Category Archives: Uncategorized

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.  


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 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.