More Energy And Bigger Results

Want More Energy And Bigger Results? Stop Asking “HOW” And Start Asking “WHO”

“Focus on WHO instead of HOW” — Dean Jackson

There’s a famous story of Edwin C. Barnes, who in 1905 had no money or expertise. However, he was an ardent fan of the inventor, Thomas Edison.

Barnes wanted to become business partners with Edison. He knew that if he became partners with Edison, there would be no limits on what he could accomplish. He took a freight train to New Jersey and walked straight to the Edison Laboratory.

He was wearing musty and scrappy clothes and told Edison he wanted to go into business with him. Edison was impressed by the boldness and made Barnes a floor sweeper.

During the next few years, Barnes did far more than expected of him for little pay. He also paid close attention to Edison, getting a sense of how he thought and what his goals were.

After years of working on his dictating machine — what later became known as the Ediphone that recorded “voice letters” on a wax cylinder — Edison wanted to commercialize it. He loved the invention but none of his staff saw much marketability in it.

Barnes, however, thought the machine was brilliant and saw a huge potential market. He made a marketing plan for how he intended to sell the machines throughout America and shared the plan to Edison. He sought payment only on the success he created himself.

Edison liked what he saw and accepted Barnes’ proposal. Within a short period of time, Barnes had sold thousands of machines and even had to create his own company to handle the demand. While things were growing dramatically, Barnes became known for hiring great people to help him market and distribute Edison’s machine. He didn’t see himself as a boss, but more of a coach and a partner to all of his employees.

Barnes quickly became a millionaire, which back then meant a lot more than it means now. He developed a unique collaboration and partnership with Thomas Edison that became a long-term and highly lucrative relationship.

Barnes didn’t have a plan.

Instead, he had a person.

He had someone he wanted to work with and help.

He didn’t have a HOW. Barnes had a WHO.


Don’t Ask HOW

When most people have goals, they immediately begin thinking about HOW. Billionaires immediately begin thinking about WHO.

The public school-system does not teach people to become WHO-thinkers and collaborators. Instead, the school system teaches people how to become HOW-thinkers, equipped with a seemingly endless amount of generalized skillsets.

Rather than looking for OTHERS to work with, kids are taught to compete against others and look for right answers. There is basically zero training on developing mentorships, collaborations, partnerships, teamwork, and leadership. Even as a PhD student, I’ve been surprised how generalized my education has been. Rather than working with specific WHO’s, my whole education has been a non-stop flow of HOW’s.

Dan Sullivan is the founder of Strategic Coach and has coached more successful entrepreneurs than anyone alive. According to Sullivan, when a person shifts from HOW to WHO, their goals immediately become national or global. Their thinking expands at least 10 to 100 times bigger, because they aren’t the one figuring out the HOW. Someone else already has that taken care of.

According to Sullivan, the entrepreneurs who want to reach 100X or bigger influence and income realize they must collaborate with their competition. The best collaborations are when a idea-generator teams up with a distributor of ideas. This is what happened with Edison and Barnes. Edison had the idea and Barnes took the idea to the masses.

Becoming A WHO-Thinker

“Your network is your net worth.” — Tim Sanders

Most people’s goals are based on HOW. According to Dan Sullivan, thinking about the HOW is daunting and leads to procrastination. Instead of asking HOW, a much better question is WHO.

WHO do you want to learn from?

WHO is already doing what you want to be doing?

WHO is where you want to be?

WHO fascinates and/or inspires you?

WHO do you want to collaborate with?

WHO do you want to help? According to bestselling author Jeff Goins, “Success isn’t about who you know. Success is about who you help.”

There is a clear transition that people make as their vision for themselves advances. They stop thinking in terms of “I do this.” Instead, they shift to either “They do this” or “We do this.”

“They do this” is where you begin thinking bigger about yourself and your time. You realize that when you’re operating in your super-power, your time can actually be worth a lot of money. Therefore, you begin outsourcing and delegating the stuff you dislike about your work to other people and focus only on that which you love. Said YouTuber Casey Neistat, “What is the ultimate quantification of success? For me, it’s not how much time you spend doing what you love. It’s how little time you spend doing what you hate.”

It may seem scary to begin hiring or outsourcing before you feel ready. But the moment you begin doing it, you’ll never look back. The extra time and also the increased rate of happiness and productivity will more than 10X for you, justifying the cost.

“We do this” is a special place held for only those collaborations that make absolute sense to you. This is where you want to start thinking really big about the WHO’s you want into you life. This is what Dan Sullivan was talking about when he said you want to collaborate with your “competition.”

And by the way, competition doesn’t exist for people who know who they are. Competition doesn’t exist for people who trust themselves enough to know they can create continual Blue Ocean’s for themselves, regardless of the situation.

Competition doesn’t exist for people who are abundant WHO-thinkers, because rather than trying to steal the whole pie, abundant WHO-thinkers recognize that:

  • The pie doesn’t belong to them, but to the Universe
  • The pie is not finite, but infinite
  • Nor is the “game” finite, but infinite
  • The more of the pie you can give away, the bigger it gets for you
  • Relationships are the most important currency in the world
  • It’s better to give the piece of pie on your plate to the right person and you’ll quickly get plates back with even bigger pieces

Give Your Piece Away To The Right Person (Even If It’s Your Favorite Flavor)

“Life gives to the giver and takes from the taker.” — Joe Polish

Regarding the last point in the bullet above, I recently had the opportunity to co-author a book with one of the SHARKS from the TV show Shark Tank, Kevin Harrington. Several months ago, Kevin’s CEO, Mark Timm, heard me give a talk at a mastermind and felt good about me. He didn’t know what we would do together, but felt like something important was going to happen.

During my first meeting with Mark, I told him the only thing that made sense for me was co-authoring a book with Kevin. I’d been looking for opportunities to co-author books with people at far different stages in their life and career than I’m at.

Within a few days, I got a text message from Mark, “Kevin’s onboard. He loves the idea!”

For the next two months, I worked back-and-forth with my agent on a book proposal. Then, something deep inside me began to feel wrong, like I wasn’t the guy for this job. But at the same time, I knew this was potentially a career-altering opportunity.

In the midst of all of this, I heard back from Dan Sullivan, my dream mentor and the founder of Strategic Coach that he’d also like to co-author a major book with me.

According to Tim Ferriss in The 4-Hour Workweek:

“The opposite of love is indifference, and the opposite of happiness is boredom.”

“Excitement is the more practical synonym for happiness, and it is precisely what you should strive to chase. It is the cure-all.”

“Remember — boredom is the enemy, not some abstract ‘failure.’”

I realized that, although a golden opportunity, I wasn’t as excited about the Kevin Harrington book. It had becoming a complex and messy situation. But even more, I just felt like something was amiss. I ended-up getting on the phone with Mark to discuss why the project was beginning to stall when it had so much momentum. I began to explain why the situation was getting complex to me and then the idea hit me, “Mark, you should be the co-author of this book!”

I heard nothing for 10 seconds.

“You know what,” he said, “This feels really right. But who would write it? Would you still write the book? I want you to continue being involved on this project.”

“No,” I told him, “I have someone way better at writing than me who can take care of this for you.”

I ended-up linking them with a friend who has a company that specializes in writing books exactly like this. The connection worked-out perfectly. I was able to make the pie a lot bigger for Mark and Kevin. I didn’t need to eat that particular pie with them. I didn’t need to hold that opportunity tightly from a scarcity perspective. I gave that piece away. And now my relationship with them will last long-beyond this one project anyways. This was the right way to go for this project. Mark was the right name on that book. I wasn’t going to get in the way of that.

Billionaire Richard Branson said, “Business opportunities are like buses, there’s always another one coming.” When you have an abundance mentality, and your focus is on giving more than taking, you realize that endless buses are coming filled with endless pieces of pie.

When you operate from abundance, you develop powerful relationships with powerful people and you never run out of opportunities in “The Gig Economy” of which we are now a part. Operating from abundance means you’re humble, people trust and like you, and you’re a master of your craft. When this is the case, you will never run out of gigs in the gig economy.

Never forget the important words of Jim Collins from Good To Great when he said, “It takes discipline to say ‘No, thank you” to big opportunities. That fact that something is a ‘once-in-a-lifetime opportunity” is irrelevant if it doesn’t fit.”

“Stay Scrappy” (Words Of Wisdom From A Very Wise And Humble Man)

Bestselling author Jeff Goins has some really important stuff to say about saying “No” to the wrong opportunities.

According to Jeff there’s a huge difference between people who try to look sophisticated and people who remain scrappy. As he said:

“Sophisticated” people are highly concerned about their image. They care about accolades, recognition, and appearance. In reality, these people look better than they actually are. Sophisticated people really care what others think and tend to compare and compete. They don’t have a sense of their own work and are willing to do whatever has worked for others.

Conversely, scrappy people are far more concerned about the work. They let their work speak for itself. These people are better than they look. Scrappy people stay in their lane. They’re confident in who they are and don’t compare themselves to others.

