September 3, 2013
As entrepreneurs, there are countless things we could do to grow or improve our businesses. It’s easy to keep busy 100 hours a week. I know—I’ve done so countless times throughout my career. Unfortunately, I’m not the only one who has convinced himself that working long, crazy hours is a must if you want to find success.
The reality is, however, that there is a point of diminishing returns. Although more work might produce greater results, the return on the additional effort decreases significantly.
We Work Too Hard
There are many reasons why people work so hard.
Although it’s sometimes because there is simply too much on our plates, more often than not, we work around the clock for other reasons. Do any of these sound familiar?
- You feel like you’re a slacker if you don’t work all of the time.
- You worry that if you don’t complete every task, you may lose business opportunities.
- You work nonstop because it allows you to avoid dealing with difficult issues in your life.
Or maybe there’s some other reason. Regardless of the reason, most business owners work too much.
What if you were only allowed to work one hour a day?
I’ve been experimenting with this concept for nearly a year and have been relatively successful at keeping my time invested in my current business to about 20 hours a month.
Why am I doing this? There are two main reasons:
1. It forces me to focus on what’s really important. Each morning I ask myself, what’s the one thing I need to do today? What is the one thing that will create the most value? What is the one thing that only I can do? And that is the activity I engage in for the day. I delete, defer or delegate everything else.
Instead of keeping myself busy and climbing to the top of the “S” curve, I stop at the point of diminishing returns (the star on the chart below). The Pareto principle might state that 20 percent of the effort provides 80 percent of the results, but whether it’s 20 percent or 40 percent is not important. The key is that you find the point in your business where more effort starts producing fewer results—that’s your “star” point—and only you can decide that.
Will you extract 100 percent of the potential value? Probably not. But is squeezing out an extra 20 percent of value really worth 4 or 5 times the effort? That’s your choice. I could work 10 times harder and only increase my income 50 percent.
The key is to focus on activities that maximize results.
2. It frees up time to create new business. If you spent only 20 percent of your time extracting 80 percent of the revenue from your existing business model, this gives you 80 percent of your time to do something different.
You could, of course, spend your free time taking a vacation or spending more time with family. You could engage in work that you believe is more meaningful. You could volunteer and give back to society.
Or you could create a new S-curve.
Instead of squeezing out those few extra drops from your current business model, build a new business or new business model that leverages your past success and creates entirely new revenue opportunities.
With the extra time created, I’ve been working on a new book that targets a completely different market for me. I’m working on a TV show concept. And I’m creating new products that leverage my intellectual property.
These items take upfront effort. But when they’re done and have built up momentum, I will spend less time on those businesses, freeing me to create new revenue streams.
Encourage Creativity and Freedom
The purpose of working one hour a day isn’t to encourage laziness. And I’m certainly not suggesting you do a mediocre job, as this will kill your business in the long run. The purpose is actually to encourage creativity. This philosophy creates time/space for you to create—to create new opportunities, to create new revenue streams, and to create a better life.
Even if you don’t believe working only 60 minutes a day is possible, give the thought process a try. Use the “hour a day” mantra as a mental exercise. Determine what you might do if you only had an hour. Even if it ends up taking you four hours, it’s still better than the 10 you were previously investing. Now, what are you going to do with all that extra free time?
August 14, 2013
I’ve had a recurring conversation with quite a few friends and colleagues lately. They’re unhappy in their current jobs and want to do something different. For many, this means becoming an entrepreneur and launching their own business. Conventional wisdom suggests they will follow one of two distinct paths:
- They’ll leave their current jobs and make the leap, the philosophy being that if you stay where you are, you will never make a change.
- They’ll stay where they are until they have enough “security.” The reality is, that no one ever feels secure enough to make the change.
However, there is a third option that isn’t often discussed.
The question isn’t when to leap, but rather how to leap. Ask yourself a simple question: How can I leverage the assets of my current employer in a way that will help me with my future endeavor?
Use the Access You Have
If you want to become an entrepreneur, having a great product or service isn’t enough. Small businesses fail not because of a lack of talent or ideas; they fail because the can’t—or don’t—sell. You need contacts and relationships. These are often hard to establish when you are on your own. But if you are working for a major corporation, you can leverage your employer’s brand to help better position your future business for success.
Large companies have access to a lot of people, including some very influential people. Just saying that you work for a major company can open doors that would otherwise remain closed. Even if your new business venture is in an unrelated field, you can still leverage your current situation.
