I have worried for too much of my life about whether I am a success or not.

This video shares the simplest and most empowering definition of success that I have found.  It comes from Pema Chodron.  It is a wonderful reflection for me about how I am living my life.

Am I learning to forgive myself and to be a positive addition when I am with other people?

Thank you for your comments, reflections, shares and likes!

Getting out of your Comfort Zone.

I’m on a Sunday hike with Florian and his son Alvaro. We’re on our way toward the restaurant for lunch, when we find the river is overflowing and the foot bridge is under fast flowing water…  What do we do?

Are you waiting for permission? For the important things in life, there is nobody who can give you the permission that you need.

There comes a moment when you must commit even though you lack clarity.

“If you knew how to achieve it and could guarantee success: it is a task, not a dream” Alden Mills

Useful Links:

Jim Rohn had a wonderful saying: “Success is a few good habits repeated every day, Failure is a few bad decisions repeated every day”

If you are reading this via email, the video is here Success is a Few Good Habits Repeated Every Day

An apple a day keeps the doctor away. This is old wisdom but relates to success in our lives. What are your apples? Your daily positive habits? Let me know in the comments below 😉

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University of Pennsylvania psychologist Martin Seligman categorised hundreds of people into three groups based on how they pursued happiness:

  1. The Pleasant Life: People in pursuit of the Pleasant Life seek happiness by looking for pleasure. They are good at savouring the moment and making their pleasures last.
  2. The Engaged Life: People in pursuit of the Engaged Life seek happiness by working hard at their passions. They can immerse themselves so deeply in their passion that they sometimes come across as cold and uncaring of the needs of others.
  3. The Meaningful Life: People in pursuit of the Meaningful Life use their strengths to work toward something they feel contributes to a better world.

Warning for those who seek Pleasure

Seligman found that people who pursued the Pleasant Life experienced little happiness, while those who pursued the Meaningful Life and the Engaged Life were very happy.

Raul Aguirre recently reminded me of the ideas of Dr John DeMartini on the Pleasant Life path:  “We attract into our lives the opposites of what we seek”.  To seek to avoid pain, is to invite pain in.  To seek to avoid problems, is to invite problems in.

Which Path are you on?

Update: Raul has provided more detail of the life paths

Lawrence Kolhberg worked on levels of morality: he defined three stages of moral development. At LV*, we operate al Level 1 (the most primitive, seeking reward and avoiding punishment).

*LV is “Lower Values”, a Dr John DeMartini term for a life that is not dedicated to your personal HV – highest values.  When our life is coherent with our purpose and Highest Value (we don’t have to do much work to find it, just pay attention to where things flow easily for us) then all of our activity moves to a more inspired level of consciousness.

 Level 1 (Pre-Conventional)

  • 1. Obedience and punishment orientation (How can I avoid punishment?)
  • 2. Self-interest orientation (What’s in it for me?) (Paying for a benefit)

Level 2 (Conventional)

  • 3. Interpersonal accord and conformity (Social norms) (The good boy/girl attitude)
  • 4. Authority and social-order maintaining orientation (Law and order morality)

Level 3 (Post-Conventional)

  • 5. Social contract orientation (Laws that do not promote the general welfare should be changed when necessary to meet “the greatest good for the greatest number of people.”)
  • 6. Universal ethical principles (Principled conscience) (Laws are valid only insofar as they are grounded in justice, and a commitment to justice carries with it an obligation to disobey unjust laws.)

Six Human Needs according to Tony Robbins

 PERSONALITY NEEDS

  • Certainty / Comfort
  • Uncertainty / Variety
  • Significance
  • Love & Connection

SPIRIT NEEDS

  • Growth
  • Contribution

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In a 1954 speech to the Second Assembly of the World Council of Churches, former U.S. President Eisenhower said: “I have two kinds of problems: the urgent and the important. The urgent are not important, and the important are never urgent.”

jp-kantorRobert Glazer shared this simple but powerful life management tool on his blog today – Dwight D. Eisenhower’s Urgent/Important matrix.

