LIFE – How to Break a Bad Habit and Replace It With a Good One

How to Break a Bad Habit and Replace It With a Good One

Woman Drinking Using Mug

by James Clear
Read this on JamesClear.com
Bad habits interrupt your life and prevent you from accomplishing your goals. They jeopardize your health — both mentally and physically. And they waste your time and energy.

So why do we still do them? And most importantly, is there anything you can do about it?

I’ve previously written about the science of how habits start, so now let’s focus on the practice of making changes in the real world. How can you delete your bad behaviors and stick to good ones instead?

I certainly don’t have all of the answers, but keep reading and I’ll share what I’ve learned about how to break a bad habit.

What causes bad habits?

Most of your bad habits are caused by two things…

Stress and boredom.

Most of the time, bad habits are simply a way of dealing with stress and boredom. Everything from biting your nails to overspending on a shopping spree to drinking every weekend to wasting time on the internet can be a simple response to stress and boredom. [1]

But it doesn’t have to be that way. You can teach yourself new and healthy ways to deal with stress and boredom, which you can then substitute in place of your bad habits.

Of course, sometimes the stress or boredom that is on the surface is actually caused by deeper issues. These issues can be tough to think about, but if you’re serious about making changes then you have to be honest with yourself.

Are there certain beliefs or reasons that are behind the bad habit? Is there something deeper — a fear, an event, or a limiting belief — that is causing you to hold on to something that is bad for you?

Recognizing the causes of your bad habits is crucial to overcoming them.

You don’t eliminate a bad habit, you replace it.

All of the habits that you have right now — good or bad — are in your life for a reason. In some way, these behaviors provide a benefit to you, even if they are bad for you in other ways.

Sometimes the benefit is biological like it is with smoking or drugs. Sometimes it’s emotional like it is when you stay in a relationship that is bad for you. And in many cases, your bad habit is a simple way to cope with stress. For example, biting your nails, pulling your hair, tapping your foot, or clenching your jaw.

These “benefits” or reasons extend to smaller bad habits as well.

For example, opening your email inbox as soon as you turn on your computer might make you feel connected. At the same time looking at all of those emails destroys your productivity, divides your attention, and overwhelms you with stress. But, it prevents you from feeling like you’re “missing out” … and so you do it again.

Because bad habits provide some type of benefit in your life, it’s very difficult to simply eliminate them. (This is why simplistic advice like “just stop doing it” rarely works.)

Instead, you need to replace a bad habit with a new habit that provides a similar benefit.

For example, if you smoke when you get stressed, then it’s a bad plan to “just stop smoking” when that happens. Instead, you should come up with a different way to deal with stress and insert that new behavior instead of having a cigarette.

In other words, bad habits address certain needs in your life. And for that reason, it’s better to replace your bad habits with a healthier behavior that addresses that same need. If you expect yourself to simply cut out bad habits without replacing them, then you’ll have certain needs that will be unmet and it’s going to be hard to stick to a routine of “just don’t do it” for very long.

How to break a bad habit

Here are some additional ideas for breaking your bad habits and thinking about the process in a new way.

Choose a substitute for your bad habit. You need to have a plan ahead of time for how you will respond when you face the stress or boredom that prompts your bad habit. What are you going to do when you get the urge to smoke? (Example: breathing exercises instead.) What are you going to do when Facebook is calling to you to procrastinate? (Example: write one sentence for work.) Whatever it is and whatever you’re dealing with, you need to have a plan for what you will do instead of your bad habit.

Cut out as many triggers as possible. If you smoke when you drink, then don’t go to the bar. If you eat cookies when they are in the house, then throw them all away. If the first thing you do when you sit on the couch is pick up the TV remote, then hide the remote in a closet in a different room. Make it easier on yourself to break bad habits by avoiding the things that cause them.

Right now, your environment makes your bad habit easier and good habits harder. Change your environment and you can change the outcome.

Join forces with somebody. How often do you try to diet in private? Or maybe you “quit smoking” … but you kept it to yourself? (That way no one will see you fail, right?)

Instead, pair up with someone and quit together. The two of you can hold each other accountable and celebrate your victories together. Knowing that someone else expects you to be better is a powerful motivator.

Surround yourself with people who live the way you want to live.You don’t need to ditch your old friends, but don’t underestimate the power of finding some new ones.

Visualize yourself succeeding. See yourself throwing away the cigarettes or buying healthy food or waking up early. Whatever the bad habit is that you are looking to break, visualize yourself crushing it, smiling, and enjoying your success. See yourself building a new identity.

You don’t need to be someone else, you just need to return to the old you. So often we think that to break our bad habits, we need to become an entirely new person. The truth is that you already have it in you to be someone without your bad habits. In fact, it’s very unlikely that you had these bad habits all of your life. You don’t need to quit smoking, you just need to return to being a non–smoker. You don’t need to transform into a healthy person, you just need to return to being healthy. Even if it was years ago, you have already lived without this bad habit, which means you can most definitely do it again.

Use the word “but” to overcome negative self–talk. One thing about battling bad habits is that it’s easy to judge yourself for not acting better. Every time you slip up or make a mistake, it’s easy to tell yourself how much you suck. [2]

Whenever that happens, finish the sentence with “but”…

  • “I’m fat and out of shape, but I could be in shape a few months from now.”
  • “I’m stupid and nobody respects me, but I’m working to develop a valuable skill.”
  • “I’m a failure, but everybody fails sometimes.”

Plan for failure. We all slip up every now and then.

As my main man Steve Kamb says, “When you screw up, skip a workout, eat bad foods, or sleep in, it doesn’t make you a bad person. It makes you human. Welcome to the club.”

So rather than beating yourself up over a mistake, plan for it. We all get off track, what separates top performers from everyone else is that they get back on track very quickly. For a handful of strategies that can help you bounce back when you make a mistake, read this article.

Where to go from here

If you’re looking for the first step to breaking your bad habits, I’d suggest starting with awareness.

It’s easy to get caught up in how you feel about your bad habits. You can make yourself feel guilty or spend your time dreaming about how you wish things were … but these thoughts take you away from what’s actually happening.

Instead, it’s awareness that will show you how to actually make change.

  • When does your bad habit actually happen?
  • How many times do you do it each day?
  • Where are you?
  • Who are you with?
  • What triggers the behavior and causes it to start?

Simply tracking these issues will make you more aware of the behavior and give you dozens of ideas for stopping it.

Here’s a simple way to start: just track how many times per day your bad habit happens. Put a piece of paper in your pocket and a pen. Each time your bad habit happens, mark it down on your paper. At the end of the day, count up all of the tally marks and see what your total is.

In the beginning your goal isn’t to judge yourself or feel guilty about doing something unhealthy or unproductive. The only goal is to be aware of when it happens and how often it happens. Wrap your head around the problem by being aware of it. Then, you can start to implement the ideas in this article and break your bad habit.

Breaking bad habits takes time and effort, but mostly it takes perseverance. Most people who end up breaking their bad habits try and fail multiple times before they make it work. You might not have success right away, but that doesn’t mean you can’t have it at all.

LIFE – Habits are the Compound Interest of Self Improvement

“person wearing black-and-white Nike low-top sneaker” by SJ Baren on Unsplash

People struggle to develop and maintain new habits because they make their efforts unsustainable.

