Today, when someone in Beijing gets the coronavirus again, the entire world knows about it within hours. 52 years after the Hong Kong flu, we still don’t know how many people actually died from it. The WHO says between 1 and 4 million people. That’s a pretty big range.
For the dad reading this on Father’s Day, imagine if someone asked you how many kids you have and you said, “somewhere between 1 and 4.” And yet, somehow we all accepted this final death toll from the Hong Kong flu back in 1968-1969 as somewhere between 1 and 4 million.
Because we weren’t obsessed with instant, always-on communication streaming to us 24/7 through our televisions and smartphones. In the 1950s our average radio use dropped to less than two hours per day while TV viewing climbed to 1 hour and 23 minutes. Back then, we consumed a limited amount of media and shrugged our shoulders at a wildly-inaccurate range of how many people died from the Hong Kong flu and we went back to work.
Today, the average American watches 8 hours and 55 minutes of TV per day.
That’s an absolutely astounding amount of media consumption. That adds up to over 135 days of sitting in front of a TV or streaming device each year. Unreal.
Today, there are entire shows and segments on the always-on news media dedicated to theoretical what-if scenarios that never happen.
What if we run out of ventilators? What if we don’t have enough meat or toilet paper or what if all the hospital workers get sick and there’s no one to take care of us? What if the economy is shut down for years?
All of these topics scroll across our television and devices non-stop. The few minutes of reprieve you get from the non-stop negative news industry are filled with pharmaceutical ads that ask viewers whether or not they might have arthritis, high blood pressure, eczema, congestion, seasonal allergies, erectile dysfunction, diabetes or one of a million other ailments.
I realize you don’t have time to participate in this mind-numbing activity but I would challenge you to think through how your media consumption has changed over the years and how immune you really are to its destructive and productivity-zapping tendencies.
- Do you allow your phone, laptop or tablet to push notifications to you? Turn them all off.
- Do you find yourself mindlessly scrolling through news and social media feeds. Stop. Turn your phone settings to monochrome<. It will help reduce the addictive nature of the apps that commonly drain your time.
- Do you have a handful of Facebook groups you check throughout the day. Limit your time on them.
One of the reasons we see poor results in many small businesses is that the owners and leaders of these organizations are pulled in a million directions, making only millimeters of progress in each.
Instead, you should be making a mile of progress in one direction.
Would you like to know how to get this done? It’s very simple in theory but damned hard in practice. Do these four things and you’ll become rich in experience, influence, relationships and financial resources.
First, before you go to bed, reflect on your day.
Don’t fall asleep late at night after watching a bunch of television or mindlessly scrolling through your smart phone. Instead, turn off all the distractions and set aside time to express thanks and gratitude for all you’ve been given.
Write down the three to five things you’re going to do tomorrow. They don’t all have to be “conquer the world” type goals. One item, for example, could be to take your dog for a walk and meditate or pray early in the morning. Another item could be to sit down with a key employee for breakfast and check in to see how they are doing.
Second, keep your phone out of your bedroom.
Do not wake up and start checking emails, text messages or voicemail. Start your day on your agenda. Keep all inbound communication at bay. Check your email, texts and other messages no sooner than 12pm, so that you have a full four hours of productive time to work on your agenda, no somebody else’s. David Allen was right when he said email is a never-ending to-do list that anyone on the planet can add to without your permission.
Third, schedule start and end times to those three to five things you wrote down and at the end of the next day, reflect on them again.
Did you get them done? What did you learn? What three to five things do you know today that you didn’t know when you woke up. Check whether or not you paid yourself today. Answer whether you demand a reasonable wage for your efforts every single day and stop taking what’s left over at the end of the month or simply taking some pre-set salary. That’s no way to 5X or 10X your income.
Finally. Give yourself time and space to think and be productive.
Write down 10 ideas every single day even if you think they are silly or horrible. Most of them will be silly or horrible but if you train yourself to get into this habit, it’s like putting your subconscious through olympic training for productivity and creativity. You’re reading this report solely because one day over a decade ago, I wrote down the idea to “send frequent updates to clients with market news, mindset lessons and encouragement.”
