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5 Questions to Ask so You Set Better Goals

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So you’ve done it all right – you set the big ambitious goal, you went after it and one of three things happened:

You hit it, and realize that it provided no fulfillment. You got the achievement high, and went on to the next thing

You missed it, and feel like you failed. Maybe you feel like “oh I don’t really care” or maybe you feel like “I hate myself and my inability to hit my goals – but either is a symptom of the same thing

You hit it, feel good about it, and are wondering, “Now that I’m here, what next??” What should I do?

Who Cares About Goal Setting – I’m Fine Living in Flow

I loved living in flow. I was always calm, and easy and successful and making tons of –

Wait. No that wasn’t it.

I was frustrated, impatient, and eager to prove myself worthy…..

Flow, or what we might think we are doing, can also be intentional disconnection from our deeep desire to grow and be successful. Really, I was running from my best self – scared of what I could be more than what I was.

It wasn’t flow. It was fear. I wasn’t growing, and I didn’t want to own it. The opposite of flow seemed like too much drive – number tracking, money-hungry wall street guys on their way to millions by ruining their body, ethics, morals and  Not me. NO! Not me at all!

Was there a way to be in flow AND set goals?

If you’re like me, you’ve been puzzled by goal setting. We don’t learn it in school, we don’t learn it from our parents usually (unless you’re super lucky), and we don’t get practice at it early enough to make it feel like we understand it.

I struggled with it.

I used to set these goals like earn $1M by 30, or Read 52 books this year, and I would totally fail. This was the flow version of me. “It will happen, the universe will provide.” Then I’d play Halo for 3 hours over some whiskey.

So, then I got into some bigger, badder groups of amazing people that pushed me.

Finally a solution! Accountability, drive, ambition – and UNLIMITED POWER!!! (Say it like the genie from the 1st cartoon Alladin!)

I started crushing it – hitting the goals, fixing my mindset. I highly recommend that anyone really work on their mindset FIRST before you really look at goals at all. So there I was – knocking em down. Taking names. Super Aaron.

But something was off. Maybe you’ve felt this too.

If you’re on the other side, setting goals and making things happen for yourself, maybe this is you.

Almost like, “So what,” I was feeling like I hadn’t ever cared about the goal in the first place. I as doing what the world wanted me to do. I was making money, buying nice things, and falling into the traps of normalcy.

I had to evolve yet again. This was AFTER hitting my goals consistently.

Here’s what we don’t talk about – goals are most often misaligned.

When we have no idea what we’re doing, of course they are! We don’t know how to align them.

Here’s an example of goals that are misaligned for me, that I experienced and dealt with the hard way:

Goal #1: Build a business that makes over $1M in revenue

Goal #2: See 98 countries over the next 3 years.

Can you spot what’s wrong here?

Here’s the truth….

The Truth About Goals and our Deepest Wants

If you set two goals going opposite directions, one going east and one going west, which way will you end up going?


That’s right. No where.

Imagine trying to create a business while on the go. Very few can do it, and truthfully, those that do, often lie about their lifestyle. If you work on the beach, awesome.

But you might not see that someone worked on the beach for 15 hours. Take it all with a grain of salt.

To build a big businesses will take you lots of time. You need to know your customers, talk with them, figure out a product, build the products, attract and recruit a team.

Is that possible while you’re in a new country every week? Hell no.

HEEEEEELLLLLLL NO.

So, the process is flawed, and you make no progress, get frustrated, and quit.

But it’s not your fault. No one taught you how to do this.

It wasn’t a part of school. Your teachers don’t know it. And no one wants to talk about it.

But I will!

5 Ways to Set Better Goals – Reflective Questions to Ask During the Setting Process

Why do I want this?

Is this your want or the worlds? Do you actually value what you’re going after?

Here’s the thing. If you know your values, this is easy.

The world wants you to look good, be in shape, wear expensive clothes, have a luxury car, live in a mansion. Each of those industries is pushing for you to buy their version of the vision – but you can’t, and shouldn’t have them all. What kind of life is that?

Double down on what you love. I work from home a lot, so I invest in a place with lots of natural light and lots of open space. I don’t buy junk and I don’t spend on silly decor.

I love to travel, so I don’t do much in the states. I can skip the theme parks – Ill go to prague instead, and when I travel, I travel first class. My tickets to London, round trip – $145. My tickets to Prague – $45. Ask me how here.

I like to learn, so I spend a LOT on education. Upwards of 5 figures per year. Last year I spent over $10,000 on education. Know what I don’t buy? Cars that are $60k+, or belts that are $200.

What would I do once I finish it?

Every move must have a purpose. So what is this ones? Will you be in shape? Will you have enough money to invest in something that will last? What’s the plan, Stan?

Most of us set achievement goals Then, we back it up with “When I get to X, I’ll be happy.”

No. You won’t.

You won’t be happy and you won’t stop there. So, I can encouurage you to think differently because once I did, it changed this whole process for me. Instead of setting goals that got me somewhere without a purpose, I started setting long term goals that helped me build.

I met a guy that was running Iron Mans in his 50s. I don’t know that I want to do that, but I do want to emulate his fitness. So, how do I do that.


All that really requires is me to stay in shape – so my goals are now about my process of moving. I set a mile goal  and a gym visit goal – not to quantify my weight loss or my weight #gains or something that will inevitably change, instead I double down on what is the intention behind the goal.

If your intention is to get rich, cool! Rock on! Set the goal of starting an income stream, or investing in property. But know the endgame.

Avengers, and the massive success Marvel had, taught me this – if you keep the end in mind, you can build something magical along the way and enjoy every single time you sit down to reflect on what story you just wrote.

What process does this create?

Much like above, we’re back to THE point here.

I’m a big believer in the process and how important it is to success. So, now all my goals are based on building a process that will last, not just one that comes and goes. If I’m building the best lifestyle I possibly can, then I have to avoid diets and go to the root of it all – the behaviors taht repeat themselves over and over.

If you generally don’t like to do anything adrenaline seeking, but set the goal of jumping out of a plane, make sure you understand how it fits in with your future. I get it – you want to prove you can do it. But then what? Will you then write that book? Quit your job? What is the point?

Let’s say you want to start a business.

Start withthe  understanding that you don’t build overnight, it will take you a long time and a lot of effort, and you will have to give things up. You will NOT be Zuckerberg in 2 years.

So, if you know that’s true, play long term and build a vision for how you will get there.

The number of people that have quit their dream business building empire because it got tough speaks to how many people don’t work on the process. And when it gets tought, they back out.

Because they don’t believe in building. Just achieving.


If you fail, you must not be good enough. When I fail, it makes me good enough.

Capiche?

Is this sustainable?

Let’s keep building, if you’re going for a one-shot goal, make sure that’s what it should be. Otherwise, if you’re looking to lose a couple pounds, a sustainable goal isn’t so focused on the weight. Again, back to process, we want to create something sustainable. Maybe instead of saying lose 5 lbs, where you celebrate with a dessert made for 3, you focus on something that you can sustain. Maybe 3 days a week, you’re at the gym, or walking/jogging. But it has to be something you can sustain.

Build up, from something small to large, is perfectly sustainable, by the way. If no one gave you permission to start with a half mile walk, and build up to that 5k you’ve wanted to run, I am here and now giving you all the permission you need.

Does it add value to others?

Some things need to be for us. But there is truth in that fulfillment and happiness come from making others happy. What can you do to add value? I like to send books to strangers I meet. I also like to make sure I’m buying dinner and spending time with friends and family. That to me is luxury.

Maybe for you it’s taking the time to see your friends’ kids. Or, it’s spending a few moments with your sister or brother just to make sure they know how important they are for you. Maybe it’s helping a friend with a painting project. Or, maybe it’s hosting dinner parties that connect people.

Consider that others are where you can add value – which in turn will bring value.

