The Circles Of Life – Which Are You On?

So, I was cleaning out my office this last weekend. I decided to do some minimization and get rid of some pending to-do items sitting around the room. So, I tackled a pile of notes sitting in my “someday” pile.

On one of the many pads of paper sitting there, I found some notes I had taken in San Diego at Frank Kern’s event last year. I went through it and got some nice little reminders. But, one of the sheets had something that I remember Frank talking about. And at the time I remember thinking, “This stuff comes before any online success can be had and is so important”.

So, today, I bring you my interpretation of the concept. I’ll just call it “The Circles Of Life”. There are two of them, and we all need to make a personal decision which one we will live on.

So, I was cleaning out my office this last weekend. I decided to do some minimization and get rid of some pending to-do items sitting around the room. So, I tackled a pile of notes sitting in my “someday” pile.

On one of the many pads of paper sitting there, I found some notes I had taken in San Diego at Frank Kern’s event last year. I went through it and got some nice little reminders. But, one of the sheets had something that I remember Frank talking about. And at the time I remember thinking, “This stuff comes before any online success can be had and is so important”.

So, today, I bring you my interpretation of the concept. I’ll just call it “The Circles Of Life”. There are two of them, and we all need to make a personal decision which one we will live on.

The Circle Most People Are On

Most people live in a frame of mind which is not conducive to success. Their thoughts and the thoughts they allow into their heads from others literally forbid success. Such a mindset actually attracts failure and will revel in the failure of others. These are the people who will chastise people who find success, who think they were successful because they did it on the backs of other people. You know this type. They exist everywhere.

Screen shot 2010-08-05 at 9.22.48 AM.png

These people live inside the above circle. They live in a world of anger and fear. As a result, their actions are wasteful and don’t really accomplish anything. This leads to frustration. Then, they just want an escape from their own lives. To find that escape, they fall to the news and other TV shows. Well, the news propogates fear and anger with all their talk of controversy, murder, sickness and death. Which then breeds more frustration and anger.

And so the circle continues…. over and over and over again. Until you die.

The Circle Of Success

There is another way. And this circle is one which is entered by DECISION. It is not something you arrive at by the luck of the draw. You actually DECIDE to flip the bird at the other circle. There are fewer people on this circle. It is the road less traveled. However, the world rides on the backs of people on this circle, whether the people on the other circle want to admit it or not.

Screen shot 2010-08-05 at 9.31.06 AM.png

This circle breeds success. At the core is doing the right actions. Doing things which help others and which does the greatest good for the great number. It means doing ethical actions. It means working toward accomplishing positive goals. This, in turn, brings on an expectation of positive outcomes. You may have noticed that people on this circle don’t expect failure. They operate on the assumption that they will succeed. Even when they fail, they take the positive from it and apply it to their next endeavor. This breeds working on the right things and not wasting time on negative things. This, lastly, brings on positive results which then encourages more positive actions. It is a lot easier to expect success when you actually see good results, is it not?

And so this circle continues. It breeds success.

How To Stay On The Successful Path

I’m going to elaborate on these 6 points in another post, but today I will just leave you with the bird’s eye view of them.

  1. See yourself achieving your goal.
  2. Don’t compare yourself to others. Compare to who you could be.
  3. Associate with like minded, success minded people.
  4. Build a success library.
  5. Fill your head with good stuff.
  6. Draw success from other like-minded people. Draw strength.

Stay tuned to this blog as I can easily write a full post which elaborates on these 6 points. Coming soon. 🙂

I will leave you with this thought. And, you should emblazen this into the back of your forehead so you never forget it….

Success in life comes from a mindset of success. And that mindset comes from a DECISION. You either decide to walk the path of success or you decide not to.

