Have you ever carried a 5-gallon bucket full of water?
One gallon of water weighs about 8 pounds. Carrying a full bucket is at least 40 pounds and for most people that is way too much to carry.
For one, it’s just heavy and hard to lift off the ground. For two, because it’s heavy even if you do lift it off the ground you’ll likely spill some as you try to walk awkwardly with the bucket at your side.
I’ve tried to carry numerous 5-gallon buckets in my life. For some project around the house. For all kinds of things. The biggest temptation is to fill that bucket to the top and try not to spill or fall while carrying it do the destination.
But the last time I was carrying a bucket and spilling and falling all over myself I realized something, I’m much better off filling the bucket about halfway than I am filling it to the top.
When you fill the bucket about halfway you can walk normally. You still get about 2 or 3 gallons of water to your destination and you do it quickly and efficiently.
On the flip side, though, is the other temptation. It might seem like if you can do well with only a half-full bucket that a nearly empty bucket would be even better. But that’s not the case either. If you carry just one gallon you still walk about the same as you would with 2 or 3. So you have to make many more trips to get water to its destination.
A half-full bucket is the way to do it.
Now, consider the way you live your life…
Temptation is everywhere. The kind of temptation I’m referring to is the number of opportunities we have. Work, hobbies, activities with friends and family. There are all kinds of things that we can do in life. And the trouble for many of us is that we try to do them all.
We fill our buckets up to the top. It feels like the right thing to do. We feel busy. And the old cliché is that “busy is better than the alternative, right”…
It’s not right. When your bucket is filled to the top and you’re busy you’re going to be doing a lot of things, but not really doing any of them well or at a level that you’re enjoying them to the fullest.
Work suffers. Relationships suffer.
The opposite isn’t good either. A bucket that is nearly empty leads to disappointment. You feel like you’re not living to your fullest potential. Maybe you’re paralyzed by the opportunities you have. You’re not sure what to fill your bucket with so you don’t do anything. And as a result you don’t accomplish anything.
Assess your life and figure out how full your bucket is. Are you too full or too empty?
If you have too much, look to remove some water. If you don’t have enough, look to add.
Then set a reminder to do the same in a year and for every year after that.
Half full. It’s the best way to get water where it needs to go.
For several years I’ve read biographies and listened to interviews.
Mostly from the business world. But also in the music industry.
One recurring theme that continued to pop up was the fact that many people that are successful in creative fields and areas of life that are a little different were often the youngest child in their family.
It’s certainly not a hard and fast rule. Plenty of people have been successful no matter what their birth order. Actually, in business it seems that many that are successful are the first born.
It just seems that in creative fields, especially music, that the youngest often succeeds.
I’ve been thinking about why this is and the more I think about it there are a few reasons. But the good news is that even if you’re the oldest or in the middle or whatever you can still break the traditional rules and find success in creative areas.
Here is my list.
1. Laid Back Parenting & Unconditional Love
Parents are obviously older with the last child than they were with the older siblings. People usually become more laid back with age. And once you’ve done something, like raise a baby and toddler, you’re more comfortable and confident.
When the first born comes to a parent with a crazy idea, like wanting to be a musician, the parent is likely to freak out. When the last child comes and says it the parent is likely to just nod their head and say, “Go for it”.
Also, when you feel like you’re loved no matter what you are freed up to do whatever you want. You know that your parents, family and friends will always love you. Parents usually love all their kids unconditionally, but they don’t always realize it with the first. They’re more worried about how their first born will make them look to their peers.
2. Failure Isn’t A Big Deal
Fear of failure is real. For everybody. But let’s say you’re the youngest… You see your older siblings do all kinds of things. You realize that they can fail and life will go on. They also realize it. So do your parents. So you’re more likely to feel that failure isn’t a big deal and your family will support you because they realize it too and want to encourage you to do well.
3. Older Siblings Do Boring Stuff (And Are Miserable)
Ok, that’s a little hyperbolic. Plenty of older siblings and middle siblings do great things and things they enjoy. But for some youngest siblings they definitely see their older counterparts become lawyers and accountants and bankers and realize that the normal way of life isn’t for them. So they figure out what they like. They invest time to get good at it and then they make it their job.
