Leveling Up

overgrown house

Nothing lasts forever. And today, that’s especially true. It can be unsettling to always be on the move when the temptation is to rest on your laurels.

Noone cares about you more than you. And it’s important to take complete ownership of your own personal growth, development and opportunities. You have to continually be leveling up.

When you look at nature, stasis is not natural. It is highly unnatural. A house left alone will be overgrown by forests, vines and plants. Living and dying is part of the cycle of life.

We want things to be the same and maintain some level of security, sanity and comfort. But, I would say that real security is trusting in yourself. That happens when you do hard things are choose to level up continually.

What are some ways to do this?

  • Pursue and make friends that make you better. In the same vein, shed those that hold you back.
  • Try your hand at a new upswing industry related to what you are doing. Perhaps maintain what you are doing while pushing yourself in what is new.
  • Make yourself do hard things. See if you can overcome the fear and get more comfortable with exposing yourself to new endeavors and audiences.
  • Remove your dependencies and habits that don’t make sense any more. Free yourself up. See what space you create.
  • Forgive and move on. See what space you create.
  • Take action on something you keep talking about and not doing.

You are giving yourself a promotion when you choose to level up your standards, choices and commitments. We are not here forever and you don’t want to get caught without a seat when the music stops in what you are doing.

Yes, things you did used to work. But if that is what you are continually banking on and secretly hoping will continue, well, that story tends to have the same predictable tragic outcome. Better to get a fitting mindset for the times and keep leveling up.

It Used to Work and Now It Doesn’t

obsolescence.jpg

If you haven’t read business biographies like Derek Sivers of CD Baby or Elon Musk of PayPal fame, it’s well worth the time. There’s a bit of nostalgia as I think back to the 90’s and early 2000’s and what life was like just a short time ago. We didn’t have a world of iPhones, apps, Wi-fi, video streaming, or social networks. The ecosystems were being built into what we see today.

Going back in time and hearing the backstories of entrepreneurial success messes with my mind as I get to take advantage of all these wonderful tools without any thought to how I move in and out of workflow, systems, entertainment and transportation. Life is so much easier in a connected world.

And over the years, I remember so many types of projects and work that used to have demand and people paid a lot of money for. Websites were hard and expensive to build and now they’re easy and cheap. Payment systems were custom and expensive also, but now they’re integrated features.

There are so many things that used to work as a business model and now they don’t. And it is always so tempting to sit on a pipeline of demand when things are flowing. What you may miss is that you are enjoying the cash flow from an innovation that has yet to be commoditized. Someone will eventually build a platform and make what is difficult easy. It happens too often that it should be part of the conscience forefront of your business planning.

Expect that disruption will come.

Expect prices will come down and efficiency and automation will prevail.

Expect competition to push on your position.

Expect things will end.

Expect that you will have to reinvent yourself.

You see a lot of entrepreneurs that hit that one success. They built credibility and started leveraging other people’s money with their credentials. However, seeing repeat successes is less common.

A lot of the play is about getting lucky or having an instinct for timing. That’s part of the requirement for good entrepreneurship.

When we look at history, it’s important to heed that lesson we see repeatedly; know you are within a phase. What you are offering is valuable but will decline in value as the world gets more efficient. Know where you are in the lifecycle and think about what you will do when what you enjoyed profitably doesn’t work as well as it used to anymore.

Obsolescence can be painful if you haven’t planned for it.

 

An Important Thought to Have

thinking

I think a lot about how to make someone’s experience world-class. It’s fun. I’ve had a lot of meetings, calls and project work in the last week with clients, team members and partners. It’s important to me that I add a little bit more in my interactions and experiences. I think life and business are too vast for settling for the mundane and simply going through the motions.

Thinking this way does take intentionality and a care for other people. For the people I like, I tend to keep asking a simple question, “How can I be valuable and add more value?”

