There is a lot that comes at us in life and business. We seem to have problems and things impacting us from all angles. Many times, we ALLOW these things to affect us and we waste a lot of time and energy on them without getting a resolution. We spend our precious thoughts and time worrying about these things.
There is a principle from a wise Stoic that gave a great approach to living a good life. His name was Epictetus. Born a slave in 55 AD, he was granted freedom due to his superior intellect and became a mentor to noblemen and emperors. His most important work was in The Discourses which influenced many leaders to come, including Marcus Aurelius. He boiled things down to a fundamental rule and truth which says, "There are certain things you can control and certain things you can’t control, and you must know the difference."
A lot of people have written about this over the years and expanded greatly on it and Epictetus' writings. Years ago, I was introduce to his principles and the 3 C's. I cannot take credit for the 3C's although I did adapt them and change them a little over the years. Here are my 3C's to handling the problems of life and living better.
Think about those for a second and how true they are. I love the simplicity of them.
There are things we can control in our lives and things we cannot. Why waste time on things you have no control over? Focus on what you can control and do it well.
For those things we cannot control, we can recognize them and their impact or potential impact on us, and cope with them. Not dwell on them. Simply cope with the fact they exist and there is nothing we can do about them and move on to the things we can control and impact.
Lastly, concentrate on what counts and matters. We cannot be distracted or derailed by the things we cannot control or have no sway over. Instead, we must ask ourselves what really matters and what makes the most difference that is in our control and concentrate out efforts there.
If you follow the 3C's, you will find that you will have less stress, be more productive, and ultimately live a better life. Start putting them into action today!
Last week, my long-time business partner, Erik Mueller, celebrated 25 years as an entrepreneur. I have been fortunate to have partnered with him for over 15 of those years. During that time, I have seen him grow tremendously into a great leader and CEO. I think we have learned a lot from each other along our journey and Erik shared some of his best thoughts from his 25 year entrepreneur career last week. Here is what he shared.
25 Years later, and I am working from HOME again… WTF?
As you all know, I have a strange sense of humor.
My letter of resignation to WorldTravel Partners (Now BCD Travel), had my final day of work as March 31st and my first day of being an Entrepreneur was April Fool’s Day, 1996.
It was a few weeks before they were really sure I had quit.
It feels like yesterday, but I definitely have some scars to prove it’s been a long, hard and rewarding journey.
I lived in fear for many years as I grew as a leader. I wanted to make sure everyone was happy all of the time, I sacrificed everything for the customers and staff. My relationships with my wife and child were tested continuously through the first 10 years as I poured everything into growing a business from scratch.
Knowing what I know now, would I go back and do things differently? NO.
Everything I did, right or wrong, put me where I am today, and I couldn’t be happier.
Did I learn some valuable lessons? Heck YES!
There are 5 critical things I learned and got right as I evolved over the past 25 years and I would like to share these things.
#1) Ask For Help
So many people have lifted me up along the way. I would not be where I am today without the help of others.
#2) Put others first
I worked for clients for free, I asked a lot of questions, I sacrificed my salary, I dropped everything when someone needed my help, I worked for days on end to meet a deadline, I paid others before I paid myself (breaking the cardinal rule) and made sure the customers and employees always knew I heard them and would do whatever it took to meet their expectations.
#3) Happy Employees = Happy Customers (Everyone Wins)
“The customer is always right” is a myth and a dangerous attitude to have.
Having happy employees means being a leader and saying NO to customers and opportunities some times. The customer wants what is best for the customer, but that is not always the same as what is best for the company as a whole. Good employees sense what is right and wrong and when their input and advice is ignored, it creates a toxic environment and this reflects in their work and interactions with the clients.
#4) Hire well
Continuing the theme of Happy Employees, a few years ago, we were struggling as a business with very high growth and we were hiring anyone we could find to fill a seat for a number of years.
Eventually, we decided to make Trish our full-time HR person and invested in consultants to teach us world-class interviewing, hiring and onboarding skills. This changed our business overnight for the better. Most companies our size don’t have dedicated HR, but I think it’s probably the most important role for any company of any size.
