Aug 072011
 
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Expand Your Horizons.  Climb Out Of That Rut.

When was the last time that you did something completely out of character for you, so you could expand your horizons and climb out of the rut you’re in?

For many of us, the answer may be, “I don’t really recall.  It was quite a while ago”.  If that’s the case for you, I encourage you to do something completely out of character today (not tomorrow, TODAY).

It’s amazing how the daily grind of activities can cause us to get into a rut that just seems to get deeper and deeper with time.  If you think of a rut as something that’s created by car or truck tires on a softer surface, for example, it’s not so tough to figure out why you’d get “stuck in a rut”.  Over time, the tires passing over the same path, in the same tracks, cause the rut to get deeper and deeper, until at some point, the rut becomes so deep that the wheels sink in to the level of the axles and you quite literally are “stuck in a rut”.

Unless you like having the same routine day-in and day-out, you may decide you want to get out of the rut.  Don’t get me wrong, it’s not for everyone – as you know, some people prefer the predictability of the rut and have no desire to exit.  For others, particularly the achievers among us, being in a rut quickly grows old.  Boredom sets in relatively fast for achievers, so it’s very important to “keep it fresh and interesting”.

So if you don’t want to get stuck in a rut, what should you do?  Well, if we continue with the vehicle metaphor, the first thing you should do is avoid following the same tracks all the time.  You should be very deliberate in looking for other roads and routes to where you want to arrive.  But wait a minute, do you know where you want to go?  Have you set goals that get you fired up and motivate you to keep putting out your best effort?   If not, that may be another part of the explanation of why you’re in a rut – you simply don’t know where you’re going and the path of least resistance, which most likely is the one you’re already on, is the easiest one to follow.  Until you figure out where you’re trying to go, it may be tough to get out of your rut.  You will remain on, as some like to say, “the road to nowhere”.

Once you do have some goals and a target “destination,” I advise you to mix up your routine on a daily basis, not just once in a while.  Keep your activities fun and fresh, so you don’t grow bored, quit and move on to some other activity that you’ll likely tire of just as quickly.  If your goals require you to undertake a lot of mental challenges, seek physical challenges to counterbalance the potential monotony.  If your goals are more physical challenge oriented, seek mental diversion and challenges to counterbalance the physical.

Even once you find you have good balance of physical and mental challenges, try to make sure you incorporate activities that push you to operate on both sides of your brain.  If what you spend most of your time doing is logical and analytical, look for activities that stretch you on the creative side of your brain.  Take up painting, a musical instrument, or whatever it may be that allows you refuge and stimulation on the right side of your brain.  If you are primarily creative, force yourself to partake in some analytical challenges and activities.  I know it will be tough in the beginning, but based on my own experience and that of my clients, I can tell you that you will be handsomely rewarded for your efforts.  In fact, I think you will be shocked by how much better you feel to have escaped your rut and you may even be more surprised by a common collateral benefit of such diversification:  the strong positive impact it has on your dominant-brain-side activities.  That’s right; such diversification of activities will often make you even better at what you’re already good at!

Challenge yourself today.  If you can, do it right now.  Do something that’s completely out of character for you, especially something that makes you work the non-dominant side of your brain or that pushes you a bit physically.  Embrace the opportunity to climb out of that rut and explore new horizons!  Obviously, when you undertake any new activity, you’ll want to take it slowly in the beginning so you don’t hurt yourself, but you can build up gradually with time.  Go ahead.  Start right now if you can!

I look forward to your thoughts and comments.

Paul Morin

paul@CompanyFounder.com

www.CompanyFounder.com.

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Aug 032011
 
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Avoid Boredom. Challenge Yourself!

Why do people quit?  There’s a wide variety of reasons, of course, but in my experience, boredom is one of the biggest culprits!  Imagine that.  Many people, particularly top achievers, don’t end up quitting because it’s too hard; rather, they quit because it is too easy or too monotonous!

Most of the highest achieving people in my inner circle have illustrated this point to me time and time again, unknowingly.  I’d see them move from activity to activity, from challenge to challenge, relatively quickly.  When I’d ask them why, they’d tell me it was too hard, or simply, “I’ve found something more interesting to do”.