  • They work out like crazy for a few days (usually at the beginning of the year), and never go back to the gym.
  • They try to meditate for 30 mins one day and don’t give it another shot until 10 days later
  • They try to build an empire fueled by a burst of inspiration on a random Saturday afternoon.

When people attempt to make a change this way, they overlook the profound power of consistencyWhen it comes to developing and maintaining a new habit, frequency matters more than intensity. If you do something frequently, a compounding effect will start to take place.


Build the Identity of the Person You Want to Become

To build the identity of the person you want to become, ask yourself what the behavior of a person who has the habit you want to develop is?

  • What is the behavior a person who is in shape? They go to the gym consistently
  • What is the behavior of a prolific writer? He or she cracks open a notebook every day.

James Clear refers to this as identity-based habit formation. In An Audience of One, I shared a story James told me on the Unmistakable Creative podcast about one of his readers who lost over 100 lbs. Instead of setting a goal to work out, he set a goal to drive to the gym, and he would only allow himself to stay for 5 minutes. After a certain point, he realized that he might as well work out. If you take the first step towards a habit, the inertia is often enough to carry you to the next one.

Note: I was fortunate to get a sneak peek at James’ New book, Atomic Habits(available for pre-order on Amazon). An interview with him, which will air next wee inspired the idea for this post.


Take Minimum Viable Actions

Sometime last year we launched an online course called Finish What You Start. In the process of developing that course, our copywriter Kingshuk Mukherjee came up with the term minimum viable action. In the same way, a startup can launch a minimum viable product; you can take minimum viable actions to develop a new habit.

  • If you want to develop a writing habit, your minimum viable action could be sitting down at your desk or cracking your notebook open
  • If you want to read more, it could be sitting down in a specific chair with a book in your hands

When you take a minimum viable action, the inertia is often enough to carry you to the next step. You build momentum and the identity of a person who has your desired habit until you become the next best version of yourself.


Raise Your Level of Intensity Gradually

In a recent episode of the Unmistakable Creative, I asked Chris Bailey how people can get better at managing their attention. And he said the following:

If you’re not on a deadline, you’re going to work on something until you feel no resistance to it. Could I write for an hour today? No the thought of it puts me off. What about 45 minutes? Thirty-two? Twenty fifty? Yeah, I can do 15. Then refocus for 15 minutes. You find that resistance level to tame distractions and then over time as you ritualize this idea you block off periods in your calendar to get into this mode. Over time you lower that default level of stimulation the amount of dopamine coursing through your brain because of this novelty bias that’s embedded within us and you become better able to think more deeply about your work.

When something becomes effortless for you, raise the level of intensity. In the same way, you’d never go from lifting 25lbs to 100lbs in one day, you want to increase the level of intensity to the point where you can get there without too much resistance, but it’s still somewhat challenging. To put it more concisely, bend but don’t break.


What if You Miss a Day?

After 7 years and 2 books, I still miss the occasional writing day. Sometimes it’s because I’m in bed with someone (a good reason to miss a writing day). Other times it’s because I’m hungover, and occasionally I need a break. One way to handle this is to reduce the scope but stick to the schedule. Instead of writing a 1000 word, I write 500. Many people quit altogether after they miss one day. But if you make your goal progress instead of perfection, you won’t be so demoralized by missing one day.


Develop a Keystone Habit and Stack More

When you try to change too many habits at once, none of them stick. If you try to become a person who reads every day, writes every morning, goes to the gym 3 times a week, and meditates daily all in the span of a week, none of those habits will stick.

But if you start with one keystone habit, it will create a ripple effect into every other area of your life.

  • One of my first keystone habits was surfing. When I got into the habit of surfing almost every other day, I started drinking less when I went out. I valued being up in the morning because that’s when surf conditions are usually best.
  • After I developed the keystone habit of writing 1000 words a day, what followed was reading every day, and eventually a consistent meditation habit.

The best time to stack a second habit is after you’ve maintained the first one with consistency. If you go through this process of stacking, eventually you’ll find yourself making the impossible possible.


The Compounding Effect of Habits

Every now and then I have a friend who will tell me they want to learn how to surf. I share a story with them that I mentioned in my previous book, Unmistakable: Why Only is Better Than Best.

A few weeks after my first three attempts to surf, I went to happy hour at a bar in La Jolla. The guy sitting next to me had been a long time surfer who gave me a simple piece of advice that made the difference between me quitting and becoming a surfer. He told me to go 50 times because by that point I’d be too invested to quit.

While he didn’t state it explicitly, he understood that every surf session would have a compounding effect. It took more than 15 sessions before I stood up on a wave. Eventually, I worked my way down from the Costco Wavestorm to riding a 6-foot shortboard and found myself surfing at a skill level that seemed impossible when I started. I had a similar experience with snowboarding. After two seasons and close to 30 days on the mountain, I got to a point where I was able to get down a black diamond.

The progress we experience from the compounding effect of any habit isn’t immediately visible. As a result, people give up quickly. They don’t realize that every day the show up they’re building momentum. They are moving closer and closer to a breakthrough or inflection point.


Systems Vs Goals

I’ve said before that having a system is essential increasing your creative output. Having a system allows you to focus on progress instead of perfection and put your energy and effort into what you control. A system also will enable you to experience visible progress, which in turn increase your motivation. In the picture below you’ll see three jars of marbles. Each jar represents a system that’s tied to a specific goal.

  • Jar 1: I put one marble in for each hour I spend doing deep work like reading and writing, and another for each article I publish. It’s the system that is aligned with my goal of growing our email list to 50,000 subscribers.
  • Jar 2: I put one marble into the jar for each sales call I make or email I send to people who might be able to hire me as a speaker or advertise on the Unmistakable Creative. It’s the system that’s aligned with my revenue goal.
  • Jar 3: I put one marble into the jar for each day I go to CrossFit, surf or exercise. It’s the system aligned with my goal to lose the little bit of a gut that I have before my sister’s wedding in February.

It’s my personal adaptation of the paper clip method.


Purpose and Meaning

It’s worth considering why you want to develop some habit. People read articles like this one and think that’s the reason to develop a habit. They treat guidance like gospel and make decisions that aren’t aligned with their essential priorities. There’s nothing that everybody should do, even though there are plenty of people who will tell you there are. (Most of them they also sell products for how to do that thing they say everybody should do). The goal isn’t to live a life that’s just efficient, but rather a life that’s meaningful.

From writing 1000 words a day to learning how to surf, I’ve seen the compounding effect of habits over and over in my life. As I said in An Audience of One, habits are at the building blocks of all creative work and for that matter just about every goal you’d ever want to accomplish.

How to Be So Disciplined?

How to Be So Disciplined, It’ll Look Like You Have Superpowers

“World class performers don’t have superpowers. But they’ve crafted rules that make it look that way.” -Tim Ferriss

Most people aren’t disciplined. They can’t say they consistently sit down and do the thing they should be doing.

Of course, just about everyone wants to be disciplined. But for some reason, they just can’t seem to be consistent. Maybe they can start strong and do really good at the beginning…but in the end, their energy dies a slow but sure death.

We’ve all heard stories of great self-discipline and immense self-control. These stories usually involve famous people, tech founders, or professional athletes, who accomplished the impossible and somehow worked hard enough for long enough and eventually signed the $100 million dollar contract.

But most people think that, frankly, those kind people have superpowers. They think those people have something we don’t. They were born with something the rest of us just don’t have. No matter what you do, you just can’t get yourself to do what you need to do. So why bother?