An Example of this Progression


I know you want to see how to better do it. SO here’s a quick evolution:

Version 1: (achievement) Put on 10 lbs of muscle

I hit the goal, but felt empty, and didn’t know what to do next.

Version 2: (process, but not refined) Get in the gym 2x per week

But what about weeks I’m away. This didn’t account for lifestyle and change.

Version 3: (refined process) Visit the gym 100 times this year.

This lets me flex on when, how, and why. For example, I REFUSE to do the gym in January. Small gym, big gym, I don’t care. I’m out. So I need something that allows me to grow into a process, and account for change.

I break this into quarter goals – 15 visits Q1, 30 visits Q2, 40 visits Q3, 20 visits Q4. Not nearly as intimidating. And if you did your math there, I’m ABOVE target.

BAM.

Then again, what do I know. This is just my system.

So what’s yours? I’m curious!

What do you do to set goals now? Drop your tactics that have worked for you below!!!

-AV

Tradeoffs, Pro-Con Lists… And Lies I was told as a kid

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I remember lots and lots of these one-off idioms as a kid.

Maybe you’ve heard them too:

  • Practice makes perfect.
  • Don’t shit where you eat.
  • The grass is always greener on the other side.
  • There’s pros and cons of every decision.

They always seemed so disconnected from truth. And, add to it that there was always someone saying it that I didn’t feel like I looked up to or didn’t know that well: a teacher, a friend’s dad cooking burgers on the grill, that weird old lady that always walked by the house really, really slowly.

It never landed. It never stuck.

Then, along comes life and suddenly, I find myself believing in these concepts as I go to make choices.

I had internalized them, especially, “The grass is always greener on the other side.”

This quote is really about how when we look across at other ‘grass,’ it might look greener, but what we stand on and already have is totally better.

It’s about valuing what we have. Or so I thought.

And then, on the cusp of quitting my job, I realized that what was holding me back most was thinking that it was only an illusion – that running my own company (or companies as it should be) was NOT actually best for me.

That the grass was just fine where I was, and that I was chasing something unreal.

I would arrive to the other ‘side’ and look back at my job – secure, consistent, predictable – and envy it again too, for it was now the “other side.”

Maybe you’ve had this fear. Maybe you’ve felt something just as dagger-like when you go to make choices.

We all have these fears based on expectations of the outcome of our choices.

But, I want to talk about what a tradeoff really is, and how, if we’re clear about our values, tradeoffs don’t mean we lose.

Remember this line: There’s pros and cons of every decision. Let’s debunk where I got stuck, so you don’t do the same.

Conceptual Example:

You’ve got a great job, or at least a job. And you’re comparing and contrasting options as you consider a change. You’re a great employee, healthy eater, and find happiness in helping others.

Job One (that you currently have) has a good salary, offers a great retirement package, and has a cafeteria on site, where you can get a fast lunch provided to you paid for by the company, but you don’t really help people. You just crunch the numbers. But you’re not happy here, so you have another potential match lined up.

At Job Two, you’ll make a 10% more, keep the same benefits, but no cafeteria. You’ll also be working directly with clients to help them navigate challenging financial waters via services you provide.

And as you go to make this decision, you make a little pros cons list.

Ever done this?

Ah, yes, the ol’ post it note pro-con list! My favorite way to make tough decisions!


I did this with cars, apartments…..dating….lots of things.

Now my choice is way complicated. Now my numbers are almost even – what will I do?!?! This choice is going to rip me apart! AHHHH!! That $1000 isn’t worth all this stress!

<Slams head into wall>

Why do we do this to ourselves? And better yet, how can we do it better.

There’s a HUGE issue with the way we go about this, and it’s simple and addressable.

Instead of our pros and cons list being a strengths and weaknesses chart, it becomes a shortlist for ANYTHING we can think of that we’re either giving up or passing off.

Here’s what I mean.

Remember above that you’re a healthy eater. You value eating well, and your cafeteria doesn’t serve healthy options. It’s fast food basically.

It’s all in the details, right? If we just look at the data comparing the jobs, we miss how our values impact these decisions.

A healthy eater is not likely to value fast food, and you probably meal prep and bring your lunch daily. If that’s the case FREE LUNCH, does NOT belong on the pros cons list for something you’re giving up.

Why?

Because you don’t value it.

If we then look at the list rewritten, it might be more like this:

Suddenly, choices aren’t nearly as tough to make – especially when I know my values. If all that changes in this case is I have to reset the reputation I’ve built, I can make a much better call.

Because truthfully, if I don’t care about free unhealthy lunches, then I shouldn’t put it on the list! Don’t value something you don’t value! (seems obvious)

I value freedom to plan my day, an unlimited income potential, meaningful work, helping others, and ability to travel and work.

So when I compare that to my corporate world job:

  • fixed salary
  • can’t plan my day
  • no option on what to work on
  • can’t travel except with paid leave
  • not very meaningful
  • Benefits were paid for
  • Retirement savings was done for me
  • My apartment was paid for

Yes, there are some really awesome perks at the bottom. But, who cares about paying for benefits, an apartment, and savings when I can earn an unlimited amount and I’m happy!

In fact, when I pro-con this situation, I don’t even list “paying for benefits” as a con. I’ll happily pay for health insurance, etc given what I’ve got now. Think about that. I’m HAPPY to pay benefits in exchange for what I have now.

And thus, we have debunked the adage. The grass is TOTALLY GREENER!!!! And when I got here, I looked back at grass I didn’t value.

And here I stay. Because it aligns with my values.  

When you know your values, you can easily create better tradeoff decisions, and eliminate things you don’t care about.

Don’t need your car to have baby soft leather? Cool, then don’t pay for the upgrade package.

Don’t travel very much, and really like hosting friends at your house? Great! Get the more open floor plan at your apartment complex.

Values are what help us make better choices, but the ultimate game to be played here is about how we use our values to eliminate elements of choices.

If you don’t value something, it doesn’t belong in the conversation when you’re considering two options.

What are some choices you’ve made where you were doing pros-cons and wrote down every single detail, complicating everything?

Share your answers in the comments or email me. I read every single response!

Redlining – Burnout Perspective Take 1

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One of the beliefs that I came to be self-aware of was this: I was associating suffering with success. I had in my mind this connection, which started in the healthy way – like you work more you get more.

It started that way as an athlete, I believe, because work is associated with suffering, and pain (the right kind; think building muscle) is a good thing. But where I ended up was the belief that the more I suffered the more successful I’d be – and this was outside the gym. If I sacrifice more, give up more,  I’ll win.

That belief came to such a powerful halt was because I sat down and really looked at it objectively: if that is my belief system the only thing I’m chasing then is suffering and I’ll never be happy because suffering and happiness are opposite.

We’re in a culture that’s almost narcissistic when it comes to work – “be an entrepreneur and I don’t give a fuck about anybody else, and just get your money.”

I think conversely we’re also getting messaging like: “Give up everything – don’t  eat, don’t breathe – just work and work.”

A friend on the other end of the phone says, “I feel like I have been red lining I think for the past four years and I’m at the point now where am I stuck. And I’m thinking, ‘I’m red lining but I can’t ever possibly get what I want if I’m working this hard and often and require a serious break just to make sure I don’t die.’” This conversation turned out to be just the message we both needed.

Redlining in the sense of working so hard you’re sacrificing everything else, i.e; burnout.

So for any of out there not sure what will take you to the next level, let’s talk about how my approach has changed, and what results have been.

What I’ve moved towards is this place where I come first. A little self love, a little happiness, a little reverse priority.

I don’t set appointments before 10 am. (Unless, there’s like a really urgent need.) I also avoid email as best as possible during this time. Before 10 am is for me and it’s for work in the most productive and creative part of my energy.  By productive, it doesn’t have to be work. It could mean going for a run, or anything that’s highly productive: Planning, thinking, creating, mapping, setting goals, eating, etc. Those could be more productive than meetings and pulls and emails.

