Do you like books? I like books. I read a lot of books. Wait, isn’t this a post about affirmations? Am I reading the right post? Yes, we’ll get there. One of my favorite quotes about books is from Charlie “Tremendous” Jones who said:
In five years you’ll be the same person you are today except for the people you meet and the books you read.
I used to think books could change the world, but I don’t believe that anymore. Books don’t change the world–quotes from books change the world. Unless you’ve got a photographic memory you can’t remember 5% of a book the second you put it down. You remember vague concepts, and perhaps you can quote a line or two. If that book comes to impact your life in any substantive way it will be because you remember a line from it and repeat that line to yourself 20 times a day.
In order to remember more of the book and reap the benefits you may read it repeatedly, but even so you’ll retain only a small part of it in your consciousness. Other small parts of it will come to your consciousness when triggered by a relevant event. But it is not the book that changes you, it is those few lines or quotes which, when repeated over and over and over again, change your behavior. When your behavior changes, then you change. When you change, those around you change. Then the world changes. The power of the book is to be a delivery mechanism. But it is the quotes from the book, the few you can remember, that hold the real power. These are affirmations.
What Are Affirmations?
The word affirmation comes from the Latin affirmare, which means to make steady or strengthen. Affirmations are positive self-talk. They are the things you say to yourself, out loud or in your mind, that encourage you to greatness or which help you overcome challenges. Bestselling author Ryan Holiday had the titles of two of his books, The Obstacle is the Way and Ego is the Enemy (both definitely worth reading if you’re an aspiring influencer), tattooed on his forearms so they would be constantly at the forefront of his consciousness. These are affirmations.
Affirmations can be quotes, sayings, or simply thoughts. Affirmations are not long-winded stories–they are short phrases. If they’re too long the mind can’t retain them in consciousness easily, they aren’t used as often, and their effectiveness is blunted.
Even if you’re never heard about affirmations and this sounds a bit too touchy-feely for you it doesn’t matter–you are already using affirmations in your life. Everyone does, and they’re not always positive, although that’s how I will generally refer to them. When I say “affirmations” you can take it for granted I’m referring to positive affirmations unless I state otherwise. That said, it is important to talk about negative affirmations and the harm they do.
The Power of Negative Affirmations
Negative affirmations are just as powerful as positive affirmations. If you are constantly telling yourself “My wife always forgets stuff,” that will affect your behavior. The point isn’t whether this is a fact or not–your wife may indeed be forgetful, the point is that if you tell yourself this all the time then your behavior will be different than it would be otherwise, and if saying this to yourself every day means you become a nag and are constantly putting your wife down for her forgetfulness you may end up divorced and have no idea how much of it was your own fault.
Other examples of commonly used negative affirmations include:
- I’m a loser
- I’m not smart
- I’m weak
- I’m fat
- I can’t resist sweets
- I’m not athletic
- I hate running
- I always get sick in XYZ circumstances
- I can’t remember names
- I have a temper
- Nothing I try to do ever works out
- I always put my foot in my mouth
- I have no energy
- Nobody likes me
- I’m ugly
The problem with many negative affirmations is that they’re simply not true. In cases where they are true, they’re still not helpful. Negative affirmations don’t solve problems because they entrench negative behavior. Positive affirmations are the antidote.
The Power of Positive Affirmations
Don’t worry, you don’t have to do yoga, meditate, dance, sing, or get in touch with your inner self in order to benefit from positive affirmations. Heck, you don’t even have to believe they work. As Minda Zetlin writes in Inc., “I don’t believe in affirmations and yet they still work for me.” Positive affirmations are also not about denying reality. Here’s how they work…
Let’s say you’re fat. I used to be. I still struggle with eating the right foods in the right quantities. Oh…wait, did I just state a negative affirmation by admitting that I struggle to eat well? No, it’s not a negative affirmation because an affirmation is something you repeat to yourself every day, over and over again. I don’t tell myself 20 times every day that I eat poorly and that I’m powerless to do anything about it because I’m addicted to Ben & Jerry’s and can’t resist buying eight pints of it whenever I go to the grocery store, etc….I tell myself things like the following:
- I am ripped and athletic like Rich Roll
- I can resist any food related temptation
- I am healthy
- Food is fuel
- Good foods keep my body in peak condition
- Plants taste good
Brainwashing? Exactly. The truth is I’m not close to being in as good of shape as Rich Roll, I have trouble resisting temptation, and a lot of plant based foods don’t taste that good to me, like the green smoothie my wife made this morning (normally they taste great, they really do, but that one was too heavy on the Swiss chard). But the current facts don’t matter–if I repeat these positive affirmations to myself I exercise more and eat better and the affirmations produce the reality I want.
