There are Two Types of People

I found the newish Early to Rise podcast, hosted by  Jayson Gaignard who riffed on truth, love, and self.*

Gaignard had originally planned on breaking down another idea during this podcast, but thanks to a Twitter response about a previous episode, he spends this one talking about who we are, and how we choose to be that person.  

The first eight minutes or so are mostly thanks and self-promotion, including the quote “attention is the new currency.”  (2:20)  Jayson, if that’s the case then drop all this stuff to the back end of the show and give us the content. It’s too bad it takes so long – especially for new listeners – because once he gets into the good stuff, it is good.

The catalyst for this episode came from him saying that who you surround yourself with matters, and his example was a Harvard study that reported fat people have fat friends.  Weight being the semi-sensitive subject that it is, he got a retort that he was fat shaming.  Not knowing what this meant, he looked it up and his first response was to edit the previous episode and take it down.  

He chose to face this criticism and see what the roots of it might have been, because as he says leaders, “speak the truth, they see things as they are and not worse than they are.” (10:40)  Truth is an key idea from the podcast, and finding it in our lives can be hard because it can be at odds with how we live.  I think what Gaignard is getting at with this comment is that we can cloud our views with what we want to see, rather than what actually is to be seen.

Gaignard says, “Growth comes at the end of your comfort zone.” (11:20)  This echoes what Jill Taylor writes about in her story, My Stroke of Insight.  Taylor, a brain scientist who suffered a stroke writes, “Essentially I had to completely inhibit the level of ability that I could achieve, before it was time to take the next step.  In order to attain a new ability, I had to be able to repeat that effort with grace and control before taking the next step.”  Cal Newport promotes the same idea in an example about a friend who learned to play guitar, “While practicing, the strain on his face and the gasping nature of his breaths can be uncomfortable to watch.”  It’s easy to forget, that it’s hard to stretch ourselves.  

Once we square the truths in our lives and start to push our boundaries, Gaignard suggests we be mindful of our focus.  “What you focus on is how you’ll feel, and how you’ll feel becomes your reality”. (11:50)  Taylor puts it in more scientific terms, sharing that we can choose the neural circuits we want to run.  Her analogy makes it seem as easy as choosing ice cream flavors but in a way that’s what it’s like.  

When I first took my kids to Chipotle, I had no idea how their children’s menu worked. I didn’t know what sides came with an order and what choices they would like best.  Now that we’ve been a few times, it’s easy to order.  Taylor says that our brains are like that, except instead of streamlining our burrito orders, we fasttrack our thoughts.  When we fire the same neural loops, those loops run better and become closer to our default.  If we can choose to focus on thoughts we want, then those are the thoughts we get.  

WAIT! You say, I can literally feel myself get mad, the chemicals stream through my body like bubbles of carbonation in a shaken can of soda.  That’s true, but according to Jill, it’s only for 90 seconds.  Your body’s physiological response is limited to 90 seconds and anything after that is how we are choosing to act.

According to Gaignard, controlling this internal world is what successful leaders do.  

If you look at anyone who is a leader, whether it is a mom leading a family or an entrepreneur leading a business, the thing that makes them different than everyone else is they understand that there are two worlds.  The external world they can influence, and the internal world which they can control.  And that internal world is the world that you have to master yourself and most people won’t do that because it’s too hard. (15:50)

How do you master that internal world?  Gaignard has four steps.  (19:30)

Step 1: Turn to the truth.  Are you losing money, why?  Is it lattes or late work?  This part might be painful because it’s going to require change.

Step 2: Remember that you are in full control of your business.  It’s not the markets or the customers – it’s you.

Step 3: Ask better questions and make better decisions.  What are your performance markers?  Is it the number of emails you go through? No, it’s the number of steps for the next project.

Step 4: Take action. “If there is no action the you haven’t truly decided.”  Are you waiting for an invocation to begin?  Here it is.

The episode concludes with a great talk from Suli Breaks, about the two types of people in this world.  

*It looks like the episode I listened to isn’t available now, I’ll update the links when it is.  


Deep Focus

A glacier has cut through the mountains to create a fjord, not just anywhere, but right in that picture.  Right. There.  

I was flipping through – a great term from a past way of reading – the Tropical MBA archives when I found Dan Andrews’ thoughts about John Mayer.  In an interview Mayer says that if Facebook and Twitter had existed years ago, he might not become the great guitar player he is.  Mayer needed time to devote to just playing the guitar, and look where it got him.   This reminded me of the strongest voice for deep practice that I’ve heard, Cal Newport.  Newport suggests that to get any meaningful work done, we need to focus intently on one things and one thing only.  

