The Visionary and the Implementer: Which Are You?

implementerWhen I first started working on new businesses, I had nothing but a website from which I did some occasional consulting work. I didn’t know what I could or could not pull off; I hadn’t done this before. So I sought out people more experienced than me.

I started off taking on hot-shot business partners with impressive-sounding credentials. They knew how to make businesses work, they assured me. They just needed someone to bring their visions into reality.

Now, I’ve always been a visionary myself, but I traditionally didn’t have the means or the resources to find others to help me bring my visions into reality, so I turned myself into an implementer and grew accustomed to doing everything myself. And this was also how I met other people of vision – they saw my aptitude at turning ideas into reality, and wanted to work with me.

When I was new in business, I thought at the time that being approached by experienced start up business people meant I was fortunate; blessed, even. Here were the people who had the experience I needed to turn my dreams into reality, I knew; the ones I needed to become a success.

As it turned out though, I had it backwards.

The Visionary and the Implementer

If you look at most great businesses, there’s a startlingly consistent dichotomy: two key people, one of them a visionary, and one of them an implementer.

The visionary captains the ship and grabs all the attention. The implementer is the guy who actually built the ship in the first place that the captain needed before he could be anything other than some guy standing around on a wharf looking wistfully out at other captains sailing on their ships.

Nobody remembers the implementer, and he often doesn’t get as good a deal in the end as the visionary. Most people sort of know Steve Wozniak (Steve Jobs’ implementer partner) and Paul Allen (Bill Gates’ implementer partner), but most people have no idea who the implementer partners were of Thomas Edison, Henry Ford, or Andrew Carnegie. They are forgotten by history, because history remembers the leaders – not the workers.

As a visionary who stuffed himself into an implementer role to get things done, I found myself distinctly aware of both sides of the coin. I have the visionary’s love of the spotlight and need to flash and dazzle others; at the same time, I have the implementer’s impatience for those who cannot, or do not, do.

And what I quickly found out, with one partnership after another, was that I was again and again ending up in partnerships with people who wanted to be the visionary, and have me implement their visions.

Even though, much of the time, I realized their visions were flawed, or exaggerated, or based on hopes and gambles.

As I grew increasingly frustrated, watching how my businesses progressed – when I did work, things happened in the business; when I didn’t, the business stood still – I began to realize that the problem was one I was seeing repeatedly, which is something that always tells me the problem is with me, not a fluke.

Somehow, I kept ending up with the wrong kinds of partners.

The False Implementer

As I sat examining how I time and again ended up with partners who wanted to act like the king and sit back while I did all the work, I pointed the microscope at myself.

“What am I doing to attract these kinds of partners, and what am I doing to make them think that this is the right way to partner with me?” I asked myself.

I realized I had been making a number of mistakes that was leading both to me ending up with the wrong partners, and for those partners getting the wrong idea about me:

  1. Partnering with the people who come to you with their ideas. When someone comes to you with their idea, they aren’t thinking, “Hey, let’s be totally equal partners!” Nor are they thinking, “I’ve got this idea, but I was hoping maybe you could just take it over and tell me how to do it.” What they’re actually thinking is, “Hey, do you want to come work for me on my idea? You could be pretty high up in the organization – beneath me, of course!” I didn’t fully realize this early on, and repeatedly got involved in “other people’s projects” where I was going to by default end up in a secondary role.
  1. Doing a lot of the early stage working and telling people, “I’ve got this.” What you communicate with this, right from the outset, is, “Hey, you just kick back, and I’ll do all the work to make this business work. You go grab an iced tea or something and chill out.” So then they do. Now, I’ve learned that if you’re the visionary – or that’s the role you want – you do NOT do any more work than your partners do – unless, that is, you have a greater share of the company.
  1. Letting other people’s ideas that you know are wrong override yours that you know are right. I don’t know where I picked up the habit of being overly agreeable, but it’s one I’m having to chip and cut and carve off myself one piece at a time. Over the past 6 or 8 months, I’ve many, many times had encounters with partners where they said, “Okay, let’s do THIS thing!” and my spider sense has started tingling like crazy telling me, “Whoa, bad idea that’s destined for disaster,” but I’d bite my tongue after only a few protests, figuring, okay, this person probably knows business better than I do… and then, of course, we’d follow their plan to disaster. These days, I trust my instincts way more than any of my partners’, and I consistently put my foot down firmly on issues like this and say, “It’s great you’re coming up with lots of different ideas, but I’ve seen things like this before and they don’t work. Now what we could try is this.” If they insist on doing it, I’ll tell them they’re free to develop that on their own.

Those were my three biggest sins when it came to communicating to other people that I’d be happy in an implementations role and they could feel free to run me… which tended to lead to fighting, blow-ups, and all sorts of unpleasantness.

But, that understood, how do you find the right people to work with you if you’re a visionary instead of an implementer?

“Look for Anal People”

Norm Brodsky says this in his book The Knack: How Street Smart Entrepreneurs Learn to Handle Whatever Comes Up. It’s anathema to my personal tastes – I’d never want to hang out with anal people – but I’m realizing that there’s a big gaping chasm between what you want in a friend and what you want in a business partner who’s going to help you build your business.

Here’s what I want in a friend:

  • Dynamic
  • Brilliant
  • Competitive
  • Challenges me
  • Big-picture thinker
  • Interesting and engaging
  • Full of life and enthusiasm
  • Is a unique and exceptional person

What do those qualities translate into in business partners though? In just a few words: someone with tons of ideas, who doesn’t have the patience for doing implementations.

In other words, someone a lot like me, sans the discipline to force himself to do the stuff he hates doing.

I don’t want to work with another me. I used to think I did, that if we could just all set our personal wants and needs aside and focus working on the business, we could make it work together. Except that it ended up being I was the only one ever doing that, and everyone else was out doing their own things unrelated to our joint projects, stopping by occasionally to try and tell me what to do (when I already had my own ideas about what to do). More than one visionary in a company = not good. Visionaries naturally want to go do their own things. I don’t need to work with visionaries. I need to work with implementers.

It made me realize that when I look for business partners, what I should really be looking for is:

  • Stable
  • Detail-oriented
  • Non-competitive
  • Accepts my decisions
  • Small-picture thinker
  • Boring and easy to please
  • Full of routine and discipline
  • Is a normal and ordinary person

No wonder I was having such an awful track record with business partners… right?

Nothing worse than a cluster of kings working together trying to decide who gets to be king of kings. You need jacks working with you, not more kings. Unless, that is, you’re game for some regicide… and that’s not exactly conducive to getting everybody functioning at 100% on the business.

How to Find an Implementer

implementerAn implementer is not an entrepreneur.

When Steve Jobs went into business with Steve Wozniak, Woz had wanted to just show other people how to make their own personal computer kits – basically, open source the PC. He would never have started a business doing it in a million years.

You won’t find true implementers helming start ups. You’ll find them as specialists in their area of expertise, usually quiet, usually unassuming.

You look for talent… not flash. Implementers are terrible at marketing themselves. Much of the time, they’re scared of the limelight.

If you want to find implementations people, I suggest putting up ads looking for someone to do an odd job in the field you’re interested in having an implementer in. Say, computer programming, or web development, or mechanical engineering. Test out a few different people, and keep an eye out for someone who’s good. Like, really good.

There’s a surprising number of talented people out there – there are a lot more people who put their noses to the grindstone and develop their skills to a high level than there are people like that who get drawn into businesses of their own. In fact, it’s pretty common to find amazingly talented people in just about any field that are having trouble making ends meet. If you start hiring people to do jobs for you, you’ll run into them sooner or later.

How do you know if you’re the visionary or the implementer?

If you just want to do the work, and you don’t care about the credit, limelight or any of that, and you don’t want people bugging you to make the decisions – you’re an implementer. The visionary’s position would drive you into a cave.

If you want the stage, the spotlight, the attention, and the glory, and you want to be the one calling the shots, carving the path, and helming the ship – you’ll never be satisfied in the implementer’s role, because you’re a visionary.

Implementers can work with other implementers. Visionaries, however, cannot, if only because no two visionaries ever share the same visions completely.

If you’re a visionary, with a lot of visionary friends, I’d recommend you keep those friends as friends and look for some implementers to help you realize your dreams. It’ll go a lot more smoothly that way – trust me.

Cheers,

Chase

P.S., if you’re ready to find the implementer (or visionary) of your dreams, you need to check out Yamjac. It’s not running just yet, but it’s only a few months away – you can head here and get on the waiting list to be among the first people to get invited in. It’s going to change the way the world does business, shares ideas, forms teams, and interacts – this is one boat you’re not going to want to miss. Check it out here if you haven’t already:

yamjac

See you on here next time, same time, same place.

Posted in Rainmaking | 2 Comments

Words to the Wise: Extremes Kill Businesses

extremes kill businessesMost people are either exclusively short-term thinkers, or exclusively long-term thinkers. Both of these are bad. The people who are this will assure you they aren’t, of course, so you need to look at their actions to tell who’s who.

In project management or entrepreneurship, exclusively short-term thinkers:

  • Only want to work on projects with near-term payouts or end dates
  • Are sold on flipping companies and think “buy and hold” is for granddads
  • Only invest their own time and money if they expect a fast payout
  • Aren’t in it for the long haul

In project management or entrepreneurship, exclusively long-term thinkers:

  • Are comfortable having no revenues or results for a long time and no payouts
  • Will constantly reassure you that the reasons things aren’t working yet is that “we’re still building”
  • Only invest their time and money in things they expect will be big in the long-term
  • Are in it for the very long haul

Both of these people run into major problems, though:

  1. Exclusively short-term thinkers tend to have limited income and “impact” (their ability to affect the world) potential, because they never stick around long enough to do anything terribly meaningful, or to take their good ideas and entrench them, build them up, and make them legendary
  1. Exclusively long-term thinkers also tend to have limited income and “impact” potential, but for an entirely different reason – they move so slow that opportunities pass them by, and they fail to get the “trial by fire” testing in the market they need to refine their plans and come up with things that will really make the project take off and go far

The funny thing is, someone might be an exclusively long-term thinker on one project (say, a book they’ve been working on for 10 years) and an exclusively short-term thinker on another (say, a new project at work they start on but end after it seems too hard only a few weeks in).

What’s the solution?

Balance. Kill extremes before they kill you.

Build for the long term. Make things happen in the short term. Do this with everything you’re involved in, no matter how good the reasons appear to be to ignore the long term or the short term.

And don’t get so comfortable you lose all motivation to do anything other than be an exclusively long-term thinker, or so desperate you lose all ability to be anything other than an exclusively short-term thinker.

Chase

 

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The End is Near

the end is nearFunny thing about a business that’s failed, is people tend to look at the end of the business’ life and say, “They were a great company, but then they forgot what they were all about and they failed.”

Much of the time though, what really happens is they were a great company that worked okay for a while, until the times changed, and business slowly declined until it reached the point of probable no return, and one day the CEO woke up, realized this, and said to himself, “Oh man, the end is near.” The business then engaged in a frantic come-from-behind effort to right the sinking ship, looking for all the world to the rest of the world outside that it’d forgotten who it was… when in fact it was trying to avoid being submerged. Then when it failed, those frantic efforts were deemed the culprit for its failure in the post-mortem conducted by pundits and historians.

But often, what you were seeing was a symptom, rather than a cause.

Imagine if, instead of turning around, Apple Computer had failed after Steve Jobs came back and eliminated most of the company’s product lines in an effort to save the sinking ship that was circling bankruptcy. Today everybody’d be saying, “Jobs came back and launched into those frantic efforts, discarding valuable products, and forgetting what the company was all about. That’s why it failed.”

When you see a company doing inexplicable things, it might not mean its managers and employees forgot who they are and what they stand for. It might just mean the end is near, and they’re doing everything in their power to postpone that end.

Chase

 

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Why Confrontation Doesn’t Change Minds

confrontationI tend to surround myself with strong-willed people. These are the people I feel I have the most to learn from, and by absorbing as many of my strong-willed friends’ and associates’ characteristics as possible, I’ve been able, with time and effort, to overcome many of my own shortcomings.

However, sooner or later, many of these friends and I end up at odds, and we end up in a confrontation. I’ve parted ways with a handful of strong-willed friends following events like this, and much as I’d like to say they were always the ones doing the confronting, at least half of the time the blame’s fallen on me.

Surely you’ve heard the wisdom that you should “confront a problem head on” before, right? If you don’t confront problems, they never get resolved. But if that’s the case, why’s it so ineffective when you’re confronting someone else – or they’re confronting you?

Today we’re going to have a look at a fascinating study by a man named William Miller, the difference between confronting your own problems and having them be confronted by someone else, and what more effective methods there are out there for helping friends and loved ones recognize and fix their own issues than the one we tend to fall into by default – confrontation.

Alcoholism and the Two Therapists

In 1993, William R. Miller, Emeritus Distinguished Professor of Psychology and Psychiatry at the University of New Mexico – and one of the most cited scientists in the world – published a very simple study on treating alcoholism that tested two things:

  1. Immediate checkup vs. delayed checkup, and
  2. Directive-confrontational counseling vs. client-centered counseling

As you might expect, the drinkers who were checked up on immediately fared better than the drinkers who were followed up on only after a delay.

