The single most important change you can make in your working habits is to switch to creative work first, reactive work second.
“It’s not about ideas, it’s about making ideas happen.”
It’s time to stop blaming our surroundings and start taking responsibility. While no workplace is perfect, it turns out that our gravest challenges are a lot more primal and personal. Our individual practices ultimately determine what we do and how well we do it. Specifically, it’s our routine (or lack thereof), our capacity to work proactively rather than reactively, and our ability to systematically optimize our work habits over time that determine our ability to make ideas happen.
Through our constant connectivity to each other, we have become increasingly reactive to what comes to us rather than being proactive about what matters most to us.
Truly great creative achievements require hundreds, if not thousands, of hours of work, and we have to make time every single day to put in those hours. Routines help us do this by setting expectations about availability, aligning our workflow with our energy levels, and getting our minds into a regular rhythm of creating. At the end of the day—or, really, from the beginning—building a routine is all about persistence and consistency. Don’t wait for inspiration; create a framework for it.
CREATIVE WORK FIRST, REACTIVE WORK SECOND
The single most important change you can make in your working habits is to switch to creative work first, reactive work second. This means blocking off a large chunk of time every day for creative work on your own priorities, with the phone and e-mail off.
I used to be a frustrated writer. Making this switch turned me into a productive writer. Now, I start the working day with several hours of writing. I never schedule meetings in the morning, if I can avoid it. So whatever else happens, I always get my most important work done—and looking back, all of my biggest successes have been the result of making this simple change.
But it’s better to disappoint a few people over small things, than to surrender your dreams for an empty inbox. Otherwise you’re sacrificing your potential for the illusion of professionalism.
Manage Your Day-to-Day: Build Your Routine, Find Your Focus, and Sharpen Your Creative Mind (The 99U Book Series) by Jocelyn K. Glei
This author wrote 425 books in his life but he didn't write every day, in fact he spent more time dating women than writing
Georges Simenon was one of the most prolific novelists of the twentieth century, publishing 425 books in his career, including more than 200 works of pulp fiction under 16 different pseudonyms, as well as 220 novels in his own name and three volumes of autobiography. Remarkably, he didn’t write every day.
The Belgian-French novelist worked in intense bursts of literary activity, each lasting two or three weeks, separated by weeks or months of no writing at all. Even during his productive weeks, Simenon didn’t write for very long each day. His typical schedule was to wake at 6:00 A.M., procure coffee, and write from 6:30 to 9:30. Then he would go for a long walk, eat lunch at 12:30, and take a one-hour nap. In the afternoon he spent time with his children and took another walk before dinner, television, and bed at 10:00 P.M.
Simenon liked to portray himself as a methodical writing machine—he could compose up to eighty typed pages in a session, making virtually no revisions after the fact—but he did have his share of superstitious behaviors. No one ever saw him working; the “Do Not Disturb” sign he hung on his door was to be taken seriously. He insisted on wearing the same clothes throughout the composition of each novel. He kept tranquilizers in his shirt pocket, in case he needed to ease the anxiety that beset him at the beginning of each new book. And he weighed himself before and after every book, estimating that each one cost him nearly a liter and a half of sweat.
Simenon’s astonishing literary productivity was matched, or even surpassed, in one other area of his daily life—his sexual appetite. “Most people work every day and enjoy sex periodically,” Patrick Marnham notes in his biography of the writer. “Simenon had sex every day and every few months indulged in a frenzied orgy of work.” When living in Paris, Simenon frequently slept with four different women in the same day. He estimated that he bedded ten thousand women in his life. (His second wife disagreed, putting the total closer to twelve hundred.) He explained his sexual hunger as the result of “extreme curiosity” about the opposite sex: “Women have always been exceptional people for me whom I have vainly tried to understand. It has been a lifelong, ceaseless quest. And how could I have created dozens, perhaps hundreds, of female characters in my novels if I had not experienced those adventures which lasted for two hours or ten minutes?”
Daily Rituals: How Artists Work by Mason Currey
For Napoleon Bonaparte it was his “star” that he always felt in ascendance when he made the right move.
In moving toward mastery, you are bringing your mind closer to reality and to life itself.
Anything that is alive is in a continual state of change and movement. The moment that you rest, thinking that you have attained the level you desire, a part of your mind enters a phase of decay. You lose your hard-earned creativity and others begin to sense it. This is a power and intelligence that must be continually renewed or it will die.
.....Verrocchio instructed his apprentices in all of the sciences that were necessary to produce the work of his studio—engineering, mechanics, chemistry, and metallurgy. Leonardo was eager to learn all of these skills, but soon he discovered in himself something else: he could not simply do an assignment; he needed to make it something of his own, to invent rather than imitate the Master.
For Napoleon Bonaparte it was his “star” that he always felt in ascendance when he made the right move. For Socrates, it was his daemon, a voice that he heard, perhaps from the gods, which inevitably spoke to him in the negative—telling him what to avoid. For Goethe, he also called it a daemon—a kind of spirit that dwelled within him and compelled him to fulfill his destiny. In more modern times, Albert Einstein talked of a kind of inner voice that shaped the direction of his speculations.
All of these are variations on what Leonardo da Vinci experienced with his own sense of fate
Mastery by Robert Greene
The 4-Hour Workweek: Escape 9-5, Live Anywhere, and Join the New Rich - My Notes on the Lifestyle Business Classic
The 4-Hour Workweek: Escape 9-5, Live Anywhere, and Join the New Rich (Expanded and Updated)
by Timothy Ferriss
Notes Part 1
This has to be the most requested book here on the site, but it is also one of those books that I think are misunderstood. Where many of the fans of the book picked up on creating a business on a laptop, and working "four hour" weeks, if you read the book closely you see the normal job deconstructed, and a defense of your time.
He states at one point, the book is not for people who want to run businesses, it is for those that want to own them. It is for people who want to control their own time.
The book is almost a stereotype, but is definitely worth reading. It is one of those books that today it is hard to understand how different it was when it came out, because the book helped make what is the new entrepreneur today.
People don’t want to be millionaires—they want to experience what they believe only millions can buy. (Time and experience are the only things that matter.)
..... this book is not about finding your “dream job.” I will take as a given that, for most people, somewhere between six and seven billion of them, the perfect job is the one that takes the least time. The vast majority of people will never find a job that can be an unending source of fulfillment, so that is not the goal here; to free time and automate income is.
Reality is negotiable. Outside of science and law, all rules can be bent or broken, and it doesn’t require being unethical.
Focus on being productive instead of busy.
Conditions are never perfect. If it’s important to you and you want to do it “eventually,” just do it and correct course along the way. If it isn’t going to devastate those around you, try it and then justify it.(Simply said Do. Test. Correct. Do Again.)
It is far more lucrative and fun to leverage your strengths instead of attempting to fix all the chinks in your armor. The choice is between multiplication of results using strengths or incremental improvement fixing weaknesses that will, at best, become mediocre. Focus on better use of your best weapons instead of constant repair.
People who avoid all criticism fail.
Action may not always bring happiness, but there is no happiness without action. —BENJAMIN DISRAELI, former British Prime Minister
I realized that on a scale of 1–10, 1 being nothing and 10 being permanently life-changing, my so-called worst-case scenario might have a temporary impact of 3 or 4. I believe this is true of most people and most would-be “holy sh*t, my life is over” disasters. Keep in mind that this is the one-in-a-million disaster nightmare....best-case scenario, or even a probable-case scenario, it would easily have a permanent 9 or 10 positive life-changing effect. In other words, I was risking an unlikely and temporary 3 or 4 for a probable and permanent 9 or 10, and I could easily recover my baseline workaholic prison with a bit of extra work if I wanted to. This all equated to a significant realization: There was practically no risk, only huge life-changing upside potential, and I could resume my previous course without any more effort than I was already putting forth.
You have comfort. You don’t have luxury. And don’t tell me that money plays a part. The luxury I advocate has nothing to do with money. It cannot be bought. It is the reward of those who have no fear of discomfort. —JEAN COCTEAU
Usually, what we most fear doing is what we most need to do. - (By far my favorite phrase from the book, and one that pops in my head many times a day.)
The 4-Hour Workweek: Escape 9-5, Live Anywhere, and Join the New Rich (Expanded and Updated)
What are you waiting for? If you cannot answer this without resorting to the previously rejected concept of good timing, the answer is simple: You’re afraid, just like the rest of the world. Measure the cost of inaction, realize the unlikelihood and re-pairability of most missteps, and develop the most important habit of those who excel and enjoy
Unreasonable and unrealistic goals are easier to achieve for yet another reason.
....fishing is best where the fewest go, and the collective insecurity of the world makes it easy for people to hit home runs while everyone else is aiming for base hits. There is just less competition for bigger goals.
Excitement is the more practical synonym for happiness, and it is precisely what you should strive to chase. It is the cure-all. When people suggest you follow your “passion” or your “bliss,” I propose that they are, in fact, referring to the same singular concept: excitement. This brings us full circle. The question you should be asking isn’t, “What do I want?” or “What are my goals?” but “What would excite me?”
When I started BrainQUICKEN LLC in 2001, it was with a clear goal in mind: Make $1,000 per day whether I was banging my head on a laptop or cutting my toenails on the beach. It was to be an automated source of cash flow. (Definite specific goals matter)
Dreamlining is so named because it applies timelines to what most would consider dreams. It is much like goal-setting but differs in several fundamental respects: The goals shift from ambiguous wants to defined steps.
The goals have to be unrealistic to be effective. It focuses on activities that will fill the vacuum created when work is removed.
Living like a millionaire requires doing interesting things and not just owning enviable things. Now it’s your turn to think big.
...... The goal is to start a dialogue so they take the time to answer future e-mails—not to ask for help. That can only come after at least three or four genuine e-mail exchanges.” (to meet new people, to get advice)
Life is too short to be small. —BENJAMIN DISRAELI
Dreamlining (Setting Goals)
Create two timelines—6 months and 12 months—and list up to five things you dream of having (including, but not limited to, material wants: house, car, clothing, etc.), being (be a great cook, be fluent in Chinese, etc.), and doing (visiting Thailand, tracing your roots overseas, racing ostriches, etc.) in that order.
Do not limit yourself, and do not concern yourself with how these things will be accomplished. For now, it’s unimportant. This is an exercise in reversing repression.
If still blocked, fill in the five “doing” spots with the following: one place to visit one thing to do before you die (a memory of a lifetime) one thing to do daily one thing to do weekly one thing you’ve always wanted to learn
Convert each “being” into a “doing” to make it actionable. Identify an action that would characterize this state of being or a task that would mean you had achieved it. People find it easier to brainstorm “being” first, but this column is just a temporary holding spot for “doing” actions.
Using the 6-month timeline, star or otherwise highlight the four most exciting and/or important dreams from all columns. Repeat the process with the 12-month timeline if desired.
Determine the cost of these dreams and calculate your Target Monthly Income (TMI) for both timelines
Last, calculate your Target Monthly Income (TMI) for realizing these dreamlines. This is how to do it: First, total each of the columns A, B, and C, counting only the four selected dreams. Some of these column totals could be zero, which is fine. Next, add your total monthly expenses x 1.3 (the 1.3 represents your expenses
plus a 30% buffer for safety or savings). This grand total is your TMI and the target to keep in mind for the rest of the book. I like to further divide this TMI by 30 to get my TDI—Target Daily Income. I find it easier to work with a daily goal. Online calculators on our companion site do all the work for you and make this step a cinch.
The objective of this exercise isn’t, therefore, to outline every step from start to finish, but to define the end goal, the required vehicle to achieve them (TMI, TDI), and build momentum with critical first steps. From that point, it’s a matter of freeing time and generating the TMI, which the following chapters cover.
Once you have three steps for each of the four goals, complete the three actions in the “now” column. Do it now. Each should be simple enough to do in five minutes or less. If not, rachet it down. If it’s the middle of the night and you can’t call someone, do something else now, such as send an e-mail, and set the call for first thing tomorrow.
The best first step, the one I recommend, is finding someone who’s done it and ask for advice on how to do the same. It’s not hard.
One does not accumulate but eliminate. It is not daily increase but daily decrease. The height of cultivation always runs to simplicity. (Bruce Lee Quote)
Effectiveness is doing the things that get you closer to your goals. Efficiency is performing a given task (whether important or not) in the most economical manner possible.
I would consider the best door-to-door salesperson efficient—that is, refined and excellent at selling door-to-door without wasting time—but utterly ineffective. He or she would sell more using a better vehicle such as e-mail or direct mail.
Here are two truisms to keep in mind: Doing something unimportant well does not make it important. Requiring a lot of time does not make a task important.
What you do is infinitely more important than how you do it. Efficiency is still important, but it is useless unless applied to the right things.
Pareto’s Law can be summarized as follows: 80% of the outputs result from 20% of the inputs.
80% of the consequences flow from 20% of the causes. 80% of the results come from 20% of the effort and time. 80% of company profits come from 20% of the products and customers. 80% of all stock market gains are realized by 20% of the investors and 20% of an individual portfolio
The next morning, I began a dissection of my business and personal life through the lenses of two questions: Which 20% of sources are causing 80% of my problems and unhappiness? Which 20% of sources are resulting in 80% of my desired outcomes and happiness?
Make no mistake, maximum income from minimal necessary effort (including minimum number of customers) is the primary goal. I duplicated my strengths, in this case my top producers, and focused on increasing the size and frequency of their orders.
Slow down and remember this: Most things make no difference. Being busy is a form of laziness—lazy thinking and indiscriminate action
Being overwhelmed is often as unproductive as doing nothing, and is far more unpleasant. Being selective—doing less—is the path of the productive. Focus on the important few and ignore the rest.
.....the key to not feeling rushed is remembering that lack of time is actually lack of priorities
You don’t need 8 hours per day to become a legitimate millionaire—let alone have the means to live like one.
Parkinson’s Law dictates that a task will swell in (perceived) importance and complexity in relation to the time allotted for its completion. It is the magic of the imminent deadline.
There are two synergistic approaches for increasing productivity that are inversions of each other: Limit tasks to the important to shorten work time (80/20). Shorten work time to limit tasks to the important (Parkinson’s Law).
The best solution is to use both together: Identify the few critical tasks that contribute most to income and schedule them with very short and clear deadlines.
If you haven’t identified the mission-critical tasks and set aggressive start and end times for their completion, the unimportant becomes the important. Even if you know what’s critical, without deadlines that create focus, the minor tasks forced upon you (or invented, in the case of the entrepreneur) will swell to consume time until another bit of minutiae jumps in to replace it, leaving you at the end of the day with nothing accomplished.
I just asked him to do one simple thing consistently without fail. At least three times per day at scheduled times, he had to ask himself the following question: Am I being productive or just active? Charney captured the essence of this with less-abstract wording: Am I inventing things to do to avoid the important?
