Aug 142011
 
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5 Tips To Stop Procrastination

Procrastination can be a real negative.  It can keep you from reaching your goals.  In fact, procrastination, by its very nature, can keep you from ever getting started.

So if we can agree that in most cases procrastination is something to be avoided, let’s talk about what you can do to overcome it.

Procrastination Ending Tip #1:  Break your goals down into smaller pieces

Break your goals down into smaller, more manageable chunks, so they are not intimidating to the point that they keep you from getting started.  For example, if you want be able to run a half marathon, don’t just simply put down “run half marathon” on your list of goals and leave it at that.  If you approach it that way, it’s likely that you will procrastinate endlessly and never even take one step in the direction of your goal.  However, if you break your half marathon goal down into a four-month schedule that tells you what you need to do each day, gradually building up the level of challenge, procrastination will be less likely to set in.

Procrastination Ending Tip #2:  Do the hardest stuff early in your day

Everyone has certain tasks that they dread doing.  It does not matter what your endeavor is.  It could be sports, business, or family activities – anything that you are committed to achieving.  Regardless of the particular goal we’re talking about, there will typically be some things you need to do that, to be kind, let’s say are “not your favorite”.  You know what they are.  If you’re a triathlete, maybe you love running and cycling, but could do without the swimming.  If you’re an entrepreneur, maybe you love all aspects of your business except cold calls.  You get the idea.  It does not matter what your least favorite activity is, or why.  My suggestion to you is that you do that activity, or those activities, first thing in the morning.  It will make it much harder for you to come up with excuses to delay doing it.  It will also give you a great sense of accomplishment to have it out of the way as you move through the rest of your day.  Give it a try and you’ll see what I mean.

Procrastination Ending Tip #3:  Overcome your fear of failure

In order to stop procrastinating, you must overcome your fear of “failure”.  The good news is that most of us live in a society that is very forgiving of mistakes and “failure”.  The examples of entrepreneurs, athletes, politicians and achievers from all walks of life who’ve “failed” dozens of times before doing something spectacular are numerous. Before you can overcome any tendency you may have to procrastinate, you must forget the traditional notion of failure.  Begin to think more like the famous inventor Edison, who said, “I am not discouraged, because every wrong attempt discarded is another step forward”.  If you are not making mistakes, you are not pushing your limits, and thus you are limiting what you can accomplish.  For many people, the fear of failure is what causes them to procrastinate constantly.  Do not be one of those people.  Being willing to take risks and stop procrastinating.

Procrastination Ending Tip #4:  Publicly commit to key goals with deadlines

One of the greatest ways to not get caught up in the inertia of procrastination is to publicly commit to certain goals and also commit to a deadline.  I’ve used this approach quite a bit and I’ve recommended it to many clients, usually with great results.  There is something about having publicly committed to doing something that forces us to dig down deep, stop procrastinating and make it happen.  The easiest goals to do this with are races (running, cycling, etc.).  They’re easier because they happen on a certain date and often the results are publicized, so anyone to whom you’ve committed can and probably will look up your race results on the internet.  It can work for other types of goals though too and if they’re things that are slightly more personal, you may just commit to them with a family member.  Better yet, if a family member or friend has similar goals, you can work toward them together and this will really help you overcome procrastination.  If your goals are business oriented, find another entrepreneur to buddy up with and you can help push each other and end potential procrastination.

Procrastination Ending Tip #5:  Set goals that truly motivate you

Not surprisingly, I’ve found that if you set goals that truly motivate you, you’ll find it easier to stop procrastinating.  If, on the other hand, you set goals that don’t really get you fired up, you will find it much easier to procrastinate and eventually, forget about those goals altogether.  Depending how you think, it may motivate you more to set super-challenging goals.  I know that’s the case with me.  I have to give myself goals that when I think about what it will be like to complete them, I can say to myself, “if you complete this, you will have done something great”.  It’s OK if the interim and smaller goals leading up to the “big goal” are not blockbusters, but for me at least, the final outcome has to be something extraordinary.  The way I look at it is that life is too short not to set extraordinary goals for yourself that will push you to do things that you can feel really good about.

So there you have it – 5 tips to overcome procrastination.  I’d love to hear your comments and other ideas for how to overcome procrastination.  Leave a comment below!

