Challenge Complete: 2 weeks of blogging every day

finish line photoI talk about challenges a lot. I do them regularly. I like how they're short, hard, and full of variety. You can experience something without doing it forever. They're easy to start because they don't last that long. My only problem is stacking them on top of one another. That doesn't work.This post is the last in my most recent challenge, 2 weeks of writing. A small mastermind I'm in decided that we all needed to publish more. What better way to focus on something daily than to do a challenge around it. 2 weeks of publishing daily. My plan was to post on numerous blogs but all of the posts ended up here. I learned a few things doing it.Capturing good sources (and having them ready to use for writing)Writing is great when everything is in your head and you just have to spit it all out onto the page. I've been practicing with doing that more. No interruptions, no research, no checking, no looking for things. Just writing. It can be tough to do. You need the details from other articles and other places to be able to write accurately and make sure you get all the parts of the idea in your article. These sources have to get found at some point. Probably before you write your article. I'm trying two different approaches with this, passive and active. I'm no pro but this what I've learned playing around with blogging challenges.The passive approach is to gather things as they come across your radar. When you see a link or read an article that could be useful in an article you can save it in Evernote or something similiar. The web clipper extension for Evernote is amazing for this. You can highlight passages right on the page and tag things later. I save them to a Clippings notebook and then file and tag them all at regular intervals. It gives me a second time to read through all the articles as well. This approach can work great for a group of articles that you read related material regularly or things for a personal blog. It could be hard to get enough material for specific articles but just sitting around and waiting for the right sources to float by.The active approach is to look for sources for an article you have already started. You start the article, then go look for sources that have good information, pulling out parts you can use or quote. It reminds me to writing research essays in school. Pick a topic. Research. Write. This is probably what method you should use if you need to write specific articles or just have a headline or topic to start with. If you need to research to write an article, that time has to be factored in. I always forget this fact and sit down to write, forgetting that another chunk of time needs to be devoted to research and only then I can write something slightly intelligible.Schedule writing ahead of timeRemembering you have to write and publish an article right before you go to bed sucks. Schedule in time to write your article at some point before that. Ideally it's in the morning when you are fresh but any time during the day works. I like getting it started in the morning and finishing it in the evening. The ideas percolate over the day.PicturesI used of header images for blog posts this blogging challenge. I used the ImageInject Wordpress plugin to quickly find a photo that worked. Some of them are pretty corny. I could have spent more time finding a nicer photo but it was quick and easy. ImageInject searches through Flickr and Pixabay. There are a bunch of image search plugins out there. 2 weeks of bloggingHere's the 2 weeks of blog posts!October 21: This post!October 20: Travelling Clears Your Habit Slate (actually posted on the 21st)October 19: Find Your CuratorsOctober 18: ChunkingOctober 17: Don't Let Your Life Get Stuck In Maintenance ModeOctober 16: Where Todo Lists FailOctober 15: Trello TipsOctober 14: Becoming AwareOctober 13: Being Strong to be Useful: Being Thankful for MovementOctober 12: Goals that actually work? Base Them on ActionOctober 11: Finding Flow: Just 4% HarderOctober 10: Abundance Over ScarcityOctober 9: Being Intentional is Difficult but Worth ItOctober 8: Coffee and Ideas Meet Again

Travelling Clears Your Habit Slate

travelling photoI like travelling because it gives you a clean slate to work with.You are in a different place, sleeping in a different bed, eating different food, seeing different things and people.So much of your habits relies on your routine. You are in the same place so you do the same things. Think about what you eat and do at home. Or at work. So much of that goes out the window when you’re in a totally different place.Think about when you go on vacation and how much of your routine is the same as home? Not much.You might think that’s because it’s a holiday, it’s supposed to be different. It doesn’t have to be. You could do everything you do at home when you’re out on vacation. But you don’t.The reason it’s easier to do new things on vacation is because it’s a different place, it’s easy to do new things. You have no habits and routines set up yet.Have you ever gone on vacation to the same place twice? Did you do some of the things the same as you did the first time? Already, the routines and habits are starting to get set up. It’s much easier to kick yourself out of those routines when in a completely new place but they are still there.So what do you do when you have no routines or habits to get stuck in?Anything!Feel free to set up your life exactly how you want to.Always wanted to meditate in the morning before the day gets crazy? Do it.Always wanted to spend the morning exercising and then writing? Do it.Always wanted to making things for the morning and then exploring in the afternoon? Do it.You can. You can do anything when you travel because there are no rules about what you have to do. There are no habits pushing you back into old routines. You get to create from scratch.So go create.You can do anything you want. Make it good.

