Category Archives: Life stuff

Another day of rain: Ground Control to Major Tom

Three and a half seconds from walking out the door – “I’m not wearing these socks. They’re too small!” Dude, WTF.

Rain boots and puddlesIt’s another day of rain. I yanked my hamstring on Wednesday and now I can’t run. My calves are sore. My shoulders are stiff. The power went out. The dishes aren’t done. We’re out of clean towels. I need a haircut. The music in the coffee shop is too loud.

The email to a new client went unanswered, even though I know he opened it. I track these things. I have seven unfinished projects at work and I can’t get that video I’m recording to come out just right.

But… I have my new rubber boots and a raincoat. I needed the rest anyway. I’ll exercise this afternoon in my garage. The dishes and towels will eventually get done. They always do.

I just heard The Beatles, The Doors and David Bowie (“Ground Control to Major Tom..”). “Piano Man” is playing right now. The music doesn’t seem so loud now.

I’ll finish those projects today, and what doesn’t get done didn’t need finishing right now anyway. The client will get back to me. There are more coming anyway.

Right now, a 16-year-old girl is waiting on her lab test results. An alcoholic is cracking open his third Budweiser, while his wife makes eggs and packs the kids’ lunch, hoping she’s not late for work this morning. Man, she’s tired after working the late shift at her night job, but it’s the only way to make the rent.

The homeless guy downtown is wet and soaked, cold and hungry. He wishes he had rent to make.

Everyone moment can’t be wonderful, and they aren’t. I’m supposed to be present, and that’s hard. Really, really hard. Maybe that’s why the present is so important. In the moments that suck, we need to accept that the suckiness could be much worse.

And the cat’s in the cradle and the silver spoon
Little boy blue and the man in the moon
“When you coming home, dad?” “I don’t know when
But we’ll get together then
You know we’ll have a good time then.”

All in one sip of coffee this morning

A storm blew out the power in our neighborhood last night and blew up my evening routine that includes grinding coffee beans and prepping my Bialetti coffee pot for the next day. The power came on sometime during the night, but the damage was done and I was regulated to a Starbucks Via packet this morning.

coffee from top and above view on wood background with empty space in vintage

The water boiled, I poured in the packet and took a sip. That sip brought me back to 2014 in Dallas, TX.

It was then I was working at Blend Labs, spending week after week in Dallas (Lewisville actually…) configuring software and running the implementation for our first lending client. Over one stretch, I traveled to Lewisville eight out of nine weeks – on the Monday 5:30am American flight from SMF to DFW and back home again on a Wednesday or Thursday night flight, and occasionally on Friday.

I squeezed in 30-minute workouts in the shoebox hotel gym with its three treadmills and rack of dumbbells, doing rehab exercises from knee surgery, followed by late nights logging bugs and testing configuration changes as the engineers back in San Francisco pushed code every hour. I couldn’t even go for a run because of my knee.

At some point close to midnight, I’d call it a day and wake up again at 5 or 6am to start the next day – chewing through Silly Putty hard-boiled eggs and cardboard bacon, and scrounging for an apple, a banana or anything resembling fresh fruit.

And of course, the hotel coffee. Oh yes… That’s where the Starbucks Via came in. I’d buy a 12-pack of those and travel with them, at least 3-4 in my bag at all times. Every morning, I’d add a packet to a cup of the hotel “coffee” so it might remotely resemble real coffee. Then out of the lobby, trying to remember what color my rental car was this trip and heading back to the client site for ten hours in a brown cubicle and fluorescent lights.

Meanwhile during my Lewisville time warp, Lena was back home, waking up every morning to take Benjamin to day care, work on her dissertation, pick him up, make dinner and get him to bed so that she could get in a few hours before he woke up for his night feeding, then to start it all over again the next morning.

Even during weeks I wasn’t on the road, I commuted to San Francisco three days a week, catching the 4:45am Amtrak and arriving home on the 7:07pm. On Friday nights, we’d meet out for dinner, pretending to catch up on time lost that week.

I remember the first time my son was sick, really sick. I saw a series of texts and missed calls from Lena just as I was walking into a BW3 Wild Wings to meet my team for dinner. A croupy cough and breathing troubles led to a trip to the ER. After a call to American, I was stuck in Dallas – no more flights home that night. So there I was, in Lewisville, Texas, eating a bad salad and bland chicken wings, feeling helpless.

By Christmas 2014, I decided that was enough – the travel, the late nights staring at my computer screen, missing time at home. I needed to make a change. By May 2015, I began working with Byron Davis as a business coach. He helped me structure my thinking around the business and life I wanted to have.

By August, I joined a mastermind group called BlackBelt and I put in my notice to Blend that it was time for me to spend more time at home.

Lena finished her PhD at the end of September and my first day as a full-time business operator was October 1, 2015. I always joked with her that I would retire as soon as she finished, and I did. I retired from working for other people. I retired from absence.

Now, I’m home most mornings to make breakfast and take my son to school. I do the dishes at night and go to bed by 9pm. I’m a regular at the local coffee shop. I make time to train during the day and I’ve knocked out a 50-mile ultra marathon, a swim across Lake Tahoe and Uberman in the past 15 months. I write every morning. I have awesome clients.

I have problems and challenges just like everyone, but they’re my problems in my company. Mornings are almost always a battle – getting Benjamin to eat, dress, and agree to part ways for the day at school drop-off. But, I’m here. Every day. I’m present.

This is my path of happiness. This is my life of freedom.

All in one sip of coffee this morning.

I’m sure glad for that storm last night.

Take Action: Do something, anything. Please, just start. #gofarther

I laid in bed this morning, vacillating between conscious states for nearly 40 minutes before I pulled myself out from under the warm blankets. I was nearly ten minutes into my Morning Pages when I realized I turned on the wrong burner to make coffee. I told myself I was tired and that I deserved more sleep.

Then I reminded myself why I get up this early – to do my thing, to get going, to start. I made a commitment to myself to write every morning. This day mustn’t be different.  I had no idea what I’d write about, I just knew I needed to start.