You might not be shocked to know that the drinkers who were involved in client-centered counseling – counseling that uses Socratic questioning to help patients open up about what they value, and to allow them to arrive at their own conclusions about their condition and plan their own steps for combating the problems they themselves identify – those patients improved. And you might or might not be a bit surprised to know they improved the fastest.

What you might be shocked by, however, is that the drinkers who were confronted – the ones whom the therapists faced, told them they had a problem, and told them they needed to fix it and tried to work with them to fix it – those drinkers didn’t get better. They got worse.

The drinkers confronted by the therapist and told they needed to stop drinking not only didn’t quit the bottle; they picked it up more.

Drinkers who’d faced confrontation, in response to that confrontation, drank more, rather than less.

Think about that.

What’s your reaction to these findings?

If you’re like most people, your first thought is probably, “Yeah, sure, that makes sense; people don’t like being told what to do.”

And you’d be spot on. That’s the inherent problem with confrontation; confrontation is you telling someone else what to do, or them telling you. Which tends to elicit the following knee-jerk reactions:

  • Suspicion
  • Pushback
  • Resistance

All decidedly not the emotions you want to inspire when you’re trying to change someone’s mind. But, according to the research, these are exactly the emotions you do.

Imagine something you love to do. You love it. It’s how you relax and unwind; it’s an important and enjoyable part of your life. Have you got that thing in your mind? Don’t read on until you have a very clear, concrete picture of it in your head.

Got it? Good.

Now imagine I tell you you need to knock that thing off because it’s hurting your productivity, and that you and I are going to sit down and figure out a way for you to cut back. You’re probably going to say, “Well, but I need this thing; I’ll go crazy without it!” and I’m going to reply, “No you don’t; you don’t need this thing, and you’re going to suffer until you give it up!” In response to this, you’re likely to say, “You don’t understand; maybe I didn’t explain right.” And I’ll continue confronting, and you’ll continue defending… and we won’t get anywhere.

You’ll tell me this thing makes your productivity better, because without the relaxation it gives you you’ll burn out. I’ll tell you that isn’t so.

You’ll tell me life isn’t all about productivity; you need time to enjoy yourself, too. I’ll tell you you’re deluding yourself about what really matters.

You’ll tell me that you and I have different objectives and directions in our life. I’ll tell you that, at the center, we’re all the same.

And all the while as I confront you over this behavior of yours I think you should change and argue with you over it, I’m forcing you to defend the behavior, identify with it ever more firmly, and become ever more entrenched in it. Furthermore, I make you feel there’s a growing rift between us; you think one way, I think another, and more and more our differences become irreconcilable. A larger and larger portion of our discussions center on our differences, and you trust me and want to listen to me less and less.

Ultimately, instead of breaking you of this bad habit, by confronting it directly I end up making it worse. You retreat to your bad habit as a refuge, to show me up, or simply because you’re too depleted to resist it any more.

Confrontation doesn’t work, and it’s incredibly unhealthy for your interpersonal relationships.

But how do you get someone to kick the bottle if you can’t tell them to kick the bottle?

Why Confrontation Doesn’t Change Minds

Have you ever seen the movie Inception?

The primary mission of the protagonists in the film is to plant an idea in the mind of a subject, and do it in such a way that he recognizes it as his own idea. Throughout their mission, traveling down deeper and deeper through the subject’s dreams, they’re forced to do battle with his subconscious, as it tries to root out the foreign invaders, and prevent them from planting their idea.

Changing minds is a lot like this… if perhaps a bit less exciting. But either way, it’s a fulfilling thing to do, like everyone seems to recognize at the end of Inception as they witness the apparently cathartic effect of the idea they planted in the mind of their subject.

Just like the subject’s mind in Inception, the minds of those around you will resist any idea you’re trying to plant into them unless one or both of the following is true:

  1. They are already completely open to your ideas or suggestions, or
  2. You lead them to form their own conclusions without ever pushing an agenda at all

This second one is the most powerful, because the realizations people have are coming from within… instead of without.

confrontationThis is the same reason why confrontation works so well when you confront your own problems, but performs so shamefully bad (e.g., the drinkers who drink more) when you confront other people’s problems. When you’re confronting your own problems internally, you’ve already made the decision to change. When someone else is confronting you, though, your natural instinct is to be skeptical and throw up defenses.

Why’d we evolve to be skeptical of others when they’re trying to force us to change?

That one’s pretty easy to figure out. Picture two different men: one who’s skeptical of others telling him to change, and the other who does whatever others ask with just a little bit of convincing. Who’ll be better at making sure he isn’t ripped off, bamboozled, hoodwinked, or worse by the other members of the society around him?

Right – it’s the first guy. And over time, that ability to avoid getting taken advantage of gets strongly selected for evolutionarily.

For someone to accept what you’re telling them to do in a confrontational way, they’ve got to be completely bought into everything you’re saying. This kind of “total buy-in,” however, is rare to see and normally only exists in cases of full authority (e.g., a parent and child, or a leader and followers in a crisis situation like warfare or an emergency). Even then, you’ll often see at least a hint of skepticism, as the child wonders whether the Tooth Fairy really is real or the soldier speculates about the wisdom of his commander’s seemingly suicidal order to charge the enemy line.

Moreover, with the suspicion of motives it engenders in the people being confronted, confrontation puts big strains on relationships – and often, if it’s used enough, breaks them.

There is a better way.

Drawing Out the Issue

We can guess how those conversations the two therapists had with the drinkers went; these kinds of things typically always go the same way.

Conversation One: Directive-Confrontational Counseling

Therapist: We need to face the facts: you’re a problem drinker.

Patient: I don’t think that’s so. I control my drinking.

Therapist: But you end up in repeated trouble with the law.

Patient: That’s not because of drinking. That’s because of life. You think I have any other choice? You think I want to live a life like this?

Therapist: But it’s the drinking that’s making that even worse.

Patient: When I drink, it’s an escape; I’d be even worse off if I didn’t have it.

Therapist: When people drink, it is an escape; an escape from responsibility, and an escape from having to do something to change their lives and live better ones.

Patient: My life might not be great, but it’s not because of drinking.

As we go through this conversation, we can see the patient becoming more and more polarized and staunch in his opposition to the therapist. He may, at some point, eventually get worn down by the therapist, if he has to stay until a “breakthrough” is reached – but at that point, he’ll largely be paying lip service just to get the situation over with.

His behavior won’t actually be changed, and he’ll revert to his old ways fast.

But now let’s look at the second way of working to effect change.

Conversation Two: Client-Centered Counseling

Therapist: What brings you in today?

Patient: Beats me.

Therapist: It says you’re here because of a drinking problem. Do you have a drinking problem?

Patient: No more than anybody else.

Therapist: Okay. Is it all right for us to talk a little about your drinking habits and how alcohol’s affecting your life, and see if the people who sent you here know what they’re talking about or if they’re just crazy?

Patient: I guess.

Therapist: Great. I’ll just start with some simple questions. How often do you drink?

Patient: Most days I drink.

Therapist: In the afternoon, evening…?

Patient: After work.

Therapist: Okay. How much do you drink after work?

Patient: <sigh> … let’s see. Um, maybe 20 shots a day?

Therapist: 20 shots… and does that get you drunk?

Patient: Pretty drunk.

Therapist: All right. And how are you as a drunk? Happy, angry, the same as usual?

Patient: Sometimes I’m a bit angry.

Therapist: Do you ever do anything you regret when you’re angry?

Patient: Sometimes, yeah. Sometimes I do.

Therapist: Like what?

Patient: I’ll get in fights. Or spend a lot of money.

Therapist: Do you ever hurt people you care about when you drink?

Patient: … sometimes.

Therapist: Can you give me an example?

Patient: I got in a fight with my best friend about a year ago, hurt him pretty bad.

Therapist: And are you still friends?

Patient: We are, but we don’t hang out as much. He’s trying to get his life in order.

Therapist: So how would you rate alcohol’s affect on your life overall? Is it a good thing, bad thing…?

Patient: Overall… it’s bad.

Therapist: How bad? A lot bad, a little bad?

Patient: A lot bad.

Therapist: Okay, that makes sense, if you’re getting in fights and hurting people you care about and spending too much money. Is there anything good about drinking for you?

Patient: It helps me unwind a bit, I guess.

Therapist: I see. Is there any other way you can unwind, or is alcohol the only way?

Patient: No, not at all. I can watch TV; hang out with my friends. Go have a big dinner.

Therapist: So what essential function does alcohol provide for you then?

Patient: Nothing, I guess.

Therapist: What kind of impact would you say it’s having on your life overall?

Patient: A bad one.

Therapist: So why do you keep drinking?

Patient: I don’t know. I just… I like drinking.

Therapist: Even though it’s having a bad impact on your life?

Patient: Yeah.

Therapist: Would you like to find a way to reduce that impact?

Patient: Yeah, I would.

By drawing out of someone the effects of a behavior they engage in that you’d like to change, you can help them to realize, themselves, how this behavior is holding them back or affecting them negatively.

You:

  • Don’t make accusations
  • Don’t tell them what their problem is
  • Don’t tell them how to fix it (until they’re open to this)

Instead, follow these steps:

  1. Ask them about the habit you want to change
  1. Ask them about the effects its having on them
  1. Ask them if those effects are good or bad
  1. If good, ask them if there are any downsides. You can lead here (e.g., “How about at work? With your family?”)
  1. Once you’ve identified bad effects on the person, ask them why they keep doing something if it’s having bad effects
  1. If there’s a good reason, ask them if there’s anything else they can do that satisfies that reason aside from the behavior you want to change
  1. Next, ask them if they’d like to change the behavior
  1. Then, ask them how they can change the behavior
  1. Now, once they’ve expressed a desire to change, and they’ve suggested some ideas for how they might change it, you can make your own suggestions to help them along
  1. Finally, set goals and targets where applicable

By following this format with people whose minds you want to change, you stand a far better chance of actually getting them to listen.

And if anyone tries to change your mind via confrontation, now that you understand why they’re putting you on the defense with this approach just tell them, “Hey, I realize you’re trying to change my mind to get me to do something that you think would make my life better. So thank you. But you’re using a style of direct confrontation, which is putting me on the defensive and making me more entrenched in my current way of thinking. If you want to change my mind, take some time to understand why I have a given behavior and what its effects are on my life, from my perspective, before asking me to change it.”

I’ve been using this lately with people who’ve been trying to bludgeon me into seeing things their way, and it universally stops them in their tracks. They say, “Oh.” I then make a brief example out of confronting them on some behavior of theirs, to show them what it feels like, and they realize this style puts them on the defensive and forces them to close off their mind to me and close ranks… and that they’re eliciting the same response in me when they try this.

It’s a fascinating piece of insight into how the mind works, and how you can effectively change the minds of others.

Just remember – confrontation fails because change can’t come from without. It can only come from within.

And if you’re ready to start changing minds, you really won’t want to miss all the great tips, tools, techniques, and insights on offer in my newsletter – it’s everything you’ll need to get yourself on the road to a productive, successful business and a productive, successful life. Sign up now to start getting my newsletter delivered straight to your inbox:

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Best,

Chase Dumont

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How to Build a Schedule (And Keep Yourself on Track)

how to build a scheduleA little while back, before I sat down and figured out how to build a schedule, in the late evening of a rather balmy spring day, a friend asked me if I’d gotten much done that day.

“Yes,” I said. “I was working all day, from about 9 AM until 11 PM or so. It was a busy day.”

“What did you do?” my friend asked.

I paused. What had I done?

Well, let’s see, I thought… I responded to some emails. I got a little writing done. And… what else did I do?

I couldn’t answer. I’d spent the whole day working, I knew – 14 hours almost. I hadn’t surfed the Internet, I hadn’t taken any breaks, and it’d been a solitary day – I hadn’t spoken to another soul all day. And yet, I couldn’t account for my time at all.

It was strange.

And I realized, I wasn’t getting done as much as I wanted to get done, or as much as I felt I should get done.

And then I realized… I needed to change that.

A Normal Workday

In a normal job, people are slated to work anywhere from 7 to 9 hours a day. Let’s say 8 – 8 hours a day. 9 to 5.

How many of those hours spent at work are actually spent working?

Well, don’t forget, you’ve got:

  • Coffee breaks
  • Gossip
  • Internet breaks
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Catching up on the news
  • Lunch
  • That drowsy period after lunch when you don’t want to do anything
  • The afternoon that drags on forever where you work more slowly

I heard something sometime back stating that the average worker only worked 2 out of his 8 hours in the office each day. I couldn’t find any actual studies citing this as the case, but I did find a farcical post entitled “The Two-Hour Rule,” which I think will ring true for anyone who’s ever worked in an office environment.

But let’s be generous and say the average office worker spends a cumulative 4 of his 8 hours at work doing actual work. That’s 20 hours of work a week.

That’s still not that much productive work.

If you’re doing freelance work, contracting, consulting, rainmaking, and running startups like I am though, you need to hold yourself to a far higher degree of productivity. Something closer to 8 hours a day, 5 to 6 days a week, of solid, productive, effective, work.

And yet, not long ago, I’d begun becoming less productive. It was in part because I was, at the time, dealing with stress and distraction, but that wasn’t an excuse – everybody’s dealing with those things. My problem was that they were getting to me more than usual.

