What I learned from mediocrity

How to Stand Out

Do you hope to be outstanding? Do you hope to stand out? Hope is not enough. Hope will not cause a sack of outstanding to land in your lap. Hope is not a strategy.

To stand out you must craft, do work, create. Artists and entrepreneurs. Hackers and painters. Creators reshape their world to match their dreams. The rest of us let the world reshape our dreams.

Lots of people have ideas. Ideas are cheap. Few people execute on ideas. The graveyard is the richest place on earth. It’s filled with unwritten books, unbuilt companies, unsong songs, unshipped products.

Many conversations go like this:

“I had an idea and I worked on an app.”

“Is it on the App Store? Can I use it?”

“No, I never took it that far”

No excuses. Ship it. Publishit. Build a portfolio of work. Take a risk to put your imperfect creation out there. You will experience a fear of criticism. There is a tiny group of fans to cheer you on. To overcome this fear realize almost no one knows who you are and even fewer know about your work.

Become a creator now, and thousands of hours later you will find acclaim. Until then you will crave real feedback. There is no overnight success. People are rewarded in public for what they’ve practiced for years in private.

Creators are stand out. Outstanding creators crave feedback. Document what you’re doing. Ask for comments. Appreciate every bit of feedback. And engage with anyone who generously gives you their attention.

Do deep work. Create work that evokes emotions. If no one feels emotional connection to your work, no one cares that it exists (besides you). Experience the joy of human connection, connect with people through your work. What makes it all worth it? The joy of human connection.

Then you will stand out…

“I do not choose to be a common man.
It is my right to be uncommon … if I can.
I seek opportunity … not security.
I do not wish to be a kept citizen,
Humbled and dulled by having the State look after me.
I want to take the calculated risk,
To dream and to build. To fail and to succeed.
I refuse to barter incentive for a dole;
I prefer the challenges of life to the guaranteed existence;
The thrill of fulfillment to the stale calm of Utopia.
I will not trade freedom for beneficence
Nor my dignity for a handout
I will never cower before any master
Nor bend to any threat.
It is my heritage to stand erect, proud and unafraid;
To think and act for myself,
To enjoy the benefit of my creations
And to face the world boldly and say:
This, I have done.”

Dean Alfange (1952)

What I Learned from feeling STUCK

Sometimes you feel like you aren’t moving toward your goals. You’re either moving in the wrong direction or you have no velocity. You aren’t moving. You are stuck.

Remember that the outcomes are what matter most. Small results are better than no results. Celebrate small wins, because they add up to big wins. Results rule.

20% of what you do generates 80% of your results. Whats in that 20% and how can you do more of that? What’s the other 80% of activity that’s not helping and how can you do less of that? Remember the 80/20 rule.

All the routines, habits, knowledge you have now may have brought you lots of past success. They got you to here. But they may not be the right stuff to get you to your destination. You’ll need to keep learning, adapting. What got you here won’t got you there.

No one’s going to come save you. You have to save yourself. No one understands the problem better than you do. Survive! Thrive! If not me, then who?

There’s no time like the present. The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The 2nd best time is right now. Take massive action. If not now, then when?

Get moving!

What I learned about Living Life from Jesse Itlzer – author, rapper, entrepreneur

Not that Jesse Itzler has it all figured out. He just seems like he’s figured out more than the rest of us. He’s figured out how to live. The post below is a collection of nuggets I’ve picked up from multiple interviews and Jesse’s breakout book “Living with a SEAL” in which Jesse tells the story of living with high-endurance athlete and all-around badass David Goggins.

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The three most memorable nuggets are:

  1. Send hand-written letters.
  2. Take the path with the best story.
  3. Use math to decide how to spend time.

Send hand-written letters

At one point in his life, Jesse Itzler was spending 1 hour per day hand-writing letters of gratitude. Those letters shifted his mindset and led to profitable business relationships.

This is why it works. Writing letters by hand is out of fashion. And, most people don’t bother to express gratitude.

Writing the letter feels good, and receiving the letter feels good. Since almost no one takes the time to hand-write letters, by doing so you immediately stand out from the crowd. Since you took time to compose a sincere message, you express genuine care for the person you write to.

Take the path with the best story

Jesse has lived more than most of us. From launching businesses, to crazy 100 mile endurance runs, to living with monks. He seems to use a story-tellers mental model for deciding how to live.