 

We associate working with more production, which is simply not true.

So, I think what we’re after what we’re chasing in in this concept of red lining is super high production and if we’re aiming for super high production, then we must realize that the amount of time we put in is pretty much irrelevant. Production is not a function of time.

Example: Working on a project could take you 10 hours, or 10 minutes. If you complete the project with the same level of quality in both cases, which is more production?

You can have a really really productive day in five minutes and you can have a really unproductive day in twenty-four hours.

I think by setting some boundaries and installing some limits and putting yourself  in a position where what you’re consistently asking yourself “Is this high production?” and if you’re not in a high production mode – STOP talking, STOP working and find some joy.

For a long time, I would get home at like 9pm after some coaching. I would answer emails for an hour, then crash. But now, I’ve realized I’ll do a better job if nine o’clock, I know I’m tired, and I realize they won’t read them until tomorrow. So I sleep, get up at my 530, and plan out my day, and email them at 10am, when they’ll read it. Sleep is my highest and best use at that moment. Sure, there are exceptions, too. I’m not suggesting this is a rigid system at all. It’s one I’ve adapted and iterated over more than a year.

But this redefinition is important. It forces us to reanalyze the relationship that we have if ‘doing work’ is the objective. The objective of a business is to build happiness (search that quote) and, in my opinion, to serve others.

The messaging we get is opposite this. The hard part is in taking all of these fucked up messages that are just bombarding us consistently with: “If you’re not working, you’re going backwards” and that’s just not true. I am constantly moving forward, but that doesn’t mean I’m ‘working.’ That also means that sometimes I have to redefine what qualifies as work.

 

The efficiency and productivity that you need might be best strengthened or added to by stopping working and going for a walk.

As a creative, I really tend to lean into my creative as often as I can, and truthfully I can’t do that and go, go, go without breaks that lead to inspiration that lead to better quality creation. I have to spend almost as much time reflecting as I am painting for my painting to have any emotion in it.

I don’t know a whole lot about every industry, but let’s talk real estate as an example. I think I understand at least one simple principle:  If you want to sell one $3,000,000 house you make more money than if you sold four $100,000 houses. Spending your productive time focused on one success then rather than for mediocre performance, and you’ll make more. Commission based on sales doesn’t have to mean volume, it can mean quality.

Secondarily, our culture of comparative, comparatives as a means of happiness, seems to undermine most of our positive emotions. Worrying about everyone else ain’t going to make you happy, it will just make you suffer.

If you hang out with old people or anybody over the age of like sixty that’s been successful you’ll get a very different sense of this concept of work.

They’re going to have wildly different ideas of this relationship that we have with work. They’ll say things that challenge your perspective. Often we’re desperate to  get the things that make us feel better with money that we don’t have. So, we work on things we don’t like, and then have to keep working to maintain them.

This cycle spirals when all we wanted the whole time was to do things that we love and the things we want only cover that up frustration of NOT doing what we love. Things mask that anger frustration and pain and we end up chasing and burning the candle at both ends to get something that didn’t require money in the first place. If you do things that make you happy every day more than likely the money going to come because you’re doing what you love.

Happy people are typically successful people – not the other way around. Successful people are not always happy.

 

Some marathon runners run because they enjoy it. Some because they think it will prove something, or win them something – like attention or love. Who do you think generally becomes more successful?

 

We often think that it’s the big things that will make us happy: it’s the big house, it’s the big wedding ring, it’s the big cards, cool clothes, and flash cars. But if you’re trying to figure out why you’re redlining, and why you’re not feeling productive, consider that you’ve been sold an image of happiness, not a feeling of happiness.

Chasing something that you don’t want, with energy you don’t have, especially when you don’t even enjoy the chase. I am of the opinion that if you are aligned with why you want something, the chase has meaning and therefore production, redlining and other elements of the chase much more naturally work for you.

If you need millions, why?

I’m not suggesting millions is bad. Get yours. But why? Do you want to just be flashy? That chase will be tough until you get really clear on why.

This happiness element relates to production in a major way.

I’ll tie this together quickly and neatly.

 

Redlining, burnout, isn’t real when you’re happy, and if you know why you are moving a specific direction (clear on why you want a specific end result, rather than why you’ve been told you should want it) and understand what will move you towards that, you will quickly find that ‘more time is not the same as ‘more work.’ In fact, doing more work may mean working less, because you’ll attack the work in spurts and with lots of energy.

So for any of you out there approaching burnout, shed your need for ‘work more’ and focus on produce more, and you’ll be on your way to a happier, healthier you.

Personality, Confidence, and Systems

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I have been working with a few clients taking them through a course I created called Mental Mastery. The emphasis is on mental training that will change physical elements – like athletic performance, success, networking and work ethic most commonly. It also augments any business aptitude, too.

So, the conversation with one of my clients, loosely transcribed (and edited to fit the format here) is below. This particular day we were talking about Personality.

 

AV: What’s the most important thing to know about your personality?

 

CLIENT: “That it’s part of who I am and can lead me to success?”

 

Not quite.

A fundamental element of personality, in my work with students (any age), is this idea that your personality is not fixed. Your personality can change depending on the experiences and environment that shape you.

We can be calm, cool and collected at some point; it can be angry, disappointed, and upset another depending on your experience. Sometimes I’m shy. Sometimes I’m not.

Most of us think of traits like these physical elements of our being – athletic, brown hair, blue eyes.

Your personality is also made up of other adjectives: generous, humorous etc.

These other components are all quite flexible. With this belief, I coach students to a systems-and-goals based personality, so that they can move forward and have the necessary perspective and tools to be successful.

The exercises we’ve been working on are often self-reflective, and my role is somewhat of a shepherd in self-exploration. In doing so, it’s also important to mention that we are often exposed to environmental pressures to be, change or maintain our personality in specific ways, but changes in the environment will also yield changes.

So as we dive into the call that my client and I had, you can learn, takeaway, and grow with them.

Onward. Here’s what we did.

 

AV: What you think is driving you towards your goals?

CLIENT: “The way I think and act. And motivation?”

 

At a base level, yes.

Some would immediately suggest it’s your personality, or your work ethic, or your network. But I would disagree with all of that.

When we start to see success, it can trigger a lot of fears and emotions, and we can self-sabotage. What we need is a way to avoid the emotions and stay focused. The emotions can totally mess us up.

So then, we need something emotionless; rigid. It’s your systems. Systems make for your success.

Systems create continuous progress to take you towards your goals, and systems are indifferent. When you are not motivated, when you are not energized, when you’re not inspired things still happen.

Willpower is limited and the system works to support action without willpower.

If the word system scares you, or doesn’t seem clear enough, let’s define it:

System: set of operations and feedback loops that operates with little or no regard to motivation, excitement or other emotions.

 

CLIENT: “So how do I know if I have a good system?”

 

Personality helps us determine what we want and what we align with, what’s important, and where we want to go. Systems are the car that gets us there.

Maybe material things aren’t important. Maybe you prefer experiences. If that’s a part of your personality, then let’s create a system supportive of that.

A failing system would be one that supports material things over experiences, and thus incongruence.

I’m not suggesting you change. I’m suggesting that creating a system of alignment can greatly support you being more present, more happy, and more successful at having and doing what makes you happy.

And happy people almost always find success.

What we can see, most of all, is that we are human and the system helps us stay consistent and stay protected. And when (not if) we fall, when we fail, we have a system to make sure to ensure that we retain what we’ve worked towards before getting too far off course.

 

If building a system and goals is not currently a part of your personality, that’s okay. You can learn and incorporate small changes. A good catalyst will change that.

Working with my students, they too had no system and lacked direction. They were dealing with a lot noise – frivolous uses of energy that netted them only temporary positive outcomes because there was no series and connection to what they actually wanted.

 

But after some work together, we’ve developed a system and a progressive goal system that HAS BECOME A PART OF THEIR PERSONALITY.

