181: Get to deep work

"What did I even do today?" - This question arises most often when you end up with a work day full of scattered meetings, slack pings, emails, and fires to put out.

You hop around through your day being pulled by the winds of whatever external force directs your attention next.

This state of work has become normal for many... yet it's a choice.

And if you are not intentional about the work you do and how you structure your day, then it becomes the default.

In today's tech-enabled society, apps are fighting for your attention.
Slack wants you to check what notification is behind that little red dot... even if it's just a giphy.

To do good quality work, you have to structure your day to enable it.
You have to set up your work space to allow it.
And you have to be disciplined to avoid distractions so you can get to a place of doing work that matters.

The same is true of your team.
If you fill their calendars with meetings and overload them with distractions, then they will struggle to ever output quality work for you.

Get to deep work. It is where you and your team will make the biggest impact.

180: Choose better work

Too many things to do and not enough time?
This seems to be the problem plaguing most entrepreneurs.

And so they look for productivity hacks or systems to make them more efficient.
While productivity has it's place, focusing all your attention there is missing the point.

If you have too many things to do, you simply need to choose better work.

Can't get it done in a normal 40-hour work week?
Then look at your tasks and ask, "What do I need to delegate, eliminate, or automate?"

If your work week is overloaded, it is because you designed it that way.
You are making the choice to take on too much work or more responsibilities than you should be handling.

Fixing it is simple.
Choose better work.

Choose to not do low-level tasks that are not the best use of your time.
Delegate responsibilities and projects to others instead of doing them all yourself.
Eliminate painful work from customers or projects that you should cut ties with.

You choose what your work day looks like.
So don't complain when you have too much on your plate.

179: Is pushing yourself worth it?

"If you aren't uncomfortable, you are not pushing yourself hard enough."
I've seen this type of advice all over throughout the personal development space-

The idea of "no pain, no gain" or "growth comes from discomfort."

While pain and discomfort may indeed push you to grow, it's unhealthy to take this on as the new status quo of your life.

I mean, what is the point of life if you are constantly in discomfort or pain?

Instead, look to consistently challenge yourself, but not to the point of discomfort.
Set targets that are growing, but not painful to hit.
Stop writing huge, overambitious goals, and then stressing out when you don't hit them.

It's okay to not always aim big.
Sometimes saying "Our goal is simply to grow by 1% this quarter" is enough.

It's not sexy to say, but what's wrong with a company that stays stable or grows slowly?
Especially if that company provides a good balance for you and the team.

Stop obsessing with growth and pushing yourself to your limits.

Sometimes just setting a small target and knocking it out of the park is even more rewarding.

178: Evolve your organization

Many entrepreneurs put little thought into how their organization runs. Instead, they spend all their time focused on marketing, tactics, and trying to hit their next growth goal.

As a result, they may not ask the hard questions:

Are our meeting structures as effective as they could be?
Are we getting the most out of our team by giving them ample time off?
Are we developing new products or services?

These questions don't seem necessary at a glance.
They aren't sexy or fun.
But they are important, nonetheless,
Because your company ultimately produces products and services for your customers.
And the efficiency of your company determines many things...

Your happiness
Your team's happiness
Your customer's happiness
Profitability and sustainability

So it's worth looking at your company as something worth evolving.
It's worth examining how you and your team work, and also looking for better ways.

Don't just do it the way you have always done it.
Look for ways to evolve and grow your organization.

177: Stop bragging about busyness

Q: "How's work?"
A: "Oh it's crazy busy. But that's a good problem to have!"

Oh, the many times I've had such a silly conversation.

Our society has programmed us to praise being "busy". It's considered such a good thing.

Yet most of us didn't sign up to be entrepreneurs so we could be "busy."

Instead, we became entrepreneurs because we want to make a great income.
We became entrepreneurs because we want freedom over our schedule.

Yet, somehow, we back ourselves into a hole of "busy."
And then we brag about it...

There is another way. Instead of being crazy busy all the time... you can run a calm company.

You can build a business to run without you.
You can build a team that loves their job.
You can have a calm and collected life as an entrepreneur.