For a Commitment to be real, you need both Decision and Action. A Decision without Action is just a wish. Lots of people have wishes. Action without Decision, and pretty quickly you’re left without a reason. You can only push yourself so long before you lose motivation. Decision is the “what” and the “why.” Action is the “how” and “now.”

Commitment is why I registered for my first 100-mile ultra. I’ve been training every week since Uberman, putting in miles and workouts but without a clear reason or race to keep going. No Commitment made it easier to eat pizza instead of salad on Friday nights. No Commitment made it easy to go a little lighter or skip stretching at night.

But the thing is, taking Action all the while – training even without a Commitment – got me to a point of Decision. Action precipitated the Decision. That’s why I say – do something, anything. Just start. Action got me to ask myself why I was doing this. And once committed, my actions improved even more – 15-milers instead of 9-milers and track repeats instead of easy five-milers.

I still have to play mind games to get going and to keep going.  It’s on the toughest days and times that Action is the most important – days when you feel what Steven Pressfield calls “The Resistance.”  The toughest days show you how your body and mind respond. Action is simply putting your mind and body in motion – it’s putting yourself to work for your Self. Even if you have to back off what you planned, it’s that you took Action that matters. Just start.

Write the first sentence. Do ten pushups. Walk the first mile. Pick up the phone. Make the first call.

Do something, anything, instead of nothing and later regretting that you never took a single step. Just get moving and life will show from there. Your mind will see the opportunity you’re presenting to yourself and construct a story for that day, that project or that workout. Even if you don’t have it that day, at least you started and kept to your commitment.

Yesterday, I didn’t have it. After four rounds of the “easy” workout I planned, I was lying on my back, breathless on the floor, staring at the garage ceiling wondering what was wrong with me. I wasn’t even sweating and I was completely spent. I’ve done ten rounds of this workout in the past. I laid there for a while, got up, did one more round and called it a day – half of what I planned. It was better than nothing and that one last round gave me some measure of gratification that I pushed past where I thought I was done.

The plan isn’t really that important anyway. A friend recently shared a Churchill quote with me – “Plans are of little importance, but planning is essential.” Steve Blank famously said “No plan survives first contact with the customer.

I have lots of plans, lots of ideas. Most of them are probably lousy anyway which is why I throw them away. The plan is just a decision. From there, it’s the Action that matters.

Do something, anything. Please, just start.

Go Farther.

Mind Games & Project Management to Endurance Training

I wrote about working in sprints earlier this week. I think the same goes with workouts in whatever training you’re pursuing. Whether you’re training for a 10k, half-marathon or 100-mile ultra, it’s all the same:

  • The Race = The “Project”
  • Weekly workout plan = “Weekly Workout Sprints” comprised of daily workouts.
  • Daily workouts = “Daily Sprint Sessions” or “Tasks.”

Each week, or my “Weekly Workout Sprints,” is different – they take on a personality and theme of its own.

Last week’s theme was “Do Miles.” I didn’t do any lifting or Cross-Fit except on Sunday morning. The rest of the week was focused on running and returning to an evening mobility routine. I did four runs of 9, 6, 5 and 13 miles to get myself above 30 miles in a week. I hadn’t done that many miles in a week in a while and the miles were mostly longer, slower miles.

The 9-mile run on Tuesday was very slow – running 9:00 (or slower miles). My 13-miler was with GVH so I ran 8:00/miles the whole way without intervals or pickups.

Only my 5-mile run on Friday when I went to the track was “hard” running where I did a ladder workout, going hard over increasing distances – 1/4 mile, 1/2 mile, 3/4 mile, 1 mile, then back down the ladder to 1/4 mile with easy 1/4 mile segments between each hard segment.

This week’s theme is “Strength & Conditioning + Harder Miles” – more difficult, faster running and more strength and conditioning (SC). I’ve got three (3) SC sessions with fewer, but harder, miles in the week.

Strength & Conditioning:

  • Sunday: Hanging shoulder presses, followed by a CF workout of 4 x (5 pull-ups, 25 kettle bell swings & 15 goblet squats), then 2 x (5 pull-ups, 50 sit-ups)
  • Tuesday: Deadlifts with 5 pull-ups between sets, followed by a CF workout: 4 sets of Russian twists and Burpee Boxjumps. (I was toasted after this one…)
  • Friday (planned): Hanging shoulder presses, then CF with kettle bell swings and a 10-minute hard run.

Running:

  • Monday & Tuesday: off-days to recover from Saturday’s long run and Sunday’s strength & conditioning work.
  • Wednesday: 7-mile run consisting of a 2-mile warm-up then 8 x (1/4 mile hard, 1/4 recovery) for the next four miles, then a 1-mile cool down.
  • Thursday: Track workout – 3 x 1-mile time trial (TT) runs with a 1/4 mile recovery in between, for a grand total of 4 miles. Eventually, I get that up to 5-7 mile TT runs, but for now, three miles was all I needed.
  • Friday (planned): Time permitting after the SC workout, I’ll add a few easy miles to experience running after a hard SC workout.
  • Saturday (planned): 13 miles with intervals scattered throughout. This is a group run with GVH so I’ll need to figure out who to do the intervals while sticking with the group.

Having a theme each week helps me justify whatever pain I might feel along the way with each workout. Each workout is just a “task” or “daily sprint session” in my “weekly project sprint,” and each workout, set or interval is just a “job” within the “task” or “daily sprint session.” When I’m doing 8 x (1/4 mile hard, 1/4 recovery), it’s hard and it’s painful, especially the early intervals when I’m still getting my body revved up. Keeping a mindset that each interval gets me closer to finishing the day’s workout helps me bear the discomfort of that particular rep or interval. In other words, mind games…

Using the 8 x (1/4 mile hard, 1/4 recovery) workout as an example, I’ll think to myself:

  • Rep #1: Okay, let’s just do the first one to get started. Once I get started, then I’m on the way.
  • Reps #2-3: We’re on our way. Get to the midway point of the workout, then I’m on the downside.
  • Rep #4: Woohoo! Halfway done!
  • Rep #5-6: On the downside, just a couple more after these.
  • Rep #7: Only one more after this one
  • Rep #8: Last one, then we can jog it home.