4. Positive Feedback For Being Different
Positive feedback is a good thing. Harvard found that people need six times as much positive feedback than negative feedback for good results in work and life. We don’t always realize that when we’re doing something for the first time, like raising a child. We tell the oldest what they’re doing wrong. With the subsequent children we let negative things slide and realize that if we encourage effort that it will lead to good things.
Hearing that what you’re doing is good, like playing an instrument, leads to doing more of it and eventually you can get really good.
5. Seeking New Firsts
The older children are the first to walk. The first do drive. The first to get a job. They do all the “normal” firsts. Maybe the youngest children are just looking to firsts that can be uniquely theirs. So they start digging around in the unique areas of life.
A little bullying from older siblings can lead to resilience that could help with rejection that is common in life in general and especially with uncommon fields of work.
7. Trying To Keep Up
Youngest siblings may become better than their peers at things like sports and work because they’re always trying to keep up with their older siblings.
8. More Patience
Kind of the opposite of the last one, but in some cases it seems that the youngest has more patience. For example, the oldest sibling may get the best starting job right out of college. The youngest often seems to have the patience to try something unusual and give up the earning power in younger years in exchange for the possibility that they’ll earn more in the long run. Which often seems to occur.
Older siblings and families often want to protect the youngest. This seems fine on the surface, but it can obviously lead to bad behavior including risky behavior because they feel they’re invincible because they’re not used to failing.
But a good side effect might be that they try risky career paths that sometimes work out.
10. Fighting For Attention
If you’re in a creative field, like music, it’s often because you want attention. As the younger sibling, you’re competing against years of established relationships in your family for attention. That can continue into adulthood and doing something creative and different can be a simple form of trying to get the attention of your family.
Now, these certainly aren’t universal rules. It just seems to be a trend. And these were some of the common things that matched up in my head for more than a few cases. The takeaway from this is to understand how unseen things could be holding you back from doing something that you want to do. Once you understand that most of the barriers you have in life are ones you put on yourself you can breakaway and do what you want to do.
It doesn’t seem like it will disappear any time soon, either. It’s probably going to increase.
Technology has allowed entrepreneurs to fight for people’s attention and time. Several decades ago, radio would fight for attention. Then TV did the same. In the last 10 years it’s been Facebook earning all kinds of attention.
When the new season of Stranger Things comes out on Netflix they earn tons of attention from loving fans. Some will binge the entire season in one sitting (you know who you are…).
There is a lot that can take our attention today. But if you’re looking to create content for a blog or podcast or video series of whatever, the answer to doing it better might be in creating quiet time for yourself.
What Is Quiet Time?
My generation came of age at an interesting time in history. I was born in 1984 and lived most of my childhood without cable TV and without the Internet. And really without video games.
I had friends with cable and video games, but for the most part my childhood was pretty free from distraction. I would spend time with friends in the neighborhood. Sports was a big thing. Riding bikes was a big thing. So was fishing in the nearby lake.
There was a lot of quiet time. Both with friends and without. I remember fishing with a good friend for hours at a time and barely saying a word. We didn’t catch a lot of fish, but just watched the world go by.
I don’t know what my friend was doing with that quiet time, but I was thinking about life. What I wanted. Crazy ideas for crazy things. Sometimes just wondering about weird stuff like how fish breathed under water or why the neighbor seemed to like Camaros so much.
When Did It Change?
My family got the Internet (thanks, AOL) around 2000. I was in high school. It definitely made an impact, but not a huge one. I still made time for doing nothing. Just having quiet time.
When I went to college I would spend more time on the Internet. But the biggest change was in the late 2000s when the smartphone came out.
The biggest change I noticed was around email. Before the smartphone, most people in the office would open email at work and close it when they left. After the iPhone came out, though, we started receiving emails at all hours of the day.
Before the phone, Facebook was just something you checked once in awhile at home on your computer. But it quickly became something you checked every hour and sometimes even more often with your phone.
Shutting Off To Create More
It’s not the phone’s fault for creating distraction. It’s simply exposed something that we crave. Seeing messages from friends makes us feel good. Seeing new content in a feed makes us feel good.
