The Straightest Route To Progress

I lose things. I misplace my pen without getting out of the chair. It's amazing. Someone call Guinness. I lose my glasses, wallet, phone and, most often, my keys. And it's usually when I am in a mad dash and have to be somewhere. Panic inevitably sets in.

That's when I pray. "Oh Lord, please show me where my keys are. I'm in big trouble." And somehow, without explanation, that is when I find them. I grasp my keys in my hand and say, as I look heavenward, "Never-mind God, I found them. They were under the desk." He thinks I'm hilarious. It's just my way of saying thanks.

Thankfulness is a much overlooked and misunderstood exercise. It seems like a nice thing to be when things are going well or when we receive something undeserved. But actually, it is one of the primary keys to success and the straightest route to progress.

But how can we be thankful when so many bad things are happening? People get laid off from work, some get sick while others go through divorce. Can we truly be thankful in spite of all the calamity? Isn't it hypocritical to say we are thankful when we wonder why life is so difficult?

Thankfulness is an expression and it unleashes the goodies that God has stored up for us. I believe this is true because He loves to hang out with people who are appreciative. "In all things give thanks." 1 Thessalonians 5:18. It's not a suggestion, it's a command. Not because God needs our thanks but because he knows it is the key to answered prayer. He doesn't say give thanks for all things but rather in all things.

When we give thanks in the midst of trouble we are saying, in essence, "I don't know where the rent money is coming from or why my kids are going the wrong way. I don't know why my car is making a noise or why I have a boil on the side of my neck the size of a Buick. But I know that God is in control, that He will take care of me and I am thankful for that."

Thankfulness releases faith and faith is the one thing God loves the most. Our thanksgiving rises into the heavens like a sweet aroma. Anyone can be thankful when things are going well but it takes faith to be thankful for what we have yet to see. Thank Him in the middle of the mess, thank Him for what you are believing for in advance. That makes Him smile and it just takes is one God sized smile for all your troubles to disappear.

On the flip-side, The Lord hates complaining as is evidenced by a scripture from the book of Myopinions which says, "Quit ye, therefore, your whining." Or perhaps I just made that up. But you get the idea. Express thankfulness even when you don't feel thankful and deliberately keep the complaining to a minimum. Admittedly it doesn't feel natural but this is a major principle in the kingdom of heaven.

And let's not be like the woman who lost her five-year-old son at the beach. The waves carried him suddenly into the ocean and in a split second, he was gone. She cried out, "Oh God, please send back my son." Instantly her son was thrown to shore by a giant wave, completely unharmed. She held him tight, looked straight to heaven and said, "He had a hat."


Overcoming the Insurmountable

I have a giant rock in the middle of my living-room. It nearly touches the walls on each side and extends to the ceiling. I can barely get around it. Hard to believe I didn't notice it when I bought the place but I have never been one for details.

It's a true embarrassment in front of my friends at dinner parties, but I just try to pretend it doesn't exist. If there was an 800-pound gorilla in the room, we couldn't see him for the rock.

One day I got tired of it, got so mad that I took a hammer and hit that rock as hard as I could. To my surprise, a small piece fell off onto the floor, so I tossed it outside into the driveway.

But then a thought occurred to me: With that little piece missing, my rock was a tiny bit smaller. Not enough to notice but there was a bit less rock and a bit more space. So I hit it again. Once again a small piece fell off. Once again I threw it out to the drive. This time it was more fun. I felt progress, a sense of accomplishment, the way you feel when you hit a giant rock in your living-room with a hammer.

For two years I hit that horrible monstrosity; each time a piece fell off. Each time I threw it outside, away from my living-room to join the others in the pile. Today it's completely gone and I can move around freely in my home. It's the way it should have always been. Unfortunately, I have a car I can't back out of my driveway but that is another issue.

Okay, I have a confession to make. This story is completely fabricated.

There was no rock, no hammer, no gorilla, and I don't have any friends. But there is a lesson here: Watch where you're throwing things.

