#110: How to Get Back On Track [Podcast]

Recently, my life fell apart. At least that's how it felt emotionally. From the outside, everything looked great.  I was an in demand speaker, making lots of money, with a lot of projects in the works, and the field of possibility ahead of me. The truth was another matter. My calendar was overscheduled, my time was overcommitted, I had agreed to too many meetings and too many projects, and my health deteriorated dramatically.  Somehow, I had managed to get off track. Way off track.


Then I had an epiphany. It didn't instantly solve all my problems, but it did show me the solution to all my problems, and the path I needed to walk to get back on track. Interestingly, I believe this same solution can work for you when you get off track, and I'll share a simple set of steps you can file away from when you need them. Plus, here are some additional reasons to keep listening…

  • One iPhone case to rule them all.
  • Why happiness really is the truth.
  • An update on the “affordable online mastermind”…


  • If you enjoy the podcast, I would consider it a great favor if you subscribe (and leave a review) in iTunes. This helps new people discover the show. A big thanks to AmGram, Kevin Anthony Williams,  and Mark Henson for giving us a review on iTunes this week. You can also find the podcast on Stitcher.
  • We are definitely moving forward with the affordable mastermind I've been talking about starting. We are still mapping out the plan for what will be most helpful, but it will probably look something like this: provide some basic training materials on building an online business, and having a monthly Q&A call where you could talk with me. Would love your ideas, thoughts, and suggestions. Put them in the comments at the end of this post.

Tip Of The Week 

A friend of mine showed me his Speck iPhone Wallet Case, and I was immediately smitten. For a long time I've been using the Duluth Trading Company's Smallet, which is a near-razor-thin wallet that holds only a few cards. But in my search for evermore minimalistic living, it bothered me that I had to carry both a wallet and my iPhone in my pocket. Now, with the new Speck  case, I carry only one item. The challenges it only holds three cards-so right now I'm carrying is my phone, my drivers license, a business debit card, and my personal debit card (because at the Edwards household, we don't do credit cards).speck-wallet

There are a few other cards that I normally carry with me-health insurance card, Costco card, Barnes & Noble membership card, library card, etc. So I came up with the very clever idea of simply taking pictures of those cards with my iPhone and keeping them in a special photo album on the phone itself. I'll keep you posted on how this works out.

Spiritual Foundations

There's a very popular song  with the refrain “clap your hands if you know happiness is the truth.” It just so happens I do know that. As followers of Jesus, we are supposed to be happy. How do I know this?

For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking but of righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.” Romans 14:17

Feature Segment:  How to Get Back On Track

From the outside, everything looked great.  I was an in demand speaker, making lots of money, with a lot of projects in the works, and the field of possibility ahead of me. The truth was another matter. My calendar was overscheduled, my time was overcommitted, I had agreed to too many meetings and too many projects, and my health deteriorated dramatically.  Somehow, I had managed to get off track. Way off track.

Then I had an epiphany. It didn't instantly solve all my problems, but it did show me the solution to all my problems, and the path I needed to walk to get back on track. Interestingly, I believe this same solution can work for you when you get off track, and I'll share a simple set of steps you can file away from when you need them.

Here's the epiphany: 99% of all the results I'm experiencing in my life are 100% appropriate. Let me elaborate…

  • I weigh exactly what I'm supposed away… based on what I eat and how much I exercise.
  • I get exactly the amount of sleep I should be getting… based on how much caffeine and sugar I consume, what time I eat my evening meal, and how I choose to stimulate or not stimulate my brain in the few hours before going to bed.
  • My income, expenses, and profits for my business are precisely what they should be… based on what work I do, who I choose to work with, how I invest my time in building the business, and the choices I make about expenditures

The point I'm trying to make is this: our lives are closed systems. They have a beginning, a middle, and an end. What happens between the beginning and the end is largely up to us. I say that 99% of all of our results are 100% appropriate, in that 1% are things that are actually outside of our control: an unexpected genetic defect causes the disease or deformity, market forces we had no chance of influencing diminish the value of our investments, a tornado demolishes the house we live in, etc. but despite the impression that may be given by the disaster-fascinated media, these events are definitely the minority.