Find Your Curators

museum paintings photoThere’s a lot of information flying around these days. It’s impossible to take it all in. On blogs alone, there’s 2 million new blog posts every day.We can’t possibly do something with all that information. So how do you stay on top of new important things? How do you sift through all the junk to get the good stuff?Find your curatorsA new breed of curator has risen following the proliferation of information and ideas online today. It can be hard to find the good ones but when you do they’re a life-saver. Instead of sifting through hundreds of blogs to find the nuggets, let the curators do it for you. Many of the spend a lot of time online and are very knowledgeable in the area they’re curating. Let them do the work and you can just reap the benefits of the high quality information that’s left after they’ve sifted through.Scott Hanselman talks about one of his favourite curators who saves him a lot of time, Robert Scoble."I used to have 1,000 blogs that I would read. And then who's the greatest blog reader in the world? It's Robert Scoble, he's always talking about how many blogs that he reads. So I finally decided, 'I'm not Robert Scoble.' He's a freak, and it's not healthy to keep up on that many blogs. So you know what I do? I read his blog. So I took the thousand blogs that I read and I pick five link blogs. I found my Scobles. And I read those five blogs and they give me an aggregated news."Tim Ferriss also has a version of this practice, he calls the Low Information Diet. He also calls it selective ignorance. He’s got a whole category on his blog devoted to the topic.The gist of the Low Information Diet is that you only take in what you absolutely need to. Any information you do take in has already been filtered through trusted sources like Scoble does for Scott Hanselman.So the next time you feel overwhelmed by trying to keep up with too much information, find a curator that will do it for you.

Chunking

run photoOverwhelm happens to the best of us. In this hyper-connected world these days, there's so much going on. There's so much information coming in and we know, to the second, what every single person we know is doing, what they're buying and where they are going. It's hard not to get competitive with all these perfect "Facebook Lives" we see and push to attain all those things ourselves. That leads to one conclusion: overwhelm.We try to do everything. We try to please everyone. We try to be perfect like those "Facebook Lives" and wonder why it's not the same. Every way I look at it, it just leads to trying to do too much and getting frustrated.Many times, it's how we're thinking that needs to change so we can get a handle on doing too much and feeling overwhelmed. Sometimes those feelings will only go away when all of the work is done. If you've already committed to the work then it just needs to get done. So what do you do when you are feeling overwhelmed but still have work to do?Chunk it.Huh? What is chunking? Chunking is just breaking things down into smaller tasks. When you've got a large task ahead of you you can always break it down into smaller parts or milestones that you can do in a shorter amount of time. If you are doing a project with 10 sections, then it's easy to split that up into 10 chunks. You do one, take a break, and then move on to the next.You can chunk your email. Next time you're overwhelmed by your email, chunk it down by date or person. Search for a specific date, complete all the email from that date and then move on to the next date. Gmail is great for this, you can filter your inbox for specific dates using filters like "in:inbox before:14/01/01 after: 13/01/01". This would search only your inbox for any email before January 1st 2014 and after January 1st 2013. Only show email from 2013. You can put in any dates there if you want. Chunk down small enough so it's doable or until you have 5 or 6 emails there, then attack. Finish those 5 and then widen the filter and let in a few more. Complete those and repeat.You can chunk running too. If you're trying to finish a big run it might be hard to imagine what each of those kilometres will feel like so don't think about them until you get there. Focus on doing each kilometre, then move on to the next. I ran the 47 km Juan de Fuca trail a few years ago and all I could think about the next kilometre. Thinking 20 kilometres ahead was too much to handle.Why use it?Reduce the overwhelm. When you're working on a part of a project or run or task, you don't need to think about the whole thing. You need to think about a small part of it to work on, just enough to get you moving and working. That's rarely a lot. Running a marathon, take it on kilometre at a time. You don't need to think about the whole thing when that's just going to overwhelm and discourage you. Just think about the one next kilometre you're doing. That's it.Minimize the time required. When working on large projects, it can be easy to fall into the trap of thinking you need a large amount of time to get anything done. "I'll need 2 hours to do anything with this." It makes it hard to fit that task into your day because it's a solid chunk of 2 hours. If you can break that up into 4 or 6 pieces though, then it's much more manageable. A 30 minute block of working is far easier to tuck into your day around other tasks than 2 hours is. Or chunk again to 15 minutes.  Everyone has 15 minutes somewhere in there day to work on something.Chunk your next projectBig projects or tasks can be hard to work on when you're looking at the whole thing. When getting to work, it's far easier to start when you have a very small amount to start with and work on. Chunk it down and start on something smaller and far easier.  

Don't Let Your Life Get Stuck in Maintenance Mode

renovate photoI work in an IT office where we talk about maintenance, service level and projects a lot. Like, all day sometimes.Maintenance is the work you do on an ongoing basis. It doesn’t change much, it can be repetitive. It’s basically keeping the lights on and the email running.Service level is how much you are giving your clients on a regular basis. If you keep systems running to do email that’s one service level. If you want to give them more, you increase your service level.Projects are new things that can increase efficiency or increase your service level. They’re new things that change how you do things or what clients can do. Projects are planned, start, then end and are gone. They have a start date and an end date.This is a quick description of an IT office. But it’s a lot like your life.You have maintenance that you do every day or every week to keep things going. You eat, work and do laundry. Some of these things are literally to keep the lights running in your house by paying your bills. Some of them more metaphorically keep the lights on by feeding you, clothing you, and entertaining you.What you do each week is your service level. Those are the things that your maintenance affords you. If you want more, then you are going to get to a higher level of service. You’ll need more money, skills or people to get what you want. To get those things, you’ll need to start a project.Projects change the service level in your life. If you want to eat better then you can do a 30 day challenge (a project) to eat paleo. After that project is complete your nutritional service level will be higher. You will be eating better.If you want to get fit, then you might start a Couch to 5k program (a project). This will increase your fitness service level, you will have more energy and be stronger.This service level are what you can do. It’s not for external clients or friends or family. It's for yourself. You will feel better after taking on a 30 day project to eat better. You will have more energy if you take on a 30 day project to run 3 times a week. You will think more clearly if you finish a 30 day meditation project.If you are stuck in maintenance for the rest of your life, things will get boring fast. People stuck in maintenance will have a mid-life crisis. They get to retirement and wonder where it all went.Life isn’t meant to be stuck in maintenance the whole time. There are only so many days left.Always be planning a project. They make life worth living.

