Approach anxiety is a very, very common situation in sales – especially for people who are new to sales. It is something that the vast majority of salespeople experience, and I’m convinced that the people who claim to have never dealt with it are lying.
I’ve experienced it many times. Since I left traditional “employment” to become an entrepreneur I’ve felt it a lot. I was coming from an industry (a big firm lawyer) where I didn’t have to do approaches at all. I just showed up to work each day and did what I was told. When I started my own firm I had to get clients. I had to “approach” people (like realtors, bankers and other referral sources). This scared me a lot.
When I left law to build a sales business I had to approach even more. This was scary – especially since the rejection rates were extremely high in my industry. When I wrote my book I had to approach publishers and distributors. Now in my consulting, training and speaking, as well as my Educational business, I am constantly approaching people. I have had so many approaches over the last 7 years I can’t count – and I’ve felt approach anxiety more times than I can count as well.
If you are in business for yourself, and if you are starting from nothing, sales will be a MASSIVE aspect of your activity in the beginning until you establish a customer pipeline and a marketing and prospecting routine. You have to sell your product or service. You have to get customers for your business to stay alive. In order to get customers you have to approach.
What is approach anxiety?
Approach anxiety is that inner resistance that we often feel before making a new contact. That inner sense of “I’d rather not do this” or the rationalization that makes us wonder “is there another way to sell our product or service?”. Approaching a new person – even if that person is a referral, or a “warm lead” presents the opportunity for something that most people dread:
Being rejected is no fun. It cuts to the core of our self esteem. It immediately drives to the surface of our emotions all the insecurities, fears, and anxieties that we work so hard on pushing away.
What if this person rejects me?
What if I make a fool of myself?
These are the thoughts that often come to mind when we are in the grips of the inner resistance known as “approach anxiety”. It can be so powerful sometimes that many financial and entrepreneurial dreams never come to fruition because of an unwillingness to face large scale rejection.
If success in sales is simply a game of numbers, a matter of ratios – in that 1 in (x) people you approach will purchase your product or service, then it is theoretically possible that all salespeople will be successful. However we know that all salespeople aren’t successful. A very common reason is that the salesperson isn’t willing to deal with the number of rejections it takes to get the number of acceptances they want.
Why do we feel approach anxiety?
We feel approach anxiety because of evolution, and the hardwiring that exists in our brains. We are tribal creatures. The threat of rejection was once so scary that it would mean almost certain death if we were cast out of the safety of the larger group. This feeling of “group expulsion” still exists in us. We want to be accepted by the group. We want to be loved. We want to be liked. Everyone (at least everyone who is honest with themselves) will admit to this.
In a sales context, when we approach a stranger and attempt to “make a sale” we open ourselves up to the threat of “rejection”, or even worse “not being liked”. The automatic programming in our brain takes over and we get signals screaming at us (in the form of fear, anxiety, cautiousness, and rationalization) to stop and avoid the potential rejection.
How do you overcome it?
The good news is that approach anxiety can be resisted. It can be defeated – and frankly you need to defeat it in order to become successful in your sales and entrepreneurial career. However, the way to defeat it may not be what you realize.
A lot of people who are new to sales think that eventually, once they get enough experience – once they do enough approaches – that the anxiety will go away.
In my experience this isn’t the case. I still get approach anxiety even through I’ve done many, many approaches.
I just felt it last week for example – when I met the owner of a business that I had given a bid to for consulting work. That familiar rush of anxiety and nervousness that I’ve felt many times knowing that I am entering into a forum that I might get rejected on.
Here’s the thing – approach anxiety doesn’t really go away – you just learn how to manage it, and how to use it as fuel to help you move forward.
That is the first step in overcoming it – accepting it.
Knowing that it is just part of our DNA, and that we are hardwired to feel it. So we need to just accept it, and then move to the next step – embracing it.
By embracing it you are using the approach anxiety as a “signal”. A signal that you are in a situation that 1) you care about; and 2) that is important for your business. These are all good things – not things that we should run away from. Accept it and then embrace it.
Accepting and embracing are the underlying philosophies – but there are three additional steps you can use if you want to “master” situations of approach anxiety:
1. Don’t see the potential rejection from the outset. Be present to the moment, and just make the approach
Just make the approach. Turn it into a game. See if you can go 100 days in a row making a certain number of approaches each day. Give yourself a prize if you make it through the end of the streak without breaking the chain. Learn to detach, and be present to the moment. For me meditation has helped a lot with this. I would recommend a meditation practice for every salesperson.
2. Turn the fear into excitement – realize that you are in a situation where your business (and income) can grow
Think about it from this frame of reference – if you never have a situation where there is fear of approach anxiety – you never get a situation where your business can grow. So be excited. Love it. You are in a situation where your business can grow.
3. Call it out (Literally)
This one seems a little nutty – but stay with me here. Trust me. Call out your approach anxiety, and do it literally (out loud). Sit in your car, or when you are walking up to the approach, or at your desk before you make the call, and out loud state the following –
Address the approach anxiety like it was another person, say “hey, you, I know what you are doing. I can feel you. You’re trying to mess with me, but I’m moving forward anyway. SO GET LOST!”
It sounds absolutely crazy – but I swear it works. When you address your approach anxiety out loud there is a very interesting transformative effect that takes place. You realize that all of this is in your head. You can control your emotional state. You then feel a sense of empowerment because YOU are taking control. You are not being held hostage by your emotions. It works. Try it.
You have to be mentally tough if you are going to survive as an entrepreneur. No matter what business you are in, you will deal with set-backs, rejection, failure, and disappointment from time to time. It happens to anyone who is brave enough to venture out on their own and attempt to create something great.
Mental toughness is just like courage. You don’t get it by reading a book or hearing about someone who displayed it. You only get it by DOING the things that require it.
Here are some tips to help you develop mental toughness in your business:
1. Each day set a HARD GOAL for that specific day.
By hard goal I mean something that is really challenging. Don’t avoid challenges, rather intentionally seek them out every single day. Don’t get caught up in the results of the specific challenge or goal. If you don’t achieve the day’s hard goal, who cares. You went after it, and it was hard. That is a victory. If you do this each day, over time you will get mentally tough.
2. Learn to go a little further.
This one is easy to apply in the context of exercise. If you are running on the treadmill and you set a goal for 1 hour at a certain speed. When the hour is done you should ALWAYS push out an extra 5 minutes. You should always do more when you think you have reached your limit. Do the same thing in your business. After you are exhausted at the end of the day, push out another 5 calls. Before you go to bed, instead of watching the stupid TV, sit down at your computer and fire out 1 more email to someone who can help you in building your business. If you do this each day, over time you will get mentally tough.
3. When you have a setback (which is inevitable), find a way to make it into a positive learning experience.
Simple habit – each time you experience a setback ask yourself what you learned, and how you can apply this in the future. This way you won’t get discouraged if you experience setbacks.
4. If you aren’t being pushed to the max, then your primary goals are too easy, look bigger
You become mentally tough by setting big goals. Big daily goals (point 1) and big primary goals (monthly, annual, lifetime, etc). If you aren’t being pushed to the max, then you should change your goals. You’ve set them too small. If you aren’t having to give absolutely everything you got to achieve them, then your goals are too small, and you won’t develop mental toughness.
5. Confront the “Brutal Facts”
Each goal has “brutal facts” associated with it. That is, if you are going to achieve the goal there are some tough things that you are going to have to do. You develop mental toughness by learning to “confront” these facts right off the bat. Instead of ignoring the facts, being ignorant to them, or complaining when they present themselves, just confront them. This principle applies to all aspects of life – any pursuit. Any worthwhile pursuit has associated pain. Confront the pain right off the bat. Tell yourself “I know I have to walk through this, but I’m ok with that”. That will make you mentally tough.
I’ve been absent from blogging over the past two weeks, although I do have a good excuse (at least I tell myself as much). I’ve been travelling across Holland and France with my daughter Maci.
It was an amazing trip, one that was planned for several years, and one that Maci actually funded her portion of via her own entrepreneurial success. I wrote about her business venture in an article that got featured on several entrepreneurial websites. You can read the article here:
One of the places that we visited on our trip was the Van Gogh museum in Amsterdam. This was one of many art museums that we visited on our trip (including the Louvre). Van Gogh is an artist who really resonates with me – mostly because of the very unique circumstances of his life (circumstances that I have written about previously on this blog).
Van Gogh painted hundreds of works, while in obscurity as an artist (many of which we saw at both the Van Gogh Museum and the Louvre). It was only until after his death that he became famous and his art commanded exorbitant sums. As an artist he never experienced the fruits of his labours.
He resonates with me for many reasons – not least of which is the topic of motivation – why we do what we do? And what dictates whether a project is worth pursuing? As an entrepreneur, consultant and writer, I have had many “failures” – ventures where I have spent time on a project and my goals weren’t met. I have started businesses that never got off the ground. No entrepreneur has been an unequivocal success, not even the ones that we lionize (like Steve Jobs and Elon Musk) – even they have experienced failure.
Learning about the story of Van Gogh has given me a source of inspiration about focusing on “craft” rather than on results and learning to switch to an intrinsic minded motivation. These habits have helped me to be calm in the face of uncertainty and risk, and move forward despite the potential for failure – all skills that are necessary as an entrepreneur.
When I visited the Van Gogh museum however, I saw a quote on the wall that changed my perspective, gave me an even greater appreciation of the artist, and helped me realize why I find intrinsic motivation in pursuing things where the payoff is uncertain.
Here is the quote (in Van Gogh’s words):
It is only in front of the easel, while painting, that I feel a little of life.
Being “in front of the easel” is where I have felt the most life as well. That is how Van Gogh painted so much without experiencing the “rewards” of his art. The art was the reward.
It isn’t in the rewards, the results, the money, the success, the praise where life is most real. Life is most real, and most clearly felt “in front of the easel”.
This is my easel:
- Being an entrepreneur;
- Being an advisor to other entrepreneurs and helping them grow;
- Being a creator as a writer and entrepreneur;
- Sharing my ideas in spoken and written word;
- Strengthening the “creation” of my family life;
- Doing things that scare me;
- Pushing myself beyond the boundaries of my known limits.
This is where I feel life. Life isn’t felt in front of the TV, in the store, buying something to make ourselves feel better. Life is most felt when we are confronting our fears, pursuing our unique purpose as an individual, and living in front of our “easel”. I get it.
What is your “easel”?
I’ve been an “amateur”, but very consistent, runner for over a decade. I first took up running on the challenge of a law school classmate, who bet me that I would do better in my studies if I worked out 4-5 hours a week than if I dedicated that same amount of time to extra studying. I took him up on the challenge – and he proved to be correct, and I’ve been hooked every since.
I noticed something interesting recently in my running experience. Even though I have been running, every week, with the rare exception, for over ten years, during this period I had never once exceeded, in a single run, a length of more than 10 km. I had carved such a strong pattern of behaviour and routine that it was very easy to get out and run several times each week (in fact I craved it) but after 10 km my mind always seemed to say “you’re done now”. I would always seem to want to stop, at roughly the 10km mark, each time I went out.
I didn’t think much about until recently. I considered myself in good shape, and felt that 10km is a very good distance. The hour or so it took each day (usually 4 times a week) was a nice refresher, and I just built it into my lifestyle.
But for some reason, a couple weeks ago, I wondered why it was that my body always seemed to get tired at the 10km mark, and I wondered if, in fact, it was my “mind” that was the cause of the fatigue, more so than my body.
Besides – having run literally thousands and thousands of miles over the last decade I had to be in shape to withstand more than 10km, and come to think about it, when I would stop each day at 10km I would never be overly winded or fatigued. I just didn’t want to run anymore. My mind said that I was done.
I wondered if I could in fact override the mental conditioning that I had, and how difficult it would be to run a distance of more than 10km in a given session. So, last week, while I was travelling to Southern California, I decided to do an experiment. I downloaded a podcast interview (2 hours) of a program that I enjoy. Then I started out along the ocean (actual photo).
I had a very specific plan. I would run until the podcast was at 1 hour, then I would turn around and run back. 2 hours total. I would log my miles on my fitbit and hopefully I would nearly double my previous best distance.
My experiment worked. I got lost in the beauty of the run, and the podcast, and I was able to nearly double my best distance. Best of all, as I was walking back into the hotel that we were staying at, I realized that I could have gone a lot further. I wasn’t winded. I hadn’t hit my capacity.
So stopping at 10km, for all those years, had been a mental limitation, and a habit, not an actual limitation. I proved to myself, with a simple experiment, that I was capable of much more than my routine dictated.
As I reflected on this, later in the day, I realized that my stopping at 10km also had a lot to do with my “belief” in my ability to run much further. Now that I had a new reference point, I also had a new belief – that I was capable of much more. It made me think about other “beliefs” that I had and whether they resulted in self-imposed limitations.
I think that self-imposed limitations are very natural, and every one has dealt with them in some form or another in their life. Our society socializes us to avoid failure – even though failure, in its entirety, is absolutely unavoidable. When we fail (note I said “when” not if) it is very easy to build our experience in as a reference point that sets an artificial boundary for future engagements.
I see this all the time with entrepreneurs. Entrepreneurs who have experienced great success in the past have a reference point of what they are capable of. They often set their initial sites much higher than someone who hasn’t previously experienced success, and if they fail, they don’t define their future by that particular failure (because they have a counter-acting reference point of success).
Self-belief, about our potential in the future, is largely influenced by our experiences from the past. If we’ve succeeded in the past we often believe we are capable of future success. If we have failed in the past we often doubt our ability to succeed in the future.
I coach new entrepreneurs and I can immediately tell, by the goals that people set for themselves, what their past experience has been and whether or not they believe themselves capable of significant achievement. People who set mediocre goals, are burdened by limiting self-beliefs, and also often have had prior reference points in their life that suggest that they aren’t capable of achieving great things.
But guess what….in almost all cases these limitations are self imposed. They aren’t based in reality. They are based in their mind.
Just like my experience running. 10km was not my limit. 20km isn’t my limit either. I am capable of much more. We are all capable of much more than we think we are – in just about all elements of our life. I believe that we have to learn to test our limitations on our own. We can’t expect society, or anyone else to do it for us, but when we do, and when we realize that we have been living under a false assumption for so long, it will excite us and motivate us to reach higher and set more compelling and exciting goals.
The following is a brief summary of the keynote presentation I gave at the Cochrane, Alberta Chamber of Commerce Business Education Series, February 25, 2015. If you would like me to share this presentation with your organization please contact me here.
Who is your “tribe” in your business?
How does the concept of “tribes” impact you in your business?
How can you leverage this concept to grow your reach, strengthen your relationships with your customers, and grow organically?
This is a concept that has always existed, but because of changes in the way businesses interact with customers, given the Internet, this concept matters much more now than ever before.
Marketing has changed.
This is what life was like for a business before the Internet existed:
- Big budget advertising was needed to reach the masses;
- Interruption tactics were used, with a focus on “closing” and sales based techniques;
- There were high costs, and many barriers to entry to become an entrepreneur;
- A typical small business had a limited customer base, and was generally limited by its geography; and
- You usually experienced slow growth (unless you had big $$ to spend on advertising and global expansion).
With the Internet….
- The consumer now has much more power;
- Interruption tactics don’t work as well, and people aren’t as influenced by hard selling techniques;
- Choice is abundant (just “Google” it);
- For many industries the barriers to entry now are virtually non-existent, costs are low, and as a result there is now massive competition;
- Because of decreased shipping costs, and outsourced labor, many businesses have global distribution opportunities (where previously none existed);
- People are willing to pay more for things they prefer;
- People are looking to connect with causes and stories they believe in; and
- Our world is massively connected.
Our increased connectivity and our propensity to share changes the consumer / business relationship, and it makes a single customer far more important (potentially) to a business. Each customer has a potential megaphone that they can use to share their opinion, and experience with a business, to the world.
Also – we know, from many writers, including Simon Sinek in his best selling book Start With Why that consumer decision making is influenced by the emotional components of our nervous system.
What does this mean for a business?
It means that connecting with, engaging with, nurturing and growing a “tribe” of massively committed, raving fans, is critical. These fans WANT to share, and because of social media, they have a powerful organic platform.
Raving Fans aren’t just about stuff. They are not just about consumerism. They want to be part of a cause, story or purpose that they believe in.
As a business, you don’t just want customers. You want “True Fans”, “Raving Fans” that believe in you, and are willing to support you and follow you.
Facebook Likes Versus “True Fans”
A true fan is far more than a “like” on your Facebook page
- A true fan cares deeply about your cause;
- A true fan not only buys from you, they tell a friend (an unpaid sales army);
- A true fan connects with other true fans to amplify the message.
When you have a tribe of “true fans” you have lower costs (because of organic marketing) and therefore higher profits, and you can charge more for what you do.
How Do You Grow And Nurture A Tribe of “True Fans” – 10 Specific Strategies
- Tell a story in your marketing efforts;
- Repeatedly share “WHY” you do what you do. Share your vision in your marketing;
- Connect with your tribe. Be present and top of mind. Go where they are (instead of the mass market blitz);
- Be “shareable” in what you do, and how you do it. Become worth sharing (be remarkable);
- Make it easy for your tribe to connect with each other;
- Create a “movement” – offer more than just a product or a service. Find a way to interact with your customer;
- Be the “Best” in what you do. Be remarkable. A market leader. Strive to “surprise and delight”;
- Be different. Distinguishing yourself attracts followers. Consumer curiosity is a powerful force;
- Be generous – give more than you take;
- Track your progress towards your vision. Create pathways for your followers to contribute to your progress.
One of my first “real” jobs, before I started University, was at Future Shop. In 2000 I was hired into the computer sales department despite having very little knowledge of computers. I was hungry though, needed to earn tuition money to make my dreams of higher education a reality, and I knew how to sell. So despite the obvious fact that my computer knowledge was clearly lacking, the store manager took a chance on me (knowing that since the job was 100% commission either I’d learn quickly or find myself out the door).
I’m grateful that he did. I worked there for just over 8 months, earning enough money to get me started in University, and I learned a thing or two about computers in the process. I even earned the “part time salesperson of the year” award (yes, they actually had one of those) complete with a trophy of a figurine holding a briefcase (I’m not making any of this up). My mom still has the trophy at her house. So I’d like to think that I made good on the risk that the store manager took on me.
