I read Derek Sivers’ mantra years ago, “Either ‘Hell Yeah!’ or ‘no.” It’s a fantastic way to live and do business. Most things don’t work out. And a lot of time, money and relational equity can be wasted when taking on what appears to be good projects or endeavors, but they are not necessarily the best things for you.
I say, “No,” all the time to projects that have more downside than upside, invitations that feel more dutiful than fun and opportunities that I can tell have a low probability of working out.
Hell Yeah! has a fantastic filter on all the temptations and shiny allures.
It’s a boundary that helps you go big on what really matters. And we need all our energy, focus and attention on things that matter. It’s hard enough trying to make things work when everything is working against you. Why add the drag of mediocre commitments that will likely die on the vine?
Great motto to live into and see if you can get more out of the good stuff and keep all the compromises at bay.
A few projects matter. So do a few relationships and a few tools. It’s so easy to simply accumulate stuff and throw horsepower into everything. While thinking that should cover over any deficiencies, what is often hidden is the cost in the form of waste, unclarity and management overhead.
We don’t have unlimited attention, resources or energy. It’s hard enough to make something work well or achieve success. However, more noise will only add drag to your best intentions and efforts.
Think about how you want to do business and consider inverting your model. What if you chose to focus on the few that matter rather than the many that have diminishing returns? Your process can look something like this:
10 clients – The absolute number I want to work with at one time.
20 deals – Because I close half and only 20 matter.
40 prospects – People I would be happy to work with and that are an ideal fit.
2 channels – Places that my prospects I like hang out. Strategies I am committed to fully and will refine.
This kind of strategy can work, but you have to be thinking about what you want and focusing your conversations and approach to the few that matter. In a way, it is a form of abundance thinking. You are realizing there are specific, valuable people you want to work with in a vast world and you simply need to connect and get clear with them.
As a side effect, you are avoiding creating a lot of waste, irritation and noise out there for people that are not a fit.
You also ask better questions of yourself:
Who are the 10 people I want to have as friends and spend my time with doing business?
What do the few people I work with have in common?
What don’t I like?
I bet you find yourself more relaxed and easier to work with. I bet you find abundance by focusing on the few. Clarity and focus have a way of bringing that kind of increase and efficiency.
Knowledge is always accessible and allows you to need less indeed. Compare how pros approach their work versus amateurs. Pros, people that know what they are doing, have the following characteristics:
Amateurs throw a lot at problems. They have to. New, shiny tools can cover over their deficiency in knowledge. They look different than pros:
The great thing is that if you are not lazy, you can learn anything your heart desires today. Knowledge is there for the taking and can empower you to be a pro. Finance, law, relationships, and an infinite amount of topics are domains you can study, apply and learn deeply at little to no cost besides your time and attention. You can become a pro.
When I am doing business with people that seem to throw a lot of detail into a project or use a lot of words on deals and projects, I instinctively have my guard up. It is because I am dealing with an amateur that doesn’t know much so they need more to persuade others or to get things done.
The reality is that there are simply too many options out there to settle for mediocrity.
Furthermore, anyone can get ahead of the crowd by simply committing to studying deeply and owning ideas, approaches and problem solving in areas with conviction.
When you look at yourself or others, can you see needing more than you truly require if you were a pro?
Where can you need less?
The charlatans hide their deficiencies with lots of noise. Be better. Be simpler than that.
There’s a world of opportunity out there for what you are pursuing. But one piece of clarity that gets overlooked too often is qualification. Most people you meet cannot say, “Yes,” to what you are offering. However, a few people can.
I’m not sure why we have this block, but the clearer you can get on who you know can say, “Yes,” the more fun you can have doing business.
Thinking everyone is a prospect is discouraging, costly and wasteful. You can leave relational carnage in your wake. Maybe, it’s hard to feel that fact. Pitching everyone is like spamming, but you don’t feel the cost necessarily.
When you are clear about who can say, “Yes,” you can enjoy the relationships in front of you for what they are – people to enjoy or avoid. You can relax. You can create goodwill and focus on others more than simply what you are trying to sell.
