Social Proof

In my last post, I discussed the benefits of stopping to consider the advice offered by others. Although it may not be taken, it is often wise to at least listen. There is another, less direct, way we get advice from other people. It’s called Social Proof. And it is everywhere.

Social Proof is when we look at the actions and behaviors of others to guide our own decisions. And we do it all the time. Whether we aware of it, or not. A while back, before the advent of mass media, sales commercials, and social media, the average person experienced a smaller, but deeper, version of humanity. They were typically raised in a household with deeper connections into a community. From an early age, because they were with a parent throughout the day, they often witnessed the many trials and tribulations of their own household, and that of the community. The information they gained was first-hand, and it was real.

Today, much of what we “experience” comes through a filter. The great majority of our daily information comes from media; social, news, commercial, or political. The content of which has been edited to create a specific response. Even this post is written with the intention to make the reader more aware of the messages they’re constantly receiving, and the effect they may have on their everyday decisions. Here are some examples:

Social proof greatly impacts consumer behavior. People are more likely to choose a product or service that is recommended or positively reviewed by others. Online reviews, testimonials, and ratings play a crucial role in shaping consumer trust and confidence. Seeing positive experiences from others validates the quality of a product, making it more appealing and increasing the likelihood of purchase. Conversely, negative reviews or lack of social proof can deter potential buyers.
In the book, The Tipping Point, by Malcolm Gladwell, he tells the story of how just a few people unintentionally revived the Hush Puppy brand of shoes in the 90’s because they decided to wear them during a totally different campaign. Today, the impact of social influencers is everywhere. In fact, a recent poll of American school children revealed that their number one goal is to become a social influencer.

 Social proof plays a vital role in health and lifestyle choices. People are more likely to adopt a particular diet, exercise routine, or wellness practice if they observe others achieving positive results. Testimonials, success stories, and before-and-after pictures shared on social media platforms create a sense of credibility and motivate individuals to try similar approaches.

Social proof also shapes our political and social beliefs. People tend to align their opinions and beliefs with those held by their peers, family members, or influential figures they admire. We often seek validation from others and feel more secure in our beliefs when we see them shared by a larger group. This has led to the formation of echo chambers, where people are surrounded by like-minded people, reinforcing their own perspectives and limiting exposure to alternative viewpoints. Clearly, we are firmly established in this practice as a nation.

But what can we do. There is no going back now. The new methods of influence are here to stay. The best we can do is learn to listen with a bit of skepticism and an ear for when we are being told what’s best for us. Each of us are living our own lives. Perhaps it’s time for that new car, luxury trip, or latest gadget. Or perhaps it’s not. But one thing is sure. The decision should not be based on what others choose to do. But to do this, maybe we should first take steps to redefine Social Proof to mean “unaffected by social influence”.

For more articles and information on getting past the social hype and learning real life skills, visit And take your next steps.

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Do You Have Super Hearing?

When I was seven, I learned a powerful lesson the hard way. My older sister, and a few of her friends, where sliding down our ice-covered driveway while standing up. Our driveway, although not very long, had a fairly steep slope. Being seven, I insisted on trying it myself. My sister and her friends all told me I shouldn’t. But I’ve always been just a little hard-headed. So, down I went. And then down I went.

That’s not the end of the story. It’s the beginning of my lesson. Sure, I was young, and that’s when a lot of unnecessarily painful lessons are learned. But I’m long past the time when I could use that as my excuse for not listening to the advice offered by others. Most people have used YouTube to find a video demonstrating how to fix a problem. But often, we just don’t like it when people offer unsolicited advice. Why is that? I think 99.9% of the time, people are just genuinely trying to help by sharing their experience with a certain problem. So why not, at least consider, the advice?

Perhaps there is no greater illustration of the power of listening, than that of the Japanese auto industry revolution. In prior automotive design, engineers made a design and gave it to the workers to build without a clear channel for feedback and revision. But, in 1950 Dr. Edwards Deming was invited to Japan to teach his principle for statistical quality control; a methodology which is mandates listening to everyone in the design and build process. Demings’s principles were well received in Japan. Their auto industry went from average, to being the envy of the world.

You might even say that learning to truly listen is like a superpower. It can save you a lot of time, energy, and resources. I do sometimes still struggle with being locked-in on a certain thought or plan. But when I’m at my best, I’ll do my best to fully understand, and consider, the advice of others. I need no better daily reminder than that of my fractured front tooth. Which I wouldn’t have, if I had I just taken my sister’s good advice.

