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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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.

For more articles and information, 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.

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It’s a One-Way Trip

How not to end up on Possum Hollow Road at midnight, low on fuel, after driving for 13 hours, hoping that your gravel roadway doesn’t just end in the dirt.

I learned to drive in the days before the internet. When any long trip took a little preplanning, with a paper map, to find the best course to take. Unless I had driven there before, I would have some idea of my route before I left home.

Things have changed now. I, like most people, will often get in my car before I look at a map (app) and get any idea of my route. And why wouldn’t you, the apps have access to real-time information about road closures and traffic conditions. But there are still those times, especially for long drives to distant destinations, when I will have an idea of my route before I get in the car. Why, because I look at alternative routes along the way. I want to be prepared with alternative courses of actions just in case things don’t go as planned, and I have to make a quick decision.

More information is a tool for planning and decision making. Not be substitute. Both for car trips and the journey of life. There are a great deal of financial planning apps out there. They can be a great tool for real-time analysis, and some have a few “planning” modules. But they are no substitute for having a real plan. One that considers the many potential roadblocks and misdirection’s to your intended financial destination.

Life is a one-way trip. There are no do-overs. You don’t want to be trying to figure out your best course when things look dark, you are exhausted, and time is critical. Not doing the proper planning resulted in my drive down Possum Hollow Road. Yes, I got to my destination. But not without a lot of unnecessary anxiety and frustration. Not sure where to begin? The Steps For Today website and materials can get you started and point you in the right direction. Your journey has already begun. Get yourself a ‘map’ and start navigating.

For more information, go to, and have a safe trip.

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A (Very) Real Fear

During my career, I’ve attended a lot of meetings with co-workers. Often, there was a well-crafted presentation with a lot of information. And every-so-often, after the meeting my fellow attendee would say that they “really didn’t understand” a lot of what the speaker was talking. When I’d asked them why they didn’t ask questions during the meeting, they’d often say that they “didn’t want to look stupid.”  What could I say? We’ve all been there.

Unfortunately, I have found that this common fear is a central reason we avoid important discussions. One simple tool for getting over this mindset is to say “I don’t know much about that. Can you please tell me more?” I think the vast majority of people like helping others and sharing their knowledge. And, if their honest, could come up with a list of example topics for which they knew very little. I have found that it’s even better when you have a pen and paper in hand when you ask the question. Most people kick into schoolteacher mode and give slow, purposeful, responses.

The simple truth is that none of us, not even the smartest of us, knows everything.  But that shouldn’t stop us from finding answers for life’s problems. But where to begin? You can find a professional. But even then, it can be difficult to keep up. And if you’re paying them by the hour, you’d like to keep the process moving along. This is why I included the definitions and explanations for a lot of legal, financial, and medical terms into First Steps For Success and Embraced Living. After reading the books and completing the suggested documents, you will understand key terms and concepts for financial, legal, and medical conversations. Furthermore, the completed documents will contain a lot of the information you may be asked to provide for trusts, wills, beneficiary documents, and powers of attorney. It’s one big step towards a more secure and organized life.

For more information, visit my website and take a look at my books First Steps For Success ( and Embraced Living (

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Even the Best Plans

In the summer of 1982, my family, and another family, decided to take a road trip out east. We started in St. Louis, stayed for a while at the World’s Fair in Knoxville, and ended up at Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. It turned out to be a great trip. Almost meticulously planned. Almost.

Looking back, I’m relatively certain that the trip was the concoction of my Mom and her best friend Mary. They had a talent for planning trips not only for our families, but also for various corporate and military VIPs. They knew how to plan things. My Dad was more of the spontaneous type. I don’t think he was fully on-board. During the entire trip, he had one, oft-repeated, mantra, “All I have to do is drive.” Apparently, this was said to him at some early stage of the reveal.