Perhaps there is a second lesson. A problem that seems insurmountable can be overcome. Regardless of how ominous it appears, an obstacle is only impossible to conquer when you decide it's bigger than you.

There are three ways I've found to dismantle the seemingly insurmountable obstacles in life:

1. Determine what action reduces the problem even by a tiny amount.

A college degree is earned one page at a time. A record year in sales is accomplished one phone call at a time. A hundred pounds of excess weight is lost by angling the front end of the shopping cart toward the produce and away from the bundt cake. Take small steps in the right direction.

2. Take consistent action.

Have you ever considered the fortitude of a river, flowing with an unshakable confidence? When an object gets in its way, the river goes over it, around it, through it, and if necessary, it obliterates any opposing forces. If there is one thing an incessant botheration cannot tolerate, it's the daily assault on its very existence.

3. Be relentless.

Attitude is everything. A relentless attitude is persistence gone mad, like a train barreling through town at 100 miles per hour, without looking to the right or the left. It's very actions declare a message without saying a word, "I will arrive at my destination whether you like it or not." We have to tackle our problems with that sort of determination to win.

These principles are elementary; they're simple and effective. Now I said they were elementary, not easy. Sadly, most people give up prematurely.  But will life be better if we give up? Or if we persist?

Remember, positive results take time.

I used to have this little black sign that sat on my desk, reaching out to me for a better perspective on the days I felt discouraged, the days I felt like I couldn't go on. These words, powerful but few,  challenged me to get back on track.  They asked a simple question, the same question I will ask you:  "How bad do you want it?"



Laughter is Good Medicine

My grandfather's name was Pa. Now, I don’t believe that was his real name but that’s what we called him.

Such a cheerful soul. He was forever saying something funny, singing a song and getting the words wrong…on purpose. And he was always whistling and quoting silly poems. “He’s a poet and he don’t know it but his feet show it, they’re long fellers.” When Pa walked in the room, sunshine was sure to follow.

My grandmother, Mockie, on the other hand, was quite the opposite. A clean freak and workaholic, she was never content and she made sure everyone knew it.  Her real name was Theanie, pronounced “Teeny” which was an odd name for a woman of her size. To be delicate, she was robust. Or to be frank she was big and round. Pa, on the other hand, was very thin. When they stood side by side, they looked like the number 10.

Mom’s face lit up every time she told stories about my grandfather. The same stories over and over, she laughed just the same. In their house it was a misdemeanor for Pa to sit and rest for even a second. Mockie called out for him constantly. To make matters worse, she called him by his last name like a football coach. The name was Congleton but over the years it became, “Cawnton.” “Cawnton,” she bellowed, “If you don’t get out here and fix this porch, I am gradually going through!” Pa’s reply was always a gem; “Well as long as you go through gradually it won’t hurt you.”  Somehow he was impervious to the pressure as if he had found another dimension, a secret that only he knew. And in that place, he whistled.

The fact that he loved Mockie more than the world itself is the only reason I can imagine that he got away with teasing her about her size. But that he did. “Cawnton, I am ABOUT to fall down!”  His comforting reply would melt the heart of any woman, “Well, I can’t pick you up but I’ll lie down right beside you.” Such a smooth talker.  And so the stories abound.

What a difference a cheerful disposition makes on an atmosphere. Pa was a living breathing personification of Proverbs 17:22, “A merry heart doeth good like a medicine.”  Could God have known what He was talking about all along? Studies have shown that laughter generates those “feel good” endorphins, the same as a physical work out. It also produces antibodies that fight infection, boosts the immune system and reduces pain.

For my Mom and all her siblings, that humor and cheerful disposition created memories that have blessed the third generation. One of our relatives said, “When I get to heaven I’m gonna rest for a thousand years.” Pa’s reply…  “Me too, if Teeny don’t get there first.”  I smile every time I think of that.

Reflection: Who in your life is that cheerful soul? How have they blessed your life?