We live in an age where people really really want to look sophisticated. I’ve seen this so many times. A writer gets their first couple thousand email subscribers and all-of-a-sudden they are now the expert selling courses on the subject. And of course, they are taking all of the credit for their own success.

The words of entrepreneur and strategist, Michael Fishman are instructive:

“Self-made is an illusion. There are many people who played divine roles in you having the life that you have today. Be sure to let them know how grateful you are.”

In the book Give and Take, Adam Grant explained that successful people GIVE others credit while unsuccessful people TAKE the credit. Who wants to have a relationship with someone who takes all the credit? Who wants to have a relationship with someone who isn’t appreciate and grateful and giving?

Those seeking sophistication either wanted fame and notoriety in the first place or they have completely forgotten WHY they were doing their work. Either way is a short-term approach to life and a death-sentence for developing long-term and important relationships.

Create A List Of “Dream Mentors”

When the WHY is strong enough, you’ll figure out WHO!

When the WHO is exciting enough, you’ll figure out HOW!

—Benjamin Hardy’s adaptation of the quote by Bill Walsh

In the book, The Third Door, Alex Banayan tells the story of how he met and learned from people like Bill Gates, Lady Gaga, Steven Spielberg, and others.

Alex was clearly a WHO-thinker. Rather than deciding specifically what he wanted to do, instead he thought of WHO he wanted to learn from. Once he decided WHO, then he began getting very creative about HOW he would connect with those people.

Alex was particularly inspired by Elliot Bisnow, the founder of Summit & co-owner of Powder Mountain Resort in Eden, Utah. Alex wrote down on a piece of paper:

DREAM MENTORS:

He listed Elliot Bisnow and spent the next several hours composing an email to Elliot. He said exactly what he needed to say in that email and got a meeting, which turned into a mentorship.

In their first interview, Elliot gave Alex some “ground-rules” for developing powerful relationships with people:

  1. Never use your phone in a meeting. It “makes you look like a chump.” The more digital the world gets, the more impressive it is to use a pen. And it’s also just rude to be on your phone.
  2. Act like you belong. Walk into a room like you’ve been there before. Don’t gawk over celebrities. Be cool. Be calm. Never ever ask someone for a picture. If you want to be treated like a peer, you need to act like one. Fans ask for pictures; peers shake hands.
  3. Mystery makes history. When you’re doing amazing stuff, don’t post it on Facebook. No one actually changing the world posts everything they do online. Keep people guessing what you’re up to. Plus, the people you’re going to impress by posting stuff online are not the people you should care about impressing.
  4. Never, ever, go back on your word. If I tell you something in confidence, you need to be a vault. What goes in does not come out. This goes with your relationships with anyone from this day forward. If you act like a vault, people will treat you like a vault. It will take years to build your reputation but seconds to ruin it.
  5. Adventures only happen to the adventurous.

Who Are Your Dream Mentors?

Who are your dream mentors?

Who are the people who are WHERE YOU WANT TO BE?

Who are the people who fascinate and inspire you?

Who are the people you want to learn from?

Joe Polish, the founder of Genius Network and arguably the most connected man in business, has a list of “rules” that he expects of those whom he interacts with. He calls it his “Magic Rapport Formula.” The principles of his formula are:

  • Focus on how you will help them reduce their suffering
  • Invest time, money, and energy on relationships
  • Be the type of person they would always answer the phone for
  • Be useful, grateful, and valuable
  • Treat others how you would love to be treated
  • Avoid formalities, be fun and memorable, not boring
  • Appreciate people
  • Give value on the spot
  • Get as close to in-person as you can

If you combine Elliot Bisnow’s rules with Joe Polish’s formula, you have a potent cocktail for developing relationships and mentorships with just about anyone.

You don’t need to be the best in the world at what you do. You simply need to get the job done. You need to be able to help your DREAM MENTOR in a powerful and compelling way. Remember Edwin Barnes from the beginning of this article? He didn’t have much by way of expertise. He just had a definite desire to work for Edison.

Wait, no. He wanted more than just to work for Edison. He wanted to be Edison’s parter. He wanted to collaborate with Edison. And of course, he did. It took a little time, but he built rapport and then seized a powerful moment by making it all about Edison’s success and goals.

A Fast And Powerful Way To Get Noticed

Being mentored by your heroes is one thing. But collaborating with your heroes is something entirely different. Sure, shooting emails back and forth, or even getting an interview with famous people is cool.

But developing an actual partnership with a DREAM MENTOR will require that you have something very powerful to bring to the table.

Barnes brought intense enthusiasm and then used that to take Edison’s ideas out into the world. Barnes was what Jeff Goins’ would call “scrappy.” He just wanted to do the work. He got better and better and better at what he did.

If you already have a pre-existing capability, all the better. As Dan Sullivan has explained, the best collaborations are when a creator and distributor come together to take both where neither could go on their own.

WHO is someone you want to partner with?

DREAM BIG HERE! Think really really big.

WHO do you want to learn from?

WHY this person?

Once you have the answer to those two questions, all you need to do is get to work. As Bill Walsh wisely said, “When the why is strong enough you’ll figure out how!”

The HOW will only take care of itself when you have the proper WHO and WHY in place.

The WHO is the first question you need to answer. The WHY must be powerful for selecting that particular person.

Write it down on paper.

Write down WHO you want to work with.

Write down WHY you want to learn from and/or work with them.

Then, and only then, begin writing down HOW you plan to develop the connection. That connection should be built on the basis of service to their goals. In most cases, you’re better-off doing more front-end work than Barnes did for Edison. Although sometimes your spirit and enthusiasm may be enough, in today’s hyper-connected world, people in high places are getting more requests than they know what to do with.

You need to make yourself stick out. If you approach them AFTER:

  • you’ve already been supporting their work in powerful ways
  • it’s clear to them you know what you’re talking about
  • you’re proposing ways you can help them achieve their goals without much work or effort on their part

THEN you’ve got a really really good shot at developing incredible partnerships with your DREAM MENTORS.

Be So Good That You Can’t Be Ignored

“If a thing is done well, no one will ask how long it took to do it, but only who did it.” — John Taylor

All of this is a lot easier if you already have developed expertise at something. Cal Newport explains the importance of being “So Good They Can’t Ignore You.”

If you understand relationships and if you’re an abundant person… PLUS you’re already really really good at what you do, then it becomes easy to get mentored by and work with nearly anyone you want. If you have rare skills and abilities, you can use those skills abundantly to HELP the people you want to work with. Even more, you can also establish immediate credibility.

Jeff Goins is right about the difference between being “sophisticated” and “scrappy.” Yes you can work with just about anyone if you really want to. But WHY? Is it to make yourself look good? Is it to fuel your ego and pride?

Dan Sullivan says it only takes him a few minutes with a person for him to feel their core motivation, whether that be growth or greed.

If your focus is on growth, giving, and continuing to do the work you love, then partnering with DREAM MENTORS will only catapult you further. But beware of what Jeff Goins calls “The Dark Side Of Success.” It’s very easy to lose your way and forget your WHY when even a little bit of success comes your way.

And if you truly dedicate yourself to becoming SO GOOD YOU CAN’T BE IGNORED, you will become successful. Becoming successful isn’t rocket-science. It’s about serving a specific audience in a way that is highly useful. It’s about developing skills and using them to benefit others.

It’s never been easier to learn and develop skills. We have access to a global world with endless information and connection. We also have distribution channels that allow us to get our work and products viewed by millions of target audiences for either free or really cheap.

Developing mastery is easier than staying clear on your values and WHY after mastery has been developed. Follow Jeff Goins’ advice to stay scrappy no matter how “successful” you become. Always be better than you look. Stay humble and grateful in your relationships and people will love you.

Always make the pie bigger for people. And when you shift your focus from HOW to WHO, you’ll immediately begin thinking 10X or 100X bigger.

How to Build a New Habit

How to Build a New Habit: This is Your Strategy Guide

According to researchers at Duke University, habits account for about 40 percent of our behaviors on any given day.  Understanding how to build new habits (and how your current ones work) is essential for making progress in your health, your happiness, and your life in general.

But there can be a lot of information out there and most of it isn’t very simple to digest. To solve this problem and break things down in a very simple manner, I have created this strategy guide for how to build new habits that actually stick.

Even more detailed information is available in my free guide, Transform Your Habits, but the basic principles mentioned in this article will be more than enough to get you going.

1. Start with an incredibly small habit.

Make it so easy you can’t say no.
—Leo Babauta

start small habits (build new habits)

When most people struggle to build new habits, they say something like, “I just need more motivation.” Or, “I wish I had as much willpower as you do.”

This is the wrong approach. Research shows that willpower is like a muscle. It gets fatigued as you use it throughout the day. Another way to think of this is that your motivation ebbs and flows. It rises and falls. Stanford professor BJ Fogg calls this the “motivation wave.”

Solve this problem by picking a new habit that is easy enough that you don’t need motivation to do it. Rather than starting with 50 pushups per day, start with 5 pushups per day. Rather than trying to meditate for 10 minutes per day, start by meditating for one minute per day. Make it easy enough that you can get it done without motivation.