But it’s not quiet time. Even if you’re sitting on the couch in the literal quiet looking at your phone, your brain is not in quiet. It’s actually very busy.
If you’re looking to create better content, like with a blog, you need to shut off the tech and specifically the phone.
When you shut off everything and allow yourself to sit in the quiet your brain starts to do weird things. You start pondering weird stuff. This weird stuff often leads to the best ideas for blog posts. You also start thinking about how you write and how you can write better. Maybe you realize that you make a particular mistake often.
Here is the cool thing, you can find quiet time while doing other things. Walking. Chopping wood. Yard work. All kinds of stuff. One thing I used to do all the time when I was new to high school was hit chip shots around the yard. I would do it for hours. After a summer of doing that I made the golf team.
One of my favorite activities today is still to go in the yard and chip around for an hour. No phone. No distraction. Just quiet time. Maybe it’s my form of meditation.
One of the biggest challenges with blogging is finding inspiration. Inspiration often comes from the quiet time you spend with yourself. Quiet time also allows you to analyze yourself. What you want. What you’re good at. What you’re not good at. Who you want to write for. All kinds of things.
If you want better results from your blog, schedule more time to just exist in the quiet time that is lacking today.
We often associated the word “recreation” with a pastime and leisure. And that’s certainly one of the definitions.
But there is another definition of the word and that is literally to recreate something. Creating anew.
One of my favorite pastimes is golfing. It’s one of the most enjoyable activities I have found and one of the reasons for that is because you never really have the same experience twice. But I suppose that’s the same in many things in life.
We seem to like to think that we do the same things over and over, but really that is just a mirage. We need to recreate each day anew in our leisure and even in our work.
Business as Recreation
These days the idea of mindfulness is big. Living in the moment. Being in touch with what’s going on right now with your body and with your surroundings. Including the people you care about right now.
In business, we often think about the past and the future. It’s difficult to think about what is going on right now. We think about what we have already created. We also think about what we want to create in the future. But we don’t think about what we should create today.
It’s a form of procrastination. If we don’t want to face the reality of what we should be doing today with our work we start thinking about fixing something that we created in the past or we start “planning” for what we should do in the future.
Certainly those two actions are good in certain situations, but not at the expense of creating something today.
For a manager it might be thinking about what an employee has been doing in the past or thinking about how you will talk to them in the future about an issue. All at the cost of actually going to them and talking to them right now. Laying out your expectations.
For a salesperson it might be looking back on your past accomplishments and feeling good or thinking about the future and what you will need to do next week instead of picking of the phone to call a prospect or sending a few emails and direct messages to people just to check-in and keep the pipelines warm today so that they may lead somewhere in the future.
When it comes to business there are two important things to avoid:
First, yesterday is a million years ago. You can think too much about the past; both for the good and for the bad. You can’t go back and change it so why think about it?
Second, you can only control what you’re going to do next. You can’t get too many steps ahead. It’s not possible. In golf, it’s easy to get trapped thinking about the next hole or even a few shots ahead. But that takes energy and focus away from the next shot. One step at a time.
Recreation means to create anew. It’s incredibly important in business and work. You have to treat everyday as something that needs fresh energy and focus because yesterday isn’t coming back and tomorrow is still a million years in the future.
For many years I didn’t experience death in my life. But just a few years ago death seemed to be common. My grandparents were all reaching their ’80s and they began to pass away.
Just the natural course of life.
For most of my life others have commented that I’m pretty quiet and reserved. I think that’s accurate. I like being in my own head and thinking about life. I also like that being quiet allows me to listen to others. Not necessarily me asking questions and others providing answers, but me being quiet and just listening to what others say.
One of my first jobs was working in the pro shop at a country club. There were a number of older members and they would often look for an ear so they could share their feelings on a life well lived. And as my grandparents aged they also shared some of their thoughts on life.
As I think back now I thought I’d share some of the regrets people have as they reach their later years…
This was a theme that seemed to come up often. Most people that I’ve been around didn’t come out and say necessarily that they wished they would have worried less during their lives, but they would imply it.
