142. It is important to have good insulation.

The experts tell us that the quality and degree of comfort we enjoy in our own homes is very much dependent on the quality of insulation in our walls, basements, attics, window-fittings and points of entry.

Insulation, they point out, when of high quality and properly installed, keeps us snuggly warm in the winter and refreshingly cool in the summer.

It is our first, and most vital line of defence against those elements outside of our homes seeking to find a way to gain entry in order to disrupt the enjoyment we seek in our homes.

The Habit of Developing Thick Skin plays an equally important role in helping to regulate the quality of our lives.

The Habit of Developing Thick Skin is our first line of defence and plays a key role in preventing those elements outside of our bodies from penetrating our defences and disrupting our inner harmony.

It is safe to say that many of us have had painful criticism and harmful comments directed at us, often delivered with the wilful intention of inflicting pain and equally often delivered without malice and with the intention of helping and yet producing an equally damaging result.

We yield no influence over the actions of others nor over the words they choose to use and yet very often we allow those hurtful words to wreak great havoc on our souls and, in many cases, continue do so for days, weeks, months and even years after they have been directed our way.

The Habit of Developing Thick Skin also plays a huge role in reducing the impact from the very words we repeatedly use to malign and criticize ourselves – a habit which, for too many of us, dates back to our early childhood.

There are those who have, sadly, developed tremendous expertise in the art of self-denigration. We have become so skilled at this that we are frequently unaware of the great harm we are inflicting on our own souls.

The Habit of Developing Thick Skin will contribute enormously to our well-being and prevent those thoughts and feelings from penetrating deeper within us and causing further harm.

The Habit of Developing Thick Skin does not give us license to treat others poorly, to be rude and insensitive or to be discounting of others simply because we are no longer plagued by how others think and what they say to, or about, us but rather it will serve, when properly applied, to raise our levels of empathy by teaching us that the hurt we have felt when invectives have been directed our way is not best managed through reciprocity.

The Habit of Developing Thick Skin simply allows us to separate fact i.e. measurable, observable and provable data – from fiction – which is comprised of the adjectives attached to sentences used to demean or attack us.

Having thick skin allows us to sit back and evaluate, with objectivity, and then draw conclusions based on data and not emotion.

Acquiring this habit may not be as simple as it sounds but it is certainly worth the effort for along with all the other benefits mentioned above The Habit of Developing Thick Skin allows us to no longer live our lives based on how others think or feel about us.

And that truly is a liberating gift to ourselves.

Let’s make a habit of meeting like this.

141. Who knew a thick skin could be worth so much?

A few years ago I read a story of a realtor in Southern California who achieved a companywide milestone

This was not his first ground-breaking event as five years earlier he had become the first realtor in the history of his company to learn $1 million in a year.

Two years later he raised the bar a second time when you earned $1 million in the first six months of the year and the story I read was about him doing what had been deemed undoable – selling single family residential homes at an average price of $200,000 he had earned $1 million in a single month.

Stories of accomplishments like that always intrigue me and I was eager to read the entire article and learn the many tips I was sure he would be offering that contributed to his enormous success.

Instead, when asked to what he attributed his spectacular sales performance, he simply replied that while he certainly was not the best salesperson in his company he was, unquestionably, the hardest working and most importantly the number one contributor to his enviable record was “My skin is considerably thicker than anyone else in my office. No matter what is said to me, regardless of how I am insulted, berated and even rejected I made myself a promise when I got into this business that every single day I would knock on 100 doors and ask a simple question “Would you possibly be interested in selling your house if I could get you a great price?”

He went on to say that in his first year in the business he knocked on 732 doors before he even had his first conversation with a potential customer and then knocked on a further 212 doors before he obtained his first listing.

He did mention that his daily count of 100 doors included only those doors that were opened and that never once did he call it a day before knocking on the 100th door..

He continued by saying that he knew in his heart that if enough people rejected him, swore at him, or informed him of things about his heritage that he did not know, he would eventually prevail and enjoy great success.