In my research for the book 10 Steps to Greatness:  The Super-achievers’ Little Handbook, which will be published shortly, I have interviewed dozens of top achievers, many internationally known, in a wide variety of fields, from sports, to music, nuclear physics, Special Forces, “big business,” and entrepreneurship.  One of the questions I always ask is regarding the biggest challenges the interviewee has faced in reaching the pinnacle of their field.  You guessed it:  “boredom” has come up more frequently than any other answer.

Remarkable isn’t it?  People who’ve arrived at the pinnacle of their profession often state that boredom is one of the biggest challenges they’ve faced.  How can that be?  With all the work they’ve had to put in to reach that level of accomplishment, it seems like boredom would be last on their list of major challenges, if it made the list at all!  However, as it turns out, the mind of even top achievers can quite easily become distracted and suffer from what I call “Shiny Object Syndrome“.  They are, after all, almost always extremely motivated people, so I guess it’s not surprising that they’re constantly seeking “new challenges”.

Here’s what differentiates the “greats” from the also-rans and the “mere mortals” in any particular field of endeavor:  rather than quitting or moving on to something else when they become bored in their chosen field, the “greats” are able to find “new challenges” in their own field.  Like most all super-achievers, they need relatively constant stimulation and new challenges undoubtedly provide such stimulation.  The difference is where the greats go to seek something new.

What I’ve found with the most accomplished people in my client and research base and in my circle of friends, is that they become very good at finding the “new,” in what for many would be “old”.  How do they do this?  They do it by becoming true students of their endeavor.  They study and are fascinated by every nuance of what they do.  If they’re a chessmaster, they’re constantly studying new board positions and combinations.  If they’re a CEO, they’re constantly observing, learning and setting new goals that push them to achieve more and stay focused.  If they are athletes, they’re always working to figure out how they can become faster, stronger, more focused and skilled in their sport.  They do all this passionately and often times, they develop such a love for their field of endeavor, that while they savior the victories, the trophies and/or the financial rewards, they realize that they’d do it all just for the fun of it.  The accolades and rewards are great, but they learn to truly love what they’re doing.

Once you truly develop a love for what you are doing, the sky is the limit.  You will find yourself accomplishing things you may never have thought possible.  You’ll find yourself reveling in the nuances, in the little details that to the untrained and unimpassioned eye, seem trivial or uninteresting.  You also will have greatly enhanced the likelihood that you will become a true “expert” in your field.  It is now relatively widely accepted that you need 10,000 hours of deliberate practice to reach “expert” level in most any reasonably complex task or field.  That usually equates to between five and ten years, sometimes more, depending on the amount of time you are investing on average on a daily basis.  How could you ever expect to put in that kind of focused, deliberate effort on a sustained basis if you have not learned to love what you do?  You could force yourself, or be forced by someone else, I guess, but it sure would be a lot easier if you developed a passion for your field of endeavor and learned to find “new challenges” and nuances in that same field, rather than jumping from one domain to another.

Another key point is that it is OK to cross-train, whether it’s your mind or your body that you’re training and challenging, as long as you keep your primary focus on your chosen field.  I have found that it’s very important to complement a steady diet of business, entrepreneurial and intellectual challenges, for example, with tough physical challenges.  It helps greatly to keep one’s body healthy and to feel like you are regularly challenged physically.  In my case and those of many of my clients and the “greats” I have studied and worked with, overcoming physical challenges often greatly enhances the ability to perform even better on the business and intellectual tasks.

My latest big challenge is the “Tough Mudder” race.  You can check it out at www.ToughMudder.com.  It’s a ten to twelve mile run through a course with about 25 military-style obstacles.  It’s designed by British Special Forces and includes such fun obstacles as The Braveheart Challenge, Devil’s Beard, and Cliffhanger.  It is these types of challenges that get me fired up and get my blood flowing, which I find carries over to enhanced performance in all other aspects of my life.  What fires you up?  What will help you remain focused and impassioned, so you can avoid quitting and succumbing to boredom?  If you’re not sure, start looking, start trying to find “new challenges” and I’m confident that you’ll be amazed at the positive collateral effect it has on everything else you do.

I look forward to your thoughts and comments.

Paul Morin

paul@CompanyFounder.com

www.CompanyFounder.com.

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Aug 012011
 
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Why Perfectionism Is The Enemy

In the early stages of starting a business, or starting anything, for that matter, almost nothing goes according to plan.  For those of you who’ve ever started anything even a little bit complex, you understand where I’m coming from.  You can plan and prepare to your heart’s content, but there are always glitches and stumbling blocks that you have to overcome.  As the saying goes, if it were easy, everyone would do it.