Steps For Today® is dedicated to helping everyone create a plan for their life. Please like and share our page to help spread the word about our resources.

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Why Making a Plan is Powerful for Young Adults

Planning is a frequent topic at Steps For Today. Helping others plan for life is the reason it came into being. It is our belief the creating a written plan for life (finances, health & medical needs, career advancement, aging and retirement, etc.) will make a key difference in anyone’s life, and especially in the lives of young adults. They are just getting started on life’s journey. Wouldn’t it be better to have a course plotted to a destination of one’s own choosing? After all, luck is not a strategy.

Here are some good reasons to have such a plan:

Clarity and Direction: A written plan provides a roadmap for young adults, helping them clarify their goals and aspirations for the future. It allows them to set clear objectives and identify the steps needed to achieve them.

Financial Security: Planning for adulthood, aging, medical needs, and retirement involves considering financial aspects. By having a written plan, young adults can outline their financial goals, create budgets, save money, and make informed decisions about investments and insurance. This helps build a solid financial foundation and ensures long-term financial security.

Preparedness for Emergencies: Life is unpredictable, and unexpected events can occur. A written plan helps young adults anticipate potential emergencies or health issues, allowing them to establish emergency funds, arrange appropriate insurance coverage, and designate powers of attorney or healthcare proxies. Being prepared for unforeseen circumstances can minimize stress and provide peace of mind.

Health and Wellness: Planning for medical needs encourages young adults to prioritize their physical and mental well-being. They can include regular health check-ups, preventive measures, and exercise routines in their plan. Additionally, addressing health concerns early on can help prevent or manage potential illnesses in the future.

Long-Term Care Considerations: As people age, the need for long-term care may arise. A written plan allows young adults to consider options such as long-term care insurance, retirement communities, or setting aside funds for future care needs. By planning ahead, they can make informed decisions about the type of care they desire and avoid potential burdens on themselves or their loved ones.

Reduced Stress and Increased Confidence: Having a written plan provides a sense of control and reduces anxiety about the future. The process of creating a plan helps build confidence in the ability to handle challenges and make informed decisions.

Remember, while having a written plan is valuable, it’s also essential to remain flexible and adapt as circumstances change. Regularly reviewing and updating the plan ensures it remains relevant and aligned with your evolving needs and goals.

Sure, plans will get upended. But that is when the true value of planning is revealed. In creating a plan, one has to learn about and consider the many variables of life. And in the process, learns to step more confidently into their future.

 Steps For Today® is dedicated to helping everyone create a plan for their life. Please like and share our page to help spread the word about our resources.

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The 4 R Document Rule

Does the following short conversation sound familiar to you?
     “So do you have those documents?”
          “Of course… I think… Somewhere.”

Let’s be honest. We’ve all had this experience. And it can leave us hesitant to deal with paperwork (or electronic files) of any kind. No one likes feeling that they’re just going to fail at something. But learning to be comfortable with documents is a necessary life skill. It’s this skill, perhaps more than any other, that creates successful businesses. So why aren’t we using it to create and manage successful plans for adulthood, aging, medical needs, and retirement. I know it can seem overwhelming, but it just takes a process and little practice.

In my book Steps For Today: First Steps For Success (First Steps For Success – Steps For Today®), I discuss the creation of a “Master Index” for managing important information and items. I also provide an example list of life events that may cause changes to our plans and to our documents. Using these two documents, you can easily pick up and use the 4 R Rule: Recognize, Retrieve, Review and Revise. With a little practice you’ll learn to recognize when a life-event will cause a document to change. Using the Master Index, you’ll have the steps to find and retrieve the impacted document(s). You’ll also have a record of who may be needed to help review and revise the documents. All of that with a lot less stress and anxiety than either not having plans, or not knowing where they’re located.

In my next article, I’ll discuss the types of documents we can create to help plan our life. This will be a great article for those who are ‘just starting out’ on the journey, as well as those who know it’s time to get something done, but are struggling on where to start.

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The 20 Second Rule

Last night, I fell victim to the “20 Second Rule”. I wanted to get a story written, but I had packed up my laptop. It would’ve taken me less than a minute to get it out and set up my office for work. But I procrastinated and ended up doing nothing. But why?

