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All successful project come in phases, and since human beings follow patterns, these phases are pretty universal. Everyone, at some phase, goes through obstacles, finds mentors, etc., so knowing the phases ahead of time can be extremely helpful.
A lot of this can be learned, so here is an impression of how they work. I hope this helps you get through a block of your own– it definitely has helped me.
It occurs to you in a brief moment and you probably dismiss it– but somehow, it’s interesting and it sticks with you. It’s crazy but it doesn’t matter. You feel like it could be real. You could be utterly stupid but you can’t help yourself.
Seek out this stage if: You have no quest and/or little meaning.
How to do it: Get new stimulus. Meet new people. Travel and experience the world. Read furiously.
Yes, ok, you have this idea and it seems interesting, but who cares? You already have a good life. You’re already fed and clothed. You have friends and perhaps a spouse who loves you. You don’t really need anything big in your life. Who really changes the world, anyway? No one. And hey, nobody ever talks about the failures, but they happen, don’t they? Don’t mess with a good thing.
Seek out this stage if: If you haven’t passed this, you must. You need to progress through it deliberately.
How to do it: Rediscover things you have abandoned. Go back to your childhood. Find your archetype.
After perhaps days, weeks, or even months, the idea is sticking. You can’t help it and you’re thinking about it all the time– in the shower, during meetings, everywhere, damn it. So you make the call, and you get a meeting with an old friend who knows a thing or two.
During this time, this mentor hits you in the face with how crazy some of what you say is. But if you’re lucky, he also says something else: “This has promise.” You’ll probably screw it up, of course, but the truth is that this is all you really wanted to hear.
Seek out this stage if: You have accepted some craziness but aren’t sure if it’s even possible.
How to do it: Informational interviewing. Asking people who might have even a tiny chance of knowing.
Maybe you’re at a party or with some friends, but really, this could happen anywhere. Someone asks you what you do, maybe, or you are just casually talking.
This is when it happens. You throw it out, and you’ve been practicing. “Oh, I’m working on this new thing. Here’s why it’s going to rock etc.”
The truth is, you’ve done no work and you have no idea if it’ll even fly. But you’ve just made it public. You’ve identified with it.
Congratulations. You’ve just chosen a side.
Seek out this stage if: You need the courage to move forward.
How to do it: Practice a short pitch. Don’t try to get everything in like an idiot. Make it conversational. “You know when X? Well right now I’m Y.” Do this with a quasi-friend, not a total friend, but not a stranger either. Maybe someone you haven’t seen in a while. Then, tell them to keep it quiet.
As time goes on, you begin to identify with your crazy side more and more. Your identity becomes one with it. You adopt new ideas, meet new people, and find out just how much you didn’t know. You look stupid a few times, recover, and then look smart after googling for a while and meeting the right people.
You’ll notice after a time that you are changing. You’re no longer seen as what you once were. People are talking about it, maybe. You’re showing progress. It’s starting to seem real, and this is the point of no return. Beyond this, real failure is possible and very real.
Seek out this stage if: Usually this just happens. It’s slow and you suddenly realize you’re there. But seek it out if you see yourself deliberately stalling.
How to do it: Take a leap of faith. Make a big meeting where you talk ambitiously. Make a promise you can’t take back.
Success is like a road. You are constantly reaching new thresholds you need to learn to pass. This phase always happens and can often happen in sets of threes. You may need to hire an employee and you have no idea how to do it.
As you do this you are encountering constant challenge to your work, and because it isn’t real yet, so there is very little faith. That, by itself, is also a trial. This phase continues as long as it needs to.
Seek out this stage if: You need to grow and you are avoiding it.
How to do it: Seek out small decisions and make them, as often as you can. Notice bottlenecks and get through them. Ask yourself what would help you cross each threshold and act deliberately, even if an imperfect decision is made.
Part 2 incoming. :) Subscribe below to get it into your inbox!
Thank you for your support, your attention, and your help in making a book like this succeed. Chris and I could not have done it without you.
Beyond anything else, it really goes to show that you can really bring people together if you are giving, helpful, and deliver value again and again.
I hope that I’ve been able to help you by writing this blog. If you’re new here, I look forward to being able to deliver more as time goes on. I have lots left up my sleeve. :)
Writing here is actually one of the most rewarding parts of my career, in this little internet box. :)
If you have not had a chance to pick up the book yet, I hope you’ll pick it up today. Click here to order it, and thank you for taking part in making this an amazing week for us.
Ok, this post may be a mistake… but I’m going to publish it anyway.
