Maintaining Energy

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Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Pushing on your work takes an intense amount of energy. And without energy, it’s hard to maintain consistency, perseverance and results. Energy is not a given. You have to foster your routines and habits to keep peak performance going.

I like to hike, play tennis, trail run and snowboard to get me into a bigger world and get the blood flowing. If I miss days, I get crabby and unproductive. The world becomes smaller and my problems become bigger.

Sometimes, when I am thinking about a deal, for example, and how to structure it, I will head out for a long walk. I don’t think about it. I get into freeing up my mind and simply sweating. Somewhere along the line, or when I’m finished, my legs and heart get worn out and that creative kick comes out. This approach tends to work well for me. I may sit down for another four hours and push on creating. I have new energy.

There’s this giant temptation to skip the habits that spend me, relax me or divert my attention. However, those habits are too important to sideline. Managing the ebb and flow of my enthusiasm, energy and focus matter towards getting results and pushing on all the fronts I care about with clarity. That’s why I consider managing energy part of work.

We are not simply brains swiveling on a post. We are whole beings that push our work out from emotion, determination and knowledge. There’s a lot of quality difference in our output from how we feel in the course of a day and how much energy we are bringing to our relationships and problem solving.

I think finding what works to keep the energy high is simply good business.

Mise En Place

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Picture of Josh Skaja and his mise en place approach as a pro musician from the Minaal blog.

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.

I was reminded of the concept over on this blog on tips from digital nomads:

Mise en place.

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.

Hidden Habits

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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
  • Gossip
  • 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.

Routine Sets You Free

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“Routine sets you free.” ~ Verne Harnish

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.

How to Game Opportunities Your Way

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It really is enticing to buy into some fad, secret sauce or crowd hype especially when it comes to deal making and opportunities. It feels secure to do the “right things” and rely on determinism.

That kind of thinking may have been true before the floodgates of access were opened and anyone and everyone could participate with their voice, ideas or projects. On the one hand I’m excited and root heavily for all the new participants in the marketplace. I like being able to think of something, look it up and implement it quickly if it is worthwhile. I like that I can connect with everyone and anyone quickly.

However, getting through all that noise to get attention and being someone that stands out becomes even more challenging. You get mixed in with the noise hitting everyone’s phones.

Business is a game of probabilities. You can increase your chances to make a connection, entertain an opportunity and get a deal done from habits and consistency. Here are some strategies that game opportunities your way with your consistent commitment:

  • Get on the radar. Connecting consistently and daily goes a long way to expanding touch points and opportunities. Business, ultimately, comes down to people. Make daily connections and start fanning the flame of awareness. You have so many channels – social media, email, texting, etc.
  • Show up. Share your journey, your struggles, your celebrations and your thinking. It gives people a feel for who you are, what you do and attaches a brand, a synonym to you.
  • Act first. I like to think about people I like and listen and observe what is going on in their lives. There are all these problems that everyone is trying to solve in their life. Caring enough is the start. Then sharing the resources and ideas that will help them becomes pretty fun, creative and easy. But you do have to care first.
  • Outlearn everyone. It’s hypercompetitive. There’s a lot of garbage ideas out there. Having better ideas that are specific and can be used in context for someone’s pursuits makes you stand out. Of course, you have to keep learning and make it part of your own habits. Then you have to share your learning personally.
  • Make the ask. Most people are waiting around for something to happen. You have to take the risk of proposing something that can be an immense benefit. You have to move people from their status quo to something that is worthwhile to expend the energy to meet, discuss or act on.

Gaming opportunities in a world of ridiculous noise has to come from your convictions and leadership. Nothing is stopping you from taking initiative or leading. In a sense, those that are choosing to initiate and lead have all the opportunities that their endless reach can afford. You have to stay fresh, be observant, care and put yourself and your ideas in front of your network consistently.

What new habit can you implement to create opportunities for yourself?

Repointing

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I don’t think too highly of simply working harder at something, especially if you are pointed in the wrong direction. It’s easy to turn off the brain and keep charging at what we are doing.

