Intellectual incest

If you’re smart and work hard but aren’t reaching the levels of success you want, one reason might be that you’re not meeting new people.

You may feel you don’t have to. Or that you don’t have time. Or you prefer to spend your time with the handful of folks in your inner circle.

Let’s face it, meeting new people isn’t everyone’s definition of having a good time.

But spending all of your time with people you already know limits your ability to grow.

You and your friends or close colleagues share similar ideas. You may have similar habits and access to the same types of opportunities.

According to the Law of Association, we become like the people we associate with most, which means that your associations might be holding you back.

Sounds like I’m saying you need some new friends.

Maybe friends is too strong a word. How about some new acquaintances.

People who aren’t so much like you. People with different backgrounds and different ideas. People who can lead you to new opportunities.

You don’t need a lot. One is a good number to start with. If it’s the right one, they can lead you to others.

So, here’s the plan.

Go some places you don’t usually go (in person or online, if you must), and talk to people you don’t know.

It’s a small step but it may be a big step towards getting to the next level.

How to get more referrals from other professionals

Don’t get your panties in a festival

Life is short. And messy. It’s easy to get worked up about little things that don’t amount to a hill of beans. 

Most things don’t matter. As John C. Maxwell put it, “You cannot overestimate the unimportance of practically everything.”

So my message to you (and myself) is to let it go. Whatever’s bothering you, put it in a helium balloon and let it float away.

(That’s the image I use sometimes. You’re welcome to use it.)

A few things do matter. Maybe 20%. Maybe less. Probably less. These few things, “the precious few,” account for most of your results and are worth most of your effort.

But they’re not worth any of your worry. Nothing is, because worry is a useless emotion. 

When you feel yourself starting to worry about a problem or poor results, use that feeling as a signal to review what you’re doing (or not doing) and make adjustments.

Ask yourself, “What can I do about this?” If there’s something you can do, do it. That’s your plan. If you don’t know what to do, your plan is to find out what you can do.

And if can’t do anything about the problem? Yep. Let it go.

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A practice loaf

My wife is learning how to bake her own bread. Watching videos, trying different things, learning the ropes.

I asked her how it’s going. She’s not sure so we’re calling this first effort “a practice loaf”.

It’s okay if it doesn’t turn out okay. The next one will be better.

Remember your first client? Your first trial? Your first appeal? Knowing what you know now, you’re probably cringing (or laughing) when you think about it.

Not your best work. Your next one was better. 

Me too.

Same thing when I created my first web page, my first course, and my first book.

If you’re writing your first book or thinking about it and you’re nervous about how it’s going to turn out, think of it as your practice loaf.

Give yourself permission to mess up. Let it be bad if it wants to. You can fix it or make the next one better.

That’s why I recommend taking some of your old content and converting it into a book. Or recording and transcribing your thoughts about some aspect of your work.

It may not be your “best” book but you will have written a book. You’ll know you can do it and will have learned something about writing and publishing. If you want to, you can then write your second book.

Gotta run. A slice of bread and butter is calling my name.

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My computer ate my homework

Last night I did quite a bit of work on my laptop. This morning, when I logged into the app on my desktop, I found that the work I’d done hadn’t synced. 

Yes, I save, and yes, I have backups, but last night’s work didn’t back up. 

So, I lost a lot of work. Too bad, so sad. 

Question is, what am I going to do about it? 

That’s simple. I’m going to suck it up and re-do the work. 

I’m not going to blame the software. Phooey on that. What happened was my fault. I didn’t check a box I should have checked when I updated the software on one machine.

My bad. 

We’ve all lost work. We’ve all made mistakes, lost money, pissed off friends, alienated clients, angered judges, and embarrassed ourselves in public.

We have to own our mistakes.

If we don’t take responsibility for our lives, if we blame the software, our employees, or our elected officials, we certify our victim-hood.

Phooey on that. 

By owning our mistakes, we empower ourselves to repair the damage. As Dave Ramsey said, “If you’re the problem, you’re also the solution”.

Of course, taking responsibility for bad things that happen means we can also take credit for the good things. 

I’ll take that deal all day, every day.

This is so ridiculous I had to read it twice

I read a lot of articles and posts about a lot of different subjects. Some provide information I can use in my business or personal life, some are inspiring, some are just plain fun.

ome articles make me check the calendar to make sure it’s not April 1st.


