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How To Accomplish Anything In 1/2 Hour (Or Less)

How To Accomplish Anything In 1/2 Hour (Or Less)

How To Accomplish Anything In 1/2 Hour Or Less

(or… “How to get over fear, by Elon Musk.”)

I recently read one of the most powerful blog posts I’ve read in a long time, a post about renowned entrepreneur Elon Musk and the ‘secret sauce’ that allows him to accomplish the seemingly impossible.

In the post I saw a lot of parallels to my work. When I’m not running my adventure travel company, I also mentor and consult with startup entrepreneurs to help them get their entrepreneurial ideas off the ground. Although they turn to me for advice, tips and tools, usually what’s really holding them back isn’t a lack of knowledge or knowhow, it’s something else entirely…

Fear.

As Tim Urban explains in his post about Musk, what makes him so successful in achieving the seemingly impossible is not some sort of superhuman ability or rare genius, it’s simply the ability to view two important things in a more realistic light: 1) what’s possible and 2) the risk involved. With this ability, he is able to manage fear far better than most of us.

TAKING THE LEAP

Many of the entrepreneurs I work with work at full time jobs that don’t provide them with much fulfillment, meaning or joy. Underlying this lack of fulfilment is an idea, a dream that’s been itching away for years without ever being scratched. Typically the first question they ask me is some variation of “Where do I start?’ or “How do I start?”.

The enormity of starting a new business – or any new worthwhile endeavour – typically overwhelms most people, and they feel that it requires a massive commitment on their part: quitting their job, selling their house, moving to a new country… some sort of big change to signify their commitment to their dream.

The problem with that thinking is that it typically kicks our fear response into overdrive. And then we operate from this:

This is taken from the Wait But Why post referenced earlier. As the author explains, ‘chefs’ like Elon Musk, whom we revere as extreme risk-takers, are not actually taking on levels of risk that are truly dangerous. The rest of us are just so risk-averse that their behaviour seems crazy to us.

 

And when our fear response kicks in our self-talk starts to sound like this:

“If I quit my job and this business fails, I’ll never get another job again.”

“If I sell my [house, car, baseball cards, etc.] to fund my business, I’ll end up broke with no assets and have to start all over, and I’ll probably end up on the street.”

“If I commit to this and it doesn’t work out, my [husband, girlfriend, dog, parrot, etc.] will leave me.”

As the above diagram shows, the portion of the fear spectrum most people typically operate in is well to the left of “things that we should be truly concerned about”.

So the first thing is to recognize that that the fear reaction is a normal response, but that it’s often warped well out of proportion to actual risk.

The second thing to recognize is that the fear response shows up in devious ways: it typically manifests not as a conscious response of “holy crap, if this doesn’t work out then X and Y are going to happen, and my life will be over”, but rather as some variation of:

“This idea is really dumb. No one is going to buy this from me.”

“I don’t have the [knowhow, knowledge, willpower, brains, personality, etc.] to pull this off.”

“There’s another more-established competitor already offering this. I’ll never be able to compete with them.”

“Someone’s going to come along and steal my idea and put me out of business.”

“I’m not an [entrepreneur, singer, artist, athlete, etc.]. What was I thinking?”

When you hear self-talk like this, it’s important to recognize that you are probably not operating from what Elon Musk calls ‘first principles’, or objective information, but rather from a perspective of fear. That self-talk is a direct manifestation of your fear centres – mostly that pesky amygdala – trying to keep you unnecessarily safe.

When you hear this type of self-talk, ask yourself:

Am I operating from objective, ‘first principles’ information, or is there some sort of distortion going on?

Typically it’s the latter: your idea is probably not that dumb, you probably do have the knowhow to pull it off, and you are an entrepreneur/singer/artist/athlete/etc.

The third thing to recognize is that even if you do recognize this self-talk for what it is – your innate fear response – it’s still incredibly difficult to overcome.

Fortunately, there’s a way around this.

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HOW TO ACCOMPLISH ANYTHING IN 1/2 HOUR OR LESS

OK, I’ll admit it, that headline is a little clickbait-y. I’m not suggesting that you can accomplish anything in just 1800 seconds. What I want to demonstrate is that you can accomplish just about anything you want in life by applying a very simple strategy to it.

How?

By focusing a small, very manageable amount of time, every day, toward a chosen goal.

When I work with people who are not happy with their current career path and are considering a switch to entrepreneurship, but are concerned about leaving the safety of their existing job, I’ll usually work with them to help them clarify their idea and turn it into a viable business model, then outline next steps to help them validate their idea.

