This is the underlying question almost everyone has running in the back of their minds. Someone makes you an offer and you automatically ask it.
“What’s in it for me?”
Parents ask a variation, “What’s in it for my child, my family?”
It’s perfectly normal and most everyone does it.
So why is it a problem?
Because this question reveals a mindset of lack.
“Gimme, gimme, gimme.”
“Take, take, take.”
It’s the voice of the ego based on fear, insecurity, and a lack of abundance.
It’s victim thinking, not a hero.
I experienced this growing up.
It was like life was an all you can eat buffet.
But “You better get your money’s worth.”
It’s why cruise ship guests put on their “buffet pants.”
Or the advice of some who say, “don’t fill your plate with the cheap stuff, grab the good stuff.”
Now, what if we could shift this to the opposite?
What if we could change the question?
“What’s in it for me?”
“How can I help?”
By asking this new question, there is an assumption of abundance. This question assumes you have the power, capacity, and ability to help. It’s a powerful question. You are tapping into your true gifts. It comes from a deeply spiritual place, not your ego. There is more than enough to share.
We’ve all had ups and downs in our lives. I personally experienced many magical miracles. And then flipped to complete despair.
What I’ve noticed is the presence of the first question and not the latter. Mindset is the key.
So what is mindset?
A mentor of mine recently gave me an amazingly simple definition:
“Mindset is the voice(s) in your head.”
That’s so true. I hear my parents, teachers, and even people I don’t care for speaking in my head.
Who put these voices in our heads?
They get installed automatically throughout life. Parents. Teachers. Relatives. Caregivers. Friends. Facebook. The media…
The thing is, unless you are aware, you are being programmed all the time. If you let it wash over you daily without consciousness, you are installing these voices. The prevailing mindset of lack, poverty, and despair.
The good news is, you can reinstall new voices. It’s like upgrading your internal operating system to the latest, greatest version. You choose your own voice.
Tomorrow, my son turns sixteen. Sixteen! We’re about to start visiting colleges. Think about focus of study. Plan out a course for life.
What I want most for him is to flip the questions. Ask more empowering ones.
“How can I help?”
“What can I offer the world?
What was I born to do?
What are my gifts?
What makes me the only one?”
A Lifetime of Questions
Of course, questioning goes on for a lifetime.
We never completely know. We are always discovering.
The journey of life and success IS the journey of discovering the answers to this question. Life is self-discovery. And this question can change your life.
How can I help?
I hope this awakens something inside of you. New voices = new life. This goes beyond parenting, music, education, business, whatever. This is for you. And through you, you will light up the world.
“You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do they light a lamp and place it under a basket, but place it on a lamp-stand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light so shine, so that they may see your good works…” – Matthew 5:14. the Bible
Try as he might, he just could not sway us. We all turned out to be true creative people. My brother, sister and I all turned out to be creative types in advertising, music, dance and photography.
My Dad (and to a lesser extent, my Mom) tried to brainwash us kids to all be doctors, lawyers or engineers. In fact, I didn’t even know I had a choice other than that. It was that deep.
People would ask me, “What are you going to be when you grow up?”
“A doctor, lawyer or engineer.”
It was automatic and I didn’t even think about it. It was a given.
Then, one day, after experiencing a 2nd guitar lesson, I blurted out,
“Dad, I think I want to be a rock star!”
It was crazy. My Dad turned red, no, even purple. He was besides himself with anger. Apoplectic.
“Where did you get this idea?”
I was 14 and had just caught the rock and roll bug. I was so moved by the music, especially blues and rock guitar. Because money was tight in our house, I had to figure out how to get lessons myself. I dusted off my Mom’s old nylon string guitar and bought a book, the Lennon McCartney Guitar Course. But it was slow going.
Then, one day I happened to come across a place called the Youth Development Association. It was in the little prefab building that used to house our town library before it moved into a grand building. There was a guy there. Young, hippy with a beard and long hair. Cool looking. He was playing the guitar as he sat behind the desk.
“Hi, my name is Jim.”
He said he could teach me guitar. And we could even start right then. For free. He showed me a barre chord and how to play the Rolling Stones, “Jumping Jack Flash.”