When I was first hired, the reality that I knew nothing about what I was supposed to sell hit me really hard. So the first thing I did was go to the local bookstore and purchase everything I could on computers. I learned the difference between “hardware” and “software”, I learned about “operating systems” and enough basics to be able to sell computers and related accessories to the wide array of non-technical retail customers that would, on a daily basis, walk through the doors.
I also became acquainted with our “service” department, and on occasion I would have to assist my customers when their computers needed repair. I’d walk into the service room and see a number of machines waiting to be fixed, and marvel at how these very expensive computers (remember this was the year 2000 and it was not unusual to sell a computer for between $5000 – $8000) would be rendered useless if their operating system crashed. In a very simplistic fashion I began to see just how important the “operating system” was to the health and functionality of the computer itself.
Fast forward 15 years. For the last 7 years I’ve been a full time entrepreneur. In one of our businesses I’ve had the chance to work with, associate with, or coach in some capacity or another, several thousand entrepreneurs and small business owners. In this experience I have learned just how important a “personal operating system” is to the results that people achieve in their lives.
What is a “personal operating system”?
In my opinion, a “personal operating system” is that set of beliefs, behaviours, and habits, that a given person has, that operate both consciously and unconsciously in that person’s life, to dictate the results that the person achieves.
In my experience, everyone has a different personal operating system, and the consequences of this are quite noticeable.
For example – one person’s operating system instills a belief that they are entitled to things. They believe they are entitled to help from others, they believe that it is their right to have what they want, and if they don’t get what they want then it is not their fault. They are a victim. It is someone, or something, else’s fault. This operating system generates a certain result over time.
Another person’s operating system may give a completely opposite belief framework and suggest that in fact they are 100% responsible for their life and the results they achieve. It may suggest that they are entitled to nothing, and no one owes them anything. As a result, they are grateful for what they have, and never look to blame anyone, or anything, if they don’t get what they want. This operating system generates a certain result over time.
One’s person’s operating system may become repeatedly frozen when confronting anything outside of their comfort zone, or attempting anything that scares them. As a result, they stay safe, rarely take risks, avoid all situations where they might be rejected, or hurt. This operating system generates a certain result over time.
Another person’s operating system pursues things that scares them. It pushes them to operate outside of their comfort zone, to continually seek growth, and continually do things that scare them. It encourages them to take risks, and not live paralyzed by fear. This operating system generates a certain result over time.
One person’s operating system might look for escape from reality – through the very attractive medium of TV and movies, non-productive internet surfing, and gossip. They are up to date on the latest fashion trends, the gossip of celebrities, and the constant stream of happenings in the world. This operating system generates a certain result over time.
Another person’s operating system would rather create than simply be a passive observer in life, and they are willing to toil in obscurity, creating their unique art, even if no one sees it, or rewards them monetarily. They feel that a life worth living is a life filled with the act of creation. So they create. This operating system generates a certain result over time.
Every one of us are “operating” with a certain “operating system” – a unique set of beliefs, habits, and behaviours that direct how we spend our time, what we think about the world, and what it does or doesn’t owe us. Our operating systems generate a certain result over time. The results that all of us have, right here, and right now, are the consequence of our operating system.
The source of our operating system is complex – I realize that. I realize we can’t control where we were born, or the ills that we may have suffered at some point in our life. But we can, absolutely, choose the operating system that we use starting right now, until the end of our life. Many people don’t even realize they are “operating” with a certain “operating system”. A failure to consciously “choose” an operating system is still a choice – it is a choice to take the operating system that society, and your social circle, gives you. With that choice you get results. Your results are the consequence of that choice.
It is not an excuse to say we can’t “find an empowering operating system”. There are examples everywhere. If we can’t create an empowering one on our own, we can walk into the nearest bookstore, pick out a book by a person we admire, and immediately act to implement their operating system in our life. This will generate results in our life.
This is an element of life that I find most exciting and empowering – the fact that we get to choose. Nothing can take away our power of choice. We can choose the operating system that we are going to use today, tomorrow and forever. No matter what happened in the past, the future is ours to choose the system that we will use to dictate our lives going forward.
Want a simple strategy that is 100% guaranteed to make you happier, more effective in your work, and move you closer, daily, to your most important goals? Not only that – but by turning this strategy into a daily habit you’ll experience more emotional self-reliance, and less need to ever “vent” about really anything. You’ll also feel a sense of active control over your life, more intrinsic fulfillment, and more flow.
Sound enticing yet?
This strategy involves just a simple daily habit, a tiny little adjustment in behaviour, but once you start doing it, the compounding results are astounding. I can’t take credit for the strategy – I first learned about it from the leadership writer Robin Sharma; however, I can vouch for its effectiveness as I have been actively engaging it for quite some time.
I call this strategy my “daily 5 – 5 – 3″, but I‘ve also heard it referred as the “Big 5, Daily 5, Nightly 3″ strategy.
Here is the strategy:
First – get a journal (something I repeatedly advocate for). Needs to be a pen and paper style. Go back in time. Ditch the phone and tablet. You’ll thank me later.
Next – the “Big 5″ – on the first page of the journal write the 5 most important goals that you have right now. What “makes your heart sing”, what “makes you come alive”? Make sure these form part of the 5. Make the goals very specific so that you know when you’ll achieve them. It could be the 5 most important goals for the year, or the 5 things you MUST accomplish in your life. Just make sure they are the most important things in your life – the 5 goals that you are most devoted to achieving. The 5 things that are more meaningful to you personally than anything else.
Next – the “Daily 5″ – on the top of every page going forward you are going to write the date (repeated every day on the next page). Before the day starts you are going to set 5 “micro-goals” – one for each of your “Big 5″ goals – that you are going to achieve that day. Every one of your “daily goals” will take you closer, in some way, to your achieving your big five goals. So by the end of the day, assuming you completed your “Daily 5″ you will have successfully accomplished 5 different goals, one for each of your “Big 5″ goals.
Finally – the “Nightly 3″ – at the end of the day (on the same page that you wrote the daily goals for that particular day) write down three things that you are grateful for that happened that day. Simple and easy, but don’t go to bed until you have taken the time to record three things that happened that day that you are grateful for.
Here is what happens when you continuously engage this strategy (and by continuously I mean many days (100+) of consecutive execution):
- You start feeling really, really grateful, for just about everything in your life;
- You start embracing time as your most precious gift;
- You stop venting;
- You stop feeling sorry for yourself;
- You experience daily victories – this increases your self-confidence;
- Your motivation and drive to achieve your Big 5 dramatically increases;
- You start to believe that you can actually achieve your Big 5 because you experience yourself moving closer to your goals;
- You start to enjoy each day;
- You wake up excited for what you can accomplish that day;
- You go to bed fulfilled and satisfied with the day’s effort.
Try it, for at least 100 days in a row, and then drop me a line. I promise it will change your life.
Is your life process driven? Is it purpose driven? Do you feel that you’re not even the one driving your life? Perhaps you feel more like a passenger sometimes?
I know the feeling of “being a passenger” for sure. I once felt like my life was out of my control. That feeling was the catalyst for my moving towards a life that was process driven. I’ve been living this way for several years now and I’ll never change. It has been my foundation for success and emotional stability.
Why not purpose driven? Why do I focus on “process”. Isn’t it good to have goals, to have a sense of purpose about what we want to achieve?
Absolutely it is good to have goals, but I have found that “motivation” and “inspiration” are the most highly overrated concepts that exist in the field of performance and obtaining results. Habits, systems and process, trumps motivation every time.
I definitely have goals, and some of them are large and audacious. But each day my primary focus is process, not purpose. I try to chunk what will take me towards my goal into tiny, daily, chunk-able actions, and then only focus on getting those chunks done each and every day. I focus on “checking off the chunks”.
Here is why I advocate for adopting a “process driven life”:
1. Motivation is highly overrated, and unsustainable on its own
Motivation is like caffeine. A short burst of energy, that isn’t sustainable on its own (without more caffeine), followed by a “downer” that leaves you with less energy than you had before you took your caffeinated shot. The worst part about it is that, in most cases, it comes from an external source. We get motivated “because” of something we hear, see, want, need, experience. But it comes as a result of stimulus, it doesn’t take place automatically. It doesn’t anchor in our subconscious.
I have seen this over and over again in working with small business entrepreneurs. They feel a shot of “motivation” or “inspiration” because of something – that leads them to sprint on an achievement, but because they’ve never established a process or proper habits, their actions aren’t sustainable. They need to read another book, “re-engage”, find momentum, and “re-start”. The starting process is much, much harder when you don’t have momentum. A process driven, and habit driven person, doesn’t need to do this. They don’t need dramatic motivation. They just focus on getting the little chunks done.
2. Any goal is achievable if you chunk it down to its smallest parts and then attack one chunk at a time.
Have you ever heard the silly quote about “how to eat an elephant – one bite at a time.” There is profound wisdom in that concept. Really any goal is achievable, no matter how large, if you embrace this concept. I learned this by writing my book Unsuited. Many people are intimidated by the process of writing a book. Being process driven I found it to be quite easy. Here was the process:
My book needed to be between 200-220 pages (based on my publisher’s guidelines). For me that ended up being just over 65,000 words first draft (later cut to just over 59,000 for publication).
65,000 words may seem, to some, like a lot, perhaps even an insurmountable goal, but let me show you why being “process-driven” makes it easy to achieve.
One page of type is about 350 words. All I had to do was 350 words each day, and in 186 days I was done. 350 words took about an hour or so to do. So one hour a day, for just over 5 months and my book was done. Simple. Process. Chunks. If I wanted more each day (my goal in fact was 500 words a day) then my time to complete would be shorter.
So each day I just focused on 500 words. Nothing else. Before I knew it, I was done and I was an author.
3. Being process driven allows us to detach from our emotions. Our emotions are often the biggest impediment to our achievement (whether we realize it or not)
Being emotional, I’ve found, can be a huge liability. Emotions are the drivers of the “motivational world”. In the achievement world I’ve found that the more “scientific” I can be, the more “computer like” I can live, the better my results are. I love the methodology in the very popular Lean Start Up model by Eric Reis – build, measure, learn. It is exactly in line with a process driven mindset.
Being process driven allows you to detach from your emotions. You are seeking data. You are performing small chunked actions each day, and then you measure to see if you are moving closer to your goal. If you aren’t moving closer then you choose new small chunked actions. If you are – then you stay the course. There is no discouragement, there is never a need to vent, there is no victimization mindset. There is only data. Data and process.
4. Change doesn’t happen overnight. It is always the result of the culmination of a whole bunch of tiny steps.
This concept has been studied over and over again in the performance literature world. Change is slow. It is compounding. It is incremental. However, when you are process driven, you see this as a massive opportunity. You realize the leverage you have on yourself if you will just focus on getting tiny daily victories, and how these victories will compound and pay off over time, like the doubling of a penny sustained. When we focus on process, the results just happen.
David Brailsford – one of the UK’s top sports performance minds, who was instrumental in helping the British cycling team compile 14 medals in the Beijing games, had a philosophy called “the aggregation of marginal gains”. In essence it is the same as the process approach I am advocating for. The overall effect of a 1% performance gain each day is astounding when you follow the numbers over time.
5. It is really easy to get discouraged when you are constantly focusing on your goal
I really believe in the zen concept of detachment. It works in goal achievement. The more tightly I seem to grasp at things the easier they are to fall out of my hands. However, then I detach, when I just focus on process and completing my daily chunks it is remarkable how my goals seem to be fulfilled.
Detaching from a goal doesn’t mean that you don’t want it. It just means that you are directing your focus to what is in front of you – what you can do – instead of what you don’t have and what you want.
This is the foundation of being process driven. Focusing on what I can control. When I just focus on what I want, and what I don’t yet have, it is really easy (I have found) to get discouraged and impatient. None of this happens when I’m process driven.
6. Process driven works – plain and simple
Perhaps the biggest reason why I choose to be process driven is that it works. It is far more effective in achievement than getting on the roller coaster of motivation and needing to keeping paying for the ride. Being process driven gets results. I have seen this, not only in my life but in many examples.
The most recent example I came across was the story about British 8s Rowing gold medal team in the 2000 Sydney Olympics as documented in the book Will It Make The Boat Go Faster. Author and Olympian Ben Hunt-Davis recounts the sustained nearly 8 years of losses and disappointments that the British team suffered, despite being highly motivated before they adopted a process driven training model. Driven by the daily question of “will it make the boat go faster” they adopted a pattern of small marginal, sustainable, habits maintained over a four year training regime. These small processes could be tracked, analyzed and adapted based on performance – and over time this shift to a process driven mindset paid the ultimate prize – an Olympic Gold.
I really like this series by Jeff Stibel. It features some of the most successful people in the world and how they have (more often than we even realize) failed. It puts the subject of “failure” in perspective that is isn’t something that we should fear, but rather a powerful learning tool. We should embrace intelligent risk, embrace uncertainty, embrace change, build and create things, start new engagements and relationships. Life is most fulfilling when we live as if failure is only feedback, it is only education, it is not an expression of our self-worth.
I’ve been a runner for many years, and I was an “early adopter” of the Fitbit movement. I’ve been using mine for a while, and it is a rare day that I don’t get in my 15,000 steps.
My running habit started in 2004 while I was in law school. About a couple months into my first year I was studying with a good friend and we were discussing our exercise routines. I told him I didn’t really have one, as my primary focus was my studies. He challenged me, and said that if I built a consistent pattern of exercise I’d have more energy to devote to my studies. It seemed like a bit of a paradox to me – give time away from my studies, but be better off as a result because of increased energy. I decided that I’d give it a try.
He was absolutely right. Once I developed a consistent approach to exercise I found that I had a lot more energy to devote to my goals. Ever since then I’ve been hooked.
Energy management is an important consideration in goal achievement, and I’m always trying to ensure that I maintain peak energy levels. I’ve found that certain things – like exercise, a healthy diet, meditation, proper sleep, avoiding artificial stimulants like caffeine – keep me in a peak daily “energy state”. This is something that I rely on to achieve the goals that I’ve set out for myself.
There is however, a critical element to maintaining peak energy, that is rarely, if ever talked about. It is whether or not my goals are exciting and compelling.
A compelling set of goals, aligned with an exciting sense of purpose and direction in life, I’ve found, has a direct effect on my energy.
I’ve noticed, over the years, that I’ve experienced “energy lows” in the following periods:
- When I was in a job that I didn’t want to be in, and felt no future in;
- When I was “in between goal periods”, ie. I had just completed a certain goal but I hadn’t yet set another exciting and compelling goal; and
- I set a goal that didn’t excite me.
However when I had a goal that I was pursuing that was really compelling to me – meaning that I really wanted it – for whatever reason, I found that energy was in abundance.
Sometimes the energy that comes from a compelling set of goals is unreal. I can think of many, many days that I have worked into the night, without caffeine, completely alert, because I was chasing a specific goal that was compelling to me. This is the “flow state” that so many people talk about, and that I have experienced many times. Once you trigger that flow state it’s like you tap into an hidden reservoir of untapped energy that was always in you.
Compelling goals should be at the heart of all “energy management programs”. If you find that you are low energy, definitely look at your exercise routine, your diet, but also take a good hard look at your goals.
It’s my bet that your goals aren’t that compelling to you. If they were then you would tap into that hidden reservoir.
Recreation is overrated. Yes I said it. Vacations, entertainment, distractions, escapes, recreation…overrated.
So much of our society is designed around the consumption of recreation. It is a never ending black hole that doesn’t satisfy. We always need more. We get our short term “fix” and then we come looking for it again every 5 or 6 days.
When you find work that makes you come alive, being immersed in it is better than recreation. It is renewing. It is engaging. It is refreshing.
I’ve found that since I discovered the work that makes me comes alive I no longer search for recreation on the weekends. In fact – the weekends often blend in to the weekday. It is a process, a journey, an exploration of growth – and for me, it is better than recreation.
Does that make me a workaholic?
Probably….although I don’t really know what that word means any more.
I really like doing work that is aligned with my values. My primary values are freedom, autonomy, creativity, building things and nurturing their growth, adventure, risk taking, communication, community and adding value to others.
When I am engaged in work that is aligned with what I value, I am a better husband, a better father, a better human being. I have more confidence, more hope for the future, more energy and more excitement. I care more about other people. I want to add value to society.
So if by wanting to do more of this kind of work, and seek less recreation, that makes me a workaholic – I’ll gladly take that label.
At one point in my life I was doing work that wasn’t aligned with my values. During this time I wanted to escape. I needed recreation. I needed the vacations, and the distractions – and I wasn’t as good a father, or husband. I didn’t have hope for the future, or a positive outlook.
But I sought recreation whenever I could.
You can be the judge as to what is best for you.
For me – I want to do meaningful work. I want to work until I can’t work any more. I have no intention to retire, ever. I want to do work that is aligned with my values for the rest of my life. I want to wear away my life as an entrepreneur, a creator, and a communicator. I want to build communities and relationships. I want to add value to others, and I’m happy to forgo recreation to make that happen.
The problem is never work. The problem is alignment. Work is a virtue. Work is a value. Work gives confidence and self-esteem. The problem is when we are doing work that isn’t aligned with what we value, and who we are. The problem is when our work doesn’t make us come alive. That is when we need recreation to re-fuel.
It doesn’t have to be that way. There has to be a way where everyone can find meaningful work. There has to be a way were we, as a society, can get it right – where people can end up where they are most aligned to be. Maybe it starts with the educational system – the way our children are taught? Maybe it starts with moving away from a consumption based value system? I don’t know the answer. I just know that having work that makes you come alive is something that everyone deserves.
I’m making 2015 a relationship focused year. This is why:
To end 2014 I spent several weeks in quiet reflection and analysis. This is an annual habit that I have found to be quite beneficial in my life.
At the end of each year I take a couple of weeks to reflect, write in a journal, think about past successes, and setbacks, and try to analyze WHY they happened – and what the primary contributing factors were.
Once I complete this process I take the “whys” that I determine to be the “contributing factors” to both success and failure and I implement them in my next year’s goals and action plans. So essentially what I am doing each year is a “feedback analysis”. I am looking at the results that I achieve (both good and bad), analyzing the contributing factors that led to those results, inferring the causes, educating myself, and then implementing the feedback in my forward looking pursuits.