6. Learn to ask, “If this is the only thing I accomplish today, will I be satisfied with my day?”
Compile your to-do list for tomorrow no later than this evening. I don’t recommend using Outlook or computerized to-do lists, because it is possible to add an infinite number of items. I use a standard piece of paper folded in half three times, which fits perfectly in the pocket and limits you to noting only a few items. There should never be more than two mission-critical items to complete each day. Never. It just isn’t necessary if they’re actually high-impact. If you are stuck trying to decide between multiple items that all seem crucial, as happens to all of us, look at each in turn and ask yourself, If this is the only thing I accomplish today, will I be satisfied with my day?
Reading, after a certain age, diverts the mind too much from its creative pursuits. Any man who reads too much and uses his own brain too little falls into lazy habits of thinking. —ALBERT EINSTEIN
From an actionable information standpoint, I consume a maximum of one-third of one industry magazine (Response magazine) and one business magazine (Inc.) per month, for a grand total of approximately four hours. That’s it for results-oriented reading. I read an hour of fiction prior to bed for relaxation. (I truly believe he reads much more than this.)
1. I picked one book out of dozens based on reader reviews and the fact that the authors had actually done what I wanted to do. If the task is how-to in nature, I only read accounts that are “how I did it” and autobiographical. No speculators or wannabes are worth the time. 2. Using the book to generate intelligent and specific questions, I contacted 10 of the top authors and agents in the world via e-mail and phone, with a response rate of 80%.
How to Read 200% Faster in 10 Minutes
1. Two Minutes: Use a pen or finger to trace under each line as you read as fast as possible. Reading is a series of jumping snapshots (called saccades), and using a visual guide prevents regression.
2. Three Minutes: Begin each line focusing on the third word in from the first word, and end each line focusing on the third word in from the last word. This makes use of peripheral vision that is otherwise wasted on margins. For example, even when the highlighted words in the next line are your beginning and ending focal points, the entire sentence is “read,” just with less eye movement:
3. Two Minutes: Once comfortable indenting three or four words from both sides, attempt to take only two snapshots—also known as fixations—per line on the first and last indented words. 4. Three Minutes: Practice reading too fast for comprehension but with good technique (the above three techniques) for five pages prior to reading at a comfortable speed. This will heighten perception and reset your speed limit, much like how 50 mph normally feels fast but seems like slow motion if you drop down from 70 mph on the freeway.
Develop the habit of asking yourself, “Will I definitely use this information for something immediate and important?”
.....complete your most important task before 11:00 A.M. to avoid using lunch or reading e-mail as a postponement excuse
Create systems to limit your availability via e-mail and phone and deflect inappropriate contact.
Batch activities to limit setup cost and provide more time for dreamline milestones.
Set or request autonomous rules and guidelines with occasional review of results.
Here is a sneak preview of full automation. I woke up this morning, and given that it’s Monday, I checked my e-mail for one hour after an exquisite Buenos Aires breakfast. Sowmya from India had found a long-lost high school classmate of mine, and Anakool from YMII had put together Excel research reports for retiree happiness and the average annual hours worked in different fields. Interviews for this week had been set by a third Indian virtual assistant, who had also found contact information for the best Kendo schools in Japan and the top salsa teachers in Cuba. In the next e-mail folder, I was pleased to see that my fulfillment account manager in Tennessee, Beth, had resolved nearly two dozen problems in the last week—keeping our largest clients in China and South Africa smiling—and had also coordinated California sales tax filing with my accountants in Michigan. The taxes had been paid via my credit card on file, and a quick glance at my bank accounts confirmed that Shane and the rest of the team at my credit card processor were depositing more cash than last month. All was right in the world of automation. It was a beautiful sunny day, and I closed my laptop with a smile. For an all-you-can-eat buffet breakfast with coffee and orange juice, I paid $4 U.S. The Indian outsourcers cost between $4–10 U.S. per hour. My domestic outsourcers are paid on performance or when product ships. This creates a curious business phenomenon: Negative cash flow is impossible. Fun things happen when you earn dollars, live on pesos, and compensate in rupees, but that’s just the beginning. (I love this story. It is here just because I love it.)
Eliminate before you delegate. Never automate something that can be eliminated, and never delegate something that can be automated or streamlined.
It is tempting to immediately point the finger at someone else and huff and puff, but most beginner bosses repeat the same mistakes I made.
1. I accepted the first person the firm provided and made no special requests at the outset.
2. I gave imprecise directions.
3. I gave him a license to waste time.
4. I set the deadline a week in advance.
5. I gave him too many tasks and didn’t set an order of importance.
As to methods there may be a million and then some, but principles are few. The man who grasps principles can successfully select his own methods. The man who tries methods, ignoring principles, is sure to have trouble. —RALPH WALDO EMERSON
His business model is more elegant than that. Here is just one revenue stream:
1. A prospective customer sees his Pay-Per-Click (PPC) advertising on Google or other search engines and clicks through to his site, www.prosoundeffects.com.
2. The prospect orders a product for $325 (the average purchase price, though prices range from $29–7,500) on a Yahoo shopping cart, and a PDF with all their billing and shipping information is automatically e-mailed to Doug.
3. Three times a week, Doug presses a single button in the Yahoo management page to charge all his customers’ credit cards and put cash in his bank account. Then he saves the PDFs as Excel purchase orders and e-mails the purchase orders to the manufacturers of the CD libraries. Those companies mail the products to Doug’s customers—this is called drop-shipping—and Doug pays the manufacturers as little as 45% of the retail price of the products up to 90 days later (net-90 terms).
This chapter is not for people who want to run businesses but for those who want to own businesses and spend no time on them.
People can’t believe that most of the ultrasuccessful companies in the world do not manufacture their own products, answer their own phones, ship their own products, or service their own customers. There are hundreds of companies that exist to pretend to work for someone else and handle these functions, providing rentable infrastructure to anyone who knows where to find them.
Before we create this virtual architecture, however, we need a product to sell. If you own a service business, this section will help you convert expertise into a downloadable or shippable good to escape the limits of a per-hour-based model. If starting from scratch, ignore service businesses for now, as constant customer contact makes absence difficult.
To narrow the field further, our target product can’t take more than $500 to test, it has to lend itself to automation within four weeks, and—when up and running—it can’t require more than one day per week of management.
Our goal is simple: to create an automated vehicle for generating cash without consuming time. That’s it.22 I will call this vehicle a “muse” whenever possible to separate it from the ambiguous term “business,” which can refer to a lemonade stand or a Fortune 10 oil conglomerate—our objective is more limited and thus requires a more precise label.
So first things first: cash flow and time. With these two currencies, all other things are possible. Without them, nothing is possible. (I think there is a third one, your network)
Here’s how you do it in the fewest number of steps. Step One: Pick an Affordably Reachable Niche Market
The 4-Hour Workweek: Escape 9-5, Live Anywhere, and Join the New Rich (Expanded and Updated)
Creating demand is hard. Filling demand is much easier. Don’t create a product, then seek someone to sell it to. Find a market—define your customers—then find or develop a product for them.
Ask yourself the following questions to find profitable niches.
1. Which social, industry, and professional groups do you belong to, have you belonged to, or do you understand,
Which of the groups you identified have their own magazines?
Step Two: Brainstorm (Do Not Invest In) Products
Pick the two markets that you are most familiar with that have their own magazines with full-page advertising that costs less than $5,000. There should be no fewer than 15,000 readers. This is the fun part. Now we get to brainstorm or find products with these two markets in mind. The goal is come up with well-formed product ideas and spend nothing;
The Main Benefit Should Be Encapsulated in One Sentence. People can dislike you—and you often sell more by offending some—but they should never misunderstand you. The main benefit of your product should be explainable in one sentence or phrase.
It Should Cost the Customer $50–200. The bulk of companies set prices in the midrange, and that is where the most competition is. Pricing low is shortsighted, because someone else is always willing to sacrifice more profit margin and drive you both bankrupt. Besides perceived value, there are three main benefits to creating a premium, high-end image and charging more than the competition. Higher pricing means that we can sell fewer units—and thus manage fewer customers—and fulfill our dreamlines. It’s faster. Higher pricing attracts lower-maintenance customers (better credit, fewer complaints/questions, fewer returns, etc.). It’s less headache. This is HUGE. Higher pricing also creates higher profit margins. It’s safer.
I personally aim for an 8–10x markup, which means a $100 product can’t cost me more than $10–12.50.27
I have found that a price range of $50–200 per sale provides the most profit for the least customer service hassle. Price high and then justify.
It Should Take No More Than 3 to 4 Weeks to Manufacture. This is critically important for keeping costs low and adapting to sales demand without stockpiling product in advance.
It Should Be Fully Explainable in a Good Online FAQ.
Understanding these criteria, a question remains: “How does one obtain a good muse product that satisfies them?” There are three options we’ll cover in ascending order of recommendation.
Option One: Resell a Product Purchasing an existing product at wholesale and reselling it is the easiest route but also the least profitable. It is the fastest to set up but the fastest to die off due to price competition with other resellers. The profitable life span of each product is short unless an exclusivity agreement prevents others from selling it. Reselling is, however, an excellent option for secondary back-end28 products that can be sold to existing customers or cross-sold29 to new customers online or on the phone.
Option Two: License a Product
Option Three: Create a Product
Creating a product is not complicated. “Create” sounds more involved than it actually is. If the idea is a hard product—an invention—it is possible to hire mechanical engineers or industrial designers on www.elance.com to develop a prototype based on your description of its function and appearance, which is then taken to a contract manufacturer. If you find a generic or stock product made by a contract manufacturer that can be re-purposed or positioned for a special market, it’s even easier: Have them manufacture it, stick a custom label on it for you, and presto—new product. This latter example is often referred to as “private labeling.”
Information products are low-cost, fast to manufacture, and time-consuming for competitors to duplicate. Consider that the top-selling non-information infomercial products—whether exercise equipment or supplements—have a useful life span of two to four months before imitators flood the market.
Information, on the other hand, is too time-consuming for most knockoff artists to bother with when there are easier products to replicate. It’s easier to circumvent a patent than to paraphrase an entire course to avoid copyright infringement. Three of the most successful television products of all time—all of which have spent more than 300 weeks on the infomercial top-10 bestseller lists—reflect the competitive and profit margin advantage of information products. No Down Payment (Carlton Sheets) Attacking Anxiety and Depression (Lucinda Bassett) Personal Power (Tony Robbins
If you aren’t an expert, don’t sweat it. First, “expert” in the context of selling product means that you know more about the topic than the purchaser. No more. It is not necessary to be the best—just better than a small target number of your prospective customers.
Second, expert status can be created in less than four weeks if you understand basic credibility indicators.
1. How can you tailor a general skill for your market—what I call “niching down”—or add to what is being sold successfully in your target magazines? Think narrow and deep rather than broad.
2. What skills are you interested in that you—and others in your markets—would pay to learn? Become an expert in this skill for yourself and then create a product to teach the same. If you need help or want to speed up the process, consider the next question.
3. What experts could you interview and record to create a sellable audio CD? These people do not need to be the best, but just better than most. Offer them a digital master copy of the interview to do with or sell as they like (this is often enough) and/or offer them a small up-front or ongoing royalty payment. Use Skype.com with HotRecorder (more on these and related tools in Tools and Tricks) to record these conversations directly to your PC and send the mp3 file to an online transcription service.
4. Do you have a failure-to-success story that could be turned into a how-to product for others? Consider problems you’ve overcome in the past, both professional and personal.
The Expert Builder: How to Become a Top Expert in 4 Weeks
How, then, do we go about acquiring credibility indicators in the least time possible?
1. Join two or three related trade organizations with official-sounding names.
2. Read the three top-selling books on your topic (search historical New York Times bestseller lists online) and summarize each on one page.
3. Give one free one-to-three-hour seminar at the closest well-known university, using posters to advertise.
4. Optional: Offer to write one or two articles for trade magazines related to your topics, citing what you have accomplished in steps 1 and 3 for credibility.
5. Join ProfNet, which is a service that journalists use to find experts to quote for articles
Income Autopilot II
The moral is that intuition and experience are poor predictors of which products and businesses will be profitable.
To get an accurate indicator of commercial viability, don’t ask people if they would buy—ask them to buy.
Step Three: Micro-Test Your Products Micro-testing involves using inexpensive advertisements to test consumer response to a product prior to manufacturing.
The basic test process consists of three parts, each of which is covered in this chapter. Best: Look at the competition and create a more-compelling offer on a basic one-to-three-page website (one to three hours). Test: Test the offer using short Google Adwords advertising campaigns (three hours to set up and five days of passive observation). Divest or Invest: Cut losses with losers and manufacture the winner(s) for sales rollout.
Sherwood first tests his concept with a 72-hour eBay auction that includes his advertising text. He sets the “reserve” (the lowest price he’ll accept) for one shirt at $50 and cancels the auction last minute to avoid legal issues since he doesn’t have product to ship. He has received bids up to $75 and decides to move to the next phase of testing. Johanna doesn’t feel comfortable with the apparent deception and skips this preliminary testing. Sherwood’s cost: <$5. Both register domain names for their soon-to-be one-page sites using the cheap domain registrar www.domainsinseconds.com. Sherwood chooses www.shirtsfromfrance.com and Johanna chooses www.yogaclimber.com. For additional domain names, Johanna uses www.domainsinseconds.com. Cost to both: <$20.
Sherwood uses www.weebly.com to create his one-page site advertisement and then creates two additional pages using the form builder www.wufoo.com. If someone clicks on the “purchase” button at the bottom of the first page, it takes them to a second page with pricing, shipping and handling,43 and basic contact fields to fill out (including e-mail and phone). If the visitor presses “continue with order,” it takes them to a page that states, “Unfortunately, we are currently on back order but will contact you as soon as we have product in stock. Thank you for your patience.” This structure allows him to test the first-page ad and his pricing separately. If someone gets to the last page, it is considered an order.
Johanna is not comfortable with “dry testing,” as Sherwood’s approach is known, even though it is legal if the billing data isn’t captured. She instead uses the same two services to create a single webpage with the content of her one-page ad and an e-mail sign-up for a free “top 10 tips” list for using yoga for rock climbing. She will consider 60% of the sign-ups as hypothetical orders. Cost to both: <$0.
Both set up simple Google Adwords campaigns with 50–100 search terms to simultaneously test headlines while driving traffic to their pages. Their daily budget limits are set at $50 per day
Sherwood will use Google’s free analytical tools to track “orders” and page abandonment rates—what percentage of visitors leave the site from which pages. Johanna will use www.wufoo.com to track e-mail sign-ups on this small testing scale.
