Flippin’ Success

When do you become successful?

   Is there a certain mark, a single accomplishment that, once reached, signifies that you are a success? 

   To most single people, finding a loving relationship would be an appropriate goal. But with divorce rates skyrocketing, simply entering into a relationship cannot be sufficient to call yourself a success. As any married couple will tell you, the hard work begins after the wedding day, and every day from then on. 

   If success in your relationships isn’t found in a single act, in one defining moment, where does that success lie?

   This question applies to all areas of our lives. To our friendships, our financial health, and certainly our physical health. Have you ever looked at pictures of someone losing weight? Or even looked in the mirror every day as you strive to fulfill this years’ resolution of going to the gym 5 times a week? Just like a flip book, the image changes almost imperceptibly each day.

   When does that overweight person on the cover of the flip book become healthy? Is it on page 6? Page 49? Page 152? If we compare the pictures one page to the next, they look almost identical. Even comparing one week to the next provides almost no visible change. But as we flip through those pages quickly, the change is definitely noticeable.

   This is very much similar to how we view success in our own lives. We step on the scale each morning, and beat ourselves up for seemingly no progress after a grueling workout the day before. We frown at our bank account, barely increasing since the last time we got paid. Or we become frustrated in our careers because we’re doing similar things as last month, as last quarter. 

   Taking a short term view of our accomplishments is frustrating and unrewarding, but it’s what so many of us do. As such, we never feel like we are becoming successful in our pursuits. These feelings lead us to thinking we’ll never become successful.

What is the solution?

   We need to expand our frame of comparison. We can’t look at our progress today, compared to where we were yesterday. We need a wider lens to view our success. With my coaching clients, we take a deeper look at progress every quarter. This 90-day lens allows us to see real progress, that we wouldn’t be exposed to when only looking daily or weekly. Seeing progress is important, for two reasons. First, it allows you to make adjustments, to see what is working, and what isn’t. And secondly, seeing progress feels good. We all like to know we’re improving, that we’re going somewhere, and taking a wider lens to view our efforts provides that reassurance. 

When do you become successful?

   Surely there is no date, no grandiose accomplishment that says “I made it.” You become successful by making sure each day you are working towards your grander goals. Each small, almost imperceptible step is a success. And remember, to see those successes add up, don’t look at yesterday’s results, but expand your lens. Achieving anything worthwhile is a slow process, but by taking a small step each day, you can achieve your dreams.

It is Never Good Enough

   I hated doing dishes growing up. It was never the mountains of dirty dishes that somehow made our family look like a ravenous army. Or the soapy water that inevitably went cold and grungy. It was the glee on my sibling’s faces when they were able to hand back that pot that I swear was always dirty.

   “Good enough.” I’d grumble, lamenting as it was handed back for a second washing attempt.

   Oh brother was I ever wrong. What seemed to be a pain in the ass back then now seems like a blessing. Not the re-washing part, of course. But reaching into the cupboard and pulling out a dirty dish, ugh, I cringe just thinking of that. And as the cold sweat and shivers run down my spine, we come to the lesson of the letter. It is never, “Good enough”.

   Good enough, is not a reflection on the task at hand. It is a reflection of your values; of the thoughts, actions and words that define who you are, both to yourself and to the world you encounter. 

   Everywhere you look you will be confronted with the half-finished work and poor quality results of the “Good enough” crowd. It’s in the trash on the sidewalk, the mess on every counter and surface, all the little things that aren’t done quite right. There is enough of that already. Hold yourself to a higher standard.

   So next time you go to do the dishes, don’t let that mountain get in your head. That cold, murky water isn’t so bad. And make sure when you’re ready to move that never-clean pot to the dish drying rack, that this time, it’s clean.

   Apply that level of care to everything you do, because you’re worth the price of excellence.

   Every day is a use of our energy, our time. Don’t spend time on re-work, on fixing the little things that could easily have been done right the first time round. It’s never good enough, it’s simply, good. Because if it’s worth doing, it’s worth doing well.

How to become more valuable at work

   When I was younger, I worked construction for a few summers. As anyone who has ever laid patio stones, decking, or fencing can tell you, a string-line is very important. We use the string, stretched out between two posts, to ensure we are operating on a straight line. That way, the newly constructed patio isn't wavy and unsightly. But as anyone who has used a string line knows, they get tangled into the most unusable mess of knots.

   As part hazing ritual, part real need, any new hire was given the task of untangling knots from these string lines. Often this was an irritating, but relatively fast process, taking only a few minutes to complete.