The image to the right shows a 2×2 matrix using the two axis of Important and Urgent.  This gives us 4 types of task:

  1. Urgent & Important
  2. Urgent & Not Important
  3. Important & Not Urgent
  4. Not Urgent & Not Important

In an un-disciplined person, category 2 tends to be completed before category 3.  In a disciplined person, category 3 is completed before touching category 2.

Success is rarely Urgent

Jim Rohn gives one of the most powerful definitions of success:

“Failure is a few bad decisions repeated every day.  Success is a few simple good habits practiced every day” Jim Rohn

There is a saying “an apple a day keeps the doctor away”.  Health success is an apple a day.  Failure is a donut instead of an apple each day.  You can say “what difference does 1 donut make?”  You won’t notice the damage today, you won’t notice tomorrow… but over a year: a donut a day starts to extract a price.

The urgent is often the result of avoiding the important.

By the time the painkillers are needed, it is too late for the vitamins.

Vitamins are important.

Practice Saying “No”

If you wish to spend more of your life on the important things, and less on the urgent things, there is a tool…

Warren Buffett’s definition of integrity: “you say No to most things”.  If you are not saying No to most things, you are dividing your life up into millions of little pieces that are being given to other people’s priorities.

Learn to say “No”…

…without the word “no”.

The most powerful ways to say “no” do not involve the actual word “no”.

  • Here is one powerful way: Strategic Unavailability.
  • Another is to raise the cost of your “Yes”: If someone wants to meet for coffee, I say “yeah sure, I am free on Friday at 7am at my office in Sabadell [25 mlles away]”. If the person still wants to meet then it must be important.  90% end up not following up.  The few that do, will come prepared and have done their research.  They know what they want from me.  They know whether it is worth their time.

Celebrities and Politicians have entire staffs dedicated to restricting access.  Bono, the singer of U2, has 25 people who review requests for his time, his money, his attention in order to allow only the important requests to reach Bono himself.  Barrack Obama has a whole White House staff whose mission is to ensure that he only spends time and energy on important things, that only he can deal with.

If you don’t start developing methods of saying “no” now, it will only get harder as you become wealthier, wiser, more famous, more experienced and more resourceful.

What urgent task will you say “No” to today?

Some other great posts on Robert Glazer’s blog Friday Forward:

 

I receive a couple of regular email newsletters.  I am very strict about unsubscribing if the content is not worth the interruption to my day.

Peter Diamandis sends out an excellent email newsletter called Abundance Insider, and it is full of ideas that make me sit back and reflect on the world.  I originally met Peter Diamandis at an Entrepreneurs’ Organisation event in Istanbul, Turkey about 5 years ago.

The following comes from one of Peter’s emails and I decided it was worth sharing on my blog.

Over to Peter…

Every week I send out a “Tech Blog” like this one. If you want to sign up, go to Diamandis.com and sign up for this and Abundance Insider.

9 key lessons derived from 150 startups

This week, I had a chance to sit down with my brilliant friend Bill Gross, the CEO and Founder of Idealab.

Bill is a startup guru… to say the least.

Over the last 25 years, within Idealab, Bill has come up with over 1,000 startup ideas and started 150 companies.

This blog is about some of the key lessons Bill has learned about entrepreneurship, turning ideas into companies, investing, and helping them succeed.

What is Idealab?

Idealab is the longest running technology incubator around today.

Founded by Bill Gross in 1996, Idealab has built an incredible ecosystem optimized to ideate, start, build, and grow great technology startups.

So far, their track record is unparalleled. Of the 150 companies they launched, 45 have now gone public or had M&A activities, and 45 are still active now. And, importantly, they’ve had 60 failures.

If you’re familiar with the technology startup world, you know that typically less than 1 in 10 startups succeed.

Bill and I sat down to talk about the lessons he’s learned over the years in my Abundance 360 webinar this week, and here are my top learnings…

9 Key Lessons from 150 Startups

As both entrepreneurs and investors, take these lessons to heart. They are based on a lot of experience.

1. It’s easier when YOU are the customer.

When your startup company idea solves a problem that YOU have (and fundamentally understand), and you are the customer, it’s going to be easier to reach “product-market fit.”