We found that bad players brought everyone down, and killed culture and respect in the organization. We now take our time to find the perfect fit of skills, personality and desire.
#5) Don’t Freak Out
Bad things are going to happen. Things are going to get worse. Someone’s going to get pissed off.
Nothing makes a situation worse than losing your cool. You can’t think when you are freaked out.
We’ve always joked that our #1 RULE is don’t freak out and our #2 rule is don’t freak out… and these two rules have served us well though the Dot Com bubble burst, 911 tragedy, the financial crisis/recession and Covid-19.
The next 25?
I don’t think I could be any more pleased than I am right now.
Are we growing as fast as I would like? NO, are we doing everything I want to do? NO.
I am proud of what “I” built? What makes really proud is that “I” didn’t build it, I just started it. This team, my friends, my family built this company and continue to make it great.
That’s probably the most important lesson I have learned.
Thank you ALL for your time and commitment to each other and the customers we serve. You make me a better, happier person.
We are all always looking for ways to succeed at higher levels and be more productive. But, what if I told you the best way to do this every day was to stop working.
That's right. The best way to reach higher levels of success and productivity every day is to STOP working - for a short while.
Most people work continuously through the day and many times don't have that much to show for it. The reason this happens is because we can only focus and work for so long at a time. We need to take breaks to let ourselves recharge and be able to re-focus. Otherwise, we get what is called the "Law of diminishing returns." It is an old economic principle that states that after an optimal level of capacity is reached, every added unit of production results in a smaller increase in output. Basically, once you are performing at an optimum level, the longer you continue to less productive you will get.
This is why we need to take "re-charge breaks" throughout the day. For me, this is 10-20 minutes where I get away from my desk and office and do something non-work related. Sometimes, its a short guided Yoga or meditation session. Many times, it is taking the dog for a walk or just playing with him throwing his stick or ball for a little bit. It really doesn't matter what it is that you as long as every couple of hours, you take a re-charge break.
Putting this into practice daily will make a tremendous difference in your success and productivity. A re-charge break helps you to get energy and oxygen in your system, clear your mind so that you can focus better when you come back, and be at your best.
Try working 1-2 of these into your day where you step away and forget about work for 10-20 mins and see the difference it makes for you!
The pace of business today is fast. There is no way around it. Things move at a blistering pace and entrepreneurs need to be able to move fast, react quickly, and seize opportunity.
This also lends to multi-tasking and moving quickly from one thing to the next. I am as guilty of this as anyone. But when people depend on you to not only be fast, but to be right, it is important to make sure you don't move too fast.
What do I mean?
You have to move fast in today's world, but you also need to keep your attention to detail and make sure that your work and what you are delivering is solid and good. Moving too fast can lead to sloppiness, especially when multi-tasking. This happens because our mind gets stretched across all of the things we are moving through and doing. We tend to move too fast and forget critical, important items or miss details that are important. This hurts us down the line.
So, how do we combat this?
First, we must understand that we need to move fast, but recognize when we are moving too fast and slow ourselves. Second, we have to be careful not to multi-task, or at least focus on no more than 2 things at a time. And when we are doing a task, we need to be present and focused and not be thinking about the other tasks or items we need to do next.
One trick I've learned to center myself during these fast paced periods of work and day to day needs, is to just stop and take a deep breath. Then take a moment just to think through the task and how to deliver the best outcome. After doing that, block out distractions for just a few minutes and concentrate on what it is you need to do. This little 30 second exercise will help you to still be efficient, but better focused, and give you the ability to achieve better results in your work. Try it today!
I was on a call the other day with a large client. It was a big group of people discussing solutions for the future for the client. I know for many that selling and servicing clients via Zoom or virtually is newer to them during these times, but over a decade ago, I took my companies virtual and have been selling and servicing clients that way for a long time.
During the meeting, as the client spoke and talked about the future and their needs, I immediately could "sense" the way the meeting should go and how we could further help them. While others on the call were asking questions that really repeated what the client had just said, I listened and felt the client's needs and the beginning or their frustration as they repeated some things. Working virtually is hard, even if you can see people. It is not the same as sitting across the table. And, if people are just on audio, it is even harder. This is why you have to hone your skills in how you actively listen to voice inflection, tone, things like a sigh here or there, even a deep breath.
