The Stop Factor: Signs, Symbols and Decisions

The “Stop Factor” is what prevents you from succeeding.

Every time you do anything, there are certain signals you receive…signals and symbols to stop or to move forward.

As you receive these signals, are you acknowledging the symbols that come with them?

Signals and Symbols

As you go through life you’re receiving certain signals and seeing certain symbols daily. These signals and symbols are meant as guides to help you understand what you should be doing and the direction you should be heading. They’re much like a roadmap.

Envision that you are going on a trip from New York City to Los Angeles. When you depart you’re using a map, which is a good thing, because if you go by the seat of your pants you may or may not get there. Along the way you see signals, such as traffic lights or brake lights on the car in front of you, all which tell you what to do. You’ll also see symbols on sign for things like gas, food, rest stops etc.

Ignore the signs and symbols and you may never get there.

These signals and symbols, whether from the car in front of you or roadside signage, help you travel safely, comfortably and in the correct direction. When you see the sign that says, “Los Angeles 20 miles” you know you’ve made the correct choices and are nearing your destination.

In daily life the signals and symbols will not be as blatant as in that example. I wish they were, but they just aren’t. In life it’s not as simple as reading a sign or someone telling you you’re headed in the wrong direction.

I recognized, early on in my career, that there were signals, signs and symbols that let me know what I was doing was, indeed, the right thing to do. Some of the times I recognized them, but many of the times, I didn’t. Consequently, I made mistakes.

Here are some questions that need to be asked:

  • What are the signs?
  • How do I recognize them?
  • What forms do they come in?
  • How can I understand them?

These signals and symbols aren’t always something that you can see in front of you. The first time you receive a signal it may be something as simple as a feeling. For instance, when getting ready to make a decision, in your gut you feel a certain way. It could be nausea or maybe a queasiness in your stomach, but you may have recognized it, from before, as a sign that you’re about to make a bad decision.

This is your body’s way of telling you, “hey, with everything you collectively know, this just doesn’t feel right and you shouldn’t do this”. Most people ignore this signal and make the decision based on what they see with their eyes.

Unfortunately, what you see in front of you at any particular moment can be very misleading. Your eyes play tricks on you. Imagine standing in the middle of long, straight railroad tracks. As you look into the distance it appears as though the two tracks actually meet.

It’s an optical illusion, of course, but if you relied on that to base your decision on whether to take the train down those tracks, you would be mislead. I know that’s a gross exaggeration, but the fact is, your eyes can play tricks on you. Your mind isn’t always able to correctly interpret the information provided by your eyes or other senses. What we need to do is incorporate the symbols.

Nothing More Than Feelings

Feeling is a “stop factor.” If something does not feel right, you need to stop what you’re doing. You should never make a decision if it does not feel right for you.

Make sure you understand your feelings. Keep a notebook handy so you can make a note of your feelings as you make decisions. Every time you make a decision recognize how you feel. Are your hands clammy? Are you starting to sweat? What are you feeling in your stomach? Make a note of it, write it down!

It’s like having heartburn. Most people don’t know what actually triggers their heartburn. They don’t recognize that it’s particular foods. Over time most of them begIn to understand which foods cause their heartburn. Once they recognize it, they should know not to eat that particular type of food or at least, before they eat it, take something to control the heartburn.

It’s very similar when you make a bad decision. What was your body telling just prior or while you were making that decision? Our bodies are smarter than we are…write the feelings down for both good and bad decisions. Only then will we be able to see a pattern and recognize the internal signals our body is giving us…then use those signals to gauge future decisions.

The difference between successful and unsuccessful people isn’t who they know. It’s not that they know how other people will react towards their decisions…it’s simply knowing how they, themselves will react. You need to understand what and who you are, as well as how you react to different information as it’s presented to you. This is very crucial.

I know every time I make a bad decision there are signs/signals all around me. I will not try to tell you I never make a bad decision. But, I try to make less of them. I no longer let myself be forced into a decision. If someone tries to force me into a decision, the answer will always be “NO.” I don’t like being bullied, and I’m sure you feel the same way. Understand the consequences of what you’re getting into and let your body help you make the correct decision.

Sometimes I postpone a decision overnight. This helps me take into consideration the factors involved and gives my body a chance to react to them.

Here’s an example, from my life, where ignoring a feeling lead me to making the wrong decision and how finally accepting the feeling, lead me to making the correct decision.

I’m passionate about music. I love being Michael Lee Austin.

I know that I’m not the greatest singer in the world, but I continuously worked at it until I became as good, and in some cases, better than others out there. But it took hard work. My gut feeling and the signs clearly pointed out that I should continue. So I studied, practiced and became better. Was it hard work? Your darn right it was.

When you make the right decision the right people seem to be drawn to you. Unfortunately, they are many times they are preceded by the wrong people.

Some of the people I was working with in my recording business seemed to be great people. They said all the right things, treated me great and had all the right contacts. But something wasn’t right. I could feel it in my gut. I couldn’t put my finger on it but there was something about some of them that I didn’t like. The feeling wasn’t a small feeling, it was overwhelming. It started the moment I met them. If you ever have a feeling this strong, it shouldn’t be ignored.

The interesting thing is that when I talked to my business partner about it, I discovered that he was having the same feelings, and ultimately, we stopped doing business with them.