   One late spring day however, the knotted mess of string was worse than it had ever been, and Justin was our most recent new hires. Arriving early, our boss set the task to Justin, untangle the string. And there Justin sat in the front yard untangling string. The sun rose high in the sky as the rest of the crew were digging, sawing, and hammering away. Then the sun started sinking down, and exhausted, the crew made ready to leave. It was then that we noticed Justin, still sitting in the front yard, untangling string.

Do you know what the tasks you do every day are worth?

   In our professional lives, we often come across tasks that are time consuming. The question we must ask ourselves is, is this task worth it?

   Untangling string for those 10 hours certainly wasn't worth it for Justin. That $ 8.00 string line ended up costing the company well over $ 100 in wages on that spring day. And the cost was far beyond the simple wages cost, there was also the opportunity cost of doing valuable work for that day. 

   In today's work environment, being busy is worshiped. Running from meeting to meeting, task to task. And this busy-ness is destroying the value that we can command. Instead of focusing on being busy, we need to focus on becoming more valuable. 

How do we become more valuable at work?

   Ask yourself what the estimated cost of each task that you are doing is. You do this by taking your annual earnings divided by 2,000 hours. This will estimate what your hourly rate is. Next, multiply that hourly rate by the amount of time the task will take. The result is the cost of you completing the task. Now ask yourself, is the task worth the cost of that time commitment? Or could you be adding more value if you worked on something else instead?

   Understanding what the most valuable task that you could be working on at any given time makes you more valuable. Instead of sitting for hours untangling string, or some other equally unrewarding task, you will demonstrate your value when you focus on the task with the highest payoff.

How do you determine the value of a task?

   For many of you, each task doesn't have a clear cut line to profits or expenses. If you can measure the cost in terms of time commitment, but not the value you derive from completing the task, how do you prioritize based on value? To measure this, mark all tasks by which of your top 3 goals they support. Often, the majority of our To-Do lists will be unassigned, meaning the task doesn't directly contribute to our valuable goals. These tasks need to be either delegated, or eliminated wherever possible.

   Focusing on the tasks where the value, or contribution towards your goals, exceeds the cost of action will help you increase your value.

What to do with the unassigned tasks that can't be delegated or eliminated?

   Some tasks that pop up on our To-Do lists can't be given away or ignored. When confronted with these tasks, carefully consider if there are other options. If so, what are these other options, and are they the better course of action? In our example, Justin should have recognized the futility of such a task quickly, and we could have bought a new string line saving a day of wasted efforts. Identifying better alternatives is another way to increase your value, as you become known as someone who solves problems. Of course, sometimes the task can't be done in another, better way. In these cases, if the task is truly important, the best course of action is to buckle down and grind it to completion.

   We become more valuable when we think about what we are doing, and what we are trying to accomplish. Making sure our efforts are aligned with our goals helps us achieve more, and increase our value. When those moments come up where we must do things that don't directly add value, we should consider if there are better alternatives. Only if the task is essential, and no better alternatives are available should we commit the resources to accomplishing it. If we do this, we'll spend less time untangling string, and more time adding real value.

Lessons from the Scotiabank Marathon

Sunday, October 20, 2019

Toronto, Canada 

   Race day finally arrived. My first road-based marathon, a goal that had been set at the beginning of spring this same year. 

   Amidst a chorus of cheers and pump-up music, the pack of runners took off with me caught up in the midst. The excitement was contagious for those first few kilometers (miles), as we thundered down the streets of Toronto, several thousand strong. Passed the first few aid stations, and along the spectator lined race course.

   It was around the halfway mark, 20 kilometers (13 miles) that the pack really started to separate, with the marathoners continuing on for the grueling back half of the race. It's the back half that separates the trained from the untrained. It's the back half where your mettle is tested. It's the back half where I learned the lessons of success.

The process is painful.

   Around 28 kilometers I found out what endurance athlete's refer to when they "hit the wall". Exhaustion sets in, your legs hardly want to move. And when they do stride forward, each strike of the pavement is agony. This is part of running marathons. But this is also the first lesson of success. The process is painful.

   There will come a point in any large undertaking when pushing forward seems unbearable. The obstacles seem nigh insurmountable. Those challenges have knocked you down, leaving you bloodied and bruised, black and blue. But just like the quote on the guy's shirt in front of me said, Pain is temporary, quitting is forever.

   In the pursuit of any goal that you pursue, you will inevitably face challenges and obstacles that will hurt. To achieve success, you must endure the pain, with the belief that the reward is worth the cost.

Public goals help you push on when you feel like quitting.

   That period of exhaustion, where every step was agony lasted for quite a while. And with each agonizing step, those dark thoughts started to creep into my mind. Maybe I can't do this. Maybe I needed to train harder. Maybe I should quit. These thoughts were only compounded by the series of injuries that plagued my training. Nobody would blame me if those injuries prevented me from finishing the race. 