This is where perfectionism and perfectionist tendencies come in.  What does a perfectionist do when everything is not perfect?  Do they have a meltdown?  Do they get discouraged and quit?  Do they never start in the first place, fearing that something may go wrong?  Any of the above can be expected of a perfectionist, of someone who has a strong need to control everything and to have it come out “perfectly”.

You can see where I’m going with this.  If you are a perfectionist, you will have a hard time starting things.  You will have a hard time making them run and watching them go sideways from time to time.  You will have a hard time finishing things, as you know they will never come out as perfectly as you want them to.  You will probably also have ulcers and many other negative side effects of requiring perfection of yourself and likely, of those around you as well.

Here’s what I’m NOT saying:  you should have low standards, then you’ll never be disappointed.  That is not even close to the point I am making.  I think you should have extremely HIGH standards for yourself and those around you.  I think you should do everything in your power to live up to those high standards and achieve more than the vast majority of the population.  But I DON’T think you should be a perfectionist.  Life does not have to be binary.  It does not have to be black and white.  There is a middle ground.

It is also extremely important to pick your battles wisely.  If you are starting or growing a business, or trying to achieve greatness in sports or any other endeavor, it is likely that you’ll confront dozens of different decisions and challenges each day.   These decisions and challenges are not “one size fits all” – they do not have equal importance and implications.  It is extremely important to look at each decision and challenge you face in context.  You must consider its potential impact on a micro and macro level, before you react.

Some issues and challenges you face WILL be extremely important.  Depending what your area of endeavor is, it’s not likely that they’ll be “life or death”, but in some cases they may be.  Whatever the case, you need to learn to maintain your poise and stay calm.  That is the only way that you can perform at your best.  When you run into stressful situations or those that invoke fear, use the G.A.M.E.S. Approach, which I’ve covered elsewhere and is based on techniques taught to the Navy SEALs to master extraordinarily challenging and stress-inducing scenarios.  It focuses on effective Goal-setting, Arousal Control, Mental Rehearsal, Endurance, and Self-talk.

Whatever approach you employ to overcome perfectionism, the first step is to recognize that you have an issue. From there, you can take a deep breath and each successive step should get a little easier.  Fear of failure should be less of an issue for you going forward.  You should become better at managing difficult situations and finishing what you start.  You should be less likely to let your perfectionist tendencies keep you from achieving all you’re capable of and from leading the less-stressful, happier existence you deserve.

I look forward to your thoughts and comments.

Paul Morin

paul@CompanyFounder.com

www.CompanyFounder.com.

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Jul 312011
 
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Why Goal Setting Is So Important

I finally figured out and understand at a visceral level why goal setting is so important.

As I’ve stated elsewhere, based on my extensive work and research with entrepreneurs and achievers of all types, the strength of your willpower is perhaps the most important differentiating characteristic for those who accomplish “great things” versus those who don’t.  My interaction with “super-achievers” has been even more intensive lately as I write and prepare to release my latest book, called 10 Steps to Greatness:  The Super-achievers’ Little Handbook.  This more intense interaction with those who’ve achieved “greatness” has convinced me more than ever that having an indomitable will to succeed is the single most important characteristic of those who most everyone would agree have achieved exceptional levels of accomplishment in their fields of endeavor.

Ok, so what does all this have to do with the importance of setting goals?  Well, today I experienced first-hand something that I’ve experienced many times before without a similar “a-ha moment”:  a simple goal can keep you on track and keep you from quitting, no matter how much you might like to do so.  Let me explain the circumstances of this “a-ha moment” and how it drove home the importance of short-term goal setting as it relates to the all-important matter of willpower.

Today I was going for a standard weekend workout, which consists of 2.5 hours of aerobic exercise of varying levels of intensity.  In this case, the workout was a combination of running and cycling.  As is customary these days, I do the running first, and then finish off the workout with cycling.  The difference today, which hit me in the face as I walked out the door to get started, was that although it was just 6:15am, the heat index was through the roof.  Although it was pretty early and the sun had not yet come out, the humidity made it feel like being in a sauna on full blast – not an ideal environment for an intense workout.  We decided to give it a go anyway.  My wife wanted to do just the first half of the workout with me and we decided to do it at a quick pace.  So by the time we finished the first half, I was already relatively spent, but I decided to take an energy gel and another electrolyte pill and push on through the rest of the workout.

