Jan 252013

accelerate your learning

7 Ways To Accelerate Your Learning And Progress

If you are looking to accelerate your learning and progress more rapidly, here are seven ideas to help make it happen in any endeavor.

1.     Create a sense of urgency.

Without a sense of urgency, often times it’s hard to get started and stay focused.  This step may include creating “unrealistic deadlines”.  Such deadlines, while tough to meet, by definition, force you to focus and to employ all available resources, with a strong sense of urgency.

2.     Don’t worry about failing.

As long as you learn from “failure,” it can help you rather than hinder you (the magnitude of the failure is a factor, obviously).  You will need to fail a certain amount to improve to the next level in almost any endeavor.  If you are unwilling to fail, therefore, you cannot make it to the next level.

3.     Focus.

Lack of focus affects almost all of us, at one point or another in our lives.  Study after study has now shown that multi-tasking does not work.  Don’t deceive yourself into thinking that you can multi-task and be as effective as you are when you focus on one thing at a time.

4.     Have a why.

If you have a compelling (to you) reason for doing something, you are far more likely to stick with it when the going gets tough.  Many refer to this as “having a why”.  The most important characteristic of a good “why” is that it matters deeply to you; do not worry about what others think.

5.     Stop whining.

Whining in our society runs rampant.  The key is not to be a whiner; rather, put on your big boy pants and step up to the plate.  If you are truly committed to what you’re trying to accomplish, instead of whining when things go wrong, you’ll stay focused on the prize.

6.     Practice correctly, with feedback.

By now most everyone is familiar with the concept of “deliberate practice”.  It is a form of practice wherein you don’t just show up and practice indiscriminately, without paying attention to potential areas for improvement.  If you are going to practice deliberately, you will pay attention to the results you achieve, then use that feedback to continually adjust your approach.  If you practice in this manner, you will likely achieve better results, faster.  You can provide feedback to yourself, but often times it easier, even essential, to have a knowledgeable coach working with you to accelerate your learning.

7.     Don’t overthink everything.

Even if you are a left-brain, analytical type, learn not to overthink everything.  Be willing to do a certain amount of trial and error.  This way you can avoid analysis paralysis, which can be a real progress inhibitor for the person who tends to want to explore every last potential detail and problem before getting started on an endeavor.  For complex endeavors, which include most that are worth achieving, such an approach usually is not realistic.

While speed is not always a major point of focus when we are trying to accomplish a goal or just getting started in an endeavor, often it is.  Given the pace at which our world is changing, many times if we’re not moving at a reasonable speed in our endeavors, particularly in competitive areas such as business and sports, we’re being left behind.  Hopefully, the ideas above will help you with accelerating your learning and making more rapid progress toward the accomplishment of your goals!

I look forward to your thoughts!  Please leave a comment (“response”) below or in the upper right corner of this post.

Paul Morin



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Dec 072012

Sometimes The Long Way Is The Right Way

Like many people I know, I usually try to do things as quickly as possible; purposely taking the long way to get something done goes against every fiber in my competitive body.

Recently though, I took the long way for a very personal reason and it made me realize that sometimes taking the long way is very definitely the right way to go.  Let me explain.

Not long ago I had to travel unexpectedly on a family emergency.  I received a phone call that my Dad, at 87 years old and reaching the final stages of a debilitating dementia disease, had taken a quick turn for the worse and had been put on hospice care.  My understanding of hospice care was that death was imminent, so the news hit me like a ton of bricks, especially given that I was 15 hours away by car and given the timing of the news and my location, there were no flights that were going to get me there much quicker.

So I packed everything I could think of that I may need to run my life and business for an indefinite period of time and jumped into my car.  Given the unpredictability of traffic, I worried that I would arrive too late to say goodbye to my Dad.

As I drove, I ran into the inevitable traffic problems and was doing everything I could to navigate to get there in time for the meeting with the hospice care team and my family, and of course, to get there in time to see my Dad and say goodbye to him.