   These insidious excuses pushed me ever closer to quitting. And the worst part about those excuses? I believed that they were real. Heck, I really was injured throughout most of my training! But, there was one thing more powerful than my excuses. I had told everyone that I would be doing the marathon. Doing. Not attempting. I promised that I would cross the finish line. No matter the pain I was experiencing, I did not want to let down those people who were counting on me to finish. Therein lies the second lesson of success - publicly stated goals keep us accountable.

   It's easy to fall short of our goals when we keep our targets to ourselves. We can rationalize these shortcomings a million different ways, and as long as we're simply talking to ourselves, there's nobody to poke holes in our hollow excuses. That's why we need to publicly state our goals. When we have declared our goals out loud, those around us will keep us accountable for achieving them. 

   That is not to say that you will achieve every goal you announce, but simply that when you feel like quitting, you readily evaluate your reasons. There were several runners that I saw that certainly made their goals public, but for genuine health reasons they were unable to achieve. And that's okay! We shouldn't die in pursuit of a finisher's medal! We just need to be sure that our reasons are valid, and mixed up in the pain and exhaustion, even the smallest molehill seems like a mountain in our minds. And having a public goal helps us make the distinction between real hardship and in-the-moment difficulties.

Break a large task (42kms) down into games.

   Again, we return to those last 12 kilometers, feet hurting, toes bleeding, slapping down on the cracked pavement of downtown Toronto. When 12 kilometers seemed to stretch on forever, my heart pounding inside my chest. My mouth was dry, my tongue felt like sandpaper as I sucked in breath after breath of warm, dry air. And suddenly I wasn't really looking at 12 kilometers, I was only looking at the next water station 3 kilometers away. If I could reach that in the next 20 minutes, I'd be alright. Once I made it, it was only another 3 kilometers to the next drink of water, I could beat those last 20 minutes! How about doing it in 19 minutes. Then 18 minutes. Then, wait, the next stop is the finish line!

   Taking a larger task and breaking it down makes each bite more manageable. But if you add a game element into it, "beat my last 3 km time", the process becomes much more tolerable. Those 12 kms that seemed so far a moment ago was really only 3 short games and the finish line! These games keep us going when our minds would otherwise tell us to quit.

   When you break down your huge goals into smaller tasks, the goal becomes much more manageable. But you can take this concept further by making each task a game, allowing yourself to feel joy over a smaller accomplishment, and motivating you to keep going. And like any sporting series, enough wins in those small games will lead you to the championship!

   I pushed through to the finish line, and had achieved my athletic goal of the summer. But the real achievement isn't found in a new medal hanging on the wall, the real achievement lies in the hours of training that got me to that point. The real achievement is not my finishing time on the race web page, but in the lessons that I learned about success along the way. Lessons that we can all apply to whatever our goals are.

   The process is painful. You won't achieve anything worthwhile easily. There will be hardships and heartbreaks along the way. These painful experiences are there not to break you, but to build you into a stronger version of yourself. A version of yourself that is worthy of the goals you want to achieve. 

   To keep you focused on those goals, you can announce them to the world. The people you tell, of what you are planning to accomplish will hold you accountable. And when you feel like quitting, you will think twice before throwing in the towel, are the hardships really too much to bear? Would you feel comfortable telling all those that you announced your intentions to that your goal really was out of reach this time?

   If the answer is no, and you determine you can continue in the pursuit of success, breaking the remaining journey down into smaller games will help. Each mini game will lead you one step closer to the finish line, and give you a small dose of satisfaction and motivation each step along the way.

   These lessons helped me cross the finish line at the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon, and they can help you reach your goals. Apply these lessons well, and there's no telling what you can accomplish in your life!

An Apple a Day

An apple a day keeps the doctor away. 

   We’ve all heard the cliche, often spoken by our parents or grandparents. And while apples may not keep us healthy all the time, there is certainly a positive lesson to learn. Making a small positive choice each day puts us in a healthier state. These positive choices add up over time, eventually bringing with them the succulent fruits of success. 

What are your Apples?

   The apple a day helps with our health. We’re selecting a fruit instead of something else, like chips or cookies. This trade-off provides a positive ROI, as we strengthen our bodies through improved nutrition, and stay away from foods that would do us harm. But that’s only one aspect of our lives where we are making a positive choice daily. To truly capture the essence of this advice, we need to find other apples, other positive choices that support all our goals.

   This could be reading industry news to stay abreast of the technological advancements in our careers. Or listening to a positive themed podcast in the morning, putting ourselves in an upbeat mood for the day. These apples help strengthen the important aspects in our lives. Perhaps far more important than goals, these small positive choices are the actions that we can take that lead us to both goal achievement, and the grander vision we have for our future.