Last Place Isn't So Bad

In high school, I wasn't the greatest athlete but my friend Scott Masengill did ask me to join the Cross Country Team. I thought that was a good idea. Excited, I called my Mom from the pay phone at school; “Hey Mom, guess what?” I said, “I’m gonna run Cross Country.” Her response I’ll never forget; “When will you be back?”

I explained that “Cross Country” was a sport, not a destination. I wasn’t the best runner the school ever had but I was the worst. Or maybe it was a tie between me and a guy named “Peanut.”  What kind of a mother names her son “Peanut?”

One day during a grueling run, I noticed Peanut and I were in a battle for last place.  A three-mile run seemed like a marathon through a field of molasses. I wondered if I would survive to the end. Neck and neck Peanut and I were, struggling to take the next step.  A sort of camaraderie developed between us and it was good to know there was someone else on the team that understood my pain. When we rounded the final corner, the finish line came into view. The rest of the team, of course, was already there. All of them had changed back into their street clothes, some were eating dinner and a few had moved on to a higher grade.

Not wanting the shame of coming in dead last, I abandoned my friendship with Peanut and dashed in front by at least ten yards. Poor Peanut was certain to bear all the shame alone. I did feel bad about it for a few seconds. The last thing I remember seeing was the back of Peanut’s head as he flew past me like a scooter with rocket fuel.  I didn't know he had it in him? I finished the race dead last, vowing to remove myself from the Cross Country team and find a sport where I am not bothered by competitors.

Dead last is not a desired position here on earth but, in the kingdom of God, it’s not so bad. In fact, the principles of the Kingdom are often just the opposite of what we are familiar with. For example, Jesus said  “But many who are first will be last and the last first.” This makes me wonder why we have so many First Baptist Churches. But I digress.

The Bible teaches that “Pride goes before destruction,” (Proverbs 16:18) “God’s power is perfected in weakness,” (2 Corinthians 12:9) and “Whoever wishes to be first among you shall be your servant,” (Mark 10:44).  That doesn't sound like the makings of a Hollywood movie.

These principles may be radical but to live them is to perceive the great message of Christ; there is a realm of life far superior to the one we naturally perceive.

I may get confused, from time to time, as I try to sort out the higher way of life but in heaven I will be first at Cross Country.

I'm A Child of God. I Get What I Need.

The idea that I get whatever I need may sound arrogant. It may come off a bit brash or even against the nice Christian attitude that we should have.

But, in fact, it is exactly what we are to believe. As a child of God, I am entitled to everything I need from the time I am born to the time I die. This is the life of faith.

How often do we think we don’t deserve the things we need. After all, we haven't lived up to the standard. Why would God keep supplying when we keep failing? But the provisions of God are not attached to our performance.

Psalm 23 says “The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want.” This used to disturb me. I want all kinds of stuff. I was sure this meant that if the Lord was my Shepherd then I should be satisfied with what I have and not want anything else. I felt guilty when I wanted a car or a greater income or a pair of shoes. Instead, the verse simply means that if God looks after me then I will have everything I need.

Imagine your five-year-old son has a friend over to your house and shares his opinion about the living conditions. They are in the living room, leaning back in your personal recliner, feet propped up on your footstool. You happen to overhear. "Yeah, I've got the life here. Everything I need, Fruitloops, orange soda, squirt guns, you name it. Not a worry in the world." Doesn't that just make you swell up with pride?

But what if your son came crawling into your office, "Oh Father, could I trouble you for a bowl of rice? I promise I'll be good. I'll scrape the sidewalk with a chisel, whatever you say. And if I could sleep inside tonight that would be great. They are calling for rain."

Yet this is the attitude we approach God with so many times. "Oh God please provide me with enough food and the rent money. I promise not to cuss and I will be nice to my neighbor who is an idiot." Completely unrelated. As a child of God, the everyday needs of life are just part of the package.

So what do we need? Certainly food, shelter, and clothing but we have many other needs as well. We need direction, encouragement, and hope. Sometimes we need someone to talk to. We need transportation and insurance. We need purpose and a sense of accomplishment. "I shall not want," means that I shall not be in want. I will not lack anything I truly need.

