Entrepreneurs succeed in proportion to the number of problems they solve. So if you’re an entrepreneur, or think you’re destined for entrepreneurial greatness, you’re pretty much a professional problem solver.
“But I’m not part of Mensa!” you might say, as your frontal lobe quivers with the thought of full-time problem solving. It’s a reasonable knee-jerk reaction. But entrepreneurship doesn’t require you to have a higher IQ than 95 percent of people. You just need more tenacity than 95 percent of people.
And tenacity is a skill you can learn.
Not everything you put down on paper is gold. You might feel like that, especially when you’re in a passionate flurry of keystrokes, storming toward meaning. But feeling strong doesn’t equate to writing strong.
I felt strong for my first year of writing and I sucked more than anyone. Ever. (Everyone told me I should probably quit.) It wasn’t until I focused myself before and during the writing process that I improved.
Most people only tell you about their victories. They might share some of their trials—but only after the victory.
I’m guilty of that. (So is the Koala Bear, above. Believe it or not, that’s a victory photo.)
But today I’m writing from the trenches, cover-fire over my head and Charlie surrounding me, so to speak. I’m struggling. I’ve been rejected/passed over by a ton of blogs recently, namely Forbes and The Muse—my prizes.
If you’ve been struggling and you feel like you won’t succeed, know that you’re not alone.
But here’s where there’s hope…
Behold the old man at the bar. He’s boisterous and jolly, a merry old fellow with ruddy cheeks. But, in quiet moments, there’s a wistful look in his eye that begs explanation. It’s the one that got away.
I’m not talking about the girl—she’s back home watching The Price is Right. I’m talking about his Everest; his destiny.
This old man, Greg, in particular, wanted to be a baseball player. He claims to’ve had the fastest pitch in all of Pennsylvania—you really should have seen it. His words, of course.
In between the brags and tall tales of his glorious youth, the subtext of his story reads a little different: “I don’t know why, but I didn’t stick with it. And I regret it every day of my life.” My words, not his, of course. But the look says it all. His eyes glaze over enough to look tearful. But it’s the gaze…he’s staring a million miles ahead. Or back. And he’s seeing all the things he just knows he could’ve done.
Another beer, he orders. Another beer. Ironically, the drink that lured him away from the game is his only consolation.
You’ll find Greg at the Stone Face Tavern in Albuquerque, New Mexico. But you’ll find Frank, and Cecil, and Henry, and Don, and Pete, and 50 million others at different bars across North America—all with different variants of the same sad story.
How do you avoid joining the sad-lonely-old-man club of America? you might be wondering. It’s pretty simple, actually. You just have to persist in your passion. On the road to your dream, never. stop.
Here are five tips you can count on:
1-Stick to successful routines
A famous author once said that talent is as common as table salt; it’s hard work that’s rare. For Greg and so many other would be pros, they allowed their talent to inflate their egos, which kept them from being disciplined in their craft. Don’t make that heady mistake.
Instead, structure your days so that greatness becomes a habit. Devote equal parts of your time to learning, applying, and sharing. Remove the daily obstacles (facebook, email, etc) that would keep you from persisting in your goals.
2-Reassess your friendships
For every bad decision made, there’s an enabler friend. The more enabler friends you have, the greater your chances of making bad decisions that keep you from pursuing your dreams. So prune your friend list.
Keep the friends who challenge you to keep up with them. Keep the friends who call you out on your bullshit—like flakiness. Keep the friends you admire for their character. All the rest? Dump, dump, dump.
Friends are tricky because they seem so irreplaceable once you get to know them. But if they don’t inspire you to strive for greatness, you might find yourself kicking back beers with them forty years from now and regretting the life you didn’t live.
The friends who are worth having will be there when you need them. In the meantime, take this advice from George Washington:
“I’d rather be alone than in bad company.”
3-Marry the right one
Remember Greg’s ol’ lady, watching her stories at home? Behind beer, she’s the top reason he quit playing ball. She got jealous of the time he spent away from her. And she set an ultimatum—“Me, or baseball.”
He dropped the glove and bought a ring.