Where todo lists fail

calendar photoThe problem:There are tons of things on your to do list. You’ve written them all down. They are categorized beautifully, have clear descriptions and use verbs to describe what you need to do.But they still don’t get done.You’ve done all those things that everyone says that make todo lists magically get everything done right?Not quite.Where todo lists failTo do lists are great for dumping everything you need to do into an external brain. But that’s it.I’ve tried so many to do list apps and websites that I’ve lost count. I kept switching from app to app to app because I thought they were lacking something. I didn’t know what. I just wasn’t getting things done like I thought I would with a really good app.Turns out they were all missing a step.Thou shalt schedule everything"If it's not scheduled, it doesn't exist” ~ Marie ForleoWhen Marie Forleo says something, you listen. One of the most popular business websites on the planet right now, Marie knows a thing or 2 about getting things done. She’s worked with Richard Branson and a host of other big names.She says you have to schedule things. I would have to agree now. Cal Newport agrees as well.In Deep Habits: The Importance of Planning Every Minute Of Your Work Day, Cal says the best way to get the most out of your day is to schedule everything. You can move things around and react to changes, but open unscheduled time isn’t going to magically turn into productive work time by itself. You have to do that. By scheduling things.The missing step on all those to do list apps is the scheduling. When something exists in a list, it’s separate from reality which means it’s not going to get done. We need to bring it into reality by scheduling it on a calendar. We need to set a concrete when and where something is going to get done to make it real. We haven’t yet done it but putting into Google Calendar is as close to real as I can get before that time.That’s how many days worth of work?!?Scheduling serves another important purpose. When we look at a todo list, there’s no concept of time. That list could take 30 minutes or 8 hours. That’s a big difference. When we put things onto a calendar, we’re forced to look at how long things are going to take and when we are actually going to fit those into your life. If you have 8 hours worth of work to do, and a very busy schedule, when are you going to fit those in? That work ain’t just going to magically happen.Why schedule everything? Cal has an answer for you:"In the context of work uncontrolled time makes me uncomfortable. If you’re serious about working deeply and producing high end value, it should probably make you as well. Using your inbox to drive daily schedule might be fine for entry level or those content with a career cubicle dwelling mediocrity, but best knowledge workers view their like investors capital resource wield maximum returns.”

Trello Tips

trello photoI use Trello a lot for managing tasks for work and personal projects and just little things I need to keep track of at home. These are some of the tips I've run across that make Trello easier to use.

Trello 101

If you haven’t used Trello before here’s a quick overview.Imagine organizing a bunch of sticky notes in columns on a whiteboard. The sticky notes are tasks to do, and the columns can represent anything you want, statuses, phases of a project or something else. That’s what Trello is like.The board is like the whiteboard. You can have any number of columns or “Lists” on that board. The default lists you get are To Do, Doing and Done. Each of the columns represent a status for the “cards” that are in the list. Cards are like sticky notes that you can move from list to list depending on what status they have.When you start a task on a card, you move it from the To Do list to the Doing list. When you are done a task you move the card from the Doing list to the Done task.You can have as many lists on a board as you want. And you can have as many boards in your Trello account as you want.Ok, now you’re a pro user here’s some tips.

Tip: Use it however you want

The first thing I need to mention about Trello is that you can use it however you want. It’s very flexible and you can move cards and lists and boards wherever you want to. If you want to have all your projects on one board and view them all at the same time, you can. If you want to have all your projects on separate boards to separate them you can do that too. If you want to have a workflow that moves boards and lists from board to board, you can do that too. If you want to link from one board to another you can do that. However you want.Because you can do anything you want, all these tips are things to try, not best practices that you have to use. Try new things and keep what works for you and your projects.

Tip: Create links to other boards

In the descriptions and comments of each card, you can insert hyperlinks to other websites and other Trello boards. If you have a card that references a project on another Trello Board then you can link to it.I have a main board for all my website work that lists one card for each project I have. I move these projects around on the lists and use it as a birds-eye view of which projects have started and which have not. For all the details involved in each of those projects, I have an entire board. From my main birds-eye view board, I have links to each of the project boards. I can see the high-level status on the high-level board and when I need to see or work on details in one of the projects, the link will take me to the project board where all the details are.