What’s the catch?

   An apple a day, that seems so simple. And it is. It is also extremely simple not to do. Staying consistent with small positive choices is essential for reaping the rewards of long-term investing in ourselves.

How do we stick with these positive choices?

   If we consider each daily action like eating that apple, as a choice, then we are destined to fail. The issue here, is that we are allowing our willpower to decide if we eat the apple or the chocolate bar. Willpower is a fickle substance, and cannot be relied upon to deliver the same result day after day. 

   A far superior strategy is to create routines. These routines cost a lot of willpower up front, but then put you on an unconscious path to success. After a month or two, those decisions you used to make? They aren’t there anymore. You’ll find yourself subconsciously reaching for the apple every time that option comes up.

Time to go Apple Picking

   Now it’s your turn. What is your “apple a day”? What small thing, or things, can you do consistently to make sure you are on the right track to success? And how can you build these into a routine to make sure that you follow the path to success without relying on willpower in the future?

Pillars of Gratitude

   Wishing you a happy Thanksgiving!

   The first thanksgiving was back in 1621, as a way of celebrating the harvest that would sustain people throughout the winter months. Today, we still have such abundant feasts as we celebrate the fall season. Underpinning the entire holiday is the central theme of giving thanks.

   Gratitude is an essential mindset that helps highlight the various elements of our lives that we are grateful for. In the spirit of this season of giving thanks, I would like to encourage you to think of each of the pillars of your life. What are you grateful for in your; financial life? Career? Mental / Spiritual headspace? Physical health? Relationships with family and friends? And your romantic life?

   A few things that I am grateful for this thanksgiving:

Business Minded Tribe

   My career is the one area that I am most grateful for. That gratitude is directed entirely towards you, my loyal readers, who’s continued support allows me to do what I love. I appreciate all your stories when an article helps change your perspective, or encourages you to chase your dreams. Your success is the fire that keeps me going.

   A heartfelt thank you to everyone who has shared an article with their family and friends, or written in with a story of their own success, and to all who show up reliably every week to continue their pursuit of success with us.

My Pillars of Gratitude

   This Thanksgiving I was fortunate enough to spend hiking with my girlfriend, exploring Algonquin Provincial Park as we basked in the glory of the changing fall colours. This experience humbled me in its beauty, and helped me reflect on the many positives in my life. Having the physical fortitude to hike is a blessing, and the companionship of my girlfriend is second to none. Finding time to just exist with nature helps put the daily stresses into perspective, and clears my mind and spirit for the future.

Fall colours on our Thanksgiving hike
Fall colours on our Thanksgiving hike

   And it wouldn’t be Thanksgiving without spending time with family and friends. Having the good fortune to be able to afford a lavish turkey feast, surrounded by loved ones, is truly a gift that so many unfortunate families do not get to share.

What are you Grateful for this Thanksgiving?

   Gratitude doesn’t have to be a monumental occasion. It’s often the small things that bring us the most joy, and as we give thanks this fall season, it is important to remember those things. Something as simple as good health, which many of us take for granted each day, is truly a blessing.

   What are you grateful for this year? Think in terms of your Pillars of Success, the areas you set your goals in; financial health, physical health, career, mental / spiritual health, relationships with family and friends, and your romantic pursuits. These areas are a good start when expressing gratitude for all the things that are going well in your life.

How to Achieve Success, Simply.

   There are a lot of tips and tricks, productivity hacks, decision making criteria, time management techniques that I talk about in these Success articles you receive each week. 

   Tips and tricks are good. They can help us get more done, in a more sane manner. They can lead to success, but only when used correctly. Layering strategy on top of strategy doesn’t help, you need to select the best strategy for you, and use that. Simplify your decisions, simplify your work, simplify your success. 

The formula for success is actually quite simple: a few positive steps taken daily. 

   Deciphering what these steps are for you can be complicated, and that’s where different tips and techniques come in handy. Sometimes these techniques can change the steps we take in pursuit of success. But sometimes the steps that work for other people don’t work for us, and that is okay. That is normal. After all, we define success for ourselves, so what does work for someone else may only help you if your goal is exactly the same.

How does this look in practice?

Fitness

   The way I define success in my fitness pillar is: below 15% body fat, and over 40% muscle mass. Achieving these goals will enable me to be best equipped, physically, for any challenge life throws at me. Having defined my goal, my definition of success, I now need the routines and action steps that will lead me to those goals. 

