RFS Blog | by Karl W. Palachuk – Relax Focus Succeed. Learn more at www.relaxfocussucceed.com

CAT | Books

I just finished an excellent book entitled Falling Upward: A Spirituality for the Two Halves of Life by Richard Rohr. He starts out by examining Carl Jung’s work on the two halves of human growth or the two halves of life.

“The first half of life is spent building our sense of identity, importance, and security—what I would call the false self and Freud might call the ego self. Jung emphasizes the importance and value of a healthy ego structure. But inevitably you discover, often through failure or a significant loss, that your conscious self is not all of you, but only the acceptable you. You will find your real purpose and identity at a much deeper level than the positive image you present to the world.

In the second half of life, the ego still has a place, but now in the service of the True Self or soul, your inner and inherent identity. Your ego is the container that holds you all together, so now its strength is an advantage.”

I know it’s pretty heavy stuff. But here’s what rings so very true in the modern world: Never before in human history have we been more empowered to project an acceptable view of ourselves to the world. Think of what people do on Facebook. They post up images of their ideal selves. No one posts up their petty fights and selfish actions.

In some ways, this is very good. After all, as people take pride in being kind, loving, cheerful, and good citizens, we expect more of that in the real world (off social media).

For the Rohr, “First half of life” activities include saving money, building a family, securing housing and food, and joining groups that identify you (your family, your sports teams, your country, your party, your ideology). Second half activities are more focused on tearing down all that and defining yourself without regard to family, country, ideology, etc.

Ironically, a lot of the activity of acquiring and identifying in the first half of life is actually an attempt to figure out who we are. We spend a lot of time with “us” vs. “them” activities, because that collection of “us” activities helps us see who we are as individuals. In the second half of life, we begin tearing all that stuff down to see who the real person is inside all those masks we’ve put on for decades. The never-ending search for our true selves involves stripping off those identities of party, ideology, and possessions. If we’re lucky, we also strip off the victim-self.

Rohr’s most important argument, in my opinion, is that we in modern society continue with “first half” activities into the second half of life. Many people never get around to second half activities at all. As a result, they never finish acquiring; they never identify outside of an ideological philosophy or religion; they never take time to try to figure out their true self. And, sadly, they never start the work to find out what fulfills them as individuals. They just keep plugging along as they did for the first half of their lives.

The down-side is two-fold. First, we as individuals miss out on the potential to find out who we truly are, without the trappings of the seeking/acquiring world. In the terminology of Abraham Maslow, we give up the opportunity for self-actualization. Second, society loses because we’re spending so much time fighting each other and focusing on our differences instead of what we have in common.

Yesterday would have been my father’s birthday. But he died at age fifty. He didn’t get to have a second half of life experience. When I think of him, and friends I’ve known who died young, it rings very true for me that we need to take this second half stuff pretty seriously. You never know when your time will be up. So it makes sense to get started today. When you get to mid-life, you should make a conscious effort to stop working on first half stuff, and start working on second half stuff.

As you can imagine, that means a renewed focus on meditation or prayer, quiet time, and self-reflection. Maybe I was just predisposed to like this book from the start.



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I recently did a webinar about the most important rules you need to follow to create a successful business. Afterward, I received a note from someone who said he could not attend the webinar because he has to run after customer service tickets completely non-stop twelve hours a day. This is truly the worst-case scenario that Michael Gerber talks about in The E-Myth Revisited: He is working too hard IN his business to take time to work ON his business.

I made a quick five-minute video on this. Here it is:

Here’s the sad truth: If you are over-stressed and burnt out by a job YOU created, you’re in deep trouble. That is truly the road to poor health and possibly an early death from stroke or heart attack. I’m not exaggerating here. You have to build balance into your business and your life before it’s too late.

Two books are recommended. For the self-employed, The E-Myth Revisited by Michael Gerber is an absolute must read. Learn to work ON your business and create a sustainable business model that can grow.

