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Success in life is about making good decisions. We have many decisions we face every day. A lot of them have long-term consequences. Making good decisions is never easy so I recommend adding a secret weapon to your good decisions. This involves turning your good decisions into habits.

Decisions require you to make the right choice every time. Habits only require you to follow decisions you made weeks, months, or even years ago. Brushing your teeth is a good decision. The vast majority of people don’t make a decision every day whether or not to brush their teeth because they’ve turned the process into a habit. Wearing your seatbelt is a positive decision, but for most people, it has become a habit to put on their seatbelt every time they get into their vehicle.

People who have high-stress, high-impact careers turn decisions into automatic habits. If you’ve ever been in the position to observe a pilot and copilot check and crosscheck every system on the plane as a part of their preflight ritual, you quickly come to understand this is a habit. Surgeons create habits around the routine parts of a procedure so they don’t have to make countless decisions during every operation.

Habits can enforce any decision. Unfortunately, there are many people who made a decision years ago to begin smoking cigarettes. Throughout the intervening years, they have made decisions to quit smoking but too often struggle with breaking the habit. If you can make positive decisions to eat healthily, regularly exercise, study personal development and career-building material, and spend quality time with family and friends, you can have a great life, especially if you will cement your great decisions by making them habits.

Successful people are not much different from unsuccessful people. They just do a lot of little things on a regular basis that generate the success they want in their lives. The reason it seems so normal and natural to an observer is that successful people have turned their positive decisions into habits, and they reap the benefits of one good decision thousands of times.

Good decisions or bad decisions are often simple to make but difficult to follow through on. If you make a good decision and see the benefits, turn it into a habit. If you make a bad decision, you’ve got to immediately react by deciding to never do that again, and reinforce your new positive decision by making it a habit. If you are one of those people who decided once to text while you were driving and have now made it into a habit, you need to make a new decision to never do that again, and reinforce your no-texting-while-driving decision by making it your new and improved habit. This will enable you to have a better day and may well make it possible for you and some of your fellow motorists to enjoy a great life now and in the future.

As you go through your day today, turn your good decisions into habits.

Today’s the day!

Jim Stovall is the president of Narrative Television Network, as well as a published author of many books including The Ultimate Gift. He is also a columnist and motivational speaker. He may be reached by email at Jim@JimStovall.com; on Facebook at www.facebook.com/jimstovallauthor; or follow Jim on Twitter @StovallAuthor.

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I believe that movies are among the most impactful cultural forces in the world today. I have written more than 40 books, and eight of them have been turned into movies. As successful as my books have been, the movies have a wider reach and connect with an audience that otherwise might not read my books. I’m convinced that if William Shakespeare, the Apostle Paul, or Mark Twain were alive today, in addition to writing, they would be making movies. Movies impact us on the deepest level throughout our culture.

In an ongoing annual survey of people’s greatest fears, sharks had never been on the list until the year Jaws was released, and then the fear of sharks was listed among the top 10 things that concerned or frightened people.

People were shocked when BMW paid the movie studio $3 million to have James Bond drive their new car in one of the films; but it proved to be an insignificant investment considering that BMW had $340 million in presales of the car Bond drove in the movie.

Sales of archery equipment went up more that 100 percent after the release of the Hunger Games movie.

There are a number of issues involving women’s rights and roles in our society today. Whether the movies mirror our culture or our culture mirrors the movies, there are several concerning trends. Fully 50 percent of film school grads are women, but only 5 percent of movies have a female director. According to film industry statistics, 30 percent of women who appear onscreen in a film are either naked or scantily clad.

Like most things in life, movies are neither good nor bad. Their impact depends on the creative people behind the camera and those who appear on the screen. Movies account for some of our most highly-charged emotional memories. Whether it’s “Go ahead. Make my day,” “We’re not in Kansas anymore,” or “Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn,” movies always leave their mark. Many of us in the film industry are committed to making sure movies leave a pure, powerful, and positive impact on our world.

We succeed or fail based on our attitude. Few things can affect our attitude more than the movies we watch. The images, sights, and sounds stay with us. Just as you monitor the food that your family consumes, you need to make sure the movies that feed their minds have the messages, images, and impact you want.

As you go through your day today, make sure movies create the magic and memories you are seeking in your life.

Today’s the day!

Jim Stovall is the president of Narrative Television Network, as well as a published author of many books including The Ultimate Gift. He is also a columnist and motivational speaker. He may be reached by email at Jim@JimStovall.com; on Facebook at www.facebook.com/jimstovallauthor; or follow Jim on Twitter @StovallAuthor.