The mental model is a guide on how to live a more exciting life.  When given an opportunity, consider the story as part of the reward.  Usually, the worst thing that can happen is nothing.  You may miserably fail, but you will have a story to tell.  If instead you choose to stay home on the couch, you won’t even have the story. So get moving!

Use math to decide how to spend time

Itzler talks about how, as he turns 50, he re-evaluates how he spends his time, using math. I’m certain a 25 year old who takes this advice to heart will live a vastly different life.  He uses math to re-frame decisions in the bigger picture.  For example, if you spend 2 hours a day watching TV, that’s 700 hours a year, or 7,000 hours over the next 10 years. What would you rather do with those 7,000 hours?

The other way Jesse uses math is to better appreciate relationships.  The average american life span is 78 years.  If your parents are already 65, they may only have 13 years of life remaining.  If you only visit them twice a year, you have only 26 visits left.  Make the most of every single visit.

Books by Jesse Itzler

Living with the Monks: What Turning Off My Phone Taught Me about Happiness, Gratitude, and Focus

Living with a SEAL: 31 Days Training with the Toughest Man on the Planet

I’ve read Living with a SEAL, and highly enjoyed it. It is a very entertaining and inspiring read.


This post is written in honor of the great master, Banri Hoshi.

What I learned about Manhood from Sir Richard Branson’s father

The Great House is on FIRE! Fire! Fire! Fire!

After reading Finding my Virginity (affiliate link)(non-affiliate link) in January, one story has stuck in my mind. The story teaches an invaluable lesson about Manhood, and it’s part of the chapter titled “Dad”.

Richard’s father, Ted, and nephew, Jack, joined each other on a boating expedition. Jack told his grandpa about a noise he heard last night, but chose not to get out of bed to investigate. Grandpa told Jack he made the wrong decision. He told Jack he should always get up to investigate noises at night.

Years later Jack is woken in the night while staying at Necker Island (in the British Virgin Isles). He hears a noise and gets up to investigate. The house is on fire! He proceeds to wake and evacuate all twenty guests. The house incurs significant fire damage. All the guests escape mostly unscathed, with only minor injuries.

The lesson is:

If you are woken at night by a noise, always get up and investigate. Your house might be on fire.

What I learned about Curiosity from Speed of Trust by Stephen MR Covey

This is a story told by Marion D. Hanks of an obscure woman in London who insisted that she never had a chance. She muttered these words to Dr. Louis Agassiz, distinguished naturalist, after one of his lectures. In response to her complaint, he replied:

“Do you say, madam, you never had a chance? What do you do?”

“I am single and help my sister run a boardinghouse.”

“What do you do?” he asked.

“I skin potatoes and chop onions.”

He said, “Madam, where do you sit during these interesting but homely duties?”

“On the bottom step of the kitchen stairs.”

“Where do your feet rest?”

“On the glazed brick.”

“What is glazed brick?”

“I don’t know, sir.”

He said, “How long have you been sitting there?”

She said, “Fifteen years.”

“Madam, here is my personal card,” said Dr. Agassiz. “Would you kindly write me a letter concerning the nature of a glazed brick?”

She took him seriously. She went home and explored the dictionary and discovered that a brick was a piece of baked clay. That definition seemed too simple to send to Dr. Agassiz, so after the dishes were washed, she went to the library and in an encyclopedia read that a glazed brick is vitrified kaolin and hydrous aluminum silicate. She didn’t know what that meant, but she was curious and found out. She took the word vitrified and read all she could find about it. Then she visited museums. She moved out of the basement of her life and into a new world on the wings of vitrified.And having started, she took the word hydrous, studied geology, and went back in her studies to the time when God started the world and laid the clay beds. One afternoon she went to a brickyard, where she found the history of more than 120 kinds of bricks and tiles, and why there have to be so many. Then she sat down and wrote thirty-six pages on the subject of glazed brick and tile.

Back came the letter from Dr. Agassiz: “Dear Madam, this is the best article I have ever seen on the subject. If you will kindly change the three words marked with asterisks, I will have it published and pay you for it.”

A short time later there came a letter that brought $250, and penciled on the bottom of this letter was this query: “What was under those bricks?” She had learned the value of time and answered with a single word: “Ants.” He wrote back and said, “Tell me about the ants.”

