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Follow the George Clooney Principle to Win at Anything

Actor George Clooney floundered in Hollywood for years before he became a star. He went to audition and after audition, was rejected, and sent away. Like anyone would, he became bitter & frustrated.

But, everything changed when he had an epiphany. He realized that the movie producers had their own problems. He realized that these producers were stressed about their budgets, stressed about finding actors to fill their movie’s roles so that their movies could succeed. They needed somebody special and they were hoping that the next actor to come in would be the one to make their movie a success.

In short, George finally realized that these auditions were not about George Clooney at all. He had been agonizing over how much the producers might like him or if this audition or that audition would make him a star. But, these auditions were actually about the movie producers and their needs. George could succeed by focusing on what they wanted. He needed to offer a solution to their problem, not his problem of wanting to become a star. If George solved the producers’ problem, then George’s problem would solve itself.

George adjusted his mindset, got focused on the movie producers and what they were thinking and feeling, and his luck changed immediately. The rest is, as they say, history.

The Simple, but, Overlooked, Secret

If you want to win big in anything this is the simple secret:

Focus more on who you can help and how you can help them. Focus less on what you want out of the deal. The other person can be a movie producer, a job interviewer, your boss, or the customers of your business or potential business.

When you think about who you can sell, how much you can sell them, and how everyone will look up to you afterward, you have an inward-focused mindset. These types of thoughts are really about you. These thoughts are about what you want, just like George Clooney’s initial approach to movie auditions was about him. This mindset will blind you to the other person’s wants and needs. It’s near impossible to hit a target that you cannot even see.

But, when you think about how you can help the other person, what they might be feeling, what problems they have, how they might feel, and how you could provide solutions to their problems, you have an outward-focused mindset. This will open your eyes to see the clues that were there all along. This will give you the empathy to understand how you can solve their problem.

And as George Clooney learned, the solution to your problem is always on the other side of the other person’s problem.

The featured image for this article was taken by Gary King and is used in accordance with the Wikimedia Commons 3.0 license.
Achieve Goals in 2017

The Ultimate Guide to Achieving Your Goals

Interested but don’t have time to read all this right now? I can send you a free ebook of this post if you prefer. Just click here.

Do you have goals that you want to achieve? Have you tried and failed to achieve goals or “New Year’s Resolutions” in the past? Do you want to greatly up your quality of life over the next decade?

Over the past few years, I’ve developed a system that has helped me succeed as a CEO, a business owner, a father, a husband, and now as founder of a startup. This system has been culled from the tips and teachings of famous top performers and productivity experts like Tony Robbins, Peter Drucker & Tim Ferriss and from mentors in my personal life.

And, now, I’m sharing my system with you. The system is completely free, there is no up-sell, there is no catch, just simple, actionable principles that you can start using today.

This guide will show you how to implement a proven system that will help you achieve your personal goals and to achieve success. Investing a few minutes now can lead to years of success by simply making the right high-impact decisions.

By request, I have included several free tools and the entire contents of this post in a free ebook download that you can receive by clicking here to read at your leisure. Or, you can simply continue reading the complete guide right here and now.

The Right Naming System

First things first – if it’s a New Year’s Goal, quit calling it a New Year’s Resolution and start calling it a Goal. New Year’s resolutions are famous for one thing – not being kept. What we call things and our related expectations are far more powerful than most people realize. I touch on this in my Jim Kouzes post if you would like to read more, but, it’s enough to know you should quit calling them resolutions and start calling them goals.

Set the Right Goals

“We overestimate what we can accomplish in a year but underestimate what we can accomplish in a decade.” – Tony Robbins

Nothing is more important than setting the right goals in the first place. What you choose to focus on is far more important than the system that you use. Effectively carrying out a goal that you never should have pursued in the first place is a waste of time and energy, so, let’s dig into how to setup the right goals.

Most short-term (1 year or less) Goals are simply too ambitious. Many of our New Year’s “Resolutions” require really big, very sudden life changes that cause a major shock to our daily habits and routines. This causes us to quit within days or weeks of beginning and is the cause of the well-deserved reputation held by resolutions.

However, most of our “big picture” Life Goals (goals that take longer than 1 year to complete) are not ambitious enough. Ask most people what they want from the next 10 years and their answers will generally be modest at best. “More free time”, “be a department manager”, “pay off the house” or “make more money” are pretty common answers.

There is nothing in these answers powerful enough to get you fired up about life. Most of these answers are not goals at all, they are merely made up answers that someone will offer because you put them on the spot.

It’s an interesting bit of irony that most of us think we can accomplish big things in just 1 year, but, we have either modest plans or no plans for the next decade. You need to flip this on its head.

Up your Life Goals

Cat: Where are you going?
Alice: Which way should I go?
Cat: That depends on where you are going.
Alice: I don’t know.
Cat: Then it doesn’t matter which way you go – Lewis Carrol, Alice in Wonderland

Many people don’t even have a goal for their next 5-10 years. This is like getting in your car, driving aimlessly, and hoping that you end up somewhere that you want to be. But, if you are reading this, you’re not most people. You have chosen to put some thoughts into your goals which immediately puts you in an elite category. It’s the first step of a broader journey.

You need to set some Life Goals. These can be 3, 5, 10, or even 20 year goals. The length doesn’t matter. But, these are much more significant than a 1-year or 6-month goal.

Pick Life Goals that can radically change your life. Your Life Goals should be grand life projects that help direct all your 1-year or shorter goals. Your Life Goals should give your life direction and purpose. Your Life Goals should be missions that you can look back on fondly when you are much older and be proud that you even attempted.

With a Life Goal, you’re now setting off on a road trip with a destination in mind. Will you reach your destination every time? No. Will you change your mind midway through the trip and pick a different destination? Absolutely. But, simply having a destination in mind will put your life on a vastly different path than aimless wandering.

Your Life Goals should be big enough that first sharing them with others today should be embarrassing. Anything less is too small.

  • Set goals so big that achieving them would radically change your life.
  • Set goals so big that you are pumped to get to work on your goals everyday.
  • Set goals so big that, when the times get tough, you can think back on your “big goals”, how your life could change, and get jazzed up again.

The Problem with “Small” Life Goals

If you take nothing else from this guide, it should be this: Your Life Goals need to be bigger. Here’s what wrong with Small Life Goals:

Small goals usually aren’t enough to get you really fired up. No matter what your goal is, there will be problems and setbacks. You need a goal where the results of a win are big enough that thinking of them will get you motivated to push through problems and setbacks that will occur.

A Life Goal of a 10% annual pay increase isn’t going to keep you up at night working and planning. A Life Goal of building a company that will sell for millions and set you and your loved ones up for life will keep you up at night.

You will face more competition when going for Small Goals. When identical job openings are posted at both $25,000 and $50,000 annual salary, the $25,000 job will get 2 to 3 times more applications. The identical higher paying job is actually easier to land, because it has less competition.

Why don’t more people apply for the $50,000 year job? Many simply don’t believe they are capable of winning big. They incorrectly believe that there must be more competition for that job. They don’t even look at jobs in that pay range. Many believe they deserve little, so they receive little. Many people trap themselves in a prison of their own low expectations.