I loved it. I said, when can we schedule the next one? He said come by next week.
Exactly at the same time next week, I arrived with my guitar. Jim seemed surprised. He didn’t seem to work with a calendar or anything. Luckily he was free and he taught me my second lesson. I was learning blues scales and really cool chords. I was super excited.
Somehow, in the lesson, he asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up.
“A doctor, lawyer or engineer.” was the automatic reply.
He looked at me strangely. And then said, “Really? What do you really want to do?”
It was strange feeling. I was off balance. What? Do you mean I have a choice?
“Well, do you mean anything?”
“Anything. What would you do if you could do anything in the world?”
“Well I would be a rock star! I’d play guitar in a band!”
“Well why don’t you do that?”
It was like the craziest thought. It cracked open my mind. I had a choice!
That night was when it all happened. My Dad was prone to massive bouts of rage at this time of his life. He yelled, “Who told you this?”
“Well…I…It’s… this guy. His name is Jim Petrungaro and he works at the YDA. It’s the Youth Development Association. He’s giving me guitar lessons for FREE!”
I thought he would be calmed by this. How clever, I had found a way to get free lessons. Didn’t he see how important this was to me?
“You are never to go there again!
“What? But, but why?”
“That is a place for drug-addict kids. Kids in trouble. You are not allowed!”
I was crying and struggling to get a word in edgewise. This didn’t make any sense! I’m not a drug addict. I was being resourceful. I had found a way to study guitar. And he was giving me lessons for free!
But in my house, Dad’s word was final.
After that, I never saw Jim again. I used to think he would be disappointed in me – that I had broken my word that I would come for that third lesson.
This incident was the beginning of my awakening to my self-identity. It’s probably my first major turning point. A pivot point. It also began a long dark period between my father and I.
People are like icebergs. What we can see is only its tip . There’s a whole lot going on underneath where we can’t see it. There is a principle that successful people know. I call it the “iceberg principle.”
Success means a lot of different things to people. No matter your definition of success is, though, I think we can all agree that we feel successful when we are in control of our lives, accomplishing things and feeling like we are making a contribution to the world.
The Iceberg Principle
Successful people use the “iceberg principle” to work on what’s underneath the surface.
Just as icebergs can drift through oceans, melting along the way, many people drift through life until they melt into a puddle of oblivion, irrelevance and regret.
What keeps some icebergs on a path to doom? It’s all in the part you don’t see – steering it like a ship’s rudder. The difference between the lost losers and successful folks is what’s going on underneath: their subconscious beliefs.
Subconscious Beliefs Are Controlling You
One of the most powerful subconscious beliefs people hold concerns money and wealth.
You can learn a lot about your or someone else’s iceberg – subconscious beliefs – by asking questions.
Can you answer this question?
What is the first thing you think of when I ask , “How do you feel about money?”
Or, to put it another way, fill in the blank: “Money is ____________________.”
Subconscious Beliefs About Money
When I was a young boy, I heard many things about money.
“There’s not enough money.”
“Sorry, we can’t afford it.”
“What do you think, money grows on trees?”
“If we had money we could do it.”
“Money is the root of all evil.”
It’s no wonder that I have struggled with money and debt in my life.
With subconscious beliefs like these, why would I ever want to be involved with money?
Human Operating System – HOS
These controlling subconscious beliefs are like a human operating system. Just as a smartphone has iOS or Android, we humans have an operating system made up of beliefs. Most of them, however, were never consciously chosen or designed by you. You picked them up along the way. And they are still resonating today.
Installing New Beliefs
How much more successful would I be if I grew up with beliefs like:
“Money is power.”
“Money is freedom.”
“Money is compassionate energy that I use to accomplish my goals.”
You may think this is just mumbo-jumbo hogwash. Woo woo New Age crap. And, to be honest, a part of me is skeptical, too. But, the childlike wondrous side of me says, why not? Logically it makes sense. The way I talk to myself definitely makes a difference. Look at successful athletes and their powerful self-talk.
Melt The Limiting Parts
It feels good to expose these limiting beliefs, because just exposing them is like melting these parts of my iceberg.
