Category: Get to it

Put in the Work

“We don’t rise to the level of our hopes, we fall to the level of our training” – Archilogus

It is true that everybody wants a gold medal, but few want to wake up at 5:00am, run stairs, and sacrifice other pleasures to get there. Sun Tzu says “victory is reserved for those willing to pay its price”…basically, if you want to achieve something in this world, what in return are you willing to give up? It’s not just about focusing on the one thing that you want to be great at, but about not doing the other 10 things you want to do that are a distraction.

Maybe think about it in these terms as well… “Hard choices, easy life. Easy choices, hard life.” — Jerzy Gregorek. Too many people sit around waiting for their big break to come without putting in the work ahead of time…they have things in the wrong order…instead put in the work day in and day out, and when that big break comes you will be ready…be prepared for your moment! Success is where preparation and opportunity meet, but you have to see the opportunity when it presents itself and seize on it.

Understand too that “work hard, play hard” is important too…you can’t just pound away every day without some glimmer of joy along the way too…make sure you take the time to smell the roses and recharge wherever it is you find that joy.

Also, make sure you have a plan and a proper feedback loop (mentor or coach) as you put in your 10,000 hours of practice…you need to be practicing the right things and in the right way, or you are just wasting your time. I wrote a previous post…”The learning process: from novice to master” that covers how to go about it. Also, as you practice, take a hint from master Bruce Lee…

“I am more afraid of the person that has practiced the one kick a 1,000 times than the person who has practiced 1,000 kicks once”…depth is critical.

For some additional reading and for when competition finally arises to meet you on your journey, check out a previous post I did on dealing with competition.

10 Ideas a Day

I got this idea from James Altucher’s Choose Yourself book. If you haven’t read it or listened to his podcast, give it a whirl…I thoroughly still enjoy both (yes, I read the same books more than once…or at least my own notes…over and over…I know, dork squared!).

Anyway, the idea is that to keep yourself fresh and relevant, you should work every day to come up with 10 new ideas. This may sound daunting, but we aren’t talking about setting the world on fire, all that is required is to pick a topic and just start freewheeling. “I can’t do that” you say. Well, I beg to differ…it really doesn’t take that long and it is fabulous for getting your mind stimulated and even invigorating your outlook. Here are some starting points:

  • Childhood passions
  • Hobbies
  • Things that could be improved
  • Things that you’d really like to buy that don’t exist
  • Things that would make your day easier
  • Things that could be fixed at your place of work
  • Things that could be fixed at your kids school
  • 10 people you should introduce to each other
  • Things that your favorite business could do to be better
  • Ideas for songs, movies, books, blogs, etc.
  • Things your favorite team could do to improve their season
  • On and on

It really doesn’t matter…the idea is to get your “idea muscle” working. At first, no doubt it will be hard, but trust me after a few goes at it, you will get better and better and really enjoy the exercise. You don’t even have to keep the 10 ideas…throw them away, give them to a friend or business, whatever. The idea is just to start exercising your brain.

Well, what if I come up with a doozy that I want to execute on. Well, start working on the next steps…what are the 10 things you need to do to push this forward and get started today. Remember this…the ideas are worthless in and of themselves, execution is everything, so don’t worry that someone is going to run off with your ideas either.

If you do this for a whole year consider that you will have almost 4000 ideas! Want to have some more fun, do as James Altucher suggests and start having “Idea Sex”…marry one idea to another and see what comes of it. I have a friend that once suggested just looking up patents and marrying them to each other and then filing for a patent on the combo…you aren’t having to do the hard labor of creating something new, just marrying what already exists.

Here’s his detailed Idea Machine post on the topic. Have fun with it!

Exploration, Pursuit & Perseverance

Muhammad Ali“Impossible is just a big word thrown around by small men who find it easier to live in the world they have been given than to explore the power they have to change it. Impossible is not a fact, it is an opinion impossible is not a declaration, it’s a dare!” – Muhammad Ali  …and it’s complement… “the only way to discover the limits of the possible is to go beyond them into the impossible” -Arthur C. Clarke

Just get started! (Read another post I have on this: Take Action: Get started. A little every day. Inertia is key). While beginning with the end in mind is important, don’t let that paralyze you from taking that first step… you will never see the finish line if you don’t begin. Having a finish line set at the beginning of your quests can also be good… it gives you a sense of accomplishment that allows you to move on to what is next. Just get started… once you start, momentum will build, but you have to do a little bit every single day… soon you will have amassed a nice set of work and others may want to jump in and help… let them in and show them how. Try to visualize things not as they are, but as they really should be…”while others skate to where the puck is, I skate to where it is GOING TO BE” -Wayne Gretzky

If you are having challenges, try these exercises:

  • Practice visualizing that which you would like to achieve in full color and 3D
  • Do the opposite… practice visualizing nothing at all (a clear mind)… sometimes you will amazingly see more
  • Burn all the bridges and safety nets behind you (scorched earth)… now you have no choice but to go forward
  • Try Tony Robbins’ ultimate success formula:
    • Decide what you want
    • Take action
    • Notice what is working or not
    • Change your approach until success

“We are more in need of a vision or a destination and a compass and less in need of a map” -Stephen Covey. Once you have set this priority, your awareness will amazingly change to help you achieve.