He spent very little time in the office as he discovered quite early in his career, that the vast majority of his colleagues spent too much of their time telling each other how tough things were out there and he saw many budding realtors come and go principally because they chose to allow the constant rejection they experienced to overcome them, rob them of their early enthusiasm and leaves them soul-destroyed.

He did initially try to help those colleagues overcome their fear of rejection and the personal pain they felt and he quickly found his efforts to be wasted.

What he noticed was that so many people lost sight of why they had become realtors in the first place and, rather than immunize themselves against the daily rejection, they gave in to feelings of self-pity and scurried back to where they came from.

He said that he learned a great deal from each of these folks as observing them placing their tales between the legs and running away from the pain of rejection helped strengthen his resolve and further toughened his already thick skin.

He understood intuitively that the pain of rejection was short-term and the pleasure of earning $1 million a month lasted a very long time.

We can learn a great deal from this man. The Habit of Developing Thick Skin is one that can only enrich our lives for it is the acquisition of this habit that allows us to focus on what’s really important and perhaps, most importantly, to not focus and allow our lives to be governed by how others think or feel about us.

The Habit of Developing Thick Skin is a gift that does not desensitize us to the thoughts and feelings of others but rather allows us to be objective when surrounded by subjectivity. We can’t, and don’t, make good decisions when our feelings are hurt and we generally make very good decisions when our commitment to succeed takes precedence over our desire to run away and hide.

And The Habit of Developing Thick Skin makes this very possible.

Just like good insulation which keeps us warm in winter and cool in summer, The Habit of Developing Thick Skin ensures we are always comfortable on the inside regardless of what’s happening on the outside.

And who wouldn’t want that?

Let’s make a habit of meeting like this.

140. Sticks and stones …

I learned something rather interesting about myself yesterday.

It seems I am an @$$#*!e.

This may come as a shock to the millions of you who view me as a vessel of perfection and, to be quite honest, I too was somewhat taken aback at this discovery.

As I may have mentioned in the past my wife, Gimalle, and I live in a two tower downtown condo complex and for the past eight years I have served as a member of the condominium Board of Directors.

During that period of time I, along with my fellow Board members have made many decisions and while certainly some have proven to be poor or even outright wrong decisions each was made to the best of our ability with the information, data and knowledge available to us at the time.

Of the many lessons I have learned in this role and, indeed also learned early on is that life is not a popularity contest and no matter what you do and regardless of how many people support and are pleased by your choices, decisions and actions there will always be those who are ticked right off.

Many years ago I heard a quote that states that “cemeteries are filled with people who died young trying to please everybody.”

So, back to the startling discovery of my @$$#*!eness.

One of the residents in our building was clearly displeased with a decision taken by the Board of Directors and had requested a meeting with me to investigate whether this decision, as it applied to him, could be reversed.

Naturally, I agreed to meet with him and listened to his side of the story. When he was finished I explained that this decision had been reviewed at a previous board meeting and unanimously it had been decided not to change the decision.

It was at that moment apparently he had a great dollop of wisdom bestowed upon him for it was then that he realized that truly I was an @$$#*!e and, in no uncertain terms shared this conclusion with me.

One of the many lessons I have learned repeatedly over the years is that whenever you agree with, go along with and capitulate to the thoughts ideas and suggestions of others you will always be a good person, a fair person, a decent person, and on occasion you may even qualify as a wonderful person.

And yet at the moment you do none of the above, disagree and behave other than desired/requested you are instantly an @$$#*!e.

Interestingly, I have been a good person, a fair person, a decent person and even a wonderful person to this resident over the years and have repeatedly helped him with issues pertaining to condo living but it seems all my good deeds were wiped out by my obvious inability to understand and my clear lack of intellect which prevented me from reaching an agreement with yesterday.

I feel this is the perfect time to introduce the habit we will be discussing today and for the following two weeks.

It is The Habit of Developing Thick Skin.

