Category Archives: How-To’s

Slow is Smooth: Creating Good Habits

Anything big can be broken down. Big dream, big goals…it’s not that they’re out of reach precisely, as is you’re far away. It isn’t always that they’re pipe dreams, ones too grand to happen, but sometimes you hold the goal too close to be able to look clearly at the pathways you need to get there, and for that you need distance (perspective), persistence (grit) and work (action) to close the gap.

Grit can be sourced from many things. From positive (belonging to a supportive and encouraging group of friends or family, having a goal you’re really invested in) to grey-negative (Out of sheer, seething spite to show people up, for instance.) Grit varies from person to person.

And for distance and work to work, you need to notice time. Pay attention to the way you habitually spend your time, and you’ll get a clear view of what you are or aren’t doing to get your goals realized. As much as we can say about what’s important to us, an actual record of what and where we spend our time on is a much more reliable indicator of what we prioritize.

And one very small, very powerful way to close the gap is the power of good habits. Continue reading Slow is Smooth: Creating Good Habits

How To Manage Change Using Loss Aversion

Marketing psychology studies consumer behavior to find out the reasons and influences behind people buying stuff. And just as with any body of knowledge, it can be used well, or to take advantage of others.

A hard-wired human trait that marketers take advantage of is loss aversion.
One of the hardest instincts to overcome, loss aversion can be explained like this: It’s scarier to think of losing something that you already have, than it is to consider a possibly risky action to get something you want but don’t have yet. What you have is yours. A threat to it, or a hint of losing it, will hit you harder than losing a chance to gain something else.

Fear is a very strong motivator to hold onto things. When you have something, you have it: you can touch it, look it up, console yourself that it’s in storage. You know it’s there, you know you have it, and that knowledge keeps your stable world view secure. It also gives you some peace of mind that you have control.

Witness hoarders from the minimalist to the extremists, and how the storage industry helps people hide more stuff than they can fit into their homes. Think of the data storage industry and how it uses assurance to assuage people’s worries about data protection. In your own home there’s the catch-all drawer, and, well, how many old, busted umbrellas do you have hanging around somewhere?

No one likes losing stuff. Marketers from every niche and industry know it, that’s why there’s insurance for damn near everything. People also buy stuff motivated by the need to protect the things they already have.

All of that being said, how can use you use the power of loss aversion for yourself?

Knowledge is power, and now that you’re aware of how the threat of loss can affect your decisions, even subconsciously, how can you use that power to work in your favor?
Continue reading How To Manage Change Using Loss Aversion

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

Entrepreneurs: How Many People Are You?

Entrepreneurs have often been called jacks-of-all trades, and, seeing the many roles they can enact in the pursuit of their goals, it’s a given that the ones who succeed are the ones who, pushed beyond their normal comfort zones, have grow adept at being able to move in and out of various roles easily.

Nobody plays only one role in their life. It’s just not possible not to be a multi-faceted individual–our relationships won’t really let that happen. We’re being of many hats– someone’s child, a student, maybe a burger-flipper, maybe a spouse, or a dungeon master,  a coder, a parent, a friend, as well as a business owner — and  our amazing minds are such that we can recall all the ‘hats’ we’ve ever worn.

As a plus,  being wired for imagination means we can play around with different hats at the same time. This is actually a large part of how we learn, and this is also how we gain strength and belief in our own capabilities. And the more we intentionally practice this ability, the more we can use it to our advantage, in business as well as our personal lives.

Playing around with being different characters isn’t just for kids and day-dreams. This kind of ‘play’ is actually an important component of developing deeper perspective and flexibility, things which are of incredible help for anyone.

  • Knowledge acquired from different fields of study can be used for ‘cross-pollinating’ skills. You carry them over into different areas.
  • Knowledge acquired from examining different viewpoints helps in negotiations by giving you a starting point in discussions, and create goals toward compromise. This is important in all relationships.
  • Knowledge earned from wearing different hats in an organization — say, working your way up from being a waitress to being the VP of a restaurant chain (see links below)– forms an incredible matrix of intimate, first-hand experience that can be carried over into other fields,  and just plain carried as a built-in repository of valuable skill-sets.

SUCCESS STORY:  Katrina Cole

As a business owner, you will always have the inevitable issues and problems to solve. When you practice developing flexibility and entertaining multiple perspectives, you in fact train your brain to be more adept at re-framing, and approaching challenges, and then being able to break them down into actionable bits and phases.

Entrepreneurs must execute to keep moving forward, and it is in the execution that they learn and refine their approach. When you have problems breaking down a problem or resolving a hairy issue, taking yourself out of the fix-it-NOW mindset and going into a different one can help you take the stress off, for one.  You see things in a different light, and that may help you find a better approach. And this also applies to service businesses– not for nothing is it common advice to put yourself in the customer’s shoes.

When you learn to use different perspectives, this affects the mind-set you use in order to frame an idea.

