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

CAT | Patience

Silence Means Nothing

One of the truisms I live by is that we should strive to avoid having both sides of a conversation. For example, we are often tempted to say things like, “He would never agree to that,” or “She wouldn’t pay that much.” We tell ourselves that other people will act or think a certain way. As I say in the book Relax Focus Succeed, you need to let the other person have their side of the conversation!

Somewhat related to this is the human tendency to write meaning into silence. Silence means nothing.


I catch myself in this all the time. I send a text and don’t get a reply. Is that bad? Did I offend someone? Is silence a yes or a no? Then . . . I finally decide to text again and see that I never pushed send, so the text never left my phone.

If you’re waiting to hear back about a loan or a job offer, you might be tempted to write meaning into the long silence. Don’t.

Once you tune into this, you’ll see examples everywhere. A client takes a long time to make a decision. Then you find out they went on vacation. You really need feedback on an email. Then you learn that the person was sick. You’re waiting to get started with a project. Then you find out that there’s a company reorganization in the works.

The ultimate example is when people speculate about a jury taking a long time to deliberate a verdict. Is it better for a short deliberation or a long one? Which favors the defendent?

Silence means nothing.

So what do you do about it? Well, you need to practice a little mindfulness here. What do you know and what do you not know? Then stop worrying about it. Spending your time worrying about something you cannot control (or affect in any way) is a waste of energy.

Have you noticed how often stuff like this gets built up in your head and then turns out to be nothing? Most of the time, the stuff we worry about doesn’t happen. So we literally worry for no good reason.

Worry brings anxiety, which gets our brains all hyped up – and keeps us from paying attention to whatever else we should be doing! As you can see, it’s really worth limiting this whole process before it goes too far.

How do you do that? Step One is simple awareness. Recognize when you’re worrying over something because you’re trying to determine what the silence means. Step Two: Say to the words to yourself: Silence Means Nothing. Step Three: When it’s over, label the worry. Was this legitimate? Was it worth worrying about? Virtually every time, the answer will be NO!

If you do this a lot, it’s worth drawing a sign and putting where you can see it. Silence Means Nothing. And, if you do it a lot, imagine how much better your life will be when you remove that unproductive worry and anxiety.

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Mindfully Unplugging

I’m an amateur photographer. So when I see something really cool that I could share with others, my natural reaction is to take a picture. But there’s one important time when I can’t.

I love my hot tub. From this relaxing location I look across my back yard to a vine-covered fence where orange trumpet flowers invite hummingbirds. It’s also a resting place for birds and a playground for squirrels. And every once in awhile I see something that would make a perfect picture.

My hot tub is also a great place to meditate. I’m totally unplugged, warm, relaxed, and I have great scenery.

( I didn’t take this picture )

A few days ago I spotted a mommy and baby squirrel making their way across the top of the vines. Every once in a while they would stop and all I could see was two tails sticking up from the leaves. I thought, “What a great picture!”

But here’s the deal: I’m not taking my camera in the hot tub. It would take me less that a minute to either drop it or splash it. So I’m just not going to take the chance. And while I have a bit of frustration about that, it’s also a blessing.

There are times when you need to put down the technology and just enjoy the moment – knowing that it cannot be captured. You can choose to live in this moment or spend your time fretting because you can’t do anything but live in the moment.

Some people define “mindfulness” as emptying your mind. Dismissing all thoughts. Stopping the flow of images and ideas through your head. But that’s not the only way to look at it. Being mindful truly means to stop and notice what’s going through your head. It means acknowledging what you see and hear. And then, without dwelling on it or passing judgement, continuing the journey of being mindful.

People often ask me if their running or swimming or other exercise counts as meditation. My answer is always: As long as you are unplugged. Exercising while listening to a book or songs with words is great. But you’re filling your head with those words. And as a result, you’re not fully focused on the activity and the experience. It’s not bad in any way. But it’s not the same as mindful meditation.

Even if you don’t have a hot tub, you can choose to unplug and practice quiet time without external stimuli.

Sometimes the experience is as simple as a chattering squirrel.


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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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Relaxed Girl At Peace Smelling A FlowerI have recently talked to several people who are trying to figure out how to get started with “quiet time” or meditation. So I thought I’d give you my recommendations. There are no hard, fast rules here, so relax and enjoy.

