Hey friends, I want to reach out with some tough love today. I want you to read it, though it will be hard. It will be sarcastic at times, and will pick on several ideas you’ve come to know and believe in success culture, but it will be worth it. You’ll come out ready and willing to do the work to reach your goal with a FREE, lean process or road map to get you there. It’s not rocket science, it doesn’t cost anything, and it’s not complicated. Make your friends read it, you’ll know the ones who should when you’re through. I don’t want to see you get hurt or sucked into a cyclic struggle of motivation, poor attempts, exploitation and failure. I hate seeing my friends get exploited. Bear with me through the sarcasm and tough love. If you hate sarcasm, scroll down to the process I mentioned.
I found a post-it note buried under the desk rubble in my office. It really helped me get focused and get things done. It looks like this:
No this isn’t the free formula I mentioned, we’ll get to that. I must have made this note while reading some success/motivational/blog post that talks about how-to do everything except cultivating discipline to do the necessary work to become successful. These posts often disappoint me – not for myself but for the suffering masses that get stuck on them. Society has built an entire billion dollar industry on selling you ways to trick yourself into pretending to be busy while getting nowhere. And it’s time that the truly successful people reveal the path to true wealth. Are you ready for the secret ingredient? Are you totally psyched? The secret to success, the linchpin to real wealth building is DOING THE WORK. Forgive the sarcasm, but read this and tell me if you identify with it. In return, I will outline a legitimate 6 step practice to ensure progress, growth and real productivity on your path to wealth, success, celebrity and your upcoming reality TV show.
But first…the sarcasm…
1. Are you motivated?
If not there’s a decade of your life and countless books and DVD’s to spend to get you there. Tony Robbins, Zig Ziglar, Crystal Meth…the band… all will get you wired and motivated to get things done. When you’re really amped, proceed to step 2.
2. Sell it back to the masses
If your journey from Step 1, Law of Attraction and power of The Secret, haven’t made you a millionaire yet, try selling all the junk you’ve bought to your friends or becoming a reselling “partner.” And if that doesn’t work, and you ran out of friends and family to alienate, continue to step 3.
#Pro-tip: Multi-task this step with step 1 and save your self 10 years!!!
3. Do you have ideas?
Ideas are like assholes. Everybody has them. They are a commodity. How about ideas related to your success that you yourself can do, right where you are with what you have? Got any of them? If you don’t have any, spend another decade or so exploring the Internet. Just go nuts on Pinterest, Buzz Feed, Facebook, StumbleUpon, Twitter, and jump on Netflix and binge watch The Secret, and What the Bleep Do We Know. And practice your Law of Attraction Mantra some more, until an idea comes. Oh and don’t forget to tell yourself, your friends and loved ones that it’s all part of the process, or you need to put more attractive energy out there or something…
If that doesn’t work go back to step 1, or 2, or both… OR, if you’re ready to stop screwing around, end the sarcasm and cultivate the discipline to actually get things done and succeed, proceed to this simple lean 6 step framework.
The Super Simple 6 Step Process to Ensure You Get Things Done.
The process outlined below is based on divergent exploration, convergence on a solution, then refining that solution and expanding upon it. This is a common approach to creative problem solving and business challenges as well. I find it fits for personal goals too and wanted to share that.
1. Gather ideas
Read some books. Watch some TED talks. Pinterest around a bit, but create a time-limit for yourself. Many people get stuck generating ideas to improve their lives without ever proceeding to vet, refine, or explore them in depth. You have a finite amount of time on this planet and it is unknown to you. Get yourself out of the idea rut. Spend 1 final day on an idea binge and then make a list of possible next steps.
2. Narrow down your ideas to those YOU can execute
Cross out anything you can’t do right now, where you are, who you are with, and with what you’ve got. You need to be real with yourself. Too often I see people with big dreams that are dependent on them transforming their lives completely before pursuing them. The excuse that change is difficult and major changes are harder, prevent any change from happening. Be honest and vulnerable with yourself. There are many romantic ideas and paths out there, but many of them require more time and effort than we’re able to give. That is, at least without making major compromises or sweeping changes.
Choosing from a world of infinite possibilities can be tricky – but the secret is to find a baby step. Start small and think like a tortoise.
Find that baby step, something in reach that you can do. I see many people setting yearly goals of losing 100 lbs, or making millions, when they really need to be setting smaller weekly goals, of making hundreds, or losing 2lbs.