Johanna has done well. The traffic wasn’t enough to make the test stand up to statistical scrutiny, but she spent about $200 on PPC and got 14 sign-ups for a free 10-tip report. If she assumes 60% would purchase, that means 8.4 people x $75 profit per DVD = $630 in hypothetical total profit. This is also not taking into account the potential lifetime value of each customer. The results of her small test are no guarantee of future success, but the indications are positive enough that she decides to set up a Yahoo Store for $99 per month and a small per-transaction fee. Her credit isn’t excellent, so she will opt to use www.paypal.com to accept credit cards online instead of approaching her bank for a merchant account.46 She e-mails the 10-tip report to those who signed up and asks for their feedback and recommendations for content on the DVD. Ten days later, she has a first attempt at the DVD ready to ship and her store is online. Her sales to the original sign-ups cover costs of production and she is soon selling a respectable 10 DVDs per week ($750 profit) via Google Adwords. She plans to test advertising in niche magazines and blogs and now needs to create an automation architecture to remove herself from the equation.
1. Market Selection
2. Product Brainstorm
4. Rollout and Automation
Income Autopilot III MBA—MANAGEMENT BY ABSENCE
Once you have a product that sells, it’s time to design a self-correcting business architecture that runs.....
The 4-Hour Workweek: Escape 9-5, Live Anywhere, and Join the New Rich (Expanded and Updated)
The Willpower Instinct: How Self-Control Works, Why It Matters, and What You Can Do To Get More of It - My Notes
The Willpower Instinct: How Self-Control Works, Why It Matters, and What You Can Do To Get More of It by Ph.D., Kelly McGonigal
I loved this book, it was a book that I literally made myself slow down and read only one chapter a week. I would find myself thinking about it off and on all week.
Definitely a book to make your self better. (I am now reading The Power of Habit and it is having the same impact.)
TO SUCCEED AT SELF - CONTROL , YOU NEED TO KNOW HOW YOU FAIL
I believe that the best way to improve your self-control is to see how and why you lose control. Knowing how you are likely to give in doesn’t, as many people fear, set yourself up for failure. It allows you to support yourself and avoid the traps that lead to willpower failures.
Self-knowledge—especially of how we find ourselves in willpower trouble—is the foundation of self-control.
One thing the science of willpower makes clear is that everyone struggles in some way with temptation, addiction, distraction, and procrastination. These are not individual weaknesses that reveal our personal inadequacies—they are universal experiences and part of the human condition.
I’m a scientist by training, and one of the very first things I learned is that while theories are nice, data is better. This is so how I live my life. Before you can change something, you need to see it as it is.
Although you could read this whole book in one weekend, I encourage you to pace yourself when it comes to implementing the strategies. Students in my class take an entire week to observe how each idea plays out in their own lives. They try one new strategy for self-control each week, and report on what worked best. I recommend that you take a similar approach, especially if you plan to use this book to tackle a specific goal such as losing weight or getting control over your finances. Give yourself time to try out the practical exercises and reflect. Pick one strategy from each chapter—whichever seems most relevant to your challenge—rather than trying out ten new strategies at once. First time I ever actually did this.
When people say, “I have no willpower,” what they usually mean is, “I have trouble saying no when my mouth, stomach, heart, or (fill in your anatomical part) wants to say yes.” Think of it as “I won’t” power. But saying no is just one part of what willpower is, and what it requires.
“Just say no” are the three favorite words of procrastinators and coach potatoes worldwide. At times, it’s more important to say yes. All those things you put off for tomorrow (or forever)? Willpower helps you put them on today’s to-do list, even when anxiety, distractions, or a reality TV show marathon threaten to talk you out of it. Think of it as “I will” power—the ability to do what you need to do, even if part of you doesn’t want to.
“I will” and “I won’t” power are the two sides of self-control, but they alone don’t constitute willpower. To say no when you need to say no, and yes when you need to say yes, you need a third power: the ability to remember what you really want.
Willpower is about harnessing the three powers of I will, I won’t, and I want to help you achieve your goals
We may all have been born with the capacity for willpower, but some of us use it more than others. People who have better control of their attention, emotions, and actions are better off almost any way you look at it. They are happier and healthier. Their relationships are more satisfying and last longer. They make more money and go further in their careers. They are better able to manage stress, deal with conflict, and overcome adversity. They even live longer. When pit against other virtues, willpower comes out on top. Self-control is a better predictor of academic success than intelligence (take that, SATs), a stronger determinant of effective leadership than charisma (sorry, Tony Robbins), and more important for marital bliss than empathy (yes, the secret to lasting marriage may be learning how to keep your mouth shut). If we want to improve our lives, willpower is not a bad place to start.
For most of evolutionary history, the prefrontal cortex mainly controlled physical movement: walking, running, reaching, pushing—a kind of proto-self-control. As humans evolved, the prefrontal cortex got bigger and better connected to other areas of the brain. As the prefrontal cortex grew, it took on new control functions: controlling what you pay attention to, what you think about, even how you feel.
Many temporary states—like being drunk, sleep-deprived, or even just distracted—inhibit the prefrontal cortex, (Makes me wonder if mine even works at all)
Some neuroscientists go so far as to say that we have one brain but two minds—or even, two people living inside our mind. There’s the version of us that acts on impulse and seeks immediate gratification, and the version of us that controls our impulses and delays gratification to protect our long-term goals. (I believe this is actually bigger than this, we are many people.) This is what defines a willpower challenge: Part of you wants one thing, and another part of you wants something else. Or your present self wants one thing, but your future self would be better off if you did something else.
Every willpower challenge is a conflict between two parts of oneself. For your own willpower challenge, describe these competing minds. What does the impulsive version of you want? What does the wiser version of you want? Some people find it useful to give a name to the impulsive mind, like “the cookie monster” to the part of you that always wants instant gratification, “the critic” to the part of you that likes to complain about everyone and everything, or “the procrastinator” to the person who never wants to get started. Giving a name to this version of yourself can help you recognize when it is taking over, and also help you call in your wiser self for some willpower support
Neuroeconomists—scientists who study what the brain does when we make decisions—have discovered that the self-control system and our survival instincts don’t always conflict. In some cases, they cooperate to help us make good decisions.
To have more self-control, you first need to develop more self-awareness. A good first step is to notice when you are making choices related to your willpower challenge.
For at least one day, track your choices. At the end of the day, look back and try to analyze when decisions were made that either supported or undermined your goals. Trying to keep track of your choices will also reduce the number of decisions you make while distracted—a guaranteed way to boost your willpower.
The Willpower Instinct: How Self-Control Works, Why It Matters, and What You Can Do To Get More of It
Ask your brain to do math every day, and it gets better at math. Ask your brain to worry, and it gets better at worrying. Ask your brain to concentrate, and it gets better at concentrating. Not only does your brain find these things easier, but it actually remodels itself based on what you ask it to do. Some parts of the brain grow denser, packing in more and more gray matter like a muscle bulking up from exercise. For example, adults who learn how to juggle develop more gray matter in regions of the brain that track moving objects. Areas of the brain can also grow more connected to each other, so they can share information more quickly. For example, adults who play memory games for twenty-five minutes a day develop greater connectivity between brain regions important for attention and memory. I love this paragraph. I believe it really is the heart of what I do.
Or you could do something a lot simpler and less painful: meditate. Neuroscientists have discovered that when you ask the brain to meditate, it gets better not just at meditating, but at a wide range of self-control skills, including attention, focus, stress management, impulse control, and self-awareness. People who meditate regularly aren’t just better at these things. Over time, their brains become finely tuned willpower machines.
One study found that just three hours of meditation practice led to improved attention and self-control. After eleven hours, researchers could see those changes in the brain. The new meditators had increased neural connections between regions of the brain important for staying focused, ignoring distractions, and controlling impulses. Another study found that eight weeks of daily meditation practice led to increased self-awareness in everyday life, as well as increased gray matter in corresponding areas of the brain.
It may seem incredible that our brains can reshape themselves so quickly, but meditation increases blood flow to the prefrontal cortex, in much the same way that lifting weights increases blood flow to your muscles. The brain appears to adapt to exercise in the same way that muscles do, getting both bigger and faster in order to get better at what you ask of it.
WILLPOWER EXPERIMENT:A FIVE-MINUTE BRAIN-TRAINING MEDITATION Breath focus is a simple but powerful meditation technique for training your brain and increasing willpower.
Here’s how to get started:
1. Sit still and stay put . Sit in a chair with your feet flat on the ground, or sit cross-legged on a cushion. Sit up straight and rest your hands in your lap. It’s important not to fidget when you meditate—that’s the physical foundation of self-control. If you notice the instinct to scratch an itch, adjust your arms, or cross and uncross your legs, see if you can feel the urge but not follow it.
2. Turn your attention to the breath. Close your eyes or, if you are worried about falling asleep, focus your gaze at a single spot (like a blank wall, not the Home Shopping Network). Begin to notice your breathing. Silently say in your mind “inhale” as you breathe in and “exhale” as you breathe out. When you notice your mind wandering (and it will), just bring it back to the breath.
3. Notice how it feels to breathe, and notice how the mind wanders. After a few minutes, drop the labels “inhale/exhale.” Try focusing on just the feeling of breathing. You might notice the sensations of the breath flowing in and out of your nose and mouth.
Start with five minutes a day. When this becomes a habit, try ten to fifteen minutes a day. If that starts to feel like a burden, bring it back down to five. A short practice that you do every day is better than a long practice you keep putting off to tomorrow. It may help you to pick a specific time that you will meditate every day, like right before your morning shower. If this is impossible, staying flexible will help you fit it in when you can.
Even when he was focused on his breath, other thoughts sneaked in. He was ready to give up on the practice because he wasn’t getting better at it as quickly as he hoped, and figured he was wasting his time if he wasn’t able to focus perfectly on the breath. Most new meditators make this mistake, but the truth is that being “bad” at meditation is exactly what makes the practice effective.
Science is discovering that self-control is a matter of physiology, not just psychology. It’s a temporary state of both mind and body that gives you the strength and calm to override your impulses.
you have inherited from your ancestors an instinct that helps you respond to any threat that requires fighting or running for your life. This instinct is appropriately called the fight-or-flight stress response. You know the feeling: heart pounding, jaw clenching, senses on high alert.
the fight-or-flight stress response is an energy-management instinct. It decides how you are going to spend your limited physical and mental energy.
For your willpower challenge, identify the inner impulse that needs to be restrained. What is the thought or feeling that makes you want to do whatever it is you don’t want to do?
Heart rate variability is such a good index of willpower that you can use it to predict who will resist temptation, and who will give in. For example, recovering alcoholics whose heart rate variability goes up when they see a drink are more likely to stay sober.
These findings have led psychologists to call heart rate variability the body’s “reserve” of willpower—a physiological measure of your capacity for self-control. If you have high heart rate variability, you have more willpower available for whenever temptation strikes.
Many factors influence your willpower reserve, from what you eat (plant-based, unprocessed foods help; junk food doesn’t) to where you live (poor air quality decreases heart rate variability—yes, L.A.’s smog may be contributing to the high percentage of movie stars in rehab). Anything that puts a stress on your mind or body can interfere with the physiology of self-control, and by extension, sabotage your willpower. Anxiety, anger, depression, and loneliness are all associated with lower heart rate variability and less self-control. Chronic pain and illness can also drain your body and brain’s willpower reserve.
But there are just as many things you can do that shift the body and mind toward the physiology of self-control. The focus meditation you learned in the last chapter is one of the easiest and most effective ways to improve the biological basis of willpower. It not only trains the brain, but also increases heart rate variability. Anything else that you do to reduce stress and take care of your health—exercise, get a good night’s sleep, eat better, spend quality time with friends and family, participate in a religious or spiritual practice—will improve your body’s willpower reserve.
WILLPOWER EXPERIMENT: BREATHE YOUR WAY TO SELF-CONTROL You won’t find many quick fixes in this book, but there is one way to immediately boost willpower: Slow your breathing down to four to six breaths per minute. That’s ten to fifteen seconds per breath—slower than you normally breathe, but not difficult with a little bit of practice and patience. Slowing the breath down activates the prefrontal cortex and increases heart rate variability, which helps shift the brain and body from a state of stress to self-control mode. A few minutes of this technique will make you feel calm, in control, and capable of handling cravings or challenges.
Research shows that regular practice of this technique can make you more resilient to stress and build your willpower reserve. One study found that a daily twenty-minute practice of slowed breathing increased heart rate variability and reduced cravings and depression among adults recovering from substance abuse and post-traumatic stress disorder. Heart rate variability training programs (using similar breathing exercises) have also been used to improve self-control and decrease the stress of cops, stock traders, and customer service operators—three of the most stressful jobs on the planet
there are many things you can do to support the physiology of self-control, this week I’m going to ask you to consider the two strategies that have the biggest bang for their buck. Both are inexpensive and immediately effective, with benefits that only build with time
Exercise turns out to be the closest thing to a wonder drug that self-control scientists have discovered. For starters, the willpower benefits of exercise are immediate. Fifteen minutes on a treadmill reduces cravings, as seen when researchers try to tempt dieters with chocolate and smokers with cigarettes. The long-term effects of exercise are even more impressive. It not only relieves ordinary, everyday stress, but it’s as powerful an antidepressant as Prozac. Working out also enhances the biology of self-control by increasing baseline heart rate variability and training the brain. When neuroscientists have peered inside the brains of new exercisers, they have seen increases in both gray matter—brain cells—and white matter, the insulation on brain cells that helps them communicate quickly and efficiently with each other. Physical exercise—like meditation—makes your brain bigger and faster, and the prefrontal cortex shows the largest training effect
If you want a quick willpower fill-up, your best bet may be to head outdoors. Just five minutes of what scientists call “green exercise” decreases stress, improves mood, enhances focus, and boosts self-control. Green exercise is any physical activity that gets you outdoors and in the presence of Mama Nature.
Here are some ideas for your own five-minute green exercise willpower fill-up: • Get out of the office and head for the closest greenery. • Cue up a favorite song on your iPod and walk or jog around the block. • Take your dog outside to play (and chase the toy yourself). • Do a bit of work in your yard or garden. • Step outside for some fresh air and do a few simple stretches. • Challenge your kids to a race or game in the backyard.
