Many of life’s failures are people who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up” – Thomas Edison.
I am a great believer in systems.
I say that because I consider systems can drive significant productivity while at the same time, get you closer to your dreams, aspirations and the type of life style you may possibly be seeking.
Big statement I know, so let me explain…
Systems are basically a way to introduce routines into your life. If we use a technology metaphor, systems are like mini programs that once you design them and test them a couple of times, they start running in the background almost on auto pilot.
Still too esoteric for you? Let me share you my story then…
I have a lot of things to be done. It’s not that I am overworked or anything like that, it is just that I have some really big goals at present that are really driving me. So that’s my first tip, what’s your “why”? You need to have a big one to get yourself, off your… couch.
Next, you need to make sure you keep at it.
What I discovered is you need to find out what motivates you – pain or pleasure?
Probably a little bit of both, but for me, I discovered it was often the thought of “pain” that kept me going when it was easy to give up. When I decided a few years back I was going to do some doctoral research, it was tough, but I had told so many people I was doing it, the very thought of them potentially thinking that I was giving up drove me to keep going. Crazy I know, but basically I made up a story in my mind which I kept re-playing every time I thought of giving up!
What are the stories that you re-playing in your head – are they helping you or hindering you from achieving the life you want?
Now of course having the big why and giving myself jolts of pain to push me along is one thing, but I also had to figure out that when I did stuff, it was the right stuff to be working on at the right time – in other words I prepared a very clear execution plan which continues today. High level the further out the timeline is, but down to daily activities or tasks that need to be completed and are mapped out over the next 90 days.
Also be aware that often a list of “things to do” can often be overwhelming. Like there is so may things to do you start making up new stories again – this time about not being able to do what you want to do. To prevent this, you need a circuit breaker – for me it is to ensure I can easily chunk up or chunk down my things to do, and I do this by using buckets and categories. For example, more broadly speaking I have these four big buckets…
- Emotional Mastery
- Relationship Mastery
- Physical Mastery
- Wealth Mastery
Under Wealth Mastery, I have various investment categories of which “Business” is one and under that, I have the five business challenges that I teach my students at The Startup Business School of…
Everything has a place, every place has a purpose and every purpose is connected to my ultimate vision. It takes time to put this together. A lot of soul searching and self-reflection, but I know if you invest them time then you can do this to.
If you are thinking however this guy is a bit intense, when does he every sleep?
Well I will tell you, I just woke up from my regular afternoon nap. Very refreshing I must say and now I am sitting down to write productively for the next hour. I will then be spending time on some other tasks – some of which will be learning new skills I need to master for my business.
You should try taking naps too – but of course your boss will not let you will they!
Well perhaps you should introduce your boss to some of the latest research around how our brains work – if that still doesn’t change your boss’s mind, then you become a boss OK (and I can help you with that!).
The other thing I am doing is that I am working at improving my brain function. I am certainly no expert in this field, but I am reading as much as I can to learn what things can I do.
For example, I subscribe to the online tool Lumosity. I have been using it on average 6 times a week for approximately 30 minutes a day. Based on Lumosity’s data – I am in the top 8% for my age category now – considering I started under the average. Can I see a difference yet? Well I think so – I think I am handling multiple activities more effectively now. Perhaps it will help you.
Next, I have finally come to terms with the reality, that for too many years I wish to remember, I have had a weight problem.
In fact, using measures such as the BMI or body mass indicator, I was classed as obese.
I am happy to say that I am not classed as obese any more – only over weight. I have reduced my weight by 16 kilograms and by the end of the year, I will be back to a healthy weight range. I will be writing about this in more detail in the future on what I have been doing and how this time, it has been so easy for me – no special exercise and no special diet and no boot camp or instructor!
I am telling you this because along with working on my brain I had to work on my body – this may be something you have to do as well. Make no excuses, if you are carrying excessive weight, it is holding back your productivity and likely to be impacting on your life aspirations, at lest options.