It’s Not Too Late
Another part of me (and maybe you?) is asking , “Well, isn’t too late? I am what I am.” And I get it. It feels difficult and maybe even foreign to change your beliefs. But let’s try a little experiment.
The Power Jacket
Over the next 30 days, think of it as if you were wearing a new jacket. You are borrowing a power jacket. Maybe it’s a nice blazer that makes you feel powerful, wealthy and in control.
Try saying to yourself, “I deserve to be wealthy.” See how it feels. Do you hear voices in your head making negative or contrary remarks? Interesting.
Write It Down
Take a blank piece of paper. Draw a line down the center from top to bottom. On the left, write the sentence “I deserve to be wealthy.” On the right column, write whatever comes up. It could be negative. It could the voice of a relative. Maybe it’s your father or mother. Or maybe a neighbor or teacher?
Do it at least twenty times. Each time, write the corresponding response.
Over time, you will notice the responses changing. It’s very interesting! Almost like a dialogue inside yourself.
Do it everyday until the responses change from negative to positive. At some point, you may even “recruit” a supporter from that inner voice.
It sounds crazy and magical. And it is.
Anytime you spend some money, tell yourself, “There’s plenty more where that came from.”
Holding on to money fearfully as if there were not enough is also blocking the flow of wealth in your life.
By spending money consciously, you add energy to the whole system and that energy flows back to you. We will talk more about this in a future post.
Money is just one area of your iceberg. You can easily use the iceberg principle for health, relationships, spirituality and more.
These are not new ideas. You can find them in every country and spiritual tradition in the world. But it seems we are a forgetful lot and easily distracted by shiny objects.
Take some time for yourself to understand the iceberg principle.
Carve the unseen part of your iceberg to guide you to new bluer oceans. Send me a postcard when you land. I’d love to know about your journey.
Many times, the words I hear in my head were not consciously chosen. They just keep cycling through. Things my Mom said or my Dad told me. Sometimes they are not so good and I really need to excise them like a bloody tumor!
But words have power.
By designing the words that are in my human operating system, I can begin to change from within.
When I became a father, I consciously deleted all cursing from my vocabulary. It wasn’t easy, but I really wanted to be a good role model for my son. I used to curse like a sailor. And it wasn’t conscious. I just picked it up from the environment I was in. After a few months of catching myself, it became easier.
A new mantra
Everything that happens is neither good nor bad. It just is.
Next time you feel frustrated, impatient and angry, realize that it is based on a judgement.
You are perceiving that something is not happening the way you think it should be.
The word “should” is a clue. Whenever you hear it, run away. Strike it from your vocabulary. There are no shoulds. Stop shoulding on the world.
Start using that phrase as internal mantra. Your new self-speak. Hear it in your head. “No judgement.”
Just let the moment pass over you as if you were watching from afar. What used to cause you pain will have no effect anymore.
Mine comes from a Zen Buddhist monk, Thich Nhat Hanh.It has resonated throughout my being for decades now.
“My actions are the ground I stand on.”
It is so powerful yet simple.Stop talking and do it.Do the right thing.For if you do not, you are standing on quicksand.
“My actions are the ground I stand on.”
At the end of a life, what else will you have?
All the material possessions, they turn to dust.They are just trinkets, baubles or as Robert Kiyosaki calls them, “doodads.”Meaningless.
But to have live a life of right minded action?The experiences, results, all flow from how we be and do.
A few thousand years ago, Siddhartha Gautama, a man, became known as the enlightened one.The Buddha.His teachings became what is now known as either a religion or a philosophy depending on who you talk to.One of the most powerful teachings is the Eightfold Path.
These 8 steps lead to a path of a good and successful life.It’s a Middle Way – not too hot and not too cold.Just right.It’s like the original 7 Habits of Highly Successful People!Only one louder!
Here is the Eightfold Path
These are not rigid rules or commandments.It’s not authoritarian.It’s a self-help book.It’s the original coaching program.Thanks Sidd!
Anyone Can Use Them
And you don’t have to call yourself Buddhist to benefit.These days I call myself Catholic and Buddhist.Perhaps one day I’ll expand that to other labels too.
