Category: Ramblings

Some Rules Were Made to Be Broken

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“The reasonable man adapts himself to the world, the unreasonable one tries to adapt the world to himself. All progress depends on the unreasonable man” -George Bernard Shaw

The world has a need for consistency. If someone says something but does another, we call them: unreliable, hypocritical, flaky, wishy-washy. “Change the rules, but learn them first”, James Altucher.

One has a moral responsibility to obey just laws and conversely to disobey unjust ones. St. Augustine says an unjust law is no law at all. An unjust law is one that a powerful group compels another group to obey but does not make binding on itself. If you choose to break an unjust law, do so openly, lovingly, and with a willingness to accept the penalty… this is expressing the highest respect for the law.

“Ask for forgiveness, not permission. People will be fast to stop you before you start, but hesitant if you are moving”.

The Learning Process: from Novice to Master

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The Learning Process: from Novice to Master

If you want to get great at anything there are a few hacks (see my ultimate hack at the bottom), but there is no way around putting some time in. If you follow the below path, you may be able to shave off some time and achieve a higher level of mastery when all done. So you have to put in your time, but doing it in the right way makes all the difference.

Step1: Find your life’s task: What are you good at and what do you enjoy:

This can be the hardest part of the process, but it needn’t be. Two good ways to start this: 1) Make an x-y grid of all the things you’re good at and all the things you enjoy… where do they intersect  2) Ask others… they will tell you what you are uniquely talented at

Step 2: Find a mentor/apprenticeship:

This is the single greatest hack… finding a mentor who has already been down your chosen road can save you years of needless toil and frustration (unlearning the wrong thing can take more time and be more frustrating than trying to learn it the right way to begin with), but it does depend on finding the right mentor

Step 3: Clean slate: Allow yourself to be molded

Step 4: Lay the foundation/learn the fundamentals

Step 5: Practice:

Here comes the famous 10,000 hour rule…10,000 hours is only a guesstimate, but it does take time and practice if you really want

Step 6: Internalize: Unconscious processing

Somewhere during this 10,000 hours things will become natural and no longer forced… breakthrough!

Step 7: Growth

Step 8: Plateaus and dealing with pressure:

It’s not all roses and isn’t easy, otherwise everybody would do it

Step 9: Experiment:

Push the boundaries. This step is critical… just rehashing the same things everyone else has done is not the goal… we are looking for the blue ocean and to breaking new ground. Don’t even let your mentor hold you back here

Step 10: Form opinion:

Start to find your own path

If you do this, you will be one of the few… it is too much work for most people and they will give up early on. Still too much for you? Don’t have 10,000 hours? A shortcut possibility is to learn say 1000 hours at two separate disciplines and marry them together (first heard this idea from Peter Thiel) where nobody has done so previously. Now no one knows more than you at this intersection. This works amazingly well if you can find demand at this intersection, but predicting demand is your challenge… maybe the world just doesn’t know it needs this yet!

Some great books that I borrowed liberally from for this:

Mastery by Robert Greene

The Art of Learning by Josh Waitzkin

 

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

Stand Up for What is Right/Dealing with Bullies

goliathI am ashamed at how many times I’ve sat silently and seen or heard things being said, done, etc that I knew deep down were not right. I promise to do better. So, rather than stating my own approach, here is a barrage of quotes by a number of folks (an overwhelming number by Martin Luther King Jr. who I’d say is the ultimate model of what to do) that say how I feel…

“Please don’t mistake my silence for ignorance, my calmness for acceptance, or my kindness for weakness” – Carson Kolhoff

“Bullies prey on the weak, but… there is always a small kid who fights like hell (thrashing and swinging)…he may not win but the bully will go elsewhere. Be that kid” – Tim Ferriss

This may sound like a stupid way to introduce this, but this quote from Cinderella’s mom made me think: “have courage and be kind”… why is it so easy to be mean-spirited and yet it takes more effort to be kind to each other? For my kids I place one hand on their heads and one on their heart…”live as your heart and head lead you”… one may lead you astray, but thinking with both will never misguide you…

Seeking Change, Truth…
Gandhi says, “you must be the change you wish to see in the world”…”first they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win”. “Truth goes through three steps: first it is ridiculed, second it is violently opposed, then finally it is accepted as self-evident” -Arthur Schopenhauer

Being bold privately is nice, but for change to happen it must be public and in the light of day…
These words from Martin Luther King Jr. explain much,” we are not the creators of tension. We merely bring to the surface the hidden tension that is already alive. We bring it out in the open where it can be dealt with”…” we are here to say to the white man that we will longer let them use their clubs on us in dark corners. We are going to make them do it in the glaring light of television”…“the Negro’s great stumbling block is not the White Citizen’s Council or the KKK, but the white moderate, who is more devoted to order than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension, who consistently advises the Negro to wait for a more convenient season”.