Once we’ve outlined those next steps, I’ll encourage them to break them down into small bite-sized chunks, then get them to commit to doing some small daily action or actions that will get them a little bit closer to their goal, every single day.

I usually suggest 1/2 hour a day, but for especially time-challenged people, I suggest they at least commit 20 minutes per day to working on their ‘escape plan’. One woman I recently worked with was working 75-hour weeks at her current job, so her time was pretty limited, but she wanted to get the hell out, so she was very motivated – she has committed to doing 20 minutes a day, and has managed to do it consistently.

That’s the strategy in a very simple nutshell: commit a small amount of time (at least 20 minutes) every day towards your dream. If you can spare more, then commit more time, but only commit to what you can realistically pull off.

If you say you’re going to commit 2 hours a day, but then do 3 days in a row where you only do 1/2 hour, you’re going to get de-motivated by not hitting your goal, so you’re better off committing to 1/2 hour a day.

It’s a powerful strategy because:

  • You’re not overwhelming yourself with a monumental task, and not letting your natural fear response overtake you.
  • While you’re moving towards your goal, you get to appease the safety-seeking, risk-averse side of you and stay in your current reality (while still moving away from it).
  • Every day you make a small bit of progress toward your goal, which is extremely motivating and helps build momentum towards your goal.

I’ve applied this strategy to a number of projects over recent years. For most of this year my daily 1/2 hour was applied to building out a comprehensive online course for social entrepreneurs. There’s a massive amount of content in the course (over 300 pages and dozens of videos), and a lot of technical setup involved to make the course function the way I wanted it to.

Had I sat down without a strategy and thought about the enormity of the task ahead of me, and how I could fit that in to a busy life that already entailed running a 50-person adventure travel company, parenting 3 young children, supporting my wife and everything else in life that I have a responsibility to, I probably would have thrown in the towel and said “No way I can pull that off.”

Instead, I just told myself I would commit 1/2 hour – every day – toward building out the course. Every day I would write some content, build out the website, whatever it took to move closer to that goal. And lo and behold, here I am 11 months later with a complete entrepreneurship course that is already being used by hundreds of people.

Want more proof? This blog post was written in three 1/2 hour chunks: once while I was at the pool while my daughter was doing her swimming lesson, once while sitting on the subway traveling to an appointment, and once during my morning routine.

KEEPING ON TRACK

To keep me on track with my 1/2-hour-a-day commitment, I use an app called Way of Life (here’s an Android version):

It’s a pretty simple app: you start by creating up to 12 ‘habits’ that you want to track. They can be either good habits (like spending 1/2 hour a day on your project) that you want to encourage, or bad ones (like too much coffee) that you want to avoid.

Then you log in to the app every day (I find it easiest to log in once in the morning and once in the evening), check in on the habits you want to encourage/discourage, and mark off whether you’ve achieved your goals or not that day. So if I actually did 1/2 hour of work on my ‘muse’ (I borrowed this term from Tim Ferriss’ excellent book, The 4-Hour Workweek), then I just click on ‘Yes’ under this habit and I get a nice green checkmark for my efforts.

The app offers a reporting feature where you can track your progress both on a macro (i.e. all of your goals) or individual goal level (‘how did I do with regards to exercising every day?’), but that, to me, is less important than the simple act of having to report on my progress each day. Reporting my progress in the app is an act of accountability that reminds me, every day, what is important to me. And as silly as it sounds, I don’t want to let the app down (and by process of extension, let myself down).

HOW WILL YOU USE YOUR 1/2 HOUR?

I’ll finish off with a question: how will you use your daily 1/2 hour? What dream will you pursue? What idea will you launch into the world? What long-buried goal will you finally bring to life?

Just commit 30 minutes every day and you’ll be amazed at what you can achieve.

Want some help starting or growing your business? Check out The Social Entrepreneur, a comprehensive online course I spent 11 months developing, to help entrepreneurs like you build, launch and scale businesses that change the world for the better.

I also work with a (very) limited number of committed, passionate entrepreneurs on a consulting basis.

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Required Reading for Entrepreneurs

Required Reading for Entrepreneurs

If you want to succeed as an entrepreneur, one proven way to do so is to be smarter than your competition. And one surefire way to be smarter than the competition is to read more than they do.

When I decided to get serious about my company 8 years ago, I knew that my existing skill set and knowledge were inadequate to manage and grow my company to the level I wanted to get it to. The company was crawling along, barely profitable and barely growing.