Same goes with Cross-Fit workouts where I’m doing 4-10 sets in a workout. I break down the thinking into individual goals I’m hitting along the way. For me, reaching the midway point is the tipping point for most workouts – once I’m halfway, I know I’ve got whatever workout I’m doing licked.

Finally, I apply the same breakdown strategy within sets. If I’m doing sets of 25, I think:

  • Reps 1-5: Getting started
  • Reps 6-10: Now I’m in this
  • Reps 11-15: Get to 15 and then I have 10 left, and I can do 10 of anything
  • Reps 16-20: Only 5 more after these
  • Reps 21-25: Last five
  • …then I’ll add 1-2 more reps as buffer for any bad reps in the set: I can do a couple more. The 1% rule…

For me, this process generates confidence at the end of long training cycle leading up to a race when, despite following whatever training program, however rigorous, when I’m feeling like I could have done more. If I’ve put in the time along the way and completed my “daily workout tasks” and “weekly workout sprints” then the completion of those tasks should yield a successful “Project”for me – a solid race with the opportunity to hit whatever time or completion goals I’ve set.

Looking back, I’ve almost always hit my time and races goals. Using my Ironman races as examples:

  • Ironman #1 Goal (2010): sub-13:00 attained [Race report here.]
  • Ironman #2 Goal (2011): sub-12:00 attained [Race report here.]
  • Ironman #3 Goal (2013): sub-11:00 missed… came in at ~11:15 in gnarly windy conditions on the bike. [sadly, no race report yet…]
  • Completed my first ultra marathon (2015) [Race report here.]

(Wait a minute… Maybe I should set more difficult race goals…? Oh no! Confidence crisis!)

If you’re struggling to keep motivated in a given day or week, try the mindset that each week and each workout is just another task or sprint along the way to a winning project.

Put Your Self First #gofarther

I failed this morning. I knew last night what I was going to write about. I devoted part of my Morning Pages to it just so I’d be primed and ready to go. Yet, before I cracked open my laptop, I put others first instead of my Self.

I peeked at my email only to find out that a new client scheduled to start today backed out and another prospect decided to work with a pro-bono consultant instead of paying me.

The thing is, from a business standpoint, I don’t even care about the losing these guys. My business is strong and clients like this can end up being difficult anyway. Trust me, I want to help them and know that I can, and I know they’re in for a tough road ahead without me. But, why the hell did I do that to my Self?

The morning is MY time – for Morning Pages, for meditation, for writing – and I put other people, people literally on the other side of the world, first instead my Self.

Dammit, Scott. Put your Self first.

Protect your Self because no one else will. They’ll take, punch, kick, push and slam your Self. They don’t even know they’re doing it (usually). They’re just out for themselves, unaware of their own Self.

Just because someone asks and just because you can, it doesn’t mean that you should.

“But they’re really expecting me to do this…”

God I hate that. Unless it’s a “HELL YEAH!,” it has to be a “no.” Friends included. Especially friends. If they’re really your friends, they’ll understand. Don’t worry. They’ll figure it out without you…

Be the CEO of your Self – make unpopular decisions. Unfollow Negative Nancy. Heck, skip Facebook altogether for a day. No one will miss you. Seriously. I know I won’t. Go into airplane mode and be present. The world will still be here when you come back.  I’d rather you read the last chapter of that novel than read one of my posts.

We’ve all had friends struggling with anxiety or stress or sadness. How many times is that anxiety, stress and sadness caused by someone else – someone they’ve let bully their Self? We tell our friend to say no. We say – “tell them to fuck off!” We advise them – “you should totally go to that yoga class!”

Then how many times do we ignore this advice for our own Self?

Saunter. Doodle. Sing.

Buy some persimmons, or blueberries, or beets, or bacon, or a burrito.

Talk a walk. Exercise. Breathe.

Make time. Sleep.

If you don’t put your Self first, you can’t be your best Self, and guess what? The world needs your best Self.

At breakfast this morning, my son, eating eggs with ketchup, wearing his blue Elsa dress, watching our science project concoction of baking soda and vinegar bubble in a bowl, asked questions that four-year-olds ask – “Why does Mowgli wear a grass skirt in Jungle Book?” and “Why do the good guys want to beat the bad guys in Star Wars?”

I gave him satisfactory answers, but those emails were festering – “Do those guys really think they can get the same help for free? What is wrong with them? What is wrong with me?” He didn’t get my best Self.

I’m nervous about hitting ‘publish’ right now. I’m worried about what others will think… how they will react… what they will say…

But this is my blog. This is my writing. This is my time. This is my Self.

And I choose to put my Self first.

Go Farther Strategy #3: Work in Sprints #gofarther

Accomplishing bigger outcomes requires the completion of small tasks. When you “Schedule Everything” and “Make Time,” you can complete at least one 30-60 minute “sprint” every day or week without interruption on whatever outcome you want to achieve.

Professional female athlete sprinting from blocks on numbered start line on outdoor athletics track on olympic stadium full of spectators under a dramatic evening sky. Sprinter is wearing generic athletics kit.

”Sprinting” is an idea taken from a style of work productivity called Scrum – popular in the software world – in which a team decides on the set of outcomes for a given work period, usually 2-4 weeks. Within each work period, individuals and smaller teams set aside “sprints” that break down these outcomes into smaller tasks.

Say you want to do your first 50-mile ultra marathon this year… A good “sprint” would be spending an hour researching race calendars or training programs.

Say you want to start blogging… Spend a “sprint” setting up an account on GoDaddy or BlueHost to buy a URL and set up WordPress.