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We all deal with bias and preconceived ideas. Bias is easy to recognize in others and hard to spot in ourselves. All of us would like to believe that our thoughts are rational, logical, and based on current facts, but in reality, our perspective is a complex web of past experiences, previous thoughts, and bias shared by other people around us.

We can clearly see this in the political landscape today. There are 435 members of the House of Representatives serving in Washington, DC. These 435 individuals represent a diversity of age, race, gender, experience, background, and culture; however, when a bill hits the floor of the house, the support invariably is divided along party lines. It’s hard for me to believe that, given a complex piece of legislation, every member of one party will be in favor of it while every member of the other party will be opposed to it.

Even members of Congress who are from the same state have opposite opinions regarding what’s best for their constituency. Obviously, there is an overriding bias in play, and these people identify more closely with their party than the people they serve. Bias is hard to eliminate as we often perceive what we expect to find.

I really enjoy Major League Baseball, and despite their reputation to the contrary, umpires generally do a good job of calling the games. One area I have noticed where umpires consistently have a bias is when they are calling balls or strikes on a future Hall of Fame batter. Umpires are baseball fans like the rest of us. The vast majority of them would have preferred having a career playing the game instead of being the umpire. When a legendary player comes up to bat, umpires statistically call fewer strikes on them. In their minds, I believe they have an unconscious bias which tells them if a player like Mickey Mantle, Willie Mays, or Joe DiMaggio didn’t swing at a pitch, it was probably not in the strike zone.

Obviously, fans have a much more pronounced bias than umpires. If you’re ever in a sports bar watching a game, fans of opposite teams will continue to argue their view of a particular play. Rarely does either side change their opinion even while watching the play over and over in slow motion. We see what we want to see or what we expect to see.

While it may not be possible for you and me to eliminate our own bias, we can be aware of it and take it into account as we make critical judgments and decisions.

As you go through your day today, be aware of all the bias around you, including your own.

Today’s the day!

Jim Stovall is the president of Narrative Television Network, as well as a published author of many books including The Ultimate Gift. He is also a columnist and motivational speaker. He may be reached by email at Jim@JimStovall.com; on Facebook at www.facebook.com/jimstovallauthor; or follow Jim on Twitter @StovallAuthor.

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Recently, I was being interviewed for the release of my book  The Art of Optimism. The interviewer asked me, “What’s the best piece of success or personal development advice you ever heard?” I thought a lot about this, and it’s not an easy question to answer as I have read hundreds of books on the topic and have heard most of the success and personal development speakers on the scene today.

As my mind was racing to come up with a good answer on the live talk show, my memory harkened back to my friend and colleague Larry Winget. I met Larry through the National Speaker’s Association, and we have collaborated on several projects. While most people in the success or personal development field label themselves as a “motivational” speaker, Larry is fond of branding himself as an “irritational” speaker. Larry believes that human beings change when the status quo gets bad enough to get them to move. I would be the first to admit there is a lot of wisdom in Larry’s position.

He and I created an audio project entitled Motivation vs Irritation, the thought being that people change to either gain pleasure or avoid pain. It comes down to the proverbial carrot or the stick. While I would prefer to motivate and encourage people to perform, I’ll admit that there are some people that you cannot reach without invoking at least the thought of a stick.

As the interviewer was waiting for my response regarding the best advice I had ever heard, I remembered Larry recounting to me the story of his son leaving home to go to college. It was apparently a very emotional time as Larry’s son would be, at least temporarily, moving away from the family. They finished loading the car, and Larry turned to tell his son goodbye. I could almost feel the emotion as Larry shared his memories with me. I asked, “Did you have any sage advice for him as he was leaving to pursue his education and build his future?” Larry chuckled and repeated the advice he had given his son: “Don’t be an idiot!”

While my initial thought was This advice was a bit abrupt or flippant in the situation, after further reflection, I saw the wisdom behind the words. “Don’t be an idiot” is a simple thought with wide-sweeping impact. If you were to closely examine most of the circumstances and conditions that keep people from succeeding and pursuing the life they want, often those conditions or circumstances were created or persist because someone was an idiot or at least acted like an idiot.

While I certainly realize that we are all subject to natural disasters, terrible diseases, or conditions beyond our control, far too often, failure is a do-it-to-yourself proposition. People don’t choose to fail nor do they choose to get into the circumstances that promote failure. They too often simply ignore reality, dismiss the future, or fail to consider the consequences of their actions. This is a textbook definition for being an idiot.

As you go through your day today, remember the sage advice, and don’t be an idiot.

Today’s the day!