Since this is a blog about finding success online in a business sense, know that walking on the right circle comes first. You can digest all the strategies and tactics of blogging or online marketing in the world and it won’t make any difference at all if you don’t bring the right mindset. I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve seen people get internet marketing courses and never use them. They were on the wrong circle. They were using that course as an ESCAPE and not a RIGHT ACTION. They didn’t apply it. They engaged in wasteful actions.

Saying it is a decision might not ring true to many. It might seem as if the circle chooses you and not the other way around. If you see it that way, then step it down a notch and let’s look at what actions you can take control of right now.

Perhaps not watch the news? There’s a start. 🙂

[UPDATE: Here is my other post where I elaborated on these 6 points.]


  1. Good, positive info, Dave.

    I notice you have a “don't like” button. Wasn't aware that was out there. Do you use it to for measuring feedback, or is there some other use you see for it?

  2. Great post David! What can I say that hasn't been said already by you or your long list of comments below. 🙂

    Success perpetuates success…focus on creating THAT and it will lead you in the right direction.

    I have to admit, I didn't get this until several months ago. I wasn't necessary in the first circle you mentioned in terms of using deceptive marketing or anything like that, but was definitely in a place of fear, disappointment and wasteful actions.

    What changed? Finding something I was passionate about. It took a long journey to get to this place but I've finally reached it. And how did I find my passion? By CHOOSING to find it, by deciding that it was time to get past the life of the ordinary and walk in the path of the extraordinary.

    Yes, I know, sounds very philosophical but until you get to that place you don't understand it and once you do it's like a switch that was turned off all your life finally got switched on.

    Appreciate you sharing this!

  3. Right on David
    I played a lot of sports growing up and the most successful athletes were successful because of their mindset (attitude, confidence, work ethic…) not because of their talent. There are a lot of talented athletes that are not succeeding in anything anymore because of mindset
    This concept works for EVERYTHING in life and I try to refocus on it every day. Thanks for the re-frame and reminder

  4. Hi David,

    You make some excellent points in this post. I think we all want to be in the circle that breeds success but the hardest thing is to maintain the mindset that will keep you there.

    It's really easy to maintain a successful mindset when things are going right. It's when things start to go wrong that you find out what kind of mindset you really have.

    I think this is something we have to continually work at. Thanks for the great tips for staying on the successful path.

  5. David – one year from now, we all will be the books we read, and the people we keep company with.

    That's pretty much true in all walks of life – and ties back into the Circle of Success that you presented.

    We all have choices to make – and if we choose the Circle of Success, there's no looking back!

  6. Fantastic post, David. Ridding my life of negative influences is the reason I stopped watching the news or reading the papers years ago. And its kept me focused on the things I want to be and do. It's not always a straight path, but its worth it.

  7. Hey you. How are things? 🙂 Look forward to seeing you again. I wasn't around Pubcon alot in November because I got sick out there and spent a day holed in my room at the MGM. Ugh.

  8. I happen to disagree with you, and one field that just doesn't get it and never will…. is science.

    Thinking the right things all the time doesn't necessarily lead to success. That is much too black and white of a viewpoint to be workable. It must be followed with ACTION.

    But, when I see some materialist scientist try to wade into these waters, I just get a chuckle.

  9. Yes, yes, YES! It is absolutely a mindset. I like to look at different levels of how I am successful too. I remember setting up my first blog 2 and a half years ago, my first comment, my first “break your server Stumble Upon day”, my first professional logo, etc… they are all successes too.

    I think too many people ONLY look at money as success, and while that is usually my ultimate goal for any online venture I have, there are many other successes on the way to the $$$ that you can look at to keep a positive outlook on your success.

  10. David, I think what you said here is the nuts and bolts of any success. Thanks for putting it into a post. A negative person can see anything as a failure, while a positive person can see what works within the jumbled heap, and continue on to make success. It is about persistence. I appreciate that you bring this attitude to what you do.