Knowledge workers dedicate too much time to shallow work — tasks that almost anyone, with a minimum of training, could accomplish (e-mail replies, logistical planning, tinkering with social media, and so on). This work is attractive because it’s easy, which makes use feel productive, and it’s rich in personal interaction, which we enjoy (there’s something oddly compelling in responding to a question; even if the topic is unimportant). (11/21/12)

Does that sound familiar?  We rip through email to get to inbox zero or we check industry – but often personal – news on Twitter.  We don’t focus on work.  In writing just the first few hundred words on this post I hopped on to Twitter to ask someone a question.   How do we get anything meaningful done then?  

We should lock the door and focus on one thing until we solve a problem.  James Altucher is famous for making lists and he says that when making a list “you want your brain to sweat.”

Newport echoes this idea,  but in a more academic way, that we need to pursue “cognitively demanding activities that leverage our training to generate rare and valuable results, and that push our abilities to continually improve.”  Newport says that he might put a Do Not Disturb sign on his door, but Stephen King forgets the sign and just closes his.  In On Writing:

The closed door is your way of telling the world and yourself that you mean business; you have made a serious commitment to write and intend to walk the walk as well as talk the talk.

After you shut the door and begin pursuing your word count, King writes “the door stays closed until that goal is met.”  He isn’t the only author to do this, to sit down and get work done.  When William Faulkner was writing and there was no lock, he removed the door knob instead.

Despite Dan Andrews and Cal Newport starting with the same idea, that to be successful you need to have a sharp focus on something, their next actions are complete opposites.

In the post Andrews writes, “I didn’t understand something John (Mayer) seemed to get early on– that finding work you love is a better success strategy than finding benefits you love.”  Andrews is saying that if we find the work we love, we’ll be happy and that will trump the benefits you get from it.  Tony Subblebine echoes this idea in an interview with Pat Flynn.  Stubblebine said at one job he was working for money to buy a big tv, at his new job though, he’s so busy he doesn’t even want to watch tv.   

Newport on the other hand has spent some of his deep focus time trying to convince people that this is not the case, if fact, it’s flat out wrong.  His archcase is that of Steve Jobs.  What did Steve Jobs love about computers?  What did Steve Jobs love about marketing?  Newports conclusion is that Jobs didn’t love any of these things until he was good at them and that we get the order flipped.  Newport thinks that instead of finding a job we love, we get great at a job and we’ll love being good at it.

Whether Andrews or Newport is right about pursuing your passions I don’t know, but either catalyst will probably work to get more great work done.  If our brains are – like Altucher says – muscles we need to exercise, then the field of exercise may also give us a clue for spending our time in the most beneficial way.  

The New York Times reported that high intensity interval training provides many of the same fitness benefits as endurance training.   The article suggests that if we take seven minutes to do a variety of exercises with the most intensity we can manage, then we’ll see health gains comparable to “a long run and a visit to the weight room.”  

This also reminds me of a story about Jerry Rice, a hero of my youth.  Rice is universally considered the best wide receiver but he had a training routine that differed from what many football players were doing at the time – he ran on hills.  Rice and his running buddy Rodger Craig found that these workouts contributed more to their success on the field than any other off field activity would.  

What do we get then, after deep focus on something we are pursuing – we get to view what’s next.  It’s like we have two choices about moving through an unknown landscape.  The first is that we circle around where we are, we keep our current place in our peripheral vision and slowly move away from our choice.  We are doing a backward path of circling the drain.  Or we can strike out, move away and forward and discover what’s beyond our field of vision.

Life and Entrepreneurship with Pat Flynn and Tony Stubblebine

In episode 80 of Smart Passive Income, Pat Flynn interviews Tony Stubblebine, CEO and co-founder of Lift.  Lift is an app that allows users to track small actions that lead to larger goals on a daily basis.  .

The interview starts with a summary about Tony’s career before starting Lift. (6:15)  

I had been bootstrapping my own software company for a long time before Lift, and the first three years were just incredibly hard and difficult.  I had so much work and so little money,  but somehow in year four it just completely flipped.

Tony is one of those people who suggest that it’s going to take three to four years to get your project going and lifted off the ground.  As this happened for him, he was able to hire more people that did the work for him and he created a “passive income stream,”  but in doing so this led him to question what was next.  

