Tag Archives: mind-set

Back To The Drawing Board

Okay. You reviewed your performance for last year. You went over what planned changes went right,  which ones fell through, what surprises happened, how you handled them, and worked through the new things and experiences you were presented.  You want to do a better job this year. Going from the top-most level and branching down (and outward):

What are your core goals?
Where do you intend to focus on personally and professionally? Think of the “Four Burners theory.” There are things you can only do yourself if they are to be done, and if you want them done, then they have to be high priority, e.g, you must willingly give these items the attention, actions, and time they demand.

Then there are things a little lower on the list and stuff you can push around, delegate, or outsource. These are the items you fit around your Very Important Priorities.

Think about how you handled things last year. Where did you experience the most discomfort? How were you surprised? What are you going to do with the new layers of experience you gained getting through these rough spots? How are you moving forward?

How do you want these core goals done?
What are your standards for “done?” Your answers determine when and how will you know to stop working, which are very important factors in making consistent, sustainable progress. Being stubborn about ‘how’ can act as a straight-jacket for when life throws you into a corner. When you build some margin into your plans, and have back-up options in place,  the peace of mind this  gives helps you recover faster when you encounter delays and sudden changes of circumstance on the way.
Continue reading Back To The Drawing Board

Step By Step Into A New Year: Setting The Stages For New Growth

There are four stages that mark one’s growth in competence — like a ladder of skill — according to the ‘conscious competence’ learning theory:

Unconsciously unskilled
At any beginning, nobody knows what they’re doing.
We don’t know the skills that we don’t know, or that we need to learn them.
As rank beginners, we can look around, and then, we copy. We can copy without understanding. That’s what kids do when they start out to write, right?

Consciously unskilled
This means we know that we don’t have these skills, but we can practice so we can get better at them. Once we get copying down, we refine through practice and trial-and-error.

Going back to learning how to write, it means hours of inculcating fine motor skills and muscle memory practice until we arrive at a  recognizable, readable script. In the process, we learn to associate what we’re doing to the meaning behind the activity.

For example, in learning to write we trace letters and numbers in the process of learning to connect the scribbles on the paper to the understanding that precise scribbles mean letters and numbers, and letters in a particular order can spell out the word ‘cat’ or ‘box’ or ‘ball’, or numbers  and other things, like ‘5 apples.’

Consciously skilled
We know that we have these skills, and we can deploy them at will.
At this level, what we practice can become habit. Going back to hand-writing, whether we’re used to printing block letters, or can write in cursive, we can write easily and fluidly.

Unconsciously skilled
We put so much practice in this skill, it just comes naturally to us. At this point, we don’t have to think much about hand-writing and can write legibly while doing yet another task. And at this level, we can teach others.

Going to another example: Can you remember learning how to walk?
Conscious memory may help you there, although science and personal experience can clash as to how much toddlers and babies can remember of their earliest years. But from where you are now, can you remember?

If you can’t, have you ever witnessed a very young child learning how to walk?

They quiver and shake after they’ve hauled themselves up, hanging on for dear life to the side of the crib, or clutching their parent’s fingers.  They  keep trying: they overbalance, under-balance, fall forward and back and sideways and collapse — and then take their the first toddling steps.

Give it a month of watching them speed-crawl, and before you know it, they’re walking. They don’t care how goofy they look or how many times they fall down –as soon as the tears dry, they keep going. They’re purely focused on themselves.

Now what’s the difference between learning things as a kid and learning as an adult?
Sadly enough, sometimes it’s harder:  We’ve been exposed to more. We’ve lived longer,  and all our experiences affect the way we see ourselves, and how we see the world. So maybe there’s embarrassment at the thought of not-knowing something other people do.  Or shame at the thought of, “I should’ve known this already.” Continue reading Step By Step Into A New Year: Setting The Stages For New Growth

Defining Good Work: Are You A Good Worker?

“What is the value of keeping on doing good work?”
It’s a simple question that has a lot of weight behind it. What’s good work anyway? What with all the promises and get-rich-quick schemes out there, all the hype and hoopla in marketing and advertising, all you need to push your products and services is to sell the sizzle, not the steak .  To answer the question you need to break it down.