Tip: Create an archived list board

Moving cards from the Doing list to the Done list is a great way to show that it’s been completed but all the cards pile up in the Done list on big projects. I’d rather not see a whole lot of Done cards but at the same time, I like keeping them around so I can look later, or find a card that’s been completed. At the end of every week, I add a date to my Done list and send it to a Done Board. The Done board is a whole pile of weekly lists of the completed tasks from each of the projects. It’s nice to see how much I’ve done. It also makes it easy to see when things were completed.

Tip: Double click to create a list

I just found this feature the other day. You can double click anywhere on the blue board background to create a new list. It will create the list just behind the list you are under when you click. If you are under your 3rd list when you double click, it will create a new list in the 4th spot by default. You can change the order of the lists if you want.

Tip: Use checklists for small items, create cards for large ones.

If a task on a Card has a couple steps that I need to remember, then I make a checklist for it. You can make as many checklists on each card if you want but the more you make the more confusing each are is. I use 2 or 3 max. Once those checklists get large and confusing, it’s time to make them into additional cards so you can track the information

Your Favourite Tips

Those are some of my favourite tips. The beauty of Trello is that there are so many different ways to use it. What are your favourite tips? 

Becoming Aware

meditate photoDuring meditation, beginners are often taught to be aware of their thoughts. To watch them arise, follow their course, and then fall away again. It's a very tough practice to get into and that's one of the reasons meditation is so hard. There shouldn't be any judgement when you come up with these thoughts, just watching them like you're floating above the thought.The first time I heard that, I thought it was crazy but when I tried doing it, when I tried watching my thoughts, instead of being active in them, it's really interesting. I still think it's a bit crazy to think about watching your thoughts in third person. I've thought many things were crazy until I saw proof so I don't really think too much is that crazy any more.What are you doing with this practice is becoming aware. You become aware of what your thoughts are doing and not participating in them but just watching them flow by like in a river. I try to meditate as often as I can (which isn't very much) and the little I have done has shown me that you can watch your thoughts at any time during the day. The more involved you are in something, the less you can step back and watch your thoughts. It takes you out of what you are doing.Watching your thoughts can take you out of flow. If flow is your goal then watching your thoughts can prevent that all-in engagement that you are looking for. Instead of highlighting yourself and watching your thoughts, you'll want to be in within your thoughts 100%. Being in flow has it's own benefits and so does meditation but they seem to be opposite in how they operate.While it's hard to be self-aware while you're in flow in those thoughts, it can be useful to come back to awareness during the day. Brendan Burchard uses a trigger during the day to tip himself into self-awareness and do a mental and physical checkin. How's your breathing? How's your posture? How's your positive thinking? That checkin requires awareness of what's happening with your thoughts. Burchard's use of the trigger of being in a line-up brings him out of his thoughts. Line-up, checkin. Line-up, checkin.These moments of awareness are great for every kind of self-improvement metric. You could create a trigger during the day to ask what you just at and how healthy was it? Or how much have you moved in the last 30 minutes? Or are you sitting up straight with proper back position.I'm a computer programmer during the day and it's extremely difficult to maintain proper posture the whole time. When you're deep in the code, the last thing you are thinking about is what your body is doing aside from your fingers. As long as you're fingers can type as fast as they can go, then who cares what the rest of the body is doing, even if it's bent out of shape and creating long term join and back issues. I'm becoming more aware of my posture while I work as well as while I walk or drive or play. My trigger has been other people's posture.One look at another person's posture now and what used to send a list of "shoulds" for that other person through my mind, now sends a trigger to my awareness HQ about my own posture. How is mine doing. Am I perfect posture right now? Probably not. Straighten up.You'd be a mess if you sat watching your thoughts all day long though. There needs to be a balance of being in your thoughts and watching them.Just don't start worrying about what happens when you become aware of becoming aware.

Being Strong to be Useful: Giving Thanks for Movement

strongman photoIt's Thanksgiving in Canada today. I'm going to add my 2 cents to the slew of other blog posts that probably came out today about what I'm thankful for. Everyone writes about that on Thanksgiving. I guess there's a reason for that.I'm always thankful for my friends and family and being born in a time and a place that affords me all the things I currently have. It makes it much easier to live an interesting futuristic lifestyle compared to 50, 100 or 300 years ago. I love playing sports but I don't think I'd make a good warrior running around on the battlefield.What I'm very thankful for recently, and this has come up a few times in the last few days, is having my health and mobility. For the most part I can run, jump, crawl, lift weights, chase the dog around, ride my bicycle and play floor hockey. And it's awesome. I love being able to move hard and fast and it certainly is a huge part of my life.At the moment, though, my back is sore from a bad landing at beach volleyball last week. I'm not moving very fast. But it won't last that long and I'll be out running, jumping and riding in no time.What being injured does show me (and more regularly than I'd like to admit) is to not take movement for granted. Never for one minute think that ease of movement will last forever. It won't. It's often one of the first thing to go when you're older. It's like your mind, if you don't use it then you'll lose it. People are losing their ability to move well at an alarming rate these days.That concern lead me to read the first story I had ever found on Methode Naturelle. Georges Hébert was an officer in the French Navy prior to First World War. He was stationed on an island in the Caribbean where a volcanic eruption threatened the lives of many people that lived there. Orchestrating a rescue, he and his crew saved some 700 people. The ordeal had a profound effect on him for one reason. Many of the people they saved did not have the fitness or the strength or save themselves or their family. They did not have the physical ability to get themselves out of harms way. Hébert would go on to form a personal motto out of the experience, "Être fort pour être utile" ("Being strong to be useful").Just reading the article in Outside magazine gave me goosebumps. After, Georges dedicated his life to spreading a fitness system based on natural movement. I believe one of the basic requirements we have as humans should be efficient movement and we have to work hard at keeping that going. Kids run around, climb trees and jump a lot. Adults should to.This idea and many others have caused me to orient my life around movement and getting a lot of it. I try not to sit still for too long. The more movement the better.We only have it for so long. Make the best of it and never take it for granted. 

