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
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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.

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…

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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.

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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.

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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.