Consider All the Angles

  1. Your Viewpoint: Understand your decision from “your” point of view.
  2. Their Viewpoint: If a person is asking you to make a decision, look at it from their viewpoint.
  3. Third Party Viewpoint: Look at the decision from a disinterested third party point of view. Pretend you walked into a conversation where two people were discussing the decision you need to make. What would you say to them in regards to the decision? What would be the best decisions once you have removed the feelings and emotions surrounding it? This enables you to step out of yourself and view the decision in a whole new way.

The reason I say this is because when you are in a personal frame of mind you are subjectively looking for the benefits to you. That’s probably not the best way to make a decision. In the same vein, when you look at if from another person’s point a view you may be biased in making the decision in their favor.

But, when you step outside of yourself, you are now looking at if from an entirely different angle. You’re in effect saying, “This is someone else’s decision, I’m just a disinterested bystander. What advice will I give them?” By looking at it from that point of view you are able to make an objective decision.


When you can look at something objectively, as if you are giving someone else advice, your mind says, “This is not me, this is someone else. This is the advice I would give them based upon my experiences.”

I’m sure you’ve heard the phrase, “too close to the situation to make the right decision.” That’s every day reality, we’re too close to the decisions we need to make. By putting yourself in that third person point of view you will find it much easier to make difficult decisions.

Objectivity allows you to give a balanced decision, an unbiased decision and a decision that’s gong to work more logically for you. That’s what you need to focus on and understand when looking to make important decisions in business and life.

Use Everyone’s Experiences

When you were a child you made some very bad decisions because you had no related experience. That’s normal; it’s part of the learning process. As adults your decisions shouldn’t just be based on your own experiences. Your decisions should be based on your own PLUS other people’s experiences.

If you’re basing everything you do solely on your personal experiences, you are really no more than Pavlov’s dog. When someone rings a bell you’ve learned to react. That’s how it will always be. There will be no ingenuity—no additional learning on your part. You will base everything on what you experienced in the past.

Reading is a great way to learn from other people’s experiences. It allows you to constantly absorb new information which expands your experience. Knowing the mistakes other people made allows you to avoid those same mistakes.

Again, your own experience plays a large role in decision making but adding the experiences of other via books, audios movies etc. adds to your experiences and decision making skills.

Being Aware

You need to live your life consciously aware of what’s happening in the different areas of your life.

In business, you know if you have a certain set of sequences and if you follow them, in a specific order; you’ll get a specific result. If the result is a good one, you repeat the sequence. If the result is a bad one you recognize it and avoid doing it again.

Life is the same as business—if you do a series of

steps and receive bad results, you shouldn’t do them again!

Are you aware of what’s happening in your life or are you just being in your life? You need to understand that life is something you live. That sounds weird, but what I’m saying is you need to be part of it. Life is not a spectator sport. You need to be involved and consciously recognize what is going on.

Note that I said “consciously” recognize what’s going on. You experience many different things throughout your life, but at the time you’re experiencing them you may not even realize or understand what you’re experiencing.

Here’s a small test that can take you one step closer to becoming consciously aware of what’s happening in your life.

At dinner tonight, when you’re sitting down with family or friends, become fully aware of the situation. I want you to be aware of what each person is saying, whether it’s spouse, friend or children. Stop for a moment and look at how they eat. Is there a pattern in how they eat? Is there a pattern to the conversation? Is there a pattern to what everyone is doing? What are they doing as they are eating?

I want you to be aware of taking a bite and tasting the food you’re eating. How does it taste? How does it smell? In other words, I want you to experience your own dinner. I want you to literally think to yourself, “what’s happening right now at this table?” What’s happening with the food?  Where is the food placed? Is the food always placed there? Where is my spouse sitting? How are they eating? Do they talk with food in their mouth? Where are the children sitting? What is the conversation like? I want you to be consciously aware of what’s happening to you for the 30 minutes to an hour or however long it takes you to eat dinner.

The purpose of this task is to bring you into your own life and not just be a spectator in it. To not only live your life but to be involved in it, to actually experience it

Little tasks like this allow you to experience life. Some people call it “living in the moment.” Be conscious of actions, reactions, body movements, facial expressions etc. If you have an argument with your spouse or significant other, be consciously aware of what you’re doing, what you’re saying and how they react; understand and listen to what they are saying. Be consciously aware of what is happening when you are in talks or negotiations in your business.

Trust Yourself

Are you doing what you should be doing right now with your life? When you read that you immediately had an answer flash through your mind—that answer was the correct answer! It was either yes or no. You see, when asked a direct question, your subconscious will correctly answer it. More often than not people will disregard this immediate answer and try to rationalize what they think the answer should be.

Listen to your gut and recognize what answers you are receiving.

Now ask yourself this question: “if you’re not doing what you should be doing, what should you be doing?” Did you get your answer?

You may have been putting it off or trying to get away from it, but the fact is, you now know what you should be doing right now. The next question is, why aren’t you doing it?

I believe we are all here for a purpose. I believe everyone has a calling in life. Once you start doing what you should be doing, everything else falls into place. The signs will come unbelievably fast, so be ready. Trust the signs, Trust yourself. You already know the answers. You know what you need to do. You just need to trust yourself more.

You need to understand that it’s okay if it’s not easy at first. It’s okay that you’re not good at it at first. Greatness doesn’t always come easy. What you do in life is not necessarily going to be easy for you.

Stop going through the motions and start actively living your life. There are all kinds of stop factors out there. They’re everywhere, and if you’re not aware of the signs and symbols that are naturally guiding you to make the right decisions, then those stop factors could keep you from achieving your full potential.

Read the signs, follow the symbols, trust yourself and succeed.

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