Jan 13

If you get behind…

…you have choices:

Work harder to catch up.

Create a hack and do it differently.

Give up on the goal.

Carry on as if nothing happened.

The right answer isn’t always the same answer. Decide based on the situation, not what you did in the past.

Jan 13

Seth Godin’s Icarus Session

I attended the first ever Icarus session yesterday, a Global Meetup initiated by Seth Godin, and organised locally around the world.

Not only was it the first ever session, but I was the first person to speak.  I was nervous to say the least, but it was an extremely rewarding experience.

The talks are short – maximum 140 seconds.  I said this:

My name is Rob Young, and I’m going to talk to you about The Hundred Dollar Club – A community of people who inspire each other to make change in their lives.

It was inspired by a conference called the World Domination Summit, where I was given this. It’s a One Hundred Dollar Bill.

The instructions that came with it said:

We’d love to see how you can put these funds to good use.

Start a project, surprise someone, or do something entirely different.

It’s up to you.

I decided to follow suit and in turn offer 10 other people an investment of $100, in the hope that they would feel the same inspiration I did.

I was scared almost to the point of inaction:

  • What if no one applied?
  • What if people took my money, spent it on beer and laughed at me?
  • What would my friends think?
  • Was I insane to give away a thousand dollars to complete strangers?
  • What if didn’t create a community that worked?
  • What if I failed?

I wasn’t sure what to expect, or how it would work. I just knew once I’d had the idea, I had to follow it through.

We’re still on the journey, but in some small way it’s changing the lives of the members.

They all had it in them, but outside investment has provided them with the motivation to do what they are capable of.

I’ve changed by doing it.

  • I’ve learned that if you put something worth wile out there, people will respond.
  • I’ve learned that doing is scary in the short term, but inaction and missed opportunities are far scarier in the bigger picture.

I’ve changed enough to be able to stand here and talk, and not just listen and dream at the back.


Dec 12

Sustainable Happiness

Hugh’s cartoon yesterday said

Happiness is the Killer App.

I’m not sure I’d express it quite this way, but it got me thinking – perhaps we overcomplicate things too much.

Tweak that a little to sustainable happiness, and I think we might have something. If we can find a way of making ourselves happy in the long term, what else could we want?

Like many things which appear simple on the surface, there’s complexity which lies beneath.

We need to

  • Accept that it’s OK to be happy, and allow ourselves to be
  • Understand what makes us happy
  • Find a way to allow us to do what makes us happy

Again these seem simple but aren’t. The thing to remember though is  that our end goal can be pretty simple.  Lots of the stress and complexity we end up with in life are too far abstracted from a simple goal like this to be worth bothering with.

I’m going to simplify my mission for 2013 to:

Sustainable Happiness

Simple, yet infinitely complicated. Very easy to refer back to.

What’s your mission for 2013?

Dec 12

Why Do You Do It?

Why ever it is, make sure you remember it at every opportunity over Christmas.

My Ultimate Why is my family. So I’ll be spending time with them this week, meaning fewer words on the blog, more time playing.

Why do you do what you do?

Dec 12

Learning By Example – Local Heroes and Role Models

It’s easier to believe that something can happen if you’ve seen it happen before.

It works with negative things – you’ll drive slower round the icy corner if you see a car in the ditch at the side of the road. For positive things, one person’s achievement is often the spur for others to better it.

If someone has done it before, it’s easier to believe that you can do it too.

We live in a world where so much has already been achieved. It’s pretty easy to find examples that your goal has been achieved before.  Somehow, that doesn’t actually make it any more realistic for you personally.

It’s far more powerful if the person that’s gone before you is someone you can identify with.

If someone you know launches a successful business from scratch, you’re more likely to believe it’s achievable than if you look to people who’ve been doing it for years as role models. When people who you identify with succeed, it instantly increases your own confidence.

Surrounding yourself with people on a similar path can do wonders for your own progress. People who share your goals will face similar problems and will overcome them. They will motivate you to do more of the same. In the connected world we’re in now, there is no excuse not to find the community of people who share your vision, no matter how geographically distant they are, or how niche your chosen field is.