Paul Morin

paul@companyfounder.com

www.companyfounder.com.

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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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Jun 222011
 
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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
paul@CompanyFounder.com
www.CompanyFounder.com.

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Jun 202011
 
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Where Does Greatness Come From?

Let’s focus in on human greatness here, as there are a lot of types of greatness in the world. So, where does human greatness come from? No one knows exactly, but I will give you some ideas of the steps to get there, based on my in-depth study of over 250 of the all-time great historical figures in a variety of fields, as well as my interviews and conversations with a large sample of contemporary greats, in fields ranging from entrepreneurship, to the military, to science, sports and many others.

The first and most important lesson is that generally speaking, people are not “born great,” simply knowing from the very start that they are gifted in a certain area and that they will become one of the “greats” in that area. As previously discussed, as much as there’s a great deal of folklore and exaggerated stories out there to that effect, most human beings do not become great at something from one minute to the next, without a huge, concerted and inspired effort. The common wisdom now is that it takes roughly 10,000 hours of deliberate practice to move from beginner to expert in a particular endeavor. That does not necessarily make you “great” of course, but usually, if done correctly, it will at least get you to “expert” status. You will know more and be better at your chosen endeavor than the vast majority of the remainder of the human population.

So if it’s relatively clear what it typically takes to become an expert in a field, is it also clear what it takes to achieve “greatness” in a particular endeavor or field? Unfortunately, not really. In my experience as an advisor and coach and in my research, I have found a wide variety of paths to greatness. That’s good news and bad news, as the saying goes. It’s good news, since even if you are not or have not been on a particular path, it doesn’t, de facto, mean that you cannot become great in your chosen field or endeavor. It’s bad news because it doesn’t give us one well-defined path to zoom in on in an effort to achieve greatness. That being said, in my experience and my research, I have found some common threads of the path to greatness. I will lay out those commonalities in the form of a ten-step process to become great at anything. There are no guarantees, of course, as most of the hard work rests on your shoulders, but by using this approach, in my opinion, you will maximize the probability that you can become “one of the greats” in your endeavor.

The first step is to identify the area of greatness that you are pursuing. You should be as specific as you can, given that the more nebulous you leave it, the more difficult you will find it to make focused efforts toward achieving your goal in the steps that follow.

The second step is to uncover the key requirements to become great in your chosen endeavor. The four main approaches you will pursue in uncovering these requirements will be the following:

a. Go directly to the “horse’s mouth”. That is, you should contact one or several people who have already done what you’re trying to do – become great in your field – and ask them how they did it. Try to get as many specifics as possible.

b. Talk to one or several coaches in that domain. These could also be referred to as subject matter experts (SMEs) or maybe even SMEs with a bit extra, as they have chosen to be coaches and thus are likely oriented toward understanding how to maximize performance in your particular endeavor.

c. Read books by experts in the field. Reading appeals to some folks and does not appeal to others. There are also many books on tape now, which you can listen to when you are driving or exercising. If you are more oriented toward learning from video, you should also be able to find plenty of resources in that medium.

d. Watch true professionals in action. If what you’re trying to become great at is a sport, watch as many events as you can, but don’t just watch as a fan or casual observer; watch as a student of the game. Likewise, if your focus is in business or another area, become a curious student of all that happens in your field.

The third step is to take stock of your natural abilities. Take a look at your physical and mental attributes. Don’t judge yourself or determine whether these attributes are good or bad at this point, just take stock. Are you exceptionally tall? Are you great with numbers? Etc.

The fourth step is to look at your strengths and weaknesses relative to what you’ve determined that it takes to be great in your chosen endeavor. You’ll want to go into great depth here, as understanding where your weaknesses are, for example, will allow you to structure your practice in a way that helps you to optimize your use of time and accelerate your road to greatness.

The fifth step is to focus in on your “why”? That is, why do you want to become great at this endeavor? What is it that’s driving you? Is it a “strong why”? In other words, do you think it is sufficiently strong to drive you to put in and maintain the extraordinary effort and concentration level that will be required to become great?

The sixth step is to set goals for yourself. You will want to set short-, medium- and long-term goals that take into account the requirements to become great, as well as the specific areas you’ve determined where you need to make improvements. Monitor progress toward your goals and make sure that you set a timeline for completion of each goal.