The truth is that you are capable of much more than you know. And it’s not until you push yourself to the breaking point that you find out what your real capabilities are.

Your First Task

Your first task in Life Goal setting is to begin believing that you deserve to win big. Simply changing this core belief in your heart will put you in a different, much more sparsely populated league of competitors immediately.

Also, set Life Goals that tie into specifically what you really want. Pick goals that, even if you fail, you will have enjoyed the process of trying. Don’t set a goal of having a fitness model body if you really don’t care for fitness or working out. Don’t set a goal of having lots of money if you just think money would be “nice to have”.

Set goals that really tie into your unique wiring as a human being. There is something that has tugged your heart and mind for years. What is it?

More on Life Goals

Set goals that fit your particular interests and not goals that fit what you think other people want you to do. This is very important.

Some people set their goals based on pleasing others or meeting some expectation from society. This is a recipe for failing and for feeling like a failure. Some people say “well, I guess I should lose weight” or “I guess I want a management position” because people around them want them to do these things.

Focus on what you want, not what others want you to want. If you want to know more about overcoming the Fear of What Everyone Else Thinks, see my post on the topic by clicking here.

Set goals that won’t feel like a total waste of time if you fall short. If you set a goal of being a New York Times best-selling author and your book fails to make the best seller list, you might still be pretty happy if you love the process of writing. Maybe you still carved out a career as a paid writer and can be pleased with an “80%” result.

However, if you don’t even really like writing, but, want to be a best-selling author purely for fame or money, then you would probably be extremely upset if you fall short. You would probably feel like you wasted your time because you hated the process, you purely wanted the result.

Pick goals that, even in failure, you can enjoy the process of striving for and/or goals that help you learn valuable skills for your next adventure. Read more in my post on Failing And Still Succeeding.

Once you get clear about what you want, you will start to find ways to get there.

You know how, after you test drive a specific car, you now see that particular type of car everywhere you go? The cars were there all along. But, your brain didn’t know they were important to you before, so, your brain wasn’t paying attention or looking for them.

By simply getting clear about where you want to go in your life, the subconscious horsepower in your brain will kick in and get busy looking for ways to get you there. Get clear on what you want, and make your subconscious your ally.

SMART Goals

Set both your Life Goals and 1-Year Goals using the SMART system. SMART is a well-known framework for goal-setting and its 5 principles for goal-setting are the keys to any successful goal.

Specific – A goal like “be a better person” or “live healthier” is not specific enough. Ask yourself what you really want to accomplish and what is driving you. Instead of “live healthier”, a specific version of your goal might be “lose weight” or “increase strength” or “complete a half-marathon”.

Measurable – Your goal must be objectively measurable. For example, once you have decided that you want to “lose weight”, you now need to refine that you want to “lose 20 pounds” or be able to “run a half-marathon in less than 2 hours”.

Achievable – Is your goal realistic? Start with a goal that is realistic in the timeframe you give yourself. If you want to lose 10 pounds in 6 months, this may be realistic, but, losing 100 pounds is probably not. Short term goals that are not achievable are a waste of time and can actively damage your psychology by making you feel like a failure.

Relevant – Is this goal relevant to your interests and desires for your life? Don’t fall into setting a Life Goal for yourself that you aren’t jazzed up about. Achieving anything big takes hard work. If you aren’t “all in”, you are wasting your time. For more, refer to the Up Your Life Goals heading above.

Time-bound – An old English proverb says, “What can be done at any time is never done at all”. When we tell ourselves that something can be done later, we will put it off. Your goal must have a definite deadline set or you will procrastinate and it won’t get done.

Picking Your Life Goal(s)

Either write on a blank sheet of paper or use the Goal Sheet that I have already setup for you in the free Goal Toolkit (click to download).

Write down your Life Goals and set a number of years for each goal. Again – make sure these goals are BIG and that they tie directly into what gets you excited. Don’t worry a great deal about specific time horizons, for now just take a stab at what sounds right.

Once you have momentum from your first year, you may be able to achieve your goals faster than you expect right now. You will, at a minimum, have a much better sense of how long things will take.

Set as many Life Goals as you like. Most people will likely only have 1 to 3.

Example Goals

  • I will build a company worth $5 million in 10 years
  • I will have a BMI of 12% and weigh 160lbs. in 5 years
  • I will have 1 New York Times best-selling book in the next 10 years
  • I will have $500,000 in my children’s college fund and have my house paid off in 10 years

As you can see above, these goals can be structured anyway that you like, just stick to the SMART framework. Got your Life Goals? Now tie some “dreams” to your Life Goals.

Set Some Life Dreams

A Life Dream is a specific experience that you can have once you achieve your Life Goal. The difference between a Dream and a Goal is that a Dream is an experience, not an achievement. For the highest impact, the dream should be imagined in vivid detail. 

Want to make a lot of money as a Life Goal? Your Life Dream might be buying your mom a house, a car, or sending her on an all-expense paid European vacation. Or, your Dream might be purchasing a luxury car for mom or dad or your best friend.

Sometimes, a Life Dream and a Goal might actually be one and the same. Maybe you want to finish or win a prestigious triathlon as a goal. Your Dream might simply be the experience of finishing or talking to your friends about the race afterward.

The imagining of your Experience in vivid detail is very important. If you want to buy Mom a house then: picture the house, imagine the morning you bring her there, the look on her face when you give her the keys, the feeling you get when the tears roll down her face.

If your Dream is finishing the big race, imagine: what you will feel after you finish, who will be there, what the medal might look like, what the meal afterward may taste like, and what the hotel bed might feel like once you make it back to the hotel.

Again, the more vivid you can make these dreams the better. These Dreams will be your fuel on your darkest days. Make them specific. Imagine the sights, sounds, tastes, feelings, and smells.

These imagined sensations can serve as very powerful anchors in your mind. They are more powerful than mere words for reaching the lowest, most powerful parts of the brain.

Add these Life Dreams to your piece of paper or to the free Goal Sheet in my free Goal Toolkit. In the toolkit, there is also a sheet you can use to write your detailed imagining of the experience.

Set 1-Year Goals

Now, that you have at least one Life Goal and one Life Dream, you need to reverse engineer what year 1 of that journey might look like.

Year 1 is largely about ramping up and getting in motion. If you want to make $10 million in the next 10 years, you don’t need to make $1 million in year 1.

Resist the temptation to ask too much of yourself in the first year. Don’t simply chop up a 10-year or 5-year goal into 1/10th or 1/5th increments. You will have much more momentum and you will be a different person with more resources by years 3, 5, or 8 than you are today. Remember – the days of standing still year after year are over. You will make progress this year and will build on that next year.

Many people fail in New Year’s Resolutions because they attempt sweeping life changes all at once. They say, “Ok, I’m going to start eating 1800 calories per day and I’m going to work out 4 times per week starting the first week of January and I’m going to lose 50 pounds this year”.