But there’s no conflict.All spiritual paths are good.There is no difference.
Sure there are religious practices that look different from the outside.
Making the sign of the cross.
Bowing to Mecca.
Chanting in Hebrew.
Chanting in Latin.
Chanting in Sanskrit or Pali.
It’s all the same with minor external differences.
The real culprit in the world is absolutism
Puritanism.Fundamentalism.Holding too strongly to anything.I’ve seen it in all areas of life.Snobbery leads to arrogance leads to condescension and separatism.It’s tribalism.
There are coffee snobs who would never ever drink Dunkin’ Donuts coffee.
Wine purists who do not drink Merlot.
Music teachers who have frozen in time all methods of certain master teachers as if time stood still.
People who judge others by the shoes they wear, the cars they drive, the words they use.
“No judgements.”That’s another good quote to live by.
It gets in the way.Acceptance is the new middle way.
And to accept I need to change my thinking, being and doing.
“Well I heard there was a secret chord That David played and it pleased the Lord”
– Leonard Cohen, Hallelujah
I’ve been listening for that chord.
It haunts me.Just when I think I hear it, it slips away like a distant echo.A foghorn on the black lake in the mist.
Years ago, in Thailand, I heard someone call my name.I turned around, and there was a guy I didn’t recognize.He was incredulous.
“Don’t you remember me?”
“No.How do I know you?”
“We spent last summer in Taiwan together.”
“I wasn’t in Taiwan last summer.In fact, I was only there once as a child.”
“No, dude, you were there.It’s me Carter.”
“Carter?Well, I don’t know how you know me but I don’t think we ever met before.”
We ended up spending days together.
We talked and talked. It was as if every question I had, he had the answer to.And every question he had, I had the answer to.It was like the secret chord was not a sound, but rather a conversation.
I slip in and out of periods of extreme magic.
Unswerving faith in an invisible sun and powerful connection with a force.
And then I go all the way to the other side.
It’s like the title of a book I read long ago:power versus force.
Sometimes I’m surfing the waves of power.
Effortless, magical waves of abundance flow through me.
And then I get stranded on a rock.
Unable to move, marooned for what feels like eternity.
No matter how hard I try, it seems I make little progress.
And then I remember to let it go.
I breathe into the wind.I let it lift me and somehow I get a little lighter.The color of the light changes and I begin to move with flow.The distant mountain that I so desperately sought flashes by me as I reach even higher vistas without effort.I smile with relief.
Until I forget it all again.
Lately, I’ve been remembering again.
It all begins with internal dialog.Is it filled with awe and gratitude?Or has it turned to checklists and self-critiques?
I begin to practice saying it over and over.
“I love you.” “I love you.” “I love you.”
And a slight tingle begins.
“I love you.” “I love you.” “I love you.”
I try to remember this throughout the day.
It’s easiest to remember in the grey dawn light before lists and worries start to crowd the edges of my mind.
“I love you.” “I love you.” “I love you.”
Today I awoke at 4:34 am.
I laid in bed with my mantra.Letting it flush through me, a golden sparkly white light coming in waves.
And out there, on the edge, somewhat distant, I think I hear it.
What Season Are You In? The Season of Yes Or the Season of No?
So many times, you and I, we get stuck.We get stuck in the details.
You say you’re going to create a new project?But then, you look around and see that it’s already been done before.Or something similar.
You say to yourself, “Why even bother? It’s not so unique. It’s been done before.”
But the problem with that, is it may have been done, but not in your way.
You Don’t Always Have To Be First
Here’s the thing. It’s not what you do, but how you do it that counts
You know how Apple has become the most valuable company in the world? It’s NOT by being completely original, unique and novel.
No, what they are known for, is coming in with an improvement on what’s been done before. Just last week, they announced a new home speaker with artificial intelligence. Sounds just like the Amazon Echo, Tap, etc. But, it’s a little different. It’s done differently. The execution is flawlessly Apple-like. They’ve created an aura around their products.