Say you want to write a book… Block off an hour a day to write every day, even if it’s garbage that you throw away. I’ve been doing these most recent posts during my morning “writing sprints.”  A “sprint” is just a block of time that is dedicated to focused work and completing a task, or a series of related tasks. The key here to be focused and dedicated. No distractions.

Here are three examples of how I apply “sprinting” – to writing, to work and to workouts…

Writing Sprints

My most recent “writing sprints” started after I cracked open the initial draft of a book manuscript over Thanksgiving weekend. I’d been sitting on the draft from the publisher for a couple of months, and with Uberman and other work projects, it just sat and sat and sat. Most of all, the delays were impacting my 2017 sales and marketing plans centered around the book launch. During my Uberman training and for the month after, I let myself sleep later in the morning to recoup from training and to just let myself be a little lazy. I finally decided that I had no more excuses and set aside about an hour of morning time after Morning Pages and meditating, and before my son wakes up.

Looking back on my revision back-ups, I had 23 days of writing on the manuscript (I backed up the file each day, multiple times in each writing session). Over the five weeks between Thanksgiving and New Year’s, I added 20,000 words to manuscript and sent back to the publisher on December 30th for their next editing phase. This happened because of my daily “writing sprints” I set up for myself each morning. This works in tandem with “Make Time.” Because I’m an early riser, I made the time each morning to work on the manuscript.

The process took me about two-and-a-half days per chapter to review, edit and add new material. Through these daily morning “writing sprints,” I was able to knock out the revisions – about 1000 words a day – and return the draft to my publisher by the end of the year. 23 writing days, 11 chapters and 20,000 words added, not to mention revisions, deletions and replacement content. Pretty solid work for 23 days of “writing sprints.”

Now… there were definitely days when I’d just be settling in with Spotify cranked up and a fresh cup of coffee, typing my first sentences, only to hear “DAAAAAA-DEEEEE” – my son waking up earlier than expected and blowing up my “writing sprint” that day. On these days, I’d take him to school and hunker down out at my favorite coffee shop (Cloud Forest Cafe) and knock out 30-90 minutes of writing for whatever chapter needed to be started or finished. “Schedule Everything” is handy here because I block out my mornings for creative work and project work, giving me the time to knock out my writing sprint. In fact, I’m finishing up this post right now from the cafe in the time between dropping off Benjamin at school and a weekly coaching call at 9:30am…

Even then, it’s not perfect. On some mornings I have set obligations – weekly coaching calls on Tuesday and Friday mornings, and occasional morning calls with teams in Europe because it’s afternoon there. Having the time blocked out for the writing sprints enables me to withstand the pressure of a daily fluctuation when the morning doesn’t go according to plan.

Daily Work Sprints

At work, I use a Scrum Board to track tasks in four categories: Backlog, Planned, Doing & Done. (More about Scrum here.) This is a methodology that I’m rolling out to my clients this year via our semi-monthly “Boardroom” meetings, applying Scrum to client their sales projects. Starting this month, we’re running a Monthly Planning Video Conference to plan “work sprints,” and a Monthly Project Update Call mid-month to identify obstacles and celebrate progress.

Yesterday, I ran through four “sprint sessions” myself, ranging from 25-50 minutes each. This is what I got done in those four sprint sessions:

  • Sprint #1 (50 mins): Planned out the content, agenda and announcement details for our first “Boardroom” meeting on January 16th, and sent out the meeting invite to clients around our 2017 kickoff on January 16th.
  • Sprint #2: (25 mins): Website work, including adding a “Search Box” to my website. During the 25 minutes, I spoke with the product manager at Algolia (Thank you Jasmine!) and emailed with my web team in Australia (Automation Agency) that’s doing the implementation.
  • Sprint #3: (25 mins): Typed out my hand-scribbled notes from Sprint #1 into Evernote so that I have the content digitally available to repurpose for building a presentation next week for the January 16th Boardroom Kick-Off video conference. (Building the PowerPoint slides will be a “daily sprint session” next week.)
  • Sprint #4 (25 minutes): Held a “sprint planning” meeting with myself by rewriting project tasks and organizing my Scrum board so I know where I am and what’s ahead over the next week.
img_9450

The SalesQualia Scrum Board

Working in sprints helps my focus too. If I’m in the middle of sprint and I receive an call, email or text, because I’m in a “sprint,” I give myself permission to wait to respond. In fact, I require myself to wait. I think of it this way – if it was the other way around and I was on a call with a client, I wouldn’t stop the call just to begin working on a project. I never stop a workout to start working on something else. “Sprint sessions” must be dedicated, focused time.

After each “sprint,” I took a 5-20 minute break – lunch, walks around the block, a walk to Whole Food to buy bananas because we were out of them at home. I eat two bananas every morning with my coffee and I did not want to be without. (See: “Find Your Routine.”) 😃

Even if you’re a one-person team, you can use Scrum and “work sprints” to make huge progress on your self-directed projects.

The work product of Sprint #1 described above

The work product of Sprint #1 described above

Workouts as Sprints

“Sprints” work really well for workouts too. Yesterday, I wrote about how to “Make Time,” with a couple of examples of when I slotted in short workouts with the time that I had. These are basically “workout sprints.” If I know I have a workout that I want or need to do -– say I need to do a strength and conditioning workout – then working with whatever time I have, even if that’s 30 minutes, can lead to huge gains.

When I was commuting to San Francisco three times a week, I would take the early train and arrive to the office around 7am. I was always the first one there and if I was feeling particularly anxious because I didn’t sleep enough or hadn’t worked out in a couple of days because of my schedule, I’d go downstairs to the basement and do a 15 or 30-minute workout with only body weight exercises – something like four rounds of 25 pushups, 25 sit-ups, 25 lunges and 25 air squats. It definitely got my body and mind settled, and got me the workout I needed for whatever training I was doing. I didn’t always have workout clothes, so there were times that I would strip down and do the workout in my boxers. Fortunately we had a shower at work with a few towels laying around so I could rinse off after… ProTip: Keep a bag of baby wipes in your office for when you’re in a pinch…

Between the commute and travel, I managed to knock out the Donner Half-iron triathlon in July 2015 and my first ultra-marathon at the North Face Endurance Challenge in December 2015 (sadly, my race report for the one is still in my drafts…).

