Hello everyone. And welcome to Cliff’s book corner, where we interview authors from Michigan or correction. We will be interviewing authors from Michigan. as soon as we can get some interviews recorded. This process always takes a couple of weeks without being said, I’m going to continue the series of some books that have really impacted me and I think would have a positive impact on your life.
So today’s book is an interesting book. I had a hate love relationship with this book in particular, it is called “The Four Agreements,” by Don Miguel Ruiz. “The Four Agreements, a Practical Guide to Personal Freedom”, which is actually a very, very big claim. So let’s talk a little bit about how this book came onto my desk in the first place, and to really understand the context of how this book has impacted me.
We need to take a trip back in time. during my twenties. I always call those my last years I was dissatisfied. I wasn’t happy. And I was coming to the realization that basically I had lived my life per everybody. Else’s standards through this socially accepted formula.
That what you do is you go to college, you graduate, you get a job, you buy a house, you get a car, get married, 2.3 kids. I was following that formula to a T. except for the marriage part in the 2.3 kids part, yeah, I was, you know, I was hitting these things, but I was empty inside.
And in one day I realized I looked in the mirror and I had a stranger looking back at me and no clue whatsoever who this cliff guy was none. So I spent maybe I would say about five years in what I call the wilderness where I just. If you’ve ever seen that movie. Yes, man. With Jim Carrey, just to give you a little bit quick context behind it.
So, Jim Carey, says no to at the beginning of the movie, he says no to everything, right? This like really attractive woman asked him out on a date. And he says, no, And everybody, all his guy, friends, like a duty, you stupid, are you dumb ass? He goes to a self-help seminar. And while he’s there, the guy does some magic on him and convinces him that he needs to say yes to everything.
So he does, he says yes to everything. And of course, it’s Jim Karody Jim Carrey, excuse me. So, hilarity ensues and you know, that’s the rest of the movie is him saying yes to everything and really enjoying life. So. My five years in the wilderness were kind of like that with that being said, when I emerged from the wilderness and I was in my early thirties, by this point, I knew I wanted to do something bigger.
I wasn’t content with just sitting in a cubicle for the rest of my life. I just, if I was going to really want to like live life, I needed to push myself to the limit and see what I was really capable of doing. And so I said, you know what, I’m gonna, I’m going to build some businesses. I’m going to have a positive impact on the world.
I’m going to buy real estate. You know, I’m going to do all these things. Right. So I mapped out a plan. I had everything ready to go. I’m like, yeah, I am set. And then nothing happened for two years. I was, I was completely stalled. I didn’t move forward. And as the two years went by. I started like really started feeling antsy.
Like, why am I not moving forward? What is going on in my life? That’s really preventing me to move forward. And every time that I turned, I always had some kind of an excuse. And I remember specifically one day I was having breakfast with some friends of mine and they said what I was telling them about this anger, this, this urge to, to really move forward and.
I remember that one of the gentlemen at the table said to me, you know, I’m going to recommend that you read a book called the four agreements. Okay. So you know what? I’m always wanting to learn new things. I drove to Barnes and noble, my favorite store in the planet. I drove to Barnes and noble and I bought the book, got home, started reading it.
And I thought, you know what? This is complete dribble. This is dumb. These things are like stupid. This is just pure common sense. And it took me a long time to read the book because I was getting frustrated cause I would read it and I’m like, I’m not learning anything new. And I would throw the book back down and I’d be like, maybe pick it up a few weeks later.
And 15 years later, this little book, the four agreements has really served to be a guidepost on my journey.
So that’s the impact the four agreements has had on my life. What I want to do now is I want to go into each one of the four agreements to talk to you a little bit about them, and then I’ll come back with a summary at the end.
Be Impeccable with Your Word
The first agreement is to be impeccable with your word down. When I first got this book, opened it up, read that chapter. I almost skipped it simply because of the fact that I looked at it and I was like, I don’t lie. I’m a horrible liar. why in the world do I need to, I read this chapter, but I went ahead and I read it anyways.
And the one thing that I do like about this book is that each one of these agreements has sub layers to it. It’s not just about being honest with other people, but the one that I do want to hone in on, and this is something that has come up a lot lately in my life and as something that I’m actively working on, and that is being honest with yourself.
I’m a big believer now in the fact that if you cannot be honest with yourself, then you can’t be honest with other people. And a classic example of this would be, when my brother passed away, somebody would say to me, Hey cliff, do you need any help? Or, Hey cliff, do you need to talk? And I would say, nah, I’m good.