YOU can be a good judge of whether you are meeting the need. Not someone else…

You can ask yourself: Am I winning at the goal that I have? Does this feel right? Would I use this thing?

If you aren’t the customer, the alternative is having to constantly ask your prospective customers for feedback – not an easy thing to do accurately.

2. If you have an idea, test it!

If you think you have a good idea, the first thing you should do is: test it!

At Idealab, the philosophy is: How do we test an idea as quickly, and as cheaply, as possible to see if people want it? In Eric Ries’ excellent book, Lean Startup, it’s called putting out a “minimally viable product,” or MVP.

Here’s the story behind one of Bill’s ‘minimally minimal’ product tests…

Bill was in the process of buying a car. He thought that the old-school way of dealing with dealerships and retail firms was painfully slow and inefficient.

His idea: people might actually buy a car online. (A revolutionary idea back in 1998.)

So he tested it, bringing in entrepreneur Scott Painter to lead the test period and, in success, to be the CEO of the resulting startup.

Within 30 days, they’d launched a simple website that allowed users to configure and buy a car with a $1,000 deposit. What buyers didn’t know is that they weren’t actually buying a real car. Idealab had not developed the relationships with the car manufacturers needed to implement.

The website was just a front to test a simple question: “Would a prospective customer actually put their credit card into a web form to buy something as expensive as a car?”

The first night, their site sold four cars. The test had worked and the test site was shut down.

That concept became Cars Direct, which, in 2004, expanded into other markets and subsequently changed its name to Internet Brands. In June 2014, the company announced that it had been acquired by Kohlberg Kravis Roberts (KKR) for $1.1 billion.

3. Create a culture that rewards killing ideas.

As I’ve discussed with regard to Google’s moonshot factory ‘X’, Idealab also believes in killing ideas quickly.

Bill explains, “We kill a lot of ideas. There is no risk to our people; nobody gets fired. In fact, people get praised when we kill something. We save a lot of money when we kill a bad idea.”

It is so critically important that this notion is ingrained into your culture – otherwise, it will never work. Reward your people for finding ways ideas won’t work before you invest heavily in them.

4. Equity unlocks human potential.

Equity is an extraordinarily powerful incentive – Bill believes everyone should have it.

All of the employees at Idealab have equity in the company, from the CEO to the receptionist.

Bill describes it as follows: “Equity unlocks human potential. It’s not only about the money, it’s about the feeling of ownership you have in a venture. When you have just a 1% stake in something, it changes the way you think about things. It incentivizes people to use their brainpower, to feel ownership in that thing’s success.”

I call this capturing “shower time mindshare.” When people feel like they have ownership in an idea, they can’t stop thinking about it. The more ideas your stakeholders contribute, the better off your chances are at succeeding.

5. TIMING is the most important factor in startup success.

This is probably one of the most important lessons from Bill’s learnings.

In fact, I wrote a whole blog on it here.

To summarize: Bill investigated how five key factors affected the success of the 125 companies in his portfolio at Idealab and 125 companies outside of his portfolio.

The factors he considered were:

  1. Quality of the Idea: How new is It? Is there a unique truth in the idea? Are there competitive moats you can build around it?
  2. The Team & Execution: How efficient is the team? How effective is it? How adaptable?
  3. The Business Model: Do you have a clear path to revenues?
  4. Financing: Can companies that raise more money than others out succeed where the others would fail?
  5. Timing: Are you too early? Just early? Too late? Right on time? Did that matter a lot?

Of these 250 companies, Bill picked 10 in each category: five companies that turned into billion-dollar companies, and five that everyone thought would be billion-dollar companies but failed.

The question: Which of the five variables accounted more for successes?

What was the MOST Important Factor? TIMING.

Timing accounted for 42 percent of the successes relative to failures.

Team and Execution came next.

You need to ask yourself: Is the world really ready for my product right now?

Bill explains, “You really need to look at the signals and be honest about what they are telling you. Go out to market – test if people want your product. If there aren’t enough people, hoard money and conserve momentum.”