I was also trying too hard to juggle too many plays without a play-calling card. You know, that’s the card that the football coach (American football, for my non-US readers) keeps with his list of all the different plays he can call out to have his team run on every down. He’s often got over a hundred of them… and there’s no way he’s going to remember them all, or be able to juggle them all, there, in the moment, when he most needs them, entirely on his own.

He needs something to keep him on track.

How to Build a Schedule to Change Your Life

I sat down one day and said to myself, “I’m not getting the things done I want to get done. Letting myself work on whatever I feel like working on isn’t working.”

I needed structure. I needed something to keep me on track and keep me moving.

I needed to build a schedule.

So I did.

I started with these things in mind:

  1. Maintenance needs to be minimized. What I consider “maintenance” is the stuff most people consider the lifeblood of their days. That’s things like email, phone calls, finance, checking the news, and things like that. It’s stuff that there’s always more of to do and the more you focus on it the bigger it gets. Don’t believe it? Trying responding to everyone in your email inbox who’s emailed you. Bet you most of them write back to you and now you’ve got more emails to write.
  1. The schedule needs to be diverse enough to hold my interest. There needed to be enough variety on it that I’d be able to keep moving and not feel bored. If my schedule looked like this: “Tuesday: 4 hours of writing. 3 hours of collaborating. 1 hour of maintenance” it’d be too much. Who wants to write for four hours? Who wants to collaborate for 3? The longer you give yourself to do stuff, the more disorganized it tends to be and the less you want to do it as time progresses because you know it’s going to take long.
  1. The schedule needs to structure in things that I need to do but often forget to do. For instance, when you’re running startup businesses, marketing is one of the most important parts of that. You don’t market, you don’t eat, because nobody knows who you are. Yet, I’d been consistently forgetting to do marketing for the businesses I’m working on. Marketing in my new schedule gets an hour smack in the middle of the afternoon, every day of the week – and now, it gets done.
  1. There need to be enough breaks included in the schedule that I won’t get tired or run down. Sometimes after lunch, I’m a little out of it. So, I scheduled time for lunch – and then time for a break, immediately after. As it’s worked out, I usually dive right into writing after lunch, ahead of schedule – but then, I know I’m getting a bonus amount of work done, and when I really need the break, it’s already scheduled in and I don’t have to break my schedule.
  1. Sleep needs to be an important part of the schedule. What’s one of the leading causes of stress, fatigue, anger, frustration, and low levels of productivity? Lack of sleep. Sleep is a huge, major, gigantic, vital factor in staying productive. Don’t sleep, and you don’t produce at a high level for very long. You drag all day and get less done, and what you get done is sloppier and of lower quality. Therefore, I made it a point to put sleep on my schedule too – it’s blocked out, and no one can use it. It’s there for one thing, and one thing only: sleeping.
  1. Free time needs to be scheduled in. I’ve had various partners, friends, and employees at various times who’ve, with all the best intentions, taken up large blocks of my “time off” time and driven it towards work that wasn’t essential for me or the business but maybe seemed essential to them at the time. By scheduling in free time every night and on the weekend, I instantly made it very easy to say to people, “Sorry, I can’t meet then, that’s my day off. Let’s pick an hour on Monday to discuss this.”
  1. Time to get focused needs to be scheduled in. I started doing meditation and visualization a few years back to get myself zeroed in with laser precision on everything I wanted to accomplish. I picked this up again, after about four or five years off from it, after listening to Napoleon Hill’s The Law of Success on audio and hearing him discuss how a number of the men who went on to be the most successful in their fields either prayed for or meditated on achieving the things they wanted to achieve. I’ll do a post on this specifically soon, but so far I’ve found it to be incredible not only for motivating myself and getting tons of great ideas for rapid business building on everything I’m engaged on, but also for de-stressing before the start of a day and at the end of a day before I go to sleep. The time I spend on it (maybe 45 minutes or so, twice a day) sounds like a lot, but the productivity boosts (and overall mood and wellbeing improvements) are immense.

Here’s what my completed schedule looks like:

Now let me tell you why this schedule is different from most of the ones you’ll see, and why this has been good.

A Time for Everything

Ever pay attention to how much time you spend on email?

It’s a colossal time waster. When I talk with friends about this, I hear frequent protests: “No! I have to be on email, 24/7! The company will go up in flames if I’m not!”

If you can’t move past this mindset, I honestly can’t help you learn how to build a schedule that transforms your productivity from mediocre to meteoric. So let’s tackle this one first.

Email is maintenance. It’s treading water. It’s staying where you’re already at.

Don’t believe me? Okay, answer me these questions then:

  • How many great companies have been built… over email?
  • How many great leaders have come to power… via email?
  • How many great romances have you had… through email?
  • How many incredible life experiences have you had… thanks to email?
  • How much money have you made… because of email?

Now compare that to sitting down to really build your business, to really figuring out what leadership is and using it, to going out and meeting the guy or gal of your dreams and sweeping him/her off his/her feet (or doing that to the guy or gal of your dreams who’s already back home waiting for you), to going and having the experience of a lifetime and really living it up, to actually making money and being productive.

Email doesn’t do that for you. It’s just… you trading to-do list items with other people. You sharing gossip or trivialities with other people. And you taking care of everyday business items like customer support or technical questions.

It doesn’t move things forward.

I used to spend sometimes four hours a day on email. What a waste. Now I get to it only during those time slots allotted on my schedule. And if I need to meet with someone to go over something… email’s typically the first thing I’ll sacrifice on my schedule to do so.

Productive work is more important.

I know, I know… email feels like a necessary part of your life. But answer me this: who’s going to be more successful in his business, relationships, friendships, and everything else:

  • The guy who prioritizes email, phone calls, and other immediate tasks, or
  • The guy who prioritizes business building, marketing, development, and other things

The more responsibility you have in your job, the more you need to lean towards the second tendency than the first as you build your schedule. Throw email into your least productive times of day – the times that you don’t need to be “on” or creative during.

At first you’ll be thrown off a little.

You’ll be stressed out.

You’ll feel like, “Oh my God, there are tens or hundreds of people just waiting for my response and not getting it! What’ll I do??

Just relax. Take a breath. The world keeps turning.

And if they really need you so bad… they’ll call.

Everyone I work with has my cell phone number. And all of them know that, if it’s something really important, they should call me or text me.

They rarely do. They usually just send emails. Or not… now, more often, if there’s something minor, they figure it out on their own.

It’s a funny thing, but you come to realize that the importance of the things brought to your attention is inversely proportional to your availability.

That means that:

  1. The more available you are, the more people take your time for granted, and the more they’ll feel free to saddle you with unimportant, time-consuming (and time-wasting) tasks or add to your to-do list with requests or demands
  1. Conversely, the less available you are, the more people respect your time, the more they only come to you with very important things, and the more they take care of unimportant, time-consuming things themselves

It’s amazing, really.

I suppose what I’m saying here is… when I first started taking big breaks from email, I thought I was going to create big problems for myself with a huge backlog of email to tend to.

But what actually happened was… people just stopped sending me unimportant things that they weren’t going to get a response to. Instead, they only emailed me about things I really needed to know or I was absolutely the only person who could address.

In other words, I got most of my time back.

But that’s just the beginning.

how to build a schedule

How to Build a Schedule: The Core Elements

When you sit down to build your schedule, here’s what I think you need to have in mind:

  1. I’m not building this schedule around what I have to do – it’s built around what I want to do. What do you want your schedule to look like? If you had absolutely no obligations, what are the things you would work on? Design your schedule like that first – then come back and figure out where any obligations you have now that you absolutely cannot get out of will fit in. Build your schedule around you and force your obligations to respect that… or cut those obligations out.
  1. Schedules work best with focused work. We’ll cover meditation and how you can use it (or prayer, if you prefer) to get yourself targeting your goals and objectives in an upcoming post. For now, know that your schedule will work best if you couple it with laser-targeted goals. You must know what you want to achieve to make good use of your time – otherwise, you’ll end up checking email and surfing the Internet, instead.
  1. The majority of my schedule must be focused on future work. I don’t care if you’re a CEO or a secretary – you need to block off as much of your schedule as possible to be focused on building. That might be skill training or personal development (e.g., hitting the gym three days out of the week), it might be setting up your own new website for the first time, or it might be improving and streamlining a business you run to automate a process here, free you or some of your employees up, or cutting out an underperforming product or advertisement and replacing it with a superior one. Regardless, there needs to be a significant portion of your schedule focused on making you and your engagements work better, otherwise you’ll just be madly and endlessly running in place.
  1. I need plenty of free time and time for sleep scheduled in. When you sit down to build a schedule, if you’re like most people you’re going to get pretty excited at this idea of how much you’re going to get done with your new schedule, and you’re going to go overboard giving yourself things to do every waking hour of the day and a few hours when you probably should be sleeping. The next logical step, of course, is that you burn out after a week of using this schedule and you drop it entirely. Don’t do that – put together a reasonable schedule instead. One that’s going to challenge you with engaging, interesting activities – and then give you the free time to unwind or go out or see friends or spend time with loved ones or whatever else you need, and the time to get a full 8 or 9 hours of sleep per night so you’re fresh for the next day (instead of a zombie).

These are the four main keys to how to build a schedule you like and can use to rocket your life ahead.

Personally, since I’ve been following this schedule, I’ve achieved levels of consistency in my productivity that I don’t think I’ve ever had, in a structured corporate environment or working on my own. I’ve found it not just manageable, juggling the projects I have, but actually enjoyable again.

And, unsurprisingly I suppose, the people closest to me have all been impressed at the results I’m getting out of using a schedule like this and have written their own.

The initial reports are that they love it.

A schedule doesn’t have to constrict you… it can free you. Free you to accomplish all the things you’ve been wanting to accomplish, but haven’t seemed to have been able to find the time to.

Now, you can schedule that time, and get to it.

Yours,

Chase Dumont

P.S., once you get your schedule built and you’re ready to start working with a truly great team, partner, or company, you need to check out Yamjac. It’s not running just yet, but it’s only a few months away – you can head here and get on the waiting list to be among the first people to get invited in. It’s going to change the way the world does business, shares ideas, forms teams, and interacts – this is one boat you’re not going to want to miss. Check it out here if you haven’t already:

yamjac

Talk with you soon.

 

Posted in Rainmaking | 1 Comment

Quick Fix: Using vReveal to Enhance Video

enhance videoI’ve been creating video on a budget for years, and I’ve more or less been using the same programs for it since the early 2000s. While image editing software has improved by leaps and bounds, outside of Adobe Premiere it’s been all but a wasteland for anyone who wants to enhance video color, quality, or anything else.

Not anymore.

I found a program called “vReveal” recommended on a random message board in response to someone looking for a way to enhance video. I figured I wasn’t going to find much – just the same stuff I find every time I look for ways to enhance video, about once a year or so – but I saw this recommendation and dutifully checked it out.

Finding the website – it’s located at, intuitively enough, vReveal.com – I watched the 30-second intro video they have posted on their main page.

Whoa.

Not only did it apparently have the kind of image quality enhancement and lighting correction tools I was looking for, but it even corrected shakey video. Like, really shakey video… turned into very smoothly rolling video. I didn’t even know they could do that. From what I read on another website later, vReveal apparently uses image stabilization technology from the United States military’s unmanned aerial vehicles to pull off this tricky technique. Leave it to DARPA to figure out something I’ve wanted in my video Easter basket for a decade.

So, of course, I downloaded, installed it, and took it for a test spin. The software did everything it promised, and a few things more. I was, all the way around, pretty satisfied.

I had some bad lighting in part of a sales video I created for another website of mine, but I was able to get the lighting (an orange-y late afternoon glow) to almost perfectly match the lighting in the rest of the video, and then sharpen that part of the video to make up for the sharpness lost in the darker, more orange lighting. I came out with a much more professional-looking sales video than I had the first time around, where between clips the lighting changed dramatically. Now it all looks the same.

The only thing I found annoying about it was the vReveal logo tossed in at the bottom of the video for the first 2 seconds. But, if you get creative about editing (e.g., slotting in 2 seconds of black screen before your video, then editing it out after processing), you can get around that. I’d expect you also can forego this if you upgrade to premium, which is $49.95 and comes with a few additional features the company restricts you from using in the free version.

vReveal isn’t perfect. It’s not going to take a terrible video and make it a work of art. But if you’ve wished you could bring the tools you have available to you in image editors – sharpen, lighting effects, saturation, hue changes, contrast – to bear on enhancing video, it’s a great tool for doing just that.

Check it out if you work with video.

Chase

 

Posted in Quick Fix | 1 Comment

Bootstrap: Starting Your Business without Funding

bootstrapI had a meeting yesterday with an acquaintance who wanted to run a society-and-events-based business idea past me and see if I might be interested in developing it with her. We discussed it in detail for a while, and she picked my brain about how we ought to launch this business, if indeed we chose to launch it together.

This led us to discussing what’s required to launch a startup – and what isn’t. More importantly, we discussed how we’d go about raising funding for this business, or how we’d run it without funding if we were unable to get funding or chose not to pursue it – in other words, how we’d bootstrap it.