Think about it. If you are working so hard you can’t see straight and you can’t take off ONE hour to work on improving your business, then your business model is broken. It is not sustainable. And it is certainly not something that will allow you to grow your business. You can’t scale that. Hell, you can’t even execute the business you have. How could you possibly grow?

The second book, of course, is my own Relax Focus Succeed – A guide to balancing your persona and professional lives and being more successful in both. Balance is what it’s all about. Only with balance will you create a sustainable business that allows you to thrive as an individual.

Balance, like so many things, will never just happen by itself.



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It’s Complete!!!

The Audio Version of Relax Focus Succeed® is available right now in MP3 format.

It will be available very soon on Audible. If you have used Audible before, I highly recommend it. Go to audible.com and get started with Relax Focus Succeed as soon as it’s released.

Relax Focus Succeed

Relax Focus Succeed

Here’s where and how you can get the Revised Edition of Relax Focus Succeed®:

SMB Books

  • Paperback
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  • PDF



  • Paperback
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  • Soon: Audible Audio



  • Coming Soon

Thank you all for your support!

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If you’re like me, you can get the same advice over and over for years and it doesn’t sink in – until the time is right. That’s why I read all the “success” literature I can. I read to keep thinking about changes in my life until it’s personal for me.

I took a lot of statistics in graduate school. There was a recurring phenomenon with stats: I never truly, completely understood the math from one course until I had to apply it in the next course. I wasn’t alone in this. Many people found that taking a second semester stats class from a different professor than their first semester helped them understand more. And it didn’t matter which was first or second. It as a different way of explaining the math that made the difference.

hand-drawn-brain-book1kIt’s also the case that the first course prepared our minds for the next. One started laying down the pathways and the next started building the knowledge in a meaningful way. Your personal success is very much like this. You have to lay down the foundation before you can start building. When it comes to changing yourself and your habits, that means you might hear a message a hundred time – or a thousand times – before you decide that you really need to take action.

Success will never come until you internalize your commitment to your own self-improvement. This is because success is hard at the beginning. You have to change your habits, your knowledge, and your commitments. Then you begin the actual work of changing yourself.

Let’s look at how those three things are inter-connected. Knowledge is the easiest piece of the toolkit. You can listen to audio programs and read books all day and all night. You “know” you need to get up early, spend quiet time planning your day, exercise, eat right, set goals, focus on them, and execute.

You “know” all that but it’s all meaningless external knowledge until you make a commitment to change your life.

Some people spend years educating themselves on success but never take action until something suddenly makes sense and then the commitments start falling into place. Others start doing without commitment. In other words, they start following the formula even though they haven’t internally accepted that it really will change their lives.

Believe it or not, this also works. If you get in the habit of getting up early, it will make the habit of quiet time easier. If you get in the habit of exercising, it will make the habit of eating right easier. One by one you can adopt all the habits of success until one by one they are meaninful to you.

Knowledge doesn’t come overnight. Neither do habits nor commitments. But if you practice these things, you will eventually achieve them.

Remember: Nothing happens by itself. You have to work on your success. If you don’t work on your self-improvement, it won’t happen. Period.

Just like athletic development, you need to work on your self-improvement until it becomes real for you. One way to do that is to read and consume self-help books and blogs. The habits you execute without commitment will gradually help you become the person who is ready for success. One by one you will internalize these habits and see exactly how they contribute to your success.

Eventually things will start to click and you will develop a true commitment to each habit. So keep reading. Keep listening. Start doing the things successful people do. The more you do these things the more you prepare yourself for success.

Nothing happens by itself.


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The Revised Edition of Relax Focus Succeed is now available to purchase in both paperback and as an e-book. Very soon we’ll have the audio version as well as Kindle and other e-reader formats.


Also check out the free 60 minute recorded seminar I posted on The Book page.


Focus on the positive, make some plans, and start heading in the right direction today!


