Reinvent Yourself Before You’re Forced To

reinvention.jpg

“The future belongs to those who learn more skills and combine them in creative ways.” ~ Robert Greene

Things work … until they don’t.

We bought stories previously that made sense. Advertising works because people pay attention. A horse and buggy is the way to travel. Everyone should meet for lunch to do business. Conglomerates are responsible for the news.

There were entire industries and armies of workers ready to fulfill what scaled and worked. And there was reward for a time with cash flow and stability that all the participating players enjoyed.

However, we don’t have the luxury of a static world that simply allows us to drink forever from a wellspring of opportunity. Too often, we have to get slapped hard out of our delusion and heed Baltasar Gracian’s words,

“Fortune soon tires of carrying anyone long on her shoulders.”

We did not have a world where everyone carried a supercomputer in their pocket, 24/7 news continually streamed and anyone could put their opinion out in the endless information stream of social platforms. The story people tell themselves continually changes and consumers are able to make choices for themselves on their time, attention and buying based on convenience and innovation.

I can remember too many times where work was hard. Building systems, sales engines and collaboration processes were hard. It’s much easier. We don’t have to code anymore or lay out inflexible, expensive requirements to test our ideas. We don’t even have to be perfect from the start. We can try what we conceive and tear it down and rebuild technologies and platforms to see if they work in reality or not.

Innovation is sweet and relentless.

We don’t even have to sweat the underlying mechanics or even hope for infrastructure.

However, the flip side of innovation is that it threatens the current position you find yourself in. Things will be different. They have to be. The collective is forcing and demanding better, faster, cheaper and entertaining.

Whether you align and reinvent yourself today or are forced to change when the world ignores your value is not something you control.

IT will be different. So will education, medicine, law, marketing, and every other industry out there that has enjoyed some form of stasis.

Sure, there’s a latency for Luddites that can ride the down wave. However, they can’t control the forces at play and the demand side that is creating this ridiculous pace of innovation we are all riding and insisting on.

The strategy for the value provider that wants to get paid has to move towards continual relevance. You have to stay in tune with what works, but you don’t need to get so far ahead that consumer demand lags.

Reinvent yourself by:

  1. Having a parallel path of selling/doing that ramps up while your current cash flow ramps down.
  2. Experimenting with and integrating new technology that makes things more convenient for your customers.
  3. Creating new use cases for your competencies.
  4. Selling something new and test for traction.

The last thing you want to experience as a businessperson is irrelevance. Fear and comfort can blindside you. The great news is that you can always get ahead of the inevitable changes to your position by keeping your own innovation habits in play.

What’s next for you and how can you keep reinvention continuously going?

What Executive Productivity Hinges On

executiveproductivity.jpg

As work relentlessly gets democratized, it’s hard for people to get formal training that was once consolidated within large industrial companies. The internet does continually grow with knowledge and content and this should suffice to educate everyone. But it’s hard to make sense of all the information or put it into strategies that make an impact.

Knowledge work demands that we move information and make decisions quickly. While everyone is not officially titled as an executive, we have to make decisions efficiently.

There’s a lot written on creating big visions, mission statements and developing strategies. But there is something even more foundational that should be part of any good executive’s daily ritual. It is a critical daily habit that allows for extreme leverage across projects. It is the habit of list management.

Managing Across Your Lists

Think about how many logins you have. You have a login for your email. You have plenty for your social media accounts. One for your bank accounts, accounting systems, client management databases and the list goes on.

Ultimately, these are all lists. And they are data dashboards to keep you informed of what matters in your world.

When you look at your email, it’s essentially a list. Learning to manage that list will move communications and decisions along. You can become extremely quick and free with a ZeroInbox approach to this list. It’s a core list you have to stay within.

Then there is your daily task list. You need a quick capture of anything that comes your way and check things off quickly and efficiently. I use Google Tasks heavily and manage my Today List this way.

If you are managing cash, then you need to look at your accounts receivables and payables. Put those into meaningful lists with due dates and follow up. Make it actionable.

Your calendar is a list that requires moving intentional engagements within finite time slots. Manage it well and you can get a lot accomplished in a week by being focused with your choices of time.

A lot of the above lists are around data and tasks. Those tasks break out into various lists for actions and next steps. Most of what we do is define what has to be done and put it in the right list.

We also have to manage relationships. Building and maintaining relationships doesn’t just happen on its own. You have to work hard to create the opportunities and life you want. Everyone is busy and they are better at reacting than driving.