If you tell yourself that you are too tired or don’t have the time to exercise, start thinking of exercise as something that restores, not drains, your energy and willpower.exercise as something that restores, not drains, your energy
GAIN WILLPOWER IN YOUR SLEEP! If you are surviving on less than six hours of sleep a night, there’s a good chance you don’t even remember what it’s like to have your full willpower. Being mildly but chronically sleep deprived makes you more susceptible to stress, cravings, and temptation. It also makes it more difficult to control your emotions, focus your attention, or find the energy to tackle the big “I will” power challenges
Why does poor sleep sap willpower? For starters, sleep deprivation impairs how the body and brain use glucose, their main form of energy. When you’re tired, your cells have trouble absorbing glucose from the bloodstream. This leaves them underfueled, and you exhausted. With your body and brain desperate for energy, you’ll start to crave sweets or caffeine. But even if you try to refuel with sugar or coffee, your body and brain won’t get the energy they need because they won’t be able to use it efficiently. This is bad news for self-control, one of the most energy-expensive tasks your brain can spend its limited fuel on.
The kind of relaxation that boosts willpower is true physical and mental rest that triggers what Harvard Medical School cardiologist Herbert Benson calls the physiological relaxation response. Your heart rate and breathing slow down, your blood pressure drops, and your muscles release held tension. Your brain takes a break from planning the future or analyzing the past. To trigger this relaxation response, lie down on your back, and slightly elevate your legs with a pillow under the knees (or come into whatever is the most comfortable position for you to rest in). Close your eyes and take a few deep breaths, allowing your belly to rise and fall. If you feel any tension in your body, you can intentionally squeeze or contract that muscle, then let go of the effort
Science also points us to a critical insight: Stress is the enemy of willpower.
one of the most robust, if troubling, findings from the science of self-control: People who use their willpower seem to run out of it.
The Willpower Instinct: How Self-Control Works, Why It Matters, and What You Can Do To Get More of It
This finding has important implications for your willpower challenges. Modern life is full of self-control demands that can drain your willpower. Researchers have found that self-control is highest in the morning and steadily deteriorates over the course of the day.
In study after study, no matter what task he used, people’s self-control deteriorated over time. A concentration task didn’t just lead to worse attention over time; it depleted physical strength. Controlling emotions didn’t just lead to emotional outbursts; it made people more willing to spend money on something they didn’t need. Resisting tempting sweets didn’t just trigger cravings for chocolate; it prompted procrastination. It was as if every act of willpower was drawing from the same source of strength, leaving people weaker with each successful act of self-control.
These observations led Baumeister to an intriguing hypothesis: that self-control is like a muscle. When used, it gets tired. If you don’t rest the muscle, you can run out of strength entirely, like an athlete who pushes himself to exhaustion.
other research teams have supported the idea that willpower is a limited resource. Trying to control your temper, stick to a budget, or refuse seconds all tap the same source of strength. And because every act of willpower depletes willpower, using self-control can lead to losing control.
Many things you wouldn’t typically think of as requiring willpower also rely on—and exhaust—this limited well of strength. Trying to impress a date or fit into a corporate culture that doesn’t share your values. Navigating a stressful commute, or sitting through another boring meeting.
Anytime you have to fight an impulse, filter out distractions, weigh competing goals, or make yourself do something difficult, you use a little more of your willpower strength.
If your brain and body need to pause and plan, you’re flexing the metaphorical muscle of self-control
Luckily there are things you can do to both overcome willpower exhaustion and increase your self-control strength. That’s because the muscle model doesn’t just help us see why we fail when we’re tired; it also shows us how to train self-control.
If you never seem to have the time and energy for your “I will” challenge, schedule it for when you have the most strength.
Even though the brain is an organ, not a muscle, it does get tired from repeated acts of self-control. Neuroscientists have found that with each use of willpower, the self-control system of the brain becomes less active.
boosting blood sugar restored willpower.
Low blood sugar levels turn out to predict a wide range of willpower failures, from giving up on a difficult test to lashing out at others when you’re angry.
It is as if running low on energy biases us to be the worst versions of ourselves.
In contrast, giving participants a sugar boost turns them back into the best versions of themselves: more persistent and less impulsive; more thoughtful and less selfish.
How much energy, exactly, was getting used up during acts of mental self-control? And did restoring that energy really require consuming a substantial amount of sugar? University of Pennsylvania psychologist Robert Kurzban has argued that the actual amount of energy your brain needs to exert self-control is less than half a Tic Tac per minute. This may be more than the brain uses for other mental tasks, but it is far less than your body uses when it exercises. So assuming you have the resources to walk around the block without collapsing, the absolute demands of self-control couldn’t possibly deplete your entire body’s store of energy.
The human brain has, at any given time, a very small supply of energy. It can store some energy in its cells, but it is mostly dependent on a steady stream of glucose circulating in the body’s bloodstream. Special glucose-detecting brain cells are constantly monitoring the availability of energy. When the brain detects a drop in available energy, it gets a little nervous. What if it runs out of energy? Like the banks, it may decide to stop spending and save what resources it has. It will keep itself on a tight energy budget, unwilling to spend its full supply of energy. The first expense to be cut? Self-control, one of the most energy-expensive tasks the brain performs. To conserve energy, the brain may become reluctant to give you the full mental resources you need to resist temptation, focus your attention, or control your emotions.
University of South Dakota researchers X. T. Wang, a behavioral economist, and Robert Dvorak, a psychologist, have proposed an “energy budget” model of self-control. They argue that the brain treats energy like money. It will spend energy when resources are high, but save energy when resources are dropping.
Importantly, it wasn’t the absolute level of blood sugar that predicted a participant’s choices—it was the direction of change. The brain asked, “Is available energy increasing or decreasing?” It then made a strategic choice about whether to spend or save that energy
The brain may have a second motivation behind its reluctance to exert self-control when the body’s energy levels are dropping. Our brains evolved in an environment very different from our own—one in which food supplies were unpredictable. (Remember our trip to the Serengeti, when you were scavenging for antelope carcasses?) Dvorak and Wang argue that the modern human brain may still be using blood sugar levels as a sign of scarcity or abundance in the environment.
To an energy-monitoring brain, your blood sugar level was an indicator of how likely you were to starve in the near future if you didn’t find something to eat, quick. A brain that could bias your decisions toward immediate gratification when resources are scarce, but toward long-term investment when resources are plenty, would be a real asset in a world with an unpredictable food supply.
He who takes the biggest risks—from exploring new land to trying new foods and new mates—is often the most likely to survive (or at least have his genes survive). What appears in our modern world as a loss of control may actually be a vestige of the brain’s instinct for strategic risk-taking. To prevent starvation, the brain shifts to a more risk-taking, impulsive state. Indeed, studies show that modern humans are more likely to take any kind of risk when they’re hungry. For example, people make riskier investments when they’re hungry, and are more willing to “diversify their mating strategies” (evolutionary psychologist–speak for cheating on their partner) after a fast.
But when your blood sugar drops, your brain will still favor short-term thinking and impulsive behavior. Your brain’s priority is going to be getting more energy, not making sure you make good decisions that are in line with your long-term goals.
better plan is to make sure that your body is well-fueled with food that gives you lasting energy. Most psychologists and nutritionists recommend a low-glycemic diet—that is, one that helps you keep your blood sugar steady. Low-glycemic foods include lean proteins, nuts and beans, high-fiber grains and cereals, and most fruits and vegetables—basically, food that looks like its natural state and doesn’t have a ton of added sugar, fat, and chemicals. It may take some self-control to shift in this direction, but whatever steps you take (say, eating a hearty and healthy breakfast during the workweek instead of skipping breakfast, or snacking on nuts instead of sugar) will more than pay you back for any willpower you spend making the change.
Researchers have put this idea to the test with willpower-training regimes. We’re not talking military boot camp or Master Cleanses here. These interventions take a simpler approach: Challenge the self-control muscle by asking people to control one small thing that they aren’t used to controlling. For example, one willpower-training program asked participants to create and meet self-imposed deadlines.
Other studies have found that committing to any small, consistent act of self-control—improving your posture, squeezing a handgrip every day to exhaustion, cutting back on sweets, and keeping track of your spending—can increase overall willpower. And while these small self-control exercises may seem inconsequential, they appear to improve the willpower challenges we care about most, including focusing at work, taking good care of our health, resisting temptation, and feeling more in control of our emotions.
The important “muscle” action being trained in all these studies isn’t the specific willpower challenge of meeting deadlines, using your left hand to open doors, or keeping the F-word to yourself. It’s the habit of noticing what you are about to do, and choosing to do the more difficult thing instead of the easiest
WILLPOWER EXPERIMENT: A WILLPOWER WORKOUT If you want to put yourself through your own willpower-training regime, test the muscle model of self-control with one of the following willpower workouts: • Strengthen “I Won’t” Power: Commit to not swearing (or refraining from any habit of speech), not crossing your legs when you sit, or using your nondominant hand for a daily task like eating or opening doors. • Strengthen “I Will” Power: Commit to doing something every day (not something you already do) just for the practice of building a habit and not making excuses. It could be calling your mother, meditating for five minutes, or finding one thing in your house that needs to be thrown out or recycled. • Strengthen Self-Monitoring: Formally keep track of something you don’t usually pay close attention to. This could be your spending, what you eat, or how much time you spend online or watching TV. You don’t need fancy technology—pencil and paper will do. But if you need some inspiration, the Quantified Self movement (www.quantifiedself.com) has turned self-tracking into an art and science.
Timothy Noakes, a professor of exercise and sports science at the University of Cape Town, had a different idea. Noakes is known in the athletic world for challenging deeply held beliefs. (For example, he helped show that drinking too many fluids during endurance competitions could kill an athlete by diluting the essential salts in the body.) Noakes is an ultra-marathon competitor himself, and he became interested in a little-known theory put forth in 1924 by Nobel Prize–winning physiologist Archibald Hill. Hill had proposed that exercise fatigue might be caused not by muscle failure, but by an overprotective monitor in the brain that wanted to prevent exhaustion.
This theory says it is just a feeling generated by the brain to motivate us to stop, in much the same way that the feeling of anxiety can stop us from doing something dangerous, and the feeling of disgust can stop us from eating something that will make us sick. But because fatigue is only an early warning system, extreme athletes can routinely push past what seems to the rest of us like the natural physical limits of the body. These athletes recognize that the first wave of fatigue is never a real limit, and with sufficient motivation, they can transcend it.
Some scientists now believe that the limits of self-control are just like the physical limits of the body—we often feel depleted of willpower before we actually are. In part, we can thank a brain motivated to conserve energy. Just as the brain may tell the body’s muscles to slow down when it fears physical exhaustion, the brain may put the brakes on its own energy-expensive exercise of the prefrontal cortex. This doesn’t mean we’re out of willpower; we just need to muster up the motivation to use it.
Based on these findings, the Stanford psychologists have proposed an idea as jarring to the field of self-control research as Noakes’s claims were to the field of exercise physiology: The widely observed scientific finding that self-control is limited may reflect people’s beliefs about willpower, not their true physical and mental limits. The research on this idea is just beginning, and no one is claiming that humans have an unlimited capacity for self-control. But it is appealing to think that we often have more willpower than we believe we do. It also raises the possibility that we can, like athletes, push past the feeling of willpower exhaustion to make it to the finish line of our own willpower challenges.
When your willpower is running low, find renewed strength by tapping into your want power. For your biggest willpower challenge, consider the following motivations: 1. How will you benefit from succeeding at this challenge? What is the payoff for you personally? Greater health, happiness, freedom, financial security, or success? 2. Who else will benefit if you succeed at this challenge? Surely there are others who depend on you and are affected by your choices. How does your behavior influence your family, friends, coworkers, employees or employer, and community? How would your success help them? 3. Imagine that this challenge will get easier for you over time if you are willing to do what is difficult now. Can you imagine what your life will be like, and how you will feel about yourself, as you make progress on this challenge? Is some discomfort now worth it if you know it is only a temporary part of your progress?
this left them vulnerable to what psychologists call moral licensing. When you do something good, you feel good about yourself. This means you’re more likely to trust your impulses—which often means giving yourself permission to do something bad.
Moral licensing doesn’t just give us permission to do something bad; it also lets us off the hook when we’re asked to do something good. For example, people who first remember a time when they acted generously give 60 percent less money to a charitable request than people who have not just recalled a past good deed. In a business simulation, managers of a manufacturing plant are less likely to take costly measures to reduce the plant’s pollution if they have recently recalled a time when they acted ethically.
Simply put: Whenever we have conflicting desires, being good gives us permission to be a little bit bad.
if the only thing motivating your self-control is the desire to be a good enough person, you’re going to give in whenever you’re already feeling good about yourself. The worst part of moral licensing is not just its questionable logic; the problem is how it tricks us into acting against our best interests.
Don’t mistake a goal-supportive action for the goal itself. You aren’t off the hook just because you did one thing consistent with your goal. Notice if giving yourself credit for positive action makes you forget what your actual goal is.
Ayelet Fishbach, professor at the University of Chicago Graduate School of Business, and Ravi Dhar, professor at the Yale School of Management, have shown that making progress on a goal motivates people to engage in goal-sabotaging behavior. In one study, they reminded successful dieters of how much progress they had made toward their ideal weight. They then offered the dieters a thank-you gift of either an apple or a chocolate bar. Eighty-five percent of the self-congratulating dieters chose the chocolate bar over the apple, compared with only 58 percent of dieters who were not reminded of their progress. A second study found the same effect for academic goals: Students made to feel good about the amount of time they had spent studying for an exam were more likely to spend the evening playing beer pong with friends.
But when they also asked the participants to remember why they had resisted, the licensing effect disappeared—69 percent resisted temptation. Like magic, the researchers had discovered a simple way to boost self-control and help the students make a choice consistent with their overall goals. Remembering the “why” works because it changes how you feel about the reward of self-indulgence. That so-called treat will start to look more like the threat to your goals that it is, and giving in won’t look so good. Remembering the why will also help you recognize and act on other opportunities to accomplish your goal. The next time you find yourself using past good behavior to justify indulging, pause and remember the why.
The researchers were intrigued by reports that when McDonald’s added healthier items to its menu, sales of Big Macs skyrocketed.
The researchers found the same effect for vending machine choices. When a reduced-calorie package of cookies was added to a set of standard junk-food options, participants were more likely to choose the least healthy snack (which, in this case, happened to be chocolate-covered Oreos).
Sometimes the mind gets so excited about the opportunity to act on a goal, it mistakes that opportunity with the satisfaction of having actually accomplished the goal. And with the goal to make a healthy choice out of the way, the unmet goal—immediate pleasure—takes priority.
This illustrates a fundamental mistake we make when thinking about our future choices. We wrongly but persistently expect to make different decisions tomorrow than we do today. I’ll smoke this one cigarette, but starting tomorrow, I’m done. I’ll skip the gym today, but I’m sure I’ll go tomorrow. I’ll splurge on holiday gifts, but then no more shopping for at least three months. Such optimism licenses us to indulge today—especially if we know we will have the opportunity to choose differently in the near future.
We look into the future and fail to see the challenges of today. This convinces us that we will have more time and energy to do in the future what we don’t want to do today. We feel justified in putting it off, confident that our future behavior will more than make up for it.
