What’s all the fuss about habits?

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Aristotle said, “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.” Your value isn’t determined by what you know it’s determined by what you do.

All the little things you do or don’t do cumulate, compound, and create who you are. They also determine what you achieve.

One author put it this way: “You are at this point in your life because of the way you have treated every ‘today’ for decades. You will never change your life until you change something you do daily.”

If you keep some kind of journal, you might start tracking your habits. Write down the things you do (and fail to do) during the course of your day.

Some habits are good. Some are bad. And some are neither good nor bad, except for the fact that they use time and energy that might be used for something else.

Note your good habits and look for ways to do them more often or for longer periods of time. Look for ways to improve the way you do them and, therefore, the results they bring.

Note your bad habits and look for ways to eliminate them, do them less often, or neutralize them by changing them in some way.

Note your habits that are neither good nor bad. The potential time-wasters. Look for ways to do them less often or for shorter periods of time, and find positive habits to replace them.

Because you are what you repeatedly do.

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Is your cat too thin?

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The last time my daughter was in town she commented on how much weight our cat had lost. My wife and I didn’t see it. Maybe he was a little thinner but not that much.

But we were wrong. Our vet confirmed that the cat had lost too much weight. (Change of food and other measures and he’s back to normal now.)

Why was our daughter able to see that the cat had was too thin and we couldn’t? We couldn’t see his gradual loss of weight because we saw him every day and our daughter didn’t.

We were too close and couldn’t see what was right in front of us.

I want to make the case for periodically taking a step back from your routines and changing up what you do. When you interview a new client, for example, instead of following the same checklist in the same order, mix it up. Ask the questions in a different order or ask different questions.

You may be surprised at what you find.

The same goes for anything you do habitually. Your exercise routine, the way you do research, the way you arrange your desk or the desktop on your computer.

When you always do the same things, and you always do them the same way, you can get stale and miss things.

Change your routines. Change the people you hang out with. Change the way you drive to work.

Change your perspective and you may see things you no longer see (or have never seen).

Your cat’s health may depend on it.

Change your marketing habits

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Failure is an option

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Nobody likes to fail so most of us tend to avoid doing things we’re not good at, things we’ve failed at before.

Thomas J. Watson, the founder of IBM, said that’s the opposite of what we should do:

“Would you like me to give you a formula for success? It’s quite simple, really: Double your rate of failure. You are thinking of failure as the enemy of success. But it isn’t at all. You can be discouraged by failure or you can learn from it, so go ahead and make mistakes. Make all you can. Because remember that’s where you will find success.”

I don’t think he meant we should literally increase our “rate” of failure, meaning the percentage of mistakes or failures. I can’t see how intentionally doing worse would help us to become more successful. I think he meant we should double the “number” of failures, meaning the number of times we “attempt” things we’ve failed at.

The more attempts we make, the better we get. We’ll rack up more failures but each failure brings us closer to success.

What are you avoiding that you’re not good at it or don’t like it but know you need to do?

Instead of avoiding these things, increase your knowledge, work on your skills, and forge ahead. Screw up more, embarrass yourself more, bitch and moan more, and eventually, you’ll have a breakthrough.

Because failure is an option and it’s not a bad thing.

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How to conquer fear

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Fear is a bitch. It stops you from doing things you need to do and things you want to do and it makes things you do more difficult.

I’m not talking about big scary stop-in-your-tracks kind of fear. They don’t crop up that often and when they do, it’s often better to give in to them. If you’re afraid of sky-diving, for example, don’t do it. Do something else on your bucket list.

No, I’m talking about micro-fears, little nagging worries that make you avoid situations or people, doubt your process, procrastinate, abandon half-finished projects, or move so slowly that you miss the opportunity.

You may not see what these fears do to you because they are small and familiar but they add up and make for a poorer quality of life.

What can you do?

You can do more research. You can delegate the task. You can do something else that makes the original task unnecessary or easier. Or you can get someone to do “it” with you–yep, hold your hand as you take your first steps.

I’ve done all of these at various times in my life. I’m sure you have, too.

But there’s something else we can do to defeat our fears or to get the thing done despite them.

Do it anyway.

Dale Carnegie said, “Inaction breeds doubt and fear. Action breeds confidence and courage. If you want to conquer fear, do not sit home and think about it. Go out and get busy.”

