Tag Archives: Success

Five Simple Rules for the Successful Entrepreneur

13 Mar

Stanford professor Tom Byers knows a lot about starting companies. His expertise is in high-technology ventures and serves as the faculty director for the Stanford Technology Ventures Program and the prestigious Mayfield Fellows Program (MFP). As an early employee of both Go Corporation and Symantec and an expert in what works and what doesn’t when trying to start a company, Byers offers the following five rules as essential for would-be Zuckerbergs:

1. Show up on time

2. Be nice to people

3. Do what you say you’ll do

4. Deliver more than you promise

5. Work with enthusiasm and passion

These five rules won’t give you all the answers for how to be a successful entrepreneur, but they are essential and elegant.

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

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.

A Stranger Gave Me $45,000

31 Dec

In 2004, someone I don’t know just gave me $45,000. I didn’t expect it. I didn’t even ask for it. In truth, I didn’t do anything special to deserve it. Here is what happened.

At the time, I was a graduate student at Harvard Divinity School. I was extremely active with extracurriculars….student council president, editor of school paper, school tour guide, class marshall, etc….blah, blah, blah…the point is I was everywhere. Call it an overdeveloped sense of responsibility or pure boredom; I was just trying to make things better. One day in the late spring of 2004, I walked down to my student mailbox and pulled out an envelope with my name on it. Typed out on 8.5 X 11 paper in 12-point Times New Roman font, there was a letter…


I still have the letter hanging in my office.


May 5, 2004

Dear Chris –

I hope you do not think it presumptuous on my part, however I wanted to let you know that I have taken the liberty of providing for assistance toward your tuition and certain other living expenses associated with your last year as a Master of Divinity student at HDS [Harvard Divinity School].

I feel truly blessed with this opportunity to be of some assistance to you as you prepare for the journey ahead. In return, my only wish is that upon graduation you will consider channeling your vast potential in a way that can help relieve the pain and suffering of others, particularly those in the more disadvantaged layers of our society.

In the meantime, please accept my best wishes for the highest measure of success and fulfillment now and for the years ahead.

I remain forever,

A Friend

Please make an appointment with Bob Coughlin, Coordinator of Financial Aid, at your earliest convenience in order that your grant award can be finalized.

Now, I didn’t really pay much attention to the letter when I read it. I didn’t know if it was a joke or really what it even meant. Luckily, my journey to find answers ended just upstairs in the financial aid office. I entered, asked to see Bob Coughlin, and sat down in his office. Bob then explained to me that someone, he could not reveal who, had paid for my last year of tuition at Harvard. In addition, this person included a sizable stipend for living expenses on top of that tuition. I was floored. Never in my life have I felt that emotion. It was a mixture of pride and embarrassment. The total award came to a little over $45,000. Just handed to me with the hope that I would channel my potential to relieving the pain and suffering of others. It’s quite an expectation to put on an ambitious Harvard student, but it remains a guiding light for me.

As I walk forward into 2013, I’m reminded of all those who have helped me along my path. Thank you.


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.


Some Career Advice…

18 Dec

I went to Harvard Divinity School because I thought it would prepare me for a life of meaning. It did. When I was asked to provide some career advice to other Harvard graduates, I jumped at the chance. I didn’t want to talk about networking, or finding a mentor….all of those things we’ve heard before. I wanted to address the fact that no matter what advice you’re given….your own career path is going to twist and turn and therefore the best that you can hope for is to learn along the way.

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

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:


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.

Goal Setting is a Waste of Time

17 Dec

Wow! Look at that view! Oh wait….you’re not.

A lot can be said about goal-setting. I wish it wasn’t. In my opinion goal-setting is often a complete waste of time. Not that your typical self-help guru is wrong about the importance of goal-setting, because they aren’t. The problem I have with all of this talk about goal setting is that too many people become focused on setting perfect goals rather than achieving them. What is a “good” goal? Is it specific enough? Is it achievable? How will I measure it? What is an action step versus an action item? What’s the difference between an outcome and an objective?…blah, blah, blah. I’ve seen it and experienced it myself many times.

The spirit of goal-setting is that you want to know where you are heading – fine – but ultimately you want to achieve something meaningful (other than having a bunch of words on a sheet of paper with the word “Goals” at the top). General Omar Bradley famously claimed: “Amateurs talk strategy. Professionals talk logistics.” This is because once you have your direction picked out, the most important thing is to start moving and too often amateurs like to hide their inability to take action behind the veil of “strategic thinking.”

Now before Tony Robbins shows up at my house with a bucket of tar and a bushel of feathers (do they sell them in bushels?) let me just say that strategy is obviously important. In fact, strategy or goal setting is so important that human beings have invented a word to describe ” a complete lack of strategy; a series of actions without a specific purpose”…we call it “play time.”  If you want to actually achieve something, rather than just driving around in circles (no offense to NASCAR fans) then yes, you need to set some goals. My point is simply that if you’re like the achievers I work with, people who are smart, people who have great ideas, then you’ll need to make sure you don’t let “perfect” get in the way of “good.”

You need to remember that the best ideas don’t come to you in a vacuum. Even if you don’t have the best plan, get out there, stir things up, and see what happens. The measure of your abilities will always be in what you actually achieved not what you hoped to achieve. Goals are good, but actions are better.