Throughout the world, we’re all social distancing, but very few people are giving themselves enough mental space to process, reflect and plan.
Start with 20-30 minutes per day and grow into a comfortable rhythm where you have at least a half-day of planning for every $5 million in revenue for any professional practice in which you are still a producer or treating clinician.
Protect this time and space at all costs. Make a “Do Not Disturb” sign and laminate it. Stick it on your door and shut that door. Stephen King, one of the most prolific authors of all times, says the key to becoming a great writer is to have a door that you’re willing to shut. No one must interrupt this time of yours. They must all understand it is how you create and produce for the good of all stakeholders, so that everyone can thrive.
It helps to create a space that stimulates such creativity and productivity. My office, simply by stepping into it, speaks to my subconscious that this is a place to be productive and do my best work. It was created through painstaking attention to detail and no expense was spared in its design, layout or furnishing of technology, tools and resources.
Very few people have ever been in my office. Many have seen my public-facing office, where I take meetings, but I can count on a few fingers how many have actually seen where I produce my best work. One commented that I could run a large company or small country from “the room where it happens.” He’s right and it’s not by mistake.
And listen, I’m very average in all of this. I’m no Stephen King.
When you give yourself space to be this productive, you magnetically attract solutions, resources and people to you that can help you achieve your goals.
When you don’t, however, you become locked, prohibited, effectively impotent in achieving your results, like the millions of people throughout the world that are glued to a device or television.
Angela Duckworth is the Christopher H. Browne Distinguished Professor of Psychology at the University of Pennsylvania, where she studies grit and self-control. In her book, Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance, Professor Duckworth defines grit as “perseverance and passion for long-term goals.”
“In their work with The United States Military Academy at West Point, Duckworth and her team of psychologists have worked for years to understand who will make it through the rigorous training and who will drop out. For weeks on end, new recruits are asked, on an hourly basis, to do things they can’t yet do. Most cadets are tired, lonely, frustrated and ready to quit.
What’s interesting is that those who rise to the occasion and make it through the intense training are not the ones who have the most talent. Many drop out who have all the ability in the world. When presented with challenges that exceeded their current skills, what they lacked was a never give up attitude.”
Duckworth translated what she learned working with West Point into all areas of life in studying high achievers, from bankers and business leaders to artists, athletes, medicine, law, journalism and academia. What her research has found is illuminating.
She admits, in nearly every example of high-achieving success stories, there is a combination of luck and talent. But, it goes deeper than that. The subjects of her study were driven to improve. “When the average person would be satisfied, the top of any field or profession is not. They are their own harshest critics.”
Angela Duckworth – Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance
My family doesn’t like this about me. I’ve often said if you could print out my inner thoughts in a bubble that hovered above my head, I’d either be committed or arrested. As harsh and demanding as I can be on my employees, vendors and business partners and (at times) clients, they all tolerate it, not only because I allow others to ride on my coattails, so to speak, and benefit from my success, but also because they know I’m quite literally 100 times harder on myself.
Listen, none of this is flowery, warm or fuzzy, but it’s the truth and it’s high-time, if no one else in your life has allowed you to acknowledge it, that I give you the space to do so here, in a safe place where you understand that you’re not the only one who thinks this way:
- I have no realistic expectation that I’ll ever catch up to my own ambitions. In my eyes, I’m never good enough and that’s OK. I’m satisfied being unsatisfied.
- I’m chasing something of unparalleled interest and importance to me and it’s the chasing that’s actually more gratifying than the capture. Everyone around me has had to get OK with that.
It’s the same with top writers, athletes, business leaders and academics. Everyone in orbit around them is aware of this and they’ve made their peace with it. I know my peers, ex-employees and contemporaries dislike me for this, but that has more to say about them than it does about me.
They call me a workaholic or say that I’m too driven. Let them say what they want. I do not care. When Walt was building Disneyland and had already spent half the money with nothing more than mounds of dirt to show for it, he wondered aloud to the lead engineer, with tears in his eyes, if building the park’s railroad and four different “lands” might turn out to be his biggest mistake yet. That harsh self-criticism and determination to see things through led Disney to build an apartment for his family inside the park, so he could eat, sleep and work on-site without leaving.