“What is the value?”  – Assigning worth.
How much is your product or service worth to your audience, your customers, or your  market?

You may scoff at all those over-the top infomercials where people flap, flail, and screw up such simple actions like opening a jar, only to have Today’s Magical Doohicky save them for only three easy installments of 19.99 each —  but did you know that the infomercial market is worth billions? Yes. Those cheesy shows and demos are part of an industry and a very healthy market worth billions of dollars. Just because you can’t see it from where you’re sitting –probably on the couch– doesn’t mean the market isn’t flourishing, or relevant.

Informative link: The Economics of Infomercials

What’s more, the home-shopping and TV shopping market measures in the billions too. From cookware to jewelry cleaning, from skincare to household appliances, the home shopping industry is just another parallel market to internet commerce. For businesses selling products in both arenas, the similarities are many, and the work required to succeed is as demanding. You may just have passed one off as a silly series of hard-sell skits, but the market is there and it is huge. You just didn’t see it. Continue reading Defining Good Work: Are You A Good Worker?

The Case For Not Doing Everything

There are things you do as a matter of necessity when you run a business. Things like filing and paying business taxes, following up with clients, networking with peers, renewing licenses, ensuring your data is backed up and your website is running optimally, and so on.

Then there are things you do as a matter of preference. Stuff like checking email first thing, or scheduling calls at particular blocks of time,  or putting in brainstorming sessions in at a coffee-shop just to get out of the office mindset. Maybe you shifted to a dual monitor set-up, and it worked wonders with your coding, or perhaps you made your own hotkeys to save time on repetitive tasks.

Whatever tweaks or set-ups you make to make your life run more smoothly,  you  know you’re not alone in looking for the sweet spot. An entire industry has grown out of the productivity movement. Life-hacks, apps, methods — whether you use bullet journals, kanban,  the urgent/important  matrix, GTD — all of these things grew out of the need to determine and make the most productive use of our time. It’s our modern way to take control and make sense of all the stuff that goes on in our lives.

Not all methods work right on the first go though, which is why we can take a lot of time tailoring and testing them to fit our own needs and circumstances. Part of the problem stems from mixing up our goals with the various set-ups we use to get to them.

Helpful article: “Forget About Setting Goals. Focus on This Instead.”James Clear

Just as one size doesn’t fit all, chosen methods won’t mean squat if they don’t help make measurable positive changes in our work flow.  With testing and tweaking, we can use an assembly of specific practices swiped from various methods — as long as they work. And work well. Continue reading The Case For Not Doing Everything

Just Start: How To Keep Going On Off-days

There’s this popular image shared on social media depicting an iceberg and having it explain success. The visible part  of the iceberg (what people see) is labelled “Success.”  The part under the water is labelled “What really happens.” : Hard work, struggles, discipline, sacrifices, late nights, persistence, failures, and many more.

We often take the surface impression as the whole thing, and not look at the years of work and struggle behind the success stories that make the front-pages.  Even with ourselves, we tend to do this. What’s worse, we can be much harsher on ourselves than necessary. We have this image of what we should be and have to be, and measure ourselves by those images. And when we have bad days or off days, we can make it even worse by feeling disappointed in ourselves for not measuring up.

For entrepreneurs who have built themselves strong habits and put good support systems in place, it can be much easier to get through those off days. What follows are simple things you can do to ensure that you get through days like those without unnecessarily having to suffer more that the situation would warrant. Continue reading Just Start: How To Keep Going On Off-days

3 Tips to Defeat Self-Sabotage This Year

A new year means new beginnings. It’s a universal thing — it’s like we get a brand new blank canvas to play with.  We can’t go back to last year, but now we get a chance to do better, starting over with a  fresh page in the next chapter of our lives.

The push to have a better year than the last one is based on our wholly understandable desire for a better life for ourselves, which is connected to our tendency to hitch our dreams to fresh starts.  Just as well-known, however, is the  short lifespan of New Year’s resolutions. For all our  renewed hopes and aspirations,  it’s easy to forget and rely on the habits, practices and mind-sets that ruled us last year — some of which may have contributed to the things we wish hadn’t happened. Here are a few tips to assist you so you don’t unwittingly set yourself back again this time.