Further reading: Identity-Based Habits: How to Actually Stick to Your Goals

2. Increase your habit in very small ways.

Success is a few simple disciplines, practiced every day; while failure is simply a few errors in judgment, repeated every day.
—Jim Rohn

tiny gains with habits (build new habits)

One percent improvements add up surprisingly fast. So do one percent declines.

Rather than trying to do something amazing from the beginning, start small and gradually improve. Along the way, your willpower and motivation will increase, which will make it easier to stick to your habit for good.

Further reading: This Coach Improved Every Tiny Thing by 1 Percent and Here’s What Happened

3. As you build up, break habits into chunks.

break down your habits (build new habits)

If you continue adding one percent each day, then you’ll find yourself increasing very quickly within two or three months. It is important to keep each habit reasonable, so that you can maintain momentum and make the behavior as easy as possible to accomplish.

Building up to 20 minutes of meditation? Split it into two segments of 10 minutes at first.

Trying to do 50 pushups per day? Five sets of 10 might be much easier as you make your way there.

Further reading: I’m Using These 3 Simple Steps to Actually Stick with Good Habits

4. When you slip, get back on track quickly.

The best way to improve your self-control is to see how and why you lose control.
—Kelly McGonigal

never miss habits twice (build new habits)

Top performers make mistakes, commit errors, and get off track just like everyone else. The difference is that they get back on track as quickly as possible.

Research has shown that missing your habit once, no matter when it occurs, has no measurable impact on your long-term progress. Rather than trying to be perfect, abandon your all-or-nothing mentality.

You shouldn’t expect to fail, but you should plan for failure. Take some time to consider what will prevent your habit from happening. What are some things that are likely to get in your way? What are some daily emergencies that are likely to pull you off course? How can you plan to work around these issues? Or, at least, how you can bounce back quickly from them and get back on track?

You just need to be consistent, not perfect. Focus on building the identity of someone who never misses a habit twice.

Further reading: How to Stop Procrastinating by Using the “Seinfeld Strategy”

5. Be patient. Stick to a pace you can sustain.

sustain your habits (build new habits)

Learning to be patient is perhaps the most critical skill of all. You can make incredible progress if you are consistent and patient.

If you are adding weight in the gym, you should probably go slower than you think. If you are adding daily sales calls to your business strategy, you should probably start with fewer than you expect to handle. Patience is everything. Do things you can sustain.

New habits should feel easy, especially in the beginning. If you stay consistent and continue increasing your habit it will get hard enough, fast enough. It always does. 

If you want more practical ideas for how to build new habits (and break bad ones), check out my book Atomic Habits, which will show you how small changes in habits can lead to remarkable results.

FOOTNOTES
  1. Habits: A Repeat Performance by David T. Neal, Wendy Wood, and Jeffrey M. Quinn
  2. Special thanks to BJ Fogg, Leo Babauta, and Kelly McGonigal for their research and work on habit formation and willpower. I have learned a lot from each of you.

Life – How to Avoid Divorce

Artwork by John P. Weiss

How to Avoid Divorce and Improve Your Relationship

A Cartoon Tutorial

According to the American Psychological Association, about 40–50% of married couples in the United States divorce. It’s even higher for second marriages.

Stress, financial strain, infidelity, addictions, and personal changes are all factors that can lead to divorce. Yet, despite these challenges, research shows that married couples tend to be happier, healthier and wealthier than their unhitched friends.

Companionship and love are wonderful things, but they require care and attention. Like flowers in a garden, if you ignore them, they’ll wither and die.

How are you doing with your flowers? Are you paying regular attention to your garden? If you want things to bloom and thrive in your relationship, here are a few suggestions.


Invest in the emotional bank account

Relationships are a lot like banking. If you keep taking out withdrawals, your bank account will dwindle and soon you’ll be broke. So it is with a relationship. If all you do is take, and never give, you’ll deplete your partner’s “emotional bank account.”

The solution is to make regular deposits. Random and unexpected acts of kindness and love.

Bring her flowers. Not on her birthday or Valentines day. Do it on a Tuesday, when she gets home from work. Just because you love her.

Surprise him when he gets home by taking him to his favorite sports pub. Then hit the movies, where you bought tickets to the latest super-hero movie (even though you hate super-hero movies).

I talk about this idea, and more broadly about the “bank account of human dignity” in the following blog post:

The point is, it can’t just be about you in a relationship. You need to make deposits in that emotional bank account. Because sooner or later you’ll anger or disappoint your partner, and it’s good to have investments to soften the blow.


Who holds the most power?

Healthy and strong relationships are a partnership. Each person brings positive qualities and contributions to the relationship.

Unfortunately, some relationships can become lopsided. One person ends up driving the relationship more than the other.

The late Dr. Gordon Livingston was a psychiatrist and author of several books, including the excellent, Too Soon Old, Too Late Smart: Thirty True Things You Need to Know Now.

Chapter five of Too Soon Old, Too Late Smart is titled:

“Any relationship is under control of the person who cares the least.”

Who do you think controls this relationship?

I have witnessed this reality in my 26 year police career, responding to domestic violence calls.

When one person gives up on a relationship, it’s nearly impossible for the other person to turn things around. The one who cares the least has all the power.

How do couples avoid this from happening?


I need to talk with you

You know how sometimes you can tell that she’s mad at you, but you’re not sure why? She’s just a tad distant and snippy.

So what do you do? You play this game of tit for tat. You give her a bit of the silent treatment. Or perhaps you do something that will annoy her.

How stupid is that? Why not walk right up to her and say, “Hey, what’s wrong?” Communication is the cornerstone of a healthy relationship.

For some reason, our emotions get the best of us and we avoid honest and direct conversation. Maybe we’re worried that asking tough questions will invite an argument. But in reality, letting things fester is far worse.

Little, unattended resentments grow over time, like a spreading cancer. Before long, the relationship is in stage four trouble. The only solution is preventative medicine. And that means having the courage to speak up at the first sign of trouble.

Like it or not, adversity is part of all relationships. Disagreements and challenges will intrude, sooner or later, in each of our relationships.

“You don’t develop courage by being happy in your relationships everyday. You develop it by surviving difficult times and challenging adversity.”
— Epicurus

Happiness in our relationships is not a constant state of being. It comes and goes. Perhaps that’s what makes happiness so wonderful. If we felt it all the time, it wouldn’t be as special.

So, for the times when adversity strikes, have the courage to face it. Don’t be afraid or procrastinate when it comes to difficult conversations. The sooner you address the issues, the faster you can fix them.


The gift of validation

A lot of guys are terrible at this one. We tend to approach problems with logic instead of our hearts. When our partners are pouring out feelings and emotional struggles, they don’t want logical solutions.

All they want is our empathy. Our understanding. Our non-judgmental listening, hugs and, “Poor baby, I can see why you feel that way.”

Why is it so hard for us to simply acknowledge what another is feeling? Why must be always try to fix everything?

The gift of validation is that you recognize and acknowledge what your partner is feeling. Even if you think they are wrong to feel the way they do, it’s not your emotion to comment on. It belongs to them.

Give the gift of validation. Let him or her take the time to talk about how they feel, without solutions or judgement from you. By doing so, they’ll trust you more. Later on, they’ll be more open to your suggestions and solutions.


Stop trying to change your partner

Your spouse is not you, so why do you keep trying to make him/her act like you? We are all individuals, with our own tastes, likes, habits and orientations.

When we fall in love, we are enamored with the uniqueness of our partner. If we were identical, that would be boring.

But for some reason, as relationships march on and the novelty of newness wanes, we change. We stop admiring the uniqueness of our partner and demand compliance with our way of doing things.

This is crazy. By adulthood, people are largely formed. Yes, they can adopt new habits and improve themselves, but the motivation for this must come from within.

Nagging and negative pressure rarely work for the long haul. You may gain temporary compliance, but it can breed resentment.

Positive reinforcement and coming from a loving place is more desirable. Gentle encouragement and honest, open communication go much further than hectoring and nagging.

Yes, sometimes relationships confront a crisis. Maybe his drinking has gotten out of hand, and you have to lay everything on the line. “Get help,” you’ll tell him, or you’re gone.

Sometimes an ultimatum can work, if it comes from a loving and honest place. “I love you, darling, but I can’t tolerate your drug addiction anymore. Let’s get you help. Otherwise, it’s unhealthy for me to continue this way.” That’s an honest, loving statement. It’s more likely to work than endless nagging and yelling.

Of course, in the end, we must always take care of ourselves. If the relationship turns abusive, or our partner is lost in addiction, it’s unhealthy for us to endure such challenges.

Sometimes our exit can force our partner to face the truth of his/her problem. Sometimes not, but at least we protect ourselves from a dysfunctional, destructive relationship.

However, for the day to day struggles of relationships, we must stop trying to change our partners. His musical tastes are different than yours. Your favorite sport is different than his. He likes a firm bed, you like a soft one. So what? Variety is the spice of life.

Still, if something your partner does really bugs you, what do you do?


Embrace the power of compromise

So many disagreements in life can be ameliorated with compromise. Yet, for some reason, we have such a hard time doing it.

