do is all facets of the same gem: perhaps seemingly different on the outside, but all different reflections of the same thing, with my family influencing my work, and vice versa.

for most people, i think work and family/afterwork are like oil and water – but do they have to be?

over the past few years the ‘Unique Genius’ ideas have transformed my business; i learn every day, working ~25 hours a week, with great people and a best-selling book.  i’m taking baby steps in developing my ‘Unique Genius Selling’ ideas, helping people learn how to make ‘selling’ (themselves, their ideas or products) a life skill that’s effective and fulfilling.


and my family continues to influence who i am and how i work, plus becoming a part of my content (as in the Hubspot presentation above), and coming to talks in person.  and with milkshakes…

my 10 year old daughter Aurora is my ‘unique genius sales apprentice,’ to learn more about teaching young kids healthy business & life skills early, such as being impeccably honest, empathic, and helpful.

for example, i’m teaching her a couple of simple sales/marketing techniques to use on her mother (shhhh, don’t tell Jess) such as “WIIFM”: What’s In It For Mom.  “Ok, so you want a milkshake – but how can you ask mom for one not in a demanding or selfish way, but rather a way that she gets something valuable too out of it?”   the idea is to teach empathy, value and communication while helping her get her milkshakes :)

anyway, i could turn this into a whole separate post in itself (and will sometime, after making more progress), but back to the point, i only see this trend continuing of seeing all my main interests merging or greatly influencing each other, step by step, year after year…

do you have some top interests that seem vastly different, yet – how could you begin to combine, share or merge them to improve them for yourself and others?  no step is too small to take in getting started or trying something new.



so – we’ve had lots of good news over the past weeks, plus some recent bad news…

1. death

my wife’s grandfather passed away on Monday;she was very close to him.  it was a stark reminder of how fast life goes by, and what it takes to not waste it.

making the most of your time isn’t about “taking it easy” (though that sounds good); you’ll find that happiness, wealth and fulfillment come from the temporary discomfort of getting out of your comfort zone and taking on new ways to grow, speaking of which…

2. life 

we’re adopting two more kids from Ethiopia next year:
adopting again; next stop = six kids

i’m now taking the older kids on business trips:
valentin comes with me to Hubspot’s Inbound Conference

…and using lots of family pictures in my Predictable Revenue talks:
Hubspot talk: Simple, Sane & Successful Inbound Marketing


3. news from Predictable Revenue

(if you’re not on the Predictable Revenue newsletter yet & want it, you can subscribe at


Predictable Revenue hit the #1 spot on best-selling list for sales & marketing ebooks (and was the 16th of all business books)!  thank you to all of you who’ve bought, read, recommended and reviewed it!

9 takeaways from a sales leader discussion

the team at SalesLoft did a great job summarizing a Hangout video discussion between myself, Kyle Porter (CEO SalesLoft) & Ken Krogue (President,  Check it out here –

audiobook now available: 

after a two year wait, there is now an audiobook version of Predictable Revenue!  i found a woman with a wonderful voice to record it; i like to think of it as Jane Austen (you’ll see what i mean when you listen to the voice artist) meets Glengarry Glen Ross:  check it out on

new “get to your first million” ideas

i’m doing a 4-part mini-series on the Sales4Startups blog on ideas around getting to your first million in sales.  the most recent post:
Part 2: What Kinds of Pricing Or Packaging Options Generate The Most Revenue?

sept 15 Predictable Revenue special 

if you’re a CEO or sales leader and are working on getting to your first million in sales, or want to speed up new sales by 2x-3x, email us about what it’d be like to work together, since we’re offering some ‘once-in-a-lifetime’ deals for companies who sign up by Sept 15 (to hit our own goals) …email


adopting again; next stop: 6 kids

September 4th, 2013

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in my last post here i said people who adopt have to be INSANE, and listed out why…and lo and behold, here we are now adopting another two kids, a 8 year old brother and 3 year old sister, from Ethiopia.

380x380_2113-1376608889-Alamudin_pic_4_7_16_13 380x380_2113-1376608943-Alamudin_pic_12_7_16_13

buy a badass tshirt & help out

my wife and daughter put together a funny tshirt idea to help us raise adoption funds & encourage more people to adopt, watch aurora’s video and then check out the tshirt page!  the campaign ends tonight, Tuesday Sept 24th, so this is your only chance…

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check out the Lifesaving TShirt Fund page

six kids & counting

so probably by Fall 2014, we’ll have six kids.  and we’d like to have another biological, and can see adopting more…so who knows how many we’ll end up with?  my wife Jessica and I both love having a big family.   neither of us had big families (i had two siblings growing up; she had one) or are religious, we just really enjoy it.

it’s been three months since we brought our 4-year old son Maverick back to the USA from China, and he settled in very quickly.  he’s a funny, funny guy!  having such a great experience with him just reaffirms our desire to keep adopting and having kids…

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it’ll be more work having six kids (but not 6x more work), and more kids = more love and fun to us.  i’ve already seen how all the kids are good for each other, they learn so much from each other so quickly, such as in learning how to share.

baby Pari (who’s now 18 months) never had to share until Maverick showed up.  it was rough for awhile learning to share toys, mommy, food etc with her big brother Maverick – there was a lot of screaming and crying at first.  but now they’ve both become (usually) great at taking turns and sharing.

Pari now (usually) happily shares some food with Maverick when he asks, and they’re (usually) happy taking turns at say, riding in the bike with me or in their little plastic car.