Goals that actually work? Base them on action

soccer kick photo“To achieve an outcome, you have to take action, and that action should be your goal. You can’t directly choose an outcome, but you can always choose to take action.” ~ Pete MichaudAsk anyone about how to get to success or a successful life and one of the first things they’ll say you have to do is to set goals. Everyone knows to set goals but we don’t do enough or the right ones so we're not successful…. or we’re doing it wrong.I think we’re setting goals wrong.When we set goals, the first thing that comes to mind is the thing we want.We want 10,000 visitors per month to your website.We want to lose 20 pounds.We want $5,000 to pay for the trip next year.The problem with those goals is they are outcomes. Those outcomes are great to keep in mind but they are not what you should think about on a daily basis to complete your goal.You need to think about actions.Blogger and Tech Writer Pete Michaud says it best, "To achieve an outcome, you have to take action, and that action should be your goal. You can’t directly choose an outcome, but you can always choose to take action.”When you set a goal, write it down. Then ask if it’s an action or an outcome. Actions are things you can do yourself right now. Outcomes are things that happen as a result of what you do.Writing blog posts is an action. Getting 10,000 visitors per month to your website is an outcome.Running 45 minutes per day is an action. Losing 20 pounds is an outcome.Doing 1 hour extra paid client work per day is an action. Getting $5,000 to go for your next trip is an outcome.

Can you control it?

Another test I use to see if something is an action or an outcome when I’m setting goals is to ask myself if I can control it. If I can control it then it’s probably an action. If I can’t directly control it then it’s an outcome.I’m very competitive when I play sports and it’s hard to let go of fact that I can’t control whether we win or lose. Winning or losing is the outcome. I play a part in it, for sure, but a very small part. I can control how much I train and how well I play but I can’t control any other players or the weather or the referee. When I’m setting sports goals or looking how I did, I focus on what I can control. How well did I play? Did I train enough? Did I do everything to the best of my ability? Past that, it’s anyones guess as to who is going to win.So the next time you sit down to go through the goals you are setting, ask yourself if they are actions or outcomes. If they are outcomes, you’ll want to rewrite them as actions instead. You’ll be much happier with the results.

Finding Flow: Just 4% Harder

mountain bike photoIn The Rise of Superman, Stephen Kotler talks about finding the sweet spot of flow. Not too easy, not too hard. Just right.The state of flow he’s talking about is that “in the zone” state people talk about when they’re extremely engaged in what they’re doing. Creatives talk about it with writing, painting or drawing. Athletes talk about it when they’re surfing, skiing or mountain biking. Hours can fly by in what feels like minutes. It can happen anywhere and any time but there are a few requirements that have to be in place to make it happen.One of the requirements is the difficulty of what you are doing has to be just right. What does he mean by just right?I’ve heard this one called the goldilocks principle of being just right. It refers to the difficulty of the task being hard enough so it's not boring but not so hard that it’s frustrating. It’s in the zone down the middle.Of course it changes over time as you get better at what you do. As you engage in something at a level that increases your skill (not so easy it’s boring) then you’ll get better at it. That will raise the level of difficulty that you need to really engage your interest.If you are a skier that loves black diamond runs, then black diamond or a bit above that is going to be engaging for you. It’s going to require a lot of focus to not crash but it’s still a lot of fun. Where as if you were going down a green run, that’s probably way to easy for you and you’ll get bored.It can be hard to gauge where exactly you want to be so your engaged without getting frustrated. Stephen says to go no more than 4% higher than your current skill level. Any higher than that and you’re going to hurt yourself or get frustrated.I’ve been there myself. Surfing with friends that are far better than I am, they look for waves and conditions that are interesting to them. What’s great for them is going to be too much for me. I’ll get throttled in waves they have fun in. Instead of being 4% higher than my current skill level, they might be 20 or 30%. That’s going to hurt.Stephen tells his own story about mountain biking with a  bunch of pro friends. They were amazing downhill riders, flying through the trails, getting huge air and nailing everything. Stephen spent a year trying to learn and keep up but just couldn’t do it. He was just injured all the time.Taking a step back, he realized he was too far above his 4%. He started riding by himself and with friends that were at a similar level. He gained more experience that way and was riding with his pro friends within a year. He had to reduce the skill level jumps to less than 4% and then his learning really picked up.Instead of being frustrated (and injured) when he was trying to ride too high for his skill level, he toned it down and rode within his 4%. He found more flow and learned faster at the same time.