The important elements are two-fold:

  • Getting coaching to develop a system and set of goals can push you to where you are successful – this comes as a function of your processes being disconnected from your emotions
  • Personality can change, and should, as you grow into more self-awareness, desire, and challenge – which can mean doing or being someone that creates goals and systems

 

There is a really cool quote from Albert Einstein and I believe it is, that goes:

 “Doing the same thing over and over and expecting the same results is the definition of insanity.”

AV: What do you think about that?

CLIENT: “I feel like that’s most of my last year or last season!”

 

So maybe start with this:

 

Ask the question: What actions are you taking again and again while expecting the results to change?

We all do it, but we can look at it objectively and then make change.

And if something doesn’t work, how quickly can we change it?

It all seems pretty logical but you’ll be surprised how many people are doing the same thing over and over. Maybe they know it, maybe not.

If you find yourself looking at your results and haven’t hit any of them, it’s a great time to say “Is everything going the way I wanted to go and more importantly why not?”

I liken our issue here with mashing the buttons over and over again (that’s a nerdy gamer comment meaning doing something without tactics or strategy). You may win the round, but when things get tough, you’ve got no shot at a win.

A system is a series of actions and reflections (feedback loops) that acts and operates without regard to emotions.

Putting a system in a place with a combination of clarity and support can help you avoid random actions that are based on motivation and high energy outbursts. Instead, what we are is calm and controlled so that progress and growth is regimented and sustainable.

 

CLIENT: “So, what role does confidence play in developing in a personality?”

I think there’s a relationship between the two. If you’re confident in your personality, your personality can shine and you can be more confident. It upcycles positively.

Confidence is a feeling and belief, so it can be fleeting as well.

Any top-level performance (athletic, entrepreneurship, etc) is going to be driven by the decisions we make and the way that we feel.

If we’re not feeling successful we are not feeling confident (emotional states) our energy is going to be off and we’re going to make poor decisions.

But confidence can upcycle too.

For example, if you’re really good at math, you start to get rewarded in class with good grades, even when challenged. Then you’re invited to an upper level class. You have some confidence going into that, so taking on something new is not so scary.

After this event, you may realize that you could take on new challenges, and whether you are successful or not, you grow. From that, you may develop a system to deal with the emotions when you get invited to do something you’re afraid of:

  1. Close your eyes
  2. Count down from 5
  3. At zero, open your eyes, GO!

A system doesn’t need to be complicated, after all.

You may also find yourself intimidated, and not confident, which is where having a system like the above is key.

But here’s where personality, systems and confidence can all swirl.

If you are aware of your personality you can make decisions that align with it. If you are goofy and generous, and you’re doing goofy and generous things you’re probably going to feel confident. If you’re doing things that are really serious and very selfish, you’re likely not to feel confident that you’re doing something very different from your personality.

 

We are often pressured into being something we’re not and we feel stressed, anxious, worried and fearful because we’re not aligned with our personality.

Suddenly, we’re unsure, confidence leaks, and we’re forced to rely on something firm to help us back up. Without a system, there is nothing firm to hold us upright.

But, if a person has a system, they can be sustainably confident – as they’ve got a means to deal with hiccups and blunders, or loss of motivation.

-AV

 

Here’s a few examples of systems I use (below are the simple ones) to make sure I don’t rely on emotions. Try them out:

  • I don’t read email when I first get up. Simple, but it keeps me from starting my day with any pulls of emotions. I focus on what I need to do, not what the world wants from me.
  • When I talk to someone and say, “I’ll follow up,” or, “I’ll send you that,” I immediately stop. I pull out my phone or journal (I almost always have one or the other) and write it down. I use Google Inbox and save a reminder right then right there.
  • Every quarter I sit down and look at my yearly goals. Then I break down quarterly objectives, then I go further into 30, 60 and 90 day goals, so that brick by brick, I’m building towards the yearly in alignment. It takes about 2 hours per 3 months.
  • I put events and due dates on the calendar. Another simple item, if I know a certain task is due in two weeks, on the calendar it goes. I spend Sunday looking at the week, and can make a list of things that need to be worked towards when it is present there.
  • I get up at 530 and get on a call at 6am each day to prime myself for a supercharged day. Having others on the call is accountability for when I’m tired or not feeling it. But I still do it.

 

Places where I could use a better system, since I have too much variability:

  • Eating a consistent set of meals each day. I’m on the go a lot and sometimes skip meals. Ooops.
  • I bought Freedom, and app that lets me block certain websites so I can’t get distracted. I need to start using it.
  • I’d like to read more often, and close my day consistently with it.

 

 

What are your systems? Are you lacking them? What parts of your personality need to change so that you can use them effectively?

 

 

The 11 Best Lessons I’ve Learned in 1094 Days

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WOAH!

 

It’s been  1094 days since I quit my job and went full-time into running ME as a company and sprinting after dreams like I was meant to. To encourage all of you others who are on the fence, in the thick of it, or still waiting for your chance, here are some of the lessons I learned reflecting back on my 3+ year timeline!

 

  1. Your biggest wall and barrier and enemy and hater (the list goes on….) is you.

Dreaming many nights as a kid, I remember floating high in the sky. It was a terrifying dream – watching myself float against a dark, cloudy sky in what seemed to be an abyss with nothing solid to touch or land on. There was no sound, nothing happening, and no action taking place. It was solitude.

But, there was someone else floating with me.

For years, as I circled around myself, staring intensely at another person, nearly nose-to-nose in epic dragon ball battle format, I realized something chilling.

The person I was standing face to face against was none other than myself.

In regular fashion of self-deprecating, I was the guy mad at himself for not getting up on time, or not working enough hours (more on that to come in number 5) or not celebrating a success with the team.

When I learned that I needed to get out of my own way, spend time finding better systems to keep me moving forward and out of my own way, and was more honest about what might have been holding me back, I was able to climb the walls and barriers faster and with more ease.

To do that, I stepped up big time to number 2, and I would recommend that if you’re in your own way, you do the same to get yourself more in-tune with the fact that you’re likely holding yourself back and screwing up your own progress.

  1. Money is energy – and spending energy on self-development always pays you back

3 years ago, I would have snuffed my nose up to investing in a course or spending to join a peer group. I could do it on my own, after all.

More importantly, I wanted to.

But the reality was that at those points where I turned my nose up to investing in myself, I was being bullish by refusing to accept that I didn’t know something. Deeper than that, I was denying myself the chance to learn and denying myself the reality that as I learned, I would get better and my business would do better.

But I was basically insane, going about my business and doing the same thing over and over and expecting to one day get to abundance. Nonsensical!

Not only was that impossible, but I had the wrong idea completely.

This last 12 months, from mid-2017, I’ve invested a total of $8,145. 17 in myself. Courses, summits, networking groups, etc. Want to know how much my business has grown since then?

Nearly $58, 977.41. Would you say it was worth it? What’s holding you back from investing in yourself?

Find a course, mentor or peer group that can hold you to the fire of your own dreams, STFU about what you think you know and go learn it, and then come back to me and tell me it wasn’t the best decision you’ve made.

There. Challenge issued.

  1. Paydays come from Persistence.

No. No. No. No. No. No. YES! That’s how it goes.

There’s two truths here.

  1. Don’t think that you should be living in the whole “10% of your calls will be successful, so just make a TON of them.” That probably means your calls don’t showcase your product or your pitching is self-centered, rather than you looking to solve someone’s problem. But, you’ll still have to make a lot of them. The trick is to iterate quickly – learn what’s missing, learn what works, and get to the point where you can nail more calls at a higher rate. But you’re going to have to put in the time to learn it, and persistence through the NO period is key.