- If your idea requires more starting capital than you have or are likely to raise, it’s probably something to shelve for later. Think about an idea or project that you can do now, that will help you grow towards that goal. Look for an iterative business model you can grow into your big dream.
- If your idea requires a lot of change across many aspects of your life, take heed. Focus on one of the changes and focus on that in the near term. Learning to juggle, while learning to sing, playing the piano, and becoming a lawyer, while exercising more to lose 30lbs, may be pushing it. In fact, for most people, a good starting point is simply getting more sleep, or making it to the gym at all.
- If your idea requires a lot of learning time, you might want to reign in your goals to something smaller with a more immediate payoff. If you’ve suddenly decided to become a doctor, lawyer, or nurse, try and make your way through a book on the subject. Read a book from a day in the life of, or real stories from your chosen category. If you can’t commit to reading one book prior to spending a fortune on school, you might want to gut check your resolve to pursue the goal in the first place.
- Feel free to defy the odds and prove me wrong. By all means. However, if you fail, if your wings melt, come back to the ground and consider making a year long commitment to smart, small growth. It’s lower reward, lower risk, but higher return. What I mean by that, is you set yourself up for a higher likelihood of meaningful growth and success without taking on a major financial and psychological risk.
DON’T get attached to ideas that exceed the capabilities of your budget, body, and ability. As you struggle, and if you fail, you’ll likely beat yourself up over and over again, and then likely give up. These kinds of mind games can sabotage your growth for years.
DO pair down your list of ideas to those that you can do right now. Prioritize that list, by eliminating the stinkers that might be too ambitious as a starting point.
3. Converge on your best idea.
Hint: Your best idea is usually the one that you can execute on your own without a billion dollars of investment or crowd funding. Write down the things you’ll need to do to make it happen. These may be tasks or projects. Early on it’s difficult to know the difference but its important to keep a road map, printed and visible to keep you on the right path.
Convergence is hard stuff. It requires that you leave a lot of other good and valid ideas on the shelf.
Converging on one idea or goal is a Good News/Great News Scenario. The good news is you’re on your way to doing more than talk about your latest aspiration. The great news is, if you fail, you’ll have a library or list of other good ideas to come back to and try next. So say goodbye, and shelve the others so you can increase your focus and chances of success. It may not be goodbye forever. You’ll always have
If you don’t converge on that one idea and commit to it, if that plane leaves the ground and you’re not on it, you’ll regret it. Maybe not today. Maybe not tomorrow, but soon and for the rest of your life.
- Find a guide, mentor or trusted adviser and ask for their perspective. Remember that they have only a perspective and may not have perfect insight into the situation, but they can also help guide you to growth.
- Be cautious of friends and loved ones who struggle with the thought of your progress. There are many people who don’t consciously wish you harm or suffering, but they don’t want to see you move on, or grow, often out of fear that they will feel less than you or distant from you. Sometimes they don’t make the best advisers.
- Keep it real. Be cautious of allowing your spirit animal, past lives, alien ancestors, or gods, godesses, or God speak for/through you. Odds are, it’s you consciously or unconsciously BS’ing yourself from underlying fears, or unmet needs.
4. Do the Frickin Work
Yes. It’s to the point where some good willed individual, needs to swear and curse and remind the world that to be successful, one must actually do the work.
The work is elusive. The work is harder than it seemed it would be when planning it. The work often takes longer than you thought. That doesn’t make it any less necessary. Don’t jump to second guessing if the work is necessary or not. It is. So lean in, put on your frog-eatin bib, and hop to it.
What is the work exactly? Well, long ago you wrote down what the necessary jobs were that needed to get done, in order to get you from A to B. Conveniently, that list often disappears and gets buried somewhere. Even more conveniently, in its absence we are now armed with a delightful excuse to avoid doing the work. If you can’t find the work, start by taking your hands off your eyes.
The work is the 20% the 80/20 people are talking about.
It’s the MVP (Most Valuable Part), and the VIP (Very Important Process) on your path to success.
There is no work-around for the work.