So, it’s important to organizes your list of Contacts in your address book or CRM. Then review those lists regularly and move towards communications – emails, texts, social posts, etc. – to follow up with relationships that matter to you.

If you wrote a list of all the lists you manage, you might find that it could end up being 10-20 places. This is not uncommon. But, your world revolves around your ability to keep those lists organized, current and moving.

If you can get rid of or consolidate lists, you lower your own management commitments.

Every morning, check your lists. Make it a daily habit. Spend that 30 minutes to send, post and comment within the lists you need to participate. Don’t skip a day and be relentless. And always be pruning.

If you are talented, then doing the work is less of an issue than knowing what work to focus on. List management is core to executive productivity and getting your big goals accomplished with consistency over time.

So what lists do you manage?

Find Your Everest Now

“If you are not authentic and passionate about what you do, someone who is will overtake you effortlessly.” ~ Raj Rawat

Drifting is a sad existence. You go through the motions and live an unfulfilled life. You’re not only robbing yourself of great possibilities in this extremely short life, but the world doesn’t get your best.

My friend, Raj, has a short series he has been working and put out his first book above, Find Your Everest to stir passions and get people focused on bigger and clearer thinking. For without that, life gets frustrating quickly. You underperform and bring low energy and output to the things you do.

I like the call to pursue a big, scary goal. Your senses come alive and you have to make success happen. Going big and getting clear is where you have to start and your mind, emotions and focus line up rather quickly.

What the heck are you pursuing? Have you plateaued from a bit of success? Or are you still drifting without a clear Everest to pursue?

The question put forth in this book is a first priority. I have walked the journey of defining and pursuing my own Everests in business and life and Raj is right,

“When people get connected to their purpose, they become mindful of time. Distractions fade away and fall off. Their minds don’t leave any bandwidth for unimportant things.”

The message is succinct, clear and with conviction. We have a lot of noise in this world and this is a message that is a signal in the noise. Well worth an hour or two to take in the insights, path and call that could send you on a strategic trajectory.

We Are the Factory

In my past life as an engineer, I used to visit manufacturing facilities, tool shops and fabrication outfits for project work. These are places where efficiency, speed and output are the focal point. Human beings acted like machines in their work pushing dozens or thousands of parts and assemblies through every day.

In the industrial age we had a focus on making things cheap, fast and predictably. That game is a commodity now.

Now, we are the factory. You take raw materials – content, ideas, conversations, software, and relationships – and put them together creatively to make an output.

If you are merely a functional piece in the assembly line without much creativity, then you’re not worth much. You are not scarce. You are interchangeable.

If you are on the creative side, then you are a factory that has to make ideas happen. It can be a paradigm shift to think that you are the factory. But your ability to output is related to a set of factors that require just as much, if not more, care and attention:

  • Wide nets. The degree that you are exposing yourself to ideas, experiences and relationships dictates where you draw inspiration, resources and solutions.
  • Personal growth. Are you becoming someone of more value? Your convictions, attitudes and insights come from the people you meet and the books you read.
  • Energy. Do you consistently take care of your health and emotions? Daily routines that help you recharge and keep a clear mind focused on your goals is critical to keeping your factory moving from ideas to execution flowing.
  • Productivity. Are you doing things that don’t matter? Are you focused more on doing things right more than doing the right things? How streamlined, efficient and fast is your workflow? Managing lists, clearing time and space and getting things done keep your processes moving.
  • Creativity. Do you enjoy nature, listen to music or read wild works? Exposing yourself to concepts outside of your box feeds your creativity. And creativity, not hard work, moves your results.

If you are the factory, you want to gain leverage and ensure you are efficient and continuous. It’s a long-term game of personal management, much like industrial scale factories required continuous oversight.

The great thing is that you can control the variables, and with technology and business systems, do much more than ever before simply by approaching your work like a factory manager.

Factories are about leverage, ultimately. And you, as a factory, are competing with the world of people out there that have the same access. It takes your desire, focus and consistency to reap the rewards the economy bestows to efficient creative factories.

Don’t Waste Your Time and Commit to Personal Growth

It sure is easy to get distracted. No doubt you can zone out with so many entertainment venues that are accessible. But while you are snoozing, there are so many people that are committed to personal growth in their downtime that are getting ahead.

Think about the reality of the high-tech world we live in. Will getting more muscles or working harder and longer truly get you ahead?

