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).

2016-03-26 12.23.32
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.

pablo (15)

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?

This poem was shared by Warren Rustand during the Entrepreneurs’ Organisation Leadership Academy 2016 course held in Washington last year.  It was part of his description of why he spends so much time teaching.  I loved the sentiment expressed by Warren, and captured in this poem:

pablo (14)

The Bridge Builder

Will Allen Dromgoole

An old man going a lone highway,
Came, at the evening cold and gray,
To a chasm vast and deep and wide.
Through which was flowing a sullen tide
The old man crossed in the twilight dim,
The sullen stream had no fear for him;
But he turned when safe on the other side
And built a bridge to span the tide.

“Old man,” said a fellow pilgrim near,
“You are wasting your strength with building here;
Your journey will end with the ending day,
You never again will pass this way;
You’ve crossed the chasm, deep and wide,
Why build this bridge at evening tide?”

The builder lifted his old gray head;
“Good friend, in the path I have come,” he said,
“There followed after me to-day
A youth whose feet must pass this way.
This chasm that has been as naught to me
To that fair-haired youth may a pitfall be;
He, too, must cross in the twilight dim;
Good friend, I am building this bridge for him!”

What are you doing the rest of your life?

Here’s Warren speaking at a recent conference:

Are you living your life on cruise control?  Warren suggests this is a poor response to life.  Warren suggests that easing through life is not the right path.  We want to be “spent by the battle of life”.

Life might be more enriched by doing it a bit differently.

Here’s a blog post summary of a seminar by Warren from Marisa Levin (an EO member): http://successfulculture.com/culture-of-greatness/

Managing Oneself Drucker

Managing Oneself

Companies today aren’t managing your career. You must be your own HR guru. That means it’s up to you to identify your place in the world and know when to change course. It’s up to you to keep yourself engaged and productive. This is the premise of Peter Drucker’s 2005 HBR article “Managing Oneself”.

Peter Drucker asks some great questions the article (available as a short book).  This is a very brief summary of his article.  (The summary image above is a wonderful thing to print and keep in your notebook.)

  • What are my strengths?  Feedback is the only way to find out.  Do you have a systematic process for getting feedback on your behaviours?
  • How do I perform?  How do I learn best?  Don’t struggle with modes that don’t work for you.  (on Mastery)
  • What are my values?  “What kind of person do I want to see in the mirror in the morning?”
  • Where do I belong?  Mathematicians, musicians and cooks are mathematicians, musicians and cooks by the time they are 4 or 5 years old.  Successful careers are not planned, they happen when people are prepared and positioned for opportunities that suit them.  Knowing where one belongs can transform an ordinary person into an outstanding performer.
  • What should I contribute?  Given my strengths, methods and values: what is the great contribution to what needs to be done?  Don’t look too far ahead – 18 months is the range of good planning.  Define courses of action: what to do, where and how to start, what goals, objectives and deadlines to set.
  • Responsibility for Relationships:  Adapt to what makes those around you successful.  Adapting to what makes your boss most effective is the secret of managing up.  Take responsibility for communicating how you are performing; take responsibility for building trust
Final thoughts from Peter:  In management…
  • Success is at best an absence of failure
  • People outlive organisations
  • People are mobile and will move
  • We must manage ourselves, and help others manage themselves
  • Each worker must think and behave like a CEO

Further Reading

The Original Article is available at Harvard Business Review: Managing Oneself – Harvard Business Review or as a short book Managing Oneself (amazon).

Which question do you find hardest to answer in your own life?  I will share some resources with those that comment or email.

What do you really want?

pablo

Michael Gerber, in his book The E-Myth asks this question: What are your primary aims?

Imagine walking into a room.  You pause at the entrance.  In the room, seated, are all your friends and family. You enter the room.  You walk up the middle of the room.  At the front of the room there is a box. You approach the box. As you come closer you realise it is you in the box, and this is your funeral.

You hear people talking about your life.

What do you want them to be saying?

You have to decide.

“Ultimately, man should not ask what the meaning of his life is, but rather must recognize that it is he who is asked. In a word, each man is questioned by life; and he can only answer to life by answering for his own life; to life he can only respond by being responsible.” Viktor E. Frankl

If you want to live an incredible life and achieve amazing things, you have to decide.  Nobody ever stood on the summit of Everest and said “oh wow, this is a surprise.”  It was a vision years before it became a reality.