I’m not knocking marriage. But I’m suggesting you pick someone who will indefatigably support your wild-ass goals. Better yet, focus so intensely on your career that you find success before you find love. You won’t have as many distractions. And you’ll prevent the #1 cause of divorce—financial problems.
4-Stop Your Bad Habits
Greg had a little too much fun with the booze. It didn’t seem like a huge problem back then, but it was enough to make him regret the things he didn’t do. TV is my bane. I promise myself a little, and then I’ve squandered 5 hours; 5 hours that could’ve brought me closer to my goals as a writer. That’s why I don’t watch TV. I don’t want to sit on the sidelines and watch my dream life slip away.
So name your bane—the one thing, obvious or subtle, that would keep you from persisting. Then cut it out of your life. Period.
Burnout—this work phenomenon can stop you cold in your tracks. Hard work is a virtue, no question. But there has to be a balance. And fun—just for fun’s sake, not connected to profit—is an essential part of the balance.
Some people think that a couple weeks on a cruise or in the Bahamas will be enough. But that’s just another symptom of imbalance: you shouldn’t need two weeks of bliss just to feel sane. Instead, strive to have fun every day. Schedule it. And try not to deny the impulses to do what you love.
I’ve heard that regret for the things you didn’t do is the most painful deathbed emotion. You can palliate that feeling with any number of distractions now…but what about forty years from now? When your story comes to an end, will you be proud to tell it?
Keep these five tips in mind. And never stop chasing your dreams.
Neomania, defined as an obsession with the new, is a hallmark of millennial culture. You won’t find it in the dictionary, but you’ll see it in the faces of everyone waiting for the next iPhone or Android. You might even catch it in the reflection of your smart phone as you scroll through the news.
Neomaniacs find it difficult, if not impossible, to stick with anything. They bounce from job to job, town to town and bed to bed, always hungry for the next conquest. They are never fulfilled. But there’s one spot they’re conspicuously absent from — the upper echelons of entrepreneurship.
Are you struggling to find your entrepreneurial stride? Here are five signs that you need to tone down your neomania — and five steps to cure it.
1. You check the news first thing in the morning.
Neomaniacs prefer news over reflection. Successful entrepreneurs are the opposite. Reflection is a basic human need, right up there with food and water. You get hungry for reflection because you need it to make smart decisions. But it’s common to mistake that hunger for a need to feed on more information.
2. You’ve had more partners than you can count.
The obsession over the new isn’t limited to information. Most neomaniacs are also helpless romantics, preferring a series of shallow dalliances over a solid relationship.
3. You’ve spent more money than you’ve made on get-rich-quick schemes.
Neomaniacs’ ears perk up when they hear the latest marketing scheme. They’ll buy into anything that will distract them from sticking with what they’ve started. *Get rich quick schemes don’t work.
4. You spend more than an hour on social media each day.
Social media is a neo-pacifier. There’s always something new to distract you from doing what you need to do.
5. You’re a job-hopper.
Neos pretend that their lack of job satisfaction has something to do with their job. But if you take pride in your work, and you do it well, you will always find satisfaction. According to legend, the 2nd Zen Master washed grains of rice for 10 years straight. How boring could your job possibly be?
What your millennial self can do.
Obsessing over the new doesn’t have to be a bad thing. If you focus on doing one thing in new ways, you can put a positive spin on neomania and become an expert at anything you set your mind to.
I know so much about neomania because I was the biggest neomaniac I knew. I couldn’t stick with the same job or girlfriend for longer than a few months. My days consisted of scanning Facebook, email and the news for something to occupy my mind.
But then I started my writing career. I channeled my love for the new into finding new ways to write better, and to share my story. And within two years, I managed to create a career while shedding my old, neomaniacal habits.
Here are five tips that helped me make the transition:
Through meditation, I retrained my brain to sort through what I already knew. I’d sit quietly and observe my thoughts, noting my desire to check email or Facebook. Then I’d refuse the impulse, choosing instead to direct my focus towards gratitude or self-acceptance.
If you sit quietly for 10-20 minutes daily — no phone, no computer — you’ll learn how to synthesize new things from the information you already have. Steve Jobs was a meditator for this reason.