Minimize Worry by Scheduling It Into Your Day,” summarizes an article in Psychology Today promoting the idea of scheduling 30 minutes a day on your calendar to do your worrying.

What the hell?

“Instead of letting worry distract you from your life, set aside a special time for it,” the psychologist said. “Studies have shown that scheduling worry into your day decreases anxiety over time.”

Mind you, this isn’t for people with clinical depression or an anxiety disorder. It’s for the rest of us, people with work to do, responsibilities, problems, and all the other things that are a normal part of life.

We’re supposed to validate our worries and schedule time to indulge them?

Okay, I know I don’t have a psychology degree but may I suggest another idea? Instead of scheduling time for worrying, how about scheduling time to do something about the things that worry you?

If you’ve got money problems, for example, set aside 30 minutes a day to work on ways to increase your income or reduce your expenses.

Isn’t that simpler and more logical? Isn’t that what a grownup would do?

No safe spaces, thumb sucking, jammies, or stuffed animals required.

Maybe I’m wrong. It wouldn’t be the first time. But you know what? I’m not going to worry about it.

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A message for sole practitioners, introverts, and misanthropes

Contrary to popular belief, I’m not a hermit. I like being around people. But like most introverts, I can only handle so much of that before I get antsy or fatigued or ready to scream.

I can speak on a stage in front of thousands. But for personal communication, I prefer one-on-one or small groups.

Also, I usually prefer to work alone.

Not always, not for everything, but given most of the projects I am involved with, my preferred way of working is to do most of it myself.

No committees, no groups, no partners, no second opinions, just me and my lonesome. At least until I’ve taken it as far as I can, or as far as I need to, and it’s ready to hand off to someone else.

Does this resonate with you? If so, you might be a kindred spirit. I’d give you a hug to welcome you to the club but I’d rather just send you an email.

Anyway, the point isn’t that introverts or extroverts are better or more successful. Based on what I’ve seen, it’s a tie. We are equally successful, but for different reasons.

The point is that no matter which way you swing, as an employer or partner or member of a board, it’s important to understand how others prefer to work so that we can give them what they need to do their best.

If you’re an extrovert, understand that if we don’t want to meet with you or work directly with you, it’s nothing personal. We’ll get back to you when we’ve done our thing.

If you’re an introvert, understand that while we do well working alone, there are times when involving others lets us do even better.

As the well-known African proverb says, “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go with others.”

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How to stop being a perfectionist

Are you a perfectionist? Sometimes? About some things?

Yeah, me too. 

Trouble is, our perfectionism causes us to spend more time on a single task than necessary, to the detriment of our other responsibilities. We get fewer things done and are often miserable as we struggle to do them. 

Perfectionism is a bad habit. Fortunately, habits can be changed. Or rather, replaced with a better habit. 

When I’m involved in a big project like creating a major presentation or writing a book, the weight of the task and my innate tendency towards perfectionism often lead me to procrastinate.  

No bueno

When I find that happening, I repeat a mantra. “Progress, not perfection,” I say to myself. It reminds me to keep moving forward and gives me permission to create a terrible first draft, because I know I can fix it later.

Another thing I might do is schedule a deadline. “No matter what, I’m going to finish the research for this thing this weekend.”

It helps when I share that deadline with someone who can hold me accountable. 

Finally, when I find myself pushing to improve something that’s already good, perhaps editing a draft for the 27th time, I remind myself that I’m not getting any younger and I have all these other things I want to accomplish. 

Does it work? Sometimes. But sometimes is better than never.

Anyway, I don’t think any of us can ever stop being a perfectionist. All we can do is get used to the idea that done is always better than perfect.

How about you? What do you do to combat perfectionism or procrastination?

What do you do when you don’t know what to do?

You have a problem. An unanswered question. A big decision to make. You want something but don’t know how to get it. 

What do you do when you don’t know what to do? 

Here are five ways to figure that out:  

(1) Research  

Let’s start with the obvious: Sometimes, you just need more information. More facts, more ideas, more examples to look at and sift through. Learn more about the problem, the risks, and the options. Let what you find dictate the best course of action.

That’s where I usually start. You too, I’m sure. But sometimes, more information doesn’t help, it leads to more indecision. 

(2) Write it out (e.g., in a journal) or talk it out (e.g., into a recording app) 

Sometimes, the answer is already inside us, we just need to give it a voice. Speak or write your thoughts, your ideas, your fears, your questions. Get them all out of your head. 