Use your data of the previous year
Use your accomplishments and  mistakes to help point out where you can focus on doing better and wiser this year.   Mistakes are just that, missed-takes: you did something, it didn’t work. It might have made the situation worse, but you survived. If you paid attention, you’d know what not to do, and this can stand as the starting point for doing better.

Reviewing how and where you spent your time this past year quite literally makes your brain re-view and re-enact those  incidents you remember. This mental re-enactment helps spark new ideas : what to focus on, what to ignore, what resources you overlooked then to work with, and how to put them to better use now, etc.

An in-depth review helps you recall the feelings that were behind certain decisions and their results, and all of that — memory, emotion, and aftermath– can help you classify more forcefully what things to drop, what to work on more, and what things to promote as being vital for a better future for you. Bitter lessons can leave the most lasting  impression on how we do things next. Continue reading 3 Tips to Defeat Self-Sabotage This Year

How To Develop A Mobile Mindset

When it comes to reaching your market, there all sorts of tried and tested methods available, with new ones making their way down the pipeline every month. We have the internet and assorted social media platforms, and we can reach our markets via  visual, audio, and textual content on various mobile devices.

With all the tools we have at our fingertips, it would be easy for businesses  to assume that they can continue as they’ve have been doing and they’ll be set  for the future, but that kind of thinking simply isn’t going to cut it.

We have increasingly found different ways to talk to each other and store, transmit, and share information.  The last 3 generations alone have witnessed the evolution of technology on an accelerated scale: from room-sized computing machines to tiny smartwatches, from vinyl records to digital music files, and from rotary telephones to smartphones that can also function as a mobile office.

We learned to think differently  with  the technology we have.
The word  “mobile” can just be taken to mean ‘movable.’ Agile. Portable.  Go back again to the evolution of tech:  desktops to laptops to tablets, rotary dial up, to cellphones, to smartphones…there’s a trend. Think smaller screen-space. Think lighter.

Now we need to think differently from the technology we have.
Being mobile friendly isn’t just resizing the screen for regular-sized computers and shrinking it down. It’s seeing and presenting information in a different way. The mindset here is a whole way of presenting interaction. And it is a mindset — you’ll have to consider being as clear and concise as you can be in the limited space you have to work with.

This is something that asks for design skills and contextual presentation. For example:  how much information can you present and still be understood? How can you make the move from big screen to small screen without losing your website’s branding?

New-think: You respond to changes, not merely react to them.
Technological advances and the internet helped use do certain things faster: communication and business have shown the biggest changes, and now the trend isn’t stopping. The impediment is not in the technology, but in the mindset of the people most in a position to leverage it for their own purposes, which in our case, are entrepreneurs and business owners.

We have our specific markets.  We have our ways to reach them, whether it’s ads, newsletter, RSS feeds or a website. And now the mobile trend is going strong and growing steadily. We can use this momentum to teach ourselves to think differently and move with the changes.
Continue reading How To Develop A Mobile Mindset

Strip The Noise From The Signal

When it comes to making good choices, we all want to know the facts before we decide. The sheer amount of information available out there, however, often makes it harder to do so, and our  brain’s own hard-wired responses to data can often work against us.

Issue one : We have too much information readily available.
We are overwhelmed with information we are simply not physiologically equipped to handle fully, or well, in such large volumes.
Goals: Cut down on the volume of  information, and go for relevance, quality and timeliness.

Issue two: Our brain’s pattern-recognition functions often makes for unconscious bias that can lead to faulty assumptions.
Goals: Recognize and be aware of your own personal biases so you can make checks  and balances for them in the decision-making process. This means practicing an internal system that pushes for clarity, relevance and timeliness in decision making.

Dealing with this two-fold problem means  approaching the problem from two fronts. One, devise means and ways to cut down and filter the data you need to make decisions, and two, recognize how you can be fooled by unconscious biases and have strategies in place to get make sure you stay on track, on target, and on time.