I plan to have several posts on this. So go slow and check back often. Your comments and questions are certainly welcome.

The first thing to keep in mind, if you are new to meditation, is that it’s a skill like anything else. If you haven’t done it before, you need to start somewhere. You need to learn how it feel to sit and do nothing. You need to learn how to listen and stop talking.

If you’re one of those people who always has the TV on, or the iPod, iPad, MP3 player, or some other device that requires you to have ear buds in your ears all the time, you will be particularly challenged.


Lesson one is: Be patient with yourself.

You may have heard people say “you can’t do it wrong.” That’s true if you are sincerely trying.

If you are really, truly trying meditation for the first time, I recommend you have get yourself a timer. It can be a kitchen timer or an app on your phone. Set it for one minute. I know that’s not much. But it will seem like forever if you haven’t experienced it before.

Simply sit quietly in a chair, relax, close your eyes, and wait for the minute to pass.

When the timer rings, be aware of your reaction to it. Do you say to yourself, “It’s about time!”? If you do, keep repeating the exercise every day for one minute.

When your reaction becomes “What? Already? I wonder if I set the timer wrong.” – then you are ready to set the timer for two minutes or even three.


Next time we’ll look inside your head and talk about some of those thoughts that come up in meditation.



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Relax Focus Succeed

5-Week class starts July 28th.

Relax Focus Succeed®

Balance Your Personal and Professional Lives and Be More Successful in Both

Five Mondays – July 28 – Aug. 25, 2014

Registration includes a copy of the book Relax Focus Succeed® by Karl W. Palachuk.

Save $50 right now with code RFSClass

Register now: Only $199 – $50 with code RFSClass to bring this price to only $149



This course will show you how to master the concepts of Relax Focus Succeed® – a program for balancing your personal and professional lives and finding more success in both.

This course is intended for anyone who is stressed out, over-worked, and ready to take their whole life to the next level. We all lead busy lives, filled with too many demands. Many of us don’t get enough sleep or exercise. We fight to be successful at work and at home.

Taught by someone who’s been there. Karl Palachuk was diagnosed with debilitating Rheumatoid Arthritis at age 39 and spent several years getting the disease under control. With two businesses to managed and a young family, he found himself unable to work more than a few hours a day. That’s when he developed a process for achieving goals at a very high level without working himself to death.

Many of us chase the entrepreneurial dream – but few of us reach our entrepreneurial vision.

This is an intensive teleseminar course over a five week period. All assignments are voluntary, of course. But if you want feedback on assignments, please complete assignments during this course and email them to the instructor.

Topics to be presented include:

  • Balance your personal and professional lives
  • Focus on the single most important things in your life
  • Develop your vision for self-fulfillment
  • Relax – in a meaningful way
  • Be the same person in all elements of your life (overcome Jekyll/Hyde syndrome)
  • Put the past – and your present – in their place
  • Build your muscles of success
  • Stop working 50- or 60- or 70-hour weeks
  • Avoid being interrupt-driven
  • Slow Down, Get More Done
  • Work less and accomplish more
  • Define Goals: Long-term, Medium-term, and Short-term
  • Build quiet time into your life

The course will include a number of recommended do-it-yourself exercises.

Save $50 right now with code RFSClass

Register now: Only $199

Enter code RFSClass to bring this price to only $149


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Who Needs a Blanket?

Some time ago I saw a reprinted Peanuts cartoon in the newspaper. One of the kids asks “What do you do when you feel that life is treating you unfairly?” Snoopy responds “Learn to bake your own cookies.”

There’s a lot of truth in that. After all, what are cookies except the ultimate comfort food? When we were kids, we learned to comfort ourselves with a blanket. We all need engaging and distracting activities to keep our lives balanced. As grown-ups we need to find our own blankets (or blanket substitutes).

baby blanketWhen we take the time to stop and consider it, life is a continuing series of actions and reactions, constantly intertwining and affecting each other. When we don’t stop to think about it–when we let the events of life begin to overwhelm us–we begin to view things as “me against the world.”

When we start down that path, we begin to see life as a series of events that happen to us rather than a set of things we can influence and control.

When the world comes crushing down (when life treats you unfairly), the solution is a little perspective. Taking time to bake cookies might be just what you need. Or gardening, or reading, or any other “puttering” activity.