I like pushing on that question. It could be as simple as sending a note. Or it could be thinking deeply about the problems or issues that I hear in my friends’ worlds and offering a resource, connection or idea. A lot of it is listening and caring.

Most of it is the habit of being uncomfortable. I like thinking about improvement and making things better. I don’t know, perhaps it was always my nature. But the gaps, the opportunities, the connections – these intrigue me. Finding where to make an impact and an improvement for someone is fun and motivating. The helping makes me happy and keeps my creativity fresh. The great thing is that there is no shortage of opportunities to help people.

Caring.

Listening.

Thinking.

Connecting.

I walk through this process daily. And it keeps me growing, rather than fixed in my mindset. The fun of creating value for someone else where an idea or connection did not exist keeps my eyes wide open to do something that creates increase.

Simple thought,

“How can I add more value?

Big impact.

Focus on the Deal First, Then the Details

makethingshappen.jpg

I have done many types of deals over the years. I have sold services, created venture opportunities for myself and clients, partnered, started businesses, launched new products and have helped people along the way who needed a little more vision or strategy. I can see deals that others can’t see and can see the myriad of steps and obstacles along the way to make the deal happen. It’s been fun, and I look at the world as a giant playground of opportunities.

It does take great intentionality and vision to make deals happen. Putting deals together is unnatural. Human nature enjoys the status quo too much and rarely chooses to rise above the noise to create more for themselves. Why change anything, even if it is better, when what you are accustomed to has an illusion of safety from its perceived comfort and familiarity? Everything in life and reality is working against you.

That’s why deal making has to center around the ideas first. Focusing on the possibilities and opportunities. Help someone to see what you see. Do they align? Do they trust you and your conviction?

The details are second. Yes, there’s likely a ton of work, cost and failure once you get a deal done. And it’s good to sketch out some of those back-of-napkin style to enhance the communication and experience around the deal. But obsessing about details that may or may not happen can kill a deal. Quickly. To a lesser degree, bringing in the details can overwhelm customers or partners. You are setting up the other party to extend the buying cycle or to simply say no.

I like to focus on the deal first. The ideas, upside opportunity, and possibilities are what catalyze deals. It’s why I insist on “Deals first, then details.” Otherwise, you end up killing deals that don’t get to see the light of day.

Much of this is because the ramp up and overhead are so low today to be able to test an idea. You don’t often have to go and buy brick and mortar real estate or hire a bunch of people first. You can see if your idea has viability with experimentation. You can test the demand or even the business relationship to see if it will even work. That’s the creative part of deal making. Take out the risk and find the essence of whether the idea has legs by prototyping.

Most people are sitting around waiting for something to happen. A few people are out there making things happen. Focus on deal making. Details come second.

The Goal of Your System

thegoal.jpg

If you are sitting comfortably, there’s not much incentive to improve your systems. However, disruptors such as technology, competition and atrophy (i.e., Groupon), may force your hand to get your systems more efficient.

I’ve been sharing out various books around the area of business growth and efficiency lately. A classic I would recommend if you are serious about getting your business systems working optimally is The Goal by Eliyahu Goldratt. You get an insightful and packed story that illuminates the complexities, sensitivities and systemic relationships of complex systems.

You also learn about what the goal of a system is: throughput. Your challenge is to drive throughput in the midst of dealing with natural forces including statistical fluctuations, dependencies, inventory, operational expense and bottlenecks.

It’s tricky business, and if you are not careful, you can damage your systems in the pursuit of efficiencies and make throughput worse, not better.

If you get myopic around local maximums, for example, you can cause your system’s throughput to suffer overall.

Systems with their dependencies and obedience to natural laws have to be respected, analyzed and refined carefully to avoid unintended consequences.

I have seen so many businesses with good intentions that violate the principles of The Goal and see negative impacts on their cash flow. It’s not pretty, and sometimes it’s hard to understand.

There are undoubtedly higher efficiencies that would make life easier, make customers happier and put more money in your pocket.