During all of this navigation and rushing as safely as possible, there came a Robert Frost type of moment; two roads diverged and I had the choice whether to take a longer route and drive through a beautiful mountainous area where I spent every summer of my childhood camping and fishing with my Dad and family.  When the roads diverged, my immediate thought was, “I need to take the shorter route.  If I don’t get there in time, I won’t get another chance and I will have to live with that for the rest of my life”.  Then, I took a moment to think about it and realized that the route through the mountains would likely have much less traffic and may actually get me there at the same time, or earlier.  In some ways, with just a little more thought and less impulse than normal, it seemed like a better decision, even from a speed perspective, as there was less risk of traffic jams.

At the end of the day, I took the longer route.  The reward was immediate, as when I changed the route, my GPS immediately indicated that with current traffic, my expected arrival time was 15 minutes earlier!  Further, the sunshine that morning was amazing as it reflected off the mountains and led me all the way to the meeting and to see my Dad before he passed away.  The results could have been different, but in this case, it was better to take the long way.  It gave me some much-needed spiritual nourishment and it actually got me where I needed to go more quickly – a great result.

That experience led me to think more generally about intentionally taking the longer route sometimes.  When I reflected a bit on my experiences and those of others I know, I realized that many of the greatest and most rewarding experiences I’ve had, have come when my approach was not all about taking the presumed shortest, most efficient route.  This will impact my decision-making in the future.  Sometimes taking the long way is the way to go.  Do you agree?

I look forward to your thoughts!  Please leave a comment (“response”) below or in the upper right corner of this post.

Paul Morin



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Sep 242011

The Pareto Principle For Entrepreneurs

The Pareto Principle For Entrepreneurs

Most people in the business world have heard of the Pareto Principle, also known as the “80/20 Rule”.  For those who haven’t and for those who may have forgotten, first a little refresher, then we’re going to talk about how to use it to your advantage as an entrepreneur.

The Pareto Principle, suggested by management consultant Joseph Juran and named after Italian economist Vilfredo Pareto, refers to the concept that in many “systems,” roughly eighty percent of the output comes from roughly twenty percent of the inputs. Or, as it’s described in Wikipedia, “for many events, roughly 80% of the effects come from 20% of the causes”.  In other words, there’s the twenty percent that really matters, then there’s the rest.

Back in the first decade of the 1900’s, Pareto observed that eighty percent of the land in Italy was owned by twenty percent of the population.  If you take a look around in your world, you’re likely to find many “80/20” realities.  I know I do in mine.  For example, in many groups to which I belong, twenty percent of the members are very active and generate roughly eighty percent of the activity of the group, and the other eighty percent, well, they don’t do much.  It’s not necessarily a negative, but once you’ve seen this phenomenon enough times, it does help you to set your expectations better and look for more “20-percenters”.

You may also note the presence of Pareto in your own efforts in your business and personal life.  Do you ever get the sense that a minority of the actions you take, say roughly twenty percent, have the biggest impact in moving you in the direction of your goals?  Chances are that you are not imagining it; once again you’re seeing the Pareto Principle at work.

Also, note that it’s the Pareto Principle, not the Pareto “Rule”.  It is not “written in stone” and it’s not exact; it’s an approximation or “rule of thumb” that can be quite useful in understanding what you’re observing and determining where to focus your efforts.  It’s worth noting too that you will see much more extreme examples in certain situations, where rather than being 80/20, it will be 90/10, or even more lopsided.  Again, it’s a principle, not a rule.

I think the greatest use of the Pareto Principle for an entrepreneur is in helping to determine where to focus your efforts and expend your resources.  You can try to convert the “80 percenters,” or you can work more closely with the “20 percenters” and make them even more productive, profitable, etc.  Let me explain.

In business, applying Pareto, you may find that, for example:

  • 80% of your revenues come from 20% of your products
  • 80% of product returns come from 20% of customers
  • 80% of profits come from 20% of customers
  • 80% of machine breakdowns come from 20% of processes
  • 80% of your revenues come from 20% of your salespeople
  • 80% of your revenues can be traced to 20% of your “ad spend”
  • 80% of your sick days come from 20% of your employees
  • 80% of your worker’s compensation claims come from 20% of your employees
  • 80% of your return comes from 20% of your investments
  • 80% of your computer’s memory is used by 20% of its processes
  • 80% of your new business leads come from 20% of your referral sources
  • 80% of your viable new product ideas come from 20% of your R&D team
  • Etc.

