How Much Should You Talk at Meetings?

Before we get into the Meetings article I wanted to mention a list of recommended books on success from It is a list of 13 books that Success Magazine is recommending. These are recent books and I have neither read them nor reviewed them here yet. You may want to check out the list here.

How Much Should You Talk at Meetings?

Meetings: as much as we may hate them they are unavoidable in most organizations, both public and private. In some industries meetings are very frequent. By one estimate middle management spends 35% of their time in meetings and upper management spend 50% of their time in meetings. Even if you are not in management meetings are often frequent. There may be as many as 25 million meetings per day in the US alone.

Some people say very little at meetings. Others say much more. How much should we say? A 2011 study found that too much discussion can dilute the purpose of a presenter at a meeting. Say too little and you lose influence and miss the opportunity to add value to the discussion. Say too much and you risk diluting your message due to redundancy or you alienate others who do not have a chance to get a word in.

It All Starts with the Agenda

If a meeting is well run it starts with an agenda. An effective chair for the meeting will keep the discussion to the agenda unless there is a compelling reason to depart. Before you attend a meeting study the agenda. It may also be a good idea to look over the last couple minutes for past meetings to refresh your memory on what has been decided previously. If the chair fails to keep the meeting on task consider a polite reminder that there is limited time and you have an agenda to get through.

A Word About Personality Types

People are very complex and no label adequately describes their personalities. However in a general sense most people tend to be more introverted or extroverted. Know where you land on that scale. It is OK to say less if you are more comfortable saying less. Likewise, if you are a natural extrovert and have a more irrepressible personality you can only suppress that so far. Either way you will be more effective if you plan your approach in a meeting.

Listen First, Speak Second

There is an advantage to listening before speaking. When you listen first you may find people are already in agreement with your position on agenda items and you will not need to waste time arguing when there is no argument. If you find people taking positions that concern you it is better to listen to what they have to say and what their justifications are. You may need to modify your own position in light of what you hear.

Pick Your Battles Carefully

Most meetings offer several opportunities for debate or differences of opinion. If there is a battle over each agenda item however the meeting will be less effective and leave people alienated and discordant. Decide in advance what is really important to you and let the rest go. As the meeting develops unless you see things going in a direction you believe is very wrong it may be best to let it go. There is little to be gained by arguing about every little detail.

Avoid Time Wasters

We have all suffered through the story tellers. These are often people who have been around for a long time and feel compelled to tell long stories about what happened years past. For many people it is just boring, for others it is irrelevant. What was done ten years ago may have little relevance today. The world is changing fast. If it is important to recount a past incident keep it as brief as you can and be clear about how it is genuinely relevant today.

While a little levity now and then can loosen up a meeting and keep things engaging avoid too many jokes. Meetings take a lot of time out of people’s days and they do not appreciate their time being wasted.

Be Positive and Constructive

Whether you find yourself in support of a proposal or in opposition you will have more influence if you can be positive in stating your position. Offer an alternative solution rather than just opposing what someone else says. Positive and constructive contributions will be appreciated more and will increase your overall influence.

In my 40 year career I’ve attended over a thousand meetings and have chaired many of them. I’ve found I fail to be effective when I failed to obey the suggestions I list here. Being thoughtful and constructive will lead to a much better result and a more enjoyable meeting.

Meetings are often unnecessary and may be seen as a waste of your time. However if you approach them with some constructive planning you can get the most out of the time spent.

So how much should you talk at a meeting: enough to get your ideas across and contribute to finding solutions. More than that is likely to be counter-productive.

Wishing you well,

Daniel R. Murphy
Educating people for building wealth, adapting to a changing future and personal development.

Consistency + Improvement = Success

Success in any endeavor is the result of a number of factors. However, the biggest factor is consistency. Sometimes it is also described as persistence. Keep at it over and over, day in and day out; you get better and better.

Anthony Moore recently posted a long post on describing how consistency makes people more successful. Being persistent or consistent at what you are doing does pay off. Ask Olympic athletes. The practice every day. They cannot afford to goof off for a day. They may have to rest for an injury but they keep at it almost all the time. That is how they get good at what they do. That is how they become the best at what they do.

The same is true for many athletes, actors, business people, professionals.

Improvement is Essential

There is one aspect of consistency that Moore misses in his article. If you are consistent in doing something the wrong way you are just consistently wrong. That does not lead to success – it only leads to consistent failure.

In addition to being consistent, to practice your art or your skill consistently, you must constantly improve how you do it.

Those Olympic athletes don’t just train by doing the same thing the same way every day. They learn to do things better every day. They have coaches. They learn what they are doing less effectively and they learn how to improve their performance.

