Use your mind to change your brain: changing your temperament

We all have aspects of ourselves, our temperament, that we wish we could change.

Me—I’ve had a temper all of my life. It can get ugly. But that’s not the most interesting part. What is is that it has changed, improved as I’ve aged. I get angry less and with less intensity. I ultimately attribute that improvement to Divine Grace, but there was also work that I did to bring it about.

Maybe you don’t have a temper, but maybe you’re too pessimistic or fearful or anxious. And it’s easy to think that we’re doomed to stay that way for life. But you’re not.

We can change our temperaments.

What is temperament?

“Temperament” is rooted in a Latin word that means “correct mixture”. The idea is that each person has a mix, like a margarita. And your internal mixture is how your mind has been arranged, or your disposition, which is the way you are inclined to go, act, do, think. And it’s inherent. That means you’re born with a certain concoction that affects the way you act in life. It’s like your preloaded software. We all have our own OS.

But that doesn’t mean it’s not upgradable, or there aren’t bug fixes. Temperament needn’t be like our eye color and height and cheekbone structure.

Temperament is malleable. It may not be completely changeable. But it’s not set in stone. We’re more like clay. Our raw material will always be clay, but it can be shaped. We know this because our brains are constantly shifting and learning.

Neuroplasticity at work

That’s called neuroplasticity.

It’s a fancy word for saying that our brains are constantly changing. And according to neuroscientists, they can be changed. In short, your mind can change your brain. That means your thinking can actually play a role in molding your brain. We can teach ourselves how to be better.

And we do that by reflecting and writing. If we reflect on our lives and the hurtful things that have happened to us or the stories that are shaping us or the quiet ideas that direct our thoughts, and study them to understand what they are doing to us, we can make breakthroughs. And writing those thoughts and reflections down helps us process what is driving us and our thinking, and what we realize will help us change and upgrade our software.

My story of shaping my temperament

For example, my wife and I used to have brutal fights. And my temper would flare like a wildfire. And there were even times when I tried to walk out of our marriage. After several of those episodes, I started wondering if I was the problem. I reflected on my early twenties and how I was engaged to a different girl who broke our engagement. And I saw how that broke me. I didn’t know it at the time, nor for years afterward, that that break up created a deep, deep fear of rejection in me. Years later, when I got angry at my wife and tried to leave her, it wasn’t totally about her and our fight. That anger was rooted in that broken engagement and in the deep-seated fear it had caused. So my temper in this situation wasn’t about anger but a fear of being left again. And taking the time to understand that fear of rejection revolutionized my marriage, and me. And I learned to trust my wife, and I stopped trying to leave her.

The power of learning

See, learning is one of the most powerful things you can do to change your temperament. Too often, we avoid the painful parts of our past, which only makes us less capable of changing positively in the present. But when we look into the darker corners of our story, we will discover new insights into ourselves and why we are so angry or hurt or nervous or anxious. And they don’t all have to be dark. They just have to be stories and ideas that drive us. Once we understand them, we can reframe our minds and teach ourselves to think differently.

Maybe you’re really anxious right now. You should consider asking yourself what is causing you to be that way. Yes, there are external factors, of course. But there are also internal ones that are driving your anxiety, too. Maybe it was an event or relationship or family story that is affecting you. The point is to take the time to reflect and write about them, and you will make discoveries that will reframe your thinking and adjust your temperament.

Changing our temperament has incredible benefits. It not only improves our relationships but can also help you at work, in parenting, meeting new people, adapting to change, and even investing.

Temperament and investing

Warren Buffet says that investing isn’t about being the smartest person, but about temperament. “You don’t need tons of IQ in this business,” Buffet said. “I mean, you have to have enough IQ to get from here to downtown Omaha…You need a stable personality. You need a temperament that neither derives great pleasure from being with the crowd or against the crowd because this is not a business where you take polls. It’s a business where you think.” Source

Having the right temperament is the main differentiating factor between good investors and bad ones. Having a good temperament is good business. It’s an edge.

It’s also an edge in life. And knowing that we can mold our temperament is one of the greatest edges we can have.

I’m not going to lie to you. This isn’t easy; it’s really hard.

