March 2016

Tolerations sap your energy. Kill one today.

About 12 years ago, shortly after I purchased my first business, I decided to enlist the help of a personal coach. She had a calm but impatient zero-BS way about her that I liked immediately. At one point, she introduced an exercise that changed my thinking about focus and energy forever.

You might laugh because many people are already very good at this. I was not.

What are Your Tolerations?

Tolerations are the small (and not-so-small) stressors you put up with daily. Things you try to ignore, or deal with later, and in so doing, they add to your daily burden. Not unlike feeling you must “get your ducks in a row” before you can start anything, tolerations hold you back because they drain your sense of agency– putting up with them makes it feel like the world is doing things to you, even on purpose.

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“But I don’t know where to start!” (Part 1)

Overwhelm. It’s all too normal these days and for no good reason. Let’s put this little paradox of non-action in perspective.

150 years ago, homesteaders on the Great Plains with no electricity, no indoor plumbing, no weather forecasting, no simple means of communications, no crops, not even a house, undertook the seemingly insurmountable project of establishing farms and doing what needed to be done to survive. And they did.

You, living now in the future with all of human knowledge floating through the air, capable of being summoned instantaneously at the stroke of a finger or voice command, with prepared food and even chartered transport at your beck and call don’t feel enabled– you feel paralyzed. Your needs are met. You are vaccinated. You are not hungry. You do not fear the locusts. But you can’t get on with it because you “don’t know where to start.”

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Holy sh*t, stop comparing yourself to other people. Stop it.

Ambition is a powerful motivator, but ambition to do or create or achieve what, exactly? Any why? Because others have already done more?

Comparison and ambition are not compatible.

Yeah, you know, there will always be someone who’s done “it” sooner than you, bigger than you, for more money than you. You know that. Rationally you are aware this statement is true. And yet, viscerally, you get jealous, resentful, even angry about what others have done that seem to have outpaced the things you have done. Useless. And stupid.  Case in point:

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I believe in you.

I do. I believe you can do what you set your mind to. I believe in your ability to adapt. I believe you have immense potential. I believe the differences in our perspectives are valuable. I believe you know things that I don’t know. I believe that I would learn something by talking with you.

Believing in you makes me powerful. Not because of something in me, but because of something in all of us. Societies move forward, faster, when we feel this way; they come to a grinding reactionary halt when we don’t.

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Wash, Rinse, Repeat [Infographic]

Certain daily patterns work for you. Others work for me.

I’m not even talking about habits; I’m talking about your natural rhythm. Perhaps it’s circadian. Perhaps it’s just individual differences at play. Whatever it is, you’ve got to find it, recognize it, and go with it. You’ll be smarter, more effective, and happier that way.

I’m naturally at my best early in the morning, and pretty unreliable when it comes to getting much done late in the evening, so I try not to. That said, I do like to think about the next morning and find myself noting ideas that spring to mind when I’m relaxed at night.

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Getting Your Ducks in a Row

“After I get my ducks in a row, then I’ll be able to…”

Not true. Not because you aren’t capable of taking care of the niggling little details that seem to keep you from doing the hard stuff, but because you know you can handle those details, you only want to handle those details. Your ducks, I suppose.

You don’t dive in an do the hard stuff because you aren’t sure that you can. You don’t know what might happen. That’s why you focus on the ducks, as if the ducks actually make a difference to anything.

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Don’t Be Afraid of People. People are All You’ve Got.

Phone calls, coffees and meetings, oh my!

Scared to talk to someone you don’t know? Why? What could happen? Listen, I get what the fear of rejection is all about. I spent the first part of my career in sales and like countless other salespeople, I became a magical excuse machine for all the calls I did not make. We’re social animals; 40,000 years ago, strangers could kill you. So could your tribe rejecting you.

But we don’t live 40,000 years ago. Today, solutions are built on radical collaboration. The faster you gain empathy, insight, perspective, knowledge and help from other people, the faster you succeed. When I did that in sales, everything changed. So too with startups. The best big ideas are never (never EVER) born or perfected in a vacuum. That’s why lean startup and design thinking principles start with asking questions. Not building (and certainly not perfecting) a big fancy solution.

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Productivity Hacks are the Devil

I’ve never met a highly effective person who, despite her killer instinct, drive and determination, was nevertheless thwarted by her inability to “hack” her day.

Email hacks, sleep hacks, scheduling hacks, marketing hacks, diet hacks… Stop it. Stop being a hack. I bet Warren Buffet has no hacks.

Look, I get it. Hacks are alluring and sometimes very helpful, but rarely are they so helpful as to create a watershed moment that changes everything. You change when you take an action that supports the kind of person you want to be, not when you “hack” the process.

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“I am the type of person who…”

There are reasons you don’t start that thing you say is important to you, or quit that useful habit before it gains momentum. Probably very good reasons, I’m sure. Please, tell me all about them.

Those reasons are just made up. The true cause is in your head, but it’s as real as the air around you. You can’t see it, but you can feel it. Boy can you feel it.

I am the type of person who hits the snooze button 5 times.
I am the type of person who runs out of time doing unimportant tasks.
I am the type of person who binges on Netflix when I didn’t intend to.
I am the type of person who gets scared.
I am the type of person who avoids.

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How you feel about it is beside the point.

Early in my career, I was in a room, training new franchise owners about sales and marketing. I had owned my own franchise and did quite well, but I liked to bring in other successful franchisees to talk about their experiences for added insight and perspective. This time, it was Kathy’s turn. One of the most experienced and successful franchisees in the system, I could always count on Kathy to speak her mind, and often teach me something in the process.

Deep into our little “fireside chat,” a new franchisee broached the topic of feeling uncomfortable with getting out there and marketing one’s business. So I asked Kathy, “There must be things you don’t like about running your business. How do you deal with that?”

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