The causes that I determine to be contributory to success I look to implement as habits in my life to produce future results. The causes that I determine to be contributory to failure I look to avoid when making my plans.
I find this process not only incredibly instructive and beneficial, but also very intrinsically motivating as well.
This year, as I completed the process I also took time to analyze, not only 2014, but also my entire life (in terms of my achievements and setbacks). I came to a very powerful realization:
The times in my life that I have had the “most success” have been the times when I have most effectively utilized the power of relationships. In other words, the times that I have overachieved even my own expectations, I have done so not because of my own actions, but because I was part of a group where the cumulative effect of our actions together was far greater than the sum of the parts.
This realization was as clear as day for me. Truthfully it was a little difficult as well. I pride myself on being an “individual” – someone who marches to the beat of his own drum, someone who isn’t swayed by the crowd, someone who is self-reliant, both emotionally and temporally, someone who is a driver and who knows how to create results.
However – without a doubt – I am 100% positive that while I can (and should) strive to be self-reliant in terms of my emotional state and my ideas and opinions – I cannot achieve the level of success that I am continually striving for without a large number of positive relationships. Moreover – whatever success (great or small) I have experienced in the past, is BECAUSE OF, not in spite of, the relationships that I have worked to build.
As a result 2015 (and very possibly every year hereafter) is going to be a relationship focused one for me.
How I’m doing it is simple:
- I have established a “quota” of meaningful engagements that I have to meet each week with people (for me the number is 50 each week). These engagement can be in many forms (I’m not being restrictive) – a phone call, a meeting at a coffee house, a lunch, a meaningful email exchange or social media discussion. The format doesn’t matter as much as the substance of the conversation. I have to engage at least 50 times per week (that is my own standard I have set).
- I’m tracking all of the engagements that I do. I’ve incorporated 52 pages in my “2015 goal journal” to track my engagements – and yes I have completed the first two weeks.
- I have an accountability partner who I must account to each week. If I don’t do my engagements I have a “consequence” that I have established. If I do them I get a “reward”.
- Obviously the “reward” is the relationship itself. The reason that I have set a separate reward / consequence mechanism is just to condition the behaviour. In the past I have looked at building relationships more as a “strategic” or a “timely” thing – i.e. when I needed something I would go out and “network”. I think this is an incorrect approach and I want to change the way that I look at building relationships away from “strategy” to “lifestyle”. I want to treat building relationships the same way that I treat exercise. It is something that I consciously do each day. That is why I am using behaviour conditioning tools to do so. I’m looking to change my habits.
So let chat! Let’s meet! Let’s talk! I want to engage with you. Let’s help each other to reach our goals together. We need each other, and we are far more likely to achieve massive success if we accept and embrace this. If you read my blog I’m open to a conversation with you. Shoot me an email or contact me here
Wanting success is never enough, and hope alone is a really poor business plan. If you want to have a great year you’ve got to take a very strategic approach.
Here is how to make 2015 your best year ever. This is the process that I use to make my annual goals. It is a process that I have refined over many years in experimenting with methods that bring results.
In order to complete this exercise you’ll need a journal (a critical element to success anyway. My preferred choice – moleskin)
Let’s start with some “emotional priming”……
Before you launch into thinking about what you “want”, let’s take a moment to first get into a positive emotional state. Once we are in a positive emotional state we’ll be able to hit flow in setting our goals and plans for 2015.
Ok – now take out your journal and on the first page write the following declaration “I’m going to make 2015 my best year ever“. Feel good? Do you believe yourself? Is your emotional state starting to shift?
Let’s up the emotional ante by getting real grateful. Turn the page and then, on the next page I want you to write out the “5 things in your life right now that you are most grateful for”.
Can you see what I’m doing here? I want to get you into a positive emotional state before you launch into what you “want”. Focusing only on what you “don’t currently have” is a great way to feel entitled, upset and discouraged. Those feelings aren’t going to help you achieve in 2015. You’ve got to feel positive, and full of gratitude.
Let’s up the ante even more now. In order to accomplish in 2015, and really make it your best year ever you’ve got to have confidence. The best way to feel confident? Reflect on your past achievements.
Turn the page and then answer the following question, “what 5 things that you accomplished in 2014 are you the most proud of?“. I bet you’re already starting to feel good. Now we are almost ready to start focusing on what we “want” to achieve.
But before we do that, we’ve got to reinforce who we are….
So turn the page and write out a short statement of your life philosophy – this could really be anything, as long as it accurately describes who you are and the way that you are committed to live.
Some ideas –
I always give my best in everything I do; or
I’m not entitled to anything, so I’m grateful for anything that I have; or
I live each day with passion, and complete presence in what I’m doing.
Those are just some ideas (good ones in my opinion), but remember this is your life philosophy so it must resonate true to you. But this is a very important exercise because it forms what is essentially your “personal constitution” – something that you will not deviate from.
Now building off your personal life philosophy, turn the page….
And write down your top 5 core values. What are the “values” that you hold most dear? What values make you come alive? Need help? Here are my top five values:
Contributing Value To Others
Adventure and Risk Taking
You might have more than 5 (I do), and yours might be different than mine (they should since you are different than me). There is no “magic number” but you’ve got to “know yourself”. This part is critical because your goals must match these values.
If your goals don’t match your values then you will be incongruent. You will be trying to achieve something that your heart isn’t in. It doesn’t work. You need internal rocket fuel to achieve great things. Having incongruent goals won’t give you that rocket fuel.
Know yourself, and then make sure you are aligned.
Ok – I think we are now ready to set some goals.
First – answer this question on a new page (and make your answer as specific as possible):
“If my life ends up being perfect (in terms of my career and what I want to accomplish in my life) what would that look like?”
Next – answer this question on a new page (and again make your answer as specific as possible):
“What 5 things would need to happen for 2015 to be my best year ever?”
On the specific part – this is a critical detail you can’t overlook. Clarity is power. Don’t answer either of those questions with generalities (like wanting more money, or being happier). You are setting yourself up for failure if you do. You need to know when you have actually achieved your goal. You’ll never know this unless your goal is very specific.
Now go back to your core values and “stress test” your goals. Are your goals aligned with your values? If not then you are incongruent and you need to re-write your goals until you get it right. So if you need to re-write your goals then go back and do it.
Also – do your 5 goals for 2015 take you closer to your “perfect career / life scenario”? If not then you need to refine your goals.
Ok – now that you have a set of 5 specific goals for 2015 that are aligned with your life purpose and congruent with your core values let’s start getting into the planning process….
Answer this question on a new page:
“What 3 vital behaviours must I do each week in order to achieve these goals?”
By answering these questions you’re tapping into something powerful – the compounding effect of sustained small actions. Books and books have been written on this concept. Neglect it at your peril. It is critical. Your life (and your year) is really just the sum of all the individual weeks and days that comprise these time periods. You don’t grow wealthy, healthy or achieve any form of success overnight. It is never just one day. All successful people have a long track record of repeatedly sustained vital actions. What are yours?
Now turn the page….
We are still working with your vital behaviours. Number the lines vertically up to 52 (as you move down the page), and at the top (horizontally) write your three vital behaviours along the top. Yes – I want you to track when you actually do these things.
What gets tracked gets done. This is another critical success habit I have learned.
Next – I want you to create a reward / accountability mechanism for actually performing these vital behaviours. What reward could you give yourself? And how can you hold yourself accountable to ensure that these behaviours actually get done? I’m really serious on this point. If you want extraordinary results, we have to condition you to take action. Building a reward / accountability mechanism works wonders.
Next – I want you to turn the page back to your 5 goals for 2015. Now (on a new page) answer the following questions:
“What 25 specific things must I do in order to achieve these 5 goals in 2015 (5 per goal)?”
Once you’ve written this list out you have the basics of a strategic plan to achieve your goals. You are half way there. You can build from this plan and write more things (I always do). But at least you are on track – you’ve got a specific set of goals that are aligned with your main purpose in life and are congruent with your values. You’ve also got the foundations of a plan to achieve them.
Now label the next “52” pages in your journal, one per week, for the entire year. On each of these pages, for the entire year, once a week you are going to write down the 20 things you will do that week to move you closer to achieving your 5 goals for the year. You don’t have to do all of them now. I like to use Sunday nights to write out my 20 things for the week. So each week, on a new page, you’ll write out your new list.
Remember – don’t leave success to chance. Hope isn’t a plan. You’ve got to have more than just “wanting it”. You’ve got to know what you want, and you’ve got to plan for it, and you’ve got to DO IT.
Now go back to the first page of your journal – remind yourself of the promise you made – that this year is going to be your best year ever.
Now back it up.
Employee Fulfillment Workshop: Find The Joy And Meaning In Your Work – Live Your Optimal Self
Why This Workshop Will Help Your Business
The Employee Fulfillment Workshop is a program that utilizes leading research and thought on motivation, optimal performance psychology, employee engagement, and work fulfillment studies to help your employees discover the joy and meaning in their work, teach them how to find fulfillment and engagement without changing their job title, responsibilities, pay or benefits, how to effectively control their inner state, live with more confidence, perform more effectively and efficiently.
All Businesses Need Engaged Employees
Effectively deployed human capital is the foundation of a prosperous business. Technology will not replace an effective workforce. The challenge of every business is to ensure their workforce is productive and performing at optimal levels.
A Fulfilled Employee Is An Effective Employee
When an employee is fulfilled they work more efficiently, productively and effectively. Effective employees lead to profitable and sustainable businesses. Unfulfilled employees are unproductive, inefficient and decrease profitability.
Workplace Apathy and Attrition Leads To Decreased Productivity and Higher Costs
There is very little employee loyalty these days. Workers who pursue “greener pastures” leave companies with high re-training, recruiting and re-hiring costs. These costs could be mitigated if employees were more fulfilled.
There Are Steps An Employee Can Take To Find More Fulfillment In Their Work
Research in social science and psychology has revealed that fulfillment is something that each employee can create on their own – independent of their employer. Empower your employees by teaching them how.
The Workshop Isn’t “Motivational Content”. It Includes Immediately Actionable Strategies
It utilizes specific strategies that can be immediately deployed for significant results
Fulfillment Isn’t A Subject That Is Taught In School
What Does The Workshop Teach?
The Employee Fulfillment Workshop uses leading research and thought on motivation, optimal performance psychology, employee engagement, and work fulfillment studies to teach employees how they can find more fulfillment in what they do, without having to change their job descriptions, or increase their pay, vacation time or benefits.
The workshop is delivered in a 3-hour, on location format, and can also be adapted and tailored as a management seminar. Included in the workshop costs are 3 hours of follow-up consulting work directly with Ryan Clements to create sustainable systems to ensure that the behaviors taught in the workshop are adapted as a long-term habits that create lasting change.
The Employee Fulfillment Workshop Covers These Topics:
- 10 career misconceptions that keep employees unfulfilled;
- 10 truths about job fulfillment;
- How to evoke flow: the autotelic experience;
- Making time fly: the value of getting lost in your work;
- Defining and controlling the rules of the game of fulfillment;
- Creating internal reward systems that are within your control;
- Moving down the consciousness complexity channel (aligning skill with the potential for challenge and growth);
- Establishing fail safe zones;
- Transmuting emotions – how to turn negativity into massive creativity;
- Individual game design with clear goals and immediate feedback;
- The power of emotionally detached action taking;
- Becoming a master of your sphere of personal responsibility;
- Asking empowering questions to improve operations and creativity;
- Independent job-related goal setting;The foundations of emotional self-reliance;
- The myth of multi-tasking. Why this leads to stress; and
- Creating internal reward systems that are within each employee’s control.
- How to turn stressful situations into enjoyable opportunities
Contact Ryan Clements today at 403-619-1173, or using the Contact Form On This Website, to learn more about the workshop including costs and how it can be adapted to the needs of your work environment. Start today to empower your employees to find joy and meaning in their work.
I’m using an accountability partner for my goals in 2015. This is why:
I consider myself a highly disciplined person. I set goals, I take action. I hold myself accountable. I’ve achieved success in my life.
But I want to live the very best that I’m capable of. I don’t want to have any regrets in my life. This is something that is really important to me. I must know that I’ve lived at my peak potential, regardless of what happens, regardless of the “results” that I obtain. I have to know that I lived at my personal best.
This past year I read several biographies and autobiographies of top athletes – including books on Michael Jordan, Mike Tyson, Arnold Schwarzenegger and Georges St. Pierre. I also read several biographies of highly successful business people. I noticed a recurring theme in all of the books that I read:
All of these top performers had some type of formal “accountability” factor – pushing them past what they thought they were capable of. This accountability factor would often manifest in the form of a coach or a training or business partner that they had to report to or work with.
I want that.
Not because I’m not disciplined. I am disciplined.
Not because I’m not capable of setting and achieving goals on my own. I am capable of achieving on my own.
I want the accountability because I believe that there is something unique about human relationships that causes us to push beyond what we would normally do when we are accountable to someone else.
It makes us more persistent.
It causes us to extend our comfort zones.
It causes us to be more focused and diligent.
I want that. I want that not because I don’t have it on my own. I want it because I know that with someone else I can push myself harder. I can live closer to my personal potential.
Here is how my accountability partner and I have structured the year: We will share our specific goals that we want to accomplish in 2015. Then we will identify a key behaviour that we want to track each week (something that is critical to our accomplishing our goals). Then each week we are going to “sign in” (in the form of a quick text) and let each other know whether or not we have accomplished the key behaviour. We are in the process of also layering in a reward / consequence mechanism for when we do (or do not) complete the behaviour.
Simple enough, but the key behaviour for each of us will push us, and take us out of our comfort zone. We both want this because we know that getting outside of our comfort zone is the only way to obtain what we want.
I really believe that this factor will be a difference maker in 2015. Try it for yourself. I’d love to share results with each other at the end of 2015!
There is a great story that writer and entrepreneur Gary Keller shares in his fantastic book The One Thing, about comedian Jerry Seinfeld and the advice that he gives aspiring comedians to be successful and productive:
“Write one joke everyday. Put a red X on the calendar for everyday you work on your craft. You create a chain of days. Your job becomes this: Don’t break the chain.”
This is a concept that I’ve encountered many times, in various books and speeches. Stephen King and Steven Pressfield both talk about it in the context of writing. Many other business writers, including Darren Hardy, and Greg McKeown have basically said the same thing (using different anecdotes). Also, when I look at my own life, at the goals that I set for myself, at the things I succeed in, and the things that I fall short at, I can see that this concept is truth, plain and simple:
There are certain behaviours that are more critical to the accomplishment of our goals than other behaviours. The task for us is to identify these critical behaviours, and then develop a mode of living – a habit – so that these behaviours are done every single day.
This is the chain – each link of the chain is the repetition of the critical behaviour, not breaking the chain involves ensuring that each day (at least each working day) we are doing the things that are going to lead to the best results.
This concept applies to anything – any goal and any pursuit. For any result that you want there are certain actions that you can take that are more effective than other actions. We’ve heard this so many times in our lives – the Pareto Principle? The 80 / 20 rule? But more often than not, when I audit my own behaviour I find that it is very easy to fall into a pattern of routine where I am doing things, on a day to day basis, that aren’t critical behaviours.
Part of the problem is the nature of our “always connected” society. Social media, checking email, and instantly responding can be very addictive. It is compounded by the pressure that we feel in not responding quickly (ever notice that “has read” component on Facebook messaging) – and the irrational demands that people have accepted into their lives about how quickly an email must be responded to. But it is rare that I’ve seen a situation where immediately responding to every email that we get is the most critical action that we can take for our goals.
It takes a very brave (and smart) person to be able to let emails go unanswered until their critical behaviours for the day are completed.
Those are the people however who often accomplish great things – the people who are brutally focused and prioritize their life to such an extent that the most important things, the things are going to generate the most results, are the things that get done every day.
Think about your 3 most important goals – the three goals that if you accomplished them in 2015 you would feel that the year had been your best year ever.
I 100% guarantee that for each of your goals there are a range of various actions that you could take that would move you closer to achieving them. Now within this range of actions there are certain actions that are more likely to drive results. These are your “critical actions”. These are actions that you must strive to do every day. These are the ones you must focus on, even if you have to neglect others.
What is critical to your life, your job, your business, and your goals? Do those things, every day, and don’t break the chain.
Life is a lot like a pendulum. On the one side of the pendulum is the potential for happiness, fulfillment, excitement, variety, interest; and on the other side is the potential for failure, risk, disappointment, and criticism.
If the pendulum stands still and doesn’t swing then nothing happens. Sure you don’t have failure, you don’t have any risk, you don’t have any disappointment, and no one says anything bad about you, in fact nothing bad ever really happens to you, you are insulated from disappointment; however, nothing really good happens to you either, you miss out on all the excitement of life, the fulfillment, the variety, the interest and the happiness.
YOU CANNOT SWING A PENDULUM ONLY ONE WAY.
Think about this for all aspects of your life. In every relationship there is a risk that your heart can be broken, but that doesn’t stop you from entering the relationship.
When you raise a family there is a risk that your child will make bad choices that bring pain to themselves and others, that shouldn’t stop you from starting a family.
When you start a business there is the risk that you will fail (in business this is a very real risk). But we can’t run from risk forever. We can’t avoid the POTENTIAL for pain for so long that we miss out on the other side. Whenever we take a risk it is because we want what is on the other side of the pendulum, and we are willing to deal with what comes our way.
Now think about your business and your career. On the one side is financial freedom, excitement, fulfillment, success, but on the other side is the POTENTIAL for rejection, criticism, failure and disappointment. I know many people who stay at careers they hate for too long, or don’t embrace their true desire for (again I repeat) the “Potential” of rejection, criticism, failure and disappointment.
Unfortunately in business I see many people who let the pendulum stand still. They don’t want the failure, the rejection or the disappointment, so they don’t take massive action where risk is present (which risk is generally just emotional, such as rejection). However, what they fail to recognize is that by making this choice they are also missing out on the other side of the pendulum – financial freedom, fulfillment, variety and excitement.
My advice – swing that pendulum high!!!!
The less you are scared of the “bad side” of the pendulum and are willing to charge ahead (who cares if you fail anyway, failure is never permanent unless you accept it as such) then the pendulum will eventually swing to the good side.
I believe this to be a universal law – if you are willing to push the pendulum to the “scary side” then it will inevitably swing the other way!