I apply the same idea of “Make Time” and “Sprints” applied to evening runs. When I’m short on workouts or miles, or just need to get some exercise, I’ll do a three-mile run around my neighborhood – two laps at a slow to moderate pace. It’s not the best workout, but the three mile jog you take is better than the 10-miler that doesn’t happen…. My wife is particularly adept at this too. I don’t know how she does it. It’ll be 9pm and we’ve just gotten Benjamin to bed. I’m ready to hit the sack and she’s changing into her workout clothes to head to the garage to do a workout. I think of these emergent workouts as “sprints” – completing a task necessary in the timebox available.


Now what?

  1. Figure out what big outcome or project your want to knock out this month.
  2. Identify the key tasks to be done for that project.
  3. Set aside “sprints” in your calendar. Think “Schedule Everything” and “Make Time.”

Go Farther Strategy #2: Make Time #gofarther

You’ve got to make time for what you want to do. Then schedule it. (See yesterday’s post – “Go Farther Strategy #1: Schedule Everything.”) Being “deliberately emergent” helps with this.

As part of my morning routine, I wake up early – usually somewhere between 4am and 5am, intentionally… 😃 This morning I felt angsty while writing Morning Pages. Yesterday was a day off to go skiing, and even though we spent five hours in the car getting up to Tahoe and back, we never got on the slopes (too much snow!). The kids got to play a bit and it was a heck of an adventure, but I was fairly edgy hanging out near Donner Summit, nervous about getting stuck overnight should Caltrans decide to close I-80 (which they did…). Plus Tuesday was an easy run day and Monday was a rest day. All of this left me with pent up energy this morning.

Instead of diving into my daily writing practice after Morning Pages and meditation, I headed out for a morning run. It was dark and cold and crisp. The overnight rain disappeared. Stars dotted the sky between the lingering clouds and I watched my white frozen breath reflect the light from my headlamp. I love that feeling of cold air. I love seeing my breath. I love being outside and alive before the rest of the world wakes up around me. As I reached Putah Creek, I stopped to look at the false dawn rising over the Sierras. Yellow and orange splotches emerged over the horizon, mixing with the gray clouds sitting overhead. It was like a paint spill on an artist’s throw tarp left without care on her studio floor.

Glorious. And possible because I chose to Make Time by waking up early every morning, gifting myself 2-3 hours before the rest of the house and the world wakes up. Making time gives me the freedom to choose to do write or run (or neither…)

Young woman sitting on sand with bag

Make time…

When’s the last time anyone asked you –  “So… are you getting enough time to do all the things you enjoy – reading, writing, training for endurance races, spending time with your family? Have you skied lately? When’s the last time you went on a 10-mile trail run?”

A few other examples of how I’ve chosen to “Make Time” for myself this week:

#1: Fitting in a planned workout. On Friday, I was at the park with my son and friends. Around 4pm, we all decided to wrap up and meet around 5:15pm at the local pizza place. I worked in the morning and had been with Benjamin all afternoon, leaving myself without the chance to do the workout I planned for myself.

So… Benjamin and I scooted home, and in the time between getting home and going out for pizza, I fit in a workout in my garage – lifting, followed by a 10-minute CrossFit workout, then a 1.5 mile fast run around the neighborhood. We were about 15 minutes late for dinner, but I got in my workout. Instead of resigning that I “didn’t have time,” I made time to do what I needed.

#2: Adding in an unplanned workout. Two days later on New Year’s Day, we were scheduled to fly to the coast. The morning weather was rainy and we decided at 8:30am to make a call at 9:30am as to whether or not to go. I had planned to take a rest day, but my body was twitchy after too much yummy cheese and charcuterie on New Year’s Eve (and a bit of wine…) I needed to work out the jitters, so I headed to the garage for a quick workout in the time that I had – shoulder presses, burpee box jumps and kettle bell swings. Short and painful and done in the time that I had.

#3: Yesterday’s ski day. Many schools are closed here in California this first week January. Talking with my friend Tim before Christmas, he was trying to figure out what to do with his kids during this extra week, so we booked yesterday as a ski day and I blocked it my calendar.

This decision was not without some effects and planning. I stayed up late on Tuesday night to clear out client questions so that I could take the day without any pending obligations, and I needed to push out a few last minute tasks in the morning before we left. I work with a team of virtual assistants that are now trained to run more than 25 business operations for me – everything from sending out emails to setting up new clients to posting announcements to setting up appointments. Creating this team around me gives me more flexibility to make time, because I know they can handle most daily tasks.

In the end, it would have been easy to treat Wednesday, January 4th as just another workday (besides it being my mom’s birthday – Happy Birthday, Mom!), and instead I made time for the trip because if I didn’t, I had a feeling it could be weeks before we were able to try again.

#4: Lunchtime Runs. When I look at my output throughout a workday, I know I have a limited daily capacity – there’s just only so much I can do. And because I wake up early, I’m often pretty fried by 11:30am. Making time to do a lunchtime run allows me to knock out the training I want to do plus gives me a mental and physical refresh for my afternoon work.

Being at work doesn’t mean you’re working. Too many times we let precious minutes and hour escape our day that could otherwise be used for activities – whether that’s running, writing, reading, painting or anything else that brings us joy. Instead of getting home at 6pm wishing I had time to go for a run, or worse, taking away family time.

David Hatch trained for an Ironman aboard the USS Hatch as a US Navy commander in the Arabian Gulf. JK Rowling wrote Harry Potter from cafes as a single mother. These are extreme cases with extreme outcomes.

I followed this daytime training program for Uberman and for my most recent Ironman in 2013. I kept my road bike at the office to get in an extra ride or two every week along the American River Trail.