I’m here to tell you: this mindset is garbage. It’s the main reason why most people will remain in mediocrity when they could have complete financial freedom to travel the world, spend time with their family, and be their own boss.

This was me. For 4.5 years, I tried to be a consistent, disciplined writer. I’d watch Gladiator or Braveheart and get real motivated, then crank out some of the most heartfelt articles I could possibly write. But upon seeing that no one read my stuff, I’d give up and quit for months at a time.

I finally decided to become consistent. I started posting every single day. I got more views. I got picked up by some small publications. I built momentum. Bought an online writing course. Built more momentum. Wrote my first “viral” article. Got more disciplined. A year later, I’ve gained:

  • 27,000+ email subscribers
  • 150,000+ views/month
  • A signed book deal
  • A full-time personal business from my writing

The only way these were possible were because of my discipline.

Here’s how to become so disciplined, it’ll look like you have superpowers.

Great Power Lies in Doing the Absurd

“When you’re the first person whose beliefs are different from what everyone else believes, you’re basically saying, ‘I’m right, and everyone else is wrong.’ That’s a very unpleasant position to be in. It’s at once exhilarating and at the same time, an invitation to be attacked.” -Larry Ellison

Here’s something that will happen once you start being consistently disciplined:

People will think you’re weird. They might even attack you for it.

You’ll get confused looks and raised eyebrows when you tell people what you do.

  • “Wait — you wake up at 5am every day? Even Saturdays? Why?”
  • “You don’t drink anymore? Why not?”
  • “You’re training for a triathlon? Why?”
  • You’re putting 40% of your paychecks into savings? How do you survive?!”

Consistency, being as rare and difficult as it is, scares people when they see it live. It’s awesome. But it also elicits jealousy and resentment. In a way, your ascent highlights their stagnation. Naysayers and their doubts say more about them than about you.

But great power lies in doing the absurd, especially if you think it’s crazy. Never forget, you have grown up in an environment that teaches mediocrity and falling in line. As best-selling author Grant Cardone once wrote:

“Take into account that you have been educated with restrictions. Be aware of this so that you don’t underestimate the possibilities.”

If you want what you’ve never had, you’ll have to do stuff you’ve never done.

The truth is, most people simply don’t believe they can ever get the “celebrity-style” success: hundreds of thousands of dollars in savings, a brand new luxury car, a big home in a really nice neighborhood. They’ve been conditioned to believe this type of success in only reserved for star athletes, rappers, rockstars, and 20-something tech founders who get bought out by Google.

This limiting belief acts kind of like a sheepherding dog: once your thoughts start to expand and wonder, “What if that was possible? What if I could have that life?” the sheepdog comes barking and herding you back into formation with the rest of the sheep. “It’s not possible!” it barks. “Just stay the course! Don’t rock the boat! Someday you’ll finally win, but don’t do anything stupid in the meantime!”

You’ve been educated with enormous limitations. Maybe it was from your family, friends, a college professor, a boss, or just the movies. Frankly, most people focus on fighting for scraps with the other 99%, never truly believing they could get the rewards of the 1%. So they vilify these extraordinary individuals, and criticize anyone who seems to be breaking out of mediocrity and into huge success. They become the sheepdog.

Great power lies in doing the absurd.

When you start to get those confused looks and passive-aggressive “compliments,” you’ll know you’re going the right way.

“It’s lonely at the top. 99% of people are convinced they are incapable of achieving great things, so they aim for mediocre. The level of competition is thus fiercest for ‘realistic’ goals, paradoxically making them the most competitive.”

-Tim Ferriss

How to Be Disciplined When You Don’t Want to Work Your Brain Anymore

Back when I used to work as a telemarketer, the only — only — thing I wanted to do when I got home was crack open a cold bottle of Saint Archer IPA, grab a bag of Tostitos nachos, and turn on Dexter.

And that’d what I did for nearly 2 years.

Every morning, I woke up with dread. I’d be finishing my 2nd cup of coffee as I’d pull into work. I’d drink a total of 6–8 cups of coffee every day (to stay energized) as I spent 8 hours phoning angry people all over the country and try to sell them an online Bachelors degree. Then I’d spend 50 minutes in bumper-to-bumper traffic on the way home, hungry for the beer, chips, and TV.

The last thing I wanted to do when I got home was to use my brain.

This is how many people live their lives. They have big dreams — to start a blog, a fitness coaching business, a life coaching business, a podcast, write a book — but how can they possibly be disciplined after a long day at work? How can you use your brain when you’re so tired from the day?

The answer is simple: take yourself out of the equation.

Make a commitment to perform, and you will.

One of my favorite books of all time is Mindset, by Dr. Carol Dweck. There’s a line she wrote that I always think about:

“Vowing, even intense vowing, is often useless. What works is making a vivid, concrete plan.”

Most people rely on some form of “vowing” to be disciplined. “I will write 3 blog posts this week. I will go to the gym on Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday. I won’t spend more than $50 on restaurants this week.”

But in almost every case, this is just another way to try and make yourself “feel better,” nothing more. A common behavior of an addict who constantly relapses is intense, grand vows to change after relapsing. Of course, this rarely works — it just gives the addict something to cling to to avoid the shame and real work of making a plan.

Here’s the thing: “you” are tired. “You” will be exhausted, sleepy, and hangry (that’s hungry+angry) when you get home after a long day. The odds of consistently doing what you need to do in this state will be slim.

That’s why you need to take yourself out of the equation. You are fallible; rules are not. Set up good rules, and pretty soon they’ll begin assuring success.

Best-selling author David Kadavy discusses this very problem in his book, The Heart to Start. “When you build a habit, you don’t have to spend mental energy deciding what to do,” he writes. When you design an environment to produce success, you remove all the energy-wasting dilemmas of “Should I go to the gym, or stay home?” You just go to the gym, because that’s what you do.

This is how I finally got “sober” from a 15-year addiction to pornography. I went to counseling, therapy, and support groups. I started following a plan with specific rules: no internet after 9pm. No internet use alone in my room. Make a phone call every day and check in with a friend. No more useless vows — I took myself out of my failing promises and started following a plan.

Pretty soon, I caught on and just started following the rules. I removed myself — my tired, exhausted, cranky self — and lived by the rules.

It worked. I don’t look at porn anymore. I haven’t done that stuff for years. This is how you go from a weak “maybe I’ll do the work?” to a definitive “of course I’ll do the work.”

Make a set of rules, and stick to it.

“If you’re interested, you come up with stories, excuses, reasons, and circumstances about why you can’t or why you won’t. If you’re committed, those go out the window. You do whatever it takes.” -John Assaraf

If You Grew Up in the Low or Middle Class, You Need to Develop an Upper-Class Mindset

“The only way you become a leading man is by treating yourself like a leading man and working you ass off. If you don’t believe in yourself, then how will anyone else believe in you?” -Arnold Schwarzenegger

Statistically speaking, most of us grew up in the low and middle class. We learned the specific behaviors, mindsets, actions, and lifestyles of those around us in our same social class.

But if you want to develop incredible discipline and achieve an upper-class lifestyle, you need to shed the beliefs of the poor and middle class.

When I say “upper class,” I don’t mean those rich snobs who inherited money and spend their parents’ money wrecking cars that cost more than a small house. I don’t mean the greedy 1% who constantly try to distance themselves from the poor and their problems.