Perhaps it stems back to childhood, when we are more fragile and selfish? Some people seem to endlessly battle everything. Their bosses, the morning traffic, sales persons. Everywhere they turn, they have a complaint. They feel put upon and wronged.

Such people lack resilience, and view everyone and everything around them as wrong. They never stop to consider that maybe, the problem lies with them. They are blind to the fact that they are too demanding, unforgiving and incapable of compromise.

And so they go through life miserable. What a terrible way to live. The reality is that none of us get our way all the time. That’s just part of life. However, through open and fair negotiation, we can reach compromises.

“I simply do not think that yelling, swearing, threatening or belittling will get you to the place you want to be faster than kindness, understanding, patience and a little willingness to compromise.” — Rachel Nichols

The beauty of compromise is that we all can get a portion of what we want. That’s called a win/win, and it’s the only sane way to navigate life. And especially your relationship.

If you want to avoid divorce and keep those embers of love glowing, learn to embrace compromise.


Don’t hold on too tight

Freedom to be ourselves is an important thing. Each of us develop our own styles, interests, likes and way of being. Nothing is more stifling than to be in a relationship with someone who denies us our individuality.

Insecure people have a hard time with uncertainty. They feel the need to control everything, including their partners. They hold on too tight.

This is unfortunate, because no one likes being controlled by another. Healthy relationships must allow for one another’s individuality. Two people should complement one another, not control one another.

Possessiveness is yet another manifestation of insecurity. We can never “own” or “control” another person, nor should we try to. We should simply love and respect them.

“Relationships-of all kinds-are like sand held in your hand. Held loosely, with an open hand, the sand remains where it is. The minute you close your hand and squeeze tightly to hold on, the sand trickles through your fingers. You may hold onto some of it, but most will be spilled. A relationship is like that. Held loosely, with respect and freedom for the other person, it is likely to remain intact. But hold too tightly, too possessively, and the relationship slips away and is lost.”
 — Kaleel Jamison

Forgiveness

We all have some grievances in life to which we are entitled. The question is, what do we do with them?

Some people are endless scorekeepers, always blaming people and institutions for all their woes. As Dr. Gordon Livingston wrote:

“We live in a culture in which the sense of being wronged is pervasive. If every misfortune can be blamed on someone else, we are relived of the difficult task of examining our own contributory behavior or just accepting the reality that life is and has been full of adversity.”

Once we accept that people (including ourselves) are not perfect, we can learn the power of forgiveness. The ability to let go of the hurt, anger and pain frees us. As Dr. Gordon Livingston notes:

“Widely confused with forgetting or reconciliation, forgiveness is neither. It is not something we do for others; it is a gift to ourselves. It exists, as does all true healing, at the intersection of love and justice.”

Learn to forgive others, especially your spouse. Most importantly, learn to forgive yourself. Doing so will help insulate you against divorce, and the unhealthy effects on buried anger.

Sometimes you can do everything right, and your spouse chooses to end the relationship anyway. As with so many things in life, control is illusory. Never the less, the joys of a healthy, loving relationship are many.

Invest in that emotional bank account, share equal power, communicate, validate, stop nagging, compromise, don’t hold on too tight, and most importantly, forgive.

Do these things, and you stand a good chance of enjoying a lifelong, fulfilling and loving marriage. Best of luck!

Life – Lessons That Will Make You Successful

29 Life-Changing Lessons That Will Make You Successful And More Strategic

There is this myth that mentors are people you have to know and see. That it is some official designation to seek out. I’ve never met Tyler Cowen, the bestselling author, economist and thinker. We’ve never spoken on the phone. Our longest email conversation might have been three sentences. Yet he has been one of the most significant influences in the education and evolution of my life. By every definition, he’s been what you would call a mentor.

Lately, I’ve been trying to write about all the ways people have helped me. It’s been an exercise in gratitude but also articulation — in writing it down, I am remembering it and codifying it so I never forget the lessons. Below are just some of the things I’ve learned from this polymathic professor of economics, voracious reader and contrarian philosopher. Maybe you’ll be lucky enough to meet him one day (I hope I am) but even if you don’t, he can still be your mentor.

Below are 29 lessons I learned from Tyler over the last 10 years. Hope you gain from them as much as I have.


1. See Yourself Afresh — This is one of my favorite quotes from Tyler: “Treat yourself like a piece of your writing which you set aside for a week so you could look at it fresh.”

2. Being Curious Is a Career — It was crazy to me at first that Tyler got to do what he did for a living: write blog posts, read books, have ideas. That’s what I wanted to do. I think the way you get paid to do that is by making that curiosity valuable to other people: Tyler blogs every day and his links and questions help people do their jobs, his books propose provocative big ideashis podcast is entertaining and important. You can’t just nerd out — there has to be value creation

3. Complacency Is the Enemy — Tyler’s newest book (which is awesome) is about all the ways that society has become complacent. We accept the status quo, we don’t want to disrupt it. People move less, change careers less, change their minds less, live in less diverse places, riot less than they used to. I’ve done most of those things in my life (except the last one), it’s how you keep things interesting and find opportunities. Point being: Don’t worry as much about disruption and chaos — it might simply mean interesting things are happening — fear stability and complacency because it means decay.

4. Seek Out Quake Books — When I was 19 or 20, Tyler talked to me about the concept of “quake books” — books that shake you to your core. As he wrote in his 2007 email to me: “I would more likely intensively engage with some important book totally full of new ideas. Hayek. Parfit. Plato. And so on. There just aren’t books like that left for me anymore. So I read many more, to learn bits, but haven’t in years experienced a ‘view quake.’ That is sad, to me at least, but I don’t know how to avoid how that has turned out. So enjoy your best reading years while you can!”

5. What’s the Cost of This Fight? — There is a line in one of Tyler’s books where he talks about fighting with a spouse over a couch (or something like that). He says that maybe you like your idea 20% more than her/his idea, so you fight and win. Now you’re a little bit happier. But what did that victory cost you in terms of an unhappy spouse? Is it worth more or less than how much you value your opinion over the couch? I never would have thought about it that way — I can’t tell you how many arguments this has saved me. (The answer is ‘not enough.’)

6. Expectations Are the Enemy in (Long Distance) Relationships — I was in a long distance relationship in 2006 when I read Tyler’s post on them. It was another brilliant perspective that helped me relax and made things better. I ended up marrying that girl a decade later. Thanks Tyler!

7. Know What is Scarce — “In today’s global economy here is what is scarce: 1. Quality land and natural resources 2. Intellectual property, or good ideas about what should be produced. 3. Quality labor with unique skills.” I framed the longer passage this line is from and I have it above my desk as a daily reminder. It comes from Average is Over — another absolutely amazing book.

8. To Speed Read, Read A Lot — How do you become a better and more prolific reader? I’ll let Tyler tell you: “The best way to read quickly is to read lots. And lots. And to have started a long time ago. Then maybe you know what is coming in the current book. Reading quickly is often, in a margin-relevant way, close to not reading much at all.”

9. Knowledge Compounds — I think what he’s also saying there is that the value of reading compounds over time. Reading more makes you a better and faster reader, learning about stuff makes it easier and faster for you to learn more.

10. Your Life Is Not a Story — Tyler has observed that most people describe their lives as stories and journeys. But giving in to this temptation can be dangerous. Narratives often lead to an overly simplistic understanding of events, causes, and effects — and, often, to arrogance.

11. Move to Texas — In 2013, Tyler wrote a Time cover story about why everyone was moving to Texas. That’s not quite why I moved to Austin but it didn’t hurt.

12. When Traveling, Pretend You’re A Thief — I like his trick when visiting museums: Pretend you’re a thief who is casing the joint. It changes how you perceive and remember the art. Try it.

13. Just Go — Another travel tip from Tyler: “My main tip is simply: “Go, go go!” Go. People have a status quo bias when they make decisions and they don’t take enough chances.”

14. Read However You Want — People are amazed at how much Tyler reads (it’s a lot) but they miss that he has his own set of rules for doing it. He skips around. He quits books he doesn’t like. He might read a novel from only the perspective of one of the characters. He’ll ruin the ending. He just does whatever — and so you should you. This isn’t for a test. It’s for your own enjoyment (he does the same with movies apparently).

15. Be a Good (But Quiet) Family Man — Even though Tyler talks about all sorts of parenting stuff in his books, it really never occurred to me that he had kids until I heard him mention something about it on his podcast. I don’t think I’ve ever read anything about his wife. I have a lot of respect for people who have families…but don’t parade them around like some trophy. He has a family, it’s important to him, but that’s his business. It’s how I try to live my life too.

16. Really Understand Other People’s Work — What you’ll hear when you listen to Tyler’s podcast is just how deeply he has set out to understand the work of the person he’s talking to. I think in some ways he understands the arc of the person’s career better than they do. This is a special skill. It requires getting out of your own head and actually thinking about someone else (that’s not something podcasts are known for…).

17. Read Eclectically — Another reading rule: Check out a couple of these most recent “What I’m Reading” posts from Tyler. Look at how diverse the subject matter is. Books about far right politics in Europe, the diary of a Stalin ambassador, histories of the Irish border, a book on the quartet of Alexander Hamilton, George Washington, John Jay, and James Madison, one right after another.