We don't get fat because the “big food industry” is out to get us. We get fat because we chose to have a big Mac and a chocolate shake for dinner last night, instead of a salad and a lean steak.

This epiphany came to me as a result of reading three books, in succession: Living Buddha Living Christ, by Thich Nhat Hanh,  The Practice of the Presence of God by Brother Lawrence, and Work the System by Sam Carpenter.

Sidebar for my Christian brothers and sisters…

…there were many things in Hanh's book I could simply not agree with, and he clearly does not understand fully what it means to be a follower of Christ. I am very clear that Jesus is the only way to heaven and life with the Father. That being said, I found some valuable and powerful truths contained in Han's  the book; but I don't want anyone to be confused about what I believe or what I perceive as the truth. Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life.

I will be publishing a full review of Sam Carpenter's book next week. But the primary distinction I got from that book was that all of life is a system; and each part of our lives is a subsystem, consisting of many other subsystems. Take for example your health: is a system contained within your body. Subsystems include the system of what you eat, the system of how you use and maintain the physical framework of your body, the system of what thoughts you permit to enter and remain in your mind, the system of how much rest and sleep you get, the system of the environment in which you keep your body most of the time, etc

The point of all this is simply that getting back on track is not about considering a broad sweeping wholesale change in your life. It is about adjusting the component subsystems where you got off track. For instance, when it comes to my speaking schedule, the processes of the system that make up my speaking business are roughly something like this:

  1. I write and publish blog posts, podcasts, guest articles, etc.
  2. Potential meeting planners, here the podcasts, get a word-of-mouth recommendation about having me speak at your event.
  3. Meeting planners contact my office and we negotiate a fee and agreement.
  4. I accept the speaking engagement, and get paid my retainer.
  5. I show up on the appointed date, give a speech, get the balance of my payment.
  6. I go home.

What had gone awry in the system of my speaking business over the past few months was that I performed step number 4 too many times and without enough discretion. I said “yes” to far too many people. This resulted in my calendar being overscheduled, and also bled over into the other subsystems of my life, affecting my sleep, and ultimately my physical health.

But it gets even more interesting.

Because of the squeeze on my schedule, I had to work overtime during the hours I was home to complete client projects, work on my own products and trainings, get my podcast completed, etc. this disrupted the system that I call “family time”. It also disrupted the system that I call “exercise”, and the system that I call “sleep”. In those three cases, I simply didn't get enough family time, exercise, or sleep. So, in its wisdom, my body did what it sometimes does to force me to pay attention to it: it got sick.

The implication at the beginning of this podcast was that I did in fact get back on track, that I can show you how to do the same. In the spirit of transparency, I am just now emerging from the rubble of this massive system disruption, but things are much much better, and I realize I have been here before. So I feel relatively confident in helping you in your own quest to get back on track. Here are the steps.

7 Steps For Getting Back on Track

  1. First, you must acknowledge that you have gotten off track, and have that same moment of realization that I did that the blueprint you have for what life is supposed to be like does not match the snapshot of what  life actually is like currently.
  2. Forget the big picture, look for the simple mechanical problems in the small subsystems of your life that have gone wrong.
  3. Isolate and identify those malfunctioning systems and subsystems.
  4. Discover the procedures that could've prevented or at least lessened the problem you are currently experiencing in this particular system or subsystem.
  5. Write down the new system of procedures you will use to prevent this one small isolated problem
  6. Make it easy for yourself to follow your new procedure: remember the metaphor of the elephant, the rider, and the path.
  7. Go through this same process with each system or subsystem that is malfunctioning to any degree.

When you correct the small variances in the tiniest of subsystems, the next level of systems above becomes smoother and less chaotic, allowing you to move your corrections up one level. Eventually the “big picture” takes care of itself.

What I Personally Have Done

I identified a few primary systems that needed better working procedures to solve some of the problems that were cropping up. So I developed step-by-step procedures for:

  • Evaluating speaking opportunities.
  • Evaluating possible new projects.
  • Working with junior copywriters.
  • Evaluating possible new clients.
  • Marketing my company's products and services.
  • Selling my company's products and services (yes, this is different than the above).
  • My physical health, diet, and exercise.
  • Simplifying and beautifying my physical environment.