Intro Special:

Order the Paperback Now and Download the PDF Right Now


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Buy the Paperback and get the Ebook free

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Are You On Autopilot?

My friend Laura Steward Atchison used to be a computer consultant. After successfully selling her business, Laura started looking at her own success. One of the things she realized is that she had worked hard at asking the right questions.

Questions to Ask Along the Way

What Would a Wise Woman Do? Questions to Ask Along the Way

Her new book – What Would a Wise Woman Do? Questions to Ask Along the Way – focuses entirely on this concept. She begins with a discussion of how we tend to lead our lives on autopilot. This is a very powerful concept. If you get up every day and do what you did yesterday, you will tend to assume you know the right questions to ask, so you’ll put your energy on the answers.

Too many folks focus on the “answers” instead of the “questions” in life.

Laura argues that you should step back and ask yourself whether you started with the right question first. Asking different questions will necessarily lead to different answers.

This book is a great “starter” for quiet time and meditation. One of the great “starter questions” Laura asks is: “What questions am I asking myself that got me to this place?” She encourages us to use this to examine the path we’re on.

After all, if we’re not happy with our choices, we could make different choices. But more importantly, we need to realize that those choices are answers to questions. So examining the question might lead us to a completely different set of choices.

This is really a powerful point. Different answers to the same question can only have so much variation. But answers to different questions could be dramatically different from the options we’ve put in front of ourselves so far.

This excellent book discovers questions about relationships, business, personal crises, money, faith, and a lot more. If you’re interested in beginning a new kind of journey of self-examination, this is a good place to start.

Here is a quick interview I did with Laura right as she was releasing the book. I caught up with her at a technology event in Florida.

Interview with Laura Atchison

Available on Amazon in paperback or Kindle.



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Another Book Credit — Workaholism

I agreed to contribute an article to a work on Workaholism some time back. And then I forgot about it.

Well, yesterday I had the pleasant surprise of receiving a copy of the final printed book, Workaholism Perspectives and Experiences from Icfai University Press.

The book is about 190 pages and filled with great essays on Workaholism — Facts, perspectives, and some great tips on making positive changes in your life. I haven’t read most of it yet, but there are some great statistics about the effects of workaholism around the world.

Of course this is a key topic for me (that’s why it’s the topic of the second chapter of my book).

Workaholism can consume your life, your relationships, and your business. Then it affects all the people you live and work with as well as your customers. At the same time, it’s not particularly difficult to overcome. The hardest part about changing a workaholic lifestyle is deciding you want to.

There’s a certain comfort level in working hard all the time: fooling yourself that another hour will make a different; fooling yourself that there are extra rewards; fooling yourself that you’re doing it for the family; fooling yourself that no one can do this but you. Working really hard makes you feel good about yourself.

But some day something dramatic will happen.

And when it does, you’ll be faced with the stark reality that effort above a certain point counts for nothing, that your family values quality time more than an extra box of money, and that lots of people can do the work you feel you have to do.

When that day comes you will be overwhelmed with a sense of loss. Just like losing a loved one, you will have lost a piece of what defines you as a person. You’ll spend time figuring out how “reality” could be so different from what you believed it was. And you’ll work through it.

But working really hard still feels good. So you might cure yourself for awhile, but that doesn’t mean you’re cured forever. Part of it is still baked into who you are. Part of it is pushed on you by society. Part is pushed on you by your job. Etc.

Workaholism is a lot more than a personal choice made by one person who can un-make that choice. It is part of a complex series of structures and relationships that have evolved in modern society.

This book is a great start to recognizing and addressing the issues of workaholism — personally and as an organization. It’s also a good resource for work place counselors and HR pros.

As your bookstore to order ISBN #978-81-314-2469-8.

(Disclaimer: I wasn’t paid for the chapter I contributed to this book and I make no money on sales whatsoever.)