While many entrepreneurs dream of funding from investors – nearly every entrepreneur or would-be entrepreneur I encounter talks about it – to me this often seems more like a California Gold Rush than a certain, well-considered plan. “If I just move to California, and get some mining tools, and start digging, before you know it I’ll be rich!” went the thinking back in the mid-1850s. What happened though? A whole lot of people moved out to California (and other parts of the American West), but of all the new California residents, the majority of the folks making money were not the miners themselves, but the ones selling the miners their mining equipment.

Therefore, I believe whenever you sit down to build your business, you should always do it under the assumption that you’ll be bootstrapping it.

“That’s great,” you might say, “but I’m still going to get funding.” All right, you may well do just that – but before you do, let’s go over how to bootstrap right… so you don’t drain the well before those sales you’re hoping for or that funding you’re counting on can show up to save the day.

Spending Money in a Startup

I’ve heard countless stories about failed startups that close their offices and have hundreds or thousands of unused brochures, name cards, calendars, t-shirts, mugs, and other knick knacks with their names and logos emblazoned on them, signatures of a culture of wasteful spending far in excess of what was needed, and a clear sign that the business took its limited resources and put them in exactly the wrong places.

“I’ll never let a company I start end up like that,” I told myself. Yet, a few months back, when I shut down a business that had never reached profitability, I looked over what was left behind:

  • Several shelves of our company’s brochures
  • Boxes and boxes of extra name cards for laid off employees
  • A crate full of expensive custom lanyards, all but a handful unused
  • More office rolling chairs than we’d ever needed – one’d been stashed atop a closet
  • A heavy metal safe that no one ever figured out how to open, let alone put money into

I couldn’t even make myself feel better by blaming the other two cofounders – sure, I’d pushed back on some of the spending, but I hadn’t made my case very well, and towards the end I even started falling prey to it myself. When we ran out of a specific kind of brochure we were using, I had the staff run off a bunch more, despite the fact that we had other brochures that would’ve served just as well.

Generally in life, you’ll find two kinds of people:

  1. Optimists / Daydreamers
  2. Realists / Pessimists

You’ll note there’re two names for each of those. The first is what they call themselves. The second is what the other guy calls them.

To have a well-running business, you need to have a balance between these two sides. Too much optimism and you burn through capital faster than you realized you could – and before you know it, you’re going out of business. Too much realism and you never get started in the first place, or play it so safe that you never get the things you need to make it all work.

The problem with most startups is that they’re usually founded by optimists – the realists keep their day jobs, assuming their own ideas won’t pan out – and the employees who want to work for startups tend to be optimists themselves.

Another problem is that these styles tend to clash. If you’ve got an optimist running the company, realists won’t want to come work there because it seems too fast and risky. So he’ll get a team full of risk-taking optimists who move fast but can’t manage resources.

But if you’ve got a realist running the company, optimists won’t want to come work there because it seems too slow and unchallenging. So he’ll get a team full of risk-averse realists who are great at protecting the company’s downside but not so great at generating explosive growth opportunities.

Therefore, I think the best partner combinations tend to be either:

  1. An optimist CEO who genuinely takes counsel of a realist COO, or
  2. A realist CEO who genuinely takes counsel of an optimist COO

This can be difficult to put together at times because finding people who will genuinely consider others’ counsel is hard to do. Most optimists steamroll realists’ concerns with their enthusiasm for the optimistic path, and most realists reject optimists’ suggestions with their fear of the risk involved.

I’m digressing though – back to bootstrapping in a new business.

What happens in one startup after another after another after another is that money is spent too fast and too freely – and then the business folds.

I can hear all the optimists out there protesting, “You’re just stingy!”

Except I’m not going to tell you not to spend money.

You will. You’ll have to spend money. But there’s a reason you don’t want to do it all at once.

Giving Yourself Time to Learn

bootstrapLet’s say you’ve pooled your resources and those of your other partners starting a new business. You’re willing to devote a total of $30,000 to this new business venture. You’ve now got two options for spending:

  1. First Option: go all-out and get a nice office, good furniture, and a high speed Internet connection. Get a custom-built website. Get a lot of great company creative to hand out to prospective clients and investors. Now go out and recruit, recruit, recruit to put together a team of All Stars who are going to blow this business up fast. Set up costs: $12,000. Monthly costs: $9,000. Lifespan without sales or investments: 3 months.
  1. Second Option: work out of your apartment, garage, or a friend’s place. Build the website yourself using WordPress or a similar CMS and select from among the many free templates out there. Don’t worry about creative for now – direct people to your website when you talk to them. Or, get a few simple business cards run off with your name, mobile number, email address, and website. Use oDesk, eLance, or Guru.com to outsource coding, programming, or creative design work, rather than hiring employees you’ll need to pay a monthly salary to, benefits for, and provide with an office and computer and have a degree of responsibility to. Set up costs: $300. Monthly costs: $1500. Lifespan without sales or investments: 20 months.

Look at the difference between those two spending models. The second model allows for nearly 7 times the lifespan of the first one. That’s huge. And it’s huge for a couple of very, very important reasons:

  • You need time to learn the market
  • You need time to figure out the best way to sell
  • You need time to refine your product
  • You need time to refine your pitch
  • You need time to understand what type of people you really need
  • You need time to build brand awareness, buzz, and interest

The one thing that all of those points has in common is this: you need time.

And when you set yourself up in a race against the clock, you’re putting yourself in a position of instant do-or-die.

No matter who you are, how talented you are, or how well you think you know your market, unless you’ve actually been operating in that market and you’ve already got a product you know people want (because you’ve sold it before) and distribution channels set up and ready to go to help you start turning a profit right away, things never go according to plan.

For any new business that has yet to reach profitability, there are two factors:

  1. Money
  2. Time

When you bootstrap, you’re dealing with limited money. If you spend that money fast, you’re also dealing with limited time.

I’ve never met anyone, or heard of anyone, who made a business work great with limited time and limited money.

Limited time and lots of money, maybe. Limited money and lots of time, more likely. Lots of time and lots of money, also more likely.

Time is the biggest determinant in success.

I’ll reference you to a post by Paul Graham, a veritable expert on startups. He writes, here, in “What Startups are Really Like“:

“You need persistence because everything takes longer than you expect. A lot of people were surprised by that.

But I think the reason most founders are surprised by how long it takes is that they’re overconfident. They think they’re going to be an instant success, like YouTube or Facebook. You tell them only 1 out of 100 successful startups has a trajectory like that, and they all think “we’re going to be that 1.”

There is a positive side to thinking longer-term. It’s not just that you have to resign yourself to everything taking longer than it should. If you work patiently it’s less stressful, and you can do better work.”

But no matter how persistent you may be, you can’t persist when you’re out of time and out of money. You need time – and when you’re bootstrapping, you need to make your money last.

What About Funding?

Whenever I talk with people who want to start a business, one of the first things I hear is, “Do you think we can get funded?”

Here’s what I know most investors are looking for:

  • A solid product
  • A solid delivery system
  • Happy, repeat customers
  • Plenty of room to grow in the market
  • Sales and/or a giant list of interested, potential buyers

Instragram, the photo-sharing company, just sold to Facebook for $1 billion without having revenues because it has 1) a giant customer base and 2) a technology and platform that Facebook wants. This is a rare exception to the rule. You don’t normally get funded or acquired without sales.

Except in a Gold Rush – if you were, say, a DotCom company before the DotCom bubble burst in 1999, or a startup focused on doing business in China until recently – investors will tend to steer clear of you unless you can show that you’re already making money and have a working, functioning business model.

Even then, the amount of investment you’re likely to get will be directly tied to how big you already are. You’re not going to get a good deal when you’re still small.

Back to Instagram. In 2010, Andressen Horowitz and Baseline Ventures each invested $250,000 in Burbn, the predecessor to Instagram, in exchange for collectively right around 25% of the company, just after it’d been founded. That’s a pretty hefty investment for a brand new business… and it only happened because:

  1. Burbn was a mobile location-sharing app at a time when that was one of the hottest new things around, and
  1. One of its founders, Mike Krieger, was working at the well-known Internet social platform Meebo, and its other founder, Kevin Systrom, was one of the original members of what ultimately became Twitter, had worked for Google, and had previously developed a company (Nextstop) acquired by Facebook

Think those guys had a leg up over most people starting up a new business?

Sure. They’d done it before. They’d already succeeded at it before – this wasn’t their first time on the merry-go-round. Their street cred was off the charts and their niche was one of the best to be in at the time.

Furthermore, Burbn was later scrapped and re-released as Instagram when the founders noticed that their users were sharing pictures a lot more than they were sharing locations… and they followed their users.

Chances are, if you’re like the vast majority of people starting up new businesses, you aren’t in the current “it” market / bubble, and/or you don’t already have a string of successes under your belt that give you instant credibility in the VC market (for all intents and purposes, let’s consider “success” to mean an acquisition or a breakthrough product or service).

That means, if you get any funding at all early on, it’s likely to be small and not very significant. You’ll be asked to give up a good chunk of equity in exchange for only a little investment.

So even if you get early funding… it probably won’t make much of a difference.

Which brings us back to bootstrapping.

How to Bootstrap Your Startup

To be successful as a bootstrap entrepreneur, you’re going to need a few things:

  1. Discipline
  2. Perspective
  3. Agreement from your cofounders

Here’s what I mean.

  1. Discipline: it’s very easy to spend. It’s much harder to control that spending. Start by setting a budget for yourself based on how much money you have to play with, and how long you’ll need it to last. Don’t budget based on optimistic forecasts… budget based on pessimistic ones. “Hope for the best, plan for the worst,” goes the saying. It’ll be great if sales come as soon as you hope they will, or you strike upon an investor who shares your vision – but if things don’t go exactly according to plan (and they rarely do), you’ll be thankful to still have time to work out the kinks.
  1. Perspective: for every major purchase (and you should choose a number for what’s “major” to your business based on what your total budget is and how long it needs to last you), you’ll want to stop and ask yourself: A) do we really need this? B) is this going to help us get sales? C) can we do with fewer of these items or less of this service and still have what we need? Taking the time to view your purchases from this perspective can help you make more balanced decisions.
  1. Agreement: it doesn’t matter how frugal you are, if your cofounders want to spend money and they’re dead set on it, the business is going to spend money. You need to know before you get into business with people what their feelings are on spending money. Don’t just glance over this one – really discuss it in detail. If someone doesn’t want to talk about it before you get into business, he won’t want to talk about it once you’re in business together and spending money, either. Make sure everybody agrees with the budget you set collectively, believes in it, and can pledge to uphold it.

Next, you’re going to have to be patient. Know where Apple Computer started out? Was it:

  • A) a fancy, highfalutin office,
  • B) a top-of-the-line tech center and campus, or
  • C) Steve Jobs’ garage?

If you guessed “C)”, you’re right.

How about Google? Know where that started out?

It was in Larry Page’s and Sergey Brin’s dorm rooms at school. They actually didn’t graduate to a garage – that of a woman named Susan Wojcicki – until two years later. Google finally hired its first employee to work in that garage, two years after it started running on the Internet.

Sometime back, I interviewed a potential executive for a business I was running who assured me that if I wanted my business to be successful, I was going to need a big office to impress people. At the time, we were working out of an apartment-cum-office with a neighbor’s bicycle perpetually parked outside. It was nice, but not particularly imposing. So should we have gotten a bigger, better office in an important-looking building?

My thoughts in retrospect: we shouldn’t have even had an office. We should’ve focused on building a web presence first, building our brand, and doing virtual consulting rather than in-office consulting as we tested out our product and developed it and helped people to know who we were before we started spending significant amounts of money on an office, furniture, and staff.

Presentation is key – but high capital costs are so last century.

And in any event, think Ferrari, Gucci, or Rolex started out in massive corporate luxury suites?

Nope.

bootstrapFerrari started out as a parts manufacturer, working for other automobile companies.

Gucci originated as a small shop in Florence, opened by a former hotel worker.

Rolex began as an importer of Swiss movements to England. I can’t find an answer for sure, but I’m not certain Wilsdorf and Davis (the founders of Rolex) even had an office at first.

They might just have worked out of a garage (or the 1905 equivalent).

You don’t start big – you get big, with time and success.

Therefore, important mindsets for bootstrappers include:

  1. Start small and make your resources stretch
  2. The more time you have to work with, the better you’ll learn your market
  3. The longer you’re able to make your resources last, the less likely you are to shift into “panic mode,” where you begin scrambling for short term cash any way you can and undermine what you were trying to do with your business

That last one is particularly important – because the instant it starts feeling like time is flying and you lose your cool while building a business, and you become overly focused on trying to find a way to save things (rather than build things), your goose is usually cooked.

Plan to make your resources last from the beginning, and stick to that plan.

Bootstrapping Your Way to Victory

Can you really bootstrap your way to sales and/or funding, then onto, ultimately, victory?

In fact, this is how most businesses that are big business today got started.

They didn’t start with huge investments.

And they didn’t start with rapid, explosive growth.

Often, they didn’t even start out doing what they eventually ended up doing (see: Instagram, Ferrari, Rolex).

They bootstrapped – and they stretched their money and made their business work until they reached the point where enough sales were coming in or they were attractive enough to investors that they were able to get an influx of cash.

Succeeding in business isn’t about striking gold. Instead, it’s about selling pickaxes to miners – don’t go looking to fall into a pile of money; look for how you can provide something people want, bootstrap your business long enough to establish a foothold providing it, and go get some sales.