She began to study ants. She found there were between eighteen hundred and twenty-five hundred different kinds. There are ants so tiny you could put three head-to-head on a pin and have standing room left over for other ants; ants an inch long that march in solid armies half a mile wide, driving everything ahead of them; ants that are blind; ants that get wings on the afternoon of the day they die; ants that build anthills so tiny that you can cover one with a lady’s silver thimble; peasant ants that keep cows to milk, and then deliver the fresh milk to the apartment house of the aristocrat ants of the neighborhood.

After wide reading, much microscopic work, and deep study, the spinster sat down and wrote Dr. Agassiz 360 pages on the subject. He published the book and sent her the money, and she went to visit all the lands of her dreams on the proceeds of her work.

Now as you hear this story, do you feel acutely that all of us are sitting with a our feet on pieces of vitrified kaolin and hydrous aluminum silicate–with ants under them? Lord Chesterton answers:

There are no uninteresting things; there are only uninterested people.

Keep Learning!

Reference: Hanks, Marion D. “Good Teachers Matter.” Ensign, http://www.lds.org/ensign/1971/07/good-teachers-matter?lang=eng.

HELL YEAH or NO

Reflecting on Derek Sivers “Either HELL or NO“.

It’s okay if you don’t have something you’re really excited about. Books. Podcasts. Albums. Projects.

It’s okay to take a break.

It’s okay to wait for a HELL YEAH option to present yourself.

It’s not okay to fill every moment with activities you aren’t thrilled about.

Priorities

Managers differ from leaders in that no one wants to be managed and most people want to be led. As a leader I care deeply about enabling my people do their best work.

I know that people cannot do their best work when their health, home and family are not in order. If their own health is not in order they cannot do their best work and cannot do their best to care for loved ones. They are at work, and the family crisis is always in the back of their mind.

The person’s health comes before family comes before work. When those things are in order, when they are at work, they can give their all. They are enabled to do their best work.

Creating a safe environment and enabling this to happen distinguishes a Multiplier Leader from a Diminisher Leader.

  1. Your Own Health
  2. Your Family
  3. Work

Sometimes it’s hard. What if a key team asset has a crisis and needs to take months leave of absence? The team needs to come together and cover the gaps. Each individual person may deal with a future crisis.

How to apply it:

  • Take an honest assessment of your own health of mind and body. Are you taking care of yourself?
  • Take an honest assessment of what baggage you carry to work. Are you thinking about a brewing home crisis instead of being fully present?
  • Practice empathy with your peers. Support them when they need it most.

Thanksgiving 2017 Update

This fall has been crazy. I made a few lifestyle changes. Changes like that are never easy.

It helps me to remember my favorite quote from The Daily Stoic, “YOU are the project”.

I wrote myself a poem of reminders.

Building on Healthy Habits

Spend more time reading and writing

Spend more time breathing and thinking

Spend more time hydrating and moving

Spend more time loving and laughing

Reading and writing always surprises me. It leads to discoveries and ideas. But, it takes time to be effective. And to be honest, my primary reason to read is for entertainment. So, reading competes with all other forms of entertainment.

Breathing and thinking needs it’s own time too. Some days, you move from appointment to appointment without space in between. Gotta take breaks in between to catch your breath.

Drink more water, take more walks. Thrive!

Do not underestimate the importance of play. Make time for it. If you don’t, are you alive?

What I learned about excellence from Nick Saban, coach of 5 time national champions, the Crimson Tide

At 11 years old, a boy went to work at his father’s small-town West Virginia service station. “There was a standard of excellence, a perfection.” If any car he washed ended up with water streaks, the boy was demanded to start over from the beginning and wash it again. The standard of excellent taught him how to do things correctly the first time. To value time. To not half-ass. To do his best. To pay attention to detail.

Later in life the boy became an extraordinary college football coach. The discipline his father drilled into him was passed down to his players year after year. His team became one of the most winning teams in college football. His college football teams have won 205 games (with only 61 losses) and 5 national championships. His name is Nick Saban, and his team is Alabama’s Crimson Tide. 

The lesson is:

Excellence comes from doing something over and over until it’s executed to perfection and never accepting less than your best.