This is the best way to succeed

Failure isn’t an event; it’s a state of mind. No one is truly a failure unless they give up.

I’m not talking about quitting because sometimes you need to quit in order to succeed. Not every venture is worth your time: Sometimes you try something and you find that it’s not working, so it’s good to quit.

To “give up” or failure means that you surrender to the difficulties of life and resign to the sense that “You can’t do it,” any of it—life.

But if you’re still trying and kicking, you aren’t that. You’re just in process.

The key now is to keep at it.

Did you know that Colonel Sanders (a real person) of Kentucky Fried Chicken, didn’t start his famous “finger lickin’ good” franchise until he was in his sixties?

Yeah—true story.

Before getting in the chicken business, he worked all kinds of jobs. And he was a piece of work, ornery and difficult to deal with. He was even fired for knocking out his co-workers.

But he never gave up. He kept going even though he was older, at an age when he should have been thinking about retirement. But he didn’t retire. He fought. Not just with his fists, but he carried on with his mind, gumption, capital, life.

If you keep on living, trying, fighting, you always have a chance of climbing, growing, succeeding.

Keep that in mind and put that into practice and you can’t help but succeed.


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Learning From Failure Is the Key to Succeeding

Success is less about how you think of succeeding, and more about how you view failure.

Maybe you made a terrible investment, messed up your work, sent out an email that was meant to be private but somehow cc’d your whole division including your boss, have a terrible relationship with so and so, etc., and all you want to do is ignore it. (I get it.) But don’t. Resist pushing your failure away.

Instead, gaze into it. Look through the rubble. Find ways you could have, should have, done better.

And, by doing that, you can’t help but improve.

See, to grow, change, learn, we mustn’t shy away from our failures, we must study them. They are one of our best teachers. When you sit at its feet you will gain new direction, better solutions, fresh ideas.

Failure isn’t the end. It’s the beginning.

By studying your failures you will learn to succeed.


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Get things done when working from home (even with kids)

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Working from home can sound fantastic, with all of that freedom and no commute, but it’s not always easy.  Sometimes it can feel impossible. But it’s not. 

Yes, you get to roll out of bed and be at your desk in a couple of steps without even needing to put a shred of clothing on to make a living, which is glorious, in theory. But getting out of bed to get to your desk across the room can be a challenge.

And there aren’t the usual social motivators and interactions that we get in an office, like other people looking busy in their cubicles, serendipitous meetings, or random water cooler conversations. Working from home can be lonely, especially if you live alone.

If you have kids, you may not have enough aloneness. No, you have constant distractions throughout the day. Not that you don’t love your children. You do. But they do have an amazing knack for yanking your attention away from your work when you’re all at home, say, during a pandemic. 

Even before the “shelter in place” order was given, I have been working from home for years and love it, even with our two lovely and very active boys. 

But I need little hacks and tricks to make it work well and help me be more productive.

Here they are. 

Abuse your calendar 

Schedule what you will be doing every day, all day. Seriously.

Use your calendar—hard. When will you be at your desk producing? For how long? When will you have that call with that client, your coworker? When will you eat lunch? Mark it all down. 

Doing this is the digital version of having social expectations except you’ve put it on your online calendar. Doing that gives you just a bit of accountability, at least to yourself. 

If you need that extra boost of fuel, share the calendar with others. It doesn’t need to be with your boss or coworkers. An outspoken friend will do. You know, the one who will call you out and FaceTime you just to make sure you’re at your desk when you said you would be. 

Set better goals 

We often set goals like “get work done,” but that’s not specific enough to be helpful, especially when you’re at home where it’s like the Wild West of working and anything goes because there’s no one watching. So setting the right kind of goals is critical to your success.  

First, you should note what task you want to accomplish or what project you want to start and how much of it, broken into smaller tasks, you want to complete during a block of time in the day. Doing that will revolutionize the way you think about how you spend your time. 

Second, don’t make big goals; make them small and bite-sized, something you can accomplish in an hour or two. Don’t make them aspirational so it’s a challenge to accomplish them. No.

Make them easily accomplishable. That way, you won’t get demoralized and you will feel and be productive.

You’ll be surprised by how much this will increase your productivity.  

Get the bed out of you

Some of us have a hard time getting out of bed. It just happens.