What I mean by “upper class” is the kind of people who manage enormous amounts of money, fame, influence, and popularity and consistently make the world a better place with their gift.

The world’s most successful, wealthy, and influential people are extremely disciplined. They aren’t distracted by the cheap entertainment you and I binge on. They hustle, they learn, they work their asses off developing a killer mindset that can handle a high amount of pressure.

In the words of world champion chess player Josh Waitzkin:

“Mental resilience is arguably the most critical trait of a world-class performer, and it should be nurtured continuously.

If left to my own devices, I am always looking for more ways to become more and more psychologically impregnable.

When uncomfortable, my instinct is not to avoid confrontations but to become at peace with it. My instinct is to seek out challenges as opposed to avoiding them.”

Is that your mindset? Do you seek out challenges and focus on building your resiliency?

One of my favorite quotes from best-selling author Darren Hardy is this:

“The key to becoming world-class in your endeavors is to build your performance around world-class routines.”

If you want to have consistent discipline to do what you should do, take a lesson from the world’s top performers. Act like they do. Treat yourself like they treat themselves.

Develop an upper-class mindset, and you’ll start acting like upper-class. Pretty soon, you’ll start seeing upper-class results.

In Conclusion

Extraordinary people don’t “manage time.” They make time. They don’t “manage money” or “save money,” they make money. They appear to have superpowers, making deals and accomplishing goals most people would tell you are impossible.

How are you going to do what you’ve never done before: be consistently self-disciplined?

By doing things you’ve never done.

You can have whatever you want if you do whatever it takes. Every level of success starts with discipline; as Navy SEAL Jocko Willink wrote, “Discipline Equals Freedom.”

Take yourself and your laziness out of the equation. Forgot the vows; make a plan, and commit to it.

Start developing an upper-class mindset. Do the things successful people do. Success isn’t complicated; the fundamentals are simple.

The road to developing discipline isn’t easy. Few will stay committed long enough to see the end of the road. But once you commit to discipline, you’ll look like you have superpowers; the people in your life will marvel at your results.

Speculation is a dangerous pastime

How to Avoid Wasting Your Time and Missing Life

Speculation is a dangerous pastime

Photo by Seth Macey

“Time destroys the speculation of men, but it confirms nature.” — Marcus Tullius Cicero

Certainty is a dangerous game.

A poisoned arrow hit a man. Though a doctor was there to assist him, the man didn’t want the arrow to be removed. He was looking for answers first.

“Before you take this arrow out, I want to know if the shooter was a prince, a merchant, or a priest? What’s his name and where does he live? What kind of bow he used? Was the arrowhead an ordinary one or an iron one?” — he kept on and on.

The wounded man would rather die than not having all the facts.

Life is short. It must not be spent in endless speculation.

Worrying about possible ‘what ifs’ not only keeps your mind busy; it makes you focus on the wrong problem as it happened to the man who was shot.

Speculation doesn’t just steal your time; it drains your mental energy too.

The Time Thief

“There are two times in a man’s life when he shouldn’t speculate: when he can afford to and when he can’t.” — Mark Twain

When predicting the future, everyone claims to have the perfect answer. However, when looking in retrospective, very few can acknowledge that things didn’t go as they anticipated.

Perspective destroys certainty — that’s the effect of time on our speculations.

Oxford Dictionary defines speculation as “the forming of a theory or conjecture without firm evidence.”

Speculation is not just limited to predicting the future; this inefficient pastime also drives rumination about present or past events.

The hunger for certainty is one of the brain’s five functions. Uncertainty generates a strong alert response in our limbic system; that’s why we worry. Your brain doesn’t like not being in control — uncertainty is a pain that we try to avoid at all cost.

That’s why we love to speculate — we’d rather create a theory without evidence than not knowing what will happen.

The problem with certainty is that we adopt a scrutinizing mode — we are looking for evidence to prove our theory.

Dickson Watts, author of “Thoughts on Life” aphorisms, said: “Make your theories fit your facts, not your facts your theories.”

That’s the driver of financial speculation — people want to win big to be right big time. There are few things more unbalancing to the mind than the act of suddenly winning (or losing) large sums of money.

No one has explored the strange behavior of the American investor with more authority than Robert Shiller. In his book, ‘’Irrational Exuberance,’’ he departs from most economists’ assumptions that people are rational and fully informed.

The Yale University economist describes the group pressures and herd behavior that sustain investment — the amplification mechanism, as he calls it. People are prodded into the market, for example, by the ego-diminishing envy stirred by others having earned more in the market than on paychecks.

Speculation, in every aspect of life, is an irrational pastime. It’s much better to be vulnerable than to be right.

Jonah Lehrer coined the term ‘Information Craving’ to define our addiction to facts. We crave information for the sake of it. We don’t care if it will make us more effective or adaptive — it just reduces the sense of uncertainty.

A great example of speculation gone wild can be found on the talk shows. Rather than inform or report the news, they stray into guessing what might happen. The need to fill the void before real news unfold drives hosts to share their opinions and hypotheses as if they were factual.

The Danger of What Ifs

Speculation turns one fact into infinite facts.

Something happens (what) and we start asking ‘why?’ We fill the void with as many possibilities as we can create in the form of ‘what ifs?’ Finally, we end worrying about all the possible answers — one ‘what’ becomes infinite ‘whats.’

Counterfactual thinking is a concept in psychology that involves our tendency to create possible alternatives to life events that have already occurred. Most of the time, something that is contrary to what actually happened.

That’s the paradox of speculation — our desire to find certainty creates more uncertainty and worry.

What if speculations open up the past by demonstrating myriad of possibilities. However, we cannot change what happened. Speculation turns us into a prisoner of counterfactual — we get trapped by all the infinite chances that never happened.

The same happens when we get stuck trying to understand events in the present.

The dangerous side of speculating is that it keeps us busy while accomplishing nothing — rehashing every possibility prevents you from enjoying life.

John Lennon said it better: “Life is what happens when we are busy making others plans.”

Maybe you are waiting for feedback on a job interview. Or your best friend is not replying to a text you sent hours ago. Or your client unexpectedly cancels an important meeting without any explanation.

Your mind starts playing tricks — you get into an spiral of endless negative potential explanations.

When we don’t know, rather than wait for things to happen, our mind starts creating our version of what might have happened. Speculation turns into rumination — we can’t get past our thoughts.

Your mind gets stuck when you think about every possible ‘what if?’

Living in the ‘here and now’ is one of the most distinctive lessons from Buddhism. Western education, on the contrary, promotes speculation. We are told to analyze the past to learn lessons from it; we are encouraged to create hypotheses and use those learnings to predict future behavior.

What’s the point about worrying about the future if, when you get there, you will be worrying about some other future moment?

Buddhism invites us to recover the value of living in the present. Instead of being obsessed about what you don’t know (what if?), understand that life is in permanent transition. You cannot change the past; you can’t control what will happen in the future. Live the present.

When sharing his secret to happiness, the great philosopher Jiddhu Krishnamurti said, “Do you want to know what my secret is? I don’t mind what happens.”

Letting go of this addictive pastime is the first step towards recovering your time and stop wasting your life.

When in Doubt, Ask

“Confrontation is better than speculations.”
― Sunday Adelaja

Speculation is not knowledge — it’s just a waste of your time.