What if you could increase your throughput and your cash by 50%? Does it appeal to you to move the needle? All that lost opportunity and money could be a fantastic motivator to keep growing so you are not vulnerable when change comes to force your hand.

Get ahead of that inevitable decrease and drive the throughput. That is the goal of your system.

Be Careful How You Grow in 2018

Racing Background

New Years always feels so fresh with anticipation. We close the books for the previous year and reconnected with friends and family over the holidays. Then there is this new outlook of opportunities. Exciting.

I am thinking about a lot of different fronts for growth, as are many people I know. Growing revenue. Growing teams. Growing myself. Growing my family.

It’s all pushing, striving and creating. However, growth is not free. There’s always cost. And I take heed before I push. Maybe it’s from experiences over the years. Perhaps my energy is not what it used to be. I suspect I’ve learned some efficiencies, and I understand how reality has trade-offs.

For example,

You may double your revenue but lower your profit. They say, “Revenue is vanity. Profit is sanity,” for good reason.

You could spend so much time on your home life that your business suffers. You may spend too much time on your business that you lose your family.

You may invest heavily in friendships that wear out their welcome or luster. Or you could be neglecting much more worthy friends by spreading your loyalty around too thin.

You could give yourself to a new project only to find it’s a dead end after months of sweat and tears.

I’m not sure we can simply choose to turn off our ambitions and desire to grow. That instinct gets us out of bed to battle the world and make life better.

But, I do think that we can always consider the costs and outcomes of our pursuits. Is it worth it necessarily? It may well be what we need to do to move us off center in some area that has been boring, unproductive or unprofitable.

I do think there are things that are better than what we have now. A little thought about what we will give ourselves to is worthwhile. I want to come out of any growth with much more upside than unintended consequences that are costly. Cheers to a New Year.

The Hassle for Money Dilemma

As the New Year is upon us and you reflect on what has been and where you are headed, consider this well-received article on your choices for hassle vs. money. You only have so much time and energy. What kind of gig are you in? What kind of customers do you work with?

Can you do better?

Don Dalrymple

hassle vs money

The hard part of dealing with reality is the constant trade-offs we have to make. Yes, we want it all, but too often that is not the choice before us. Choosing one thing means giving up something else, whether that is opportunity, time or attention.

When we are faced with deals that come before us, we have the dilemma to consider between hassle and money. A trade will happen at a certain cost. The question is whether it is worth it.

There are four general outcomes when it comes to making a rational business decision for yourself. Here are my thoughts on each:

1. High Money, Low Hassle

This is the ideal situation. Great clients that are truly partners and allow you to get your work done and drive to results fit this bill. So is highly innovative technology you own and can lease out without any significant support, complaints…

View original post 569 more words

Give Up the Hustle

hustle.jpg

It’s not that you need to hustle to survive, it’s that you seek the hustle to thrive, and still at the expense of yourself and others. ~ DHH, Basecamp

As we are closing the year, I do want to encourage readers and clients, as I have for many years, to give up the grind. Most things simply don’t matter. They don’t move the needle of your life towards results that make a meaningful impact for you and your business.

So, why not do less things that are more meaningful with more intensity? Your creativity in this age will have more impact than your productivity. And having the awareness to figure out what priorities are going to make a difference for you in the coming year is a wonderful way to get off your own treadmill and improve your life, results and health.

I have trimmed my hobbies over the years and focused more intensely on enjoying and committing to a few these days.

I enjoy the company of a few great friends rather than spread myself thin over lots of social pulls. It’s much more sane and helps me be a better friend to the ones I know are valuable.

There are some fantastic projects and ventures that I have committed deeply to. That has meant saying no to projects or invitations that may be ok, but don’t necessarily have much more impact. I only have so much energy.

Our family has shifted to new seasons in the teen years and I have given myself more to a different role as a husband and dad. I like this new season and I like how we are rolling as a family together through the journey. We are heading towards lifelong friendships.