Living an incredible life is no accident. I have to start knowing what I want to achieve. I need to be clear on who I need to become in order to achieve what I want. And then I need repeatedly to take action, even when I am plagued by doubt.

“A human being is not one thing among others; things determine each other, but man is ultimately self-determining. What he becomes – within the limits of endowment and environment- he has made out of himself. In the concentration camps, for example, in this living laboratory and on this testing ground, we watched and witnessed some of our comrades behave like swine while others behaved like saints. Man has both potentialities within himself; which one is actualized depends on decisions but not on conditions.” Viktor E. Frankl, from his book Man’s Search for Meaning

Do you know what you want?

You don’t find time, you make time.

“Expect anything worthwhile to take a long time.” Debbie Millman*

pablo (3)

Anything worthwhile should take a long time.  The myth of overnight success is just that… a myth.  Acorns take time to become great oaks.  Nothing that comes easily will feel worthwhile, but I chase the quick fixes and the rapid results.  There is no other path than committing to the hard labour of the path.  A mountain climber uses his own strength to reach the summit, he knows that a helicopter and a parachute does not count.

I find myself so often searching for a few more facebook likes, rather than writing and rewriting chapters that put my ideas into an improved form.  I need to remind myself that hard work on what matters is both rewarding in and of itself, and the only real path to somewhere worthwhile.

*I found this quote over at Maria Popova’s brainpicking blog.

9 Reasons Why You Are Stuck

  1. You don’t have a compelling enough vision
  2. Your habits aren’t serving you
  3. You haven’t invested in improving yourself
  4. Poor relationships
  5. You’re cheap
  6. You’re worried about your weaknesses
  7. You’re filling your time
  8. You’re managing the wrong things
  9. You’re asking “do I feel like doing this?”

Photo: kendoman26
Stuck in a Web and unable to move, Photo: kendoman26

You don’t have a compelling enough vision

Ed Stafford walked the length of the Amazon, from the source to the sea.  It took him 860 days.  860 days hiking in remote jungle, hacking his way through mosquito-ridden rain forest.  I would have given up in the first week.  After 3 or 4 days sleeping in the mud, I’d have given up.  Why did Ed keep on going?  There was a deeper purpose for Ed.

If you have a tiny vision, then any obstacle will stop you.  If you have a deeply compelling vision of what you intend to achieve, no obstacle will stop you.  Your resourcefulness will open new paths over, through, around and past the obstacle.  Ed must have a deeply meaningful sense of what walking the Amazon would mean to his life.

Exercise: Imagine standing on top of a very tall building.  There is another building about 10 meters away.  There is a wooden plank laid between the two buildings.  What would have to be on top of the other building for you to risk your life to make the crossing?

Your habits aren’t serving you

Practice doesn’t differentiate good or bad habits.  Practice distraction: become a master.  I have returned from the summer with a tendency to check facebook several times during the day.  This habit stops me from pushing into the hard stuff.  As soon as I face a tough decision, my habit of facebook checking rears it’s ugly head.  I have practiced this habit over the last 3 months – it will take me at least a month to get back to the discipline of writing 500 words at a sitting, to take 10 minutes each morning to silently reflect on the day that is ahead.  I have been practicing poor habits.  I now need to practice better habits, and accept the frustration and annoyance of regularly falling back onto the poor habits.  I want to practice concentration.

Exercise: Identify one poor habit and create an "if-then" rule for dealing with it.  If I feel the urge to check facebook I will immediately write 100 words of content.  If I feel the urge to go to the kitchen for a snack, I will get a large glass of water.

You haven’t invested in improving yourself

My first corporate job was with Accenture.  They spend at least 2% of revenues on training and development every year.  This meant that I did an average of 12 full days of training every year.  In my first few years as an entrepreneur, do you know how much time and money I spent on professional training?  None.  I did not invest in myself.  In the last 6 years I have committed to at least 10 days of professional training each year.

How much training and development have you done in the last year?  How much have you paid to get great teachers?  Have you reached out to mentors?

Exercise: Pick an area for development for 2015.  Identify 3 books you will read, 3 wise mentors you can reach out to and 1 professional training course that you can commit to attend during 2015.