[below is a re-post from an article I wrote about Joe Kincheloe on December 19th, 2013 (five years after he died). Today (December 14th) is his birthday. You can find the original article here]
Today I feel inspired, reflective, maybe a little sad as well.
Tomorrow is exactly five years from the time that Joe Kincheloe died. Many people know Joe as a scholar and writer. He was a Professor and Canada Research Chair in the Faculty of Education at McGill University. He wrote more than 45 books, numerous book-chapters, and hundreds of journal articles in diverse areas relating to education and critical studies. He was prolific, successful, and extremely influential.
He was also my father-in-law, and a loyal and trusted friend.
I think about Joe often. He is easily on a short list of the most influential men in my life. He is the strongest influence on my desire to become a writer. My first book (soon to be released) is dedicated to him.
So tonight, as I reflect on his life, and our interactions, while listening to The Stones, Tom Petty, Steve Earle, Bob Marley, Stevie Ray Vaughn, Warren Zevon, and Tony and the Hegemones (music that reminds me of Joe), I wanted to share some of the wisdom that he shared with me when he was here.
Some things were direct, things that he’d tell me when we’d go on walks through the woods near his home in Morin Heights, Quebec. Others things I just noticed about him, and they were things that I observed in his habits and in his interactions with other people. They are in no particular order, just powerful little tendencies exhibited by a man who really knew how to live.
1. The taxi driver is as important as the President
Everyone who knew Joe had some memorable anecdote that went something like this: they’d leave Joe just for a moment, perhaps to check in to a hotel room, go to the bathroom, maybe drop into a store, only to come back and find Joe interacting with someone like he was their long lost brother. It was uncanny, and amazing. He could, and would, make friends with everyone. His smile was infectious. He was the most unpretentious person I have ever met, and he had valid reasons to be pretentious. I have been around so many people in my life who hide behind their titles and accomplishments, or even worse, shove them in my face to make them feel superior.
Joe was the opposite of this. He would literally treat the taxi driver with the same respect and dignity that he would show to a world leader. You’d never know that he was so successful and accomplished, because he never talked about it. The guy wrote 45 books, he had three graduate degrees. His intellect was off the charts, but he didn’t hide behind his titles and successes. He was the most real person I’ve ever met. He was always focused on the person in front of him. He is the best conversationalist, by a long shot, that I have ever encountered in my life, and his methods were actually quite simple: focus on the person in front of you, treat them like they are the most important person in the world.
2. If you’re going to rock, then really rock
Joe epitomized living in the moment, and really “feeling” what he was doing. He loved music. He was a talented piano player, and he would do concerts with his band “Tony and the Hegemones”. When he rocked he really rocked. Sweat pouring off him rock. Full immersion. Like he was a real rock star (to us he was).
You couldn’t listen to him, or watch him perform, without smiling, without tapping your feet, and without moving a little. Whether it was a Tom Petty cover, or a Joe Kincheloe original. When he played, he was the music, and you felt it.
3. Sit down and do your work
This is perhaps the most practical, success related, thing that Joe ever taught me. Interesting thing is that he never once told it to me. I just noticed it from him. I watched him, like the young impressionable man that I was.
It isn’t by luck that the man wrote 45 books. He was a machine. He was relentless in his habits. When it was time to rock he rocked. But when it was time to write, he wrote, and he rarely missed it. His discipline and habits, his ability to put his butt in the chair was remarkable. It taught me a powerful lesson, one that I try to implement every day as well: just sit down, shut up, and do my work. Do my work and the results will follow. Do my work and everything else that I want is possible. But first I must do my work.
4. There is nothing wrong with being a crazed fan
Joe was a wild (if perhaps not somewhat obsessed) Tennessee Volunteers football fan. Watching college football with him was an experience unto itself, and I loved it. I literally logged dozens and dozens of hours sitting with him just watching football. Since I was in school for most of our relationship, and they lived in either New York or Montreal, Meg and I would often go see them during winter vacation (college football bowl time). Those were some of my fondest memories.
You know what? If you’re going to be a fan, then be one, and there’s nothing wrong with loving your team, no matter what team that is. That is what Joe taught me. He unapologetically cheered, like a little kid, for his team, and I think what he was really saying was just be who you are. Love who you are. Love what you do. Embrace every moment.
5. Pursue what you believe in, even (especially) if it is scary
Joe was a master story teller. I can’t even pretend to do justice to his stories. They were so unbelievable that at times I wondered if I was listening to a life akin to the movie “Big Fish”. But every story that he told was true (at least he claimed). Many of his stories dealt with his many adventures being a counter-cultural youth in the bible belt south. One of my favourite stories was when he was wrongfully accused, arrested and detained as an undergraduate for “inciting a riot”. I’m laughing just thinking about that story.
The reality is that Joe had beliefs about education, corporate power, race and gender inequality, and government corruption that sometimes placed him in opposition to the ruling majority. Did he hide? Did he conform? Quite the contrary. He lived what he believed. He wrote what he believed. Even if it led to circumstances that other’s would find stressful, and scary. Best of all was that he could laugh about all of it. Truly a remarkable man.
6. Good things take time, and that’s a good thing
When Joe graduated with his doctorate the only job that he could find was on the Rosebud Indian Reservation in South Dakota at Sinte Gleska College. I think a lot of people would be discouraged at this prospect. Not Joe, he wasn’t wired that way. He pretty much became an honorary member of the Sioux Nation. I’m not kidding. He embraced that role so much that he became beloved.
That was how Joe rolled. He wasn’t driven by instant gratification. He knew that getting his message across, and creating social change would take time, and he was willing to go in it for the long haul. One article at a time, one book at a time, one student at a time, one mind at a time. Complete immersion in the moment of what he was doing. When we had his life celebration it was packed with former students. People who could write their own articles on the things that Joe taught them. Even though he left us early, he did more in the time that he had than most people could ever dream of.
7. There is beauty all around
Joe had a gift for capturing, through poems and songs, the subtle beauties of life. He wrote songs for all his grandkids. I have the original copies of those songs for my daughter Maci and my son Cohen. They are so beautiful. It is hard to read them without getting emotional. He had a gift of seeing the good in everything. The good in people, and the good in situations.
My son Cohen was born with severe complications. It was a stressful time, full of tears, worries and anxiety. I had to take a leave of absence from work. It was the most uncertain moment of my life. Joe was such a support, always there to cheer us up. We lived for many months in Montreal during this time (as Cohen was at the Montreal Children’s Hospital). I can remember many moments where he would encourage us, cry with us, and make us laugh. He helped us to see beauty in the very darkest moments of our life.
8. Life is too short not to laugh, especially at yourself
Joe had a gift of laughter, and he was especially adept at laughing at himself. I’ll never forget the time when me and my friend Ali stayed with him for two weeks in Montreal to study for the bar exam. He was “in the trenches” on a soon to be released book, Shirley (Meg’s mom and Joe’s wife) was away and so he wanted the company. He’d write during the day, as we’d study for the bar, and then in the evening we’d watch sports. It was a great time.
Well one day Joe needed a haircut, so he left to go into town (he lived in Morin Heights) a small town outside of Montreal near the Laurentian Mountains. I think there was only one “stylist” in town and I think the only haircut they knew was the 1980’s bowl cut, Gerard Depardieu, cropped over the ears style, because that is exactly what he came home looking like. It was hilarious, and ridiculous. Joe walked in to the house, and immediately, as soon as me and Ali saw him, we burst out laughing. Then he burst out laughing also. Soon all three of us were just gut laughing. Finally as soon as Joe could manage he said “do I look like Gerard Depardieu?”. He never did get his hair fixed. He maintained his Gerard Depardieu until it morphed into his customary mullet. Good times. I think everyone who knew Joe had a story that involved something he said or did where he had a good laugh at himself.
If the world knew how to laugh at itself, the way Joe could laugh at himself, it would be a much different (and better) place.
Man we miss you Joe. You left us way to early. But thank you for sharing your time with us. Thank you for sharing your wisdom with us. Thank you for teaching us. You’re in our hearts tonight. We love you.
What are the two most empowering words?
Most of the time we operate from a position of:
“I’d like to”; or
“It would be nice if”; or
However, there is a completely different mentality, a much more empowering and powerful mindset, when you operate from the position of “I will”.
The words “I will” are the two most empowering words we can use.
The moments in my life where I felt the greatest level of personal power have been those moments where I experienced absolute certainty. They were the moments that I knew that I would accomplish something specific. I knew something was going to happen, and I was willing to do whatever it took, no matter what, to make it come about.
Something happens to a person when they pass a threshold point, where they no longer wish, desire, hope, want or even dream, but rather they move to a position of absolute certainty that they will obtain a given result. They move from desire to absolute belief.
This state, in my opinion, is the most empowered state that a person can reach – a state of absolute certainty that a particular result will occur.
It all begins with a thought that is generated in your mind – a thought about something that is desirable to you. In many cases we don’t believe that the thoughts that we have will actually come to pass. We may dream of our business being a certain way, or our life looking a certain way, but we don’t really believe it. We don’t really think that it will happen. So we let the thought go, it passes, and we continue on with our day to day life.
However, every once in while we get a thought that we embrace as a real belief. We move that thought away from a “wish” to a “certainty” as we tell ourselves that it will occur.
A perfect example is the person who, at some point, looks in the mirror and they don’t like what they see (physically) so they decide right there to change it, and they do. All of us know people who have that story.
Think about a time in your life where you made a real change, or took real action in a certain direction. There was a moment of certainty where you actually believed that a given result was in your power, and you knew that you would do whatever it took to bring it about. The thoughts of discouragement, fear, or even the time that it would take to bring about the result weren’t on your mind. You knew that you would get the result, no matter what. Absolute certainty translates into reality. There is magic in this.
The exciting thing is that you can train your mind so that you live with certainty all the time. When you start out small, and build on your belief, then you are able to take on larger goals, and know with certainty that you will achieve them.
So start with something small. What is something that you could do for yourself or your business? Something that is totally within your control?
Think about that in your mind. Then do it. Absolutely follow through. You will engage the process of turning thoughts into reality because what you follow through on began with just a thought. Once you have completed this once, do it again.
Do it again, and again, and again, so that it becomes part of you. Once this pattern is conditioned inside of you, you will find yourself thinking larger thoughts and knowing with certainty that you will achieve them because you have conditioned this pattern of belief in your mind.
It all starts with a thought, and then a pattern of action brought about by the two most empowering words
All entrepreneurs (even ones who are full of passion and engagement for their work) feel fatigue from time to time. It is natural, and it is human.
I felt fatigue today. I woke up and I felt “down”. I honestly had no rational basis for feeling this way. This past month our business made more money than we have ever earned. All time highs in profit. I’m just coming off several public speaking gigs (including a TEDx talk), and I have many other public speaking opportunities and workshops lining up. Books sales of Unsuited are doing well. I’m engaged in some really interesting consulting files. I do what I love, on my own time frame. Really I have no reason -NONE – to feel down.
But I still felt down this morning anyway.
So what do you do when you are an entrepreneur and you feel down? How do you deal with it?
One of the benefits of being an employee is that you have to show up for work, even when you are tired. Otherwise you will lose your job.
What…..that doesn’t sound like a benefit.
Well it is a benefit if you are an entrepreneur because you want to show up for work each day. That is how to make things great, and you want accountability to show up each day.
When you are an entrepreneur you don’t have someone watching over you. So you can “not show up for work” and no one will know. You can even rationalize it, and say “it doesn’t matter today”, “one day is no big deal”. However when you get in the habit of doing this, you run many risks. One day turns into another day, and another, and before you know it your business is in trouble (if you even have a business left at all).
I’ve learned in my seven years of 100% self-employment, that the freedom that I get from being an entrepreneur has a real cost. The cost is that I have to show up every day. The cost is discipline.
The cost is that I can’t use “I feel down” as an excuse. I can’t be a tumbleweed of emotion. I have to change my emotion on my own. I have to master my internal state.
So here is a trick that I’ve learned that can be employed by any of you (who are also self-employed or commission based sales) for those days that you don’t really feel like “showing up” for work. For those days that you feel down:
Emotion is created by motion. If I don’t feel like working, then I really, really, really need to get to work. There is magic in work however, because as soon as I start taking action my emotions will change. It is 100% guaranteed. Pretty soon I will feel ok, and I will have momentum, and I will be grateful that I didn’t waste the day just because I “initially” felt tired or down.
Specifically there are two strategies that I use to change my own state:
1. Move and breathe
This is magic. Take 20 deep breaths into your stomach. Go for a brisk 20 minute walk. You will get the blood flowing, your brain will get that oxygen that it needs and you will start feeling good.
2. Hit a “flow state” as quickly as possible.
Immediately engage a flow state. Start a project that requires your total energy and focus to complete it. When you channel a flow state you lose your sense of consciousness of the self. All of your focus and attention is directed on the accomplishment of a specific task. When you do this you stop thinking about “the fact that you feel down”. Within an hour or two you feel great. I personally also like to use music to channel flow. Putting on motivating music in the background as I work. This works for me.
Flow is a state change drug. It is powerful
So this morning, when I was feeling down, I knew that I needed to do both of these strategies as quickly as possible. So I did them. I moved and breathed and I hit flow (in my case I worked on a presentation for a new workshop that I am developing). Within two hard hours of hard work I felt great.
This general concept is also explained by Og Mandino (from the Greatest Salesman In The World):
It is one of nature’s tricks, little understood, that each day I awaken with moods that have changed from yesterday. Yesterday’s joy will become today’s sadness; yet today’s sadness will grow into tomorrow’s joy. Inside of me is a wheel, constantly turning from sadness to joy, from exultation to depression, from happiness to melancholy….weak is he who permits his thoughts to control his actions; strong is he who forces his actions to control his thoughts…
If I feel ill I will double my labor
If I feel fear I will plunge ahead..
From this moment I am prepared to control whatever personality awakes me in a day. I will master my moods through positive action.
So the next time you don’t feel like it, just start. You’ll feel better shortly.
Remember – you are the master of your emotions. You are not “what happens to you”. Your emotional state is a factor that is 100% within your control.
Here is a powerful story to ponder as we start to shift our focus to a new year.
We should consider how we treat everyone in our life, and whether we could make incremental changes to perhaps be a little more kind.
More kind to those closest to us, but also to those who may be strangers, or unlikely to provide any “relationship capital” in our lives.
More kind to those that we have no potential monetary benefit by being more kind to.
I believe that kindness is a small but unbelievably powerful concept that is nothing but a benefit. To be kind is not to be weak. To be kind is not to lose ground. To be kind is not to be taken advantage of. To be kind is to express the best that is in us.
As told by Benjamin Zander in his great book “The Art of Possibility“
A monastery has fallen on hard times. It was once part of a great order which, as a result of religious persecution in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, lost all its branches. It was decimated to the extent that there were only five monks left in the mother house: the Abbot and four others, all of whom were over seventy. Clearly it was a dying order.
Deep in the woods surrounding the monastery was a little hut that the Rabbi from a nearby town occasionally used for a hermitage. One day, it occurred to the Abbot to visit the hermitage to see if the Rabbi could offer any advice that might save the monastery. The Rabbi welcomed the Abbot and commiserated. “I know how it is,” he said, “the spirit has gone out of people. Almost no one comes to the synagogue anymore.” So the old Rabbi and the old Abbot wept together, and they read parts of the Torah and spoke quietly of deep things.
The time came when the Abbot had to leave. They embraced. “It has been wonderful being with you,” said the Abbot, “but I have failed in my purpose for coming. Have you no piece of advice that might save the monastery?” “No, I am sorry,” the Rabbi responded, “I have no advice to give. The only thing I can tell you is that the Messiah is one of you.
When the other monks heard the Rabbi’s words, they wondered what possible significance they might have. “The Messiah is one of us? One of us, here, at the monastery? Do you suppose he meant the Abbot? Of course—it must be the Abbot, who has been our leader for so long. On the other hand, he might have meant Brother Thomas, who is certainly a holy man. Or could he have meant Brother Elrod, who is so crotchety? But then Elrod is very wise. Surely, he could not have meant Brother Phillip—he’s too passive. But then, magically, he’s always there when you need him. Of course he didn’t mean me—yet supposing he did? Oh Lord, not me! I couldn’t mean that much to you, could I?”
As they contemplated in this manner, the old monks began to treat each other with extraordinary respect, on the off chance that one of them might be the Messiah. And on the off off chance that each monk himself might be the Messiah, they began to treat themselves with extraordinary respect.
Because the forest in which it was situated was beautiful, people occasionally came to visit the monastery, to picnic or to wander along the old paths, most of which led to the dilapidated chapel. They sensed the aura of extraordinary respect that surrounded the five old monks, permeating the atmosphere. They began to come more frequently, bringing their friends, and their friends brought friends. Some of the younger men who came to visit began to engage in conversation with the monks. After a while, one asked if he might join. Then another, and another. Within a few years, the monastery became once again a thriving order, and—thanks to the Rabbi’s gift—a vibrant, authentic community of light and love for the whole realm.
Routines are powerful. Habits control most of our life, whether we like it or not. Most of what we do is automatic. If we tracked our behaviour for a week we would realize this to be true.
As a result, one of the ways to take control of our life is to take control of our habits. This doesn’t just apply to our personal life. Habits control our business, and physical health as well.
Every once in a while however it is meaningful to break routine – to do something unexpected, unplanned, spontaneous, just because.
Take a look at your goals. It is likely (if you are actually taking action beyond just wishing and hoping that your life will change) that you have established a fairly well worn pattern of routine about what you are doing to achieve a particular goal.
This is a good thing, because as noted, habits control your life, and if you can establish good habits relating to your business or career activity, you’ll have a better chance of achieving your goal.
Here are the reasons however, that breaking routine every once in a while is a good idea:
- It keeps you fresh, creates variety and leads to a better overall experience. Doing something new and unexpected is like an adventure. You aren’t sure what you will get (since you probably haven’t done it before). This is fun;
- A better overall experience will lead to more engagement and fulfillment in your life (so that your life doesn’t become only results or rewards based). There are psychological studies that suggest that solely focusing on the external rewards of a behaviour can actually decrease your intrinsic motivation to pursue that behaviour long term (see Daniel Pink’s book Drive for example). By breaking routine you can enjoy the process of achievement, not just the results, this is very important; and
- It gives you a view from 30,000 feet for a moment as to whether your routines are actually effective. Sometimes we get stuck in a hypnotic trap of thinking that what we are doing is effectively moving us closer to our goals when in reality it is just a non-effective behaviour that we have cemented into a habit. We think that we are taking effective action, but in many cases we aren’t. Breaking routine can help you to introspect and look back at your habits and see if they are effective or not.
