I 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
There’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.
During 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.
“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.
In 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.
Making 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.
A small mastermind-ish group I meet with regularly met again tonight and it reminded me so much of why coffee and ideas go so well together. Today was an extra good day for ideas for another reason. The conversation is semi-structured. We start with a structure anyways and see where it goes. I call them Bounce Sessions.Bounce SessionsBounce Sessions are meeting with others to bounce ideas around. You might start with prompts or questions for each person to answer like we do or just meet for coffee. The ideal bounce session has some bouncing of ideas followed by some work in it. I don't know about you but I get pretty excited throwing all those ideas around and having a good caffeine-fueled conversation about new technology and ideas that could make our lives and business better. Caffeine is not required but it certainly makes the ideas move faster. More exciting that way.Last 2, next 2 and stuckThe structured part of the conversations start with a round table on the last 2 things you completed for your current project (or business), the next 2 things you are going to complete for your current project and what you are stuck on. These are just quick prompts to get things moving and they often inspire hours of conversation. No one really knows where we are going to go from there. We meet every 2 weeks and so the next 2 should be done by the next meeting in 2 weeks. If you can do them the next day, awesome. But we're all working on businesses as side projects and it can take weeks to get small things going so it's a nice prompt with a good amount of time to do them in.CrossFit then Bounce = FlowStephen Kotler and the Flow Genome Project talks a lot about sports and human-powered activity fueling the Flow State, a state of being "in the zone". Anyone can feel it but it's that feeling of being "on" or so deep into what you are doing, that you don't notice time passing. There are certain requirements of activities that can put you into that state and one of them is that it's not too easy but it's not too hard.... just right. I find workouts at CrossFit get me thinking in a very very focused way, getting into a flow of sorts. The benefits of flow are too long to list but include happiness, relaxation, living longer and a boost in creativity afterwards. So going to CrossFit increases the Flow and then going to a Bounce Session with a little caffeine involved equals a whole lot of creativity and ideas. Rad.Free Learning on CreativeLiveChase Jarvis is a cool guy. He does a lot with cameras and he starts cool projects and businesses. He talks to a lot of cool people on his web show called Chase Jarvis Live and he owns a company called CreativeLive. The whole idea behind CreativeLive is free professional teaching.They run courses in their studio in Seattle and broadcast them live on their website as well as record them for later. The recordings after the fact aren't free, they are paid. So if you want to keep a recording, you have to pay. If you can watch it live, though, you get it for free. Free learning from some of the best teachers in the world. Cool.Are you in a Power PostureAfter talking about Kelly Starrett from MobilityWOD who taught a course on CreativeLive we got talking about posture (because Kelly has ridiculously good posture). That led to the TED talk about the research into power postures and how it influences your mood and thinking. They say that if you are in an open, powerful posture that it will influence your thinking and increase your confidence. If you are doing a presentation or an interview, best to hide in the bathroom for a few minutes and get into a power stance. You'll do better in your presentation.Check in with yourself in lineupsBrendan Burchard does a lot of teaching on being an expert and high performance in business and thinking. I love his material. One of his videos, he talks about how it's important to check in with yourself during the day. Important things like thoughts and breathing can make or break your day but often they're totally subconscious, we don't even think about them. When we do catch ourselves worrying about something or getting tense and breathing shallow, we could have been like that for hours. It's not good for our bodies or minds to be like that. Stop, reset, relax and then carry one. But how do you catch yourself?Create triggers.Create a set of triggers during the day that every time something happens, you'll stop and think about how you're thinking and feeling. How are you thinking? Positively? Negatively? About things that make you feel good? About things that make you feel terrible? How are you breathing? Nice deep breathes or ragged, shallow ones? How you are standing? Relaxed and tall with your shoulders back? Or shoulders folded, back rounded, defeated? So that's great that you do these things when you remember to but how do you remember to?Hook those actions onto something that happens often during your day. Brendan has attached his to standing in a lineup. Any time he's in a lineup in a coffee shop or at a grocery story or in traffic, he does a checkin with himself. How's your thinking? How's your breathing? How's your posture? Every time that lineup happens, he's checking in. He doesn't need to remember much, the lineup is going to remind him.Starting Blog ChallengeAfter all this and too much other conversation to even remember where we went, we decided we need to practice the idea of quantity leading to quality and do a 2 week blogging challenge. We all blog so what the heck, let's do it every day. The challenge: 200 words every day for 2 weeks on whatever blog you want. It has to be published. No drafts, no evernotes, no google docs. Published. Too many blog posts sit unpublished. Let's publish these things and get on with our lives.So here it is, this my first of the blogging challenge. Care to join? 2 weeks. Every day. Let's go.