They do this coming off a month of no exercise, holiday feasts, and sweets. The change is simply too great and their mind and body reject it. We want to get on the right path, get some momentum, and play the long game of success.

Play the Long Game in 1-Year Goals

Your initial 1-year goals should be fairly modest. You want to “win” year 1, develop confidence, and get in motion in the right direction. If you do this, you will be much better suited to produce in year 2 and beyond. You will be a more capable, better positioned person going into year 2 that can achieve far more next year than you can this year.

If you want to lose 60 pounds in the next 3 to 5 years as a Life Goal, you might set a year 1 goal of losing 10 pounds, working out twice per week, and cutting out most sugary drinks. That’s it. Year 2 you might get more aggressive on diet and exercise and lose more weight.

For big 5+ year Life Goals, year 1 should be more about setting yourself up for future success. If you want to make $5 million in the next 10 years, year one should probably be more about learning, networking, testing ideas, and simply changing your current circumstances to be better positioned in the future. The amount of money you make in year 1 is not relevant. What is relevant is how much better positioned you are going into year 2.

You want to have 1-year goals that you can meet and exceed so that you can grab momentum and confidence. Most people set goals that are not realistic early, fall short of them, feel like a failure, and quit.

You simply want to end your first year by being closer to your Life Goal than you began the year. That’s it. You want to be primed for bigger, better things in Year 2. That’s all you really have to do in Year 1.

But, here’s the thing – as you get momentum and confidence in Year 1, you will probably find that you will get way beyond your Year 1 goals and you will keep pushing. You will find new internal resources that you didn’t know you had. You will find external resources like new friends, books, etc. that you didn’t have before.

Instead of setting a big short-term goal that you can’t meet, you will blow away a modest goal. You will feel like a winner, not someone who can’t meet their goals & expectations. The difference in psychology here is enormous.

All these things will accelerate your new path. But, let this happen naturally.

Most people are impatient. They want the achieve their goals immediately, so, they try to do it all at once.. It doesn’t happen immediately and they get frustrated and quit entirely. Don’t be most people – play the long game.

Write Down Your 1-Year Goals

Using the SMART criteria above, define 1-year goals and write them down on a sheet of paper or download my Goal Sheet from my free Goal Toolkit.

It’s very important that you write your goals down. Yeah, I know it sounds hokey, but, there is something powerful about translating your goals out of your head and onto something tangible like a piece of paper.

If you want to really ratchet up your chances of success, write your goals (both 1-Year and Life Goals) down repeatedly – once a month, once a week, or even once a day. The psychological tuning is profound, the cost is low, the potential upside is great.

Weekly Goals

Once you have your 1-year goals, you want to break them down into Weekly Goals. Anything bigger than weekly goals are not really actionable.

If your 1-Year Goal is to write a book, you may wish to commit to writing 30 pages per week. If your 1-Year Goal is to lose 10 pounds, you may want to commit to 2 workouts per week and no more than 2 sugary drinks per week.

Setting these Weekly Goals is important because this is where you get to think about the part of your goals that are actually actionable. Pick the right Weekly Goals and then take care of these small daily and weekly activities, and your big picture Life Goals will take care of themselves.

You may also break down your Weekly Goals to Daily Goals if you wish. In most cases, however, you aren’t trying to perform a particular activity every single day of the year, so, weekly might make more sense.

Make your Weekly Goals about Actions, not about Results. Some actions have very direct results. You write 30 pages of a book and you have 30 pages of a book. However, some results cannot be guaranteed in fields like sales, sports, or other areas influenced by chance.

As a salesperson, don’t set a goal to “make 2 sales per week”, instead set a goal to “talk with 20 potential customers per week” or similar. Whether the customer chooses to buy or not is up to them, but, how many you talk to and how well you present to them is up to you.

It is very important that your Weekly Goals be completely within your direct control. If you take the right actions repeatedly, the law of averages will work for you in the long run of months and years to reduce the role of chance. But, 1 week is too small of a sample size for this to even out. If you don’t feel that your Weekly Goals are 100% within your control, you will give yourself a psychological “out” to shirk your goals.

Write these goals on your sheet of paper or on the Goal Sheet in the free Toolkit.

Tricks That Will Help You Stay on Course

The Streak Tracker

The problem with most goals is that you start out strong and then slack off as time goes by. The Streak Tracker turns this on its head with a trick of psychology.

Chart out a sheet of paper with 52 boxes, one representing each week of the upcoming year (you can start at any time in the year, just make the current week into Week1), or use the “Streak Tracker” in my free Goal Toolkit.

Post the Streak Tracker where you can see it everyday. Every week that you fulfill your weekly goal, check the box for that week. After several weeks or months, you will have a nice streak of checks going. Your job is simply to “not break the chain”.

You will feel accomplished every time you see the paper. On these weeks that you feel like slacking, the idea of messing up your streak will make you think twice as positive pressure mounts. Over time, your new actions will turn into habits and external tricks will become less important. You can also combine your Streaks with Reward Checkpoints which are covered next.

Reward Checkpoints

Setup “reward checkpoints” or other positive incentives for yourself as you progress toward your goal. Use these rewards in conjunction with streaks to create mounting pressure on yourself to keep going.

For example, you might set a minor reward at every 3 weeks in a row of meeting your Goal. You might have an even bigger reward for yourself for meeting your Goal 10 weeks in a row. You might have a huge reward for 26 or 52 weeks in a row.

What would you be willing to spend if you met your goals every single week for 6 months? Or 1 year? Don’t be afraid to splurge a little here. Similar to Life Goals, we want this reward to be big enough to motivate you.

Set these up checkpoints up in advance and use them to help yourself keep pushing. The rewards must uniquely match what you like and are interested in.

Your reward can be a new gadget you have wanted, a fancy dinner with your spouse, a vacation, anything that revs you up. Use your imagination to setup rewards that will really motivate you.

You can also set a reward for yourself if you exceed your Goals in a given week. Maybe if your goal is writing 30 pages of your book in a week, but, you write 75, you reward yourself.

Use Negative Emotions to Your Advantage

Create punishments if you fail. This may seem hardcore to some, but, it is very powerful and effective. For many of us, negative incentives are the most powerful of all.

Possible “Punishments” to Incentivize You

  • Tell everyone you know what your 1-year goals are, create a building sense of embarrassment if you quit and let them down. Post about it on social media, tell your closest friends, make a big deal out of it.
  • If the people that you tell doubt your goals or think you are crazy, develop a desire to “prove them all wrong”. This alone has fueled a lot of big successes.
  • Join a competition, a class, some kind of peer group that will provide peer pressure to keep you onboard in moving toward your goal.
  • Give your friend (the one who you know will cut you no slack) some embarrassing picture that you don’t want anyone to see. Tell them to post it on social media if you fail.
  • Give away a meaningful sum of money (enough to sting if you lose it ) or one of your favorite possessions to a friend or family member until you “earn it back” through completing your Weekly Goals and by maintaining your Streak. If you fail, they give the item or the cash away.  If they are giving the cash away, consider having it go to something that you don’t like – like the athletic booster fund of your most hated college sports team. We are looking for all the fuel that we can get.