After 3 years of building, selling, writing, and editing, October 25th is the date when our next book, The Impact Equation, will be released.
It was a behemoth endeavour as well as a labour of love, and now, with your permission, I’d love your help.
The book industry is always trying to predict what’s going to be a winner. Even at the best of times, they don’t always know– but they are always watching.
What this means is, when a book starts to move, people in the industry react. When the Amazon rank goes up, they take notice. They start to stock the shelves. They order extra. The marketing and PR people start to make calls. Etc.
In short, when a book starts to move, the industry moves with it.
So we want to make the industry move– and I mean really move– in the coming days, and so we’re offering a ton more than we probably should.
Chris has already made crazy offers on his blog. I’ll list them below and then add on to them (I’ll explain why later).
BAM! #1. If you pre-order the book and are among the first 100 to do so, we will literally gift you one other ebook of your choice. Kindle or Nook, we’ll send it to you.
BAM! #2. For the first ten people who pre-order 10 books or more, we will help run a giveaway on your site, and gift you either a Kindle Fire or a Nook to give away. Yes, really.
BAM! #3. Now this is the real thing. If you are among the first 500 people to pre-order 20 books or more, you will get a ticket to a secret event we are hosting. The only way to get into this private event is to order 20 books. Think of it as the cost of a conference ticket– for a damn good conference. We actually already have some speakers signed up and they’re going to be great.
(You can go here to place your order any claim these.)
Chris actually tried to dissuade me from doing these because he thinks I’m offering too much… I’m not even kidding.
To tell you the truth, I’m not sure why I’m doing this except I’m always worried about how well launches will go. So I want to make sure it goes great. :)
Offer A. If you pre-order our upcoming book, and on the first day, post an honest review of it, on the day of launch– October 25th– I will set up one 30 minute call with you anytime you like. We can discuss anything. I’ll brainstorm with you on projects, help you figure out productivity, etc.
I’ve done this a few times before (it’s very rare), but when I do, it always fills up quickly. So for this one I would act fast. (Email chel.pixie [at] gmail [dot] com with your pre-order screenshot once you do this. Obviously, you also have to use your real name on the review.)
Offer B. In addition, if you pre-order 5 copies of the book, I will personally give you a complete review of your site over 30 days. You actually cannot buy this normally and I’ve only done a few in the past, but here’s a 140-character testimonial I asked for from Marc Ensign who I impulsively decided I would help out. He was really happy– ask him if you want.
This means that if you pre-order 10 books, for example, you not only get a complete review by me, but also a giveaway which we set up on your site and a Nook or Kindle Fire to give away. Plus if you do this and review it on day one, you’ll also get the phone call, etc.
Anyway, you guys are smart, I’m sure you can figure this out.
For any of these offers, once completed, please send a SCREENSHOT of the pre-order offer to chel.pixie [at] gmail [dot] com (my lovely and amazing assistant) who will help set the whole thing up, and fill out this form on Chris’ site. Use the subject line “pre-order offer” to help her sift through it.
Good Lord I can’t believe I’m doing this. It may be dumb.
Ok, I’m pulling the trigger… yeesh. :)
Love you guys, and thank you immensely for the support. You guys help me produce some of my best work and I couldn’t do it without you.
Thank you, thank you.
Whatever mistakes you’ve made up until now are off the table – the only thing that matters from this point on is how you move forward starting today.
Imagine you’re the main character in a video game, or you’re playing the starring role in the supremely megafantastic movie called YOUR LIFE – act accordingly.
What would they do? What choices would they make?
Don’t wait around or expect anyone else to create your own success or happiness – that’s entirely yours to make.
The princess is in another castle and nobody is gonna save her but you.
“Be your own hero, it’s cheaper than a movie ticket.” – Douglas Horton
The two major reasons for doing absolutely anything in the world: happiness and duty.
If something gives you happiness, even if slight, then it’s probably worth doing. You’re with someone (hopefully) because they make you happy. You have a job because doing it (or at least its results) make you happier. You take trips because you get to experience happy moments, either by yourself or with other people.
Duty is the second only in name. You take on a mission because it’s the right thing to do.
If something gives you happiness, in general, you do it. If something is your duty, you also do it. If it does neither, it’s safe to say that you can probably avoid it.
There are two major conflicts here, though. The first is making the distinction between short term happiness and long term. Sometimes something makes you miserable in the moment but feels great later. My books are generally like this. I work through them but they’re rarely enjoyable in the moment – in comparison to, say, blog posts, which are generally really fun to write as I do them. Sometimes, you have to sacrifice short-term happiness for a potential in long-term happiness through either achievement, or satisfaction, or whatever else. Here the trick is to know when to make that decision.
