Archive | January, 2013

Be Bold and Begin Now

14 Jan
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Pictures of mountains are supposed to be inspirational.

“Concerning all acts of initiative (and creation) there is one elementary truth, the ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: that the moment one definitely commits oneself, the providence moves too. All sorts of things occur to help one that would not have otherwise have occurred. A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one’s favour all manner of unforeseen incidents and meetings and material assistance which no man would have dreamed would come his way. I have learned a deep respect for one of Goethe’s couplets: “Whatever you can do, or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, magic, and power in it. Begin it now.” – W.H. Murray, The Scottish Himalayan Expedition

Why You Don’t Need a Business Plan

13 Jan
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You might not know where you’re going, but you have to keep moving.

One of my favorite topics of conversation, much to the dismay of my dinner companions, is the tension between making plans and taking action. As the name of my blog suggests, I subscribe to the “act first” philosophy, but I certainly understand the need for detailed plans. Especially when the goal you want to achieve will take a long time and will involve lots of people.

However, most of the time we use planning as an excuse. It becomes a rationalization to keep us from acting and this is particularly true when trying to start a business. Any good expert on entrepreneurship will tell you to start with some market analysis and a strong business plan. I think they’re wrong. Here is my alternate approach: start with inspiration.

The famous screen-writing coach Robert McKee has useful definition for a “hack.” He says a hack is a writer, “who second-guesses his audience.”  Instead of using his muse to drive his work he asks himself what the market can support. He condescends. He may make some money by selling some snake oil, but at what cost to his reputation and his soul. Steven Pressfield expands,

“The hack is like the politician who consults the polls before he takes a position…it can pay off, being a hack. Given the depraved state of American culture, a slick dude can make millions being a hack. But even if you succeed, you lose, because you’ve sold out your Muse, and your Muse is you, the best part of yourself, where your finest and only true work comes from.”

“That all sounds nice in theory,” you might say, “but there are practical considerations. No one is going to hand you money without a solid business plan.” Of course. I would never argue against this point. It isn’t wrong. But it is incomplete. The entrepreneurship process doesn’t start with a business plan. It starts with your passion. It starts with a compulsion to solve a problem.

Steve Jobs was quoted saying, “…often times the customer doesn’t even know what he wants until you show it to him.” So, how far can market research take you when the markets don’t even exist yet? If you truly want to be an innovator then you need to consider that the mechanical models of business development are lacking. No one can predict the future so if you want to succeed then you’ll have to do something scary and profound…you’ll have to make decisions in a fog. Incomplete information is the playground of the leader and the entrepreneur. Learn to enjoy the gray. Learn to embrace it. All creation is born in it.

The One Thing that GREAT Teams Do that GOOD Teams Don’t

11 Jan

“Some people never look up till they are flat on their back.”

Everyone learns from their mistakes (well, some people don’t), but it’s not the quality that most determines success. Failure is pain and pain can be a powerful teacher. My advice for today is don’t wait for the pain. Learn from success as well. Pat Riley once said that the key difference between good teams and great teams is that great teams learn from the wins as well as the losses.

 

 

 

Two Types of Goals: Temporary vs. Historical

4 Jan

Donald Herbert wants to be successful. He wants to have plenty of money, a happy family, a healthy body, and a career that gives meaning to his life. Donald is like a lot of high achievers in that he wants the whole package. But not all of Donald’s goals should be weighed the same. He wants to own a nice house AND he wants to complete his master’s degree (something he always regretted not doing). My argument is that these goals are of a fundamentally different nature and that if you don’t understand the difference you could be setting yourself up for failure.

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You can lose this.

This isn’t going to be a long post and I’m sure there is more research I could put into this, but for now I just want to make an important distinction between what I call “temporary goals” and “historical goals.” Either one my be driven by extrinsic or intrinsic motivation. Either one may be Donald’s way of gaining pleasure or avoiding pain. It doesn’t matter. What does matter is the goals themselves.

The fact is that some things can be taken away from you…somethings can’t. You may want to have lots of money, but you can lose money. Once you achieve “having lots of money” or “owning a Lamborghini” it’s possible that someday in the distant future, you could lose your wealth. Contrast this with something like education. Once you achieve getting a college degree you have it for the rest of your life. Once you climb Kilimanjaro, you will forever be a person “who climbed Kilimanjaro” and no one and no future event can change history.

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You can’t ever lose this.

This is often the reason why athletes would rather win championships than break records. In the future, records can be broken…championships live forever (“former record-holder” just doesn’t have the same ring to it). So, when you are mapping out your life plan, don’t neglect the temporary goals…because they are often the most important (physical health, family health, financial health, etc.), but make sure to also include some historical goals as well.

Being able to look back and say, “I did this and no one can take that away,” is a great feeling especially when you feel like you temporary achievements are starting to backslide. In many ways, historical goals are about getting credentials. You might have read all of the books, but without a degree it makes it hard to communicate your value.

Here are some examples of good historical goals:

– Winning a contest

– Getting a degree

– Getting a certificate (not a certification which has to be renewed)

– Running a marathon

– Getting a patent

– Publishing a book

– Winning awards

– Traveling

Productivity Hack #1 – Stick to a Routine (Here’s Mine)

3 Jan

Productivity is a hot topic and there is going to be a lot of crap floating around about it. Well, I’m not one to let that opportunity go by…so, here is my crap advice: stick to a routine. Obviously, it’s important to stick to the RIGHT kind of routine (even a couch potato is very consistent) and while there is a lot of helpful ideas out there, I’m going to stick with the ones that I actually use myself. In my opinion, there is nothing more important than my routine. Here is my typical day…

– Wake up around 4:15-4:45 am.