For me, the metaphor I would use in the changes I have embraced is a “house renovation”. Rather than the renovation thought, I have done the complete “knock down” and am now re-building from the ground up.
Perhaps your “house” is also beyond renovation like mine was – if it is, I hope you have dreams of building something extraordinary!
So let me recap on how you can get closer to your dreams, aspirations and the type of life style you may possibly be seeking by increasing your productivity 10X…
- You need a huge “why”
- Know what motivates you – pain or pleasure and use it to your advantage
- Create a clear execution plan or road map
- Chunk up or chunk down to avoid overwhelm
- Take afternoon naps
- Get your brain working
- Get your body functioning
It has taken me many years to get to where I am today and I am only just starting off – there is a long journey ahead of me. So my hope for you is a simple one, you take less time than me to come to this realisation as to what is possible for you.
But if for some reason this will not be the case, then I wish at least for you to still come to this belief no matter how much time it may take you.
Live a large life!
“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us.
We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you.
We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.” – Marianne Williamson
“A man without ethics is a wild beast loosed upon this world” Albert Camus
I have spoken on numerous occasions of my views that we are living in extraordinary times.
Deep down I am an optimist and I am overwhelmingly positive for our future.
However, that does not mean I am blind to the many challenges that we face today.
Whether it be the in-balance between extreme wealth and extreme poverty, access to adequate health care or just access to education as the big ticket items, it is also how we treat our environment and of course treat each other, which are areas that we need to collectively address.
Yet when I reflect on all these challenges, while also reflecting upon what I have seen over my professional career and my role in business, I keep coming back to the same theme…
You see I actually believe there is something perhaps even bigger than those challenges I have mentioned. I believe if we can somehow place greater focus on, it is possible that these other challenges will get the attention they well deserve.
What I am talking about here is that the greatest challenge we are all facing today is to address the absence of an ethical dimension to our lives.
Now I am not saying everyone is un-ethical – what I am trying to convey is that on a daily basis we are making decisions or choices that have an ethical consideration that need to be taken into account.
Have you ever read a news article or watched news broadcasts on TV and a business leader or politician etc. was caught out for some action, yet their defence was that they were not breaking any laws? Maybe they were not even breaking any company policies, or possibly even codes of conduct, but somehow when those behaviours or actions become public knowledge, we all felt disgust or disdain towards that particular individual?
Many years ago while working for the global technology firm EDS (later acquired by HP), I had the opportunity to facilitate a leadership program in which ethics was a key component. Much of the focus was around your responsibilities as a leader in terms of ethical decision making.
One exercise I recall was asking the class if it was OK to receive gifts from associates such as tickets to the football etc. How would you answer that question?
Peter Singer is a moral philosopher and currently the Ira W. DeCamp Professor of Bioethics at Princeton University. He specialises in applied ethics and approaches ethical issues from a secular, utilitarian perspective. In an interview several years back, he made the point that he was not necessarily prescribing an answer to people, only that they think more broadly of the consequences of their decisions.
For example, he challenged viewers that if there were starving children living next door to them, would it be more likely that they would do something to help alleviate that suffering and if that is the case, then what are they doing to help alleviate the suffering for the people they cannot see. Why are they possibly making a distinction when the need is the same?
This is of course is really challenging and at times confronting thinking, but this is really the point I am making – we need to think more broadly of the consequences of our decisions.
Coming back to my experience with EDS and the leadership program, there was a very elegant framework to assist employees navigate the minefield of all the possible situations they could be placed in, many of which may not have clear company polices, codes of conduct or even actual laws. It is what they called “modelling ethical behaviour” and I have reproduced my version of it here…
Guidelines for Ethical Decisions
Ask yourself these questions as a guide for making ethical decisions:
- Is it legal?
- Is it a violation of the company Code of Business Conduct?
- How will it make you feel about yourself?
- How will others who are affected react?
- How would you feel if the world knew about it?
- Does the behaviour make sense?
- Is the outcome appropriately fair to everyone involved?
- Will your leader and your leader’s leader approve?