The Willpower Instinct: How Self-Control Works, Why It Matters, and What You Can Do To Get More of It
Behavioral economist Howard Rachlin proposes an interesting trick for overcoming the problem of always starting a change tomorrow. When you want to change a behavior, aim to reduce the variability in your behavior, not the behavior itself.
Apply Rachlin’s advice to your own willpower challenge this week: Aim to reduce the variability of your behavior day to day. View every choice you make as a commitment to all future choices. So instead of asking, “Do I want to eat this candy bar now?” ask yourself, “Do I want the consequences of eating a candy bar every afternoon for the next year?” Or if you’ve been putting something off that you know you should do, instead of asking “Would I rather do this today or tomorrow?” ask yourself, “Do I really want the consequences of always putting this off?”
Rather than giving himself permission to be good on some days and bad on others (which, predictably, led to more bad days than good), he decided to take the challenge of reducing the variability in his behavior. He settled on the strategy of “vegetarian before dinner.” He would stick to vegetarian foods until six p.m., then eat whatever he wanted to for dinner.
Using a daily rule also helps you see through the illusion that what you do tomorrow will be totally different from what you do today. Jeff knew that if he broke his rule one day, he would—according to the experiment’s instructions—have to break it every day for the rest of the week.
When a halo effect is getting in the way of your willpower challenge, look for a the most concrete measure (e.g., calories, cost, time spent or wasted) of whether a choice is consistent with your goals.
• Virtue and vice. Do you tell yourself you’ve been “good” when you succeed at a willpower challenge, then give yourself permission to do something “bad”? • Are you borrowing credit from tomorrow? Do you tell yourself you will make up for today’s behavior tomorrow—and if so, do you follow through? • Halo effects. Do you justify a vice because of one virtuous aspect (e.g., discount savings, fat-free, protects the environment)? • Who do you think you are? When you think about your willpower challenge, which part of you feels like the “real” you—the part of you who wants to pursue the goal, or the part of you who needs to be controlled?
As you will see, it’s not just electrodes in the brain that can trigger this system. Our whole world is full of stimuli—from restaurant menus and catalogs to lottery tickets and television ads—that can turn us into the human version of Olds and Milner’s rat chasing the promise of happiness. When that happens, our brains become obsessed with “I want,” and it gets harder to say, “I won’t.”
When the brain recognizes an opportunity for reward, it releases a neurotransmitter called dopamine. Dopamine tells the rest of the brain what to pay attention to and what to get our greedy little hands on. A dopamine rush doesn’t create happiness itself—the feeling is more like arousal. We feel alert, awake, and captivated. We recognize the possibility of feeling good and are willing to work for that feeling. In the last few years, neuroscientists have given the effect of dopamine release many names, including seeking, wanting, craving, and desire. But one thing is clear: It is not the experience of liking, satisfaction, pleasure, or actual reward.
The joy of winning was registered in different areas of the brain. Knutson had proven that dopamine is for action, not happiness. The promise of reward guaranteed that participants wouldn’t miss out on the reward by failing to act. What they were feeling when the reward system lit up was anticipation, not pleasure.
The flood of dopamine marks this new object of desire as critical to your survival. When dopamine hijacks your attention, the mind becomes fixated on obtaining or repeating whatever triggered it.
When we add the instant gratification of modern technology to this primitive motivation system, we end up with dopamine-delivery devices that are damn near impossible to put down.
There are few things ever dreamed of, smoked, or injected that have as addictive an effect on our brains as technology. This is how our devices keep us captive and always coming back for more. The definitive Internet act of our times is a perfect metaphor for the promise of reward: We search. And we search. And we search some more, clicking that mouse like—well, like a rat in a cage seeking another “hit,” looking for the elusive reward that will finally feel like enough.
Importantly, even if the reward never arrives, the promise of reward—combined with a growing sense of anxiety when we think about stopping—is enough to keep us hooked. If you’re a lab rat, you press a lever again and again until you collapse or starve to death. If you’re a human, this leaves you with a lighter wallet and a fuller stomach, at best. At worst, you may find yourself spiraling into obsession and compulsion.
In one study, participants who sampled something sweet were more likely to purchase indulgent foods such as a steak or cake, as well as items that were on sale. The food and drink samples amplified the appeal of products that would typically activate the reward system.
There was no effect, however, on utilitarian items like oatmeal and dishwasher liquid, demonstrating that even a hit of dopamine cannot make toilet paper irresistible to the average consumer (sorry, Charmin).
The Stanford researchers who ran this study asked twenty-one food and nutrition experts to predict the results, and shockingly, 81 percent believed that the opposite would be true—that samples would decrease a shopper’s hunger and thirst, and satiate their reward seeking. This just goes to show how unaware most of us—experts included—are of the many environmental factors that influence our inner desires and behavior.
Since it’s unlikely we’ll ever outlaw the promise of reward, we might as well put it to good use. We can take a lesson from neuromarketers and try to “dopaminize” our least favorite tasks. An unpleasant chore can be made more appealing by introducing a reward. And when the rewards of our actions are far off in the future, we can try to squeeze a little extra dopamine out of neurons by fantasizing about the eventual payoff (not unlike those lotto commercials).
The promise of reward has even been used to help people overcome addiction. One of the most effective intervention strategies in alcohol and drug recovery is something called the fish bowl. Patients who pass their drug tests win the opportunity to draw a slip of paper out of a bowl. About half of these slips have a prize listed on them, ranging in value from $1 to $20. Only one slip has a big prize, worth $100. Half of the slips have no prize value at all—instead, they say, “Keep up the good work.” This means that when you reach your hand into the fish bowl, the odds are you’re going to end up with a prize worth $1 or a few kind words. This shouldn’t be motivating—but it is. In one study, 83 percent of patients who had access to fish bowl rewards stayed in treatment for the whole twelve weeks, compared with only 20 percent of patients receiving standard treatment without the promise of reward. Eighty percent of the fish bowl patients passed all their drug tests, compared with only 40 percent of the standard treatment group. When the intervention was over, the fish bowl group was also far less likely to relapse than patients who received standard treatment—even without the continued promise of reward.
Amazingly, the fish bowl technique works even better than paying patients for passing their drug tests—despite the fact that patients end up with far less “reward” from the fish bowl than they would from guaranteed payments. This highlights the power of an unpredictable reward. Our reward system gets much more excited about a possible big win than a guaranteed smaller reward, and it will motivate us to do whatever provides the chance to win. This is why people would rather play the lottery than earn a guaranteed 2 percent interest in a savings account, and why even the lowest employee in a company should be made to believe he could someday be the CEO.
But dopamine does have a dark side, one that’s not hard to see if we pay close attention. If we pause and notice what’s really going on in our brains and bodies when we’re in that state of wanting, we will find that the promise of reward can be as stressful as it is delightful. Desire doesn’t always make us feel good—sometimes it makes us feel downright rotten. That’s because dopamine’s primary function is to make us pursue happiness, not to make us happy. It doesn’t mind putting a little pressure on us—even if that means making us unhappy in the process.
To motivate you to seek the object of your craving, the reward system actually has two weapons: a carrot and a stick. The first weapon is, of course, the promise of reward. Dopamine-releasing neurons create this feeling by talking to the areas of your brain that anticipate pleasure and plan action. When these areas are bathed in dopamine, the result is desire—the carrot that makes the horse run forward. But the reward system has a second weapon that functions more like the proverbial stick. When your reward center releases dopamine, it also sends a message to the brain’s stress center. In this area of the brain, dopamine triggers the release of stress hormones. The result: You feel anxious as you anticipate your object of desire. The need to get what you want starts to feel like a life-or-death emergency, a matter of survival.
The promise of reward is so powerful that we continue to pursue things that don’t make us happy, and consume things that bring us more misery than satisfaction. Because the pursuit of reward is dopamine’s main goal, it is never going to give you a “stop” signal—even when the experience does not live up to the promise.
Mindfully indulge, but don’t rush through the experience. Notice what the promise of reward feels like: the anticipation, the hope, the excitement, the anxiety, the salivation—whatever is going on in your brain and body. Then give yourself permission to give in. How does the experience compare with the expectation? Does the feeling of the promise of reward ever go away—or does it continue to drive you to eat more, spend more, or stay longer? When, if ever, do you become satisfied? Or do you simply reach the point of being unable to continue, because you’re stuffed, exhausted, frustrated, out of time, or out of the “reward”?
People who try this exercise commonly have one of two results. Some people find that when they really pay attention to the experience of indulging, they need far less than they thought they would to feel satisfied. Others find that the experience is completely unsatisfying, revealing a huge gap between the promise of reward and the reality of their experience. Both observations can give you greater control over what has felt like an out-of-control behavior.
When you’re feeling down, what do you do to feel better? If you’re like most people, you turn to the promise of reward. According to the American Psychological Association (APA), the most commonly used strategies for dealing with stress are those that activate the brain’s reward system: eating, drinking, shopping, watching television, surfing the Web, and playing video games.
The APA’s national survey on stress found that the most commonly used strategies were also rated as highly ineffective by the same people who reported using them. For example, only 16 percent of people who eat to reduce stress report that it actually helps them.
Neuroscientists have shown that stress—including negative emotions like anger, sadness, self-doubt, and anxiety—shifts the brain into a reward-seeking state. You end up craving whatever substance or activity your brain associates with the promise of reward, and you become convinced that the “reward” is the only way to feel better.
The stress hormones released during a fight-or-flight response also increase the excitability of your dopamine neurons. That means that when you’re under stress, any temptations you run into will be even more tempting.
Stress points us in the wrong direction, away from our clear-headed wisdom and toward our least helpful instincts. That’s the power of the one-two punch of stress and dopamine: We are drawn back again and again to coping strategies that don’t work, but that our primitive brains persistently believe are the gateway to bliss.
According to the American Psychological Association, the most effective stress-relief strategies are exercising or playing sports, praying or attending a religious service, reading, listening to music, spending time with friends or family, getting a massage, going outside for a walk, meditating or doing yoga, and spending time with a creative hobby. (The least effective strategies are gambling, shopping, smoking, drinking, eating, playing video games, surfing the Internet, and watching TV or movies for more than two hours.)
The main difference between the strategies that work and the strategies that don’t? Rather than releasing dopamine and relying on the promise of reward, the real stress relievers boost mood-enhancing brain chemicals like serotonin and GABA, as well as the feel-good hormone oxytocin.
As part of our class experiment, Denise committed to doing yoga at least once. When she did, she felt even better than she had remembered and couldn’t believe she had talked herself out of it for almost three years. Knowing that she was likely to forget again and fall into her old routine, she made a voice memo on her phone after class one evening, describing how good she felt after doing yoga. When she was tempted to skip yoga, she listened to the memo to remind herself, knowing that she could not trust her impulses when she was stressed.
We don’t just cling to guns and God when we’re scared; many of us also cling to credit cards, cupcakes, and cigarettes. Studies show that being reminded of our mortality makes us more susceptible to all sorts of temptations, as we look for hope and security in the things that promise reward and relief.
This, no doubt, is how we end up with half the purchases that clutter our homes and pad our credit card bills. We’re feeling a little down, we come across an opportunity to purchase something, and a little voice—OK, a few dopamine neurons—in our head tell us, “Buy this—it’s everything you never knew you wanted!”
Terror management strategies may take our minds off our inevitable demise, but when we turn to temptation for comfort, we may inadvertently be quickening our race to the grave. Case in point: Warnings on cigarette packages can increase a smoker’s urge to light up. A 2009 study found that death warnings trigger stress and fear in smokers—exactly what public health officials hope for. Unfortunately, this anxiety then triggers smokers’ default stress-relief strategy: smoking. Oops. It isn’t logical, but it makes sense based on what we know about how stress influences the brain. Stress triggers cravings and makes dopamine neurons even more excited by any temptation in sight.
Sometimes terror management leads us not into temptation, but procrastination. Many of the most put-off tasks have a whiff of mortality salience about them: making a doctor’s appointment, filling a prescription and taking it when we’re supposed to, taking care of legal documents such as wills, saving for retirement, even throwing out things we’re never going to use again, or clothes we’ll never fit into. If there’s something you’ve been putting off or keep “forgetting” to do, is it possible that you are trying to avoid facing your vulnerability? If so, just seeing the fear can help you make a rational choice—the motivations we understand are always easier to change than the influences we cannot see.
people who drank too much the previous night felt worse in the morning—headaches, nausea, fatigue. But their misery wasn’t limited to hangovers. Many also felt guilty and ashamed. That’s where things get disturbing. The worse a person felt about how much they drank the night before, the more they drank that night and the next.
If you think that the key to greater willpower is being harder on yourself, you are not alone. But you are wrong. Study after study shows that self-criticism is consistently associated with less motivation and worse self-control. It is also one of the single biggest predictors of depression, which drains both “I will” power and “I want” power. In contrast, self-compassion—being supportive and kind to yourself, especially in the face of stress and failure—is associated with more motivation and better self-control.
Surprisingly, it’s forgiveness, not guilt, that increases accountability. Researchers have found that taking a self-compassionate point of view on a personal failure makes people more likely to take personal responsibility for the failure than when they take a self-critical point of view. They also are more willing to receive feedback and advice from others, and more likely to learn from the experience.
Below is an exercise that psychologists use to help people find a more self-compassionate response to failure. Research shows that taking this point of view reduces guilt but increases personal accountability—the perfect combination to get you back on track with your willpower challenge.
1. What are you feeling? As you think about this failure, take a moment to notice and describe how you are feeling. What emotions are present? What are you are feeling in your body? Can you remember how you felt immediately after the failure? How would you describe that?
2. You’re only human. Everyone struggles with willpower challenges and everyone sometimes loses control. This is just a part of the human condition, and your setback does not mean there is something wrong with you. Consider the truth of these statements.
3. What would you say to a friend? Consider how you would comfort a close friend who experienced the same setback. What words of support would you offer?
A WRITER CHALLENGES THE VOICE OF SELF-CRITICISM Ben, a twenty-four-year-old middle-school social studies teacher with literary aspirations, had set the goal to finish writing his novel by the end of summer vacation. This deadline required him to write ten pages a day, every day. In reality, he would write two to three pages one day, then feel so overwhelmed by how far behind he was that he skipped the next day completely. Realizing that he wasn’t going to finish the book by the start of the school year, he felt like a fraud. If he couldn’t make the effort now, when he had so much free time, how was he going to make any progress when he had homework to grade and lessons to plan? Ben started to doubt whether he should even bother with the goal, since he wasn’t making the progress he thought he should be. “A real writer would be able to churn those pages out,” he told himself. “A real writer would never play computer games instead of writing.” In this state of mind, he turned a critical eye to his writing and convinced himself it was garbage.
