Tag Archives: Life

Beware thy word “Efficiency”

20 Dec
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“He who chases two rabbits catches neither.” The same is true of efficiency and effectiveness.

I’m going to offer you one million dollars for you to pick one of these words….and only one…. to define your life or business; “effective” or “efficient.” Which one do you pick? The answer is that you should pick effective. Today’s article explains why.

Let me start with what efficiency really means. Being efficient means that you pay attention to the cost/benefit of your actions. It means that you increasingly spend less time, or less money, or less effort than you did to get the same result. It means that you calculate your return-on-investment and came out ahead. Above all else, it means that you make sure that you are not putting in more than you are getting out. Efficiency means that you value fairness, logic, and security. Efficiency means that you are smart and careful.

How is this different than being effective? Well, being effective means that you are willing to take risks. It means that you focus on getting the job done regardless of the cost. It means that come hell or high water (and if you’re trying to achieve anything of significance there will be high water) you are going to achieve what you set out to do. Effectiveness means that you execute even if you waste some resources along the way. Effectiveness means that you value success, learning, and adventure.

So, in a way these two drives complement each other. One is creative (effective) and one is corrective (efficiency). But there is a problem. The default setting of the universe is corrective. You don’t have to do anything to make that part of it happen. Just think about how hard it is to climb a mountain and how easy it is to fall off one. Or how hard it is to build a reputation and how easy it is to lose one. The world’s thermostat is naturally set at “cold, unforgiving, and unimpressed.” So in order to achieve anything you have to be absolutely, obsessively, retardedly committed to the goal (even then there are no guarantees) just to offset this natural downward pull.

Since we were children, we’ve been taught to focus on how much effort we put in. During group projects we were very aware who was putting in more effort (see “social loafing”) because we wanted it to be “fair.” When we got older we were taught to focus on return-on-investment and think in terms of cost/benefit ratios. I’m here to tell you that if you really want to achieve an amazing result, then you need to forget about all that bullshit.

Most people think that efficiency is a good thing and there are certain conditions when it’s appropriate (you’re running a large project or organization). But thinking in terms of how you manage your life, there is far more downside than upside.

Why does focusing on efficiency suck so hard? Well, because when we set out to achieve some awesome goal, we start by focusing on the result. We start by trying to be effective. Then, because results are slow to appear, we slowly start second-guessing their actions. Instead of asking, “is this moving me toward my goal?” we start asking, “is this particular action the BEST use of my time?” “Should I make some cold calls or should I do some more marketing?” “Should I go for a run or lift weights?” Eventually, we become so exhausted with trying to maximize our choices that we forget that the ultimate purpose wasn’t to “spend their time wisely” but to actually accomplish a goal.

This phenomena is so common I call it, “the effectiveness to efficiency flip.” It’s just another one of Resistance’s favorite tricks (read The Power of Resistance). Therefore, since you can only have one primary question, (if you doubt this, read the definition of “primary”) you must choose wisely.

Is this the BEST use of my time?

Is this moving me toward my goal? ✓

So, how do you break this bad habit? Well, awareness is a good start. Understand that efficiency is really only a concern for a fully developed system or organization (I’ll be saying more about this in a future article). So if you are starting, then you must absolutely obsess about being effective. Trying to be efficient is just an excuse to keep yourself from taking action. The second thing you must do is stop trying to be BOTH efficient and effective. I know it seems innocent enough (which is precisely why it’s dangerous), but as I outlined above, efficiency and effectiveness are actually pulling you in two different directions. You must get off the fence and decide.

Second, let go of your ego. The default setting of the world is, “waste is bad.” God forbid you were to spend your time or resources doing something that didn’t pan out. I think it’s a fair estimate to say that for every 100 units of effort you should expect roughly 10 units of result. So, that’s about 90 units of waste right there. And this is being generous. Don’t listen to the 99.9% of the people who have convinced themselves to play it safe. Follow the 1% who are brave enough to break a few eggs and have them land on their face.

“Bang for the buck” it not what you are looking for when it comes to achieving your goals. What you are looking for is BANG. This is because the reality of all noble pursuits is that you will always put in 100 times the effort than you think you’ll need to. That’s exactly why so few people succeed. They’ll spend all of their time looking for a short cut, looking for a way to only put in what they’re getting out. They view their place in the world as a series of transactions. Give and take. Tit for tat. They are always guarded to make sure they don’t end up with the short end of the stick. The reality is that you want to be successful you have to love the short end of the stick.