18. Money Can Sap Motivation — In Discover Your Inner Economist, Tyler writes about how he tried to incentivize his step-daughter to do the dishes so he resorted to paying her, which got her to wash them — but it worked only for a week. “I knew this could happen. I understood that there is such a thing as intrinsic motivation and that if you pay people, you might weaken that. What I didn’t really get was the control issue. That when you start paying people to do a thing, they often see it as control.” (The story has a happy ending: She started washing the dishes for free after reading the book.)

19. Order Weird Stuff on the Menu — If the weird thing wasn’t good, goes his logic, the chef probably wouldn’t have been allowed to put it on there. Sure — I’ll buy it.

20. Don’t Be Afraid to Have a Partner — Tyler’s site, Marginal Revolution, has a co-writer named Alex Tabarrok. He’s the unsung hero of that site and many of his articles are longtime favorites of mine. You don’t have to do everything yourself. In fact, you should have intellectual and creative partners. It’s powerful.

21. Write The Opposing View — It’s not just enough to think about how other people might think. One of his more recent opinion pieces shows how far Tyler is willing to go when it comes to empathy: He suggests actually writing — as if it’s you — an article with someone else’s opinion. See if you can explain why Trump is doing this or that, or why your parents believe this or that. Feel those words coming through your fingers — do you understand them better? Are things less contentious? I love this idea.

22. How to Thoughtfully Disagree — I’ve read a lot of Tyler Cowen writing over the years. Tyler is smart, opinionated and contrarian. It occurs to me there is one thing I’ve never seen from Tyler: contemptuous dismissal of anyone else. That’s something I know I need to work on. I take things too seriously, I condescend, I speak with undeserved certainty. Meanwhile, Tyler entertains basically everything. He’s friendly even when he disagrees. He’s open-minded. It’s a great model for any aspiring thinker.

23. Think Rationally, Not Emotionally — Two interesting posts from Tyler stand out to me, both about Peter Thiel. One was after the Gawker lawsuit, where Tyler stripped the emotion out of the debate and just looked at how third party funding works and how common it is. Two, after Peter’s controversial comments in the New York Times about whether there is “too little” or “too much” corruption, Tyler actually tried to figure out what the guy was talking about (it’s actually kind of interesting). Point being: Don’t get caught up in outrage or emotions, earnestly try to figure stuff out.

24. Cultivate Young Smart People — Like I said, I don’t know Tyler, but he’s nice enough to occasionally answer my emails. I know he answers emails from people like Ben Casnocha and Cal Newport and I’m sure there are hundreds — if not thousands — of young people he’s helped over the years (students or otherwise). He doesn’t need to do this but he does. It’s paying it forward.

25. Watch One TV Show at a Time — Tyler has a great rule about not watching more than one big TV series at a time.

26. Don’t Offer to Work for Free — From Average is Over: “It doesn’t matter how flexible the wage is in the more complex, less brute force jobs. A manual worker who just shows up at your door is probably not someone you want to hire unless it is already part of a preexisting business plan with broad buy-in from your enterprise and your creditors. The worker might say, “I’ll lower my wage demands by thirty percent!” or, “I’ll work for nothing!” It usually won’t matter. The sad reality is that many of these workers you don’t want at all, even if the business plan involves additional labor. Some workers simply aren’t worth the trouble unless the demand for extra labor is truly pressing.”

27. Command Your Audience — I’ve become addicted to Tyler’s podcast. Aside from the conversations, a secondary pleasure is his command over the audience (‘I will cut you off.’ ‘We will be out of this room by 5pm.’) and his very specific questions. His confidence and directness was not something I expected to hear, but it’s impressive. I can’t tell you how many conferences I’ve been to where I wished for someone like that.

28. For Good Food, Go to The Suburbs — As Tyler writes in his rules for dining out, “I love exploring the suburbs for first-rate ethnic food. Many people consider suburbs a cultural wasteland, but I am very happy searching for food in Orange County, California; the area near San Jose; Northern Virginia, near D.C.; Somerville, Massachusetts; and so on. I don’t always pre-Google to find the best place, and I don’t keep tapping on my iPhone. I drive around and keep my eyes open for dining establishments likely to follow the economic rules for good, innovative, and affordable food.”

29. Ask: Do Your Actions Match Your Beliefs? — The Tyler post that has me thinking the most lately is something he said after the election of Donald Trump. A good portion of the country thought Trump was dangerously unfit for office and would enact terrible, destructive policies…yet the markets have steadily gone up. Why don’t we see more people acting on these beliefs? Why aren’t there more short sellers in the market? More doomsday preparations? His point: People love to talk but rarely match their actions with their beliefs. This is both a contradiction or a potential market opportunity. It’s made me re-examine my actions in regards to both.

I could keep going but it might start to seem weird. Besides, the other thing I’ve learned from Tyler is this: keep it short. Almost all his blog posts are pithy — sometimes just a few sentences long. Even his opinion pieces are tight and to the point. So I’ll end it here. If you want to learn from Tyler, go read his stuff. He’s the best.

The Start-up – Improve Your Memory

Want to Improve Your Memory? Science Tells Us the Key (and It Can Actually Be Fun)

Do you remember where you were when you had your first kiss?

It’s funny, the things our memory can dredge up.

I remember what I was wearing the day I passed my driver’s license road testand became a driver.

We probably all remember where we were when the Twin Towers fell in New York, no matter where we were in the world.

So many of our memories are defined by, or at least associated with, major life events. We can recall these things, and yet since becoming a dad, there are days I can’t quite remember what I had for breakfast!

There’s a reason for that.

research study led by the University of Edinburgh explored the science behind the biological processes that drive the creation of our memories. It’s called “flashbulb memory,” and understanding this one little concept can help you improve your own ability to remember important information.

Researchers found that when they exposed mice to attention-grabbing experiences either right before or right after something they wanted them to remember, their ability to store that information was improved.

For example, a test subject that had to walk across a new and different floor surface was then better able to remember the location of a food source.

So how does this work in humans?

Basically, when we’re excited or exposed to something new, our brains release a chemical called dopamine and transport it to the area of our brain responsible for memory formation. That little rush of dopamine helps us form a memory in that moment.

So, surprise! The key to improving your memory is… well, it’s surprise.

Professor Richard Morris, of the Centre for Cognitive and Neural Systems at the University of Edinburgh, said: “Little surprises happen all the time in subtle ways that reflect our personal lives and interests. Somehow, the novelty of surprise creates a halo of better memory for all the otherwise trivial events of one’s day that we ordinarily forget.”

We’ve long known that dopamine played a role in memory formation, but this study demonstrated the involvement of the hippocampus. Interestingly, that part of the brain is believed to be the center for our emotions, too. Think about how, in advertising and marketing, we’re constantly trying to make an emotional connection, to get audiences to really feel the message. Well, here’s why.

So how can you use this little tidbit to improve your own memory?

Try these tips for improving your recall when you want to remember important information:

  • Distract yourself. You might feel like you’re being super productive and focused by sticking to your work, but you’re less likely to recall it later.You’re not a bad person for taking a two-minute YouTube break, and for crying out loud, stop buying into the myth that multitasking = greater productivity.
  • Celebrate quick wins. Dopamine is released when you finish something, so have a list of small tasks you can tackle to get some quick wins in throughout the day.
  • Take regular body breaks. Get a jump rope. Run up a flight of office stairs.Even if all you have time to do in get up and do 10 jumping jacks beside the desk, you’re giving yourself a little boost of endorphins and dopamine.(Bonus: it’ll make you more creative, too.)
  • Take the opportunity to try something new. It doesn’t have to mean learning a whole new skill. Maybe it’s a sensory surprise — run your hands over different materials, or go outside when it’s cold and come back in.Maybe (outside of a scent-free workplace) it means a warmer with different scented oils. The point is to create change in your workspace so it’s not always the same old, same old.

There you go — improving your memory doesn’t have to be boring and tedious. Surprise!

START-UP – How to end the busy-brag

Stop that 80-hour hustle

How to end the busy-brag and take back your freedom

Originally published on JOTFORM.COM

“Entrepreneurs are willing to work 80 hours a week to avoid working 40 hours a week.”

Maybe you’ve already seen this quote from serial entrepreneur and Shark Tank star Lori Greiner. If not, I bet you’ve heard a version of it.

Startup founders are infamous for busy-bragging. Sometimes it even feels like a competition:

Who can work the longest? Who can sacrifice the most? Who will sleep at the office and go a full week without natural light?

Yes, starting a business is hard work, and Greiner’s dedication has clearly paid off (she’s created over 700 products and holds 120 patents).

But the “willingness” she describes is really about freedom.

Whether they’re chasing a big idea or solving a real problem, most founders also want to call the shots; to make their own money, set their own hours, and to create something they care about.

So, why are we all trying to outwork each other?

I don’t believe in the 24/7 hustle-and-grind. It’s not productive. And it’s starting to kill us.