I’m good. That was a lie. I was lying to myself. I was lying to them. The reason why I did this is because I felt I was bothering them or I was going to be a burden on them. Or I was going to talk about something, you know, in my life that I’ve talked about before a few dozen times. And, you know, they were tired of hearing it, whatever the excuse was.
Don’t Take Anything Personally
Agreement number two, don’t take anything personally. Sweet Moses, smell the roses. This one is one that I struggle with to this day because some people just magically know which button to push that really just pisses me off to high heaven. And I just want to run out and start punching people, which probably is not a good thing.
Don’t take anything personally. This is something that as an entrepreneur, I started to get over it because in the business sense, if you’re dealing with a client and if the client is not happy, I am not interested in defending my work. I’m interested in making it better. Every single time that somebody would come to me and be like, you know, this, this didn’t meet our expectations.
My question to them is, okay, what can I do to make it better? What can I do to improve? And by approaching it that way in my professional life allowed me to start bleeding that over into my personal life. there have been instances where somebody would tell me, you know, cliff, that wasn’t the best way to approach that person.
You should’ve said it like this, or you should’ve said it like that or whatever it is. And I don’t take it personally. My brain instantly goes into a tape recorder mode and I’m like, okay, cool. Here’s an opportunity for me to learn. I am going to take advantage of it. I think, by removing your ego out of the equation, instead of defending something that clearly did not work by you, of course, accepting responsibility for it.
And then asking what you can do to improve, allows you to grow as a person. And because of that, I know a lot of people have said to me over the years when things have gotten really stressful, that I’m pretty even keeled, but because I don’t take things personally, I don’t have this emotional knot in my stomach, like, Oh my God, I’m failing.
Don’t Make Assumptions
Agreement number three, don’t make assumptions. just to let you know, I’m a recovering engineer, making assumptions is what I do, and it is bad. And I’m more than one occasion. It has bitten me in the butt. And fortunately, I recognized that this is a problem. it’s something that I can actively do work on.
Let me give you a story. Many moons ago, I decided to get into real estate investing and I was living in Southern California at the time. I was an engineer for an aerospace company and the prices were going through the roof and I remembered that I wanted to get into real estate investing. Because I read some statistic somewhere that, that 80, 90% of millionaires out there have real estate as part of their investment portfolio.
And I thought, what a great way to get started because, you know, I can own maybe a duplex or a fourplex and. From there. I could just start building wealth because of Southern California. The, the prices of property were going up like 10, 15% a year. It was just crazy. So I’m thinking this would be a great time to jump in on this.
What happened was, is that a lot of people that were in my inner circle, a lot of my friends, a lot of the people that I work with all said the exact same things. It’s too expensive. You can’t afford it. And I would hear this all the time. Ads too expensive. You can’t afford it. You know, and I would ask people, why aren’t you buying a house?
Why are you buying a condo and said, Oh, cause I can’t afford it. some of these people were couples and because, you know, they were making basically twice as much money as I was. I didn’t pursue this because I believed I made that assumption that I couldn’t afford it. And so, but I still wanted a piece of real estate.
I still wanted to get some property. I was still analyzing, building out my spreadsheet to be able to look at properties every now and then I would go online and I would look at properties on, Oh my God, these things are expensive. There’s no way I can afford it. Finally. One day I was at a party and I’m talking with these people, hadn’t seen them in a while and they’re like, Oh, what are you up to you?
I’m like, Oh, you know, I’m thinking about getting into real estate and buying a duplex or something. And I remember one guy in particular said, Oh, you’re still talking about that. again, not taking anything personally, I don’t think he was trying to put me down, but it’s stung. I mean, it’s stung. And I remember that night I got home, I went to bed and it was like, fitful night’s sleep.
And the next morning I said, you know what? I have resolved myself. I am going to get a duplex. I don’t care what it takes or what it costs. I am going to get one, come hell or high water. If I make a mistake, I do not care, but I am going to get one. And so I went and I talked to a lady that I know at the coffee shop who has funded, I don’t know, levity, a billion dollars worth of loans, home loans.
And I asked her, I said, Hey, I want to get a duplex. How do I do that? And she said something I’ll never forget. She said, you know, when you buy a duplex, the rental income from the duplex counts with your income. therefore you have more purchasing power, power. do you have a duplex in mind? And I said, yeah, actually I was looking at this one here.
The rental income is $3,000 a month. she said, great. So now we, that too, your income that you’re getting from Boeing. And all of a sudden you have a lot more purchasing power and you can afford the duplex. And I left that meeting. I was flying high as a kite. I was looking for a real estate agent that I could work with.