The seventh step is to constantly reinforce your belief that you can attain the goals that you’ve set for yourself to become great in your endeavor. This belief will be reinforced regularly if you have set your goals in a way that they are achievable on an incremental basis. Allow yourself to achieve small victories along the way, as this will nurture your belief. As with the later step of maintaining calm, you will also want to use positive self-talk and visualizations in this step.

The eighth step is to develop a detailed preparation schedule that is oriented toward reaching your goals and achieving greatness. Regardless of what your endeavor is, you may want to work with a coach or other qualified third party to ensure that your preparation schedule makes sense in terms of getting you to where you want to be without burning you out in the meantime.

The ninth step is to make sure that you have in place a calming mantra and approach for when you get into stressful situations on the road to achieving your goals. If you are trying to become great at anything, no matter what the field, it is inevitable that you will encounter some, maybe even a huge amount of stress along the way. You need an approach to deal with fear and stress and keep progressing toward greatness. That approach will likely involve extensive use of positive self-talk and visualization.

The tenth step is to constantly work on and nourish your will to succeed and concentrate. In fact, based on my experience and research, this may be the most important step and factor in your success. There are very few exceptions among the historical and contemporary greats that did not have to exercise enormous power of will and concentration, usually on many, many occasions. Becoming an expert is challenging enough. Becoming great is another whole level and it almost always requires many instances of calling on massive willpower to overcome the inevitable obstacles that lie in the path to greatness.

We’ll go into each of these steps in much more detail, but this summary gives you an idea of the path you need to follow to move from beginner to expert, and then, if your “why,” your belief and your willpower are strong enough, on to greatness.

I look forward to your thoughts, comments and questions.

Paul Morin
paul@CompanyFounder.com
www.CompanyFounder.com.

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Jun 162011
 
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How To Succeed – Doing What Needs To Be Done

Once you have determined what it takes to succeed and become great in your endeavor, business, or sport, you need to do it. Sounds simple, right? Then why do we so often have a tendency to do other things, instead of what really needs to be done?

The reality is that, as human beings, we tend to do the things we like to do, rather than the things that need to be done. The term “comfort zone” arose from this tendency. We like to stay in our comfort zone as much as possible. Some naturally don’t mind venturing outside their comfort zone, but they are rare animals indeed. For everyone else, there are tricks to get you to “do the right thing” with greater frequency.

It all starts with ensuring that you understand what “the right thing” is. Have you carefully determined, as much as possible, exactly what it takes to be great at your endeavor? If you skip this step, you are shooting in the dark and leaving it largely to chance whether what you do and what you become good at have much relevance to becoming great in your endeavor. In startup entrepreneurship, for example, you may have heard that it’s important to raise capital, either via loans or from equity investors. So you become very good at raising capital and bring several million dollars of investments into your startup. You then quickly realize though that having sufficient capital on hand is only part of the picture and you squander the investments you’ve received. You must understand and strive to master as many of the key requirements as possible, not just the one that gets the most press, or the one you like the best.

If you’ve taken the time and put in the effort to truly understand what it takes to become great in your endeavor, you’ve created a very good foundation for reaching your goals. Speaking of goals, and we’ll talk about this more elsewhere, have you put any in place? If not, how will you know if you’ve succeeded? What will you use to motivate you to do all the things you need to do for success, rather than just some of them? Be sure to set goals that are well-defined, have a timeline, and are attainable. Set smaller goals along the way, so you can feel “successes,” however small they may be, which help you gain confidence and will further motivate you to “take out the trash” – to do those things you don’t necessarily like to do, but that you know need to be done in your preparation.

Ok, so now that we’ve brought up “taking out the trash” or doing what you don’t necessarily love to do, let’s go back to the example we used elsewhere – trying to become a great clay-court singles tennis player. Let’s take another look at the simple requirements/strengths/weaknesses table that we used in that example.

self assessment matrix - tennis

In this example matrix for becoming a great clay-court singles tennis player, our previous focus was on first understanding the requirements for becoming great, estimating their relative importance, and then assessing ourselves against those requirements, potentially with the help of a coach or other third party. The idea was then to prioritize our actions, giving higher priority to those areas of greater importance where we were not currently as strong. An example above would be working on improving our forward speed – it has an importance of 9 on a 1-10 scale and we assess our strength in that area as a 6 (also on a 1-10 scale). Our coach assesses our strength in that area even a bit lower. This would be a great area to focus in on, given that it has significant potential to impact our ability to achieve our goal of becoming a great clay-court singles player.

