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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Attention

Photo of a kid shouting into a mic

In one of his keynotes, Gary Vaynerchuk talks a bit about how “attention is the number one currency in our society”. This shouldn’t be a surprise right? Yet, it’s not always understood, especially when it comes to marketing.

Before you start chatting about how great you are or selling about how wonderful your products are, you need my attention first in order for me to listen or care. In today’s very noisy landscape of ever-expanding media channels constantly coming in at all our senses, we need to understand that attention comes first. And if I can’t relate to you, or if I don’t trust you, you don’t have my attention. Despite how awesome you say your product or service is, it’s noise; and people are really good at selective listening.

So there is the landscape of “competitors” to be aware of in business, but the greatest competition is that of being heard.

One thing that has always stuck with me was from an undergrad marketing class I took where the instructor was lecturing about the A.I.R. concept. In order to market something, your product or service needs A.I.R. – First it must grab attention. Second, it must hold your attention with interest. Lastly, it must be so impactful that the customer will recall your brand.

Maybe you read this post, or maybe you thought it was noise. It’s interesting that you have that choice to decide.


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Accelerate Your Learning in 20 Hours

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I have an obsession with learning. I really have a hard time going one day without opening a book, reading an article, or listening to a podcast. I deeply love learning new things and building up skills to achieve my goals. However, one of the things you discover about yourself while you learn is that there is SO much that you don’t know! I mean, it’s great that I’m ambitious about studying something a bit each day, but it’s also overwhelming to know how much I still want to learn. I start reading something, and then I think ooo I want to learn that! I start coding something, and then I think ooo I need to learn that! Pretty soon I have a list a mile long about everything I want to learn, and this can sometimes lead to paralysis.

The truth of the matter is though we cannot be masters of everything—and this is okay! In the podcast called Good Life Project, Jonathan Fields talks with Josh Kaufman, learning hacker and author, about accelerated learning: how to get good at anything in 20 hours. Twenty hours beats the 100 I’ve been spending, so I was intrigued to listen. In the discussion, Kaufman provided some great tips, and I left with a few aha’s:

1. You don’t need to be a master.

Can we all breathe a sigh of relief on this one? I am a bit of a perfectionist at times, and when this gets in the way of my learning I can be studying subjects forever trying to master every detail of foundation skills before continuing. This is a great reason why I struggled in some of my school classes—because I’m learning the “terms” and “foundation” of computer programming or statistics or whatever, but I’m not putting the pieces together to create a larger picture. There is a lot of foundation and terms involved when learning subjects, but you don’t need to know all 925,994 of them at one time before continuing on to apply the knowledge and create something…which leads me to the next point.

2. Learn by achieving a goal.

The desire-to-learn itch first starts with interest, some sort of passion to learn the thing you are trying to learn. Often times, this passion is attached to a goal—Stay on track with your goal! If your goal is to learn how to build a to-do-list android app, don’t be learning how to build a shopping app in xcode because you think this will teach you the “foundation of all app development”. I’ve made the mistake here too often trying to learn “all of programming” to complete my project only to find myself getting frustrated, bored, and going nowhere. If you have a specific goal, you are better able to narrow down your focus to learn only the subject areas required to achieve your goal. This will save you time in the process, and you’ll be more passionate about it because this learning will directly impact your goal. When you see results, you are more likely to continue.

We are often not trying to learn something in order to be a master at it. We’re trying to learn just enough to accomplish a goal, complete a project, finish a task, or do some sort of action.

3. Sleep on it.

Kaufman shares a tip supported by research about how you can better learn material when you interrupt it with sleep. He suggests learning in the 4-hour window before you go to sleep, then wake up in the morning and revisit your learning first thing. That sleep interruption does something to help you absorb what you just studied. It can be overwhelming to learn something new, and this sleep break is good. When you wake up, you are refreshed, and the repetition of revisiting what you learned helps promote clarity and understanding of the material. It’s like a reflection exercise to review what you learned.

In summary, in order to learn something quickly, we need to set a goal we are passionate about (and be specific here!), learn only the skills needed to reach this specific goal, and get a good nights sleep surrounded by some study-time bookends. Sounds pretty doable.