– Turn my Up band to awake mode.

– Bathroom. Read book or read news on iPhone.

– Kitchen. Drink big glass of water.

– Get ready for gym, leave house, return home for wallet.

– Workout. Weights and cardio on alternating days. I still follow Body-for-Life workout primarily.

– Come home. Eat Diet-to-go breakfast. Drink more water. Take vitamins. Make coffee.

– Read. I usually have about 5-7 books that I’m reading. Almost all non-fiction. I usually complete about 2-3 a week. Recent examples, Drive by Daniel Pink, The Alchemist by Pedro Coelho, The Big Leap by Gay Hendricks, Self-Compassion by Kristin Neff, The Power of Full Engagement by Loehr and Schwartz, Real Happiness by Sharon Salzberg.

– Shower. Get dressed. I work from home mostly, so this part can vary depending on appointments.

– Home office. Pick up notepad and review/add to it. I follow David Allen’s Getting Things Done approach. I organize my tasks through Google tasks, I use my calendar only for things that are happening that day, and I use a basic legal pad for my daily stuff and ideas. As I go I write down stuff for the next day meaning that I can pick it up in the morning and pretty much get started. Usually I do a review and add to it.

– I typically work from about 6:30 am to about 9:30 am without a break. My wife is often up by this time so we have breakfast.

– Back to work from about 10:00 am to lunch time, which can vary. I usually try to get through everything that needs to get done by lunch.

– Eat Diet-to-go lunch. Watch part of a movie, errands, or read.

– I usually work in a little meditation in the afternoon. Not long (or not as long as I probably should). Usually 12 minutes.

– Home office. Check in on emails. Review legal pad of to-dos. Add some more. Cross some more off. It’s pretty much a dance I do all day. Adding and crossing off as my work demands.

– My brain is usually mush around 3:00 pm for anything that I’m not completely excited about (that’s the downside to being a knowledge worker). But by this point, I’ve already put in an 8-hour day.

– The rest of my day is playtime. Although since I love what I do, I typically put in a little more work on the things that I’m excited about. I read some more, go to a movie theater, or just kill time around the house. Occasionally, I meet up with friends, but again, not as often as I would like (9-5 jobs keep you busy!).

– I eat dinner around 6:00 pm. I log meals and exercise on my Up band as I go.

– I usually start to set up tomorrow by about 7:00 pm. I make sure I write down things that need to get done.

– I finish my day by spending time with my family. Reading or watching TV.

– Set Up band to sleep mode. Fall asleep by 9:30pm.

So, there you go. That’s my basic routine. Now, I’m a morning person (and have worked hard to become so), so take from this what you will. In my opinion, my routine is one of my strongest supports. It ensures that I take care of the stuff that is important to me before it becomes urgent. My health, my career, my family, my soul are all cared for. Every day.

The Only 2013 Resolution You Should Have – Get Better at Sticking to Commitments

2 Jan
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You’ll have to make your resolution several times.

A person’s future success can be predicted by his or her ability to start over. It is the single greatest factor above hard work, having goals, or having the right resources (what Harvard researches came to call “grit”). The ability to start over when things go south (and they will) means that you let go. You let go of the stories about why you can’t do something. You simply made a mistake and you move on….but it also means that you start over with the knowledge that the process is the key. Goals are great and extrinsic motivation can be helpful (but Daniel Pink’s book Drive makes it clear that it rarely is), but we often set out with the false hope that our destinations will be easy to reach or that when we encounter future challenges that we will face them with the same level of energy and motivation that we have right now. The fact is that you are running on a limited resource. Research tells us that your self-discipline can run out and just because you feel a surplus now doesn’t mean you’ll have it in a few weeks (when most people give up). So, if you don’t want to be like everyone else, then play a different game. Don’t focus as much on building up your motivation NOW….you probably already have plenty. I know it feels good to celebrate the DECISION to change your life, but if you don’t actually follow through on that decision then you haven’t done anything. It’s the cycle that keeps everyone trapped (it’s the same when a young person proudly tells you he is “thinking about going to law school”).

Everyone knows that a resolution is a commitment, but what they don’t realize is that it is actually  a series of commitments. You have to make this resolution several times and each time you are beginning the process again. It’s like training your commitment muscles (or more accurately neurological patterns in the brain), which make it easier and easier to follow through as you progress. So no matter what external goal you have right now (get a better job, lose weight, find a partner) in reality the most important goal you can have is “improve my ability to achieve goals.” The way you do that is by making your resolutions and make them several times. It’s easier to start things off with a clean slate. Everyone wants to be perfect. But how will you feel when you’ve stumbled a bit? How will you feel with a few mistakes? You can’t be perfect anymore, so you’ll have to learn to work with what you have. Most people can’t face that reality, so they give up. Sadly completing their self-fulfilling prophecy. Remember that the 1906 Chicago Cubs had the best baseball season in history but still lost about a quarter of their games. If you really want to change your life this year, then commit to getting better with commitments. Lesson #1, 2, and 3…apply selective amnesia…forget your mistakes. Silence the internal voice of resistance and learn to begin again.