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.

Thanks for reading.


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.

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For more articles and information on getting the best out of life, visit And take your next steps.

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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.

Thanks for reading.
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And remember to take the next step.

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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Don’t Get Too Comfortable

“If you don’t move forward, sooner or later you begin to move backward.” – Mikhail Gorbachev

I frequently write about ways to reduce the anxieties of everyday life. And although it may seem a little paradoxical, I believe there is a certain amount of anxiety that comes with being too comfortable.

We all have our Comfort Zones. A behavior, or lifestyle, which allows us to cruise on automatic; never really having to think about what comes next. The problem with comfort zones, is that they’re an easy place to stay.  But like Gorbachev stated, there really isn’t such a thing as staying in one place. When we are comfortable with our habits and routines, our desire to meet our goals can start to slip-away at an imperceptible pace. Our wanting for sameness will often drag us into the decay. The funny thing is, we often know this is happening. And that just creates more anxiety. Here’s a simple reminder of how you can stop this process, step outside of your comfort zones, and get on with your personal growth, and a more fulfilling life.


Goal Review: Were they to big? Can you break them down in something more immediately achievable? Maybe it time for some new goals.

Evaluate Your Lifestyle: Take a close look at your daily habits and routines. Are there areas where you can make changes or improvements? Identifying these areas can help you break out of the decay and start making progress.

Talk to friends and family, for their thoughts about what they think you’d like to do or learn. They may have some pretty interesting thoughts.

Upgrade your knowledge: Whether it’s through reading, taking courses, or attending workshops and conferences, learning something new can help stimulate your brain and generate new energy.

Pursue something new: A new exercise routine, hobby, or social activity will break you out of your daily routine.

You may consider posting this phrase somewhere where you can see it daily so that it can remind you to take those first steps.

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And remember to take the next step.

For more information on how to bring a little order to life’s chaos, visit

Horses Sense

How does a 120-pound girl train a 1000-pound animal? One step at a time, of course. Years ago, I had the pleasure of meeting a young lady who raised and trained her own riding horses. When she first told me about this I asked, “Aren’t you afraid of getting thrown?”. She just laughed and told me she had a better way to “break” a horse.

Looking back on that now, it’s easy to see how that seemed like an overwhelming task. Cowboy movies always show some poor fellow being thrown to the ground over and over until the animal finally bends to his will. But it seems, with a little planning, and a process there is a better way. But isn’t that usually the case?

We all have areas in our life where we’d like to make a big change. Whether it’s in our physical or mental health, finances, or relationships, there is something that we’d like to change, but the task seems too large to conquer, and we just lack the willpower.

Perhaps, though, we’re just using the wrong tool. Willpower is the ability to do something we don’t “want” to do. And we know we want to make a change; a permanent change to our behavior. This is done through small steps, taken every day, until the “change” has become the new normal.

In Brian Tracy’s The 100 Absolutely Unbreakable Laws of Business Success, Brian gives the following as the seventh, and final, step for achieving any goal: “Step seven: Do something every day, no matter how small, that moves you toward your goal.” Sure, the other steps include making goals, breaking goals into bite-size tasks, and having a schedule. But why is it so important to accomplish something every day?

In The Harvard Business Review’s May 2011 article The Power of Small Wins, the authors, Teresa M. Amabile and Steven J. Kramer studied the dairies of knowledge workers to see what motivated them the most. Through this research, they discovered what they called “the progress principle”; which states “Of all the things that can boost emotions, motivation, and perceptions during a workday, the single most important is making progress in meaningful work.”

It is in our small wins that we:

  • grow our self-discipline
  • find our motivation to take the next step
  • establish our mindset for success.

Well, what about the young lady? Her process was to work with the horse every day. She placed a potato sack on its back and gradually increased its weight over a period of weeks until it was accustomed to having the weight of a saddle and rider. Then she could climb on and continue training it to reign. You may ask, “What did the horse think about all this?” Well, it showed up at the corral every day at the same time for their sessions. ‘Horse sense’ means common sense. Maybe horses know what’s best for them. I just know that self-discipline is contagious.

As some of my readers already know, I was so impressed by this young lady, that I married her.

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And remember to take the next step…everyday…no matter how small.

Filter in the Savings

As discussed in my last post, the price to keep warm this winter will be on the rise. There are many steps you can take to reduce your energy consumption. One of the easiest, and most often forgotten, is to replace your furnace filter.

A dirty or clogged furnace filter will drastically reduce the ability of your furnace to circulate warm air throughout your home; making the furnace work harder to heat your home. According to, ‘Replacing a dirty, clogged filter with a clean one can lower your energy consumption by 5% to 15%.’  A dirty filter also increases stress on the blower fan motor. If the filter is completely clogged, it can cause the fan motor to totally overheat and shut down. Lastly, a dirty filter just doesn’t do a good job of cleaning the air circulating in your home.

Every home is different. A home with furry pets will probably need the filter changed more frequently than one without. A good practice is to set a calendar reminder to at least check the filter every month to determine how often it needs changed.

Changing the furnace filter is just one step in overall home maintenance. To have a well-maintained home takes some planning and good habits. Look for more tip for home maintenance at

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And remember to take the next step…

PS: I’d love to hear any cost-saving or home maintenance tips you may have as well.