Abundance over Scarcity

healthy food photoMaking large uncomfortable changes in your life is difficult. It's awkward, it's annoying, it's frustrating.I've been trying to do it for the last couple years with various things. I want to make my life better. I want it to be as good as I can get it. I want my health and fitness and nutrition and finances and relationships all to be amazing. I think it can be done. There's so much information out there to help. But it doesn't come easy.In doing 30 Day Challenges to learn new things and adjust my expectations when I try new things, I'm always surprised at how much better it is to come at a new idea from the positive rather than the negative.This leads to the idea that thinking with abundance is better than thinking with scarcity.Huh? Let's unpack that a bit.Abundance is more of something.Scarcity is less of something.Thinking with abundance is thinking about getting more of something. Thinking with scarcity is thinking about getting less of something.Humans are great at thinking about getting more of something, not so good at getting less of something. But it's all just in how you frame it.All the productivity courses and habit courses out there touch on how to set goals and frame things so that it's easier to think about them. When they're easy to remember, you'll be more likely to do them. Positive things are easier to think about.Some examples.If I want to eat less junk food, that means more real whole, nutritious food.If I want to sit on the couch less, that means more movement and activities outside.If I want to spend less, that means more saving and actively doing beneficial things with my money.In each of those examples there's a negative part and a positive part. They're 2 sides of the same coin. The difference comes in which part you think about. Always think about the positive part because it gives you something to do.If I think "eat less junk food" over and over and over, that still doesn't give my brain something to do. It's not doing something. It's doing nothing. I can't do nothing. I have to do something.If I think "eat more whole food" over and over, that's way better. It gives me something to do. I immediately have a plan for what to eat later. Whole food. Done.Scarcity is great when you are trying to stop doing something but you have to focus on the positive part of it. Focus on what you are actually doing and getting more of.Focus on getting more healthy food.Focus on getting more quick exercise outside.Focus on creating when you have spare time.When you focus on abundance, the things you are trying to get rid of will get ignored and fall away by themselves.   

Being intentional is difficult but worth it

herd photoBeing intentional is one of the best ways to make your life meaningful, satisfying and have impact.If we drift around, letting life, friends and family make all our decisions for us, we probably have an easy life but not one full of meaning. By choosing our friends, our work, our hobbies and everything else we want to have in our life intentionally, life can mean so much more.It can be tough to be intentional all the time, having to choose everything, not just going along with what the herd is doing. First you have to choose if you are going to do something different for every difference choice, and then you have to actually decide what to do. It's time consuming and uncomfortable. It can be the last thing you want to do at the end of a long day.Here are a few things I've found make it easier.One thing at a timeAs with all habits and changes, go one step at a time. Don't try and do 10 different things at once. You'll get burnt out and give up. Being intentional is hard work. It's a lot of thinking and planning and sometimes going against the people around you. Take it one step at a time and you'll see more success.PlanningPlan ahead. If you are purely hoping that you'll be able to do what you want to do when the time comes no matter what then you might be mistaken. If you haven't thought about what you want ahead of time then you may not even know. You'll be pressured to do what the group is doing. You'll be pressured to do what society wants you to do. Having thought about it ahead of time makes it much more likely to happen.Support GroupHaving a group you can rely on to talk and ask questions is crucial. It's best face to face but there are also many online. Don't worry about not being able to find one, they are out there. You will probably have to do some digging though. The best one is probably not the first you'll find but something is better than nothing. Always be looking and keep the best groups close.AlignmentHow can you align other many activities together? If a few activities are all heading in the right direction then they might just play off each other. Often healthy intentions can build off one another. You start eating healthy because you've been going to the gym a lot and don't want to waste all that hard work. Being intentional about your health and what you eat and how much you move is a very good foundational block for your life but it can be really hard to get started. If it aligns with many other things in your life then it will be easier to keep going.Photo by cocoparisienne

You Just Need the Trailhead

Planning a hike can be a big deal. You need to know how long the trail is and how much you'll need to take. You might need a map and compass or GPS to figure out where you're going. You might need extra gear to get through obstacles like cliffs or rivers to get to your goal. When it all comes down to it though, you really only need to know one thing about the trail to start.Where the trailhead is.You can forget your gear. You can figure out where the trail goes when you get there. You can improvise when you get to obstacles when you get there. But you can't start hiking until you know where the trailhead is.There are a lot of projects sitting in my Google Docs and Evernote. I haven't started them because I don't know the way through. I don't know what obstacles I'll hit or where exactly they'll end up. But I have the one thing I need. I have the trailhead. I have the starting point in that Doc or note. I want to know exactly what path the project will take and what it looks like at the end before I even start. But I can't know.Just like Google Earth and photos on Facebook and hundreds of trip reports won't tell you exactly how you're hike will go, there's no way to know exactly how a new project will go.You can't know. That's the point.It's an adventure.And that's why we do it.

