It’s critical to take whatever idea you have and see if it stands up to the rigor and texture of people – customers, partners, critics, etc – in the real world. That’s honest design.
Credibility comes from proof that what you conceived can actually work repeatedly in the world.
I like to move to action and engagement quickly. And here’s what I find works:
Always be engaging the world and gathering ideas
Write those ideas down. I keep a list.
Think fast and hard about a next step – reaching out to a friend, posting a thought, starting a project
Watch the reaction. And if there’s positive results, build momentum with another action. If not, kill your darlings.
Clarity comes through engagement. It’s partly why I don’t think professional writers who are in these magazine content farms are necessarily helpful if they haven’t actually done things like build businesses, drive revenue or worked with teams. They are researching and writing.
Where’s the rejection? How do they know where the land mines are and tune for the chaos?
Look for the credibility with people that move to action and push until results happen. Otherwise, you can have a lot of misinformation from feel good content when what you really need are results.
This interview with a navy seal breaking down a part of human nature with a renowned clinical psychologist is fascinating. This podcast interview between Jocko Willink and Jordan Peterson takes a look at how civility occurs. We want dangerous people that are disciplined. It’s a temperament and a part of keeping the peace in society and the world.
Being undisciplined can wreak havoc.
We need good guys that apply discipline. And the discussion has humility with assertiveness from both gentlemen.
Some things I find helpful:
Your context, where you choose to play, will cast a value on your nature. Pick a valid game to be within.
Warriors with discipline can direct and apply their immense strength. It’s worth being disciplined to handle the evil and adversity in the world, if not for yourself, for others.
Don’t mess with Navy Seals:)
What would happen if you apply more discipline to your nature?
We are always working on yesterday’s commitments. And when we have committed, it’s so easy to make those decisions sacred. Such reverence for our past commitments builds up continual clutter, drag and mediocrity in our work and lives. Without knowing it, we are managing many subpar projects, possessions and relationships at the cost of what could be the best. We don’t have room to invite, entertain or adopt the best.
Pruning cuts out what is less than optimal so the main part of what matters can grow stronger. It’s a habit that has to be practiced daily in order to make room for the best.
If you find yourself in a slump, prune. You will gain energy from getting lighter.
If you need new creative direction, you don’t simply get inspired with more creativity. I don’t think there’s even a lack of creativity. In fact, creativity shows up when you make more time or free up resources.
Ruthlessly prune projects that simply don’t have a payoff anymore. Your brain wants to fill that time and space with new options. The brain can’t help it.
Nature hates a vacuum and when you prune, you create a vacuum to be filled.
In the process of pruning, you might also discover the things that really matter. Double up on those commitments, projects and relationships. The pruning revealed what is gold and truly matters. Frittering away your life, energy and resources on things that don’t matter or create high value simply spreads you thin at the cost of what is best.
It’s a hyper-competitive world with millions of people. You likely have a few things that you can go big on and add real value to carve out a place for yourself or stand out. How can you get there managing, struggling and emotionally attaching yourself to commitments that don’t have any potential of big payoffs?
What’s one thing that doesn’t matter right now you can ruthlessly prune?
I like to keep two checklists that I execute to keep my business moving:
Weekly Checklist – Actions that have to get done each week for operations
Daily Checklist – What is foundational to my personal and business goals
Business tends to run on a weekly cadence. The ritual of keeping a weekly checklist ensures that you have attention on items that keep your cash flow, project delivery, relationships and key metrics met consistently. It is an opt-out approach for things that are important. You want to pay attention to these items and choose to ignore them intentionally, if that is what makes sense in your priorities.
Here are a few items I have in my Gmail Tasks for a weekly checklist:
Blog article writing
Team Skills Training
LinkedIn article writing
Client Project Updates
After I check off each item, which I like to get done on Mondays, I uncheck the items the following week to start the cycle over again.
This ensures I keep what is important moving along in a habit and don’t miss both the mundane and important details.
In my daily list, I do the same and focus on critical daily activities such as:
Share value with target prospects
Those are items that keep me locked in on effectiveness.
Again, I check them off and uncheck them with a new cycle.
Winging it is hard. If it’s important, you should make it an opt-out.
What kind of weekly checklist and daily checklist would make you more effective?
“The main thing Is to keep the main thing the main thing.” ~ Stephen Covey
Keeping on the rails is so hard when our brain loves to pull us to distractions. It’s not only the distractions, but we are barraged by other people’s demands and priorities continually.
The main thing to do can easily get buried or rationalized away.
I keep checklists to stay focused. Those things will get done. The timing and energy are part of what makes the main thing the main thing. If I’m low on mental bandwidth, I take care of physical actions to move around. If I feel energized, I will tackle that big hard task which requires long mental focus.
Part of the challenge is to pay attention and decide on what the right thing is to do at any given time in context.
What is your highest contribution?
How can you get things off your plate that get in the way of contributing?
What are things you can do to make executing easier?
Sometimes knowing what matters most comes from getting away and seeing things from afar. Other times, you have to work a bit and get in the details to appreciate what you are not seeing.
