Consistency… the key to Long Term Positive Impact

My Strava 2021 trophy collection

It is not what we do on our best day that will truly make an impact on the quality of our lives, it is the habit we can stick to on our worst day that will make a lasting difference.

For the last 2 years, I have joined a strava monthly 100kms run challenge every month. I have achieved it every month except february 2022.

One important lesson I have taken from this 2 year journey: the day I really don’t feel like going out and running… but somehow I get out and run anyway… these runs make the biggest difference to my life.

Consistency… on the hard days

Once or twice a week I wake up and really do not feel like putting on my sports gear and running… I wake up tired and with low energy… and all I want to do is sit in a comfy seat with an extra coffee. These days a run really shifts my energy.

Some reflections on Consistency in life

My friend Julio recently shared with me a story from his swim training. Some days the coach has them racing to have the quickest time overall. However, sometimes the coach has them swim 8 times 100 meters… and the winner is not the fastest overall… the winner is the one with the least variation between each of the 100 meter times. This training is to really encourage a focus on consistent swimming speed… not fast when you are fresh… and slowing as you tire.

This story reminded me of the importance of consistency.

On the Tim Ferriss podcast last week, I heard him speak with Neil Gaiman, the author. They spoke about habits. Neil said that the best writing is the same writing day over and over again; same place same time same process… no changes between one day and the next… an extreme focus on repeating the same day.

The other idea I loved was Neil Gaiman’s one writing rule for himself. When he is at his writing desk, he allows himself to do one of two things: write, or do nothing.

This rules allows his inner saboteur a choice… he doesn’t “have to” write.

Neil has learnt that the “do nothing” choice can be appealing in the short term… but it always becomes more and more boring… and writing begins to be more interesting than continued “doing nothing”.

How do you create consistency in the important habits of your life?

In my leadership programs I share 6 areas of life where you need to have good habits if you wish to live a fulfilling life.

Great Strategy without Great People is nothing

Ideas + Capital + Talent = enduring great business.

Ideas are everywhere, nothing special about an idea.

Capital is plentiful for those who have proven themselves. Today there is so much capital sloshing around looking for moderate returns.

The Scarce Resource…

Talent, true talent… is rare.

Talent isn’t potential. Talent is systematic repeated high performance over years or decades. This is extremely rare.

Potential talent looking for capital will not find it. Capital doesn’t invest in testing talent… capital invests in proven talent.

How do you become “proven talent”?

That is the question.

Deleting Instagram, Facebook and Twitter from my phone

On returning from the summer holidays, iPhone Screen Time showed that I had used my phone for over 4 hours a day.

I hated this idea. That 4 full hours each day in some way were glued to a small screen. There is plenty of facetime calls and zoom calls… but a large portion has become the mindless scrolling down through instagram in particular.

I immediately deleted instagram, facebook and twitter from my phone. I left some of the other apps that were getting a lot of use: WhatsApp, Chrome, Linkedin, Chess.com, YouTube.

It has been a week without Instagram, facebook and twitter. I have not noticed missing anything. I got a couple of emails from instagram saying “you have 3 new messages” – but I can still see instagram when I am at my laptop so it is not that I have left completely.

This week’s iphone usage…

Screen time this week is down 27% from last week (and down over 45% from my peak distraction week!)

It is still pretty high.

…and it is such a powerful distraction.

I pick up my phone to do 1 thing – make a call, send a message… and then spend 10-20 minutes doing a cycle through a couple of apps… I am addicted to deliberate distraction.

I tell myself that I have discipline. I have spent a lot of the last decade working on using time intentionally and effectively… and I am not able to cope with an iphone.

I worry for humanity.

If this distraction were making us kinder, better, more informed, more worldly-wise then this would be a gift. These distractions are not making me kinder… if anything more impatient and rude to those around me.

I have decided that I have a problem. I am addicted. I do not have intentional control over my usage of this device.

It has so many useful features that make my life better – the camera and video in my pocket, google maps is brilliant, facetime with family has been wonderful during Covid times, whatsapp allows coordination of groups and meetings… I will not be getting rid of the iphone.

I will be honest with myself and say that I am not in conscious control of my usage and I need to set limits for myself.

I don’t like admitting it, but I guess this is an addiction.

I don’t like the idea of being controlled by a little device.