And remember:

  1. Discipline to set a budget and keep it,
  2. Perspective to ask yourself what’s really necessary, and
  3. Agreement between the decision makers on how things will go.

Get those three running together, and you stand a good chance of taking your bootstrap funds and making your business last long enough for you to make it work – or to figure out, like Instagram, Ferrari, and Rolex did, what kind of business you should actually be in.

And once you start shaping yourself up to bootstrap your business, you really won’t want to miss all the great tips, tools, techniques, and insights on offer in my newsletter – it’s everything you’ll need to get yourself on the road to a productive, successful business and a productive, successful life. Sign up now to start getting my newsletter delivered straight to your inbox:

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Talk to you next time.

Chase Dumont

 

Posted in Rainmaking | 1 Comment

The 9 Essential Qualities of Leadership

qualities of leadershipIn 1917, as his farewell address to the graduating student officers of the second training camp at Fort Sheridan, Wyoming, an Army Major by the name of C. A. Bach discussed leadership in what was, in my estimation, the most succinct, comprehensive, and compact analysis of the qualities of leadership ever put together. I’ll discuss Major Bach’s farewell address further on this site, but today I want to get down some of the core points of his speech.

(If you’d like to download a complete copy of Major Bach’s brilliant address, you can get it here)

I was blown away the first time I read this address. I’m not sure why this took me 29 years to find; I would think that a piece this incredible would be a center point of education at every school. But, as it were, most things get lost in the fog of history, and this address on leadership to a graduating class of US Army officers from the end of the first World War seems to be one of the many things that simply got written off as yesterday’s news.

Well, no longer. Because here, in this fantastic piece, Major Bach’s identified the most important qualities of leadership that any leader can attain and to which every leader should aspire, and I’m going to identify them for you in this post to help you start being a better leader immediately.

A Note on Leadership from Major Bach

Before we dive into the actual, literal qualities of leadership as Major Bach has identified them, I want to review a few higher level points on what leadership is that Bach details.

The first of these is that people only follow a leader so long as they believe he possesses the qualities of leadership – and that the instant they lose faith he possesses these qualities, they’re gone.

I’ve heard many a would-be leader lament the abandonment of his people, wondering why people refused to line up and follow. I heard this in the very first job I ever held from a power-hungry colleague who tried his best to take command over the department we worked in (and tried his best to get me fired, and very nearly succeeded, when I refused to bend to his will), and I still hear it today.

But this is the reason why. Any man who wonders why others elect not to follow him must only look to the qualities of leadership and ask which of these he falls short on. By identifying his shortcomings in the qualities of leadership and fixing them, a man can transform himself into a leader praised and honored by many. By ignoring those faults in his leadership, however, a man is doomed always to stress at keeping people’s attention and loyalty, and ultimately to fail.

Major Bach highlights also the difference between leaders in the military and leaders elsewhere, inasmuch as soldiers in the military fight selflessly and will even die for their cause, while people elsewhere in life (work, religion, politics) have personal gain mixed in as a motivation along with the devotion to the cause. It’s my belief, however, that there are no further points needed to be mastered as qualities of leadership than these 9 points, whether we’re talking about military or civilian leadership.

Bach also urges those who aspire to leadership to become students of people. In other words, to learn what makes people tick; to break down and understand the different quirks, differences, exceptions, and personality types; to know what drives people, what emboldens them, what weakens them, and what makes people strong. In so doing, the leader can learn all the more how to use the 9 qualities of leadership to truly lead his team to success – both for the cause, and for themselves.

qualities of leadership

Some Thoughts on Civilian Leadership

While I haven’t served in the military myself, I’ve had a number of friends who have, and have come from a lineage of ancestors who’ve fought in wars around the globe. I’ve done contracting for the military, worked at numerous military bases, and have directly reported to Navy captains as my immediate supervisors. I’ve additionally studied military conduct and routine somewhat extensively, and become quite familiar with a number of its precepts.

One of the largest differences between military life and civilian life is that military life is all-consuming. You are not just going to a job in the morning and coming home at night, with the weekends to yourself. You’re living on-base, on your ship, or in the middle of a war zone. Your free time is spent with the other members of the military; your time off isn’t really time off, at least not when you’re on deployment and often not even when you’re stationed somewhere domestically. You are always in the military environment.

In civilian life, you check in and check out of different roles. During weekdays you’re at work. Weeknights you’re taking classes or going to dinner parties or bars. On the weekends you busy yourself with other activities and social circles. Your life is fluid; some parts of it are larger than others but you have no one overall devotion that overrides all others to a large extent. It can be difficult to get focused on work.

Because of this, a leader’s influence over the life, mind, and heart of a civilian is necessarily less than the influence of a leader over the life, mind, and heart of a soldier. For the soldier, his leader in the military is his leader period. For the civilian, his leader at work, or in his social circle, or at school is only his leader in that one particular sphere, and he has other leaders he reports to too.

I’ll tell you a quick story.

When I was 18, after I graduated from high school, I didn’t want to go to university right away. In fact, I was certain I ever wanted to go back then. So, everyone else I knew went off to school, and I stayed behind to do I knew not what.

I ended up taking a job putting tires on cars.

It was hard work, so much so that I almost quit after the first week. Nevertheless, I stuck it out, and eventually I found myself promoted to a sales and assistant store management position.

In those days for me, I had no social life. I saved all of the money I made because I had nothing to spend it on. I did nothing but eat, sleep, work, and go to the gym. My work was my life.

Because of this, I came to view my work at the tire store as almost a sacred mission, of sorts. I put my heart into doing as great a job as I could, and as a first time salesperson I soon became one of the best in the district. I got so good I even became someone sent off to ailing stores to help turn around their sales teams. I treated my superiors as people to whom I pledged my spirit and devotion. And all the while, people kept telling me I reminded them exactly in demeanor and disposition of their military friends. They told me I needed to loosen up, and they told me it was “just a job.” To me, this was insulting; how could they treat this as “just a job?”

What I discovered was this: the bigger a portion of your time and focus something gets, the more devoted to it you become, and the more you honor or revile the leader you follow, depending on his abilities.

I think understanding this difference in people’s commitment levels is key. This is why companies like Google and SAS go so far out of their way to have doctors, and dentists, and daycare, and sports facilities and gyms and classes on their company campuses; to become an ever larger part of their employees’ lives and thus to command a greater degree of loyalty and commitment to their causes.

If you are leading in an environment that does not produce exceptional amounts of loyalty, then you’ve got to work with what you’ve got. Understand that you only get a certain percentage of your people’s commitment, and do your best to earn that percentage. Understand their motivations – we’ll cover these more in the section on paternalism, but I view the 3 key motivations for people as recognition, compensation, and growth – and help them to reach them.

But just because you are not in the military does not mean you cannot lead. It simply means you shouldn’t expect the same level of loyalty and devotion from your people, and that you’ll need to have a somewhat different focus on helping them to meet their individual needs.

The 9 Essential Qualities of Leadership

Each of these qualities is one highlighted by Major Bach himself. On each, I expound, provide examples, and detail exactly how you can apply these qualities to your own life – whether you’re leader a military division or just a division of your project group at work.

qualities of leadership

I refer to these three as the “inner qualities of leadership” and the other six as the “outer qualities of leadership” because I view these first three as much more dependent on your actual inner condition. You’ll be hard-pressed to fake self-confidence, moral ascendency, or self-sacrifice, for instance; these must come from within. However, things like initiative, decision, or fairness you can very much “fake until you make,” so I’m considering them “outer qualities.”

Note that this is solely a distinction I’m making, for the purposes of thinking about these qualities a little differently and more easily, and not one that Major Bach himself makes.

Onto our qualities, then…

1. Self Confidence

Major Bach very clearly identifies self-confidence as being comprised of three (3) components:

  1. Exact knowledge
  2. An ability to impart that knowledge
  3. The feeling of superiority over others these two give

This in an of itself is a fascinating description of self-confidence I’ve never heard elsewhere before, and one I’m inclined to wholeheartedly accept as correct. In my experience, this is, to the letter, exactly what self-confidence is.

This is also why you can’t typically fake self-confidence. If you don’t know your stuff, it’s very hard to come across like you do.

I can tell you, for one, that things I feel like I know well, that I feel adept at imparting to others, and that I feel I have a firmer grasp over others on I feel very confident talking about. I’d surmise that you’re the same way.

Now, if you asked me to discuss something I don’t understand to any great degree – for instance, how string theory explains the other dimensions outside of our normal three dimensions of space and one of time (according to string theory, anyway… I’m still not convinced that time is a dimension, but who knows), and put me in a position where I was expected to, and couldn’t admit I didn’t actually know, you’d see my confidence dry up in a heartbeat.

Major Bach notes that “you may bluff all your men some of the time, but you can’t do it all the time,” and further states you’ve got to know your business from the ground up.

You must master every facet of knowledge in your domain if you want to lead. You’ll hear report after report about great leaders doing this. The CEO who walks the factory floor and knows everything that’s going on. The company founder who interacts with the marketers and finance people and knows their jobs better than they do.

Major Bach further emphasizes that this knowledge must be able to be communicated in clear, correct, and engaging English.

Knowledge isn’t any good if you can’t communicate it in a way that makes people listen.

This is where true confidence comes from, and it’s this confidence that inspires people and makes them want to follow you.

2. Moral Ascendency

This one’s fascinating to me. Moral ascendency is the “belief that you are the better man.”

What this means is a little different for everyone. But what it essentially comes down to is that whatever you define “being the better man” as being, that’s what you have to be.

Because we’re not necessarily talking about others’ opinion of you here… we’re talking about your own opinion, and that must come from within.

To enforce this, Major Bach insists you have the following characteristics:

  • Self-control
  • Physical vitality
  • Moral force

Let’s briefly define each.

  1. Self-Control: you must never show the emotions of fear, uncertainty, hurriedness, hastiness, or changeability. You must appear solid, resolute, and certain if you want to inspire those same emotions in your people.
  1. Physical Vitality: a leader who seems physically weak or tires easily is difficult to respect. You must seem youthful, sprightly, and be in good condition. Personally, I’ve met 60 year olds who were full of vigor, and 20 year olds who did nothing more than laze about in a stupor. This comes as much from a state of mind than it does a state of the flesh; if you are doing what you believe in, you will come alive. You must be able to withstand the pressures that come with leadership. Remember that as a leader, your job is to take the burden of leadership off your people, that they might do their jobs. You must be able to bear the weight and cost of leading and still provide an unwavering guiding light to those who look to you for certainty and their cause.
  1. Moral Force: moral force comes from living a correct life. Doing things the way they should be done – and not preaching about it. You’ve heard of “being a role model” – that’s what moral force is all about. No one cares much about what you say – what they really care about is what you do. Show them how you want them to act by acting that way yourself, and your team will come to do as you do.

3. Self Sacrifice

The last of our three inner qualities of leadership is self-sacrifice, and the reason it comes from inside is because it requires you to give.

You will do the hardest work.

You will work the longest hours.

You will work while others sleep.

You will take the troubles of your people on, and lend them your ear.

You will even give of your money, supporting your people (or projects) financially.

You will do these things because your people need them from you. This is what’s required of the man who leads.

This must come from within, from a genuine desire to give to others, because you cannot long fake self sacrifice before wearing thin. You must genuinely want to give; otherwise, you will find yourself unable to lead this way.

qualities of leadership

These I refer to these qualities as the “outer qualities of leadership” because they can, in a sense, be faked; they can exist externally to your inner condition. In other words, when you’re first learning to lead, you will be able to wear the mantle of these qualities, even if you don’t yet have them fully developed within.

4. Paternalism

By the term “paternalism,” we mean of course taking care of those you are responsible for as though they were your children. This can arise from an inner view of them as such, or from an outer discipline to always take certain actions.

You must look to ensure the comfort of those you have responsibility toward more than you do for yourself. You must not demand more of them than they can provide, particularly for things that can wait until later or aren’t urgent.

You must develop a very good sense for what the cost will be to the individual man to do something, versus what the benefit will be for him to do it. If an activity generates a small gain, but costs him greatly, you should not do it, or wait until a time when the cost is lower.

For instance, if you have an employee tasked with a project he really enjoys, but you could use him on another project that he won’t enjoy nearly as much, consider whether the cost in his reduced happiness and productivity is worth using him on this new project. You may just realize it’s better to find someone else, even if that first employee would be a bit better at it.

If you ask me, the three key workplace motivations for people are:

  1. Recognition,
  2. Compensation, and
  3. Growth

and you must cater to all of these needs of your subordinates if you want to command their full loyalty. For instance, if you’re running an organization, you might build it this way:

  1. Create multiple opportunities for employees to gain recognition, both publicly and from superiors;
  1. Compensate employees competitively, and outline a clear process for what objectives or metrics employees need to hit in order to earn more;
  1. And create clear paths to personal growth and development on the job, finding ways to help employees develop new skills and abilities and raise their competencies in various areas.

Do these things as you build your business, and you create very dedicated employees.

When this kind of paternalism is internal, you will do it intuitively. Until then, you must stop and ask yourself constantly what the potential costs are to those you’re responsible for, and what the potential impacts – good and bad – are of everything you ask them to do or take on.

What this leads to, ultimately, is reciprocity:

  • Look out for your people, and they begin to look out for you
  • Fail to be considerate of them, and they will become inconsiderate themselves
  • Take from them, and they will take from you

Because of this, your consideration toward your command determines its cohesion or lack thereof.