Jim Stovall is the president of Narrative Television Network, as well as a published author of many books including The Ultimate Gift. He is also a columnist and motivational speaker. He may be reached by email at Jim@JimStovall.com; on Facebook at www.facebook.com/jimstovallauthor; or follow Jim on Twitter @StovallAuthor.

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Opportunities and breakthroughs often come disguised as problems. Napoleon Hill-the author of Think and Grow Rich, the bestselling book ever in the personal development field-said, “Every adversity comes with a seed of a greater good.” Solving problems often brings us advantages, but avoiding problems can bring us long-term benefits.

Albert Einstein said, “Intelligent people solve problems. Geniuses prevent them.” If you want to become valuable, get in the habit of anticipating problems and heading them off before they arrive.

John F. Kennedy said, “The time to fix the roof is when the sun is shining.” I realize that challenges and setbacks are a part of all of our lives, and bad things do happen to good people, but for every person defeated by a problem, I can show you someone else who faced the same situation and used the problem as a springboard to future success. Think of the recent problems you have faced or those you have observed friends and family members facing, and consider how many of those problems could have been eliminated quickly or avoided completely if there had been prior planning and preparedness.

I cannot tell you how many people contact me with financial problems in their personal or professional lives that should have been anticipated and avoided. Every year, I hear businesspeople complaining about experiencing cash flow problems around tax time. A wise man once said, “Nothing is more certain than death and taxes.” Corporate taxes are not a problem. They are an annual event that should already be on your calendar before the year begins.

Many families complain of a budget crunch during the holiday season that results in large credit card debt in the new year. Anyone out of preschool knows the holidays come around annually. As a blind person myself, I fully understand that bad things do happen to good people, but most of the problems that people face should have been anticipated or easily handled with proper preparation. Carrying appropriate insurance and having an emergency fund can take care of most financial problems. I have long believed that any problem that can be solved with money is not a real problem when contrasted with people dealing with disease, death, or disaster.

Many aspiring entrepreneurs ask me how they can have a great idea. The answer is simple. Go through your daily routine, wait for a problem to appear, and consider how you could have avoided it. The answer to that inquiry is a great idea. The only thing you need to do to turn your great idea into a great opportunity is to ask yourself, “How could I help other people avoid that problem?” The answer to that question can be a great business opportunity.

All fame and fortune comes to people who simply solve problems.

As you go through your day today, plan for problems and look at them as opportunities.

Today’s the day!

Jim Stovall is the president of Narrative Television Network, as well as a published author of many books including The Ultimate Gift. He is also a columnist and motivational speaker. He may be reached by email at Jim@JimStovall.com; on Facebook at www.facebook.com/jimstovallauthor; or follow Jim on Twitter @StovallAuthor.

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Anyone with the most casual exposure to great films, music, and literature is familiar with The Wizard of Oz. The story follows the adventures of a young girl named Dorothy from Kansas. Not only is it a highly-engaging tale, but it leaves us all with some enduring messages. Throughout my business and writing career, I have benefited greatly from another Dorothy from Kansas. As a best-selling author of more than 40 books and the writer of over a thousand of these weekly columns, I am constantly aware of the fact that I cannot read or even type. If you have experienced anything written by me in a book, newspaper, magazine, online publication, or on a movie screen, you are benefiting from the skill and talent of my colleague Dorothy Thompson.

My books, columns, and movies are merely my thoughts that I dictate. They turn into sentences, paragraphs, chapters, books, columns, and screenplays through the love and care of Dorothy. She is, quite simply, the best editor and grammarian in the business. All of us here in our office, and especially me, were greatly impacted when Dorothy announced she would be retiring at the end of the year. I could not imagine continuing to write without Dorothy being right in the middle of the process. It reminded me of John Donne’s great poem, For Whom the Bell Tolls, in which he declared that none of us are an island; and therefore, whatever we do and whomever we become are based greatly on others.

I cannot image anyone encountering Dorothy Thompson who was not positively impacted. She has functioned for decades with style and grace while being forced to deal with my own limitations, shortcomings, and inadequacies. Although Dorothy will be enjoying what I’m sure will be an active and productive retirement, she has graciously agreed to be available for future writing projects. As the list of potential book titles and column topics is longer than it’s ever been, I am looking forward to more creative collaborations with Dorothy in the future.

The next time you see a book, column, or movie that declares, “Written by Jim Stovall,” I hope you will remember Dorothy from Kansas and realize that without her skill, patience, and effort, not only could I have not gotten over the rainbow, I would have never gotten off the ground.

As you go through your day today, remember all the people who made everything possible.

Today’s the day!

