The number one thing that’s going to change your life…

U.S. Marines of the 28th Regiment, 5th Division, raise the American flag atop Mt. Suribachi, Iwo Jima, on Feb. 23, 1945. Strategically located only 660 miles from Tokyo, the Pacific island became the site of one of the bloodiest, most famous battles of World War II against Japan.  (AP Photo/Joe Rosenthal)

The only thing, that will change your life, change your business, change your money, change your relationship, is you must raise your standard. Now I know that sounds boring, stupid, basic, but it’s the truth.

The only thing that changes our life long term is when we raise our standards. What does that mean? That sounds so boring and dumb. It means that all of us in life have things we want. We don’t get what we want, we get what we have. Remember what I said earlier, we all get what we tolerate in ourselves and other people, but when you’re no longer willing to tolerate something that’s when your life changes. The difference in people is their standards, period. The difference in people is their standards, period, and what do I mean by standards? Everyone in the world has a list of things they think they should do. I should lose weight. I should work out. I should spend more time with my kids. I should work harder. I should make more calls. I should. I should. I should. I should, and then you know what, people don’t do their shoulds, and they get mad at themselves, and they what I call “should all over themselves.” They beat themselves up about it. What changes people is when you’re should becomes a must. When suddenly the thing you said should happen has to happen. That’s when human beings change. It’s like, if you want to take the island, and you’re the head of the Army, the most powerful way to take the island is to burn the boats, because if there’s no way to go back it’s amazing what happens when it’s a must to do something versus the should. That’s what makes human beings succeed. — Tony Robbins

It took five weeks for the US Marines to capture the island of Iwo Jima. It took me a lot longer to change my own life and thankfully without anything close to that amount of risk. My Tony Robbins story is a long one that started with a visit many years ago from a high school classmate. We graduated MIT together, class of 1986, and it was he himself who used to joke that the only reason he was accepted to MIT was the need to make a quota for a specific minority. Now he is standing in front of me telling a story of how he is living on a boat in Hawaii while helping to turnaround businesses. What? …and that I should look into the teachings of this guy called Tony Robbins who wrote a book called Unlimited Power. What the what?

It was intriguing enough to make me go out and buy the book after which it promptly sat in my closet for the several years that followed. Somewhere in between the subject of Tony Robbins came up in reference to the things we should be doing in human resources at the family business where, for the most part, further discussion was dismissed because he was largely thought of charlatan by the head of HR.

In the years that followed I was faced with my own business turn around and the interim COO I brought in at the time wanted to go down to Florida and attend one of Tony’s seminars called UPW to “see if there are any chinks in this guy’s armor.” He wanted me to go with him and my health was not in a position where I had the energy to even make that move, but, okay, I get it, it was time to read the book. Which I did and if you are wondering my COO came back with only praise for what he experienced.

Though I do not remember any details of the book exactly, I know got sucked in deep enough to order the Personal Power CDs (they were probably on cassette at the time, and, yes, they were probably purchased from one of those infamous late night TV infomercials that the “the guy with the big head and big teeth” was running constantly in those days) and that is where the momentum started to build. Going through nearly all of the program with deep dive attention it was like I literally woke up from being asleep for most of my life. It was a year or two later when I finally made it down to, coincidentally Florida again, to attend my first UPW seminar where my journey with Tony truly began in the full technicolor glory that I describe going to a live event is as compared to the B&W silent movie version of the multimedia products.

“You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.” — Jim Rohn

To say I raised my standards may be true but more precisely I no longer accepted standards that were lower than I what I knew now I was capable of achieving. I believe Jim Rohn’s statement to be true with the only change of adding yourself to that average. In other words, before the people you spend time with can lift you up you need to change yourself. I should lose weight — starting with what I am putting into my body. I should be more financially secure — starting with wasting less time on Facebook and in front of the TV. I should make more of my life — starting with investing in the talents within me. You all ready have people supporting your existing standards. If you don’t you wouldn’t be where you are today. If you are not happy with where you are start with yourself. Raise those shoulds into musts. Then look for the people who might be just outside of your existing circle for help. You already know who some of them are. Reach for their hand to get out of the hole and they will in turn lead you to others that will take you even further. I, myself, would not be in a position to have written any of these Medium stories without going through this process and for anyone who asks, and for a lot that don’t, I tell them I have Tony Robbins to thank for starting me down that road.

“Your talent is God’s gift to you. What you do with it is your gift back to God.” — Leo Buscaglia

As a side note, one of the most memorable experiences of going to UPW for the first time was seeing the range of people that were changed by the experience. One person described himself as only being alive because he decided to go to the event rather than use the gun in the nightstand to kill himself. Others had very successful lives who wanted to take them even further. For myself, all I knew is that something more was waiting for me in this life. I didn’t know what it was but I wasn’t looking to waste another year ending up in basically the same place I started with the only progress being one less year left to do something about it. I also had the simple perspective that if someone could use these strategies to turn around a life that was close to being ended from one’s own hand — imagine where I could go starting from a place seemingly already much further ahead. Now almost 20 years later I am living a life I could not even have dreamed of back then and I mean this literally. One day I am going to find that original workbook from the seminar and wonder to myself if I would could even be friends with the person I was back then. Yes, today I would still reach down the hole to try to lift my former self up but the real question in this intellectual trip is would my former self have taken that hand to get out? Without the help of Tony Robbins, sadly the answer would probably have been “no.”

(Originally posted on Medium)