I also know first-hand that starting a business is not easy. I’ve been on a 12-year entrepreneurial journey, slowly building JotForm into a global company with 3.7 million users and 110 employees.

So, where is the balance? How can you fulfill your vision without sacrificing yourself?

Instead of logging more hours, the answer is to make the most of the hours you work.

If you’re smart about time management, you might be amazed by how much you can achieve in a sane, focused week.

Here are five strategies that help me to avoid overwork — even when there’s always more to do.

1. Minimize your active projects

Time management is attention management. Controlling your work is a matter of focus, not creating a crazy-strict schedule.

When you focus your attention, you maximize your time, which increases your motivation. It’s a productive cycle that feels really, really good.

Take me, for example. At any given time, I have no more than three core goalsor active projects. That’s it. I say “no” to everything else. I delegate or save any outside tasks for later.

You can also try a more sophisticated approach. For example, in a recent Fast Company articleGoogle for Work director Thomas Davies describes the problem with most time management strategies:

“Managing time starts from the premise that your workload is going to be what it’s going to be, and the best you can do is keep it ‘manageable.’ But what if you could design your work day instead?”

Davies decided to create a new strategy. He divided his work responsibilities into four quadrants: people development, business operations, transactional tasks, and representative tasks.

Then, he slotted every task into one of the four quadrants.

Once he had a high-level view of what actually occupied his time, he could decide what mattered most — and what made him feel most energized. Now, he tries to maximize his work in those “high-value” quadrants.

If this method speaks to you, give it a try. As Davies explains, you’ll soon realize that not all tasks are created equal. Armed with that knowledge, you can be mindful of where to dedicate your attention.

No matter how you choose your focus areas, make an active choice. Then be ruthless about eliminating distractions.

2. Monotask, don’t multitask

Establishing core priorities will narrow your focus.

You also need to perform just one task at a time. That’s because, as Phyllis Korkki writes in the New York Times, multitasking is a biological impossibility:

“Your brain may delude itself into thinking that it has more capacity than it really does, but it’s really working extra hard to handle multiple thoughts at once when you are switching back and forth between tasks.

Your ability to get things done depends on how well you can focus on one task at a time, whether it’s for five minutes or an hour.”

To create a monotasking environment, Korkki suggests that you remove all temptations — even if that means installing anti-distraction programs like Freedom or FocusMe.

Also, use just one screen. Work in set chunks of time, and if you lose focus, get up and walk around.

You can also try the popular Pomodoro Technique, which breaks the day into 25-minute, highly focused intervals, followed by a five-minute break.

After four intervals or “pomodoros,” you take a 15-minute break — ideally away from all screens and mobile devices.

3. Cut back on meetings

Meetings have become a contentious topic in entrepreneurial circles.

Tesla founder Elon Musk recently told his staff to “walk out of a meeting or drop off a call as soon as it’s obvious you aren’t adding value.”

And Basecamp’s Jason Fried says “it’s hard to come up with a bigger waste of money, time, or attention than status meetings.”

Some meetings are critical, but many are not. Unless the meeting can remove a roadblock or it’s essential for team cohesion, find another way.

Send an email and follow up later. Say “no” and protect your time. You’ll be helping colleagues and co-workers to regain their focus, too.

I’m honored to receive a lot of requests for coffee and casual get-to-know-you meetings. I mentor some young entrepreneurs, but I politely decline everything from speaking invitations to networking events as well.

I wish I had time to accommodate everyone, but I just don’t. I have to draw a firm boundary — and you should as well.

4. Make quick decisions

I recently wrote about how every decision you make is wrong and shared strategies on how to make better decisions.

As I mentioned, hording decisions creates stress. When your mind is buzzing with many different choices — from what to eat for lunch to which job candidate to hire — it’s almost impossible to have a productive workday.

Now, imagine your brain is a white board. Every time you make a decision, you’re wiping off more scribbles. Soon, it’s clear and ready for creative thought.

When it comes to decision-making, speed is the goal here. There are very few decisions that can’t be made quickly. I know that goes against conventional wisdom, but give it a try.

If you’ve already gathered enough information, combine that data with your personal instincts and make a choice — now.

Don’t have enough data? Then forget the decision and gather what you need.

Once you have the right information, make your choice and move on. Repeat as needed.

5. Make the most of your work time — then step away

Vacations and downtime are essential for success. There’s just no way around it.

You can hustle with the best of them, but at some point, your body is going to say “no.”

The mind will rebel, too. You’ll be less analytical, way less creative, and your emotions will eventually overrule all logical thoughts.

I’m currently spending the summer in Izmir, Turkey. We have a small office here. It’s also a beautiful city by the sparkling Aegean Sea. So, I’m going to work four-day weeks and explore the nearby beach towns with my family.

I realize this is a great privilege — and I know you might have a few more questions:

1 — Don’t you feel pressure to show your face in the office — i.e. do you worry that your team will lose morale and slack off if you’re not there?

Honestly? I’m just not concerned about it. I guess some employees might slip into “relaxation” mode if I’m not in the office, but I also know that our teams love their work.

They’re knee-deep in meaningful projects, and I have great respect for what they contribute to JotForm.

I encourage our employees to take time off, too. If you don’t take vacations, you’ll burn out and eventually produce less.

As the CEO, my job is to ensure our teams are motivated and they don’t hit roadblocks. Our employees won’t function well if they don’t take care of themselves.

2 — How on earth can I ease up when I’m just launching or growing my business?

I promise it’s not impossible. Even during the early days of my company, my wife and I took three months off to travel across Europe.

It’s a matter of planning and sticking to your priorities.

For example, if you’re working IN your business, it doesn’t function without you. When you work ON your business, you can develop systems and processes that let you step away.

You build a company that doesn’t break if you’re not answering every email or performing every single task. Even as a solopreneur, you can plan to hit pause — if it matters to you.

I know the details can be tricky, and this is a far easier proposition with an online business. But ultimately, life isn’t all about work.

I don’t know about you, but I don’t to want to work, work, work, and then retire for a couple years before I die. I want to enjoy my life and my freedom — which is also why I bootstrapped my business in the first place.

So, be strategic.

Ask for help.

Develop systems and safety nets that allow you to step away, even for a short time.

You and your business will be so much better for it. Soon, you won’t even dream about using the word “hustle.”

LIFE – Useful Productivity Techniques

Photo by Kevin Bhagat on Unsplash

“A year from now you may wish you had started today.”

— Karen Lamb


Eight years ago, I accidentally stumbled upon the topic of productivity — without even knowing it.

I intended to find the most efficient and effective ways to finish the things I HAD to do, so I can have more time to do the things I WANT to do.

The reason I continued to explore this topic is rather simple — The skill of using your time efficiently is among the most crucial ones you can master.

There isn’t anything else in life (unless you are born with a silver spoon in your mouth) that can give you as much advantage and ability to design a life you want, so you can achieve the goals you have.

Over the years I intentionally continued to research and experiment with the best productivity systems successful people use and became pretty good at it.

By following this mindset and using various productivity techniques in different areas of my life — health, university, career, entrepreneurship, social life, adventure — I was able to get incredible results in each one of them.

However, it wasn’t until 2016, that I started my blog Zero to Skill, that I started writing on the topic.

Ever since, I’ve tried to share and showcase the most useful tips, hacks, rules, principles, systems, so you can use them on a daily basis to become more productive, and by default more successful — which means to increase your chance of accomplishing various goals.

Most of them are in The Ultimate Productivity Cheat Sheet.

But today, I wanted to select 10 of them which alone could provide you with the biggest leverage in life, as fast as possible.

Here they are, in the exact sequence that will give you compounded results.


1. Live a 24-Hour Life

“Carpe Diem (Seize the day).” — Horace

We, humans, are creatures of instant gratification, which means that we wantpleasure and results as soon as possible.

So, whenever you have a goal, you immediately start thinking about all of the tasks you need to do, and how long it will take you to finish each one of them.

You might even start taking action, but it often happens that you fall off the wagon because you don’t see results that fast, which additionally demotivatesyou to give it another go.

Instead of approaching it like this and having to kickstart your motivation every couple of weeks, I suggest that you set a goal you want to pursue, and then break it down into activities and habits that will help you accomplish said goal.

From then on, every morning you wake up, you should focus on the day ahead of you, to take action towards your goal(s), and achieve incrementalprogress.

Stop pondering about the past, and the mistakes you’ve made and failedattempts, and stop thinking about the future, and what will happen the next day, week or a month.


2. Commit to Your Health First

“Take care of your body. It’s the only place you have to live.” — Jim Rohn

Photo by Brooke Lark on Unsplash

Your day should begin here, but it doesn’t.

Most people are too busy to sleep well, create a healthy diet, or move enough.

The main reason we continue to neglect our health is that we don’t seeserious consequences right away, or even in weeks ahead, and this makes it more likely we’ll continue doing it.

To increase the level of your health, and by default the level of productivity, because you will be more energetic and focused, you need to make a deal with yourself.

No matter what happens in your life, HEALTH COMES FIRST — which means that you need to take care of yourself first before you engage in anything else.