IMG_0550 cute pari mav in red car


kids can be $$$

i know it’s especially expensive to have kids in metropolitan areas, and it seems like “the magic number” of kids is 2.  right now, i can’t think of anyone I know in California with more than three kids from a single marriage.

that might make sense in a very expensive state like California.  zach james (founder, ZEFR) said something that really resonated: “some people plan kids around finances; some plan their finances around kids.”

(hmm – some people plan their lives around their finances; and some plan their finances around their lives…)

don’t let the media scare you

in the New York Times, a few days ago i skimmed an adoption horror story, one that involves a child dying and international drama.  it’s the nature of news that most of the stories around adoption (or anything) are going to be negative, since that’s what makes for more popular “news”.  and the ‘worse’ the story, the more likely it can make the front page!

i hate to say it, but to the media, happiness is boring and usually just doesn’t make for a good story (“child is loved!”  vs. “child is abused!”)  go the the front page of the New York Times, and count how many stories are positive vs. negative.  then, if something is calling to you to adopt, don’t let the media scare you or your spouse.


did you see the Badass Life-Saving TShirt yet?

the most badass life-saving tshirt – save 2 kids in africa

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i’ve started taking one of our big kids (my son valentin – 8 years old; my daughter aurora – 10 years old) on my business trips, when i speak at events or conferences.

i want them to learn what real life is like by experiencing it hands-on when they can.  plus it’s more fun for me and keeps the trip light :)

in august, i spoke twice at Hubspot’s huge Inbound Conference in Boston (one talk: Create Predictable, Scalable Sales Revenue;  the second “Simple, Sane & Successful Inbound Marketing” -> which if you check out, you’ll see that i’m using a lot of funny family pictures in my presentations now to help make my points and further complement work and family)

valentin came with me to this trip to boston:

IMG_0644 dad bud hubspot conference

 of course we had to build a fort at the hotel from just about everything we could pick up or move!

IMG_0684 bud fort boston

warning: you gotta be careful goofing around with a jacket over your head -

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IMG_0681 cute bud dad

IMG_0664 speaking at hubspot bud in audience

IMG_0651 cute dad bud

valentin was very proud of is “VIP” title!

IMG_0648 bud proud of his vip badge

renting bikes and biking to Fenway Park

photo 4

took the Fenway Park tour

fenway park

heading home…

virigin america

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maveric april 2013have you or if you’re married, your spouse, ever thought about or wanted to adopt?

but concerns or doubts stopped you / them…

i mean, life’s already busy and expensive enough – who’d want to add MORE on top of that by adopting?  it’d mean:

* more work (and you’re already overwhelmed)
* more unknowns / risks (so many things can go wrong)
* more expenses (it’s daunting paying for everything already)
* less free time and freedom

…and if you adopted a “special needs” (mental / physical challenges) child – you gotta be CERTIFIABLY INSANE!  who knows what you’ll have to do or give up to be able to care for them?  and will they ever be able to have a “normal” life?

i mean, if you’re going to adopt, you might as well get a perfectly healthy baby, to make it easier both on you and them – right?

well…they way our human minds work is funny.

humans fear losing something specific much more than being able to appreciate a vague gain in the future.

in other words, the “big loss” outweighs an uncertain gain, so we do nothing.  whatever we say…our lizard brain prefers the devil we know to the one we don’t.   this is why people do funny things like:

  • we don’t start that business we’ve talked about for years, or take a leap to the next level.
  • we don’t quit a job working for a toxic boss / team.
  • we don’t bail out of a toxic relationship.
  • and…while your heart or something calls you to do it, you don’t adopt, giving into you or your spouse’s perfectly logical and reasonable doubts why it may not ‘make sense’

unfortunately, you don’t create a life of love, wealth or fulfillment by being reasonable.

i love this famouse quote: “The reasonable person adapts themself to the world; the unreasonable one persists in trying to adopt the world to themself.  Therefore, all progress depends on the unreasonable person.” —George Bernard Shaw

we need more insanity in the world

well, call me and my wife bonkers. nuts.  wackos.  fruitcakes.

(i’m sure our families and friends think we are.)

we’re crazy enough to adopt and learn to love a 4 year old boy from china who’s not “ours.”

to adopt and learn to love one who has special needs, something called arthrogryposis multiplex congenita (AMC).  basically his elbows and knees don’t move well, making it hard to do things like eat, go potty or change clothes.

so he has special needs, so what?  in reading about his personality and what kind of boy he is, he’s kind, loving, and caring of the other kids around him.  his personality just jumped out at us.

another picture of Maverick Henry Lilei Lu Ross…

maverick henry lilei lu ross adoption adopt international amc Arthrogryposis special needs

so we already have three kids, so what?

more kids to us = more fun and love.  we’re firmly in the “more is better” camp around kids.

call us insane

we’re insane enough to go for something that make not be reasonable, but has called to us.

we’re not doing it for him – this isn’t for noble reasons – we’re doing it for selfish reasons.  because we know that along with the extra work, tears and expenses, we’ll have more fun, love and fulfillment.

is having any children – biological or otherwise – all ponies and roses either?  nope, but it’s totally worth it.

is starting your own business a piece of cake?  hell no – but again, it’s totally worth it.

is adopting all rainbows and unicorns?

nope, but it’s totally worth it.

while i haven’t legally adopted any kids yet, i essentially did the same thing emotionally in getting married to my wife Jessica, who already had to children from a prior marriage.

i call them my son and daughter (not step-son or step-daughter); they call me dad, not step-dad.

being a “dad” to them in belief and actions (rather than a “stepdad”) has been a lot like adopting, and has been equally fulfilling.  it just takes the emotional leap to go in 100%, rather than 99%…not holding back at all in making them mine.

if you haven’t had kids yet, or adopted, the fear of the unknown can get in your way…but I tell you that what’s on the other side is TOTALLY WORTH IT if you go all-in.

fulfillment doesn’t come from having an “easy” life

i know it may be hard to appreciate, but easy = boring.

fulfillment comes from using your full self, which means challenging yourself to use everything you have to offer, through both the ups and downs.  (and it’s the ‘downs’ when you really get to stretch yourself fully.)

the world needs more insanity of this kind.

don’t be scared of it, embrace it!  and inspire your spouse to get over their fears and embrace it too!