And drive he did. We were hauling a truck camper and pulling our small Subaru wagon. Our plan was to camp at Myrtle Beach, and Dad hadn’t ever camped in a tent; and wasn’t going to on this trip either. Our itinerary had us staying on a houseboat at one of the many marinas off of the Tennessee River west of Knoxville. It was a bit of a walk to the parking area, but there were shuttle busses running to the fairgrounds. How these two planners found these accommodations, before the days of the internet, is beyond me. But they were good at this type of thing. Indeed, the trips course was planned thoroughly, in the days of paper maps. I can only remember one ‘detour’, during which my mother had to ask someone for directions. Because, as Dad said, “All I have to do is drive.”

The fair was great. I remember being impressed with the many different cultures represented at the event. I also remember some very long lines. But this was a two-part trip. Our next voyage had us driving through the Smoky Mountains on our way to Myrtle Beach. The Smoky’s are beautiful, but a tough, long, drive hauling a camper and pulling a car. I think somewhere along the way we ran a little longer than planned and decided to cut a stop out of the trip and drive straight through to the beach. A departure from the plan.

Even though it seemed like a good idea, our new plan landed us Myrtle Beach a day early, and there was no vacancy until tomorrow. The camp attendant suggested we stay on the boat ramp area under the bridge over the intercoastal waterway outlining Myrtle Beach. It was hot. It was late in the day. And there were 8 of us trying to sleep in a truck camper. The 5 kids were in the queen-size cab-over bed. The 4 adults where in the 2 double beds below. Did I say it was hot? No. It was stifling. Almost unbreathable hot. Our friend’s dad tried to escape to the towed car for sleep. Having to crack the window in the car to get some fresh air, he soon learned that South Carolina mosquitoes are the size of a Vultures. And travel in flocks. He quickly had to flee this nightmare, and return to our oppressive, merciless, riverside refuge. Where there were at least screened windows and an occasional slight breeze. Trying to sleep, we grew quiet until our friend’s oldest daughter, who, to this day, is always armed with the most appropriately hilarious comment, blurts out from the silence, “This is the most miserable I’ve ever been in my entire life!” This caused a round of laughter to erupt from the over-stuffed, over-heated, camper full of miserable people suddenly aware of the ridiculousness of their circumstances.

The next day, we made it into the park and finished out the week playing on the beach.

All in all, it was a successful trip. With just one little hiccup. Life is often just like that. No matter how meticulously you plan, something can go wrong. It can be a laughable event, like this one, or it can set you on your heels and leave you searching for answers. During this trip, advice from others helped us get back on course. No one knows everything. But someone probably has the answers you need. The sooner you ask, the sooner you can get back to planning your next steps.

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

The Unexpected Journey

I went for a drive in my car.
My navigator took a nap.
And I took no map.
Now I don’t know where we are.

It’s a silly little rhyme about ending up lost due to lack of planning and taking responsibility. But how many times have we heard this same story, only it’s about life itself? It’s deceptively easy to just start driving ahead in life without making a plan, preparing for the trip, and working together to reach your goals. And, all-to-often, we can find ourself in a place we never intended to be; unprepared, emotional, and lost.

Steps For Today® was created to help minimize the unexpected detours of living. First Steps For Success was written as an inexpensive tool to help everyone design a map to navigate their journey through life. It’s loaded with ideas, detailed explanations, and examples for:

  • Getting your home and life organized
  • Starting a financial plan
  • Building and protecting an estate

If you’re wondering where to start, somewhere in the journey, or just want to make sure you’ve got your I’s dotted and your T’s crossed, this book is for you!

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Get a Check-Up (For Your Furnace)

If you have forced-air heat in your home, chances are that your furnace could use a check-up. It may cost a few dollars but will pay for itself in the long-haul. Many HVAC companies now offer a subscription-like plan in which a yearly fee gets you an inspection and preferential treatment should a problem occur on a miserably cold night.