In moving from this first startup to Lift, Tony said he was looking for something to pursue that involved human potential, “I got something that I was personally interested in and that I enjoyed.” (7:15) Tony realized that he wanted his next project not to be just about software, but also about living better.  He started Lift then, to scratch his own itch.  Finding a problem and solving it is something that John Saddington echoed when he started Pressgram.  About the desire and conception he wrote: “In a dimly-lit Cuban-Mexican joint I drafted out an application that would satisfy my desire for digital publishing and filtered photos. No obvious solution had emerged that I was satisfied with. That itch was now begging to be scratched…”

Lift is a tool people use to help tackle their goals through habits, and do in a small way each day.  Part of what makes habit formation possible is removing the decisions we face towards whether or not we do them.  I don’t want to run or write or code or read, but when those things are on my phone, popping up as alerts I can respond to them.  We’re removing the option not to do them by including them on a device we like to do things from.  When a Facebook alert pops up or an email gets sent to you, there is a mental rush that people want to say something to you. I suspect that this plays a role in the success of the Lift app as well.  

Tony also mentions in the interview (9:45) that it’s important to break things down into small steps and make regular progress toward them. Run a marathon or build a website are not habits, but run a mile and write code for 20 minutes are.  Lift allows users to break down their large goals into achievable habits and do them in a specific way.  

In a March, 2013 TEDx Talk, The First 20 Hours – How to Learn Anything, Josh Kaufman talks about breaking new skills down to the smallest portions.  Take the running example again.  If you want to run a marathon first you have to run ten miles, but before ten you must run one.  But before you even start running you need running shoes and make time for running.  You find the smallest steps and do those.   For Josh this came when he was trying to learn the ukulele.  Having never played before, and not knowing where to start, Kaufman tried to find the most important parts of playing.  In his search, he found that there were four chords that accounted for almost all the songs he wanted to learn and that was all Kaufman really needed to know. Don’t believe it? Well most pop songs are just four chords.  

Returning to the interview, Tony talks about the things Lift can do, Pat tries unsuccessfully to guide the conversation back to focus on entrepreneurs and what they can learn.  To Tony, it’s about getting your life in order before you can be successful at anything. He says, “entrepreneurship is also about balance, if you don’t have the rest of your life in order it starts to intrude on your work and it starts to drag you down.”  (12:45)  In Choose Yourself!, James Altucher writes the same things: (page 32)

But in order to have a fully functioning life, we need a functioning body, a healthy brain, a functioning social life, a functioning idea muscle, and a very fundamental sense that there are some things we can’t control.

Why is this so important?  Why can’t you just bear down, lose focus on your friends, family, and fitness?  Tony says that if you get to this point, “you’re not qualified to be an entrepreneur anymore.”  This happened to John Saddington, founder of Pressgram mentioned above, he writes: “My body was calling it quits and I don’t blame it as I was attempting to finish out a double Master’s degree, exit a startup that I had started with my brother, make a significant pivot with another venture (including a possible capital raise), as well as develop a secret project that had eventually became a major focus for the next year.”  That secret project became the Kickstarter for Pressgram and John righted his non-business ship, including removing 27 pounds.  

Besides having your life in order, Tony’s other tip is to know what the key parts of your business are, “it’s much more important to figure out the one thing that really matters and be aware of when this happens and be ready to grab it.” (14:00)

Some call this serendipity,  on the Tropical MBA podcast, John Myers says to “be the engineer of your own serendipity”, in Manage Your Day-To-Do Scott Belsky does this by unplugging and opening himself up to serendipity.  

About half way through the episode (19:15) Pat starts to wonder what would happen if Lift had a penalty feature.  If you don’t do one of your habits, then ten cents is deducted from your bank account.  Tony says that this might work, but the research his team has done suggests that in the science of behavior design, positive reinforcement might be a better tool.  They’re trying to get people to do one thing on a consistent basis, they’re using the carrot instead of the stick to get you to eat your carrots.  

Besides positive reinforcement, Tony says that small progress is important, and small progress is Steven Pressfields’ first step toward turning pro. Pressfield writes that the first step toward going pro is to do something for one hour.  Leo Babauta at Zen Habits writes that one way he built the habit of flossing, was to floss just one tooth.  In Daily Rituals there is this quote from Joseph Heller, “If I write a page or two a day five days a week, that’s 3000 pages a year and it does add up.”  

What sort of insights then has Tony gotten from running Lift?  There must be a treasure trove of productivity hacks for entrepreneurs for dealing with email, late nights, and travel right?  Nope.  The first and only insight he mentions is how to meditate more.  (26:10)

Tony says that many entrepreneurs work on meditation and that it’s helped him personally.  (28:15)  Being aware of how he’s feeling lets him switch from task to task and remain engaged with them.  He gives the example of ripping through his email inbox and then jumping over to do an interview with Pat and then immediately after being interviewed, he’s interviewing a designer.  