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.
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
When I'm writing a new application or program for my website or a project, I spend a lot of time troubleshooting and debugging. For the non-programmers, that means something isn't working right with your program and you have to dig into the details to see why it's not working. It's kind of like something not working on your car and having to test a bunch of things before you know what's going on.With how complicated computers are getting these days and how much code we put together in various arrangements, things get big and hairy real fast. When data flows from one system to another to another to another and somewhere in that whole flow is one little piece that doesn't work, it can be tough to work it all the way through.One of the most important pieces of advice that I think Einstein had something to do with is that clarifying the problem is 99% of the solution. I'm not sure if that percentage is right but 99% feels right.The idea is that if you don't know the problem inside and out, top to bottom, left to right, then it's going to be harder to find a solution. Solutions to problems that aren't thought through often make the situation works or just don't work. Trial and error can sometimes work as a solution-finding method. Often, though, it's just because you don't know the problem well know.So the next time you find yourself with some problem to tackle and you are stuck for solutions, ask yourself, "Do I know the problem inside and out?"
I've just returned from the first group meeting in the Ignite Reading Circle on the $100 Startup by Chris Guillebeau.I've read the book through already once before soon after I got it last year after attending Chris' World Domination Summit in Portland. I loved it. The idea of the micro-business is once that's catching on like wildfire around the world. You see peoples eyes widen in amazement when they hear the stories about what some of these entrepreneurs are doing with small, sometimes accidental, bootstrapped business. Many of these ideas are just not thought possible before you see them in action for the first time.We had our big kick-off a couple weeks ago and now this is the first group meeting we've had to talk about what we've read. So far we've all read through the first section, Unexpected Entrepreneurs. This section talks about how you probably already have skills that you could make a small business around. Business is about giving people fish, not showing them every little detail about how it's cooked (unless that's your business model: teaching). Following your passion may be what you want to do but it's not necessarily the right way to go. Location doesn't matter when your business is online and some of the old categories for customers are going out the window in favour of a new model.That's what the book was about. This post is more a recap to touch on big ideas that came up in our conversations. Talking about these ideas always park the best ideas or solidify others. These are probably a little random and may not have an obvious connection to one another, I just wanted to highlight for you guys some good ideas and resources that came up that you might want to check out.4- hour work week by Tim Ferriss - This came up quickly and rightly so. It's a bible among some entrepreneurs and Location Independent folk. One of the highlights were the stories about how much you can actually outsource to a Virtual Assistant. They will do pretty much anything for you. This is not necessarily a good thing for your business but if you know how to use them well then it can take a lot of work off your shoulders.Stories - It's all about the stories. Everyone is talking about stories these days and Chris talks about them right off the bat with his, err, story about the ranch that sells an experience of escaping the city and becoming cowboy (cowgirl? cowperson?) instead of just the basic element of riding a horse. Yes you get to ride a horse but the underlying story, and the one that people are actually drawn to, is the idea of escaping from their life and entering into another for the week or weekend. A good tourism book about this ideas is the Experience Economy. I likened this idea to McDonalds versus Starbucks. They both make coffee. Starbucks has a much better story for me which why I go there more than McDonalds.Lots of short project-based experiments - This has been a big one for me lately, one that I'm focusing on with everything I do. We all learn so much from doing. Reading is good, learning is good but doing is the ultimate teacher. Experiments are great because they are a task that is designed from the outset to have a possible outcome. It doesn't HAVE to work, it MIGHT work. If you are relying on your experiments to support you , you probably want to experiments with less risk but no matter how much risk you have they are very valuable learning tools. Everything you do is an experiment. Some are low risk and some are high risk. you learn more with bigger experiments. I say short and project based because experiments need an end date. Set a start date and end date for the project. By that date the experiment will have succeeded or failed. Done. Gone. Move on to the next one. There are a lot of things you can only learn by completing the project and not letting in drag into something that goes forever. Then it becomes a maintenance nightmare and you hate doing it. End date. Set it. And short because you learn so much from completing