…whether this is about having kids, starting a business, adopting, or some other “leap” that you’re holding back from…

so be insane (or at least a baby step or two more insane),





PS – update from China, 5/30/13: we have “little mav”, lilei, with us now, we picked up him just a few days ago, and we’re happy to be getting some smiles already from him (being adopted is hard on kids; they’re leaving everyone they know):

IMG_0427 all four kids small

IMG_0155 super cute maverick wide eyes

PPS: Update from the USA, 7/22/13: Maverick’s adapted really easily to being a part of our family, and to moving to a new house and country.  he is a character and laughs a lot!  he’s been very attached to his “ba-ba” (chinese for “dad”).  he’s learned two or three dozen english words so far, and we don’t have any problem communicating between those and body language.  he sleeps in bed with us right between Pari and myself every night (which has been great for bonding).


IMG_0613 cute dad mav pari in pool

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it’s hard to believe how fast the last year has flown; but we’re about to fly to China to adopt and pick up our new son, Maverick Henry Lilei Lu Ross!

maverick henry lilei lu ross

we leave May 23rd for China, and will be back June 7… more to come :)


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Galina Belyaeva recently interviewed us from Guangzhao, China (where she lives).  Small world – we’re traveling there in a couple of weeks as part of our process to adopt our new 4-year old son Maverick!

[Galina] Today I’m interviewing not one but 2 entrepreneurs who are even married.   Aaron and Jessica Ross.  Aaron is the author of the best -seller predictable revenue and Jessica works on Bond Girl Boot camp for ladies and the spy girl high for teenage girls.

We also have guest appearances of the baby, a nanny, a dog and a cat…

Click here to see the interview

Galina Belyaeva freelancing minority women


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i’d never heard of Alan Watts until i saw this, but this video was getting passed around – it’s short, sweet and he’s very eloquent.  today when my buddy Randy Hamilton forwarded it over again, it reminded me i should share it here…

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funny directions

February 15th, 2013

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does life also take you in funny directions, when you let it?

i’ve been spending all my time on two things the past year:

1) my family (I can’t believe Pari is about to turn 1!) which is growing again this summer to a total of 4 kids, when we pick up our adopted 4-year old son “Maverick” from China, and

2) growing my sales consulting business “Predictable Revenue“, which has a brand new website I’m excited about!

what’s funny to me is that even 3-4 years ago, i NEVER would have guessed that I’d have such a large and growing family, or that my ‘main’ business would be helping companies grow sales.  but, my sales consulting’s evolved into a really fulfilling business and i’m surrounded by great people who I enjoy working with.

i know it’s easy to get stuck in a job thinking “this is boring” or frustrating.  but 90+% of that frustration either comes from your attitude or the people around you.  (by the way, if they or your manager are toxic, Get Out).

the people I work with matters so much more (like 98% importance) than what the heck we’re actually doing (say 2% importance).  with my current team, we could be doing a gardening business, or coffee cups, and still be having a great time.

Unique Genius + Sales?

by the way, i’m putting together a ‘merger’ of Unique Genius and Predictable Revenue…

“selling” is a necessary life skill to accomplishing anything, whether you’re an adult or teen, getting a job, starting a non-profit or inspiring people to take action… and you can ‘sell’ in ways that bring in money and feel good.

take a look here for more: “Unique Genius Sales: Are You Scared Or Sick Of Selling? v1.0″ (warning to perfectionists – it’s just a first draft).

lastly, hope you and your family are well these days,

Aaron “Air” Ross


get out

January 27th, 2013

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Escape ladderi’m writing up a new course for Predictable Revenue, called “Energize Your People.”

yet sometimes, if you’re an employee, one of the people a CEO wants to energize…you can’t be and your only option is to GET OUT.

do you work at a company close to a toxic CEO, disrespectful executives or an unpleasant manager?   is anyone you report to regularly emotionally irrational, causing you endless anxiety because you don’t know when they’ll explode at you, or what their mood will be day-to-day?

maybe they make arbitrary demands, swear at you, publicly berate you, take you for granted, change the rules on a whim to suit their desires, or never respect your family or private life and time.

it’s in our nature to hope things will change…yet in the case of emotionally unstable people, nothing worth waiting for will change them.

hopefully at some point a personal or business cataclysm (or better, a series of them) happens to them and “forces” them to wake up and see the reality of how they treat other people, and they choose to become more understanding, respectful and thoughtful.

but even if that were to happen, it’s a process that takes YEARS to go through and “settle out into”…do you really want to be around while they go through it, and wait hoping the change actually sticks…or may not?

just get out.  figure out how to get out from your manager, or get out to another company, one at which people like yourself are respected.

no matter what your role is, what you’re learning, the prestige, money or benefits – none of it is worth working for energy vampires.

the only thing you can do is escape and find good people to work with.

the people you work with make a far, far bigger difference to your enjoyment and personal growth than the type of actual work you do.

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GregSpeaking1The Unique Genius Superheroes Interview Series is about ordinary people who have created businesses they love around their purpose.

Everyone has a purpose (or “calling”), and there are always ways to turn your purpose, any purpose, into a business you love. It’s easier to live your purpose daily when it’s a part of your work.