For example, one person that spoke to me once in that pro shop came in to say that they used to really worry about the future of their business. He was an attorney. He said that it had all worked out and that these days he doesn’t really worry much about anything.
There seems to be a realization in many older people that much of what we worry about doesn’t come true. If there is something that can prevent something then we’ll do it. If not, why worry about it anyway?
2. Not Having Enough Fun
I was listening to these two guys talking in the pro shop one day. They seemed to be pretty good buddies. For some reason the one guy was thinking back on life and he mentioned that one thing he would do if he could live all over again was to party more.
The other guy just about spit out the Pepsi he was sipping on. He told the guy that they would have to put more days in the week to allow for the first guy to party more. Apparently he had already had a lot of fun in his life.
But the takeaway for me was that most of us like to have fun. And in our own ways. Whatever that is, do more of it.
3. Not Doing What I Loved Doing Enough
This could be work. It could also be a hobby or some kind of sport. It kind of builds on the previous point about not having enough fun. If you really enjoy doing something then schedule the time to do it. It’s a great point in your life to be self aware of what you enjoy doing because once you realize it you can do it as much as possible. Why not?
4. Caring What Others Thought Of Them
By the time you’re reaching your later years the people that you let control your actions and thoughts are usually dead. This seems to provide a kind of freeing realization for most people. But it can also lead to resentment, anger and frustration. And those are obviously related to regret.
It seems common with parents. People often do what they think their parents want them to do. But in doing so they live a life that is not entirely theirs. Then they wonder what might have been.
It also seems common with spouses. It can be wonderful to give yourself and your life to another person, but it seems that some people regret doing so in a way that leaves them lacking something that they wanted to do.
5. Trying To Control Too Many Situations
There are very few things that we control in life. This kind of relates to worry. When we worry about life we often try to control too many situations. That can drive us crazy and it can also drive those around us crazy. It can lead to anxiety. It can lead to disappointment.
6. Being Too Hard On Themselves
People often seem to be harder on themselves than they are with others. If their friend loses a job they try to raise up their spirits. But if they lose a job themselves they beat themselves up for being useless.
Give yourself a break. If you have good intentions then things will mostly work out just fine. No need to make yourself feel bad if you’re trying to do what you believe is right.
7. Trying To Change People
Most people will figure things out on their own and in their own time. The more you try to change people the more you’ll push them to resenting you. It takes discipline to let others be. To let them live their life while you live yours.
8. Losing Curiosity For New Things
This is a subtle one that I’ve noticed over the years. As we get older there is a tendency to want to feel wise. To want to share advice. But those that seem most fulfilled and happy are those that are curious about things. They ask questions. They even ask questions of younger people. Even those that have much less experience.
I heard a great interview with golf instructor Butch Harmon recently. He’s been teaching golfers for decades and he’s over 70 years old, but he still looks to learn from his students. He mentioned that while he was teaching Rickie Fowler, that Rickie was hitting a really unique chip shot. Butch stopped what he was telling Rickie and asked him how he was hitting the shot. Then Butch started practicing the shot himself.
9. Not Understanding What Was Most Important To Them
We got into this one a bit earlier. Understanding what is most important to you is an incredible gift in life. It seems to be becoming more difficult today with our minds constantly stimulated by our phones. We don’t have time to think about life and what we really appreciate.
When we get old we have time to ponder life. We think about what we haven’t done. We wonder what could have been. We start to realize what is important to us.
If you realize what’s important to you then you should be making time to experience it as much as you can.
10. Not Understanding What Was Most Important To Loved Ones
The Golden Rule, treat others how you want to be treated, is actually wrong in my view. It should be that we treat others as they want to be treated. That’s something that many people seem to realize as they get older.
Take some time to observe those that are important to you. Your spouse. Parents. Kids. Friends. Pay attention to what is important to them. Work, hobbies and more. When you know what’s important to your loved ones you can really allow them to be happy and you can give them the happiness they want.
Obviously the takeaway here is that there is still plenty of time to make changes. If you’re thinking that you might regret something on your deathbed there is no reason that you can’t make a change now. I actually find it beneficial to think about death from time to time. It allows you to think about what you’re doing now that isn’t making you happy or fulfilled.
