If you're striking off on your own, thousands forces outside of your control will conspire against you. You'll have to deal with politics, egos, deals falling throughs, markets shifting and crashing, competitors who do a variety of actions ranging from brilliant to insane to innovative to unethical... you'll deal with clients who are demanding or flaky, you'll see forces outside your control like breakups and divorces screwing up very good partnerships and employee/employer relationships...
...the list of things you'll have to deal with is legion. Quite frankly, in a way, you're somewhat insane for grabbing the reigns and trying to build the world of your own accord.
With many of the forces working against you, they're outside your control. But of the things inside your control, there's one that leads to winning and losing more than anything else, so remember --
Refuse to be outworked.
You might be outsmarted by people more brilliant than you, outmaneuvered by people more politically connected than you, out-executed by someone who cracks the nut faster than you, but if you refuse to be outworked you're almost guaranteed to be successful on some level and to live a meaningful life.
When I first heard this advice, I thought it was about putting in hours. And it is, to some extent. But really, that's a small piece of the equation once you're over a certain reasonable baseline.
To outwork people, you've got to do a few things:
*Employ consistency in your work life. You need certain times you block out for your key stuff. If you're haphazardly scheduling your work hours, you're going to get outworked.
*Get into full engagement when working. You need flow state. That means you need to work on a single task diligently and resist temptation. Some temptation is irresistible to some people, so you need to structure your environment so those temptations aren't near you.
*Work all the time you work. Something magical happens when you refuse to take procrastination breaks. You don't get twice as much done. You get twenty times as much done. Real breaks are incredibly valuable, those involve getting up from your computer and going for a walk, making a tea, eating some fruit, or otherwise disengaging. Work all the time you work, except for real breaks that actually relax. Literally refusing to procrastinate is not the norm and hard to do solo (perhaps impossible on some things), so recruit someone to work with and constantly check on each other.
*Begin to work at a faster pace. Not frantically. Just a cool fast pace. If you have any partner or collaborator, ask how long in hours or minutes until the next task is done. Then ask, "Does it really have to take that long?" Oftentimes something you blocked out 3 hours for can actually be done in 20 highly engaged minutes. If you do the math on pairing that constant work, consistency, and full engagement, you get insanely larger amounts of stuff done.
*Learn to like the hard problems. You should do the hard stuff first, because if you don't, it won't get done. Surprisingly, many hard problems don't take much time or effort to tackle. The reason we skip on them is fear, not because it's a bad of use. Hard problems are frequently the best use of time.
*Get obsessive about a compulsion for closure. Once the end is in sight, you become the Terminator. The last 3% to 10% is when most people slow down and scratch their head. Power forwards! It'll never be perfect, but the projects you've stalled out near the end are the largest wastes. You almost had it. Refuse to do anything else or switch what you're doing until you're done.
Adopting these habits have made me insanely more effective. And surprisingly, happier and less neurotic. When I'm spending time with my family or reading a book, I know it's well-earned time and feel no gnawing sense of anxiety. Try adopting even one of these ways of working and you'll do much more. Adopt all of them and you'll be insanely more productive.
Bonus tip: Start noticing excuses. Note that I didn't write "Stop making excuses." Yeah, do that. But most excuses are sneaky, they come cloaked in some seemingly reasonable concern. The thing is, you can almost always route around them. Just start noticing what's an excuse, and you're 90% of the way to solving it.
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