Habits

When you have a habit established, moving forward yields a certain kind of inertia.

You have run for 4 days, so you do what your supposed to on day 5.

You eat right so you don’t “waste” your run.  You run 4 miles because you don’t want to waste yesterday’s 6 miler.

You up the intensity at the office so you can be free to do another workout.  The heightened intensity means that the to do list gets shorter.

Every good, sustainable habit is likely to cause order in other areas.  I don’t suggest that we force every area of our life into some sort of lockstep.  That’s not particularly productive, it hits diminishing returns, and always watching the clock means that you don’t produce your best work, you’re not in flow as much as you might be.

Still, forcing one habit on yourself, something important (running, writing, coding, whatever), means that other areas fall into place.  There’s one set of actions that’s something like a lynchpin.

For me, there’s also action that cancers all I try and do.  If I play a video game, say Civilization or  World of Warcraft or if I jump on Facebook chat, there will be a smothering burden on me that won’t be lifted till a clean break is made.

For me, the important habits are:

  • Running. Not the elliptical, not “cardio”, not lifting weights.  Pure, real running. Attacking previous good times, seeing how far I can go.  The preferred workout is about a 9:40 pace with 1 mile as fast as I can go at the end (right now just under 8, but that’s with holding onto the treadmill for dear life).
  • Follow up: I ping people whenever I think I can add value.  I use a CRM to do almost everything, and stay familiar with people.  I don’t spend enough time doing this, and I have to push hard to do it.  But, when I work to help people, add value, and connect, good things happen.
  • Reading: Right now, I’m working off of a few of reading lists: Ryan Holliday’s is excellent, Brad Feld’s is good, and Derek Sivers’s  is pretty good.  The most interesting stuff is hard and not the low end business books that I’ve been reading forever.  (If you know of a list, email genuinechris@gmail.com and I’ll work off of it).  I try to read at least 2 books a week, and it comes and goes.  Some of the bigger biographies I wind up skimming the long passages of exposition.

Of the habits, running is again new, and Reading has probably made the biggest difference in my life.  I’m still given over to lashing out at bloviating idiots, etc. etc. but as a whole reading has changed the course of my life more than I’d imagine it would.  Not just in knowing history, but in acting decisively, thinking clearly, understanding what great people did (hint, it’s not answering fools on quora)

If I’m regularly doing those three things, everything else takes  care of itself.

Proposed Routine

calvin-routine

So with Ruby having inspired me, I need a routine.  A solid way to do things.  And it starts with what I intend to do regularly – what do I need to do more of.

Rescue Time has been a godsend to me.  I’ve been able to improve what I do, get better and go for it.  I’ve learned that I spend something like 6 hours a week – 45 minutes a day – concerneed with news and sports.

That’s 6 hours that I could be playing with Jack and Ruby.  That’s 6 hours that I could be hanging with Heather, or doing whatever else.   That’s six hours that I could use to invest in my life – reading above my level or whatever.  6 hours x 52 =  312 hours a year.  13 days a year.

910 days over a 70 year period.  2.5 years.

That’s a lot of time wondering how well Kobe Bryant did.  That’s gotta change.

Now, we can’t be perfectly efficient in every way – there’s going to be a diminishing return at some point.  I’m not going to lifehack my way into more, but if I can reduce 2.5 years of nonsense by 80%, I think I’ve done myself a service.

But, it’s apparent that I need to write more and better.  That fuels the rest of my business.  My friend Scott used to say Writing is the Road to all wealth.

Agreed.  And it’s not just physical wealth, it’s clarity of mind and purpose.  Reading other people’s writing leads to wealth.  So does writing for yourself.  This – when I execute it – will lead to wealth.

So, this has to be a routine.  These are minimums:

  • 3  hours  (min) of “alone zone” writing every day.  This doesn’t translate to six hours one day, a feeling of satisfaction and nothing for weeks on end.  This is a daily requirement.
  • 1.5 hours of misc content creation every day. (Tuts, etc).
  • 1.5 hours of selling every day.  (Let’s define selling, but it’s actively instigating and solving problems).
  • 1 hour of reading (books,not blogs, hard stuff that makes me better)
  • 1.5 (ish) hours of exercise + commute to and fro
  • 1 hour (ish) prayer/meditation/worship/study
  • 30 minutes of research. (finding leads, following up with clients, responding).