  11. yea great t's of life i have 6 p's ive learned in life….. proper preperation prevents piss poor planning yep thats awsome and GOD must be at the center of the circle at all times thru Him we can do all things apart from him we can do nothing and thats the Gospal truth! G. B. Y. ALL

  12. I enjoy David Risley's work very much, but I want to add a note of caution about the assumptions in this essay.

    I am a very positive-minded person, and try to hang out with positive-minded people. I am a huge fan of the new field of positive psychology and have written several articles about it.

    However — that said — we have to avoid something a wise acquaintance of mine once called “New Age Fundamentalism.” As she defined it, it was a philosophy that if you just think the right things all of the time, nothing negative will happen to you, which meant that any time bad things happened to good people in her circles, the good people were often blamed for not thinking positively.

    While thinking in a positive and optimistic manner is much better for outcomes than thinking in a negative manner, and is even better for your health — as a science writer I have also seen studies indicating that there is a good reason why negative thinking is also in-built in the human species — it saves us from mistakes.

    The people who survived among our prehistoric ancestors were the worrywarts, who constantly kept an eye peeled for danger or attacks. Gossiping also helped them, as they heard negative news quicker than the non-gossips, and acted to protect themselves accordingly.

    So while I encourage people to be positive and think optimistically — it leads to better outcomes and is better for your health — I respectfully urge people not to fall into the trap of thinking that misfortune follows only negative thinkers, and to remember that humanity's negative traits are hard-wired into our genome for a reason. We need to preserve a healthy balance of positive and negative thoughts.

    I am a big fan of David Risley's blog and look forward to reading more of his essays.

  13. Hi Dave. This a great article. This is a topic I have taken a personal interest in as I have also been on my own journey of self-discovery over the last 12 months. Once upon a time I used to that negative, cynical person – blaming others or external forces for my perceived 'lack' of success over the way my life had developed.

    After reading many great books and studying the minds of some of the most successful people in the world, I have dramatically changed my mindset – one where I am now more driven, motivated and happy to wake up every day and face life head on and to go for what I want. I have learnt to that we are personally responsible for the way our lives develop – no-one else.

    Successful people don't achieve what they have by having a negative mindset and they certainly don't think that anything is impossible. It is the mindset that separates those that achieve success or not.

    I have, just this week, written a similar post on my personal blog about success and self-belief, with some great real life examples, if anyone is interested in reading it.

  14. You might want to check out 4 Hour Work Week, by Tim Ferris, if you haven't already. He has some cool advice on how to put some control into a job.

  15. Stunning to the see the “circle most people are living on” and how cumulatively self destructive it is. The disappointment corner is the most toxic.

    A twist on “compare who you could be”, I'd say: Decide who you want to be.

  16. It's funny for me the bottom circle is sitting inside the top circle…..and I vacillate between the two….but the bottom circle is getting bigger and will overtake the top circle…..this I'm sure….ha, as soon as I can manage my time while working my J O B

    Great post Dave! Thanks

  17. Now tack on the Deming Cycle [] of Plan, Do, Check and Act. Keep going around the cylce for incremental improvement.

    Trying to do it all in one cycle will probably not create a good result; it's too steep a gradient. Put in the smaller incremental improvements so you can actually do each one.

  18. Oh wow I didn't hear that. I rarely watch TV, but I was really interested in seeing more of that show..with a box of Kleenex in hand. 🙂 That show was really important to a few people I know that desperately needed the inspiration it provided.

  19. Glad you liked the article. 🙂

    I'll probably do more posts like this, because I've got a lot to say, and it is really very much intertwined in online business success as well. They go hand in hand.

  20. Yeah. Heard today that Tony Robbins's new show is being canceled after only 2 shows. In the meantime, stupid reality shows where people do nothing but bitch at each other continue to air. Way too many people on the wrong circle.