A strange fact of human nature is that seemingly inconsequential factors like embarrassment or competition can sometimes motivate us much more than positive factors of real consequence like income or health. Use this bit of human irrationality (and everything else you can get your hands on) to your advantage.

Conclusion – Stack the Deck to Win

It’s hard to guarantee success in any endeavor. But, if you stick to this proven system, your odds of success are very high. You will have put real thought into where you want to go, rather than drifting along from year to year. You will have setup a system to get you moving. And, you will use psychological tricks to make our human quirks work to your advantage instead of sabotaging you.

Make sure that you post your Goals and Streak Tracker where you can see them every single day. Put them on your refrigerator or over your desk.

Now, it’s just a matter of going out and executing on your plan. You have all the tools you need to blow your next 12 months out.

All the best,

Trey

Toy Packages and Disruption

What Toy Packages Can Teach Us About Disrupting Industries

If you are a parent, you were almost certainly frustrated while opening toy packages for your child over the Christmas holidays.

The Toy Package Problem

Some toys are tied into packages with complex ties that require cutting or unwinding. Some toys are literally screwed into their packaging and require a screwdriver to remove them. Some toys require a hammer and drill to assemble. Some toys even require a level. Some toys require batteries (not included), others ask you to turn an Allen wrench several hundred times to complete assembly.

Aside from the hassle, the time required to open and/or assemble is the real rub.

You’re sacrificing time at the most hectic time of the year to jump through hoops to open a toy. You’re taking a timeout from gift opening time with the family to break into inconvenient packages for eager children. You’re looking for your tools to assemble and/or open the toys. You’re up until the wee hours assembling toys on Christmas Eve. You’re shoehorning assembly of toys into the days leading up to Christmas amid all the wrapping and shopping.

Why The Problem Exists

The toy package exterior is designed to be as attractive as possible. This is to catch your child’s eye, to make them want the toy, and to make the sale.

This is apparently the only part of the toy package where the customer is really a consideration at all. Once you have made the decision to buy the toy and presented the toy to your child, it’s too late to turn around. Your child’s heart is now set on the toy.

The toymaker knows this. Once you reach the package interior, you are faced with an obstacle course to take the toy from package to play-ready.

The toy is broken into many parts to fit the toy into a smaller package, thus allowing more toys to fit on a truck or on a shelf. Often, the decals are not even applied to the toy (seriously?) to save labor at the factory. Sometimes the same decisions that make the toy look nice in the package lead to the very ties and screws that make the toy difficult to remove from the package. Sometimes, you might be away from home and realize you don’t even have the necessary tools to assemble the toy once you open the box.

There is zero consideration given to making for a fun or easy “unboxing” experience like you might find for customers of an Apple product. The process is time-consuming, at best, and disappointing for parents and children, at worst.

This is an industry that has never even considered disruption as a possibility for a long time. But, bad news for toymakers and good news for the rest of us…

The Disruption Opportunity

This is an industry ripe for disruption. The disruption could be purely at the retail level or could be a vertically integrated entity from the manufacturer level to the retail level.

Imagine a toy store that sells only toys that are “play-ready” from the time that the boxes are opened. All the toys that don’t need assembly would be in “easy to open” boxes where – crazy idea – any school age child could open their own toys. The toys that need assembly would be designed to be as quick and painless as possible. The pain and frustration of toy packaging would be a dinosaur of the past. When you buy toys, you get that well-thought out “Apple-like” opening experience.

Yes, the toys will be a little more expensive due to designing the experience around the customer rather than the manufacturer and retailer. Less toys will fit on a shelf. Less will fit on a truck. A little more labor may be required at the factory.

But, would you be more likely to take your child toy shopping at this hypothetical store or at a Toys ‘R Us? Would you gladly pay a little more per toy for a guaranteed better experience? How much more are you already paying for a Mac or iPhone versus similar products in the name of a better experience?

Other Companies That Disrupted Under Similar Situations

When will the disruption happen? I don’t know “when”, but, the disruption seems inevitable. There is one constant in good economic times and bad – people love to spend money on their children. People also love to be “enchanted” by new, innovative companies that fix age-old problems in interesting ways.

In the Western world, most of the “big problems” of modern day life are more or less solved – food, shelter, water, electricity.

At this point, the companies that disrupt industries and become larger than life are companies that fix the remaining annoyances like toy package problems. We sometimes forget how relatively minor the annoyances were that spawned the multi-billion dollar mega-corporations that we take for granted today.

We didn’t like hailing cabs or calling cab companies, so, Uber was born. Often, Uber is cheaper, but, convenience is the real selling point.

We didn’t like paying for shipping or entering purchase information over and over on different websites, so, we now buy everything from Amazon. They made it easy to do business with them and they carry almost everything. Do you even price check them any more?

We didn’t like going to the movie rental store. We didn’t like setting our DVR to record. Heck, we didn’t even like our cable company’s clunky (but free!) on-demand streaming service. None of it was a good experience, so, Netflix grew and grew and grew and, now, has nearly unstoppable momentum.

None of these things changed the human race. But, they made the lives of millions just a little easier and a little better. That created all the massive value reflected in the stock price of these companies.

The toy package disruption is inevitable and I, as a customer, can’t wait.

What’s the Lesson?

You are probably asking – What does all this mean for me? What’s the broader lesson here?

It means that, now, more than ever, you should think about your customer experience.

  • Are you presenting an offer, a “package exterior“, that is just good enough to make a sale?
  • Are you following up the sale with a “package interior” that is frustrating or that falls below customer expectations?
  • Are you continually making decisions that reduce the customer experience to add a little profit to your bottom line?
  • Most importantly – would your customers say they “can’t wait” for you to be disrupted?

If the answers to these questions are “yes”, then you, and possibly your whole industry, will only be relevant as long as your customers have no other option.

Companies and industries that say “yes” to the above questions are the places where the “bean counters” have long since taken control of the executive suite. These are the places where it has ceased being about the customer. These are the places, where a “vision” is non-existent, unless you count “increase revenue by 12% YOY” as a vision.

In these companies & industries, the customer is only a concern when it comes to providing an attractive enough “package exterior” to close a sale. Then, the “package interior” is delivered as cheaply as possible. These are the places where it’s not a question of “if” disruption will occur, only “when”.

If You Want to Be An Innovator

If you want to innovate and are looking for an opportunity, then these are the situations you should have your eyes peeled for. Outside of toys, dozens such opportunities are still out there, look for one that speaks to you and your interest and experience.

Look for the types of industries where you see the below types of behaviors:

  • The “package exterior” makes the sale, but, the “package interior” greatly under-delivers.
  • There is an unspoken code among the current competitors of remaining “just good enough”.
  • The current competitors are blind to the problem or believe their customers have “no other choice”.
  • The current competitors see the problem, but, are unwilling or unable to give up the profits of the “old way” to create a more customer-friendly “new way”.

These are the industries that are just waiting for a visionary to ride in and say, “Enough of this, I see a better way, the customer deserves better”.

Once this happens, nothing in that industry will ever be the same again.