What gets cut/curtailed by this?

  • Recreational surfing.  Somehow I replaced “skimming news” with “catching up on my childhood,” due to subscriptions.marvel.com
  • Chat on skype.
  • Facebook
  • Tweetdeck/twitter

What are the benefits:

  • Less screen time
  • better fitness
  • more energy
  • more time with my kids
  • happier wife.

How – specifically – does this happen?

First, I have to commit to a schedule and not worry about how I feel.  The first 3-4 minutes of waking up *always* stink.  I have to get over how I feel abou things.

I have to get up by or before 6am 5 days a week.  I can’t miss.

I have to get to the gym by or before 7:30am.  I can’t miss.  Have to do 30-ish minutes of wisdom seeking reading.

I have to get writing by 9 every day.  (I can’t miss).

I have to get selling by 11:30 (I can’t miss).

I have to lay out my life in such a way that this stuff is possible.

Put Upon

We live our lives with the expectation of bliss and joy all the time.  Some prerequisite to activity is the activity being fun, pleasant or joyful.  If what we’re doing, working on gets hard, we give up and lose focus.

This is sold to us by Madison Avenue.  We are led to believe that we are to tolerate nothing short of perfect joy and convenience.  And when we get less than that, our attention spans wander to something else.   We become incensed when someone trips us up with what is, at most, a minor inconvenience.

We Are Entitled.

We go to  Starbucks, and when it’s our turn, someone gets one of 11 details a little off on one of 30 trips through.  We then act as if it’s the end of our world. “Excuse me.  I’m not usually like this but, can you PLEASE get this RIGHT for once?  What will you do for me to make up for this screw up?”

When BlueHost went down–for less than 12 hours–people were apoplectic — ranting about their $6.95/month hosting service.  As if some army of people should be waiting on us for $85 bucks a year.

Our narrative is that we are these noble, heroic creatures that are constantly put upon by someone: our spouse, the clerk at Wal-Mart, or the driver in traffic who cut us off.

We’re always put upon by something, and it’s because we expect bliss.  We use pseudo slights as an excuse for anything: to snap at our kids, to be mean to our spouse, or whatever else.

What Does Entitlement Solve?

What if  we really knew world wasn’t responsible for arranging itself for our convenience?  What if the world wasn’t going to arrange itself just to please you?

What if we took away that the expectation of driving was going to be a glittering path to our destination, but accounted for reality, for humanity?

What if we knew that we could set our course but there would be obstacles?  Instead of being taken by surprise, we’d be well prepared and ready for the next thing.

What if we knew that our flailing tantrums would never get a resolution?  What if we spent that energy in an OODA loop, looking for solutions?

What if we considered our place in it as small, and worked not to be more recognized, but for the betterment of the world?

Kindness, Cruelty and Charisma

Hello, Jack and Ruby,

I’ve made loads of mistakes in my life.  I’ve always–always–gotten more than I deserved given the circumstances. I’ve been mean, cruel, depreciating and I got to have you and to marry your mom.  I’ve  A blessing, to be sure, and I’m humbled by the  largesse that God has fit to bestow upon me.  I’m grateful for the life I’ve had and for every moment I’ve been alive.  I did nothing to deserve this!  Nothing!

Of the mistakes I’ve made, the pattern that rings out is undervaluing kindness in others. There was sweet classmate named Jason.  He was someone that I enjoyed talking to, playing chess with, bantering with.  He was smart, guileless, and kind-hearted.   None of his jokes were barbed.   He didn’t grow up with much in the way of means, yet… he was kind all of his life.  I was a friend to him privately, when it didn’t cost me much.  I was kind to him when–and only when–it wasn’t going to bear some social cost.

In public, I’d join with anyone making cracks at his expense.  Yes, he was occasionally socially awkward (aren’t kind, sweet people generally)?  But he accepted me as I was…and was a generous friend to me and to many others  He required nothing of me and he was content for the times I was kind to him.  I discarded him, didnt’ treat him as a peer, but as an entertainment source.  We’d talk when I needed an ego fix.  And then when I was done with him, off I’d go.

When you’re young, you think that the whole world is watching you.  And that every interaction matters, and will either + you up the social ladder or – you down it.  The ladder doesn’t matter.