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Podcast: Accelerated Learning: Get Good at Anything in 20 Hours, Good Life Project


 

There is an Offline

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“Word of mouth is more targeted.”

I am fascinated by Jonah Berger’s book I am currently reading called Contagious, where he talks about why things catch on. Why do some things go viral and some don’t? It’s a good book to complement The Tipping Point, by Malcolm Gladwell, of which I thoroughly enjoyed reading as well.

One thing that struck me is the answer to the question: what percent of word of mouth occurs online? If you’re like me you may guess a large number, perhaps even above 50%. Berger highlights research by Keller Fay Group that only 7% of word-of-mouth occurs online. Wait, what?!

If you think about it however, this makes sense. We (society) may spend a lot of time online, but it’s not 24/7. The average person spends a few hours a day on social media, but there are 24 hours in a day. Comparatively, those few hours are not much in the bigger picture. Top off the fact that just because people are online doesn’t mean they are consuming your content or talking about it.—Yep, people are not waiting at the edge of their seat for your next social media ad to appear in their feed. Shocking I know.

“We tend to overestimate online word of mouth because it’s easier to see.”

It’s easy to get hung up on “numbers”, the analytics that social media “tools” provide us. However, be careful here because it’s dangerous to get hung up only on things that can be seen without inserting perspective on what is not as quantitative.

Companies still grew when social media didn’t exist in the past. There still is an offline world. Just take a look at Seth Godin, the best-selling author of 18 books alongside admirable work in entrepreneurship and marketing. Aside from his daily blog, he doesn’t use social media channels. He doesn’t need it and is doing just fine.

Makes you think.


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Remove Time Thieves

Know the difference between important and urgent, and do important first. – Steven Pressfield

Time is a Poor Indicator

Tim Ferriss argues that time spent at the office is a terrible metric for productivity. Often times we are spending our time doing unimportant tasks simply to fill up the time. Location in the office doesn’t mean you are spending time doing the right things. Focus on the 80/20 rule where 20% of the work produces 80% of the results. How do you know if something is important? Ask yourself, “If this was the only thing I did today, would I be happy with this day?”

Get rid of time thieves and focus only on what is important. Email is one of our greatest time thieves, and Ferriss stresses to not start our days by reading email, as do many other people I’ve researched. In fact, he challenges you to only check email twice a day and get it down to once per week. Can you imagine!?

Don’t Take Calls

Tim Ferriss says that one way we can save time is by letting phone calls go to voicemail, text, or email to answer later. Very rarely does a call require the need to interrupt your work at that moment to tend to its distraction. Add the task of addressing calls to the time block when you address email, and do it in a concentrated time.

Urgent verse Important Tasks

Maria Forleo highlights Steven Pressfield’s work when she describes that there is a difference between urgent and important tasks. Urgent tasks often only feel urgent, and these tasks will always keep you behind. The moment someone says “this task is urgent”, you put on hold your entire planned workflow to fix this one urgent thing. At this point, you get off track, and it eats up time to get back on track. Lastly, things that are “urgent” often relate to other people’s goals, not your own; therefore, it’s a bit hard to get your real mission work done.


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Hit the Buzzer First

Photo of a buzzer

In a MarieTV podcast episode, Seth Godin talks with Marie Forleo about not waiting for the right moment. Godin explains that some people are more productive than others because they have the instinct to ship, and they generate output by doing so. They don’t have an instinct to polish.

“Most people hesitate to ship not because it’s not ready but because they are afraid.”

Godin continues to share this concept with an observation about Jeopard. People who win at that game may not be smarter than the other contestants, but they know how to press the buzzer first. They hit the buzzer before they know the answer. In that last moment, they come up with a response to say. Whether it’s right or not, they seize the opportunity to try to win.

When you’re invited to give a presentation, when you’re given a project assignment, when you sign up for something to do–you don’t have that thing done before you commit to doing it. You hit the buzzer first and work on completing it before deadline. Most people hesitate to commit to anything because of fear in their output.


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