 

  1. Second, frustration is good. If you’re not angry that you’re not selling, if you don’t suffer a little bit, then you probably aren’t going to make it very far anyway. Because, at every level there are challenges and things that get you frustrated, and things that don’t work. So, pull your heart strings together, toughen up your skin, stiffen up that upper lip, and keep going through the hard times. The sunlight is just beyond the clouds.
  2. Get quick at identifying things you’re bad at; the faster you do, the faster the company grows

I wore a pendant for a while that helped me keep my mind on my attitude. It was a Jack of Hearts, and I was the Jack of all Trades, with a love for knowledge. But – I eventually had to retire that.

I found while hunting on the interwebs that the poem I knew was unfinished as it was often said:

            Jack of all trades, master of none.

But really, it was written WAY back in the early days as:

            Jack of all trades, master of none, oft times better than the master of one.

I was hooked. THIS WAS ME! Marketing, Consulting, designing, personal training, painting, coaching, start upping…. the list went on and on! I learned a lot, but man I was pulled in SO many directions.

 

I’ve since retired this Jack, as it can no longer be me.  You see, I was using this phrase as justification to learn anything try anything, and delegate little so I could learn.

This would be fine if I was at a full-time job – as taking on more assignments and learning from them is a great policy. But in the land of startups, this is a flippin’ death trap!

Speed is the game out here, and while I was learning my tail off, I was slowing everything down.

Once I took an inventory of the things I was truly best at (read also, best practiced at), I was able to find people to do the other work faster. Now that we’re up and moving faster with more income coming in, that is essentially how other jobs get created. Go figure.

Now I feel like duh, but serious advice here for other ‘jack of all trades’ types out there – lay down your pride, pick a few things you’re good at, and learn more about those skills rather than spreading yourself thin. Everything you’ve done to date, all that web work, marketing, product design, and all that – keep it with you.

You never know when you’ll call on it or when you’ll use that experience to connect two dots from two industries that create a brilliant mix!

 

When you can admit what you’re not good at, you can not only find the right person, but you will then know your strengths and be able to really lean into them too.

  1. Keep doing those humbling gritty tasks and celebrate the team wins

I was at an Ortus Academy event recently. The team and I were all done, and they were all huddling together, sharing stories and laughing. I knew we had a tight deadline to clear the room and get out of there.

You know those CEOs or leaders that go down to the janitors or boxing department and get ridiculed for being bad workers? Yeah, that won’t be me. Now, I might not be able to do everything, see above, but I can at least be unafraid of getting my hands dirty.

I was picking up the crayons left on the floor, sweeping up trash, and more.

And the best part is, I loved it!

The staff was sharing how enjoyable the event was, and how special the day was to the kids.

In a case like that, they deserve the chance to relish in the victory.

Five minutes later, after they were done celebrating, they all took a hand in the cleanup and we knocked it out and left. But I do believe that leaders lead from the front and serve the cause and the group before themselves. Rather than delegate the gritty stuff, take it on and see how transformative it can be for your team.

To my second point – I have had YEARS of moments where I chose to get back to work rather than celebrate a team win. After effort and energy is expended, let me share this massive lesson with you, in hopes you learn from it:

An hour spent celebrating with your team, cherishing the moments together, and building the chemistry and comradery needed to grow, is worth 50x what the one hour would be of un-energetic work after a long day.

Take it from me, build the team, and you’ll go further anyway.

  1. Finding better ways to do something at the start will teach you how to find better ways, but eventually, just fkn pay for it

This goes back to my Jack comment, number 4.

You know that guy that will work 4 hours to save himself $4? Been there.

A friend of mine once asked me why I had food delivered to my house. I was getting a service, HelloFresh, to deliver weekly meals, so I didn’t have to shop as much and had meals available.

Her argument was that I could save likely $20-30 a week, $120 a month, on food if I shopped at a market. I appreciated her concern, but here’s the reality.

If I have food delivered weekly, I save roughly 5 hours a month – the 15-minute drive both ways (30), 20 minutes in the store, 8 at the register, and 7 texting in the parking lot while I sit in my car. I still need to kick that habit.

In 5 hours, I can make WAY more than $120. In fact, at just my personal training rate, I could earn $350+ with that time.

Ease or pay – do the math, figure out if it’s worth it. And if not, spend the flipping money and go get you some more!

  1. Balance is not a real thing. Harmony is a better objective

Ask any entrepreneur or found or whatever you call us. Don’t count the guy or girl that wants to start a company but always finds a reason not to. Also, don’t count a guy that buys a franchise. I don’t think those belong in the same definition of the word.

But ask them about balance – about how many hours they take off, and how many days in a row they work. I just hit 43 days in a row, no days off. Even on a day “off” I’m likely to answer emails and plan out items or manage the team or be on the phone.

Balance is a myth in this world.

But harmony can exist.

Laden with passion, I love what I do and don’t want a whole lot of time off. That’s what got me here in the first place, through all the frustrations and need for persistence (see number 3). But, that means balance is not possible; still, there’s a need for something.

Be it not rest, or sleep, or love, or what-have-you, you may still need breaks and respites. Based on your aspirations and dreams, you may need or want less, but with the idea of Harmony in mind, your life should still be moving forward in all directions.

Harmony to me, in this context, is: The ability to create a lasting and perpetual lifestyle of work, play, and learning based on solid prioritization and alignment with purpose and goals.

With harmony, it’s not really taking a vacation. When I travel, it’s to reconnect with my creative side by changing my environment, and to experience new things with a new lens so that I can add more value to our business through that lens.

I don’t want to get away, even if I do book southwest a lot.

  1. It’s not what you know, it’s who you know – PLUS how you know them

I knew a guy that was a total dick to me the first time I met him, let’s call him Mike. Like – mean for no reason. He asked me to connect him to another friend of mine who we will call Dave, as he thought he’d be a great client.

I agreed with him, because what he was selling WAS a good fit for my other friend and would solve one of Dave’s problems.

The issue was that Dave was a phenomenal friend. And, I didn’t want to damage that relationship, not only for myself, but for all the referrals I would later be able to add back into Dave’s life.

So, I didn’t refer Mike.

Now, before you throw the judgment book at me, imagine this:

If the world worked where it didn’t matter how you treated people, only on the product you offer, how would you pick who to buy from?

We all like to buy from people we like. We like to work with people we like. Maybe we don’t get the option, but I’m willing to bet if you did, you’d choose based on likeability.

So, before you go about spreading negativity, burning former teammates, treating people you work with or for poorly, keep this in mind. You never know how and when people will come back to help or offer you something if you treat them right.

NOTE: On the flip side of this, I’ve also had people I just barely know refer people to me or my business because of how I treated them and how they felt being around me. It takes faith, but I believe this system to be foolproof.

  1. In a world of “work more,” and “hustle harder” there’s such a thing as overwork, and burnout

I love seeing the Instagram of Eric Thomas and Gary V. that get me up in the morning ready to put my fist through a cinderblock covered in copper. It really is true that you need to work hard to achieve major success, except that there’s more to it.

Major success is about leverage too – delegating, hiring staff to take on projects for you, and other things like that. Working so much your eyes bleed is not harmonious (see number 7) to you being healthy and able to sustain a lifestyle.

While you might believe that working harder will get you to where you want, consider investing in yourself and getting more educated, deploying better systems, and understanding your market and client’s needs better. Then, working 2x as hard can earn you 15x as much.

But, don’t expect 22-hour days, a diet heavy on red bull and caffeine, and a bed that’s essentially a chair with a headrest on it to give you the harmony you need to really hit success.

  1. Bad quality work will get you somewhere faster than waiting

Just write. Or draw. Or speak. Or dance. Or program. Or build.

Whatever it is you do, you may be convinced it needs to look good or work well. But I’m here to argue otherwise!

When you create something new, or are creating at all, the usual block is quality. Instead, hedge your bet and put out something unrefined and see how the market responds, or how readers like the general theme and topic. This is how Ortus Academy has grown – out of testing and refining for TWO YEARS. Each time we ran a program, we changed the program to align with our vision and capabilities. More time, more programs, the more flaws we found.