It wasn’t just him.  I was always aware of a hierarchy in my family: who’s richer, better, smarter, neater than whom.  If someone was not cool, I had granted myself license to treat them indifferently or with cruelty.  I wasn’t raised this way but there were certainly bright lines of who’s in and who’s out of our tribe.   I was cruel to a nice kid, and it was because I thought I should be. Because the praises of the other mean people were somehow meaningful.

Now, as you probably know, Jason is dead.  He died of some unfortunate circumstances, and I lost touch shortly after High School.  He was happy to see me and came up and said hi, but I was with another friend and I didn’t acknowledge him.  I felt a little pang at the moment.  I looked for him afterwards but he wasn’t around, and that was my last interaction with him, till I heard maybe 2 years later that he’d been involved in his own death.  What if I’d mirrored his kindness?  It’s not as if I’d achieved some social standing in the insane caste system of high school.   (Life is fragile, and we never know what kindness can do).

I valued charisma over kindness.  Being glib, hip, clever.  I still do to a degree, when I forget myself.  I’d guess we all do, and we have to look at intent: is someone’s intention to be kind, to be a blessing, or do they intend to just be clever?  What is clever?  What problems does clever solve?   My life is marked with people, men and women that were fundamentally kind.  I discarded so many because I perceived them as dorky.  Hell, I bet kindness makes you seem dorky.  It can be projected as weakness, or dullness.

It’s neither.  Cruelty is inexcusable, and it’s real lack of integrity to treat people one way privately and another way in public.  If you’re living this way you’re trying to hide something.  In fact, you’re probably acting with cruelty if you’d be uncomfortable if anyone found out what you were doing.

Learn from my mistakes, and be as kind as you can be.  And if someone wants to ostracize another, pity them.  They don’t know what they do, and they’ll either regret it later, or they’ll lead an impoverished life.  I’m doing what I can, and I hope that I can set a good example all your life.

Love,

Dad

WordPress Sucks, Thesis Blows & Headway Doesn’t Matter

Important revelation: WordPress sucks.  It’s horrible.  It takes forever to use, it’s not user friendly, it’s not intuitive, it breaks, and it is too complex.  WP has systemic problems.  The UX people that make it must hate their users, putting a big dumb dashboard…with 71 options in their faces every time they log into the “back end.”    It’s cobbled with options that don’t matter, menus that are rarely used, and to do anything substantial to it, you need to mess with .htaccess or the back end.

These are all fair and valid complaints from the perspective of a person brought kicking and screaming into the Internet age, because something as simple as uploading a page takes several steps: go to WP, go to /wp-admin, hit “add page.”  Type content, if you’re embedding a video you need either a special plugin or you need to hit “edit HTML” (which is intimidating).   You might need to upload (not drag and drop) a picture.

Windows Live Writer took care of some of these issues, but it still butchers the markup to the point of errors in spacing and markup.   There is no “just works” tool out there.  Mars Edit–the best WP software on the planet–is a breath of fresh air, but even it isn’t perfect or game changing.  It wins because it helps you focus on writing.

But look: there are brilliant business people that will never use WordPress because working on a WP site feels like work.  It’s unfamiliar.  It doesn’t feel like Word, Outlook or even a Mac.  It is clumsier than an Ipod, and it takes too much effort to interact with the WP ecosystem, since it’s unlike anything else and not particularly good.

The best tools for WP aren’t revolutionary because the UX is only adequate. Thesis is marvelous for me.  It’s a beautiful framework that allows a few lines of code to boss around an entire website.  A few lines of CSS and you’ve got whatever you want.  But…you still have to code.  That means that thesis is hard.  I shared some basic HTML with a smart business associate, and I learned that she was intimidated just because it was HTML.

This means that WP has only scratched the surface of its marketshare.

This is a truly fixable problem.  A tool that works like LiveWriter but didn’t inherit Redmond’s stupidness can change the world.  If it can use XMLRPC and boss WP around without running afoul of the vaunted GPL, then we have something that changes the world.  We have to make things “apple simple” and when we do, we win.

Intensity

intentse

Most of us are listless at times.  That is normal, and to be expected.  What’s not normal is the bastardization of our Protestant ethic that makes us seem to work, seem to think, and seem to try.  People brag about how much they work. As if somehow time spent equates to value added.  We mark our time at our desks writing blog posts, answering email, and just sort of float on the surface.