…but I am not capable of using it… it uses me.

The 3 Approaches to Work

I recently heard Sadhguru share 3 ways that people approach life and work:

  1. Idiot – these people don’t enjoy what they do each day
  2. Smart – these people have created a life where they do enjoy the activity and the people that they spend time with each day
  3. Genius – these people have learnt to love what they have to do. They know how to connect all important activity to their personal purpose and make it feel meaningful.

A couple of comments on youtube suggested that this was an “arrogant statement” and that not everybody has had access to education and opportunities. I don’t believe any of these 3 approaches are necessarily only accessed through formal education… in fact I see many well educated people from wealthy backgrounds who really struggle to get out of the “idiot” category.

Another comment on youtube suggested that we each operate at these 3 levels in different areas of our lives… it may be that you are a genius in health and exercise, but an idiot when it comes to personal finances… or a genius in your professional career and an idiot as a family member.

The route to genius involves having clarity on your purpose and a set of practices or rituals to connect necessary action to that sense of meaningful purpose.

What do you think? Where do you operate most of the time?

The Ability to Pay Attention

Whats the most important human capability for the next thirty years?

The Ability to Pay Attention

To hold your attention on what you decide is important. to stay focused as it becomes boring… and to stick with something through boredom to the insights that only emerge on the other side of boredom.

Today I am waiting to receive my first dose of the Covid vaccine. The Barcelona conference center has been turned into an industrial scale vaccine delivery system. It’s well organized and I am impressed.

Line for vaccines. A thousand people. Nine hundred face down to their screens. Fifty reading a book. Fifty looking around and seeing where they are, what’s happening and who else is here.

50 years ago information was scarce. That made it give power to those that had access.

Today information is so abundant that it gives little power. It is so abundant that it has created another scarcity: The scarcity of attention.

I am reading a book gifted to me yesterday by a good friend. “Stand out of our light: Freedom and resistance in the attention economy.” The book is a thoughtful reflection on how mobile phones are impacting our lives… sometimes for the better, sometimes for the worse… but often with us being unaware of the price we are paying with our attention.

What is the true cost of an hour scrolling on Instagram or Facebook? The life I could have lived, the deep conversation I could have had, the goals you didn’t pursue, all the actions you didn’t take… all the possible yous you could have been… had you attended to those things.

“Attention is paid in possible futures forgone” James Williams.

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Reps vs Hours

What matters most in the gym? The hours you spend or the reps on the weights?

In the areas where you must be highly competent to succeed in your role: are you accumulating hours or reps?

Do you just do your job or do you spend time practicing the important skills that make you effective?

By practice, I mean “deliberate practice” – setting an intent, taking action, getting feedback, reflecting on original intent vs actual result, seeking new approaches… and repeat the cycle.

Thinking about writing is not writing. Publishing an article and listening to reader feedback is how to do reps.

Thinking about exercise is not exercise. Lifting the weights, pushing through discomfort, sweating… is exercise.

Thinking about difficult conversations is not having difficult conversations. Having challenging conversations (for you and for the other) and seeking productive conflict is how to do reps.

Thinking generates hours, but does not generate reps.

Be careful of equating hours (or years of experience) as competence.

3 Lessons on Focus from Dandapani

I first met Dandapani at an Entrepreneurs Organisation event in Istanbul in 2012, I have since met him in Boston and then helped bring him to Barcelona to spend a day with our Entrepreneurs’ Organisation chapter.

Dandapani teaches some simple but highly important lessons about awareness and our mind, and how to be intentional about your life… and in particular your energy.

Video summary from Eugene Wong on LinkedIn

Wisdom from Dandapani

  1. Winning and social approval is not the motivation of the gold medal athlete. They do it to learn more about themselves. Winning or losing is not so important, it is about knowing who you are. Failure is like an enhanced moment to learn who you truly are.
  2. Your life now is a manifestation of where you direct your energy or a sum total of where you have been investing your energy.
  3. There’s people in your life that boost your energy. There are those who are energy neutral. Be kind and detached from your energy vampires. Give the work back to them.

How to 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…

Further Resources on Dandapani’s lessons

Check out my previous videos and blog posts that were inspired by Dandapani:

Everything important in life takes time

Be Persistent. Success takes time.

Tom Peters often says that “Everything important in Life takes time”. If you can start something and get it done ASAP, it probably is not that important.