Knowledge doesn’t show up unannounced; you have to earn it — it requires dedication and sacrifice.

If you want to know what happened you have two options: ask or wait for things to unfold. Speculation creates imaginary problems; it’s the opposite of knowing.

We take an interview cancellation as bad news, but we don’t ask why — we fear a negative response. Ironically enough, we let our mind speculate about every possible negative explanation. We choose self-torturing ‘what ifs’ over confrontation.

Forming infinite hypotheses adds more complexity to a situation. Focus on what you know or what’s under your control.

Marcus Aurelius said, “Don’t let your imagination be crushed by life as a whole. Don’t try to picture everything bad that could possibly happen. Stick with the situation at hand, and ask, Why is this so unbearable? Why can’t I endure it?”

Rumors are another form of speculation. What makes one person’s gossip go viral is the desire to avoid uncertainty — that’s why everyone wants rumors to be true. The brain prefers an adverse, yet certain, outcome to not knowing what will occur.

It’s your call to fuel rumors or to wait until things really happen.

I’m not saying uncertainty is easy to deal with. However, trying to understand all possible routes will derail you from your destination. The way to solve complex problems is to get simpler perspectives.

Henry Thomas Buckle said: “To simplify complications is, in all branches of knowledge, the first essential of success.”

When we look at life in retrospective, nothing is as harsh as we speculated. Worrying makes things more complicated.


Embrace a maybe mindset

Nothing in life is permanent; even our worries change. Understanding that the future is out of your control is liberating. Focus on what you can manage. Experience events as they happen. To enjoy the present, you must empty your mind of what ifs.

maybe mindset will help you accept life as it comes and goes, as I explain here.

Most of all, we need peace and time to enjoy life. As Henry Thomas Buckle said, “In practical life, the wisest and soundest men avoid speculation.” Every time I found peace, is because I was focusing on the ‘here and now’ instead of speculating.

Please take a deep breath, put all your ‘what ifs?’ aside, and enjoy your life (not what might happen).

Start-ups – Real Entrepreneur

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12 Ways To Know If You Have What It Takes To Be A Real Entrepreneur

Successful entrepreneurship often involves certain personality traits. While some of these entrepreneurial traits can be learned, or at least improved upon, the most successful entrepreneurs tend to be those who are born with these traits.

Do you have what it takes to be an entrepreneur?

Go ahead, ask yourself if you have the following traits.

1. You Have A Never Ending Passion

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Successful entrepreneurs almost always have a visceral passion about what they are doing. In fact, it often consumes them to the point they are thinking about it all the time and working on it even when they sleep.

Moreover, it’s almost never just about making money.

 

2. You Serve As a Fountain Of Ideas

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The best entrepreneurs are those that continuously spawn great ideas. This is because relatively few ideas, even great ones, actually pan out to be great money makers.

Does anyone remember the Lisa computer? This was a complete flop by none other than the great Steve Jobs! While this genius’s hardware and software failures are rarely mentioned, there were many of them. The point is, your creations aren’t always going to be perfect but if you are able to weave a lot of ideas, some are bound to be a success.

 

3. You Aren’t Afraid To Work Hard — Really Hard

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Having great ideas is not enough. It takes an enormous amount of work to turn a great idea into a profitable endeavor. Appropriately, Thomas Edison, one of the greatest entrepreneurs of all time, is famous for saying,

“Genius is one percent inspiration, ninety-nine percent perspiration.”

 

4. You Never Like To Give Up

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Successful entrepreneurs tend to be people who easily recover from failure and just keep on persevering until they ultimately succeed! There are almost always significant snags and hurdles in any project. Most people get so discouraged by these, they end up discontinuing the project before they finish it.

Entrepreneurs are so motivated they find a way to solve these no matter how difficult.

 

5. You Have a Willingness and Ability To Learn From Everyone

Girls on Desk Looking at Notebook

Entrepreneurs tend to be people who are good active listeners. They are open to ideas from anyone regardless of their background or training. They don’t tend to be people who think you have to have a college degreeor special training to figure something out. Some of the best ideas for equipment used in water have come from fishermen, not engineers.

 

6. You Are Often a Calculated Risk Taker

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Entrepreneurs understand that no idea is a “sure thing” and taking a calculated risk, whether that be an investment of money or time, or both, is almost always necessary to carry forward great ideas. When Jeff Bezos quit his cushy high paying job on Wall Street and made his famous 3000 mile car trip from New York to Seattle to found Amazon, he took a calculated risk… and we all know how well that one turned out!

 

7. You Are Able To See the Big Picture

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Henry Ford represents this trait well. While the car and the assembly line had already been invented, Henry Ford was able to see the big picture and knew that the real profit would come from using an assembly to mass produce cars so they would be affordable to a much wider demographic.

In other words, under his guidance, the car went from a tiny niche market to one of great mass appeal.

 

8. You Can Keep Up With The Times

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Entrepreneurs are always on the look out for the next big trend so they can meet the needs of that growing market.

While Apple did not develop the first mp3 player, it was the first company to fully realize the marketability of it and understand the features users would most want.

 

9. You Are Intelligent

 

WhPerson's Playing Chessile you don’t need an IQ to match Albert Einsteinthe most successful entrepreneurs tend to be people with well above average intelligence. This doesn’t mean you can’t be “ordinary” in other ways and it doesn’t mean you need a college degree.

In fact, some of the most successful entrepreneurs are college dropouts, Steve Jobs and Bill Gates to name just two.

 

10. You Are Not Afraid To Ask For Help

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Most entrepreneurs know when to ask for help. They can self-identify their strengths and weaknesses and know how to surround themselves with people who will complement their strengths and compensate for their weaknesses.

This also often extends into their personal life since it often takes a very supportive significant other and/or family and friends to succeed.

 

11. You Have The Ability To Finish Things

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Many people have great ideas and start developing them but never seem to finish them.

Entrepreneurs have an exceptionally high will, drive, and ability to get things done.

 

12. You Have An Infectious Excitement

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In order for an idea to turn in a profitable venture, other people must buy into it. This potentially includes investors, partners, and employees. It always includes buyers. Therefore, the best entrepreneurs seem to know how to let their infectious excitement for the project rub off on other people.

 

While having the 12 traits described above are not absolutely mandatory to successful entrepreneurship, they are traits shared by many of the most famous and most successful entrepreneurs of all time.

About the Author: 

Joel Brown is an Australian Born Speaker, Coach, Author and Founder of Addicted2Success.com, the #1 Motivation website with over 125 Million Views Worldwide. His Podcast “Addicted2Success” has received over 1.5 Million Downloads featuring 100’s of the worlds most successful thought leaders. Joel also features in the new hit movie “THINK: The Legacy of Think & Grow Rich” and the Documentary Film “RiseUP” alongside Tony Robbins, The Dalai Lama, Jack Canfield, Dwight Howard, Alanis Morissette and many more.

Intuitive Planning

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Effective Planning For Sensitive People
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Intuitive Planning.
How to plan if you are a sensitive person in a willpower world

How often have you heard about the importance of planning or power of manifestation? Have you ever wondered if everyone talks SO MUCH about planning, why it doesn’t really work for you? You probably thought (I definitely did) What’s wrong with me?! Don’t I have enough will power for that…? Am I lazy?? (yes, this scary question…) NO. It is just you are a different type of a person. Yes, planning is important, manifestation is possible and even ordinary for people who mastered a skill of it, but we can choose the way we plan that works for your personality, aligns with your Soul and makes your heart beats calmly, not crazy when you are in a panic, thinking “HOW can I do it all?