This list could go on and on, but you get the idea.  Sure, you may find none of these 80/20 phenomena, or you may find all of them.  In any case, the point is, be on the lookout for Pareto in your business and personal life.  In some cases, when you find it, there may not be much more use for it than, “oh, that’s interesting”.  In other cases, it may be very useful, as it may be instructive in helping you determine where to allocate more or less resources, such as time, human capital, and financial capital.  “Pareto” is out there; the question is: can you find ways to use the Principle to your advantage?

I look forward to your thoughts and questions.  Please leave a comment (“response”) below or in the upper right corner of this post.

Paul Morin




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Sep 112011

tips for better delegation

5 Tips For More And Better Delegation

If you have ambitious goals, delegation will likely play a very important role in accomplishing them.  With just twenty-four hours in a day, if you’re trying to get a lot done, you simply cannot do it all yourself.  Here are five tips to help you delegate more and delegate more effectively.

Delegate More

Delegation Tip #1:  Don’t Think You Are The Only One Who Can Do It!

I’m going to have to confess on this one.  Until I was cured, and I haven’t been fully cured as yet, I often believed I was the only one who could do something.  Even when I believed someone else may be able to do something, I usually thought I could do it better myself.  This can kill your productivity.  Almost every achiever I know thinks this way and it can be a real barrier to accomplishing your goals.  The first step in delegating more and better is to let go of this notion.  Begin to trust that other people may be able to take some of your “to do” list items off your hands.  Start with the low-value-add tasks that frustrate you when you do them, because you know you’re wasting your time.  Then, build on it from there, as you gain more and more trust in the people to whom you are delegating.

Delegation Tip #2:  Don’t Be Afraid To Spend A Little Money

If you are in a corporate environment and already have one or several subordinates, there is no excuse for not delegating.  If you’re reluctant to delegate to people who work for you, then either you hired wrong or you’re too much of a “control freak,” or both.  However, if you’re a solo entrepreneur, or an entrepreneur with a partner or partners who you see as peers and typically wouldn’t delegate to, you may be thinking to yourself, “sure, delegation would be great, but I don’t have anyone to delegate to and I don’t have the budget to hire anyone”.  I have one word for you in that case:  outsource!  There are numerous freelancer services and sites online now, where you can hire people to do almost anything, usually at a very reasonable cost.  Check out guru.com, elance.com, fiverr.com, scriptlance.com, among hundreds of others.  You will need to be very selective and definitely employ some of the “delegate better” tips below, but I can tell you from experience that these services can work very well for a wide range of tasks, particularly if the tasks are not too complex.

Delegate Better

Delegation Tip #3:  Communicate Very Clearly To The “Delegatee”

It is very important, particularly at the beginning of a delegator/delegate relationship, that you communicate very clearly what your expectations are, in general and for each particular task.  You can do this in a variety of ways, but the easiest way is to set up a matrix of tasks that includes, at a minimum, the task description and the due date.  It is important that the persons to whom you are delegating understand very clearly what you would perceive to be success for a particular task.  If the project is complex, break it down into “bite-size chunks,” so that it is not overwhelming.  As the delegation relationship continues and you gain confidence in your “helpers,” you may not have to go into as many details in the matrix.  However, no matter how long the relationship has been in place, don’t have lack of clarity in your description of timing and outcome expectations be a potential excuse for poor performance.  If you are not clear regarding what you are expecting, you have no one to blame but yourself if the results are not what you desired.