After a couple of minutes of back and forth with the group, I spoke up and simply and clearly articulated what I thought, based on their feedback was the best solution. And I brought in other people on the call, that hadn't seem to get what they client was saying yet, and helped them to understand how their skill and what they do could help accomplish the goal for the client. After another 10 mins of discussion and having some fun thinking about bigger possibilities, everyone was on the same page and excited about what we could do together,
One of the most important skillsets anyone can develop, for business and life, is the ability to "sense" others in the moment. This means sensing their feelings, quickly understanding voice tone and inflection, body language - and then being able to empathize where needed and find understanding. I wish I could say there was a magic formula on how to do this, but it really comes from experience. To get good, you have to actively listen and be on high alert to sense the different ways of communication and then figure out find the "sweet spot" in which all parties can succeed. As you do this more and more, you will be able to almost intuit what is needed and work across multiple parties simultaneously to reach the best outcome.
Learning to "sense" others and in business, "sense the customer" may be the most important skillset you can build and foster in your company.
Have you ever read the book, "The One Minute Manager Meets the Monkey?"
If you have, you know where I am going in this short post. If not, it is a great read. The book is essentially about how distractions and problems of others can and will become yours if you are not careful.
The essence of the book is about how to say no, delegate, and empower - because it you don't, everything will end up on you. For example, if an employee comes to you with a problem and because you are busy and don't to really want to deal with it, but know you can do it quickly and get back to things - you take it on from the employee to get it done. You have essentially been given "the monkey" and trained that person that they can dump their problems and issues, their monkeys, on you and you will handle them.
This happens all of the time in entrepreneurship. In fact, entrepreneurs are the worst at this. Because we have so much going on and most of the time as high functioning individuals, to stop and take the time to coach someone and empower them to solve their own problem is not something we do by instinct. It is much easier just to take it on ourselves. What is one more thing, right? Wrong. We have to learn to say no, delegate, and empower. Otherwise, the business it just us and cannot scale or survive long term. If you have to do everything, things will eventually break down.
The same thing happens to middle managers, which is what the book is about. They essentially, get saddled with everything and end of working long hours and get burned out. As entrepreneurs, we seemingly have an unending reservoir for work, but that is not healthy. We can and will get burned out.
So, the next time you are being given a monkey. Stop it. Take a little extra time to say an outright no, delegate or most importantly, empower and coach your team to grow and handle these things themselves. If you do, you will find yourself much more successful, have a better quality of life, and have a better business. Get rid of your monkeys!
There is a secret to success passed down through history. It has been right in front of you your whole life. In fact, you have either used it to your advantage or disadvantage over the years.
I can tell you this - this success secret has impacted your in some form or fashion throughout your life.
What is the secret?
That which your focus on expands in your life...
The Bible stated is as "That which you gaze upon, you will become." Also in the Proverbs it was stated "As a man thinketh in his heart, so is he."
Confucius said, "The more man meditates upon good thoughts the better will be his world and the world at large."
And Tony Robbins has said, "Where your focus goes, energy flows."
I can continue to point out this theme throughout history, but I think you understand. What you focus on expands in your life and success.
So, the question becomes, What are you focused on? What if you started every day by asking that question of yourself? And based on the question, what if you could then choose what you are going to focus on in your life that will make your life better? Or the same in business or your work? What can you choose to focus on that will help your success in business or your work the most?
The big epiphany for me was not the realization that "Which you focus on expands in your life and success," but the fact that you can choose your thoughts to focus on. And if you can choose your thoughts to focus on, you can have a bigger control over your success and results in your life. So, choose your thoughts. Choose them wisely. And focus, focus, focus.
Every Sunday, I have a routine. It's a simple routine that I have done for over 15 years and it has probably been one of the biggest factors in maximizing my productivity. The routine takes 15 mins to do and can change everything for you.
The first thing I do, is take 5 minutes to clear email out from the previous week. I go through and clear anything that has already been worked on or delegated. I keep a post it for notes and make any notes actions or items I need to do from clearing the email or anything that is left.