Greg Gardner is a musician, composer, father/husband, and works at the Sales Performance Office at IBM as a Sr. Sales Performance Coach.  He loves helping salespeople perform better thus leading a better life.  He also believes in helping IBM create a Smarter Planet.  Whether it be music, sales, martial arts, technology, parenting… he is a lifelong student of how people and organizations perform.

Here’s some of what we covered in the interview:

  • What Greg did when he was “losing altitude” in enterprise sales
  • How Greg turned quitting during the recession into the best thing he ever did
  • Greg shares about his ideas on ‘selling authentic”
  • How Greg chose between getting a job or starting a business of his own
  • How drawing a picture changed Greg’s life
  • Why he pinches himself every morning when he wakes up to make sure it’s not a dream
  • How Greg has been able to choose where and when he wants to travel
  • Greg shares his mindset of “how you’re ultimately working for yourself” has helped
  • Greg realized that being authentic doesn’t always mean you ‘have to’ own a business
  • How alignment with the people you work with is key to personal and professional growth
  • The three options everyone has in every situation: accept it, change it or get out
  • What it takes to trust your instincts
  • Why getting help from others is so important
  • Why authenticity leads to attracting the kind of people you want to work with
  • Why this picture was important:


Listen To Or Download The Interview

Want to download the interview?
Click here to download the interview.


More About Greg Gardner:

About Unique Genius

There’s a process to discovering your purpose and turning it into a business. See:

What Was Your Favorite Part Of The Interview?

Please leave a comment!

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By Maria Ross, PebbleStorm Guest Blogger

[Aaron]: I met Maria Ross (no relation to moi) in 2007, when she was doing marketing for a client in a small, but corporate-y software company.  Since she left that job four years ago to do consulting on her own, she’s written a couple of books, appeared on places like MSNBC, NPR, ABC News, and learned a lot about the value of mixing personal details & interests with her work… 

When I began doing branding consulting, I made a clear separation between my business and personal lives.  Working for many years in Corporate America taught me this was the only way things worked – don’t share details about your personal life with clients, it’s “unprofessional”.

Since I started my Unique Genius business over four years ago, times are different.  This article is about how openly sharing personal experiences can add value to a business.   I’ve been evolving my brand (and brain!) to blend more of my personal passions – acting, writing, wine and even inspiration – into my work.  Since branding is all about telling a good story, I can easily find ways to apply my personal experiences to clients (and so can you).

For example, when I started some people said “You should not mention that you’re an actress on your business page.  People may think you are not committed to your branding work.”  But it turns out this little tidbit draws people in and also interests the media.  It helps me stand out.  Engaging in acting from time to time proves my creativity and brings a unique perspective to my business work.  It’s even part of my brand: blending creativity with practical business savvy.

Recently, I wrote a personal book called Rebooting My Brain: How a Freak Aneurysm Reframed My Life.  In it, I share how I almost died from a ruptured brain aneurysm six months after starting my business and the chronicle of my recovery and “return” back into my life.  I wanted to share valuable lessons learned, but I’m also passionate about educating people on the surprising and often unseen effects of brain injury.  While I made a miraculous recovery, I still had to adapt to cognitive and psychological impairments that no one can see but me.

Initially, I was hesitant to share with business contacts that I’d had a brain aneurysm.  I thought clients might think my skills were compromised.  But it turned out people cared; they wanted to know more about how I recovered and built my thriving business back up again.  They were amazed that I’ve written two books since then and have also not lost my public speaking savvy.  In many ways, they see these as signs of my ethic, determination and guts – and these are qualities they want from someone they are going to hire.  With the release of Rebooting My Brain, I actually have a richer connection with my clients and community.

Many more people now are starting their own “microbusiness,” and “personal brands” reign supreme.  Yes, your business has to offer value and show results, but people want to know, like and trust YOU as a person before they do business with you.  Over the years, I’ve learned to embrace that my business really is just me, and if people don’t like me, they are not going to enjoy working with me (and vice versa) no matter what I can deliver.

The name of the brand game today is approachability, humanity, and connection.  People don’t want to hire automatons.  Feel free to bring your natural voice, insights and experiences into the mix – just try to find ways to tie some of that into audience value.  I often cite cool movies, great restaurants or playful ads that I adore personally with my community to showcase certain points I’m making.

I hear you saying…”but I am targeting alpha-male executives in big corporations, they don’t want to hear anything personal.” You are right.  They want results.  Bring something about yourself to the table without going off-topic; you’ll add real value.

With the release of my personal book, my business relationships have actually become stronger.  My community gets to see a new side of me.  Anyone can be a brand strategist, but how many people have survived (and thrived) after a brain aneurysm?! Plus, it’s helped me branch out in my work: I’m now asked to speak not just on branding to business audiences but on health literacy and the patient experience to medical audiences.

There is more synergy:  I did a presentation to business owners about the branding lessons you can learn from brain injury! It was funny, memorable and most of all, full of practical advice for their businesses.

As you build your Unique Genius or passion business, think about the answers to these questions (jot down the answers on a piece of paper if you can right now):

  1. How do your personal experiences, talents and passions add value to others?
  2. How can your experiences shape YOUR business, YOUR life, YOUR mission?

Even if you don’t yet have your own business, try to incorporate more of you into your current job in a way that adds value.

PebbleStorm guest blogger, Maria Ross is chief brand strategist and creator of Red Slice, a digital elixir of stories and strategies to boost your business, your brand and your brain.  She advises start-ups, solopreneurs and small growth companies on how to craft brands that engage, inform and delight customers.  Maria is the author of Branding Basics for Small Business and the just released humorous and heartfelt memoir Rebooting My Brain.  A dynamic speaker, she is highly sought-after to present keynotes and workshops and has appeared on MSNBC, NPR, ABC News and in Entrepreneur, The LA Times, Seattle Business and Columbus CEO. 