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Is there a way of planning and manifesting that fits you?  And how can we use our sensitivity not to be worried or overwhelmed, but manifest and plan what we want more effectively?

 

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Here where the spiritual ideas and (surprisingly)) physics come handy. Everything is energy. In this perspective, we have to consider feeling and emotions as solid parts of energy we use for realization and preparation.

 

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We realize a maximum of our potential when we plan with our feelings and sense, using our mind. Not vice versa, when we mostly try to think what is good, but don’t feel passion about it or even don’t believe it’s even necessary.  What does this mean? The core here is very simple. The Universe realize what we FEEL, our emotions are the impulses to the actualization. Planning and dreaming are good, but what we really FEEL and BELIEVE deep inside of us, this is what really come true.

 

 

“You manifest what you believe in” (Oprah Winfrey) 

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The effective planning is all about adjustment with your plan. Any successful coach or powerful book have never said: “Write it down and do it”. They all repeat the same thing: “BELIEVE in your plan and do it.”

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“Whatever the mind can conceive and believe, it can achieve.” (Napoleon Hill) 

 

 

 

Write it down with the main purpose – to believe in it. Structure your belief so you can act more effectively.

 

 

It leads us to important realization that we need to pay attention to our assumptions. As they are the main reason why we can’t believe with our heart in what we see in our minds. Any technique or boost of willpower can’t help in a battle with your own negative views.

 

 

This truth is even more powerful for women. For us everything is based on the perception, on the intensity of our emotions and feelings, on our belief in the capacity to transform a dream into reality. All of the greatest achievements started from the vision and strong emotion of faith. When we believe with all our hearts we start to see steps in the darkness. We program our subconsciousness to look for the answers and find them. We follow deep feeling of belief that in other words, I like to call intuition. 

 

 

Intuition is the core for many successful businesses, for greatest of books and pieces of art.

 

 

Believe in yourself+ believe in the idea + intuitive planning+ action = success. 

 

 

When you follow your intuition in planning or manifesting you first open doors in your mind and then in your life. Yes, it is easy to mistaken intuition with somethings else. I hear this concern very often and still repeatedly have it my mind. So here I want to give a very important hint:

 

 

When you try to distinguish whether it is an intuitive feeling or not, ask yourself: Am I feeling it from a place of fear or from a place of trust? What am I afraid of in this situation? Do I try to run away from something I am afraid of with this feeling? If your answer is yes, it’s probably not intuition. As our intuitive feelings always create, not destroy.

 

 

 

 

 

The laws of the Universe makes it clear: The manifestation and planning are more effective when you are a sensitive person! All we need to do is switch from our fears to best beliefs. 

 

Things You Can Do to Change Your Life

7 Easy Things You Can Do to Change Your Life in 2 Months

Making big changes in your life isn’t about moving across the country, or storming into your office and quitting your job.

Big changes are the result of small tweaks.

Whether your goal is to finish a project, change your friend group, make more time for passion projects, or improve upon a bad habit, here are 7 easy things you can do to change your life in the next 2 months:

1. You said you wanted to explore more of the city.

You’ve been saying that you want to go to more new places, to see things you haven’t seen before — so why don’t you do it?

This week, pick a different part of town, a new coffee shop, a museum, a restaurant, and go there. Put it on the calendar. Invite a friend. Make it happen.

2. You said you wanted to finish that big project.

Well, you can’t finish a big project until you finish a small project.

When was the last time you started and finished something in a weekend, or even a day? This week, pick one small thing you can finish and then finish it.

Then, next week, pick a slightly larger project (but not too much larger). Finish that.

Before you know it, you’ll be finishing big projects left and right.

3. You said you wanted to go to the gym more.

Ok, so when? When are you going to go?

“I’m going to go, I swear,” isn’t an answer anymore.

Tomorrow, don’t just make that loose promise to yourself that you’ll get there. Set a time and block off everything else. Then, before you go to bed, set what time you’re going to go to the gym again the next day, and the next day.

It’s just a habit. That’s all.

4. You said you wanted to eat healthier.

“Failing to prepare is preparing to fail.”

Is there healthy food in your fridge? Do you already know what you want to make for breakfast, lunch, and dinner?

People eat unhealthfully, and live unhealthy lives, primarily out of a bad habit of failing to prepare. But if you had healthy food around, and if it was more of an option, chances are you’d probably eat better.

That’s pretty easy to solve for, isn’t it?

5. You said you wanted to stop scrolling through Instagram so often.

Well, is the app on the home screen of your smartphone?

That sort of easy access makes it difficult to break a bad habit.

Instead, move it to the last page. Maybe even delete it altogether. If you want to break a bad habit, you have to break your relationship to the activity — not forever, but for the time being.

6. You said you wanted to surround yourself with more positive people.

Ok, so what are you doing back at that dumpy bar with those same five friends you know aren’t going anywhere in life?

“You are a reflection of the five people you spend the most time with.”

I’m all for having friends with all sorts of different interests and backgrounds and aspirations. But if you have a goal, and if you want to improve something about yourself, and the people you’re always with make that process more difficult, then you need to reassess.

So, the next time they invite you out, say “No.”

Instead, give that other friend of yours a call. Maybe you two have never hung out. Cool, then dive in. Go grab a coffee. Change the dynamic and see where things go.

7. You said you wanted to work on yourself.

Let me guess: Netflix before bed?

Look, there is nothing wrong with watching a little TV every now and then. But working on yourself is, well, it’s work. And if you don’t prioritize things like self-reflection, journaling, meditation, etc., then you’re never going to grow into the person you know you’re capable of becoming.

Self-development is a practice. You can’t think about it like this big mountain you’re one day going to wake up having conquered. It doesn’t work like that.

Instead, focus on what you can do today that will quiet your mind down and allow you to really sit with yourself.

Before you go to bed, write a page in your journal.

You’ll be amazed at what you find out about yourself.

This article originally appeared on Inc. Magazine.

The 10 Skills Every Entrepreneur Needs to Develop

The new world requires a new skillset. Are you prepared?

The first world is shifting towards the Fourth Industrial Revolution. Defined as the fusion of technologies which blur the lines between the digital, physical and biological spheres. With advances in roboticsartificial intelligencenanotechnologyquantum computingbiotechnologyThe Internet of Things(IoT), 3D printing and autonomous vehicles characterizing it.

In this new era, often called the Information Economy — workers aren’t valued for their productivity on the assembly line, or for their ability to work productively as a cog within a larger machine. They’re valued for their ability to innovate rapidly to outpace their competition. From 1955 to 2016 only 12% of the Fortune 500 companies have maintained their place atop the pecking order. The companies no longer on the list were out innovated by newer competitors.

Schumpeter coined this process in his 1942 paper “Capitalism, Socialism, and Democracy” — Creative Destruction. The new eating the old.

“When innovation deconstructs long-standing arrangements and frees resources to be deployed elsewhere.”

This process is accelerating. The costs of entrepreneurship have declined by a factor of 10, twice over in the last few decades. From an estimated $500,000 decades ago, to $50,000 during the dot com era, and now to $5000.

This, however, doesn’t mean more businesses are succeeding, in fact, entrepreneurship defined as the number of new companies as a share of US business, is declining rapidly.