Once you are started, the key is unrelenting persistence. I know this is hard sometimes… other things in life pop-up, some people may scoff at you, some throw up roadblocks, and some just plain want you to fail. Some are happy with the status quo and terrified of the unknown, but the unknown is where great things happen. Here are some ideas from Napoleon Hill on persistence:

  • Have a finite purpose backed by a burning desire for its fulfillment
  • Have a definite plan, expressed in continuous action
  • Have a friendly alliance with one or more persons who will encourage you to follow through with both plan and purpose

Persistence overshadows even talent in achieving goals… persistence also is the magical creator of LUCK! Visualize your end goal and work backwards. Get started! Experiment. Persist. Be flexible in your path but unrelenting in chasing your vision. SUCCESS!!

“That which we obtain too easily, we esteem too lightly. It is dearness only which gives everything its value” -Thomas Paine

“We must not cease from exploration and the end of all exploring will be to arrive where we began and know the place for the first time” -T.S. Eliot

Innovation/Creativity

For this one, I liberally borrowed from some really good content and I’m just going to share that up front:

Austin Kleon: Steal Like an Artist and Show Your Work
James Altucher: Choose Yourself
Clayton M. Christensen: The Innovator’s Dilemma

“The man who has no imagination, has no wings” – Muhammad Ali

Innovation and creating new things is scary… you must learn to embrace uncertainty. The biggest mistake you can make is being too attached to that which has worked for you in the past. Sophomore albums usually aren’t near as good as the first because the thinking is that you did something so good the first time, why change it. However if you continually tweak you won’t get boxed in and will have more longevity. You must be ever curious and always experimenting. Dedicate specific time to coming up with ideas:

  • Live out of your imagination, not your memory
  • Come up with 10 ideas every single day. if you come up with one really good one, then come up with 10 ways to execute on that idea right away… don’t waste time
  • Focus on ideas that are 10X better than existing solutions
  • Focus on one idea every day that is a “force multiplier” (one thing that if you did it would make all other things after it much easier)
  • Always be thinking of next steps
  • “Do one thing every day that scares you” – Eleanor Roosevelt

Do all you can to stay out of the mode of competition… this will only frustrate you and has meager rewards… look for the blue ocean. If you are having a hard time generating ideas:

  • Get inspired by other forms of art (music, movies, plays, books, museums, nature itself: sunsets, waves, clouds, stars, birds)
  • Put yourself in the path of other human beings
  • Stand next to the most talented person in the room and try to be helpful
  • Spark “idea sex “ (James Altucher): Mesh two ideas together (two different disciplines works good… electrical + medical, software + hardware, etc)
  • Copy, copy, copy what you love… then you will find your voice. “Stealing from one is plagiarism, stealing from many is research”; –Wilson Mizner
  • Take time and be bored. Staring at a spot on the wall, get lost, wonder & wander
  • Invent not for where the world is today, but for where it is going to be. Like Wayne Gretzky says, “skate not to where the puck is, but to where it is going to be”

Move forward with ideas by:

  • Doing some work every day, no matter what. Little things accumulate quickly with consistency of acting
  • Focus on magical ideas for a small niche of people, not average ideas for the masses
  • Don’t do what you know, do what excites you
  • “Fake it until you make it”… it works
  • Ideas should come first, then specialized knowledge… Napoleon Hill
  • Not waiting for better tools/technology to come along… make due with what you have at your disposal
  • Wake up every day striving to do something that just might not work

“First you give life, action, and guidance to ideas, then they take on the power of their own and sweep aside all opposition… ideas have the power to live on, after the brain that crafted them has returned to dust” -Napoleon Hill

How do you know if you are succeeding. Good question. Here are a few simple formulas:

  • If you are running a business, calculate the number of customers using products that didn’t exist three years ago and the percentage of revenue coming from those products…decide what is good or bad, but at least you now have a way to measure
  • Another good measure is one half of your audience loves it or agrees with you and the other half he’s disagrees… if everybody agrees, why bother?
  • Learn –> Create, Learn –> Create, Learn –> Create. Just learning and never creating or just creating and never learning never creates new works

Most importantly of all… enjoy the process as much (or more) than the destination as sometimes the journey is the answer. I love this graphic by Austin Kleon…

Austin Kleon

 

 

How to Get More Done

“Most people overestimate what they can do in a year and underestimate what they can accomplish in a decade” –Bill Gates

First things first… start by saying “NO” to that which you don’t want to do and to that which distracts you from that which you should be saying “YES” to.