When I arrived at the one mile circuit for cycling, which is about four miles from our house, I knew I was going to be in for a tough hour and roughly fifteen minutes.  The sun had come up and it felt like a sauna with no roof and a strong sun shining in.  That was the first point where I would have liked to have quit and said, “I’ve done enough already; there’s no need to push it,” however we’re preparing for a couple of upcoming races and I knew if I could just push through it, it would be excellent preparation for those races, which will take at least 2.5 hours and may be in relatively high heat conditions as well.

Even though I wanted to “soldier on,” I was feeling pretty lousy, so I knew I needed something to keep me going and not throw in the towel.  That’s when I remembered one of the articles I’d written relatively recently about the Navy SEALs Pool Competency Test and how short-term goal setting could get you through pretty much anything that’s very uncomfortable and challenging.  So I decided to give it a try in this pressure cooker heat environment.  I calculated exactly how many miles I needed to do to reach my overall goal for the day, taking into account that I’d also ride another four miles to get back to my house.  The calculation led me to realize that my cycle computer would read 202 when I reached that number.

So, from then on, whatever negative thoughts came into my mind were quickly replaced simply with “202”.  I would not allow myself a single negative thought.  Into my mind would pop, “man, this is ridiculous,” only quickly to be replaced with “202”.  Then would come up “who would ride this many miles in a sauna without a roof,” which would be quickly erased by “202”.  And so on.  I’m not sure how many times this happened, but it was a bunch.  And you know what?  It worked.  Before I knew it, I looked down at the cycle computer and it read 200.3.  I was virtually ecstatic.  I knew it was just a couple more miles and I could head for home.  Without this approach I’m pretty sure that all the suffering I was feeling would have caused me to head for home much earlier.  [Note:  I was sure that I had everything covered from a hydration and general fitness perspective, so I wasn’t worried about serious physical problems – this is obviously extremely important any time you’re “pushing the envelope,” especially in high heat conditions.]

Why did this work?  As I was going through this experience and coming up to my “a-ha moment,” and when I wasn’t saying “202” in my mind, I was asking myself that question:  “why does setting simple short-term goals and focusing on them help you get through tough challenges?”  At some point, it occurred to me that the effectiveness of this approach is strongly linked to the importance of willpower in success and extraordinary achievement.  The human will can be absolutely incredible, but we need a way and a reason to access it.  We need a simple and powerful “why” to keep pushing on through exceptionally difficult circumstances.  In the immediate- and short-term, that “why” is a simple, clear, easily understood goal (or goals).  For me in this case, it was “202,” which I knew would get me to my overall mileage goal for the day.  This only explains the immediate- and short-term, of course, but we must get through them before we can get to the medium- and long-term.  The graphic below shows how this “virtuous cycle” works.

Goal Setting - Willpower - Virtuous Cycle

So, how can you put this goal setting “virtuous cycle” approach to work for you?  First, you must decide what, if anything, that you are trying to accomplish at this moment would make it worth “turning yourself inside out” (to use an expression the Tour de France commentators love) in order to achieve.  Is there anything you care that much about achieving to put in a “superhuman” effort?  We’re not just talking about a sports or exercise setting here.  The reality is, no matter what your field of endeavor, if you want to accomplish extraordinary things, you will need to put in a “superhuman” effort sometimes, if not very often.  Second, you need to decide what you are willing to do to achieve something extraordinary.  How far are you willing to push yourself?  Third, you need to do it!

The key is that you know what “it” is.  Do you know what it takes to be great in your field of endeavor?  If not, find out.  Once you have discovered what it takes to achieve greatness in your endeavor, formulate your goals accordingly.  You’ll need short-term, medium-term and long-term goals to keep you on track, focused and interested.  Make sure the short-terms goals build toward the medium-term goals and that the medium-term goals put you on track to accomplish the long-term goals.  Once you’ve done this, make an agreement with yourself regarding what “price” (pain, sacrifice of other activities, etc.) you are willing to pay, then, to quote a famous shoe company, “Just Do It”.

Once you’ve used this technique of having simple, clear short-term goals to access your willpower and get through difficult challenges, let me know how it goes.  For my clients, we’ll be talking in any case.  For others, shoot me an email or, if you have comments to share with everyone, please leave them below.

Paul Morin

paul@CompanyFounder.com

www.CompanyFounder.com.

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