I know, it sounds like a crazy promise, but it's possible.

As the entrepreneur, you decide what you build.

Do you want to build a crazy busy company?
Or do you want to build a calm, collected company that offers freedom and balance?

176: Focus on today

For years in my entrepreneurial journey, I had a number in mind. When I make [this much] every month, I will have made it.

That is the subtle story I told myself.

Yet as I pursued that number, I struggled. I would take one step forward and two steps back.

I was fixated on hitting that number but I couldn’t make it happen.

Then my mindset shifted.

Instead of yearning for the future, focus on doing the work that needs to be done today.

I pulled myself into the present and just focused on doing the work I needed to do each day to grow the business.

Then something crazy happened...

One week as we renewed finances, I realized that I had hit my number 3 months ago.

We looked at finances every week, but the thought that this was the goal I had been pursuing never even crossed my mind.

I had been focused on the present, and the results just came.

Stop living in the future.
Focus on today.

Do the work wholeheartedly everyday and your ideal future will arrive.

175: Is this the life you want?

Is this the life you really want?

Stop for a moment and ask yourself this question. Look at the work you do every day and how you spend the moments of your life.

For many of us, we have a way of doing work and following opportunities that present themselves, or using the skills we just happen to be good at.

Then one day, we wake up and find ourselves not enjoying our days. We find ourselves immersed in work that we don't truly care about.

So I ask you again, is this the life you really want?

Or are you destined for something more, something different?

Think on this question, because it is within your power to change it.
If you aren't happy with where you are today, realize that you are in control.
You can change your reality, pivot your career, or do whatever it takes to get yourself to a place you want.

Is this the life you want?

174: Study yourself

"In this article, this guy said hiring a VP of Marketing as soon as he could was the best thing he ever did. Should I do that?"

This question came up in a mastermind recently.
The specifics of the question do not matter.

But what matters is the underlying tone the question implies.

It is the tone of studying the success of others as a means to make decisions.

We all do this. And to an extent we have to, as studying the success of others can teach us many things and put us in a good direction.

But it's not actually the most productive thing to do.

Instead of studying the stories of others who have made it big... try studying yourself.

Look at when you have your biggest successes, and your biggest failures.
What led to them?
What can you learn from them?

When are you at your best? Or your worst?

Spend less time consuming the content from the stories of others.
And spend more time on self-awareness and studying yourself.

Studying yourself pays off in bigger ways than studying others.

173: It's about your customer

It's not about you, it's about your customer.

This simple lesson is fundamental to succesful marketing. And even if we know it, the depth of what this lesson means can go so deep.

Too often as entrepreneurs, we put ourselves and our business as the center of our attention.

We think in terms of our perspective, our profits, our processes, and our people.
This is actually thinking small when you look at things this way.

Instead, if you can flip your perspective and think about the customer first, things change.

Think about your customers' needs and pains, their experience, their ROI, their success, their emotions.

When you do this, you can begin to design a product or service that blows the customer away. Then, from there, you can operationally figure out how to deliver that service as a business.

AirBnb did this with their classic #11 star check-in brainstorming experiment. This forced them to think about how to create an amazing experience.

You can do the same for your business. Put the customer first and figure out how to make it all about them.

172: Self-Awareness is key

Emotions, thoughts, ideas, opportunities, distractions... these will flow through your head a thousand times a day as an entrepreneur.

And it's easy to let yourself be totally sideswiped by these. For many of us, we don't even realize it is happening.

For years, I lacked self-awareness. I just operated in this state of ego, emotion, and impulse.

Occasionally I had some successes, but I often had a lot of failures. Both came at the whim of luck and pure grit as opposed to actual conscious achievement.

Today, I vigilantly practice self-awareness- Through journaling, meditation, self-development, and coaches.

All of these are daily habits in my life because they reflect me back to myself. They let me see me for who I am, and not for what my impulses and desires make me out to be.

Self-awareness is a crucial difference between the entrepreneur who is tugged along by his business, and the entrepreneur who designs a life worth living.

It's a daily practice of time and effort.
But it's one worth practicing.

171: Lean into what you avoid

In your business, there is something you are avoiding.
Something that you know you need to do...
But you just aren't doing it.