Yes, hard work and consistent work is critical for long term success. But so is improvement. Once you learn how to do something better you can then use consistent application of that better approach to improve your performance. That is what ultimately makes great success.

Consistent work plus constant improvement leads to amazing success. It is the formula for success.

Learn how you can achieve more and realize your goals in my book, The Success Essentials.

Wishing you well,

Daniel R. Murphy
Educating people for building wealth, adapting to a changing future and personal development.

How 2017 Was a Great Year

If you watch the TV news (I very rarely do) or you read the news anywhere it all sounds pretty bad. Bad news sells. That is the sad reality.

The news you do not see often is that in many ways 2017 was the best year ever.

  • Fewer people in the world were hungry than at any time since such things have been tracked
  • Fewer people lived in poverty – every day the number of people in extreme poverty reduces by 217,000
  • Fewer people were illiterate
  • A smaller percentage of children died
  • Fewer people were disfigured from leprosy
  • Fewer people were blinded by trachoma
  • Every day 325,000 more people had access to electricity
  • Every day 300,000 more people gained access to clean drinking water
  • Since 1990 more than 100 million children have been saved through vaccinations and other health improvements

We do not often hear about all these improvements. Humanity makes continuous progress day by day and 2017 was typical.

So smile. Things are getting better. 2017 was a good year!

You can read more about these improvements on Nicholas Kristof’s post in the New York Times Sunday Review. To learn more about all the improvements that continue to happen check out Steven Pinker’s new book, Enlightment Now, coming out on February 27, 2018.

Wishing you well,

Daniel R. Murphy
Educating people for building wealth, adapting to a changing future and personal development.

How Winter is Actually Summer

Here in the Northern Hemisphere it is Winter. At least as far as the weather goes it is winter. Snow and cold, rain and wind… all the signs are about us.

By another measure however it is actually Summer moving into Fall. Here I refer to where we are in the economic cycle. There is a natural cycle to our economies just as there is in the weather but with one difference. Just as summer surely follows spring then followed by fall and then winter, then back to spring in nature, in our economies there are cycles of growth and recession as surely as there is winter and summer.

The Economic Cycle

Like the weather on most of the Earth the economy generally follows four “seasons”:

  • Summer: The economic summer is the time of economic growth, expansion, and growing affluence. Stocks increase in value. Business is good. Employment is high.
  • Fall: This is followed by fall, a period of economic retraction. It is slow at first but accelerates into winter, the bad economic times of higher unemployment, slowed growth, decreased affluence, and for some financial ruin.
  • Winter: After a time, this will be followed by winter, a bleak period of economic retraction, recession or depression. Unemployment rises. Prices may go down some. Production goes down.
  • Spring: And as assuredly this will be followed by a spring of economic improvements, expansion, and better times. Employment begins to improve, production increases slowly, things get better.

This cycle is as sure as the weather is. It has repeated itself over the centuries and continues to do so. Our last winter was the period from 2007-2011 when the West suffered a great recession. Spring followed in 2012-2013 as the US pulled out of recession and began to enjoy better economic conditions. The period since 2013 has been summer – a generally improved economy.

Most of the world is currently enjoying that summer right now. When will it change again? We cannot predict that with any certainty. The one difference between weather and the economy is that while weather’s seasons are very predictable as to duration (each lasting about three months) economic seasons are not so predictable as to duration. The economic seasons may sometimes be long as has the current expansion period, or they may be much shorter. While the duration of each part of the cycle is uncertain the fact that one part of the cycle will inevitably follow the last is certain.

What To Do Now – Time to Be an Ant

We cannot predict when this current economic summer will change into fall and winter even though we know it surely will. Knowing this allows us to prepare. During these relatively good times it is best to save and invest. Like the ant in Aesop’s fable of the Ant and the Grasshopper, this is the time to store away wealth to tide us over through the more difficult times that will inevitably follow.

Since we know that more difficult times will surely follow it is essential to prepare now for those times. This is the time to save any money we do not have to spend. It is the time to make wise long-term investments. Then, when hard times come again we will have reserves that will see us through and enable us to take advantage of opportunities that always present themselves in economic winters.

What are you doing to prepare for our next economic winter?

Learn how to manage your money, eliminate debt and build wealth in my book, Your Financial Success.

Wishing you well,

Daniel R. Murphy
Educating people for building wealth, adapting to a changing future and personal development.

Why You Should Strive to be the Best?