And for the people that can say, “Yes,” you are simply helping them become aware of something they need. They are the ones your firm has been built to serve. You have to put yourself in front of them in order to help them.
Ask the question clearly if you seem to push too hard, “Can this person say, ‘Yes?'” If they cannot, then keep finding people that can.
Secondly, get clear on who does say, “Yes,” that you can bring immense value to.
This is abundance thinking. The world is your oyster and you can go out building amazing relationships with the right people as well as avoid perturbing people that don’t even have a shot at saying, “Yes.”
The saying in French, mise en place, roughly translates to everything in its place. French cooks use this approach to keep order and readiness in their work.
I have done this for decades, and I even train my kids on this important practice, not only for survival and getting things done, but to exercise care for others.
I think when you care about customers, employees or other people, you think about and keep ready for anything. That means taking care of your own space, workflow, efficiencies and customer experience.
Sloppiness has a cost. If I deal with a sloppy vendor and I have other options, which is usually the case in our connected world, I simply and easily exercise my options. So do many other mistreated customers.
Mise en place is a mindset of caring. You care enough about someone else’s experience that you take care of the details ahead of time. Get rid of the friction. Be eager and ready. Stop tripping over your own encumbrances and messes.
It’s the French term that cooks use to describe putting their stations in order – everything from stocking their cooler, to the order they put the garnishes in, to having the right spoon for each sauce, to making sure they have dry towels for handling hot pans.
It’s like a religion for them, and it’s frequently the only thing that stands between them and disaster, a way to stay focused and efficient in chaotic situations.
Touring is a lot like professionally cookery – you’re doing the same thing over and over again, trying to consistently put out a high-quality experience, but something is going all wrong, all the time. This isn’t an obstacle to be avoided. It’s the standard working condition for your chosen profession.
Mise en place keeps the clusterfuck gremlins at bay. ~ Josh Skaja, Freboard Anatomy
You have no idea what is coming this week or next week. What is standing between you and disaster? Are you focused and efficient in chaotic situations?
If you care enough, then you act like a pro and deliver the highest quality experience. This goes for friendships as well. Amateurs simply react and let the chaos keep getting away.
A place for everything and everything in its place. It’s something you can control if you care. I don’t know any other way to work without consequences.
My kids and I love that Jack Black movie, School of Rock. The other day, we were laughing at a line that Black’s character, Dewey Finn, made a group of his colleagues roll with in a lunchroom scene, “Those that can’t do, teach, and those thatcan’t teach… teach gym.”
We live in a world where people can hide and not do. They can teach about business, but not do business.
There are brokers that trade for you but don’t do it themselves.
There are professors and pastors that talk about the marketplace but don’t work in the marketplace.
It can save you a lot of trouble to distinguish between doers and talkers. You gain much more value from someone who takes risks and puts their name, money and work out there than pontificators sitting on the sidelines.
I’m not sure we can completely squeeze out safe spaces where talkers can hide and not take risk, but I do think you can pay attention and align with doers that have skin in the game.
The older I get the less I assume that success and failure is accidental. Something hidden led up to what we see. We simply don’t look behind the appearance enough.
Success in business, life, family, relationships and finances have hidden habits behind them. But it’s not fashionable to think that the slow, consistent and committed day in, day out work or grind are the backstory. That’s painful, boring and not immediate.
Ramit Sethi’s Secret Habits article is a fun read if you want to get a more blunt perspective of what I am talking about. He’s right. I have to admit, I have a lot of hidden habits that I simply don’t share, or I am unaware of my habits that impact my outcomes.
Doing the small things over time lead up to who we are, where we end up and why we get what we get.
Imagine that you would be an entirely different person with a few small tweaks done consistently:
Read thirty minutes first thing in the morning
Express gratitude to every person who has done you a kindness
Walk for an hour a day
Drink six glasses of water every day
But those are hard to do. And that’s why so few people get to enjoy success. They don’t look at it as work. They are simply hidden habits that bear out over time.