projects. Done. Shipped. Out the door. To the public. A 3 month project and a year long project both have one end date. If you learn the same amount from shipping a year long project and a 3 month project, why spend the extra 9 months working? If you just need 3 to see if it will work or not, just use three. If it will only require 1, just use one. Absolute minimum amount of time required.Pat Flynn at SmartPassiveIncome.com has a cool story about how he started his business with putting his LEED Certification study notes online. He noticed they were getting a lot of traffic and interest online. He made a product with the information and how to study for the LEED Certification exam and started to sell it to the people reading the notes on the blog. He's still making good money off that site.Online learning is taking off. We talked about the Khan Academy and how it's revolutionizing individual and group learning. I've taken a bunch of online courses this past year and it's been awesome. Self-paced, interesting, good information, low-cost. That's how education should be.Adjacent Possible.Getting that big, huge, crazy idea. Big, huge, crazy, out there ideas are often just the next step in someone's path. They've gone from 0 to 100 in their level of knowledge about some area, industry, space, niche, whatever you want to call it. They know that space extremely well. You can only see a couple of numbers away when you are learning. If I'm at 10, I can only see to 11, 12 and maybe 13. I can't see any farther than that because I don't have the knowledge. Once I get to 11, I'll be able to see a little further to 14. When you are at 100, 101 and maybe 102 will become visible as the next steps. That's where the "crazy" starts to happen. But it's not crazy when you are at 100. 101 is just the next step. To a person that is just at level 0 or 1 at their level of knowledge though, 101 is not even fathomable. This is where hard work comes in. You can't go from 1 to 100 over night. You have to go through 2, 3, 4, 50, 60, and everything in between. Lots of short-project based experiments and mentors will make this learning faster but there is no other way to get from 0 to 100.Focus. Going from a knowledge level of 0 to 100 on something is hard enough. Trying to do it on 5 things at the same time is WAY harder. Becoming an expert in 5 different things at the same time is really really hard. Best to get to the level you want in one thing, and then take that experience to learning the next one. Trying to work 5 different paths at the same time takes much longer and since seeing progress is a huge motivator to learning more, we often stall on all the projects. Compare that with focusing on one area or one project and only that one. Since you are focusing all your time on that one, you make good progress on it, and it's easy to see, you get a lot done and you're shipping things regularly. That very obvious progress is a huge motivator to doing more. What's more is that once you get to a level 40 or 50 of knowledge in something you begin to get perks because of your knowledge level. Companies and people start to notice that you know a lot or are very good at something. You get special treatment, free product or free access to things. And you can use this special treatment to advance your other areas of knowledge and skills faster. it's al about working serially on projects and skills, one after another, than working on them in parallel or at the same time. This is a very subjective leveling scheme there, no idea what it means, it's all relative!Idea Experiment Cycle - I think of a cycle that starts with an idea, leads to an experiment to test that idea which will succeed or fail. At the end of that you start again. Another idea (or hypothesis), another test and another result. This goes back to having fast project-based experiments. Learn faster because it's a short cycle, stay interested because it doesn't drag on forever and remember their just experiments and take the pressure off yourself to make it perfect and huge. Short and fast. Small experiments.That's my idea explosion for the night. One of the "problems" with meeting with people to talk about good books in an area you're interested in is that a million ideas come out of it. Blog posts are the best form of experiment though. They are short fast experiments to see if these ideas resonate with anyone. Maybe these could lead into books someday, or some online training. Experiment #1 done.Experiment on.
One of the hardest things you can do when you're learning is to keep going. Everything is pushing you back.New things are confusing.You don't know what you don't know.You look silly when you don't know what you're doing.You can be a pro in another area but that's not going to help you here.Progress is very slowHow are you going to keep going if everything is just pushing you back every time you start?One trick you can use is just to do something every day.There are less motivation hurdles to overcome because you are doing it every day. Not 99%. 100%.There are less memory hurdles to overcome because you were learning yesterday and don't have time to forget.It's easier to make your learning schedule better and better each day through iteration.Next time you are learning something new see if you can work on it every day. It will be much easier if you do.photo credit
I've been getting up at 5am and spending 1 hour to write 1000 words and work on the next product I'm working on for PureOutside. What I didn't realize was how big of a change that would be to everything in my life.