Previously I pondered the way that golfer, Ben Hogan, liked to live his life.
He would mentally put himself in what he referred to as The Circle Of Insecurity. If he would win a tournament he would let himself out of the circle for a moment to enjoy it, but before the sun rose the next day he would be right back on that circle, fighting for his livelihood.
Hogan came from little means. He worked in caddie yards at country clubs and learned to play golf. He was very good early in his pro career, but the money was never very good during that era, which was the 1940s.
And Hogan never really reached his full potential until the late 40s and into the 50s when he had his best year in 1953. By then, things were seemingly going well for Hogan. At least financially. He was famously in a car wreck a few years previously that almost killed him, but by the mid ’50s things seemed good.
But he would still like to keep himself from getting complacent. He looked at other golfers and realized that once they achieved a certain level of success they rarely continued to improve and thusly rarely reached the same heights again.
It’s like climbing a mountain, which is often a lifetime’s worth of work to achieve. Once you climb it and then climb back down it’s difficult to consider doing it again. But that’s what Hogan would do. He would take on the mindset of that kid in the caddie yard doing whatever it would take to climb the mountain.
Saving Your Business
Now, your business may be doing just fine. Since 2010, the business world has been very good. During good times it’s easy to become complacent. I’m not saying that rough times are ahead. I can’t predict the future.
But it’s a positive thing to put yourself in the circle of insecurity from time to time like Ben Hogan did. It allows you to look at your business as if it needs to be saved.
What would you do if you needed to step in to save your business?
Here are a few things you might do…
1. Cut Costs
When things suddenly get tight the first thing business leaders do is look at the costs. When things are good it’s easy to start spending on things. It can start with one thing, but soon the single items add up and before you realize it there can be a lot of spending that shouldn’t really be there.
Recurring costs are the big item. Go through them all. Assess what you do and don’t need.
One note, though, is to be careful with cutting costs on things that are helping bring in new customers. Marketing and Sales are often on the chopping block when businesses cut back. Sometimes that makes sense especially if what you’re spending money on isn’t bringing in the return, but don’t cut something that is one of your only sources of new income.
2. Resolve Urgent Issues
When things are going well it’s easy to overlook urgent issues. But when you take on the mindset that you need to save your company you start looking at the immediate needs. Maybe your manager has been on your case for the last few months about something. Look at it now and find a solution.
Pretend that you’re the handy person going around the house fixing all the little things. Get the house in order so that you can focus on the bigger things.
Look for employee issues. Look for customers that are on the brink of leaving because something in your operation isn’t working well.
3. Reach Out To Current Customers
One of the best things you can do when you’re in a sales pinch is to reach out to your current customers.
First, check to see if they have any concerns. If they’re having an issue with something they might be on the brink of leaving you for another company. You often don’t hear about that until it’s too late. So reach out and ask them how things are going and try do dig a little bit.
Second, ask your current customers if there is anything else they’re struggling with. They might not realize that you can provide additional services and products that could help with their issues. For example, maybe you designed a website for a client last year and you reach out this year to see what they’re struggling with. The client might say that they need some print designs for an upcoming event. That’s something you can likely provide for additional revenue.
4. Reach Out To Past Customers
Another great thing to do is to reach out to past customers. Just check in to see how things are going. What you’ll find is that some have been considering reaching out to you about your services again, but haven’t gotten around to it. It can lead to some quick sales.
And even if it doesn’t lead to quick sales it’s a good practice to do anyway just to keep in touch so people remember you when they are in the market for what you’re selling.
Also, you can do the same thing with past inquiries. People that never officially became customers. Maybe they weren’t really ready to buy at the time, but now the time might be right and you want to continue to be on their radar.
5. Reach Out To Business Network
Finally, reach out to your business network. You can do this easily on LinkedIn. Just start sending messages to people checking in with how things are going for them. Many will have changed jobs. Some will have gotten promotions. Just check in like you would if you were meeting them for dinner to catch up.
Don’t press the issue for sales or things like that. Just ask questions. Get to know the person they are now. If the opportunity comes up to discuss what you’re doing it can lead to opportunities.
