How To Make Boring, Unsexy Progress

When people speak of others being overnight successes, what it boils down to is the fact that all of a sudden, everyone is talking about that particular person. In today’s language, these people became viral in a good way.

Breaking the phrase down, ‘overnight’ and ‘success’ hits all the sweet spots in our hindbrain.  ‘Overnight’ appeals to the part of us that want things fast and easy. ‘Success’ gets us to imagining what it’s like to be admired, or wealthy, or famous. Or all three.  Witnessing an ‘overnight sensation’ also works in the same vein — ‘sensation’ taps into the feel-good mechanism in our brain, which lights up whenever we get a hit of something that pleases us or makes us feel good about ourselves. “If they can do it, I can too!”

It rarely matters to the public how hard or how long someone’s been working on whatever it is that helped them become a success; When somebody becomes a star, being in the spotlight can cast a deep shadow over the work done behind the scenes and throughout the years. All the audience can see is how flattering the lighting is, and how put-together and happy the star of the show looks, and how inspiring the story is.

And aside from sound-bytes and maybe a short montage,  you don’t usually get to see the frustrations, disappointments, wrong turns and stubborn grit it took to get them to the point where they finally caught the public’s attention. The editors and technicians see to that.

The thing is, the way ‘overnight’ comes across, and adding the temptation of ‘sensation’ into the picture, that all glosses over one small principle that gets overlooked and yet can help us become successful to ourselves and for ourselves.

‘Get-rich-quick’ and ‘get-famous-quick’, or ‘overnight success’ can sometimes end up as ‘one-hit wonders’ and ‘flash-in-the-pan’ phenomena. Consistent and steady progress makes for meaningful, solid work that lasts. Continue reading How To Make Boring, Unsexy Progress

Zigzags, Progress, and Quiet Success

TL;DR: Sometimes, “aiming high” can unintentionally set you up to fail.  Setting the bar low and hitting it consistently can help you achieve more at a more realistic pace, and one you can sustain.

Background context:
Mass media and social media show the extremes because that gets the most attention. On one platform, bad news makes the news. On the other, you get highlight reels and pictures from the lives of friends, family, and the people you follow.  In both cases, you get the edited, minute versions of events, and miss the things that happen off-screen or behind-the-scenes. You only get the parts of the story they want you to see, not the whole picture.

The effect of regularly seeing highlight — or lowlight, as  in the case of the news — reels creates a false impressions of how things are, and how things ‘should’ be. In the case of doing business, for example, you’re pushed to be on your top game all the time, and to do so you have to follow a certain formula, follow a set of actions, or go for the ‘right’ kind of exposure to succeed. Anything else wouldn’t be worth the effort, and also beneath you. Go big or go home.

And if you don’t make it big, it’s all on you — because “if these people did it, you should be able to.” Highlight reels, right? That’s why it can be so unnecessarily pressure-filled to work towards your goals. Comparison is too easy. There’s tons of how-to’s and guides on sale to show you the way to greatness — you have no excuse to fail (Hah!)  Plus, if the nebulous ‘They’ did it, why can’t you? And when you can’t, the failures wears at you even  more.

Have you ever thought that instead of flying high, you could go low and slow, and still accomplish what you want to do?
Continue reading Zigzags, Progress, and Quiet Success

Getting Things Done Even When You Don’t Feel Like It

With everything technology has given us in the ways of getting in touch with one another, the demands that come with being always connected has set work culture up to be quite a free-for-all, one with numerous competing bids for our attention. When you can talk to anyone from anywhere, anytime, you can be reached everywhere, all the time. Unless, of course, you’ve taken precautions.

When you have a good system in place to filter those demands, that takes a weight off you. Still, there are always days where it’s all you can do to somehow slog through your workload.  It can be wearing on a daily basis, but consistently having bad days? That’s a recipe for burn out, mentally and emotionally. In that case, prevention can help things from getting worse.

Related article:  Technostress: Rise Against The Machines

Assuming that you got a good set-up going for you, what else can you do to make it easier to still get things done when you’re hit by one of those zero-motivation days?

Certainly mindfulness is a very good skill to develop. It’s something that can help you distinguish and filter out the noise from the signal. Mindfulness also helps you cut through the distractions that swarm in and eat at your focus. But since mindfulness is a practice that you can get better at over time, what other things can you do to help you focus the work you need to finish today, even when you’re really not feeling it?