Getting up an hour earlier in the morning seems like it's just getting up an hour earlier in the morning but that's it but getting up earlier usually requires going to bed earlier. That requires a shift in evening activities to make everything line up for an earlier time to bed (which is not working that well right now). I tend to be pretty zombie like when I wake up at 5am so my morning routine has to be fairly rigid. But rigid is good, I don't have to think about anything. Same thing every day. Same breakfast, same cup of tea, same music. I also have to be very clear on what I'm working on because not many good decisions are made at 5am. I can write but I can't do a bunch of big picture planning. Everything I'm going to be doing needs to be laid out before hand.I've been doing it a little over a month now and it's made a huge difference in my life. I'm getting much more done on my product. I'm writing a huge amount because of the 1000 words, most of that being in the 5am writing session. I'm forced to think about getting a good sleep and arranging my evening around that. But it would have never worked out if I had been hard on myself.Some days just aren't perfect. I get up a little later, I get less done than I had hoped, something doesn't work right on my computer and I have to fix it, or I get to bed late and I'm bagged. After over 26 years (probably less than that, little kids aren't really hard on themselves) of being incredibly tough on myself, putting down my every decision because it could be better and slagging every performance because it sucked, I decided that that method isn't working any more.Any time I screw up or I don't do something right or it's just not what I thought it was going to be like there's no judgement, there's no slagging, there's no tough talk. All there is now is what happened, and how can I make it better next time. There's no need to waste time putting yourself down. There's no need to spend all that emotional energy. There's just no need.Instead of berating myself every time I had to press snooze an extra time instead of getting up at 5am sharp, I just adjust things so it's easier to do it and move on. No energy wasted. No emotional backlash.I'm working much better now.*** Photo Credit: Ant1_G
I've just recently finished off a big project that I've had going for over a year.It feels good.It feels really good.It feels good to be done. It feels good to be able to think about other things. It feels good to not have that nagging project saying, "I'm still not done yet." It feels good to say that I finished it.With that momentum, I'm going to carry on trucking right through into the next project I have lined up. Riding this wave of momentum I can get a big chunk of the next project done.That wave isn't going to last forever though and so I've taken steps to work times into my day where I focus on the project. Building the habits and routine around getting the work done is so important for big projects. Little things can be completed with a wave of inspiration and initial momentum. Big things need more than that. They need structure, a framework to get work done on a regular basis. Creating that structure has been a big struggle for me over the last year. I'm finally understanding how important it is. When something can't be completed in a day, it something to help. The longer it takes the more important the structure is.With completing this project I've learned about structure for big projects. I've also learned how important it is to ignore shiny new things. Those shiny things are a curse to big projects. They offer the warm-fuzzy short term satisfaction that a big project just doesn't give. They also suck, drain, rip and tear all your free time until it's non-existent. You can say so long to that awesome big project with all those little shiny things around.Slow and steady should be the name of the game for big projects, not the adrenaline rush of small shiny things.
Sometimes I catch myself rushing through things. Rushing through work. Rushing through plans with friends. Rushing through working out. Rushing through talking.Why?Why am I rushing? Where am I rushing to get to? Why am I trying to hurry through what I'm doing?I'm not sure.It takes a lot to even realize I'm rushing. My muscles are tight. I'm focused intently on what I'm doing. Yes, it gets my current task done faster but why does it need to be done faster? And how much does the quality suffer when I rush? How much does my stress level increase when I rush?Rushing isn't sustainable. It's not slow and steady. It's a spring. It increases stress. It decreases quality.I'm trying to slow down more now. Smell the flowers a bit. Enjoy the scenery.The downside is that I feel like I have less time to do things. The benefit to that is that I only have time to do important things.