Shawn Achor, author of The Happiness Advantage book series, coined this phrase to describe how even a small delay, or effort, can derail us from executing on our plans. In Achor’s example, he noticed that he didn’t practice playing the guitar, something he really wanted to do, because it took a few minutes of prep time before he could begin practicing. Through a series of experiments, he found that getting his prep time below 20 seconds completely changed how often he practiced. In my case, I could’ve had my laptop going quickly, and my article written. But I delayed the action because of the short period of time to get started.

This same principle is in full play when trying to create new habits. The quicker our new action is to execute, the more likely it will be accomplished. For example, we purchased a cordless stick vacuum last year. It’s mounted on the wall inside our garage, right outside the door. I tell you for a fact, that our floors are vacuumed more often that when I had to find the upright and plug it in. It’s simple and quick to grab the vacuum and get to work. So if you’re trying to establish a new habit, remember to make it as simple as possible.

Possibly even more powerful, is when the 20 Second Rule is used in reverse. It turns out that if we place just a short delay before an unwanted behavior, it can really help stop the behavior from occurring. One of the most notable examples of this, is leaving only enough funds for anticipated expenses in a bank account linked to a debit card, and placing the rest in a savings account. Yes, we live in the days of online banking and mobile apps. Yes, money can be transferred immediately between accounts. But, many people find that the time an energy  necessary to move funds, is enough to stop them from making an unnecessary purchase.

So, if you’re trying to step into some new habits, or step away from some old ones, give the 20 Second Rule a try. I’d love to hear in stories on how it worked for you.

In my next article, on my “4 R Document Rule”, you’ll see why this story had to come first!

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Why Wait?

When you think of home, what comes to mind? It may be the place we go every night and wake in the morning. Or it is where we spent our childhood with our family. For others, it is where multiple generations have lived. Often our idea of home consists of time, place and people blending together to bring about feelings of peace and comfort. From the youngest couple, getting their first place together. To the couple celebrating for 60th anniversary. We all work to create an ideal environment. Often with dreams of it being the place in which we can relax and be comfy for the remainder of life. Somehow though, all too often, our dream can turn a little scary.

A familiar topic conversation among my middle-aged friends is the onslaught of stuff in their home. A, heretofore, unnoticed collection of stuff which seemed to grow until not one more artifact of our existence could be fit into a usual ‘hiding’ place. Our homes, like our lives, can easily be overrun when we are not proactive caretakers. Too often we reach and age at which home maintenance and stuff management becomes difficult. It is then, that we begin to consider the overwhelming task of going through our stuff and deciding what to do with it.

Why not start now? There are some real benefits to saying farewell and passing your treasures to a new owner.

  • Action taken today, won’t require action tomorrow.
  • The recipient’s life will be enriched. Whether a barely worn coat, or a family heirloom, gifting an article to someone who either needs or cherishes it, will brighten their day and make a difference in their life.
  • A side benefit, which does still exist, are tax deductions for charitable gifting.
  • As sad as it may be, disagreement over personal articles of the departed cause many family rifts. Listing them in the TPPM (Write It Down! Posted 9/21/2017) greatly lessens the risk of this happening. But personally handing it to a new owner accentuates the gift with a special memory.
  • There are positive emotional benefits for decluttering your home and life.

Don’t know where to begin? Well, this is Steps For Today….

  1. Set your expectations for success. Like the bonsai tree, our home and life requires a little pruning from time-to-time. And like the bonsai tree enthusiast, we should have a vision of what the perfect tree looks like before we start trimming. In an earlier post (What’s the Plan 11/7/2017) you were encouraged to envision life in retirement. I’ll bet that vision doesn’t include about 95% of the items squirreled away in boxes within the deepest recesses of your home, or, God forbid,….storage locker!
  2. Make it easy. In our home, we keep a box near the front door for items to donate to charity. This makes snap judgements easier to accomplish because there is already a place for gifts.
  3. What’s in Box #1? If you don’t know where to start, just pick a box and start making decisions. The point is not ‘everything musts go’. But rather ‘Do I need this? Or might it be time for someone else to enjoy it?’ It may be best to just set a goal; maybe one box, closet, shelf, or area a month. But stick with it.
  4. Take a picture. Few are blessed with a perfect memory. Often we hang on to an old article because it reminds us of a great experience or time with those we love. Try taking a picture of the article before passing it on. A picture on the wall, in a book, or online will most likely bring those memories forward way more often than an article in a box in the back of the closet.
  5. Have those difficult discussions with your adult children about personal belongings in which they show interest. One of the last things my mother did before she passed, was to personally pass on her jewelry. I believe that doing so in person made the exchange more precious than the items. And in doing it personally, she minimized the conflicts which may have ensued if multiple people cherished the same item.