Quick spot-check:

  1. Are you watered? Dehydration can lead to headaches and fogginess, you delicate flower you, and could be why you’re wilting. Coffee still counts as a liquid, but the caffeine can act as a diuretic. Go get water-water. Whether carbonated or flavored, get water. Please steer away from sodas and other sugary drinks — they’re not good for you in the long run.
  2. How’s your blood sugar? Is it crashing? Speaking of sugar, when was the last time you ate something substantial, and not artificially flavored? Do yourself a good deed and treat yourself right. It’s not just garbage in, garbage out when it comes to sustaining yourself.  Eat real food.
  3. How’s your breathing? Slumping in front of your computer screen doesn’t only play havoc with your spine, it compresses your lungs and you don’t get as much air as you need.  Go take a brisk walk, preferably outside if you can. Stretch your legs. Pull your shoulders down and back and breathe into your belly, exhaling slowly through your lips. Get your blood oxygen up.
  4. Do you need to go to the bathroom? Go to the bathroom. Wash your face and your hands while you’re at it to clear up your head and shake off the mood. Use cold water to wake yourself up. Continue reading Getting Things Done Even When You Don’t Feel Like It

The Secret To Your Best Performance: Intelligent Self-care

In an article written eight years ago, we spoke about tailoring for performance. Then and now, the basic principles are still holding. If you can’t find your comfort where you can, you make it. If you can’t find ease in your daily work load or everyday routine, take steps to create ease. You’ll last longer, you’ll do so in a healthier state, and you’ll be in a better position to lead your business.

Food for thought:
Elite athletes very rarely do it alone. To get to that level of performance requires a support team, especially at the Olympic level. For the right diet, rest, proper self-care, and winning mind-set you’d expect the following: a dietician and/or a personal chef, a physical therapist and a sports-specific  doctor, and a coach, just to start. This team would help support the athlete as they go through all the relentless hours of training to burn in muscle memory and raise their performance to the best it could be.

You may not be an athlete. You may not have the funds for such a support team. But you can still  take the actions necessary so you’re able to perform at your best on a consistent basis. And honestly, who else would be in a better position to act on what’s best for you than you?

Food for thought, part two:
Life can be stressful, but stress shouldn’t be a default state for you. Yes, it’s true that there are people who seem bullet-proof when it comes to stressful events and situations, but if you’re not included in that particular group, you still have choices on how to make life easier to weather.  It isn’t just however many road-blocks you encounter, or how many holes you have to dig yourself out of, it’s also the feeling that you’re not in control of anything.

On road-blocks and holes:
Going along with this scenario, how will you know if you’re a good driver? See, in a sense, this is what tailoring is about. Learning how to drive  is learning a particular skill that enables you to move and act independently. Learning how to ‘tailor’ in this sense, helps you have an easier journey. You prepare, you act, and you put yourself in a position to choose the best way the job gets done. You’re in control.

  • What, in your particular situation, is your ‘driving’ skill’? Are you prepared for dealing with ‘potholes’ and roadblocks?
  • What are the common obstacles you frequently encounter? What were their effects? How did you deal, and what did you to prepare if they come up again?

Related Series: Lessons From Defensive Driving (Parts one, two, three, four and five.)

 

The same principles for having a good road-trip still apply to having a good routine that supports you in performing at your best.  A clear goal is a definite end-point,  so doing stuff that takes you further away or in the opposite direction should obviously tell you you’re doing it wrong. Making sure you’re equipped for the length of the drive tells you to plan for pit-stops (breaks) and refuelling (rest and recharge), as well as being well-supplied with what you need to make the drive safely and comfortably.

You can only be on the road for so long without resting. Your tank can only reach a certain level before you need to refuel. Running on fumes won’t do you or your car any good, and will lead to problems over time. Identify what it is you can control, prepare for what you can’t, and make sure to take of yourself so you arrive in one healthy piece.

Without the mixed metaphors.
Between where you are  and the place you want to go, there forms a space where you can carve out a better situation for yourself with your actions. There are multiple approaches to improving how you do things, just as there are many ways you can draw a line between Point A (where you are), and Point B (where you want to go.)  the more specific you can be about the things you can do to make your work easier,  the better the fit to your desired goals.

First, you have to actually pay attention to what you’re doing. You want a better performance, you want to be more productive, you need to establish a baseline so you know what you’re starting out with. You do this by:

  • Observing yourself and what you do regularly every day.
  • Taking note of when you’re at your most awake, and when your energy slumps.
  • Looking at the activities where you encounter the most problems, and the ones which take your time and energy but offer little in real returns for you. (Hint: This is where the stuff you can stop doing resides.)

Then you look at these things, individually, and in connection with your whole habitual set-up.