Tim Ferris, “Never automate something that can be eliminated, and never delegate something that can be automated.”.

Derek Sivers, “When deciding whether to do something, if you feel anything less than ‘Wow! That would be amazing! Absolutely! Hell yeah!’ then say no.” Love this!

Stephen Covey’s 4 quadrants from 7 Habits of Highly Effective People helps considerably:

Priority

Question: why are you even operating in the bottom right quadrant?! The “Important, but Not Urgent” box includes exercise, relationship building, long-range planning…isn’t this a better place to play?

“If you don’t know where you’re going, any road will take you there” -Cheshire Cat

Stand up and say what you want to do to the world… this creates accountability. Now, get organized. As David Allen says, everyone has more things on their plate than he can possibly do, so the goal is to consistently organize and re-prioritize so you feel OK with that which you aren’t doing… focus! He also promotes a pretty good organizational plan in his book Getting Things Done. The basic idea is to gather everything (paper, notes, lists, etc) and quickly organize into “To Do” lists:

  • Next Actions (Things that need to get done as soon as you can…don’t be scared if this list is 100+ items…it’s normal)
  • Calendar (This is anything from the Next Action list that needs to be done by a certain time/date. This he calls sacred territory… anything that goes here must get done! )
  • Waiting for (stuff you are waiting on from others…make sure and record the date)
  • Projects (list all of them here, but you don’t really DO a project, you do “Next Actions”, so put the next actions for your projects in “Next Actions”)
  • Someday/Maybe (not a priority, but would be nice)
  • Reference (I love Evernote for stashing this stuff away)…and yeah, it’s ugly in there, but it’s there if I ever need/want it

Calendar and Next Actions should be reviewed daily, weekly reviews should be done for Projects & Waiting For, and then review Someday/Maybe and Reference as needed. The critical part to all of this is that you put everything into one of these buckets (Everything!…so you aren’t distracted by things in the back of your mind). Apply to meetings too… what is the next action and who has got it? If you want to have more productive meetings, do not leave a meeting without figuring out the “Next Action” and who is responsible for it. Dedicate two hours every Friday afternoon to reviewing your “To Do” lists. “Don’t prioritize what’s on your schedule, schedule your priorities”

“Lack of time is a lack of priorities” -Ramit Sethi

Now, to hyper prioritize your “To Do” lists. At the end of the day make sure you know what the top five things are to get done tomorrow. If you go to bed knowing the top five things to do tomorrow, you will come up with some of the “How’s” while you sleep. There are two great things to do with this top five list:

  • Write them down on a piece of paper (Sticky Notes work great too). Review it every 15 minutes (to stay focused) until all are done. Great story about this in Napoleon Hill’s book Think and Grow Rich
  • Hyperfocus on the one thing that is a “force multiplier”…the one thing, that if you do it, makes a whole lot of other things much easier

DO NOT get sucked into doing email first thing starting your day…that is letting others prioritize your day. Start with your “To Do” list…this is you prioritizing your day and what is important to you.

If done right, you can be super productive in just 3 to 5 hours every day. “It is the steadiness of it that counts. Be consistent and do something to move forward everyday” -Woody Allen

A few other laws and ideas to apply to magnify your results”

  • Pareto: 80/20 Rule. Apply more than once…if 20% = 80%, then 4% = 64%, 1% = 50%!!
    • What is the biggest return I can get for the least amount of effort?
    • The last 20% of most projects is usually the most time-consuming. Do the first 80% yourself in 20% of the time and hand the last 20% to someone else to complete
  • Parkinson’s Law: work expands so as to fill time available for its completion. In other words, don’t take 60 days to do something important that could be done in 24 hours.
  • Constraints can be a good thing… do more with less
  • Multiply yourself: inspire others to your cause, turn a snowball into an avalanche (1 –> ∞). Here’s a post on Becoming a Force Multiplier
  • Make simple rules for yourself and others: one blog post per day, write 2000 words per day, five sales calls per day, etc
  • Pick just one metric to measure yourself by: customer counts, new customers, revenue, profit, market share, new designs (Just Pick One!)
  • Make a “Stop Doing” list…stuff to stop doing altogether
  • Do a little bit every day no matter what… stick to a routine and you’ll be amazed at what you can accomplish!
  • “The most important thing is focus, second is committing time to your endeavor. No matter how great the talent or effort, some things just take time… you can’t produce a baby in one month by getting nine women pregnant” -Warren Buffett

P.S. if you are ever frustrated and not feeling like you are making progress, start making an “I did it” list instead of a “To Do” list. You’ll be surprised at how much you are actually accomplishing!