You can also practice adverse habits regularly and experience a totally different life:
Obsess about social media posts and news
Binge on Netflix
Get everyone to like you
What do you think would happen over time with such habits? Is discontent or fruitlessness accidental? You get what you practice over many weeks, months and years. And you become that person you practice.
If you’re frustrated, how about swapping out a habit for something you want in order to get to where you want to go?
It’s a fair world. Maybe not digestible, but fair, nonetheless.
Yes, I understand you want money. You want people to buy now. The temptation to simply expect and demand cash is so high and blinding that it’s hard for a seller to see why money becomes elusive.
In some cases when the pain is high – root canals, broken transmissions, fallen bridges – the customer goes straight to the answer. They want the full offering because the pain and the cure are clear and needed.
What about cosmetic dental work, upgrading to a Tesla or improving infrastructure for growing populations?
The sale is a bit harder. The pain is low. Your customer’s status quo is fine. And your offering feels like a big commitment. It can be delayed.
Is there a lesser first step you can start with to stir the customer’s thinking? A test drive or a new mirror can get a person thinking about something they haven’t entertained.
There’s the beginning seed.
You have to gain interest, attention and trust at the start. This is hard in a crowded, overwhelming marketplace. This feels daunting when everyone can get what they want with their thumbs and iPhone.
That starting point, not your final sale, is where you have to dig, design and consistently offer yourself. I bet your customer journey could have a bit more courtship involved. I bet you could start and build trust with a few touches that lead your customer through smaller, more comfortable steps.
Yes, you can sell more. But you have to care more first. And that means stepping back and walking that emotional journey your customer feels. You can design the journey and help them towards a bigger yes, the one you want. Caring about where they are at and how they proceed to trust you means going slower so you can go faster.
What’s easy for your customer to say yes to first? How about second?
How could you design the steps with care that lead them to what they eventually need from you?
How much value do you add? That’s the key question I ask each day when I am out in the world of business. It may not be a perfect question, but the free market is open. People are free to make decisions on their own on what they value.
We have choices and we tend to choose in our self-interest.
The great thing is that every day your customers spend money and look for value.
That’s why in your networking, you have to keep tilting the odds in your favor by being helpful and clear in what you are offering. It’s about being personal but not taking responses personally if they don’t go your way.
Consider Mark Ford’s tips on networking:
Gain interest first, earn trust later.
Always be specific and sincere in your praise.
Don’t expect to receive an answer to every note you write.
Be grateful for answers.
Suggest business only when your target person is ready.
Business is people. And the business of people relies on you being valuable out there and networking in a way that is consistent, clear and respectful.
Every day I am looking for those that would truly add value to my life. Hopefully, we connect in a way that makes life better because we met.
Your routines set you up for performance, creativity and peace of mind. We have this long road ahead to accomplish projects that matter day in and day out. And if we simply go with the randomness and urgencies of the day, we don’t win the long game. We are at the mercy of many things that simply do not contribute to our bigger goals.
That is why routine is a powerful way to overcome the traps of those temptations that would pull on our energy and attention.
If you depend on will power to help you do what you want to do, then I think you have already lost. I can tell you that will power becomes the red zone for me. I don’t have enough of it to tap into to get the things done I want or resist what I don’t want. And, there’s only a limited supply in a day. It dwindles as the day progresses.
Your productivity and creativity are scarce resources that run out and in knowledge work, we have to be excellent managers of these limited resources if we want achievement. I think from conversations with clients, being overwhelmed and constantly spun around the relentless demands of work gets them off course. Routine helps to set up habits that move what is important further along.
Habits are powerful to keep momentum going. My own habits include reading, writing, hiking, prayer, taking vitamins, saying a kind word and sleeping enough. I also do simple things like morning showers, push-ups and sit-ups. It’s remarkable how these simple routines point me towards execution each and every day.
You can even use an app like Streaks to set up and keep a habit going. If you wanted to run a race, simply set it up and don’t miss a day. The same goes for building a family culture or writing a book. Our brains are wired for habits and this can create the routines you need to move the ball.
Don’t rely on will power, emotion or hype. They are short-lived. The long game requires something more forceful and consistent. Routines set you free.