When Affirmations Don’t Work
I started writing up this section, and then it got bigger, and bigger, and then it became it’s own fairly large blog post, 7 Reasons Why Positive Affirmations Don’t Work. Go read that, then come back here.
Who Uses Positive Affirmations?
In the early 1990s an unknown actor wrote himself a check for $10 million for “acting services rendered.” He dated it for 1995. Then he carried it around in his wallet for inspiration. In 1995, that actor, Jim Carrey, made exactly $10 million for his role in Dumb and Dumber.
“That’s all well and good for Carrey, but what about all of us who had to sit through the movie?” you might ask. Well, yes, sometimes celebrities make a living by making us suffer, but you get the point. Here are some other high profile influencers who swear by positive affirmations:
- Arnold Schwarzenegger
- Will Smith
- Scott Adams (Dilbert comic creator)
- Suze Orman
You know who else uses positive affirmations? Everyone, including you. You may not use them the way life coaches talk about using them, but you still use them every day. Every time you tell yourself something positive about yourself, every time you repeat a thought that helps you work through something or keeps you going, you’re using affirmations. Have you ever said any of these things to yourself?
- I can figure this out.
- This mess is an opportunity for me to learn something.
- This problem at work is a chance for me to prove what I’m capable of.
- Dang, I’m not going to say this out loud, but I did a pretty good job right there.
- I like how I look in these clothes. Not bad.
- I’m going to get this job.
- I’m going to land this client.
And my personal favorite–“I could do that.”
It’s that last one that led me to start my own business. In 1999 I was working for a dot-com in Provo, Utah, making $13/hr as a web designer, and watching the two founders fly around and meet with venture capitalists and partners. I looked at them and thought “These guys aren’t geniuses–I could do what they’ve done and what they’re doing.” So I quit and started my own company, a marketing agency. But the biggest success in my professional career almost didn’t happen, because of a negative affirmation.
In 2013 the opportunity to write for Forbes magazine fell in my lap. At the time my business was failing and I was very busy trying to keep it afloat. The first thing I thought when I was told that I could write for Forbes, but I would have to post at least once a week, was “I can’t. I’m too busy.”
Thankfully those words never left my mouth. Instead, I countered them in my mind with a positive affirmation, “It’s an amazing opportunity. I can do this. I’ll make it work.”
I accepted the offer and three years later I’ve written over 200 articles for Forbes, Time, Inc., Mashable, TechCrunch, Entrepreneur, and more, I have a multi-million dollar, global marketing agency, I landed a book deal, and I get paid to travel around the world and speak. Thank goodness for that positive affirmation when I needed it.
You use positive affirmations every day, much more than you think you do. The trick to harnessing their real power is to use them on purpose, rather than by default.
How to Use Positive Affirmations to Become a Powerful Influencer
If I had listened to the negative voice in my head when I had the chance to write for Forbes where would I be today? You certainly wouldn’t be reading this. I’m grateful the positive affirmation saved me, but I sometimes wonder how many opportunities I have missed out on. But the past is the past, and I’m more interested in making sure I use positive affirmations today to ensure I get the results I want tomorrow. Are you ready to join me? Here are the steps I’m using. I’m not saying this is The Ultimate Way to Make Affirmations Work For You. I’m not even sure it’s the best way for me. It’s the best way I know of at this time, but I may change them over time. If you have suggestions on how to improve these steps let me know in the comments below. First, here are the basics of how my system works:
- Start today. I view affirmations like physical exercise–painful and awkward at first, but the results build upon themselves over time. Affirmations are a marathon, not a sprint. Like a marathon the results come after lots of preparation, rather than a one-time spontaneous exertion. It’s hard to repeat a negative affirmation to yourself 50 times a day for 10 years and then suddenly counter it with a positive affirmation when a moment of opportunity comes your way. That’s why if you want to become a successful influencer you need to start using positive affirmations immediately–today.
- Make it simple. If it’s complex you’ll get bogged down and never get started. If you do nothing else after reading this post, write a single inspiring thought on a sticky note and stick it to your computer monitor–that’s simple. Don’t spend three months finding the perfect 10 affirmations, printing them on fancy paper, and getting them framed. Save that kind of stuff for after you’ve used the same affirmations for a year and you know you’re going to keep on using them for the rest of your life. Instead, my recommendation is to print or write out 10 affirmations or inspiring quotes on a normal sheet of paper and tape or pin it to the wall behind your desk, or somewhere else you’ll see it frequently. Then commit to reading through them at least once a day, thinking about each one, and asking yourself the question “Has this changed my behavior yet? If not, why not?”