2. Limit your news intake.
I vividly remember a college lunchbreak in 2013 where I whipped out my phone and instinctively clicked to a media site. But for some reason I stopped, and asked if I actually needed to do what I wanted. The answer was no.
From that point on, I taught myself to ask that question every time I wanted to surf the web or read the news. Now I don’t read the news at all, and I find myself no less informed than anyone else. But I do find myself achieving more in my career than most people. Coincidence?
Related: How to Get Your Motivation on At Work
3. Limit social media to 10 minutes a day.
Social media has its purpose. But if your job title doesn’t include social media, you don’t need to spend more than 10 minutes a day on it. Any more than that will start a feedback loop of neomania.
4. Read a lot on one subject.
A funny paradox is that the more you know, the more you become aware of your ignorance. That’s why Grandmasters can study chess or kung-fu in their 80s with the same zeal as in their 20s.
If your quality of life has been degraded by a fixation on the new, unlearn that habit by fixating on one subject. Learning all that I could about writing made me appreciate how much I could enjoy doing just one thing. And it helped me unlearn my desire for a constant stream of new.
5. Start a journal.
The more you reflect, the less you’ll feel driven to compulsively seek new information. I unlearned my neomania largely by reflecting on my life with a journal. It became a game. I’d unload my previous day, search out the flaws — the needless repetitions — and plan on doing better the next day. I learned how to make what I already knew work for me in new ways.
You can start journaling by spending 5-10 minutes answering these questions:
- What was I most grateful for today?
- What three things did I do that made today awesome?
- What three things could I do better?
- What will I focus on tomorrow to make it the best day of my life?
Loving new stuff isn’t bad at all. We’re programmed for novelty. But how you act on your desire for novelty is a different story. Some people stretch their attention spans so thin as to be incompetent. And some focus on finding new levels of mastery in a few activities. Which road will you take?
Originally published on Entrepreneur.com
Learn how to be a successful millennial through my coaching program.
Article originally appeared on FastCompany.com
To-do lists are for robots, which I’ve discovered I am not. In my experience, the more “grownup” you become, the more you’re forced to mechanically check things off a list just to get paid. That’s life—welcome to adulthood, kid. But life wasn’t working out the way I’d wanted it to; I got stuff done, I just hated doing it.
So when I finally quit my job to strike out on my own, I decided to inject a little humanity back in my work. To do that, I had to give my to-do lists the boot. I stopped writing those and began writing “love-to-do” lists instead.
I figured that since humans thrive on positive emotions, my career might take an upswing if I committed to doing more of the things I love. That was the theory, anyhow. Here’s how it went for me.
QUITTING MY JOB, AND SHIFTING GEARS
I first considered making this switch when I recognized that no amount of professional accomplishment would make me truly happy. I’d done a lot for my last company, and I’d done well there as an employee. But by the end, I still found that I had to wrench my brain for even a so-so idea. My creativity was suffering, and I just didn’t have enough of those “hell yes!” moments over the course of an average workday to love what I was doing. I was feeling autopilot set in.
I figured that since humans thrive on positive emotions, my career might take an upswing if I committed to doing more of the things I love.
The impulses to defenestrate my laptop and scratch up some adventure became more frequent. But I wasn’t able to rationalize fun for the sake of fun. The articles wouldn’t write themselves, I knew.
I still know that, and yet working for myself has turned out to be quite different—thanks in large part to the love-to-do lists I began writing shortly after going solo. Adopting them while I was still finding my footing as my own boss was liberating. Since I was charging what I wanted, I often had the freedom to write one really good article a day—or even one a week—which freed up a lot more time to do the things I loved.
Which ended up being terrifying.
Our culture has an enormous amount of lazy shame. We can hardly live with ourselves if we aren’t producing something. It’s actually pretty common for first-time freelancers to experience acute anxiety that even though they’re making ends meet, they just aren’t working enough.
I got over this fear when I realized that living my life and doing the things I loved made me better at my craft—and subsequently just as productive and creative as I needed to be in order to earn a living and feel good about doing it.
MAKING MORE TIME TO GET MOTIVATED
In my long hikes in the mountains, I’d find inspiring ideas hiding behind every bend like little forest sprites. Breaking away from the desk to play beach volleyball filled me with competitiveness and the hunger to constantly improve. That helped me go after bigger clients and work harder at my writing game. And lying down in the afternoons to do absolutely nothing—except gaze at the clouds—trained me to accept silence, and to listen for inspiration.