Jim Stovall is the president of Narrative Television Network, as well as a published author of many books including The Ultimate Gift. He is also a columnist and motivational speaker. He may be reached by email at Jim@JimStovall.com; on Facebook at www.facebook.com/jimstovallauthor; or follow Jim on Twitter @StovallAuthor.

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Other than a sporting event or structured competition, it is rarely productive to compare ourselves to other people. In our society, we spend so much time worrying about what other people think of us that we don’t consider the fact that the only opinion that matters is the one we have of ourselves. Comparison is the thief of joy. We can think we’re doing good but then become depressed when we compare ourselves to those around us.

The proliferation of social media has made this situation worse over the past several years. When you look at profiles of friends or family members online, you’re not looking at their reality. You are looking at their highlight reel.

Football coaches grade players based on game films. Coaches watch the entire game and observe each player during each play. Any player could take his best dozen plays from any game and make a highlight reel that makes him look like a superstar even though he may have fumbled twice and thrown an interception during the game.

We’ve all had the experience of watching a great movie trailer or preview then deciding to go to that movie. Unfortunately in many cases, all the great scenes from that film were contained in a three-minute preview, and the rest of the two-hour movie is mediocre or even worse. Those of us who live in America or the rest of the developed world can feel like deprived underachievers if we watch other people’s highlight reels in the media. Glimpses of superstar and billionaire lifestyles can cause us to forget that, from a global perspective, we are all extremely blessed.

Over a billion people on earth today survive on less than $2.00 a day. If you want to get this into perspective, you need to quit looking outside and begin looking inside. All of us have dreams, callings, or visions that tell us who we could be or should be. The only comparison that serves us is the one between who we are now and who we know we should be in the future. The only two things we can control are our effort and our attitude.

At the end of each day, you are the sole judge of whether you did your best. Life is not a sprint. It’s a marathon, and all of us are in separate competitions. We run on our own track and are subject to that age-old measuring stick. It’s not whether we won or lost. It’s how we played the game.

As you go through your day today, don’t let comparison steal your joy.

Today’s the day!

Jim Stovall is the president of Narrative Television Network, as well as a published author of many books including The Ultimate Gift. He is also a columnist and motivational speaker. He may be reached by email at Jim@JimStovall.com; on Facebook at www.facebook.com/jimstovallauthor; or follow Jim on Twitter @StovallAuthor.

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One of the most important elements for personal or professional success is congruence. In this context, congruence refers to consistency and a sincere, genuine understanding of ourselves both publicly and privately.

I have the privilege of speaking to millions of people in corporate and arena events. I have written over 40 books with 10 million copies in print. Each book contains my contact information. Millions more people have seen one of the eight movies based on my novels, so you can imagine how many people around the world I hear from on a regular basis. Most of these people describe being committed to improvements in their lives. I believe the vast majority of these people are sincere in their intentions, but the critical question remains: Are they sincere in their actions?

I realize while someone is listening to a speech, reading a book, or watching a movie, it is easy to become inspired and motivated; but the true test is how they are acting in 30 minutes, 30 days, or 30 years. True transformation comes when we couple our immediate intentions with our long-term actions. Many people have formal goals or objectives. They may have action plans involving getting from where they are to where they want to be, but unless or until that commitment becomes functional, it is all simply a matter of conversation.

I often ask people to describe their most deeply-held, long-term goals and passions. Then I ask about whether or not their observable actions on a daily basis would reveal their goals or passions to a stranger. Setting a goal and failing to follow through can be counterproductive or even destructive. It is, in essence, telling a lie to yourself and accepting it. If you will lie to yourself, you will lie to everyone around you.

Being congruent means we are who we say, and anyone can trust who we say we are.

I remember a young man who lived in my dormitory during college. He told everyone who would listen that his goal was to go to a prestigious law school and then have a long judicial career culminating in him being appointed to the Supreme Court. This sounded very impressive to most people, but I lived down the hall from him and passed his room as I went to class each morning. More times than not, he chose to sleep through his classes and didn’t even make it to the end of his first semester.

If you have had challenges with congruency in your personal or professional life, you need to rebuild your own integrity by picking a relatively small short-term goal and making it happen. If you decide to get up 30 minutes earlier tomorrow and read, exercise, or meditate, you can build on that success and become congruent in your large objectives and in every area of your life.

As you go through your day today, say what you’re going to do, but do what you say.

Today’s the day!

Jim Stovall is the president of Narrative Television Network, as well as a published author of many books including The Ultimate Gift. He is also a columnist and motivational speaker. He may be reached by email at Jim@JimStovall.com; on Facebook at www.facebook.com/jimstovallauthor; or follow Jim on Twitter @StovallAuthor.