We have machines that do the work. There is a relentless pursuit to make our world like WALL·E where humans didn’t have to move or lift a finger to do anything. Artificial intelligence, heavy machinery and automation put in the hard day’s work.

No, much of what is leverage and value today comes from hard thinking and creativity. And you don’t get creativity by checking out. You have to focus on personal growth in your downtime where you can gain insights, knowledge and awareness.

Your ideas will make you more valuable.

Your creativity will cause you to be in demand.

Your strategies will be launch points to test from.

But how can you generate ideas, creativity and strategies by working like a machine and then checking out? You might be able to fake it and get along in life for a bit. But people are pretty good at detecting substance from salesmanship.

When you have downtime, how about listening to an Audible book like Zero to One to understand how the future will be shaped. Or work on an article and pull your ideas together on a topic from other content and books to solidify your thinking?

Personal growth allows you to become more valuable. You cannot give what you do not possess.

We don’t have a scarcity of technology or ways of doing things anymore. Everyone can use the same tools, platforms and avenues.

However, there is more noise than ever. And if you can create clarity because you have developed in your own personal growth, then you can help solve the myriad complex problems that everyone is bumping around trying to harmonize in their chaotic worlds.

That supposes that you have taken time to think, gain insights and invest in your personal growth.

Can you change your habits to focus on your personal growth for half an hour a day to start? Pick up a book. Share insightful thoughts. Develop ideas. Make them happen. Become more valuable.

Strategies to Hack Uncertainty

ING_19061_64500.jpg

Everything you know right now probably won’t be intact in a few years. There are too many changes and forces that are acting on your present version of reality. And the pace is only picking up.

Simply look at people’s LinkedIn and see how fast they are switching jobs. Or do your research on wages, productivity and market enterprise displacements. What was true a few years ago is changing so fast.

You may feel the effects, and the worst strategy is to simply sit and hope that it won’t affect you. It’s a losing strategy. Hope hardly works.

If you make a key decision in your life and business to tilt the odds in your favor, then there’s not necessarily any guarantees that uncertainty will harm you, but you do increase the probability that you can be positioned for opportunity and avoid downsides.

But you do have to make that decision to be strategic and intentional. Here are some strategies to hack your life and position yourself:

  • Minimize your downside. Take inventory of your overhead, costs and commitments. Examine what is essential and keep those in play. Eliminate everything else. Imagine the worst case scenarios playing out in your business and how you can maintain what is essential. We like to think about the upside so much that we forget that there is a downside. A little attention and care can get you prepared for uncertainty.
  • Open up boring, predictable cash flow. There are many avenues, likely within your own industries, where you can build cash flow models. Set it up, work hard to make the cash flow work and let it run. Passivity is a critical component to freeing up your attention. You may need insights and strategies to find what those flows may be, but it is well worth the work to open up cash flow. You want to get ahead of this before uncertainty overtakes you.
  • Make friends. This is a daily habit that needs to be part of your rituals far before any negative events enter your life. Making friends is about trading. You have to be a person of value that people enjoy engaging. Try to be helpful and always ask, “How can I help someone today?” That focuses your lens. Business is about relationships and trading. Also, don’t burn bridges. Life is short and also has a way of resurfacing old relationships.
  • Cannibalize your position. You may avoid trying something new because it affects your current position. However, you could be a sitting duck if you don’t continually innovate. That’s because someone out there is already competing with you. Better to compete with yourself. This may mean cannibalizing your current position, but you will be better set up to move to the next advancements by setting up a parallel path, a separate project that is designed to innovate. While one position may come down, you have another path that will rise up.
  • Choose the most options. The antidote to uncertainty is to make the choice with the most options. Exercising and retaining optionality allows you to go with what makes sense in the unfolding of uncertain events. Make the habit of always choosing optionality. It’s gold.

These are strategies that focus your efforts in anticipation of what is bound to come in this fast-changing world. Sit still and you become irrelevant in the midst of large market forces changing the game under your feet continually.

I Would Rather Talk to Practitioners

don'tgetdistracted.jpg

In theory there is no difference between theory and practice. In practice there is. ~ Yogi Berra

We have never lived in such a time as we do today where there is no end to information being put out into the world. It’s overwhelming and daunting for sure.

One of the strategies to survive is to limit your friends, followers, feeds and focus. You can also trust curators that align with your interests and worldviews.