  • Address the things and attitudes that hold you back.
  • Look at the empty habits that don’t add anything of positive value to your work or to your life. If they’re not helping, they’re weighing you down and taking up energy you can use for better things.
  • Address the stuff  and especially the habits that weigh you down, whether physically, mentally, financially, or emotionally. Or chronologically.
  • Look at things that can shave time off doing, or save time by letting go or outsourcing if you can’t.
  • Look at stuff that helps you perform better, and try to make them a habit.

Be realistic about what you can accomplish.
There’s always a price to be paid when you abuse your resources. Always. Whether it’s a battered immune system from too much stress, brain-fog, back-pain, or creeping weight-gain, there’s always a rebound effect — and that’s only the physical aspect. Abuse erodes and uses up healthy reserves, whether we’re talking about your body, your finances, or your mental and emotional health.

This push to do all the things and then brag about how much sleep you’re not getting is a loser’s game. Discomfort is not a virtue. Comfort is not a sin. We have to take care of ourselves. Nobody wins an award for burning the candle at both ends.  Be smart. Be creative. If you can’t find ways then make ways to take care of yourself.

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Give Your Website A Boost Behind The Scenes

It’s easy to overlook things when you’re engrossed in the day-to-day events  of running a business or focused working on projects, so we’re just taking a few minutes of your time to share a few pointers and help you with your website:

Website health-check.
A website works while you sleep.  Barring DoS attacks, a cut cable somewhere on the ocean floor, or Skynet dropping the boom — or you forgetting to renew your  hosting subscription — your business website is up 24/7/365. An asset like that deserves proper care and maintenance to keep on working for you the way you have it designed to.

If you haven’t done it yet, just take the next three minutes to write down all the maintenance dates and details for your website  — and then put copies of the information where it makes sense to put them, whether as an extra page in your operations manual, an index card in your day-planner, or a laminated printout for your files.

For added assurance, reinforce the data with reminders on your preferred calendar app or your business planner.

  • When do you need to renew your hosting, domain name, and security certificates?
  • Are your security details updated for your hosting, security and domain authorities — down to the correct email address, updated contact numbers, and even the credit card expiration date, if it comes to that?
  • Are the charges for those items  on an auto-debit or automatic billing cycle?

Continue reading Give Your Website A Boost Behind The Scenes

Are You A Poor Entrepreneur?

Any business of any size is run by people. People, being people, carry their own mind-sets and world views with them wherever they go, and make decisions, have habits, and see things according to the way their world-view works.  How you see the world decides how you act in it, and vice versa.

And with that setting the context,  you have heard of the scarcity mindset, right?

In essence, the scarcity mindset is concerned with lack.  If we were talking about it like it’s eyesight, it’s hyper-focus and short-sightedness at the same time.

  • With hyper-focus you can get tunnel-vision. While doubling down on an issue can help especially when time is running out and the need is urgent, you can also get blindsided.
  • With short-sightedness you won’t be able to focus on what’s further ahead.

You’re fully caught up in the moment, and not in a good way.  Think of it like treating the symptoms and ignoring the illness. You feel better temporarily, but it doesn’t fix that you’re sick.

When you’re focused on what isn’t there, you can’t focus on what is there. You’re too tied up to respond freely, consciously, and deliberately.

What happens when you have have this mind-set?

  • You spend the majority of your brainpower  and energy on what you see as emergencies, and the important things can slide right out of focus.
  • Your judgment is affected, as will as your willpower.

When these two things are set askew, you won’t be able to make the most appropriate choices in the situations you face,  and you could find it easier to throw your hands up and pick the closest ‘solution’ available, or simply give up, which doesn’t help and can make the situation worse.

 

In many cases, that sort of thinking can be a big a problem hiding in your blind spot. You might not think there’s anything out of the ordinary, you might not see that there’s an issue, but somehow you keep bumping into the same snarls, chokepoints, and roadblocks.  You keep putting out the same fires.

See, the scarcity mindset isn’t just the overall feeling that “there is only this much, and no more,” so you have to get yours while you can. It’s an entire way of moving in the world, and for you, it’s just normal. And it’s holding you back.
Continue reading Are You A Poor Entrepreneur?

Don’t Lose Sight of The Customer — Or Yourself

At the first, second, and third look, a business is in it to make money.
If it’s not making money,  then it’s an exercise in frustration and a money-sucking black hole at worst, and an expensive ‘hobby’ at best. A business provides services or products to consumers in return for money. Electronic commerce (e-commerce) is the business of selling goods and providing services using an online platform, i.e the internet. That’s why you’re here.