Find your community – people just like you. Connect with those who are right where you are, and those who are a little further along.

Find the “local heroes” of your community. Make them your role models.

You’ll see that they can do it, and that they’re just like you.  Remember that even those who now appear impossibly successful are human, and had to start somewhere. Although they started in a different time and place to you, they started, and went through the same set of emotions that you have right now.

Two quotes I’ve heard a lot recently  go something like

Don’t compare someone’s outside to your inside.”

In other words, what appears to be plain sailing success, is likely to have some struggle, difficulty or other problem on the inside. It’s just not visible from your viewpoint.

“Don’t compare your beginning to someone else’s middle.”

Or, when starting out, it’s easy to feel intimidated by others who are further along than you.  It’s easy to forget that these people were once in your shoes. Reach out to them and connect. You’ll be surprised at how willing people are to help.

Finally if you’re planning to get into a similar field to a role model, don’t worry if they seem to have the market already sewn up. They may have their exact section of the market cornered, but you’re different. You bring something else to the picture. Something unique that they don’t have. Make sure that stands out for you. There is always a slightly different set of customers who’s needs you can address just that little bit better.

Provided you’re doing your exact thing brilliantly, then there will always be a market for you to delight.

Who do you seek inspiration and example from? Who are the local heroes of your community?

Let me know in the comments – I’m putting together a series of interviews with local heroes for next year, and I’d love to feature the people that inspire you.

Dec 12

Biting The Bullet

It’s possible to make huge progress by doing tiny acts regularly.

Doing the right 20% of your tasks can bring amazing results.

There is, however, one other type of work you can do which can bring results hugely disproportionate to the time invested.

I call this type of work biting the bullet.

That isn’t a new phrase. I think most people know what it means – it’s steeling yourself and doing sometime that might not be pleasant. It’s holding your breath and plunging into the icy water. It’s doing something that you know needs to be done, but you think might be unpleasant.

You know what needs to be done, but you just don’t want to do it.

You’ll do anything to avoid it. You’ll make excuses to do it later. You’ll pretend it isn’t important. You’ll slowly shuffle it down your to do list.

These bullet biting moments are different for everyone, but they share some characteristics. They usually fall into one of these four categories:

1 – Admitting

Telling a customer you can’t deliver at the price they want. Telling your boss that you don’t think he’s right.

2 – Connecting

Making the call to the person who can help you but doesn’t know you. Arranging the meeting with the potential investor or partner.

3 – Shipping

Pressing publish on the controversial blog post, launching your product to your customer base, submitting your report.

4 – Asking

Closing the sale you’ve been working on. Asking the boss for a pay rise. Asking your customer for a reference.

All of these are the work of a moment, bring the possibility for success or failure, and involve the judgement or input of someone else.

They are things that cannot be 100% controlled. So the same lizard brain that you need to convince to do great work tells you to prepare a little more, find something safer to do and avoid the possibility of failure.

A good test is to take a look at your to do list, and see how many fall into one of the four categories above. Should there be more? Try consciously lining up bullet biting moments, and forcing yourself to go ahead

Make yourself scared and just do it anyway.

It’s like betting with high stakes – if you win then you really win big.

The difference is, though, that the deck is often stacked in your favour. A true bullet biting moment has odds where you win big if you’re successful, but lose virtually nothing if you fail. If looked at objectively, these are the moments of true leverage, which boost your success in the way that no other type of work can.

Most of us turn down these moments, or put them off, because we’re afraid. It takes experience to learn how to evaluate them properly and figure out what the worst that could happen is. Once you learn that the down side is often small, or at the very least over with quickly, real progress is but a few bitten bullets away.

The ability to take these opportunities can only come with practice.

And there is no practice – only real doing, in the real world.

So – line yourself up some bullet biting moments, face them head on and just do it. The more you do the better it will feel, and the more often you will succeed.

What’s your next moment to bite the bullet?