  21. Hi David, hi Mars!

    As I read Davis's article I found myself zoning in on the advice : “Don't compare yourself to others” too. In my experience this is an easy and dangerous trap to get caught it. You can be doing great – making great strides ahead and suddenly you come across someone that's 'already doing what you're doing' and you can get disheartened very quickly – IF you give in to this…

    So the answer, just like the line I read somewhere is this: Fear (or self doubt – insert 'negative' here) is like carrying around a bag of bricks. It weighs you down, slows your progress…but all you have to do is put it DOWN.

    Don't focus on others, as David says, focus on what you can become. Great! Inspiring!


    – Don

  22. Yeah. I don't do news. Worse for me is to scan the headlines from time to time online, but I don't even do that as much. This coming from a guy who used to watch cable news all the time. Now I can't stand it.

    The thing, too, about TV is that it turns people into nothing but spectators. I think the flow gets all out of whack. People are suposed to originate stuff, not just watch others. So, I think watching TV long-term can actually screw people up.

  23. Yeah, I think that video looks a bit jacked up now on this blog (the source changed). But, it was fantastic and I should try to dig it up again and re-post. It was an awesome video.

  24. Absolutely. Being grumpy is a choice. I say fake it till you make it if you have to. Just ACT happy and pretty soon you probably will be for real. We forget that our moods are created from the inside.

  25. I don't think bank account size is success as much as it is a symptom of success. When we're on the right path, money comes easier. On the wrong path, money remains a source of stress.

  26. David, I absolutely agree with your idea of success. I think it is crucial to eliminate all negative garbage out of your life before you can get close to success. I haven't been watching TV in about 4 years and I feel so liberated! When you do not hear all the negative things the life makes so much sense. You just do not allow any room for doubt or worries about things that do not matter for you.
    I also believe that success is a constant motion in the right direction. When you make the right choices – you are successful. The idea of success is much wider than a certain career position or a certain amount in the bank account (though these might be components of success for a particular person.) I think that success means being happy with the choices that you make and the type of life that you are living. You can live that life only when you stay positive and you are not scared to take actions.

  27. I love this post!

    Especially the part about a positive attitude requiring effort. So often people assume that positive people are just lucky enough to be that way and don't see all the choices they make to get there. Nor do they see the choices they themselves are making to stay grumpy.


  28. Mars if YOU are comparing yourself to others younger than you – OMG, what abt the rest of us?!! You're like .. 20 something right?

    I'm laughing cos that has been my biggest challenge too, looking at Gen Yers & wishing I'd started at their age when really, being an Xer = I'm not done on Earth yet by any means 😉 Oh what tangled webs of comparison we weave.

    Hahahaha this is really funny actually, that no matter how old we are we always look to those younger & faster than us & make ourselves feel bad! What if 18 year olds are looking at the 12 /14 yr old Greyson Chance and thinking they need to get their acts together? No more, no way.

    We are each doing the best we can, at the right time. It's not just about doing great things either, it's about living a life of passion, adventure, experiences & inspiration.

    Too many of us get caught up in being extraordinary and making a difference (me too) – all that will happen when we live life according to our values. The purpose of life? Fulfillment & Happiness 🙂 You're definitely on that path mate!

  29. Haven't watched the news in a couple of years now 🙂

    How right you are Risley, it starts with a decisions, always a decision. To stop doing something or start doing something.

    Then on, it's a matter of practice, perseverance, forming new habits & having a success mindset (which you described really well in the 6 steps). As I learned from our man Tony Robbins, Habits are Stronger than Desires.

    I'm a believer in thoughts maketh the man aka Law of Attraction AND I also believe that just desiring something & visualising isn't enough. One must consistently keep an eye on the goal and take daily inspired action.

    Hit one pitch a day – one pitch a day & know that one day you'll reach a tipping point and it will seem like success came magically overnight. It rarely does.

    Cheers mate!

  30. Love the positive idea that each of us can choose to be on the circle of success. Fear and failure are real but can be transformed into “right actions”. I look forward to your future posts.

