Making Self Limiting Excuses

Have you ever heard someone share a vague goal, and then qualify with a “but”.

“I want to get promoted and make more money this year, but I don’t want to be like my friend who doesn’t have a life.”
“I want to start working out, but I don’t want to be like super fit like the dudes in the magazine.”
“I want to start working out, but I don’t want to look like those Crossfit girls and get huge muscles.”
“I want to go on a diet and lose some weight, but I don’t want to be like those people that don’t eat dessert or don’t eat carbs when they go out.”
“I want to start doing/going (dancing, woodworking, writing, snowboarding, etc), but don’t want to someone that spends a fortune on lessons.”

Notice a few things here …

1) Making enemies with “those people”.

The excuses automatically villainize the people who are successful. It’s a psychological slide that allows them to get off the hook from having to really do anything. “I choose not to be like those ‘bad’ people.” A condition is set, so that they can maintain their status quo and let themselves off the hook. It’s too easy to let yourself off the hook by fabricating a reason and getting people to agree.

2) Not having a strategy or plan

Lets take the diet and weight loss example. They want to eat their cake and have theirs too (no pun intended but it works). The reasons state the strategy or plan that they will not take, without actually saying what they will do. What I’ve found when I’ve heard these excuses is that there is no plan to get the desired outcome.

Cause not all people who get promoted and have great careers are workoholics.
Not everyone who exercises look like they are ready for a cover shoot.
Not everyone who is healthy denies themselves cake or wine at restaurants.

It’s fine not to do any of those things. But knowing what you’re not going to do doesn’t produce results.

Actually knowing what to do is going to get the results and desired outcomes.

3) Not willing to sacrifice

Embedded in the excuse is an admission of only doing easy work. Anyone who achieves any status of success in any area put in the work, had discipline, and took steps to master the domain. People want to have theirs, but not put in the work. So they won’t take the long cut, rather they are open to taking the short cut.

4) Protecting the failure

By saying that you won’t put in the hard work, you can protect your own reputation and self image. You never failed because you said you would only do it with a bunch of clauses and fine footnotes at the bottom of your contract.

A Call to Action

Getting what we want in life isn’t going to be easy work.

It’s going to require hard work.

It’s going to require being vulnerable to failure.

It’s going to require sacrifices.

It’s going to require you to live a different lifestyle than the status quo.

It’s going to require following proven strategies that others have used to succeed.

So let’s recognize the footnotes that we’ve attached ourselves to. The clauses. The boundaries. Put them aside, and let’s focus.

Let’s allow ourselves to dream about what we want to get. Whether it’s health, wealth, or more success in any area.

And next post, let’s look at some ways of actually getting there.

Want More Out of Life? You Need Failed Attempts

Failed attempts is a data gathering exercise.

It doesn’t work when I eat like this.
It doesn’t work when I go to bed in this manner.
It doesn’t work when my gym is a 15 minute drive away.
It doesn’t work when I only sleep 6 hours.
It doesn’t work when I drink 3 coffees in a single day.

Failure has such a stigma towards it. Yet, most of us already fail daily. We aren’t eating right, don’t feel optimal, aren’t getting enough sleep, don’t have a good rhythm of things. It gives us more data so that we can figure it out, to optimize our sleep, our diet, our exercise, our work.

So if we can get over the fact that we are failures anyways, how can we move from the list above, to failures where we can grow?

It doesn’t work when I give feedback to my colleagues like this.
It doesn’t work when I treat my clients like this.
It doesn’t work when I only ponder about changing jobs or careers.
It doesn’t work when I market myself like that.
It doesn’t work if I am not sharing my work with people.
It doesn’t work if I’m not putting in the work to the thing I love.

The first list is failed attempts at optimizing life. The second list is the list of failed attempts of someone who wants more out of life. The people that see a gaping hole between the life they have and what they want. But the road to success is littered with failures. Michael Jordan is famously quoted,

I’ve missed more than 9000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. 26 times, I’ve been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.

 

We all get one shot at life. If we’re born in the western world, we generally have the same opportunities, the same economy, the same job market, the same audience, the same platforms. Some will never get past the first list of failed attempts. What is it that you have to do to get to the second list?

Make Amazing Pizza. Make Them Understand.

This past weekend, I returned to the newly opened Joe Pizza in Vancouver.  It was the second time going to the new pizzeria. My first experience was amazing.