- Do it for 30 days, every day. You may have heard that it takes 3 weeks of doing something every day to make it a habit. That’s not quite true–there are more factors that go into making something a habit than doing it for a certain number of days. But if I committed you to do these affirmations for a week it wouldn’t be enough, and if I asked you to do them for a year you wouldn’t commit. 30 days is short enough to get you to say “Ok, I’ll try this out, it’s not that big of a commitment,” and long enough that you should be able to see results and then decide if you want to keep on doing this.
That’s it–simple. Are you up for the Influencer Affirmation Challenge? If you are going to do it, tweet to me right now to let me know.
My 10 Influencer Affirmations
Struggling to find your own affirmations to help you become a better influencer? Here’s my list (subject to change), along with explanations of why I use each one. Feel free to copy it as your own, or modify them to suit your needs. Note: These are not my personal, general affirmations, there are my influencer-specific affirmations.
- Someone, somewhere, will be helped by what I have to say. I have to believe what I have to say will help someone, otherwise why am I doing it? How do I know if what I have to say will help someone? See #2.
- Where’s the money? The best way to know if what I have will help someone is if they’re willing to pay for it. If they’re not willing to pay for it, it must not hold much value for them. Want to help as many people as possible? Follow the money. There’s another reason to follow the money–it allows you to scale up your operations and help more people. Could I help more people if I had a team of 10 people behind me helping me to share what I know? You bet! But I can’t afford to hire any of those people unless I’m making money. Until I make money I’m limited as to how much value I can provide, and if I firmly believe #1 then I have an obligation to make money, scale my operation, and help as many people as possible, as much as possible, as quickly as possible.
- Start right now. This used to say “start today” but it’s too easy to push things from the morning to the afternoon, from afternoon to late afternoon, and then nothing happens. It’s soooo easy to procrastinate. I put off doing video for years this way. Don’t wait, whatever it is you know you need to do–do it right now.
- Don’t let perfection be the enemy of good enough. This is one of the main reasons I don’t start right now–I’m waiting to get everything organized so that I can do it awesome. You know what isn’t awesome? Doing nothing. You know what is awesome? Providing value. Can I provide great value without high production quality video? Sure I can. I can start right now.
- Give real value. There’s what I think is value, there’s what the recipient thinks is value, and there’s real value. I start with what I think is value, and I deliver that. If people don’t respond to it, either they don’t think is has value, or they don’t recognize the real value in it. Either way, I need to change my message to something else or tweak my original message until the recipient thinks there is value. If it has real value, then it will spread and go big.
- What do you wish you would have known 1, 2, or 3 years ago? If I run out of ideas of where I can share value I just look at where I was not too long ago. What do I know now that I wish I could pass on to my past self? It’s not too hard to come up with a list of videos, blog posts, etc. this way. With this technique I never have a shortage of ideas of what to talk about.
- Smile more. It’s awkward for me to smile in a way people recognize as a smile, so I need lots of practice on this one so I don’t always look so serious.
- Can you automate/outsource this? Remember #1 and #2? I have an obligation to spread my message as far as I can, as fast as I can. The more help I have, the better I can do this. Am I doing things someone else could do, without any negative impact on value? Do I need to create every single Instagram graphic that goes out, or can I create template, some guidelines, and then have someone else do the heavy lifting and I review the work to make sure it meets my standards? Where else can I automate, outsource, delegate, and otherwise multiply my output to serve more people, better?
- What would Gary Vee do? I think Gary Vaynerchuk is one of the best influencers of this generation because of his authenticity. His advice is to reverse engineer the person you want to be like. I want to be like Gary in many ways, but with less swearing. When I come across an opportunity or challenge I often ask myself how Gary would react to the situation. For example, I’m in China where Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and other social media apps are blocked. But there are home grown Chinese apps that mimic these. Gary would probably master these apps and create a community on those. So that’s what I’m working on.
- The obstacle is the way. I don’t remember a lot of the details from Ryan Holiday’s book of this title, but I remember the title, and that alone has been beneficial to me. When I’m faced with a problem or challenge in my business I try to see how this obstacle is showing me the way to do things better. Nobody wants to hire me to speak? Why is that? Oh, it’s because my website isn’t good enough and I don’t have a speaker reel to show off. The obstacle has just shown me the way, not only to get around or over the obstacle, but how to thrive.
This is a simple way to get started as an influencer harnessing the power of positive affirmations. Now go create your own list, put it somewhere you’ll see it every day, read it every day, think about it every day, and do this for 30 days and let me know the results you get.
Now let’s talk about what’s coming next.
The Influencer Affirmation Journal
I’m collecting 366 affirmations to be published in a book/journal entitled The Influencer Affirmation Journal. Each page will include an affirmation and its source (if any), lines for notes/diary entry so you can record your thoughts, goals, and plans centered around that affirmation. Got a favorite affirmation you think should be in the book? Post it in the comments below! Want to make sure you don’t miss out on it when it’s released? Then sign up for my newsletter and stay in the loop.