When you pick an activity, remember that it must be engaging and distracting. It should be something that keeps you from focusing on the problems and worries of life. Doing one kind of work to keep yourself from focusing on another kind of work is not the answer. You need to do non-work in order to keep yourself from focusing on any work.

It’s fine if your work is also your hobby. You’re lucky if that’s the case. But you still need something else to do to when the worries of work start to grow too large.

Exercise is a great distraction. Running, bicycling, lifting weights, aerobics, swimming, or whatever you enjoy. In addition to helping you get some perspective on life, it will help you live longer! Even non-aerobic exercise is proving to be extremely beneficial for your health. You don’t have to be a world-class athlete to get benefits from exercise. You just have to do something.

And let’s not forget the final element of baking cookies (or whatever distraction you choose): comforting yourself. If you hang around new parents you may hear them discussing whether a child has discovered a way to “comfort himself.” Very often this means thumb-sucking or some other very simple activity.

When a baby learns to comfort himself, then he can calm himself and go back to sleep after being startled or waking up and realizing that he’s alone. This is a wonderful skill. Unfortunately, many of us seem to have lost the skill of comforting ourselves as we get older. Sometimes we just never try. We ignore or avoid uncomfortable situations.

At other times we simply react to the situation at hand without thinking about it. We’re frustrated, so we respond with frustration. We think the service is bad and we respond with anger. Traffic is tied up and we respond with rage.

The traits of self control and “think before you speak” seem to have been lost by modern society. We’re always going and never stopping. We need to give ourselves that minute to think.

We need to feel comfortable slowing down and taking in life.

We need to slow down just enough to process things and decide how to react. That way we participate in life rather than merely react to it. Slowing down and processing events are habits that need to be cultivated.

Start today. Take a few minutes to spend quiet time thinking about how you react to the world–especially when you feel a great deal of pressure. Do you react the way you’d like to? If not, why not?

Work slowly. Don’t worry. You don’t need to be perfect (soon or ever). But the process of working on yourself automatically makes you happier and more in control. It’s like making your own cookies.

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Too Excited to Make Good Decisions

Last week I had a chat with my girlfriend Ronda about some changes to my business.

Like many of us, Ronda leads a busy life and can get caught up in the daily buzz, buzz, buzz. But in this instance, she showed me two very important lessons about important decisions.

I have a tendency to get worked up about an issue, formulate some alternatives in my head, and then ponder them for awhile. But once I make a decision, I stop considering alternatives and I push on towards my chosen path.

Well, last week I took an important decision to my local Mastermind Group. I wanted some feedback and advice. Afterward, Ronda asked me how things went. I started to tell her and she interrupted me: “Actually, let’s talk about that when we’re not in the middle of something else.”


I was a little taken aback. After all, I was pretty excited about the topic, the feedback, and what I think I need to do with my business. Would we really come back to this? After all, I would like to hear her advice.

A few hours later (I think over dinner. Maybe over drinks.), Ronda picked up where we left off. “Okay. So tell me about your big discuss with the Mastermind Group.” I then proceeded to lay out my thinking over the last month, what I brought to the group, their feedback, and where I think I need to go next.

But I was keenly aware of what Ronda had done. First, she took my needs very seriously. She didn’t let me jump into a frenzied report when she wasn’t in a position to absorb the information and listen to me attentively. While it felt like being put off, it was really a respectful expression of her desire to give meaningful feedback. If she let me jabber on when she wasn’t able to focus, then she couldn’t possibly give me as much focus and attention as she would like.

Second, whether she realized it or not, Ronda had given me time to organize my thoughts and present them in some kind of meaningful order. Allowing me time to relax a bit and organize my thoughts allowed me to present my ideas with a little more perspective and precision than I would have been able to provide immediately after the group adjourned.

And then something else happened.

I proposed my rough idea of where I wanted to go with my company, and what the first few steps looked like. Ronda asked a few questions, gave some opinions, but didn’t endorse a course of action. A few days later, in a casual conversation, she said something to the effect of “You were so excited, I didn’t want to encourage you until you calmed down and had time to think about it.”


Ronda realized something I didn’t: When I get excited, I have a tendency to start moving in that direction. I really need to follow my own advice and slow down. After all, when we’re excited about something, we tend to overlook or rationalize the downside. We haven’t looked at the finances. We haven’t considered “what else” can come into play. We haven’t considered the down side of the decisions we are about to make.