What do I want? Why do I want it? What will it do for me if I get it?

Is there another way to get that? What information do I need to know? What skills do I need to develop? What are my strengths? Who is doing/has done what I want to do?

If that doesn’t give you the answer. . .

(3) Talk to someone  

Talk to a friend, a colleague, someone who has been in your shoes or someone who can be a sounding board for you and help you talk it out.  

Or, hire an expert, a consultant or coach. Someone who can advise you and help you sort through the options and make the right decision.  

Or, talk to a lot of someones, e.g., your clients. Conduct a survey, find out what they think, what they want, what they’re willing to pay for.  

Or, talk to God. 

(4) Do what you want to do, not what you think you should do  

Damn the facts, do what you want to do.  

Imagine yourself choosing different options and see how each one feels. Not the solution or result, the “doing”. Your gut will tell you which one feels right, and your gut is usually right.

(5) Do nothing

True, making no decision is making a decision but sometimes that’s the best decision. Leave things where they are. What’s the worst that can happen?

Doing nothing might give you space and time you need to let the right answer come to you. Walk away for a day or a month and come back to the question with a fresh perspective. 

Your turn. What do you do when you don’t know what to do?

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How I stay sane in an insane world

Dwight Eisenhower said, “Never waste a minute thinking about people you don’t like.” 

Yeah, but there are so many of them, says I. And so many ideas I don’t like, too. 

Truth is, unless I have a very good reason for thinking about negative things, I don’t do it. 

I’ll admit, this takes practice. It’s only natural to get angry when some buffoon says something that flies in the face of logic or tradition or denigrates someone I like and trust. Unfortunately, as someone who reads the news every day, this kind of buffoonery is omnipresent. 

What do I do? Mostly, I read or listen to people who are paid to deal with the dark side and let them summarize it for me. 

I dive in, get the gist of the story, shake my head, and go back to whatever I was doing before. I stay aware of what’s going on in the world but I don’t allow it to consume me. 

I spend little time on social media. I’ve blocked the blockheads and rarely comment, post, or share. Mostly, I check out what my daughter has been up to and peruse group posts on subjects I follow. 

If there’s someone I want to talk to, I’ll email them. 

And I keep busy, learning things I want to learn, working, reading, binge-watching Netflix, and spending time with my wife.

I also spend a lot of time thinking. 

I think about all the good in my life and the bright future that lies ahead. I think about what I want, not what I don’t want,  where I’m going, not where I’ve been.

When a negative thought intrudes on my mind, I replace it with the positive equivalent. If that doesn’t work, I distract myself and let the negative thought drift away into oblivion. 

And that’s how I stay sane in an increasingly insane world. 

How to use the Internet to make your phone ring

How to get yourself to do something you don’t want to do

Alrighty, you have a plan. You have written some goals and made a list of actions you need to take to achieve them. You’ve scheduled time during your day to do them.  

What do you do when you get to something on your list you really don’t want to do?

It happens to all of us. You feel resistance and procrastinate or find excuses for not doing it.

How do you get yourself to do things you don’t want to do?

One thing that works for me is to take the activity and carve it up into even smaller pieces. Something I can do that will only take five minutes, for example, or one simple step on a longer list. 

Sometimes, I just suck it up and do the dreaded thing anyway. If need be, I give myself permission to do it badly because there is value in crossing things off your list and because I know I can come back later and fix it. 

What if the problem persists? What if you’re trying to stick with an exercise routine, for example, or you have a big project and every time you sit down to work on it you feel like doing something else? 

Me? I bribe myself. 

My daily walks are part of my routine now but in the beginning, when I resisted getting out the door, I rewarded myself by listening to podcasts I didn’t have time for during the rest of the day. 

When I’m having trouble making progress on a writing project, I’ll do something similar: give myself ten minutes to watch a video channel I like after thirty minutes of writing.

I’ll bet you do something like this, too. 

It turns out this technique has a name. It’s called “temptation bundling”–pairing something you love to do or would prefer to do with something you’re trying to get yourself to do. 

But this is nothing new. Our parents taught us this. Remember, “No dessert until you eat your veggies” and “No TV until you finish your homework”?

Yeah, like that.

Which reminds me, now that this is done I can go get my second cup of coffee.

Marketing is easier when you know the formula