However, we are still drowning. Anyone with a connection and an opinion can put their view out there for the world and the internet will record and broadcast it. It’s up to us as consumers of content and opinions to decipher the credibility and usefulness of what we take in.

I come from an intellectual background. I have a graduate degree in engineering and have studied, read and thought a lot about a variety of topics.

However, at the end of the day, ideas are worthless if they don’t stand up to the mirror of reality. The brutal immovability of reality gut checks me every day. Sure, I can believe that business deals should be done with a maximum payout to me, perhaps 3x what the market dictates. But reality will remind me that what’s in my head and what comes out of people’s wallets will be mismatched. I can insist, but it doesn’t matter.

Theory is one thing and practice is another indeed. It’s why I like to observe, learn and keep aligning as much as I can towards what the practice of business tells me.

The academic, intellectual and non-practitioner can remain sheltered and push what they think should happen out there all they want. I don’t respect it and I ignore such pontifications if it doesn’t match up to practice. I respect risk-taking. I like seeing someone whose ideas come about because they are empiricists and have tested what they believe against everyday life and experiences.

You can lose your shirt today if you are not careful to be discerning about the viewpoints of people that don’t have skin in the game or are not practitioners. Some simple things:

Has the person talking about business done business?

Does the ranting political analyst live with the consequences of their policies?

Is there a moral arrogance in a political, religious or societal commentary?

The messenger matters a great deal and if they are not a practitioner then shame on us if we buy the theory and don’t look at the practice.

Being a practitioner ensures you stay humble. How can I advise on things I don’t know work or not? Sure, I can rely on intellectualism, but time and experience have a way of shedding light on us all. Our ideas either work or don’t work.

Be sure to check who is putting the message out there. They know something works because they took risk on what they are saying. Trust the practitioner because they have the scars on their back to prove their convictions.

Hustle as Strategy

hustle.jpg

Have you seen people that are simply too rich? I actually think we are too rich as a society overall. We have the ability to solve so many problems, much larger than we are attacking, for sure. But we are comfortable, complacent and unmotivated. Simply watch people’s behaviors, especially after some success, and tell me otherwise.

When did that hustle stop for most people? If you see someone that has to make something happen, they are out there hustling and pushing to get the success they seek. They ask for what they want. They are turning over stones to figure out what opportunities exist. They have that advantage of hustling.

Then there’s the danger of getting fat, happy and content. No hustle.

My observation of what happens when we are too rich is that new things happen for two reasons:

  1. A crisis
  2. An opportunity

If there’s a crisis, then you see immediate hustle. Sickness, IT problems, plumbing failures, and many other unforeseen circumstances that need fixing now gets those responsive businesses to respond. It’s reactive work, but you have built-in demand from the probabilities of someone somewhere wanting their pain fixed now.

I am not real fond of crisis businesses. They are definitely needed, but as a businessman, I would rather spend my time building greater value and opportunity for those with vision.

An opportunity tends to come along because someone had an idea and put it in context in front of someone that is not necessarily looking for it. Someone hustled and came up with an upside.

Most people are waiting for something to happen. Opportunities happen because someone is making something happen.

Catalyzing what is possible is exciting to me. You are bringing value by creativity, hustle and determination to make the unseen real.

Hustle is required because you have to move someone from what’s working now and have them evaluate risk. If, for no other reason, the risk is perceived because there are unknowns. The status quo could be miserable, but at least it is known, which is a peculiar comfort to human beings often times.

If you sell opportunity, then your hustle has to be around creating attention, conversations and presentation around your idea. You have to be compelling. You are competing against all the options out there that cloud people’s minds. It’s thrilling to create movement that would not happen without you. And it’s important work. You are making something happen for the world of waiters and dreamers.

Action is contagious. I love creating movement and though I have had much success, I never want to sit around waiting for things to happen. That’s a form of death to me and you can see so many lethargic souls resign themselves to inertia when they used to have more hustle in their lives before success.

But the great news is that with so many people that give into complacency, you can differentiate yourself with a strategy of continuous hustle. Be the one with the ideas and the person who is sharp enough and adept to make those ideas happen.

Build and exchange value. It’s an exciting part of life I can’t imagine simply conceding because of the lure of mundane comfort. See you out there.

Distractions Cost You

Making lots of tiny choices depletes one’s subsequent self-control. ~ Shane Snow, Smartcuts

I get worn out during a workday simply from death by a thousand cuts. Those thousand cuts take the form of the myriad decisions I am confronted with relentlessly.