A unit that has too much asked of it and too little concern paid toward its personnel will destroy itself from the inside out; a unit that has its people’s care positioned as an utmost priority will become an evermore cohesive unit that works better and better together with people who support each other more and more.

5. Fairness

I think one of the first things to recognize about fairness is that people tend to overvalue those they perceive of as good and loyal individuals, and devalue those they perceive of as ineffective.

For instance, at my job working at the tire store after I’d been promoted to sales, I once had my manager tell me he thought I was as fast as any other tire changer he had. The fact was, I was skinnier at the time than almost anyone else there, and I was slower at changing tires than anyone else on the staff. My manager had a rosy recollection of me, however, because I was a diligent and loyal employee, and because I was doing better and better at my sales job.

Conversely, another employee, who always had a bad attitude and took more coffee breaks every day than anyone could keep track of, was actually pretty fast (when he was working, of course), but I recall my manager several times commenting on how slow he was at his job.

You must be aware of cognitive biases like these, and work around them. Be fair.

Major Bach emphasizes that you must treat people “just,” and not “the same,” because not everyone is the same.

For instance, if you’re a teacher, you might have:

  • One student who pays a lot of attention and really loves learning
  • Another student who likes talking to her friends but is still pretty sharp
  • One more student who’d rather fight other students than learn anything

Treating these students the same would mean giving them all equal attention, using the same teaching methods, and grading them exactly the same.

You can quickly imagine why treating each of these students the same would actually be unfair.

Instead, you should do something closer to this:

  • Give the student who loves learning challenging problems to work on on her own. Sit down with her and go over them to make sure she gets it, and challenge her to do even more.
  • Give the student who likes talking to her friends an assignment that involves problem solving in a teamwork or group setting. Let her turn her desire to talk into learning collectively with her friends.
  • Give the student who likes to fight easier tasks – he might have been left behind in earlier grades or assignments and fights now to act out his frustration at not understanding. Give him things he can do that will let him have some “wins” so he starts getting the rewarding feeling of “I can do this” and then help him move up to progressively more difficult material.

In order to best be fair, realize that different people need different things. Major Bach recommends that you:

  1. Study your people
  2. Mete out appropriate punishments (that will actually be punishments for them)
  3. Mete out the appropriate rewards (that they’ll actually value)

Publicly calling someone out as punishment might be shrugged off by one person and be taken as a crippling, wrathful blow by another. Alternatively, giving one person a $100 bonus for something might be taken as an exciting gift, while someone else might even feel insulted. Only by studying your people can you figure out what each one needs to be treated fairly.

This also extends into giving others the sort of respect you expect from them. Major Bach raises the issue of a leader being overbearing, insulting, and harsh toward the treatment of his subordinates; he takes temporary pleasure in the power of being able to treat them this way and not be retaliated against, but it breeds resentment and ill-content.

Treating your people with respect is a part of the leader’s discipline and self-control. It’s mandatory for maintaining respect and loyalty.

Personally, this is one I’ve striven for myself, though I often surround myself with very dynamic people who’ll keep pushing and pushing for what they want even as my temper shortens. I’ve found that by being aware of your emotions, you can realize when you grow closer to losing your temper, and ask people to stop what they’re doing before you do. “John, this isn’t the time for this right now,” you might say, “I’ve been dealing with a lot today and my temper is getting shorter and shorter. I don’t want to blow up at you, so let’s discuss this a little later when I’ve had a chance to cool off.”

It’s important to head outbursts off at the pass to avoid snapping at someone unjustly. As often happens when you snap at someone, they’ll get the full brunt of your pressure released on them, despite the fact that they’re usually responsible for only a fraction of all that pressure – leaving them feeling unjustly maligned. Catch yourself before you put people in this position and keep control over your emotions.

6. Initiative

Initiative is so important to leadership because without it, noting gets done. You must have initiative to make things happen.

Initiative is, of course, taking action. It’s telling the troops to march and get the move on. And the one who has initiative nearly always wins.

I’ve seen it myself, time and again, in everything from games to business to projects to relationships. The instant you lose initiative, you’re living on borrowed time. Go too long without taking any initiative, and you quickly risk falling hopelessly behind.

How do you take initiative? You keep in mind that you must always be taking action. You must always be advancing your position. Even if you don’t feel intrinsically motivated to do this, recognize its necessity, and plan it as a part of your day.

How will you advance your cause today? Figure that out, and do it.

7. Decision

Going hand-in-hand with initiative is decision, another core leadership quality. In order to take initiative, of course, you first must decide what initiative you’ll take… hence its necessity.

You may be surprised to learn that decisiveness is not an inborn trait. It’s learned… trained up, even.

I remember a time years ago when I myself was incredibly indecisive. “I need some decisive people around me,” I said to myself, “so I can learn how to be more decisive.” Soon I reconnected with a Chinese-American roommate of mine from college who was quickly moving through the business world with a decisive personality, and I started dating a Peruvian girl from a family with a background high in her national government who had no qualms about getting anything and everything she wanted it, the instant she wanted it. From them, I learned decisiveness.

Decision, it turns out, is a very simple thing:

  1. First, know your options
  2. Decide which option is best
  3. Select that option

When I was younger, I used to have problems with decisions because:

  • I didn’t know if I knew all my options
  • I had trouble deciding which option was best
  • Even when I was leaning toward one, I’d want to take time and be sure I was right

A lot of this ties back in with that earlier leadership quality, confidence. If you have the knowledge around a given area, you’ll know what the options are, you’ll know their pros and cons, and you’ll have the confidence to act decisively.

If you don’t… then you need to learn to act using your best guess anyway.

You’ll find that your best guess is still correct much of the time. And the advantage you gain by making a decision and taking initiative and being right much of the time and wrong some of the time is, on the whole, far greater than the advantage you lose of being the perfectionist. Being the perfectionist, you’re a bit more correct (you’ll still be wrong some of the time anyway), but you lose so much time and initiative that you cost yourself greater in the long run.

This doesn’t mean you should make hurried decisions, of course. You should make intelligent, well-informed decisions – ask for help if you really don’t know. But, ultimately, you must make decisions… and you must stick to those decisions.

Choose quickly, and choose well. Doing so is one of the key marks of a leader.

8. Dignity

One of the best managers I ever had – a man named Bill Austin – gave me this piece of advice, when I’d been newly appointed to a management role:

“It’s okay to be friendly with the guys, but don’t become too friendly.”

Major Bach echoes this same insight in his address: “Be the friend of your men,” he says, “but do not become their intimate.”

That same manager gave me another pearl of wisdom I still remember:

“If you want someone to do something, tell them to do it, then walk away. Don’t stand around waiting for them to do it or you’ll just give them the chance not to.”

Being a leader means being approachable, yet maintaining a certain degree of distance.

The instant your people start seeing you more as a pal than an authority figure, they’re going to stop wanting to take orders from you. They’ll start to ask themselves why you, their peer, are positioned over them in the hierarchy. Things will stop making sense to them.

Major Bach notes that your reports will despise you – not like you, not love you, but despise you – for attempting to form friendships with them or curry their favor.

I’ve violated this rule only a few times in my time as a manger, and I can safely say that every time I have, the people I violated it with have come to despise me. Not because I was a bad person, per se – but because they came to see me as an equal who now unjustly held power over them.

Stay on friendly terms, but maintain some distance.

9. Courage

The last of our qualities of leadership is courage. When we say courage, we mean:

  • Courage to see an order or duty through to the end
  • Courage to avoid the impulse to change directions
  • Courage to assume responsibility for your actions
  • Courage to assume the blame for failure
  • Courage to determine your people’s fate

Major Bach differentiates between courage and bravery.

Bravery he defines as a lack of fear. Courage he defines as action in spite of fear.

Bravery is something every man has, somewhere in his life. Courage, on the other hand, is something that must be cultivated. It takes, like each of these qualities, self-discipline, training, and self-control. It is difficult to not take the easy way out; to take the quick exit when you’ve promised to stay the course, to change directions after committing to one, or to not shift the blame to others – particularly subordinates – when plans fail to produce the desired results.

Major Bach at last observes that, like an instructor on demolitions once cautioned his class regarding dynamite, “One man has but one accident.” What he means by this is, if even once you show a lack of courage – only once – your subordinates will never follow you again.

If your people know that you are courageous – that you’ll see things through to the end; you won’t change directions without very good reason; you’ll take responsibility for your actions, and blame for failure if your people do as you asked them to do and things still don’t work; you’ll make decisions for your people that don’t put them into situations you yourself wouldn’t enter into – then they will follow you willingly, and you will always have people ready to do as you ask.

qualities of leadership

Applying the Qualities of Leadership to Your Life

This might seem like a lot to implement, but if you’ve spent time in any kind of leadership role (and perhaps even if you haven’t), you’ll probably find you have at least a few of these leadership qualities down cold already, and a few more of them in pretty good shape.

That means that, most likely, you won’t have to tackle all of these for much improvement – you’ll likely only have a few.

Those are the few you ought to target.

How to go about doing this?

First off, you’ll want to start by going through those 9 qualities of leadership above and honestly reviewing where you’re at with each one. And you’ll want to review them not by how you think you’re doing on them… you’ll want to review them based off how people are actually reacting to you.

Here’s a guide to help for each:

  1. Self Confidence: do your people come to you as a teacher and authority?
  2. Moral Ascendency: do your people open themselves up around you and trust you?
  3. Self Sacrifice: do your people go the extra mile for you, above and beyond?
  4. Paternalism: do your people look out for you?
  5. Fairness: do your people all act engaged in their tasks?
  6. Initiative: do you keep your people on the go working on progressive tasks?
  7. Decision: do you make most decisions on the spot when needed to?
  8. Dignity: do your people treat you like a respected boss, or a friend and peer?
  9. Courage: do your people reflect courage back at you, or do they reflect back a lack of courage?

Typically, you can think of your longer term people as mirrors, inasmuch as subordinates come to reflect back to their leaders the qualities that the leaders embody. This is why great leaders do great things – because great leaders make their people great, too.

Always,
Chase Dumont

P.S., if you’re in search of some truly great members for your team – or your in search of a leader who can truly inspire you – you need to check out Yamjac. It’s not running just yet, but it’s only a few months away – you can head here and get on the waiting list to be among the first people to get invited in. It’s going to change the way the world does business, shares ideas, forms teams, and interacts – this is one boat you’re not going to want to miss. Check it out here if you haven’t already:

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See you around.

 

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How to Fix Problems

how to fix problems“Don’t you see?” I asked a former friend and business partner of mine. We were standing outside the building our office had been housed in; he was doggedly trying to convince me that we should still do business together; failing that, he wanted to know how he could avoid the falling out we had – one he’d had repeatedly, with nearly everyone he’d worked with – in the future. It was the last time I saw him.

“The reason we ended up in this situation in the first place was because we all three started a business with the intent of building a business, as partners,” I continued, “and then you leveraged us into a position where you’d built the business around you, demanded a lot of money to stay and because you said the business needed it, we paid it under the understanding that you were going to stay and stabilize what you’d built, and then you took all the money yourself and frittered it away on plane flights and hotel rooms instead of putting it back into the business like you said you would, and you still left anyway and tore the business down on your way out.”

He paused for a moment, staring at me nonplussed.

“So what should I have done differently?” he asked, without seeming to have registered my point at all. “One thing I learned was that I shouldn’t give up leverage like keys to the office until I’ve been fully paid. If I’d said, ‘I’ll give you keys and we’ll disentangle and you can pay me the rest all in one sitting,’ I probably would’ve gotten the rest of the money you owed for my shares and we wouldn’t have all this bad blood between us.”

“No,” I told him, “you don’t get it. You weren’t going to get paid for breaking the spirit of the contract, no matter what you did or how you handled things tactically at the end. The problem wasn’t your end game. It was in the fact that we ended up in that situation at all.”

He still didn’t get it.

This former friend and business partner is not an unintelligent guy. He’s sharp; he’s mastered various skills to a high degree; and he’s good at picking up many new abilities rapidly.

His issue isn’t that he lacks the mental horsepower to understand why things went the way they did in a messy, sticky situation that he himself largely created. His issue is that he doesn’t know how to fix problems… so the same kinds of problems keep happening to him again and again.

And this is, in fact, a surprisingly common problem in and of itself.

The Problem with Tactics

Most people, I notice, if they think about things much at all, when things go very wrong, they tend to break those things down into discrete, individual scenarios.

“Okay, this event happened because I handled XYZ scenario the wrong way the day before.”

I’ll give you an example.

Susan gets up on stage for her piano recital in front of an audience of sixty people or so. She starts playing; then, she stumbles. A few missed keys, and suddenly she’s totally thrown off. She recovers, but she feels embarrassed.

“Curses me,” she thinks. “It’s all because I forgot to practice this morning before leaving for the recital.”

Here’s another example.

Joe forgets his wedding anniversary; his wife Kelly is both angry and sad. “I was hoping you were going to surprise me,” she says to him tearfully that night after he returns from work and reveals, when asked, that he hadn’t planned anything. “You never remember anything important about us.”

“Damn it,” he thinks to himself, “I should’ve put a reminder on my calendar.”

That kind of thinking is what I call tactical problem solving, and it’s what most people default to.