#5: Going to bed early. As soon as my son hits the pillow, I’m headed to my own bed. The sooner I get to bed, the sooner I can wake up and start the day. A long time ago, a former self joked that “nothing good happens after 2am.” Now my mentality is “Nothing productive happens after 9pm.” Sometimes this means hopping in the shower before we do bath time or even occasionally going to bed before my son gets down for the night. (Thanks, Lena!).

I have a hunch that if you look at your days, you can make time to do at least one or two activities you really, really want to do. Do it, because no one is going to do it for you.


Now what?

  1. Head over to Upwork.com and post a job for a virtual assistant to complete a low-risk task for you.
  2. Schedule your alarm for 20 minutes earlier than user, and have a plan on how to use those 20 minutes. It can be anything you want – just use the time for you.
  3. Go to bed 30 minutes sooner.

Go Farther Strategy #1: Schedule Everything #gofarther

In yesterday’s post – “10 Strategies To Do More, Be Happy & Surprise Yourself” – I wrote:

If you don’t plan your day, the world will do it for you. You can’t always be in control, so the more you own your day when you can be in control, the happier you’ll be.

I swear by this. I have one calendar for my life, and for convenience, it’s housed in my work calendar because that’s simply where I have the most number of obligations each week with calls, meetings and work with clients. I’m looking at that calendar several times daily, so it makes sense to make this the hub of my activity coordination.

Planner with PenThis means that I add EVERYTHING in my life to one calendar, including “meeting invites” to Lena for personal things to make sure we’ve communicated about what’s ahead that affects us both.

 

Here are a few examples of what I schedule in my calendar, outside of daily meetings with clients and partners:

“B breakfast/to school” & “pick up B” – I block out from 7:00-9:20am in the mornings to have breakfast and take my son to school, and I block out 5:00-6:30pm on days that I’m picking him up from school. This assures that I don’t schedule an early or late call on these days.

“hold for prep” and “hold for long” – These are times I block before and after key meetings. Every week for example, I have three coaching standing calls with for clients to help them with their sales work. I have a placeholder both before and after these calls – “hold for prep” and “hold for long” – so that I have time to prepare and so if we need to run long, I don’t have another obligation booked right at the end of the hour.

“Work sprint” – Each week, I establish time for focused work on key projects. These work sprints are usually 50 minutes, with a 10 minute break at the end to recharge before the next sprint or the next upcoming obligation (calls, meetings, etc.). Blocking this time assures me proactive time to work on key projects so that my days aren’t spent buried in email or reacting to situations.

(More on “work sprints” in a future post…)

“Scott in SF” / “Scott in LA” – For the occasional day trips to San Francisco or overnight work travel for workshops, I book these well ahead and block out those days so other people (clients, my team) nor I will schedule obligations on those days. I add Lena to these calendar invites so that I know that she knows what’s ahead.

While she and I often talk about schedules and what’s coming, it’s really easy for one of us to forget because these conversations might be in the morning as we’re coaxing our son to school or while we’re making dinner. (Read: Scott forgets to tell Lena or forgets that Lena told him about a day trip she has…)

Booking the event in the calendar assures that we know of each other’s schedule. Sometimes I’ll even send a reminder email from my calendar a few days ahead – “Just a reminder about James’s party on Sunday afternoon…”

“Blocked” – This is designed for long blocks of time where no one can schedule time to talk or meet with me, nor do I allow myself to schedule time with others during this time. For example, Mondays are typically one of my “Blocked” days – days where I am 100% focused on building content and developing ideas for myself and my clients. Often times, I’ll add “Blocked” in 2-3 hour time blocks before noon because that’s when I am mentally the sharpest and most creative. I leave the afternoons for calls with clients and project work sprints.

ProTip: I use Calendly as the way for others to schedule time with me. It syncs with your Google calendar and you can set times when other people can schedule a call or meeting with you. Whenever I receive a request for a call or meeting, I just send my Calendly link to the person with a note – “Here’s my calendar. Just snag a time that works for you…” In that calendar, I’ve blocked out the morning hours so that no one can schedule a call with me before noon.

“lunch” – I need to eat, and I either walk to Whole Foods for a fresh salad and to buy fruit and snacks for the afternoon, or I’ve packed a lunch that I’ll eat outside of my office in either the common area or outside on a park bench. If I don’t book time to eat, I’ll end up eating while I’m working which isn’t productive work time and it robs me of the opportunity to enjoy the wonderful flavor of beets with bleu cheese or a crunchy, sweet apple.

“Workout” – Another must-do for me.I am unapologetic about this to myself and to clients. Yesterday, I went for a run with a friend (thanks Doug!) at 8:30am, so I blocked out from 8:30am-11am to give myself time for the run, time to eat and time to change back to work mode.

My schedule becomes very full if I let it. I maintain the Calendly calendar that anyone can use to book time with me, so I need to schedule my workouts or they don’t get done.

“Lena [insert event]” – These are work obligations or important events that Lena has – whether that means travel for her research or flying airplanes. I put these in my calendar so that I know why certain days are those days I’m required to drop off or pick up my son at school.

I’m now in the habit that whenever Lena tells me about an event she has – work trip, Angel flight, flying lesson – I will stop and immediately add it to my calendar. This also is a double-check for us that we’re covering important daily activities like taking Benjamin to school. For example, on days that I head to San Francisco, I usually take the 4:45am Amtrak, which means Lena would need to take Benjamin to school. If she has a flying lesson at 8:00am that day, we know there’s a conflict so either she will change her lesson or I’ll look at taking a later train and moving morning appointments to the afternoon.

“Hiking days” – Last year, Lena and I decided that we wanted to do at least one nature activity each weekend, whether that’s taking a long hike or just walking along Putah Creek together. We don’t always do this, but receiving a reminder a few days ahead is a good way to think ahead to the weekend and what we might do together.

“[INSERT] Party” – When you have a four-year-old, you receive an endless number of invitations – to birthday parties, Halloween parties, holiday parties and more. To make sure we don’t forget one, I book these in my calendar with reminders. From there, Lena and I can decide if we’re both going, or if one will take party duty while the other works, works out or simply takes some personal time to recharge.