But the moral of the story is, is that that assumption that I made was wrong, it was completely wrong. And I went out and got a duplex in all of those people that said you can’t afford it. You can’t afford it. You can’t afford it. You can’t afford it. Every single one of them was shocked. And half of those people actually said, well, you shouldn’t be able to afford it.
And I’m like, I did, I did. It’s easy. If you want me to, I can walk you through how I did it. And they’re like, Nope, I can’t afford it. And they walked away and I’m thinking to myself, God, I’ve just proven them wrong, but they’re clinging to this belief that they can’t buy a duplex. that in and of itself was completely amazing to me and the author, Don Miguel Ruiz wrote one simple sentence that said, assumptions are a lie that we tell ourselves because truth be told most assumptions.
Aren’t based on fact when we’re dealing with people. And if we take a look at them and if they’re dressed like a bum, we automatically make that, that assumption in our head that they’re bummed that they’re lazy, that they’re not working, but we don’t know. That guy could be just working as a roofer or anything else like that.
And then he just looks like crap. He could be making more money than I am right now, but when I look at them and see them, and I make an assumption that is a lie that I’ve just told myself, remember that whole be impeccable with your word again. don’t make assumptions. That’s something that I’m continually working on.
Always Do Your Best
Finally, we have the last agreement, the fourth agreement always do your best. This one here can get a little bit difficult because a lot of people don’t do their best when they’re under stress. When they’re under pressure. When they really need to perform it’s, everybody will always do that. I asked when there is no pressure and everything’s going good, but when you’re under adverse conditions, that’s when things can go really, really sideways really quickly.
As far as the quality work goes, I was thinking of back in the day when I landed my first big. Client. It was a software company and they had hired me to create 15 training videos for them, for their software product. And what they wanted to do was take these training videos and then turn around and sell it to their customers.
it was a great opportunity for me. the biggest contract I’ve ever landed in my life. I was just completely geeked out on my skull. And I worked with a gentleman inside of the company. his name was Paul great guy. We went back and forth. We completely mapped out like what the milestones were, what the expectations were every step of the way.
And I just started creating videos. Now, typically, when. You do a service contract. There’s typically third of the money that is paid upfront. The third of the money is paid at some midpoint. When you have delivered some things or gotten approval for some things, then they, they cut the next check. And then finally, the last third appears when the project is completed, you’ve given everything to the customer.
They’ve approved it, you know, cut the check. So. Here. I am doing the videos. The guys loving the videos. He goes, this is great. This is awesome. Keep them coming. if there was a mistake or anything, he would catch them and come back to me and be, Hey cliff, there’s a mistake in this video. I’m like, oops, sorry about that.
No problem. I’d go back in there and I would fix it right away and just keep moving the ball forward. And we get to the end of the project. I submitted the last video and I also submitted the invoice because now that I’ve delivered the last video and the, the gentlemen in the company has said, everything is good.
Then, you know, it is on its way. Right? Well, the next day the CEO called and he goes, cliff, loving the videos. I took a look at a few of them. You’re doing an absolutely bang up job. Absolutely love it. And I said, well, that’s great. You know, I’m, I’m, I’m happy to hear that. And he said, you know, he says, you’re using the aerial font in the videos.
Could you possibly change that to help that
now? I, I I’m, I’m shocked that the type of font that I’m using would be that big of a deal, but, you know, they always say the customer is always right. And I thought to myself, you know, for me to make this change is probably going to take a few hours worth of work for me to do, but you know what, in the spirit of cooperation to get this project done, I will go ahead and do it.
I told him, I said, “yeah, I can do this. it’ll take me a couple hours, but I’ll do it.” And he said, Oh, okay. That’s great cliff. I appreciate it. So. I go into the videos. I changed the font per his request. I make sure that everything is still lined up and looking good. I export out the videos.
It actually took me about five hours to do all that work. got all the videos produced, got them out there, uploaded them to their server. Once again, sent the invoice in to, to the gentleman that was working with the next day, the CEO calls me up and goes, ah, you know, cliff, I was watching those videos and yeah, I think that original font was better.
could, could we get those videos back? Well, fortunately I didn’t delete those videos. I still had them on my hard drive, I was like, yeah, sure, no problem. I just reloaded up, those videos on there probably took like maybe like a half an hour to do it. Wasn’t too long period of time. But yeah, I just uploaded the videos and I’m thinking to myself, okay, we are good to go.