   Learning what other people do helps tremendously, and it enables me to carefully evaluate what steps help other people, and if those same steps would work for my lifestyle and goals. For example, when you do a quick search for fitness tips you will be bombarded with a long list of different tips and tricks that work for some people: yoga, spin class, cross-fit, weight lifting, running, walking. 

   That list only grows exponentially when you throw a health query into the mix: green juices, keto diet, intermittent fasting, vegan diet, carnivore diet, nutrient and vitamin supplements, and the list goes on.

   It’s easy to get lost in the articles promoting each of these tips and tricks, and depending on your fitness goals, some might help you. But as I said, the path to success is simple. It might not be easy, but it’s simple. 

   To achieve my fitness goals I need to spend 3 days a week lifting weights, 4 days a week doing at least 30 minutes of heart-rate elevated cardio, and moderate sugars from both foods and alcohols. When compared to the “top 100 fitness trends of 2019”, these action steps are thankfully simple. And knowing that they are simple, I am more easily able to take these steps each day, each week. That consistent drive along the path of success leads me to my goals.

Career

   Your career is another area you need goals. Isolating one or two areas to grow will help cut down the clutter from a list of 10,000 things we could do better, and allow you to focus on those key areas. For example; my growth area that will drive future career growth, is improved communication skills. To do this, I need to make reading, writing, and speaking a daily practice. 

   These simple steps will help me grow, that that growth helps me tackle bigger projects and challenges in my career. 

   What are the simple steps that you can take in each of the 6 essential areas, or pillars, of your life? What are your goals financially, in your career, your physical health, your mental / spiritual health, your social relationships, and your romantic relationship? 

   Finding success in your life means achieving your goals in all of these areas. But that doesn’t have to be complicated. A few steps in the right direction each day, and you’ll be living a life of success on your journey to grow and achieve more.

How to Achieve Your Goals

(Zig Ziglar's method for Achievement)

   As we’ve discussed before, setting goals is essential for success. I actively promote the SMART methodology, renowned for its effectiveness. But having a goal alone does not guarantee achievement. To that end, let’s look at a method for achievement from a personal development icon, Zig Ziglar.

   Zig Ziglar, a true professional in goal setting, gives us another take on both the importance of, and execution of goals. His process takes us not only through the assigning of a goal, but continues until we have a concrete plan with which to take action. The steps are: Identify your goal, set a deadline, identify obstacles, identify people and skills that can overcome the obstacle, and developing a plan. Let’s briefly look at each of the steps.

Identify Your Goal

   We all have much we want to accomplish, and that’s good. But having widespread ambition can only take you so far. To truly accomplish anything, we need to focus. This involves setting a specific target that we can work towards. The imperative element is the target must be specific; such as lose 10 pounds, or achieve a manager promotion, or save $ 2,000 for a vacation. The specific nature of our goal gives us a clear target to strive towards.

Set a Deadline

   As with the T element in SMART goal setting, having a time element, or deadline, helps frame the problem and allows us to more clearly define the action plan. In Zig’s speech on goal setting, he uses his weight-loss goal to illustrate. He decided on the amount of weight to lose, and the deadline with which to achieve this by. Working backwards, he was able to determine a monthly, a weekly, and even a daily amount of weight he planned on losing.

   By setting a deadline, the big goal is more easily broken down into smaller, more manageable chunks, with an even closer time horizon. This allows us to measure and track our progress, and make corrective actions if required.

Identify Obstacles

   We all face challenges and obstacles when it comes to achievement. After all, if those obstacles weren’t there we would have already achieved our goals. There is much clarity to be gained from identifying what those obstacles are. For me, when I focus on my health goals, I know I cannot store beer in the fridge unless I plan on drinking it. Both the calories, and the lethargy that comes with consuming a beer with dinner is counter-productive to my health goals. Having beer in the fridge is hence an obstacle for me to achieving a healthy, balanced lifestyle.

   Once we know what the obstacle is, we can work towards overcoming that challenge.

Identify People and Skills to Overcome your Obstacles

   We don’t need to face our obstacles alone. There are people and resources that we can tap into to make our journey easier. This could be speaking to someone who has overcome the obstacle themselves. Or it could be as simple as asking a friend or a coach to keep you accountable for taking action. 

   What does this look like? If you have a career goal, you can identify several people who have achieved the success you seek. These people are valuable resources as you surmount the obstacle yourself. Achieving a fitness goal might need a session with a personal trainer or a nutritionist. The resources are out there, if you look for them.

   Other times it is additional skills that you need. Identifying what those skills are will help give you an action plan. Learn the skills, and you will be able to overcome the obstacle. In my previous example, the skills I needed to learn was environment design. By simply moving the tempting but unhealthy items from the fridge and out of plain sight, I was able to significantly reduce my consumption. This skill helped me overcome the obstacle to one of my health goals.