The byproduct of “Schedule Everything?” Once you schedule EVERYTHING, you see how little time is left to get done what you want outside of your required obligations. This forces you to prioritize where you focus and what you do.

Now what?

  1. Go through your week right now and add a few of these suggested time blocks like “hold for prep” and “hold for long,” and “Work Sprints.” Layer in personal plans – workouts, date night, family plans.
  2. Add important events you know are upcoming for your spouse or partner, and if you’re not sure, you might want to have a conversation with that person… 🙂
  3. Stick to it for a couple of weeks and let me know how it goes…

Go Farther.

10 Strategies To Do More, Be Happy & Surprise Yourself #gofarther

Yesterday, I wrote about being “deliberately emergent.” In that post, I talked about the foundations and structure in my life that enable me to be “emergent” – to take advantage of opportunities as they arise.

As I reflected on what I tend to do each day and week, and what advice I give to others that ask me how I “get stuff done,” I discovered ten strategies and principles that I try to follow daily and weekly. (I say “try” because while I generally do a good job of sticking with these, like everyone, I fail at maintaining the discipline to apply these every day to every situation.) I’m sure there are more than ten – and these may not even be my top ten – they’re simply the ones that revealed themselves as I reviewed myself and my actions.

In the coming days and weeks, I’ll follow with a deeper description of each, and specific ideas on how you might to implement them.

Here’s the list, with links to detailed posts for each:

  1. Schedule Everything
 
  2. Make Time

  3. Work in “Sprints”

  4. Put Your Self First
  5. Find Your Routine

  6. Find Experts

  7. Read

  8. Sleep
  9. Mind, Body, Spirit

  10. The Journey is the Joy


1 – Schedule Everything: If you don’t plan your day, the world will do it for you. You can’t always be in control, so the more you own your day when you can be in control, the happier you’ll be.

I have one calendar for my life, and for convenience, it is housed in my work calendar because that’s where I have most of my obligations each week – calls, meetings, work with clients, work sprints, etc. I’m looking at that calendar several times daily, so it makes sense to make this the coordination hub of my activities.

I schedule EVERYTHING, including days that I’m having breakfast with my son and taking him to school, when I’m picking him up, lunch, holding time before and after key meetings to make sure I have time to prep and time allocated in case the meeting runs long, workouts and when others can schedule time to talk or meet.

The byproduct? Once you schedule EVERYTHING, you see how little time is left to get done what you want outside of your required obligations. This forces you to prioritize where you focus and what you do.

2 – Make Time:  I am unapologetic about scheduling time to write and train. These are two things that bring me joy and help me maintain an even keel across my mind, body and spirit.

When’s the last time anyone asked you –  “So Scott, are you getting enough time to do all the things you enjoy – reading, writing, training for endurance races, spending time with your family? Have you skied lately? When’s the last time you went on a 10-mile trail run?”

You’ve got to make time for what you want to do. Then schedule it…

3 – Put Your Self First:  “Self” is the being in the mind that is happy or sad, stressed or relaxed, present or elsewhere, accepting or resisting, while controlling the physical body that others know as “you.” The most challenging aspect of “Self” is its responsibility for self-awareness – it exists in the mind as an entity while also responsible for acknowledging feelings and regulating behavior.

Don’t allow others to trespass upon and trample on your Self. Anxiety, distraction and committing to obligations for unappreciative others will bury you. Doing for others too often without doing for your Self will crush your mind, body and spirit.

You’re better than that. Care for your Self, because it is you deserve it, and no one else will do it for you.

4 – Work in Sprints: The completion of small tasks is required to accomplish bigger outcomes.

”Sprinting” is an idea taken from a style of work productivity called Scrum – popular in the software world – in which a team decides on the set of outcomes for a given 1-2 week work period. Within each week, individuals and smaller teams set aside “sprints” that break down these outcomes into smaller tasks.

When you Schedule Everything and Make Time, you can complete at least one 30-60 minute “sprint” every day or week without interruption on whatever outcome you want to achieve.

Say you want to do your first 50-mile ultra marathon this year… A good “sprint” would be spending an hour researching race calendars or training programs. Say you want to start blogging… Spend a “sprint” setting up an account on GoDaddy or BlueHost to buy a URL and set up WordPress.

Say you want to write a book… Block off an hour a day to write every day, even if it’s garbage that you throw away.

5 – Find Your Routine: Read this post from Maria Popova on BrainPickings: “Daily Routines of Great Writers.” Successful people have routines and stick to them no matter what.

The more disciplined and regimented you are throughout the day, the more room you have to be creative and productive. This is all about reducing the number of small decisions you need to make so that you brain has the time and space to create new ideas, and your body has the energy to take action.

6 – Find Experts: You can’t do it alone, and the glut of bad information requires you to find real experts in whatever endeavor you choose.  Most experts are experts because they’ve made tons of mistakes. Learn from them because it’ll save you decades of time and anguish.

7 – Read: Stretch your brain.

I’m reading Stephen Pressfield’s “Gates of Fire” right now. I’ve never been interested in his novels, but I read his book about writing – “The War of Art: Break Through the Blocks and Win Your Inner Creative Battles.” (see: Find Experts) and I thought I’d give one of his novels a try. I’m glad I did.

Other recent reads include:

 8 – Sleep: You need 7-8 hours a day, minimum. This is fact. You are not a superhero. You brain and body needs sleep.

Hint: Make time and schedule naps.

9 – Mind, Body, Spirit: To help myself detach, I look at these three components to see which is in tune and which is out of whack. I thought a lot about the “Mind, Body, Spirit” trifecta frequently during Uberman – a way to check in mentally (Mind), physically (Body) and psychologically (Spirit). Isolating each of these three helps me identify how, why and where I’m feeling “bad,” because “bad” is a general state just like “good.”