Dec 12

How To Get More Done By Doing Less

For a long time, I saw productivity as the ability to do a lot of work. I would regularly stay at the office until 8 or 9 pm and churn through prodigious amounts of stuff. This went down well with my bosses, and I saw it as necessary to progress.

When I started my first business, I did the same – worked all hours, and got so much done I forced it to be a success. Increasingly though, I find that isn’t what works for me. I now achieve more by doing less.

The art is working out what not do.

I now deliberately constrain the amount of time I can spend on something, so that I’m forced to focus on the most important tasks – the ones where my effort will have the most impact.

You’ve probably heard of Pareto’s principle, or the 80:20 rule.  It basically states that 80% of the effects come from 20% of the causes.

In the field of getting things done you can adopt this principle to mean:

80% of the results come from 20% of the things you do.

Understanding this is so powerful. By actively choosing to ignore some tasks, you can be done in a fraction of the time. I like to try to use this rule in two ways:

1 – Do the right work

Try to work out what the 20% of tasks are that will deliver 80% of the results. Do them first and then evaluate progress.

2 – Want the right results

Try never to chase the last 20% of results from something. The returns from this are usually diminishing, and the rule says they will take four times more effort than those already achieved.

This may look simple, but it’s hard to do. The most impactful tasks are usually the hardest, and take most mental effort, so they aren’t always the most appealing.

The trick here is to know when you’re putting off doing the 20%.

Is adjusting the position of your logo more important than writing some great content? Is researching how to do something on yet another site better bang for buck than just doing it?

Maybe, but probably not. Just be honest with yourself and act accordingly.

My favourite way to bring all of this together is a four step process

  1. Identify upfront the tasks involved with the project you’re about to start
  2. Pick the top 20% must do tasks
  3. Set aside specific times to do them.
  4. Actually do them.

Watch out for step 4 – It’s critical and the others are useless without it!

A major advantage of adopting this strategy is that you will see great results more quickly. This then becomes guaranteed motivation to do more important work. You can also stop when the 20% is done and know that you’ve got serious output from your effort.

Try it – actively do less and watch your results increase.

Let me know how you get on.

Dec 12

How To Be Luckier

Parris. and I have been discussing some of our projects over Skype recently.  It’s a great thing to have someone with a totally different background to talk things through with, but recently we’ve been finding many more in common than we first thought.

A couple of serendipitous meetings happened because of things we’ve talked about. We’ve discovered that whilst it’s seems to be luck making these things happen, it’s actually perfectly possible to increase the quantity of luck that you experience.

If you ask Google to define luck it says



Success or failure apparently brought by chance rather than through one’s own actions.

The bolding of apparently is mine – because that’s exactly it – it seems like it’s by chance, but it isn’t entirely.

Another way to think about luck is that it consists of being in the right place at the right time. The simple way to increase your share of luck is to be in more places at more times. The chances of you experiencing good fortune whilst sitting watching TV are far far less than if you’re out in the world connecting with people.  Luck has to notice that you are there.

Being present can mean both virtually and physically. Creating things and sharing them dramatically increases the the chances of fortune finding you. The more great, meaningful work you do, and the more you put it into the public domain, the more likely someone will “luckily” stumble across your work and do something nice for you.

Parris recently gave a presentation about this. He planned to call it “Do the work”. It’s not as sexy as teaching people how to get lucky, but it’s basically the same thing.

You can’t put “Get lucky” as a line in your business plan, but “Do lots and lots of great work” – absolutely.

That you make your own luck has never been truer.

Dec 12

How to Achieve Anything In 15 Minutes – A Final Challenge For 2012

Breaking things down into small chunks is very important in the art of getting things done.

The saying goes that to eat an elephant, you have to do it one bite at a time.  I’m not a big fan of that as an analogy – Elephants have enough problems without us trying to eat them, and I’m not sure they’d be all that tasty – but I agree with the sentiment.

Culinary analogies aside though, that type of small step is about making something seemingly unmanageable into something more easily contemplated. This is a great way to progress and I use it all the time. If you prioritise those small steps and do the ones with the most impact first, then it’s even better.