The Bible says that “Every good thing bestowed and every perfect gift comes down from the Father of Lights." Imagine that. If there is anything good at all, if there is a gift that is perfect, it comes directly from God. How then can we imagine that He will not give us the very things we truly need?

Let’s examine what it does not say.

The Lord is my Shepherd I shall have whatever I want.

The Lord is my Shepherd I can have what you have.

These are attitudes that take us away from the mind of Christ and into the mind of the self. A child demands what he wants and cries when he can't have the toy the other child is playing with. We must grow out of that kind of thinking and into a maturity in the Spirit. And it is actually more fun to know that God will come through for us. It's the right attitude to have and it pleases God that we have such a confidence in Him. "For without faith, it is impossible to please Him."

As with anyone who has been in business for twenty years, there have been times I have looked at my income and wondered how we were going to get by. With simple math and a calculator, I could see that the month extended far beyond the money. Yet somehow, when it was all over, everything was paid and no one missed a meal. I don't want to try and figure it out. I just want to know that when I come face to face with obstacles in life that are greater than I am, when I see deficits, when I feel threatened, I do not have to rely on my own strength or intellect. And I thank God for that. I can look to Him who is infinitely greater than I am and just say, "Thank you God for taking care of this," and by faith know that, as always, He will come through.

How To Use Verbal Jiu-Jitsu

People are idiots. Not all people, of course, just a few that you must relate to on a regular basis due to circumstances beyond your control. They come across as superior and condescending when they are most often wrong in their assessment. They are confidently incorrect. (Idiots)

The natural response is to show them exactly where they are wrong and why. That should solve the problem, right? The truth is, such an approach usually delivers the opposite result.

Jiu-Jitsu is a martial art form deriving from its more ancient cousin Judo. It teaches the clever tactic of using the opponent's weight again him. Suppose a man who weighs a hundred and fifty pounds attempts to stop an attacker head on who weighs three hundred pounds. Only a grease spot would remain. By using Jiu-Jitsu, the smaller man can use the momentum already created in the attack and force the assailant to continue in the direction he was going then land him on his keister.

In the same way, it is never a good idea to stop someone's argument head on. To say, "You are wrong and here is why" leads to an inevitable clash. Instead, we should begin where they are. Acknowledge any validity we can recognize or at least an understanding of why they believe as they do.

In his book, "How to win friends and influence people," Dale Carnegie says, "You can never win an argument." If you lose you lose. If you succeed in showing the other person how wrong they are you will hurt their feelings and they will resent you. You lose again.

A clearly better way is to begin with any common ground you can find. Carnegie suggests this as a starting point, "I don't blame you one iota for feeling as you do. If I were you, I would undoubtedly feel just as you do." You may be thinking, "Because if I were you, I too would be an idiot," but that is best left unsaid.

Once you have established a willingness to listen, a new kind of battleground emerges. One where fear of being exposed as a fool has been removed. In this atmosphere, your opponent is more likely to hear your point of view so that you can gently bring him over to your side and onto his metaphorical keister. And I mean that in the nicest way. Begin where the opponent is. Use that momentum to bring him over to your side. Verbal Jiu-Jitsu.

In her "Psychology Today" article, "6 Ways To Win An Argument," Dr. Susan Krauss Whitbourne says, "An argument needs hope. There needs to be a way out for both parties where there exists creative solutions. This can lead any disagreement straight to victory."

Imagine how this approach could affect a marriage. How would an openness to hear the other point of view first, pave the way to a quicker resolve? How would it affect the bottom line of a business or the longevity of a friendship?

And there is the remote possibility that the other person is ninety percent right. What if their point of view sheds light on an area where you were short sighted or negligent? What if they are not an idiot after all? Would you not appreciate their approach to hear your side of the matter, acknowledge your opinion and bring you gently to a different perspective? For the sake of the friendship, the marriage or the business, the more important issue is to help the other save face and to treat one another with dignity and respect.

As hard as it is to accept, there is the ever so slight possibility that, dare I say it, you could be less than a hundred percent accurate in your point of view. Has this ever happened to me? Never.