The more love-to-do’s I checked off, the more satisfied I became with my life and my work.
But here’s the thing: I’m as disciplined and productive as ever. I’m as focused playing guitar for 30 minutes as I am researching an article. So yes, I still have to do the standard to-do’s—meet with client X, take phone call Y, edit Z draft. But I don’t approach those work tasks with the same sense of dread that I used to.
Now that there’s something energizing and actually enjoyable waiting for me just past every task, my motivation feels pretty much bottomless. Writing this article, for instance, wasn’t the apex of my professional desires when I woke up this morning. But it turned out to be fun because I’m channeling the positivity I generated from this morning’s rock-climbing session into something productive.
Our culture has an enormous amount of lazy shame. We can hardly live with ourselves if we aren’t producing something.
And when the weekends come, I’m guilt-free. I don’t feel the need to be busy for the sake of busyness, so I can relax, and recharge, and do what I love. You know, like a human. When I settle down to my keyboard the following Monday, I don’t have the back-to-reality blues that most people have—because I know that I can do a little of what I love during the workday, too. That keeps me present at work, and relaxed. And that’s when I do my best. That’s also when I get paid the most.
SCHEDULING WHAT YOU LOVE TAKES DISCIPLINE
If this sounds like a paean to self-employment more so than an endorsement of love-to-do lists, it isn’t entirely. You don’t actually need to quit your job in order to gain more time to do what fulfills you. No, your boss probably won’t like it if you duck out every Wednesday afternoon to go for a bike ride. And it’s true that work is still work—it can’t all be fun, which is why your employer pays you to do it.
But building more “love” into your to-do lists isn’t about trying to change all that. It’s just a strategy to consciously and regularly do more of the enjoyable things you already do (haphazardly) over the course of a workweek. That way you have more energy and inspiration to excel at what you do. And like anything else, it takes discipline.
You don’t actually need to quit your job in order to gain more time to do what fulfills you . . . [but] it takes discipline.
To get started, take an hour tonight after work to do some journaling, and reflect on the activities that energize you most. Start your list first with the things you actually love to do in an average week. (If you don’t normally go squirrel-suit skydiving on an average week—or have never even tried it—don’t add that right away.) Then work out from there. If you’re coming up short, think about what you used to do on an average week—when you were a kid, back when having fun was okay. Write those down.
Once you have a few past or current pleasures accounted for, you can think a little more wishfully. Write down some things that appeal to you even if you’ve never tried them—like salsa dancing.
Now you need to commit. Pick two or three items that you can realistically accomplish next week. Then schedule those love-to-dos right alongside your other work-related imperatives. Those are now appointments on your calendar like any other, so you need to keep just as much as you need to not miss that conference call or meet that project deadline.
My daily love-to-dos look something like this:
Do some sprints
Break away from the computer every 30 minutes for a round of pushups
Read some fiction
Play some guitar
Play with the dog
Reflect on the things I’m grateful for
Look at the clouds
I don’t always check off every single thing on this list every single day, but I can always hit most of them—whereas before writing love-to-do lists, these activities were just periodic pastimes.
And for my week, I’ll schedule some bigger activities that I can’t do every day:
Take a long hike in the arroyo (I live in Albuquerque)
Practice volleyball at least twice a week
Go rock climbing at least twice a week
Play a doubles beach volleyball tournament on Saturday
Go to choir practice
Spend time with my nieces and nephews
Climb the biggest tree by the river
Other than professional singers, not many people have “sing” on their to-do lists. But then again, not many people have committed to actually scheduling out the things they love to do. Will you?
“I want your ugly, I want your disease.”
You’d smack someone if they said that to you. But when Lady Gaga sings it, we might hum along, or even cheer. And after we unload our ugliness, and after it diseases our relationships…do we really have to wonder why we’re miserable?
You become what you listen to.
Is that idea so radical? If you’re the average of your 5 closest friends, is it insane to think that you might be a product of your top-five tunes, too? Would you even want to look at the list?
