The REAL Secret to Changing Your Life for the Better

I know what you are thinking. “Not another self-improvement technique. Who do you think you are, Tony Robbins?” I have to admit, it’s not really a secret, so much as it is a topic few people discuss. There have been books written on this subject, but not many people bother to read them, which is remarkable when you consider that it truly can change your life for the better. I will even go so far as to say I doubt any big, meaningful change can happen in your life without this “secret.”

First the good news. This secret does not cost any money to use and anyone can do it. Starting today. And the change you seek will begin to take effect immediately once you start. Whatever it is you seek, be it more money, a better job, lower weight, better health, independence, can all be had by using the secret.

Now for the bad news. This secret you need to use to get what you want is easy to do for a day or a week, but hard to do for a month or a year (or many years). Anyone can start to use it, and many often do, but not many hold onto it long enough for it to make a difference. You may have even unknowingly tried to implement this secret in the past, and if you did, you no doubt understand how difficult it is to stick with it.

So, what is the secret you need to use to get anything you want? Delayed gratification: the ability to wait to obtain something that you want.

If you think back on your life and see any of the wonderful things you have achieved or attained, somewhere along the way you made a conscious decision to wait some period of time to get what you wanted. Did you ever lose a substantial amount of weight? You delayed gratification. Did you graduate from college? You delayed gratification (for at least four years). Did you save money for a down payment on a house or to start a business? You delayed gratification.

If delaying gratification can get you almost anything you want, why don’t we do it more often? Because it is difficult to do, and here is why. Suppose you want a better body (who doesn’t?), but you also happen to like big, juicy burgers. Now while the pleasure of the rock-hard abs will not be realized until some unknown time in the distant future, the taste of the juicy burger is immediate—it is right now. And in the duel between pleasure now and pleasure in the future, pleasure now wins out almost every time. It is human nature.

So, what is the secret to implementing the secret? I wish I could offer some insight, but I am human too. The only comfort I can offer is to tell you that the next time you want something really bad and fail to achieve it, at least you will know why. Because you wanted a bite of that big, juicy burger right now.

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What Every Business Can Learn From My Dentist

Endodontist, actually. You know, root canals. Had my first one two weeks ago. Not too bad. Ninety minutes of discomfort for a lifetime pain-free tooth.

But that’s not the point of the story. It’s what my Dentist, er, Endodontist did that makes this story. I had my root canal on a Friday, and on the following Monday, at around 4:30 in the afternoon I got a call, on my cell phone, from him. Not his secretary. Not his assistant. Not his “service.” Him! He just wanted to follow-up and see if everything was okay and to let me know I could call him if I needed anything.

How many calls have you received from a doctor in your life? Any kind of doctor? I’m guessing not too many.

He has countless years of schooling and if he is not already a millionaire, he will be soon. He already has a million-dollar dental practice. The restrooms in his office are the kind you would expect to see in five-star Beverly Hills restaurant. He serves people in a very upscale area of Los Angeles. In short, he did not need to call me. But he did.

In his world, he is not the Dental King and I am not the Patient Serf. He is not too busy, too rich or too well educated to give personal service. Or to actually care about his patients.

What is the likelihood I will use him again if I need another root canal? What are the chances I will tell everyone I know this story? What are the odds I will blog about it?

In a world where everyone is trying to invent the new new thing–the latest technology, the coolest web site, the hottest app–it was a simple phone call that will assure my dentist’s success. That is a lesson every business can reinforce.

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The Real Secret to Healthy Eating

If you are expecting some super new diet, you can forget it. I could not possibly tell you what you do not already know: like how you should eat more fruits and vegetables and less carbs. That salmon and broccoli make for a healthier meal than anything you can buy at McDonalds™. You already know that, so why are you still eating food that is so unhealthy? That is the secret I am going to share with you.

The situation we have today is that unhealthy food, unfortunately, is cheaper, faster and more convenient than healthy food. And in most cases it tastes better too. What that means is if you wait until the last minute to figure out what to eat for dinner, you are going to eat unhealthy. If you wait until you are starving before you decide on your next meal, the only fast options are unhealthy ones. The fast food industry has made a great deal of financial investments into technology that prepares and cooks unhealthy food quickly. The same cannot be said about healthy food. Can you think of a single drive-through restaurant in America that offers fresh juice, or steamed vegetables, or grilled fish?

If you want to start eating healthy, for better or worse, you are going to have to plan your meals out in advance. And not just plan them, but purchase the ingredients and prep them too. You are going to have to think about eating long before you are hungry if you want to eat healthy. That is the secret to healthy eating. It takes way more work than unhealthy eating. Lazy people are not healthy eaters.

In my experience, there are two keys to eating healthy on a consistent basis. First, the planning, the purchasing and the preparing of your food must become part of your weekly ritual—something you don’t even have to think about. For me, healthy eating begins Saturday mornings at 7:30 am when I go to the local farmer’s market. I buy as many fruits and vegetables as I can carry. And on the way home I stop by the local supermarket and buy those fruits and vegetables I cannot get at the farmer’s market. It is my ritual—I don’t even think about it. By 9:00 am Saturday morning I have acquired my weeks worth of fruits and vegetables. Since my breakfasts consist of fresh juice and cantaloupe, I do not have to give breakfast another thought for the week. And since dinner is usually just a combination of one vegetable and some healthy protein (like chicken or fish), all I have to do is stop on the way home for dinner to pick up the protein for that night.