I think the hustle has become a yellow light for me. It tells me that I am being inefficient with my commitments, time and energy. There are ways to get much more bang for the buck by simply detaching, questioning and prioritizing what matters.

You can save your soul a bit by questioning the madness.

Relationships Are Everything

“I’m confident if I lost everything today and had to start over, I could do it just as well—or better—considering what I know now. I’ve learned that relationships are everything, and my relationships are better than 10 years ago, so it wouldn’t be a problem. When you’ve built relationships from being in service and adding value to others, there will always be opportunities and support available for you.” ~ Lewis Howes

That’s from someone that has lived a bit and knows how the world works in his recent interview on Early to Rise.

I like to ask myself regularly,

“Am I adding value?”

“Am I valuable to others?”

“Do I like the people I work with?”

It’s a barometer of whether I am on track living congruently, freely and with conviction.

Money happens to be a natural benefit when I am being valuable to others and increasing my own value.

And, I think if you are efficient, you tend to avoid working with people you don’t like. Too much cost and grief.

The holidays are upon us and as you get some down time, perhaps you can take an inventory of your relationships. Are they what you want them to be? Can you upgrade your relationships and add value to some solid, worthy and likable people?

When we are in the grind pushing hard, it’s often hard to reflect and see if we are truly doing what we want.

It is about relationships and the great thing is that you can choose who you want to exchange value with.

I want good, solid people in my life. It makes it fun and motivating to give my best and be my best. I hope you can do likewise.

These Are Never a Waste of Time

akindgift.jpg

My days, like many of yours, are jammed with demands that relentlessly pull at me. It’s not hard to simply jump into the chaos and push forward on every front. It can feel productive, but often times it is simply reactive. And, if I’m not careful, I’m simply treading water. I have a lot of activity without results. No fun. Wasteful.

I try to keep a short list of important things that feed me and add to my well-being. I always tell people, “You cannot give what you do not possess.” If you want to be a person of value, then you have to increase your own value consistently. That’s why I don’t carry guilt, and I try to make time for these priorities when the world is swirling. They are never a waste of time:

  • Books. I read as much as I can during the days. It’s a way to rest and stretch the mind beyond tasks and projects. I get insights that others have explored in their fields of expertise without having to live an entirely different life. It is always worth it to read, think and grow.
  • Sleep. My emotions can get pretty raw on little sleep. I’m no good to the people that need me – my family, friends and customers – if I’m sick or tired. It’s never a waste to get extra shuteye. Getting to bed early, taking naps and even sleeping in help me be valuable to others and move through days with clarity and calm. Check out Arianna Huffington’s The Sleep Revolution to see how important it is to be fully rested.
  • A kind word. Everyone has problems. It’s a tough world we all live in. It’s never a waste of time to pause, be thoughtful and care. I like sharing a favorite proverb with my kids, “A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in settings of silver.” It’s such a beautiful picture of what an exquisite gift and setting it is to provide the right word in the right moment to the right person. It takes thought, care and everything inside you working together well to be a person that can give a kind word. Making someone’s day is so fun.
  • Gaining wisdom. Taking time to think about life’s lessons or listening carefully to the wisdom from others saves a lot of grief. I like to stop and examine what has happened to me and how to avoid temptations, scenarios and people that get me into circumstances I don’t like. Why repeat negative experiences? A little thought and thoughtfulness is never a waste of time. Repeating foolish mistakes takes far more time and energy.
  • Family. My wife and kids refresh me. We laugh, play, support each other, banter, and love each other. Our times together help all of us to take on the world. We are there for each other. We entertain each other. We grow together. It’s always time well spent to be together as a family.

I don’t like wasting time. And as life and work keep moving along like a treadmill, I indulge in these things to keep me going and keep me growing. Perhaps you can keep a short list or take a few of these ideas to default to regularly to keep your own personal growth a priority.