More About Maria Ross:

About Unique Genius:

There’s a process to discovering your purpose and turning it into a passion business. Find out the latest at

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The single most important thing standing between people and creating work that is fulfilling and makes you plenty of money is the all-around self-confidence or “life-confidence” to follow your own unique path, which even lots of ‘successful-in-business’ people can lack. 

This kind of life-confidence starts being built or reduced from the day someone’s born… 

So you’re a parent or parent-to-be, and you’re in the middle of deciding where and how your baby will sleep.

Official pediatric societies say “it’s dangerous to have your baby sleep in bed with you, you could hurt them.”

Other people, books and blogs tell you about “co-sleeping this”, “bed-sharing that” and many more options…leaving you confused and overwhelmed at all the options and advice on what the heck to do!  “Do I start them in a crib, in my bed, for how long, and when do I move them?…” and on and on…

Did you realize that how they sleep with you or not affects them as an adult? Here I’ll tell you why my wife and I had our newborn daughter Pari (Welcome, Pari Charlotte Ross) sleep on us most nights for her first several weeks, and then why we moved her to sleeping with us in bed right between us.

First though – have you or any of your family been divorced?  What about being ‘eternally single’, unable or willing to hold down a committed relationship?  Perhaps you or a spouse has struggled with loneliness, intimacy or self-acceptance?  What about addictions, including “socially acceptable” ones like work or over-achievement?

While the causes behind any of these life challenges are complex, there’s a chance they may have begun with a first step: that you weren’t held or touched enough as a baby, including sleeping with your parents at night.  

I’m not just speaking from the experience of a dad doing research, I’m also speaking from the experience of having been a baby raised this way and still feeling the effects 40 years later as a grown man (example to come).

My Example

I slept alone in a crib from day 1 as a baby, when all I wanted – just like any baby – was to be loved, mainly by being held and touched (the main way a baby receives love) - including through the night.  This was the first seed planted in me at a deep level that – to the “baby Aaron” – I wasn’t lovable enough to my parents.

Of course that isn’t logical and my parents loved me and did the very best parenting job they could (as all parents do, and I’m grateful to them for all the great stuff they did do)…but babies are feeling creatures, not rational ones.  A baby doesn’t understand or care why you are or aren’t sleeping with them or touching them – they just feel your presence (love) or absence (abandonment).

As I grew up, I turned into an overachiever in school and work for decades…misguidedly searching to replace that original feeling of “I’m not enough” through accomplishment.  But because more money, titles or prestige doesn’t do anything to heal that original emotional track that was laid down, it would have been an endless search if I hadn’t pulled myself off that track, and then found my wife Jessica and family.

Love Is Literally A Nutrient

What is the first & second most important ‘nutrients’ a baby gets, for physical and mental health?  Food & sleep.

What is the third most important, for physical, mental and emotional health?  it’s love – mainly by being held & touched.

Without it, no one – child or adult – can develop to their full potential.

The Two Most Common Fears Of Sleeping With A Baby

It’s very common for parents to put babies in a crib from the first night.  Because this is what you’re ‘supposed’ to do, it’s what your parents did and what the experts tell you to do…right?

Often there are two main logical reasons:

1) “It’s dangerous” – you don’t want to risk rolling over on them, and

2) “They’ll be too attached and will never want to sleep alone” or “it’ll be torture to try to break them of the habit of sleeping with us”).   Because if they sleep with you now and get used to it, they won’t want to stop in the future…it’ll be impossible to get them to sleep in their own bed.  And they’ll always be too attached, needy, clingy and not independent…won’t they?

True – if you sleep with your baby, there is a slight possibility of hurting them in some way in your sleep (especially if you drink alcohol or take some kind of sleep drugs) that would never exist if they’re in their own sleep space.

And if babies sleep apart from you they won’t get too attached – at least to sleeping with you…

Here’s The Problem: Why Sleeping Alone Traumatizes A Baby

<= Pari’s Popeye impersonation

A baby is totally in the moment. They don’t remember the past or know there is a future.

When a baby’s alone – say in a crib – and they need attention (even while asleep) yet can’t feel or sense you, all they know is they feel alone and abandoned (again not logical, but babies aren’t logical).  They can feel this emotionally from day one, just as they know when their diaper is dirty or they’re hungry.  Being in the moment, they don’t remember you were there a minute ago, or are coming back in five minutes…all they know is they can’t sense you RIGHT NOW.

They are desperate to be held and loved, and when they aren’t when they most need it, this is so painful to them that after a time, to survive, they build defenses against the loneliness…they begin to detach, to put walls up and numb out emotionally.

This is why – to use an ‘easy to see’ example to point out how this works – “cry it out” methods do work...if all you want is your baby to stop crying and sleep through the night right now without regard to their future as an adult.  It works because the babies give up and disconnect so that they seem to need less love and closeness.  They detach from their own feelings…the first step towards growing up as an adult – both men & women – detached from feelings and emotions.  They might start sleeping through the night after 6-8 weeks, but at what cost?  Is it worth giving them 20, 30 or more years of intimacy issues?

So why did we have Pari sleep on us for much of the night through her first six weeks?  To help her make the transition to life outside the womb as easily as possible.  Many parents are too quick to forget that your baby is new to this world that is so different from the womb (and thus often scary), and your baby’s only real source of comfort, connection and trust is you!  You help them make the transition to feeling comfortable here, and that can take them several weeks or a couple of months.  We could tell, just by paying attention to her, when she started feeling more confident sleeping in bed with us for longer and longer streteches.