There is another use for taking small steps though – creation by stealth.

By steadily applying a small amount of effort regularly you can create a substantial body of work, almost without realising. For example, fifteen minutes per day over the course of a month adds up to the equivalent of a full workday.

You can get a lot done in a day of highly concentrated effort.

This has approach has two notable effects:

Firstly, pretty much everyone can carve fifteen minutes per day out of their schedule without even noticing it. If I said you could have an extra day per month to work on your project, how much more do you think you could get done? Well try it, and see how you too can have a free day, crafted from scraps of time.

The second impact is more subtle, but possibly more important. By only doing very small amounts of work at a time, you can trick your lizard brain into daring to do far more great, boundary pushing work than you could if you set out do do an audacious project in one go.

If you’re just writing down a few of your thoughts, it’s not as daunting as setting out to write out your memoirs. If you just walk for a mile in the morning, it’s not as overwhelming as setting out to cover a marathon.

The key here is that you don’t see what you’ve accomplished until you look back. Then all of a sudden you can see how far you’ve come. And you’ll probably be surprised, but the evidence is there in front of you. Well, actually it’s behind you, but that’s not the point.

You’ve tricked your lizard brain into doing something amazing, and created a built-in motivation to do more: Once you see what can be achieved, it’s even more motivating to make sure you find those 15 minutes.

But make sure to tell your lizard brain that it’s OK – it’s only 15 minutes, You’re not going to achieve anything in that time are you?

So now for the challenge

From today until the first of January, commit to spending 15 minutes per day on the project you really want to accomplish next year.

Throw in an extra hour during the time when the rest of your family is sleeping in front of the TV over Christmas, and hey presto, you’re a full EIGHT HOUR DAY ahead of schedule for your 2013 project before you even start.

What are you going to do with your 15 minutes? What project will you be ahead on by January first?

Dec 12

Starting with the Ultimate Why

I loved Simon Sinek’s talk about how great leaders “start with why”. In it he explains how people don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it.  The talk is compelling, and offers some great insight into why some companies and leaders are successful, and others who are equally capable just don’t resonate quite so well.

Without realising that I was doing it, I made the first item of my project rules “Every Project needs a one sentence goal” This is all about setting out why you’re going to do the project before you start. It came naturally to me having run a lot of projects – if you’re not sure the reasons behind doing something, it becomes extremely hard to make the right decision when a priority call is required.

If you know why you’re attempting to do something, then it’s much easier to decide whether option A or B will most help you achieve the desired outcome.

Sinek argues that “to make money” is not a good enough why, and that there must be a greater cause behind every business. I’m not so sure that every business does or even should have one. Many exist just to make money for their owners, and I think that’s OK. They might not be as successful as those with an ultimate mission, but it’s OK.

It’s when we look at the motivations for people wanting to make money that things get interesting.

If we accept that money is required to live in the modern world, then the why behind wanting money is an individual’s “ultimate why”.

There are any number of reasons for possessing money. It could be that it leads to fame, power, status, material things or respect. Maybe it’s just a convenient proxy for success. It could be that the money supports a family, or a charitable cause. It could be that your why is completely unrelated to money and needing some is purely a means to an end – a necessary evil.

There’s no right or wrong answer here, the real trick is knowing why you’re doing something – not seeing money itself as the the ultimate goal when setting out on a work or business venture.

The problem is, we often forget to check in against our ultimate why when making decisions on how to allocate our time and efforts.

If your ultimate why behind having money is simply to use it as a scorecard, then spending more time working to generate more is valid. Conversely, if you’re working to create a base level of income so you can spend your time doing something you love, then after a certain point, it’s absolutely not the right thing to do.

These are polar opposites, and most of us will find ourselves somewhere more towards the middle of this continuum. Even more reason to understand what your why is. Without checking in against it, how can you be sure to make the right decision about spending that extra hour working?

Have you thought through your own ultimate why? Are you consciously referring to it when making decisions?

Perhaps most importantly are the whys for all of the projects you undertake aligned to your ultimate why?


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