When considering opportunities for leverage, consider the following:
- What are you doing within your current role?
- What do you wish to do in the future?
- How can you leverage the contacts, connections, resources and people within your current company to help you build your future business?
Build Your Future Brand
In addition to leveraging employer opportunites, there’s no time like right now for creating buzz for your future business. Start by building your personal brand. Take, for example, what these three people are doing.
One person I know who wants to launch his own business is looking for opportunities to get his content published on his employer’s website. This is a benefit to him since his employer’s site has significantly more visitors than his current blog.
Another person I know is interested in becoming a consultant. She is leveraging her current employer’s credibility to obtain speaking opportunities at major conferences. This will increase her exposure, and personal brand, exponentially.
Someone else is forming business connections now that would be extremely difficult to establish after leaving his position in a large corporation.
Respect Current Employers
To be clear, all these individuals are interested in adding as much value as possible to their current employers. In fact, the people who look to step out on their own often produce higher levels of results, in part because the result is often mutually beneficial.
I know firsthand what this is like. Back in 1995, I was ready to leave my position at Accenture. I wanted a change. But as it turns out, the change did not have to take place outside the company. With the help of others, we launched a 20,000-person process-and-innovation practice. I not only added more value to the organization, but I was reenergized and significantly more satisfied in my new role.
On the back of that work, I was able to leverage the firm’s connections to get a publishing deal with McGraw-Hill. It was at this point, in 2001, that I left Accenture.
Knowing when to leap is a difficult decision to make, and if you leap too quickly, you may be missing great opportunities for leveraging your current position. Instead of leaping across the chasm, find ways of building a bridge from where you are today to where you want to be in the future. When you do this, the transition is a lot easier and more likely to be successful.
July 9, 2013
Back in 2006, I wrote a book called Goal-Free Living.
Last year I wrote an article for American Express OPEN Forum, How Oprah Nearly Killed my Business.
And recently I wrote a blog entry titled, Do Not Develop Breakthrough Innovation.
For each of these, I stretched the truth.
Goal-Free Living did not advocate a complete abstention from goals; only the avoidance of goalaholism.
How Oprah Nearly Killed my Business had little to do with Oprah and was more about how I didn’t consider my target audience and as a result, alienated my buyers.
And Do Not Develop Breakthrough Innovation did not suggest that companies avoid innovation. However it did suggest that they should consider open innovation as a means of reducing risk and cost.
Someone told me that this “truth stretching” is an “upaya.”
Upaya is a term in Mahayana Buddhism which literally means “expedient,” and reflects a technique designed to help change someone’s perspective. In some circumstances even lies and trickery can be an upaya if they help someone wake up to a realization.
So, even if a stated point of view is not ultimately “true” in the highest sense, it may still be a useful means to change someone’s perspective and help him or her gain enlightenment.
If I said, “Goals aren’t always bad but you have to be careful in how you use them,” people would roll their eyes and not pay attention. Saying, “eliminate all goals” raises eyebrows and then has them be more open to the possibility of something bigger.
In my latest book, Best Practices Are Stupid, (which is also an upaya, because I don’t believe they are always stupid) I talk about making the impossible possible. If while innovating we only strive to go from point “A” to point “B,” we often fall short. But if we shoot for point “C” (the impossible or impractical) we have a better chance of hitting “B.”
This explains why my form of an upaya is useful. By stretching the truth, we suggest “C” which allows people to reach “B.”
Our ingrained mental models will always bring us closer back to our old reality. To break free of the old beliefs, sometimes it is useful to have the truth stretched a bit, knowing that you will adjust that truth back a bit closer to what you already believe.
Are my article titles controversial? Yes. But there is a method to my madness.
June 17, 2013
During a recent speech in Copenhagen, I tried an experiment.
With the help of 5 individuals, we explored the 5 traits of all successful people.
I think you will agree that we identified some traits that ALL successful people share.
May 13, 2013
Today’s Monday Morning Movie is actually an audio file…
In the October 2012 issue of SUCCESS Magazine, there was a four page article by yours truly. You’ve been able to read the article online since it was published. (It is the cover article; “Innovate of Die!”)
However, unless you subscribe to the magazine, you will not have heard my 22 minute interview with SUCCESS Magazine’s publisher, Darren Hardy. It was on the CD included with the magazine, but not available anywhere else.