Delegation Tip #4:  Set Up Regularly Scheduled Reviews Of Progress

It’s extremely important that you periodically review progress with your delegatees.  This is one of the most critical, yet most overlooked aspects of effective delegation.  Undoubtedly, if you are in a position where you are looking to delegate more of your tasks, you are a very busy person.  Likewise, if you’ve found someone to whom you think you can entrust your precious tasks, that person is likely to be very busy too.  Therein lies the recipe for potential disaster:  two smart, busy people who never have, or more accurately, never make, time to check in with one another regarding progress.  This is why it’s very important to designate a set time each week, or even each day or every couple of days to discuss progress and any questions your delegatee may have.  If you don’t do this, trust me, you’ll regret it and you’ll end up thinking that delegation “simply can’t work”.

Delegation Tip #5:  Reward Good Results

This is basic management 101, but it’s often overlooked in delegation scenarios.  You must reward the behavior that you’d like to see more of.  That reward can be monetary or it can simply be praise.  It should likely be a combination of the two.  When someone does excellent work for you on a project you’ve delegated to them, whether that person is an employee or an outside contractor, make sure you let them know you appreciate that they’ve gone “above and beyond”.  Notice that I’m not talking about rewarding them for simply doing what was expected, as if you do that, there will always be an expectation of additional reward.  I am talking about rewarding delegatees when they’ve gone out of their way to do an exceptional job on a project and/or get it done on a tight timeframe.  As I said, a lot of times, it’s more than sufficient to just say “thanks for your hard work; I appreciate it”.  In other cases, the effort may merit more than just an “attaboy”.  Whatever works for you and your team is what you should do, but the main point is not to forget to reward people for great work.  Such rewards and recognition are an important part of effective delegation.

So there you have five tips to help you delegate more and delegate more effectively.  I’m interested to hear your stories of how delegation has or hasn’t worked for you and any other tips that you may have uncovered in your experience.

I look forward to your thoughts and questions.  Please leave a comment (“response”) below or in the upper right corner of this post.

Paul Morin




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Jun 222011

How To Set Goals So You Will Achieve Them

Assuming you agree that setting goals is a worthwhile step, it is key to understand how to set them in a way that will increase the likelihood that you achieve them. The best and simplest model I have seen and used for setting goals effectively is the S.M.A.R.T. approach, which encourages you to set goals with the following characteristics:

[S]pecific: The goals you set for yourself should be as specific as possible. So, for example, you wouldn’t say “I want to have a profitable business”. Instead, you’d say I want to have a business that generates $2 million in sales and 25% EBITDA by year-end 2013. If you are setting a goal for yourself in the area of marathoning, you wouldn’t say “I want to run a fast marathon”. Rather, you would say, “I want to run a 3:10 marathon, with a 1:30 half split, by November 2012”.

[M]easurable: The goals you set should be measurable. That is, they should have a numeric or quantitative element that is measurable, rather than just be qualitative. If you cannot come up with a numeric element, you should at least come up with something that a third-party, objective observer could look at and relatively easily say whether you have or have not achieved that goal. For example, in business, it may be hard to specifically measure “empathy,” a desirable characteristic particularly for sales people, however if you’re working with a coach or mentor, they may be able to observe whether your demonstration of empathy toward prospective and current clients has improved over time. In sports, it may be hard to measure “awareness” of overall scenarios during a game; however, you may be able to come up with a proxy statistic that gives you a sense of the improvement in your awareness. Such a statistic in hockey or basketball, for example, may be assists. Where possible though, you will want to make as many of your goals as possible directly measurable. Examples in sports would be x number of assists, goals, wins, runs, etc. Examples in business would be sales, new accounts opened, net income percentage, etc. Chances are that in your endeavor, whatever it may be, you have a good sense of the metrics that you should be measuring and striving for.

[A]ttainable: It is important that the goals that you set for yourself are “attainable” or that you at least believe strongly that you can attain them and can put a plan in place to do so. If you are simply throwing down huge, unreasonable goals with unreasonable timeframes, you are setting yourself up for failure. I’m a huge fan of “stretch” goals and I strongly believe that you should challenge yourself as much as possible. That said, it is important that you set incremental goals along the way, so that you can see a clear path to your ultimate objective(s) and so that you can experience some successes along the way. If you structure your goals in such a way that you cannot experience success until the very end, you run a great risk that you will lose interest and/or belief in the process. So, in sum, challenge yourself with your goals, as that is the only way to achieve greatness, however, you should do so in such a way that you are able to experience incremental successes along the way.