In doing so, we have lots of iterations, data points, and yes, a list of fails.

But we also have am equally large list of learning moments, a list of people that come back to see how far we’ve come, and students that never knew the difference anyway.

I know you want it to be perfect, but dammit, just do it!

Post the article. Instagram the painting. Build the prototype and test it.

Then, use lesson number 3 to keep on moving forward and perfecting it after the frustration or failure hits.

This article, for example, is not perfect.

 

  1. Someone lied to me about me, and I’m so glad I found that out

In 5th grade, someone told me I was ugly.

In 9th grade, someone told me I was never going to play soccer in college.

In 12th grade, someone said I would never heal and play soccer again.

In college, someone told me I was always going to be an employee.


The worst part is, I believed all of them. Until I didn’t, and until I gave myself a reason to be what I wanted to be.

It was probably the hardest thing I’ve had to do – to really look inward and look at the definitions I had of myself. I had to dig deep.

But what I found was life-changing.

Here I was, nearly 30 and all the definitions of myself, all my self-talk, stemmed from things I was told as a kid. Can you believe that? Not many of my beliefs about myself came from me.

And so, I looked at where they came from.

Teachers. 12-year-old (seriously, who can’t even formulate a serious thought at that age). People that didn’t know me.

And worse – for every negative thought, there were likely 12 positive ones that got outweighed or overshadowed.

So, I spent some of that awesome self-investment (see number 2) money on becoming more aware, and I rewrote my history.

My guess is that someone in your history assign you a label that you haven’t gotten rid of.

I imagine that you might not feel able to outrun it. But if you’re brave enough to write it in the comments below, I’ll respond with a few sentences you can say to yourself to help you override it.

Because your history is wrong. You can do anything.

 

  • AV

3 Mistakes I Could Have Avoided In April 2018

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Clearly, I wasn’t thinking….

I feel like I say this a lot lately. I own it – not easily – but I do. So, while it’s been a LONG time since I wrote, let me share 3 mistakes I made this month, that I don’t normally share.

The objective here is only to help you prevent yourself from making them.

And away we go >>>>>>

1. I didn’t share where I was struggling.

This past weekend, I was talking to my accountability team from a course I joined called M1. It’s run by a guy that used to work with Tony Robbins.

It’s been a great investment, and really helped me grow as an individiual and entrepreneur.

So for WEEKS, I’ve been not drinking enough water. I’m active, and I work really hard. So I can’t afford this mistake. But I just kept on going.

I said, I’ll fix it when….

I’ll address it when….

Or I made excuses.

Then I realized I needed some help. Not like, clinical help. Just some support. Some backup.

I told the crew, and now 4 of us are on a thirst challenge. 20 oz when you wake up, and 10 oz each hour.

Challenge – I’m in. They knew how to motivate me, help me, and they got behind me right away.

Why didn’t I do this earlier.

BOTTOM LINE: If you’re struggling with something, tell people. Ask for help. This is always my achilles. I’m working on it. 

2. I didn’t admit that  I was scared

I have big aspirations. I’m sure you do too.

IN order to be the person I envision, I need to share the journey. To give more to the community, to talk to more people and find ways to help them. To speak to others on topics like this one.

So I have to be unafraid to get out in front of them.

I have to speak. I have to engage. I have to try.

If I’m really going to be what I say I am, it’s time that I get brave.

Now, I’m not perfect but I’m certainly not a coward – I know that much about myself. I felt that I was unable to give to people, or provide value, because I wasn’t “there” yet. That’s just a bullshit excuse – as I have a lot to give and as I grow, my responsibilty is to pass what I learn back down.

But, until I really fessed up with my fear, I was paralyzed.

Whatever you’re afraid of, it’s okay to be scared. It’s not okay to let that paralyze you.

I bought a go pro, and you’ll see a lot more writing and content from me. That’s something I’m committed to. Who else can this message itself help? You, a friend? Share it on!

Bottom Line: Fess up if you’re afraid. It’s the first step. [Here’s a great book to help you here too]

3. My habit wasn’t serving my future

I grew up a comic book kid. Big time nerd here.

A few months ago I downloaded a game called Contest of Champions.

Aside from the countless dollars I’ve wasted on the randomized (supposedly) gems and shit that gives me more heroes to play with, I spent hours.  Even if it was only a minute a day, that’s a lot of time in a month. That’s enough time to write to you and help you along your way.

Instead, I opened the app. And I got rewarded. If you login daily, you get stuff free.

They had me hooked.

It wasn’t until just yesterday that I realized that the future version of me doesn’t do this. And so I had to let it go. I even hesitated, and argued with myself as I uninstalled it.

Stupid Past-Aaron. Shut up. You’re headed up, stop looking down.

Now, I can use that extra 10 minutes a day to help you, be productive, or at worst/best – completely disconect.

Bottom Line: If your future is being held back by a current habit, do what you gotta do to SNAP out of it and get real with yourself. 

 

Learn from my mistakes, so you don’t make them! Here comes May!

-AV

PSC Fitness at Home

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Hey Pipeline!

 

I’m super bummed about this weather. Today’s been hot, sunny, windy, rainy, and then everywhere in between. If you’re stuck at home, and still want to get fit, here’s three exercises you can do right now, without any equipment at all!

Get started right away!

 

Swimmer’s Planks 

Hold your body flat in a plank on your hands, with your arms extended. Spread your feet shoulder width apart. This is a normal, full extension plank. In one motion, take your straightened right arm and move it backwards towards your legs  and then rotate it in a full circle back to the starting position. Next take the other arm and rotate around. Repeat back and forth for 1 minute sets, or for as long as you can.

 

 

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The trick? Keep your shoulders and back still. Don’t rotate the hips and stay as flat as you can!

 

Step Ups

Find a flat surface that’s about as tall as your knees. Place one foot on the upper surface, so that your knee is bent. Press off of your foot and press your opposite knee to the sky. Lower the foot back to the floor and land on the toe. Repeat for 20 reps on each side. Do not alternate beforehand. If 20 isn’t enough, go for more, or put some weights in your arms!

 

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Front Lunges

Simple and effective, the front lunge is a step forward and bend. Look to get your legs at 90 degrees each (square). Make sure you step far enough that your front knee (stepping leg) does not go past your toes. If it does, step further! As you step, lower the back knee almost to the floor, but don’t let it touch. Press off and return to the starting position!

 

Alternate each leg, and get a minimum of 20 per leg before you rest!!

 

 

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Enjoy!

The End & Start of a Chapter

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In life, we are given the opportunity to make decisions. Some run from them, some run towards them.

Take a moment of reflection, and you may find running towards your goals is a steadily increasing challenge. It’s lonely, it’s difficult, it’s tiring, and it’s full of things like heartbreak, pains, and fears. It’s meant to be. To whom much is given, much is tested, and those that see the journey itself for what it is will be the ones that come to enjoy the fruits of their pursuits.

Since the start of this now closing chapter, I’ve seen the most volatile version of myself ever. A bad car accident, a broken wrist, and a gritty, never-give-up attitude clashed with an opportunity to test my business savvy. The result was a painful but worthwhile experience that taught me to feel fear, and drive through it.

I’ve never cried so much. I lost family, friends, and made enemies along this path. I spent hours after and before work, building; I slept rarely. I asked for help, I asked for opportunities, and I shed my pride – feeling loss after loss. I set my mind to a target, and let nothing stop me. No person, no thing; not even me. We are often our most vicious and relentless wall.

At the end of it all, there was two constants. Courage and Purpose. As I walk from this chapter, I take on new projects – writing a book, building a non-profit, coaching youth, and teaching people to earn from things they enjoy doing. They could all fail, they could all ruin me. But I walk with courage and purpose. Bettering others has been something I’ve been afraid to do, because it requires such a disciplined and refined method to find your way.