I have not found any decision that I have been faced with, or even in general, where these guidelines cannot support. I have also now embraced these guidelines across my companies and while they do not necessarily represent a corporate social responsibility policy, they are nevertheless a start. We also use them as a checklist as well as discussion points for our team meetings that include both suppliers and customers.
Perhaps if you have not done so already, consider implementing your own Guidelines for Ethical Decisions and who knows, they may even contribute towards addressing what I believe is the greatest challenge we are all facing today.
“A man who does not plan long ahead will find trouble at his door.” Confucius
Over the years, when it comes to business planning, I have found people (or businesses) generally fall within one of six groups…
The Sceptics – these people just do not buy into the whole idea of business planning and they wonder why the world is going past them.
The Un-Initiated – these people are just starting off with their business and are yet to understand that this is a critical aspect of having a business, but they would be open to it with the right support.
The Battlers – these people do not quite understand the importance of business planning, but are prepared to have a go.
The Theorists – these people know the importance of business planning but never do it.
The Apprentices – these people know the importance of business planning, but are not good at it.
The Master Practitioners – these people know the importance of business planning and execute it with precision.
Which group do you or your business, fall in to?
“By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.” Benjamin Franklin
So why is it that for many, business planning seems to be quite abstract and not valued for them?
Possibly a reason for this is that the whole strategic business planning process can appear to be quite complex with a lot of terminology being used and many concepts overlapping with each other or come after or before each other, or are even contradictory.
For example, Vision versus Mission.
My preference is that Vision comes first as the ultimate “why” and the Mission the sets out to achieve the Vision. However sometimes when we are on a journey, we just don’t know what we are seeking, hence the Mission may precede the Vision.
“As for the future, your task is not to foresee it, but to enable it.” Antoine de Saint Exupery
Another factor for this perception of business planning not being valued, is that strategic business planning tends to suggest you need assistance, maybe a consultant.
Well there is certainly value in having an independent third party to assist you in your planning, but if we recognise that strategic planning is a process with clear steps, then perhaps you can do it yourself – in fact I recommend that.
That’s why I have put together a 10 Step Strategic Business Planning Process to provide structure, as well as to align daily and weekly actions to your longer term goals and strategic vision.
I illustrate the ten steps in a way to create alignment all the way between Vision at the top, to Measurement at the bottom. That is, if you read it from top to bottom, each step provides the “how” in achieving the pre-ceding step. For example, “how are we going to achieve our Goals & Objectives is with our Strategies”. Also from bottom to top we can clarify the “why”. For example, “why are we doing these Tactics, Actions and Tasks is because we have these Strategies”.
“Planning is bringing the future into the present so that you can do something about it now.” Alan Lakein
So let us now expand on the 10 Step Strategic Business Planning Process…
Vision is the “what I see”.
Mission is “what I do”.
Values are “who I am and what I stand for”.
SWOT defines your Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats and the outputs provide insights for you to develop your Goals & Objectives.
Your Goals & Objectives are about the “what” and can be over a 3 to 10 year or more, time frame.
Strategies are about the “how” and focuses on the next 12 months and support your Goals & Objectives.
Tactics, Actions & Tasks is what you need to do on a quarterly, monthly and weekly basis to achieve your Strategies.
Execution Plan pulls altogether in one location visually, showing the journey or road map.
Measure is the monthly progress check points, the quarterly reviews and annual strategic planning session to re-set the plan commencing with the SWOT Analysis and repeating all the steps again.
Systems are about putting in place mechanisms, process, tools and technologies to embed the planning process into your business – it could be as simple as blocking time in your calendar for the next twelve months with all the key planning and review meetings.
“If you are failing to plan, you are planning to fail.” Tariq Siddique
But of course the last word must be left to the business management guru himself…
“Plans are only good intentions unless they immediately degenerate into hard work.” Peter Drucker
I want you to really listen to me now…
Can you do that?
Because, this is the big one.
No more one day I will do it, or I will get around to that.
Stop the BS!
It starts today.
Today is the first day of the rest of your life.
What are you going to do?