Problem? Okay, how to fix it? Ah, right… do things different tactically next time.

To me though, this is missing the forest for the trees. That tactical fix is really more of a Band-Aid; it might fix problems in the short term, right now, for that specific problem… but it doesn’t fix them in the long term, across a wide range of scenarios, and get at the root.

Getting to the Gym

For ten years between ages 16 and 26, I worked out regularly. I never got as big as I’d have liked, but I put on some pretty decent muscle. I stopped going for about 2 1/2 years following a period of continuous travel, but I’m happy to say I’m back to regularly lifting weights once again (in fact, I’m going right after I finish this post).

One of the things I struggled with over those 10 years of regular work outs was getting to the gym. See, the thing was… I never really liked working out. It was always a chore, and at first I even hated it (I’ve since made my peace with it).

So, to solve the problem of getting myself to the gym on time, I tried some tactical fixes.

I’d have a set schedule where I’d always get to the gym at a certain day and time. That worked great for a semester, until I’d go home from college and my schedule would be disrupted.

I tried this again and again, and always it took me a long time to get a new schedule ironed out and committed to, and I’d often lose 1 or 2 months in between transitions getting back into the habit of working out again.

Next, I tried reminding myself that I didn’t want to lose muscle mass and lose what I’d built, so I had to go to the gym at least to maintain what I got. But that was a worse motivator than anything else.

I didn’t finally fix this more or less for good until I consciously realized I needed to stop trying to fix it tactically, and figure out how to fix problems like that one at a higher level.

I needed to be internally driven.

So I began training myself to imagine what I wanted my body to look like regularly. I imagined how strong I’d like to be. I imagined how powerful men would think me, and how attractive women would find me. I imagined these things when I thought about working out, but even during idle time when I wasn’t doing anything gym-related.

And suddenly, it was easy for me to keep my commitment to the gym.

Instead of fixing the end game – trying to correct the situation as it arose with a routine or a reminder not to lose what I had – I instead focused on the problem itself: a lack of motivation. By figuring out how to internally motivate myself, I took away my consistency problem and made myself want to go to the gym.

The Problem with the End Game

From Dictionary.com:

end game
noun
1. Chess. the final stage of a game, usually following the exchange of queens and the serious reduction of forces.
2. the late of final stages of any activity: the end game of the negotiations.

If you’ve ever played chess, you’re familiar with the term “end game.”

At the start of a chess game, the board looks like this:

how to fix problems

By the end of the game – in the end game – it looks more like this:

how to fix problems

Now imagine you’re playing black in this game. You’re almost certainly going to lose this one, given white’s position. He’s likely going to trade rooks with you and promote his pawn to queen, one way or another.

So let’s say you lose.

What a lot of players will do is think back a few moves and say, “Ah, I shouldn’t have brought my knight down to threaten white’s king first; that cost me the game. I should’ve moved my rook over to block his pawn then threatened his king. There isn’t anything he could’ve done to my rook then.”

And there is some merit to that – it’s good to know how to operate from behind in the end game. That’s important to be able to do.

But what’s infinitely more important than that is to not end up in a sticky situation like that in the first place.

The reason why people don’t usually do this is because it’s hard. How do you know where you went wrong in an entire game of chess? You pretty much can’t, unless you’re already an expert. So, you analyze tactically to the best of your ability – and you largely analyze the end game.

You shouldn’t.

You should analyze your strategy.

Why did white end up with a bunch of pawns and a rook and close to getting a queen or two, while you ended up backed into a corner with a rook and knight and on the defensive?

Could you have played the middle game differently?

Could you have started differently?

It’s important to understand the end game. But understanding how better to play the end game doesn’t help you avoid ending up in sticky situations; it just helps you to better fix problems when you’re in them.

Susan learning to practice the morning before her recital every time will help her do better. But it’s still a Band-Aid.

And Joe putting important dates on his calendar will help him avoid those blow-ups… but again, still a Band-Aid.

Just like me making the gym a routine, or trying to tell myself I had to maintain what I had, these are short term fixes that only address the immediate problem…

… instead of the fact that you have the problem at all.

And that’s what you should be addressing.

How to Fix Problems

how to fix problemsOne of the reasons I find that I learn things faster than most people is that I’m very critical of my strategy, where most people are critical of their tactics.

For instance, when I play a computer strategy game, and I’m building steadily along, and then am suddenly and unexpectedly crushed by a far superior force, my thought isn’t, “How do I beat that? That’s impossible!” nor is it, “Damn, my defenses need to be better.” Rather, my thought is, “Okay, clearly I built too slowly and choose too easily assailable a position.”

When I’m learning a new skill, I tend to look at the strategy of its best proponents.

When I learned music, my question was, “What are the leading artists trying to accomplish with their songs? What kinds of melodies are they choosing, what emotions are they focusing on, and what are their messages? Are they speaking to the masses, to the radio, to a certain core set of listeners? Are they telling a story with an album, with individual songs, or are they just riffing?”

I noticed that leading artists had a lot more in common than those with talent who never made it big. For instance, top artists tend to weave the songs in their albums into a story or a general theme, whereas less successful artists tend to just have an assortment of unrelated songs thrown together in a hodgepodge.

When I learned chess, I’d play against the computer at increasingly higher and more difficult levels. I’d watch the computer beat me, then use “Undo” to go back and examine the moves it made against me and try to understand its general strategy. I’d replay the same game from different points, trying different strategies, to find one I could beat the computer with from different positions. Then I’d take the same moves and strategy the computer made against me and use them against the computer player myself the next time and watch how it responded. I quickly reached a level where I was routinely defeating human opponents with much more experience and a lot more hours spent playing chess than I, because they’d learned it more slowly and tactically than I had.

The secret to learning how to fix problems is this: you need to look at the big picture.

What am I talking about? Take a look at that short discussion at the start of this post. That first explanation by me is a big picture explanation for why things went wrong. My former friend and associate’s following explanation is the tactical troubleshooting of how to play the end game differently. That won’t prevent him from ending up in the same situation again, and he’ll keep having to scramble to fix problems in the future over the same things.

Think about Susan and her recital. What if, instead of scrambling to practice the morning of, she practiced her heart out the weeks before the recital and had that piece down cold? What if she got herself to a level of skill with the piano that she could play a piece by ear and remember it solid within only a few renditions?

Then she wouldn’t have to bust her butt trying to get in one last practice. She’d be so good she wouldn’t need it.

Think about Joe and his wife Kelly. What if, instead of racking his brain to remember dates (and men forget birthdays and anniversaries pretty universally), Joe reassured Kelly in other ways that he really cared about her, and reminded her that he was really bad at remembering dates?

If Kelly was confident Joe loved her and she knew he had a hard time with dates, she wouldn’t make as big a deal about it. She’d help him out with reminders about the dates, and would cut him some slack when he forgot.

Learning to fix problems by looking at the forest instead of the trees has these benefits:

  1. It lets you find a SOLID fix instead of a Band-Aid fix. If you want to spend the rest of your life scrambling to apply Band-Aids to problems, fixing things tactically is the way to go. If you’ve got more important things to worry about than having to solve the same problem over and over again, however, you need to make changes to your overall approach to the situations leading up to the situation. You need to be a big-picture thinker and a big-picture solver – not a Band-Aid putter-onner.
  1. It saves you a great deal of time. Imagine if instead of all the time you plow into fixing problems, those problems just STOPPED happening? That’s what solving the root cause – the strategy you chose that led to that sticky situation – does for you. It allows you to not have to spend so much time scrambling to put out fires and fix short-term problems.
  1. It saves you a great deal of stress. Imagine again if problems stopped happening because you fixed the things that led to those problems. What would your stress levels be like? I’m guessing you’d have a much more enjoyable life – but not only that, you’d find taking on new challenges less daunting, because you’d resolve the hard parts of those challenges more quickly and get to the fun stuff a lot faster.
  1. It empowers you to do more with your life. Once your time and effort are freed from putting out fires, you can expand your focus to new things. You can move onto building competency in new skills; becoming involved in hobbies or pastimes you’ve long wanted to get involved in; you can take more stress-free leisure time to just unwind and have fun. Your life becomes a lot more exciting, and a lot less ordinary, when you free yourself from scrambling to fix problems because you’ve caused those problems to stop happening.

You’re probably saying to yourself now, “Wow, that sounds great! … but, how do I do it?

Let me solve that problem for you. Here’s what you need to do to truly fix problems.

  1. Understand that everything is connected. Because most people see problems as being discrete, unrelated issues, they have huge difficulties truly fixing problems, and likewise have huge difficulties predicting problems. Start viewing all things as interrelated. Ask yourself these questions:
    • Does everyone else have this problem? Not “do other people have this problem,” because there’s always someone else who has your problem. Not do “most people have this problem,” because, let’s be honest, most people don’t know how to fix problems in their lives. You want to ask does everyone else have this problem? If the answer is “yes,” every single person around you has this problem, then it’s probably a bad situation and you should get out. If the answer is “no,” some people don’t have this problem, then you need to figure out everything that’s different between what they do, and what you and the other people who have the problem do… and you need to change.
    • Are there things I could’ve done differently yesterday, last week, two months ago, or a year ago that would’ve changed how things went this time? For instance, if you trained twice as hard over the past year at beach volleyball, would you still have failed to make it past the beach volleyball semi-finals? Or if you spent the past two weeks preparing for your presentation – instead of waiting until last night to really begin – would things have gone differently? If you can find something you could’ve done different in the past that would’ve affected the present, that’s where you need to concentrate your efforts – not on last-minute end game fixes that only put a Band-Aid on wounds you could’ve avoided having in the first place. You can’t change the past, of course – but you can change what you do from now on.
    • If I didn’t have this problem, how would my life be better? This one’s important to ask for the purposes of getting yourself motivated to fix things. If you realize you’d have more free time and less stress to develop yourself further, or work on your goals or hobbies, or take that trip you really want to take, or just relax at home with family or by yourself, you’re going to find you want to start fixing problems a lot more diligently.
  1. Start ignoring the end game a lot more. You know what the end game is? It’s distraction – distraction designed to prevent you from finding the real, higher level problem and fixing it for good. Stop paying attention to it. You know those sports matches (basketball games, or football, or hockey, or what have you) where it’s a nail-biter to the very end, with either team trading the lead back and forth again? The first thing that comes to my mind when it’s a team I follow involved in that is, “Geez, why didn’t they work harder in practice?” It’s exciting when your team wins – but that’s because excitement is caused by uncertainty. They weren’t good enough for you to know whether they’d win or not. Ignore the end game – you want to be the team that wins in a boring way by trouncing the opponent, because you already worked so hard on getting your entire game plan down that the only problems nagging at you are minor ones. Don’t get distracted by trying to figure out the last 5 minutes of a 60 minute game; the best teams win in the beginning and the middle of games and just use the end game to put a wrap on things, and the rest of life is that way too.
  1. Take pleasure from skill-building. Surprisingly few people enjoy the seemingly relatively rare pastime of skill-building. What I mean by skill-building is the slow, gradual process of getting better and better at something. In a way, this is a mindset; just like some people have the mindset that work is something you have to do to make money, while other people have the mindset that work is something you do on the way to achieving your goals, and still other people have the mindset that work is how you achieve your goals, taking pleasure in skill-building – or doing it at all – is a mindset. But it’s one you should nurture and grow in yourself, because it works very closely with problem solving. The more you enjoy building yourself into an ever-better, ever-more-capable person, the more you’ll enjoy fixing the problems you encounter permanently and absolutely.
  1. Work forward, not backward. I hear a lot of people talking about, “Oh, I should’ve done things this way.” My response is always, “Well, you can’t, because it’s done and over with – so what are you going to do next time?” Don’t waste time focusing on the past, which is gone forever, but instead focus on the present and the future – how’re you going to make things work better the second time around, the third time around, the twentieth, the fiftieth, and the fifteen-hundredth? That’s where you need to be devoting your energy. Fix problems for next time – don’t worry too much about before. You know the phrase “no use crying over spilt milk?” It’s exactly right – for next time, figure out how you can avoid spilling the milk (e.g., keep it in a different container; make a habit of placing it somewhere you won’t accidentally knock it over; put the jug back in the refrigerator after you pour yourself a glass, etc.).

That former friend and business partner of mine doesn’t get this still. He thinks it’d be a great idea for us to be friends and business partners again, which of course benefited him the first time around (the business with him essentially ended up as him gambling with both of our time and a lot of my money, and him coming out ahead with my money after it failed and I lost a great deal). Yet, he doesn’t see why I came out of it miffed at him and wanting to cut ties – business and otherwise – and he doesn’t understand why I’m upset. It doesn’t seem to compute.

The reason why is because he thinks the only problem was the end game.

The end game is never the problem though. The end game is where problems – or lack of problems, if you were doing things right from the beginning – come home to roost… not where they’re born.

And believe it or not, should you make it to the end game on sound strategy and fundamentals, you can usually even slow down and make a few mistakes… and still come out on top.

Don’t put Band-Aids on problems. Fix problems, starting at the very beginning, where possible. That’s how you free yourself up to do the kind of things you really want to do, and not get slowed down by problems going forward.