Turn Down Your Thermostat and Your Heating Costs

The price to stay warm this winter is going up. In an October 12th article by Reuters, the author notes that “U.S. consumers can expect to pay up to 28% more to heat their homes this winter than last year due to surging fuel costs and slightly colder weather, the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) projected in its winter fuels outlook on Wednesday.” Whether you heat with gas, oil, or electric, it’ll cost more to stay warm this year.

In upcoming posts we’ll discuss several ways reduce home heating costs. One major way, recommended at, is to use a programmable thermostat to reduce the furnace setting while you are away or in bed. In the article they state that “You can save as much as 10% a year on heating and cooling by simply turning your thermostat back 7°-10°F for 8 hours a day from its normal setting.” Other sources estimate that setting back just 5 degrees for 8 hours can save up to 10%. Likewise, two setback periods of 5 degrees for a total of 16 hours can reduce costs up to 20%.

Programmable thermostats cost anywhere from $20 for a basic model, to $250 for a smart, wi-fi model. I use a Honeywell 7-day programmable unit that is well on the low side of that range. If you can’t afford new thermostat, or to have one installed, create a routine to change the thermostat manually. Programmable thermostats don’t always work well with heat pumps or radiant heat systems, so the first step is to do your research before purchasing any new hardware.

Thanks for reading.
And remember to take the next step…

PS: I’d love to hear any cost-saving tips you may have as well.

Improving Every Day

A favorite adage that project managers love to quote is, ‘You can’t manage what you don’t track’. Meaning, of course, if you don’t really know what you did yesterday, how can you improve upon it tomorrow?

First, what do you need to manage? Well, that’s different for everyone. But the focus of this post is our daily habits. We’ve all developed behaviors that don’t’ serve us well. Without conscious effort, we repeat a certain behavior often enough to become a habit. Or, as psychologist Donald Hebb put it , “neurons that fire together wire together”.  And before you know it, you’re going through a sequence of actions without even thinking about what you’re doing. Until you realize that you’ve done it once again.

This blog often contains thoughts about ways to improve some aspect of living. Often, the posts focus on changing behavior. Stanford behavioral scientist B J Fogg wrote that there are 15 ways to change behavior. And of those 15, two are the most effective; change your environment and change your habits. He further notes that changing your behavior will have the most effective, long term, impact. Fogg formulated the B=MAP behavior model, in which Behavior is a function of Motivation, Ability, and Prompt (or trigger). This post provides a simple tool to increase the readers ability to modify their behavior.

Using a daily journal, like the one provided at, will bring full focus to any behavior. A journal reminds us to review our actions and take new ones. All we have to do, is remember to make our timely entries. That’s now easier than ever when using calendar reminders on your computer and/or cell phone. If you’re interested in changing your early morning habits, add a calendar reminder  to journal when you first rise. If you’re seeking to change you meal-time habits, make a reminder to  journal at each meal. If you’re struggling with maintaining a household budget, journal ever morning to stay focused on your goals. Within a few days, you’ll  probably find that your remembering to journal without the prompts.

Journaling also provides an additional benefit. While it helps to establish a new habit, it also makes you reflect on how well it’s working and consider what changes could serve you better. In psychologists Daniel Goleman’s book, Focus, he downplays the common statement that ‘10,000 hours of practice makes anyone a master of their craft’. He notes that repetitiously practicing a bad golf swing won’t improve it. Improvement comes by making small changes as you practice. Journaling makes us stop and think about our, sometimes subconscious, actions.

As always, thanks for reading.
And remember to take the next step…

When Life Gets Upended

I’d bet most of us had a similar childhood experience; learning not to play board games while sitting on a bed. It’s inevitable. Sooner or later, someone, or perhaps a pet, will come along and upend the entire game. The unplanned upheaval creates such chaos and confusion that the only thing you can do is start over.  Readers of this blog know where I am going with this…..

Many of us have experienced a life-event which so completely wrecked our plans and dreams, that all we could do is pick up the pieces and start again. Even in such difficulty, we learn from our experiences. We learn that we can’t really control the risks that accompany life.

        But we can have a plan for when life throws us a curve.

After all, we buy auto insurance because we know the risks of driving a car. That’s an obvious example of how to mitigate a risk to our financial, physical, and even mental health. But what about the risks associated with not having a plan for household finances, health emergencies, aging, retirement, and even death itself? There can be significant financial, physical, and mental health risks associated with not planning for a crisis, or even for everyday life.

        Often, we just don’t know where to begin.

That’s why I wrote First Steps For Success. It’s a great resource for:

  • Creating Emergency Medical Information sheets for your family
  • Understanding the need for, and how to create, a budget
  • Getting started with long-term financial planning with risk management solutions
  • Learning about the different types of assets and how to protect them
  • Describing types of property deeds and how to pass them down
  • Risk management techniques for everyday living
  • Information about commonly available health care plans
  • Knowledge regarding wills, trusts, and estate planning
  • Building a long-term plan for managing life, health, and finance
  • Getting enough knowledge to comfortably get started with financial, tax, legal, and healthcare professionals

Whether you’re just getting started in life, or finally getting around to making real plans for the future, First Steps For Success can get you started in the right direction. Available on Amazon at