You should probably look at that list. Because you can’t fix a problem that you aren’t aware of. At least, that was my case.
My current top five are either solo piano or harp compositions from the romantic period. I’m surrounded by heavenly harmonies most of the day, which inspires my best work. But if we skipped back five years, the list would be littered with broken hearts, bad romance, and mental junk.
You wouldn’t believe the difference five years (and five songs) has made.
I used to spend my days sniffing for new girlfriends, and my nights snoozing on mom’s couch. I had the talents and brains to do what I wanted. But I was too busy acting out my favorite songs to do anything useful.
Input equals output, right? Like good food makes you healthy, and inspiring friends lift you up, good music will positively shape your mind. I figured that out after I lived the inverse. Being depressed and completely dependent at age 24, I couldn’t keep shrugging my shoulders when it came to my non-existent success. There had to be a concrete culprit.
I found it in the airwaves.
The epiphany struck me as I cruised along the highway, listening to my old favorites, like No Doubt. The song was “Bathwater”. Catchy as hell. And the brass section, juxtaposed to Gwyn Stefani’s sultry voice…simply eargasmic. But when I focused on the lyrics, I was suddenly repulsed.
“But I still love to wash in your old bathwater, love to think that you couldn’t love another, I can’t help it…you’re my kind of man.”
Ol’ Gwynnie elaborates on how insecure she is, how powerless she is, and how she can’t help but to feed her insecurity through more of the same relationship. I couldn’t stand another second of it, so I deleted it. And I deleted the next song. And the next. And I enjoyed the Beethoven. And I deleted the next.
I spent the next two weeks on a musical rampage, analyzing every song I had. And if a song narrated helplessness, heartbrokenness, not-enoughness, or any other –ness that didn’t align with the life I wanted, I axed it. Pretty soon I was left with a sparse list of folk songs from the Fleet foxes and the odd classical tune.
I pared a list of 5,000 songs down to no more than 300. And that was the beginning of my new life.
Didn’t matter how good a song sounded or how long I’d loved it. If it influenced my subconscious negatively, I wouldn’t abide it. That didn’t leave me with many contemporary options. So I downloaded album after album of classical compositions, from Beethoven to Bach, to Ravel, and Liszt, and Wagner, and Chopin. Considering that classical music boosts your IQ, test scores, and creativity, I replaced the junk that made me average with brain food.
In the time it took to change my top five songs—about a year, based off of iTunes “most played”—I had rewritten my life script. The lovelorn loser who lived with mama morphed into a career-driven writer and independent man. That’s me.
I get paid to do what I love because I believed I could—because I radically altered my influences, musical and otherwise. More importantly, I’m contributing to the community in my hometown of Albuquerque. It took a couple years to complete the transition. But I changed my course the day I said no to No Doubt, and every other day I consciously selected good music, movies, books and friends.
It was a drastic decision, letting go of all the junk. And it wasn’t without sacrifice. But choosing the right music opened my window to success.
Now I have a question for you:
If your success depended on letting go of some of your favorite music, would you? I challenge you to examine your music library with a success filter. If a song doesn’t describe the life you want to live, if speaks of the wrong kind of relationships, and the wrong kind of life, let it go. You’ll be glad you did.
Do you have any good contemporary music suggestions? Comment below.
Originally posted on Entrepreneur.com
Success of any kind takes time, consistent effort, failure and resilience. Take the late Louis L’Amour, for example. He’s regarded as America’s greatest storyteller, with over 60 published novels — most of them bestsellers.
In his autobiography, Education of a Wandering Man, L’Amour shares his failures like a badge of honor. It was a big badge, too. A picture of his submissions log reveals countless rejections. Had L’Amour identified with his failures, he would’ve quit long before greatness. Instead, he viewed failure as a step to success. And he kept stepping.
“I knew there was going to be failure, I just didn’t know how much,” L’Amour said.
If you’ve dealt with some colossal failures in your business, you’re on the right path. Keep going. But if you want to convert those failures to success, you need more resilience.
How I grew resilience
For my first 24 years, I had about as much resilience as a kale chip. I refused to try anything I wasn’t automatically good at, and I rarely, if ever, put myself on the line. I was so brittle that if I failed, that meant I was a failure. Because of my fear of failure, I was completely dependent on my parents, which only fed the fear.
