Less is More

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I’ve been hooked on reading an autobiography of my favorite soccer player Michelle Akers called The Game and the Glory. I can’t put it down. I wrote more about it in a previous post that you can read here. I can resonate so much with her willpower and determination, and this keep-going attitude. Nothing stops her, not even the Chronic Fatigue Immune Deficiency Syndrome (CFIDS) she was battling.

There is one story that really stuck out to me indirectly as I struggle with it all the time—and that’s the need to pace yourself, to care for yourself and rest. In the book, Akers describes how her trainer had a very specific program to follow in order to help prep her for the World Cup tournament. This training was specific and took into consideration the effect that CFIDS had on her body. Week after week, Akers’ performance numbers were going down. Thinking that Akers was perhaps slacking, the trainer was puzzled and frustrated and confronted her about it.

As it turns out Akers was training the 2 hours per session as instructed, but slacking was far from the truth. The trainer didn’t know that after training with him, Akers was putting in another 2 hours of practice. There was a thinking that if she put in double the time, she would output faster results. It didn’t work that way. Her extra training beyond scope actually hurt her body double time, and it took longer to recover from that extra strain.

This story sticks out because I do this all the time. I’ll cram in a 48 hour day into the 24 hour template and then pay the consequences of tiredness for days after. Or I’ll push through anyway and weeks later it all catches up to me. Push more, work harder, work faster…it doesn’t always output the results you intend. Often times, I deeply burn out. For whatever reason, I keep relearning this lesson again and again and again—and again. It’s a habit that is so hard to kick.

As Shauna Niequist writes in her awesome book, Present Over Perfect:

“I want less of everything. Less stuff. Less rushing. Less proving and pushing. Less hustle. Less consumption. […] I’ll come back around this block a thousand times in my lifetime, probably. I hope I’m getting better at it.”

And I want to get better at this too.


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Track Successes Too

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Some habits go the extreme and become rituals. Not that all rituals are bad, but some become a rigid obsession for better or for worse. One of my favorite things to read about are the lives of people and their habitual rituals, which made the book Daily Rituals: How Artists Work by Mason Currey a fascinating read.

Benjamin Franklin had a strong obsession to habitualize “moral perfection” and practiced perfecting one virtue per week. It seemed quite philosophical of a habit. He went to the extreme of tracking his offenses with a black dot on his calendar daily. This of course is quite unrealistic, but I admire him trying to be so moral. You can read more about the thirteen virtues Franklin studied and his paper tracking system across the internet.

What I would reverse if I practiced this ritual in hopes of forming a habit is to track my successes rather than my offenses. Our society is so big on tracking failures, but we rarely track the good things we do, the wins. It’s important to recognize your failures in order to learn from them, but the successes are important too, even the small ones. When you do good, you want to continue. When you track an offense, you are more willing to quit.

As it turns out, Franklin’s habit tracking here didn’t last long.


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Slow it Down

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If there is one thing I will always remember my therapist saying when I got highly stressed, it’s to “slow it down”. And time and time again, when I do indeed do this, the results are far better than if I had kept banging my head against the wall. That by slowing it down, we can actually get to our desired destination faster.—yes, it’s true. Our emotions are easier to deal with at smaller scales, and mastering one small step gives us the confidence to take the next.

It is the tortoise that wins the race isn’t it? It’s not the fast, overexerting hare. Gary Vaynerchuk swears by this practice: “You may think I’m frantic…intense…fast…but look closer and understand: Patience matters.” [/] “I’m not going to become a billionaire overnight like Zucks or like Sacca or like Travis, but I’m going to get there as a tortoise. Which is going to confuse everybody because I have a hare’s costume.”

Pressfield talks about the importance of delayed gratification so not to rush into actions and decisions not thoroughly thought out. Quick is where mistakes are made. “The professional arms himself with patience, not only to give the stars time to align in his career, but to keep himself from flaming out on each individual work.”

Josh Waitzkin, chess player and martial arts competitor, shares the idea of focusing on the micro instead of the macro. Master the smaller techniques and don’t be overwhelmed by the larger picture. When we focus on the brick-by-brick attention, we can slow it down and understand that each small action mastered will eventually build up to complete the grander view. After all, the cathedral is built brick-by-brick. The tortoise will get there faster by being patient, smart, and steady.

We can get somewhere faster by working slower. If you think about it, this is quite a beautiful thing and somewhat a sigh of relief. It’s okay to take a breath. You have time for this. This is a never-ending practice for me and a goal to constantly get better at.


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Three Central Values

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In his book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, Stephen Covey references Victor Frankl’s perspective about how there are three central values in life:

  1. Experiential: What happens to us
  2. Creative: What we bring into existence
  3. Attitudinal: Our response to difficult circumstances

Covey highlights that the greatest value here is attitudinal because it’s important how we respond to situations and reframe them in a positive way. While I agree with this assessment, I think it’s also important to put equal emphasis on the creative value. If we simply lived in experiential and attitudinal, we would be in an endless cycle of “this happens” and “this is my reaction”. This back and forth tennis match is not the most exciting. Covey explains the importance of being proactive, which is good; but still the creative gets little attention.

Creative is what brings in the new, the inspiration, and the change. While experiential and attitudinal is important, no doubt, I think there needs to be more creative in order to positively aid attitudinal and exit a negative paradigm.


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What is the Most Valuable Land?

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“What do you think is the most valuable land in the world?”