I will answer that question more fully at the end of this post, but for now we can start with my mother’s often spoken advice: “if you are going to do something, do it well”. After all, what is the point of being mediocre?

Anyone can do mediocre work. Anyone can take all the shortcuts and produce an average result. Most of the people you work with and most of your competitors will be satisfied with mediocre results. “Good enough” they will say.

I suggest you should always think, it is not good enough. It is never truly good enough because it could always be done better.

If you want to secure a job or make a business a success you must strive to do the best. And once you think you’ve done your best you need to strive to improve on it.

This is what makes employees indispensable to their employers.

This is what makes products sell.

This is what makes a business a success.

This is how an idea is launched and a fortune is made.

That is what makes a better parent, spouse and friend.

Steve Jobs was never satisfied with doing things well enough. He strived to do things the best they could be done. That is why we have Apple computers and iPhones. In many ways they are the best of their kind. (Even if you prefer a PC or an Android you must acknowledge that Apple products are made very well.)

How to Become the Best

Benjamin Hardy wrote a great post on about how to become the best. I highly recommend the post, but in summary here is what you need to do to become the best at what you do:

  1. Start as an amateur to learn. All of the best had to start somewhere. Michelangelo started as an apprentice.
  2. Get coaching and education. Learn all you can about what you wish to master.
  3. Do not do what everyone else does. Break the mold and do something different and something outstanding.
  4. Learn patience. Be consistent and persevere until you have a break through.
  5. Organize your life and your efforts to optimize your performance.
  6. Take time to rest and refresh.
  7. Learn what it takes to get you into the flow and get there.
  8. Embrace fear and suffering. Take risks.
  9. Do it because you love to do it.

Back to the original question. Why should you strive to be the best? Here is my list of the reasons why:

  • If it is worth doing it is worth doing well.
  • It will make you more in demand which increases job security and business success.
  • It will enable you to be a more effective leader because people listen to those who perform at their peak.
  • It will make you feel good to strive for the best, it will make you proud.
  • Striving to be the best may or may not make you the best, but it will make you perform much better than if you settle for less.

Perhaps this is a good time for you to think about what you do and how well you do it? Could it be improved? (Trick question: everything can be improved.)

Maybe the better question is why not? Why not strive to do the best and become the best?

Learn how you can achieve more and realize your goals in my book, The Success Essentials.

Wishing you well,

Daniel R. Murphy
Educating people for building wealth, adapting to a changing future and personal development.

High Performance Habits – Start by Seeking Clarity

Brendon Burchard is an on-line entrepreneur who specializes in productivity and effectiveness. His latest book is High Performance Habits: How Extraordinary People Become That Way. He advocates six habits that he claims extraordinary people possess.

  1. Seek Clarity

“High performers don’t necessarily get clarity. Instead, they seek it more often than other people — so they tend to find it and stay on their true path.

For example, successful people don’t wait until New Year’s to perform a self-evaluation and decide what changes they want to make.

A simple approach to seeking clarity is to focus on four things: self, skills, social, and service. How do you want to describe your ideal self? How do you want to behave socially? What skills do you want to develop and demonstrate? What service do you want to provide?

  1. Generate Energy

Our research shows, unsurprisingly, that most people lose energy throughout the day. By 2 or 3 p.m. they’re starting to flag, and many finish the day feeling wiped out.

But some people — some extremely busy and productive people — aren’t wiped out.

What we found is that most people bleed out energy and intention in the transitions between tasks, between meetings, etc.

High performers have mastered their transitions. They’re more likely to take a quick break, to close their eyes, to meditate — to give themselves a short psychological break that releases their tension and focus from one activity so they are primed to take on the next.

If you want to feel more energized and creative and be more effective at work — and leave work with plenty of “oomph” to enjoy your personal life — give your mind and body a break every 45 to 60 minutes. While that can sometimes be tough to do, whenever possible, plan your day in those chunks.

  1. Raise Necessity

Before every major activity, high performers raise the psychological necessity regarding why it is important for them to perform well.

  1. Increase Productivity

High performers increase the outputs that matter. When Jobs came back to Apple, he stripped down the product line. Then he focused on increasing the quality of the products that remained.

That’s what we all have to do: The main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing.

High performers are also more productive because they see five steps ahead, and align themselves to achieve each of those things.

  1. Develop Influence

High performers develop influence by teaching people how to think and challenging them to grow.

Teach people how to think and you change their lives. High performers say things like, “Think of it this way” or “What if we approached it this way?” or “What do you think about this?” Over time, they train the people around them how to think — because when you impact someone else’s thoughts in a positive way, you have influence.