I hope that’s enough to get started. Don’t wait too late to get started. Or someday all that stuff will just pop up out of nowhere and surprise you. Trust me, you’ll feel a sense of relief with each item that makes its way to a new home.

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Saying Goodbye to Things

In my books and articles, I write a lot about organizing your home and life. But there is usually more to getting ‘organized’ than just finding a place for everything. There is decluttering.

It’s been my experience that the ‘skill’ of collecting too much stuff has many different origins. I have talked to farmers who wouldn’t dream of throwing away a left-over nut, bolt, piece of steel, wire, or lumber. They know that something will eventually break, and it’ll probably be needed. Besides, it’s a long drive to town. Other people might associate their feelings about a person or event with a related object. Still yet, some just have a lot of unfinished business (see prior post Help for Household Stress – Steps For Today®). Whatever the cause, just the mention of decluttering can evoke anxiety in most. And, therefore, is something we often avoid.

In the book Goodbye Things by Fumio Sasaki, Japan’s most famous minimalist takes you through his personal journey to a life with more focus on living and less focus on things.  It’s an interesting read as he learns more about himself with each step in the process. Here are a few steps from his book:

1. Discarding takes skill. Like all skills, you have to start somewhere. Do something simple at first. Start small and work your way up to larger items. Try just adding one additional small item to the trash and then immediately taking it all out to the bin.

2. If you can’t remember how many gifts you’ve given, don’t worry about things you’ve gotten. We’re often concerned that throwing out a gift that we no longer use will offend the giver. But wouldn’t you, as a giver, prefer for that the gift no outlast its usefulness?

3. Things bring more things. When we buy new things, we often get caught up in all of the accessories. For example, a couch can lead to matching chairs, rugs, curtains, etc.

4. Getting rid of things frees you from the stress of keeping up with the Jones’. He writes that we spend too much thought, time, and treasure on trying to keep up with everyone else. And that letting this go is a feeling of great relief.

Sasaki has many more reasons for getting rid of things. Some might say he takes it to the extreme. But he believes having less things, gives him a greater ability to focus on, and appreciate, the events of his life.

One thing that Sasaki doesn’t really address, is the passing of ‘heirlooms’. I don’t know why people wait until they are no longer able to participate, to take this opportunity to give a wanted gift. It can be a great experience. See my next post for ways to make this happen.

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Even a blind squirrel …

I’m not sure about her vision, but a recent uninvited guest into my home surely thought she had found a nut.

Early one morning this week, I went to the basement to grab the laundry from the dryer. When I entered the laundry room I was greeted by a little creature probably just as surprised as me! Yes, it was one of those bushy tailed rodents that scurry about my yard all day and night. It seems this one had found a way in. This isn’t the first animal to get into my home. I’ve had birds (Starlings) get in there as well. I’d been able to get rid of the birds pretty quickly. And I THOUGHT that the squirrel would be just as easy to get gone. But, I now have a clearer understanding of the phrase “squirrel-brained”.

I knew that the birds had always come down the flu for the gas log fireplace in the basement. It is never used and we just try to make sure that the glass doors are kept closed so that that’s as far as they get. I wanted to check to see if that was where my new little friend had entered. But to do so, I had to leave the laundry room. So I carefully shut, and blocked the thresholds for the two doors. In the process, I lost track of the scurrying squirrel but was confident he was still in there. Sure enough, a fireplace door was open just enough for the squirrel to pass through to its new home. As I walked about the basement, I could see that the squirrel had been in there for more than just the morning. It had spent some time in all of the window sills no doubt trying its best to get back out to the safe trees. And I had a plan of how to help it get out. But for that, I would need to get some live animal traps from another location. So I left the little varmint in the room and went for a drive.

When I returned with the traps, and started setting them up in the laundry room, it became clear that the squirrel was no longer in there. Now squirrels are notorious chewers. I’ve had them chew through a quarter-inch-thick hard plastic clamshell car carrier (probably because it looked like a giant nut). But I didn’t see any evidence that the it had chewed its way out of the room. I can only guess that it had left the room before I shut the doors. As I found out, they are quick. I found it, once again, sitting in the window sill. And upon seeing me, the chase began. Now I’ve herded many animals and even cats seem to have a general pattern to their movements. But these things are squirrely. The ensuing chase can only be described as a comedy. And I can tell you truly that a squirrel will jump on your head if it’s the best route to escape.