This is the key.

Because whenever you are avoiding something, that is the sign that it is the thing you actually need to focus on.

For example, I avoided looking at my bookkeeping for almost 18 months after I realized I had a problem. I hired a crummy bookkeeper, and I knew we weren't in a good situation.

But despite knowing that I was avoiding it, I just kept not looking.

Then one day, everything blows up.
The bookkeeper leaves.
It's tax season.
I bring someone new in.
They don't work out.
The books are in chaos.
And tax deadlines are looming...

This thing that I avoided became a massive problem that cost me thousands of dollars and countless hours of wasted time.

If I had simply leaned into what I was avoiding, it could have changed everything.

When you catch yourself avoiding something, pay attention.
That is often the source of massive problems.

170: Stop trying to be right

There is a difference between being right and making the best decision.

Yet most people cling to this idea of being right.
They reject the viewpoints of others out of pride and ego.

Small volumes of "trying to be right" may lead to a few bad decisions.

High volumes of "trying to be right" leads to a close-minded individual who holds their ego above what is actually the best decision.

Instead of trying to be right all the time, open your mind to the viewpoints of others.
Specifically, others who have demonstrated expertise in the area in question.

If you disagree with them, don't spend your time arguing your point.
Instead, listen and try to understand their viewpoint.

Disagreements are not a time where you need to get defensive.
Instead, they are a great time to learn the perspective of another invididual.

Stop trying to be right all the time.
It's holding you back from making the best possible decision.

169: Stop tinkering with your business

Entrepreneurs like to tinker... and often that can be disastrous for your business.

You see, as a business owner, your goal is to get your company to a point where it can run without you. Yet most entrepreneuers will struggle to actually let that happen.

It's scary for them to not be working on something.
It's boring for them to not be producing.
And it's foreign to have the business NOT be dependent on them...

So what do we do?

We tinker.

We throw ourselves back into the business and find something to mess with, some new thing to improve. Yet in reality everything was working just fine without you.

Your goal as an entrepreneur is to build a business that can run without you,
not a business you can tinker around with all day.

When you remove yourself from your business, you must find other creative outlets for your energy.

Write, create, start another business... do something.

Because otherwise you will find yourself creating more problems for your current business than you will be fixing.

168: Money back guarantees

"That's so risky. How do you offer a 30-day money back guarantee?"

This question has come at me again and again with Lead Cookie. People are baffled at the idea that we would offer a money back guarantee on a service that can cost up to $1,500 per month.

Yet we have offered it since day one, and it is one of the best things we have done.

Guarantees are powerful for 3 reasons.

  1. They force you to sell only to customers who you can actually help.

  2. They reduce the risk for good buyers and make your sales process easier which increases your sales call conversions.

  3. If you sign good customers as outlined in #1, and they sign due to reduced risk in #2, then the benefits of the money back guarantee will far outweigh the costs of offering it.

At Lead Cookie, we gave a LOT of refunds in our first 6 months. But that was our fault. We didn't know who would work well with our service and who wouldn't.

Today, we give 1-2 refunds per quarter. And it is nearly always our fault for signing a poor-fit customer.

Yet in a given quarter, I will have 10-15 people say, "Well, you guys make it a no-brainer with the money back guarantee so let's do it."

The benefits of a money back guarantee far outweigh the rewards.

167: Focus on one creative project at a time

When you are building a business, your time will be split in two ways.

Maintenance work.
Creative work. 

Maintenance is everything that you do to keep the business running- Taking sales calls, handling clients, meeting with team members, etc. 

Creative work is every time you build something new- Launching a new marketing channel, building a new service feature, building new marketing assets.

If you want to get stressed and overwhelmed, try to tackle multiple creative projects at the same time... 

It's nearly impossible while trying to balance it with all of your maintenance work. 
And even if you do it, the quality of the work suffers.

Instead, tackle one creative project every single week.
Focus just on that one project, and do it extremely well.

This will minimize your stress and maximize your output.

Over a year, you will complete 52 projects that will level up your business every single week.

Don't try to do too much. You will burn out and the quality will suffer.
Focus on one creative project at a time. 