Gary Vaynerchuk

Gary Vaynerchuk’s best tips summed up in this #AskGaryVee Hit List

In one section of the #AskGaryVee book, Gary Vaynerchuk provides a quick hit list of his top tips for success. I love the list because it is to-the-point and actionable. Also, I think, this list perfectly sums up most of Gary’s philosophy into a compact, tactical package.

Gary’s original advice is in bold, my comments are in plain text next to the original points.

Gary Vaynerchuk’s Hit List

  1. Have shorter meetings. Go down from 1 hour meetings to 30 minute meetings. Then continue to push to shorten meetings more and more. Gary is down to 4 minute meetings. We all know meetings are a colossal waste of time and time is our most valuable resource. Start doing something about it. Maximize your productive time in the day, reduce your unproductive time.
  2. Don’t focus on things you can’t control. You can’t control who will be president or what the economy will do next month or who will win the Broncos game tomorrow. Focus on the things that your energy, your ideas, and your effort can have an effect on – your career, your family, your company, your friends.
  3. Don’t be afraid to break things. We can waste a tremendous amount of time with endless discussions about whether a new idea is worth trying or not. Quit talking about it & make a decision. If the idea has merit, just try it. You can usually fix it later if it goes badly, sometimes you find something great. Making no decision is the same as making a decision.
  4. Don’t be romantic about your business. This is one of Gary’s staples and I love it. I run into so many business owners that won’t face the current reality because they want their business to be like it was 5 years ago. And, some of them are actively angry that the market has changed. None of this is healthy. It distracts from execution in the present and from what you need to do to be competitive in the future. The “good ole days” are gone, you might have more good days, but, they will look different.
  5. Don’t get slower because you think you “made it”. Once you make it, all eyes are on you, your competitors want what you have. If anything, it gets more demanding, not less. I’ve personally witnessed several individuals who have been ruined by taking the attitude that they “made it” or that their company or the market owes them something for their past success. The race is never over until you retire.
  6. Keep moving, don’t take a breather. Many people take a break because they feel that they “deserve it” because they did something good yesterday. Instead of doing that, how much more momentum could you have, how much more could you get done if you just kept going and kept pushing? Is there a more perfect example of this philosophy than Gary Vaynerchuk himself?
  7. Don’t go for perfection, it’s in the eye of the beholder. Another thought in the same vein as some others – speed and momentum matter a lot in business. You can’t afford to fritter time and capital away by making something “perfect”. In many cases, even if you think you have achieved perfection, you will have to change it later anyway because the market will disagree. “Done and pretty good” beats “unfinished, unreleased, and perfect” any day of the week.
  8. Speed kills in sports and business. The perfect summary of all the thoughts above. How many colossal companies have been killed simply because a small company could move faster than them? The colossal company was busy having 3 hour meetings, getting romantic about yesterday, being afraid to break things today, trying to build the “perfect” new product, and taking a breather from past successes… meanwhile, the new company, the fast company, takes the colossal company out before the big guy knew what hit him.

I highly recommend checking out Gary’s book #AskGaryVee if you want to read more of Gary’s philosophy on business. I also love Gary’s earlier book, Crush It!, if you have any interest in entrepreneurship.

apple cider vinegar

Drinking Apple Cider Vinegar for Digestive Health

About 2 weeks ago, a good friend recommended taking a tablespoon of apple cider vinegar daily for a variety of health benefits from digestion to immune function to having extra energy. I decided to take on this experiment for a short time to see if I could tell any difference.

I’m a bit of a skeptic when it comes to “natural remedies” and such. The benefits of many non-proven remedies can actually be explained by the placebo effect or reversion to the mean. However, in this case, apple cider vinegar is cheap, available in any grocery store, and there was no downside that I could think of to testing it, which makes for a very favorable risk/reward analysis.

The Results

Now, a little over 2 weeks later, I can report that taking apple cider vinegar daily seems to have greatly helped my digestive health. I was taking daily probiotics, but, have been able to completely stop traditional probiotic tablets since taking this daily tablespoon of ACV. In fact, ACV seems a good bit more effective for me than the probiotics.

Could these results be a placebo effect or a coincidentally-timed reversion to the mean? Certainly. But, there does seem to be some science to back up how and why ACV could help your digestive system.

How Apple Cider Vinegar Works and How the Cost Compares to Pill-based Probiotics

Apple cider vinegar is, like all vinegar, fermented. This process means it contains some probiotics naturally. But, it also contains gluconic and acetic acid, which help facilitate the growth of more probiotics in your gut.

Probiotic pills are expensive. You usually are asked to take at least 2 tablets per day, sometimes 4 or more, and even the cheap pills are $.15 to $.20 per pill. The high end probiotics can cost as much as $.60 to $1 per pill.

But, you can get Apple Cider Vinegar “with the Mother” (if you try this, make sure you get ACV with the mother, the mother is where a lot of the good stuff is) on Amazon for $10.99 per bottle or $.34 per fl. oz. It seems to be even a little cheaper in the grocery store.

There are 2 tablespoons in an ounce, so, if you take 1 tablespoon per day like me, you are spending about $.17 per day. Before taking ACV, I was taking 4 cheap probiotic pills per day at a total cost of roughly $.60 for the day.

Even if you compare ACV to the cheap probiotics, it’s well over 50% cheaper than traditional probiotics. Plus, as mentioned above, this has been more effective for me than traditional probiotics.

The Dosage

What’s my exact process for taking ACV? I take it nearly first thing in the morning, after I take a shower and all that stuff, but, before breakfast or coffee. I take a tablespoon of ACV and dilute with roughly a tablespoon of water. After that, I drink the ACV like doing a shot of liquor. After that, I immediately chase it with a glass of water. The first couple of days I could feel it hit my stomach and burn just slightly, but, that has now stopped.

The Experiment Continues

Anyway, I’m a believer. Can I say 100% that ACV works? Of course not, but, I do believe that, for me, the experiment is worth continuing for a few more weeks or months to see if these results continue or if new benefits emerge.

Google “apple cider vinegar benefits”, you will find many other potential benefits discussed outside of digestive health, but, at this point, the digestive health and probiotic replacement are the only benefits I have experienced. I discussed all this with a friend of mine in the medical profession, and he suggested that it is possible that enhanced digestive health could lead to other health benefits, but, that more research is likely needed to say for sure.

If you take apple cider vinegar already or decide to test it, let me know your experiences in the comments below or shoot me an email.

Handshake

How to Handshake the Right Way

First impressions are highly powerful despite the fact these impressions are often formed in under 3 seconds. Many people will form a lasting view of you based on your physical appearance, your clothes, your handshake, your voice.

Given the power of the first impression, we want to do everything we can to “stack the deck” and make these impressions as great as they can be. The handshake is one of the biggest components of your first impression and it’s also maybe the simplest element to radically improve, so, it’s a great return on investment to make sure you are shaking hands the right way.

I meet people every week that are missing key components of a great handshake. Yet, the right way to shake is simple and can be taught in less than 2 minutes. Here are some tips to up your handshake game.