Tony isn’t the only executive who find that motivation is helpful.  In Be Excellent at Anything, Tony Schwartz and his team share that meditation has helped a lot of executives even though many were reluctant to try it.  They share why one CEO started meditating: page 202

I didn’t start meditation because I was interested in higher states of consciousness. My goal was practical. My job involves dealing with all kinds of different people and activities, and it’s hard to stay focused on any one. I’d always find myself ruminating about the last meeting or anticipating the next one. I took up meditation because I wanted to see if I could learn to slow down my mind.

Schwartz and Stubblebine both suggest keeping meditation short – two minutes – and use one of two techniques.  You can focus on your breaths and count them as they go in and out or you can be mindful of whatever pops in your head, but let it leave as easily as it comes.  The same CEO shares his thoughts on mindfulness or mindful meditation:

Breath counting was fine, and it really helped me, but it wasn’t very interesting. Mindfulness was much more intellectually engaging. It was fascinating to actually learn to observe my own mind the way I might watch a movie or a play.  It was a revelation to discover that I could observe an emotion – anger or frustration or irritation or even sadness – without feeling like I had to react to it. .. I got so I could name it and then just watch it pass by.

Along with meditation Tony shares one other tool, a script.  Scripts allow us to not have to convert mental energy to something that doesn’t require it and allows us to consistently make the right choices.  Dan Andrews at Tropical MBA talks about personal and professional scripts often.  

Tony’s script is for telemarketers when they call and it goes like this. (31:00)  “Thank you so much for calling, (pause) but we’re not interested, (pause) goodbye.”  He says that the pauses are there to give them a chance to say goodbye and to Tony, he was polite and this conversation fit the pattern of normal, non-irritating conversations.   It’s also automatic so he doesn’t need to think about what to say about getting out of the conversation and the script prevents a swing of emotions because the call was irritating or frustrating.

Tony and Pat end the conversation with two more practical tips for entrepreneurship.  Tony suggests that if you never take money from somewhere you owe, you’ll never go out of business.  For him this meant consulting on the side until he had enough to pay himself, then after getting enough to pay someone else, he did.  He suggests not taking out loans or to mortgage your house because those are the things that will knock you out of business.  

His second tip is that you need to put in the work and care about what you do. This part of the conversation tip-toes along a line that Cal Newport says might not exist, but Tony’s point is less about pursuing passion and more about pursuing something.  It took him three years of hard work at his first startup and he had to do that every day.  And if you do find something you love doing, then that will be your hobby.  Tony ends the interview with a story.  At his old job he was working and saving and working and saving some more so he could buy a new television.  He spent three months looking for the best reviews, comparing models, and saving money from his job.  Finally he bought the television, but how much does he use it now?  “Almost never.” (35:20)  Now his job at Lift is what matters most and that’s what he wants to do.  

I chose to go back and take notes on this interview because it demonstrated the blending nature of life.  Your job and life are not mutually exclusive.  Everything we do affects the other things in our lives.  

The Power of Stories

What do stories mean and why do we tell them?  You have a story, I do too, and so should your business. Stories are things that connect us on multiple levels; spiritually, mentally, psychologically, socially.  Stories help us find our place in the world, hold that place when we find it, and tell others while we are there.

In Crush It!, Gary Vaynerchuk says that “Storytelling is by far the most underrated skill in business.”  Another internet entrepreneur, Chris Guillebeau wrote, “If you want people to pay attention to you, the first step is to establish a compelling story.”  

Stories help us understand things.  Vaynerchuk’s newest book title is Jab, Jab, Jab, Right Hook.  In the title there is a story.  It’s the story of a fight, of work, of effort.  It’s strategy, it’s a story within a story within a story. It’s a good title.

In the excellent You Are Not So Smart podcast (YANSS), David McRaney interviews professor Melanie Green.  Melanie says that when we consume a narrative world, we enter into it.  “We take the information from the stories and bring it into the real world with us” and she says that these stories don’t even need to be true.  If we can find a story that we relate to, it draws us in and causes us to empathize with the characters.  Once we have an emotional response to the characters we see ourselves as part of the story.  

Apple’s Misunderstood and Samsung’s Are You Geared Up serve as a good dichotomy of stories.  In the Apple commercial a boy, about thirteen, is seen through most of the commercial with his phone out. He’s got it out while walking into Grandma’s house, he’s got it out while decorating the tree, and while people are eating.  The early idea is that we’re all visiting with people who have their phones out, especially teens.  The commercial brings us into the story because it’s ground we’ve walked before, and some we know the outcome of.  As commercial concludes though, the boy shares the family video he’s been taking the entire time.  It’s a lovely series of tree ornaments, sledding wipeouts, and sleeping kids.  It’s very cute and it resonates because there’s a feeling of family we can relate to.  I can empathize with the people in the commercial even though it’s not a great reflection of our Christmas.