Eventually, it did go back to the fireplace where I could trap it. Or so I thought. After setting up and baiting a trap, it never would come down from its perch atop the damper. Too bad it couldn’t climb out. It seems as though, unlike every surface in my basement, it’s claws couldn’t grasp the flu pipe. So I finally conceded to doing as my wife suggested in the first place, call the professionals from Rottler Pest Control. Within an hour, a “nuisance animal” specialist , Jason, was at my home. Turns out, this was a job for two. As Jason bravely tried to grasp the squirrel with a grabber pole, I was waiting with a clear plastic tub and lid. Sure enough, it ran straight out of the fireplace and into the tub. Jason then when on the roof and fixed the flu so that I wouldn’t have any more pest coming down the chimney. The squirrel was re-homed, and I was relieved.

What has this got to do with Steps for today?

I’ve known about this problem for years. When you know about a problem and don’t take care of it, It will eventually come back to – well it didn’t bite me- but maybe just scurry about your life create total chaos, and cost you even more money and time.

I only wish I had the whole thing on camera. It would have been an internet sensation.

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It’s in the Garage Somewhere

It’s springtime. Time to clean out the garage of its winter accumulation of clutter. You know, all those things that needed a place to rest, but it was too cold to spend any time out there making a home for them. Things like the new power tool you got for Christmas or the leftover sidewalk salt and shovels that you hopefully won’t need again till next winter. But, if you’re like me, it’s also time to take a long look at some of the things that you’ve been keeping just in case you ‘might need it someday’. There can be so much to do, it just may seem easier to shut the door and wait for a warmer day. But won’t it be better to be doing something fun on that warmer day? Might as well get started. But where?

To get started, I usually pick one area and work through it first. I typically put away the winter toys and tools first. Getting the winter toys back into the attic clears up a lot of space quickly. I know I can rotate the tools to the back of the tool rack, and rotate out the gardening tools. It just makes it that much easier when I need a shovel, saw, or trimmers.  It’s also a good time to look for any old tools that you just haven’t used in a while and their taking up space. Likewise goes for when you’re putting away the driveway salt and ice scrapers. Maybe there’s not enough salt to keep over the summer, or the scraper is worn out and should be replaced.

After that’s finished, I like to work on cleaning up a section at a time. Maybe the workbench first and then move on to the shelves and cabinets. The point is that the small successes of each area tend to inspire me to keep working. I’ll eventually get around to all the smaller, nuts and bolts and things, which can take a lot of time to get to their proper location.

Cleaning up the garage is rarely a one-day project. It’s usually broken down into several steps and executed in between my other projects. I just know I get a real feeling of accomplishment when everything is back ‘where it should be’.

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Does It Still Fit?

Just about every adult, at some point, has reached into their closet and pulled out something that just didn’t quite fit right anymore. It may be too tight, or too loose, or too worn, or just out of style. Whatever the reason, we know it’s best to just let it go.

In Fumio Sasaki’s book, Goodbye Things, he tells an interesting story of learning to let go of his stuff in order to live a more focused life. The book provides a list of ways to learn to let things go. One of these ways, is to say goodbye to who you used to be. The premise is that some of the items you keep may be related to a former activity, or image, which you no longer pursue. If they’re no longer helpful, then why keep them.

Isn’t this principle also true for those habits or traits which may have served us well in a prior lifestyle, but now conflict with who we’d like to become? I know that when I was a single parent of 5 active kids, being flexible about quickly shifting from one expectation to another probably helped my sanity. However, having a constantly shifting schedule derailed my habit of trying to plan weekly activities. A habit that took some practice to reestablish.

We all make goals for how we’d like to improve. But sometimes, we don’t recognize the small habits we have that are a roadblock to progress. For instance, the urge to look at your phone after a notification can trigger a derailment of your goal to reduce your time scrolling through videos. This trigger could be reduced by turning off just email notifications for some period of the day. The trick is to recognize those habits which derail your goals, and then take steps to limit them. This simple exercise will help you move away from who you used to be, and towards who you want to become.

Find more ways to create goals and habits at

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