The Frequently Missed Steps to a Great Handshake

  1. Make eye contact and greet the person as you reach for their hand or listen if they are speaking. Either introduce yourself (“Hey, I’m Trey!”) or offer the appropriate greeting for the situation (“Hey, great to see you again!”)
  2. The webbing between your thumb and index finger should meet with the webbing of the other person’s hand. When you clasp your hand, your hands should “locked” together. Most people know this, but, some people have a tendency to not go in all the way and just try to “grab” the fingers rather than lock hands.
  3. Continue eye contact (or resume eye contact if you had to look away to find their hand) during the duration of your hand-to-hand contact. Eye contact is the most common area that I see people mess up. You should really focus in on the person during the greeting. You want them to feel that you are confident, present, and paying attention to them. Good eye contact is the key to feeling a real connection during a handshake.
  4. Give a firm handshake, don’t give the “dead fish” handshake and don’t make the other person’s knees buckle from pain from being overly firm. If you are unsure about firmness level at first, err toward firmness. The “dead fish” creates a very negative impression.
  5. Move your hand up and down a couple of times during the physical contact. Some people do this several times quickly, some people do this just a couple of times slowly. This is the piece that is part of your personality, feel free to experiment with what works for you and the situation.
  6. After you have both verbally greeted one another, break hand-to-hand contact. A good handshake usually only lasts a couple of seconds, but, may last a little longer if greeting phrases & responses are longer. Generally, one person is greeting the other person while reaching for them. Then, the other person greets back during the handshake and the shake is over.
  7. These rules are true for both men and women. Some women feel the need to not lock hands or provide a very weak handshake. A woman’s handshake should be exactly the same as a man’s. There is some very old information still circulating being spread that women should shake hands differently, but, this is just bad info.

I hope you find these quick tips helpful in upping your handshake game. Let me know what you think by emailing me at trey@justabitbettereveryday.com.

 

Fail While Still Succeeding

Fail and Still Succeed

We’ve covered previously how to overcome The Fear of What Everyone Else Thinks when starting a new career, a new business, a hobby, or a life decision. But, when you’re past the mental block of the Fear of What Everyone Else Thinks, what about the practical concern of making sure that your new adventure doesn’t fail spectacularly and somehow ruin your life?

Here are some strategies to both minimize the risks of failing and ensure that, if you should fail, you can still win the long game by making forward progress toward your goals.

Pick the Opportunities That Give You a Chance to Improve

Choose new ventures that will give you skills, relationships, or experience that will be valuable even if this new venture fails. In many cases, you can gain a lot, even in failure.

Maybe taking a new job as a salesperson will teach you new skills and cause you to develop some valuable relationships. Sure, you could “fail”, but, during that failure you might learn a tremendous amount. You paid thousands of dollars for college, getting paid to develop valuable real world expertise is not a bad deal at all.

Try to look for the types of opportunities where you can learn valuable things and develop new relationships whether you succeed or fail.

Try to see that there is a consistent direction to your new ventures, so, that you keep progressing in a certain general direction. In So Good They Can’t Ignore You, Cal Newport puts forward the idea of career equity. Newport says that the most successful people build up equity in a certain line of work by developing area-specific relationships, reputation, and skills. This ultimately makes them “masters” of an area, which ultimately leads to the greatest pay, freedom, and fame.

If you want to start or run a business, trying out numerous experimental ventures over time related to starting or running a business is a good way to go. Even if you fail in any particular venture, you are probably falling forward in a consistent general direction. It’s a good idea to fire bullets before cannonballs to minimize your downside. Over time, you will learn lessons, you will develop a network of contacts, and you will figure it out.

However, if you ping pong about in wildly different directions over the course of your life, it may be difficult to build consistent momentum in one area. If one year you want to be an actor, the next a game designer, the next a writer, the next a corporate CEO, it’s possible that the skills and relationships that you developed in each area won’t translate to the others (although you may sometimes be surprised at the connections that emerge). If you want to experiment or try something new, seek to find a way to leverage prior experience or relationships if possible and to move in the same general direction.

Manage the Downside

Look for ways to minimize the potential downside. In many cases by defining the possible downsides and targeting the risk that you want to eliminate, you can reduce or, sometimes, even eliminate your greatest areas of risk.

When Sir Richard Branson looked to start Virgin Airlines, he was afraid that the new venture might not work and that he would be stuck with a bunch of airplanes. So, he negotiated the airplane purchase deal with the right to return the planes and get most of Virgin’s money back if he wished. This was a brilliant hedge that eliminated a huge potential downside for Virgin. Once Richard had that downside out of the way, he was free to being Virgin Airlines, one of the most successful and popular airlines in the world.

What is your realistic worst case scenario? Really picture it. What are your biggest possible downside factors? Now, how can those be minimized? If you really think on these questions, you will be surprised at how creative you can get.

During negotiations, you may be surprised what you can get if you just ask. You might say that your potential landlord or supplier doesn’t negotiate, but, airplane manufacturers, typically, don’t offer a “return policy” either.

Let’s say you want to start a retail shop and you are hopeful about your future, but, ultimately, a little unsure about how things will go in a new business. You found the perfect location and the right lease rate, but, the landlord wants a 5-year lease. Consider asking for a one-time right to opt-out of the 5-year lease in 6 months if things aren’t working out. If an open-ended “out” option doesn’t work, propose an option where if sales are under a certain amount, you can opt out. If the property is in high-demand your request might not work. But, if the property has been vacant or if the landowner sympathizes with your interest in starting a new business, they may gladly take your offer.

The worst thing that happen by asking is hearing “no.” The worst thing that can happen if you don’t make the ask is getting stuck with an expensive 5-year lease with a failing business.

You can follow similar tactics when negotiating an inventory purchase or even furniture or similar items. If you are looking at a new job, but, concerned about being locked into something that you don’t enjoy, perhaps you could ask for a possible opt-out from an employment contract or an exclusion from a non-compete agreement with the new employer. If you dream of moving across the country, maybe minimizing your downside simply means doing some legwork on the internet and the phone and lining up a job before you make the move. Be creative and don’t be afraid to look for ways to minimize your downside. Remember that almost everything is negotiable to some degree.

Fall forward

When watching Auburn University quarterback Cam Newton a few years ago, one of my friends remarked, “Man, every time that guy get tackled he falls forward 5 yards.” Cam has a way of making sure that he gets every single inch out of every attempt. This approach to the game led Cam on to win the national championship, the Heisman, and an NFL MVP award in 2015.

There’s a lesson there. No matter what venture you are considering, and whether you succeed or fail, make sure that you fall forward and get every inch of progress that you can from it. If you do, things will probably work out your way more often than not.

Have you ever negotiated something “outside the norm”? Comment below or email me at trey@justabitbettereveryday.com.

 

Email Inbox as a Todo List

Use Your Email Inbox as a Todo List

This is the simplest way that I have found to track todos sent to you in email. This tweak to how you use your email inbox will ensure that an important task in an email  never slips through the cracks again and will boost your peace of mind and productivity.