Ben had actually abandoned his goal when he found himself in my class that fall. He had enrolled in the class to learn how to motivate his students, but he recognized himself in the discussion about self-criticism. When he did the self-forgiveness exercise for his abandoned novel, the first thing he noticed was the fear and self-doubt behind his giving up. Not meeting his small goal to write ten pages a day made him afraid that he did not have the talent or dedication to realize his big goal of becoming a novelist. He took comfort in the idea that his setbacks were just part of being human, and not proof that he would never succeed. He remembered stories he had read about other writers who had struggled early in their careers. To find a more compassionate response to himself, he imagined how he would mentor a student who wanted to give up on a goal. Ben realized he would encourage the student to keep going if the goal was important. He would say that any effort made now would take the student closer to the goal. He certainly would not say to the student, “Who are you kidding? Your work is garbage.” From this exercise, Ben found renewed energy for writing and returned to his work-in-progress. He made a commitment to write once a week, a more reasonable goal for the school year, and one he felt comfortable holding himself accountable to.
Unrealistic optimism may make us feel good in the moment, but it sets us up to feel much worse later on. The decision to change is the ultimate in instant gratification—you get all the good feelings before anything’s been done. But the challenge of actually making a change can be a rude awakening, and the initial rewards are rarely as transformative as our most hopeful fantasies (“I lost five pounds, and I still have a crappy job!”). As we face our first setbacks, the initial feel-good rush of deciding to change is replaced with disappointment and frustration. Failing to meet our expectations triggers the same old guilt, depression, and self-doubt, and the emotional payoff of vowing to change is gone.
Polivy and Herman call this cycle the “false hope syndrome.” As a strategy for change, it fails. But that’s because it was never meant to be a strategy for change. It’s a strategy for feeling better, and these are not the same thing. If all you care about is the feeling of hope, this is not an irrational strategy. Resolving to change is, for most people, the best part of the change process. It’s all downhill after that: having to exert self-control, saying no when you want to say yes, saying yes when you want to say no.
The effort of actually making the change cannot compare, from a happiness point of view, to the rush of imagining that you will change. And so it’s not only easier, but also much more fun, to milk the promise of change for all it’s worth, without the messy business of following through. That is why so many people are happier giving up and starting again, over and over, rather than finding a way to make a change for good. The high we get from imagining our own extreme makeovers is a difficult drug to quit.
There is a fine line between the motivation we need to make a change, and the kind of unrealistic optimism that can sabotage our goals. We need to believe that change is possible; without hope, we’d resign ourselves to the way things are. But we must avoid the common trap of using the promise of change to fix our feelings, not to fix our behaviors. Otherwise, we can turn what looks like willpower into just another version of a rat pressing a lever, hoping this is the time we get the reward.
Optimism can make us motivated, but a dash of pessimism can help us succeed. Research shows that predicting how and when you might be tempted to break your vow increases the chances that you will keep a resolution. For your own willpower challenge, ask yourself: When am I most likely to be tempted to give in? How am I most likely to let myself get distracted from my goal? What will I say to myself to give myself permission to procrastinate? When you have such a scenario in mind, imagine yourself in that situation, what it will feel like, and what you might be thinking. Let yourself see how a typical willpower failure unfolds. Then turn this imaginary failure into a willpower success. Consider what specific actions you could take to stick to your resolution. Do you need to remember your motivation? Get yourself away from the temptation? Call a friend for support? Use one of the other willpower strategies you’ve learned? When you have a specific strategy in mind, imagine yourself doing it. Visualize what it will feel like. See yourself succeed. Let this vision of yourself give you the confidence that you will do what it takes to reach your goal. Planning for failure in this way is an act of self-compassion, not self-doubt. When that moment of possible willpower failure hits, you will be ready to put your plan into
• Forgiveness when you fail. Take a more compassionate perspective on your setbacks to avoid the guilt that leads to giving in again. • Optimistic pessimism for successful resolutions. Predict how and when you might be tempted to break your vow, and imagine a specific plan of action for not giving in.
Economists call this delay discounting—the longer you have to wait for a reward, the less it is worth to you. Even small delays can dramatically lower the perceived value. With a delay of just two minutes, six M&M’s became worth less than two immediate M&M’s. The value of each M&M shrank as it became more distant.
For your willpower challenge, ask yourself what future rewards do you put on sale each time you give in to temptation or procrastination. What is the immediate payoff for giving in? What is the long-term cost? Is this a fair trade? If the rational you says, “No, it’s a lousy deal!” try to catch the moment you reverse your preferences. What are you thinking and feeling that lets you put the future on sale?
We only prefer the short-term, immediate reward when it is right there staring us in the face, and the want becomes overwhelming. This leads to bounded willpower—we have self-control until we need it. The good news is, temptation has a narrow window of opportunity. To really overwhelm our prefrontal cortex, the reward must be available now, and—for maximum effect—you need to see it. As soon as there is any distance between you and the temptation, the power of balance shifts back to the brain’s system of self-control.
This time, the students were much more likely to choose the larger, delayed reward. Not being able to see the immediate reward made it more abstract and less exciting to the reward system. This helped the students make a rational choice based on mental calculations, not primal feelings.
This is good news for those who want to delay gratification. Anything you can do to create that distance will make it easier to say no.
For a cooler, wiser brain, institute a mandatory ten-minute wait for any temptation. If, in ten minutes, you still want it, you can have it—but before the ten minutes are up, bring to mind the competing long-term reward that will come with resisting temptation. If possible, create some physical (or visual) distance as well.
If your willpower challenge requires “I will” power, you can still use the ten-minute rule to help you overcome the temptation to procrastinate. Flip the rule to “Do ten minutes, then you can quit.” When your ten minutes are up, give yourself permission to stop—although you may find that once you get started, you’ll want to keep going.
When “never again” seems too overwhelming a willpower challenge to tackle, use the ten-minute delay rule to start strengthening your self-control.
One reason is that most people are loss-averse—that is, we really don’t like to lose something we already have. Losing $50 makes people more unhappy than getting $50 makes them happy. When you think about a larger, future reward first and consider trading it in for a smaller, immediate reward, it registers as a loss. But when you start with the immediate reward (the $50 check in your hand) and consider the benefits of delaying gratification for a larger reward, it also feels like a loss.
You can use this quirk of decision making to resist immediate gratification, whatever the temptation:
1. When you are tempted to act against your long-term interests, frame the choice as giving up the best possible long-term reward for whatever the immediate gratification is.
2. Imagine that long-term reward as already yours. Imagine your future self enjoying the fruits of your self-control.
3. Then ask yourself: Are you willing to give that up in exchange for whatever fleeting pleasure is tempting you now?
The Willpower Instinct: How Self-Control Works, Why It Matters, and What You Can Do To Get More of It
The Flinch by Julien Smith
This book, free on Amazon for the kindle, is one of those books that even though it is short, makes you pause and stop reading as you go. It made me understand that you need to lean into things.
It’s about an instinct—the flinch—and why mastering it is vital. This book is about how to stop flinching. It’s about facing pain. It is about using the fear and pain to improve.
Behind the flinch is pain avoidance, and dealing with pain demands strength you may not think you have, but you do. We all do, inside, it just needs to be unleashed.
Facing the flinch is hard. It means seeing the lies you tell yourself, facing the fear behind them, and handling the pain that your journey demands—all without hesitation.
The flinch is there to support the status quo.
You treat mistakes as final, but they almost never are. Pain and scars are a part of the path, but so is getting back up, and getting up is easier than ever. You don’t need adrenaline to get through those things—you just need to do them. Crossing these obstacles will put the flinch in its place. The lessons you learn best are those you get burned by. Without the scar, there’s no evidence or strong memory.
Firsthand knowledge, however, is visceral, painful, and necessary. It uses the conscious and the unconscious to process the lesson, and it uses all your senses. When you fall down, your whole motor system is involved. You can’t learn this from books. It just doesn’t work, because you didn’t really fall. You need to feel it in your gut—and on your scraped hands and shins—for the lesson to take effect.
You can’t settle for reaching other people’s limits. You have to reach yours. If you don’t test yourself, you don’t actually grow to your own limits. For you to map out this new world, you need to test it, and test what you’re capable of inside it. You need to make mistakes, resist the flinch, and feel the lessons that come with this process.
The anxiety of the flinch is almost always worse than the pain itself. You’ve forgotten that. You need to learn it again. You need more scars. You need to live.
Ask yourself this: would your childhood self be proud of you, or embarrassed? Love this line. Who ever wanted to grow up and be working in a cubicle?
Start doing the opposite of your habits. It builds up your tolerance to the flinch and its power.
Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “Do not go where the path may lead; go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.” The truth is that judgment and fear will never stop, but they don’t actually do anything. There are no negative consequences for breaking the habit of flinching. Nothing will actually happen if you stop being afraid. You’re free.
The ability to withstand the flinch comes with the knowledge that the future will be better than the past. You believe that you can come through challenges and be just as good as you were before them. The more positive you are, the easier it is for you to believe this. You move forward and accept tough situations, so no matter the breakup, the job loss, or the injury, you believe you’ll recover and end up fine. If you believe this, you’re right.
Krishnamurti, a great Indian sage, once said: “You can take a piece of wood that you brought back from your garden, and each day present it with a flower. At the end of a month you will adore it, and the idea of not giving it an offering will be a sin.” In other words, everything that you are used to, once done long enough, starts to seem natural, even though it might not be.
In times of stress, whatever pattern you’re used to taking emerges. If you’re used to running, you run. If you’re used to getting defensive, the same thing happens. It’s how you act under pressure. So you need to start recognizing your fight-or-flight response. Every alternative you develop is highly valuable because it opens your options dramatically.
You can train yourself into new patterns, and you’re not the first to do so.
The first step is to stop seeing everything as a threat. You can’t will this to happen—it requires wider exposure. If you’ve been punched in the face, you won’t worry as much about a mugger, for example. If you face the flinch in meditation, you don’t worry about a long line at the bank. Build your base of confidence by having a vaster set of experiences to call upon, and you’ll realize you can handle more than you used to. Doing the uncomfortable is key. It widens your circle of comfort. Second, rework the pattern of threat response. Learn habits that move you out of a fight-or-flight choice and into another pattern that’s more effective.
But the real trick is to do what the professionals do. They use the speed of the flinch—they use its intensity—to their advantage. Instead of flinching back, they flinch forward—toward their opponent, and toward the threat. When you flinch forward, you’re using the speed of your instincts, but you don’t back off. Instead, you move forward so fast—without thinking—that your opponent can’t react. You use your upraised hands as weapons instead of shields. You use your fear to gain an advantage.
Train yourself to flinch forward, and your world changes radically.
You go on offense instead of defense. Any fight you want to win, a habit of pushing past the flinch can make it happen.
Most people rarely get in the ring for what matters. Instead, the fight gets fought by other people, elsewhere. Everyone talks about it like they want to be involved, but it’s just talk. The truth is that they can’t handle the pressure. They’re not in the ring because they aren’t ready to do what’s necessary to win.
Today, right now, eliminate all excuses from your vocabulary. Refuse to mince words or actions. Refuse a scar-free life.
The ring is different for everyone, but it’s always made of places, people, and projects that are worth the flinch. Habits obscure it.
Set fire to your old self. It’s not needed here. It’s too busy shopping, gossiping about others, and watching days go by and asking why you haven’t gotten as far as you’d like. This old self will die and be forgotten by all but family, and replaced by someone who makes a difference.
But wiping out the fear isn’t what’s important—facing it is.
This pressure you feel—this flinch you encounter every day—there is no end to it. After you deal with one, another will come your way. The pressure increases as you go on. Whatever tension you can handle, the ring will provide just a little bit more than that. Adjust to it. You will never be entirely comfortable. This is the truth behind the champion—he is always fighting something. To do otherwise is to settle.
THE FLINCH, A CHECKLIST
1. Challenge yourself by doing things that hurt, on purpose. Have a willpower practice, such as very hard exercise, meditation, endurance, or cold showers. Choose something that makes your brain scream with how hard it is, and try to tolerate it. The goal isn’t just to get used to it. It’s to understand that pain is something you can survive.
2. Remember things that are easy to forget. Upgrade your current relationships. Create un-birthdays for your friends and stick to them. Go through old text messages to rekindle dormant friendships.
3. Read more. Not just current blog posts and tweets and Facebook updates online, but other sources that take more consideration than blog posts or news.
4. Get some scars by working with your hands. Try to understand how things in your world work, like your car, your stereo system, or even your kitchen.
5. Turn your mobile phone off for a few hours each day. Having nothing to do while you’re waiting for a bus can be boring, but it’s only when you’re bored that the scary thoughts come to the surface.
6. Find new friends who make you feel uncomfortable, either because they have done more than you or because they have done nothing that you have.
7. Renegotiate your work. If you achieve X, then will your employer do Y?
8. Start dressing as if you had a very important job or meeting, or as if you were twenty years old again and thought you were the coolest person on Earth.
9. Imagine that you have to leave a legacy, and everyone in the world will see the work you’ve done. Volunteer. Create something that lasts and that can exist outside of you, something that makes people wonder and gasp.
10. Make something amazing, something that’s terrifying to you. Stay uncomfortable. Fight the flinch wherever you see it. Leave no stone unturned.
The Education of Millionaires: It's Not What You Think and It's Not Too Late (Portfolio) by Michael Ellsberg
An interesting book, and it is interesting more for what it points you to than what it says. The author seems very smart and very well connected, and it is to these connections that the book bring the most value, my list of books to read next has just grown much larger. This is a book on self education, and how to make the most of what and who you know. Make sure you buy a copy.
He had by that time spent a decade of his life in passionate pursuit of learning things that would make him successful—sales, marketing, leadership, management, finance, and accounting—within the context of owning real-world businesses, with his own money at stake.
Have you ever stopped to ponder how utterly bizarre this state of affairs is? How in the world did we all get so convinced that academic rigor constituted a prerequisite, necessary, and sufficient training for success in life?
Sir Ken Robinson, author of The Element: How Finding Your Passion Changes Everything, has pondered this puzzling question a lot.
Libertarian critic of our current educational system Charles Murray makes the point another way: “We should look at the kind of work that goes into acquiring a liberal education at the college level in the same way that we look at the grueling apprenticeship that goes into becoming a master chef: something that understandably attracts only a limited number of people.”
Developing your practical intelligence will have far more impact on the quality and success of your life.