When I communicate with my wife and my Self about how, why and where I feel “bad,” there’s usually a root cause – one event, one interaction, one conversation, one pending outcome – that is causing the “badness.” From there, I can determine if there’s something I can do to repair the situation, or if I just need to accept and move on.

This is useful in your relationships. Everyone has a pebble in their shoe.

10 – The Journey is the Joy: Accept. Be Present. Walk The Path Of Happiness, not The Path To Happiness.

That’s my ten for now… More details on each in the coming days and weeks.

Which of these are most impactful for you?

 

Being Deliberately Emergent #gofarther

I’m not a resolution kind of guy. If I really want to do something, I’ll do it whether it’s January 1st or July 29th. Setting expectations on January 1 hinders my ability to make decisions and seize new opportunities. I think it’s important to have goals and outcomes, and those should be set as they become important and available, never set just because it’s January 1 when the world tells you that it’s time to set your goals for the year.

Clayton Christensen describes “Deliberate vs Emergent” strategies in his book – “How Will You Measure Your Life?” Setting goals on January – identifying specific outcomes to achieve and how to achieve them – is a “deliberate strategy.” Taking advantage of opportunities as they arise is an “emergent strategy.”

I guess you could say that I’m “deliberately emergent.”Bright Hope of Life

Disappointment comes from having expectations. Instead of establishing specific outcomes, I’ve found it more useful to focus on creating a foundation on which seizing opportunities becomes possible. Uberman is the best example I can think of on this. In January last year, I was less than a month removed from finishing my first 50-mile ultra marathon. Competing in any type of long-distance endurance wasn’t a priority for me, and it wasn’t until March 31 that I even knew about Uberman. But because I set up the foundations of my life accordingly, I was able to take advantage of it as an emergent opportunity.

In my Morning Pages yesterday, I recounted the past six years of my life. What I learned from this exercise is that one constant in my life is change:

  • 2011: Ironman #2; Starting SalesQualia as a side project while at Altos Research.
  • 2012: Birth of our son; Leaving Altos Research to work at CoreLogic.
  • 2013: Ironman #3; Leaving CoreLogic in August to be a full-time consultant, leading me to accept a full-time position at Blend.
  • 2014: Focusing 100% on Blend to see if we could make it grow, then realizing that my self-established shelf life there would be no more than two years.
  • 2015: Deciding in January that I’d make SalesQualia my full-time work; Finishing my full-time work at Blend on September 30th (two years to the day I started…); Lena finishing her PhD.
  • 2016: Building SalesQualiia; Uberman.

Arguably, every year has been a “transition year.” The job changes and endurance races were done with thought and care, but with the exception of 2015, I never started the year with a set of specific outcomes in mind. The only year in which I had an extended “deliberate strategy” was 2015, when I decided early in the year that I wanted to step away from Blend and focus 100% on SalesQualia. This was a momentous life decision for my wife and I considering we had a young son and she was still in graduate school (read: health insurance + mortgage payments). This step required significant planning and methodical execution in the plan throughout the year.

But… even in that, I chose to be emergent on how I got there. For example, Hult International Business School offered me a teaching spot for the Fall 2014 and Winter 2015 modules that eased that transition, and even when I gave notice to Blend of my pending departure, they provided health insurance and a small base salary to stay on as an advisor through the end of the year. No way I could have predicted either of these support mechanism in January.

Whenever I’ve tried to plan several specific achievements at the start of a year, I’ve rarely reached them. For example, I posted a number of desired achievements in 2014 – learning martial arts, a new language and standup comedy, and moving back to San Francisco. None of this happened.

The empirics reading this are thinking – “This is a sample of N =1 with no control group.” Yep, I know it. This doesn’t work for everyone for every situation. I get that.

But for me, I think that being “deliberately emergent” has served me well. I feel happy and right now, today, I have the ability to do almost everything that I want to do:

  • Making time to stay fit and eat really, really well.
  • Sleeping at least 7-8 hours most nights, even getting 9-10 hours on the weekends.
  • Spending lots of time doing fun stuff with my son – going to the Farmer’s Market, playing soccer, hiking, ice skating, skiing and traveling.
  • Supporting my wife’s love of flight.
  • Traveling as a family to Tahoe, Portland (twice), Lake Tahoe, Death Valley and Boise.
  • Building my business’s success, as measured by client quality and outcomes and business income.
  • Donating a significant sum to charity in 2016. (We chose Mercy Corps for a number of reasons…)

This year, we have trips booked or planned to Las Vegas, San Diego, Orlando, New Jersey, Montana, Portland and Australia. Maybe all of those trips will happen, and maybe they won’t. I’m okay with either. Yes, I am very, very fortunate. This is also why we donated a significant amount of money to Mercy Corps – because we highly sensitive to this.

What if I was more deliberate in life? 

I don’t know. I guess that’s gamble…

I can’t really think of much else that I really want. I drive a 2002 Saturn that has a “check engine light” that comes on sporadically. We live in a two-bedroom, 1100-square-foot house that feels small sometimes and needs it’s share of work. But it’s home. I can afford decent coffee at the local coffee shop everyday. I just spent more than three hours writing this post, plus early drafts of several others coming in the next two weeks.  Later today, we might go flying or go to the movies.

Tomorrow, I’ll wake up and do my Morning Pages and meditation. I’ll officially start the new work year happy and motivated for what I’ll deliver to my current and future clients. I’ll go for a run and pick up my son from school. On Wednesday, we’ll go skiing, I’ll work some more on Thursday and Friday, and next Saturday I’ll take my son to the Farmer’s Market after I go on a 9-10 mile run. I know what I need to do with my business the next three months to continue building and growing – I have a plan for that built around the theme – “Build Stronger, Sell Better, Launch Higher.” It focuses my day-to-day work and daily outcomes.

And eventually this year, a new idea or opportunity or situation will emerge, and I’ll be ready to hop on and take it for a ride. I expect the something new will be positive, and if it’s not, then may I have Serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the Courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference.

Love, peace, happiness and acceptance in 2017.

Go Farther.