In the Samsung commercial – Are You Geared Up? – there’s a heavy handedness to it.  The Apple commercial editing is light and crisp and closer to home movie while Samsung’s is heavy from the music to the lighting.  Immediately it’s harder to enter that world.  Our real world view is closer to that of the Apple commercial, but that’s central the problem with Samsung’s commercial, the problem is that it’s a bad story.  Apple’s commercial is about the everyman – the teen who, maybe doesn’t save Christmas but at least serves it.  Samsung’s commercial is about meeting a girl on the ski slopes, and while I wanted to visualize myself in the gadget wearing shoes of the guy who gets the girl, I felt more like the guy who doesn’t.  I drop my phone all the time, I dig through my pockets to find it, I have clumsy fingers that make me re-type things.  I have sympathy and empathy for the goof.  Instead of seeing the Samsung Gear – the smartwatch that links with my phone – as a solution to my problems, I saw it as irrelevant.  In the commercial I related to the other guy and related to his product, not the one I was being sold.  

Ultimately, Apple’s commercial succeeds because viewers empathized with making snowmen with family, instead of meeting snow bunnies in Europe.  If we were jet-setting east coasters who could, and do head to Europe to ski, then we might relate.  Ironically enough, it’s Apple products that are typically framed as more expensive or elite, but if you compare only these commercials you would think the opposite.  

Dr. Green says that empathizing with the story is is important because the more we relate to a story, the less counterarguing we do toward it.  This happens to me quite often.  I’ll get an email, phone call, or a stranger approaching me, and they’ll start to ask if I have problem they can solve.  Immediately my guard rises and I begin thinking about reasons to avoid this sales tactic.  If there is a story to enter through and we see parts of ourselves there, then that links us to the things in the story.  Imagine the feeling entering a stranger’s home compared to your own, our brain does that with stories.

In the YANSS podcast Dr. Green also suggests that stories we relate to have an evolutionary advantage.  Our abilities to reflect on memories and project them to things that might happen has helped us survive.  As we evolved we learned to remember how to get to a berry patch without being attacked by bears.  We return to these memories while walking along the berry path, and they served us well.  Green suggests that stories might be the way we use other people’s experiences to figure out the world.  We enter the world of their story, to try and incorporate it into our memories to use as projections for the future.  We know the way to the berry patch to avoid the bear, the stories people tell advise us how to climb an apples tree and not get stung by bees.  We now have twice the understanding for how to get food, thanks to stories.  

The Apple commercial peels back our psychological layers and guards to sneak into this primal portion of of our brain.  We watch the commercial, we experience the story, and we think about that – and some people I would guess actually did it. Some people probably did exactly that this Christmas, after seeing the commercial.  

There’s another aspect with stories, between finding fruit and buying iPhones.  Stories help us understand who they are.  The authors of both The Secrets of Happy Families and How Children Succeed, write about the value of stories in helping us identify who we are and how we’ve succeeded.  The story of each, is that we need to know about times our family – Uncle Dad, Grandma Nancy, Cousin Bert – faced a challenge and succeeded.  When the younger generations know this, then they too are more likely to successfully face challenges and overcome them.  

One other video from the end of December that shared the power of stories was The Christmas Scale.  It’s a short, two and a half minutes and moving if you ascribe to a certain spiritual path, but it also works as a story.  

The voice sounds old and wise, like if an oak tree in your yard was giving you advice.  The narrator tells the story about his mother’s attempts to teach him to play the piano, and his failures to do so.  She even told him that the piano scale could tell the “greatest story ever told” but he forwent and forget her advice until one day after she had passed, when he sat down at the piano again.  

The video is the story of generations and how the older ones try to teach us things but the younger ones seldom listen.  The best teachings though are those that stick with us, those instructions for things – like the one in the video – so that we can remember the lesson when we’re ready to learn it.  This video has empathy in spades and hearts.  

Stories matter.  When you’re telling a story to people outside your core group (family, business, team) then in those stories you want to create empathy.  You want those people to feel related to you.  You can do this through shared experiences (like the iPhone commercial) or relate to them though common history.  Commercials for minivans do this well, showing the fit and active mother who’s running kids around town.  Look around your town and that’s what you see in minivans.