I began making adjustments and every one of these systems, and began to instantly see a decrease in chaos and disorder… And more evidence of righteousness peace and joy. I'm definitely back on track. And you can be too.

One final note. Sam Carpenter said something deeply profound in his book that is worth repeating. I don't have to like the steps needed to correct my malfunctioning systems-but I do have to take them if I want to see change.

The result is the reward.


Question:   Have you ever had the experience of getting off track, and if so how did you get back on the path? Click here to leave your comments.

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Ray Edwards is a world-renowned copywriter and communications strategist, writing for some of the most powerful voices in leadership and business including New York Times bestselling authors Jack Canfield and Mark Victor Hansen (Chicken Soup for the Soul) and Tony Robbins. Ray is a sought-after speaker and author, hosts a popular weekly podcast, and blogs at RayEdwards.com.

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  • Great topic Ray. Sadly many of us have to learn this the hard way over and over. However, as I have grown older I have learned to like using the word “no.” The more focused I am the more productive I am.

    • I am afraid I’ve had the ram my head into this wall a few times before I got the lesson.

  • Kathleen Thompson

    Ray, My heart goes out to you as I think of what it was like for you as you lay there sick. The great thing is that you knew you could fix it and you did. I have been through this myself more than once and pretty seriously so. That’s why I am so passionate about reaching people just like us, whose lives occasionally get off-kilter. Pinpointing the place that needs the adjustment is key. And then, of course, actually doing it. Sometimes we just need a little encouragement or a different perspective.

    • Kathleen, thank you very much. I know that you know. Also, I have been meaning to tell you thanks for all the nice things you said about me at the Launch Conference-that was very generous of you.

  • Ray, thanks for the INCREDIBLE mention on your show today. Can’t thank you enough. You continue to inspire me.

  • Kim_Avery

    Hi Ray,

    Today’s podcast was incredibly helpful. I find myself veering off track right now and have been wrestling with how to change that. Everything that comes to mind seems too big and undoable especially in light of my current overwhelm.

    Then I heard you talk about systems and subsystems – the idea of changing the tiny things that affect everything. That makes so much sense and is something I can implement right away.

    I’m mentally composing a few emails to politely decline some opportunities and am feeling better already.

    Thanks for sharing your life and for the practical tips that always make a difference.

    • Kim, thanks for your very kind words. I’m glad it was helpful to you.

  • Wow, I’m glad to hear this.

    I was getting worried about you. I’d noticed that your blogging had fallen off; at least that’s the impression I had. I was wondering if you were experiencing ill health or something else.

    • No need to worry – but happy to know you care! 🙂

  • Ray,
    Thanks for the recommendation on the Speck iPhone case. It’s something I’ve been looking for and I’ll probably get one in the next few weeks.

    One thing I’ve done is grab my insurance cards, etc. and loaded them into LastPass (I’m using LastPass premium – $12 per year – but there’s a free LastPass Wallet as well). It allows me to put in account information, etc. and attach the images to my various accounts but keeps them behind a password.

  • Joanne

    Ray, I’ve been a listener of your podcast for a while now. Despite being a free thinker, I’ve accepted your staunch belief in Christ and the need to talk about it in every episode. However, you’ve so disappointed me in your sidebar comments to your Christian brothers and sisters on episode 110, and it reminded me how inappropriate it is for you to include religion in your non-religious podcast. It’s so narrow-minded and obnoxious of you to proclaim that anyone with a different belief is confused and does not understand the truth. If your god is such a mighty god and the one and only, why did he allow so many religions to exist? Have you considered that the real “god” wants us to be more open-minded and receptive and he’s not the jealous god you and your confused brothers and sisters perceive him to be? I’m so disgusted by your comments that I immediately stopped listening and unsubscribed your podcast. I suggest you keep your comments on others’ belief to yourself as it’s too offensive to be shared on a public podcast. I’m sure I’m not the only one disturbed by your comments. If others are not commenting, they probably just left without telling you why.

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