The takeaway here is that your business doesn’t need to be in a position where it needs to be saved necessarily. You can go through the steps at anytime and kind of audit your company. You can always approach things as if they could tighten and stay hungry for growth. Enjoy things for a moment when they are good, but always look to find a little insecurity to keep you hungry. Just like Ben Hogan did.
Thought experiments are used, often in science, to consider hypotheses.
For example, Einstein was famous for using thought experiments to consider new ways of thinking in physics. Perhaps his most famous thought experiment of chasing a light beam as a way of thinking about special relativity.
Now, that’s over my head. The point is that Einstein and others would often try to think situations through in their head using all kinds of methods as a way to work out solutions and answers.
This practice doesn’t just work for science. It works for general life and it works for business as well.
Making Tough Decisions
Businesses often face difficult decisions. New products. New employees. Partnerships. All kinds of things.
Leaders in those businesses often go through thought experiments to consider what the consequences of various choices will lead to.
For example, hiring a new employee. The leader may go through the interview process. They may try to consider the information they have and then work through some possible scenarios in their mind to figure out what is most likely to occur if they hire this person.
Another example might be sports. Football coaches often come up with new plays for the offense to run. These coaches often go through thought experiments to consider what is likely to happen as a result of running the play. And it might be different depending on what the defense does.
Obviously thought experiments won’t always work out exactly all the time. But it’s a good practice to get into as a business leader and entrepreneur. Otherwise you’re often making a decision without considering the consequences.
Taking Time For Thought Experiments
Some of the best businesses I’ve observed made thought experiments part of their operations. Not just individually with leaders, but also with project teams.
For example, a business in the direct mail industry may gather a team and present the question, “What would happen if the US Post Office raised its prices by double next year…” The following discussion and process would be an example of a thought experiment.
So that’s one way to build thought experiments into your business, create projects and teams to consider future decisions. Make it part of the culture to think through certain decisions.
One more example from football. I’m a fan of the Green Bay Packers. A former executive on the team, Andrew Brandt, was involved in the salary cap management. He would sit in the draft room where the scouts would decide on what player to draft based on talent and team needs. Andrew would often chime in, he would say, to ask what the financial consequences would be if they draft a certain player. Would they need to subsequently release another player at a similar situation? That kind of thing.
This is another form of thought experiment.
It seems the big thing with thought experiments is that you perform the experiment in your head versus doing it for real. So where a business may hire a person on a trial basis versus thinking through the consequences and then after consideration just hiring the person without trial.
Thought experiments can obviously be helpful for decision making. You can make them part of your individual routine, but also can make them part of your overall business operations. It seems the most successful people and organizations have been doing this for a long time.
Netflix, podcasts, Spotify, blogs, social media and much, much more.
There is a lot of content available to consume. And the crazy thing is that we have capacity to consume even more. It’s crazy to think about, but consider your favorite show on Netflix… They probably can’t make episodes fast enough for demand.
Now, if you’re happy with life there is no issue with consuming content.
However, if you’re looking to accomplish more in life then it might be time to consider a change. For example, perhaps you want to create a business or expand a current business. The tools we have now allow us to create more content for others to consume. The challenge is finding the time to create that content.
But that’s where the discipline comes in. Being able to put aside the amount of time we spend consuming and put that time toward creating.
Here are a few steps to help make this change if you’re looking to make one…
Step #1. Decide What You Want
This is often the biggest step for most people. It’s also something we don’t often ask ourselves. You might see someone that is unhappy, but if you dig a little deeper you discover that they’re not really sure what they want. They know they aren’t happy with the current situation, but beyond that they’re lost.
Part of the issue these days might be that we don’t take time to sit in silence and think about life. We take out of phones and consume content to keep busy or we work or we do whatever. And we don’t take time to think about what’s important to us and what we want from life.
Once you’re able to answer this question it becomes easier to figure out if you’re doing what is necessary to move in that direction.
For example, if you want to grow your business using something like social media, which is certainly an opportunity, then you need to make time to create social media content.