Develop a Plan

   By this stage you know where you’re going (your goal), what is stopping you right now (obstacle), who to turn to for guidance, and what skills you need to be successful. This is the framework of your plan, you simply need to put the pieces in place. Who will you talk to for guidance this week? What skills are you going to start developing? How? Books, seminars, online courses, all of these are available to increase your skills so that you can overcome your obstacles.

   Your plan is your way forward, your road map to achieving those grand goals and desires that you have. In this way, you will overcome the obstacles and reach for success. Not simply to leap the hurdle, but to grow and become a better version of you in the process.

   Set a goal, determine the obstacles preventing you reaching that goal, and identify the people and skills you need to overcome your obstacles. Putting these pieces into place reveals the beauty of your successful life, hidden among the puzzle pieces. That puzzle reveals a beauty that Zig saw, and that I see, if only you follow the steps to build it.

   Zig Ziglar’s guidance has helped hundreds of thousands achieve more in their lives. You could be the next, if you choose to chase those big dreams. Are you up for the challenge?

What’s something you wish you knew in your 20s?

   I was reading the forums this week, when this question popped up. Sure there are some generic answers: “you’re young, enjoy life”, “don’t worry so much”, etc. But there was a couple of answers that hit right at the heart of what we talk about at Business Minded.

“Spend less time worrying about investing small sums of money and focus on growing my career. Must have spent 100’s of hours reading forums, reading books, local real estate listings and figuring out which ETF was perfect for my small amount of savings.”

   This lady, or gentleman, is not your typical internet forum troll. The lesson that they are trying to impart here is both essential and ageless. No matter how old we are, if you are working in a career, you can increase your earning potential. We can increase what we are worth, by being able to bring more value to our customers, whether those customers are inside a company or external clients. By increasing our value, we are rewarded far in excess of the rate of return on the stock market.

   The earlier we begin to invest in ourselves, the more we will be able to earn in our lifetime. And that can have a dramatic effect over the course of several years. 

   There is no better example of this than a situation I advised one friend on. Andy (not his real name) found himself in a particularly wonderful situation early in his career. He had two opportunities on the table, his current job (Job A) at $ 70,000 annually, or an offer on the table (Job B) for more responsibility and a $ 85,000 annual salary. Seems like a no brainer right? But as always, there’s a complicating factor. Job A was offering an investment opportunity for equity in the company. The expected return was 400% after 5 years. With an astronomical return like that, the decision just became a lot more complicated. 

   From a numbers standpoint, the opportunities would be equal if Andy made 15,000 * 5 years = $ 75,000 on the investment deal. At a 400% return, that means an initial investment of $ 18,750. Andy has on hand approximately $ 30,000 to invest in Job A’s equity, which would result in $ 120,000. With a 5 year lens, which for many of us is beyond where we can reliably predict, Job A is far superior, to the tune of $ 45,000.

But what happens after 5 years? How far does that $ 45,000 advantage go?

   The skills we develop pay off now, but they keep paying us dividends into the future. A higher earning potential leads to our ability to generate substantial resources over the course of our careers. The job experience alone from an earned promotion can raise our financial outlook to untold heights, as we grow and increase our value. 

   Back to Andy, assuming his earning potential increases at the same rate for the rest of his career, 20 years from now with $ 15,000 extra per year leads to a gain of $ 300,000. That far in away exceeds the return of the $ 45,000 investment from Job A. When faced with the numbers, the decision became clear, Job B was the better route.

   How much time do we spend worrying about our investments right now? How valuable could we become if we spent that time learning, growing, increasing our earning potential?

   Investing in ourselves has the highest return on investment out of any investment we could possibly make. And the right time to invest is now. Invest in yourself. You can increase your value, and improve your future for the rest of your life.

Unsure of what the best way to increase your value is? The Career Growth coaching platform is designed to help you take control over your professional growth. Check it out here, or send me an email directly to brian.marchant@businessminded.ca to discuss if our program is the next step to take you to greater professional heights.

3 Questions to Align Your Goals

Are your goals really going to take you to the good life?

We all have goals in some capacity, focused on each of the areas of our life. Maybe that’s more money, a healthier lifestyle, more close friendships, or more impact in our careers. Many of these goals were set either some time ago, and we’re working towards them. Or they came about through social pressures; I should be healthier, I should chase more career success, I should save more money. Both these reasons for setting goals are valid and effective, but only when they are aligned with your values and your vision for your life.

And it is this alignment that we need to ensure exists.

But how do we know if our goals are aligned?