  1. Demonstrate Courage

We did a tremendous amount of research on courage, and we found that in the face of risk, hardship, judgment, the unknown, or even fear, high performers tend to do a couple of things.

First, they speak up for themselves. They share their truth and ambitions more often than other people do. They also speak up for other people more often than others do. In short, high performers are willing to share the truth about themselves.

Many people complain about the struggle. High performers don’t. They’re fine being in the weeds, getting muddy. They know that showing up, even when they’re tired, will help make them the best.

Knowing that the process will be hard — not just accepting that it will be hard but appreciating that working through the tough times is necessary for success — makes them less afraid.”

The words above are directly quoted from Burchard by Jeff Haden in his post on Check out the post for a more thorough discussion of these ideas. But before you do that:

Perhaps it would be worthwhile to ask yourself if you truly want to be extraordinary. Being extraordinary requires a great deal of focus, self-discipline and hard work. It means working more than average and doing more than expected. Not everyone is committed to doing all that.

If you decide you want to put forth that high level of effort to achieve more than average, then these habits will serve you well. However, if you are not committed to going that extra mile those habits will mean little.

That is really applying Buchard’s first habit: seeking clarity. I suggest we must first seek clarity in what we want to achieve and what price we are really willing to pay.

Wishing you well,

Daniel R. Murphy
Educating people for building wealth, adapting to a changing future and personal development.

Impossible or Unlikely?

Seth Godin recently posted on how unimpressive the new iPhone 10 is despite its high cost. It is unimpressive he says because it does not do anything truly different. It does not break through any barriers. It does not revolutionize anything. It is merely a slightly improved version of the previous product.

So much of what we do fits this description. We merely repeat what we have done before, perhaps with a tweak here or there. Making real progress – changing the world – is unlikely and it is almost always very difficult, but it is not impossible.

How often we hear that something is impossible? Yet in fact very little is really impossible. Much more is unlikely; it is difficult; it is challenging.

First then we should be careful not to declare things impossible and more accurately see them as unlikely or as difficult or as both.

If a true change is to be made that will have a great effect it will be the unlikely change.

Developing the next iPhone 10 is not the aim or the challenge. It is likely. It is relatively easy. It has been done.

In whatever endeavor we engage upon the aim ought to be to achieve the unlikely and the truly impactful change.

Wishing you well,

Daniel R. Murphy
Educating people for building wealth, adapting to a changing future and personal development.

Happy New Year!

Set Effective Goals and Achieve Them

Have you set a goal for 2018? Even one? More than one? If you have good for you. If you have not you may want to consider doing so.

It has been observed that a life with no goals is rather like a boat with no charts. It just goes where the waves toss it. Many people tell me that goals are just frustrating because they make them and then they do not achieve them. They get distracted and side-tracked and the year is nearly over and they’ve made little progress. What is the point?

Goals are not magical. You do not set them and then forget them and they just make your life better. Yet we sometimes act as though they do. Setting well defined reasonable goals is an excellent first step, but that is all it is, the first step. Goals must be executed upon. You must review them daily and put steps to achieve your goals on your calendar or to-do list. They you must follow through.

I learned this the same hard way most people have. I have formed goals, lost track of them, let the busyness of life get in the way and achieved little. Then I learned from experience that goals need constant tending. That is the only way they get achieved.

Here are some posts on this blog that will help you set well defined goals and implement them:

3 Powerful Habits to Achieve Goals

SMART Goals: How to Use Them

The Goal Setting Tool Kit

8 Ways to Find Motivation to Achieve Your Goals

If you read any or all of these posts and then go on to do something else it will be of little usefulness to you. Sit down right now and write out your goals. Then schedule your first steps to achieve them. That is the only way goals get set and achieved.

Want to learn more and really master goal setting? Learn how to formulate goals correctly to gain control over your life and achieve your dreams in my book, Goal Power!

Wishing you well,

Daniel R. Murphy
Educating people for building wealth, adapting to a changing future and personal development.

Looking Ahead

Every year about this time I take stock of the past year and look ahead to the new year. Lots of people do that.

Every year has its challenges but I have far more to be grateful for from 2017 than I do to complain about.

As for 2018 I will concentrate here on my goals for this blog and related work. As 2017 draws to a close I have published a large number of book reviews over the past year. That will change in 2018. There will be fewer reviews and more articles. The frequency of posting however will go down a bit. There are personal reasons for that. The coming year promises to bring a lot of change for me.

There will be changes in my “day job”. As many of my readers know I am a circuit judge. This will be my last year fully employed as a judge. My official retirement date is June 30 but I will likely continue to serve more or less full time as a senior judge until my position is filled. If the May election does not decide who my successor is it will be decided in the November general election.