Realize that it may be far easier to confront your enemies than your friends…
”It takes a great deal of courage to stand up to your enemies, but even more to stand up to your friends” -JK Rowling. “The ultimate measure of a person is not where they stand in moments of comfort and convenience, but where they stand at times of challenge and controversy”…” in the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends” -MLK

When you pick sides, good versus evil must be glaringly apparent…
”People will choose good over evil, but the choice must be undeniably clear. Good must stand apart… untainted, unblemished”…” meet physical force with soul force”…” we shall match your capacity to inflict suffering by our capacity to endure suffering. But be assured that we will wear you down by our capacity to suffer” -MLK

Sometimes justice seems blurry and there can be a fine line between justice and injustice, but look in your heart and think it through in your own head…
”One has a moral responsibility to disobey unjust laws… an unjust law is a code that a numerical or power majority group compels a minority group to obey but does not make binding on itself”…” one who breaks an unjust law must do so openly, lovingly, and with a willingness to accept the penalty”…” privileged groups seldom give up their privileges voluntarily. Individuals may give up their unjust posture, but groups tend to be more immoral than individuals” -MLK

Before you ever start pushing for change, decide how far you’re willing to go… is anything worth Death?…
“If a man hasn’t discovered something he will die for, he is not fit to live”…” we had an understanding in our movement that if you let people stop you from doing something through death, it only encourages them to kill you whenever they wanted you to stop doing something” – MLK, “I will not fight, but I will not comply. I am not willing to kill, but I am willing to die” -MLK on nonviolence

My quote: “Please don’t mistake my easy-going nature for weakness… I have resolve like a M—–F—–! I am a force to be reckoned with”

This book was a great reference: King Remembered by Flip Schulke

 

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

 

 

Competition/Motivation

competition“If you even dream of beating me, you’d better wake up and apologize“ -Mohammad Ali

Many times the threat of attack is greater than the attack itself… don’t overestimate others or underestimate yourself.

If you want to motivate others, throw down a challenge to inspire. Talk in terms of others’ interests… appeal to others noble motives (charity, honesty, hard work).

Great goals produce great motivation (as Tim Ferris says in 4 Hour Work Week…“You may run through brick walls for a sailing trip to the Greek Isles, but not be willing to change your brand of cereal to go to Sandusky, Ohio”), however, realize that the secret to winning usually is a series of singles, not a home run.

Before you begin make sure you understand the rules… many times they aren’t the same for everybody. What rules does your competition have to comply with… do you? This may be your opening. Examples: US military vs. ISIS, Wal-Mart vs. Amazon, Donal Trump vs. 20 year politicians, etc. An old cliché says “fight fire with fire”… this is stupid… fight fire with water. It is hard to win playing someone else’s game… play your own game relative to others.

“Sometimes you have to respect your competition so much that you treat them with no respect at all. You have to defeat a great players aura more than their actual game” -Pat Riley

If you have ever seen the ending rap battle in the movie 8 Mile, Eminem kills the competitive spirit of his opponent by saying everything negative he thinks he’s going to say about him before he can do it and he has nothing left to say…beat your opponents to the punch!

Practice on your weaknesses, but play to your strengths

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

Trustworthiness/Honor

“Be more concerned with your character than your reputation, because your character is what you really are, while your reputation is merely what others think you are” -John Wooden

Who am I to write anything on this topic as I’ve had plenty of screw-ups in my own life, but let’s give it a try anyway…the only way to get better…

As we have seen time and time again, someone we have come to admire and adore over time has been found to be not what we thought maybe only by one act of poor judgment. The challenge is that many of us try to project to others that which we think they will look favorably on us for and try to hide our warts. Somehow those warts can dwarf your good deeds, especially if you have lived your life “too perfect” as there is always someone that has been just waiting to tear you down.

Maybe it is better to show your warts from the beginning, like Eminem at the end of 8 Mile… tell everybody your ugly stuff and no one can tear you down if you have already put it out there. Here are a few other things that go a long way:

  • Underpromise/Overdeliver
  • Do that which you say you are going to do
  • Never make a promise you can’t keep
  • Be loyal to those not present… this builds trust with those that are
  • If you want to be trusted, be trustworthy

ponder on this: if you make mistakes early in life, but own up to them, you have a chance to recover. However if you spend your life covering up your lies, deceits, etc. and are found out, you may have no chance (or time) to recover…look at Bill Cosby, Joe Paterno, Bernie Madoff, etc.

If the whole world (Your Mom, your Dad, wife, kids) could see every move you make, every thought you think, would you behave the same?

Warren Buffett, “It takes 20 years to build a reputation and 5 minutes to ruin it”

“Honesty compounds exponentially, not over days or weeks, but decades. Be dishonest once and all of those seeds will be washed away” -James Altucher

Simplify

“Perfection is achieved, not when there is no more to add, but when there is no more to take away” -The Little Prince

Complexity is your enemy… any fool can make something complicated. It is very hard to make something simple. Don’t accumulate, eliminate! The learned man aims for more, but the wise man decreases and then decreases again. Your lifestyle tends to expand to accommodate your income… avoid this at all cost. Physically get rid of things lying around the house… this will free your mind considerably as you won’t think about them anymore. A rich man is not the one who has the most, but the one who needs the least

“Telling yourself you have all the time in the world, all the money in the world, all the colors in the palette, anything you want… this just kills creativity” -Jack White

Dr. Seuss wrote Green Eggs and Ham with only 50 different words. “It seems contradictory, but when it comes to creative work, limitations mean freedom… choose what to leave out… nothing is more paralyzing than the idea of limitless possibilities” -Austin Kleon

Simplicity is great in writing and speaking… use less words, but more impactful. Epictetus defined wealth as not having numerous and extravagant possessions, but as having few wants.

“Just as when the uncarved block is shaped it loses its simplicity, when the wise person loses his simplicity he is no longer wise” -Tao Te Ching

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