In order to plant the seeds for important things… you need to shift your time horizon to the long term.

Building trusted Relationships… takes time.

Establishing the support of allies… takes time

Listening… takes time

Thoughtfulness… takes time

Gratitude and small gestures… takes time.

Tom Peters says that 50% of your time should be unscheduled. He asks “What’s the most important thing you do as a leader?” I paused and thought… and then he answered.

Daydreaming.

Daydreaming. Visualising a better future. Allowing your ideas to flow. Seeing from a bigger perspective.

The Worst thing a Leader can do

There is nothing worst than a boss running around from one meeting to another, unprepared, arriving late, rushed, busy, frustrated, hassled.

Speed for speed’s sake is crap.

Don’t scale crap.

Great people know that the most important thing is deep, trusting relationships with good people.

The Power of Selective Ignorance

In the most recent edition of James Clear’s weekly newsletter, he shared this gem on improving your quality of life.

Be “Selectively Ignorant”

  • Ignore topics that drain your attention.
  • Unfollow people that drain your energy.
  • Abandon projects that drain your time.

Do not keep up with it all. The more selectively ignorant you become, the more broadly knowledgable you can be.

What or who do you need to start ignoring?

We cannot control how the news will make us feel, but we can decide whether to watch it or not. We cannot control how someones words will make us feel, but we can decide to spend time with people who want the best for us. Choose who and what you let into your mind.

The 3 Excuses

“You can’t free anybody else and you can’t serve anybody else unless you free yourself” 

Nelson Mandela

You are not an accident.  You are a singular piece in the giant jigsaw puzzle that is this world.  This jigsaw puzzle is not a 50 piece puzzle, nor a 250 piece puzzle…  it is a 7 billion piece puzzle.  I find it frustrating when my daughter and I put together a 50 piece puzzle and find that there are only 49 pieces.  We can’t finish the game.  The great puzzle needs your piece.  Whatever you are given, you need to pass it on with integrity, humility and generosity.

You are not a Cog in a Machine. Photo: iansand

The greatest anger is the anger at ourselves for not living up to what we know we are capable of.  Hell is not after death, hell is the moment before death when a human being looks back on all the wasted potential.

“What you can be, you must be” Abraham Maslow.

Honestly expressing yourself.

The greatest gift you can give to those around you is your own shining self belief and glorious sense of meaning in what you do.  If you don’t have it, only you can do the work to get it.  If you have it, only you can keep doing what it takes to keep it.

The opposite of love is not hate, it is apathy.  Love is not easy.  Love is hard.  Doing the work that needs to get done, overcoming the devil in me that avoids the work is the course of love.  Allowing the resistance, the procrastination to win is the course of apathy.  Apathy leads to self-hate, which builds to resentment and then is shared with others in bitterness and cruelty.

The 3 Escuses

The Resistance

Stephen Pressfield speaks powerfully about the Resistance. It is a force within each of us that stops us from doing the work that really matters.

The 3 big voices of my personal resistance are:

  1. Comparison
  2. Pointlessness
  3. Fear

The Last 5% is the Hard Part

Starting is easy.  There are no prizes for starting the marathon.  You get the medal for finishing. Most people I know are good at starting.  Few people I know are good at finishing.

The closer you get to the end, the stronger the Resistance grows.

“An artist never finishes a work, he abandons it.”

Pablo Picasso

Here are a few of many ways I bring these voices into my life to procrastinate and avoid finishing important work.

  1. They won’t let me
  2. I am too young
  3. I am too old
  4. I am only one person
  5. I don’t know enough
  6. I am not a guru
  7. This could be embarrassing
  8. This will be embarrassing
  9. This is too touchy-feely
  10. I won’t get paid for this
  11. This isn’t business stuff
  12. I have to finish the things I have already started
  13. Seth Godin has already said it better than I can
  14. I’ll do it tomorrow/later/after this coffee
  15. Who am I to think I know something special about this?
  16. I’ve got plenty of time next week
  17. I’ve got plenty of time this year
  18. I’ll do it this summer
  19. I’ll do it after the summer
  20. I need to do a little bit more research
  21. Who’s going to read this anyway?
  22. [¡¡¡ insert your own excuse here 😉 !!!!]

That’s just 21…  I have many, many more…

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