Their pizza is Roman style pizza, which are square shaped and cut, not circle and triangles.

It’s served at room temperature, not hot.
The crust was sourdough, not commercial yeast.  This added a lot of chew to the crust.
The dough is baked without any toppings, and then the sauce and toppings are added on afterwards.

Everything about this pizza was novel, fantastic.

When we arrived this time, we ordered our pizzas and sat down.  We started eating, and noticed the crust was less dense, less chewy, underwhelming compared to our first experience.

I asked the servers if they had changed the recipe of the dough since the soft opening.  “The crust isn’t sourdough anymore.  People didn’t respond well to it.”

CRASH.  My pizza world crushed the weight of my mind.   The pizza wasn’t served room temperature unless it is requested.  The only place in Vancouver to get sourdough crust pizza is no longer.

When you make a different decision, don’t expect them to like it.
When you make art that is from the unique you, don’t expect them to get the joke immediately.

“Hmm … it looks like pizza, it’s called pizza.  The crust is so chewy though.  It’s not hot.  There isn’t melted mozzarella on this.”

They never respond well to what they don’t expect.  That doesn’t mean you have to change.  You can take a stand for your art. Own it. Represent you.

“Yea I’ve tried that pizza joint before, it’s a bit weird and different.  It wasn’t my cup of tea, but it’s definitely different and they seem to be confident in what they are serving.”

Show up day by day, making art, being the unique you.  It creates trust between you, your art, and the consumer.

“You know it took getting used to.  But I just had to change my expectations for style of pizza.  This pizza is actually AH MAY ZYNG.”

 

The phone rings, and lots of people want a thing, and if it doesn’t align with the thing that your mission, and you say yes, now it’s is their mission.  There is nothing wrong with being a wandering generality instead of a meaningful specific, but, don’t expect to make the change that you seek to make if that is what you do. — Seth Godin

 

Special Star Syndrome and Homogenous Star Syndrome

Many millennials were told growing up that they were special no matter what.  It didn’t matter what their results were as long as they tried.

The “special star” treatment is excellent for building self confidence and self esteem.  You should feel that you are a special star.  Each of us are a unique human being and have a gift to offer others that no one else could possibly give.  Most people I know, including myself, would do much better in gaining this belief that “I’m a ‘special star’ in the universe.”

What most people I know have is the inverse special star belief.  “I am a special star and the world treats me uniquely.”  You are the only one that has a tough time dealing with rejection.  Your parents didn’t equip you or teach you.  You weren’t given the genetics to succeed.  The government, organizations, societies, target you, the victim.

The reality is that there is not a single person in history that has ever been you, or will ever be like you.  That makes you a special star.  The world, the people, it’s circumstances, cosmic forces, treat you the same.  That makes you a homogenous star.

The Free Rider Problem You Have

A free rider is someone who enjoys a service without giving anything in return.

This makes sense, ‘why spend energy when I can take the rewards?’

A pay rider is someone who gives of themselves generously.

This makes less sense, ‘why spend energy so that others can take the rewards?’

The pay riders are exhausted. They have to make difficult decisions. They have responsibility. People rely on them to get work done. Expectations are put on them.

But the problem with being a free rider is that they aren’t useful to anyone. They are easily replaceable. They don’t have trust from their comrades. They rely on the employer to hand them their pay cheque. Free riders are happiest on tuesdays at their bowling league.

But the pay riders don’t work for their employer, they work for the customers, the clients, the comrades. They are useful, make big contributions, exercise creativity. Pay riders are leaders, they have gained the trust of others. Pay riders have rock solid confidence in themselves, that they don’t need to free ride off others. Pay riders provide for themselves abundantly and are happiest sharing the spoils with others.

A pay rider learns the values of hard work
, patience
, creativity
, grit
, problem solving
, providing value
, hard skills.

Pay riders stand out and get paid.

Free riders blend in, and fade.

 

4 Intangible Skills I Learned From Reading More

What I gained from reading has spilled over to many areas of my life.  It wasn’t just the amazing stories, the knowledge, strategies and tactics, or motivation.  What has had far more spill over effect have been the intangibles.