Several people threw out guesses, such as Manhattan, the oil fields of the Middle East, and the gold mines of South Africa, before our friend indicated that we were way off track. He paused for a moment, and said, “You’re all wrong. The most valuable land in the world is the graveyard. In the graveyard are buried all of the unwritten novels, never-launched businesses, unreconciled relationships, and all of the other things that people thought, ‘I’ll get around to that tomorrow.’ One day, however, their tomorrows ran out.”

– Todd Henry, Die Empty

I like this thought because it reminds me that we only have one shot on this planet. There is another quote that says “Doubt kills more dreams than failure ever does,” and I don’t want to be in this scenario. I want to leave a legacy at my grave, not a wonder of what could have been.

I’ve heard this question and answer a few times recently in other media channels, and it’s a good reminder to step back and reflect on what you’re doing with your life. It’s as valuable as you make it.


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We Sell to Committees

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In the book Dealstorming, Tim Sanders describes how deals are becoming more difficult to close because there are more decision-makers, there is more information at a prospects fingertips, there is an increasing complexity with the technology of products and services, and there are more competitors in the marketplace. The number of decision-makers involved in deals are increasing by 15% each year in the tech industry with an average of 5 decision-makers in the process of most deals. Selling to a committee is hard.

What is also more challenging is the fact that customers are being involved later in the buying process. They are often 60% into their purchasing decision before talking to sales. Buyers don’t need a sales person to explain the details. They will look it up on their own because they think they know the problem, solution, and fair price for this solution. Gone are the days of presenting a problem and providing a solution. The purpose of sales is to “re-educate” the buyer to make corrections to their presumptions.

To be successful in sales, we need to understand how consumers find, vet, and buy products. And at today’s competitive age, we need to be more concerned about retention in order to keep buyers coming back. Retention is more important than the number of new sales.


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Prioritizing Your Debt

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I have often read and heard from financial experts about paying down debts from lowest balance to highest, obviously paying at least minimum on all of them. This “snowball” effect, as it is commonly termed, makes sense. However, this is just a psychological benefit. It’s a “win” to pay off a quick low balance to continue on with paying the next.

It’s refreshing to hear, however, the other choice: to pay down debts from highest APR to lowest, again paying at least minimum on all of them. It makes sense to choose a choice that mathematically makes more sense.

The way I see it, you’re either motivated to pay off your debt or you’re not. Why pay more in the snowball method to psychologically feel a win? If you do the math there, the psychology doesn’t add up quite right–but I get it.

I’ve paid for my schooling out-of-pocket my entire life, through undergrad and my first three years of grad school; and I am quite proud of this hard work in doing so. My final two years of grad school created some debt, but not comparatively to those I hear from other students. School debt is definitely a problem, but it’s too important to equally stay engaged in learning how to get a handle on it, and from various perspectives.


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Rich vs Wealthy

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“Wealth is measured in time, not dollars.”

Being rich is only about making money. People can make money, but often times it simply goes straight to their expenses. Being wealthy is different. In the very interesting book, Rich Dad Poor Dad, Robert Kiyosaki describes how being rich is not the same thing as being wealthy, and wealthy is where you want to be.

He defines “wealth” as “the number of days you can survive without physically working (or anyone in your household physically working) and still maintain your standard of living.” Wealth is measured in time, not in dollars. How many days can you survive without working? That number is your wealth. When you are wealthy, you are considered financially free.

I find this differentiation to be so interesting and very simple to understand. The definitions on these terms seem to vary from person to person given their perspective, but I think this explanation really makes it clear.


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There is No Know-It-All

Steven Pressfield’s book The War of Art has recently become one of my favorite reads, and I regularly go back to it. If you’re an artist of any kind, or if you enjoy creating things, I highly recommend this book. It provides a good list of points to combat resistance that may be blocking your creativity.

In one section, Pressfield highlights the importance of understanding what you don’t know:

“She gets an agent, she gets a lawyer, she gets an accountant. She knows she can only be a professional at one thing. She brings in other pros and treats them with respect.”

Here, Pressfield is making a point that when you don’t know something, you should bring in an expert who does. Include this person as part of your team in order to stay focused on your own work at hand. Don’t try to be a “know-it-all”—these people don’t exist. If you think you know a know-it-all or believe you are one yourself, you have been fooled. Believing this will surely cause obstacles in the road.

Being vulnerable to look at what you don’t know can be difficult, but it’s honorable to be truthful in understanding this so that you can keep your work moving forward and not falsely push it backward to save your pride instead.

A true professional knows what they don’t know and when to call for assistance from other experts.


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The Proactive Model

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Stephen Covey describes the difference between proactive and reactive people. Perhaps is easy for us to identify others as being proactive or reactive, but how about yourself? I thought Covey introduces the concept nicely by breaking down the word responsibility—which breaks down to “response-ability”. How do you choose to respond to scenarios? This is important because your response impacts your ability to succeed. In summary, Covey says:

“Proactive people are still influenced by external stimuli, whether physical, social, or psychological. But their response to the stimuli, conscious or unconscious, is a value-based choice or response.”

Value-based decisions resonate so well with me because I feel it’s the uncommon route for many. How wonderful the world would be if this type of decision-making process was at the core. It’s hard to stick to your values when the external stimuli is trying to influence you otherwise generally for someone else’s hidden agenda.

You do have the ability to choose your response, and this proactive response will get you ahead.


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