  31. Hey David,

    Excellent post on an evergreen topic and like Mars Dorian commented further up on this post, I can virtually see our man Tony Robbins hammering this home to us with his giant white teeth clattering. He´s been a source of inspiration and clarification of mind for Frank Kern as well as for all of us who listen to him. I think what you have covered so well in your post is a lesson Tony has shared e.g. when doing an interview with Frank Kern and John Reese – you featured that video on your blog some month ago, didn´t you? Time to revisit that video again, if it´s still up.
    Anyway, thanks for the perfect reminder to stay in the second circle at all times. Something I am committed to do.


  32. The great thing about this question is that it doesn't really matter which one you're on…what matters is which one are you going to be on after you ask yourself the question. I have found that success is not so much about having all the answers, but about asking yourself real good questions like this. Thanks for the reminder David–have a great day

  33. I gave up watching the news (and almost all t.v.) about a year or so ago to get away from the negativity and overall conditioning. It was fascinating to see how my own thoughts deepened and developed and my desires changed once I wasn't being told how and what to think. This is an amazing post, Dave. And no one is telling me to think that way 🙂

  34. This is deep stuff, David.. true that the world rides on the back of these people. sounds similar to what Bill Gates and Warren Buffet are doing to get the rich and famous to give owawy half their wealth. This is what I aspire to be.

  35. These comments are inspiring in themselves. The whole personal development field so often gets slammed for being a bunch of feel good hype thrown out by smiling self-promoters.

    And the critics would be right about one thing: All that self development stuff doesn't work. You have to. And it's hard work to stand apart from yourself, take a dispassionate look, and then apply the principles you learn from the likes of Tony Robbins, Stephen Covey and others to head off in a new – and sometimes uncomfortable – new direction.

    It's pretty cool that the people here seem to realize it's tough sledding, but have made the decision to get after it and do the work.

    All that stuff doesn't work? Read some Tony Robbins, Stephen Covey or Jack Canfield. Then read some biographies of ultra-successful people down through history. You'll see some very familiar attitudes, mental strategies and habits…

  36. Hi David,

    I'm glad you highlighted “right work” here. It's got to be work that's meaningful and aligned with personal values and purpose. That's the only way people can really, positively engage with it to drive the positive results you talk of here. You gotta think highly enough of yourself to allow yourself that experience. Doing good work is a totally different thing from making your resume look good.

    As you say, this is indeed the road less traveled!

  37. The curious thing about these circles is that the negative circle is so addictive, providing fast, easy emotional jolts, which feel good right now, but are self-destructive in the long term.

    The circle of success is a bit more subtle (to me), and requires longer term thinking. But perhaps that's also a matter of frame.

    For example, I had a pretty good piece “denied” (that's academic terminology for rejected, heheh) from a very prominent blogger.

    But it's a win!

    Because that article is dripping with a high-value keywords, and just as you, David, can spin articles off of your list of 6 above, I'll be able to spin off many high value articles as well.

    So I it published myself!

    Warning: it's 1600 words. And it is densely packed with information. Not a hard read by any means, and it is scannable, but there is a lot of meat there.

    Frankly, I was a little bit relieved. All my academic publications are locked up behind corporate firewalls, and it saddens me to see blogging heading that direction.

    Onward! Through the fog…

  38. Thanks for writing about the truth. Society is steeped in fear, anger, gossip, and finger-pointing because that's what sells news and gets people going. Reading this immediately brought to mind people I know personally and habits of my own that I dislike.

    I used to watch the news, but now I don't have cable hooked in (too expensive!). When I go to my parents' and watch TV with them I'm always appalled by making mountains out of the same ridiculous molehills.

    Success is completely a state of mind. It's easier in the moment to focus on gossipy snarkyisms, but they're like candy bars; trying to live off of them will make you irritable and rot your insides.

  39. Wow that is so true. I was stuck in that first circle for a long time. Positive attitude, believing in yourself, and an enthusiastic spirit gets you to the second circle. I surround myself with positive energy and avoid anything negative.