Extreme Examples

In extreme cases, like orphans in third world countries that aren’t held enough, babies will stop moving, growing and can even die.  I’ve been to an orphanage in Africa, and it’s heart-wrenching to see babies lying there, because they’ve visibly given up hoping to be held. It’s not subtle there.

The difference here in the USA is that we hold babies ‘just enough’ so that they stay physically healthy, and we can’t detect the emotional scars, sometimes for years or decades.  (Because divorce / addiction / emotional-numbness / depression / anxiety / direction-lessness is normal, right, since everyone has ‘em?)

These emotional walls will stay a part of the baby for their lives, into adulthood.  These adults – like myself – keep intimacy away, for example.  There’s a deep unseen/unconscious pattern, remembered, of “someone i love and need might go away and abandon me and hurt me again…so I’d better keep them at a distance.”

We also struggle with self-acceptance and confidence.  The fear that was written into the subconscious sounds like “I wasn’t good enough to be loved by my parents…I’m not worthy…no one will want me.”  This can translate into challenges with relationships, whether at work, in love or with family.  Also – just because someone is successful doesn’t mean they’re happy or confident.  It’s just as likely that  they’re so desperate to prove themselves worthy, to deny their insecurities, that they work their asses off to prove it otherwise.

Very Few Things Are Not Optional

There’s no single magic solution to help your child avoid challenging life experiences like detachment, loneliness or anxiety.  Yet holding and touching them as much as you can, day and night at least until they begin crawling, is a critical first step – like a first link of a chain – to give them a solid emotional and self-confidence foundation that will serve them for life.

In my teaching practices (Predictable Revenue, CEOFlow, Unique Genius), 99% of the time I tell people “here’s what works for other people, but everything is optional and it’s always your choice how to practically make this work, since only you know your business or life.”

But, but…

A very few things aren’t optional, like telling the truth.

And one other thing that’s not optional is holding and touching your baby as much as possible.  Sleeping together is just a great way to give them a lot of this at one stretch.

Again, it’s not a magic pill to make everything in life easy for your child  (post: life isn’t supposed to be easy all the time; you aren’t supposed to be happy all the time). It’s more like a business that has a lot of extra cash in the bank – it doesn’t automatically make the business successful, but it gives it a lot more flexibility and peace of mind to get through the ups and downs that are inevitable.

So How’s It Working For Us, Do We Get Sleep?  

After about six weeks, when we started moving her from sleeping literally on us to sleeping in bed between us, Pari was sleeping most of the night through – say 5-7 hours – just turning over sometimes to nurse (sometimes my wife would wake up, sometimes not!)  At eight weeks, Pari was sleeping even 8 hours a night, with some mid-night half-asleep nursing.  Now, a week later at nine weeks, she is now commonly sleeping straight through the night for 8-10 hours a night (9pm-6am or 7am).  She then usually wakes up for an hour or three (for nursing, dipe change, etc), before passing back out asleep for awhile, often through much of the morning.

The first several days sleeping in bed with Pari, Jessica could barely sleep with her “baby radar” on…every little sound Pari made woke her up.  But she got used to it, and now she says she sleeps really well and gets plenty of it, thought it’s not deep.

In the beginning, it wasn’t easy for us to figure out how first to get into a sleeping rhythm at home after the hospital.  We had to try all kinds of stuff, which is how we found that Pari liked best to sleep on us the first several weeks, and it was also easier on us too.  With Pari sleeping on my wife (well, on her lap supported by a nursing pillow), in a big chair, my wife could easily nurse her whenever Pari needed it, then pass back out.

And I just loved having Pari sleep on my chest; I miss doing that every night.

I will say you have to try a bunch of things to see what works for you – just like with anything in life.

Update: 14 Months In

About a year since I first wrote this post, now that Pari’s almost 14 months old, Pari still sleeps between us at night, and I love it.  It’s hard to explain how precious waking up with Pari is, or even what it’s like rolling over in the middle of the night to put my hand on her tummy or just see her sleeping there.  She’s just this little scrumptious nugget next to us.

Pari goes to bed usually from 7:30-9pm (depending on how much she napped that day), and very consistently wakes up at 7am-7:15am.

This is a lot harder on Jess, as about six months ago Pari started nursing at night every few hours.  Pari doesn’t wake up, she just squeaks and Jess rolls over to pops a boob in, barely awake herself :)  Jess is in bed for 8-9 hours (usually 10p-7a), but doesn’t get high-quality, deep sleep.  Sometimes it’s worse, sometimes better – but always rough.

Jess says she sticks with it because having Pari sleep with us longer than ever a year is the best thing for the baby, and the best thing for us, long-term.  If food feeds a baby’s physical body, their emotional body’s fed by touch and interaction.  (For some reason, US culture & doctors don’t value “touch” as being vital to development – why?   It’s so obvious what the lack of it does to orphans?!)

A couple of times after especially rough nights Jess was desperate enough to explore ways to help Pari nurse less at night, but she couldn’t find something she felt comfortable with.  We luckily then found Dr. Jay Gordon here in Santa Monica, and REALLY respect his advice and were even able to join his practice.

For example, here’s an article of his on Sleep, Changing Patters In The Family Bed. A couple of his points include: “I don’t recommend any forced sleep changes during the first year of life” and “don’t believe anyone who says that babies who cuddle and nurse all night long ‘never’ learn to self soothe or become independent. This is simply not true but it sells books and the myths stay in our culture.”

I know that for the rest of my life, I’ll treasure the time Pari slept with us, and I’m sad that it’ll end soon.