[R]elevant: Often times I’ve seen the “R” of the S.M.A.R.T. acronym for goal setting used to represent “realistic,” but as far as I’m concerned, that is too similar to “attainable”. For this reason, I prefer to use “R” to represent “relevant”. Given that if you are focused on becoming great at your endeavor, you are undoubtedly a very busy person, it’s important that your goal setting be not just effective, but also efficient. It does not make sense to pursue goals that are not relevant to obtaining your ultimate objective of greatness. This idea relates closely to the concept I covered elsewhere of “taking out the trash,” or doing those things that you may not necessarily love doing, but you know need to be done. For example, in the context of goal-setting, it does not make sense to note goals for concepts or activities you have already mastered, even though it may feel good and be squarely in your comfort zone to do so. Rather, you should focus your efforts and your goal-setting on mastering those things you need to work on to accelerate your journey toward greatness in your chosen endeavor(s). There are exceptions, of course. For example, in tennis, if getting your first serve in is absolutely critical to success, there’s no harming in noting a first service percentage goal, even if you are already a great server. The point is, don’t do so to the detriment or exclusion of, for example, setting lateral and forward quickness goals, even if those may be areas that you don’t enjoy quite as much.

[T]ime-sensitive: Make sure that ALL the goals you set have a deadline or target date associated with them. This is of critical importance. A deadline usually forces us to become more focused. It ignites our competitive spirit and usually makes us achieve more, more quickly. Without a deadline or target date, a goal is more like a wish and it is far less likely to be accomplished. On the subject of time, it is also important to bear in mind that you should set short-, medium- and long-term goals for yourself. There are a couple of major reasons for this. First, as mentioned above, if you have some short- and medium-term incremental goals, this is more likely to permit you to enjoy some successes along the way to your ultimate goals. This should help with your self-confidence. Second, having incremental goals along the way is more likely to allow you to “course correct” on the path to achieving your ultimate goal(s). If you simply have one long-term goal out on the horizon, it makes it a lot more difficult to know if you are on the right track and make sensible adjustments if you are not.

It is important to set goals for yourself in all areas of your life. In particular, it is important to do so in the area(s) where you are trying to achieve “greatness”. It allows you to enjoy incremental victories en route and it also makes it easier to determine whether you’re on the right path and make course corrections as necessary. Make sure that as you develop your goals, you do so in a S.M.A.R.T. way.

I look forward to your thoughts, comments and questions.

Paul Morin

Sep 272010

Why reinvent the wheel?  You hear this all the time, but do you heed this advice?  There’s almost no good reason to do something from scratch that has been done before.  Most successful entrepreneurs are adept at acquiring (legally of course) the best ideas and practices of their competitors at every turn.  One entrepreneur I know likes to say, “use the CASE method – Copy And Steal Everything”.  I’m not advocating that you do anything illegal or unethical, but to whatever extent it makes sense, never reinvent anything.  You are a relatively small company, with limited resources – use them wisely.  If it’s not core to the success of your business, and usually even if it is, don’t reinvent it from scratch – find a company or individual that has already done it, and get their “recipe”.  The time and energy you save will be better spent in building your core business..

Aug 312010

I guess this point should be pretty obvious, but it merits emphasis.  The more you can extend your effectiveness through lower cost resources, the better off you will be.  Sounds great on paper, but finding a good assistant is tough; that’s why the very capable ones command a premium in the market.  You don’t just need someone who can type and file, you also need someone with good people skills and a good head on his or her shoulders.  Don’t forget, for many people, this person will be their first interaction with you and your company.  The first impression, good or bad, will stick with whomever contacts you and will reflect on both you and your company.  Often times to find such a person, you will need to look to another successful company; you simply cannot leave the selection of this person up to the luck of the draw – you’re better off paying a premium if you have to and getting someone who has been at it for a while and has a stellar reputation.  Be very careful with this hiring decision – it could be one of the most important ones you make..