I believe the push-pull of these converging trends is creating an interesting opportunity. We’re at a point where anyone with economic stability can start a new company. Yet fewer and fewer companies are being successfully started. Why?

Let’s look to the World Economic Forum 2016 Future of Jobs Report for an answer. This new era is requiring new skills from workers, skills which our education systems are in some respects, failing to provide.

The most interesting implication of this research lies in the opportunity available to anyone who can cultivate these new skills in themselves.

For that reason, the purpose of this article is to show you what these 10 skills are, and to help you understand how you can develop them within yourself.

  • The 10 skills arebased off the O*Net Content Modelthe EU EntreComp Framework, and the specific skill names were taken from the World Economic Forum.
  • At the end of each skill, I’ll list some tools, models, or frameworks which are useful for approaching or understanding these skills.
  • In the future I’ll be doing further write-ups about the knottier skills like #1, #3, and #10. Stay tuned for those.

The 10 Skills Every Entrepreneur Needs to Develop

1. Complex Problem Solving

Complexity is defined as the number of variables or inputs into a system. Take managing a team as an example. Each additional team member adds their own desires, competencies, work patterns and perspectives to the team.

This makes the team more complex. Both because of the new members added inputs but also because of interactions of their inputs with the existing inputs of the team.

Basically every new factor makes a problem exponentially more complex. Skilled people can grapple with this complexity and derive strategies and outputs from them.

Defined by Nobel Prize winner H.A Simon:

The capacity of the human mind for formulating and solving complex problems is very small compared with the size of the problem whose solution is required for objectively rational behavior in the real world or even for a reasonable approximation to such objective rationality.

Jim Collins defines complex problems as Big, Hairy, Audacious Goals. These goals; like combatting the mental health crisis in my hometown of Toronto, Canada have multiple stakeholders, root causes, semi-viable solutions and more making even understanding them incredibly complex.

Having heuristics, or frameworks to tackle understanding, framing, solving, and implementing solutions to complex problems is, and will continue to be, critical to entrepreneurs worldwide who desire to make an impact.

Tools: Ishikawa (Fishbone) diagramsRoot Cause Analysisthe Impact Gap CanvasMcKinsey Problem Solving Method

2. Critical Thinking

Critical thinking goes hand in hand with complex problem solving. The simple definition for critical thinking is it’s clear, logical argument construction done through clearly defining our statements and then organizing them into arguments or conclusions.

For example; If A, then B. A. So B.

A: If I make a coffee,

B: Then I will drink it.

I just made a coffee. So I’m drinking it.

This is useful and any entrepreneur should cut their teeth on basic logical argument construction. This textbook was useful for me. However there are issues projecting the critical thinking process into the chaos of solving Big, Hairy, Audacious Goals (BHAGS). That’s why I prefer the following approach.


When solving problems we create simplified models, or abstractions of reality, which help us to process the critical elements of some scenario. Because simply put we don’t have the power to handle all the variables (A, B, C etc) that come from real life. The following two steps outline how we naturally handle this variability.

  1. Step one of critical thinking is our capacity to, both funnel the sensory stimulus of the world into discrete data points, and then create meaning from those data points in the form of increased understanding about reality at one moment in time.

2. Step two is to create webs over time of these data points. These webs give us an understanding of reality that’s; accurate, projectable to other situations, and consistent across time.

This process is constantly ongoing moment to moment. You’re doing it right now as you read this article. By understanding the process of processing the information dump of reality, we can more efficiently draw potent conclusions, which compounded over time give us the rich cognitive capacity to work with complex problems.

The ongoing process of honing this capability is known as Crystallized Intelligence and is defined as:

“One’s lifetime of intellectual achievement, as demonstrated largely through one’s vocabulary and general knowledge.”

Tools: Logical Fallacy MapCritical Thinking Skills

3. Creativity

Creativity is defined in The Innovators DNA as:

“Your ability to generate innovative ideas is not merely a function of the mind, but also a function of five key behaviours that optimize your brain for discovery.”

These five key behaviours are:

  1. Associating: drawing connections between questions, problems, or ideas from unrelated fields.
  2. Questioning: posing queries that challenge common wisdom.
  3. Observing: scrutinizing the behavior of customers, suppliers, and competitors to identify new ways of doing things.
  4. Networking: meeting people with different ideas and perspectives.
  5. Experimenting: constructing interactive experiences and provoking unorthodox responses to see what insights emerge.

This model is fascinating for a number of reasons.

  1. It shows the leaps humans uniquely make, once we i) understand the problem ii) and find the patterns. Enabling us to iii) synthesize solutions.
  2. Each of these individual activities can be done by anyone, and creativity is them being done in aggregate. Which means creativity can be trained.

A 2012 Adobe study on creativity shows only 1 in 4 people believe they are living up to their own creative potential. This is a key indicator of why falling rates of entrepreneurship mirror falling creativity rates.

Globalized business is accelerating the complexity of our problems, and we lack the skills to understand these systems, and to synthesize solutions to them.

However if we can learn to unlock our creativity, and further to implement the innovations we generate. We can create ventures which have an exponential impact over what was possible in the more nationalized past.

Tools: Wheel of Life Assessments, The Artists Way (specifically the Morning Page tool), Clean Sweep ProgramInnovator Competency Map

4. People Management

There are two components of people management.

  1. People. This means EQ, inspiring, motivating, encouraging, and leading.
  2. Management. This means hiring, firing, training, disciplining, evaluating, and directing.

These two components may seem at odds. But the effective manager expertly balances both as they move their team towards their goal. That may be as a representative of a corporation attempting to meet some strategic goal. Or as an individual entrepreneur leading those around them towards some desired end state.

The main job to be done by the people manager is drawing out the best of the people around them. Top to bottom organizational leaders enable success.

Effective people managers balance cooperation, respect, self-motivation, and trust. Inherent to leading others is leading oneself. Thus the effective people manager knows their internal rhythms, they’ve aligned their actions with their goals, and have harnessed the discipline required to weather the ups and downs of any Big, Hairy, Audacious, Goal.

To sum up: Imagine you’re sitting in your office. A star employee walks in. They’ve been offered a better position at a rival firm. They’re thinking of taking it, but they wanted to check in with you first. You need to lead this situation to create the best outcome for yourself, your company, and the star employee. How do you respond?

Scenario 2. Your CFO walks in. They say you’re not going to meet some financial target for this period. You’ve got to roll up your sleeves and manage this situation.

In both cases action is required of you. Yet the situations are drastically different. One requires leadership, the other management. Yet both can occur for an entrepreneur in a given day. You must be an expert at both.

Tools: 360 Degree Feedback12 Mental ModelsNLP Perceptual PositionsCPQQRT Task Assigning FrameworkUnderstanding Behaviour

5. Coordinating With Others

People management inherently has power imbalances. Manager and employee. Team leader and team member. The most powerful entrepreneurs know how to operate when they’re on either side of the equation, and when they’re balanced with their peer.

This peer could be a fellow manager, or entrepreneur. It could be an investor, partner, or stakeholder in your field. The point here isn’t looking out at the world and seeing a hierarchy.

It’s about recognizing when their are mutual dependencies, or when those dependencies are one sided or situation specific. For example employees rely on employers for income, while employers rely on employees for output. Whereas fellow entrepreneurs may rely on each other for mutual benefits to their business model.