How to Get Motivated

One cold day, I was on one of my evening runs. I wasn't too happy about being outside but I'd long ago planted the benefits of exercise deep enough that it mattered, so off I went. I happened upon my neighbor standing outside smoking his cigarette so I stopped to chat.

"I used to run a couple years ago, but I quit," he admitted. "I'm going to start again when I get motivated."

I wonder when that will be.

I've always wondered why so many people never do the very thing they dream of doing. We all have them, these big, wild dreams, but so few people pursue them. Why?

Because most people are in desperate need of some motivation.

Maybe you've always dreamed of writing a book but you can't get motivated. Only you can write that particular book and sadly no one really cares if you get motivated or not. But once you've written it, many people will care. Thousands could be blessed by your efforts.

I'm writing this morning, but I don't feel like I have time for it. I'm behind on some things and I have a to-do list a mile long. It would be much easier to say, "I'll wait. I'll do that tomorrow." But I made a commitment, so here I am. Writing. When I don't have time.

Because I'm motivated. Because I have a target that's worth accomplishing.

Motivation can be lofty, elusive, right?  How do we get motivated? And how do we stay that way?

Here's the thing: motivation comes from activity.

It's true. You can't wait until you get motivated to begin, it's in the beginning of something that you get motivated. And as you work more and more on your activity, your target, you find yourself more and more motivated.

We often feel like we could accomplish our goals, our dreams, if we were motivated, but the funny thing is, it really works the other way around.

We have to begin.

If you want to write a book, write the first sentence. If you want to start exercising again (or for the first time), take the first step.

"The willingness to accept responsibility for one's own life is the source from which self-respect springs." -Joan Didion

All of our excuses and laziness will soon be overpowered by a motivation that drives us to determination.

I'm reminded of the story about this lazy, stingy man whose ultimate goal in life was to win the lottery.

"Oh Lord," he prayed. "Let me win the lottery."

He prayed for years and years to no avail. One day he cried out in anger, "Lord! Why won't you let me win that lottery!"

A moment later, a voice boomed down from Heaven, "Buy a ticket."

Okay, I don't think God suggested the whole lottery ticket thing, but you get my point. In order to achieve something, you have to take action. You have to begin somewhere. I've heard it said it's much easier to steer a moving car than one that is parked.

So, are you ready to begin? Believe you can take that first step, you can write that first sentence or learn that new exercise, or at the very least you can start the car.

Because the best time to start really is now.


How to Cultivate a Positive Environment

I'd like to ask you to close your eyes so you can envision what I want to describe but unless you are extremely gifted in ways I've never seen, then you won't be able to read my description.

So perhaps shut out everything except your eyes and mind and just imagine with me for a moment?

Imagine you're in the middle of a field covered with crabgrass. But through the grass, weeds have grown knee- level as the field hasn't been tended for years. A few small trees are scattered throughout but the trunks are pretty hard to see because of an overzealous vine spinning its way unhindered from tree to tree.  Walking through the field wouldn't be wise as hidden briers lie in wait. The mostly brown landscape, speckled with the occasional pale green and gray, dismally stretches as far as the eye can see.

But the birds flying overhead get a different view.  Smack in the middle of the field there sits a very small section about six feet square, cut out in perfect form. Perfectly tilled, hoed, and chopped. No crabgrass and all the briers have been replaced with a rich black topsoil.  Flowers of every color are in full bloom, purples, yellows, and pinks, white, reds, and blues decorate the deep green carpet. Even the birds can't help but notice the striking contrast, the gray, foreboding area surrounding this luscious square of life tucked there in the midst.

If you live on the same planet I do, you're surrounded by this same field of weeds: negativity.

It's everywhere. Turn on the television, we're bombarded with it. Talk to your friends, listen to conversations at the gym, and we'll hear how things have never been as bad as they are now.

The economy is in the dumps. Nobody has any money. Things are only going to get worse. 

How in the world would one attempt to live their dream when the world is in such a shape?