What are some examples:
- Do something tomorrow to market your business that you have never done before but that you have heard other people try;
- Change up your exercise routine just for the day. Try a new exercise. See if you like it; and
- Do something totally unexpected with your family today, or with your partner. This will engage excitement and fun and make life less of a grind.
The truth can be very difficult to embrace. We tell ourselves stories all the time to avoid the truth:
- My job isn’t that bad (when we are really living in quiet desperation);
- I’m doing my best (when we know that we have way more to give);
- It’s not my fault (when we know deep down inside that we should take more self-responsibilty);
- This is good enough (when we really yearn for more);
- Nothing is working (when we know that we haven’t really tried “everything”, we’ve only tried a few strategies);
- I don’t have the knowledge, money or skill set to get this venture going (when we know that other people, with less knowledge, money and skill have succeeded);
- The job market, and economy is no good. It’s not a good time to change careers or start this business (when we know that this is just an excuse that allows us to hide behind our fears);
- I don’t have enough time to start a business (when we know that we waste tons of time each week watching TV or surfing the net);
- I’m entitled to this (when we know that we are entitled to nothing)
The list goes on and on. We all lie to ourselves in some way or another. I definitely have. You have too.
Why do we lie to ourselves? Why do we avoid the truth? Why do we tell ourselves stories?
- It is easier. We don’t have to accept responsibility. Being a victim is much easier than being responsible;
- It allows us to avoid taking action. This is important since most of the action that we really “should” take is scary, and way outside of our comfort zone;
- We’ve been socialized to think that if we go to school, get degrees and be “good people” that success is our right and it should come to us. Unless we are fortunate to have “tough love” mentors in our lives, or unless we came from nothing (and feel entitled to nothing) we can live in the entitlement mindset for much of our lives;
- You need very strong internal self-esteem, and an internal locus of control, to be able to objectively handle the truth – to objectify “failure” without becoming emotionally attached. Many of us simply don’t have that self-esteem. Our sense of self-esteem is not independent from our accomplishments – it is “accomplishment generated”. When your self-esteem is “accomplishment generated” you don’t want to feel that you messed up, or took the wrong path, or failed because it impacts your sense of self-worth. You have a motivation to pass the blame on to someone else – to avoid the truth – so that you can preserve your self-image.
Embracing the truth is one of the most powerful things that an entrepreneur can do.
When you embrace the truth you see the establishment of your business as an “objective feedback loop” unattached to your sense of self worth.
- You take an action;
- You get a response;
- If it’s a response that you want, then you judge the action to be good;
- If it’s a response that you don’t want then you just take different action.
There is no emotional attachment. No sadness. No failure. You collected a data point, and used that data point to your advantage.
The truth is your data point. In fact, it is the only data point that exists in an entrepreneur’s life.
What you think about your business, what your friends and family think about your business, and what you hope for in your business really means nothing.
What matters is the data that you get. Data presents the facts, and the facts are your most important asset.
- If you’re having a hard time selling your product or service, this is just a data point telling you that either your product or service hasn’t created value to customers, or your sales process (ie. how you are going about selling it) is not sufficiently communicating that value;
- If 20% of your actions in marketing are yielding you 80% of your results – this is a data point telling you that on the next marketing phase you need to do more of the marketing actions that yield you the results and less of the actions that don’t.
- Even if the business fails all together (which we hope that it doesn’t). This doesn’t mean that you should just resign yourself to your job that you hate. It doesn’t mean that you “don’t have what it takes” to be an entrepreneur. It just means that something didn’t work right. Either your product or service didn’t have good value, or you couldn’t connect with your target market, or you ran out of (or mismanaged) your money, or you were missing a very important skill set in your executive team. The list could go on and on.
It is all just data. It is all education. If you have an empowering mindset then you can take it all in, you can learn from it, and on your next go round you can avoid those mistakes.
That is why entrepreneurs talk so much about the “journey being so rewarding”. When you are an entrepreneur you are in a never ending educational feedback loop. If you intrinsically enjoy education and learning (which I think everyone does) then you are set up to enjoy your entire life.
Embrace the data. Embrace the truth. Don’t hide or shy from it. Strip yourself bare. Expose your insecurities. Allow all your failures to be felt and seen. This honesty will allow you to get the most from the data. The truth can be your biggest asset as an entrepreneur.
I just finished Roland Lazenby’s book Michael Jordan: The Life. I strongly recommend it – not just for the basketball or MJ fan (both of which I am) but for anyone who wants to gain incredible insight from one of the most remarkable successes the world has ever seen.
What impressed me most, after reading the book, was not MJ’s legendary work ethic, or competitive drive. I was aware of both of these traits before I read the book.
What I didn’t realize however, and what became evidently clear by reading the book, was just how willing MJ was to expose himself to potential failure so that he could live with no regrets and repeatedly test himself.
I think that prior success can sometimes be one of the biggest barriers to future success. When we are successful at one thing we now have “something to lose” – at a minimum the pride associated with our prior success. This can make us risk adverse, wanting to play it safe so that our pristine “success record” remains intact.
When we do this however, not only do we miss out on potential opportunities but we don’t fully live. A fulfilling life is a life that involves continual growth. Continual growth however isn’t possible without the potential for pain, setbacks and failure. I think that a truly remarkable person is someone who doesn’t allow prior success to define their willingness to try (and potentially fail) in the future.
MJ repeatedly displayed this character trait.
Think about it – after winning three NBA championships – in a row – he left to pursue a lifelong dream to see if he could make it as a big league baseball player. The best basketball player in the world was willing to ride a AA baseball bus in Birmingham Alabama just so that he could live with no regrets – knowing that he gave it a shot.
After his comeback, and second three-peat championship run with the Bulls, he retired, only to come back three years later as an aged player, without the once unmatched physical gifts, because he felt that he had more in the tank and he wanted to live without regrets. This time – with the Wizards – the results didn’t mirror the prior success he had with the Bulls, but the larger principle (at least to me is resounding):
He was willing to fail, and get criticized in the process, despite having achieved unprecedented success, so that he could test himself and live with no regrets.
I find that so inspiring – such a model of how I hope to live my life.
I think the only reason that we wouldn’t risk failure, in the face of prior success, is because we aren’t secure in ourselves, and we use our past success to bolster our otherwise weak emotional ecosystem and self-esteem.
But if you are secure in yourself, if you don’t need to hide behind achievements to support your lack of independent self-esteem, then you are willing to risk failure so that you can continually challenge yourself and live with no regrets.
That is how I want to live.
Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images
The most powerful concept that I’ve ever encountered is something that will scare most people.
It is something that most people will innately resist because all of our social conditioning, all of our spiritual beliefs (if we have them), all of our insecurities, fears, and anxieties desperately want this concept NOT to be true.
All of the assurances and assistance of loving and well-meaning mentors, parents, support networks, friends, partners, counsellors, suggest that this concept in fact ISN’T TRUE.
But if it were true – the way that we approached life would drastically change, and if you lived AS IF IT WERE TRUE then your life would immediately change as well.
You’d be more assertive and self-responsible, you’d have more self-esteem, you’d take greater action, you’d be more courageous, you’d be less concerned about what others thought, you’d organize your time better, you’d be more grateful, and you’d be happier.
I know – because I’ve been attempting (with my best efforts) to live this concept for several years and I have watched all of these things improve in my own life.
Here is the concept:
I am entitled to nothing, and no one is coming to help me.
Do you think you can live this concept?
I know I’ve sure had trouble with it, for all of the reasons noted above, and as a result, at one time in my adult life I thought that I was entitled to happiness. I thought I was entitled to success. I thought I was entitled to an empowering career, and everything that went with it.
This entitlement mentality led me to be passive, and then when things didn’t initially transpire the way I wanted them to, I started to believe that I was a victim. I started to become disempowered
Everything changed when I stopped feeling entitled. Everything changed when I realized that if I wanted change, then I had to change. No one could fix the circumstance but me.
I can absolutely assure you that the closer I get to living this concept the closer I also get to living my personal best, reaching my own unique potential, and the happier I also get.
Everything we know to be true about life resists this idea – that we are alone. We don’t want it to be true. We’ve been brought up to believe that it isn’t true. We’ve been continually assured that there are people there to help us, forces that will “assist us” and give us what we want. We have been conditioned to believe that if we will just be good people, and work hard then everything will work out.
What if that’s not that case? What if we truly aren’t entitled to anything? What if we are truly on our own?
I don’t know the answer to that question, and personally I don’t believe that it’s the case (that we are truly on our own).
However, I know with certainty that when I LIVE as if I’m entitled to nothing, when I live as if I’m not guaranteed any form of success, I’m not guaranteed any type of handout, and no one is coming to bail me out, this is what happens:
- I ferociously attack life with a spartan-like work ethic;
- I’m as brave as a loving parent protecting their child from a kidnapper;
- I’m as resourceful as I can possibly be;
- I constantly look to add value because I know that nothing is certain, and nothing is entitled;
- I manage my time like it’s life’s most precious gift; and
- I am so grateful for everything good in my life, and I feel gratitude every day just for having another day to go after my dreams
Do those sound like things you want?
If you want them, you don’t have to necessarily believe that you are alone, and that you are entitled to nothing, and that no one will save you.
But you have to act like it.
We’re all different – that goes without saying, and because we’re all so different I’ve often thought that any “path to success” that is communicated by someone is misleading because what works for one person doesn’t necessarily work for someone else.
What one person defines as “successful” often has little meaning for another person. For example, it is very possible that you could take someone who is highly content, and empowered, as a junior high teacher and insert him in the position of a CEO of a major corporation and the junior high teacher would be miserable, and immediately miss his old job empowering students.
Likewise, you could take an executive, who loves the thrill and rush that comes from making major decisions that affect thousands of people, negotiating big deals, and competing for market share, insert her in the position of a junior high teacher and she would be unhappy. She would miss the rush that came with her former position, and want to go back.
Perspective (and experience) is in the eye of the beholder. What is amazing for one person is miserable for another. What is miserable for one person is super empowering for another. It makes me think about a quote from one of my all time favourite books – Walden by Henry David Thoreau:
Why should we be in such desperate haste to succeed and in such desparate enterprises? If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer. Let him step to the music which he hears, however measured or far away.
Because of this – the fact that in order to be long term fulfilled we must march to the beat of our own unique drummer – the only real career advice that we should ever really want to follow is to make sure that we end up in the right position.
If we are empowered as a junior high teacher we need to make sure that we DON’T get that MBA – despite what anyone might say otherwise. Likewise if we are better suited to be an executive – we need to press on despite the daily stresses that we may feel along the way.
Long term fulfillment in our careers is about value alignment – it is about getting to actually experience the things that make us feel alive. It is not a generic path that involves making lots of money and having stuff that our neighbours envy.
Also – our ability to actually attain a level of mastery in our pursuits is going to hinge on whether or not we find an area to be intrinsically motivating. If we are intrinsically motivated by something then we are moved to take action, independent of the external rewards that we accumulate, or the setbacks we experience. We just keep at it because the “work is rewarding in and of itself”.
Many writers including Robert Greene in his book Mastery will concur – without a great sense of intrinsically motivating purpose in what we do we won’t stick with anything long enough. The highly referenced “10,000 hour quota” (a la Malcolm Gladwell) will never be reached if we aren’t deeply motivated from a wellspring of internal fire.
Sometimes what we think we won’t be good at, or like, actually ends up being incredibly intrinsically motivating and rewarding. That is why an open mind, and an willingness to experiment, and even fail, can be such an empowering mindset.
For example – when I was growing up I was shy and “uncomfortable in my skin”. I had skipped a grade in elementary school (grade 5) so I often felt ostracized by my peers, and I felt that I didn’t fit in. I found ways to blend it – for example sports became a refuge for me – but I never let the force of my personality free until much later in life. By experimenting as an adult I discovered that writing and public speaking were flow channels that brought a tremendous amount of intrinsic enjoyment to me – two things that I have now built a life around as an adult.
Had I not been willing to experiment, and fail, I would have never discovered this and I would be missing out on a very empowering aspect of my life.
It is a travesty that children are conditioned to avoid failure. Failure is a meta-skill in the learning process, and a willingness to experiment and fail is one of the only portals to truly find out what brings you intrinsic fulfillment, and what you can become great in.
As a society, we have some funny ideas. One of the strangest, in my opinion, is the approach that many people take towards the concept of education.
Education, for many, is that thing that happens early in life. We “become educated” (or so it is thought) so that we can positively contribute to society, and learn skills so that we can earn money (that we later put back into society through the process of consumption). Once we are “done” school, our life shifts to another phase – one that is more focused on “doing” and “consuming”
I recognize that not everyone thinks this way, but many do. It saddens me to see traditional bookstores disappear, while new reality TV shows blossom. I believe this trend is routed in the consumption based paradigm that pervades society so strongly.
Even education is seen as a “consumable” good, rather than a way of living. I consumed my fair share of traditional education – going to University for over 8 years and obtaining multiple degrees, including a graduate degree (not to mention over $100,000 of debt in the process). I enjoyed the expensive experience, however I am uncertain of the cost for value of the “good” at this point in my life – especially since I am not making in a living in the area that I went to school for (nor do I have any plans to do so).
Really however, I didn’t think that there were other options. I thought that traditional schooling was the only way to have a successful and prosperous life. Not only that, but I thought that an expensive education was the only way to learn.
This understanding (that expensive education is the only way to learn) is a big fallacy that I’ve since come to learn just isn’t true.
It may have been the case for my father’s generation that schooling was the only place to learn – literally. Other than a major public library in an urban center you just couldn’t get the books otherwise. Clearly however this isn’t the case anymore. Name a University Course – I bet without spending much money (and far less than the cost of tuition) I could get access to all the course material online. So the only thing I’m missing out on, these days, would be the incredible quality of teaching from University Professors who are far more concerned about students learning than they are their own publications and research grants (those who’ve been to University will immediately catch my sarcasm…)
Simply put, University is not the only place to learn. It’s not even the most efficient place to learn, and it is easily the most expensive. Certain regulated industries (law, medicine, etc) require an “institutional stamp of approval” to begin a career, but for the vast majority of subjects, especially entrepreneurialism, the University experience is highly overrated.
I remember one very positive interaction I had about the subject of learning with one of my law school professors. Truly he was an exception to my general experience with Professors, and for that I am very grateful. He taught me that “school” was not about learning – school was about school. Learning was something different, and didn’t need to happen within the walls of the school. In fact, most of the learning that truly “sinks in” is self-directed.
When he taught me this I was doing an independent research project on a subject that he had a particular interest in. I asked him if he took a lot of courses on the subject, or whether his PhD had focused on this area, when he was a student, to which he answered “no”. I was confused, and I asked him how he obtained his knowledge. His answer was simple and awesome. He smiled – pointed to books on his shelves – and said: I read books.
He reads books! I marvelled. No professor gave him permission to know a subject. He didn’t have to take a test. He simply read books, and that gave him knowledge.
You could almost shut down University based on that concept alone.
About 4 years ago, in conjunction with my changing careers from lawyer to entrepreneur, I realized that there was so much that I wanted to learn that I hadn’t learned in school. I then made a very empowering realization that I had hours and hours of “downtime” in my life, that was either empty, or that I was filling with useless TV watching. Some of the “downtime” included simple things like doing the dishes, walking the dog, or driving. I decided that during this downtime (which would soon include any 10 minutes of space that I could squeeze in, at any time) I would create my own University:
I would call it “Downtime University”
What did I study in “Downtime University”? Mostly business and marketing (since that was what I wanted to do), but I soon took a couple courses in search engine optimization, then quite a few in philosophy, then a bunch in evolutionary biology, and religion, then quite a few in physics, then a couple more on marketing, a bunch on leadership, and then I found a niche and I’m pretty much doing a graduate degree in flow psychology and self-esteem studies right now.
My studies are ongoing. Estimated graduation time: Never
How did I do it? I read books – just like my professor said. I did it though Audible.com (and no I don’t get any $ from promoting Audible). I easily listen to 4-5 books a month by squeezing in a couple hours of downtime each day. I’ve been doing this for years. Since I’m interested in the subject matter I retain far more than I ever did as an undergraduate, or even a law student.
I have learned strategies that have paid off big time financially. I have learned about happiness (something they never teach in school anyway). I have learned how to run my brain (again something they don’t teach in school). My “Downtime University” has been so much more valuable than my traditional education, and it’s cost a hundred times less.
Enrol today. Study when you want, how you want. The returns are incredible. Join me in the graduating class of never!
Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t – you’re right. (Henry Ford)
More and more I believe that what happens on the “inside” is a far greater indicator of our ability to achieve a goal than anything else.
Any objective advantage that we might have by way of talent, a predisposition to action, smarts, or physical prowess can be rendered instantly useless in the presence of a weak emotional ecosystem and self-image.
Any disadvantage that we might objectively face is easily neutralized in the presence of a empowering mental self-image and emotional ecosystem.
Successful people know that they are going to be successful. People who struggle believe that they are going to struggle.
It is uncanny. No matter how many biographies of successful people that I read I see the exact same pattern. The successful person possesses a powerful internal emotional state. They just believe that they are going to achieve what they want. It is only a matter of time.
I’ve seen it over and over again in my own life, and in my business. The things that I pursue, that I truly believe that I will succeed in, I end up succeeding in. The things that I pursue, where I doubt my ability to achieve, unless I can work on my inner belief system, I will inevitably struggle.
That isn’t to say that people who are successful don’t fail – no everyone fails at some point. But successful people don’t define themselves, or alter their belief systems, because of a short term failure.
They believe that eventually, somehow, at some point the tide will turn and they will be successful. So they keep at it. But what fuels them is their inner belief system. The “inner” is so strong that any temporary failure is just a feedback loop that allows them to correct their behaviour and come back on the next go round much stronger.
People with a weak “inner” ecosystem don’t react in the same way. They allow the short term setbacks to define their reality. But in essence their reality was defined long before they even started. It was defined by their inner belief system.