The path will be tougher than what I have already been through. With the help of my family and friends, the path will make me better, it will make me stronger, but it will not be easy. There are people in my life that remind me of my purpose and my courage, and when down, they will remind me I am never out.

I hope you will take the time to reflect, like I have. A wasted life lives inward, and runs from its’ goals. A purposeful life carves through resistance and runs towards the sunset. Life is short, and when it is all said and done, I’d rather endure a lifetime of struggle for those around me, than soak up a moment of glory for myself.

Onward, upward, and outward.

AV

Quitting the Job: Takeaways and Outside Resources

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So, I’ve decided in two months, I’m going to leave my job. I am taking away a lot from it.

AHHHHH FREAK OUT!!!!!

It’s time for me to take my side-stream main stream. This has come from a lot of work, strategy, planning, faith and support, but I wanted to share a little more of the gritty side of things.

The path to this decision has illuminated a lot, some about others, more about myself and what I’m capable of, what I’m fearful of, and what I could stand to improve.

Here’s some things that I’ve noticed by building my own business, working hard in someone else’s and being successful enough to choose in ways that you can apply to your own life, Side-Stream, or business:

Mental Shifts

Preparing to leave my job has illuminated some of the biggest changes in my operational objectives, my approaches, and my attitude. As I did more and more side work, the usual approach at work became an obstacle, rather than a learning process for success.

At my company, we value things like “it’s just the way we do things here” and “just follow instructions.” At first, it seemed like a recipe for success – just do it this way and you’ll never fail.

I guess you can say I understand it better, and now, I see that as a failure to comply with change, and as things have changed around us, we’re behind the 8-ball trying to play catch up.

Company Routine and Culture

In Corporate America, some major philosophies ring true to the company culture. When you have no idea what else is out there, it’s very easy to seem normal. I have to complete tasks that have no bearing on anything. They don’t increase sales. The reports indicate nothing relevant and go no where special. Responses dragged a conversation on and on for politeness rather than getting down to direct solutions.

I ended up stuck, just working for work’s sake and getting comfortable with it.

Remember in Captain America, when all the soldiers were challenged to get the flag for the sergeant? They are trying to climb the flagpole, and Rogers lets them fight, scramble and fall before pulling the pin and lowering the pole to the floor. That’s how I want to approach work.

It’s not a bad thing in a big company that relies on checks and balances; but it’s a terrible thing for an in-the-making-entrepreneur.

With 3 businesses open,  I had to learn to use my time better, be effective AND efficient, and make things happen over going through the motions. I became methodical. I researched, I calculated.

 

Results

When I have a problem, I aim to solve it in one go – and that’s been new for me. Long gone are the days of emailing back and forth to maintain political correctness. I realized I was spending my time reading, writing, and ‘rithmaticking my way away from getting results.

You know that friend of yours that’s like “I want to find a girlfriend, but it just never works out…” and keeps trying the same thing. Nothing in the approach changes, and when he gets the same results, it’s a mystery somehow?

Yeah, well that friend is also most of us in the corporate world. At work, it’s ok that I spend my time doing things the same way over and over, even if it’s slow and ineffective. Have a better idea? Oh, just get it approved. Approved, my least favorite word – an erosion of empowerment.

In my own businesses, that doesn’t fly. I don’t have time for that. I have to get results fast. I’ve failed time and time again, but I keep stretching for the big wins, and let the small wins and losses go. If my work can be completed in 4 hours, why am I sitting at my desk for 8? If I can take data, rearrange it so I can audit it faster, why should I worry about the format? I don’t want to work all day for no yield, but I’ll work all day for the right yield. Only way to do that – let results be your measurement, not time investment.

 

Risk

Risk averse or not, we all take risks. We get our heart-broken, we leap, we fall, we shoot, we lose. It’s a part of life. In a system that’s already set up for you, one that lacks empowerment, we’re conditioned to be mundane. Follow the rules, they say. Follow the guide, they say.

Well, nothing is constant, and if you’re not growing, you’re declining. So many of my friends say, Aaron, you’re quitting?? Why? Look at what you get, look at what you have, look at where you’ll go if you stay! That’s an oxymoron friends. You can’t stay AND go.I chose to go.

Weigh your options, look at the good and the bad, evaluate the worst case scenario and dive into your worst fears. The more you think and talk about it, the more you might realize what you’re most afraid of isn’t really that bad. Wanna know one place we never EVER weigh risks until impact is unstoppable? Health factors like obesity!

I am most afraid of having to move to my parents house. After it’s all said and done, that’s not really the worst thing that could happen to me. Embarrassing, painful, and degrading, but I’d do it if I had to, and I’ll work 3x as hard to prevent that.

 

Security

A floor to launch from has been the birthplace of what I’m doing now, and I can’t say that my new opportunity hasn’t been afforded by my current job, what it allows me, and the people that pushed me. Security is alluring when we’ve been told there aren’t enough jobs to go around. We want to feel safe, comfortable. Lose the ceiling, lose the floor – it’s only with the risk of both that I can find the stars.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not cashing out my 401k, trading in my salary, and giving up health insurance for a gamble. I’ve calculated, built upside revenue, saved up a healthy years’ worth of expenses, and prepared like this was the olympics – but it’s still a risk. Calculated risk is different than gambling, and I’ll support the former, not the latter.

Play blackjack, and never take any more cards than you’re dealt- you might win a hand, but you’ll bleed your money away very quickly. My thought on risk – by risking nothing, you risk everything.

 

Patience

Most of my friends on social media will see this post title, or my pictures, and assume that this has all happened overnight, that it was a reaction, and that it was a lucky draw. The fact is, I sat down and wrote down my goals over 2 years ago. I penned them, my friends signed the page too as witnesses.

To say that it has come quickly is true – but that’s only looking backwards. In reality, it’s been a really hard climb to get to this point, and I’ve had to endure a lot to prepare for this. Like any athlete, competition is more than physical endurance, it’s setting up a system for mental preparation, development, and sustainability. Endurance and stamina are part of success – if you quit, you’ll never get there.

Leaders (aka small business owners and entrepreneurs) need patience. The toughest part of being patient is staying focused on the goal, and recognizing that the medium, path or methods may change along the way, but as long as you’ve set a goal and continue to work it, you’ll get there.

 

Learning and Failure

I don’t use a recipe when I cook. 92 times out of 100, what I cook is going to be awesome. Well blended, tasteful, bold, and even healthy. 8 times, it’s going to be awful – just not a good balance of tastes and ingredients.

Water always flows the path of least resistance. So do humans. At age 14, the girls that I coach are terrified to be creative, to think outside the box. It’s a real challenge for me to develop curriculums (yes, I develop those for sports) that force them out of their comfort zone. They won’t do it on their own, neither will you, neither will I – so I had to create system to force myself out it often and without thinking.

I’ve learned so much this year, mostly from my failure. There’s a lot of learning that goes into an experience outside of our comfort zone. There are six things we learn as a child that help determine our view of the world, and the risky play they engage in build valuable neurological connections. During your childhood, did you get introduced to these? Do you still fear them now?

 

Brilliance and Specialization are Bullshit

Do you guys remember that kid in middle school that got super good grades, the perfect SAT score, then went on to college on a full ride? I’ll never forget him. Those people may find success, but they certainly haven’t been equipped to fail the same way, and even more, they aren’t built for the kind of ride that most of us go through.

Talent is important, but I don’t think that’s a component of success. In fact, studies show being called “talented” is dangerous – it implies you won’t have to work, and you will just find success.

There’s money in being able to sit down and find correlations, common denominators, and linkable lessons. My approach is very “Jack of All Trades.”

You don’t need to be the best, just better than the client or better than average. Either gets me paid. Ironically, being a “generalist” means I’m more uncommon than an expert – every field has an expert. How many people can connect multiple roles, schools of thought, and backgrounds and blend them to a single thread? Not many.

Steve Jobs, though some may argue he was an expert, he was a generalist that could predict, captivate, engineer and engage on many platforms simultaneously.