Even when things are going well (and there are a lot of things going well) much of the news is about the pending crash that's coming, these things designed to strip us of any positivity.

Good news is not news. Bad news grabs attention; it sells. But if we absorb nothing but 24/7 negative, we can't help but think negatively.

In the middle of our field of weeds, we each hold the opportunity to carve out a square of our own. We each have the chance to cultivate a positive environment. Here are some ways I practice doing that:

Refuse to listen.

Don't allow the garbage in or around your eyes and ears. If there's something bad going on we need to acknowledge, then indeed don't stick your head in the sand-be proactive. But if it's simply negative chatter, refuse to be affected by the fear pitched like a potion sold by a modern day medicine man.

Cultivate your top soil.

Nurture your square of life with encouragement, motivation, and instruction from those who are wiser, those who have lived where we want to go. Surround yourself with positive people, read inspirational books and listen to encouraging podcasts, and then water those seeds with your own dedication, positive attitude, and perseverance. You'll soon reap the vibrant colors of prosperity, health, and good relationships.

Choose deliberately.

Seek out powerful and truthful affirmations. We can learn how to become what we want to become. Focus on what we can do instead of what we don't have.

As a magician, folks are always asking me to share the secret. Here's one time I can. And the secret to cultivating this positive environment is indeed a magic word: Daily. Daily instruction. Daily affirmation. Daily motivation is the key.

"A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty."  -Winston Churchill

A positive book or podcast once in a while isn't going to do the trick. We can't eat junk food all week and then grab one apple and expect to keep the doctor away. Consider the health of people who eat a daily diet of fruit, vegetables, and proteins as opposed to someone who grabs candy to keep going, or eats fried and fatty foods all. the. time. The difference is astounding.

A positive environment requires a healthy mental diet, a daily habit of positive input. So...what are you having for lunch today?


5 Types of People You Should Never Allow To Waste Your Time

It seems like instant coffee takes forever anymore. The microwave, the buttons. Who has time for that? And Minute Rice is out of the question.

If you're like most people, you have three days worth of stuff on your list for today that can only get done if you ignore eating, emergencies and hygiene. It's outrageous. The last things you need are time-wasters. With that in mind, here are five familiar and universal types of people you should avoid at all cost.

The Missing Punctuation Person

This is the incessant talker who can never find the end of a sentence. Once cornered, your deliverance is nearly hopeless. "So I knew it was on sale but the lady said it wasn't, well I just couldn't stand for that, I'm just like my dad, he wouldn't take anything from anybody, I remember when I was a kid and we..."

There is only one way out. An abrupt interruption. Perhaps a feigned kidney failure. Even a real kidney failure would be better than hearing the rest of that story. Either avoid the "missing punctuation person" altogether or have a near death experience available at the ready.

The Favor Asker

Everyone needs assistance now and then but "favor askers" request your help on a regular basis. They usually begin their sentence with, "I hate to ask you this but..." They want you to get them a cup of coffee, drop their clothes at the dry cleaners or stop by the store on your way in. Not because they can't do it but because it's inconvenient. The undertone is that, as long as you cooperate, everything will be fine but if you resist, there's going to be trouble. So let there be trouble. I have just one thing to say for "favor askers," "Delete them out of your life as soon as possible."

The Belittling Helper

This is the person who enriches your life by their unsolicited critique. How else would you know how wrong you are? The confident whisper to help you be more conscious of yourself, the loving revelation, the left handed compliment. "You look slimmer in that dress." Belittling helpers waste your time by causing you to stop and question yourself for the rest of the day. "Is that what people think about me?" "Should I continue to live?"

Seek critique only from those who have your best interest in mind. For further instructions on how to deal with "belittling helpers," see "The favor asker."

The Adviser

The adviser is an expert in home repair, sports, cars, music, politics, and history. He also has inside information on the financial institutions even though he drives a panel van from the mid-eighties and never wears socks. Best of all, he doesn't need an opening question to get him started and your opinion is not necessary during the monologue. The adviser loves nothing more than to argue. Your best exit plan is to be excited. Write down his advice then run out the door to make a phone call.