Whether it’s gas or electric, there’s a blower motor and a fan. Older units can have motors and fans that need a drop of oil on a regular basis. Newer units usually have sealed bearings that can seemingly run indefinitely with no maintenance. In either case, however, there’s a fan. The furnace fans move a lot of air. In doing so, even when the filters are changed regularly, they collect dirt. Over the years, the extra weight from collected dust will put a strain on the fan and its motor, leading to an early demise. These fans aren’t always easy to get to but should be cleaned every few years to avoid excess wear on the unit.

Likewise, households with furnaces and air conditioning will mostly likely have an A-coil inside the furnace housing. The A-coil looks similar to a car’s radiator, so it’s easy for dirt and debris to collect on it as well. I have seen A-coils so clogged that air could not pass through it, greatly reducing the unit’s ability to heat or cool. So, these should be cleaned and inspected as well.

Whether it’s electric, gas, or oil, all furnaces now have circuit boards and many electrical connections that can develop cracks or loosened connections from vibration. A technician can place modern units into a test mode which runs a check on the circuitry. 

And finally, natural gas or oil furnaces can develop cracks in their combustion chamber or heat exchanger, leading to the release of carbon monoxide, an odorless, colorless, lethal gas. If you have a furnace burning fossil fuels in your home, you should have a carbon monoxide tester in close proximity to alert you of escaping fumes. A technician will be able to quickly assess if any of these conditions exist in your furnace.

If it’s been a few years since your furnace had a good cleaning, I suggest getting it done. Taking this step will help it run more efficiently and prolong its service life.

My next post considers what to do when things are heating up (but shouldn’t). To have a well-maintained home takes some planning and good habits. Look for more tip for home maintenance at

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

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

Drafty Widows and Doors

Fall Is here today! In my last post, I suggested opening a window to get some fresh air in the house and giving the a/c a rest. That’ll save on bills for now, but as the weather turns cooler you’ll no longer want that gentle breeze blowing through your home. Fall is the time to fix those drafty window and doors.

We’ve all seen it. On those windy days, there’s that curtain that’s dancing in the wind, even those the window is closed. That’s a sure indicator that the window’s seal is in need for some adjustment. But if there’s no brisk wind, finding a leaky window may be a little more difficult. Here are a few steps you can take to locate those costly gaps:

  • Have someone stand on the outside of the door with a flashlight and shine around the edges and the bottom of the door. Any light that come through is a sure indicator the air will get through as well.
  • If you have a whole-house fan, or attic fan, you can use it to check for drafts around windows and doors by turning it on and closing all the windows.
  • There are new tools available at a reasonable price. One is a handheld infrared thermometer. Black and Decker makes one specifically for such household use. It’s not a thermal imaging camera, which is way more expensive. It’s more like a the touchless thermometers we now use to take someone’s temperature. It has a digital screen which displays the surface temperature directly in front of the device. By moving it around closed windows and doors, you can detect a large change in temperature.
  • Of course, if you really want the big picture. A thermal imaging camera is a great tool to have in your home. It comes with a big price. But it has many purposes. It can be used to show which dual pane windows have lost the seal between the glass, where the attic insulation may be insufficient above the ceiling, electric outlets and switches which are generating heat due to bad connection, circuit breakers getting hot, overheating bearings, and pretty much any use in which a larger than normal temperature difference is a sure diagnostic clue.
  • To help detect the leaking airflow, Cirrus makes an inexpensive battery-powered handheld smoke generator which will highlight even a subtle breeze.
  • Windows and doors aren’t the only places where your home may leak air. Here are some other places which commonly lose heat during the winter

Once the gaps are located, you’ll have a better idea of what’ll be needed to seal up the house for the winter. Depending on your budget and the need, there are lots of products and services that can mend or fix the problem. Most of which will pay for themselves by saving on heating costs this winter. If your budget doesn’t cover replacing windows this year, and you know it needs to be done, start saving for the project now while you investigate your options. There can be an incredible price difference in windows and their installation. As with most projects, a large investment in time up-front, will lead to a substantial savings in time, cost, and effort later.

For more information on managing life and home, please visit the rest of

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And remember to take the next step…