I’ve been told by a number of friends & clients that this is my best productivity tip because it’s simple to enact and a very high return on investment.

How to Manage Your Inbox

It’s really pretty simple. Just like it says in the title, just use your email inbox as a todo list. No message stays in there unless an action needs to be taken with the email. This is the key.

Everything that needs no further action taken is archived or moved to a different folder. At any given time, only a handful of emails should be in your inbox and you should be able to scroll just a little bit and see your entire inbox contents.

Now let’s look at how it works from a very tactical level.

First Steps – Setup

Use Archive to remove email messages instead of Delete. You will be much more confident in clearing & managing your inbox if you know that a message moved out of there is not gone forever. Use Archive instead of Delete, then, worst case, you can always search and find the message again one day.

Gmail defaults to this, other email providers may require a setting to be adjusted. Make sure that your smartphone or tablet email clients are using Archive instead of Delete as well.

Create 3 email folders in addition to your Inbox – To Do, Follow Up, and To Read Someday. We will cover the use of these below.

Some Basic Processing Rules for Messages

Now we are ready to get started. There are really only 6 statuses of messages that can occur. The processing guidelines for all 6 of them are below.

If you have not read an email and never plan to, archive it immediately.

If you have not read an email and plan to do so soon, leave it in your inbox until you read it.

If you have not read an email and aren’t sure when you will (i.e. it’s not time-sensitive, maybe a newsletter or article), then move it to the”To Read Someday” folder. You can crack this folder open while waiting in a doctor’s office one day.

If you have read an email and action needs to be taken on the message, leave it in your inbox until you complete the action. If an action is a week or more in the future, then you can, optionally, move the message to the “To Do” folder to cut down on clutter in the inbox.

If you have read an email and no action needs to be taken, however, you may need to follow up, move the message immediately to the “Follow Up” folder.

If you have read an email and no action needs to be taken or the action has already been completed, archive it or, if you feel that followup might be needed (i.e. you asked someone to do something and want to make sure that they do it), move the message to the “Follow Up” folder.

The Most Important Part – The Review

Hold a review of your Inbox, To Do, and Follow Up folders weekly. You will often fall off in managing your Inbox during the craziness of the week. This review is your chance to catch everything up.

Go through your Inbox during your Review and look at every message that remains. Then take the appropriate actions described above.

If you want to finish your Review with a completely empty Inbox, you can move “action to be taken” emails to your To Do folder rather than leaving in your Inbox.

I like to do Reviews on Friday afternoons. This sends me into the weekend with the peace of mind that I have reviewed everything on my plate and nothing has slipped through the cracks. However, you can do this any time of week that you like. I recommend using a calendar event or recurring reminder to so that you don’t forget, especially while you develop the habit.

“This sounds great, but, I already have thousands of messages in my inbox that have built up over years. How will I ever get caught up?”

Declare Inbox Bankruptcy. Go back 2 weeks, 1 month, or 2 months (you pick the time period you are comfortable with) and Archive every email before that point. You can use some kind of “Select All” function to get this done quickly.

This gives you a manageable collection of emails to work through. Most of those old emails are either long since dealt with or it’s too late to act on them anyway.

If you really want to make sure nothing slips through the cracks, also send an email to everyone in your address book saying something like this:

My email inbox has become unmanageable due to a high volume of email and I have archived many of my old emails. If you are waiting on something from me and haven’t heard back, please send me another email. I’ve adopted a new email management system and I will make 100% sure that your request is processed this time.

All the best,

Trey

Conclusion

This method of managing email has been tremendously helpful to me in reducing email-related information & tasks overwhelm. Let me know what you think in the comments below or send me an email at trey@justabitbettereveryday.com.

Bonus Tip – consider turning off notifications for new emails, as detailed in this post about how Notifications are probably silently killing your productivity.

1000x better massive success

1000X Better: The Key the Massive Success

“I was 40 before I became an overnight success. I had been publishing for 20 years.” – Mary Carr

Do you want to live a life of massive success? You won’t luck into it, the only way to get there is to become good enough at what you do to earn it. And, if you want to earn it, you need to get better, which is not as hard as it sounds. You can get 1000X better with steady effort over a long time.

My favorite success concept is “career equity”. In a nutshell, this term just means that the sum of all the parts of your career – your skills, experience, reputation, relationships, etc. – have some value. This equity has some earnings potential, just as a real estate holding or stock holding would. You can use this value to earn money, flexibility, enjoyment, or all of the above for yourself. This concept neatly explains why some individuals can land very high paying positions or opportunities and some cannot.

The Path to 1000X Improvement

The simple key to sustainable success is to build your career equity. Just as you are working on building a 401(k) or other investment vehicle, you should work daily on building your career equity. Even just .1% daily improvement yields fantastic results over the course of your life. Putting a number on your career equity is difficult, so lets use a clearcut example of .1% daily improvement in the financial world to paint the picture.

Say you have $1,000 today and you can grow that $1,000 by just .1% per day. How much money would you have in 10 years? $38,400. Remarkable improvement, for sure, but, what if you keep up the .1% growth for another 10 years? You would now have $1,474,000, a growth of 1,474X over your original equity holding.

Why do these numbers scale up so dramatically? Because they compound. Each day, you earn .1% on the full amount of the equity. You’re earning .1% on everything you already have. Your career functions exactly the same way – your relationships, skills, and experiences continue to build on one another and interact in ways that cause them to see accelerating growth.

As you progress, you might end up owning a company where you have a team that is strengthening your reputation and earning you more capital everyday, even while you are working on other things. You earned that team through previous investments in reputation, relationships, skills, etc. and now the team is accelerating your growth. Or maybe years have passed and your network connection from the first example has worked their way into a position of considerable influence in a corporation or government. With a simple phone call, you can get things done that the person who is just starting out can only dream of.

The Power of Being 1000x Better

This is the power of career equity. If you reset Richard Branson’s bank account to zero and liquidated all his personal investments, how fast do you think Richard Branson could be a millionaire again? He has a world class reputation, an immense network of contacts, and incredible skills and experience – i.e., massive career equity. He could earn a fortune again in no time.

The truth is that the average person builds very, very little career equity each year. The average person with 30 years of experience really has 1 year of experience repeated 30 times. If that works for a person and they enjoy this approach to life, then that’s great and this is not a criticism. But, if that doesn’t work for you, and you want massive success, you need to develop the kind of equity that leads to massive success and 1000x Improvement.

How do you get better each day? Develop a new connection. Earn some goodwill with a current connection. Learn a new concept or skill from a course or book. Build something. Develop some experience. Often you can even try something, fail, and still succeed in the long run. There are a million ways to move forward. This blog is devoted to this quest as well, so, you will definitely find some value here over time.

If you choose to pursue this quest and want a “buddy’, please let me know, I would be happy to be accountability partners with you to motivate and keep one another going.

Tim Ferriss' 4-Hour Work Week

Effectiveness over Efficiency: My 5 Biggest Takeaways from Tim Ferriss’ 4-Hour Work Week

Tim Ferriss’ Four-Hour Workweek was, for me, a major turning point in outlook and mindset on a variety of topics such as time management, productivity, and goal-setting. In my mind, the 4HW is one of the best personal development books of the 21st century.