The Unqualified Lead

"Let me take this to the meeting and I'll give you a call on Monday." But Monday never comes and if the goodies are not exchanged for the gold, the company goes nowhere. From the sole proprietor to the mega sales team, regular people waste precious time chasing prospects who were never interested to start with. Probably because they don't understand the three criteria that make up a qualified lead. Unlike those who learn the time-saving, profitable strategies by following this shameless plug to "How to Generate Qualified Leads -Essential Strategies to Grow Your Small Business."

Time is valuable. If the average person lives seventy-five years, how many seconds do they get? If you add them up and "tote the one," that comes to, let's see, a lot. Every one of them counts for something but, once a second is spent, it is gone forever.

Share them generously in service to others. Listen, care, teach and go out of your way to bless as many lives as you can. In return, you will be rewarded with laughter, joy, love, and a feeling of well being you could never buy with all the money in the world. But don't allow anyone to take your seconds away. They were given to you as a gift. Spend them wisely, have a great time and don't forget to be outrageous.

This article by Matt Fore was originally published in The Huffington Post / July 18, 2016

4 Communication Skills That Will Increase Your Influence

Have you ever stopped to listen? The conversation of the masses is almost entirely predictable. Where's the excitement? Where's the spark? It's as if the world has been invaded by robots. "Hope it don't rain." "Good game, huh?" "Would you like fries with that?"

Do you want to stand out from the crowd and have a greater influence on others? Do you want them to listen and respond to what you have to say? If so then consider a change in your communication habits. Words are powerful. They create romance, build business and topple kingdoms. Use them to your advantage. Here are four ways you can create greater influence in your life by using the right words.

Avoid the standard rhetoric:

Don't answer the question, "How are you?" with anything your listener has ever heard. Instead, let them in on what's really happening. Did you just get a new job, go on a blind date, get bit by a dog? Are you happy about it? Are you sad? Tell them. They asked didn't they? It's what they get. And use words they are not accustomed to hearing. The staff writers at have assembled a buffet of unique verbiage in their article "50 Sophisticated Words You Should Start Using Instead." Pick a few and add them into your repertoire just for the fun of it. People perk up and listen when you tickle their ears with sounds they don't expect.

Be expressive:

"The service was absolutely spectacular." “The meal was absolutely fantastic." The word "absolutely" increases the power of practically anything you suggest. "We will absolutely give you the best price ever." Who could argue with anyone that is this absolute? Whether you are asking for a date, selling a product or encouraging a wounded soul, the confident approach moves your influence into a higher level.

Ask for what you want:

The price is less when you ask. The sale awaits the person who has the nerve to make the offer straight up. And why is your loser friend Tommy dating a girl that is out of his league? Because he asked. When we don't let our thoughts be known we often end up with what others want us to have instead of what we actually want. In his article "5 Reasons You Should Speak Up (Even When You Think You Shouldn't," best selling author Kevin Daum explains it well. Stick your neck out there. When your head gets lopped off, put it back on and go again.

Use a little humor:

"I have the dumbest question of the day," I've often said to a receptionist when attempting to break through the keepers of the gate. It sure beats, "May I speak with Mr. Rejection?" Defensiveness melts like butter in the face of an amusing remark. They usually laugh and let me know the dumbest question of the day is one I couldn't dream of asking. It's like we're friends already. First cousins in a matter of seconds. Humor lets people know you are human which allows them to relax and tell you what you really need to know. The secret email address, the person you actually need to speak with, the combination of the safe. And all the passwords.

Do you want to be like everyone else, lost in the monotone humdrum that is every day conversation? Then say what everyone else is saying. But to be noticed, to influence others, to stir interest so that they respond to what you have to say, adjust your speaking habits. It will bring cheer to those around you and great benefits to your life.

My friend Glenn has a standard answer to anyone who asked,"How are you doing?" He looks them right in the eye and says, "I have had the diarrhea for three days." Different, but not recommended.