Easier said than done? Maybe. But here’s something that can make it easier.

It’s called “the five-minute rule”. Whatever it is that you’re avoiding, do it for just five minutes.

You can do just about anything for five minutes. When you do, you will have done the hard part–you got started, and getting started is the antidote for what ails you.

How to get better at delegating

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Regrets, I’ve had a few

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I’ve messed things up more times than I can remember. Failed business ventures, bad investments, lost cases and clients, lost friendships. I think about these from time to time but I don’t dwell on them because while you can learn from the past, you can’t change it.

I’ve heard that most people think about their past 3 times more often than their future. That’s a waste of time.

Instead, I try to focus on the future. The projects I’m working on, the things I want to accomplish, where I’m going instead of where I’ve been. I get ideas and inspiration from the future I plan to create and the impetus to move forward.

You may wonder why I don’t focus on the present. Why don’t I get my “zen” on?

Because if things aren’t going well presently, what good would it be to think about that? Feel bad about my mistakes or shortcomings? Beat myself up for letting it happen?

Nope.

There’s no value in feeling guilty about your past or your present. Besides, the present is only a moment away from being the past and you have to let that go.

If things are going well, I acknowledge this and enjoy the moment, but no matter how good things are they can always be better and that (in the future) is where I put my attention.

Let go of the past and the present. You can’t change them, you can only change your future.

See you there.

Here’s the formula for creating a better future

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You don’t know what you don’t know

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There are things you know, things you don’t know, and things you don’t know you don’t know.

Think about your practice. You know how to draft a document or pleading, you know how to introduce yourself to a fellow professional and tell them what you do, you know how to talk to clients about referrals.

And if you don’t know these things, you know you should. Not knowing presents you with the opportunity to learn and grow.

“Don’t be intimidated by what you don’t know. That can be your greatest strength and ensure that you do things differently from everyone else.” – Sara Blakely

The things you don’t know you’re missing may present your greatest opportunity for growth. That’s why it’s important to continually learn, to study what others have said and done. One idea, one better method, could change everything.

But there’s another benefit to not knowing what you don’t know, although you might not always see it that way.

Not knowing about all of the risks and potential problems that might occur when you take action might be the very thing that allows you to take that action. If you knew everything that could go wrong, you might stop in your tracks.

Is ignorance bliss? Sometimes. Probably more than we know.

Get paid more, get paid faster. Get the check

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Sometimes, you’ve got to break the chain

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Routines are a good thing. You always know what you’re going to do and by doing it regularly, you get good at it.

Exercise, taking your vitamins, drinking water–check. Reviewing your todo list and calendar in the evening to prepare for the following day–check. Opening a file, preparing a pleading, posting to your blog–all made easier because your routine helps you do them without a lot of extra thought or effort.

I have an app I use to record my daily walks. I check off the days I’ve done them (and record my steps in another app), because I don’t want to break the chain. (Search: “Seinfeld, don’t break the chain” if you’re not familiar with the concept.)

Last week it was hotter than Hades. Even early in the morning. I missed a day’s walk. Then I missed another.

I broke the friggin chain! (Don’t worry, I started a new one. All is well.)

I’m walking earlier now. BC (before coffee) if you can believe it. I see a different crowd of walkers, runners, and dogs, the light is different, it’s quieter, and I get my walk done early. I seem to have more day.

It’s too soon to tell for certain but walking earlier may be a game changer for me. I probably wouldn’t have done it if the weather hadn’t forced me to.

Anyway, I got to thinking that sometimes, we should intentionally change our routines. Just for the hell of it. A new routine provides fresh stimuli for our brain. It can lead to ideas and improvements. It keeps things fresh.

I’ve never been a morning person. Never started my day without coffee. If I can do this, who knows what I can accomplish.

Do you know any professionals? Here’s how to get them to send you business

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Too smart for my own damn self

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I’ve been working on a project for a long time. A very long time. Longer than I should.

It’s been that way because I nitpick. I ask too many questions, I consider too many options, and I worry about too many things that could go wrong.

I see others who have done what I want to do who don’t suffer from my affliction. I’m stuck in the planning stage while they’re off doing it. They might make mistakes but they recover and carry on. Me? No mistakes, but no results, either.