I don’t put much thought into milestones, since babies are so different, and I can’t say if sleeping with us affects her beyond making her extra happy and healthy.  She’s a happy healthy baby, and so fun to play with!

Pari started walking at 10.5 months and has a bunch of words she says verbally like down, agua, mama, dada, boobah, dog, Aurora (her big sister), and misc baby words.  She also has a few hand signs we taught her eat/hungry, all done, want to nurse/milk, motorcycle (seriously – she makes the throttle motion), and probably a couple others.

Here was one of the first times she said “Aurora”…it was so cute!

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There’s No Single Way

While being held and touched is a universal need by babies, how you manage it in a way that works for your situation is up to you to figure out.  No matter what experts or people like myself tell you, you’re the only one who knows yourself and baby best.  This includes deciding how you sleep with your baby (advice on safe sleeping), how long you do (at least until they start crawling), and how you move them to sleeping alone in their own crib/room (my wife’s done this successfully twice so far so I know at least one way it can be done :)).

If the parents are high-risk of physically endangering their baby and can’t sleep with them (such parents on medication that causes deep sleep), all you can do is do your best, and just hold your baby, or have them held, as much as you can whenever possible.

For example, rather than using a stroller every time you go for a walk, why not try babywearing some of the time?  Or while doing chores around the house?   When we go grocery shopping, I love wearing Pari in the Boba wrap we have!  And she loves it too, once she’s in she snuggles up and passes out.

Let Go Of Guilt

Guilt is an emotional poison, it’s literally toxic.  No parent was, is or can be perfect and do everything ‘right’.  You can only be “perfectly imperfect” and that what you’re doing is enough right now.  I’m sure my kids someday will have a list of things that they think I could have done better!

There is nothing you have done to your kids that you can’t heal with time and love.  All you can do is your best.  If you take on guilt from all the things you’ve ‘done wrong’, you’ll drive yourself and your family crazy.

What If You Already Raised Your Infant In A Crib?

If you put your infants in cribs, perhaps you could let your kids try sleeping with you for awhile now that they’re older for awhile.  Or just hold, hug and kiss them as much as you can (and as much as they let you).  The more physical touch, the better.

The older they are, at first it the more awkward to them and probably you…just keep at it, patiently, persistently, and things will shift.  These things take years, not weeks.

Parenting Can Drive People Crazy

Parenting’s an emotionally charged topic, because kids and how we parent are such an intimate expression of ourselves.  I’m writing the “Your Unique Kid” series to introduce you to ideas you perhaps hadn’t thought about before, and start a conversation.

I’d be happy to keep discussing this in the comments.  No flaming though please, that never helps.

Other Articles I Like

12 Ways To Help Your Child Build Self Confidence

Should I Worry About Spoiling My Baby?

Book: The Continuum Concept

Cute Pari Pictures

Just for fun :)






Welcome Pari Charlotte Ross!

March 12th, 2012

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She’s here!

After 12 hours at the hospital (some easy, some hard), Pari Charlotte Ross was born at exactly midnight (00:00) on February 26, about two weeks ago.  She was 10 lbs, 1 oz (wow!) She’s healthy, beautiful and we are all enjoying finally having her here at home.

Both Mom and Pari are doing great, and her big brother and sister have been excited to meet, hold and kiss her too.

One of my greatest pleasures as a new father – and of my life – has been our quiet daddy-daughter time in the middle of the night (often 12am-6am), when everyone else is sleeping.  I love when Pari and I lie back on the couch and she sleeps soundly on my chest for a few hours.

Sometimes I just listen to her breath, sometimes I read a book, watch a movie or go to sleep myself.  Any which way, I’m so grateful for every moment of it, since I know, with two older kids, how fast she will grow up and I won’t be able to do this anymore.

Keep an eye out soon for a first “Unique Child” post about the decisions we made and are making about bringing up Pari, including why we’re in no rush to have Pari stop sleeping physically on us and why we’re planning on having her sleep with us in bed for the first year (it can make an emotional difference that lasts a lifetime).

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The Unique Genius Superheroes Interview Series is about ordinary people who have created businesses they love around their purpose.

Everyone has a purpose (or “calling”), and there are always ways to turn your purpose, any purpose, into a business you love. It’s easier to live your purpose daily when you do it for work!

Chip Conley is the founder & CEO of Joie de Vivre, the largest boutique hotel group in California. He’s also the bestselling author of “Peak: How Great Companies Get Their Mojo From Maslow”.  His latest book, just released, is titled Emotional Equations.

One of the many things that I admire about Chip Conley is how he created a corporate culture of success at Joie de Vivre by focusing on his employees, and helping them find their own meaning at work. Chip believes that the success of a company depends highly on the emotional well being of the employees.

A Quick Video Introduction

And In The Full Audio Interview…

…which you can listen to or download below, here’s some points we covered:

  • sometimes the skills you learn during the hardest times in life are there to serve you later
  • the “trappings” of success can be just that – a trap
  • why labeling your emotions is so powerful
  • anxiety = uncertainty x powerlessness (and his great “anxiety balance sheet” technique)
  • if you created a pie chart of your self-esteem and confidence, how much would come from non-work areas of your life?
  • does this question scare you, like it did Chip: “do you know what it feels like to just sit still for ten minutes doing nothing?”
  • are you using work as a drug?  running from your family, numbing yourself to life, or searching for approval?
  • if you’re a depressed CEO, how do you inspire your employees while remaining authentic and not fake?

Listen To Or Download The Interview

Want to download the interview?
Click here to download…

More About Chip Conley


About Unique Genius

There’s a process to discovering your purpose and turning it into a business. Read more about it at and get information on signing up for the Program here:

What Was Your Favorite Part Of The Interview?