The second important way we use stories is as learning moments within our group. In families and teams we need to have a shared history, a feeling of connection.  We need to have stories that show us how to persevere because we are people who do that sort of thing.  Think about your family, do you have any of these things that Johnsons do?  Do Millers never give up?  Do Watsons stay until the job’s done?  Those phrases should be rooted in stories so they aren’t just phrases.  

What then should your business be doing?  You should be working on two types of stories, your external ones and internal ones.  Externally you should be writing case studies about how a customer uses your product.  Internally you need to have stories about perseverance and if it’s just you they can be personal stories, if it’s more than you they should be team stories.

The Compound Effect (book review)

I just finished Darren Hardy’s The Compound Effect, and enjoyed it much more than I suspected.  At first, I thought this would be another self-help book that suggested a mystical path to success involving the  law of attraction, fairy gumdrops, and a “1 time offer” for a $299 e-course.  It wasn’t.

I thought Hardy’s anecdotes would be fluffy and vague, limited by his own experiences, but instead I found the opposite.  As I read Hardy’s examples many other came to mind, his stories provided a link to mine.

The book has four main areas.

  • Choices
  • Habits
  • Momentum
  • Acceleration

And the main point is this:

If we can make  choices that lead to our goals each day, our small actions will have a large effect.

Before diving into the four main areas, there are a number of examples in the beginning that demonstrate how small choices today can have major long term effects.  One from the book is to think about what effect 100 calories added or removed from a diet will have.  In three years that could be over thirty pounds one way or the other.  While three years may seem like a long time, good things take time.

I love my daughters but it seems like 0-3 years was a lot harder than 3-6 has been.  Did it take 3 years for me to become a decent parent?  Maybe.  In an interview with Bill Simmons, film producer Peter Berg shared that great movies take time to come together.  Berg explains that if projects have history, they seem to turn out better.  Both Friday Night Lights and Lone Survivor seem to be better than average movies because they took years to come together.  One of his previous projects, Battleship, wasn’t developed this long and that may be part of why it wasn’t as good.

After more weight loss, wealth gain, career changing examples, Hardy moves on to ask us to question our Choices – and this really resonated with me.  I’ve been questioning everything this past year, wondering why I choose to do one thing instead of another and Hardy’s suggestion is for us to find goals and then work backwards to see if the choices we’re making lead to those goals.

One of my favorite bloggers is Jamie Rubin, who’s been chronicling his daily writing habits this year and the results are astounding.  Rubin has written over 140,000 words this year and to do that he’s shared the things he’s given up to do them, live television, video games, and ‘being clever on the internet.’  My guess with Rubin is that he found that making the choice to write led to his goals more directly than these other things.

Hardy writes:

We all come into this world the same: naked, scared, and ignorant. After that grand entrance, the life we end up with is simply an accumulation of all the choices we make.

I don’t think simply can explain the complexity of it all but I do follow his thought that our choices carry a weight that guides our life.  I chose to sleep instead of write this morning.  I chose to get a master’s degree instead of starting a career. I chose to stay at home with our daughters while they were young.  My life is the tally of these choices.  Hardy says we have to own those choices, he writes:

Everything was up to me. I was responsible for everything I did, didn’t do, or how I responded to what was done to me.

I’ve lost the source, but the founder of a small company once wrote that assuming full responsibility was the best mindset he found when he was running his business.

Holocaust survivor Viktor Frankl writes about the idea of controlling your thoughts in Man’s Search for Meaning.

Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms—to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.

After choices Hardy moves on to Habits, and says that “A daily routine built on good habits in the difference that separates the most successful amongst us from everyone else.”

Stephen King shared this idea in his book On Writing.

I used to tell interviewers that I work every day except for Christmas, the Fourth of July, and my birthday. That was a lie. I told them that because if you agree to an interview you have to say something, and it plays better if it’s something at least half-clever. Also, I didn’t want to sound like a workaholic dweeb (just a workaholic, I guess).  The truth is that when I’m writing, I write every day, workaholic dweeb or not.

Later on that same page – 153 in my paperback – King writes this:

…during those periods of full stop I usually feel at loose ends with myself and have trouble sleeping.  For me, not working is the real work.

King has developed the writing habit so well that it feels odd when he doesn’t write.

This section on habits is also when Hardy teeters on the law of attraction.  First, let me confess.  In 2007, I read The Secret, a book where my main takeaway was that thinking about things made them so.    I read it while on vacation at my brother-in-law’s house and on the day before we were ready to leave, we were told our rental car would be downsized from what we had reserved.  I wanted to test the law of attraction and mentally thought of getting the bigger car we had planned on – and it worked.  I was law of attracting for three months but soon the idea lost its footing and I hadn’t thought of it again, until this book.