Say you have an idea for a book that is kind of like a detective mystery, but in New York City.How many detective books have already been set in NYC?A ton.But it doesn’t matter.It’s how you execute the book.It’s your style, your delivery, your voice that will attract others to your work.
A lot of my clients have businesses or want to start a business.
These “want-trepreneurs” have yet to take action because they have talked themselves out of it.I hear, “Well there’s so many version of that already.Or they say, “I’m a life coach, how am I going to make a difference when there are so many other life coaches in the world?”
“How am I going to get enough music students when they can all just take Skype lessons or find one of the big schools.”
You can actually insert any job, role or title into this “Why does anyone need another ______ in the world?”
But why does anyone need any more of anything in the world?
This is no way to talk to yourself.Self-talk, well that’s a whole conversation in itself – no pun intended.
You can always look at it as the glass being half empty, or half full.It’s up to you.
The Danger of Over-Analyzing
If you over-analyze any project, endeavour, business venture – just about anything, you can always find a reason to say “no.”But, you can also always find a way to say “yes.”
The Season of Yes
If you’re in the early stages of a new business, new career or want to start a new side project, then you need to be in the SEASON OF YES. Say “Yes” to it all.Opportunities can only come if you say yes and open the doors. You never know what opportunities will happen that could not have happened without you taking a few steps in this new direction.
The Season Of No
Much later on, when you are established and humming along in your new project or business, that’s when you need to start shifting to the SEASON OF NO. I heard of stories saying that Warren Buffet says no to 99% of the opportunities presented to him. He is definitely in the Season of No.
When you are feeling negative emotions, it’s like a warning light on your mental dashboard for a change. Something needs to change, whether it’s an action you are taking (or not), the environment you are in and the people you are surrounding yourself with.
2) The fog of confusion precedes the calm of clarity.
There is always a period of confusion right before the epiphany, “the a-ha moment.” If you are feeling confused, stop, take a breath, meditate, get calm enough to see the ripples on the surface of your mental waters, and reflect.
The clouds of confusion are burned away by the sun of awareness. A path forward is revealed.
3) You are responsible for ALL your results.
I remember when I first heard this and it was a feeling of shock.
“What do you mean I’m completely responsible for everything?” I was so used to blaming the world for my problems. And of course, the more you indulge in this kind of personal un-accountability, the more “proof” you get.
The traffic cop pulls only “you” over when everyone else is going at the same speed. Or the TSA official picks only you out for a random strip search. Of course the world is against you! Changing your mindset is akin to magic. By taking personal responsibility for your entire life, your health, your finances, your living environment, everything…it radically changes your world. And at first, it’s scary.
Start in one area. Pick a specific activity where you absolutely believe that you are responsible for your results like a sport, or a musical instrument or a language. By holding yourself accountable for your results you begin to live in this belief. From there, you can expand to all other areas of your life.
4) Everyone is doing the best they can with what they have.
I used to have a lot of anger and frustration. Taking on and conditioning myself with this belief has been a struggle, but produces fruit everyday. It really is unlikely that the world is conspiring against you. In fact, everyone is too caught up in their own problems, insecurities and limiting beliefs. Hold your judgment and realize, they’re doing the best they can with the resources they have available at the moment.
5) There is no permanence. Success or failure are a temporary state.
If you look around you, there’s the illusion of permanence everywhere. The furniture in the room. The buildings, the mountains, the lakes, trees. But look deeper and you see that all is temporary. A snapshot in time. Apple is the biggest company on the planet…at the moment. But remember US Steel, one of the largest employers in the world in the 1950’s? Today they are a mere shell of what they once were. Or what about Pan American Airlines? These were seen as bedrock, unstoppable successes, for a while. Nothing is permanent.
We are all in a state of motion.
Even the most solid of materials, at the quantum level, are in motion.
If we are not growing, we are dying. Keep moving, evolving, reaching for higher and higher levels. It’s the only way to stay in a state of success. Don’t be misled that it’s all sunny days from now on. There will be failures (or you can call them learnings) along the way. But as long as you are aware of the learnings, incorporate them, and move on, you will be in a more consistent state of success.
I think most of us have felt these in our lifetimes, and perhaps even on a weekly or daily basis. There was a time when I experienced Anger, Frustration and Overwhelm almost daily.