Wikipedia says hormesis is "the term for generally favorable biological responses to low exposures to toxins and other stressors".2 examples of stressors that we endure regularly in our lives are flu shots and exercise. We get a small dose of something that is actually harmful to us and then we come back stronger. We get get a small dose of the flu and then our immune system ramps up it's response in preparation of a full on sickness. During exercise our muscles rip and tear. Rest repairs those muscles and brings them up to a state stronger than before.Travel is similar. It can be tough the first few days in a new country but each day it gets easier. We get used to it. Then when we go home, life is a little bit easier.Any time you're building a strength in one area it's going to affect all others. The only way to build that strength that is through hormesis. Initially it's going to be hard. You're not used to it. Realize that until you've done it a few times, it is going to be harder. Train and rest, train and rest. Push to the next level, and the level below will feel easy.In the arena,Ross
Whenever I'm stuck creatively, I head over to my R&D department to see what they've got cooking.What I mean by that is that I start thinking like I'm in the R&D Department instead of the lame report-writing department. This is all pretend because I don't have an actual R&D department.R&D means research and development if you weren't sure.Most of what I do is a one man show so that means I'm customer service, finance, research and development, reports, product 1 team, product 2 team and product 3 team.Being in all these different places at once can be exciting but it can also be a little stressful. There are products to push out, admin tasks to handle, new crazy ideas to come up with.My favorite place of all is research and development. Here the new ideas see the light of day. You can do anything you want. You can try new things, experiment, just try stuff just for the sake of it, all in an effort to bring new, innovative ideas to the table. Sometimes they work, sometimes they don't. The important part is to play with new ideas.Some of these ideas might grow into whole new products or an entire new business. Others might just be the perfect solution for an issue you're having with one of your products or services. You never when they might come in handy. You might even be able to give them to others who could use them.Most of the time you'll be in your work mode. Cranking out work on product A or B or doing work for client C. This can get monotonous though and you may find yourself doing the same work over and over again. Time to switch things up. Head into Room 1, as the guys at the 99 Percent refer to it, and get some big airy ideas out, do some brainstorming, and try out something new.Who knows. What you come up with in your R&D time might be the next big thing.
I was running through a beautiful marsh area near my house on another marathon training run. My mind was wandering like crazy as it tends to do when I run. Things were slowly connecting like they usually do when I let my mind wander. Running tends to do that for me. I let it go and it will find interesting things and put them together. Sometimes they're useful, sometimes they're totally random. The challenge is remembering them by the time I get home.A lot of my thinking these days is about my projects on PureOutside, my outdoors websites or some other outdoor activity. Today I was thinking a lot about my first marathon coming up in just over a week. The questions were flowing freely. Was I ready yet? What did my legs feel like? What were the water and first aid stations going to be like on the run? Do I need new shoes? (I just blew out the side of my current shoes. Do I get a new pair with a week left or possibly repair the current ones with some creative engineering?)I got stuck thinking about running. I was thinking about how I currently felt running and comparing that to how I thought running the marathon was going to feel. There was a big difference. Today my legs felt sluggish, I had just ate dinner and it was near the end of the day. Not ideal conditions for a great run. But I was out there. When it comes to a marathon, just getting out there only counts for so much.I don't have a big problem with my training so far. It could have gone better but with a marathon in a week, I'm going to get what I get. There's not much I can change now. I just need to stay healthy and uninjured and I'll be able to finish my first marathon. But I didn't really have an issue with how the training was going.What I kept getting stuck on was actually how I was thinking. I was in short-term action mode and yet I was worried about the big goal of the marathon. I shouldn't be thinking about the big long-term goal when I'm in action mode. I need to be thinking about the details, the short-term, the action. Thinking about the long-term goal when you're in action mode causes 2 problems.Action mode is for doing small tasks. It's for doing all the small bits you lined up in the long-term planning mode. You should think big, and long-term in planning mode. You should think detailed and short-term in action mode. When they get mixed up and you start thinking big and long-term in action mode bad things happen. Thinking about a huge goal when you're doing a small task is discouraging. All you see is the huge number of tasks left to do. Yes, you are currently completing one of those tasks but it doesn't feel that great. It feels small and insignificant compared to the large number left to do. That's not a good feeling.To avoid that discouragement focus on the current small task. Do that task as good as you can do it. Put all your effort into it and keep your sights only on that one task for the time being. Look at the beginning of the task and the end of the task and focus on those points instead