Reflective Communications

A few posts back I talked a bit about how the sender and the receiver each affect the messages that pass between them.

If you haven’t read John Gray’s book Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus, you should. In addition to explaining some obvious truths about the species, the book is chock full of examples of communications gone bad.

The simplest phrase can get lost in the human communication process.

The sender and receiver each add attitude, mood, experience, and a dozen other factors to every communication we have. It’s one thing to try to communicate feedback. But innocent little phrases get miscommunicated just as easily.

“That’s a good job.”

“What does he mean? Don’t I always do a good job? I’m such a failure that you have to point out to everyone when I do a good job! You never tell anyone else that they do a good job: Are you getting ready to fire me?”

– – – – –

It would be convenient if everyone just believed every word you say with no interpretation or reading between the lines.

But, alas, they have a lifetime of their experiences, plus whatever personal history with you. These things create filters through which all communications take place.

This is true in personal relationships, business relationships, online communications, in groups, one-on-one, and in every other human interaction.

A few years ago our company decided to let clients know that we really appreciate it when they pay on time. As a small business, this makes a big difference for us. So we drafted a memo and sent it on its way.

Wow! What an uproar. Several clients called to complain. They’d always paid their bills on time. They didn’t need to be told . . . etc.

Others didn’t even notice the communication. They said it was like the generic pages full of notices that show up with credit card privacy inserts. In other words, it was meaningless communication.

So how do you learn to communicate with a variety of people?

Most of us do pretty well. But there’s only one way to be sure that your communication is successful: Ask.

That is, simply reflect back to the other person what you heard them say. I try to do this with clients, especially regarding action items during a meeting.

At the end of a meeting, say something like, “Here’s what I understand that we agreed on . . ..”

In conversation, try “I heard you say . . ..”
What ensues is a back-and-forth conversation that may be a little uncomfortable at times. After all, you’re going to express what you heard. The other person may well say No, that’s not what they said.

After a little back and forth, you’ll both agree on what was said and what you each want.

And the next conversation will be a little more comfortable.

It would be great if communication were always perfect, or at least easy. But you have to remember that everyone involved is human.


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Tips for a Healthy Mind

There’s a good book called Delivered from Distraction: Getting the Most Out of Life with Attention Deficit Disorder by Edward M. Hallowell, John J. Ratey.

The book deals with a wide variety of subjects and not just ADD. Among other things, the authors make some recommendations for basic principles of what you might call “Brain Management.” In other words, here are some tips for maintaining a well-oiled and well-working brain:

  • Take 30 second breaks from work or any activity that keeps your brain “on”
  • Get enough sleep
  • Rest your brain as you feel overloaded – just 30 seconds
  • Eat the right food
     – not too much carbs
     – not too much caffeine
     – not too much alcohol
     – whole foods
     – balanced diet
     – proteins with breakfast
     – omega 3 fatty acids
  • Exercise 3x week
  • Pray or meditate – even for 3-5 minutes
  • Have positive human contact. That is, do fun things with interesting people. Don’t stay in your room, isolated from the world.
  • Keep a Journal

These are interesting pieces of advice for everyone with a brain. In a very real sense, they apply to everyone, everywhere.

The authors contend that we don’t give our brains a chance to turn off. We don’t give it natural breaks.

Interestingly, there is research to show that, for most of us, the brain naturally takes a break between activities. We finish a task and the brainwaves settle down into a pattern of inactivity. In other words, our brain shifts into neutral for a few seconds before we go on to the next task.

But that doesn’t always happen, and it doesn’t happen for everyone.

The really great news is that you can simply do this for yourself. In other words, you can simply take a 30- to 60-second break and get a huge boost in productivity.

Your brain can never really be “off” at any time. But there are many parts to the brain. Your autonomic systems keep your heart beating and your lungs working. Don’t touch that part.

