September 11th, 2012. Taipei, Taiwan. Dante Coffee in Guting. 8:34AM
My inbox. Oh, I don't really like that subject line. Well, click it --
I hate to push back yet again, but I can hardly get anything done right now.
Let me finish UI + client project first.
Also, my concentration is complete shit.
This money thing still fucks me up.
And then, epiphany strikes, the lights come on, the darkness recedes, and all is clear.
You're probably very interested in reaching all your goals. And if you're maybe a little ambitious, you'll have goals on numerous fronts -- business and career, money and wealth and assets, family and home life, creativity and expression, service and doing good for the world, personal development, health and wellness, and so on.
And I'd wager dollars to donuts that, sometimes, you're on fire and nearly unstoppable. For whatever reason, somehow, some way, every now and then you'll be absolutely killin' it. Nothing can stop you, work goes freely, your relationships go well, you eat exactly how you like to eat, you earn and spend money exactly in a way that you're proud of, you treat people well and treat yourself well, and things just flow.
The flipside of that is… those other times.
The ones where it feels like you're trying to sprint in knee-deep mud. You're sloshing around, getting tired and perhaps injured, and for all the effort -- you're just getting frustrated and making a mess.
This had been one of those mornings.
I arrived in Taipei a few days ago, really a magnificent city and one conducive to high productivity and quality of life. I started getting up at 5AM again, and heading to a little breakfast place to try to work out and sort my goals and priorities.
I wrote this in my little paper journal --
"I've got 10,000 opportunities and good things going on. I've got 10,000 improvements I could make, weaknesses I could shore up, errors I could fix. I don't know which to be doing, and my time often isn't deployed well."
I would spend the first 3-5 hours of the day musing over this, organizing my things, looking over old goals and initiatives, thumbing through books, and trying to figure it out. The rest of the day would be spent discharging my duties and doing what's important in the short term for progress.
But the lack of a high-level understanding and control was haunting, and upsetting, and having a negative rippling effect on the rest of my days. I've felt like this for a while now.
Yesterday, at noon, I spoke with my partner on a project-turned-business. We were working on a marketing campaign that would directly bring in some good leads for sales. We were hoping that this campaign would bring in about 10 very highly qualified leads, leading to two sales at $2000, and be repeatable in the future.
We'd defined the offer, general copy, created a Wufoo form for a prospect to put their info into, and put it all online on its own domain specifically for the campaign.
But after that, it had been impossible to get it from where it was to "good enough to launch." I'm all for 80/20'ing and fast iteration, but it was closer to only 60% done.
My partner was having a hard time adding polish and making the campaign look good enough for launch. His dialog went like, "I don't think it's possible the current way. I don't see how it can be done. I'm totally stuck. I don't see anything here. I can't figure it out."
This is unusual for him, he's massively a hard-worker, go-getter, and all-around killer. He also has the flu right now, which never helps.
But it was interesting listening to him, because he normally (1) is able to produce results rapidly, and (2) doesn't speak like that.
Back to Dante Coffee. I'm sitting there, frustrated. I'm thinking, "I can't figure this out… damn it, there's too many moving pieces. I don't know how to optimize for all of it. I don't have a clear framework for putting things into." Etc, etc.
And then I get that email. It's from a different guy that I work on projects with, both commercial and philanthropic:
"I can hardly get anything done right now… my concentration is complete shit. … This money thing still fucks me up."
And it clicks.
We're firmly in reinventing-the-wheel territory here, since many people have observed this phenomenon and written about it before.
But the crux of the problem is this --
1. Those are statements that things aren't being fixed, aren't going to work, and aren't going to be figured out.
2. They're statements, not questions.
So what could we do instead?
Ineffective: "I don't think it's possible the current way. I don't see how it can be done. I'm totally stuck. I don't see anything here. I can't figure it out."
Effective: "I'm not sure what the best way is from here, but let's experiment and see what happens. What's a little effective change I can make? Or a single step that would work? Do you have a thought, even a small one as a jumping off point? We're going to crack this and figure it out, it's just a matter of time and attacking it from a number of different angles."
Ineffective: "I hate to push back yet again, but I can hardly get anything done right now. Let me finish UI + client project first. Also, my concentration is complete shit. This money thing still fucks me up."
Effective: "Hey dude, my concentration has been pretty shot, and so I'm going to put a big push on improving that and getting more effective. I've got a client project I'm wrapping up, and I'm also worried about cash. Do you have any thoughts for me on finances and money, or ideas? Could we brainstorm about it next time we talk together? I'm going to conquer this, put it behind me, and keep flowing and thriving, any thoughts you've got to help me do that would be great."
Ineffective: "I can't figure this out… damn it, there's too many moving pieces. I don't know how to optimize for all of it. I don't have a clear framework for putting things into." Etc, etc.
Effective: "Alright, let's analyze what's going on. It's a little bit tricky, but I'm going to figure this out, either today or in the near future, and going to keep making progress. There's many moving pieces, and I want to optimize or organize them, and I'm going to build some framework or catch-all for that. What's the best way to do that? If I don't know the best way, what 5 people I could ask that are pretty effective who have many different projects going on?"
It's damn near magical. Here it is --
1. Catch yourself making negative statements. "I'm confused." "I'm fat." "I'm undisciplined." Replace those with what you want them to be, "I'm working through the confusion and I'm going to figure it out." "My health isn't where I want it to be yet, so I'm going to focus on it and get it there." "I'm incrementally improving my discipline."
2. Use questions liberally. "I don't know how to do this" could be "How can I do this? If I don't know, what's a little thing I'm certain of? Who could I ask? What else could I do?" Something like, "I don't know the answer to this" could become "How do people normally find the answer to this? What are a few different plans of attack I could make?"
Okay, we've reinvented the wheel here. It's damn powerful though. Is there anything you're struggling with that you're making negative statements about? Give a try to replacing them and crushing the block.