Many years ago I learned that we humans shed our skin and replace it approximately every 27 days. This discovery was exciting to me for along with this newfound knowledge came the seeds of opportunity and I immediately filled out an order form requesting that on my next go around – my next shedding and re-growing – my new skin be substantially thicker. And so it has been in the many years since.

The Habit of Developing Thick Skin is the 46th habit we have discussed since I began this blog several years ago. I do not favour one habit over another however The Habit of Developing Thick Skin has helped me retain my sanity (Gimalle will strongly argue this point) more than any other.

Far too many of us spend our lives in pursuit of pleasing others and writhe in agony when they insult, curse or in any way belittle us. The Habit of Developing Thick Skin insulates us from despair and hurt feelings that come when people turn on us simply because they do not agree with us.

I will have a lot more to say in support of The Habit of Developing Thick Skin over the next two weeks. In the meantime, consider this: The Habit of Developing Thick Skin, once you’ve adopted it and made it part of your life, will forevermore serve to protect you from those inevitable moments that befall each life when someone’s viewpoint does not match yours and the only way they can express their dissatisfaction, is by resorting to insult.

When people do this, in that moment, they are demonstrating their own inabilities to manage their emotions and regardless of whether you are right or wrong, people will come to the conclusions they come to and while there is nothing we can do to change their conclusions The Habit of Developing Thick Skin will allow us to escape unscathed from the vitriol hurled at us by the emotionally immature.

The Habit of Developing Thick Skin will not prevent rudeness and impoliteness but it will, do something far more important; it will immediately remind us that we choose every response to every situation and with this habit firmly embedded in us our response to being called an @$$#*!e will be to simply chuckle to ourselves while we continue to enjoy life.

And a thick skin requires far less maintenance than a thin one.

Let’s make a habit of meeting like this.

139. If you don’t say hello, you will never know.

As a young boy growing up in South Africa I, like most kids my age, was introduced to water, beaches and swimming pools at a very early age.

I loved swimming and playing at the beach and in pools and seized every opportunity presented to me to do so.

As much as I loved being in a pool I had, for some mysterious reason, a near paralyzing fear of jumping into a pool.

I just would not do it.

I remember many occasions on which I stood on the edge of the pool willing myself to jump in and yet unable to bring myself to do so.

My tactic for concealing my fear of those around me was to either sit on the edge of the pool and gently lower myself into the water or to gingerly take the steps while bracing myself and holding the handrails for dear life.

And then I one day I did it

I jumped.

Or rather, I was pushed.

I clearly remember standing on the edge of the pool once again willing myself to jump in and suddenly I felt a hand against my back pushing me forward and the next thing I knew I was in the water.

I never found out who the monstrous person was who pushed me although I have long suspected it was either my mean sister Gill or my evil brother Ivan.

What happened next was very interesting because … nothing happened.

I remember the feeling of terror as I became airborne and plummeted towards the water only to then experience a great sense of excitement as my fearful expectations were not met.

I immediately, as fast as I could, climbed out of the water and jumped right back in again.

And then I did the same thing again and again and again.

I share this with you not to dazzle you with details of my courageous performance in the face of imminent danger but rather to talk about how most of our fears are never realized.

A long time ago I read an acronym for the word fear: False Evidence Appearing Real.

This tells us that when faced with a situation we deem to be fearful the expectations of what will occur in the event we do what we most fear doing will almost certainly never happen.

For a number of years – many years ago – I taught a workshop on a fire-walking.

You’ve heard a fire-walking?

An event where people walked barefoot across burning coals.

And live to brag about it.

I cannot tell you the number of times participants at these seminars refused to participate because of their own fears of what would happen to them only to change their minds once they observed others walking across the coals.

To observe both their surprise and delight when they reached the end of the fire to discover they were as intact and unscathed as they were when they began and were still exactly the same height as they had been before commencing the trek is something I will never forget.

Jumping into a pool and walking barefoot on a bed of red hot coals are two examples of False Evidence Appearing Real and I mention this because in the past two weeks several people have contacted me to share their fears and reluctance to attempt The Habit of Meeting One New Acquaintance Every Day.