What do I eat?

What do I wear?

What do I do today?

Should I call someone?

Email.

Making choices creates a mental fatigue and depletes our self-control. It becomes harder to stay on course with what we want to do and we get pulled by many things that don’t matter.

Choices wear us out.

I battle the onslaught by seeking to continually get rid of things in my life that make me have to deal with choice. The more I have in my life, the more I have to manage. And that kind of distraction has a cost.

We don’t live in a heavy labor society. We have division of labor, delegation, outsourcing, automation and software to help us with most work.

I’m not trying to conserve my physical energy. I’m trying to protect my mental and emotional health so I can maximize my creativity. For I agree with what Robert Ringer states so clearly:

“It is creativity, not hard work, that’s at the heart of success in any field of endeavor. And in order for a person to have the time to engage in creative thinking, he must learn to work efficiently.”

Much of that efficiency comes from not dealing with decisions that add little to no value to your goals.

I, for one, like achieving my goals and focusing only on getting results. Your ability to keep your choices simple and minimal will keep your mental space cleaner for all those inevitable decisions that will present themselves.

It’s why I adhere to a morning routine where I take care of myself first. The routine helps me relax and prepare for a day mentally, physically, spiritually and emotionally. Reading, push-ups, nutritional food and prayer are part of what helps my creative process.

There’s no cheating. My work is mental and emotional and I can appreciate that willpower, patience and creativity are not in infinite supply. They deplete over the course of a day because of having to make choices.

I also continually purge and minimize. This does wonders for keeping the decks clear and allowing me to get to the heart of what matters in my workflow. I don’t want to be dealing with objects, tools or distractions that pull my attention away from reading, writing and serving clients.

There are so many other traps when it comes to relationships, penny-wise-dollar-foolish matters and outdated projects that have run their course. I try to keep those off of my radar by getting rid of those energy-sapping things that only create stress without results.

Creativity is what matters and that does not come without a vigilance around protecting your life from distractions. It takes laser-focus.

Do you feel worn out and feel like you are lacking progress towards your goals? How could you create the habit of removing distractions?

Fooled by the Law of Diminishing Returns

diminishingreturns.jpg

At some point, the effort and cost are not worth it anymore. The Law of Diminishing Returns kicks in when building a business or even building a life. More investment of your time, money and attention may initially have high returns, but then at some point, the rewards taper.

Will more efficiency make a large impact on your revenue?

How many more relationships start to become a liability to manage rather than pure enjoyment?

Does more money create more happiness after a certain point? They say $75K is that point of diminishing return from research studies.

Sometimes, I can’t find the motivation to do more. Perhaps, that law of diminishing return is instinctive and I’m only responding. Or experience simply shows me that more does not equal better. In fact, more may mean cost.

I see it with business owners that add more headcount and find more headaches or layers of management to deal with. More cost, not less, for more effort and investment.

I see diminishing returns when we sign up for more activities for the kids. Fun can turn to drudgery when the calendar is packed to the brim. It’s different than getting good and focusing on just a few things done well. Less headache and more results.

I think the key is to ramp up specific parts to that inflection point of diminishing returns and leave it alone. Then move on to other areas and invest time, energy, money and emotion to get that working to a point of producing returns.

Much like the story of The Golden Goose, we can get greedy with seeking more output and choke the goose or cut its head off only to find our hopes shattered from overreaching.

Greed and perfectionism can compel us to push too hard in a direction and lose sight of that reality principal we are all facing in business and life that more stops being better at some point.

So, some things I try to do to fight this tendency:

  1. Ask myself, “Does this matter?” and “How much?” It keeps me from pushing into areas that are not going to have a return.
  2. Test the concept on a small scale. If I have an idea, I like to see it in play and work out the kinks before overinvesting time and resources.
  3. Watch my enthusiasm. If I am losing motivation, that’s a sign that something is not worth it anymore. I try and step back to figure out why I may have lost enthusiasm and get as honest as I can.
  4. Look at the numbers. You can simplify most goals and results by looking at inputs and outputs. How much is going in and what is coming out as a result? Typically, you get a boost initially. Later, it’s not so great.

It’s hard to detach and do a gut check on work and projects we become vested in. My emotions can keep me trapped on a path that may otherwise not make as much sense.

Yes, I like excellence. But it makes sense to a point. Then wisdom and business acumen have to kick in to avoid wasting time and energy.

Where might you be spending too much and not getting a better return?