On the verge of selling my business, I decided instead to go ‘all in’ and learn as much as I could about the world of entrepreneurship, and started subscribing to entrepreneurship magazines. I then subscribed to as many entrepreneurship blogs as I could, and started building my library of entrepreneurship books (over 120 and counting now). I devoured everything I could about sales, marketing, leadership, business models, social entrepreneurship, you name it…

And then a funny thing happened… the more I read, the more my business succeeded. The blogs and books that I read are a constant source of inspiration, ideas, and practical advice. Because the world of entrepreneurship keeps changing, there’s always more reading to do. To this date, I still read an entrepreneurship book every 2 weeks and spend at least half an hour a day reading blogs. Reading constantly helps me always keep one step ahead of the competition.

So without further ado, here are my favourite blogs and books for entrepreneurs. I hope you enjoy them!

TOP 10 ENTREPRENEUR BLOGS

I highly recommend you subscribe to each and every one of these blogs and make 1/2 hour of reading a part of your morning routine:

  • Entrepreneur magazine: they offer over a dozen different newsletters you can subscribe to, by topic
  • Inc. newsletters: Scroll over ‘Newsletters’ and select the newsletters you want to subscribe to
  • Jill Konrath: One the internet’s best blogs for sales people
  • Verne Harnish’s ‘Growth Guy’ blog: the author of Mastering the Rockefeller Habits and Scaling up offers 2-3 excellent posts/week with advice on how to scale up and create a lasting business
  • Stanford Social Innovation Review (Social Entrepreneurship category):
  • Ashoka Blogs: a blog for and by innovators for the public
  • Digital Marketer: hands-down the best blog on digital marketing in the known universe
  • Acumen Blog: Acumen is one of the world’s largest social investment organizations; their blog is an excellent resource for those working in international development and/or poverty reduction
  • QuickSprout: another excellent online resource for those interested in upping their online marketing game
  • James Clear: not an entrepreneurship blog, per se, but James writes about ‘science-based ideas for mastering your habits and living a better life.’ And good habits are essential to being an effective, grounded entrepreneur!

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TOP 10 BOOKS FOR ENTREPRENEURS

Start building your entrepreneurship library with these 10 titles (they’re my favourite go-to books that I read again and again, of the more than 120 entrepreneurship books in my library):

  • Scaling Up, Verne Harnish: the definitive guide to scaling a business
  • The Automatic Customer, John Warrilow: fantastic book on creating a subsctiption business in any industry
  • Business Model Generation, Alex Osterwalder and others: the seminal book that started the ‘Canvas’ approach to business planning
  • The Fortune at the Bottom of the Pyramid, CK Pralahad: How to make a sustainable profitable business from servicing the poorest of the poor
  • Looptail, Bruce Poon Tip: The story of G Adventures, one of the most successful adventure travel companies in the world. Packed full of great insights and ideas that have made their way into my own company’s operations
  • Getting to Maybe, Frances Westley and Brenda Zimmerman: The bible of social innovation
  • To Sell is Human, Daniel Pink: Fantastic insight into the psychology of sales
  • The Entrepreneurship Rollercoaster, Darren Hardy: Great read and perspective on entrepreneurship, with practical tips, from the publisher of Success magazine
  • Delivering Happiness, Tony Hsieh: Lessons on customer service from the founder of Zappos.com, widely considered to be one of the best customer service organizations in the world
  • Start With Why, Simon Sinek: How to establish your company’s purpose and communicate it to the world

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7 Questions For An Amazing 2016

7 Questions For An Amazing 2016

Every year at around this time, for the past 6 years, I have sat down in a quiet place to plan out my upcoming year. I’m not a believer in vague resolutions, but rather, I make a list of goals for the year. I start by listing out all of the things I might want to work achieve in the coming year, and then I whittle that list of (typically) 15-20 goals down to about 5 or 6 of the most important goals I want to work toward.

Then those become the things I work feverishly toward; my track record over the past half-decade or so has been pretty solid, usually around a 75% success rate (if my success rate comes in much higher I know I’ve set the bar too low, and if it comes in much lower and I know I’ve probably been a bit unrealistic).

But before I actually start setting my goals for the year ahead, there’s one important step that helps me prepare for that process.

Reflection

Reflection – especially self-reflection – is one of the most underrated activities an entrepreneur can do. Too often we get swept along in the tidal wave that is entrepreneurship, putting out one fire after another, launching another marketing campaign, training another staff member, etc. But what really sets apart the great entrepreneurs from the mediocre (or downright bad) ones is that the great ones all take time for reflection. Taking time to slow down and reflect allows you to get out of passive, reactive mode – where we’re always reacting to the latest crisis or newest shiny thing – into proactive mode, where we are setting our own agenda rather than letting it set us.