But in my mid-twenties, I realized that I could only be happy if I provided for myself. So I confronted my demons. I saw just how brittle I had become, and I planned to become more resilient.
In studying experts like Brené Brown and Josh Waitzkin, I learned that resilience comes through celebrating effort, not results. That concept conflicted with my perfectionist attitude. I wasn’t used to coaching myself, and the idea of positive thinking seemed laughable, considering my lack of success.
But what choice did I have? I couldn’t surf couches forever. So I began my own three-step resilience routine.
1. Affirmations and encouragement
Each morning I looked at myself in the mirror and said out loud all the good things I saw or wanted to be. (I know, this conjures up images of Chris Farley’s motivational speaker character from SNL. But funny as it may be, it worked for me.)
I listed all the things I knew I’d accomplish. I congratulated myself on the effort I gave the day before, regardless of the outcome. And I gave myself permission to fail.
2. I started a daily planner
I wrote down all the goals I wanted to achieve in a week and gave myself daily directives to reach them. When I checked off an accomplishment, no matter how small, I would flood myself with encouragement for the effort, for the consistency and for the persistence I showed.
Instead of depending on results for motivation, I relied on my own encouragement and the checklist of accomplishments that told me I was succeeding. I chose to depend on the things I could control.
3. I adopted a nightly journal
I used a journal to reflect on and dissect my daily effort. I praised the energy that I put into succeeding, noting the important thoughts and actions that pulled me through. I reflected on how my attitude affected my efforts and what I could do to change my attitude.
I also wrote about where I didn’t give my best effort. But instead of focusing on the negative, I appreciated myself just the same, told myself how much better I would do the next day and made specific plans to do so. Every directive I came up with through journaling was fed back into my daily planner so that I could improve the next day.
Resilience gave me independence
My resilience routine obliterated the brittle mindset that had held me back. I took a leaf from L’Amour and started my own rejection list. Each “thanks, but you suck” letter I received meant that I was one step closer to results. So, like L’Amour, I kept stepping. (Unlike L’Amour, I am still waiting on my 60th bestseller.)
Related: 5 Daily Habits to Optimize Your 2017
The more I praised my effort, the more courage I had to step into the arena and face failure. And I failed with style. I got rejection after rejection from all the big websites, including this one. Query letters to new clients went unanswered or rejected. There were even people who got offended at my attempts to succeed. But, unlike my brittle former self, I kept going. I celebrated the failure. Every time I chose to applaud my effort rather than dwell on mistakes, I became more resilient.
Within one year of adopting a resilience practice, I went from a couch-surfing boy adrift to an independent man, a writer — published on the world’s best sites — and a contributor to my local business community.
My resilience practice gave me an inner strength that helped me succeed not only as an entrepreneur, but as an athlete, friend, brother, uncle, role model and son too.
Are you where you want to be professionally? Are you able to take risks? If not, start your resilience routine today.
Come up with the affirmations that you need. Encourage yourself from dawn to dusk. Plan out your day, celebrating your efforts as you achieve. And reflect on your day each night with a journal, assessing what you did right and where you can do better.
Encourage yourself. Take risks. Accept failure. And embrace success.
Entrepreneurship is a lifestyle. And as much as we need to relax and enjoy the holidays with our friends and families…if we still have businesses, we still have to maintain that lifestyle to a certain extent.
But at the same time, you’re human. You need to spend quality time with friends and family, to let loose, to relax. That doesn’t mean you have to halt your hustle though. If you can balance a work day with play — like you should — you can balance a holiday with a little work that will keep your spark alive so that, by the end of the celebrations, you won’t have to kill yourself to regain momentum.
Here’s a winning strategy to keep your hustle alive over the holidays:
- How Just One Small Effort Per Day Can Keep Your Dreams Online and Redeem Even Your Worst Days
- Who Would Do That?!?!
- This 5-Step Strategy Will Help You Quit Your Biggest Vice for Good and Quadruple Your Confidence Overnight
- Why Self Encouragement Is Mandatory for Success
- The #1 Skill You Don’t Have Yet