Does any of this sound familiar? Do you have projects that aren’t getting done because you’re still researching or planning? Are you too smart for your own good?

Sure, when you and I finally get around to doing things we do them well. We’re smart and we execute well. We just don’t execute enough.

Years ago, I took three years to create and publish my first marketing course. It was great but I wonder if I could have finished it in a few months instead of a few years.

I think I need to dumb things down. Think less and do more. Get something done and get it out into the world.

Notice I said “something”. Not everything. Not the whole enchilada. Just enough to get some results or feedback, to let me know if I’m on the right track.

How does one do that? By breaking the project into components and then setting an impossible deadline for the first one. Don’t give yourself a year, give yourself a month.

Maybe you ask yourself, “What would [someone we know or know of] do?” or “What would I do if I only had six months to live?”

Anyway, if you’re like me, I feel ya. Just wanted to let you know.

Here’s all the planning you need for marketing your services

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Remain calm and carry on

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Bad stuff happens. That’s actually a good thing because without the bad there can be no good.

Embrace the bad!

Okay, maybe not embrace it. Acknowledge it and let it go. Because if you don’t, you’ll just make things worse.

“Life is thickly sown with thorns, and I know no other remedy than to pass quickly through them. The longer we dwell on our misfortunes, the greater is their power to harm us.”

― Voltaire

How do we quickly pass through our misfortunes?

Here are some (positive) options:

  1. Ignore it. Many problems, perhaps most, have a tendency to resolve themselves. Put the problem in the closet and get on with other things.
  2. Distract yourself. If the problem really bothers you, occupy yourself with a new project or something you love to do. Remain calm, carry on, and let your subconscious mind find a solution.
  3. Do something. Try anything. If it doesn’t work, try something else. You may not solve the problem but you’ll feel like you’re doing something, which is better than feeling helpless.
  4. Get help. Share the problem with someone who knows something about the issue and can offer advice or assistance. Or share it with someone who’s a good listener and can help you think things through.
  5. Write a check. If you can throw money at the problem and fix it or lessen the impact, bite the bullet and do it. It’s only money.
  6. Surrender. Let the problem do what it’s going to do. The pain will pass.

Worry is useless. It can only make things worse. So don’t go there.

Blame is useless. If it was your fault, accept it, without rancor or guilt. If it was someone else’s fault, learn something from the experience and move on.

Complaining is useless. And annoying to everyone within earshot.

Resistance is useless. The more you fight the problem the bigger its hold on you. Do something or let go and take your medicine.

Count your blessings. No matter how bad the problem, if you’re not dying, you have a lot to be thankful for.

The formula for getting more clients

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Ripping the bandage off slowly

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What do you do when you have to do something you don’t want to do?

We’ve been taught to rip the bandage off quickly and get it over with. The pain will only last for a moment. Pulling it off slowly is worse.

That’s usually good advice. But not always.

I’ve started a project I’ve been putting off for years. I’m getting rid of books in my home office, closet, garage, and at our storage facility. I hate it. I love my books. But it has to be done.

Thinking about carting off my prized possessions to the library bookstore in one fell swoop has caused me to avoid doing it. But I’ve kept that particular bandage on my finger for too long.

But, rather than doing it all at once (and getting it over with), I’m doing it slowly. In stages.

The first pass was easy. I removed books that are outdated–old software manuals, for example, books related to business ventures I’m no longer involved with, and books I’ve never read and know I’m never going to.

Second pass (which I haven’t started yet) will be to pare down what’s left. This won’t be too difficult because I will know I don’t yet have to make the hard decisions.

The third pass will be tougher. I plan to remind myself that, “If I ever need or want this book, I can buy it again.”

How many books will I keep? That will depend on how much room I have left on my shelves. I’m committed: No more boxes, no more garage, no more storage.

I’ll get it done. I have to. Tripping over books, dusting books I haven’t looked at in years, storing books I used for projects 20 years ago, just doesn’t cut it anymore.

Anyway, I thought I’d pass this along to you in case you’re a book lover and need to make room somewhere (maybe for new books!), or in case you have anything else you need to do but don’t want to.

Instead of waiting for referrals to happen, make them happen

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