The true masters will tell you that this ratio is perfectly acceptable and will be more than you ever need to achieve everything that you want.

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My Educational Path

18 Dec

This is my response to some questions about my path before and after Harvard Divinity School. Since I get questions about this a lot, I figured I just post this here as well.

The Power of Resistance

17 Dec
Resistance will claim that it's protecting you.

Resistance will claim that it’s protecting you.

I don’t care who you are. I don’t care how much you’ve accomplished. There is always forever one thing standing in your way. As soon as you start to commit yourself to doing something, you’re going to face a force like you have never known (author Steven Pressfield literally calls it “evil”). It cannot be negotiated with. It cannot be appeased or bribed. It wants to destroy you and everyone who has tried to do anything important has felt it. It is called resistance.

Resistance will take many forms. Both internal and external. It will take whatever form it has to take to prevent your from achieving what you want. It will whisper “well, I don’t have to do it TODAY….”. It will make you lose your keys, it will make you forget to make a call, or suddenly need to take a bathroom break (even though you just went 10 minutes ago). It’s just your brain playing tricks on you. It’s all resistance. If you’re going to beat resistance then you should get good at recognizing it. This article is dedicated to three of the most common forms of resistance and three very simple (but not easy) ways to overcome them.

1. Fantasizing
Tell me if this sounds like someone you know. They like reading about cars they can’t afford. They plan trips they aren’t going to take. They buy clothes for a lifestyle that they don’t live. This form is resistance is called fantasizing. Now, there is nothing wrong with setting big goals. Sometimes the bigger the better. But if you find that you’re spending more time day-dreaming than day-working then you’ve found a form of resistance. It’s candy-coated so you feel like you’re actually doing something, but you really aren’t. You’re just eating your ice cream first and then getting surprised when suddenly you’re not hungry enough for your broccoli. Remember, you have to manage your temptations. Put simply, if there isn’t a direct connection between your inspiration and your perspiration then you’re spending too much time in Neverland.

2. Stalking
I love reading biographies. I love learning about other people’s lives in the hope that their story can somehow inform my own. However, there is a difference between being a seeker and being a stalker. The difference? You’re stalking if you obsess about someone’s Facebook pictures, consider People magazine literature, or feel personally invested in the Forbes 400 (even though you have absolutely no connection to anyone). If you find yourself emotionally involved with the lives of other people – who you do not PERSONALLY KNOW – then you’re a stalker. You’re a seeker if you have the balls to ask a local entrepreneur for some advice. You’re a seeker if you role model your life after someone you admire. You’re a seeker if you write an email to an author to share how a book impacted your life. Those are genuine connections and you should do them as much as you can. So, please go out and network. Make friends with people who are doing the things that you’d like to be doing. But don’t kid yourself into thinking that when a celebrity likes your Facebook post that it means anything.

3. Distracting
You have lots of things to do but you don’t want to do them. Enter: something “interesting” to do. Let’s clear this up quickly; “interesting” should never be your criteria. Unless, you’ve done your work for the day, then you can’t afford to be “interested” in anything not directly related to accomplishing your goals. This is just another form of resistance and one of the most powerful. While fantasizing and stalking may be pretty easy to identify, distractions can be anything from “really needing” to hang out with friends to suddenly feeling really tired as soon as you get to work. I’ve had the experience of suddenly remembering all of the errands I need to do as soon as I sit down to write. It’s no coincidence that these memories seem to be triggered only when I’m writing something particular difficult. Also, avoid the word “multi-tasking” at all costs (it just means that you’re doing more than one thing badly at a time).

So, that’s it, the three most common forms of internal resistance that you’ll face. I’ve said before that you are your own worst enemy (7 Ways to Be Your Own Worst Enemy) and you’ll have to get better at calling out your own BS. I will cover several ways to fight resistance, including the ONE thing you must absolutely do, but I’ll leave that for Part 2. For now, just pay attention to how resistance works against you. Every person has their own special devil on their shoulder. Get to know him. Get to know him very well.

What is Your “Goal Orientation?”