For some the very thought of approaching a stranger is as petrifying as jumping into a pool was for me and while those who have called to share their fears with me have all acknowledged how much their personal, social and possibly even professional lives will improve by getting past this fear they cannot bring themselves to do so

I believe The Habit of Meeting One New Acquaintance Every Day is one of the most gifts we can give ourselves for by pushing this fear behind us we open ourselves up to possibilities of developing some of the most powerful, friendly, enriching an important relationships of our lives.

And just like taking that first plunge into the pool and the first step onto red hot coals is the only way of conquering those fears so too must we take that first step and walk up to a stranger and begin a conversation thereby shattering barriers that will change the course of our lives.

Too many years have passed for me to recall what precisely I was afraid of when standing at the edge of the pool but I do clearly remember my fears the first time I stepped onto red hot coals.

I believed I would suffer severe burns and had images of myself spending months recovering but the truthfulness of False Evidence Appearing Real held on both those occasions and helped me propel myself to new heights.

As we have said so many times before: everything we believe to be true is true, UNTIL IT ISN’T.

Whatever holds us back prevents us from moving forward and whatever it is we fear will happen if we  approach a stranger is not likely to occur and, if it dies it will more than likely serve to provide us with a sense of embarrassment which, frankly is nothing more than a self-imposed emotion.

The downside of adopting The Habit of Meeting One New Acquaintance Every Day is minute, the upside enormous.

Take the risk. Do it.

What have you got to lose?

Let’s make a habit of meeting like this.

138. Face your fear and watch it disappear.

The experts tell us the quality of our lives is the quality of our relationships.

I believe there is a great deal of truth to this assertion and it strikes me as odd the number of people I meet or talk to who want to expand their circle of friends and yet seem unsure how best to proceed.

Last week we introduced The Habit of Meeting One New Acquaintance Every Day and we talked about taking the time each day to introduce ourselves and strike up a conversation with a stranger for the simple reason of not knowing what may transpire.

We never know whether the person standing next to us in the elevator could possibly become a lifelong friend whose company we enjoy immensely and we will never know unless we make a point of saying something.

The Habit of Meeting One New Acquaintance Every Day does not ensure that your circle of friends will increase by 365 each year but it does, however, lead us to many interesting exchanges that we would be otherwise denying ourselves by not taking a moment to talk to as many strangers as possible.

The number one reason that prevents us from doing this is both inane and irrational. It is our fear of being rejected. It is interesting to note that this fear of rejection will prevent us from talking to a stranger who, in the in the event they do indeed ignore or reject us, we will never see or interact with ever again.

It is perplexing how crippling this fear of rejection is to some poor folks. The anxiety caused by this has cost many tens of thousands of people the potential to build highly productive and lucrative careers for themselves while also denying them the opportunity of exploring potentially worthwhile relationships.

In my own life, I attempt, often without success, to practice what I preach and so for the last week I have made it a point of striking up – or attempting to – a conversation with everyone I meet or encounter. This has included talking to people in elevators – somewhat uncomfortable as our personal space is rather limited – stopping people on the street and even, on one occasion, going over to two strangers sitting at a table in a restaurant and starting a conversation.

I would be lying if I said I faced these tasks fearlessly but I learned many years ago that the best way to overcome any fear is to do the very things that causes that fear.

That is what I did and while I cannot report successful outcomes each time, I can tell you that yesterday afternoon one of those people came to my office to meet with me and is now a potential new client.

Most people I approached were friendly but (understandably) guarded. I had three very pleasant chats and only one person told me to pound sand.

What was most interesting was the lesson that we should all heed.

By doing the very things we fear and that make us uncomfortable, we learn the fears we have are largely unfounded and the outcomes we fear will almost never materialize.

Which means The Habit of Meeting One New Acquaintance Every Day will not only expand our circle of friends, it will make us better equipped to deal with discomfort.

I think that’s called a twofer.

Let’s make a habit of meeting like this.