Darren was kind enough to give me permission to post the audio file here.
You have two ways to enjoy this interview:
- Listen to the audio (streaming):
- Download the audio (mp3) (right click to save to your computer)
I will be posting the transcription of this interview sometime soon.
May 11, 2013
Today’s Friday Fun Fact…
At the end of this month, I will be speaking in Copenhagen at a Happiness at Work Conference. This got me thinking about what it is that makes people truly joyous.
Business Insider gathered some research on this topic and amassed 36 Scientific Facts about happiness, some that may come as a surprise.
Here are a few of my favorites:
- You have to earn 2.5x as much money to be as happy working for someone else as you would be working for yourself: Perhaps that is why Forbes reported that approximately 543,000 new U.S. businesses are started every month. This is one of the reasons I work for myself. If I don’t like my boss, I only have me to blame!
- Greater rewards mean less motivation and poorer performance: “Researchers have found that people are sometimes happier and more effective when they do a task for no money at all than when they receive a small payment. If someone offers a good Samaritan $5 for helping with a flat tire, then he starts thinking about the actual market rate for tire-changing, so a fiver is now insufficient—when a minute ago, he’d have been perfectly content with $0.” I have written about this extensively in the past. See my article, I Won’t Work for Money.
- Happy people are lucky: Lucky people tend to focus on the positive side of their ill fortune. They imagine how things could have been worse. For example, an individual arrived to an interview with his leg in a cast and mentioned that he had fallen down a flight of stairs. When asked whether he still felt lucky, he cheerfully explained that he felt luckier than before as he could have broken his neck. This is absolutely how I live, maybe sometime to a fault. I do operate from the belief that everything happens for a reason – I learned this from my father.
- Happiness is not a destination: I will be happy when I’m married, have more money, or move to a new location. This is what we tell ourselves. But the reality is that while these things can contribute to happiness, it is not as much as you may think. According to Web MD, achieving these milestones account for only about 10% of your whole happiness picture. “Lasting happiness has more to do with how you behave and think — things you control — than with many of life’s circumstances.” This is the essence of my Goal-Free Living book.
Other studies show that people with more money are happy. But what is intriguing is that the researchers found that money did not cause happiness. Happiness was the creator of wealth.
What other things make you happy?
April 16, 2013
Back in 2006, my Goal-Free Living book was published by Wiley, and I was feeling quite proud. Later that same year, after giving a speech in Los Angeles, I drove up to Santa Barbara to attend a conference, arriving just in time for lunch.
While standing in the line for the buffet, I turned around and said hi to the guy next to me.
He told me his name was George. He then asked me what I did.
Given my new book and the success of my speech earlier that day, I said with a bit of swagger, “I’m an author and professional speaker.” I was feeling very good about myself.
I asked George, “What do you do?”
He replied nonchalantly, “Oh, I’ve done a bit of television.”
He said it so matter-of-factly, that I assumed he had a small role in television. Maybe he had done a couple of commercials. Or possibly he did some voiceover work; he certainly had the voice for it. Or maybe he once had a “bit” part in a minor show.
He then proceeded to ask me about my book and the work I do, and I gladly shared my life story.
When I sat down at my table to eat, not with George, I looked at the agenda of speakers for the conference.
I was humbled when I realized that the person I was standing next to in the buffet line was speaking later that day. He was none other than George Takei.
At that moment, I realized that truly confident, successful, and impressive individuals do not need to boast. They don’t need to be the center of attention. Instead, they make others feel good about themselves. They ask good questions and are interested in others.
After that embarrassing moment, I have done my best to do what George did with me. Instead of attempting to convince the world of how great I am, I try to bring out the greatness in others. When I am at a conference, I do my best to make others the centers of conversation.
The next time you are with a group, spend more asking questions and listening than talking. Spend more time promoting others than promoting yourself.
As I learned from George, the most powerful people make others feel like a super star.
P.S. I ended up spending about 90 minutes with George. He truly is one of the nicest people I have ever met. He even asked for a copy of my Goal-Free Living book, which I gladly signed and sent. The picture below is what he sent me, to thank me for my book. He is a class act!
April 12, 2013
Today’s Friday Fun Fact…
Last week I had discussed the concept of confirmation bias and the impact that it has on innovation.
In a nutshell, confirmation bias is our tendency to seek evidence that supports our existing beliefs and ignores or refutes evidence to the contrary. While these biases can impact any area of our life, one area where it has been scientifically proven to exist is in politics.