 

Now, being good in business can be attributed to a myriad number of factors, chief among them, timing, risk-taking, fore-sight, and sometimes, sheer luck. The pressure is always present to make the best choice for the next step, and that means looking at the information needed to take the next step. You want to make good choices, you’ll need information.

With the internet, however, we run into problems of scale and and of understanding. Continue reading Strip The Noise From The Signal

Is It A Business or A Legacy? Planning For The Future

Anybody who runs a business knows about the importance of goal-setting and planning for the future. Whether you make business goals or personal goals, it’s important to  know just exactly where you want to go, and know whether what the actions you take and the choices you make will get you to your goals.

Just as important is understanding and planning for things that can affect your progress towards your goals. Practicing flexibility and foresight in making plans for your business (and yourself) for the future is a vital skill for any entrepreneur. Here’s some advice to help you with that:

Have a clear picture of where you want to be. Envision.
Any business, no matter what its size, is challenging work. Aside from the daily ops, there are  countless other issues that can take up your time: crunching the numbers, juggling finances and balancing accounts,  going after delayed collections, dealing with  disappointed customers, facing the imbalance of family-time versus time spent on the business…when you’re busy dealing with all of these things, it’s easy to lose sight of what you’re working for.

Why do you have your business? What made you choose it and keep with it? What did you want to be from it. What did you see it make possible for you? You want to live your dream? What is your dream? Be specific.

Knowing why you’re doing this can give you the  strength to deal with all the things that can irritate you, aggravate you or just plain  infuriate you about your business.

And having a clear picture in mind encourages you to be aware of where you want to be — in the next quarter, or the next 6 months,  the next year, the next 5 years, and so on. Knowing what you want to happen and where you want to be by a certain time, you constantly have goals to works towards and pull you onward. You won’t coast, you won’t assume everything is going well. You’re maintaining awareness of the intimate health details of your business.

No matter where they come from, truly successful people keep working towards their particular goals.
Take time to write down your goals . This solidifies these goals in your mind and in your heart, giving you the drive and the energy to shoulder the workload, stomach the disappointments and downturns, and  help keep you steady. Goals can change with each stage our our lifetime and our business, but successful people are motivated by their desire to accomplish these goals. They focus. They shoulder aside distractions. The know that the things they choose to do have an end in mind, and they want to reach that goal.

When we’re tempted to throw up our hands in frustration, or throw in the towel in despair,  clear goals can help  us weather those dark times. Knowing the important reason why you’re working so hard lets you figure out how you can adjust so you can keep going. Continue reading Is It A Business or A Legacy? Planning For The Future

How To Keep A Business Healthy For The Long Run

Framed in the simplest terms, a business is an enterprise that provides a service or a product to customers in exchange for money. Without customers, businesses would fail. And as an entrepreneur and owner of an on-line business, aside from a viable pool of customers, you also need to have a considerable repertoire of hard and soft skills to see your business through good times and bad.

What else do you need?

You need to know the core mission of your business. You can earn money doing a lot of things: sell digital art, buy and fix thrift-store furniture and resell it, run a food-truck, etc. but you need to know: what is your business here for?

Times change, and the factors that sparked the seed of life for your business can change with them. Think of Kodak — once the world leader in photographic film, it went bankrupt when it wasn’t able to adapt quickly enough to take full advantage of the rise of digital imaging technology. The company re-imagined itself and now it offers “packaging, functional printing, graphic communications and professional services for businesses around the world,” upon coming up from the ashes of its former success.

You need a long-term vision: where do you want to go with the business, and where do you want it to take you?

What you also need for your business are good relationships. Good businesses work to maintain long-term relationships with old customers, while inviting new people to join the group, and taking care of the ones who keep coming back. Solid relationships with your peers, partners and associates in your business community are also vital.

No-one ever really gets anywhere worth going to all by themselves. Help people up, build friendships, and your reward would be a supportive community, a deep sense of belonging, and the privilege of being able to give back. Continue reading How To Keep A Business Healthy For The Long Run