It’s funny. When we jump on a new idea, we have this tendency to get excited and want to rush toward it. But just when we’re most excited is the moment we most need to slow down and take our time.

A true friend won’t give you advice for a day or two. After you’ve had time to Chill Out, Cool Down, and consider the big picture.


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Living on the Edge of Incompetence

How do you feel about being incompetent? Honestly: Is it good to be incompetent?

I say yes!

I was reading a book recently and one section was about how no one wants to be seen as incompetent. One character in the book was having a crisis of incompetence.

That got me thinking about the times when I have felt the most incompetent. In every case it had to do with a new job or a new role. On my first day, or preparing for my first day, I felt incompetent.

The truth is, I’m NOT competent in most things. The same is true with everyone. At any given time, you are only competent in a few things. They might be related to your job, your hobbies, or the roles you play (parent, spouse, friend, sibling, etc.).

What are you really great at? What are you a little bit good at? Okay. Well, you’re not good at everything else! We are each incompetent about almost everything! And it’s okay.

The reason we feel particularly incompetent in a new job is that we have taken on something and we want to be good at it. So often we find ourselves saying “Well I asked for it!”

You only feel incompetent when it involves something at which you want to feel competent. In other words, the self-awareness of incompetence comes hand in hand with a desire for excellence.

In my life there have been two examples of incompetence that stand above all the rest: My first day as a teacher and my first day as a father. As it turns out, I did a pretty good job in both endeavors.

As a teacher, I had lots of reasons to feel competent. I had credentials, degrees, and many years of experience learning the subject I was going to teach. I was even given guidelines, sample course outlines, reading lists, and all kinds of resources to help in my success.

But I had never done it. I had never run a class for a semester. I had never graded papers or managed a classroom. I had never dealt with assigning deadlines and sticking to them.

And on and on. I had experienced good and bad teaching as a non-teacher.

As a new parent I felt even more incompetent. I had two great role models with my own parents. But I knew nothing about how to do this job myself.

Unlike teaching, I had very little “education” on parenting. I had read a lot about pregnancy and childbirth. My wife and I felt reasonably confident that the birth would go well. And in the final analysis, my role was primarily that of a supporting partner. I didn’t have to eat right, get sick, go through dozens of doctor visits, or do any of the pushing on the day of delivery.

But once my daughter Victoria was born, I was a full participant in the process . . . for the rest of my life.

I remember being particularly struck by the fact that they let us just leave the hospital with this new, tiny baby. “Don’t they know how incompetent I am?”

Of course with parenting, this feeling of incompetence continued for . . . well . . . 18 year so far! I feel more competent in many areas. But every new parent-related challenge has been a first.

The reason we feel so acutely incompetent in some areas in that these are the things that are most important to us. We feel the lack of competence precisely because competence is so important to us.

When I look at the complexity of an aircraft engine, I don’t feel incompetent. But I certainly am. It is overwhelming and annoying and almost miraculous to me. But I have no desire to be good at designing, fixing, or doing anything else with aircraft engines. So while I am supremely incompetent, I don’t feel incompetent.

We need to keep things in perspective. Remember, you only feel incompetent when you seek to be excellent. Incompetence is really a reflection of your desire and commitment to excellence. Being aware of your incompetence is the first step on your road to something amazing in your future!


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Reality is an interesting concept. Sometimes I think I’m the master at being mis-understood. Why? Because I work a lot with people who aren’t like myself. They interpret the world differently than I do.

Reality has three components:

– Events, actions, or statements
– Context (other things going on more or less at the same time)
– Interpretation

The most important of these is the last: Interpretation. This is true because the interpreter takes the input and the context and “translates” these into her reality.

Notice, also, what’s missing: Intention. The intended reality is important to the person who wishes to be understood, but plays no direct role in whether or not he is understood.

– – – – –

A few months back, my daughter moved away to college. So I moved out of the big, big house into a small apartment. In the big, big house I had a walk-in pantry that was larger than the entire kitchen in my apartment.

The first time my daughter came to visit, she looked at some Cup-a-Soups on top of the refrigerator and said “Oh my God, are you living on ramen noodles?” I said NO, I just didn’t have any other place to put them.

The next time she came to visit I had just been shopping. There were some granola bars on the kitchen counter. And she said, “I hope you’re not living on granola bars.” No. Of course not. But the cupboards are full and I don’t have any place to put them.