If you look at the research and examine your own heart, your most successful endeavors happen when you’re ferociously determined and working your hardest; when you know in a very deep way what you want and that you’re not only passionate about what you’re chasing but absolutely determined to capture it. Like adding top-quality racing fuel to a high-performance engine, it helps if you’re doing all of this in service of your higher sense of purpose.
Listen. I know you have grit or you wouldn’t be reading this update. You’d be mentally wandering about, worrying about this pandemic and economic shutdown. You’d be one of the majority in our profession, who are great when things are going well but fall apart when things aren’t.
But you’re not like the majority. You won’t turn away from or reject the grit inside you. You’ll embrace it. Let this be your fuel to navigate the best path forward.
In coaching, consulting and reviewing the reports from our on-site trainers, human capital challenges are at the top of the list of items we’re hired to fix. As I’ve done with most systems, challenges and opportunities in business, I help my clients and trainers develop and deploy “litmus tests,” or quick “yes/no” tools to help guide next steps.
Here’s one you might put to good use when your next employee challenge or frustration arrives. Ask if this is an issue of character or circumstance.
Our data indicate: underperforming employees are rarely an issue of character. These situations are almost always an issue of circumstance.
For example, we failed to place the employee in the proper role. The training program was inadequate. Oversight and motivational systems were not being deployed consistently. Communication was unclear. We did not support the employee’s desire to learn new things, master his own environment and contribute to a higher sense of purpose.
And yet, I see employees in our clients offices being disciplined or terminated because of circumstance. This is a horrible mistake. Do not let good people go if you haven’t done your job in placing them in the best-fit position, training, managing and motivating them and then getting out of their way so they can help you achieve your vision and mission.
In the rare situations where an employee has demonstrated a problem with character, in a twist of irony, many practice owners drag their feet in firing the employee.
Listen. There are no quick fixes for issues of character. There is only one solution for an employee who is dishonest, has a poor work ethic, refuses to be a team player and sabotages new projects in the office: swift termination.
And yet, too many business owners fail to address this problem because the employee has been with the team for a long time, performs their job, at least from time to time, sufficiently, etc.
Isn’t that interesting? The fact that most small business owners will tolerate a crisis of character but not one of circumstance? Why?
For starters, it’s easier to blame the other person for poor performance than it is to look in the mirror and admit that your systems for hiring, training, management, motivation and culture all stink like yesterday’s garbage.
Our egos don’t get damaged when we point our fingers at someone else. But, like my mother used to say, “when you point your finger at someone else, there are three more pointed back at you.”
This advice and litmus test, if you take a moment to unpack and consider them, make perfect sense in the larger picture of running a successful business. Because if you get this right, you’ll behave in the opposite fashion of every other competitor in your industry.
From the first Netflix earnings call of 2020 and MarketWatch:
“What does it mean to “watch” a show on a streaming service? For Netflix Inc., it now means viewing at least two minutes. The streaming service noted in its first quarterly earnings report of 2020 on Tuesday that it has changed the definition of viewership — while Netflix used to consider any customer that streamed 70% or more of a single episode or film as having viewed that property, it now will count a view after viewing two minutes or any offering. The company admitted that it would boost the limited viewership numbers it provides by more than one-third.
“The new metric is about 35% higher on average than the prior metric,” Netflix executives said in their quarterly letter to shareholders. “For example, 45m member households chose to watch ‘Our Planet’ under the new metric vs. 33m under the prior metric.”
This, my friends, is the definition of insanity and a very slippery slope.
I’ve said for years that the internet is largely an unregulated cesspool when it comes to advertising and false metrics. Does anyone remember Jay-Z’s album selling a million copies in five days? Except it didn’t. His streaming service, Tidal, is under criminal investigation in Europe.
Facebook logs a view for advertisers when a video plays for at least three seconds. YouTube uses better metrics and bills the advertiser when a user watches a complete add that’s 11-30 seconds long or watches at least 30 seconds of an ad that’s more than 30 seconds or interacts with the ad. Instagram has admitted to wasting billions of paid sponsorship dollars on followers that don’t exist. Every year Facebook deletes billions (with a B!) fake accounts.