The same goes for snacking. Plan your snacking by purchasing healthy snacks and you won’t find yourself wondering over to the vending machine.

The second key to consistent, healthy eating is to find a handful of foods and recipes that work for you and stick to them. Once you get this “base” menu sorted out, things you enjoy eating multiple times a week, then you can mix it up by experimenting, but you must have a base of foods you know and enjoy to fall back on. There is no need to “gourmet it up” to eat healthy. Find a couple of dinners, a couple of lunches and a couple of snacks that you really enjoy and start there. Trying to eat healthy by eating foods you don’t enjoy will not work for very long.

How am I doing with my healthy eating? Good, but I can do better. I eat mostly healthy meals, but I still eat unhealthy ones too. And the only thing I know for sure is that the healthy meals I eat are planned and the unhealthy ones are not. So, until someone opens a healthy drive through, with fast, delicious, healthy food, we have to take responsibility to arrange for our weekly food intake in advance. A hard habit to form, no doubt, but probably less painful than testing your blood sugar five times a day.

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What if There Were No Health Insurance – For Anyone?

I just love to engage in thought experiments. To think about scenarios that will probably never happen, just for the fun of being able to consider what the consequences might be (without, of course, actually having to experience them). My favorite thought experiments are those that most people would consider impossible, could never happen, don’t even think about.

So, for today, I ask you to consider what you think would happen, if, starting tomorrow, there was no health insurance for anyone. Would the human race die out within in year for lack of medical care? Would our life expectancy suddenly plummet? I am not so sure.

As a brief background, health insurance as we have come to know it in America, is less than 100 years old. Now that is partly due to the fact that 100 years ago, for many illnesses, there was little that could be done for most people anyway, so there was little purpose to insuring against them. But the fact remains: recorded history is about ten thousand years and we have survived 99% of that without health insurance.

One consequence of no health insurance would quickly become a fact: you would have to pay for your own medical care. I think we can agree on that. Two more consequences would quickly follow from that. First, medical service providers would have to tell you the price they charge, unlike today. (Does anyone know what their last doctor’s appointment cost?)  Second, there would be a built-in incentive to be healthy. More health would mean less cash out of your pocket to pay for medical services. So far I like it.

Imagine doctors having to post their prices on a web site. Couple that with the on-line recommendation ecosystem that would evolve and you would actually have market forces keeping the price of medical services in check. Good doctors could charge more; inferior doctors less, as it should be. And as crazy as this sounds, it is already happening.

How about pharmaceuticals? I can think of two consequences of having to pay for prescriptions drugs out of pocket. For non-life threatening diseases, there would be tremendous downward market pressure on the price of the medication. Just like fine jewelry you can live without if it is too expensive, so too would it be with prescription drugs you can live without. Of course with lower profit margins from downward market pressure, there would be less incentive for pharmaceutical companies to develop these drugs in the first place.

With life threatening drugs, the prices would remain high (at least during the patent protection period). Now for people of means, this would not be a problem, but it certainly would be for those who could not afford it. And for very rare, life threatening diseases, it is doubtful that the drugs would ever be developed. This is in contrast to today, where drug manufacturers can develop drugs for rare, life threatening diseases because the cost of the extremely expensive medications is spread across the entire insurance base.

Another extreme impact of the no insurance experiment would be the redirecting of over $400 billion dollars of health insurance premiums. Without health insurance premiums to  pay, there would exist about $1200 per person per year in the US to pay for direct medical expenses. Not enough to cover major surgery, but plenty of money to accommodate a person of normal health. And with the downward price pressure that would surely exist, the $1200 would buy a lot more medical service than it does today.

As for individuals, their medical care would ultimately depend on their income. People of means would still get the very best care, as they do today with health insurance. There would be little change for them. For people with no means, there would be very little change for them also. They cannot afford medical insurance today and they would not be able to afford medical care if there were no insurance tomorrow. They would continue to be recipients of some sort of pro bono medical care.

As for those in between, the situation is not so straight forward. Some people would learn to save for a medical rainy day. Some would forgo necessary medical care they did not want to pay for. Some would go far into debt to pay for necessary medical care. Perhaps purchasing co-ops would spring up to facilitate bulk purchasing of medicine. And end-of-life care would certainly change. People would be forced to make economic-health tradeoffs toward the end of their life.

Finally, we have to consider the doctors. Would they be better or worse off? It probably depends on the doctor. The very best would continue to do well, the others might struggle. How about their compensation? It would be determined by the free market, just like every other non-regulated good or service. But there is one advantage all the doctors would love: no more medical billing headaches. No more rejected medical claims, no more resubmitting medical claims multiple times, just cash on the barrel. They would get paid faster and more predictably. I wager to guess most doctors would like that.

This topic is far too complex to cover in a single blog post, so this was just meant to stir the pot a little. I would like to hear your thoughts on the prospect of having to pull out your credit card to visit your doctor.

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