The second problem occurs when happiness conflicts with duty. Then you have a decision to make, and in my opinion, these are among the most difficult and straining situations you can experience.
The best situation, of course, is when duty and happiness come together into purpose. Then, you know you’ve really got something.
“You have your Bibles, don’t you?”
She was right– I do. Bibles is exactly what they are. They help me live my life well, help me make decisions, and make sure I am heading in the right direction.
It’s exactly like a religious book– except I wrote it.
If you don’t have a Bible, your daily decisions are probably based on mood, or if you’re lucky and you’ve thought it through, maybe they’re based on values. But I’m deeply impulsive, so even values aren’t good enough. I need something written down, telling me what to do.
You know when you go to a store and it says cash only on the cash register? It’s like that. Something that’s written down is more powerful, somehow.
So when I go to my apps, they say “go home and do 10 minutes of cleaning,” and I listen. That’s my Bible. Without that, my whole life would be in disorder. I’d have no idea what to base my decisions on.
But there’s something else, too. A Good Book actually isn’t enough– you need more. Because behind every Bible is actually another thing, a kind of meta-belief, that keeps the whole thing under control.
Mine is deceptively simple. It says: “Don’t trust yourself with decisions. Trust me instead.”
Or in other words, emotions are good advisors but bad kings. So you should never trust how you feel in the moment.
Any holy text is basically the same. It’s telling you “decide based on what I say, not based on how you’re feeling.” There’s a lot of power in that.
I firmly believe that all people are, in a sense, addicts. Everyone is an addict of a different type, to a different degree, with different problems. We all need help; we just make different decisions about how to get it.
Long ago, I got what worked for me. I didn’t let go and let God, but I did let go and let… something.
Everyone knows something important, but getting it out of them is difficult.
I’ve come across a bunch of people recently who are having professional or personal problems that others around them could solve. Yet, they don’t know how to ask those people. They don’t even know who to ask.
Hell, I am one of those people. I have trouble with it all the time.
One of the biggest obstacles to progress is finding out what your contacts know. If a friend of yours knows the director at your bank branch, while you’re trying to get a mortgage, you’d want to know, right? But unless you know to ask, you miss out.
Everyone is constantly missing out on opportunities like this. Little ones, big ones– all the time. It’s a huge passive time waster.
I’m trying to solve this problem now. I’m learning to ask people what they are working on and what they care about– about the things they know how to do that others don’t. But it took me years.
A big question I’m asking myself is why I do not have at least the skills of those I know– if not more.
Some are restrictions of personality or intelligence, sure.
But the real answer is simply that I don’t know how to ask or to learn as well as I should.
So what is the most effective way you have of learning? What is the most valuable thing you know? If you’re willing, please tell me in the comments below.
If you’re anything like me, you probably hate waiting on hold.
Hell, if you’re really like me, you probably hate being on the phone altogether. This is particularly true when you’re dealing with customer service.
So I’ve made it into a game, and that helps.
Everybody knows that one of the best indicators of success is calm persistence. So I use any conversation with customer service employees in order to train myself in relaxed, firm determination.
(In my case, I really need to do this, because I am by nature profoundly impatient and intolerant of stupidity.)
Yesterday, for example, I was on the phone with Videotron switching accounts from my girlfriend’s name into mine.
The guy on the other end of the line, at this point, says that this particular task is $29. To switch a name, in a file, on a computer.
Twenty-nine dollars. I suspect this is a side effect of Canada’s quasi-monopolistic practices in the communications industry. But I digress.
At this point I simply decide that I will not budge.
My theory is that we get very few opportunities in life to practice getting what we want, firmly and calmly. So we should practice as often as we can in environments like these, when it doesn’t matter.
If you’re paying attention, you’ll also notice that there are quite a few other circumstances where you have one-off opportunities to talk to people with no consequences, of which customer service is but one. You can actually use each of them to practice something– small talk, negotiation, anything.
Here are some of my favourites from yesterday. I used them to get this quasi-criminal fee waived in 10 minutes.
“I would like you to waive the fee.” (“Sir, we cannot, it’s procedure.”)
“So you’re saying you’ve never waived the fee, ever?” (Here you’re just trying to get him to admit it can be waived. And of course he says yes.)
“Ok, since you’ve admitted it can be waived, I would like you to waive it for me.”
“I just want you to know that I’m willing to stay on the phone as long as it takes to get my way.”
“I do not want a callback, and I will not waver until you waive the fee.”