Other operations, such as conscious and unconscious “work” are another story. We can consciously choose to stop thinking about one thing and begin thinking about another thing. So taking a break with our conscious mind is very easy. It can be as simple as staring at picture, or closing our eyes for a few seconds.

At the same time, the unconscious mind continues working away. Giving it a break takes a little more effort — but not much. A 3-5 minute break in which we pray, meditate, or just do a breathing exercise, can be extremely refreshing.

I’ve had people argue that they don’t have time to exercise, relax, or spend 30 minutes a day in quiet time. Okay. I don’t agree with that.

But when I tell you that a series of 30-second breaks every hour will give you a major boost in brain power, isn’t that worth checking out?

Try it. What have you got to gain?

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How to Read A Non-Fiction Book

For this exercise you will need the following:

– A Book
– Large Post-It Notes
– Pen or Pencil
– Highlighter
– Small pad of paper (optional)

Step One: Smell the Book.

Okay. Not really. But you do want to familiarize yourself with the book. Flip through it. Read the table of contents. What’s the plan? Where are you going?

Are there cartoons, tables, charts, etc.?

Step Two: Take a small stack of Post It notes and put them in the front of the book. I like the ones that 3″x5″ or 4″x6″ with lines. But the small 3×3 work just fine.

You need these so you can jot notes to yourself while reading. Remember, ideas are easily lost if you don’t write them down and take action. So the first part of that habit of success is to write it down.

This does not affect your ability to write comments in the margins.

Step Three: Read.
Obviously, at some point you’re going to actually read the book. Just remember that all of your formal education has taught you the wrong way to read.

Reading is not a one-way process. It is not an activity in which you passively ingest knowledge and try to understand and accept everything you find in the book.

You’re reading the book for a purpose. Let’s assume that purpose is to improve your self, your skills, your business, your personal life, etc.

If you’ve been around long enough, you might remember the “capture” mode on computers. It basically worked like this: You prepare your local machine to capture everything that scrolls across the screen. Then you execute a command on the remote computer to send the information you want. When the “download” is complete, you close the capture mode and save the file.

That’s not how you read a book!

You don’t ingest a book: You interpret it.

Good books are not written to give you the absolute truth so you can turn off your brain and just “be” successful.


As a non-fiction writer, I’m not trying to give you the one true nugget that will magically transform your business or life.

I’m arrogant, but not that arrogant. The best I can hope for is to spark a fire under your imagination.

Your brain will naturally interpret the world as it is presented to you. Use that process. Be open to it. Welcome it.

Ask yourself . . .

– How does this apply to me, my life, my business?

– Is this true and accurate?

– Does that apply to me?

– Am I doing this already (in another form)?

– Is that the only way?

– How would this work for me?

– etc.

Step Four: Write.
Here’s another thing you need to un-learn from school. It’s okay to write in your book. In fact, it’s more than okay. It’s encouraged!

Write notes to yourself. Write feedback to the author. Circle things. Underline them. Re-write key ideas in your own words.

When you stumble across real gems that you don’t want to lose, do one or more of the following:

a) Dog-ear the page. Fold down the corner so you can find it again.

b) Write a note on the inside of the back cover.

c) Write a note on one of those sticky post-its.

Step Five: Summarize.
When you’re done with the book, make sure your effort is not for naught.

Review your notes, marking, hyroglyphs, and feedback. Create a list of action items.

Reading a book is good. Creating an interactive experience is better. But stranslating that effort into action steps is the key to getting value from any book.

Warning: Don’t overdo it.

Every college freshman has to learn the lesson of over-highlighting. This is when you find yourself highlighting so much of the book that it looks like it was printed on yellow paper.

Even in the best books, you need to be picky.

Take a maxim from your personal to-do list: If everything is highest priority, then nothign is highest priority. If everything is highlighted, then nothing is highlighted.

One of the keys to getting the most out of a book is to use it interactively.


I hope you took notes on this advice so you can interpret it for your own style and adjust as needed.

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