When it came up in this book, my guard was raised.  Despite the coincidence with our rental car, I don’t believe in the idea that we can mentally bring things toward us like metaphysical Jedi knights.  What the book suggests though, is that we use the ideas of what we want to influence or habits and actions.  Hardy wants us to think about the things we want so that our actions serve those ends.

My implementation has been to think about a healthier body and to take actions that lead to that.  This idea has ranged from eating fewer Christmas cookies to doing five minutes of pushups in the middle of the day. Even though these are little things, they’re part of a habit, and will have long-term results.

James Altucher nearly sings about building good habits through daily improvement in Choose Yourself.  For Altucher, the daily practice is to right your physical, emotional, spiritual, and mental bodies.  He writes:

Devoting yourself to a Daily Practice helps to build incremental improvements in our lives, even if you only notice the tiniest increments at a time. Today they will build up. Every moment they will build up.

Doing the things we choice daily will have big effects.

The third main section of The Compound Effect is Momentum.  If making good and thoughtful choices was a building block and creating habits out of those choices was another key part, then momentum is a minor player.  In the book Hardy shares two analogies to motivate us to continue following the groundwork laid by our choices and habits.

Think of it like this: If you and I flew planes from Los Angeles to Manhattan, but you took off and landed in every state in between, while I flew straight through, even if you went five hundred miles per hour in the air and I only traveled at a rate of two hundred miles per hour, I’d still beat you by a wide margin.

Later in the same section he gives the analogy that when you pump an old well handle it doesn’t give you water right away.  You need to keep pumping and pumping until water finally comes out.  Though it’s fine in the book, Zig Ziglar gives a much better telling of it.

If we’re going to go to the trouble to establish these habits from our choices,  shouldn’t we go ahead and follow them?

The final section is about Acceleration, which like momentum, is a minor role.  Hardy tells the story about Lance Armstrong opening up a gap during the hardest moments of his races.  He also shares a personal story about making real estate calls when he least wanted to, and presumably his competitors were not.  The most compelling story in this section is the lesson Hardy draws from Oprah.

He talks about her season premier in 2004 – the one where she gave away a new car to each member of her audience.  Hardy’s conclusion is that Oprah’s chief driver of success was her ability to do more than expected and that she did in so many areas.

Oprah is not the richest person in the country, she’s probably not even the richest in her own city, but she’s the most extraordinary.

In each of these cases, Armstrong, himself, and Oprah, the biggest differences were made when each of those people moved past the others when they were being challenged.  Armstrong on the mountains, Hardy at five o’clock quitting time, and Oprah when other television shows were giving away smaller things.

The Compound Effect was good, not only because of the content inside, but also because the ideas it contains aren’t isolated to the book.  The ideas are trends outside the book.  Darren Hardy tells me how he did things and how he observed things but there’s other evidence too – and that’s a good effect.

Michael Hyatt on Things Taking Time

Feb1712In Smart Passive Income, episode 93, Michael Hyatt talks about his journey from CEO to blogger to successful blogger.

Hyatt says that it took four years for him to get 1,000 blog subscribers.  (7:00) and that a common failure point of people who are starting out is that they have an inability to persist. (27:00)

This refrain is similar to what Dan Andrews writes about in his 1,000 Day Rule;

You’ll be doing worse than you were at your job for 1000 days after you start your muse business. I’ve seen it happen a bunch of times. For many of us it’s been almost exactly those 1000 days it took for us to get back to the level of income we enjoyed in our corporate days.

Stephen King wrote Carrie on a typewriter that he rested on his knees in a double-wide trailer.  Steven Pressfield faced similar challenges, what did he do to combat them?  In an Art of Manliness interview, Pressfield says to “put your ass where your heart wants to be.”  If you want to be a writer, you write, if you want to make sales, you make calls.  You need to take the actions required to do it.

In Manage Your Day-To-Day Pressfield outlines three steps that anyone has to take. Step one is doing something productive for one hour.  Step two is doing it for another hour, for another day, for another year.  There is no short-cut, no bypass.  Step three is crossing a finish line, like hitting 1K in revenue for a month.

If your project takes time, then your time becomes more valuable, are you using it wisely?

Five Tips for Working in Asia, advice from Tropical MBA

In Episode 225 of Tropical MBA, Dan Andrews is joined by Jon Myers for a “jam session” of ideas about living and working in Asia.  The episode is a different limb than what Dan and Ian typically discuss, but it has some solid stuff, especially toward the end of the episode.