In our business we train sales consultants to be successful, and this principle holds true 100% of the time – whether a consultant thinks they can, or thinks they can’t – they are right. Belief always wins. Our expectation of our potential always becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.
People who believe that they are going to succeed, do in fact succeed. People who believe that they will struggle do in fact struggle.
I think that whenever we set a new goal, before we jump into our plans on “how” we are going to achieve that goal, we check our “inner” self and make sure that we actually believe that we are capable of achieving the goal. If we don’t believe that we can actually achieve the goal then a plan, no matter how strategic or precise that plan may be, will be useless.
We have to fix the inner world, before we can experience what we want in the outer world.
2008 was the last time that I received a paycheque as an employee. Ever since that time, 100% of our family income has been business income derived from various entrepreneurial ventures.
I was reflecting on this today, and thinking about the mental shift that happened when I became an entrepreneur for the first time. There were several “mindsets” that I had to change in order to be successful as an entrepreneur – some of which were very difficult to change because of deep routed mental conditioning.
I wanted to share five of these mindsets to those of you who may be starting new businesses, or entering into the world of entrepreneurship for the first time.
I discuss these mindsets in the “Employee To Entrepreneur Transition Workshop” that I teach.
1. I had to stop thinking about myself as a wage earner, and instead become a “long term investor”.
It can be pretty discouraging if you think of yourself solely as a wage earner when you are an entrepreneur, at least in the start-up phase. Until you get your business up and running your hourly wage is usually much lower than what you were making in your previous employment. That is why you can’t think that way. I had to shift my focus to that of a long term investor.
A long term investor is patient because they know that, if their investment is sound, their long term payout will be very significant. A long term investor mindset forces you to build a strong foundation for your business, and not cut corners just to make a quick profit. A long term investor also understands the law of the harvest and the concept of seasons – seasons for planting, seasons for cultivating and seasons for harvesting. A wage earner doesn’t understand these concepts. If their wage gets impacted in the short term then they often look for new employment. That is why very few wage earners ever generate real wealth. Wealth comes to the long term investor.
2. Instead of executing instructions I had to make decisions and create systems.
There are a lot of advantages in being employed. One of them is that you generally have a set of job duties that you have to perform. You don’t have to “guess” or “experiment” with what to do. All you have to do is show up and execute properly and you get to keep your employment.
If only it were this easy as an entrepreneur. I had to learn to shift my thinking and embrace the fact that I had no boss, no set of instructions to execute, but rather I had to make decisions. I had to create systems. No one would do it but me. This, at first, for many entrepreneurs is a little unsettling, but over time it becomes a source of great pride and freedom.
3. There was no one up the line that I could pass responsibility to. I had to become the backstop.
This was probably the hardest lesson that I had to personally learn. In every other employment situation I had been in there was always someone up the line. I was never the ultimate boss, and so as long as I executed the instructions that I was given I would be ok. If I was given bad instructions I could pass the responsibility up the line. It wasn’t my fault. I was doing my job.
When I became an entrepreneur I had to embrace the fact that everything was my fault. I had 100% responsibility for everything that happened, good and bad. I had no one to pass the blame to – no one to send it up the line. I had to become the backstop. Again, at first this was somewhat unsettling, but over time this became a very empowering idea, and this idea actually became a keystone habit for me. The more emotionally self-reliant I became in my business the more emotionally self-reliant I seemed to become in my personal life as well – and the less I wanted to criticize others or play the victim card.
4. Instead of job security for myself, I had to shift my focus to creating value for others.
My focus when I was an employee was on myself – how much was I getting paid, how many days vacation did I get, how would this job help MY career trajectory, how was MY job impacted by the economic slowdown. MY, I, MY, I.
This shift in mindset is honestly one of the most refreshing and rewarding aspects of being an entrepreneur. Out of necessity I had to shift my thinking away from MY and I, and turn it outward to others. I had to learn to create value for others. If I couldn’t find a way to show others my value proposition then I wouldn’t be in business.
This shift away from me, and onto others, has been a critical factor in the enjoyment and fulfillment I feel as an entrepreneur. If you find yourself unfulfilled and unhappy – you should consider how much time you focus on yourself, and how much time you focus on others. The correlation might surprise you.
5. Instead of avoiding criticism and failure, I had to seek out data and feedback
When I was employed criticism and failure were things to be avoided at all costs. Severe criticism or catastrophic failure could be the end of the employment as I knew it. As a result I’d hedge, I’d play safe, I’d execute instructions, and I could pass the blame up the line if necessary.
With this mindset what you don’t do is put yourself out there. You don’t take massive risks. You don’t innovate, if that innovation could cost you your job.
Everything is so much different when you are an entrepreneur. You aren’t scared of criticism and failure doesn’t exist. There is no such thing as failure – there is only feedback. If you do something, and you don’t get the result that you want then you have a data point. If it’s data that you don’t like then you just have to change your action. This is the feedback loop. Same thing for criticism. It is good if it allows you to correct a process, or improve your service. Innovation and risk taking is necessary. You have to put yourself out there.
This point is the essence of the freedom that an entrepreneur feels – a freedom that I can’t, at this point, live without. Even if all my business interests fail (which I don’t believe they will), and I am forced to find employment, it will only be for as long as I need to get my next entrepreneurial venture in play. Once you have that taste of freedom you never want to go back. You become an entrepreneur for life.
You’ve finally made the jump. You’re an entrepreneur. You have a business of some kind, and no boss (other than yourself) to motivate you each day. Awesome! It is the best.
Question: How do you reward yourself?
Do you reward yourself materially after you’ve made those big bucks? Perhaps you go out and buy yourself that fancy car? Take that dream vacation? Or purchase that home that’s been on your vision board all those years?
Perhaps. Those aren’t bad things. But if that is the only way you reward yourself I’d throw in some caution.
A lot of entrepreneurs give up and get discouraged long before they’ve ever earned enough in their business to get those things.
So what are the other ways to reward yourself?
What about emotionally?
Are emotional rewards only received when other people tell you how great your business is? The local business pages write up a shining review of your innovation / service / or idea? You get a profile in a business magazine? You get glowing review after glowing review online from highly satisfied customers?
Those are all good things as well. But if that is the only way to reward yourself emotionally I’d add caution again.
The journey that is involved in receiving any of these emotional rewards can be very difficult, and it is through the process of trial and error – trying things, seeing if they work, adjusting for what doesn’t work, taking new action, gauging feedback, adjusting again – over and over again that you eventually get your process and systems right so that you are in a position to receive these glowing reviews and testimonials.
You’ve got to reward yourself however during this feedback process. You’ve got to learn to reward yourself before you make the big bucks, or get the glowing reviews. If you don’t you’ll fizzle out. You won’t have the emotional capacity to see your venture through.
So how do you do that?
How do you reward yourself in the lean months (or years)?
How do you reward yourself when you aren’t making the big bucks yet, and when you haven’t received dozens of glowing reviews….yet?
You do it by becoming a master of administering “self-rewards”, and frankly this can be one of the only things that will keep your spirit alive during those lean years.
What do I mean by “administering self-rewards”?
You’ve got to build an emotional eco-system that internally rewards action and detaches (at least in the early stages of your business) from results.
Don’t get me wrong – results are critical. Results are “data”. They are what you use to adjust action, correct mistakes, and gauge the value that you are giving to society. The value that you give will directly lead to the amount of money that you receive from your venture in return. So we need results.
But often results can take a while to come in, and we have to keep ourselves emotionally strong in the process of gathering this data. This is why we need that “internal” emotional eco-system where we have the ability to reward ourselves for actions taken independent of the results.
How is this done?
The best way that I’ve found is through the process of “small chunking”
Small chunking involves writing down a list of vital behaviours that are needed in your business (that you are aware of) and then simply tracking how many of these you execute each day.
After you track your “chunking” for several weeks (or months ideally) you will notice that you’ve created a powerful habit of action. You’ll also notice that you are less focused on “results”. Instead you are focused on process.
This methodology has a lot of positive consequences:
- You are more present in the moment;
- You are more emotionally stable;
- You worry less about the future (since your focus is shifted to completing the chunks of the day);
- You start seeing quickly which chunks drive results and which chunks don’t (and as a result you can shift your actions – remember you aren’t stuck in your initial chunks, they are only experimental based on your best knowledge at the time);
- You start to enjoy the “process” of being an entrepreneur instead of just the “fruits of your labour”. This is critical because every entrepreneur has to deal with setbacks and failure at some point;
- You’ve achieved an incredible freedom – the ability to emotionally reward yourself;
Our mind is the source of great inspiration and innovation, but it can also be our biggest liability. It can be the source of constant self-doubt, worry, fear, unmet ambition, desire, etc, etc.
For an entrepreneur these negative “worry states” can be debilitating. Action – where we “lose ourselves” in the process – is the best remedy for this. This is why small chunking is so effective.
Also – the road to success as a entrepreneur can be lonely, and seem to stretch for much longer than we had initially anticipated. That is why rewarding yourself is so critical.
Upcoming Workshop Dates
Thursday January 29th, 6-9pm at the Meeting Space In Calgary (200A Haddon Rd SW, Calgary, AB)
Thursday February 26th, 6-9pm at the Meeting Space in Calgary (200A Haddon Rd SW, Calgary, AB)
This workshop is far more than just an information session. It is a direct strategy and implementation workshop that will help you formulate and solidify your entrepreneurial idea and come up with a specific plan of action.
After completing this workshop you will:
• Have a values blueprint for yourself, and confidence that you are the right personality type to succeed as an entrepreneur
• Have a specific understanding of the “entrepreneurial mindset” that is needed as an entrepreneur, and the steps to take to more effectively implement this mindset in your day to day life
• Determine a specific entrepreneurial venture that you will take action on in 2015 and have this venture aligned with your unique value blueprint and long term goals
• Be able to answer the “15 most important questions for an entrepreneur” as it applies to your business idea.
• Have a specific roadmap that takes your business from “idea generation” to “making your first $”
• Review specific marketing actions and come up with your first 5 marketing steps in your business
• Create a specific action transition plan to launch your new venture in 2015
• Understand the true meaning of failure, and redefine it from the perspective of an entrepreneur.
• Come up with a list of the “next steps” in your business to be able to move from idea to action.
The workshop will also provide networking and support opportunities, as well as marketing and business strategy discussions for you to make your own jump.
Capacity: The workshop will be limited to 20 attendees. So register quickly!
Additional Benefits of Attending This Workshop
• All attendees will received a free copy of Ryan Clements’ book Unsuited: How We Can Reject Conventional Career Advice And Find Empowerment with event registration
• All attendees will receive a free 1/2 hour business and marketing consultation from Ryan Clements with event registration
For more information about this event please contact Ryan Clements at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 403-619-1173
Did the course meet your expectations?
- Yes, very informative form different perspectives (Willie Jung);
- Yes, you have clarified my wonders on how to move forward with my dreams of owning my design business (Penny Chorley);
- You definitely hit good points multiple times that resonated with me. Stories and empathy helps (DJ Sanghera)
Did taking the course help you?
- Yes it tells me that I’m on the right track (Willie Jung)
- Yes. I know what I need to do to create and locate my dream so that I can create a motivating “why” engine (Tim Howie)
- Yes, by forcing myself to ask questions (DJ Sanghera)
Would you recommend taking this course to others?
- Yes, very interesting & powerful exchange of knowledge (Penny Chorley);
- Yes most definitely (Tim Howie);
- This course is truly inspirational, offering practical advice about becoming an entrepreneur (Shannon Smith)
Was this course applicable to your entrepreneurial circumstances?
- This is just what the doctor ordered (Aaron Russell);
- Yes, good to regain focus on the importance of daily action towards our goal (Shannon Smith)
About The Workshop Facilitator
A passionate and entertaining speaker, insightful and articulate author and writer, and successful entrepreneur, Ryan Clementsis driven to help people find fulfillment in their career, and maximize their personal potential. He is the author of the bookUnsuited: How We Can Reject Conventional Career Advice And Find Empowerment.
He speaks widely, for many organizations and in a variety of settings, on topics of entrepreneurialism, leadership, marketing, productivity, sales, customer service, branding, online business, performance mindset and motivation. He also speaks on career fulfillment and has delivered a TEDx talk on this subject. He is also a member of the Workplace Speaker Network.
He provides mentoring and consulting services to a number of start-up companies and entrepreneurs, as well as career coaching advice. He is also a freelance writer and blogger and writes widely on topics of entrepreneurialism, motivation, productivity, marketing, and career planning for a variety of online publications including Lifehack, a very popular productivity resource website, and IvyExec, a New York based executive search, leadership development and career services company. He also is a popular, and widely shared, blogger on his website www.ryanclements.com
A former lawyer, he now runs, with his wife Meghann, a highly successful global direct marketing business where he trains and provides leadership to many thousands of sales consultants worldwide. He is also active in entrepreneurial related volunteer projects and has served on the advisory review committee for the Business Development Bank of Canada’s young entrepreneur loan program, as well as a coach and mentor for Startup Weekend EDU in Calgary. He is also a special marketing advisor to The Child Rescue Association of North America.
I think that entrepreneurs, artists, writers, independent designers of any kind – basically anyone who gets paid to create something – have a potential advantage in the happiness department (in one slight way) over people who are only employees.
I don’t say this to disparage employees. Not at all. Nor am I implying that entrepreneurs are always happier than employees. I have no data to support that statement.
Rather I say this because there is something very real about the intrinsic enjoyment that you get when you actually get paid for something that you created, and this is a feeling that can’t be duplicated when you are an employee.
For every business I’ve ever been involved in, I can always remember the first time I received money for my services, and it always felt great.
It wasn’t because I was just getting money. If you follow my writing you’ll know that I relentlessly teach teach intrinsic motivation and flow. It wasn’t for the money alone – no it is something much greater.
To use the words of writer Bob Burg (the Go Giver) “money is just an echo of value” and when you get paid for a product or service that you have created, in the capacity of an entrepreneur, or any creator, then what you have really done is that you have created value for someone else. Creating value for someone else feels good, plain and simple.
An employee can feel good when they serve someone in a way that creates value. But it’s not the same. It isn’t the same as when you create something yourself.
The act of creation alone has intrinsic value, and when you get paid for your creation, the intrinsic value you feel multiplies.
That’s why I can remember the first cheque in every business venture I’ve ever done, and they all felt great. Yesterday I received my first royalty cheque for my book Unsuited, and I felt the same way again.
The first cheque you never forget, and the first cheque always feels great. Sure having a much bigger cheque down the road may feel good as well but there is something unique, something very intrinsic about that first cheque.
It tells you that you made something that other people value. That feels good.
Everyone can have that.
Everyone can be an entrepreneur in some way.
Go create something.
I know a lot about reinvention, and none of it comes from a book, or from someone else’s experience.
I know it because I’ve had to live it. I’ve had to completely reinvent myself over the last six years from an employee to an entrepreneur, from a lawyer to a writer, from someone who was depressed and disempowered to someone who now has hope for the future and is excitedly building an authentic life.
Many (if not most) people encounter the need for “reinvention” at some point in their life. It is very rare to meet someone who doesn’t have to reinvent themselves in some way.
People arrive at the “need for reinvention” for many reasons:
- Leaving a bad career fit to stake out one that feels more empowering and is more authentic
- Shifting from being an “employee” to becoming an “entrepreneur”
- Starting a new business after a previous business failure
- Starting anew after a difficult (and potentially painful) relationship
There are many other reasons. None of which are easy. If you are in the “midst of a reinvention” I feel for you. It is hard, but good things can come.
For what it’s worth here is some advice from my experience. Things that I’ve learned along the way, that have helped me out. If they can help you, that is a positive thing,
1. Always, always, always, start with what you value, not what you want to get.
In many circumstances we get ourselves into situations (jobs, careers, relationships) because we focus on an “object” that we want to obtain rather than on what we value. I’ve learned that this is a mistake. We always must start with what we value. Each of us has unique values that we hold dear. They are what comprise our “authentic self”. When we deviate from these values we feel inauthentic, out of alignment, and discontent.
If you are going to go through the (difficult) act of reinvention then it is critical that you at least build a proper (and sturdy) foundation. That foundation is what you value. Write out a list of your values, and use that as the “lens” through which you will evaluate all future opportunities.
2. Guilt and feelings of failure are not helpful emotions, and they won’t serve you.
I get it – this one is much easier said than done, and I sure wasn’t perfect in this regard when I was reinventing myself. I constantly felt guilt – about getting my career wrong, about all the time and money I wasted, about the difficulty of the road ahead. I also felt like a failure, a lot. Maybe having these feelings are good, in a slight way, as they can serve as a catalyst for resolve and effort. But it is a very fine line, and they can be debilitating as well. So don’t let it go past the line. What’s done is done. Lots of good life ahead.
3. Powerful habits and routines will drive results, channel flow, and keep your anxiety at bay.
Try to get out of your head, and into your feet, as much as you can. Take action. Action drives change, and actions are best facilitated through powerful routines. The stronger your routines, the less you will worry, the less you will have anxiety, and the less you will question your new path, or fear failure. Lose yourself in your new work or situation – whatever that work or situation may be. That is the best thing you can do right now.
4. Many people in your existing social network will reject (at least subconsciously) your attempt to reinvent.
People know what they know. You’ve been a certain way, or you’ve had a certain identity (at least in their eyes) for a long time, so don’t be surprised if you get a little resistance from them. Change can be threatening to them. They may actually prefer you to stay how you are, because if you change it causes them to have to introspect as well. They may not want to do that (at least yet).
5. If you know what you want, and you share it with people in your existing social network, there is a decent chance that at least a couple of them will doubt your ability to pull it off.
You will have doubters and possibly even haters. Your new business…there will for sure be someone who you know that questions its viability. Going back to school? I’m sure someone will tell you that isn’t “practical” at least at your age. In my experience, the most resistance comes from people who aren’t living their dreams. So keep that in mind. Self-actualized people are usually quite supportive of your new adventure. Try to spend as much time with them as you can.
6. You will find friends and allies however in your existing social network that you never knew you had (but they were always there).
This was an unexpected, and much appreciated, discovery for me. There are people, right now, in your existing social network that will enjoy much better the “reinvented you”. This new you is more authentic, less desiring to please people, and more in touch with who they are. Are you grow into yourself, these new friends will appear. They will be a great support for you.