It’s wasteful to be working on the wrong things. A bunch of busyness with no impact, result or contribution kills opportunity. You can’t get those hours back.
We have this luxury of choice that starts with the right thought, translated into the right action, at the right time. Make your work count.
There is such a thing as decision fatigue. Your willpower and ability to make effective decisions changes over the course of a day from mental weariness. When it comes to trying to respond and keep up with the demands of knowledge work, it’s hard to stay sharp and it’s easy to push out things that are important in exchange for the urgent.
There are important things I want to happen regardless of the tsunami of inputs. I want to spend time with my wife and kids. I want to fit into my pants and be able to climb a mountain without problems. I want to enjoy good friendships and fun. I want my responsibilities as a business owner, family man and consultant to be done well and on time.
Thus, I put the important things in my Gmail task list and my Google Calendar. They are recurring and for me to skip an appointment or task becomes a decision to opt-out. I think important things should be opt-out. Otherwise, the decision has to keep being evaluated, and depending on circumstances, I may bypass what I already decided was important.
It’s better to see that date, my workout or my weekly list of deliverables in my calendar and task list. I show up and get it done. The decision was already made and it’s one less item I have to think about.
What do you want to get done every week or month? How about making a list and getting those things into your calendar. Book that room, pay for that membership, send the invitation or develop a weekly list you have to opt-out of each week. You have effectively saved yourself some decision making fatigue in this crazy world that can easily topple you off your game.
That one can truly manage other people is by no means adequately proven. But one can always manage oneself. Indeed, executives who do not manage themselves for effectiveness cannot possibly expect to manage their associates and subordinates. Management is largely by example. Executives who do not know how to make themselves effective in their own job and work set the wrong example. ~ Peter Drucker, The Effective Executive
I side with Drucker. I do not think that managing other people is adequately proven. Most of the conversation I have experienced about work is complaining about employees and managers.
The one thing I can control is my own effectiveness. I work hard to improve my habits and get output from my labor. A lot of this is keeping to rituals, pushing to learn something new every day and staying humble.
Last week my lists of projects were getting out of hand. It was one of those cycles where the pile was keeping me from seeing the important things to get done. So I do what I always do:
Cut out things that don’t matter
Completed and shipped low hanging fruit
Simplified my lists
Identified the big things that did matter
I can’t control the chaos, but working through my own management processes over the years has been cathartic and effective. It’s extremely satisfying to manage my own effectiveness and see where that might spill over and move the needle elsewhere.
Principles prevail in a world of chaos. Much of life is indeed chaos. I think the importance of collecting and testing your mental models – how you problem solve and approach the world – is critical to drive success.
The 80/20 rule can help you focus on what has the best payoffs.
Eliminating drain people can help you be free from drama and the downside of dysfunctional relationships.
These are tested tools that create results when practiced intensely and regularly.
Have a place to collect your mental models. Test them in the course of doing business. When they work, that positive reinforcement along with learning the nuances of each principle, can embed themselves as habits in your psyche and routines.
I like to write down thought processes and mental models I learn from books and people. I like to write blog articles of my learnings. I like to share what works to help others. These practices get me results.
Everyone operates from mental models. May are not intentional and miss out on magnifying the effects of focused outcome thinking. Some mental models have downside. Total hedonism, for example, has plenty of upside, but can also ruin ambition.
Perhaps your results are elusive because some of the things you know are not regularly practiced. Or if you are scattered and not getting the outcomes you want, a few focused practices could be the game changer.
Keep a notebook or use Keep to start tracking the mental models you learn and apply. It’s a simple practice that can quickly yield desirable outcomes.
“You will never change your life until you change something you do daily. The secret of your success is found in your daily routine.” – Darren Hardy
Our habits define us. I like to tweak how I approach days and I experiment with my habits continually. These days, I have a few things that get me mentally, emotionally, physically and spiritually engaged with the bigger goals I am pursuing:
I didn’t get there abruptly with my daily routines. I started with just one thing first and focused on keeping consistent. I’ve also weeded out things that don’t give me high return on my energy or revenue.
This is largely my unseen life and what goes on when I am alone. And it has been foundational to helping me grow personally and help others grow as well.
If you are stuck, perhaps it’s time to add to your daily routines or subtract time and energy wasters.
I went through a lot of old digital files recently in my Google Drive as part of a pruning day. I had everything from client projects from years ago to books I was working on to consulting and coaching tools for strategy.
The vast majority of information was irrelevant to what I am doing today. I would never use those files or information again, though they may have been building blocks to where I am now. What was highly relevant ten years ago had context. Furthermore, innovation has created an immense amount of new tools and ideas that make sense for me and doing business now versus before.
Relevance has to always be questioned. Otherwise, we are stale and holding on to what doesn’t matter anymore. The habit of relentlessly getting rid of the old to make room for the new keeps you in the game.
I want to focus on now and the future. And the last thing I need to clutter that pursuit is entertaining irrelevance.