of the end of the huge goal looming ahead of you. Keep your sights small when you're in action mode, you'll feel better and your work will be higher quality.The second problem with thinking long-term in action mode is that you're not focused on what you should be focused on. Focusing on the big goal instead of the current task is focusing on the result and not the pieces of the equation. It's like focusing on having a "Book" to your name instead of focusing on writing the best damn thing you can write. If all you can think about is the end result of a book you're not going to write very well. The end result is a terrible book. If you instead spent the time you are in action mode highly focused on writing the best paragraphs and chapters you could possible write, the book that pops out at the end is going to be quite good.You don't have any control over the output or result of the process. You only have control over the inputs. Make those inputs incredible and, guess what, the output is going to be pretty amazing too. Use junk for your inputs and that's what you'll get out. There's a saying in the programming space, "garbage in, garbage out," about testing data. If you don't put proper data into your software to test, your test results are going to be shoddy.The next time you're in action mode and getting down on yourself because there's so much left to do, pause and check out those thoughts. Are you thinking long-term or short? Long-term thoughts in planning mode. Short-term thoughts in action mode.Can you work think long-term in action mode? Does it work for you or does it sabotage your work?***Project UpdateThese are quick updates on my current projects. They tend to be goals from The List. These last couple weeks have been excitingFirst Marathon: I did my first Marathon a couple weeks ago! I'll have an update on that in the next couple weeks.Sailing: I did my first large sailing race last weekend. It was just over 100 miles and took us about 26 hours to get through. I'll be putting up a trip report on PureOutside soon.PureOutside Trail Guide: My first product on PureOutside is almost complete. I've filtered through the bewildering array of modules for the Drupal Content Management System (like Wordpress but more powerful and complicated) and have things set up for the final leg. All that's left now is a bit of smoothing out and I'll be ready to put it up for sale.
This post is part of the rockThink Book Review Series where I review books that help make you better at what you do. This book was about writing.[Update] This book has been rolled up into Jeff's new book, You Are a Writer. He's expanded on the ideas in Every Writer's Dreams and gone more in depth. I'll be reviewing that soon.Who is book this for? New writer's wondering where to start.What is the dream when you start writing? To spend most of your time finding people to read your writing? To have to promote yourself all the time and feel like a used car salesman? Ugh, I hope not. I like writing because of the writing part, not all the other crap that comes along with making money from your writing.So the dream is just to write. Wouldn't that be nice. All you'd have to do is write. Exactly what you'd want to do. A pipe dream right?Not so, says Jeff. We can do better than that. There's a different process to attaining that dream than how most people go about it though. Don't grovel, beg and hope someone does something with your writing. Follow his steps and you'll find yourself spending your time where you want to, writing more.Stop Being ScaredThe first point Jeff makes and one that is all throughout is writing gets to the core of doing anything meaningful and actually finishing it. You can't do anything if you're scared. You can't do anything if you're always doubting yourself and holding yourself back from doing what you need to do. Stop being scared and start being curious. Do what you need to do.I get stuck with this one all the time. I feel like I'm not an authority like I should be to talk about what I learned on rcThink or how to do something outdoors on PureOutside. In reality, if I just did something then I know how to do it. It may not be the absolute best way but it worked. What's wrong with telling people about what you did that worked? Rather than second guess everything I'm doing assuming it's not good enough, I need to get curious and do whatever I have to do to achieve my goals. That's the only way to the finish.Your HomeOnce you've stop being scared and started being curious we're into the next stage of building your home in the world. Jeff stresses the importance of having a home (probably online) where people can find you. How do people interested in your writing find you if you don't have a home? Where should they go? There needs to be an easy place to find you. If it's too hard, they'll give up and you may not ever see them. Jeff calls this a platform. There are some other key points about a platform that he covers in Every Writer's Dream. Your VoiceYour brand. Your voice. You. It's what you say and how you say it. It's why people like you and why they'll read what you write.The problem is that people will give you a brand if you don't create one for yourself. You can accept the haphazard brand that people give you or you can create one yourself. In pretty much every case a brand that you've carefully put together and designed to be you in the best way is going to be a million times (scientifically measured) better the slop the internet will give you.Jeff stresses one important fact with your brand: Don't lie. It might be exciting to try and live a lie at first but you'll get bored of it. And you'll be stuck with it. When it's you, it's you. There's no lying to your fans when what you give them is pure you.Your RelationshipsIs content king? It's pretty important. What about relationships? Jeff says relationships are even more important