According to Gladwell, the main difference is that, in addition to his rocket-high IQ, Oppenheimer also possessed exceptional practical intelligence in navigating his way through the people who could influence his success in the world, “things like knowing what to say to whom, knowing when to say it, and knowing how to say it for maximum effect.” Langan in turn possessed little of this kind of intelligence, and thus was never able to gain much of a toehold in the world of practical achievement. In his book, Gladwell shows that once a person has demonstrated passable logical, analytic, and academic skills, other factors have much more influence on real-world results—specifically, creativity, innovative thinking, and practical and social intelligence. To the extent that we develop these aptitudes in our lives, we tend to do so out in the real world, not in formal institutions.
I was earning money because I had become good at marketing and selling my copywriting services. There are boatloads of good freelancers who are broke, simply because they don’t know how to market and sell their services. Lifelong learning and professional development are necessities in the current career environment; this book is your guide to self-education for success in the twenty-first century. Yet, the lives of the people profiled in this book show conclusively that education is most certainly not the same thing as academic excellence.
The driving theme of the stories in this book is that, even though you may learn many wonderful things in college, your success and happiness in life will have little to do with what you study there or the letters after your name once you graduate. It has to do with your drive, your initiative, your persistence, your ability to make a contribution to other people’s lives, your ability to come up with good ideas and pitch them to others effectively, your charisma, your ability to navigate gracefully through social and business networks (what some researchers call “practical intelligence”), and a total, unwavering belief in your own eventual triumph, throughout all the ups and downs, no matter what the naysayers tell you.
The Education of Millionaires: It's Not What You Think and It's Not Too Late (Portfolio)
First, job security is dead, as anyone who has had a job recently knows. You’re going to have many different jobs, employers, and even careers in your life. So where you get your first, entry-level one—the single thing that a BA credential really helps with—becomes less and less relevant. Building a portfolio of real-world results and impacts you’ve created, over time, becomes more and more relevant. Second, the Internet, cell phones, and virtually free longdistance calling have created new opportunities for flexible, self-created, independent careers; this trend has been helped along by the gathering storms of millions of hungry, highly educated young men and women in India, China, Eastern Europe, the Philippines, and elsewhere, happy to do the work that entry-level Organization Men would have done in years past, for a fraction of the cost. This emerging competition has encouraged many people in the West to “think outside the organization” to create careers for themselves that can’t be outsourced, offshored, or automated.
More and more Americans of all ages are waking up to the reality that you don’t need a nine-to-five job to be a valuable, contributing member of society and to create wealth for yourself and others. Millions of small-business owners, entrepreneurs, computer programmers, graphic designers, independent consultants, writers, and freelancers make valuable contributions to society (creating four out of ten new jobs in the economy), outside the realm of working for a boss nine to five (or eight to eight).
Daniel Pink calls it “Digital Marxism: In an age of inexpensive computers, wireless handheld devices, and ubiquitous low-cost connections to a global communications network, workers can now own the means of production.”
Education is still necessary to learn how to do the great work that gets you paid. But these days, almost all of the education that ends up actually earning you money ends up being self-education in practical intelligence and skills, acquired outside of the bounds of traditional educational institutions.
Here they are, the courses in The Education of Millionaires.
SUCCESS SKILL #1: How to Make Your Work Meaningful and Your Meaning Work (or, How to Make a Difference in the World Without Going Broke) SUCCESS SKILL #2: How to Find Great Mentors and Teachers, Connect with Powerful and Influential People, and Build a World-Class Network SUCCESS SKILL #3: What Every Successful Person Needs to Know About Marketing, and How to Teach Yourself SUCCESS SKILL #4: What Every Successful Person Needs to Know About Sales, and How to Teach Yourself SUCCESS SKILL #5: How to Invest for Success (The Art of Bootstrapping) SUCCESS SKILL #6: Build the Brand of You (or, To Hell with Resumes!) SUCCESS SKILL #7: The Entrepreneurial Mind-set versus the Employee Mind-set: Become the Author of Your Own Life
At the very least, we want to make a difference in our communities. This is what feels meaningful to us: making a difference, having an impact, living for a purpose. Yet, there’s a paradoxical aspect to “making a difference” and “having an impact.” The world doesn’t always care whether we want to make a difference or have an impact on it. In fact, it can be downright hostile to us when we try. The world doesn’t automatically open its arms to us just because we have good intentions.
The bigger the impact you want to make on the world or in your chosen field—the bolder your purpose is—the greater the risks you’re going to have to take. Which means, the greater the chance that you’ll end up making no impact at all.
I said, “Mom, Dad, look at all the basketball stars and football stars who go right from high school to the NBA, or the actors and musicians who don’t bother with college because their careers are already in motion. There have to be business stars, too, who don’t need to go to a four-year program to learn their field. If I go through four years of college, I’ll just be on a level playing field after four years—whereas now I have an advantage. Spending four years in school means I’ll be four years out of the business world. Everything changes like lightning in the Internet world, and they’ll have caught up to me.”
These types of family dramas and arguments, in my opinion, boil down to arguments about our sense of safety versus heroism in life. Safety and heroism are almost always opposed.
People tend to feel safer and more comfortable with the known over the unknown. An “impact” is a change in course, so if you want to make an impact in your field, you’re asking people to venture into the unknown. The more of a change of course your innovation or leadership represents, the more you are asking people to abandon safety and comfort, which is not usually something they’re willing to do without overcoming a great deal of resistance.
There may be entrenched interests who are quite happy with the way things are now and who aren’t interested at all in your “impact,” thank you very much. In fact, they may say you can take your impact and shove it! Try to rock the boat too much, make too much of a change, and these people may try to oust you from the organization, community, or marketplace, or even try to harm your reputation or career prospects. Anyone who has dealt with office politics knows this. Any artist or entrepreneur who has tried to do anything innovative knows this.
If you want to become wealthy or famous, which I presume you do if you’re buying and reading a book on success, then you’re going to need to make a difference in the lives of many people. (By definition, it’s impossible to become famous, and it’s also very difficult to become wealthy, if you impact the lives of only a few people.)
Making an impact on large groups of people involves leading them in some way. Yet, seeking to be a leader is akin to seeking what economists call a “positional good.”
Those who do end up leading often achieve leadership, amass wealth, fame, or support, or make an impact on the world, largely through the effects of word of mouth. Followers/customers/fans convert other people to followers/customers/fans, who convert more people to followers/customers/fans, until a big group—which business author Seth Godin calls a “tribe”—has amassed around that given leader, company, or artist. This is how most artists, musicians, actors, writers, and entrepreneurs who become famous and wealthy do so—through the viral-effects word of mouth. When word of mouth takes off, its effects are extremely rapid and dramatic (the “tipping point” that Malcolm Gladwell writes about). Yet, word of mouth is one of the least predictable things on the planet. No one really knows what the next word-of-mouth sensation will be.
At any point in your career, you’ll usually be choosing between one path that is safer and one path that has the potential to feel more meaningful to you, between one path that is more certain and one that offers more of a chance for a sense of purpose and heroism. It’s hard to be a hero if there’s no risk involved.
But, as Randy Komisar points out in his book The Monk and the Riddle, there are also a lot of unacknowledged risks to not following your passions, of sticking too close to the beaten path in the name of safety and predictability. These include: “[T]he risk of working with people you don’t respect; the risk of working for a company whose values are inconsistent with your own; the risk of compromising what’s important; the risk of doing something that fails to express—or even contradicts—who you are. And then there is the most dangerous risk of all—the risk of spending your life not doing what you want on the bet you can buy yourself the freedom to do it later.” He told me that, a lot of the time, people put off taking any steps toward living a more fulfilling life, with the idea of “keeping their options open.” Yet, according to Randy, the idea of “keeping your options open” is an illusion. Randy pointed out to me that the words “decision” and “decide” stem from the roots “cise” and “cide,” to cut off and to kill, also the roots of many other words related to cutting and killing, such as “incise,” “concise” (cutting out nonessentials), and “homicide.” Thus, a decision is to cut off, or kill, other possibilities. “People feel like, unless they’re affirmatively making a decision, they’re not making a decision. They think, ‘How can you fail if you’re not making any decision, not cutting off any possibilities?’ The reality is, you’re making a decision all the time. You’re making a decision not to follow a path that might lead you to fulfillment.
The real question is ‘What risks are you taking by those decisions you’re not making?’
You need to capture what you do, identify it, and codify it, so it can be taught to many, many people. First teach it to a team, and then beyond.
The Art of Earning a Living is the art of finding creative ways of bringing the spheres of money and meaning together and making them overlap significantly.
You’re going to have to create a solution unique to you and your circumstances.
STEP 1: Get on Your Feet Financially
The best way to get financially stable, once you have some kind of job—any job—is to exhibit the entrepreneurial leadership values on the job
The Education of Millionaires: It's Not What You Think and It's Not Too Late (Portfolio)
STEP 2: Create More Room for Experimentation This step (and all the rest) applies to groups A, B, and C mentioned above. (Presumably those in group A are already financially stable and thus have already completed Step 1.) The next step in Aligning Your Money and Your Meaning, once you’re financially on your feet, is to create more room for experimentation. Experimentation takes time. It takes money. And it takes room to fall and to fail.
It’s just so different—and better—figuring out how to make a difference in the world and find meaning in your life when your bills are covered and you have a secure roof over your head.
If you’re working seventy-hour weeks at a corporate job, however, there will be very little space left over for anything else but that. In this case, you should begin taking some risks at work. See if you can get buy-in from your boss to focus more on results you achieve, rather than focusing on hours logged. There are some great books on how to make this transition, including Why Work Sucks and How to Fix It: No Schedules, No Meetings, No Joke, the Simple Change That Can Make Your Job Terrific by Cali Ressler and Jodi Thompson; Chapter 12 of Tim Ferriss’s The Four-Hour Workweek, titled “Disappearing Act: How to Escape the Office”; and also The Custom-Fit Workplace: Choose When, Where, and How to Work and Boost Your Bottom Line by Joan Blades and Nanette Fondas.
STEP 3: With This New Space in Your Workday, Begin Experimenting!
Seth Godin recommends this path for many people. He told me: “For fifty thousand years, humans did what they were passionate about, and then they did something else to eat. I don’t think there’s anything written down to say that those days are gone forever. We don’t have a poetry shortage. There’s plenty of poetry. No one gets paid to write poetry. If you want to write poetry, write poetry.”
STEP 4: Striking Out on Your Own (for Those Who Want to Change Careers, Become Entrepreneurs. Whatever it may be, if you want to make a living from it and leave your current job, you’re going to have to do a deep dive into the success skills in this book, particularly marketing, sales, and networking. You’re going to have to wrap your own passions, talents, and purpose—the things you care most about and are best at—in the package of these fundamental success skills.
Seth told me: “People have this idea that either you’re a cog in the machine, just working for the man, or you’re out singing onstage, making your living that way. It seems like there’s a lot in between—there are a lot of people who may not have what it takes to become the next famous musician, but who are finding ways to make money with what they care about.
“Think about this restaurant right now. It’s not really like any restaurant in New York City that I’ve ever been in. Where did it come from? It’s not here because someone made chairs or china, which are available to everyone. It’s here because someone’s putting on a show. And they’re charging many times what they would get if they were selling it from a street cart. “I’m saying that’s ‘art.’ Someone didn’t just copy it. Someone had to take various components and put them together, to create something that was worth experiencing, and sharing, and talking about. On the back of that, you can build a business that makes tons of money selling food. “The art here, the experience of seeing it, that’s free. Anyone can walk in this place, look around, get it, and leave. The souvenir part—the experience part, the owning-the-table-for-two-hours part—that’s what they make money from. “McDonald’s fooled us into believing that the purpose of industry was to churn out standardized quantity at low cost. This place reminds us that, no, there’s an alternative to racing to the bottom. And that is, racing to the top.”
I was developing a valuable set of skills. Not editing/writing skills, which were already fine. I’m talking about the success skills in this book, particularly sales, marketing, and networking.
In his book The Monk and the Riddle, Randy Komisar advises you to ask a simple question about your current mode of income: Would you be willing to do this for the rest of your life? If the answer is no—if the thought of doing your current gig for the rest of your life makes you totally depressed—then you owe it to yourself (having only one life to live) to figure out what kind of pursuit you would be willing to live till the end.
WITHOUT FAILURE, THERE IS NO LEARNING
Indeed, if there’s one single trait that sets all the self-educated millionaires I interviewed for this book apart from other people, it’s their relationship to risk. And yet, I don’t believe the people I feature in this book simply took a bigger bet than everyone else and happened to get lucky and win. Rather, I’ve seen that they have systematically and intentionally developed a style of working that allows them to take lots of small bets—bet after bet after bet after bet—all the while making sure that they don’t get wiped out of the game if one or many of them go south. In other words, I believe that for most of the people featured in this book a trait even more important than luck was resilience.
I believe this is a distorted view of entrepreneurialism. Most of the self-educated people featured in this book took pains to make sure that their “downside was not so exposed,” to use the parlance of investing: they made sure that a failed business would not mean total ruin; it would just mean a few scrapes, a few good lessons learned, and up they are again at a new one. No biggie. They are calm, relaxed, and cool about failure, not hysterical and terrified, because they view failure as necessary for learning.
Here’s where the resilience comes in. For Mike, his failure wasn’t condemnation to perpetual ruin. He started out with the assumption that life has risk. Rather than see failure as something to be avoided at all costs (as most of us see it), he instead designed his life and mind-set around the inevitability of failure and how to cope with it. Instead of viewing his first big failure as ruin, he simply decided to view it as an opportunity for an interesting change in life plans.
To be sure, they aren’t banking their entire life future on one single dream or bust (say, becoming a rock star, à la David Gilmour). But rather than never try their hand at any dream at all, and sticking to a safe-but-boring course instead, they keep trying one dream after the next, maximizing their inner and outer resilience for the inevitable failures. They fail early and often, and turn courses on a dime, until something begins to gain traction.
What makes it different from, say, a gambling addiction, is that these people are masters of making sure they stay in the game when luck inevitably turns against them. Unlike a gambling addict, they have consciously cultivated a lifestyle of resilience.
These people are not addicts of gambling; they are addicts of learning in the real world. And learning in the real world involves failure. Lots of it. “People who have been successful are still as likely to get it wrong as right going forward. They just try more things,” Mike told me. “That’s the difference.” Mike’s advice for young people who want to combine their passion with their money? “Start with the passion and the drive. You’ve got to have that hunger. From that passion and desire, go actually do some stuff. Try some little businesses. Get some failure under your belt. Find out what works and doesn’t work, and don’t worry about the failures, worry about learning.”
One of the best ways to avoid this kind of horror-story scenario when reaching for your dreams, even if your business doesn’t end up working out, is to start a service business. Usually, overhead and start-up costs are low, you don’t need to borrow a lot (or any) to get started, and you can begin generating revenue immediately. Even if the business doesn’t work out, the consequences of failure are usually minimal,
“The very best things you can do when starting a new business,” Josh told me, “are, number one, keep your overhead as low as possible, and number two, make sure you’re getting recurring revenue as quickly as possible. If your revenue is semi-predictable, you can just grow and grow based on the cash that the business is throwing off, instead of having to get investments, loans, and so forth.”
