Tracking Progress Helps You Focus

When I was at the gym today I felt completely lost. I felt like I was wandering around, not picking up the right weight, and just over thinking too much. It was probably the weakest I have been in a long time. I couldn’t figure out why, until I realized the one thing that I always have with me I had left behind at home. My log book.

I was not able to see what my workout schedule for the day was nor was I able to track my progress. It was the first time I was without it in years. I felt completely lost.

I realized that my log book does more than act as reference for future workouts or as a way to wow myself with all the progress I am making. It is something that really clears my mind and forces me to focus on the task at hand, my workout.

I’ve never used a logbook of any sort outside the gym, but I am definitely going to start exploring other places this might be useful. Not because I feel lost, but I wonder if it will help give me greater focus.

Abandoned Garage Converted Into Apartment

An architect in Bordeaux, France coverts an old garage on a historic street into an apartment. The most interesting feature is a single piece of furniture which acts as a closet, couch, guest bedroom, master bedroom, bathroom, workspace, and storage space.

You’re selling emotions

At the end of the day, what ever product you sell or service you provide, you are selling an emotion.

Apple is a great example of this. You are emotionally sold when you open their deliberate packaging. When you interact with their friendly software. When your problems are solved at the Genius Bar. You get to experience wonderful emotions over and over.

If you are a consultant you sell emotion through your integrity, when you show up early, or fished a project under budget. These are all emotional wins and you are selling them constantly.

Saving someone money. Making someone money. Offloading work for someone. A firm handshake. Listening with intent. These are all emotional wins.

It is you job to find all the places and moments in time where you can provide emotional wins.

Gatekeepers no longer exist, but their idea still persists. We see them in shows like American Idol, the workplace, and even friends and family. This idea that you need to take a set of steps in order to please the gatekeepers to let you move forward.

It is still within people to believe that you need someone else’s permission, approval, or blessing before doing something great. This may have been true at one time, but now you have no other choice.

You are your own gatekeeper.

Caring undone

I was at Target the other day picking up some vitamins when a group of teenage kids started popping open boxes of diet pills and cramming the bottles into their jackets. Shouting, literally throwing the empty boxes around, just causing a scene the entire time. All right near an employee filling shelves at the other end of the asile. I informed him, but he just shrugged. I informed another employee who aimlessly pointed in the direction of a manager. So I gave up.

If a business doesn’t care, imagine how little a customer cares.

When caring becomes no ones job things start to fall apart. Soon quality suffers then customer service. Then a business will scratch their heads wondering why they’re failing. Everything will be undone, and it can happen overnight.

Startups are a labyrinth, not a maze.

A maze has rules that are easy to define and those rules don’t change. Come to a wall, you can either go left, right, or turn back.

A labyrinth may look like a maze so it may seem like there are rules, but a labyrinth is dynamic and can change as the last second. Come to a wall, maybe it can be smashed. Maybe you can go under it. Maybe the wall disappears every once in a while. Maybe you can turn it into a unicorn and ride it away. It may not even exist. There truly are no rules.

Startups are like labyrinths, there are no rules and everything is coninously changing. You have to be ready for what comes and even then you have to make sure you truly understand what you are faced with.

Even the roles of its players is not easy to define and changes often. There is no easily defined pipeline of work for people in a startup to pull from. There is just this big pile of a mess that needs to be picked up and organized. And it’s done by everyone.

If you love labyrinths, you’ll love startups.

Follow up FAST

One of the easiest hacks I learned for impressing customers, partners, and people in general is to follow up with them as fast as humanly possible. The moment you receive their ping, ping them back.

This does not mean completing the action that they may require of you. It simply means acknowledging them and their request.

People will rarely tell you when you’ve screwed up

People generally do not like confrontation and will go out of their way to compliment you even when you have totally screwed up. The easiest place to catch yourself doing this is after a mediocre meal. I’ll too easily let the owner know “it was great” when in fact the meal was a barely edible.

It is critical to be honest with yourself, how you run things, and the product you push out to customers. Whether it is software, physical goods, or a service, never blow smoke up your own ass. Listen to the negatives. You know where most of the rough edges are, which ones to keep and which ones to round out. But there are hidden ones, which is why secret diners are such a great way for restaurants to truly get to the problems they never knew existed.

It is hard to learn form the positives. One, because you accomplished something you already knew. But more importantly, you will actually be paying attention when a negative is brought to your attention.

People who are openly negative are rare, but honest. Listen and determine whether action is required or not.

War on Drugs

Interesting Wall Street Journal article on the War on Drugs: Have We Lost the War on Drugs?.

I think that the focus on finding a tactic to solve the drug problem, quantity based offenses for example, is one that will not work. I also think decriminalization will not work.

Yes, I believe there would be progress, better services for addicts and lower incarceration numbers for example, if we were to decriminalize the buy end. But I do not believe that it would put much of a dent into criminal enterprises if we were to decriminalize the sell end. The idea that if you take away a criminal’s prime opportunity, he’ll go away, is foolish.

A real solution will be things like education, literacy, mentorships, and other such opportunities across the globe.

Price based purchasing decisions

For my twelfth birthday my father took me to Abt to buy me my very first boombox, something I had been wanting for some time. This was 1989 and I will never forget walking through the door, stepping up to a massive wall of stereos of all shapes, colors, and sizes. I was in heaven.

The only thing my father said to me was, “don’t even look at the price, just find the stereo that you works the best for you”. So that’s what I did.

I spent a good hour going through each one, easily weeding out several based on style and size, playing with dials, reading the spec sheets, one deck vs. two decks, blasting music, until I whittled them down to the one I wanted. A Sony boombox of my very own. A stereo that I owned up until 2002 when it finally retired.

It had an amazing lifespan and quite a few homes. First as my entertainment centerpiece, then as a music duplication device, a recording device, a guitar instructor, a karaoke machine, then, finally, as a spare bedroom unit.

What mattered was that it was special. It wasn’t just something I bought, but something I had invested in and it gave back 100 fold.

Because of this lesson, I own very few things and have only bought things that matter, that I see as an investment. Things that would bring me more than the short lived therapeutic effects buying can often have. It is never about price.


Work used to mean doing what your told. You had a boss and he told you what to do in a very literal sense. You always knew where you stood, what was coming down the pipeline, and when you would be done.

Work is no longer that simple. Work today means figuring out what needs to be done next. And figuring out what needs to be done next is incredibly difficult because the pipeline still exists. So when you are done with the obvious things, making calls, taking meetings, updating your website, you can feel restless, wondering what to do.

This is the struggle. This is where real growth and change can happen. If you can figure out what to do next, you’ll win.