But it’s worth it.

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Blog change

If we don’t evolve, we die. Or, at least, we stagnate.

That also goes for this blog. So, I’m shaking things up.

For a while now I’ve felt like I’m not giving you my very best with my writing here. Sorry. But it’s true. And now, I want to do something about it.

I’ve wanted to write higher quality posts, with more research, that go in-depth into a topic and add more value to the world, to you. But posting three times a week with a weekly newsletter, with kids screaming in the background, just doesn’t give my fingers the space to breathe, and prance, and meditate so they can crank out better, richer, and, hopefully, more life-altering-er pieces.

So, I’m pulling down the rate of posting to push up the quality of each post.

I’ll still tell personal stories and take things in a positive light, but I will also dive deeper into areas of life and work to help you improve them, practically and materially. Mindset will still be a staple topic, but I’ll also plunge into wealth creation and my thoughts on world events, which will be new for this blog.

For example this week, I’m working on a post about vaccines, and, in particular, THE vaccine. You know, the one we’ve all been waiting for while we sit in our PJs on a workday, every day. I have my opinions on that. The Covid-19 vaccine, not your PJ practices. Anyway, so look out for that. It will drop this Saturday.

If, for any reason, you don’t like this change, please let me know. I’m always open to feedback. As much as this blog is for me, it’s also very much for you. Your thoughts matter to me. You matter to me.

Ok…so for now, that’s the plan. Now, I’ve got to get cranking on the vaccination salvation piece. Signing off for now.

Lots of love,
John

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Hope, felt

Hope is there even if it’s hard to see.

Yes, uncertainty is everywhere and it’s certainly scary, especially these days. Yes, these times are dark and not knowing what’s around the corner is daunting.

But it’s not hopeless. Just because times are despairing and darkness surrounds us, we needn’t despair.

Often the light can’t be seen in the night, but it comes. It breaks night’s grip on the sky when we are frightened and sleepless.

Dawn dawns.

It’s inevitable. After the night there is morning, a new day, fresh like a newborn child, the reward after the pangs.

Do we know how daybreak will appear for us now? No. Do we know when? No. But, it will.

See, there have been generations and generations before us who’ve lived through terrible times. I mean, could you imagine living through World War I or II or the Civil War or the Revolutionary War or the Spanish Flu or the Black Plague or or or? No. But—many did. And yes, there was incredible tragedy. But humanity (I believe, by the grace of God) survived and, then, thrived.

As the seasons cycle in our lifetimes, there are also cycles that arc across the horizon of history that bring tremendous pain followed by brilliant flourishing. Spring always follows winter.

This time feels like the end. But it’s not. It means hope’s around the bend.

Wait for it. It will shine.

It starts in you. For, hope is best not seen. It’s felt.

In our hearts.

Finding purpose

What do you live for?

It’s a simple question. But it’s one of the most difficult to answer.

From my experience, many of us find meaning but few have purpose.

Purpose is the belief or reason we have for living. It’s different from meaning. Meaning is about the significance or feeling of significance for something or someone or belief.

For example, a purpose could be someone living to care for their family. Their meaning is sensed when they are able to help a sibling, daughter, or parent.

Usually I hear and read more about meaning but not so much purpose. But the latter gets down to the roots, into the guts of life, into our souls. It’s the foundation upon which we all stand.

Purpose is the reason for our existence.

What is more important than that?

And if we leave it undefined, we are setting ourselves on shaky ground.

In college, this question haunted me. I had no idea what my purpose was. And living without one caused me to fall into a depression. Motivation was wrested from me and all I wanted to do was watch Disney movies in my dorm room (which I did: there’s nothing like a college guy watching Little Mermaid on a Saturday night, alone in his room, crying and singing along with Ariel).

I was lonely, angsty, and angry. All my life I had dealt with the trauma of my dad’s death and other difficulties in my life.

And I felt rootless, restless (and sang Disney songs).

Soon thereafter, I became a Christian. Jesus became my purpose, my reason for living. And that belief has sustained me, and still does.

Now, I know that not all of you believe as I do. And my point isn’t to bludgeon you with my beliefs but to press you to consider your own purpose.