7 Questions to Ask Yourself Before You Set Your New Year’s Goals

With that in mind, here are 7 questions that I recommend you ask yourself before you start the process of setting your goals for the new year. [A special thanks go out to Mel Abraham of The Entrepreneur’s Solution podcast (one of my favourite podcasts), for the inspiration and starting point for these questions]

 

1. How well did I progress towards last year’s goals?

Before you can start setting new goals, you need to assess how well you did with respect to last year’s goals. Did you actually achieve any of your goals?  (and were your goals SMART, so that you could actually assess whether you succeeded or not?) How many did you succeed in achieving?

If you set 10 ambitious goals last year but barely managed to achieve 1 of them, you need to take a look at whether your goals were simply too ambitious, or whether you have a good enough system to help you track and achieve progress towards your goals (more on goal-setting and tracking in a future blog post).

List your goals from the previous year and next to each goal, give yourself a ranking from 1 to 10 on how well you achieved each goal. Then total up the rankings and divide by the number of goals. If your average is less than 7, you need to review your process for goal-setting and/or goal-achieving.

 

2. What went well last year?

Other than your big goals for the year, what else went well? List up to 10 things that went well for you last year, in all of the aspects of your life: career, financial, relationships, health, etc.

 

3. What were my biggest lessons and takeaways from last year?

Even if you had an amazing year, you probably had a few setbacks and problems along the way. If you don’t regularly take time for self-reflection, now is the time to do it. There’s no more important self-reflection than the ability to examine one’s mistakes and learn from them. List up to 10 big lessons you learned from your previous year. Use these as guidance for the year ahead so that you don’t find yourself repeating the same mistakes!

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4. What am I grateful for?

Who are the people and things you are grateful for? Gratitude has been shown, in numerous studies, to have a strong correlation to happiness and success. Take time to give thanks for all of the people and things in your life that contribute to your well being.

 

5. What do I need to let go of or say no to this year?

Saying no is one of the most important skills that successful people and entrepreneur develop. ‘No’ is the constant companion of focus, which is an important companion of success. Make this year the year you learn to say no, and the year you learn to focus on your most important goals – the year you actually start to move towards your dreams. Make yourself a list of all of the things (and people) you need to say no to in the coming year, and all of the things you need to let go of. Then be vigilant about staying on top of that ‘no’ list!

 

6. What was my mental state or attitude like last year?

Your attitude is one of the most important contributors to your overall success. A negative attitude will make it extremely difficult for you to achieve the goals you set out for yourself. What was your attitude like last year? None of us have a perfect attitude or mental state all of the time, but what was your attitude like most of the time?

If your attitude was overwhelmingly negative, what can you do to improve it? (hint: exercise and meditation are two great ways, along with a great morning routine)

An overly positive attitude can also be a problem. I often suffer from glass-too-full syndrome, where I take an unrealistically positive perception of both myself and the world around me, and need to ensure I am keeping both feet on – or at least one foot – on the ground, while I’m dreaming up in the clouds. This has gotten me into trouble in the past, and blinded me to potential problems.

7. Who do I need to become in order to get the things I want?

Most successful entrepreneurs will tell you that their success came on the heels of deep personal work. In order to set the stage for success, they needed to work on themselves first: to put into place the proper systems for success; to develop a healthy lifestyle; to build the right relationships on strong, healthy footing; to develop a mindset for success.

For myself, it was only after I did some deep personal work, including a lot of therapy and soul-searching, that I was able to achieve the success I had sought for so many years. Once I did the work, the success came almost like magic: opportunities and people came into my life from all sides.

So the final question I offer you is, “Who do I need to become in order to get the things I want in life?”

What type of person do you need to be in order to achieve the goals you want to list for your upcoming year? Do you need to be super-creative? Super-productive? Full of energy?

Putting it all together

List these 7 questions on a piece of paper, or an Evernote, or Word doc, whatever. Once you’ve written them down, set aside at least 2 hours to give yourself quiet time to reflect on them and answer them deeply and meaningfully. Once you’ve answered these questions truthfully and introspectively, you’ll have set a wonderful stage for developing your goals for the year ahead.

I’d love to hear your thoughts about this post or these questions – post your comments, musings and questions in the comments section below! I wish you all an amazing 2016!

Yours,

Mike Brcic,
The Social Entrepreneur

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