Improve your Communication:  If you’ve adopted some good habits BUT feel like you need more accountability and guidance check out my online communications coaching program here: http://cono.rs/practicespeak

Poor relationships

If you want to be thin, eat your meals with skinny people.  If you want to be fit, spend your time with fit people.

If I want inspiration I have some great friends that get the best out of me: Florian, Eka, Mathieu, Brian, Stefan, David, Raul, Al, Adrian.  A phone call, and I have the desire and discipline to be the best version of Conor.

Exercise: Write down the names of 5 people who inspire you to be the best version of yourself.

You’re cheap

You don’t invest in yourself.  The world is changing fast.  You are either learning 1 hour per day, or you are depreciating your main asset – your own capacity to serve the world, your skills, your connections.  Coursera, EdX, Udemy, NovoEd, Apple University – it is accessible and online; and a quick search will find you valuable institutions in your local area.

Exercise: Pick an area you would like to improve and do an online course.  Languages - duolingo is a great app.  Programming - code.org.  History, philosophy, culture - Coursera.

You’re worried about your weaknesses

You will make mistakes.  It is the human condition.  Language learners cannot learn without many, many mistakes.  I know people who have spent years learning a language, but will never open their mouth at fear of making a small mistake.  They know that mistakes make them feel guilty.  They hate the feeling of guilt.  I hate the feeling of guilt.  Making mistakes is the human condition.  We were not born to be perfect.  We are here to learn, to grow, to become better versions of ourselves.

Japanese artists used to start by making a mistake with their very first brush stroke.  It had something to do with establishing that they were men, not gods, and that only gods could strive for perfection.  I think it is a great way of starting.  Once you have made an error, you no longer are staring at a blank sheet… and the next step is guaranteed to be better.

Exercise:  Start each activity by deliberately making an error.  I write a bad draft of a blog post first before going back and improving it.  Go for draft quality first and get it complete, then go back and look to improve the quality.

You’re filling your time

I love being busy – it allows me to ignore the anxiety I have for areas of my life that are not going well.  Tony Robbins talks about “safe problems”.  Each of us has a safe problem – something that we almost enjoy explaining showing how difficult the problem is.  You can tell when someone has a safe problem – they enjoy sharing it with you; and they hate when you try to help them solve it.  They love this problem.  They love this problem because this problem keeps them from having to deal with the bigger, deeper problem that is the real challenge in their life.  If you take away their safe problem, it is like taking away a child’s teddy bear.

Exercise:  Write a list of energy drain activities that you do.  What are the activities that drain your energy, but do not provide a clear benefit?  I ask myself "is this making me happy now or is this making my life better in the long run?"  If the answer is not an easy yes, stop doing it.  Do nothing instead.

You’re managing the wrong things

As a blogger I love seeing page views, facebook shares, retweets.  I love watching the numbers.  I love reviewing detailed statistics.  However, none of this is helping me write good content.  Good measures of that might be number of words written, or hours spent on re-writing content.

Exercise: Measure only what matters and helps and is under your own control.  Number of words produced per day is something that I control and that matters.  Number of page views or facebook friends is not something that I control.

You’re asking “do I feel like doing this?”

My emotions are ancient tools that helped with survival, but not with living a fulfilling human life.  If I am scared, my whole body and attention is directed towards urgent action that can avoid being eaten.  If I am angry, my whole body and attention is directed towards demonstrating that I am not to be messed with.

This morning I thought “I will go to the gym”…  but almost immediately another thought came into my mind “I don’t feel like it.”  I know that I will enjoy it once I am 20 minutes in, but very rarely do I “feel like” doing the important things for my health, wealth, wisdom and empathy for others.  Great ultra athletes always have some form of “I will decide whether to keep running after 1 mile” for their training.  They get out and get started each day, and after an

Exercise: when you find yourself asking "do I feel like doing this?" change it to "I will ask myself if I still feel like doing it after 20 minutes of action, then I will decide".

Living The Intentional Life

Soaring Intentionally, Photo: Tambako the Jaguar
Soaring Intentionally, Photo: Tambako the Jaguar

This final point is important.  I spend a lot of my life working on how to live more intentionally, and how to teach others the benefits and practice of living more intentionally.  This is the creation of rituals of practice in your life, and these 9 elements of being stuck tend to come from a loss of intentionality in the way you live your days.

Nobody ever climbed Everest by accident, only through intent and years of practice and influence.