Related article: Is It A Problem Or A Challenge?

Execution is part of learning as much as play, and both are important factors in succeeding at your goals. Here are the basic steps:

  • You identify the issue from a head-on approach.
  • You examine the issue from different angles to develop perspective.
  • Different angles of approach can mean different solutions, and there may even be overlap.
  • You mull things around in your head and come up with a set of solutions, judgements, or observations, which you use to take the next step.

To jump-start the process into action, you need a defined statement to describe the issue, and be able to identify the key players and processes involved. As a business owner, what do you want? As a customer, what would you want? As someone who partners with other people towards a common goal, what do you guys want? Take out the ‘hats’ involved and try to see things ‘as-if’ to help you see the system as a whole. When you understand the system, you can start modifying it and see how it improves and evolves.

“It never hurts to get a different perspective.” Another way of seeing it is that “It never hurts to get a second opinion.” Think again of the word ‘perspective ‘itself, and how that word association can play out. Perspective can cover short-sightedness and long-sightedness; you can take actions that answers issues and resolve them in the short run, and yet fail to look ahead far enough to see the ramifications  and far-reaching consequences of your actions. You can also plan so far into the future that day-to-day and short-term activities can be restricted unnecessarily because you planned too rigidly and didn’t make allowances for change to happen to meet the unexpected.

What are the benefits of ‘going over to the other side’, so to speak?
One, you get jolted out of thinking you know best — a fatal flaw in a world that changes so rapidly and where knowledge can rapidly go outdated. Two, it gives you dimensionality, a more developed vision of the situation — it looks different from the vantage points at 10, 500, 100, 5000 feet — and the higher (deeper) you go, the more links and connections you can parse and the more opportunities present themselves. Three, you learn to see the world in a deeper light.

Sometimes, we find it easier to see what we don’t like, and use that information to make things better.  Customer complaints are a rich resource for examining your business. You can use those as starting points and branch out.

It isn’t easy, of course, because we’re also hard-wired towards taking the most energy-efficient way to approaching life,  and that’s an area where procrastination, short-sighted or short-term thinking, and having problems with execution can start.  But then again, nothing worthwhile really comes easy.  Practice using multiple perspectives and you’ll find that you’re also expanding the way you view the world, and learning how to get along better with the people who live, work in, and share it with you.

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Keeping Skills Sharp: Is Online Learning for You?

You can’t ignore it. Competition is ever present in the business world, and you have to stay sharp and alert to deal with threats and to seize opportunities. To do both, you not only need information, but the understanding and discernment to use that information to check which way the wind is blowing.

One way to refine your mastery regarding your niche, your customers, and your market, is to study. Not just do research, but  using the path of deliberate, self-paced, self-directed education to promote your growth and experience inside and outside of your business,  to promote both depth and reach.

Fortunately, we have an over-abundance of choices now.  You  won’t even be strictly required to  enroll unless you think it’s the best option for you. With all the free resources available, at the most basic level, if you have stable internet access, the time, and the perseverance, you can start as soon as you want.

Things have become very much interconnected in our world today;  Even a small event happening far away can ripple out in unexpected ways. Change comes faster, and entrepreneurs are hard-pressed to keep up and manage all the shifts, side-steps, and set-backs that come from that. Continuing education is a great help in learning to use change to our advantage — but you still have to be the one to choose.  This isn’t high school any more.  No one can choose for you, and you have to do the work or it simply won’t get done. Continue reading Keeping Skills Sharp: Is Online Learning for You?

How To Crack The Secret To Your Personal Productivity

There are many ways to improve your personal productivity, and the most effective of them require deep self-knowledge and good feedback processes. Self-knowledge asks you to be aware of your boundaries, resources, strengths and and limitations, and good feedback processes help you protect, respect, and reflect them. In a weirdly parallel way, you can say the same about your business.

Listen to your internal rhythms.
Some people are early birds – they wake up easy and early, and are ready to go first thing in the morning.  Some people are night owls — they work best in the later hours. In between we get the bulk of humanity.

You’re busy. You’re swamped. You  are terribly, terribly aware of all the responsibilities you have on your plate, and you push yourself to process the important and the urgent the best that you can. How are you doing?

It’s a serious question, and in this article it will be dissected several ways.

One: “How are you doing?” asks about you: your internal state of mind and external state of health.

Two: “How are you doing?” asks about how you accept, prioritize and process the various action items, tasks, and check-lists of running a business. This, in turn, gives you a baseline as to how (and where) you want to improve in terms of productivity. Let’s start with the first question. Continue reading How To Crack The Secret To Your Personal Productivity

10 Tips to Address Work Overload

As an entrepreneur and a business owner, there is not enough time in the day for you to  accomplish everything  you capture and put on your list.   There’s business-related stuff, which covers making sure your business is healthy. This includes things like attending to your concerns in marketing, finances and taxes, production, customer relations, legal issues and  business permits, social media, blogging, etc.