Now nearly a decade after the book’s original release, I’m going to take a look back at the 4HW and some of the 5 most impactful lessons that I took from the book.

All quotes are in this article from Tim Ferriss and the Four-Hour Workweek.

Effectiveness over Efficiency

“Focus on being productive, not being busy”

In the Four-Hour Work Week, Tim Ferriss drives home the point that, for most of us, being “being efficient without regard to effectiveness is the default” and that “what you do is infinitely more important than how you do it.” As someone who considered himself a productivity/efficiency nut, having read many books on the subject, this still managed to come as a revelation.

You see, the truth is that we, as a modern society, very much focus on efficiency first. “How many items did I check off my list today?” is the default question. We rarely stop to ask ourselves if the things on our todo list are really worth doing or what really happens if we don’t do them at all. When you dig down into it, for probably 80% of our todo list, the items are not that important at all.

How to figure out what on our list is truly important and what isn’t? Tim encourages us to ask, “What will happen if I don’t do this?” and to ask ourselves throughout the day “Am I being productive or just active?”

My personal favorite guidance – “What we fear most is what we most need to do.” All too often, the highest impact, most important item on our todo list gets put off for the longest because it is uncomfortable. And, it is easier to ignore that item while we check off the 10 unimportant, but easy, items on our todo list that day.

It sounds basic, but, it’s the most important advice you will ever receive: Focus on doing the things that will really move the needle for yourself, your business, your family, or whatever is important to you. Don’t do things just because someone asked you or just because these things somehow made it onto your list.

You Probably Waste A Lot of Time Every Day

Most things make no difference. Being busy is a form of laziness – lazy thinking.

Another revelation is the sheer amount of time that we can waste each day if we aren’t deliberately thinking about how spend our time.

Pay attention to the time we spend time talking about unimportant matters with coworkers or the way that we allow meetings to expand as we go into minutiae that most of the participants don’t need to know. Or, the time that we spend on Facebook or CNN.com or similar sites during the day.

We waste time while saying that we just don’t have the time to pursue a dream or spend time with our families. But, if we are doing the important by being Effective over Efficient, and if we stop wasting time, we can massively increase our productive output, meaning less time doing the menial and more time doing the things that really matter.

Note: This isn’t a statement about not doing things that we greatly enjoy. If you enjoy an activity, that really isn’t a waste of time. But, pay attention to all the things that are soaking up your time that really aren’t giving you either enjoyment or productivity.

Suggestions from  Tim on cutting down on the wasting of time:

  • respond to voicemails with email and suggest email over meetings & calls
  • Tim suggest using a “if…then” structure to emails to minimize back and forth and unnecessary motion.
  • Tim suggests that “9 out of 10 conversations are unnecessary once the problem is defined”
  • Don’t finish the boring or unproductive. If you are halfway into a book and bored out of your mind, don’t finish it. If you are doing a task and see that it is meaningless, stop. Stop feeling the need to completely finish everything.
  • Set aggressive deadlines for yourself on even the most major projects, for example, a 24 hour deadline. The more time you give yourself, the task will only swell and drag out. Less than perfect and done is almost always much better than perfect and undone.
  • And, really, the biggest action item related to time is to just stop accidentally wasting time on the unimportant and start intentionally managing your time and your attention.

The Damage of Distractions

Ignore or redirect all information that is unimportant, irrelevant, or unactionable. Most info is all three.

Talking about time and attention is the perfect lead-in to talking about Distraction. Our modern world is probably the most distracted society in history. At the time of the writing of the 4HW, Tim Ferriss was one of the first warning his readers about the insidious nature of email and Blackberry notifications.

But, mobile notifications have only exploded in past decade since the writing of the book. What once just a concern for email, now extends to social network apps, news apps, and more. Almost every app on your phone wants to be allowed to notify you about something and this notifications often grab your attention away from whatever you were doing in the first place.

Tim’s thoughts on email notifications really shaped my thoughts on my mobile notifications. You read those thoughts in my Notifications post.

The bottom line on distractions is to do everything you can to minimize them. Turn off email notifications, check email on set intervals, once or twice per day to start out. Given how the world has changed, I would suggest expanding this approach to include Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and any other app sending you notifications that aren’t of the highest priority. Those are the basics, again you can read some in-depth strategy on all of this in my post mentioned above.

You also want to empower others around you to be able to solve problems without your help wherever possible. And you, frankly, you don’t want to make yourself too accessible. If you have the answers and are easily accessible, many people around you will immediately ask you before they try to solve the problem themselves.

Challenge Assumptions

Sports, business & lifestyles evolve when sacred cows are killed. Basic assumptions tested. If everyone is defining & solving a problem one way and the results are subpar, ask “what if I did the opposite”? If the recipe sucks, it doesn’t matter how good of a cook you are.

The above quote from the Four-Hour Workweek is really an underpinning of the whole book. The 4HW is really all about challenges to those basic assumptions that everyone else takes for granted.

You want to carry this mindset to other parts of your life. Are there “sacred cows” in your company, your industry, your life that could be killed and replaced with something better?

In almost every case there are. The greatest companies, the greatest athletes, and the greatest artists in the world have often become great precisely by challenging assumptions and thinking differently.

Stop Just Dreaming, Start Taking Actions

Finally, the Four-Hour Workweek makes some fantastic points about the power of simply getting started and that big dreams are often more achievable than we think.

Tim Ferriss encourages readers to create a “Dreamline”, essentially a list of your dreams. Then back up step-by-step through what it would take to achieve your dream. Take the first step tomorrow, even if it is a tiny one. Want to own a Tesla? Schedule a test drive even if you don’t have the money today. Want to start a blog? Buy the domain name. Want to start a business? Download the forms to legally create the business and fill them out and submit them.

The point is just get in motion and stop just dreaming about it. And, if you fear what others will say, Tim offers this advice, “Most people will be fast to talk you out of something before you start, but, will hesitate to get in the way once you’re moving.”

Tim’s advice on this subject is one of my favorite parts of the book and has been a big inspiration for me in starting this blog, among other ventures. Some favorite quotes:

  • “Most people will choose unhappiness over uncertainty”
  • “Many overestimate the competition to achieve a goal and never try.”
  • “Doing the unrealistic can often be easier than doing the realistic” because “The fishing is best where the fewest go.”
  • “The rest of the world is just as insecure as you.”

Tim Ferriss’ 4-Hour Work Week

In my view, the Four-Hour Work Week is one of the great books on productivity and personal development in this generation. If you, by chance, have not read it, I highly recommend purchasing the book and giving it a read. It has already paid for itself a hundred times over in my life. The lessons above really just scratch the surface of what the book is all about.

Click here to view the 4-Hour Workweek on Amazon.

What are your favorite takeaways from the Four-Hour Workweek? Or from Tim Ferriss’ podcast, The Tim Ferriss Show, or his other books? Let me know in the comments or by emailing trey@justabitbettereveryday.com.

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