The Education of Millionaires: It's Not What You Think and It's Not Too Late (Portfolio)
In his book, which he presents as a business education in a book without the need for $100,000 of debt (http://www.personalmba.com), Josh talks about a concept called “iteration velocity.” He quotes Google CEO Eric Schmidt: “Our goal is to have more at bats per unit of time and money than anyone else.”
“When creating a new offering, your primary goal should be to work through each iteration cycle as quickly as possible. Iteration is a structured form of learning that helps you make your offering better; the faster you learn, the more quickly you’ll be able to improve.”
In a blog post entitled “One in a Million,” Seth Godin writes, “The ardent or insane pursuit of a particular [risky] goal is a good idea if the steps you take along the way also prep you for other outcomes, each almost as good (or better). If ... bending the market to your will and shipping on time and doing important and scary work are all things you need to develop along the way, then it doesn’t really matter so much if you don’t make the goal you set out to reach.” Seth continues, “Does spending your teenage years (and your twenties) in a room practicing the violin teach you anything about being a violin teacher or a concert promoter or some other job associated with music? If your happiness depends on your draft pick or a single audition, that’s giving way too much power to someone else.”
I met with Elliott and the other cofounders and executives—all in their twenties—in Miami, where they were renting a group home together. The eight of them collectively choose new cities to live in every few months, all over the world, where they meet people to invite to their conferences and work remotely via laptop and cell phone.
“I attribute my success so far, 100 percent, to the people I’ve met and learned from. It’s not even a question. [Motivational author, and college dropout] Jim Rohn says, ‘You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.’ And on a bigger picture, you are a reflection of the twenty or thirty people who give you the best advice. Everything is about people. It all starts with you surrounding yourself with great people who you can learn from.
I view life as learning. It’s all learning for me, all the time. I’m literally nonstop learning.
I read books every day. I talk to people every day. I’m always out looking for new people I can learn from.”
if you want to be successful, and make a huge impact in your life, find exceptional people to learn from, and surround yourself with them.
“This turned out to be the most significant decision in my business career—to find someone who is massively successful and go to work for him. Through that, I got into the world of marketing and sales. I discovered a lot of the past marketing and sales geniuses, like Claude Hopkins and Eugene Schwartz and John Caples and David Ogilvy, and read all of their books. I read Robert Cialdini’s book Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion, which was very impactful on me.
Eben said, “Leadership is like a fountain. Imagine the leaders are the water near the top, ready to burst out of the fountain. The water about to burst out is being pushed up by water below it. If you want to succeed, find leaders who are doing amazing things in the world, and push them up. Find powerful people and help them reach their goals. If you’re of service to them, they will be of service back.”
And, while you may hope to get something in return, you must always do it with absolutely zero expectation of getting anything in return. The vibe has to be one of giving, not taking.
Some people spend their time amassing financial capital— cash, stock, bonds—and real capital such as buildings. In turn, I’ve noticed that many people I interviewed for this book spend an inordinate amount of time, effort, and money investing in the growth and maintenance of what I’ve called “connection capital.” Connection capital is anything that can help you expand your network of connections (your “tribe,” as Seth Godin calls it), and is not significantly used up in expanding this network. The two biggest forms of connection capital are (a) your already-existing connections and (b) your ability to give good advice.
Being able to connect people to each other is a massive asset, which in turn helps grow the amount of people you know, which in turn grows your ability to connect people. Get the snowball rolling, and it may surprise you how fast it grows.
Eben says that the three areas of life the majority of people spend most of their time worrying about are money, relationships, and health.
I’m going to teach you two questions that, if you put them into use at parties, events, and conferences, will change your life forever and will grow your network faster than you ever thought possible: 1. What’s most exciting for you right now in your life/ business? 2. What’s challenging for you in your life/business right now?
(If you feel you need to brush up on your own social intelligence—including your sense of tact—a great place to start is the book Social Intelligence: The New Science of Human Relationships by Daniel Goleman. I highly recommend this book: social intelligence is something we learn almost nothing about in our formal education.)
Here are several areas where you can often give valuable advice:
MARKETING AND SALES. I have found that most people who have built their businesses around marketing don’t know jack about sales. And most people who have built their businesses around sales don’t know jack about marketing. In particular, you should learn about direct-response marketing and copywriting,
FOOD, WEIGHT, AND NUTRITION. Most people who are successful in the worlds of business and money are highly driven. And many people who are highly driven ignore their health; their success so far has come at the expense of their health. If in the course of your life and self-education you have learned to overcome your own chronic health challenges, or have achieved your ideal weight or learned a lot about nutrition, fitness, and healthy lifestyles, you’ll often know a lot more about these topics than many successful businesspeople do—particularly
SPIRITUALITY, PURPOSE, AND MEANING. If you’ve thought a great deal about the more existential, philosophical aspects of life, and have come to some personal wisdom or understanding in these areas through your own life journey, providing support in these realms is often a great way to serve people who are more powerful and successful than you are. (See Success Skill #1 on connecting with your sense of purpose and meaning.)
HOBBIES, PASSIONS, AND CAUSES. You can often connect with influential people through shared hobbies and passions. Of course, this knowledge has been keeping golf courses running for centuries. I happen to have no interest in golf whatsoever, so I’m not going to write to you about golf. But I’ve found that cultivating a wide range of cool, hip, discussion-worthy hobbies maximizes your chance of being able to share with and give to amazing people you meet.
RELATIONSHIPS. In most cases I’ve seen, there’s not much of a correlation between success in business and money, and happiness in relationships. If anything, I’ve seen a negative correlation.
You should definitely read The Trusted Advisor by David Maister, Charles Green, and Robert Galford, and Networking with the Affluent by Thomas J. Stanley, two of the best books on high-integrity, no-sleaze connecting I’ve read.
Another great resource, which adapts some of these strategies for the digital and social media age, comes from David Siteman Garland (http://www.therisetothetop.com). In his article “From Tim Ferriss to Seth Godin: How to Interview and Build Relationships with the Most ‘Influential’ People in the World,” he emphasizes the same point everyone else is making in this chapter—when you find creative ways to serve people you’d like to connect with, “ask for nothing [in return].... By doing [that], you will separate yourself from 98% of the pack.” He then outlines a specific, detailed process for finding creative ways to be of service to influencers on the Web. This is required reading for anyone interested in the topic of this chapter.
“The happier you are in giving,” self-made multi-entrepreneur Russell Simmons told me, “the more people are excited to be around you. You become ‘sticky.’”
However, if you start out making this trade of time and elbow grease in the hope of gaining teachings, make sure you’re able to convert those teachings quickly into connection capital (i.e., into a network of connections and the experience that allows you to give valuable, high-impact advice, thereby providing more value to your network, drawing in more connections).
For a simple reason. Relying on time and elbow grease and service as your main form of giving—potentially valuable as these gifts may be—severely limits your scope of giving. There are only so many hours in the day, and so many hours of elbow grease you can give before you conk out. In twenty-first-century business parlance, this form of giving is “not scalable,” or “not highly leverageable.” They reach their upper limit of scope quickly. In turn, connection capital is a highly scalable, highly leverageable form of giving.
By developing connection capital—that is, your “emotional bank account” of trust and goodwill among your already-existing contacts, and your bank of experience and knowledge from which you can give valuable advice—you can decouple the impact you make on others’ lives from the time you spend making it.
you can (and have to) learn on your own, educating yourself out in the real world: How to network and connect with powerful teachers and mentors (the subject of this chapter). How to start and manage a business. How to market and sell effectively (Success Skills #3 and #4). How to lead others. How to discover your sense of purpose and meaning (Success Skill #1).
In other words, he invested his other forms of capital (sales skills, financial capital) into connection capital—the ability to help people massively in the space of two minutes just by making introductions within his network.
You begin to see what separates him from nearly all other twentysomethings, indeed, from nearly everyone else in the working world: Elliott has decoupled his labor from his capital, and focused on building some pretty amazing capital for himself: a world-class tribe of people he helps and who help him. He has become a capitalist—a capitalist of giving and service to others.
The second form of connection capital—that is, the second form of giving that can expand your network of teachers, mentors, and guides in life—is as we’ve seen, advice giving.
Steve Pavlina expresses a similar theme in his book Personal Development for Smart People: The Conscious Pursuit of Personal Growth.
Zig Ziglar, another legendary motivational speaker, author, sales trainer, and self-made multimillionaire (who dropped out of the University of South Carolina to pursue a career in sales), has said, “You can have anything you want in life, if you will just help other people get what they want.”
In Linchpin: Are You Indispensable?, which is the best book ever written on the central importance of giving within a business context, Seth Godin writes: “It’s difficult to be generous when you’re hungry. Yet being generous keeps you from going hungry.”
What Simmons and Seth Godin and Run are suggesting is that affluence is perhaps better indicated by the amount of the flow. The more value that flows in and out of our lives, the more we and others benefit, and the more affluence is generated.
One thing I see in common among all the successful self-educated people I’ve met—which is different from the way most other people think—is that they tend not to see a contradiction between living a comfortable life for themselves and helping others.
Keith Ferrazzi (http://www.keithferrazzi.com) is the author of the New York Times bestsellers Never Eat Alone and Other Secrets to Success: One Relationship at a Time and Who’s Got Your Back: The Breakthrough Program to Build Deep, Trusting Relationships That Create Success—and Won’t Let You Fail. These two books are absolutely required reading if you’re interested in anything in this chapter—two of the best books on networking and connecting ever written.
“The right way to go about it is to be generous with the person you want to connect with. And in this case, the generosity is: you tell a story. Tell a story about how you drew inspiration from their teachings and their example, how it impacted your life, and all the ways you’re passing that gift on to others now. If you move me enough with what you’ve accomplished with my teachings and how you’re serving others, then yes, of course I want to help you. I’ve helped all kinds of young people who have reached out to me with their stories of the amazing things they’ve done applying the concepts in my books. When I invest my time and effort in helping a young person, the dividend I receive in return is their gratitude, and their success.”
Whether you’re a fast-food server or a cubicle jockey in a mindless corporate shit job fresh out of college, you’re not going to create anything better for yourself unless you make a fundamental shift: from viewing yourself as a passive follower of paths other people set for you, to actively taking responsibility for creating your own path toward success, however you define it. Thus, how much education you have doesn’t really matter ; what matters is whether you make this fundamental shift in mentality.
“In the end, I learned more from him than in all of my schooling. He was a salesman, to the bone. He taught me the importance of sales. What I learned from my grandfather was, the key to making money was to cause something to get sold. Whether you sell it yourself, or you employ someone to sell it and you get some of the money. He would always say, ‘The only way to make money is to buy something at one cost and sell it at a higher cost. If you do that, and you hustle, you make as much money as you want.’ “I asked him to take me under his wing, and he taught me not so much a skill set, but a mind-set. The mind-set that was: ‘You can do anything you want. The people who are professing to be experts, telling you what you can and can’t do in life and how to do it, are just a bunch of fucking jackasses. The model that society teaches you to become successful is highly flawed.’ And he used his personal story as the example of that, because he had no education past eighth grade.
In Kennedy’s words: “The breakthrough realization for you is that you are in the marketing business. You are not in the dry cleaning or restaurant or widget manufacturing or wedding planning or industrial chemicals business. You are in the business of marketing dry cleaning services or restaurants or widgets or wedding planning or chemicals. When you embrace this, it makes perfect sense to set your sights on marketing mastery. If you are going to make something your life’s work and chief activity and responsibility, why not do it exceptionally well?”2
Whenever Cameron Johnson has started one of his dozen-plus profitable businesses, many of which he’s sold for nice payoffs, he asks a few simple questions: “What do people in this industry need? What’s bothering them, hassling them, costing them money, keeping them from getting what they want? . . . [C]ustomers with needs come along every single day. There are always people and niches with unfulfilled needs. With this approach to business, you don’t need to rely on luck, timing, or the fickleness of fads and crazes—just on your own ability to observe and create. Choose a niche, find a need, and then see what could help those people do their job better.”3
In turn, if the product or service is designed to solve a specific unsolved problem or meet a specific unmet need, and if the message is targeted well, so that you happen to be someone with that unsolved problem or unmet need, you will be happy to hear about the product or service
The Education of Millionaires: It's Not What You Think and It's Not Too Late (Portfolio)
From Henry Miller on Writing:
1. Work on one thing at a time until finished.
2. Start no more new books, add no more new material to “Black Spring.”
3. Don’t be nervous. Work calmly, joyously, recklessly on whatever is in hand.
4. Work according to Program and not according to mood. Stop at the appointed time!
5. When you can’t create you can work.
6. Cement a little every day, rather than add new fertilizers.
7. Keep human! See people, go places, drink if you feel like it.
8. Don’t be a draught-horse! Work with pleasure only.
9. Discard the Program when you feel like it–but go back to it the next day. Concentrate. Narrow down. Exclude.
10. Forget the books you want to write. Think only of the book you are writing.
11. Write first and always. Painting, music, friends, cinema, all these come afterwards.
I have become fascinated with the concept of strange loops,
Implicit in the concept of Strange Loops is the concept of infinity and I fascinated by the ideas of fugue and canon within a narrative structure. Think of the drawings by Escher.
"The "Strange Loop" phenomenon occurs whenever, by moving upwards (or downwards) through the levels of some hierarchical system, we unexpectedly find ourselves right back where we started. (Here, the system is that of musical keys.) Sometimes I use the term Tangled Hierarchy to describe a system in which a Strange Loop occurs. As we go on, the theme of Strange Loops will recur again and again. Sometimes it will be hidden, other times it will be out in the open; sometimes it will be right side up, other times it will be upside down, or backwards. "Quaerendo invenietis" is my advice to the reader." - Godel, Escher, and Bach.
I don't remember where I got the quote below, but it fascinates me.
The question arises, "Can a brain be understood, in some objective sense, by an outsider?"
Minds and Thoughts. The preceding poems bring up in a forceful way the question of whether languages, or indeed minds, can be "mapped" onto each other. How is communication possible between two separate physical brains: What do all human brains have in common? A geographical analogy is used to suggest an answer. The question arises, "Can a brain be understood, in some objective sense, by an outsider?"
“You must stay drunk on writing so reality cannot destroy you.”
― Ray Bradbury, Zen in the Art of Writing
“We all are learning, modifying, or destroying ideas all the time. Rapid destruction of your ideas when the time is right is one of the most valuable qualities you can acquire. You must force yourself to consider arguments on the other side.
— Charles T. Munger”
Click to set custom HTML
Disclosure of Material Connection:
Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”