If that’s you, you don’t just need to get out of bed, but you need to get the bed out of you. You need create the social pressure that will break that habit and start a new one.  So do this.

Schedule early morning phone or video calls. 

If there’s a coworker or client or friend that you need to talk to, schedule a video call with them at the beginning of the day.

That will get you out of bed, because no one wants to look like a schlep buried under their duvet with bed head in a professional context. That will force you to at least look presentable from your waist up. 

Sometimes, there’s nothing like embarrassment to get our bodies out of bed. 

For a less shame-driven method, ask your partner or that outspoken friend, from earlier, to make sure you’re up. And you should consider sharing your calendar with them. 

Take breaks 

If you’re a person who loves to work, that’s great. But sometimes it can be to our detriment. 

There are times when you just need to take a minute and relax. You know, do nothing, stare out the window, listen to music, drool, call a friend. Put it in your calendar: “Drool, 2:30pm to 3:00pm.” It can be for an hour or just half that. But do it. 

It replaces the random water cooler conversations and gives our mind’s the reboot that it needs. It’s the breather that provides us the energy to attack our work with a refreshed mind, a new lens, renewed vigor. 

Noise-canceling headphones 

Good headphones are a must, especially if you have a family. Really. 

I love my children but sometimes they are loud. They like to bang on things and run up and down the halls—and SCREAM. And, with schools canceled for who knows how long, any extra tool that helps me focus and get into a flow state is gold. 

These are the headphones I use (affiliate). They are 24 karats of pure goodness. I’ve tested almost all of the other ones and these have the best sound and noise-canceling quality. 

If you’re not a listening-to-music-while-you-work type of person, that’s great. Don’t play music on them when you work. These headphones will give you the silence-is-golden-space you seek.

The noise-canceling feature is magical: They shut out all external sounds, making you feel like you’re on some serene mountaintop with Buddha doing downward dog with him next to a blossoming cherry tree. Really. 

Set your kids’ expectations

It sounds cruel to tell your kids that you need to do work and can’t be disturbed, but it’s actually good for them. 

Our eldest is in kindergarten and he’s insatiably curious and extremely social. We cherish him for it. 

But when I need to work, those characteristics we appreciate aren’t very conducive for me working. He wants to ask me questions about what I’m doing. He wants my attention. He wants to hang out, even when I have my golden noise-canceling headphones on (which don’t block out his tapping on my shoulder, by the way).

So I talk to him about work and let him know that when I have my headphones on, Daddy is trying to focus on something. It’s not a one-time conversation, but it happens far less now. 

We also gave him his own work, which includes writing and reading and math lessons that he does while mommy and daddy tend to their tasks. 

Closing thoughts about working from home

Many of you may be working from home for the first time. And it’s not easy to get into it in the beginning. But after you use some of these tools and figure out others that work well for you, it is one of the best ways to maximize your time and gain unparalleled freedom. 

Yes, these are extraordinary times. But they are also an opportunity to learn new skills and expand your ways of working. 

For more information about working from home, check out Remote: Office Not Required, a book about working remotely (affiliate). The founders of Basecamp, the project management tool, wrote it. They allow their entire team to live and work wherever they want. 

But no matter where you’re working, whether in cubical or in your undies at home, I hope you grow every day. 

And most importantly, stay safe and well. 

Lots of love,

John


 

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Create better work by doing this

Sometimes doing nothing is the best way to create something great: The creative process isn’t just about work; it’s about rest.

Your mind needs time to recuperate, recover, be restored. It does that through sleep and daydreaming—doing nothing.

That means staring off into space, looking out the window, letting your mind wander, dozing off to sleep, not thinking.

That’s when your mind is connecting the dots, forming new ideas, dreaming dreams. It’s when your thoughts go beyond thinking, and you’re unconsciously creating magic, in your subconscious, seeing concepts you could never see while fully conscious.

That’s the mystery of creating.

We are better able to see when our eyes aren’t focused. When our minds are cloudy clarity strikes. For, when we rest, our brains rework our work.

Winston Churchill understood that. He was one of the most prolific creators ever, and he took an hour every afternoon to sit somewhere and doze off with a cigar pinched in his lips.

Yes, take your vacations and play, explore, and see. And, of course, sleep well, getting at least eight hours a night. But that’s not the rest I’m talking about here.