    I feel the same way about the news..rarely do they focus on anything positive happening. That's a shame as there are some great things going on around the world that deserve recognition. The world would be a better place if we concentrated more on positive stories rather than negative ones in the media.

  40. I have been trying for the past year or so to escape the fear/anger model. I rarely watch the news anymore. It is amazing that when I do, how much negativity creeps in during a short news program.

    My circle of success is a bit fragmented at the moment though. more like a “U” than a circle. The positive results have been few and far between. I am constantly trying to re-evaluate the other portions of the circle to make it be complete more often.

  41. These are definitely my kind of articles 🙂 I remember Frank sitting down for an interview with Tony Robbins where they talked about the circle that creates success, and how the change in your mindset really is the difference. Reinforcing your own beliefs that it can happen and that you can do it, and taking action to keep the cycle going for yourself, and to keep building momentum with it towards the direction you want to go. The direction that is your success.

  42. I'm with you David. I haven't had TV or Cable for the last 3 years. I don't miss the news. I figure if something big enough happens that I need to know about, someone will tell me. The news is programming the mass public for anything other than domestication in my opinion.

    CNN stands for constantly negative news lol and I for one don't see anything about the news that supports a healthy, creative and constructive mind that actually contributes to the better of the world.

    It's the old “rubber neck effect” the news capitalizes on. Negative news and drama sells because quite frankly people fall into it out of human nature. It takes conscious effort to make good things happen man.

  43. Yeah, I think the news is like a cancer of negativity on our society. It is like a cancer of the mind.

    I think the easiest “in” to the other circle is to get rid of the things which foster the bad one. i.e. news, people around you who don't encourage, etc. Often times, just by putting some control in on your own environment, life starts to change for the better. Then, it gets a lot easier to jump to the successful circle.

  44. Essential magic, Dave.

    This one is my favorite:

    “Don’t compare yourself to others. Compare to who you could be.”

    that's a mistake I have done for ages – comparing myself to people who were younger and doing more grrreat things that me.

    It's a vicious feeling that eats you from the inside, and you get rid of it by ignoring it.

    True success starts in your head – and in order to keep it shiny you have feed it all the good stuff, and good relationships play a huge part in it.

    Decisions shape the destiny of your life – lol, that's a quote I remember vividly from the ever-grreat Anthony Robbins.

    Your post just made me want to listen to him again !

  45. Awesome post man. (Of course it resonates with my work)

    I've been doing a lot of work around self image. I've found that you can't outperform a poor self image. It's one of the reasons will power works against you rather than for you. If you think poorly of yourself then you can do all you can to try and do something different but your self image will always win out.

    “Don’t compare yourself to others. Compare to who you could be.”

    I love that statement because the whole idea behind psycho cybernetics (the newest version by Dan Kennedy) really has you go within the theater of your mind to envision the actions in away that you create a new self image. Not the poor one that has you going in that nasty freak'n circle.

    I'm digging this big time, and a clear and congruent self image is a major key behind whether someone actually succeeds at an objective they shoot for.

    If their goal isn't actually congruent with how they see themselves then it's an insincere goal (even if done unconsciously) It basically means they're fucked before they even start.

    Kern more than likely I bet listened to Kennedy's version of Psycho Cybernetics I bet. The stuff is off the chain awesome.

    Can't wait to read the in depth version of the 6 points brother. Good stuff!

  46. David,

    I never watch the news and I don't understand how people honestly can. Nothing against those people but with all the negativity in this world it just makes no sense to do so.

    I like what you've outlined here. It makes sense. Success really is a mindset and it takes some reading and learning in order to truly understand that it is. I think the hardest part is the flip because, in my opinion, once your're on the less traveled “circle of life”, as you put it, your mind has already changed and you're ready to stay successful.

    How does everyone else feel about this?

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