Inspired by James Altucher
Grit by Angela Duckworth
The most dazzling human achievements are, in fact, the aggregate of countless individual elements, each of which is, in a sense, ordinary.” -Angela Duckworth, Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance
Our society causes us to believe that talent leads to great performances. We tend to marvel at the natural talent of others and overlook the importance of effort. Surveys show that people commend effort, but don’t actually believe it can compete with natural talent.
Angela Duckworth challenges this belief by researching top performers and documenting her findings in the book ‘Grit.’ I’ve taken the time to summarize ‘Grit’ into the following core message (video + 1-page PDF):
1-Page PDF Summary of Grit
When you’re feeling stressed and overwhelmed by a mountain of ‘to-dos’, try asking yourself the following list of questions (core questions plus ‘–>’ follow-up questions):
Get out a piece of paper or open up a Word file and answer the following questions by writing down whatever comes to your mind (stream of consciousness exercise):
Remembering that I’ll be dead soon is the most important tool I’ve ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life.Almost everything–all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure–these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important.” – Steve Jobs
Just ONE Thing:
- Cross out 50% of that list and re-write the remaining 50% to make a new list.
- Ask the question again and cross out another 50%.
- Continue this process until you have 1 or 2 items remaining.
Less is More:
**If you’d like a PDF checklist of these questions for your records click here: Overwhelm Elimination Checklist
Anything You Want by Derek Sivers
Don’t be on your deathbed someday, having squandered your one chance at life, full of regret because you pursued little distractions instead of big dreams.” – Derek Sivers, Anything You Want
‘Anything You Want’ is a book about author Derek Sivers journey of accidentally starting a company and growing it into a $20 million business.
The book contains 40 lessons for aspiring entrepreneurs. I’ve condensed those 40 lessons into a three part story (5-minutes in total) to illustrate how you can start a company, grow a company and know when to leave your company:
1-Page PDF Summary of Insights from Anything You Want
Does your goal inspire immediate action?
Establish a Higher Standard for Yourself
Develop a higher standard for yourself by establishing a feeling or image of someone you aspire to be. As Arnold Schwarzenegger says: “Dig deep down and ask yourself ‘who do you want to be?’ Not what, but who.” It need not be a specific person. Arnold’s standard was simply being: ‘The best bodybuilder of all time.’ He lived that standard every day until the reality matched his results.
Once you establish your standard, strip all the emotion out of it. Make it simply who you are, not who you hope to be. Become indifferent to any other way of being. This makes your brain want to quickly bridge the gap between your current reality and who you know yourself to be, thus making you more likely to take immediate action.
Challenge Yourself With Something BIGGER
In the book, ‘The Magic of Thinking Big’, author David Schwartz explains the advantage of thinking big:
Big thinkers are specialists in creating positive, forward-looking, optimistic pictures in their own minds and in the minds of others.” – David Schwartz
Without big goals you’ll avoid taking the first step towards achieving something great.
Think little goals and expect little achievements. Think big goals and win big success.” – David Schwartz
Big goals are useful because they come equipped with a great fall back plan.
Shoot for the moon. Even if you miss, you‘ll land among the stars.” – Norman Vincent Peale
Modify your goal until it inspires action.
Remember: It’s not what a goal is, it’s what a goal does.
Envision the Obstacles You’ll Overcome
Envision the act of overcoming obstacles along the way. See the act of overcoming obstacles as enjoyable.
The best way to get people up and moving was to ask them to dream and then to confront them right away with the realities that stood in the way of their dreams.” – Gabriele Oettingen
Therefore, once you establish your higher standard (step 1) and aim for a BIG result (step 2), envision yourself overcoming obstacles you’re likely to face. Doing so will make you more resilient when setbacks occur and less afraid of falling short of your goal, thus making you more likely to take action.
What harsh realities are you likely to face? See those obstacles as a chance to show your skills. Get excited at the idea of eliminating the obstacles in your way.
BONUS: visualizing yourself overcoming obstacles from the ‘3rd person’ perspective will increase the likelihood of taking action by 20% according to a 2007 Ohio State University study.
Rehearse ‘When-Then’ Routines
Think: “When X occurs, I will do Y.”
Example: “When I wake up, I will put on my running shoes and gym clothes located next to my bed and go for a 10-minute run outside.”
When you rehearse a ‘when-then’ routine you are setting what psychologists call an ‘implementation intention’. Over 200 studies at Columbia’s Motivation Science Center show that we are 300% more likely to achieve our goals when we use this approach (source).
We are often slow to act because the instructions we give ourself are abstract (i.e. lose weight). ‘When-then’ routines clarify when you need to take action and what action you need to take (trigger + routine). This allows your brain to take action without hesitation.
By rehearsing ‘when-then’ routines you are effectively forming a habit. Over time, a well-formed habit seems effortless and automatic. The more we perform a habit the harder it becomes for us to not do it (consider the last time you went to bed without brushing your teeth).
Therefore, if you want to take consistent action towards your goal, rehearse ‘when-then’ routines.
Make Starting Stupid Easy
Scale back the requirement to get start to something that you consider stupid easy.
If your goal is to write more set the daily requirement for a successful writing session at 50 random words. Lowering the daily requirement makes you much more likely to start writing.
When the minimum requirement is too high (i.e. go to the gym and work out for 90 minutes every day when you haven’t worked out for 5 years), you’ll get overwhelmed and search for an easy, more pleasurable alternative (i.e. sit on the couch and eat an entire bag of Doritos). By lower the requirements you make starting easy and allow yourself to experience a greater reward.