The awareness to look up and think about where you are headed can feel slippery and uncomfortable. Our habits can keep us in lock step. Being habitual can be pretty useful overall until we realize we are missing out on opportunities or something has changed under our feet.

I don’t know what is going to be different in the next five or ten years. But we can see that since we have automation, democratization of tools and knowledge and a global playing field, many things will certainly change.

It’s why repointing is so important. You have to keep questioning your position. Play it to its logical ends and ride the wave while you get benefits. But also work in parallel on contingency plans that open up new paths in light of change.

You can dip your toe and play. Join forums and subscribe to information sources that keep you clued in. Try out new tools and see where they make an impact. Keep designing and experimenting around your baseline business.

If you carry around the assumption that unseen forces are changing everything around us, then you can constantly question how you are pointed and test what your new directions might look like in terms of opportunities. It may lead you to more efficiencies, new audiences and a derivation of something that works.

How can you repoint and try out new experiments based on what is working?

The Overnight Success Growth Hacking Approach

dreaming of overnight success

Sure, you can be an overnight success. You just have to:

  • Show up every day consistently
  • Refine, refine, refine
  • Push your ideas to the limit
  • Take calculated risks
  • Discard what doesn’t work
  • Ignore the naysayers
  • Never give up

It may take 5 years or 10 years to become that overnight success!

The growth hacking is embedded in the habits which put you on track.

There are no guarantees. There are only increased probabilities. It’s like Gary Player famously stated,

The harder I work, the luckier I get.

You are giving yourself a chance to get lucky. But lucky tends to favor those that are good.

It’s easy to get your voice out there more than ever. You can set up your own radio show, make your own music album or start a magazine. But you are also competing against the entire world who can do the same.

Paying that price is steep, but you get to be one of the few who actually pay the price. Think about your overnight success as a learning journey and personal development. The real value comes in how you are changing and seeing the world. It’s also in how you approach the work day in and day out without question and with commitment and excellence.

What would you want to work at consistently and enjoy doing?

The First Hour

Changed Priorities Ahead
Photo from add1sun's Flickr

Your first hour of work is sacred. It often determines the pace of the rest of the day and how you are going to get things done. The habit of most people is to check their email. Their inbox is screaming with varied requests across a variety of topics. It puts the brain into overdrive quickly.

I try to avoid checking my email first. It makes me beholden to the urgent which can derail what is important quickly. That first hour is critical for getting done the things that builds assets and that is what I want to focus on first. The rest of the day can be filled with the mix of strategic and responsive requests.

Here are the assets I invest in first:

  • My mind. I like reading a few chapters of a book or several books I am studying. It sets the pace and tone for my mind addressing the world’s problems and trying to make a difference with others.
  • My audience. Writing and publishing content around leadership, productivity, marketing and entrepreneurship serves my readers and crystallizes my own thinking. My largest asset is the content I produce and the way I use it to serve my clients. This has to come first. Articles, ebooks and books I am working on come first thing when my mind is at peace.
  • My body. I like to run or take walks. It opens up the brain and helps me to detach. It also keeps my body tuned for action. If I don’t feel well, then I don’t work well. It’s all interconnected. The work today we do is a marathon not a sprint. Having sound bodies is critical.
  • The Number One Thing. This changes all the time. There is usually a top project. I try and put in time on this first. This way if anything happens to the rest of the day, I pushed the ball forward on what mattered. It gives me great peace of mind. It takes discipline and a focused decision. The demands of the world scream.

The inbox is tempting and pulls relentlessly. However, the habit of committing that first hour makes all the difference in the world for pushing forward what matters. If the rest of the day becomes derailed, I know I got the important work done first. Turn off the phones. Shut down your inbox and chat. Try focusing  yourself on the thing that builds assets first. You are better for yourself and the world by so doing.

What do you think of trying this yourself?

Who Is Making Money Today?

It’s not 1985 anymore.  At that time, you were a good boy or girl for following orders and maintaining the status quo.  The reason is that the world around you was linear.  It was ok to stand still back then.  The whole ecosystem – your vendors, customers, co-workers, bosses – could not affect you with work and change as easily.  Things were harder to get done.  We just didn’t know it then.