Are you drifiting, driving or designing?

At the World Domination Summit in Portland this year, Michael Hyatt took the stage and told some stories about his alcoholic father. The stories started out depressing but he got to his main point: his father was drifting through life.Michael couldn't handle the thought of doing the same himself and so set himself on a path through life that ensured he worked hard and was successful. You would call him driven.He claims that "overcorrection" from seeing his father drift through life to his own driven path was a mistake. Being driven can make you successful in the traditional sense of the word but not happy. Driven looks great on paper but someone else is actually steering. Maybe parents. Maybe society. Maybe fear. But at no point during that driven time didn't Michael ask what he really wanted.

Design it

He says there's something in the middle, something better, something called the Designed Life. The Designed Life is more intentional, more personal and more fulfilling. You work hard and achieve your goals in a designed life but they are your goals. Not your parents. Not societies. Not ones created out of fear.In order to remind himself that he's designing his life and not just blindly striving for some externally set goals he asks himself 3 questions every day.1. How do I want to be remembered?2. What is important to me?3. What single brave decision do I need to make today?

How are you living?

Are you aimlessly drifting?Are you blindly driving somewhere?Or are you making intentional choices to put the pieces you want together for your life plans and designing your life?You get to choose.

StartupNanaimo unConference

I attended the first StartupNanaimo unConference today. Like all the other StartupNanaimo or Ignite Nanaimo events I've attended, I've got so much buzzing around in my head. This post hopefully will be a bit of a recap and an attempt to organize some of the ideas I heard today. I'd love to pull together all the other recaps from the conference so comment at the bottom if you have one as well.**I'm fairly new to the startup world. I'm read a lot about it but I'm just starting to actually dip my toes into it and starting my own business. I can't say that it's a full startup. It's more of a lifestyle business at this point to test out where I want to go. Attending events like today's and talking to people like Jay helps so much in clarifying what I actually want to do.

Jayesh Parmar from Picatic

I wondered right off the bat why StartupNanaimo organizers used a new service I had never heard of called Picatic. Turns out our keynote speaker was CEO and co-founder of Picatic. It's all coming together.Jay was a great speaker and got right to the root of what it was like running a startup, what you can expect if you want to follow the same path and some tips for along the way.You can find Jay on Twitter.

Workgroups

Once Jay wrapped up his great talk we had a great lunch catered by Afresh Catering then brainstormed the topics for the workgroups that we would break out into. Being an unconference there was no set agenda to start the day, we would come up with that ourselves. We split off into our groups and would self select what groups we would want to attend.The groups ended up being

  • Sustainability and business
  • Funding and Money
  • Teams and finding the right people
  • Growth from idea to product and finding users
  • ... and another I can't remember (distribution? export?).

Big Ideas

As always there were a number of ideas that kept coming up and others that I was reminded of during the talk and workgroup sessions.

Give before you take

Giving before you take. Pay it forward. How can you help. This was the biggest theme I saw at the conference. It kept coming up in many different ways. Jay touched on it a few times during his talk of how it has impacted his life and he pushed us to use it in our lives. We wrapped up the end of the conference with a quick round of the entire room with a few sentence from every person on how they could help others in the group. It didn't matter what, just how they could help.If we are going to create something amazing here, it's not going to be alone. It's going to be with the help of everyone involved. Everyone can help in different ways but everyone can help everyone else. Things will move faster and grow bigger the more we can help each other.

Minimum Viable Product (MVP)

One of the main threads to the Growth and Starting Your Idea workshop session. Minimum Viable Product was one of the hardest things to wrap may head around when I started digging into how to create my first product. I always assumed, like a lot of other people, that the first product had to be amazing and perfect right off the bat. Some things you only get one chance. Tech is not that. You get as many chances as you need to make your product into the amazing thing you know it can be. Like Chris Guillebeau's manifesto says, it's not overnight success, it's 279 days to overnight success (or a lot longer).Related to the Minimum Viable Product is the Minimum Viable Audience. Which comes first? That seems to be a debate with a lot of people online these days.

Iterate or Pivot

Continuing along the lines of Minimum Viable Product is the question, if you start with an MVP that is so minimum you are embarrassed to show it, how do you then make that into something awesome? Iteration.Most products don't come out perfect the first time. They start in a minimum form and then builders iterate on it and make them better and better and better as they learn what works and what doesn't. Everything is just an experiment until it makes money.

Masterminds and Tester groups

I'm not sure if this was on topic or not in the Growth session but it came up anyways and it was interesting conversation. Masterminds, beta testers, test groups. How do you find people to help you grow and test your idea? How do you get feedback? How do you get people to test your product? Do you do that with a mastermind group that you meet with regularly? Are they all on the same level as you? Or do you approach a larger group and ask them to test your product? I think there's a few different goals here and maybe different groups need to be found for each purpose? What if there was a list of these groups around to help people looking find existing ones faster?

Product idea

When we were getting going, there was inevitably some technical difficulties getting the projectors hooked up to the macs. We tried multiple cords, multiple adapters, multiple macs. No use. Eventually we just exported the presentations to the windows computer that was there and working and used that. So here's the product or solution idea? Can someone fix the projector/laptop battle so they just always work together?