Then there’s your personal stuff — like your health (physical, mental, and emotional), and the important things that make up your life — your relationships, your family and friends, your hobbies, etc.

In the rush and push to finish what is important and urgent– and the way things go, practically everything that falls into our laps feel that way– some things  eventually get pushed to the side along the way.
Peace of mind can become a faint memory.
Focus breaks down into stuttering dribs and drabs.
Energy levels drop. Attention fractures.
That’s what happens when the the To-Do list never ends for the day.

Being burdened with too many things to do is endemic in our world now. The  time-crunch and stress has  been the driving force behind the productivity movement and all the self-help material written and produced to help us carry the unwieldy and often out-of balance load.

Here we present  a few basic ways to deal with the issue, all of which can be used in various combinations or  simultaneously for a multi-pronged sustainable solution to the situation. Continue reading 10 Tips to Address Work Overload

How Having Clear Priorities Lessens Overwhelm

Putting it simply, you won’t be able to function at your best if you ‘re not able to manage your stress. And to to do that effectively  you need to get to the root cause of of your particular stress points, which is different for everyone. Stress is endemic in today’s world, and while businesses, organizations, and governments are focused on addressing it due to the massive negative effects it has on worker and citizen’s mental and physical health, productivity, and quality of life, it is up to us on an individual level to actually make the moves and take specific actions  so we can go and live the best life we can — or at the very least hurt a lot less while doing so.

This certainly applies to anyone who have ever gone and created and run a business of their own. The internet has given us a whole virtual frontier of opportunities to become entrepreneurs, and in itself also is an incredibly fast-paced and competitive environment where we have to be agile and responsive if we’re ever to make it. And that’s stressful.

Now, one of the biggest contributors  to the feeling of overwhelm and stress is the lack of clarity about priorities. Whether working for ourselves, with, or for others, the  waves of conflicting demands that come in the form of emails, phone-calls, personal requests, requisitions, orders, instant messages, and our own personal To-Do lists make for a formidable forest of ‘open items’ to accomplish, a forest that we very easily get lost and bogged down in.

The error comes in assuming you can juggle your top priorities.  That’s what all the productivity gurus and books have been saying for the last decade — make a list, arrange in order of priorities, and there you go. And yet hundreds– if not thousands –of new titles on productivity and ‘Getting Things Done’ are still published every year. People still have trouble getting their priorities in order because admittedly, we get so many demands on our time it’s hard to keep a steady eye and a clear head in all of the details. Continue reading How Having Clear Priorities Lessens Overwhelm

Self-Improvement for The Entrepreneur

One of the most effective practices to success in your business is encouraging a positive mindset in facing challenges. When you work on stretching and expanding your capabilities and skills, your  potential for success can surprise you.  These skills include the specific abilities you use in your work (for example: coding and design,  data analysis and interpretation, planning ), but also extend to the so-called ‘fuzzy areas’ which include interpersonal relations, personal improvement, and risk-taking. When you strengthen your skills, you grow more confidence in your ability to handle difficult situations and adversity, and make a working  relationship with discomfort.

See more here: Welcome To The Discomfort Zone, Part 1 and Part 2

Learning and growth is a life-long road, and taking it asks for active engagement and real labor, hitched to  the relentless desire to become a better person in the time that we have. We are all mortal, and within mortal limitations we have only so much influence , and only so much time to exert it — we we better be frank with ourselves about where, why, and how we spend both.

Time won’t let you be the same person you were ten, five or even a year ago.  Nor will  you be able to say you’ll be the same person in another year’s time. That’s why you need to take the wheel and work on developing yourself and mastering the good habits you want to serve you. That means being able to accept that you will be facing challenges all your life. Continue reading Self-Improvement for The Entrepreneur

How To Protect Your Business’s Financial Health

The clear signifier that you’re running a business well is that you are making money.  What this post will discuss will cover common financial pitfalls and ways of thinking that can leave the business losing money.

Don’t bet if you can’t cover the loss — so have reserves.
When we get emotionally caught up in the moment of planning to start a business, or actually starting one, the excitement and thrill about this new venture often gets ahead of strong, coolly detached reason. There’s a lot to be said about being able to block out time to cool down and consider your decisions rationally and objectively.

Every business, bar none, has gone through the experience of lacking enough money, or will experience  that lack eventually. The lack of money can even be tracked back to the earliest days of the enterprise. Turning money over and putting it back in to keep the business operational is not the same as making a profit. There are so many potential pitfalls that can influence how you can create money streams that 100% get-rich plans can’t be a given.

Before you starts a business you need to make sure that one, there are people who are prepared to buy your products (you have a viable, healthy market present) and two, there are enough people willing to do so to provide you a steady, sustainable market population to support you. You need enough customers to not only break even, but to turn a profit. Continue reading How To Protect Your Business’s Financial Health