There are only three things you need to keep in mind:

  • Get enough sleep
  • Create a healthy diet for yourself
  • Move more

Make small actions every day, and let the compound effect do its thing.


3. Develop a Morning Routine

“My morning routine definitely sets the tone for my day. If I’m rushed and stressed in the morning, that will carry through my workday.” — Tessa Miller

The moment you open your phone or step outside of your home, you allow the external stimuli to affect your mental state and how your day will further develop.

That’s why it’s crucial, and I will repeat it, it’s CRUCIAL, that you take control and set the tone you want for the rest of the day.

The best way to do that is by establishing a morning routine for yourself, which aims to make you alert, help you take care of your health, intellectual and spiritual growth and gives you a quiet time to focus on your biggest goal.

You do this by developing two types of habits:

  • Habits that can improve quality of your life in the present
  • Habits that can improve the quality of your life in the future

Ideally, you should focus to form habits that give you both — such as exercising, and by doing so, you will start seeing a change both in the present and the future.


4. Clarify Daily Priorities

“The key is not to prioritize what’s on your schedule but to schedule your priorities.”- Stephen Covey

Having clarity on what exactly will you be working on that day, and in whatsequence you will complete each task, is probably one of the most important things that will help you stay focused and reduce possible distractions.

The main reason why this is important is because not knowing priorities, or just kinda knowing them, makes us random and it takes us a longer time to get to actual work.

Instead of having to decide on these things in the morning and losing preciouswillpower and decision-making ability, map it out the night before, with these questions:

  • What are my top priorities for tomorrow?
  • In what order will I complete each one of them?
  • How much time do I need to commit to each task?

Then, when you wake up, just look at the list, and start executing one priority at a time.


5. Block Time

“You will never ‘find’ time for anything. If you want time, you must make it.”

— Charles Buxton

Learning how to protect your time at all cost from possible time thieves is essential.

That’s why, when you define your priorities and how much time you need for each one of them, decide when in your schedule you want to commit a specific chunk of your time, to execute these priorities.

By dedicating a specific time to just one task, you “block off” your time (and your mind) from other interruptions and projects — that would otherwise demand your attention.

You will find that even three 60 minute blocks of actual work can deliver more results than a standard 8-hour workday — and sometimes even two.


6. Gamify the Process With The X Method

“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act but a habit. “

— Aristotle

Photo by Eric Rothermel on Unsplash

The majority of goals people pursue don’t require innate talent, or working a 12-hour a day — in most cases they lack old-fashion consistency.

This is where the X Method comes in handy since it’s probably the easiest, yet the most effective way to establish new behaviors or eliminate them.

All you need to do is take a big wall calendar that has an entire month on it, and place it somewhere visible.

For each day that you do the positive behavior or stay away from doing a negative one, you get to put a big X on that day.

This works well because, after a week or two, you’ll have a chain, and you’ll like seeing that chain of X’s, so much so that you will do almost everything you can to maintain it.

From that point on, your only job then becomes not to break the chain.

Don’t break the chain!


7. Crush Procrastination by Deconstructing Tasks

“Procrastination is the art of keeping up with yesterday.” — Don Marquis

Just like me, you probably have a problem with procrastination, or to be more specific, getting yourself to take action — not the actual work itself.

So, when you need to do something, and you start feeling that initial resistance, program yourself to break the task at hand into smaller pieces immediately, and just get yourself to do the first one in the sequence.

For example — Going to the gym — becomes:

  • Preparing your gym gear
  • Putting your clothes on
  • Leaving your home
  • Getting to the gym
  • Putting your gear on
  • Warming up
  • Doing each exercise set (this can be further broken down)
  • Stretching

In most cases, finishing the first task will trigger a momentum, and that will make it easier to complete the remaining mini-tasks, and by default theprimary activity you started with — which in this case is a successful gymsession.

And it all started with placing some gear in the bag.

Now, just take any task you tend to procrastinate on the most and apply this suggestion.


8. Fight off Four Types of Distractions

“Distractions destroy action. If it’s not moving towards your purpose, leave it alone.” — Jermaine Riley

Photo by rawpixel.com on Unsplash

Everything around you is designed to steal your attention and with it your most valuable resource — time.

That’s why it’s essential to learn how to shield yourself and develop your ability to focus on command.

You will need to fight off four types of distractions, and below are various ways to deal with each one of them.

Mental Distractions

Consider mental distractions to be any thought unrelated to the task at hand.

One of the first ways you can regain mental clarity is to simply breathe, as it will help you center your thoughts — no matter how cliche it might sound.

Next to breathing, ask yourself following two questions:

  • What should my focus be?
  • Is this worth my time?

Questions are a great way to reach the logical part of our brain and let it find the right answers naturally.

The next thing you can do is meditation, which is a great way to refresh your mental state, and if nothing, just to zone out and catch your breath.

Physical/Environmental Distractions

When we are not as invested in the task at hand, we often act as CROWS; we look for anything shiny around us that will distract us from doing work.

That’s why you need to declutter your environment and make sure that you minimize physical distractions.

First, divide your workspace into a primary and a secondary work area.

From the primary, remove everything unessential, all the things you’re not using on a daily basis. All the things you use on a weekly/monthly basis should go to the secondary work area.

Those can be like books, cables, printer, photos, staplers, and other items you don’t use as often.

The fewer items are in your immediate proximity, the less you will be pulled away from the task at hand.

Digital Distractions

Once again, you can follow the rule of making it difficult to access something.

For your phone, I suggest you delete every app that doesn’t contribute any of your goals, and is just a waste of time. Then place the applications you use on a daily basis on your first screen, move everything else to the second and third screen — making it more difficult to access.

Whenever you work, place your phone out of the arms reach, and turn off the internet, so you don’t get notifications.

For your computer, you can install software called SelfControl (source) a free Mac application to help you avoid distracting websites, for Windows thealternative is Cold Turkey (source).

Or you can install extensions called StayFocusd (Source) or Gofuckingwork (source) — both are free and work well.

When it comes to emails and social media, I suggest you create rules for yourself to check them only at a specific time of the day.

I try to not to open social media apps at least first hour or two, and check emails twice a day, responding right away.

Social Distractions

Now, this is something you don’t have that much control over, but you can still do a couple of things that might help you reduce them.

First is to communicate your style of working to people, and expectations — this usually does the trick.

Secondly, you can use your headphones — even placing them on your ears will make people assume that you are not to be disturbed.


9. Trigger the State of Flow

“The happiest people spend much time in a state of flow — the state in which people are so involved in an activity that nothing else seems to matter; the experience itself is so enjoyable that people will do it even at great cost, for the sheer sake of doing it.”

– Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi

Photo by Daniil Avilov on Unsplash

Every person has been in the ZONE.

When you’re in there, nothing else exists, it’s just you and the task at hand.

What the majority of people seem to miss is that this state is something you can learn to trigger on command and develop a habit of using it on a daily basis.

However, first you need to look back and determine how you’ve entered the state of flow before, so that you can pinpoint the underlying pattern.

These questions might be useful here:

  • When is the last time I was in the zone?
  • Why was I so deeply focused?
  • What elements helped me reach that level of immersion?

For me, my laptop, a big screen in front of me, and music with a fast beat are enough to get me into the state of flow.

What works for you?


10. Evaluate Your Day

“Every evening, just before hitting the bed, I would ask myself: Have I earned the bread for the day?” — Zdravko, my late grandfather

We are often caught up in the everyday environment and the dynamic nature of our lives, so the time passes by faster than ever.

Because of this, it makes a lot of sense to continuously pull yourself back andevaluate how well you’ve executed your plan in the previous period, so you can improve it based on the insights you’ve gathered.

Try to make it a habit just before you go to bed. Take some time to evaluate your day and see what can you do better in the morning.

Also, every week you should set aside 30 minutes to analyze the previous week and plan out the next one.

LIFE – How I learnt to become comfortable with uncomfortable situations  

Photo by Šárka Jonášová on Unsplash

I must admit that for a long time I was waiting for the life I dreamt of to somehow materialise and fall into my lap. But after finding myself in countless frustrating situations that were not a reflection of my true potential, I realised something had to change.

I had to take the first step, which would set off a chain of events. Fully accept that I was enough but not yet the best version of myself. I had to commit to growth, learning to become comfortable in situations that I avoided but recognise as pivotal to progress. Recognise that the goals I want to achieve are far from typical so require a stronger, committed me.

Admit that my current lifestyle and choices are not reflective of where I am headed.

Make a plan to become more comfortable with what seems difficult and unachievable at first. And in Albert Einstein words ‘stay with problems longer’.

Find a strong stimulus that is worth challenging your fears for.

We all have goals but most don’t achieve them because they are simply not intrinsic enough. This requires going several levels below that to identify something deep down that will compel you to action. A key one for me was the realisation that continuing on my current path would result in major regrets later down the line.

Once you become clear on your stimulus, then the focus shifts from how everything seems impossible to ‘my mission is worth being uncomfortable for’. That what you are reaching for is far greater than how you currently interpret your insecurities, and perceived limitations. You then commit to small actions today in the knowledge that it will be easier on the 2nd attempt.