7. Don’t stay in your existing social network, use this “reinvention period” to get out of your comfort zone (and house) and meet new people.
Although you will have found new “friends” from your existing network it is very important that you get out there and meet new people. This will help to give you emotional support, and the act of meeting new people also has a practical component to it as well. You will meet people who can open new doors for you. Be sincere though. Everyone can tell a fake who is just trying to “use” a relationship. Be yourself. Be real. You will attract good people into your life.
8. Yay! You get to be yourself now. So be yourself
There is a good chance also that if you are having to now reinvent yourself, that, at some point in the past you weren’t being true to who you really were. You were either conforming yourself, or masking your true personality because you wanted to “get” something and you thought it would be better to act (or even look) a certain way. How did that work out for you? Exactly. Don’t conform. This principle is as important as #1 (your values). You cannot reinvent on a shaky foundation. You have to be true to who you are.
9. Don’t have a set timeline for everything to fall into place. Allow yourself time to “come into” your reinvention.
Let it happen. Don’t give yourself a “timeline”. Allow yourself the freedom to discover, explore. Be curious. Learn new things. Expose yourself to new situations and experiences. You are reinventing yourself right now anyway, so you might as well try things that you always wanted to try, but for whatever reason didn’t go through with. The process of discovery is fun and engaging. Also, the more you discover the more you realize who you truly are.
10. Be grateful.
Life isn’t bad. I hate the term “life sucks and then you die”. It isn’t true. It doesn’t have to be that way. Life doesn’t have to suck. Life can be really cool also. Maybe life has sucked up to now for you, but it doesn’t have to suck from here on out. Don’t let it suck. You have control of whether or not it sucks. You can build an authentic life. You can reinvent yourself and make life not suck. So instead of complaining, be grateful. Count your blessings. Stop and smell the flowers (literally).
Several years ago I attended an “Unleash The Power Within” seminar by Tony Robbins. It was great, and yes I did complete the firewalk.
During the seminar, Tony shared a story so remarkable that it permanently stuck. It was a story of perseverance and tenacity so incredible that I was shocked when I first heard it.
It was the story of Kentucky Fried Chicken’s founder, Harland Sanders. Better known as “The Colonel”.
The story seemed so remarkable that it was almost unbelievable at first. When I got home from the event I did additional research to see if I could substantiate, or otherwise refute, what I had heard. The more I researched, the more I found confirming accounts.
The essence of the legend is this:
Colonel Sanders was rejected 1009 times IN A ROW before he made his first sale
He was a simple retiree with a chicken batter recipe that he wanted to license. That was it. And the story goes that he received 1009 rejections, consecutively, before he got a yes.
No matter how unhealthy you think KFC is, no matter how silly you may think he looks with that bow tie, that story is impressive. That story, if it is true, is amazing.
Even if it isn’t true, the principle still holds true: how far are you willing to go to see your dream through
I think about this concept all the time. Whenever I get a setback, I think, that is only 1. 1008 to go. I’ve never in my life had to battle that type of resistance…..yet. Perhaps my goals haven’t been big enough. Perhaps I need to set goals that will require 1010 Nos before I get a yes. Something to think about.
How about you? How resilient are you? Are you willing to get 100 rejections, 200, 1009? What is your number? How far are you willing to go?
This post is about an experience that I had with the creative process through writing. It’s a story that happened to me this past summer while I was touring Australia with our business.
I’ve always loved writing. The act of writing has also cemented a special place in my heart, as it was the salvation that I had six years ago when I was struggling with depression as a result of being in the wrong career. Writing exists, in a way, as a powerful metaphor for me. Each day as I would write I would dig myself out of an emotionally dark hole, one word at a time. Writing served not only as therapy, but also as a continual refinement of my belief system. I can honestly say that I’ve found who I am through the act of writing.
I also love reading – particularly authors who I consider to be much more innately talented than myself. I love how a good writer can cause me, through their descriptive method, to transport into another world within my own mind – thereby completely eliminating my consciousness of “self”. Because I am fascinated (err, obsessed) with flow psychology I’m particularly drawn to good writers because of how easily I can induce flow in myself when I am reading their work.
Fast forward to today and writing is a daily habit that I cannot (nor do I want to) stop. My first book, Unsuited: How We Can Reject Conventional Career Advice And Find Empowerment is a non-fiction book that challenges some of the “common” assumptions about how to approach our careers, and looks deeply, from an intrinsic point of view, into our motivations surrounding work.
I started my second book literally the day that Unsuited was submitted for editorial review to my publishers. I had such a strong habit of writing that I wanted to keep the momentum. That’s also why I know that I was born to write because writing isn’t a chore for me, it is enjoyable. It seems at times that I can’t “not write”.
I was encouraged by a successful writing mentor to stretch my comfort zone. So I chose a format, for my second book, that I have always been intrigued by – the fable. I love allegorical fiction, I always have. I love books that teach philosophy through the use of a story. Now that my first draft is complete I am happy with the results. Hopefully you will also enjoy it should you choose to read the book.
When I started this book I had an idea in my mind about a general theme that I wanted to teach. I also could see the main characters. I created an suitable plot and proceeded to maintain my 500 word a day habit that I had fostered during the writing of Unsuited. Then I went to work.
I worked on the book pretty much everyday in 2014. New characters presented themselves. The plot clarified and crystallized. Progress felt steady. By August (the time of our two and a half week trip to Australia) I was – I’d estimate at the time – 85% done the book. A few odds and ends still needed to be finished, but generally speaking, I was ahead of schedule and excited about my progress.
Our first stop in Australia was in the tropical north Cairns region. We were staying at a little tourist spot on the ocean called Yorkeys Knob. It was a very peaceful location. Several of the nights that we were there, as the sun would go down, I would sit on our balcony and write. Inspiration seemed to flow easily here.
Then my muse decided that she needed to visit me.
One night, after I had completed a productive writing session earlier in the evening, I awoke from a deep sleep. I checked the clock, it was just after 3:00am.
Everyone was asleep. Our condo was black other than the light from the stars and the moon glowing off the ocean.
Immediately, as soon as I opened my eyes to check the clock, my mind was flooded with ideas about my book –
- This part of the plot is wrong. It needs to go;
- This character need to be introduced;
- This character needs to die – this is when he needs to die;
- You need to introduce this theme at this location;
- You need to get rid all together of this character. They add nothing to the theme or the flow;
- You need to set this part of the book in this location;
I typed out, at 3:00am, while my wife was sound asleep, over three pages of word document notes.
Then the muse vanished, as quickly as she had appeared. When I wrote my last impression, there was nothing more. I shut my computer and easily fell asleep.
When I woke up I was absolutely convinced that I had a lucid dream. So I reached for my laptop, which was sitting on the bedside table. Sure enough there were three typed pages of notes.
I went from 85% done my book to less than 50% done when I looked at the changes that now needed to be made. I didn’t know what to think, but when I looked over the notes again I knew that the impressions that I had made the book substantially better.
This past week I finished incorporating all the notes into the draft, and I can say, unequivocally, that the book is much better having made these substantial changes.
Since that night I have asked myself, many times, what is the nature of the muse? Where did she come from? How do I interpret this experience?
Truth is – I have no idea.
Anyone who ventures down a creative path will be able to relate in some way to this experience.
Sometimes ideas just come, like meteors from outer space. I can honestly say however that I had placed my butt in the chair for hundreds of days in a row before the muse whispered in my ear. I don’t know if that is a pattern, or a coincidence. I don’t know if the inspiration was always in my head, and I just needed time for it to work its way out, or if the muse truly is something greater than myself.
All I know is that being part of the creative process is really cool, and easily the most intrinsically rewarding aspect of my life. I love it. I will create for as long as I live.
Find a way to create.
Your life will never be the same.
You will never lack for fulfillment.
As you “create” something, so will you “create” fulfillment in your life.
Up until two years ago I consistently read “success” and inspirational literature for close to a decade straight. I’ve read hundreds (literally) of books on the subject and have consistently applied the various suggestions to my life to try to achieve certain results that I want.
I think that we are all the same in many ways. We may not all seek out books or models to learn “how to achieve” but we all consistently operate in a way that suggests that we move towards what we what, and move away from what we don’t.
This is the essence of being “goal oriented” in my opinion. Somebody may say that they “don’t have specific goals”; however, if you analyze closely their behaviour you’ll see that they still operate in a goal oriented manner. Their time, and actions, are organized around obtaining what they want. This is consistently programmed into everyone.
I’ve found that most “success literature” is full of inspiring stories but over time it can feel quite repetitive, perhaps even overly marketed, and sometimes we are made to feel that we “need” it when in actuality the answers are quite innate in us.
I can say that in all the years of reading “success literature” I’ve only really come across a few lessons that have been really, really, important.
Now that I understand these lessons I can honestly say that I’ve moved away from “success literature” and now spend my reading time in either fiction, philosophy, religion, science, and historical or biographical non-fiction. I haven’t bought a “self-help” book now for several years.
Here are the “lessons” that really matter in my opinion. I call it my “real cost paradigm for achieving what I want” . I’ve created it by taking what I learned from the various books I’ve read, applying them, gauging feedback, deciphering what was most important, and then simplifying the process into an easily duplicatable model.
It is quite simple, and involves three simple steps:
1. We must know, with clarity, exactly what we want
Clarity allows us to control psychic entropy, focus, and trigger flow in our actions. Clarity also allows us to find the most effective plans to achieve what we want, engage the most helpful resources and mentors, and avoid distraction. Clarity truly is power.
2. Clear goals require “objective outcomes”
We have to be able to know when we have obtained what we are seeking. We need to know when we actually achieve the goal. For example – if our goal is “happiness” that is a goal that is wrought with difficultly because we never “arrive” at happiness. Happiness is always a part of the process (and in my opinion happiness is the by-product of continually achieving emotional states of flow in the pursuit of our objective outcome).
3. Each goal has “real costs” associated with it. I have to pay these costs to achieve my goal.
The “real costs” are both fixed and variable for each goal. They are fixed in that certain results require a certain “quota” of action that cannot be shortcut. But the costs are also variable in that everyone has a different skill set, and access to resources. As a result certain people may be able learn and progress faster in (and thus “pay the cost” in a quicker time).
Allow me to illustrate this principle by using specific goals in my life. Over the last two years (among my other business and personal pursuits) I have been writing books, and learning Brazilian Jiu Jitsu (BJJ).
For me – writing is easy, BJJ is hard.
Writing comes naturally. I have an easy time sitting down each day. I hit flow naturally. I am constantly full of ideas.
BJJ isn’t as natural. I’m not naturally flexible. I struggle with some of the movements, and physical confrontation is a fear that hasn’t been easy to overcome (and I still struggle with it despite having attended dozens and dozens of classes at this point).
Now let’s analyze both of these activities from my “real cost paradigm”, using two specific goals.
BJJ: Get a blue belt (the first progression rank from white)
To get a blue belt I must learn and be able to apply in a real setting (BJJ enthusiasts will know this as rolling) certain techniques. This is the real cost.
The variable component is that certain people will understand these techniques quickly, apply them easily, and not have to deal with the same fear in applying them (as BJJ is a full contact sport). They will be able to obtain the blue belt faster than someone who struggles with these. The person can who struggles can still “pay the full cost” and get the blue belt, but it will seem like the cost is much higher (hence the variable cost metaphor) because they aren’t naturally inclined to the sport.
Writing: Finish a book
To write a book you have to organize your thoughts in a coherent fashion that ends up (generally speaking) in 50,000-100,000 words around a central theme or thesis. This is the real cost.
The variable component is that some people will find it easy to write 1000 words a day. Thoughts, organization and content will flow easily. Other people will really struggle with this task. The person who is inclined to write will get the book done much faster (and likely produce a much better book) than the person who struggles. The person who isn’t naturally inclined to write can still get the book done but the cost will seem much higher (hence the variable metaphor).
Can you see how this model applies to all goals for all people?
With me, in the last two years I’ve finished two books (one published, one in the editing phase), but I haven’t gotten my blue belt. The variable costs for me in BJJ have been much higher than the variable costs in writing.
However, both goals are possible if I pay the appropriate real costs. I have paid the costs in writing, but not yet in BJJ.
All goals are theoretically possible by all people using this model. If you pay the “real cost” for any goal, then you can achieve anything. However many people aren’t willing to pay the real cost, particularly because the “variable cost component” for certain goals will make the cost seem much higher (since they aren’t naturally inclined for the behaviour).
I can get a blue belt, but it will seem much harder than someone naturally inclined to BJJ.
I do write books however much easier than someone who isn’t inclined to writing.
The reason that I like this model is
1) it actually works (every time)
2) it causes me to be “honest” with myself.
This model forces accountability. If I’m not achieving a goal it is because I haven’t (or I’m not willing) to pay the cost. I cannot place the blame with anyone but myself. If I pay the cost then there is nothing that I can’t achieve under this model. This gives me hope and encouragement, while holding me accountable at the same time.
Remember what it was like when we were kids and we had to choose teams? There was usually two captains (often self appointed) and everyone else would line up, and one at a time, a poor kid’s self-confidence would either be validated or weakened.
I was always big for my age, and a decent athlete, so fortunately (at least I thought at the time) I was usually in the top half of the group. But I can remember, distinctly, the look on the faces of the kids who were picked in the lower half – particularly the kid who was picked last. Often that kid would turn instantly into the comedian – which I believe now to be the only coping mechanism that they had at the time.
I can remember more than once however a look of sadness on the face of the boy or girl who was picked last.
The look of sadness knowing that they waited and waited, with anticipation, to be picked, but no one wanted to pick them until there was no one else to choose from.
From an early age our socialization conditions us to gauge the quality of our experience by how our efforts, or abilities, are received, and judged by others. This creates a habit of passivity – we take a passive approach to our experience, and our fulfillment. Many of us come to believe (at least subconsciously) that our life is not entirely in our hands – how we feel is highly influenced by how others feel about us or our work.
We love playing baseball until we are picked last, then we aren’t sure we want to play anymore;
We loved doing that science project until our teacher gave us the C-, then we stopped loving science;
We learn to wait – wait for approval, and wait for enjoyment.
For a lot of people, this “waiting to get picked” stays with them into adulthood, perhaps even throughout their entire lives.
They wait for their company or their boss to notice how valuable they are and finally reward them for what they’re worth.
They wait for that recruiter to find them and offer them the job of their lifetime.
They wait for that pay raise so that they can feel good about their contribution.
They wait for that vacation so that they can find peace and enjoyment.
They wait for the day that never seems to come.
We don’t have to wait anymore. We don’t need to be picked. We don’t need anyone’s permission to be fulfilled.
The Internet has completely changed the game. It has created opportunities for business, expression, publishing, learning, and relationships, beyond anything even imaginable fifty years ago. It has completely changed the way that we do business, the way that we communicate, and the way that learn.
It can also completely change the way that we view our lives. We don’t need people’s approval, validation, or acceptance to feel good about ourselves. We can feel alive and fulfilled on our own.
I don’t think that it is a coincidence that the many biographies of unique, authentic, and innovative people that I’ve read reveal something that all of these people seem have in common:
They didn’t fit in the “conventional” model.
Isn’t that telling us something?? Perhaps that the “conventional” model of life, success, what we are supposed to be, do, learn experience, is wrong – or maybe broken? Shouldn’t we instead model those innovative people and intentionally try not to fit in the conventional model?
Many of the most successful people were picked last.
Many of the most unique and authentic people didn’t have anyone’s approval – at least at first.
Many of the most creative innovators were social outcasts, couldn’t find success in school, and didn’t fit in the box that society had created for them.
If this is the case then why would we ever want to be picked? Why would we even care one bit whether or not we had anyone’s approval.
Now is the time that we can pick ourselves.
Want to create a business? The Internet has made it easy start.
Have an opinion you want to share? Throw up a blog, within minutes you could have a meaningful discussion.
Do you have art to create? Create it and share it with the world.
You don’t need fancy degrees. You don’t need an institution’s permission, or the approval of a boss. You don’t need anyone’s permission for that matter. You don’t need to wait to get picked.
You just pick yourself.
On Tuesday November 4th, from 7:00pm – 8:00pm at Shelf Life Books in Calgary, AB (1302-4th Street SW) I will be hosting a free workshop on Transitioning From “Employee” To “Entrepreneur” , including a discussion of several components of my book Unsuited: How We Can Reject Conventional Career Advice And Find Empowerment
Join me for an engaging discussion about how to transition from being an employee to becoming an entrepreneur including:
- Underlying value analysis: Is life as an entrepreneur a good fit for your personality?
- Developing an “Entrepreneurial Mindset” and how this compares to an “Employee Mindset”
- The different types of entrepreneurial avenues to pursue (and the differences between them)
- Full time or part time entrepreneurialism? Comparisons and drawbacks
- Understanding the concept of risk
- The “F-Word” (failure) – redefining what this means as an entrepreneur
- What you will need to be successful?
- From idea generation to making your first $. The steps involved in the process.
- Questions that every start-up entrepreneur needs to ask themselves
Refreshments will be served and attendees will be added to a draw for several free copies of my book Unsuited
This weekend I am participating as an entrepreneur Coach with the Startup Weekend EDU Calgary.
The great thing about this initiative is that it is designed to create business plans for young entrepreneurs that result in “implementation” not just idea incubation. This is critical for an entrepreneur to understand – especially someone who is embarking on their first start-up.
For each team that I’m working with I’ve been encouraging them to find an answer to the following questions. This makes them look at their business as a real entity, from the beginning – not just a theoretical idea. I want to get them in the mindset that this is real, and not just a weekend project (because if it’s not real when why do it?).
Here are questions that I believe every entrepreneur should be able to answer. They are “practical” questions that I believe really separates a business plan that is merely “theoretical” from one that is “real” and can be implemented:
1. What problem does your business solve?
2. How do you know this is a problem?
3. How does your idea solve this problem?
4. Who else provides a similar solution?
5. How is your solution different from theirs?
6. Why should I choose your solution over theirs?
7. What does it cost to produce your solution?
8. Who is going to purchase your solution?
9. How will you find these customers?
10. What will it cost to find these customers?
11. How will this business make money?
12. What will it cost for you to earn your first $1.
13. What will it cost for you to run this business for a year?
14. Where is this money going to come from?
15. Who is responsible for getting sales?
This podcast (The School of Greatness Episode 94 by Lewis Howes) is well worth the hour and a half investment of time to listen.