You need to take short breaks.

Like Churchill (but maybe without the cigar), allow yourself a little regular break to unplug during the day to let your eyes glaze over and your mind roam. Don’t think about what you’re working on, deadlines, anything. Think about nothing.

And you will find your energy returning, creativity bursting, and ideas flowing.

Magic will happen.

 

 

 

This mindset helps you live better

Life isn’t about perfection; it’s a practice.

Perfectionism makes you feel stuck, scared to fail— stay imperfect.

And you probably hate that. You want to change, but don’t know how to do it.

Well, stop trying to be perfect and start practicing.

What is practice?

It’s doing something regularly to continue to grow and learn.

That can be in fitness, work, creating, family, speech, play. But, for me, all of life is a practice.

Every day, I’m trying to learn how to develop in all areas of my life. I want to know what I could be doing better.

You can, too.

Getting better is one of the main purposes of life.

And at the core of practice is just that: improvement.

I can always be a better husband, father, business partner, businessman, entrepreneur, writer, thinker, person.

If I always tried to be perfect even in one of those areas, I would get so discouraged that I would want to quit.

And therein lies the problem, you see. Perfection doesn’t motivate. It forces us to see what we can’t reach.

But with practice, it’s incremental. It’s day-to-day.

By making small daily improvements that are almost imperceptable at the moment you’ll be transformed after months and years.

You see, it’s not about being perfect, it’s about progressing.

Perfection accentuates the fact that you aren’t perfect. But practice focuses on the act and improving.

So don’t worry about being perfect. That’s a waste of time, life.

Live in practice.

And live better.

Make the time to do what you love by thinking like this

Sometimes we can think that we don’t have the time to pursue what we’ve always wanted to do.

But, you do. You always do.

Do you know why? Because following our dream is a choice.

You can choose to reprioritize your time, what you do with it, how you fill it.

Stop saying yes to all of the crap that people ask you to do and tell them that you’re committed to something else.

Ok, maybe you have a job and need to eat or feed your family. I get that. But, you’re not at your job all the time.

You can carve out thirty, twenty, ten minutes a day to write that book, start that business, build that thing.

It’s true; you know it’s true. Time isn’t the issue. You are.

Regret is for the birds. So decide to follow your dream right now. Do it.

Commit.

You will love yourself for it.

Go.

Accomplish more by thinking like this

“You need to be more ‘realistic'” is a phrase that we hear. We say it to ourselves. But that is shaping our mindset, and it’s stifling you.

Mediocrity is borne on such words. That’s how the status quo is preserved, and growth is hindered.

You won’t push beyond your limits by thinking realistically.

Dreams are rarely “realistic.” They are outlandish, laughable, silly, stupid even.

But those who’ve reached unimaginable heights, the dreamers, were not “realistic.”

If they were, they would have never accomplished what they did.

So don’t be “realistic.” That’s not how you realize dreams.

Be silly. Be stupid. Be unrealistic.

Dream.

One of the best things you can do to create

Sometimes to make creative work, the thing we need most is this. Rest.

You’re at your desk, sweating (metaphorically) and pounding away (literally) trying to get a good idea, but the only thing you produce is nothing. “Maybe I just need to work harder,” you might say to yourself. And still, nothing happens. So you do the only thing left to do—despair.

Maybe you’ve been there. I have.

Creating is hard work. And cracking the whip harder on ourselves isn’t effective. Or worse, it’s counterproductive.

That’s just when you need to say no to your inner medieval monk and throw away the whip. Then, roll your chair back, step away from your desk, and go for a walk, get a donut and coffee, or, better yet, go skydiving or horseback riding. If you’ve never meditated, try it. Why not? It’s scientifically known to help your brain operate better, heal even. If that’s not your cup of tea, have a cup of tea. Or visit your local museum. Get moved by others’ creativity. Whatever you do, get away from your work. The farther you go, the better.

And in those moments of being away, your mind will be recovering and working without you even trying. Often it’s when we are resting and having fun that the best ideas hit us. Inspiration strikes when we least expect it—like love. It can’t be forced. It can only be fostered, wooed. So take yourself on a nice date. Play. Laugh. Enjoy.

And when you return to your desk, you won’t be sweating and pounding.

You will be creating.

For, rest works.