Retirement however is a misnomer for what I plan to do. When I am freed from full time work at the courthouse sometime later in 2018 I will open a mediation and arbitration practice. I also hope to have a bit more time to relax and do things I enjoy.

I plan to continue bringing you, my readers, the best information I can about books and other resources on self-improvement and the other topics I frequently write on. My aim will be to write less frequently but in greater depth.

As always I would love to hear from my readers with your questions or comments. You can post a comment here or go to my Contact page and send me a private message.

I wish all of you the very best in the new year. I hope you have set aside some time to reflect on your past year and develop a few goals for the coming year. It is an old saw but true: people who set goals and then work to implement them achieve more than those who do not.

Happy New Year!

Learn how to formulate goals correctly to gain control over your life and achieve your dreams in my book, Goal Power!

Wishing you well,

Daniel R. Murphy
Educating people for building wealth, adapting to a changing future and personal development.


Most likely now that Christmas is past you have more stuff than you had before. Some of you are now engaged in a further shopping flurry to get the good deals in the after-Christmas sales.

Why there is clutter-

Meanwhile I am concentrating on decluttering. I am trying to get rid of too much stuff. It just accumulates, doesn’t it? Over the years more and more stuff fills your house. Some of it must be updated (technology) or maintained, cleaned, sorted, stored, and otherwise messed with. Some of it sits in a bottom drawer or closet for years without any use or attention, yet we keep it. Why?

There have been many articles written on this but it seems to come down to two things in my experience:

  • We are so busy we do not have the time or the energy to sort through it all and get rid of what we do not need.
  • When we do pick up that item in our sorting the nagging thought is always there: someday I will need this.

To reinforce that second thought I have a number of times gotten rid of something and then shortly thereafter have found I need it. My brain then says, “see, I told you you’d need that someday”.

Of course most of that stuff in those bottom drawers and closets will never be needed. But our mind, which is wired to save against scarcity, only focuses on those few times when you did get rid of something and then found you needed it.

Why reduce clutter-

There are many reasons to reduce clutter at least for me:

  • A neat and tidy work space is more efficient.
  • It is easier to find what you need if there is less stuff to sort through.
  • A neat and tidy work space looks better.
  • The less stuff you have the less time you spend fiddling with it – sorting it, storing it, retrieving it, etc.

Most of us have too much stuff and much of that stuff is clutter. Joshua Becker wrote a recent post on how we collect this stuff and how we should look at clearing it away. He makes many good points. It is worth reading.

How to get rid of it-

My aim is to start by cleaning up my study. I have a penchant for collecting office supplies: staplers, hole punches, paper of different kinds, pens, pencils, etc. As I go through stuff I categorize it and deal with it in this way:

Heirlooms – things of significance to me like the ink well that belonged to my grandfather: keep.

Gadgets – divide into two groups: those I’ve used in the past year keep; those I have not used for a year or more: donate.

General stationary and office supplies: same as gadgets.

This is much more difficult than it sounds. It takes time. It takes focus. When I sit down to sort my brain is chattering at me about the dozen more important things I ought to be doing with this time. Some objects evoke memories leading me down a lane of reminiscence and slowing progress.

Have I used that in the last year? Is it likely I will use it in the year to come? Those are sometimes hard to answer. Better keep it just in case. No! That is why you have too much clutter in this study. Pitch it.

And so the process goes. It is difficult.

Then there are the books. My greatest weakness is books. I love them. I love to read them. I often study them. I prefer to keep them. Will I read them all again? No. But which ones will I want to consult at some future time? It is almost impossible to tell. I also love the look of a book shelf lined with row after row of books. My own library!

I am categorizing books: classic fiction I keep (not a lot of those); ordinary fiction I need to donate or sell back; most of the nonfiction work I keep though I am increasingly screening out those nonfiction books I found not so useful. I’ve gotten rid of four or five boxes of books in the past year but still need to trim down the collection to the most important. I remind myself to get more fiction on the Kindle to avoid this problem.

And so the process goes. It is always difficult. If it were not difficult I would not have clutter!

Bookstores and the internet are full of guides on how to declutter and get rid of what you do not really need. But in the end no one else can do this for you. You have to make the tough decisions and cut stuff loose.

Sort. Get rid of stuff. Try to avoid collecting much more. It is a process. It will take some time.

In the end it is worth it.

Or so I keep telling myself.

Wishing you well,

Daniel R. Murphy
Educating people for building wealth, adapting to a changing future and personal development.