1. Focus

Sitting down and reading everyday required focus. I had to learn to put on mental blinders and focus on the book.  Plug in headphones if my wife was watching TV, and focus on what I was reading.   Not check Instagram.  Not check Facebook.  Not check Snapchat.  Learning to focus the mind on one task. Reading, learning, not thinking about other things at the same time.  Sitting down for 2 hours without checking the phone.  Not checking e-mails.  No social media.  Not googling random thoughts or doing small errands between tasks.  Not turning on Netflix.

2. Discipline

It required discipline to read everyday.  Every time I had extra time at home, it wasn’t about finding something to do.  It was about sitting down and getting shit done.  Read.  When I started, I created a rule.  No TV between Mondays and Thursdays.   So what do you do when you’re home and you can’t watch TV, and you told yourself you would read more?  It didn’t matter if I was tired, I forced myself to open the book and read.  When I couldn’t focus my mind on a specific book, I would switch to something lighter that my brain could digest.

3. I’ve always got an hour

With the rare exceptions, I always had time to read.  Even if it was right before bed and super exhausted.  I could pick up a fiction book and get engrossed in the story.  Reading fiction before bed would help turn off the “doing” part of my brain.  Rather than winding down by watching TV and letting the glare of the screen kill my bio rhythms, reading a book would help put me to bed.  The rest of my time will be more productive if you give me my workout time,’ — Barack Obama

4. Achievement

At the beginning of the year, I set out to read 8 books during the year.   I set a low goal by pushing a little bit past my then-speed of reading.  So I started with a high pace in January with a goal of reading more in 2016 than I did in 2015.

[A] man’s most specific gift: his ability to put all his resources behind one activity, one field of endeavour, one area of accomplishment… Human excellence can only be achieved in one area, or at the most in very few. — Peter Drucker

The one achievement that I wanted to do everyday was to read more.  It wasn’t about reading a certain number of books or pages.  It was, squeeze as much reading as I can in a day.  Before work.  After work.  After dinner.  Before bed. On the bus.  Waiting for the car to get maintenanced.  Anywhere and everywhere.

I learned that if I set my mind to accomplish something, reading more, I could achieve it.  It wasn’t about reading more, and also eating really healthy, working out everyday, spending more time with my wife, more more more.  It was one thing, setting my mind to that one thing.

It’s surprising how simple, not easy, but simple, it is to do achieve just one thing.

Your Big Bank Account Doesn’t Make You Rich

“I would feel SO secure, SO safe if I had $1000 in the bank. […] and 2-3 years out of school I had $1000 in the bank.  And then I was like ‘well … maybe I need $2000, because I don’t feel safe.’ And then it became this hedonistic treadmill of OK I’m going to be a squirrel and save every penny I make so that I feel safe.  Well here it is 33 years later, and I still don’t feel safe.” — Debbie Millman

Having riches in the bank account is nice.  You can buy cool cars, fancy clothes, expensive watches, dine extravagantly, fly to exotic destinations.

But having riches in the bank account does not buy you peace, confidence, security.  The lizard brain doesn’t allow for it.  It tries to scare the shit out of you. Fearing that the number will go down too far.  Fearing that the income won’t come in to keep up with payments. Fearing that it could all go away as fast as it appeared. 

Having riches in your mind – when you have the inner confidence that all the riches in the bank can be stripped – because your greatest asset by a thousand times over is your mind. 

“If one takes away riches from the wise man, one leaves him still in possession of all that is his; for he lives happy in the present, and without fear for the future.” — Seneca

Being rich in mind recognizes that the big bank account was only a by product of hard work, good decision making, and a confidence in one’s ability to provide value to people. 
 
References:

Your Primal Brain is Scaring the Shit Out of You

We are unable to rely on ourselves. Or to be more precise,

We don’t believe we can rely on ourselves.

It’s all based on the narrative that our brain has concocted for us. Lucky for us, narratives we tell ourselves can change

In fact, it’s easy to rely on ourselves. That you can do that thing that you’ve always wanted to do.

That you can start that business venture.
That you can start a portfolio of the work you’ve been working on in your 5–9.
That you can start a blog.
That you can go back to school.
That you can volunteer to do a project at work to boost sales.
That you can change careers.

What is holding us back is fear. The primal part of our brain doesn’t like pain, it likes survival. That part of the brain doesn’t care about anything else.

 The primal brain’s mission is to make you survive. In other words, to not fail. The primal brain sees two options.