Please leave a comment below!

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if you are someone who’s homeless or can’t buy enough food or the simple basics of life, this post isn’t for you.  if you can buy enough food, have a roof and the other basics, read on…

don’t you ever get sick of your own self, your friends, your family?  here’s what you sound like:

i need to make more money, my friend are making more than me, i am running out of money, i don’t want to ask family for money, i don’t want to lose the money i have, i put a million dollars on my vision board five years ago when the secret came out so where’s my money?he’s a jackass why does he make more money than me, oh shit look at the size of that rock on her ring, that bitch she married him for his money, i need to make more than him/them, why did i make that STUPID investment and lost so much money, i hate my ex- for taking my money, they have so much money why don’t we have it, i wish i had more money, i just need more money,  i just want to buy a house and then i’ll be happy, i just want to get rid of this house that’s such a moneypit and then i’ll be happy, why don’t i have more money, if i had more money then i’d be happy, if i had more money then i’d travel more, once i make enough money then i’ll be respected, if i had enough money i’d quit this stupid job, if i had enough money i’d start my own business, once i have enough money i’d sell this business, my friend sold his business for more than i sold mine, once i have enough money then i can get married, once i have enough money then i can have kids, i’d be a better parent if i had more money and could buy them private tutoring, crap i need a lot more money for private school those bills are killer, i want enough money to travel first class because coach isn’t good enough, i wish i had enough money for a nanny so they could help me care for my kids, i need money to travel to see my kids since they don’t call me, why don’t my kids have enough money, i’m worried about my kids’ money, my kids are making stupid money decisions, why are my kids worried so much about money?  money, money, money, money, money, money, money…

now repeat that ten thousand times.

hasn’t that been going on for years?  well it’s not helping you make more money, and it’s for sure making your life more negative.

the irony in your life is that no matter how much you have made, you have RARELY been happy about money (yours or others’)…maybe for a few weeks or months or couple of years after a big raise, windfall or selling a company.  but then the anxiety grows back slowly, like a dandelion you can’t kill.  

so here are some steps and ideas for you, in three categories: 1) structural changes, 2) money education and 3) retraining your attitude (especially important if you’re already wealthy).

you can make structural changes, such as:

  1. lighten the load and downsize your life & expenses – do you really need to pay that much rent, go out that much, live in that expensive area, pay for private school, etc?  or are you just keeping up with the jonses?  move to a smaller apartment, buy a cheap used car, move to an area with great public schools (friends say colorado, for example) – wouldn’t kids rather and go to public school and have relaxed and loving parents, rather than stressed out parents in an expensive area?
  2. drop some expensive activities – your kids are not going to fail in life if they don’t know piano, calculus and french!  stop being stage parents rushing your kids to activity after activity, pushing them like that horrible tiger mom woman (yes, HORRIBLE, i said it); you are just trying to live your own dreams through them with an excuse of ‘i want them to succeed.’  in other words, you are driving them to make you feel happy and successful, not to make them happy or successful in life.  when you push them that hard, you’re setting them up for a life of low self-esteem, because they never feel good enough to you, no matter how much they accomplish/money they make/prestige they get.
  3. start a fulfilling business 
  4. just get a job  (if you’ve struggled finding a job in guangzhhou, here’s a great post by my friend Rich Walker on Why It Seems There Are No Jobs Out There)
  5. zen habits on how to save money
educate yourself about money:
  2. read helpful money blog, like Get Rich Slowly or ramit sethi’s I Will Teach You To Be Rich.
  3. 200+ years ago, benjamin franklin had fantastic advice, such as “Questioner: won’t these heavy taxes quite ruin the country? How shall we be ever able to pay them? What would you advise us to?”  “Benjamin Franklin: These taxes are very heavy, and if those laid on by the government were the only ones we had to pay, we might more easily discharge them; but we have many others, and much more grievous to some of us. We are taxed twice as much by our idleness, three times as much by our pride, and four times as much by our folly…” (so true!)

ever heard the phrase, “wherever you go, that’s where you are”?  unless you retrain your brain and attitude, it won’t matter how much money you make, you will still have a lot of anxiety.  ways to change/retrain your attitude:

  1. shift your mind to the good stuff!  make lists of all the best things in your life when fears come up.
  2. clear out money fears by writing out lists of as many fears around money as you can, like “i’m afraid…”.  this brings hidden fears and anxieties out from ‘under the bed’ – like monsters into the light where you can see they aren’t so bad.  do this consistently when your money fears come up and i promise they’ll relax.  i discovered most or all of my hidden money fears were based around a lack of self-confidence, aka versions of ‘i’m not sure if i can do “it”‘.  when i discovered that, i saw ‘oh, that’s not true – i know i can do “it”‘ and helped dissapate ‘em.
  3. make a list of all your assets and resources (you have more than you realize), and family does count
  4. make a list of all the ways you can make money, with your experiences, consulting, products, anything.
  5. listen to this brian johnson  interview (back to basics – meditation, health, family, + keep a 10 year vision)
  6. listen to marc allen interview (affirmations, patience, success through laziness)
  7. remember life isn’t supposed to be easy, and the value of your life is not determined by your job, looks, or financial worth, but by the memories, lessons in love and growth as a person.
list-making advice: some people say make a gratitude list every night.  i think that’s great to get in the habit, but if you make sure you do it every day, it becomes a chore rather than helpful. i’d suggest that whenever you feel anxiety or fears or jealousy come up, that’s when you make the lists or practice shifting your attiude and letting go of fears.

questions, comments?  what are you sick of?  what else works for you?