Ambitious yet weak-willed people avoid the work like politicians avoid commitments. So many people try to work-around the work. It looks something like this:
A project that involves a report with a visual aide due in two weeks
The Necessary Tasks:
1. Write the report (AKA the meatiest part of the work)
2. Create the visual aide (AKA the fun part)
What Most People Do:
1. Create a shopping list for materials to create the visual aide
2. Start a committee to decide what kind of visual aide to create
3. Research on the web, get lost on Pinterest, pour some wine and pass out
4. Read books and watch videos related to creativity
5. Argue about which colors and tools to use
6. Read books and watch videos about color theory
7. Get distracted on Facebook and Instagram
8. In an all-nighter attempt, write a half-assed report
A few points here:
- If this sounds like an episode of your childhood, or childish, it is. It’s sad, but amounts for what many consider “hard work,” or a “day’s work.” It’s not that valuable to the purpose or goal, thus, not much of work at all. Furthermore, we live in a global community where others work very hard on the meaningful parts of the work and grow happier, healthier, and wealthier for doing so. Are you putting in a genuine effort with focus on the activities that will determine your success? Or are you getting lost in what most people do? Newsflash: Most people are not successful. Most people do not achieve many of their goals. Most people avoid the work and whine about their circumstances. Don’t sit idlely to count yourself among them
- Maybe someone tricked you into believing that showing up with a smile and some glitter is enough to create value that the world will crave. The truth is, it may be enough to get you started, or possibly earn you a friend or two who are attracted to sparkly objects. However, it’s not enough to make you a billionaire, and eventually you’ll come face to face with real work
- People who care about their success know that the most important task is the real work. That is, the activities that are essential to the desired end result. The rest is mostly window dressing and the mental masturbation based on the idea that we can have fun the entire time and “get stuff done.” It’s true, it’s just that much of that “stuff” is not meaningful. In hard economic times, those doing the window dressing activities are the first to get cut from the team. Are you holding yourself accountable to do the real work?
If so, good for you, let’s rock and roll on to step 5.
5. Review & Refine
The first time you do something all the way to completion, you can probably make a list of 100 things not to do if you had to do it all over again. Make that list. Also, find ways of repeating your efforts. This ensures you can refine them. It’s important to streamline, to make them easier, cheaper, and to make them better. You can come out with a:
- Better plan or process
- A list of the right parts/ingredients/elements/people
- A list of possible, likely better parts/ingredients/elements/people
A smoother ride, a faster finish, a shinier shine, and on and on. There’s always room for improvements and when it comes to you, you’re worth the extra effort.
Success can teach you as much if not more than failure. Even after successful outcomes, I often note things that did not go according to plan, or things that I could do better. I don’t do this to shame or guilt trip myself, but to remember what to do next time. I get a lot of grief from people who mislabel me as cynical in the face of success. Don’t listen to these types. Don’t aim for perfection, but don’t settle for mediocrity either. Aim for precision. Aim small. Miss small.
Life does not hand out trophies for attendance or participation. Those activities simply afford you the opportunity. You must act and perform to truly achieve your goals.
Check Your Expected Time Requirements at the Door
Despite the highlight reel we see in the movies, Tony Stark did not create Iron Man in 4 minutes, not even in his own fictional world. Steve Jobs didn’t light a fart in the garage and suddenly become a billionaire. It took a lot of time, hard work, refinement, a discerning mind, and persistent attitude.
If everything went up in smoke, it’s important to understand what went wrong and pinpoint the failures. Even if you will never do anything like it again, pinpointing the failures will ensure that you hold yourself accountable for the precise things within your control, without taking on the guilt of the factors beyond your control.
Start again, refine your efforts and repeat them. Maybe they can be applied to the lives of others, maybe to your own, maybe to your job, or adjacent industries. Look for opportunities to leverage your experience and new found success, and keep growing. The commitment to this process will continue to bring you opportunities and increase your momentum.
Why all the Tough Love?
Sometimes, a bucket of cold water is exactly what you need to wake you up. It’s abrupt, rude, angering, but it certainly can do the trick. The ambitious goals most people set for themselves come with heavy price tags of time, effort and attention. They require discipline, discernment, creative grit, tenacity and a love of the game to see you through. Many haven’t cultivated the necessary skills yet. They are exploited for their ambitions by people who pretend they want to help them, but what they really do is sell them anything, promising an easy path, to help them avoid the idea of real work. It’s a coping mechanism for a crappy life. There is an alternative: Do the work, grow, and help others escape the cycle.
Feel free to point out additional areas that I missed, or got wrong, or share your war stories with me. I love to hear them.