I think that many of us can go all our lives without knowing what we’re really living for.

And that robs us. It makes life emptier, less fulfilling. And I don’t want that for you. I know what it feels like.

But that needn’t be the case. There is purpose in the world for you.

Seek it. It’s there.


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This is the best way to succeed

Failure isn’t an event; it’s a state of mind. No one is truly a failure unless they give up.

I’m not talking about quitting because sometimes you need to quit in order to succeed. Not every venture is worth your time: Sometimes you try something and you find that it’s not working, so it’s good to quit.

To “give up” or failure means that you surrender to the difficulties of life and resign to the sense that “You can’t do it,” any of it—life.

But if you’re still trying and kicking, you aren’t that. You’re just in process.

The key now is to keep at it.

Did you know that Colonel Sanders (a real person) of Kentucky Fried Chicken, didn’t start his famous “finger lickin’ good” franchise until he was in his sixties?

Yeah—true story.

Before getting in the chicken business, he worked all kinds of jobs. And he was a piece of work, ornery and difficult to deal with. He was even fired for knocking out his co-workers.

But he never gave up. He kept going even though he was older, at an age when he should have been thinking about retirement. But he didn’t retire. He fought. Not just with his fists, but he carried on with his mind, gumption, capital, life.

If you keep on living, trying, fighting, you always have a chance of climbing, growing, succeeding.

Keep that in mind and put that into practice and you can’t help but succeed.


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This Is One of the Smartest Things You Can Do

To get smarter you have to feel stupid, sometimes. You ask the obvious question, repeat something back, relearn something you think you should have already learned.

Sure, it can be embarrassing. But, to learn you have to be open to learning. And that means you’re not the master but the pupil, not the teacher but the student, not the expert but the amateur. But it’s worth it.

Your mind will bud, bloom, and flourish. And learning isn’t a flower that dies, it can blossom for a lifetime and can even leave an imprint on your friends, family, neighbors, strangers, and, even, future generations.

You see, the secret to getting smarter is forgetting about looking smarter, but loving knowledge so much that you don’t care about looking stupid to gain it.

That’s the smartest thing you can do.


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Learning From Failure Is the Key to Succeeding

Success is less about how you think of succeeding, and more about how you view failure.

Maybe you made a terrible investment, messed up your work, sent out an email that was meant to be private but somehow cc’d your whole division including your boss, have a terrible relationship with so and so, etc., and all you want to do is ignore it. (I get it.) But don’t. Resist pushing your failure away.

Instead, gaze into it. Look through the rubble. Find ways you could have, should have, done better.

And, by doing that, you can’t help but improve.

See, to grow, change, learn, we mustn’t shy away from our failures, we must study them. They are one of our best teachers. When you sit at its feet you will gain new direction, better solutions, fresh ideas.

Failure isn’t the end. It’s the beginning.

By studying your failures you will learn to succeed.


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A Way Towards Prosperity and Peace

Worrying is such a waste of time.

Your mind is consumed with all of the things you can’t control: the future, the pandemic, your kids.

You’re not doing anything productive, moving the needle in any positive way. You’re just wallowing in the unknown.

Instead focus your thoughts on the present, what you can do right now. Do the things that matter, that can make a difference.

Do your work the best you can. Learn something to better yourself a little bit everyday. Stay vigilant and care for your health. Teach your children, love them.

For example, if you blog and want to become a successful blogger, stop worrying about how you’re going to get there. Start writing a post that will change someone’s perspective, improve their day, make them laugh.

Focus on today, the things you can control. If you pray, pray. And let the future sort itself out.

And you’ll likely be surprised by what the tomorrow will bring. You might even become rich.

If anything, you’ll have more peace.


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The best thing about losing

Losing doesn’t just mean you’ve lost. For, when you lose, you gain.

Whenever a friend leaves, you move away, get fired, close a business, it’s awful.

We hate it. We should, because losing sucks. No one wants to have something taken from them.

But what I’ve noticed is no matter what (or who) was taken from me, I’ve always gained in place of the thing I lost.