Remember to always be polite when you do this. In fact, compliment the guy on what a good job he’s doing, and tell him it’s nothing personal. He will give. Time is money. He has to.
Remember not to go through life letting people trample you. It can be easy to give up. You know this– but more importantly, they know this. Therefore all you need to do is practice persistence. Literally, call it practice. It’ll work.
The process of book writing is way different with a co-writer.
First of all, it would be impossible without Google Docs. We simultaneously write into a document and edit each others’ work all the time. Some sections stay recognizable; others, not so much. Sentence structure changes. Jokes are added. Sections are moved.
At the end, when you’re reading the book in galley form, it’s almost like you’re reading it for the first time.
In fact, my co-author Chris texted me a few weeks back and he was like “The book is the best thing we’ve ever written. Just an FYI.” Both he and I were genuinely surprised by this because the process of co-authorship can result in all kinds of things. :)
Anyway, in about six weeks, Portfolio/Penguin will be publishing The Impact Equation, my third book and Chris’ fourth. We’re pretty excited about it. Like him, I think it’s way better than our previous book together. I’m proud of it.
The book distills basically everything we know about how to make bad ideas into good ones, helping them spread, and building audience and community.
Basically the book is about making yourself an online powerhouse, something that Chris figured out early on and I, due to laziness, only figured out much later. :)
If you’ve gotten anything out of this blog in the past little while, I hope you’ll give the book a chance and pre-order it. You’ll probably get a lot out of it. Or hey, at the absolutely minimum, it makes a great thank you if you appreciate my work. :)
It’s not always easy to breathe.
Breathing—the intake of oxygen and the exhalation of carbon dioxide—is life’s essential force. It’s the first step our physical bodies take towards making all other actions possible, including thinking.
In swimming, the rhythm of breathing is essential: you only have a few opportunities to catch a breath; it’s about timing your intake with your arms, kicks, and rotation. Without air, you can’t work the water.
Breath happens before anything.
Out in the open water, in the waves of the ocean, with the salt water sprays and the swells that take over, sometimes I turn my face upwards and a wave slams me in the face. I close my mouth, pass by that opportunity, hold the air in my lungs, and try again on the next cycle. Sometimes it takes a few turns before I get to suck in some oxygen.
My relationship with breathing has always been tenuous: when I was eleven, I was diagnosed with asthma. I learned my lungs were restricting my airways—and it would jump on me like a sudden cold, onset in minutes, causing breathing to be painful.
I would hide my inhalers, because I didn’t want something that gave me a crutch or a reason that I couldn’t be as good as anyone else. I learned how to push my back open against a floor, to rub my lungs to clear them, and how to hold my breath to stop my body from panicking.
I also learned how to hold my breath for a really long time. Getting into the pool every day gave me an intimate familiarity with the ways my lungs worked.
So swimming actually taught me how to breathe again.
Today, three years later, I’ve become an open water swimmer, chasing longer distances with each ocean adventure I find. I will routinely be late to work or leave for long lunch hours just to spend those hours in the ocean, my friend, the place where my soul is restored.
I need to touch the water, to splash, and to feel the curve of a wave beneath my hands. I’ll grab a board, and float out to sea, heart and head against the board, listening and feeling the rhythm beneath my body. My breathing will inadvertently sync up with the ocean swells, and the anxiety of my digital, corporate life gets left ashore. I’ll get up early, earlier than the sun, wander down to the ocean, and get into the water just to tune my body back into the rhythm of the earth.
But I had to learn how.
First, right now, as you’re sitting at the computer or staring at your screen to read this post: what does your breath pattern look like? Do you notice it? Are you breathing? Some people stop breathing while they are reading, and they raise their shoulders and hold tension in their bodies while at the computer. (A telltale sign is if you let out periodic sighs. Listen to others if you’re in a room, or set an audio-recorder on yourself for an hour. You’ll forget about it and can then listen to the breath sounds play back. It’s fascinating.)
Next, find a space to lie on the floor. Take a deep breath. Take ten slow breaths, with your eyes closed. Push the air all the way in and out of your lungs. Where are the bottoms of your lungs? Where are the tops of them? Can you fill the space entirely?
Practice changing the cadence of your breathing. Take 10 very quick micro-breaths. Feel your rib cage move in and out. Feel your heart race, your pulse jump, feel the reaction.
Breathe again, slowly.
Your breath is the foundation on top of which every other activity takes place. You can train it, just like you can train everything else. Change your body rhythms by controlling your breath.
This assignment was sent to me by Sarah Kathleen Peck, a swimmer, writer, and adventurer, who’s swimming from Alcatraz—without a wetsuit… or a swimsuit.