Then on the third day, the CEO calls and says, you know, cliff, I’m looking at your videos here. And it occurred to me that we are actually in the process of rebranding the company. And our logo is going to be changing. So we, we have like a logo already that we’re kind of like looking at. Would it be possible for you to put that new logo into the video?
Now it’s at this point here where I realize that I’m going to keep making changes to these videos basically forever, because for whatever reason, another there’s all these little things that the CEO is asking me to change. I now have to take a step back and I’m looking at now the entire process and everything that has happened.
And I realized something that the contract for the requirements I had fulfilled my bargain, right. My end of the agreement. it was up to them to fulfill theirs. again, going back to the four agreements in their entirety, right. Being impeccable with your word. Well, I knew that by continuing to say yes to his request and not being paid for it kept saying, it’s no problem.
It’s no problem. It’s not it. It was a problem because my time is valuable. And if they are asking for changes, that is outside of the scope of work that I should be, I should be compensated for it for my time. Right. Again, being impeccable with your word, being honest with myself, if I’m not honest with myself, I cannot be honest with them.
Number two, don’t take anything personally. I was getting upset. I was getting a little bit angry cause they kept coming back to me with requests. Then I would tell them no problem, no problem, no problem. But I would absolutely steam when I got off the phone with them. Because once again, they’re asking for another change.
Once again, it’s eating into my day when I could be busy doing other things, right. The next thing don’t make assumptions. I assumed that I shouldn’t reach out and say, Hey, you guys need to pay me for this. Cause I thought that they would actually have an adverse reaction to it and they would actually come back to me and say, you know, cliff.
We’re not going to pay you at all. if you really want to see your money, this last third check, then you need to go in and do what we say. That was the assumption that I made. But you know that at the end of the day, I had to take a stand. I had to say, you know what, this, this just isn’t right. I called the CEO up the next day and I told him, I said, I’ll just call him Bob.
And I said, Hey, Bob, just to let you know. That, I have actually fulfilled the terms of the contract. This is what you asked for. And I know you asked me about the, you know, changing out the logo, but you know, the, the, the project in and of itself called for the current logo at the time to be used. So really what you’re asking me for is beyond.
The scope of work for this particular project. So what I would like to do is send over my final invoice, get that invoice paid. And then what I’ll do in the meantime is I will work up a change order for you that will estimate how many hours it is going to take to complete, putting the new logo into the videos.
And then if you guys approve that, then I will be more than happy to step in and do the work. And he said to me, something I’ll never forget. He said, Oh my God, cliff, I had no idea that that was how your contract was written. I’m really sorry about that. Had I known, I would not have asked you to make these changes, yes, by all means, send us over the invoice.
We will definitely get you paid and yes, please, please send over the change order. now I’m feeling great, right? basically, you know, don’t take anything personally. I get all upset because of what. Because I made an erroneous assumption in my head assumption is a lie, but I made up an erroneous assumption in my head that they were going to have an adverse reaction to me, standing up to myself, which was complete baloney by the way.
anyways, but. The only reason why I got that change of order. The only reason why I was able to make more money on this particular contract was because in every situation I always did my best. Even when the CEO was like nit picky little things in the video, and I was burning time doing this and I would actually get upset when I sat down and started working.
So should you get this book? The four agreements? Yes. There are a ton. Of really great self-help books out there. If you want to learn anything about anything, there is a self-help book out there for you, and there’s tons of self-help books about buying real estate and becoming a millionaire and becoming a good Jillian, Darren, how to buy stocks and how to build a business and all these other things and those books out there.
They’re great. They’re full of really great knowledge, but really at the end of the day, when, whenever I’ve gone to pursue something like, like the. Real estate story that I shared earlier. It is not some government bureaucracy. It is not someone actively working against me. It is not the man holding me down my own worst enemy.
My biggest obstacle is me. And usually if I am the obstacle. To my own life and to moving forward, it is because I have violated one of the four agreements. And I know that every single time in my life, when I have come up with, with a lot of adversity and I’m feeling lots of pain and I don’t understand really where the pain is coming from.
If I just take a step back and think about it, I can point to one of these four agreements and say, you know what? I violated that agreement. And I need to fix that. And as I mentioned before, one of the big things that I’m working on is making sure that I’m always honest with myself because being honest with myself means that I can be honest with other people, be impeccable with your word.
This is very important. Anyways, the four agreements, check it out, link in the comments down below. How did I do about the episode? I would love it if you let me know and I will be back again, tweak with another one of Cliff’s book reviews. See ya.