When one girlfriend and I broke up, then another, then another, then another, time after time after time, I gained insight into who I was and who I wasn’t. I realized I was too picky, too arrogant, too something. And I saw what was really important to me and what was superfluous.

And when I moved across the country, literally, from NYC to San Diego, for a relationship that eventually broke, it made me feel like the greatest loser.

But that was right before I would meet the woman who would ultimately become my life partner, my love, my wife.

When you lose, you gain.

During one of the hardest times in my career when I got fired from the only job I was qualified for, pastoring a church, I lost big. I mean I went to graduate school for four years just to have the credentials to start this career path, this calling. So when I was terminated, I went into a depression and didn’t know if I would ever come out.

But through that, I also gained an understanding of myself and saw that God was with me and loved me even when I felt worthless. He made me worthy. And when it seemed like I was useless, He gave me a new job that eventually led me to start my own business; and I realized this was one the best things that could have ever happened to me.

When you lose, you gain.

After my father died when I was in elementary school, I raged. Life was black. Darkness swallowed me. I was lost. But now, as a middle-aged man reflecting back on those events and my learnings, what I see is this.

I don’t know who I would have become if my dad was still alive. Would I be as much of a fighter? Would I see life the way I see it—incredibly precious? Would I have been humbled so that I found faith? I doubt it.

I do know that I would have been different. And I’m grateful for the lessons I’ve learned and the person I’ve grown to become because of the pain I’ve experienced.

Of course I’m not saying that I’m glad that my dad died. Death sucks. It always will.

But my meaning is that all pain, even losing the bedrock of your family, can strengthen you, grow you, and give you something you would have never gained without that horrible event.

When you lose, you gain.

The danger of losing is that you can get lost. It’s easy to lose ourselves to bitterness, anger, sorrow. And a dark season can become a life without light, where it’s always night, without a dawn.

But it needn’t be that way.

You can learn, grow, rise—gain.

There is work, though. Gaining doesn’t just come automatically. You need to be open to it. You need to look for it. As a miner who seeks for gold must dig, you too must sift through your mind and the world to find nuggets of knowledge, wisdom, insight after you lose.

For, in the rubble of losing, there are lessons to be learned about yourself, humanity, God, life. If you look for them, you will uncover them.

It needs to be sifted away from the debris of living and pain and bitterness. And there you will see it shining before you eyes, glorious and pure—golden and true.

The way you do that is by reflecting.

Reflection is the act of looking back on particular events, thoughts, feelings, and ideas that have occurred and searching for right understanding and learnings from them.

Sometimes this takes months even years to find the goodness. The death of my father and losing my career path took a long time to play out, and I couldn’t grasp any clear gains. But, eventually, I did.

Journaling, talking to friends, counseling, mediation, and sitting there and letting your mind wander helps.

That space and time help your mind open up to make new discoveries. And what you will discover is a new day, shining brilliantly before you, and more than that.

There will be a new you.

This mindset helps you live better

Life isn’t about perfection; it’s a practice.

Perfectionism makes you feel stuck, scared to fail— stay imperfect.

And you probably hate that. You want to change, but don’t know how to do it.

Well, stop trying to be perfect and start practicing.

What is practice?

It’s doing something regularly to continue to grow and learn.

That can be in fitness, work, creating, family, speech, play. But, for me, all of life is a practice.

Every day, I’m trying to learn how to develop in all areas of my life. I want to know what I could be doing better.

You can, too.

Getting better is one of the main purposes of life.

And at the core of practice is just that: improvement.

I can always be a better husband, father, business partner, businessman, entrepreneur, writer, thinker, person.

If I always tried to be perfect even in one of those areas, I would get so discouraged that I would want to quit.

And therein lies the problem, you see. Perfection doesn’t motivate. It forces us to see what we can’t reach.

But with practice, it’s incremental. It’s day-to-day.

By making small daily improvements that are almost imperceptable at the moment you’ll be transformed after months and years.

You see, it’s not about being perfect, it’s about progressing.

Perfection accentuates the fact that you aren’t perfect. But practice focuses on the act and improving.

So don’t worry about being perfect. That’s a waste of time, life.

Live in practice.

And live better.