By being able to communicate effectively, which takes understanding, promotes opportunities.

 

Hard Work

I know my work ethic has created this opportunity. It’s not without sacrifice that this opportunity yields itself to me. I gave up friendships, chances at relationships, family time, vacations, summers, fun, weekends and even money to make this dream happen. I can recall strings of 16-18 hour days, 7 days a week, to get things moving. I have no days off. I work around the clock sometimes. I am exhausted a lot. I have big dreams, but without the hard work you put in, that sweat equity is zero and your investment is rendered illiquid.

It seems too easy, from the outside. You don’t see the small things, and I don’t need people to: the results will do just that. There’s bragging about what your work ethic brings, but there’s also sharing. I like to think I’m doing the latter, illustrating the success that can come from hard work. Richard St. John paints the picture of other successful people and what pieces they had to their journey.

 

Money and Materialism

Money matters. But, interestingly enough it’s not what motivates people, says science.

So why would I walk away from money, from an awesome apartment, and from a stable, secure and easy salary?

Usher, 2004, Simple Things – They say money can’t buy you love; It’s the simple things in life we forget.

I won’t let my job be my prison. As soon as I realized I was working for things and shit I don’t need, I realized I work really hard for a whole lot of obligation – and worst of all, the working harder didn’t net me any benefits over working at an average level.

If I make enough to cover my costs, my life needs, and I’m happy – the money will come with the big wins I pursue. I like the control factor in that, but I also like the uncertainty in it all. There’s a better way to work, and I promise it doesn’t involve desking it all day and running reports through the roof, just so I can buy something I don’t need.

 

Housing

I live in an apartment out of a magazine. Even better, employment provides it.

It’s a bachelor’s dream – fancy pad, electronic entry, floor to ceiling windows, sunsets and sunrise, the view of the city. I am going to miss it. I really am. A man at age 27 doesn’t often have such a place, but it’s time that I focus on what I’m doing, and life isn’t about what you’re willing to get, it’s about what you’re willing to sacrifice for what you want.

I want to live like this again, and I will. But first, I have to let it go – flying from the 15th story in Baltimore, I may swing down before I swing up, but promise I’ll be back for this lifestyle soon.

Fear: “I can’t downsize, what about my favorite ______. I’ll have to give it up “

Yeah, that’s me a year ago – going from a 1200 sq ft wonder apartment to anything less was a pride fight. Now I realize, it’s not about the things, it’s about the dreams, the goals, and changing people around me for the better. The house is just a resting place.

 

Creating a Business from Your Skills

There’s something fun about doing things that you want to do versus what you have to. But when you create your business, those lines cross. Work and play become mixed, and although it’s often good to do what you love, it does present a challenge.

When is work off, and when is play on?When is it about money that you need to survive, and when is it about doing some good in the world?

The benefit for me isn’t in success, it’s in failure. Jim Carrey said it best (at 11:20) in a speech at the 2014 MUM Graduation.  If I can fail at what I don’t love, why not try at something I do? It goes back to failure, but I also think it’s important to recognize that successful entrepreneurs build a service to others by recognizing pain points, demands and needs. That means you have to listen, to learn and to grow with things you’re good at. Taking talents and making money from them is something you can learn to do.

I started doing graphics and coaching at a measly $20 an hour. Now I can live off of those two operations. Do I get $700 per month in extra spending and $500 in saving? No. But since my rate is up, I can work less and make enough to live, giving me plenty of time to create other side-streams from my skills.

 

Mentors

If you don’t have mentors, you’re doing something wrong. Imagine you have a key to a door, and behind the door is a ton of information, know-how, advice, and input – all it takes is you walking to the door. Make the phone call, send the email – there’s no one that you can’t reach, and those with genuine interest in a subject can always find those that have knowledge willing to share it.

Mentors do a few big things for me. Most notably, they help reassure a good decision. There’s countless bad decisions that I need to make, that’s where I learn, but when I have a good one, they are quick to say – “Dude, I love it. Go try it.”

Secondly, it’s valuable to get around success; to smell it, meet its friends, and partake it its understanding. Success begets success.  Best of all, when they say that they’ve seen similar challenges and turned out OK, it gives me just the push I need to climb over the hurdle.

I notice their demeanor, their way of speaking, what they wear, what they care about, and how they address problems. It’s a lot different from how a 27 year old would, and that’s been key to my development.

Key: Never lie, take without giving, or fail to honor what they offer you. Thank you is often enough, depending on your closeness, but keep in mind how valuable it is and look to reciprocate as much as you can (not always monetarily).

 

Fitness

Some would associate this as a luxury, but to me working hard physically is a requirement of my success. In order for me to get a better sense of self, a better understanding of pushing through limits, and a good sense of the impact of what I tell myself, I run, I lift, and I play soccer or other sports. I’m good at all of them, but it’s not from talent, it’s from putting in hours.

That’s the same concept with business. Put in the hours. Work hard, get past what you think you can do and kill your limit. It’s partly about being healthy too- if I’m not healthy, I can’t give my best, and if I can’t give my best, I might as well rest completely.

 

3 Side-Income Productivity Tips: How to Stay Focused

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Question from a reader last week: How do I stay focused on what I love?

One solution: Be a Jedi.

If you’re not that, here’s my take for us normal folk.

If you’ve got a side-stream set up, or you’re working on building one, you probably have a LOT on your plate. Let’s not forget real life stuff, too. How the hell do you manage it all?

My strategy starts with 2 building blocks:

1. Continue to do the fun parts

2. Limit the not-fun parts

It sounds obvious,  but unless you are ruthless with your approach, you’ll lose sight of these quickly. I have at many points, so I wanted to find a way to set myself up better. Obvious, but difficult.

If you’ve ever said, “this feels like a job,” “I’m not making enough,” or “I used to love work,” and felt the sinking feeling that comes from those thoughts, you’ve been there with me.

I’ve been working for 10 months on opening a non-profit after school academy. About six weeks ago, I found myself saying, “I can’t wait until this is funded, and I can worry about the kids again.” You see, we’ve been working so hard on the business, on funding, on the systems in place, on how we recruit and hire, and all those non-fun things, it’s hard to keep focus on the mission.

On top of opening the Academy, I got hired to do a presentation for a person-of-interest, coach two youth club soccer teams professionally, and consult for a few businesses.

How do I keep focused, keep moving, and keep sane?

Let me share three things the last six months have taught me about keeping my focus on what I love:

Solution 3

See more Pro System Tips from Ramit Sethi Here 

 Solution 2

Tim Ferris On Batching Tasks

 Solution 1

Entrepreneur.com on Outsourcing

 

When setting up solutions there are three main things to think about:

Cost: What am I giving up, foregoing, or paying. Foregoing is often an overlooked aspect. The “opportunity cost” of one project or experiment is usually declining something else, so always bear that in mind. Another thing to keep in mind: If you’re earning $20 an hour, and can pay someone to do your work for $10, you’re EARNING. That’s called arbitrage, a beautiful “business” word.

Time Investment: What do YOU have to put into it, how much does it take to upkeep, and will it net any return. That’s not to say that something with no return has no value, but consider the cost of upkeep for your smaller tweaks as well. If you can save BIG chunks of time now, you’ll net later, but don’t kill yourself saving seconds.

Try It: It’s impossible to be sure if your new methods are providing any solutions by guessing. It’s even tougher if you have seven things going on. Pick one thing to change this week and keep everything else the same. If you, for example, I coach four days a week, so I tried a system of brainstorming on Monday, drawing up sessions the next and then condensing them for practices on the third. Overall, I was able to plan out 4 weeks of practices in one sit down, which saved me time to focus on the girls! Try something new. What results do you get? Are you better or worse? Don’t guess, TEST!

 

Bottom Line: Attempt these solutions and see if they save you time, effort or money. For me, these are no brainers and I won’t go back!