Look I maybe coming out of the box a little harsh, maybe I did not have my chill pills, but listen, get on with it.
Embrace life, embrace your life purpose, chase your dream down.
Like what are you waiting for?
Don’t wait for those special birthdays with zeros at the end as though they are something symbolic.
Don’t wait for the end of the calendar year – the new year resolutions – like does it really matter if you start chasing your dream on a Saturday afternoon?
Don’t wait for things to be perfect because guess what, they never will be perfect.
Don’t blame your past – cause you can’t change that.
Maybe you have had it tougher than me, well I get that.
But maybe there are others who have it tougher than you?
Or maybe there are people right now that need to hear your story of how you’ve climbed your mountain.
Whatever, no more excuses.
Get off your friggen back side.
Look yourself in the mirror.
Guys, man up!
Women, step up!
“I am too busy…”
“I am too tired…”
“I don’t know what to do…”
For friggen sake, listen to yourself, can’t you see there is a pattern of behaviour going on here and it’s not about me, it’s you?
This very minute, this very second, you can make a decision that will put your life on a different course forever…
You may not see that now.
You may not notice the change next week.
But slowly you will become the person who you really wish to be and live that dream.
Open that savings plan today!
Make that phone call today!
Start your business today!
Whatever it is for you, do it, do it today, do it now!!!
If you want to have a different life, a bigger life, whatever that means to you, make it happen today, right now.
Years back, if somebody took me aside and had that conversation with me – who knows where I would be today. But I have had to figure it out myself. It hasn’t always been easy. Sometimes I think about things I should have done, things I should have said to others, or importantly not said at all.
I should have been less selfish and caught up in my own world and instead, thought of others.
I cannot change that, that’s my past, but that is not who I am today.
I do know that sometimes we need a firm and honest conversation.
To call it out for what it really is.
I want you to know that although we may never meet, my words are deep from my heart to you.
I believe in you.
I believe today is the day you have been waiting for.
You are ready and I just cannot wait to hear your story.
You’re going to make a huge difference. You’re going to inspire so many to follow you in your footsteps.
That’s your legacy.
Your life is now changed for ever.
Some years back I was in Sweden visiting friends. It was actually a reunion and we were camping on a farmer’s property. Very picturesque. Mid-summer by a lake, with a forest all around us.
I got to talking to the farmer and he explained to me he would be shortly harvesting some of the forest that was planted by his grandfather, but at the same time he was planting new trees with his son. You see, the time between planting and harvest basically went beyond one family’s generation.
I was really impressed by this because to me it summed up everything about being a steward for the future. About investing, no short cuts, just patience and of course having a future vision.
How do you see your business? Can you visualise what you are doing today and how that might be in say just ten years, in comparison to my Swedish farmer of fifty years?
If you have not read Peter Schwarz’s book The Art Of The Long View, you should. I mean Schwarz challenges us to think really long term, beyond our own lives. To me, this really gets you shifting beyond self and your own immediate needs and circumstances.
On his website you will read the story of the 10,000-year clock project – a clock currently being built and is designed to tick just once a year and the century hand advances once every one hundred years!
Now some might say “what’s the value of that?”- well for you and me today, possibly not much, unless we really reflect on what this may mean in our lives today symbolically.
I believe a challenge in our modern society is we think and plan short term.
By short term I think it is typically a few years for governments (ie between election cycles) and for businesses, often just the next twelve months. I guess that is OK, but what is the big picture here?
You may argue that with technology and particularly today with globalisation and digital disruption, the next twelve months is all you can plan for. Well I get that, but I think we need to challenge that paradigm at the same time.
While we may not necessarily predict the future (though Marty McFly and Doc Brown went close!) we should anticipate the future.
“The future is the ONLY thing we can do anything about.” –Hillis
We should consider possible scenarios that could play out. I am not talking about best case or worst case, I mean considering thoughtfully of our role or our businesses role, today and how that may be in just ten years’ time to start with.
How might the need for your services be in ten years time? The skills and capabilities you have today, will they still be in demand or has something changed?