  1. You can’t fail.
  2. You can fail.

But those options are actually these ones:

  1. You don’t try, and you don’t fail.
  2. You try. And you learn something. Or you succeed.

Success Comes If You Keep At It

Success is in your DNA, you are meant for greatness.

Sounds like a wonderful quote from your favorite 2AM motivational speaker infomercial.

But well, isn’t it kind of true? Even if it’s on a small scale, we’ve all have had success.

Peter Drucker, an author and the “founder of modern management”, has this to say about what man can do.

[A] man’s most specific gift: his ability to put all his resources behind one activity, one field of endeavour, one area of accomplishment… Human excellence can only be achieved in one area, or at the most in very few. — Peter Drucker

After high school, I was rejected by all my university applications. This was a pretty heavy blow for me. Before my mom had passed, she would’ve whooped my butt if I didn’t get a university degree. So for the 2 years after high school I hustled my ass off and was accepted into the UBC Commerce program. At the time the program only accepted one out of every 18 applicants.

Not a big deal for some, but for me, I put my energy and focus on one thing and willed and determined myself into success. At 20 years old, it was an endeavour I focused a lot of energy towards, and made sure I succeeded.

As we get older, it seems wiser to make more realistic expectations of oneself. It’s only the ridiculous or the foolish to remain dreamers into adulthood. Yet it also seems like those exact same people are the only ones that achieve high success.

Each one of us has the ability to throw ourselves in atleast one major endeavour, one project, one direction. It might not happen within a week, month, year, or even years. But if I believe one thing, it is that the best things in life are gained through long term compound interest.

Success comes if you keep at it.

 

How to Spend More Time Working on Things That Matter

It gets so frustrating when my day ends up getting clogged with meetings, emails, and instant messages.  A few days in a row of this and at the end of the week, I have no real work to show.  I haven’t contributed anything to the organization, learned anything new, or made progress on the projects that I’m excited about.

A few months of this, and it starts to feel like I’m never going to get any work done.  Not only that, someone’s gotta eventually notice that I’m not doing any actual work right?  If only I didn’t have to answer all these e-mails and attend all these meetings.

Thankfully for us, distractions have always been an issue for knowledge workers.  Many wonderful people have tried various productivity systems, here are a few that I find useful.

Eisenhower Method

What is important is seldom urgent and what is urgent is seldom important. — Dwight D. Eisenhower, 34th President of the United States

Consider the urgent and important tasks, the ones where if you decide you’re going to put off for another 24 hours, you’re going to get fired, or your customer is leaving you.  In a fairly strong organization, this should happen infrequently, less than once a week or month.  These are your first tasks.

Outside of that, work on the important and not urgent.  Work on the things that will push you forward in your growth and development and the project that gives you the best opportunities.  In Eisenhower’s words, these are the ones that are seldom urgent.

Where this matrix falls though, are the things that are not very important, but are things that just needs to get done. What happens when those things get pushed down the priority list, is that work that needs to get done slips through the cracks, gets delayed, and people are waiting for it.  This isn’t good for the organization, and therefore, not good for you me either.

So while it’s important to focus on the growth and development opportunities, tempering it with tasks that need to get done using the next method works well.

Eat the Frog

“Eat a live frog first thing in the morning and nothing worse will happen to you the rest of the day” — Mark Twain

I’ve found this method to be quite helpful.  The full method is fairly self explanatory through this beautiful matrix I drew in my free Paint app.

Where this method differs, is that stuff that are not important, but have to get done, are the things that go first.  Rip the bandaid, get it over with.  It’s kind of like, do your homework right when you get home, and you can play and do whatever you want afterwards.

Where this matrix falls through, is that your time can end up getting entirely consumed by tasks that you don’t want to do, or the ones that don’t provide the growth opportunity for you.  This isn’t good for your own fulfillment, effectiveness, or your career.

Where does this leave us?

Energy Based Prioritization

There are some days where you have more energy than others.

Your best days, where you got a great sleep, you are focused, you woke up knowing your why and your purpose, these are the inspiring days that don’t come often enough.  These days, choose the Eisenhower Method.  Asides from the emergencies, work on the things you want to do!  It creates the synergy of knowing what you want to do, why you want to do it, and having the mental resources to work on it.

On the other days, when you have a backlog of things that have to be done that you don’t want to do (and there is always a backlog), work on those things.  Get through it as much as you can, get through the day, and just eat the live frogs so you can get to work on the things you want to do.