166: Choose your own path

"What the hell am I doing here?" - That was the thought that entered my head as I sat in a meeting with some healthcare executives, wearing a suit, and covering up the tattoos on my arm.

Several years ago, after I left my first agency, I tried to start a healthcare company.

The business concept was decent. I had some initial traction, but then the whole thing failed because I quit on it. 

And the reason I quit...
I hated working in healthcare.

You see, at the time I was young and naive, and when I left my first business I was trying to figure out what to do next. 

But I was too young to know to follow my own voice, so instead I followed the voice of others.

Everyone else in Nashville was running healthcare companies, so I started one too. 

I did it not for myself.
But I did it to seek the approval of others.

And it took 9 months of me sitting in rooms wearing suits and ties to realize This is not who I am.

When faced with choices in life,
stop for a moment and listen.
Listen to the voice inside of yourself.

It's often quiet and drowned out by the crowds of voices of those around you.

But it's there.
Listen to it and choose your own path. 

165: Don't overthink it

I used to take pride in "thinking critically." For every major decision I faced, I would draw out mind maps and pros and cons lists.

For every project I embarked on, there would be countless planning documents on what I was going to do.

But eventually, I fell into a trap... I spent all my time thinking about what I was going to do and not enough time actually doing it.

This is a dangerous trap for the entrepreneur, the artist, the creator... you can spend all day thinking about what you are going to do... or you can just do it.

Today, my output is 10x what it once was.
The difference now is that I don't overthink it.

Instead of intellectualizing, I take action.
Instead of thinking, I take first steps. 
Instead of pondering, I just start.

Sure, there needs to be a healthy amount of strategic planning in the mix. But beyond the high level planning, you don't need to spend the rest of your life in thought.

Instead of thought, favor action.

Don't overthink it.
Just do the work you were meant to do. 

164: Don’t get distracted by hacks

At many points along your journey to success in business, health, or your own growth, you will encounter the promised “hack."

These hacks always promise big results.
And sometimes they may actually produce real results.

But the problem with hacks is they are short-term. 

They are not sustainable and they don’t offer real long-lasting results.

Today, I read an article all about how to “hack LinkedIn’s content algorithm."

It was a waste of time.

While those hacks may provide short-term wins, they distract you from the real focus which is creating great content worth sharing.

Don’t get distracted by hacks. 

163: Stop comparing yourself

The other day someone approached me and was in marvel at the quick growth rate of Lead Cookie.

Yet I found it ironic because at times I find myself marveling at the rapid growth of my peers around me and feel like I come up short.

This comparison is unhealthy, even if businesses look similar.

Other LinkedIn lead gen companies have reached out to me as they are starting up and want to know the secrets.

And the truth is, part of it was timing. 

When I started Lead Cookie, I could find a total of 7 other done-for-you LinkedIn services... today there are countless.

I hit the market early, rode a wave, and established us as a market leader.

If I tried the same thing today, it wouldn’t have the same results because I would be behind the curve.

Yet people try to replicate other businesses, and then compare themselves when they fall short.

When in reality, timing, market conditions, and industry trends are fluid and make it impossible to replicate.

Yes. Model after others.

But don’t get lost in comparisons to someone else who may have just nailed the timing and faced different market conditions than you.

162: You can have balance

“Get ready to work 80-hour work weeks for the next 6 months.” - Advice from an unnamed business coach whose name I shall hide to protect the guilty. :)

This mindset of work, work, work, hustle, hustle, hustle... it’s bullshit.

While I admit, a lot of "wantrapreneurs" could use a bit more hustle in their life, most entrepreneurs who start seeing any success swing too far the other direction.

80+ hour work weeks become the norm and we start wearing that as a badge of pride.

Consider an alternative.

Consider giving up short-term profits to hire more help. 
Consider growing slowly, instead of at rapid speeds.
Consider that work should serve your life, and not the other way around.

Working 80+ hours per week is a choice, not a mandate.

You can still build an epic and amazing business working the standard 40. 

Sure, you may have some intense weeks, but it doesn’t have to be your norm.

You can have balance.