17 Dec
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When this lady talks, I listen.

When most people talk about “goal orientation” they generally mean “how motivated are you to achieve your goals?” While this question may be fine for most people, I don’t think it helps most people. Reflecting on HOW motivated you are to achieve something may in fact actually lessen your drive (I’ll explain why in a future article). So if you’re going to do some soul-searching, spend your time taking a sober look at WHAT motivates you. This is precisely what psychologist Carol Dweck had in mind when she conducted her research on school children in the late 1970s.

Two 10-year old boys enter separate classrooms. The rooms look exactly like what you’d imagine, typical elementary school classrooms from the late 70’s. Lots of small tables and chairs, lots of student projects, and a general almost overwhelming sense of color. In most ways the rooms are completely identical. The boys are fairly identical too, which is great for Dweck’s research. The tests these boys were given were straightforward. Each boy was given a series of progressively difficult problems. As the difficultly rose, each boy is asked if he would like a more difficult problem or an easier problem. The results of this research show that the two boys had very different reactions to this kind of experiment. The first boy, continued to enjoy the challenge of the difficult problems and remained engaged and confident. This boy was exhibiting what psychologists now call a “learning orientation” or “mastery orientation.” In contrast, the second boy became disinterested and upset as the difficultly of the problems rose; his principal goal was to demonstrate and validate his competence. The second boy has what researchers now call a “performance orientation.”

Since that time, organizational and school psychologists have been doing lots and lots of research to better understand how these two orientations interact and how they may determine an individual’s success in different environments. This chart clearly shows some of the differences:

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So, no more descriptions. What does all of this mean for you? Well, first you need to determine which one of these boys seem most similar to you. Do you like to demonstrate you expertise by accumulating achievements or do you prefer to challenge yourself for even if you get in over your head? In general, are you more motivated to master skills or to master others? Understanding where you are is important because it shows you where you may need to grow. In fact, researchers now believe that these orientations, while pronounced and distinct in children, may become complementary in adults. That is, while children may be labeled high in learning orientation OR high in performance orientation, adults may score high on performance orientation AND learning orientation. In this way, you’ll want to build up these motivating forces simultaneously and avoid letting one dominate your life.

Remember, if you want to succeed then you’re going to have to learn your own weaknesses and temptations (see “Manage Your Temptations”). If you’re completely performance oriented then you may avoid important learning situations in which you may appear incompetent. Conversely, if you’re completely learning oriented you may leave many projects unfinished because the novelty of the challenge has worn off. The key is to know yourself and know when you are just making excuses.

You want a real success secret? Understand this principle: achievement without mastery is temporary; mastery without achievement is delusion.

7 Ways to Be Your Own Worst Enemy

17 Dec
"Why are you following me?"

“Why are you following me?”

People often ask me for advice and this is both a great privilege and a burden (particularly when I’m playing Fire Drop on my phone). Yet, with all of the questions I get asked, no one has ever asked how to make themselves more miserable. This is surprising considering how people specialize in it. So, I’d like to take this opportunity and answer a question that literally no one has ever asked me: How can I be my own worst enemy?

Well, the steps are easy and the good news is, if you follow this advice and you’ll never have to worry about someone else ruining your life.

Don’t ask questions. You already see all of the angles and you already know the right course of action. You are a genius. You can read people’s minds. You can see the future. So, don’t learn more, just focus on how to win people over to your side.

Always find blame. There is no such thing as an accident. Someone is always too blame. If it’s someone else, then be mean to them. If it’s you, then make sure you beat yourself up over it. Don’t ever let mistakes go.

Don’t stick to commitments. Sure you have to promise things sometimes, but don’t limit yourself. You have the right to change your mind on short notice. You don’t have to explain yourself to anyone. Freedom is the most important thing.

Hide your expectations. It’s obvious what you like and what you don’t like. If other people don’t see that then they are stupid. You are one of the best communicators in the world (top 20 at least). You don’t ask questions so why do they?

Don’t be skeptical. You base your life on faith and trust. Things don’t have to make sense to be true. You don’t have enough experience or education, so you trust those that do. Being curious will only slow things down.

Don’t make mistakes. You have high standards and you won’t compromise. Think everything out in great detail before you take action. If you spend enough time planning every possible choice and consideration will be covered.

Don’t be vulnerable. Don’t rely on anyone. Everyone will disappoint you so just learn to take care of yourself. Never ask for help. Never admit that you have weaknesses. Don’t delegate. Don’t trust. Be an island.