Step #2. Audit Your Time
Once you know what you want, schedule time to audit everything you do during the day. Try to get into some detail with this. Now, there are certainly things you can’t remove. You have to sleep 8 hours. We all usually need about 1-2 hours to unwind and relax. We also may need some time for commuting or time with family.
But even with that there are usually opportunities to set aside time to create. Especially if you find that you’re spending 2-3 hours watching Netflix or 1-2 hours surfing social media.
Social media platforms are optimized to capture our attention. It’s our job to have the discipline to use it correctly. If it makes you happy to use social media 1-2 hours per day that’s fine. But if you feel too busy to accomplish what you want then moving from consuming that content to spending the time creating content then it’s time to make a change.
Step #3. Prioritize Opportunities
Another issue on this topic is knowing which opportunity to take. For one business owner it might be focusing on spending 1-2 hours per day creating content for LinkedIn. For another it might be making video for YouTube. Another might focus on Instagram. Another blogging.
The reality is that we have too many opportunities and it can almost paralyze you into not really doing any of them. But if you assess all the opportunities and then identify the one or two that fit best with your experience, personality and fit for your business you’ll be well positioned to commit for the long-term and have a chance at success.
Step #4. Change Daily Habits & Commit To A Schedule
And that’s the important thing. You need to commit to daily habits and for the long-term.
I like the example of songwriters. Especially in the Nashville scene. The writers there will often schedule 5-6 days a week or writing sessions. Sometimes two or even three per day. They might write 1-2 songs per day for several years before they get a hit.
But that’s the commitment it takes. It’s the same with any content creation.
Obviously you probably have a full-time job, but the point of this post is to understand that we’re consuming content today when we could be using that time to create. Create content, but also to create products and services if you’re business-minded.
Step #5. Perform Annual Audits
The final step is to setup regular audits. Say you do the steps above and a year goes by. It’s easy during that year for changes to creep into your daily schedule.
It’s like working out. We start out going to the gym everyday for January. Then February we cut down to four days. By June, we’re not working out at all.
The same thing happens with creating content. A songwriter, for example, may start out attending five sessions a week. After a year they might be down to three and not even realize it.
So it’s good to set a calendar reminder to audit your daily habits every year to make sure you’re working toward what you want in life.
Again, this is for people that want to make changes in their lives. It’s wonderful that we have so much access to so much content today. But it’s a little like smoking in life. The world around us is optimized to earn our attention. But if we want to create things we need to create the discipline in our lives to limit consumption and use that time and energy for creation.
Nobody listens to the radio for the ads. And nobody reads blog posts for sales promotions.
This is one of the most difficult things for business owners when it comes to blogging.
Definitely not all, but a good number of business owners want to publish posts that discuss their product or service.
I totally get the temptation. You’ll also see it on social media.
A business will write a very nice post going into detail about their product and it will sound wonderful. The problem is that people aren’t interested. At least not when they’re in the mood to read blog posts or social media posts.
The reality is that people are only in a buying mode about 3% of the time. The rest of the time they’re looking for entertainment or education information. When they search on Google they’re looking for entertainment or education. When they’re on social media it’s the same thing.
Think of a blog like television. Or radio. If you turn on a station you’ll typically get about ~90% educational or entertaining content. The rest is selling. But for some reason with blogging, many businesses go with about 100% selling.
Nobody would pay attention to a television or radio station that was 100% ads. And that’s why nobody reads most business blogs.
The Attorney With A Golf Blog
I wish I could remember the exact name of the attorney, but several years ago there was an attorney with a great reputation in the online world. He wanted to get more attention for his service and he wanted to do it with a blog.
So he did some research on his current and past clients. He looked for common threads and one thing he found was that a high percentage of his clients were golfers.
So he did something very unique…he started a blog that was 100% about golf. Right on the same website that he used for his legal services. He would provide his own golfing stories. He would review courses that he had played. He would interview golf pros and have them share tips. All kinds of things.
Golfers would search for golf-related entertainment and educational content and find his blog. They would love it. The profile of the attorney rose and rose and his brand reputation grew resulting in more business.