References:
Steven Covey: 7 Habits of Highly Effective People
David Allen: Getting Things Done
Napoleon Hill: Think and Grow Rich
Tim Ferriss: The 4 Hour Work Week

Now, Get Out There and Fail More

Failure

 

“Do not aim for ‘success’ in life…it cannot be pursued, it must ensue and it can only do so as an unintended side effect of one’s dedication to a cause greater than oneself…success will follow precisely because you forgot to think about it” -Frankl

There are almost as many thoughts on failure and how to cope as there are actual failures… here are but a few:
 
– Fail fast
– If you don’t fail, you haven’t tried hard enough
– It is not your mistakes that hurt you, but your response to those mistakes
– You can fail just as suredly at what you hate, so strive for that which you love
– Learn from your mistakes and never make the same mistake twice
 
Some people have such a fear of failure that they would rather not try at all… the fear of ridicule can be stronger even than the desire for success. After all, if you put in maximum effort and still fail, is it not worse than not trying in the first place? I guess I would put that to Edison who said, “I have not failed, I have just found 10,000 ways that won’t work”.
 
Get better with each failure… wisdom is learning from failure. Learn from the past, but don’t live in it… focus on what empowers you. Try, fail, learn, repeatàGLORY!!!
 
Do not set out to fail… go for it, but protect yourself to the downside. I think Napoleon Hill’s formula is a solid one: the starting point of all achievement is desire. If you can combine this with an idea, a bit of specialized knowledge, unbreakable will, and constant persistence, you will win.
 
Now get out there and start failing a little more!
 
“Whether you think you can or you think you can’t…you are right” -Henry Ford
 

Get Started: a Little Every Day…Inertia is Key

Go
“The best time to plant a tree is 20 years ago. The second best time is now” -Chinese proverb

How many times have you had ideas, thoughts, or grand dreams that you never took action on. There is something to be said for having the discipline to say “No” to the majority of the flood of things that pop into your head and to focus on the few that have personal meaning for you. On the other hand, there are many things we know we should be doing, but taking that first step forward is our challenge. “Most of us have two lives. The life we live and the unlived life within us. Between the two stands resistance. Are you a writer who doesn’t write, a painter who doesn’t paint, an entrepreneur who has never started a venture? Resistance has no strength of its own, we feed it with power by our fear” -Stephen Pressfield

You can study and study and learn and learn and with all that education, if you haven’t done anything with it, it was all wasted. Get started, get started, get started… again, start, gooooo! “It is one thing to study war and another to live the warrior’s life” -Telamon of Arcadia

Those that have amassed great bodies of work didn’t do it in a single day, but that first day was critical. “Amassing a body of work is about the slow accumulation of little bits of effort over time”, Austin Kleon, “one page a day equals one book a year”.

You may say I know I have to start but I have no idea where to begin or I have never done this before… I am embarrassed, my work sucks, etc. Zig Ziglar, “You don’t have to be great to start, but you do have to start to be great”. Here are some ideas on how to approach it:

  • I really love this thought from the Director of Rounders, Brian Koppelman…”Lower your standards enough to get started on whatever you want to do but have been waiting for the perfect time/idea, etc. Then be willing to work hard enough to honestly look at what you did and do it over and over until you are pleased. Be ruthless in making it better”.
  • Another idea is from James Altucher… start with good information. Break down tasks into smaller denominations, then work at it every day. Try to get 1% better every day (after one year you will be 38 times better).

1-better-every-day

For some, the biggest obstacle is their current safety net… job, money, etc

  • One other path forward, although bold, is to do as Sun Tzu states in the Art of War and move to “Death Ground”… place a raging river at your back, smash your cooking pots, and burn your boats… you have nowhere to go but forward. Burn all bridges where you can escape.
  • Find the intersection of what you are passionate about and what you are good at… start there (actually put your passions on the X axis and what you are good at on the Y axis and find meeting points!)
So however you choose the path forward, begin it. Once started, you now have also allowed others to step in to help…” when we make a beginning, we get out of our own way and allow the Angels to come in to do their part” -Stephen Pressfield
You are now a magnet… herein lies the real beauty

Rage Against the Machine Guerrilla Radio lyrics…

“It has to start somewhere It has to start sometime. What better place than here, what better time than now? …”

Here is a great book on the subject:

The War of Artby Steven Pressfield