So yes, you got into this wanting to make money . And somehow you are making money.  After keeping good records and getting updated licenses and permits and whatnot, how do you do? Do you lie awake at night worrying about how to make your mailing list grow? Do you wake up worried about making your bottom-line? Is your free time occupied with scribbling out plans with words like leverage, maximize, sales funnel, and  optimize?

When this kind of financial pressure makes you micro-focus on the numbers, you lose sight of several important things in the whole equation.
Yes, you do need to keep good records and updated permits and licenses and whatnot.
Yes, you do need to work on growing your mailing list. That’s all just good accounting and legal practice, and business sense.
But focusing on the bottom-line frames your business solely in terms of numbers. In doing so, that sort of gently moves out of focus the prime movers in the business.  And who are those? You, for one, and your customers, for another. Lose sight of either, you  can go off track.

Focusing solely on the point to get the money is missing the other points. Continue reading Don’t Lose Sight of The Customer — Or Yourself

Breaking Down Your Big Picture

Imagine a mosaic.

A mosaic is a picture or pattern that is built, piece by piece, from small broken pieces of material like glass or tile which are set in mortar.  Historical records and restored ancient architecture usually show mosaics were mainly used in decorating walls, floors, and ceilings — although mosaics today aren’t just restricted to those areas, or those materials.

Helpful examples:

Now, what do mosaics have to do with running a business?
Continue reading Breaking Down Your Big Picture

Stay On Target: Planning For Business Growth

In a recent article, we touched on what you can do to make the most of your goals for this year. The sum of it, roughly speaking, was this:  Specificity and clarity —  applied to means and methods — practically guarantee a smoother journey.

You break down an over-arcing goal in stages to make it more specific and time-bound, and then break those stages apart in smaller steps. This helps guide you to make consistent, sustainable, and steady progress, and is also great help for when you feel the monotony wearing you thin.

  • You feel lost? Refer to your project ‘map’ to re-orient and guide you.
  • You can’t quite focus or decide on what to do? Just look at the next step to take.
  • You feel down? Look at the work you’ve already put in towards your goal. You are working on your dreams. Keep going!

Essentially, with this system you’ll be setting yourself up to win. Regularly, and in small ways.

Let’s say you want to do a better job — how do you plan on going about it? You want to keep your skills updated and sharp — how are you going to do that?

It’s like using the method, “Don’t break the chain.” Come up with a clear, specific goal and work it backwards.  You  write all the steps down, and every day you take a step. Just one.

We also touched on other things like:  Focus your energies on what would simply not happen without you.  Find sources you can trust, find mentors, find or create a focus group.  Test things out by making  small bets.  Test, try, work at it. You can only go so far with theoreticals. You have to do the actual work to learn first-hand.  Broaden your experience, and keep learning to think for yourself.

Continue reading Stay On Target: Planning For Business Growth

Rethinking “Ready, Fire, Aim.”

Here are a few questions for you:

  • Did you make decisions about what exactly are your hard targets to accomplish this year in advance, or do you often resort to planning on the fly?
  • Do you go through how a plan — in its entirety, stage by stage– will align with your goals before you push through with it?
  • Do you track the results of your plans, whether they’re marketing campaigns or productivity schedules?
  • Do you track any changes you make to your plans when you encounter issues that make these changes necessary?
  • Over the course of the past year, did you feel that you were getting better at looking ahead (forecasting) and  mentally preparing (visualizing) for the things  coming your way?
  • How good would you say you are at visualizing and preparing for execution and assessment?


The popular advice when it comes to executing plans is, “Ready, fire, aim.”

The belief  behind this advice says that speed is essential, time is precious, and each miss gets you closer to the goal.  The caveat asks you to dig deeper at the supporting structure behind this set-up and see how it applies to you in the field, not in theory.

There are tons of advice out there for entrepreneurs. But you need to be sharp about which advice is reliably useful to you and the issues you encounter.  Personalization, in this case, also applies to you, and not just your customers: Take what you can use and leave the rest.

“Ready, fire, aim,” may not  fit the way you choose to work. It can conflict with your personality, or your chosen methods, and there’s nothing wrong with that. What works for you, works. As long as you focus on staying on-target, you’ll be good.

Other considerations.
What is your budget, say, for ‘misses’? Not just in financial terms, but in labor and time, too?  How close do you need to be to the goal to count the attempt as a hit or a miss?

A goal is not always meant to be reached, it often serves simply as something to aim at.
Bruce Lee

Continue reading Rethinking “Ready, Fire, Aim.”