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All of us need to become successful leaders. No matter who you are, you are leading and being led all the time. We must be aware of who we are following and who is following us. Leadership is among the most discussed and least understood topics. Ronald Regan said, “Great leaders don’t necessarily do great things. They inspire others to do great things.”

There are two basic types of leadership that can move people from one point to another. One type of leader pushes people, and the other type of leader pulls people.

Leaders who push would include drill instructors in the military. They are seeking reliable, consistent performance from a group of young people who are going to be put in life and death situations. While leaders who push are not the most successful in many situations, they are ideal within this type of military setting. Leaders who pull us get out in front and lead by example. They make us want to be better and encourage us to bring our unique talents and abilities to the task at hand.

Every leader will have to both push and pull at various times. My late, great friend and mentor, the legendary Coach John Wooden, was arguably the most successful coach and leader of young men. His record of championship basketball teams will probably never be broken, but more importantly, his lifelong influence on the players who went through his program remains unparalleled. Coach Wooden often told me that he always endeavored to treat everyone fairly, but he didn’t treat everyone the same way. He was fond of repeating, “There are some players who simply need a gentle pat on the back, and there are other players who need the pat a lot lower and harder.”

I’ve long believed that a leader is a leader all the time. Great leaders don’t get a day off. We can all call to mind government leaders, sports stars, business icons, and other celebrities who gained a position of influence and leadership throughout a lifetime of effort but lost it through a momentary moral lapse or poor judgement. People will remember and follow what you do much more than what you simply say.

In our totally-connected and instantaneous digital world today, it is more important than ever that we remain diligent with regard to our actions, standards, and reputation. People who could have been tremendous leaders in coming years have damaged their credibility through social media. Although the world has greatly changed, leaders face the same challenges our ancestors did.

Being a leader is not an assignment, a job, or a title. It is the constant effort to become and remain someone worth following.

As you go through your day today, be mindful of who you are leading and who is leading you.

Today’s the day!

Jim Stovall is the president of Narrative Television Network, as well as a published author of many books including The Ultimate Gift. He is also a columnist and motivational speaker. He may be reached by email at Jim@JimStovall.com; on Facebook at www.facebook.com/jimstovallauthor; or follow Jim on Twitter @StovallAuthor.

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This week, I am—once again—enjoying the privilege of having one of my books being released into the marketplace around the world. I have written well over 40 books, and all of them are special in some way. This title, The Art of Influence, is certainly no exception. This is the first book I have written since receiving the Napoleon Hill award for literary achievement. When you accept an award that bears the name of the greatest writer in your field, the only way you can put it into perspective is to consider it as a challenge to be lived up to in the future as opposed to deserved recognition for something you may have done in the past.

The gold medal was presented to me by my friend and mentor, Don Green, who is the Executive Director of The Napoleon Hill Foundation. Don is a modern-day embodiment of Napoleon Hill’s Think and Grow Rich message. The Art of Influence is my fourth collaboration with my esteemed coauthor Dr. Raymond Hull. Ray and I seem to be the perfect blend of actual real-world experience and academic expertise. When I think of The Art of Influence and how we are all influenced here in the 21st century, I am mindful of the powerful influence of individuals like Napoleon Hill, Don Green, and Ray Hull.

Napoleon Hill was born in the 19th century, changed the world in the 20th century with his landmark book Think and Grow Rich, and continues to shape our culture here in the 21st century. Don Green is among those rare and gifted individuals who see the value in someone else’s work and dedicate themselves to extending the scope and depth of their legacy. Generations of people yet to be born will experience the power of Napoleon Hill’s work because of Don Green. Dr. Hull exercises influence in a university setting as a teacher. This is among the highest callings anyone can accept, and people like Ray change the world one student at a time.

Influence can be either good or bad, and it can be overt or subtle. We are all being influenced, and we are all influencing others every day. If we learn something, we change our world; if we teach something, we change another person’s world; but if we teach people to teach, we can change the whole world.

Learn from Napoleon Hill, Don Green, and Ray Hull as you take control of all the influences in your life, become your best self, and share it with a world sorely in need of powerful and positive influences.

As you go through your day today, consider the potential, and practice the art of influence.

Today’s the day!

Jim Stovall is the president of Narrative Television Network, as well as a published author of many books including The Ultimate Gift. He is also a columnist and motivational speaker. He may be reached by email at Jim@JimStovall.com; on Facebook at www.facebook.com/jimstovallauthor; or follow Jim on Twitter @StovallAuthor.

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