The beginning includes some stories about Asia including the crazy motorbike traffic, the kindergarten education (9:40), and that being close – but not in – China is important. (12:30)   The key part of the episode is when Andrews and Myers jump into their five success tips for working in Asia.

Tip 1: “Thou shall not do local business.”

Andrews and Myers talk about why you don’t want to just jump into an area  you know nothing about and try to fix things.  “Don’t think you’re clever and do Groupon for Vietnam” Andrews says (16:00) – often our ideas need deeper thought.  Pat Flynn has a technique he calls 777 brainstorming to help him find businesses in areas he cares about.  Flynn notes that “By targeting a market that involves a passion, problem and/or fear that I or someone I know has, I can be sure I’ll be interested in it enough to put forth the extra effort needed for it to become a potentially high profit site.”  Pat’s personal connection is important, if you try to jump in to something you don’t understand at all you miss the currents.  Dan warns, “You tend to underestimate the inherent intelligence of a place.” (17:15)

Early in the episode the guys talk about how there’s no Whole Foods and no formal gyms (7:30) and while these things would be nice, they don’t get started because the existing ethos of the place has adapted to not needing those things.  It reminds me that McDonalds has 10 million pounds of chicken wings in unused inventory. McDonalds thought that adding chicken wings to a menu that already featured chicken would work. It apparently didn’t.

Tip 2: You need a purpose and a vision.

Dan and Jon both have personal and professional reasons to be in Asia.  It’s not just the cost of living perks, like maid services.  If they didn’t need to be there for work, they probably wouldn’t be there at all.  Later in the episode Jon remarks that you could probably be doing the same thing in Detroit.

You hear about this dichotomy of perception time and again from entrepreneurs who have left their traditional jobs for new ones.  Working for yourself might look nice from the outside, but so does a snow covered landscape.  Once you get out in the metaphorical snow, things are different.  Out there includes long hours, doubts, and fears.  The irregular paychecks, the sometimes huge self-insurance deductibles, and the need to maintain a razor sharp focus are all inherent challenges that have to be aligned with your purpose and vision.

Tip 3: You must have an insatiable curiosity for where you’re going. & Tip 4: Get connected and get inspired.

These tips both stem from – I think – Dan’s environment.  He often talks on the podcast about connecting to entrepreneurs, expats mostly, who are moving and shaking in the region.  He loves living and breathing both the culture and the business that is Asia – but not the air –  and while he would probably be successful in doing these things elsewhere, doing them in Asia really appeals to him.  He says, “you’re writing the story,” and for him, Asia is a great place to do it.

Working in Asia means that there is a fluidity to what can happen and this appeals to Dan and Jon.  Deal making is more fluid, it happens with only a handshake (28:10), but to survive and thrive you gotta be tough.  At 25:30 Dan says:

You gotta have that grit and that long-term view that I’m going to hang for 24 months, and I’m gonna make it happen, and I’m not gonna demand that everything is the same as it was back home.

Tip 5: You must be mindful and have an attitude of gratitude

Dan says, “It feels exciting that I’m doing something different.” (27:00)  and you need to be ready for things, when they’re ready to happen.  During this exchange, Jon gives my favorite quote of the episode:

You have to be the engineer of your own serendipity.

How does being ready to seize that happen?  In Manage Your Day-To-Day, Scott Belsky – CEO of Behance before its acquisition by Adobe – wrote that he gets his ideas by unplugging. He tells a story about a camping trip where at first he was bored, but on the second day, “my brain suddenly reactivated.  My creativity and imagination reached a new velocity as soon as I unplugged.”  In the same article Belsky suggests you, “open yourself up to serendipity.”

Belsky isn’t the only one, Cal Newport blogged about trying to make a deeper connection between two ideas he was mentally wrangling.  Newport writes, “In my experience, this type of connection making is well-served by three ingredients: quiet, movement, and time. So I left my building and hiked onto a network of trails that abuts the Georgetown campus.”  Walking seems to be a common way to bring inspiration – serendipitously or not.  In Daily Rituals many writers went for walks after a morning work session.  Beethoven even walked with a pencil and music sheets to “record chance musical thoughts.”

In the episode Dan and Jon don’t mention unplugging but throughout they are talking about the spirit of unplugging.  They’ve unplugged from certain culture things. They don’t have CNN in front of a treadmill, they have a public track with a basketball court.  They don’t have TV to watch, they have cheap flights to Shanghai.

I enjoyed the episode, especially the part about Asia.  It’s an area that I can’t see myself in but their discussion included lessons that I can myself needing.