At this stage you will rarely even digress back to your feelings. You realise they are fickle and not always the ideal guide to progress.

You remain fearful until you realise what it’s stopping you from getting.

Start small.

I took cold showers every morning in the first few months of launching my business. Embarking on an unfamiliar journey is daunting and is best managed in small doses. Knowing there was no going back, having a cold shower initiated the process of becoming comfortable with what seemed very uncomfortable. Starting my day in this manner helped me to change my self-perception from ‘ I’m not sure I am cut out for this to, if I can do this, imagine what else I can overcome’. Slowly but surely, I started to place myself in the camp of doers. I was becoming the type of person who takes action regardless of their comfort level.

Impacts other areas of your life

Committing to this experiment has overhauled my mind-set. From living with limited beliefs for so long to realising that a small act of courage has the potential to flow to other areas.

Doing what is necessary in creating the ideal career has also given me the methodology to address my relationships, spirituality, health, personal development and how I contribute to causes that I care about.

Just like most people on this journey, I went through a phase of searching for the magic formula to success. I read and learnt everything related to ’10 steps to conquering fear’, ‘8 tips on becoming a warrior’. Whilst some were useful, I now realise that knowledge is not power but applied knowledge is. The biggest project of your life begins with constant exposure to what seems uncomfortable.

Clapping lets me know that you have enjoyed reading this post and also allows others to see it. I always appreciate your comments too.

The Right Way to Restore a Relationship

The Right Way to Restore a Relationship (lessons from 15 years of burning bridges)

I’ve burned a lot of bridges.

Over the last 15 years, I’ve burned a lot of bridges.

I’ve done a lot of hurtful things, said hurtful stuff, and was a complete asshole to many people I loved, who loved me back and deserved better. I have to live with that for the rest of my life.

At times, I still marvel at how stupid I was. How conceited and profoundly self-absorbed I was. And how I didn’t even see it.

But in the process, I’ve learned how to restore those relationships (some of them, at least. Some people still won’t talk to me).

Years of a severe pornography addiction left me frozen as an immature, whiny brat who would never take responsibility for his actions. It took 5 years of gut-wrenching therapy and brutally honest sponsors in 12-step programs to learn how to truly apologize and restore relationships I broke.

That’s what this post is about: how to restore broken relationships that were broken by you.

Because whether I like it or not, I have major experience with that.

It’s Your Fault. Shut Up and Admit It.

“The bitterest tears shed over graves are for words left unsaid and deeds left undone.” -Harriet Beecher Stowe

When my wife and I were in premarital counseling, our counselor gave us a piece of advice that would end up changing our lives:

Always make the first move.

The meaning is simple: if you can help the relationship, then do it. Don’t wait for the other person to act (even if you want them to).

A lot of people have shallow, even ruined relationships. This is because most people always wait for the other person to “make the first move;” say hello, organize a hangout, or apologize. This is a pride thing; it’s a weakness, and it destroys relationships.

If you want to restore a broken relationship into an incredible one…make the first move.

Photo by Joshua Sazon on Unsplash

I can’t forget a certain day in 3rd grade. It was during recess.

There was this girl Sandra in my class. She was nice. Both of us were trying to grab one of the few soccer balls from the ball barrel, and I remember accidentally tripping her as I grabbed one.

She fell on the floor. Angry tears welled up in her eyes. I can still remember the look of shock and humiliation on her face.

I should’ve said I was sorry.

I should’ve helped her up. I probably should’ve given her the ball, too.

But I didn’t. I just ran off, leaving her on the floor.

After recess, Mrs. Salinas pulled me and Sandra outside.

Anthony, did you push Sandra onto the floor at recess?” she demanded in disbelief.

I denied it. It wasn’t my fault, I reasoned. It was an “accident.” I didn’t meanto! I wasn’t willing to take responsibility.

Mrs. Salinas forced me to apologize.

Sandra never talked to me again.

Here’s a lesson that took several dozen times to finally stick:

If you did something wrong, shut up and admit it. Don’t make excuses. Don’t blame someone else. Even if it was an accident — even if you didn’t mean to — that doesn’t matter. If you want to restore a broken relationships, be the first to own what you did.

Otherwise, your relationships will always be strained and mediocre.

The Most Important Lesson About Relationships I Learned From a 12-Step Program

The day after I quit my corporate job before I left to teach English overseas, I published an article that would eventually destroy every relationship I had with all my old colleagues.

It was one of the stupidest things I’ve ever done. Frankly, it still haunts me sometimes, because many people are still hurt by what I said. Some people still aren’t willing to speak to me.

Basically, I wrote an article condemning 9–5 jobs and essentially called all my old coworkers a bunch of cowards for wasting their life in corporate America. In efforts to be “gritty” and authentic, I was actually just an asshole.

I wouldn’t find out until months later that my entire department read it (what did I think would happen?). I naively emailed my old boss one day from overseas saying hello. I was shocked at her scathing response, informing me neither her nor anyone else wanted anything to do with me, and how much I had hurt them with my words.

There is only one response you can make in this situation. And this still doesn’t guarantee anything.

Make amends.

Photo by Felix Russell-Saw on Unsplash

I’d never used that phrase until I got into recovery and counseling. Essentially, making amends is a way to take ownership for wrong you’ve done in hopes of reconciliation.

Making amends has a few parts:

1. Write down exactly what you did wrong, and to whom

2. Write down why it was wrong (be specific)

3. Take complete ownership for the hurt you caused

4. Tell the hurt person everything you wrote down in a sincere apology (if appropriate)

The only way I was ever going to hope to restore anything with my old coworkers was to make individual, direct amends with anyone still willing to listen (some still aren’t).

So that’s what I did. I told my boss how awful my article was, and why (it was demeaning, hurtful, and profoundly ungrateful). I didn’t make any excuses — I owned the entire screwup.

Miraculously, months later she ended up forgiving me.

Of course, things can never go back to the way they were. There’s still a divide of hurt that probably won’t ever go away.

When you hurt someone like this, you have to “take care of your side of the street.” Do everything you can to make things right.

Making Amends is the Single Best Way to Restore a Broken Relationship

I’ve gone through the process of making amends more times than I can remember:

  • To my childhood friends for gossiping about them
  • To my old writing hero for accidental plagiarizing their work
  • To my best friend for not giving him credit for his ideas
  • To my old girlfriend for liking another girl while I was still dating her
  • To my cousin for constantly ditching him for my friends

I could write dozens more. Goes to show all the hurt I’ve caused, even if it was unintentional.

But miraculously, I’ve restored many of these relationships, through making amends.

Making amends is the single best way to restore broken relationships. It’s one of the most mature, adult actions you can possibly take.

I know I’m going to hurt people down the road, however unintentional. I’m not perfect.

But I can always make proper amends: realize what I did, why it was wrong, and communicate how sorry I am.

In Conclusion

“We can never flee the misery that is within us.” -Arthur Golden

The simple truth is, most people won’t have great relationships.

When my wife and I were in premarital counseling, our counselor gave us a piece of advice that would end up changing our lives:

Always make the first move.

The meaning is simple: if you can help the relationship, then do it. Don’t wait for the other person to act (even if you don’t want to).

Many people have several strained, even broken relationships with family and friends. This is because most people always wait for the other person to “make the first move;” say hello, organize a hangout, or apologize.

If you want to restore a relationship and experience a deep, meaningful bond with that person, make the first move — even if it should be them. Be the first to:

  • Initiate the conversation
  • Send the first text
  • Say you miss them
  • Say you love them
  • Apologize and ask for forgiveness
  • Organize a hangout
  • Compliment them
  • Thank them
  • Tell them you appreciate what they did

There’s no reason to not restore a broken relationship if it’s in your power to do so.

What If Your First Love Didn’t Work?

What If Your First Love Didn’t Work?

Nothing is predictable…not even ‘Life’!

Photo by Rakicevic Nenad on Unsplash

Ihave often seen people wonder the need to take another chance at love after suffering an episode of a major heartbreak or a backstab!

Such people are either too afraid to even try out something again. Or too apprehensive and skeptic.

It is to them I want to reach out!

One bad life experience can’t make you conclude that life is fucked!

God has no enmity with you, remember that.

Each one of us is his special child.

‘To experience joy, you have to feel pain.’ Keeping this in mind know that nothing great will ever come without a hefty input of effort.

‘Love’ can be the best effort you give to make someone in your life feel special. It can be a defining point in your life when you might suddenly decode the reason of your being- the true essence of youth!

It might present to you the perfect reason why you should love- once again- an yet again!

Love doesn’t come with a warranty card- There’s nothing certain about it.

Don’t fall in love with the concept of ‘Permanency’ in your mind.

‘Love’ is as unpredictable as ‘Life’ itself!!

It is boundless, and best described as an adventure for those who can make the best out of it.

Of course, you might be less willing after a decent try or two. But in those sharp edges you will find something smooth that you will keep in your memory and treasure for the rest of your life!

All I want to say aloud is just that…Love as much as you can.

If Love was the reason why you are broke today, Love shall be the only solution going to help you out too!