than content. You can have the best content in the world but if you have no relationships with readers, editors, and publishers, it's not going anywhere. Relationships smooth the way for important things to happen. If you have them, everything is easier.Every time I need help with something, I think, "Who do I know?" If I know someone who can help, my life is just made easier. If I get stuck and I don't know anyone who can help then I've got more work to do. Things go faster and farther when you've got a relationship in place.In Every Writer's Dream, Jeff points out three important relationships that you'll need to find along your writing journey. Each has it's place and will make your life much easier. You'll have to read the book to find out about those.Too Vague?One issue I had with Every Writer's Dream was it felt a little vague, not so detail oriented. But that's probably how Jeff wanted it. You could write for decades on the exact details of getting things published in the easiest way possible but what good is that. If you're writing for decades and not shipping, no one is seeing your work. There's certainly enough information there to get started and that's what it's for, to get you started on the path towards every writer's dream. Everyone's path is going to be different so I suppose this is a good framework and not an exact detailed tutorial.Blunt is GoodJeff doesn't hide it. Writing is hard work. It can take a long time to get where you want to go. He tells you straight up that it's not going to be easy. I call this expectation management and he does a good job of it. He's making sure that his readers are aware that writing a book is going to be a long process but if you know that ahead of time, you'll be much better off when the going gets rough. Better to find out now than years in.Jeff's Advice for Continual ImprovementAt the end of the book I was wondering what Jeff would say if I asked him how he continues to improve his writing and how he knows he's improving. I asked him and here's what he had to say.
[Update] This book is no longer available and has been rolled up into Jeff's new book called You Are a Writer. I'm working my way through that one now.I just recently finished off the small eBook from Jeff Goins, Before Your First Book. It was a quick read but offered some fantastic advice. I'm toying with the idea of writing a book but I know I need to do a lot more work on my ideas and writing. I still need to convince myself that it would be worth it since it takes so long. I'm working on it.I like Jeff's style. There's no bullshit. He's straight to the point with what you should expect when you're getting things ready to write a book. The interesting thing about Before Your First Book is that it isn't about writing your book at all. It's entirely about what you need to do to start writing and shipping now. There are important steps you need to take that will be invaluable later. Instead of being a terrible arduous task, book writing can be an enjoyable fulfilling process. That's what Jeff's here to explain.Before Your First Book is short and sweet. Each point Jeff makes is important though so you'll probably be going back to it multiple times to re-examine the main points. Because the length, I found it an easy read. He kept things moving along smoothly, never dawdling, always getting right to the point.ShippingOne of the most important themes in the Before Your First Book is that you have to start shipping. You have to start doing something today to help you get that book and your ideas into your readers hands months or years down the road. The nice part about the book is that Jeff is laying it out for your. He's done the work, he's walked the path. Now he's telling you how. He's leaving plenty up to you to decide exactly how to do it but he gives a framework and that's a huge first step in the right direction. One of the worst feelings working on a big project is the question of whether you're going in the right direction. Is all that work moving you towards your goal or will you learn that you just wasted 6 months of your time? Start shipping small things now and you'll find out much sooner where you are headed.No BraggingSo many people brag about their accomplishments. Instantly I turn off. I stop listening. I get my back up and can't stop thinking about the fact that they're bragging. Even if they do have good points hidden somewhere in their selfish rant I will miss them. I hope everyone continues reading past that last sentence to read this next one. Jeff lets you know what he's accomplished not to brag but for it to act like a resume. He's letting you know what he's done, that he's just recently, like fresh out of the fire, gone through the process he's describing and he's writing it for us to know. I found that reassuring that he gently describes what he want through and then gives you the dirt on what he wish he was told before.No LiesAlong with shipping now and often, Jeff hammer's on another point repeatedly. Writing a book and the process leading up to it is a crazy amount of work. The thing is, thought, that while it requires an incredible amount of work, it's not complicated. It's not like calculus or binary programming kind of complicated. When it comes down to it there are a few basic things you need to know and then it's all repetition after that. Running a marathon not complicated but it's definitely hard. That's like writing a book. Make sure you're cool with that before you get started.I enjoyed reading through Before Your First Book. It had a few good ideas that I will be applying to other non-book projects. The short format left me wanting a little bit more at the end in terms of details but most of those details can be found around the internet. The framework (and the kick in the ass to get shipping) is the important part, and that's what Jeff cover's in this nice little book.