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.

 

Winning

You win by playing. Every day. No matter what.

By waking up with intent. With a purpose. With a plan.

By finding presence. By following your Self, then by being your Self. Then by putting forth your very best Self in each moment.

 

By pushing your Self each day to try something new, to do something hard that you want to do and something hard that you have to do. To see the result as the Truth, raw and impartial.

By telling this Truth to yourself and to others, and accepting that which ensues. By knowing that there is no score, because there is no game to win, only a game to play.

The photo shows two feet in colorful unnulated socks.

You win by shutting off your email. By turning off your phone. By getting enough sleep. By taking walks in the cold rain just so you can feel warm when you come back inside. By eating beets because that’s what you like to eat. By wearing your purple striped socks because they’re your favorite.

Go Farther.

Love the Grind

Young Boy Wearing Business Suit and Jet Pack

Love the Grind.

There are days when the Grind is tough, really tough. One brush with the Grind can erase ten good things that happened. It feels personal. The Grind tests your mettle and forces you to choose – to create your own way, or follow everyone else; to find and learn and discover, or to sit complacent.

But without the Grind, what’s the point? If it were easy, everyone would do it. The Grind shows that you’re going in the right direction.

The worst case usually isn’t that bad, and living to avoid it is living fearfully. The best case usually never happens, and living to acquire it leaves you perpetually unsatisfied.

The Grind are opportunities to learn, opportunities to improve, opportunities to remind ourselves that we choose this. Maybe not the events that happen to us, but how we respond to those events. Choose to do hard things and expect that the journey will be hard. Walk the path of happiness, not the path to it.

Even when the Grind kicks us in the shins, the day offers so many gifts so that we can scoff and laugh at the Grind, because it’s just the Grind. It’s not our life.

My son wakes up every morning callin “Daaaa – Deeee.” His first words today were – “I wonder where that silly Elf is going to be today. I heard him flying around last night using his magic.”

“Really. You did?” I asked.

“Yeah. Now let’s go find him.”

Crisp mornings. Morning Pages. Five-mile lunchtime runs. A hawk resting on a tree branch. A walk around the block. $0.50 refills. Hot soup. Persimmons. A clean kitchen. Milk. Coffee in the pot, ready to brew. Words buzzing through my fingers. Warm sheets. A good night’s sleep. 4:30am alarms. Early mornings. A new day tomorrow. Knowing that the Grind will be there to greet me.

I know it’s there. I smile. I’m ready. Because I love the Grind.

Go Farther.