The 9 Negative States can be seen as warning lights on your dashboard.
Here’s what they mean and how you can learn from them to release them.
Batten down the hatches, tense up – there’s something you’re going to have to deal with. This is not always true, but you feel it! Take a moment, breathe. Is there really something worth fearing? Unless you are in a life/death situation, most fears are overblown, misplaced and are just worry amplified. Worry is also not necessary. If it happens, deal with it then. Don’t make it worse by spending energy tensing up for a possible non-event.
Action: Ask yourself, “What’s the worst thing that can happen? Then what? And then?”
Somehow a standard was not met. Rules were broken.
Action: Reflect on “Are these rules even valid? Who made these standards?”
This is a more intense version of hurt, because again, a rule was not met.
I have been in arguments in the past where the other person leaves the room because I’ve raised my voice. In my set of rules, it was okay to get passionate about your discussion and just get it all out in the open now. The other party, whose rules were, never raise your voice as that is verbal abuse and threatening would just leave the room. Can you see how these sets of rules were always in conflict?
Action: Let it go. Reflect on the standards and rules that you feel were not met. What now?
Something is not working and trying to bang through the wall over and over in the same way will only leave you with a banged up head.
Action: Change the approach. Change something. Be flexible.
You haven’t achieved something and you need to change. You also may be feeling a little sorry for yourself.
Tony Robbins says the difference between winners and losers is that winners know how to control their emotional state. Emotions can be thought of as weather patterns being sent up from the unconscious, most triggered habitually. Did you know that you can consciously induce triumph or disappointment? You choose your states whether it is out of habit or choice.
Action: Change the process or change what you want your outcome to be. Pivot.
6) Guilt / Regret
You broke one of your own standards.
Lester Levenson created a whole personal improvement program called the Release Technique and it is simply letting yourself feel the emotions fully and then releasing them. Once you do, you have emptied out the energy you were holding onto thereby clearing all kinds of problems created by stress which causes disease. This technique lives on with two of Lester’s disciples Hale Dwoskin’s Sedona Method and Larry Crane’s Release Technique.
Action: Make amends, forgive yourself, and make sure it doesn’t happen again.
You feel less than something or someone else. You can do this by first, stop comparing yourself to others and to start educating yourself in the ways you feel inadequate. This may be in the hard skills of how to play chords on piano, or the soft skills of how to have confidence in public speaking.
Action: Learn skills, Stop comparing to others. Measure your results to see personal improvement.
Your priorities have become muddled and you’re trying to do everything because you don’t know which is the most important.
Action: Stop, reflect, prioritize and then go forth. Most people over-estimate what they can achieve in a year, but underestimate what they can do in a day.
You need to connect with people and spirit.
Action: Get out and say hello. Find your support group of like-minded people. Find your “sangha.” Get with God. I have a writing group, my church choir, my Dad’s group, my music students, my family and now the Foundation as my network. I’m grateful to have them all.
I’ve learned this list from Dane Maxwell and Andy Drish at The Foundation, of which I’m just starting the journey. Because I’m an extroverted thinker, I find I can think and reflect better if I’m teaching others about it. I hope you find this helpful.
Everything in life can be viewed in one of two ways, positive or negative. Re-reading the classic book The Magic of Thinking Big, by David J. Schwartz, I came across this wonderful passage where he talks about having an internal broadcasting system.
“View it this way. Your mind is a mental broadcasting station. This broadcasting system transmits messages to you on two equally powerful channels: Channel P (positive) and Channel N (negative).”
I love this. The mind is a screen that you can project the images you have control over.
“You own it, so manage your thought broadcasting station . When your thoughts turn to people, make Channel P your listening habit. If Channel N cuts in, say stop. Then switch channels. To make the switch, all you must do is think of one positive quality about the individual. In true chain reaction style, this one thought will lead to another and another. And you will be glad. When you are alone, you and only you can decide whether you will listen to Channel P or Channel N. But when you are talking with someone else, that person has a measure of control over how you think.”