We can do this by looking at three different questions. These questions have been cultivated by some of the iconic thought leaders and speakers of our time, Jim Rohn, Zig Ziglar, Brian Tracy, and others. By spending time reflecting on the answers, we can determine if our current goals are in alignment with our life plan. Let’s look at the questions, and how they help us find that alignment.

What would you set as a goal for yourself if you won 5 million dollars? What would you do differently?

This two part question eliminates some of the constraints that we often consider when setting goals. Often times our goals, and the action plan associated with them, are influenced by our limited resources. Of the three limiting resources, this question reduces the impact of the financial side.

Take a look at your list of goals that you have today. If money wasn’t an issue, what would you change about that list? How would your goals be different? What would that do to your action plan, how you spend your time and energy each day?

What would you do if you only had 6-months to live?

A real eye-opener, which unfortunately some people actually do hear. Many of our goals are set with a long time horizon in mind. Saving for retirement 30 years from now, living a healthy life so we can experience those years with energy and vitality. Or climbing the corporate ladders to reach our highest levels of impact 10 or more years from now. But what if that time wasn’t there?

How differently would you act? How would your priorities change? This question helps clarify what is truly important in our lives, so that we can include more of that in today’s plans. If your answer involves adventure, what adventures can you take now? If your answer includes family and friends, are you spending enough time with them now? Are you showing them how much they mean to you?

What one great thing would you dare to dream if you KNEW you could not fail?

This final question asks about our current goals. Are they big enough?

Again, our current goals are often constrained by certain elements; our time, our energy, and our money. But there’s one other constraint we often don’t consider, but one that shapes our entire existence. The thought that maybe we might not succeed. This fear stops us from attempting those grand schemes and desires that would really make our lives great.

If you didn’t have that fear, what would you dare to dream?

Finding alignment between our goals and how we plan for life to turn out can be hard. By asking ourselves the right questions, we are able to find clarity over what is truly important. Knowing what we find essential to our lives helps us build more of that into our goals and vision for the future. Answer those questions, identify what is important to you. And most importantly, dare to dream that it is possible. You can have that life you dream of.

Action Item:

Break out a sheet of paper or a new word document. Answer the 3 questions:

  1. What would you set as a goal for yourself if you won a million dollars? What would you do differently?
  2. What would you do if you only had 6-months to live?
  3. What one great thing would you dare to dream if you KNEW you could not fail?

Now reflect on the answers, are your goals leading you to the life you desire? And one last challenge; I dare you to dream of what is possible for you in your life.

Valuable Decisions

   Knowing what to say Yes to is difficult. Being able to distinguish between what is often two good choices is therefore essential to achieving more.

So how do you make that decision?

   There are a few different approaches to decision making that are useful. One such approach is a values based decision making system.

What is a values-based decision making system?

   This system involves running each decision through your core values, and only taking action on the choices that support your values. By basing decisions on core values, you will never find yourself in a situation where your actions cause you discomfort, because if the choice doesn’t feel right, you won’t do it.

   This approach to decision making is able to be applied universally to every situation in whichever area of your life that is required. It also helps reduce the decisions to the same criteria, which makes it easier to evaluate when other options affect a different part of your life. For example, a career decision of working overtime can be evaluated against a health or social option much more easily. 

How does this work in practice?

   At Business Minded, some of our core values are Presence, Balance, and Growth. Each decision made must support one of these values for the action to be beneficial. For example, working late is run through the Balance value. If I haven’t been able to spend time with my significant other, or managed to get to the gym for a workout, working late is not conducive to finding balance in my life. For that reason, I will say no to working late in order to say yes to the gym or the girlfriend.

   The decisions we make don’t have to be monumental either, this could be as simple as abiding by the presence value, and not picking up my phone during time with friends and family. This small action helps me be more present, and hence strengthens my relationships with those that I value.

How do I find my values?

   We do not all share the same values, and that is good. Our values are what make us interesting and unique. To find your values, simply look inwards. There are things that you feel are important, and these are where you find your values. Soul searching can be hard though, so an alternative method is thinking about what other people do that irk you. Identifying what upsets you helps shine a light on the behaviors and traits that you value.

I know my values, what now?

   Once you know your values, run each decision through them. Is saying yes going to drive success for you based on your values? If not, what could you do with your time, money, or energy instead? Using a values based decision-making  system will help you stay true to who you are. 

A values based decision-making framework is, well, valuable.

   When you focus on doing things that support who you are, you’ll find more enjoyment in everything you are doing. There are so many options and choices in how we spend our lives. With the constant bombard of opportunities and requests of us, filtering each opportunity through our values will help clear out some of the noise. We might not always be able to avoid negative choices, such as having to work to meet a deadline when we’d rather be anywhere else. But when we are conscious of our values, we’ll be able to make choices that further reinforce who we are, and what we stand for. And I think we can all agree, living life on our terms is certainly important if we’re to make our life a successful one.