According to Forbes, “In the six-month period from October 2018 to March 2019, Facebook said it removed 3.39 billion fake accounts. That’s twice the number of fake accounts detected and removed in the previous six-month period and over a billion more than the 2.37 billion people who actively use the social network on a monthly basis.”
Netflix is following Facebook down this insane rabbit hole. It’s one thing to hoodwink investors about the number of actual users and views but advertisers won’t tolerate it and eventually everything comes home to roost. Streaming services will need to significantly increase subscription costs or introduce more advertising, something Netflix has said it will never do. Uh huh, Facebook said the same thing. “We changed our minds,” is the most-common phrase ever uttered by companies that follow the dollar down these rabbit holes.
As a small business owner, not only can you not afford to behave like this (you have to count with dollars in the bank and lifetime customer value and return on investment, etc.) but you must also pay very close attention to any advertising platform or media channel that counts with funky math.
The most transparent and effective online advertising platforms right now, for my businesses, are Amazon and Google, respectively.
I’m optimistic that Amazon can take over both of these categories (transparency and overall effectiveness). How much juice they will want from the squeeze is the only hurdle that remains for local service providers. But, rest assured, Amazon is coming for your advertising dollars.
I’d leap for joy if they allowed targeted in-package advertising for new movers, grocery deliveries and standard packages. It’s not a far leap for Amazon to allow local service providers to advertise in specific packages and via email footer ads with coupons for furniture assembly, appliance installation or lawn service. They have the best 360 degree view of their 101 million Prime members. Why not leverage those data points and sell to local service providers, after which Amazon could easily acquire or affiliate with the most successful of the bunch?
As a sound business principle, seek out and work with organizations that consistently raise the bar.
Google has done this consistently for years and has allowed very smart marketers like Jimmy Marketing to help local service providers make a ton of cashola. Amazon will hopefully do this even better.
Everyone else, unfortunately, is feverishly lowering the bar. There is no excuse to follow them into oblivion.
I’m back from a whirlwind trip to Las Vegas, where we hosted 50+ TC Boot Camp attendees, three private coaching clients, a quarterly planning meeting for two of my companies and a scouting trip for a few long-shot investments. In two of the three private coaching meetings, a common theme we discussed was systems management. I reviewed business systems through three lenses: communication, oversight and recalibration.
Everyone seems to enjoy talking about systems, creating systems, perhaps even training their employees on new or existing systems. Since the first mention of “business systems” in 1980 by McKinsey and Company and through the creation and adoption of Six Sigma, business leaders throughout the world have been obsessed with automation and systems, to help eliminate defects in any process.
Sounds great, right? Just like “running a marathon” sounds great, the problem arises in the distance between idea and implementation. We all want to be in great shape. Getting off the couch and running every day is another story. We all want our businesses to run smoothly with maximum profit and happy stakeholders and shareholders. Systems oversight and management is another story.
Who Moved My Cheese? is a simple yet effective business fable about adapting to change and overcoming fears. The book has sold more than 26 million copies and remained on the New York Times business best-sellers list for nearly 5 years. It offers very little in the area of systems development, but it diagnoses precisely why systems fall apart and why we need them in the first place: change.
Your top competitors in business today will not be your top competitors five years from now. The problems you solve for your customers, clients, patients or donors today will not be the same problems you will solve a decade from now. Your employees, shareholders, stakeholders and strategic plans will change. Everything, in fact, will change; and that’s precisely why clients consistently travel to me with challenges and frustrations in dealing with change; anticipating change and overcoming their fears in adapting to, circumventing and even enjoying the change in their lives.
This morning on your way to work, your car keys were probably right where you left them last night. In business, however, nothing is where you left it. Change is continuous and often compounding or confusing for you and your employees. For example, if you left your employee training systems where you last touched them, perhaps when you started the business, they are not where you left them. Your training systems have, for good or for ill, been changed, improved, strengthened, weakened, diluted or condensed, etc.
Your systems have either adapted to or been run over by change. When’s the last time you took a look at them? How consistently and effectively do you oversee the systems in your business?
Things are not where you left them.