The more you tune into one or the other the more you get of the same. You’ve tuned your frequency to only receive on that channel. It’s like setting the defaults on your car stereo or the favorites on your TV remote control in your living room. It’s also what everyone has been saying with the Law of Attraction.
“Bear in mind that the longer you stay tuned to either Channel P or Channel N, the more interested you become and the harder it is to switch channels. This is true because one thought, positive or negative, sets off a whole chain reaction of similar thought.”
What channel are you tuned to?
Do you need to change the channel?
It may take some effort at first, just like learning to program the remote on your TV does. But this one is far more powerful with much greater impact. And it will last, as long as you stay tuned to…Channel P!
This of course makes me think of the wonderful song, Ac-cent-tchu-ate the Positive.
You’ve got to ac-cent-tchu-ate the positive
Elim-in-ate the negative
Latch on to the affirmative
And don’t mess with Mr. In Between.
– From the 1944 popular song of the same name – Music by Harold Arlen and Lyrics by Johnny Mercer
And here’s one of my favorite versions by the great Aretha Franklin.
What do you call the time between midnight and dawn?
Where do all the questions come from?
What are you working on to make a difference in the world?
What is holding you back?
Is it a mislaid remark from your childhood, that has grown into a thorny cage around your heart?
Is it a misunderstanding of laughter, from the kid across the street, the one you never trusted?
Is it something Dad said? You do know he was so filled with anger and frustration in those days, don’t you?
Is it that you’re feeling too old?
Is it the world of celebrity has no use for anyone of over the age of 18?
Did you know that there’s an age cutoff on American Idol?
Do you think that’s fair?
Do you have some inner reservations, something chaining you to the floor?
Do you want to go spelunking?
Did you know there’s an underground river inside?
I’m a control freak. It’s not something that I set out to be. It’s just that when I start a project, I usually have a very clear vision for its outcome. Taking the time to explain it sometimes is too much trouble or feels like time “wasted” when I know that I could just go and do it. Plus, I’m really good at so many things!
In the book The E-Myth Revisited, author Michael E. Gerber discusses the example of a sole proprietor baker who not only makes great baked goods, but also has to run the shop, sweep the floors, pay the suppliers, hire and manage shop clerks, run the payroll and do the taxes. It’s a crazy unsustainable system. It’s the reason why so many family businesses go out of business. The businesses that last usually have a whole family effort with divided – and often unpaid – labor.
Gerber’s solution? Come up with a organized, replicable system that even a monkey could run just like McDonald’s and hotel chains do. Just thinking about breaking down all the steps of all my projects into monkey-fied tasks was so demoralizing, uninspired and boring! Couldn’t I just magically tell someone to think just like me? And where do I find people to delegate to? Hiring anyone in the United States is prohibitively expensive and full of bureaucratic red tape, tax and legal considerations.
Of course we have all heard about out-sourcing. I first heard about it from both Tim Ferriss (The 4 Hour Work Week) and NY Times columnist Thomas Friedman (The World Is Flat), who spoke about outsourcing his job to India. I was fired up but had a hard time getting past some of my own beliefs. I was still stuck trying to control everything! And wasn’t outsourcing for corporations? What could I as a sole proprietor, delegate?
Well, this year, I made a resolution to start learning how to let go and delegate more.
The hardest part of this has been in figuring out what to let go of.
My first foray into delegation was through FancyHands. What a cool service. It’s a network of on-demand Virtual Assistants located throughout the United States. They are all educated, native American English speakers and have been vetted by the company. It’s not a dedicated assistant. Instead, you hand off tasks that can be accomplished within 15-20 minutes that do not require some specialized knowledge. Things like calling to confirm, or booking a restaurant, or researching ski resorts that are kid friendly, or even researching blog posts, are all very well suited to this. After a month of this, I am smitten! This very post is being proofread by FancyHands. Now I’m trying to figure out what I can send to FancyHands.
Why Delegation Can Not Only Save You Time, But Give You More Creative Power
Years ago I read this article about a phenomenon known as decision fatigue. There is a finite number of conscious decisions you can make in a day before burning yourself out. The article discusses parole cases made in an Israeli court and how as the day wore on, judges increasingly denied parole.