Action Item:

What are your values? Write out a few core values that define who you are, and use them to evaluate the choices that come your way. Remember, whenever you say “Yes”, you are also saying “No” to something else. Let’s make sure that the things you actually do help make you the person you want to be.

What are you saying Yes to?

What are you saying ‘Yes’ to?

   In today's world there are constant pressures to do this or that, read this, act on the right now moment. These constant pulls on our attention, our time, our energy, they leave us scrambling. We’re always busy.

But the question is, busy doing what?

   We have been conditioned to say yes. Yes to avoid conflict. Yes to avoid the FOMO. Yes, yes, yes. So often we’ve said yes, we’ve forgotten what it really means. Sure we’re busy, but we’re busy operating on someone else’s plan. And we’re okay with it, because we said Yes!

   From the time we’re old enough to start making decisions, we are being conditioned to say yes. This desire to please everyone starts to become ingrained in our minds, our operating system. Soon enough, we forget what it means to say no. 

   No is disappointment. No is conflict. No means we’re not part of what’s going on. These are the thoughts we have, this is how we’re conditioned. But we’ve got it wrong.

   We haven’t forgotten how to say “No”. We actually say no all the time. You see, every time we say yes, we’re also saying no. Yes to a social night out with friends means no to date night. Yes to that extra project or overtime at work means no to our passion pursuits at home. Yes to those unhealthy snacks means no to our health plan.

   The problem lies therein, to how we process decisions about saying yes. Because we all have limited resources, be it financial, time, or energy. And due to these constraints, we can’t do everything. Recognizing this, and understanding that every yes is a no to something else helps us regain clarity to the bustle of our daily lives.

What should we do?

   First, we need to work on our decision making skills. Making a decision is a skill, and through practice, we can become better at it. This means we need to step out of our default state of saying “Yes”, and give the request some serious thought. And once we know what to say yes to, and why, we get to the next step, saying “No”.

   Just as we need to practice making decisions, we need to practice saying no. After years and years of “yes” being ingrained in our behaviors, saying no will feel uncomfortable. We need to practice saying no to become comfortable saying no. And make no mistake, at first saying No will feel uncomfortable.

   As we take control over the small, seemingly insignificant choices we say yes to right now, we will start to see remarkable changes in our lives. We begin to find time, energy, even money that we can spend in areas that improve our lives. And that improvement? That is growth. That is success.

Ripples of Success

   Balance is essential in the pursuit of success. As we grow, we need to make sure our life’s pillars, the foundations that support our success, are strong. This ensures that instead of reaching for success over the precipice of cliffs, we have a firm place to stand as we reach for success.

   Achieving this balance sounds on the surface like a lot of work. Devoting time to our financial well-being, career advancement, physical fitness, mental or spiritual soundness, strength in our relationships, and love in our romantic pursuits. With a list like that, it is easy to become overwhelmed and forget one or two of our pillars. Fortunately, there is a way forward. As Mark Twain put it:

The secret of getting ahead is getting started. The secret to getting started is breaking your overwhelming tasks into small manageable tasks, and then starting on the first one.

   Taking one small action helps us start down the path. Continued by another action, and another. And the good news? These small wins enable us to win at other areas in life, almost without thinking about it. Like a single drop in the middle of the lake, our success ripples out in all directions.

What does this look like in practice?

   We start by walking around the block. And we do that simple, small action every day. Before too long, we start to feel stronger in our legs, our heart, our lungs. That physical win is noticeable. Before long we start to realize that we have slightly more energy at work, simply because we have better blood flow. The result is we get a little more done each day, nothing crazy, just an extra few minutes of productivity. Soon enough those extra few minutes mean we stop working late once or twice a week, and get to spend more time on social activities, and we’re still home in time for an extra meal or two with our loved ones. And we’re still walking around the block, so if we’ve taken that first step of getting moving, feeling healthier, we might just change our diet a little bit. Since we have extra energy at work, we cut back on that caffeinated soda at lunch in favor of water. After all, it’s healthier, and we feel great. 

   The above example is very real, I’ve seen similar results in my own life, where one small change seemingly changed the world. With the ripples of success washing over each other, it’s possible to see these incremental improvements. Seeing growth is both comforting and inspiring, which motivates us to keep going, and strengthens our own sense of self-worth.

   As our success ripples outwards from one small change we can make today, our entire lives are strengthened. These ripples of success lead to more balance, and a firmer foundation to stand upon as we reach for future successes.

   It’s your turn. What one small positive change can you make today, and stick to, that will start the ripples of success improving your life?