Fast forward to today.  It is easy to get things done.  It is easy to organize a movement.  It is easy to communicate and make happen whatever you have the initiative and gall to do.  The reason you have so much email to get through every day is because your ecosystem can communicate with you easily.  After all, they are in front of a computer right now as well.

If you act like it’s 1985, you are rapidly becoming irrelevant.  Insisting or hoping on doing things the same – managing projects, selling, servicing customers, marketing – is constantly changing.  Your competitor is figuring  out how to do it better.  They have access to the same tools you do.  The tools are cheap, and they can subscribe to them for a monthly fee.

It is an exciting time today.  You can make happen whatever you like.  However, you may be tied down by old mindsets, habits, outdated company culture, or a lack of initiative.  Generally speaking, we humans do not change unless there is a crisis.  I am here to tell you that today is a flash-point between the old and the new.  There is too much proof of smaller teams who act like elite green berets in business rather than old, stodgy infantry who are throwing people and artillery at solving business problems that require much more agility.  It is easier to do much more with less.

Here are some signs that you may be in the slow lane while the world is moving on:
  1. Too Many Servers:  Are your email, business applications, database or mission critical applications running on servers?  Do you have to go through some clumsy VPN process to get to your company information.  There are teams who work in multiple locations all over the world and get things done rather than have to work at getting things done.  Servers are so 2001.
  2. Cold Calling:  Tell me when the last time is that you bought something from a cold call.  Enough said.  Don’t tick people off who are on the edge of being annoyed.  Position rather than bother people, and you win.  Cold calling is about you, not them.
  3. Direct Mail:  See Number 2.  Stop the insanity and start thinking strategically instead.
  4. Corporate Speak:  Your website, newsletter, and email is masked in marketing.  Telling people how great you are has nothing to do with solving their problems.  We are all skeptical of marketing speak.  Learn how to connect rather than sell.  Learn how to be valuable.  Maybe you’re not.  That is what is being exposed today.  It is why you may be ignored.
  5. Being Cheap:  Henry Ford stated, “The man who will use his skill and constructive imagination to see how much he can give for a dollar instead of how little he can give for a dollar is bound to succeed.” Why does he have to even say this?  Because most people and companies are cheap.  They are trying to hustle, connive and get business without earning it.  They continually hedge their bets.  How about giving value for free and earning your next customer.  Work a couple hours to win a new sale rather than hope someone will call you back.  Spend money on your next customer.  Perhaps a hesitation is your lack of belief in your value in the first place.  Cheap people lose today in a world where snobbish consumers expect value first.
  6. Too Much:  Think about how and why military strategy has changed.  What if we fought wars today like 1940?  Keep throwing troops and artillery at the problem and you win.  That would be insane today.  Guerrilla warfare is required.  Men in sandals and a rocket launcher can blow up a $5M piece of machinery quickly.  There are companies that can make more money than your company with half.  Half the people, technology, and infrastructure.  Think less, not more.
While it used to be that people who assimilated well into structure were rewarded before, it is not true today.  Those who can change continually are rewarded.  Your technology will not be the same in three years.  Your people will not be with you in three years.  Everything is continually changing.  Upgrade your thinking, your business and ultimately your opportunity.  The alternative is to wait, hope and die a slow death.

Many wonder at the changes in organizations today.  It’s not bewildering.  It’s predictable.  It is a correction that was bound to happen.  We can do much more with less.  The people that are relevant today are those that make change and lead rather than follow.  They are not looking to be a cog in a system. They realize they have to bring value, solve problems and be the real thing.  This goes for companies and brands also.

Consider what George Bernard Shaw said, “People are always blaming their circumstances for what they are. I don’t believe in circumstances. The people who get on in this world are the people who get up and look for the circumstances they want, and, if they can’t find them, make them.”  Go make it happen.  It’s not rocket science.  It is hard work, and it is letting go of outdated ways of thinking.