The Will It Blend Series
Around the same time as that golf blog there was a very popular video series called Will It Blend on YouTube. The Blendtec company wanted to find a way to raise awareness so they decided to put all kinds of things in their blender and post the videos on YouTube.
Entertaining and also a little educational.
This was actually a little risky because it’s close to selling, but instead of having someone up there talking about motors and power and all the boring stuff, they just had the host put iPhones and remote controls and all kinds of stuff in the blender.
Most companies would have created the infomercial-type of content talking about the blender. That would have missed out on the entertainment aspect that Blendtec focused on.
The Future Of Branded Content
The podcasting world was buzzing when the first season of Serial came out. The podcast was very good and kind of a throwback to old radio serials. Millions tuned in and every week they would hear that the podcast was sponsored by Squarespace.
This is the future of content. Squarespace understood that the attention was going to be on the Serial podcast. But instead of forcing tons of ads and discussion about their product, they just paid for the sponsorship and let the content be entertaining.
But you can bet that many people started searching for Squarespace during that time.
And that’s how it works. Brands with products and services need the attention of people. But in order to do that they need to create or sponsor educational and/or entertaining content.
A business blog should be the television show, not the ads. The attorney that created a golfing blog got it. Squarespace got it. They didn’t create a podcast that talked about their software. They sponsored a podcast that had nothing to do with websites.
Do some digging to figure out what content your customers are interested in and create that content. With a blog. With a podcast or with a video series. Educate and entertain them. You’ll reach many more people and as a result your brand reputation will grow and your sales will increase.
For one, she is stubborn. If she wants to get something from you, like a toy or food, she will work until she figures out how to get it.
She is also very good at learning. Things are really picking up now. Talking. Crawling. Standing and soon walking. Also climbing. She’s very good at climbing stairs.
But learning. She wants to learn as much as possible. She watches us turn on electronic toys and then wants to try and do it herself. She watches our mouths and listens to us say words. Then she tries and tries to learn how to do it herself.
Learning In The Adult World
As I’ve watched my girl grow month by month I’ve started to wonder if I’m able to get into the same mindset as her. The learning mindset.
I don’t see any reason why adults aren’t as able to learn as toddlers. In fact, the more I’ve thought about it the more I’ve realized that the people I’ve read about and interacted with that are successful seem to be the ones most willing to keep their childhood curiosity for learning.
Being Okay With Failure
I remember reading a study a few years ago that looked into why older people seem to be slower drivers. The hypothesis was that there was something going on in their brains that made their reaction times slower.
It was kind of like that, but the surprising part was that the main driver for slower reactions was that the people were afraid of making mistakes. It would almost short circuit their ability to make any decision at all.
So this is something we have to fight against throughout our lives and in many areas.
We care about what others think about us. In the early days of humans we needed others to want us around because there was strength in numbers.
It’s still good to want others to care about you, but we all have more leeway than we think. We can make all kinds of mistakes.
Does anybody care that Tony Hawk didn’t land the 900 for years before finally making it? Nope. We only remember that he was the first to do it.
Going Deeper On What You’re Good At
There are a few ways to continue learning. One of them is to go deeper on what you’re good at or what you’ve been doing for several years.
Just because you’re a great designer doesn’t mean that you can’t go deeper to really see how good you can get. It doesn’t mean that you can’t learn other skills to build on top of the ones you already have.
This can be tricky. We often get bored with things we’re really good at. It makes me think of Tiger Woods. He famously changed his golf swing multiple times. He wanted to get better at what he was already good at. He kind of used a hybrid of going deeper while also learning new things.
Learning New Things
We often try new things. We get curious about yoga or meditation or bowling or whatever. We give it a little effort and often we forget about it. And that’s okay. Kids are great at trying new things. They’re seeing everything for the first time.
We’re often at our most creative when we’re in new settings and trying something new. Look, I’m a big believer in routines and going deep on what you’re good at, but a good balance of trying new things seems like a key to a good and happy life.
My daughter has been wonderful for many reasons. Perhaps the best, at least right now, is that she’s teaching me that I need to keep my curiosity for life. I see how much her ability to learn positively impacts her and it reminds me that there is no reason I can’t take the same approach to life.