Continuing with this example of improving our forward speed, which would come very much in handy on a clay court, where opponents tend to hit a lot of drop shots, let’s say that you really dislike running drills. Then, to use the terminology from above, this would be an example of “taking out the trash” – doing something that you don’t necessarily love to do, but you know needs to be done. Given that your lateral speed in the example matrix above has similar importance and was also assessed as a relative weakness, it wouldn’t be too surprising if you truly viewed running as “taking out the trash.” What would most people do in this case? Quite frankly, they would do absolutely nothing. They would find every excuse not to “take out the trash” and they would continue to be mediocre at best with their forward and lateral speed. Those that were truly determined to become great, on the other hand, would do as much speed and running work as they could to overcome this known deficiency. They would also do the same with any other known deficiencies, thus giving their opponents less weaknesses to pick on and giving themselves more confidence to proceed en route to achieving their goals.

So what is “taking out the trash” in your endeavor? If you’re an entrepreneur, is it making phone and in-person sales calls to new prospects? If you’re a musician, is it practicing a certain note that constantly gives you problems? If you’d like to become a veterinarian, but don’t love math and sciences, is it somehow learning how to love them so you can achieve your dreams? If you’re an aspiring basketball player, is it shooting free throws? You get the idea. If you’ve done your homework to understand the requirements and been honest with yourself in assessing your abilities versus those requirements, you’ll know what needs to be done. Some of it you’ll enjoy doing. That will be what you want to do most of the time. Some of it you won’t enjoy doing; in fact, you may really dislike it. It may however be very important to your success. This will be the “trash” you need to take out.

Do you care enough to “take out the trash” as much as possible? Can you stomach going outside your comfort zone and doing whatever it takes to succeed?

I look forward to your thoughts, questions, and comments.

Paul Morin
paul@CompanyFounder.com
www.CompanyFounder.com.

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May 312011
 
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You Won’t See Them Practice or Prepare …

Unless You’re One of Them

It does not matter your field of endeavor. You could be an entrepreneur, an athlete, a scientist, a musician, or the CEO of any size company, but unless you are one of them, you will not see the “greats” practice or prepare. They are up early or they stay late, in order to perfect their “game” and bring it to its highest level.

I am in the midst of an in-depth study of “greatness” throughout the ages. This includes taking a close look at the lives of hundreds of history’s greatest people in a wide variety of fields and endeavors. It also includes interviewing dozens of contemporary “greats” throughout sport, business, science, music, art and beyond, and looking for common threads in how they have reached such heights.

One such common thread is that those who reach an extraordinarily high level of achievement in their field almost uniformly are preparing when the rest of the world, including their competitors and often times colleagues or teammates, are sleeping. They shoot free throws, they do extra workouts, they prepare speeches, they create, they analyze, they synthesize, and they hone their skills to levels that others only hope to achieve. This is the time they “steal” to take their game to the next level.

Does this mean that they don’t do all the other preparation that their teammates, colleagues and competitors are doing throughout the rest of the day? Of course not. They’re doing that too. The pre- and post-workday “workouts in the dark” and preparation are fueled by their dedication and drive to become the best they can. Sometimes it’s as though they cannot stop themselves from additional preparation in the “off hours”. They are driven by something deep inside that pushes them to put in all that extra work.

Is such drive and dedication something that can be imposed from outside? No. It must come from within. Sometimes it’s hard to even understand the source of this drive. But in the “great” ones it exists. Their bodies and their minds become “vehicles” of greatness, pushed by a force larger than them to do their best and always try to take it to the next level. Does it feel like a burden or extra work to them? Sometimes. But most of the time, it just feels natural. It feels like what they’re supposed to be doing to fulfill their dreams and accomplish all that they can, individually and for their team or organization.