Remember, if you hold the keys to your own happiness then you also hold the keys to your own misery. Your beliefs are particularly hard to see and therefore are particularly hard to judge. You are likely creating lots of problems for yourself and if you really want to make things better (or want a serious challenge), then be brave and get a counselor, get a coach, read some self-help books, or ask for honest feedback from friends. Don’t go up against yourself alone.

Be a Quitter

17 Dec

What do Michael Jordan, Mother Teresa, and Albert Einstein all have in common? They are all quitters. And I mean BIG TIME quitters. Colossal, mega, super-quitters. In fact, one could argue that it was their unique ability to quit that made them successful.

Imagine this – it’s 1977 and you’re a college student living in Queens, NY. By day, you work as a furniture mover and are working part-time on an accounting degree and by night you perform stand-up comedy in some small local clubs. By all accounts, you are almost completely average at everything you do. Seeing your lack of progress, your parents force you to make a decision; either focus on your accounting degree or focus on your comedy. Thankfully, Raymond Romano decided that accounting wasn’t for him (which is too bad because he could have used that accounting knowledge to help him with the almost 500 million dollars he made over the course of Everybody Loves Raymond).

aug2006-ray_romano

“Moving furniture is shit.”

Now, most of us don’t have parents like Ray. Most of us are so afraid of the word, “quit” that we would never dream of dropping something that we invested a lot of time into. And it is for this reason, and this reason alone, that so many people fail to succeed. Why? Because in order to achieve something spectacular you have to have a laser-like focus on it and you already know that you can’t focus on several things at once. Confucius said, “he who chases two rabbits catches neither,” so if you want a rabbit, you’re going to have to decide.

Our problem is that we want to dabble in this and play with that. We want to try some experiments and we want to explore some possibilities. By this of course, we intend to play it safe and I’m as guilty of this as anyone (probably even more so). We want to “try.” We want to try so that when things fall apart we can easily jump ship. This is what separates those who achieve great things and people who almost achieve great things. Successful people know that in order to surpass their peers they need to be more focused and more committed than their competition. But what most people forget is that you only have a limited amount of resources. And if you’re going to focus on one thing, then you’re going to have to quit something else. In my coaching, I’ve found that learning to quit is one of the hardest lessons to learn, especially for high achievers.

So, in order to help you let go, let me remind you that being “good” at something doesn’t get you anywhere. A “good” basketball player may run rings around the guys at the local rec center, but he’s not getting endorsement deals. Being a “good” businessman just means that your company survives. It doesn’t mean that your company is truly adding value to its customers, employees, and the community…consistently. You may be “good” at a lot of things and while that may impress your Facebook friends, the world at large doesn’t care. The world only cares about excellence and the only way to achieve excellence is to focus. No one has ever built a statue to honor a dabbler.

So, what does this mean for you? Well, it means that you need to do some serious soul-searching. You need to figure out what kind of business you need to be in and equally importantly, the kind of business you need to get out of. Look at each piece of your life and make a decision to either quit or commit. Figure out what’s most important to you and put your time, money and energy there – forget everything else. If you have a hobby or you do something to have fun or relax, then by all means keep doing it. We all need to enjoy ourselves. Just don’t deceive yourself into believing that what you dabble in will amount to anything more than that.

Your time and energy are your most precious resources. It is the great equalizer. However, once spent, you never get them back. Ask yourself honestly, where do you spend your time each week and are those things moving you forward in the areas that are most important to you? If not, then I guarantee that you’ve got some time wasters in there. Cut those anchors loose and give yourself the freedom to pursue excellence in your chosen area.

Michael-Jordan-white-sox

“This HAS been a lot of fun. So, listen…….”

In 1908, after eight years of hard work and learning the ins and out of his trade, Albert Einstein quit his job at the patent office to focus on his scientific research and teaching. In 1946, an Albanian nun named Teresa left her position in the convent to live among the poor of Calcutta. 33 years later she was awarded a Nobel Peace Prize. In 1994, Michael Jordan quit the Chicago Whitesox to rejoin the Chicago Bulls winning three additional national basketball championships in the process.

They were all average people who were “good” at a lot of things. What set them apart though was an above average clarity about who they wanted to be. They committed to that vision and they quit everything else. Every time you hear someone quote Vince Lombardy’s line, “A winner never quits and a quitter never wins,” just smile quietly. You know the truth. A winner quits lots of stuff.