Apps mentioned

Being an app guy that loves trying new apps out all the time, my ears always perk at the sound of new apps being mentioned. Jay mentioned a few today.Trello - a Kanban based app for task management. Kanban is the column and card layout they use in the app. I use it for work and personal use myself and love it.Slack - I actually found this last week and wanted to give it a try. A slick team communication app. Metalab, a digital agency in Victoria, had a great story about creating the interface for Slack.Clarity - Jay quickly mentioned Clarity. I'm pretty sure he was referring to this one. On demand business advice. Cool idea.

Wrap-up

My minds still buzzing from all the talk and ideas today. Jay wrapped up at the end of some fears of his. One of them was that egos can get in the way of making something great in a startup community. Ego can kill things when people try to control things and don't just let it to go and let it grow.The biggest thing that he feared was that the conversation would die. All these ideas and chatter would get generated but nothing would happen because of it. No startups would start. No products would be out there. Nothing would be pitched. It would be such a shame for nothing to happen because of this, especially because of all the work all the organizers have put into it. But I don't think they are going to sit idle and let nothing happen.Let's help them get this going.Let's help them start up Nanaimo.

Novelty Leads to Learning

An interesting article on the Buffer Blog talks about how novelty triggers our brain to do more learning.

It makes sense from an evolutionary standpoint. When you were wandering around in the jungle or on the sahara you would want to learn as fast as possible when something new came around. This wouldn't really be you but caveman-you.

If there was something you had never seen before that could possibly kill you, you'll want to be alert and ready to learn everything you can. Caveman-you wouldn't last very long if you didn't learn that the sabertooth that wanted to eat you was a bad thing. Humans are only around to this day because they learned quickly what would kill them and what wouldn't.

Since we don't have any sabertooth tiger's or dinosaurs to chase us around today, what good is it?

This comes in handy when you are learning. When trying to stuff all that new job information, foreign language words or programming rules into your head, you want them to stick. It's frustrating when you have to do it over and over and over again.

Because your brain loves novelty, you'll want to use that to your advantage.

The Buffer article, suggests 3 things.

Add in something new

If you are going over the same old information over and over again, you are going to get bored. Throw in the odd new thing once in a while to keep things interesting. We all know that when things don't change we get bored. Keep things interesting.

Change your environment

Switch up where you are. Joel Runyon calls this "Workspace Popcorn". Work for a couple hours in one place and then switch it up. The switch gives you a break, lets you move, lets your brain turn off for a bit. Apparently our brains will be more tuned for learning after you switch environments as well.

Learn after doing something new

Your brain will be primed for learning right after you do something new. It doesn't have to be related just new to you. It could be something small or something big. This also reminds me of a side effect of Flow that increases your creativity for a day or 2 after a Flow experience. I feel like my brain is firing twice as fast after I exercise. There might be an element of novelty in there as well.

Go for new

So new things prep our minds to learn. Set up those new experiences and then the learning right after. You don't want to look at all those programming rules any more than you have to right?

All You Need to Start is the Trailhead

Before you go hiking, you have to pick a trail to hike. You can look through guidebooks, browse around online or ask your friends. Once you've picked the trail you want to hike, you need to find out where the trailhead is. The trailhead is where you will start hiking. You park, get your gear ready and then start hiking. Knowing where the trailhead is might be the most important part of starting a hike. If you don't know that one thing, it will be very difficult to hike that trail.Starting new projects is a lot like hiking. It's an adventure. You don't know exactly how things are going to go. You can check the weather but it's never exact. You can look at pictures of the trail but you won't know every exactly what it looks like until you are there. And there is one place that is the most important part, the trailhead. Like hiking, you have to have a trailhead for your project.All you need is the trailhead to startYou just need the trailhead. You don't need to know every single twist and turn and where everything is going to end up. All you need to know is where to start.That big project that's in your word files or on your calendar or just sitting in the back of your mind, why not start it now? They're big. They're scary. You have no idea how it's going to end up or where exactly it's going to go. Like hiking, it's going to be an adventure.One thing is for sure. You know where to start. I guarantee it. You may not have any idea where it's going to go. Or any idea what steps you have to take to get all the way through. Or any idea at all about how long it's going to take. But you know where to start.And here comes the reason behind this post. You don't need to know all that other stuff to complete a project. You don't need to know every step along the way or exactly how long it's going to take. You just need the one thing you can do to start. You just need the trailhead.This is not a one time thingThe fear of starting is a tricky thing. "Starting" makes it sound like it comes up when you start a project. When you make the plans and get moving and get some momentum going. That might be when the biggest fear happens but it's not the only time."Starting" is actually every single time you sit down to write, to paint, to build, to edit, to plan. Every time you do work on your project you are "starting" for that day or that session. And every time the fear can creep in.Every time that fear does come up, just remember that you don't need to know all the pieces, you don't need to see the whole trail, you don't need to see every part.All you need to start is knowing where the trailhead is.Happy Hiking,~Ross