Sometimes if you are a few years too early, you can hunker down and wait until the market is ready…

6. Startups don’t have to be in Silicon Valley – you can scale from almost anywhere these days.

Bill explains, “I really believe startups can scale everywhere. Talent is everywhere. Money is now everywhere. In Silicon Valley, talent is everywhere, but it’s moving from company to company. Other places are actually much more stable to start a company.”

Exponential technologies have democratized access to many of the resources you need to build a company. Great founders can build great technology companies all over the world.

7. Adaptability and flexibility are the most important characteristics of a good CEO.

When Idealab decides to pursue a new business, their greatest challenge is finding a CEO. So, as you can imagine, they have a lot of experience searching for and evaluating CEOs.

So what does Bill look for in his top candidates? Adaptability and flexibility.

He goes on, “Of course you need integrity, hard work, and smarts. But it is very much the case that the business that you start is going to be different than the one you build. If you are so obstinate and not flexible to what the customers are saying, you’re not going to succeed.”

Mike Tyson has a great quote in this regard: “Everybody has a plan until you get punched in the face.”

8. Trial Periods are great ways to test “Talent Fit.”

When hiring people, interviews are tough ways to evaluate a person’s skills, mindset and cultural fit.

Working on a project together is a much better indicator.

At Idealab, Bill says, “We really try to work with people. Sign someone up for 30 to 90 days, work on the project together, then see if there’s a there there.”

9. Passion should be the reason you do a startup.

It’s cliché now, but it’s just the truth – you have to be driven by passion or you won’t be able to handle the complexities and hard times you’ll face in building your company.

Bill agrees: “Personal passion should be the dwarfing factor in choosing a startup to do of your own. Every startup I’ve done has had heartache. You have to be so in love with the idea, with the solution, that you can tolerate almost anything to make it happen. I have no idea how you could pick a business based on analysis and not on heart.”

Join Peter

This is the sort of conversation we explore at my 250-person executive mastermind group called Abundance 360.

The program is highly selective. If you’d like to be considered, apply here. Share this with your friends, especially if they are interested in any of the areas outlined above.

P.S. Every week I send out a “Tech Blog” like this one. If you want to sign up, go to Diamandis.com and sign up for this and Abundance Insider.

P.P.S. My dear friend Dan Sullivan and I have a podcast called Exponential Wisdom. Our conversations focus on the exponential technologies creating abundance, the human-technology collaboration, and entrepreneurship. Head here to listen and subscribe: a360.com/podcast

One anecdote does not make a proof.

The danger: humans are more easily persuaded by 1 clear and concrete anecdote than by big data and expert statistical analysis.

“My friend’s brother bought a house in downtown Barcelona 2 years ago and is now selling it at twice the price!”

This statement has far more impact on me as a human than: “the real estate market in Barcelona metropolitan area has an undersupply of mid-range housing and this scarcity will result in an acceleration of asset prices”

An anecdote is a one off. It is not data. It is not science. It is dangerous.

In statistics this is called a Type I error.  In slang: “a false positive”.  More simply stated, a type I error is detecting an effect that is not present, while a type II error is failing to detect an effect that is present (Wikipedia on Type I and Type II errors)

Success Literature and Type I Errors

I just read a blog post that reported lessons from the lives of 13 billionaires. It reported that each billionaire had built their empire based on a product that they had wanted as a consumer.

I suspect if you interview 2,000 failed and bankrupt entrepreneurs, the majority would also say that they had build their companies around a product that they had wanted as a consumer.

So often, success is luck and failure is luck. However, those that succeed sell their story as a systematic managed process of step by step success, and those that fail sell their story as a perfectly executed plan blown to bits by a black swan event (I tell people I failed because of the failure of Lehman brothers and the collapse of the financial markets during 2008-2010).

I suspect that the recipe of success is “try something, if it works, do it again… if it doesn’t work, try something else… and keep going until you succeed” The determination to succeed combined with the commitment to really learn from each setback is the root of all success. Luck will adjust whether the success comes at age 25, 25 or 75.

Be careful of anecdotes. One man’s good deal is not a sustainable marketplace.

On success, there is no one right answer: You cannot learn absolute rules from another person. You cannot take the life recipe of another person. You can learn from their stories, but only you will take what you take from a story.