We’re in some sort of holding pattern waiting for something to happen.  We’re present physically.  We know the real magic happens not with “presence” but with intensity.  Focus.  White hot burn.  Go to the gym.  Spend an hour or more on some elliptical machine. Not hard, probably does a little good.  Perfectly safe.

What if you spent the same time pushing yourself to your absolute limits?  What if you reached your pain threshold, and were not sure if you could do it or not?  That every fiber in your body had to focus on this one goal…would you get more out of that? What if you spent less time with more heat?

What if you pushed to your limit in your work?  Those are the difference makers, people that are indifferent to what the crowd does or thinks, but people that create the world and mold it regardless of resistance.  People that ignore the persistent tether of the mediocre and don’t brag about 70 hour weeks, but brag about how much of their mind, soul and spirit they engaged to solve a problem.

We don’t ignite our souls because of ego.  If we try our best and fail, it hurts a lot worse than if we half-ass and fail.  So we don’t bleed for what we want.  If it’s not us, but just some work that we’re indifferent to, then we can accept failure and our ego is unscathed because we weren’t engaged.

It seems safe, but the risk is greater because we never reach our dreams and our life is a morass of “woulda, shoulda & coulda.”

We must embrace the intensity that’s available to us, because only through intensity do we achieve what we are after.  We must seek out intensity and find a way to find–and push  through–the pain and doubt threshold each day.

Occasionally, time is the only currency that solves a problem.  More often it’s thought, energy, determination and passion that solves problems.  Just doing it.

That brings a question: are you putting time in, or are you putting your soul in?

What are you risking by merely putting time into what you’re doing?  What will happen to your life?

Focus

focus

Staying focused isn’t easy.  Making something worthwhile is truly hard.  Willing something to exist from nothing goes against nature.  A body at rest stays at rest and we fight that trend.  It’s hard.  It’s hard to battle the status quo.  It’s hard to do something different, to bring forth something with meaning.

People tether you by making you explain yourself, and sometimes, out loud, your ideas sound silly.  We are to believe that if they sound silly, then perhaps the problem is ours.  Reactions like “that must be hard,” are controls: they are subconcious mild discouragements, designed to have you on the path that is comfortable towards another person.

You’ll doubt yourself, and others will doubt you.  You’ll have distractions and things will conspire to take you off course and suck away your energy.

Inertia is seductive.  It’s almost always easier to justify the problem than it is to solve it.  You can live overweight for another day, or get through the holidays with a bad marriage, or go through another year in a crumby job.  It’s always more pleasant, and the risk of doing that battle is that you are not going to have a certain outcome.

Realize in advance that it’s going to be really, really hard, and the commitment gets easier.  Because you know you’re committing to something that’s harder than what you’re doing, and you understand the undertaking.   You won’t underestimate it, and you’ll emerge with victory as a possibility.

Ruby

Have taught me how to love. Have helped me to be less selfish. Have made me proud.

Ruby is 2 yesterday. With excitement I said to her, “Happy Birthday Ruby,” and she grinned and mirrored me and said, “Happy Birthday, Daddy.”

She’s cute. Ruby, you’re 2. You’re talking more prodigiously than your brother, asking achingly sweet questions like, “Where are we going, daddy,” or “What was that funny noise.” You’re more content than Jack was to be left alone. Less active, just taking things in.

You still like your mom best, but you have plenty of time for me. This morning you sat in my lap and ate cheerios and commanded me to “play peek-a-boo.”

You ask for what you want and are showing cleverness both linguistically and in other ways. You smile at everyone.

You can recite the alphabet, you sing nursery rhymes and kid songs (rain Rain, go away little RUBY wants to PLAY).

You like looking at and doing what Jack does. He’s a close second in your life. When Jack stays with my parents your first question when you wake up is “where did jackie go?” Jack has been the best big brother to you, whenever you cry (not much) he brings you a stuffed dog, and is very empathetic. How he treats you makes me very proud. It’s no wonder you like him. I hope that that lasts.

You both have made me a better person. Less Asperger’s, more kind. I love you so much for that.

Happy Birthday, Ruby

2010 Is the Year of No Excuses

2008 was the year I learned grace and forgiveness. I started to realize that I wasn’t king of the world. 2008 was when I learned to love my sweet little boy Jack and to embrace being a dad. I stopped picking fights everywhere. My effort wasn’t done then, but I stopped trying to conceal things (from the IRS, to the business flops I’d had), and I started becoming who I am. I learned that I’m not always right, and it’s easier to not fight every battle.