A 2004 Emory College study showed…
where in the brain confirmation bias arises and how it is unconscious and driven by emotions… While undergoing a brain scan, 30 men–half self-described as ‘strong’ Republicans and half as ‘strong’ Democrats–were tasked with assessing statements by both George W. Bush and John Kerry in which the candidates clearly contradicted themselves. Not surprisingly, in their assessments Republican subjects were as critical of Kerry as Democratic subjects were of Bush, yet both let their own candidate off the hook.
This in itself is not surprising.
During the assessment, the neuroimaging results revealed that the part of the brain most associated with reasoning was dormant.
The most active parts of the brain were those involved in the processing of emotions, conflict resolution, making judgments about moral accountability; and—“once subjects had arrived at a conclusion that made them emotionally comfortable–the ventral striatum was activated, which is related to reward and pleasure… Essentially, it appears as if partisans twirl the cognitive kaleidoscope until they get the conclusions they want, and then they get massively reinforced for it, with the elimination of negative emotional states and activation of positive ones.”
Our brains are wired to reward us when we align the current view with our existing beliefs. It is no wonder why we have such difficulty seeing other’s perspectives.
Is it possible to change your view? Of course.
There are two ways that I have found useful.
The first involves others: recruit your best devil’s advocates and muster the willingness to really listen - really listen. This is sometimes the easiest method as it provides formal checks and balances.
But if you want to address your biases on your own, studies show that simply being aware of your biases, and having constant reminders of them, may be enough to reduce their impact (see my Best Practices Are Stupid book for more on this). But for this to work, you must be open to assuming that your current beliefs are not accurate.
However, given that the brain rewards us for “seeing what we believe” – confirming our biases – it is not easy or pleasant to change.
April 5, 2013
Here is the transcription for my Monday Morning Movie…
The other day I was at Mohegan Sun, which is a casino about an hour and a half outside of Boston. And while I’m there I love to speak with the gamblers because each of them believe they have a system. They believe they have a method to ensure that they win. And they’re all convinced they’ve won more money than they’ve lost.
Well, of course, this is not true. Casinos are not in the habit of giving money out to people. The house always wins. We know this to be true.
Why do people believe that they win more than they lose? It’s something called confirmation bias, and confirmation bias is the brain’s processing mechanism by which it finds evidence to support its belief structure. Whatever you believe, you will find evidence to support that, and you will subconsciously ignore anything that refutes your belief structure. That’s why we can have such powerful beliefs in spite of evidence to the contrary.
It’s very important for innovators to understand this concept, because every person is convinced they have a billion dollar idea. They’ve got the next big idea that’s going to change the world and make them rich. But what happens is their confirmation bias only allows them to see the evidence that supports their belief that they have a great idea. Their brain doesn’t allow them to see all the evidence that proves it’s actually a bad idea.
There’s a reason why 70 to 90 percent of new innovations fail. It’s not because these aren’t well intentioned, motivated, or excited people. But they’re people who, like all people, have confirmation bias. As a result they will subconsciously ignore the evidence that proves that what they think is a great idea, is in fact not such a good idea.
As innovators, as entrepreneurs, as individuals it’s important to recognize this. Now how do we counterbalance this?
It’s difficult for us to find evidence that refutes a strongly held belief. So what we need to do is, when we’re working on something, partner with a devil’s advocate. Find someone who’ll be the contrary point, somebody whose sole purpose is to find evidence that proves your idea is a bad idea.
Now it may be hard to hear what that person has to say. You will want to reject what they have to say. But if you can open up your mind and be willing to hear the contrary points of view, you may be able to refine your product, service, or idea, and come up with something that’s better. Or you may learn it’s just such a bad idea and you shouldn’t invest the time and money in this one. Find a different one.
This is really important for all organizations (big or small) and individuals.
We know that every gambler doesn’t win more than they lose. And we know that every idea is not a great idea.
The question is, “What are you going to do to make sure that you invest your time, money, and energy in the things that have the highest likelihood of paying off?”
April 1, 2013
Today’s Monday Morning Movie…
It seems like every gambler has a system that ensures they win more than they lose. Of course this can not be the case.
The same is true with innovation. Everyone is convinced they have the next big idea and have all the evidence to support their belief. But most innovations fail.
What is going on here? And what can you do about it?
Today I discuss how the brain is fooling us into believing false beliefs.