So, if it comes from deep within, can you try to find it? Can you look for a formula to become great? Well, there’s no simple formula or recipe, like if you were going to bake a couple dozen chocolate chip cookies. One thing is clear, however, based on my experience as a coach and as a researcher in the area of “greatness”: before you can find this drive and become “great,” you must first find the endeavor or pursuit that will allow you to bring out your own greatness. It must be something that “lights the fire” within you. It may take a while and it may show up when you’re least expecting it, but if you’re paying attention, you’ll know when you find it.

It is not something that can easily be forced, even if you have the aptitude. Sure, we try to force it all the time, on ourselves, on our kids, on those around us. We focus on what we think we want or what we think society wants or what we think we “should” do. Trust me; this approach will not work. Yes, you can become good at something because others want you to, but you will not become “great”. The only way anyone becomes great at anything is if THEY want it, and only if they want it REALLY bad. Only if they want it so bad that they will not stop at anything short of greatness. Again, the drive MUST come from within. You can receive guidance and support from those around you, but the drive has to come from WITHIN.

What is the source of this desire? From what I’ve seen, it varies widely. For one person, the drive and desire may come from having been told they cannot do something. For another, it may come from following a family tradition of greatness in a particular endeavor. For yet another, their “why” may come from early childhood exposure to a sport or other endeavor that lights a fire within them. Frankly, this question of “why” is one of the hardest ones to understand. It’s a highly personal and individual driver. There really isn’t a lot of uniformity, but there are some common threads. More on this later, as my study into “greatness” continues.

I look forward to your thoughts and comments.

Paul Morin
paul@CompanyFounder.com
www.CompanyFounder.com.

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May 232011
 
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Punished by Praise

The Early Achievers’ Curse When Seeking Greatness and Peak Performance

Be careful when receiving praise or when heaping it on yourself (self-talk) or others. Too much of the wrong type of praise can be counter-productive and can actually undermine your efforts to become great and achieve peak performance in your chosen field or endeavor.

This sounds counter-intuitive, you may say. Doesn’t praise help to build up your self-image and make you a stronger performer with more confidence? It is indeed a double-edged sword. Praise, in and of itself, is not a bad thing. The issue is that when something comes easy to you and you hear from everyone around you things like, “Wow, you are really great at this … you’re a natural,” it tends to make you say to yourself, “You know what, they’re right; I am quite good at this”. In some cases, this leads to over-confidence and engenders a mindset that is not in touch with what it takes to become great at anything – hard work and “deliberate practice” over an extended period of time.

Based on everything I’ve seen in my own consulting, coaching and execution, there are no shortcuts to greatness, no matter the area of endeavor. You of course do have to believe that you can be successful and you have to have the willpower to make it happen, but it is very dangerous to believe that it will come too easily to you. I’ve seen it time and again, in fields as diverse as soccer, chess, mathematics, sales, entrepreneurship, art and music – the young student or adult beginner gets a lot of positive feedback early in the process of learning. They then do very well for a while and are at the “head of the class,” but then with time, they inevitably get passed by someone with less initial “talent” who wants it more and works harder and smarter to make it happen.

The other aspect of getting too much praise early is that for some, it makes them reluctant to take risks and step outside their comfort zone in the future. In order to become truly great at something, to become a true expert, you need to “take your knocks” and you need to be willing to take risks, make mistakes, learn from them, and then move on. However, if you really enjoy the early praise and recognition that you receive, it may make you less likely to take the necessary risks to achieve greatness in your chosen endeavor. The praise and recognition can actually become addictive and you don’t want to risk damaging your self-image by taking a chance of making a mistake or “failing”. Without the willingness to take risks, you can unknowingly place an artificial ceiling on your growth and your ability to become a master or an expert in your field. Such fear of failure can put an end to an otherwise promising “career” in anything.

So, what’s the answer? Well, it certainly isn’t excessive negativity. Nor is it ceasing to give or receive praise. Rather, when you give praise or receive it, you must include a counter-balancing reality check every time – a reminder that there is always more to learn – that no matter how good you are, there’s always room for growth. If the feedback, whether it be praise or criticism is not balanced this way, it can be very dangerous and can severely limit your potential to become great and achieve peak performance.

I look forward to your thoughts and comments.

Paul Morin
paul@CompanyFounder.com
www.CompanyFounder.com.

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