This psychology trick seems to be known by salesman, too. I’ve never bought a car, but have heard horror stories of how car dealers rely on “ego depletion,”wearing customers by asking them to make thousands of choices on minute details of the car. Do you want this in grey or silver? Do you want the warmed seats? What about the backup camera? Oh that only comes in a package … and on and on. By the time you’ve gone through them all, you’re softened up and willing to sign for just about any price.
Apparently the president of the United States doesn’t even get to choose what he wants to eat for his meals. That would sap away his precious finite decisions. So, the more you can delegate and give empowerment to someone else, frees up more creative energy for yourself.
So delegation is really super-charging your ability to think. Make better creative choices. Don’t sweat the small stuff.
Outsourcing for Dedicated Assistance
So after my success with FancyHands, I’ve tried out a few other services looking for a more dedicated virtual assistant. A dedicated assistant could be either specialized for a specific skill like transcription, proofing or coding. I could also train someone to do repetitive, complicated tasks that wouldn’t be conducive to handing off to FancyHands.
I’ve used Guru in the past to hire coders. That’s been pretty good, though I felt the interface was a little clunky. I also was rather unsatisfied when a coder I hired delivered a great first portion but never finished. I was out $300, and they had no real resolution. Lesson learned: divide your projects into smaller portions. This way, when you do pay out, you may lose something, but not as much.
For the last month or so, I’ve been using ODesk to find dedicated talent to hand off to, and have been pretty pleased. They are currently merging with Elance, but I like the ODesk interface better. Right now, I have a small team in the Philippines and Poland doing data entry, proofing, coding and data cleaning. (I guess I only hire from P countries! What’s next, Peru?)
One service I have tried but with poor results is Fiverr.com. The whole site is based on the premise that $5 can get you something. That itself is debatable. What can you get for $5 these days? Not even a large latte at Starbucks! But there are a lot of people using the site for things like graphic design, animation, voiceovers and even coding. It’s just that the type of services you can expect from $5 is going to be limited. From the service providers perspective, they need to figure something they can do within 10 minutes and then try to up-sell ancillary services and add-ons to make it a real revenue stream.
This year I’ve also made a commitment to finish a first novel by my birthday, May 20. Just saying that is kind of terrifying. So what can I delegate here? Well, so far I’ve been delegating little bits of research. I’m also considering how to use an audio dictation process for parts and then having the audio recording transcribed.
Dedicated versus On Demand Virtual Assistants
In conclusion, you can dip your toe in the water with an on-demand service like FancyHands. You get 5 tasks for $29 a month, and you can start clearing your decks for stuff that just never seems to get done. Things like researching summer camps for your kid or finding the perfect hotel for your spouse’s birthday getaway. To start realizing real economies of scale, having a dedicated assistant can lead to more and more tasks being handed over. This is more like having your own secretary or admin assistant, only they are not seated at a desk in your office, but perhaps in another town or state or across the globe.
Tim Ferriss – his blog and podcast are outstanding and should be part of your regular media consumption diet. His access to thought-leaders is incredible with in-depth conversations on the art of excellence with people like Arnold Schwarzenegger, Tony Robbins, Kevin Kelly, Peter Diamandis and others. Highly recommended.
His book The 4 Hour Work Week is still on bestseller lists, and he has updated it.
The E-Myth Revisited by Michael Gerber – great book which has spawned several follow-ups. It de-mystifies running a business but also is truly useful for the small business owner. So many business books are aimed at people working in corporations or starting a massive business.
Ready, Fire, Aim – by Michael Masterson – another great book that is truly aimed at business realities of the small business owner. His whole concept of rapid iterations and sales first is just good common sense. It also mollified the perfectionist in me and is in line with Facebook’s mantra of “Done is better than perfect.” Unless you are working in a life or death critical industry like airline safety or automobiles, done is better than perfect. Micheal Masterson is the pen name of Mark Ford, who is creator of investment newsletter The Palm Beach Letter.
National Novel Writing Month – NaNoWriMo – each November, thousands participate worldwide in a month-long writing event to finish a 50,000 word novel. The accountability and encouragement are so helpful.