You see, my reality didn’t really figure into her perception of my reality.

I always think it’s interesting to contemplate how we all interact with one another even though we have completely different understandings about how the world works. Sometimes it’s a miracle that we “communicate” at all.

As I mentioned, I always lose the battle of relying on what I *intended* someone to see or hear. I didn’t mean to insult you, but I did. I didn’t mean to suggest something, but I did.

The only salvation I have on this front is that, over time, people learn that I’m well-intentioned. So when something could be interpreted more than one way (in their opinion), they begin to give me the benefit of the doubt. Whew!

Just remember that we’re all interpreting our world. And we don’t always realize it.

So try to be generous and kind as you translate your environment into meaningful information.

Most people are well-intentioned most of the time. Assume so and the world will be a better place.


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Last week my daughter Victoria (age 17.9 years) embarked on an adventure. The plan was to spend three days in New York City just seeing the sights, then hop over to England and Scotland for a week. She has two weeks for Spring Break and this is her senior year.

We had plans for the first night and the last night in the UK, but nothing in between. We had Britrail passes and tube passes, so we were set to just go. Our plan was to wake up every day and figure out what to do that day.

In this modern era it is very easy to hop on the internet and find a hotel at a good price on short notice.

Note: This approach takes a certain willingness to believe that you will be okay and that things will work themselves out. I have been cultivating that spirit for some time.

Meditation helps, as does an actual commitment to being a low stress person.

I believe you can always choose how you will respond to your environment. Sometimes it’s easier than others. The more planning you have, the easier it is. But, as the saying goes, sometimes life gives you lemons and you have to make lemonade.

So here’s what happened to our vacation plans.

After three fun days in New York City, we went to the airport to catch an all-night flight to England and arrive at 8:30 AM. But my daughter could not get on the airplane because of a problem with her passport.

Stop. Vacation gone. Plane departing in two hours. Fix it or forget it.

At this point some people would add: Panic.

I was a little panicky, of course. But I decided a long time ago that I’m not the kind of person who blows up, yells and screams, abuses the person behind the counter, etc. I tried to stay calm, gathered the information I could.

It quickly became clear that I could not solve this tonight and we were going to miss the plane. Period. Nothing we could do about that. We could contact the passport office in New York or Connecticut. Quick phone call. NY was a seven day wait. No good. Connecticut might get us in within 8 business hours in an emergency. And might get a new passport within 8 business hours. But that means 1-2 more days in NYC with 1-2 days sitting around a government office, just so we could spend a day flying to England to continue the vacation.

We decided to do England another time. The next question was: Do we go home or reboot the vacation?

Important factor: My daughter only gets one spring break her senior year in high school.

So where do you want to go? The entire East Coast is at your disposal. Or we could rent a car and drive home, seeing the sights. Or take trains and see America. Or whatever.

We decided to catch the next flight to Florida and spend time in the sun. Went online and booked one-way airfare. Cheap, even at the last minute. Thank goodness for the Internet.

Total elapsed time since vacation destroyed: about 60 minutes.

Was I happy about the situation? No. But I had decided to NOT panic, NOT make it a disaster, and NOT focus on what I can’t control.

Yes, it will cost a lot of money. But we can use those Britrail passes another time. And we had almost no other out of pocket expenses except airfare. Called the airline and cancelled. They’re rebating a good portion of what we paid.

And here’s the key: We can’t control what we can’t control!

The mindset of not wasting energy on things you can’t control is a mindset that you can practice. You can create that approach to life.

The mindset of creating lemonade when life gives you lemons is a mindset that you can practice.

You get to choose how you will respond to the world.

I hope that my daughter will love the new vacation we are creating and that she will always take the attitude of slowing down and looking on the positive side when things go wrong.

“Stuff” happens in life. You can make yourself miserable and dive into the well of dispair, or you can pick up the lemons and start making lemonade.

Daily quiet time, meditation, and prayer go a long way to making this possible.

Status Report: We just finished three days in Orlando. We’re working our way through the Disney parks. On Sunday we’re heading to Church (It’s Easter) and then off to Daytona Beach. We got a nice hotel ON the beach for $46/night. Thank goodness for the Internet.

We’ll head home when we had planned. It won’t be the vacation we planned, but it’s been a Great vacation and a great adventure so far.


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