2009 was the year that I learned to be of service. Again: I’m not done with that lesson, but it was a theme. Help others. Do more for people. Focus less on Chris and more on being a servant to people here. Do good stuff. Stop being so self-centered. And what happened was at the end of the year, I had more money, less debt, I lied less, I liked myself better than I had at any other time. 2009 was a good year. I walked to the edge of self destruction, the bring of the destruction of my family, and I learned this: it’s not about me. It’s about what I can do to help my little kids, it’s about what I can do to help others.

2010? The year of no excuses. There were ill fated, aborted and half finished efforts last year. I was late on over half my projects. I overcommitted and then I blamed others. I oversold my clients on what’s possible and on my capacity. I had good intent each time. I’m an evangelist of the web, I love it. But I had to "Fake it till I made it." Debt dictated a lot of what I did (but that’s an excuse). I had to grind and push and learn the business. I didn’t do it then like I’m doing it now.

This year is about serving people with unflinching standards.

This is about creating a plan for days/weeks/hours and time spent. And living that plan.

This is about not making a promise at all if I can’t keep it.

This is about making sure that I’m known for being on time, reliable and sturdy. No excuses. Ever.

This is about taking responsibility for things that aren’t mine and knocking them out. No excuses. Not. From. Me.

This is the year of no excuses.

Nothing’s perfect, but I can make damn sure that the buck stops with me and that nothing falls through the cracks on my watch.

What is 2010 the year for for you?

Is Grace In Your DNA?

Grace is eternal and important. Meditations by Marcus Aurelius (book 2) begins this way (Gregory Hays Translation, emphasis mine).

When you wake up in the morning, tell yourself: the people I deal with today will be meddling, ungrateful, arrogant, dishonest, jealous and surly. They are like this because they can’t tell good from evil. But I have seen the beauty of good and the ugliness of evil and have recognized that the wrongdoer has a nature related to my own–not of the same blood or birth, but of the same mind and possessing a share of the divine. And so none of them can hurt me. No one can implicate me in ugliness. Nor can I feel angry at any relative, or hate him. We were born to work together like feet, hands and eyes, like the two rows of teeth, upper and lower. To obstruct each other is unnatural. To feel anger at someone, to turn your back on him: these are obstructions.

This is about grace, and the predictable folly of people. Heather and I were commenting on finding some threads here and in the Bible. Phrasings that are the same throughout all types of wisdom literature, from the ancient world to Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. The human condition is eternal. Folks will be meddling. Deal with it. In advance. Some will be arrogant. Deal with that, too. Because that’s how we all are. Meddling, ungrateful arrogant, dishonest, jealous and surly. In varying degrees and in varying times, but that’s the condition of humanity. We have met the enemy…

So why is it then that we are quick to speak about slights that happen to us? Why is it that we’re surprised by petty behavior, why do we get aghast when people reveal themselves to be imperfect? Why can’t we just show Grace? Why is this a surprise to anyone, and why do we insist–like Yossarianthat the slights are happening to us? People are petty and mean, and they just don’t know any better. And when we lose hold of who we are, of our humanity, we’re just the same. Easily given over to rage. Easily baited into doing things that we’re ashamed of. A stupid bull.

Why is it that we get predictably angry when someone’s actions indicate that they see us in a different way than we see ourselves? Why do we let people’s predictable barbs to our ego make us respond with threats, anger and the Don’t you know who I am BS?

Grace is important when we think humans might be dishonest. We’ve all been dishonest, told lies for expedience sake at a minimum. When other people tell them, why do we try to play "gotcha games" and try to get them to lie prostate on their feet. The unraveling of Tiger Woods shows us that what people present isn’t the same as who they are.

When people are caught in a lie, we see such wildly implausible stories covering that up. Think of the machinations that both Bill Clinton and George W. Bush went through to cover up deceits of different types.

Our companions are going to be ungrateful. The expectation of gratitude is nuts: we do a favor so we can get our "reward" in the form of debt slavery or in the form of gratitude. We remind people of the service we rendered that maybe wasn’t that great as a way of being valuable. We don’t just silently serve. When we notice that people are ungrateful, let’s look at ourselves: why do we expect gratitude anyway. Forgive that sin, and realize that it’s your own mistake and your own fault when that comes up.