Next, I go through my calendar for the last two weeks and look at all my meetings. I do this to make sure there isn't any follow up or actions needed that I may have missed. I write anything down on the post it note.
Once I've done this, I take out a sheet of paper and open my calendar for the coming week. I create 5 columns across the sheet of paper (one for each day of the week). I then go by day and write down all of the things I have to do for that day and what time any meetings are. I write down everything I am going to do, even things like "working out" or "mediate for 10 mins." Literally, everything I will do for that day. I look at the post it note of items that I've jotted down that need action and I add them in to the days that make the most sense to action them. For example, if something is more urgent , then it goes to Monday or Tuesday, something less urgent, later in the week.
Once I am done, I have my week planned with all the action item I need to take each day. I then simply wake up each day and get to work. I then look at it at the end of each day and do any planning for tomorrow. If I finish everything for a particular day and have more time, I can work on anything for the next day and so on.
Taking just 15 minutes to do this plan each week has increased my productivity to levels I never thought possible and allows to get everything done across all my businesses in a normal work week. Try and see the difference it makes for you!
There are a lot of ways to analyze your business. Some are very complex and require a lot resources. Others are pieces of software you can input data into and get results. You can also hire firms to go in-depth to analyze every aspect of your business.
But, there is one older, tried and true, method you can use that will make a big difference every time.
That method is the SWOT analysis. SWOT stands for strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats. The threats are probably the easier part of the analysis to identify and the opportunities are the fun part where you get to brainstorm and think about about the future. Understanding the strengths and weaknesses are probably the most important part - and strengths can lead to opportunities and weaknesses can lead to threats.
Over the years, I have used SWOT to analyze every business I have been involved in and used the results to help plan and reach my success. During that time, I've developed a little spin on how to get the best strengths and weaknesses as I feel they are the most important part of the analysis.
You've probably heard me talk on the Misfit Entrepreneur about the DCP Formula which stands for Discipline, Consistency, and Persistence. Now, I think everyone would agree you need those to succeed. But, what do they really mean? Discipline is doing the things you know you need to do, even when you don't want to do them. Consistency is being disciplined each and every day. But, even if you are disciplined and consistent, you will still hit walls or major roadblocks. And if you are not willing to be persistent in overcoming them, then that is where you stay or plateau.
So, how does this translate to SWOT. Well to figure out your strengths and weaknesses, you use DCP across every area of the business. For example, look at operations and ask these questions. What does discipline for this area look like? One you have it defined, ask, are we disciplined? If you are disciplined, they you can more to consistency and ask are we consistent in this area? Based on your answers to those questions, you will know if that area needs more work or not and could be a strength or a weakness. But, what if you find your are disciplined and consistent in an area, but it doesn't seem to be performing as well as it should? That is where persistence comes in. Is there a major roadblock or wall that is in the way preventing this area from being better? If so, what is it? An opportunity may be to persistent through and finally do what is necessary to overcome it and level up.
You can look at every area of a business with DCP and use to help in the SWOT analysis. Using these two philosophies together creates a very powerful and easy way to analyze a business. Try it out on your business today!
This won't be a longer post, but definitely an important one to share.
I just finished another James Rollins Sigma Force book. I love Rollins. He blends science, history, facts all together to create amazing stories where over 90% of the things presented are true and the storyline is built around it. His books are basically Mission Impossible meets Indiana Jones. The Sigma Force series has 16 books and over the last year, I have been devouring them one by one, getting lost in them and going on one hell of a ride after another.
I have noticed that having this escape has really helped my productivity, introduced me to new concepts, and made me a better "thinker" as it has created more curiosity - especially when reading about of the things that are true, which Rollins puts at the end of each book. In fact, some of the things that already happening across AI, Biosciences, and other technologies are downright scary. Most people don't even know they exist. And it has help me as entrepreneur to see new opportunities I never thought existed.
If you don't have a place to "get lost" in from time to time, I'd suggest you look for one. You'll be amazed at how much it can do for your success. To escape and learn new things, new ways of thinking and new concepts expands the mind. It helps you to discover more and understand more about the world we live in.
If you want to succeed at higher levels, I'd suggest you "get lost!"
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