Thinking more broadly, is it possible that in many societies, governments will not be in a position to support many of the services that they currently support today? What could the threat of global warming have in just ten years’ time? More forest fires? People being displaced from low lying islands? Will that have an influence on various investment instruments and global economics?
What are the new opportunities and the new services required? How will these services be delivered? How will communities interact? What help will they need?
We can go on and on with these questions and the answers are anyone’s guess. The point I am making here is that we all need to just take time out and consider the future and our role in it.
From a practical point of view, I think it is essential that all of us should do this each year. Take time out and ponder those questions. Consider scenarios, the threats, the opportunities, and make plans accordingly.
Finally, think about my Swedish farmer and his son planting trees for the future.
“Helen, check this out!” Kenny says with urgency.
“Helen! You have to see what they are up to now!”, Kenny says with even a greater sense of urgency.
“Who Kenny, who are up to what?”, Helen answers.
“You know, those guys I have been telling you about, the ones that are copying what we do in our online business”
“Let me see” Helen responds back to Kenny.
“You are so right, it looks like they have a similar catalogue, but wait look at this…. Wow!” Helen says as she leans back into her chair.
Have you ever had a time when your competitors absolutely wowed you like they just did with Helen?
You see Helen Lee runs a fashion business that had its roots in retail stores in high streets across London, but has recently expanded into an online portal where her business is now starting to sell and ship to clients globally.
Her high end fashion label garments are sourced through family connections in China which she traditionally imported in to the UK, but she thinks it may be possible now to ship directly from the factory in China. That is if she can get all the moving parts working together. But the presence of this direct competitor in her market is stressing her out. They seem to be moving very fast and gaining a loyal following, well so it seems at least.
Transitioning into new business models is not easy.
It requires planning and of course doing things differently. Particular it is a challenge when there are new entrants into your market that seem to be re-writing the rules of business – the very same rules that your business once wrote in the old days of bricks and mortar!
So what can be done? How would you help Helen? What advice would you provide her?
Would you tell her to get out of high street shops and concentrate on online only? Or would you suggest she needs to keep doing what she is doing currently, a dual strategy that crosses from tradition to the digital economy?
Well we are probably sure of one thing, within Helen’s extended family, she is likely to be getting a lot of advice, but where to start first?
Helen however is a very smart and successful business woman. Its just that she is faced with a new challenge. So she decided to do something that she did when she first set up her business years ago and felt she should revisit this again. In fact, she reflected on that it should have been something she routinely undertook because it was likely that if she did, she would not be in the situation she is in today.
Helen called her key managers in for a meeting. She said there was a need for “time out” and she explained to them their predicament. She asked them to consider this over the next week, where they would spend a full day, or more if they have to, together brainstorming ideas, but also looking at their strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats – yes that’s right, a whole day doing a SWOT Analysis!
Would you have suggested to Helen a similar activity?
Perhaps, perhaps not.
There is an interesting concept known as the Contingency Theory of Change, in a nut shell, it just means there are many varying factors so that one response for one situation gets a certain type of outcome but repeating this same response in a different context can get an entirely different outcome. As for Helen, clearly she understood an “intervention” was required and her business acumen drew her to more objective analysis of the situation by using a strategic planning tool such as the SWOT. Helen was also astute to know if things had to be turned around, she needed all of her team to be on-board as well.
We will follow up on Helen in a future post, to see how the workshop and the SWOT Analysis went.
The key message though, is that we can get off track very easily in business.
Our best intentions are there and we think we are doing all the right things and working very hard at it, but then the rules change and if we do not respond and sometimes respond fast, well we will be out of business.
Many years ago Joel Barker wrote the book “The Paradigm Shift” . At the time he spoke of companies like Kodak and Swiss watch makers and how they had to re-invent themselves.
However, the paradigm shift today is probably more relevant, considering the speed of these shifts and their global impact. You do not have to go far when we think of the new economy businesses today like Uber and AirBNB and how disruptive they are to the markets they are in.