In organizations its the same way: people are going to screw up, they are going to be disloyal and pursue their own priorities. Others still perceive themselves as not being well recognized. People get removed from leadership or get taken out with no real understanding that we’re imperfect machines that will occasionally lash out.

All of this stuff, all of the lack of forgiveness that we exhibit is caused by what we see as affronts our sense of importance. We think we are more important than we are–when we’re a mere speck. We think that what we do matters. We can use wrath as a tool to make ourselves more important than others…or we can live in harmony and know in advance people are going to be jerks and just forgive them in advance.

Happiness, Bliss, Duty & Fulfillment

Been thinking a lot today, as the song goes.   A paradox:  most of my unhappiness comes from the unbridled and selfish pursuit of pure happiness. Or the pursuit of bliss/pleasure/adulation/gratification.  Most of the times that I feel self loathing, I feel that way because I am gonna get embarrassed from saying or doing something vaguely (or maybe not so vaguely) smarmy and shady.

Seeking bliss alone makes you a target.  If you, as a reptile, just look for the next opportunity to catch a beery buzz or socially climb by insinuating that such-and-such did this and that…it might give you a fleeting satisfaction.   And it might manifest itself in a million different ways, but at the end of the day, it’s only a moment.  “He sought the most pleasure for himself,” is not a legacy that is we want on our tombstones.   Seeking bliss means that we become addicted to it, and then we spend time chasing bliss, the next high, the next big thing, the next bit of praise from the cool kids.

The chase for approbation also withers our souls.  When we become adulation addicted, and when we become dependent on what other people think of us as a measure of worth, then the bliss we seek is subject to approval.  We’re looking over our shoulders to make sure that others approve of our grotesque pursuit of happiness.  We try to reconcile the paradox of being pure bliss seekers with needing to have praise for others, not knowing that they are impossible to balance.  We wind up lying to cover the pursuit of our bliss.  When we lie, we wind up lying to hide the lies and our lives become caught in a paradox.

I’m seeing my generation now–my peer–crash shoals of seeking bliss.  Judging acquaintances on “how happy the other person makes me,” and activities through the “what am I gonna get” prism means everything situational: if it’s expedient to break a promise (or a vow) to achieve bliss, that’s simply what we do.

The thing is, the longer I live, the more I realize that seeking instant gratification isn’t going to do it for me.  It’s not going to make me happy–not going to make me have more utils of pleasure.  We think we’re victims and entitled to more when someone has the appearance of more pleasure.   We don’t get that we’ve screwed up, we don’t get the idea that we’ve all messed each other over, and we all deserve a worse fate than we’re getting.  We some how spend a lifetime seeking our pleasure and when we don’t catch that phantom, we feel like we’re victims.  The siren still calls us all the time: there’s more more more more just over here.

The thing is–when we serve for the right reasons (not, say, to seek approval, but to honestly be of service), when we get past ourselves and do something because we care we feel something that we can’t get when we chase it.  When we chase “charity” because we’re hoping it makes us happy, it never does.  But when we chase it because it’s the right thing to do, and because we’re over ourselves, then something wonderful and inspiring can happen.  When we empty ourselves of the worldly desires of seeking the pleasure du jour…we can then see what’s truly possible to achieve.

How do you think we do that?

It’s Not How Good You Are When You Start, It’s How Fast You Get Better

bozo

I’ve been in business for myself almost two years now as a primary source of income.

And, I’m going to say this: I was terrible till a few months ago.  And I still have a ways to go.  I was–and remain– a better salesperson than practitioner.  I was never getting things done, always behind with every single client.  I was living on the grace and kindness of my clients, and the fact that the web is opaque to others.  In some ways I still am–more on that in a bit.

I didn’t start out knowing everything.  I started out slow, doing a bad job and behind the 8 ball.  I started out dropping balls everywhere, letting my clients down.  I started out making mistake after mistake, being overcommitted, and piling myself so deep in time debt it was a wonder I ever got out.  I started out broke and hungry, and needing to hustle to keep the lights on.  No steady or recurring revenue was coming in, my (well talked about) struggle with the IRS had me flat broke.

I started out working out of a pantry, literally. I didn’t know anything except kinda sorta how to use fantastico, I had creditors chasing me with varying degrees of success and intensity.  I was well intended, but broke, and broke people break other people and their businesses.  I was bad at first, but I was good at taking in business, and I kept the worst of the demons at bay.