That’s what coordinating with others is all about — understanding other people, and having the tools to manage mutually dependent relationships.

Tools: EnneagramsMyers-Briggs 16 Personality TypesHofstede’s 6 Cultural Dimensions8 Steps Change Model

6. Emotional Intelligence

Emotional intelligence is being able to understand and manage the emotions of yourself and others. It includes three skills:

  1. Emotional awareness — knowing when and what feelings are present in ourselves and others. It includes emotional literacy, which is being able to label these emotions and thus act upon them. At its highest level one can anticipate emotions from external and internal stimulis and thus regulate them over time.
  2. Harnessing emotions — after awareness and literacy, or recognizing and understanding, comes acting on emotions to enable healthy relationships with others, and with ourself. Once we control our emotions we can lead interactions with others, diffuse tense situations, and generally lead those around us in a mutually beneficial way.
  3. Managing emotions — The culmination of the previous two skills is being able to anticipate, understand, harness and then manage emotions proactively. Instead of reacting, we respond with the appropriate emotion. You need calm to focus on some task? The emotionally intelligent manager can regulate their internal state to create that emotional presence. The same applies for creating enthusiasm for a task in our team.

Imagine a customer calls you. They’re upset. An order they were relying on was late, and they lost a client as a result. They’ve been a loyal customer for years and you’ve let them down.

It may or may not have been your fault, or the fault of someone in your company. But they’re an ally, a friend, and a customer. An entrepreneur with high emotional intelligence can handle the situation.

Watch for your internal reactions to the thorny situations that crop up today. How do you act? Do you ride the wave? Or do you analyze, understand and respond with the emotion you desire to feel?

Tools: MoodGymEmotional Self RegulationHuman Emotions Chart

7. Judgement and Decision Making

Judgement and decision making is a combination of complex-problem solving, critical thinking, creativity, people management, coordination and emotional intelligence.

It’s being able to analytically assess a situation, understand the implications, recognize the scope and possibilities, harness your organizational resources both internally and externally, and oversee the solutions implementation.

This is an extremely hard thing to do consistently and it requires great mental discipline, willpower, and focus. The most effective entrepreneurs do this daily. They escape the trap of putting out the day’s fires, and instead focus on solving the organization’s highest level problems. The ones you, as a leader, can’t see today. The problems firms are running towards without realizing it.

Problems like Kodak not realizing it was missing the digital revolution. Or perhaps FaceBook missing its chance to proactively tackle its data privacy issues.

The point here is that organizational leaders need to harness these entrepreneurial skills to proactively confront the impending, and present problems unique to their value proposition.

8. Service Orientation

Service orientation is defined as:

“The ability and desire to anticipate, recognize and meet others’ needs, sometimes even before those needs are articulated.”

From the perspective of an organizational leader, I think the conversation around service orientation should focus on servant leadership.

The phrase Servant Leadership was coined by Robert K. Greenleaf’s 1970 essay “The Servant as Leader”:

“The difference manifests itself in the care taken by the servant-first to make sure that other people’s highest priority needs are being served. The best test, and difficult to administer, is: Do those served grow as persons? Do they, while being served, become healthier, wiser, freer, more autonomous, more likely themselves to become servants? And, what is the effect on the least privileged in society? Will they benefit or at least not be further deprived?“

As a perspective on leadership this concept is ground-breaking. Generally we think of organizations as benefiting those in the highest positions the most. The CEO is paid the most, and then the benefits trickle down.

This perspective has led to crude images like this one. Are you seen as the bird up top?

Servant leadership flips this hierarchy upside down. The CEO is responsible to the MOST people. They above all others need to help everyone in their organization: self actualize, support their families, and rise above their economic station.

Those in the most junior positions have the most people encouraging them, and seeking to help them become better servants themselves as they grow and flourish.

Think about the diagram above again. But instead of organizational waste products like blame, busy work and making coffees. Those on the bottom were instead absolutely splattered in encouragement, learning opportunities, meaningful work, care for their home lives, and emotional/mental health support.

In that world organizations would come to resemble families more than machines. This is what Frederic Laloux calls a “Teal Organization” in his insightful work “Reinventing Organizations”. The Moment, an innovation consultancy, found by shifting their company to Teal, they created more purpose, balanced decision making, and transparency.

Ask yourself as you work moving forward — in this moment am I acting as a servant or as a power leader?

Tools: Level 5 LeadershipValue Proposition CanvasBusiness Model CanvasTransformational Leadership ModelPath-Goal Theory of Leadership

9. Negotiation

Negotiation is the process by which parties mediate differences. Ideally compromise or agreements are reached which avoid arguments and dispute. The principles driving negotiation are:

  • Fairness,
  • Mutual Benefit,
  • And Maintaining Relationships.

To effectively negotiate a leader needs a clear understanding of their current position, as well as their desired outcome, the path connecting these two creates their strategy.

Imagining an actual path both parties are moving along. We can imagine negotiation as the process where two parties with crossing paths compromise so as to both deviate from their separate paths as little as possible.

In this model it’s obvious transparency, trust, and mutual understanding are paramount to becoming enablers and not obstacles to each others paths. This holds true anywhere in life. Whether it’s romantic relationships, friendships, peers, or family. We’re constantly negotiating our desires, beliefs, hopes, and uncertainties with those of the people around us.

Whether we choose to act as allies, and mutual enablers is up to each of us. By “taking the high road” and being the first to operate openly, you create a space where others can follow your lead.

Try it. As you negotiate your unique path, attempt to understand the paths of those around you, how they align with yours, and how, as partners, you can help each other to better move along your separate paths.

Tools: The Conflict Process Model5 Conflict Handling StylesZone of Possible AgreementCommunication Process Model

10. Cognitive Flexibility

Cognitive flexibility has two components.

  1. The ability to switch between thinking about two different concepts.
  2. The ability to think about multiple concepts simultaneously.

Here’s an example. This image contains two concepts organized by two categories: colour and object type. Someone whose cognitively flexible can separate the concept from the specific implementation i.e “blue” separated from the blue cat, and then recombine or pull new concepts into new objects like a blue dog, or grey cat.

Cognitive flexibility draws both on ones critical thinking — what is and isn’t, and their creativity — what could be.

As an entrepreneur you’re constantly switching between different tasks, and dealing with different variations of similar problems. The more you can reduce your cognitive “switching cost”, and better synthesize new solutions from varying fields and disciplines. The better equipped you are to operate in an environment of uncertainty and speed. As most entrepreneurs do.

Tools: Read Books, One of Many Brain Training AppsFluid Vs Crystallized IntelligenceEnvironment as a Factor in Intelligence


So we’re arrived. To recap the 10 Skills You Should Develop Are:

  1. Complex-Problem Solving
  2. Critical Thinking
  3. Creativity
  4. People Management
  5. Coordinating With Others
  6. Emotional Intelligence
  7. Judgement and Decision Making
  8. Service Orientation
  9. Negotiation
  10. Cognitive Flexibility

Each of these skills can be trained and developed. But it requires dedication, self-confidence and trust in others.

My advice for getting started? Pick an ambitious project for your spare time and get cracking. You’ll find by working on a complex, enjoyable project (for instance I’m building a hydroponic lettuce garden) you’ll naturally employ most, or all of these skills and will become a more effective leader, and happier, more interesting person as a result.

So, what project are you working on?