DJ Irie (Official DJ for the Miami Heat and the FIFA World Cup) worked full time for free for seven months straight because he knew it would open the door to greater opportunities. What are we willing to do to achieve our dreams?
What is your 1 year? Your 5 year? Or your 10 year plan? What do you want to be when you grow up? How do you want to spend the next 20 years of your life? What’s on your bucket list?
These are all questions that we have asked ourselves (in one form or the other), and it seems like at least having an idea of the answer to these questions is universally sought.
A person who knows what they want out of their life has their head screwed on right? They are going places, and they will accomplish things……right?
Yes, but that doesn’t mean that it’s the only way to live, and in fact you could make the case that specific long term planning is actually a very limiting way to live.
What??? How could that be? That’s what we’ve been told by every mentor, and “guru” that we’ve ever come across. Set goals. Have a specific objective. Clarity is power, and if we know what we want we are more likely to get it.
Well that might be the case. But a question remains:
Will we actually enjoy it when we have it? And if we don’t enjoy it, then what was the point of making the long term plan in the first place? Could there not be another (perhaps even better) way?
I am living proof of this concept. In my early twenties I made a very specific long term plan involving higher education and success in the “corporate world”. I achieved my goals only to find myself discouraged and depressed. I realized that I valued certain things (like freedom, risk, and creativity) that I wasn’t getting to experience on a frequent basis. I walked into the uncertain world of entrepreneurship and have been remarkably happier since.
When I left that “other world” I didn’t have a specific long term plan. In fact I rejected the notion of one. I just wanted to live each day what I valued. I stopped thinking about 20 years from now and started to only focus on now. I wanted to live entrepreneurial freedom, creativity and adventure. I want to communicate and contribute value to others every day. Now every day I get to do these things, and I am happy.
The last several years I have seen things come into my life that I probably couldn’t have even planned for – experiences, opportunities, business interests, speaking engagements that have been wonderfully fulfilling, but that probably wouldn’t have been in the “long term plan” had I made one 5 years ago.
By not having a long term plan I have allowed myself to experience incredible things that I wouldn’t have had the foresight to even include in the plan in the first place.
Allow me to make the case why specific long term planning can be detrimental to our life
1. In almost all cases, we underestimate what we are capable of achieving
We make our “long term plans” from the perspective of what we believe we are capable of. In almost all cases we underestimate ourselves. As a result our “plans” become limiting self-fulfilling prophecies. By not having a long term plan we keep the door open for an incredible future that we wouldn’t have even otherwise imagined.
2. When we are so focused on a path, we don’t look up to see the incredible opportunities around us.
Having very specific goals may actually keep us from noticing a variety of opportunities that will come into our path. If we allow ourselves flexibility in our approach then we keep ourselves open.
3. It becomes very stressful – the pursuit – and we often are so busy “fighting for success” that we don’t enjoy the process
When this happens it is a shame. All of us know people like this (perhaps we are, or have been, like this ourselves) – so busy achieving that we never stop to “smell the roses”. People like this are boring, and not very fun to be around. Overly ambitious, status driven people (in my experience) are also very internally unsettled as well.
4. Failure becomes catastrophic – and a reflection of self worth – under this model.
When life is a mystery, an adventure, a wonderful engagement of uncertainty, then the odd failure or setback is merely feedback, even education. But when we are “do or die” on our pursuit of success then failure destroys the meaning of the journey. All becomes lost if we can’t achieve. This is sad.
We set specific goals because uncertainty – for many people – is not an option. Their brains can’t handle the entropy. Driving it into a tight little controlled plan allows for a sense of “mental control” and this feels good. Also, it seems like the “responsible” and “prudent” way to live life – and we all want to be conscientious citizens don’t we?
So what is the alternative, and why should we consider it?
Great question – I’m glad you asked :)
1. Understand what you value.
What makes you come alive? What makes your heart sing? Do you love creating stuff? Do you love helping people? Do you want to solve complex puzzles? Are you a communicator? Do you want a life of adventure and risk, or safety and security?
2. Each day do what you value
Make sure that your life (and your career) is aligned with what you value. That way you get to actually “experience” the things that are meaningful to you and your whole life isn’t about waiting – you know waiting to achieve, waiting for the paycheque, waiting for the reward. You want to be living – not just waiting. If you are doing what you value you will hit flow daily. You will enjoy the ride.
3. Do the very best in everything you do
Good work gets recognized. When you get recognized you open the door to future opportunities (maybe even opportunities that you wouldn’t have even believed you were capable of had you been making a “long term plan”)
4. Work as hard as you can every single day
Work yourself to exhaustion, every day, doing the things you value. You will meet the right people. You will open the right doors. You will put in the time to achieve mastery. You will overcome your fears. There is very little that your life can’t have if you are willing to hustle each day.
5. Put your ass where your heart wants to be
Show up in the places (literally) that you want to be. Talk to the people in the industries that interest you. If you dream of having a business then simply start one. If you want a book, then shut up and write every day. Do the things that you dream of. Go out and talk to the people you dream of talking to.
6. Embrace the mystery
Life is fun this way. Who knows what will happen in your life. Don’t feel the need to control every aspect of it. Let it go. Embrace the mystery. If you live this way (while working your ass off every single day) you’ll probably achieve far more than you even believed you were capable of when you were making your long term plan.
I will be at Calgary Chapters / Indigo Downtown (317-7th Ave. SW, this Thursday, October 16th from 11:00am to 2:00 pm. for a book signing for my book Unsuited: How We Can Reject Conventional Career Advice And Find Empowerment
Are you unfulfilled in your career? Are you wanting to get more out of your work? Did your experience with school leave a bad taste in your mouth Learn how work, on it’s own, independent from anything else, can be one of the most fulfilling aspects of your life. Find purpose and meaning in what you do and create a truly authentic life.
As part of our business I work with, and have coached, many, many first time entrepreneurs. Being an entrepreneur is tough, even for the most seasoned start-up veteran.
Being a first time entrepreneur – especially if you have a long prior career as an employee – can be brutally stressful, not just financially (in terms of the uncertainty that you feel) but also emotionally, and mentally.
The constant state of anxiety – wondering what we should do, questioning if we are taking the right actions, thinking about whether or not we will be successful and what we can do differently – has the capacity to derail a first time entrepreneur’s career before they have even experienced the fruits of their labor and tasted the wonderful freedom that comes with business success.
But it doesn’t have to be this way – at least emotionally. The process can be simplified, and demystified, in a way that will allow you to take detached (and over time effective) action.
Effective action is the ultimate secret to entrepreneurial success. You want to take the “right” actions, and take them often.
When you are an employee the “right” actions are clear to you – they have already been defined and they are presented to you as part of your job description. You just have to show up, punch the clock, do your work, and collect your paycheque.
As an entrepreneur it isn’t that easy. Sometimes you don’t know what the “right” actions are. Other times there may not be a clear “right” action to take (for example if you are introducing a product or service to the market that has never before been introduced).
If someone (or some company) has previously found success marketing a product, or service that is similar to yours then you can model their actions. You can do what they did that brought them success.
This may or may not bring you the same success that they had.
If no-one has ever attempted to market your product or service before you can try to implement marketing strategies that you learn elsewhere – applying them to this product.
Again – this may or may not bring you success in your venture.
So what is a first time entrepreneur to do? How does one find success?
There is actually a fairly simple process – it is a “feedback mechanism”. You start with the premise that you are looking to figure out the “most effective” way to run your business and market your product. So to start you model the actions of those who have gone before (and found success).
Take an action (that you learn from them)
Then observe the results.
If you get a result that you want – this is positive feedback. This means that you should take more of these types of actions. If you don’t get a result that you want – this is feedback as well. You adjust your actions accordingly, and take new actions.
Granted – you will need to try certain actions more than once to truly gauge their effectiveness. But over time you will have data. If by modelling someone else’s actions you find success then you are on your way.
But what happens if you model someone else’s actions and you meet failure (even if you test the actions long enough to have a reasonable data set)?
Well then in that case the process still applies. Nothing has changed in the methodology
You take an action (this time however you have to come up with the action using your own imagination).
You gauge the feedback (after you have done the action long enough to have a reasonable data set)
You adjust your actions (in light of the feedback).
Then you take more action.
This process occurs over and over and over again. This is the ultimate discovery feedback mechanism for the entrepreneur, and it is why being an entrepreneur can be so rewarding – you get to constantly play amateur scientist.
So are you a first time entrepreneur? Just take action. Then gauge the feedback. Adjust your results. Then take more action (based on the results that you get).
One foot in front of the other. One step at a time.
I am excited to invite you to a fantastic hands-on event aimed at youth, educators, business developers, designers, and technologists called Startup Weekend EDU, running on Oct 17-19 in Calgary. If you or someone you know is interested in bringing big ideas to life, solving problems, and meeting people in Calgary’s entrepreneurial community, this is the event to attend! I’ll be a coach and mentor for the event, and I am looking forward to it!
You’ll find all of the details on the event site: http://bit.ly/swyycedu
Startup Weekend has held 1000+ events in 120+ countries around the world. Startup Weekend EDU is your chance to experience 54 hours of entrepreneurial innovation as you pitch ideas, form teams with complementary skills, design and build prototypes, and present to a panel of judges in a single weekend. Pitch an idea if you have one, or join a team to support an idea you like. Along the way, you’ll receive coaching from experienced technology designers, business mentors, and industry professionals, and you can win prizes that will help take your idea to the next level. No experience is necessary–just bring your enthusiasm and energy!
Tickets are on sale now, and limited to 120 spaces.
Highlights of Startup Weekend EDU:
Kick-off speaker Rami Ghanem, a grade 11 entrepreneur who was featured on CBC’s Dragon’s Den
Margaret Glover-Campbell, Director of Programs at MindFuel (formerly Science Alberta Foundation), will be one of our many coaches providing teams with insights over the weekend
Prizes and swag sponsored by great partners including: Google for Entrepreneurs, Chic Geek, and Startup Calgary
Choose a track that suits your interests:
Edu Track – bringing entrepreneurs, developers, designers and educators together to pitch and develop education-related solutions
Youth Track – bringing youth entrepreneurs in grades 9-12 together to develop their ideas with the support of experienced mentors
Do you have a 1 year goal? You should try to finish it in 1 month.
A 5 year goal? Aim for six months.
Seriously. Pretend for a moment that an evil dictator said that we only have 1/10th (or maybe the dictator is slightly altruistic and gives us 1/2) of the time that we had previously allocated to complete our goal – and our life depends on it.
Now also seriously pretend that there is at least a chance that we could actually accomplish the 1 year goal in 1 month (or the 5 year goal in 6 months). Hold that seed of possibility in our minds for at least a moment.
If it were possible to complete that 1 year goal in 1 month………..
What would we do right now?
How would we act right now?
How would we change our habits or allocate our time differently?
What current actions would we eliminate?
What new actions would we start to take (given the new deadline)?
Is this idea unrealistic? Maybe. Foolish? Not a chance.
Hear me out. I want to make the case for why we should attempt to seriously expedite the timeline for our accomplishing our goals.
1. What’s the risk in trying?
It’s basically nothing, other than the slight hit to our pride in the event that we fail. Yawn. Our pride is overrated. Our fear of failure is silly. Next point.
2. What’s the upside in trying?
We get to answer the questions above. We get to really audit our actions and methods. We get to “be real” with ourselves and our methods. We get to dramatically improve our effectiveness, and remember – there is a possibility that we might actually accomplish what we otherwise thought would take a year.
3. We generally underestimate ourselves and overestimate the amount of time needed.
This is human nature. We all do it. We don’t like the F word (failure that is), so it is natural to hedge. We hedge by giving ourselves more time than we probably would otherwise need to complete a goal if our life depended on in.
4. This method forces us to eliminate all “time wasters”
Some time wasters are legitimate. All work and no play makes for a dull person. I like Sons of Anarchy as much as the rest of you, but if our life really depended on our accomplishing a goal in a dramatically shortened time frame we would get real serious about what “entertainment” we can live without. What I’ve found is that a lot of things that we think we “need” are really just time wasters.
Case in point: I used to think that I needed to watch the news or read the newspaper every single day to stay informed. Not true. That was an hour (or several) that I could eliminate and not be worse for wear with a couple simple internet news feeds, and I got an hour (or several) of my day to now apply to more useful stuff.
5. This method forces us to eliminate our “avoidance” behaviours
Avoidance behaviours are all activities that are associated with a goal that don’t really move us closer to the goal. It is the “busy work” – those non-important, and non-urgent activities that strangely enough fill a good chunk of our day. If our life depended on our accomplishing a goal in a very short amount of time we would straightaway eliminate these.
6. We tap into Mega-Flow
Flow states require the control of consciousness, the elimination of distractions and the focusing of our energy and attention on a specific goal. When we are up against a deadline we hit “mega-flow”. Everything non-important to the goal falls to the wayside. We grow in complexity. This growth feels great.
7. It’s fun to tackle goals this way
If you aren’t scared of failure then this method is actually really fun. You can turn it into an experiment – a case of “what if”. When you operate under the premise of “what if” wonderful (almost magical) things can happen in your life. When you turn it into an experiment you really start to enjoy the ride. If it is an experiment then there is no failure – there is only an observable result. If you don’t get the result you wanted then you just create a new experiment.
But who knows, maybe, just maybe, you might get the result you want….
Who is your career inspiration?
If you could model anyone in your career – who would it be?
Do you want to be a famous innovator like Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg, or Elon Musk? Maybe a charismatic mover and shaker like Mark Cuban, Donald Trump or Sheryl Sandberg?
Nah, not me. I’m not into celebrities.
Maybe someone rich and famous. Like someone on the Forbes list? Or Jay-Z? Do you want to own companies, have millions (or billions) of dollars?
No. Money isn’t my main driver in life.
There isn’t really a “correct” answer to this question. We all get to answer it in our own unique way.
Me – my career hero is a six inch, green, alien looking character from a 1980s kid’s TV show.
I want to be a Doozer.
You know – that tiny, loveable, semi-naked (save for their tool belt) martian, often sporting a fashionable mustache and hot yellow boots from the show Fraggle Rock.
Ya those. I want to be like them.
Doozers Make Cool Stuff
I want to make cool stuff too. Mostly the “stuff” that I want to make are words (or combinations of words). But I’ll also make ideas, and I’ll make businesses too. I want to make stuff, and I want it to be cool and beautiful, just like the Doozers.
Doozers Build For The Sake Of Building
Have you ever noticed that there aren’t any real estate agents or developers that hang around the Doozers? They aren’t looking to sell their wonderful “Doozer Stick” creations made of Radish Dust. They build for the sake of building. The act of building is its own reward. That is what I want in my career as well. I want to be rewarded, intrinsically, each day for the work that I do. I want to transcend the need to get “stuff”. I want to overcome the carrot and the stick.
Doozers Aren’t Bothered By Failure
Have you ever noticed (if you’ve watched the show) what happens when the Fraggles smash (and eat) the Doozer’s beautiful architecture? They don’t really get bothered. They just go on building. They are the most resilient creatures that have ever been created (in my humble opinion). Failure? Set-back? Tragedy? What’s that. They just pick up where they left off and get back to creating their art. I want to be like that.
The Doozers Don’t Need To “Escape” From Life Through TV or Other Distractions
They have found their purpose, and they wholeheartedly are engaging in it. They know why there are on this earth and their work gives them meaning. Their work gives back to them. Their work is fulfilling. They don’t take jobs that they hate just to make more money or drive a better Doozer car (I think their only cars are construction cars anyway) or a better Doozer house (they all live happily in the Doozerdome)
Granted they could be a little friendlier to the Fraggles, and their communal living arrangement smells a little too much like communism for me.
But these are just small details.
They are still the best. My career hero is a Doozer.
Wise words from Alan Watts
What defines a good day?
What defines whether or not we “get” to be happy?
These are very personal and challenging questions – questions that everyone, at some point, will address.
Humans are unique amongst the animal kingdom in that we are “meaning searching” creatures. I’m no scientist, but I often read science and evolution books. They are fascinating to me.
As far as I am aware (and I would be happy if one of my blog readers corrected me on this subject) we are the only animal that openly speculates and plans around the “meaning of life” and whether, and in what form, life has a purpose.
Everyone will answer the question of life’s purpose in their own unique way, and their answer, will for a large part determine whether or not they are happy.
For many, many years I defined my happiness in reference to the results that I was obtaining in my life. If I experienced success I felt great. If I experienced failure I was sad.
This was a very dangerous habit.
It always seemed like there was someone better than me, someone who was achieving more than me, someone who was better in the exact pursuit that I was burning the candle at both ends trying to achieve in.
This “validation by reference” method that I was using was fundamentally flawed.
It was hopeless from the beginning because if I could only feel good about myself in the event that I was achieving, or in the event that I was the best, and many times (most of the time) I couldn’t control all the variables, particularly the actions or results of others.
I changed from a “validation by reference” paradigm to a purely “validation by self” model.
This alone, I believe, is the most critical factor in the day to day well being that I now feel.
In order to control your happiness, you have to be the architect of your well-being. To do this you have to first define what the rules are for whether or not you can define a day as a good day, and you can define yourself as a success. If you allow these rules to be set by the world you will never be happy. If you take control of them yourself you can also “validate” yourself in the process.
For example – I now use a “checklist” system that I have created to determine whether or not I should feel good about myself.
It is entirely within my control. Here is how my checklist system works:
I define several acts (again, all of which I can control) that I want to accomplish in a given day – things like writing 1000 words a day on a new book.
Every single act on my checklist I have the power to accomplish. I judge the quality of my day (and my success) by whether or not I have completed my checks for the day. I’ve been using this model for years.
At the end of the day I get to “self-validate”. As I make my checks I feel quite good about myself, and my day, and the best point is that it was all in my power.
Success, and happiness for that matter, is 100% in my control.
There really is no magic to this, it is just a simple little tool, that I’ve built into a habit, that allows me to define my self-worth by reference to my “self” rather than by reference to other people (and what they do or have).
I have found that this habit has paid huge compounding returns in my self-esteem, and sense of general well-being. So if you struggle at all with any of these – my advice – develop a system where you, alone, get to determine your validation. You get to “self-validate”.