Each mistake I made I improved.  I’d tell you that I wrote it down (I wish), but I wanted to get better, so the skill that comes with putting some fraction of your 10,000 hours in came to me as well as simple experience.  But, even six months into it, I was living off of luck.  A check here, a 401k withdrawal there was how I was getting by.

But every time I failed, I improved.  Every customer got slightly better service.

One day, I started getting referrals from customers.

One day I was able to do the work fairly fast.

I failed a lot, but I improved.  And some time about a year in, I stopped hating the work.

And I got better.  I didn’t say, “hey, I suck at this” or “hey, my destiny is to suck at customer service.”  I did suck at customer service.  I did suck at it, but that doesn’t matter.  I wanted it to be better, I was papering over my warts with new sales, refunding when needed, and moving forward.

My last refund was in business from July 2009.   I’m cognizant that I might have more, and I’ve lived on the grace of some of my clients.  I’m cognizant that I’ve had a run of nice people.  But, the last refund was for work I took in an ill defined way 6 months ago.  It was for work that I largely did but was left open.

Anyway, I’ve got some “permanent noncustomers” now, and some bodies in my wake, but I’ve also developed an increasing reel of good successes.  I’ve made good things happen for an increasing number of people.

My secret is not how good I am.  My secret isn’t my talent.  It’s the fact that I can keep getting knocked down over and over and come back.  I am that bozo doll.  I am going to be right back up, no matter what bullshit hits me.  I’m going to be after it, and I’m going to get a little bit better each day.  You can keep whacking me, but eventually you’re gonna get worn out and go home.  I’m going to sit there with that insipid smile on my face, ready for the next punch.

That’s my secret.   I can take lumps.  I’m Rocky Balboa, and you might be more talented, you might hit harder, and hell, you might even be a steroid using Soviet Cyborg, but I’m coming back, and there ain’t nothing that you can do to stop me.   It’s not how good you are, it’s how fast you get better.

If tomorrow, your effort was just 1% more effective, you’d become twice as good in about 2 and a half months.  1 * 1.01^68 = 2.

How can you become more efficient?

How can you deliver better service?

How can you prevent mistakes that happen?

How can you fix problems, on purpose?

How can you do this stuff now?

A lot of people are stymied by that question–how can I get better–because it presumes that they aren’t good.  I know that I’m OK, but my business needs to improve SO much so quickly.  I don’t want to punt that question off anymore.  I want to get that question asked every single time.  I want to do things correctly and get better.

I know that I’m going to be much better this time next year.  And I know that in two years I’ll be better still.  I can’t get better fast enough.  That’s the attitude.  Because if I’m better at getting better than anyone else, I’ll eventually catch damn near everyone.  F=MA if you focus on the “A” you’ll eventually get there no matter what the M started out as.

Entitlementality: Cancer Of Success

I’ve been playing at it for a long time, but I’m completely convinced that entitlementality is why people don’t succeed.  Some that the world owes you a living, that your talents are more than they are, and that you earn something because of your “talent” is bullshit.

When you think you “deserve” something from your employer, from the world, you’re focusing inward.  Your eyes are tuned to what you’re supposed to be getting.  And as a consequence, there’s always someone prettier, luckier or more connected than we are.  Focusing on that will make you nuts.  Talent…doesn’t…matter without service to others.

The deal is we get paid because we are of service to others.  We get paid only because we are here to help other people.  Not because of our talent which is over rated, but because of what we’re able to do that others want.  And at every level, we can provide what others want.  All we have to do is admit it.  Admit that what we made doesn’t have a market, or that it’s not good enough to get people excited.

The world has rules, and the most simple one is this: if you serve others at the highest level, you’ll become rich in friends, money, opportunity, connection.  If you try for a living through arbitrage or self focus, the poison you swallow will eventually kill you.

So the question is this: instead of focusing on what you get, what are you doing to focus on how you can help others?  Instead of focusing on how that dude ripped you off, ask what did you do for that dude–did you keep your promises?  Did you serve?  Did you help?

Your wallet is the first to know where your focus is.  Think of the people that you admire.  They are highly paid servants that chose what service they were going to perform.  They are not focused on grabbing all they can, but proudly performing an amazing service that is valuable to others.