Best,

Chase Dumont

P.S., if you’re the type of person who loves breaking things down to what really makes them tick and solving problems at the root, you really won’t want to miss all the great tips, tools, techniques, and insights on offer in my newsletter – it’s everything you’ll need to get yourself on the road to a productive, successful business and a productive, successful life. Sign up now to start getting my newsletter delivered straight to your inbox:

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Distraction

distractionOver the past six months, I’ve found myself dealing with a problem I’ve never really had to deal with before: the problem of distraction.

I was distracted by fighting.

I was distracted by talking.

I was distracted by ideas.

I was distracted by anything and anyone who could get a sliver of my time or peace of mind.

And what happened was my productivity fell lower and lower. I began to feel more and more frustrated. I started to think my time was not my own.

“Why am I spending every waking second resolving other people’s problems, dealing with friendship and relationship strife, and being asked to give, give, give without ever getting in return?” I wondered to myself desperately.

The answer, of course, as the answer always is with these sorts of things, was that I let it happen to myself. And the solution, you might surmise, was, simply put, to stop letting distraction happen.

Meditation and the Essenes

I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about distraction lately. I’ve been thinking about things like:

  • What causes distraction?
  • How does distraction take over normally productive people’s lives?
  • How do you reign in distraction?
  • How do you fight distraction without people around you, who are often the ones doing the distracting?

One of the things I keep coming back to is meditation, mind-clearing, and the Essenes.

A common practice in meditation is that of clearing your mind. There’s a very simple, yet very effective method in meditation you can use for this purpose that is, in effect, a breathing exercise. It works like this:

  1. First, sit somewhere quiet, and shut your eyes
  2. Then, inhale slowly, capturing a thought running through your mind as you do
  3. Next, exhale slowly, releasing the thought as you do so
  4. Repeat as many times as necessary to clear your mind

The first time you do this, you’re amazed at not just the intensity of the thoughts running through your mind, but how many of them there are. For me, I typically find somewhere between 6 and 12 thoughts running through my head when I do this, plus a song playing in the background.

Today I was walking down a city street, doing my best to keep my mind clear. As I walked, I encountered various sights, sounds, and smells. I’d have to pause as I crossed the street to let a car go by. A pretty girl would catch my attention and my eyes would wander. A scent would drift into my nose as I passed some coffee shop or bakery and I’d wonder what the food it came from tasted like.

Every time this happened, I could feel a shift mentally from the meditative focus I had. This made me think about the Essenes.

The Essenes were a religious offshoot of the Jewish. They lived celibate lives, avoided violence, followed leaders to whom they owed strict obedience, and lived largely monastic lives. In other words… they did everything they could to free themselves of distraction. Any distraction that could possibly pull them away from “the path.”

I realized as I walked today, yanked this way and that way by the distractions I encountered on the city street, that their beliefs had some degree of merit. It’d be impractical to implement them as extensively and absolutely as the Essenes did, but there’s something we can learn from them.

A World Filled with Distraction

We live in a world today that’s absolutely filled to the brim with distraction.

The news is on 24/7, updating you on the latest current events. Of course, each day this includes:

  • A terrorist attack somewhere in the world
  • A political intrigue by some well-known politician
  • A new trade agreement signed or an old one threatened
  • A celebrity scandal, marriage, death, or divorce
  • A food or product recall of some sort
  • A sports team that’s just won a tournament

The actors and location changes slightly, but not much. The dates are the main thing that changes; yesterday’s news happened yesterday; today’s, today.

Facebook calls the masses to post on its wall about their daily lives, and its adherents can no more pull themselves away from it than the news readers can the news. Your old high school classmate Lindsay has a new dog; your boss from two jobs ago just went on vacation to Miami. Browsing through his pictures doesn’t add very much to your life, but you feel compelled to do it nevertheless.

As you walk down the street, things call to you – the same things that called to me today: sights, sounds, scents, sensations. People jostle you to get by you or walk toward you, forcing you to slow as you get out of their way or they get out of yours. Someone’s looking at you; someone else is conspicuously not looking at you. A street vendor struggles to get your attention; a homeless person jabs her hands in front of you, begging for alms. Traffic lights tell you to stop or go; cars pull out in front of you.

All of this breaks your thought patterns, demands your attention, and focuses you on the here and now – instead of whatever else you might have been thinking of.

But stop for just a second and ask yourself – how important are these things, really?

Might they be little more than distractions, continually pulling you away from fulfilling whatever your purpose really is?

Stress Doesn’t Come from Work

Think of your most productive day in recent memory. Maybe you cleared all your email; maybe you finished those tasks you’ve been putting off for months; maybe you got caught up with a project you’ve been meaning to work on but haven’t gotten around to. Whatever the case, at the end of that day, how’d you feel?

I’ll give you two choices:

  1. Stressed out and anxious, or
  2. Relieved and empowered

Not a tough choice there, I’d imagine.

That’s right – at the end of that highly productive day, you felt relieved to be finished, and empowered at how much you accomplished, didn’t you? You probably felt less stress and anxiety that day than you had in a long time.

Now think of the most anxiety-laden, stressed-out day you carry in recent memory. How much did you get done that day?

I’m guessing your answer is: not a whole lot.

That’s because stress and anxiety don’t come from work or being productive.

They come from not being productive. They come from having a lot on your plate… and letting it just sit there.

But if you have a lot on your plate, why are you letting it sit there?

Distraction in the Way

Imagine what you could do if every day you had 3 or 4 hours of a high degree of productivity on a variety of important things to you. Your life would change completely.

Except, in this world we live in today, it can be downright impossible at times to get our productivity up.

The prime reason why?

Distraction.

Distractions:

  • Pull your attention away from big things that don’t have a strict deadline but often are in the long term the most important things you’re working on
  • Force you to turn your attention to immediate things that often have little to no significance to your life in the grand scheme of things
  • Eat up your mental cycles and willpower and focus you on high stress, low reward “fires” instead of low stress, high reward activities like building your business or learning a new skill

Distractions make you start running in place and feeling like time is flying when it’s not. They get you feeling overwhelmed and feeling like you have too many things to do, too many demands on your time, and too many strains on your (limited) resources.

What do I mean by distractions? Here’s a sample:

  • People who want your time for things that don’t add anything to your life, including:
    • People who want to talk to you on the phone but aren’t making your life better in any noticeable way
    • People who want you to meet up with them or hang out but are taking up time and energy and not replacing it with anything of value
    • People who want you to help them on business projects at work or independently that don’t help you learn any skills you need, expand a network you want, or move you toward your own business or career goals
  • Business projects that don’t advance you toward your goals, including:
    • Projects that take too much time for too little reward
    • Projects that move too slow for what you want to do
    • Projects that won’t challenge you or develop you in any way
  • Distractions like news, social media, TV shows, or video games that, while they’re great for unwinding, in excess can seriously derail you from being productive

All these things are major time-eaters and willpower-eaters that will suck up your day and your energy and leave you feeling stressed out because the things you need to do still aren’t done.

And what’s worst of all is that the more distracted you get, the more daunting the tasks you have piled up to do seem to be, and the more you want to bury yourself in distraction to forget them.

Life becomes one big carousel ride of ongoing distraction and lost productivity.

Reclaiming Your Life

distractionAs I began waking up to the problem distraction had become in my life, I realized I had to make changes. Some of these changes were drastic changes; some of them not so drastic. I’ll detail them here so you know what I’m talking about:

  1. I was running three businesses, one of which took little time to run and made good money, another of which took little time to run and was cash neutral, and the third of which took ALL of my time and willpower to run and required large, continuous investments of capital with no clear path to sales. I shut the third business down, despite the amount of time invested in creating it and money invested in building it, and focused my efforts instead on businesses that were working and required less time, less money, and less stress to run and expand.
  1. I had a friend and business partner who had brought a lot to my life over a period of time, but also was very caught up in his own plans and ideas and dragging everyone else along with him. The more I worked with him, the less in control of my own time and money I became, and the more I lost to him, and the worse my situation became. Eventually I cut ties with this friend, and did everything in my power to exit graciously, in fact even giving him what was left over of the company I’d put far more time and money into than anyone else, that was built on my own ideas and market research, and that I’d even paid him for his shares of. In the short term I lost, but I was then free of a person who served as a major and continuing distraction, and was able to really focus on working and building businesses again.
  1. I had a number of people asking for my time for free: email correspondents, friends and acquaintances I hardly spoke with, people who wanted to pick my brain for ideas or advice about this or that, people who saw me as an authority figure but preferred to ask me to answer questions of their for free rather than purchase the products I had available answering their questions already. Before I’d grudgingly agree to this, but I began to say “no, sorry” to these people and let them know I was too busy. In truth, if I was perfectly productive, I could easily fit these people into my schedule; it wasn’t the time I was losing to these people so much as it was the distraction they were costing me and the lost focus I was getting.
  1. I had a number of phone consultations set up with paying clients that I was having increasing trouble fitting into my schedule. I started missing phone calls, and taking weeks to get people scheduled. I started apologizing to people and giving them refunds, but the consultations kept getting scheduled. I raised my prices by a LOT, but calls kept getting scheduled. Finally, I found someone I could outsource these calls to that the folks seem happy with. That’s taking a lot off my plate that wasn’t time consuming but I just didn’t like doing (I’ve never liked the phone much; I prefer face-to-face).

If you notice the trend there, it’s cutting. In some cases, the cutting is to cut losses, but in other cases it’s simply cutting things out of my life that were bogging me down and distracting me from real work.

There’s one hard part about this though: it’s shutting out the din of the people and things that don’t want to be cut.

Think Facebook wants you to close your account? Nuh-uh. And they’ve made it as difficult to do – and as addictive a site and hard to leave – as possible to keep it that way.

Think your friend who you’ve been spending all your time or money on and who isn’t repaying that wants you to give them the boot? Guess again. Many of them are going to whine, complain, cajole, and threaten until you shut the door – or give up and open it back up again. Don’t give up. Real friends will understand you need more time to get the things done you need to get done – it’s only your fake friends who will try to persuade you not to do what you want and need to do.

This is a great way to find out who’s really on your side, in fact – does this person listen and respect you when you tell them you can’t spend as much time with them, or do they scratch and claw to maintain the status quo, or pay lip service but not change their behavior or demands?

One of the craziest things you’ll find is with people who want your time for free. Your real customers – the ones paying you money for your services – always tend to be respectful of your time and energy. The ones who aren’t paying but want your time for free, however, tend to be rude, demanding, and entitled – it’s bizarre. You’ll get these people who want and expect you to just do stuff for them… and if you say sorry, your plate’s too full, many of them get nasty. Even though they’re doing absolutely squat for you, they expect you to clear your schedule for them!

The best way of dealing with people like this – non-customers, or legitimate mooches – is to completely ignore them. Don’t engage them, don’t respond to them, don’t give them any rope to pull on at all.

The analogy I use for people like this is, if a cow came up and butted you with its head, would you take the time to fight the cow? Probably not, right – you’d just walk away instead.

What You Can Learn from Distraction

There are a few things still that you can learn from distractions. Here’re a handful of lessons:

  • The more you have to offer, the better you need to be at beating back distraction. That’s because people will come knocking down your door to get at whatever it is you have to your name – be that time, money, knowhow, advice, or inspiration, if you have it and people know you have it, they’ll start coming out of the woodwork to get it. Therefore, you’re going to need to be vigilant about not giving it to them.
  • Defense doesn’t work in the long run. Play offense. Back in high school I had a history teacher point out that over the course of history, offense always finds a way to beat defense. Offense always wins. Case in point: the walls of Constantinople. Those walls held invaders at bay for a millennium, but then came the Turks. Nowadays we call Constantinople Istanbul and the peoples who used to live there have been totally replaced. Application here? Don’t just hope people will go away – be proactive in telling them to skedaddle. Learn to tell them, “Sorry, my plate’s full,” and walk away. Sticking around and trying to wait people out only gives them time to figure out how best to crack through your walls.
  • Don’t multitask. Recent studies have shown that multitasking leads to decreased levels of productivity (though, workers tend to feel more productive, oddly enough). The primary reason for this is the cognitive load of mental task switching – basically, the act of “getting in gear” for a specific task takes time and effort, and when you’re continually switching most of your energy goes to the switching instead of the tasks themselves. They found that it takes, on average, 40 minutes of being in a task before people reach their most productive. If you’re switching tasks every few minutes, you’ll never even get there.
  • Watch your emotions. If you start feeling anything other than “focused” – if, say, you feel anxious, or excited, or angry, or frustrated – you’re getting distracted and being pulled off track. Figure out why you’re feeling that way, and then use this simple exercise: sit down and write out the steps you need to take next for the remainder of the day. Keep referring to that list until you’re back on track. Works nearly every time.

Distraction holds most of its power in not being recognized as distraction. The moment you see it for what it is though, you can make it shrink and go away. Taking away that biggest strength of meditation and the Essenes – the ability to free yourself from distraction – and applying it to your life can lead to substantial, and very rewarding, results.

And once you’ve made up your mind to clear away distraction and get focused on what’s truly important, you need to check out Yamjac. It’s not running just yet, but it’s only a few months away – you can head here and get on the waiting list to be among the first people to get invited in. It’s going to change the way the world does business, shares ideas, forms teams, and interacts – this is one boat you’re not going to want to miss. Check it out here if you haven’t already:

yamjac

Talk soon.

Yours,

Chase Dumont

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