Seek out Stories

Tribes, civilisations and families have found that life lessons are best communicated through stories.  Stories have existed since words came to the homo sapiens.  Joseph Campbell has identified common themes through the stories of every human society – clarifying the roles we play as human beings, the struggles we face in our lives and the search for underlying meaning to the bits and pieces that make up a life.

Stories connect to heart and to head, to reason and emotion.  There is a truth to a good story that is deeper than the factual truth of the events.  When a story resonates with you, it is not because of the objective truth of the story, it is because it connects with a subjective search for truth within you.

Reading a story about story

A post shared by Conor Neill (@cuchullainn) on

Once Upon a Time in A Speech…

I tell many stories in my speeches.  It always amazes me how different individual members of the audience take their own particular meanings from my speech.   Sometimes one particular off-the-cuff comment has an oversized impact for one individual.  Each person takes what they need from a good story.

Every person’s life experiences lead to answers in this moment for that person.  We each live in two worlds, the outer world that we share with all others; and the inner world that exists inside us, and that will disappear from this world when we ourselves leave this world.  Stories connect between my inner world and your inner world.

Stop Searching for Rules

Seek out experiences, not certificates.

Seek out people, not facades.

Seek out stories, not answers.

There are not answers, only stories.

 

I recently shared a TEDx talk from Dandapani on How to Concentrate.  This is a follow up post, with 3 specific steps to improve your concentration (here Dandapani refers to it as willpower).

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Image: A recent Dandapani workshop with the EO Organisation.

3 Steps to Practice that Will Improve Your Concentration

Dandapani tells us that there are 3 steps to practice that improve our concentration:

  1. Finish that which you begin
  2. Finish it well, beyond your expectations
  3. Do a little more than you think that you are able to do

Use these 3 steps in every area of your life: from making the bed in the morning, to tidying the kitchen, to reading to your child, to writing emails, to writing blog posts…

And so, how do I do “a little more than you think you are able to do” on this blog post?…

A Little Bit More…

I could embed a tweet:

I could embed a facebook status:

I could ask a question:

Have a great day.

Success doesn’t come overnight, but neither does failure.

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We plant seeds every day, seeds of success and seeds of failure. Some seeds take years to grow – lack of exercise doesn’t grow into the tree of ill health for many decades; €100 saved per month doesn’t grow into € millions for many decades.

Today a court case finished. It relates to a business I ran years ago. I signed a loan guarantee that I should not have signed… but in the boom years of 2007-2008 it felt rude to say no to this clause in the contract… a bad decision. I had a sense that it was wrong when I was signing the deal back in 2007. Now I feel the fruits of that poorly judged seed of failure. I hope there is only one piece of fruit from that poor seed.

Most seeds require good soil and cultivation to grow. Both seeds of failure and seeds of success don’t grow without our help.

Most of the successes that I enjoy this year are the fruits of seeds that were planted years ago. People that I met years ago and have kept in contact for years, and now they ask me to come and work with their company.

The Most Important Seeds: People We Meet

I think the most important seeds of success are the people we meet. One person can change our whole life.  This idea struck me today when I read Michael’s blog post: Creating the Perfect Elevator Pitch.  His exact words:

"The beauty of life is that one conversation can change your world.  One “yes” can make all the difference.  One conversation, one introduction, one chance encounter is sometimes all it takes.  Life can turn on a dime, but you have to be willing to put yourself out there and be ready for those conversations for this change to occur." Read More...

Dwight Eisenhower was very close to formal discharge from the military when he met and impressed General George C. Marshall. That one meeting transformed his whole life. Instead of piece-work in a factory, he went on to be Supreme Commander of the Allied Forces and then a 2 term US President.  (Read the Eisenhower story here).

I wonder whether we can know who we will meet today that could have this big transformational impact on our future life? Can we know? It could be a young student in one of my MBA programs. It could be anyone. I suspect the more that I think I can identify who it will be, the more wrong I will become.

So, I guess the answer is to be open to each person that I meet today. To see them not for who they are today, but to know that in each person lies such enormous potential should they choose to apply themselves.

Who have you met today?  Who did you listen to today?