Want to be a better golfer? Make the daily minimum requirement simply to pick up a golf club and swing it once. Any additional swings feel like a bonus.
Want to get stronger and fitter? Make the daily minimum requirement simply to do 1 push-up. Any additional push-ups feel like a bonus.
Here’s a dirty little secret: you rarely just do the minimum. Eighty percent of anything is starting. Once started you find it easy to continue once you have momentum. By thinking of everything beyond the minimum requirement as a bonus you will feel a greater sense of accomplishment for any extra work you put in.
Most goals are a daydream, a reality you hope to achieve one day. But remember:
Hope is a start. But hope needs action to win victories” – David J. Schwartz
Use the S.C.O.R.E. framework to take more action and achieve your goals. Remember to set a higher Standard, Challenge yourself with something bigger, get excited about overcoming the Obstacles, Rehearse ‘when-then’ routines and make the starting requirements stupid Easy.
Your desire to figure things out right now is what prevents you from being able to figure things out…” – Barbara Oakley, Ph.D
Great artists, scientists, engineers, and chess masters tap into the natural rhythm of their brains to learn and master their craft. In ‘A Mind For Numbers‘, author Barbara Oakley describes how she leveraged her brains natural rhythm to learn Math and Science after years of frustration.
Watch the following video to understand how you can leverage your brain’s natural rhythm and learn any skill:
1-Page PDF Summary of Insights from ‘A Mind for Numbers’
Being busy is not the same as being productive.
If you examine your day you’ll notice that 80% of your time is being filled with low-return activities.
To prevent your time from being eroded by low-value activities you need to say ‘no’ more often. However, saying ‘no’ can damage a personal relationship.
Here are 10 responses you can use to defend against incoming requests and protect your time – WITHOUT damaging relationships.
“If I say yes to this, I’ll be saying no to ___”
- Works well when asked to make large time commitments: “Unfortunately if I say yes to this project, I’ll being saying no to my __(health, family, etc.)__, and I am not willing to do that at this time.”
“No for now, but I’ll let you know if something changes.”
- You leave the person with a feeling of hope and make less likely to persist with the request.
- Your response isn’t a lie because if circumstances do change you might want to accept their request.
- This is a great default response to avoid taking on too much but still leaving your options open.
The graceful “No”:
- Start with warmth: “Thank you for your consideration.”
- Continue with your Yes: “I am currently committed to …” (goal, project or appointment)
- Follow-up with your No: “Because of this I need to decline.”
- End with warmth: “I wish you all the best in finding someone else.”
“Just so I understand, you want me to ____” (defending against ridiculous requests)
- By rephrasing the request you force the person to see their request from a different perspective. This can help them see how unreasonable their request sounds. I use this response to defend against taking on impossible tasks.
Anti-chitchat: “Hi ___, I’m in the middle of something, what did you want to talk about?”
- Useful when someone ‘pops by your desk to chat’ and you need to work.
- Useful when answering phones calls and avoid small talk (however, small talk can sometimes be beneficial to maintain a friendly relationship).
“Sorry I’m busy at the moment, but have you tried ___?”
- Providing them with an alternative is a great way to turn down a request and not damage the relationship.
- A similar response might be: “I’m too busy to do that right now, but I can’t give you with the following resources: ___”
“Due to my high workload, I must decline.”
- Works well when asked to take on too much work: “Due to a high workload, I am unable to take on new projects at this time. I will have more availability after ___”
- Works well as an email auto-responder and reduce the amount of time you spend in your inbox: “Due to a high workload, I am only responding to emails between 4pm-5pm. If it’s an emergency please call my cell at 333-333-3333.”
- Also works well as a voicemail greeting: “Due to a high workload, I am only responding to messages between 4pm-5pm. If it’s an emergency please call my cell at 333-333-3333.”
“Sorry, I have another commitment.”
- Know your commitments in advance. Review your weekly calendar each morning and whenever you receive a request.
- It is OK to use this response when you have a personal commitment that isn’t on your calendar. This includes time to simply rest and recover.
“I don’t do ____” (avoid using “I can’t…” or “I shouldn’t…”)
- “I don’t” is a hard and fast personal rule that people interpret as being part of your identity. Therefore, people are less likely to talk you into accepting the request.
- An alternative form: “I have rule: I don’t ___”.
- Great for turning down undesirable social events: “Sorry I don’t go out on Monday’s” or “Sorry I don’t do carnivals.”
- Saying “I can’t” usually means your lying – saying that you can’t go somewhere often means you don’t feel like going somewhere. People will interpret your “I can’ts” as misleading statements and lose respect for you.
- Saying “I shouldn’t” leaves your response open for debate. When you say “I shouldn’t eat ice cream” the person offering you the ice cream will likely persist and give you a few good reasons to eat it (“it’s delicious!”), causing you to eventually say yes and later regret it.
Long pause. Think. Then respond: “Unfortunately I need to say no”
- This response makes the requester believe that you’ve seriously considered their request. Your delayed leaves them feeling less rejected and less likely to talk you into accepting the request.
Sprint by Jake Knapp
No problem is too large for a sprint.“ – Jake Knapp
Google Ventures invests $300 million dollars in start-ups each year. To protect their investment Google Ventures helps these start-ups solve big problem and test new product ideas.
In an effort to solve problems and test new products quickly, Google Ventures designers Jake Knapp, John Zeratsky, Braden Kowitz have designed a rapid problem-solving method called ‘Sprint’.
Watch the following video to understand how you can solve big problems in just 5 days: