Changing My Relationship with Learning

Raising kids is like having a bunch of parrots–or instant replay monitors–or whatever other metaphor applies to seeing a reflection of your own behavior lived out right in front of you. Like when one of your kids scolds another one of your kids for bothering him, his voice ripe with condescension, and you scold him for too. Except 4 words in to your monologue you realize you are doing the exact same your kid was doing. And he’s looking at you, confused, wondering what is wrong. He is just copying your behavior.

I have a 13-year-old son. He has a phone. He is always on his phone, or his Xbox. When there is nothing to do, there is a screen in front if his face. He swipes more than he types, or takes photos, or does any other output. It drives me nuts. Why is he wasting so much time? Why does he consume so much more than he creates? Why doesn’t he go outside and play. And I tell him. He looks at me, confused, wondering what is wrong. He is just copying my behavior.

I have a laundry list of things I want to do–things my ideal self-image does. My ideal self is a writer, a teacher, a strong leader, a programmer. My ideal self works hard every day, has a strong group of friends and a giant business network.

The real me spends too much time learning–my euphemism for consumption. There is more information in my brain, information that I have consumed, than I could take action on in a decade. Still, I look for new things to learn. The content criteria gets lax. I am wasting time.

I see it in my kids, in the way they choose to spend their time. They are a reflection of my poor habits–my good ones too, yes–but it’s the poor habits that limit us in life. I can’t allow this to continue, and I can’t change it with words that don’t match behavior.

So I want to change my relationship with learning. Learning through action, through creation, through building things and making a contribution. Learning to work through fear and imposter syndrome and quieting the inner critic.

Learning through action.

Something Every Day

When you look at the habits of anyone who is world class, the one thing that is consistent with every single one of them is that they showed up for work on their “thing” almost every day for a very long period of time.

Some of them don’t believe they are good enough. 

Some of them aren’t naturally gifted at what they do.

Yet, the simple process of taking consistent action over a long period of time is what leads to their success.

I think about all of the things I want to do or wish I would have done, and for so many of those things if I would have just stuck with it, or started even–for just a small amount of time each day–I may have ended up world class.

That stings and it motivates.

Business Advice: Staring a Business

I have had a couple of people reach out to me lately asking for advice on starting and running businesses. It’s great. I am glad I have build a reputation that I know what I am doing…even though I feel like I am just figuring it out. It’s got me thinking about what to tell people.

  1. It’s harder than you will ever imagine in areas that you wouldn’t imagine.
  2. It gets harder as it goes on…not easier.
  3. Focus on sales first. Solving problems caused my too much sales is way better than solving problems caused by not enough sales.
  4. Don’t do it by yourself, and make sure you have people who you can turn to for leadership and advice.
  5. Create a list of everything you need to do. Pick one thing. Do it. Repeat this every day for a week. Then make a new list at the beginning of the next week. Repeat this process forever.
  6. Remember to look back at what you have accomplished when you get discouraged by what you have not accomplished.
  7. It’s ok to go into a room by yourself and cry and yell or whatever you need to do.
  8. Schedule healthy stress releases, or you will unintentionally have unhealthy stress releases.
  9. You will notice as time goes by that you have more people around who want something from you than people who want something for you. This is a natural consequence of leadership. So…be intentional about seeking out people who want something from you.
  10. You are more that your performance. This is hard to believe at times when you are doing really well and at times when you are note doing very well.
  11. Hire people to do what you are not good at doing as early as possible. This can be through outsourcing or employees.
  12. Hire people who are results oriented and can figure out problems on their own. Give them goals. Hold them accountable.
  13. Don’t stop selling your vision to the people you lead.
  14. Take time to practice gratitude. You will get caught up in the problems and in what needs to be done. Gratitude helps take some of that pressure off, and it is certainly energizing.
  15. Keep as much money in the company as possible because something will happen and you will need it to be there.
  16. If you are doing it right, you won’t be the person who has all of the answers.
  17. Pay attention to what people do more than what they say.
  18. Don’t isolate yourself. (See numbers 1, 2, 4, 6, 7, 8, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 16, and 17).

Reset. Refocus.

When I first started my company, I was motivated by the idea that no matter what, we were going to make Envoy a great place to work. I would always say, “The job may not be the best job you’ve ever had, but this will be the best place you have ever worked.”

Almost 5 years has gone by, and my original ambition is still true. However, the bumps and bruises which come with starting and running a company have distracted me from the execution. I have lost focus. I have let culture slip. I have not been as intentional as I know I should be.

I try not to beat myself up over my failures. That sits in the same box as complaining…self-centered, unproductive, and toxic. Instead, I recognize failures as another part of the personal growth process. I focus on what I can do going forward. The wonderful part about life is that we are free to change directions at any moment. You can decide today…right now…to take action that will change your future.

It won’t be easy because change is never easy. But just because it isn’t easy, doesn’t mean it can’t be done.

I have a lot of work to do to become the leader I set out to become. I would even say I have some back tracking to do. As my pastor said last Sunday, “You don’t know the exact moment you’re lost. You discover you’re lost long after you became lost.” I would say this is true for me as well.

This is my public promise to myself…an accountability message for future me. I know what to do. Now, I need to go and do it.

Oh…and this time, stay focused so you don’t have to do this again.

The Right Way To Ask

Hey Everyone!

I just published my latest podcast called “The Right Way To Ask For Something” on my Anchor page.

Take 10 minutes and listen, but if you don’t have time, here are the 3 points I cover:

  1. Know what you want.
  2. Ask for more than what you need.
  3. Put the problem on their plate to solve.

I break it down with more detail and a couple of examples on the show, so be sure to listen in if you want to learn more.


Voice Dictation

In my effort to use my computer less and my mobile device more as my primary work tool, I been to relying on voice dictation more than I do typing.

There are a few things that I like about this approach.

It is faster. Speaking is way quicker than using my thumbs to type something out on the keyboard. So, if I need to get something out fast, speaking into my phone is going to be the best way to do it.

Speaking into my phone helps me to connect more with what I’m actually saying. I find this very similar to what it’s like writing my words down on paper with a pen. I have to be more thoughtful about what I’m saying.

It allows me to practice communicating verbally. This is incredibly important especially with the fact that our workforce is now 100% remote, and it’s very easy to rely on written communication.

I find my thoughts flow more freely out of my head when I’m speaking into my phone. Sometimes I’ll get into a topic that I’m trying to communicate to one of my team members, and I’ll be able to express what I mean more clearly because I’m not constantly editing what I’m saying. I’m allowing what I mean to just flow. I’m a verbal processor, and I work well this way.

One limitation with dictation, especially with the iPhone, is that there’s a time limit on how long you can speak into your keyboard. One way I get around this is by using the Drafts app by a company called Agile Bits. I’m using Drafts 5, which is their newest offering. There is a feature to do voice dictation directly into the application instead of the keyboard. There’s a button that you press with a little microphone on it which allows you to speak for as long as you want. What’s neat is I can actually leave this running in the background. If there’s a thought I’m trying to get out, and I can’t get it clearly get it out of my head. When there’s a long pause in my speech, it will actually add in a special set of characters, so I know that there was silence at that point.

Another limitation is that you have to remember to add punctuation verbally. So, at the end of a sentence you actually have to say the word period. If you need a comma, or an ellipsis, or any other form of punctuation you need to say it out loud.

Finally, dictation is not perfect yet. There are frequently words that my phone doesn’t understand. For example, it can’t tell the difference between writing and riding. I can see this being a major problem with people with very strong accents. Still, it’s much faster and way more convenient than trying to type out everything. From my experience this is an area that is getting better all the time.

So, if you struggle with typing in your phone, definitely experiment with voice dictation. Just like anything else, it does take practice. What you’ll find in the end is that it is a more convenient way of getting words from your head into your phone.

One final note: this entire blog post was originally transcribed using voice dictation and the drafts app. I then put it into another app on my phone called Ulysses where I fixed typos, added links, and ultimately published to my blog.

Alone With Your Thoughts

When is the last time you were alone with your thoughts?

This is a question I keep asking myself. It seems like any time I am alone…in the car, on a run…I have some sort of entertainment. It’s an audiobook, a podcast, music.

So I have this question pop up in a reminder once a week. It makes me think about. Maybe I’ll leave the headphones behind on a long run or keep the radio off in my car…just let my mind wander.

I haven’t had any major epiphanies or anything. I do feel more relaxed when I am done, and if I am honest, a little bored the whole time. Which, if you think about it, is boredom all that bad really? I think I need to be bored more often, let my mind run wild, see what I learn about myself.

What about you? When is the last time you were alone with your thoughts?

Embracing A Mobile Based Toolkit

The more I lean into a focus on the work I am uniquely good at and enjoy, the harder look I take at the tools I use.

My tech fascination gave way to an obsession and has caused an increase in the amount of devices I interact with on a daily basis.

My daily carry alone has is 3 devices, laptop, tablet, and phone. This is despite the fact that I only use my laptop for a couple tasks that are easier on the computer. Basically, it’s more of a hassle to carry the thing around all the time than it is to take an extra minute or 2 on those couple of tasks. I continue to try to leave the laptop behind as much as I can to both force myself to find easier ways to get the same work done, and delegate what I don’t need to be doing anyway.

And apps are catching up to what I need. There is a learning curve, or an in-learning curve rather, where the app designers build in features that make so much more sense than simply copying laptop and web based work flows.

The QuickBooks app is one of these that is catching up. I love how they are thinking through what it’s like working on an iPad or mobile device and then providing simple workflows. I received 4 payments in the QB app on my iPad (one of the tasks I needed the web based version on my laptop to do), and it was so much faster and easier.

The other app that is incredible is the podcasting app, Anchor. Their iPad app is a very simple, yet powerful podcasting studio built into the app. I can record straight into the app, edit, and publish without needing to transfer files and such. It’s a different work flow that Logic or other audio editing software, but it makes sense on an iPad. I can’t wait to see where they take this.

It’s great that tech is catching up and I can start leaving my laptop behind without compromising functionality.

What mobile first workflows are you experimenting with? Can you leave your computer behind and remain productive?

Reverse Engineering Your Goals

The best way to accomplish anything is start with the end and work backwards. It’s called reverse engineering.

  1. Close your eyes. Imagine where you want when your goal is accomplished as if it is real today.
  2. Write out your goal like this: Goal by date.
  3. Get out your calendar.
  4. Write your goal down on the date it will be accomplished.
  5. Back up to the date halfway between today and the goal date. Write down where you need to be at that time.
  6. Do the same for the three quarter point and the one quarter point.
  7. Fill in all of the gaps until you have a daily plan for the first 1/4 of your goal.
  8. Wake up do what you planned.
  9. When you get 1/4 of the way there, plan the next 1/4.
  10. Repeat until you have accomplished your goal.

Note: Here is what to do when you don’t feel like it.

Feeling and Doing

I bounced out of bed this morning. I hadn’t been able to run for the last week due to my schedule, so I was optimistic about how well I was going to perform with fresh legs. Halfway into my run, though, my attitude began to change. I running about 1:30 per mile faster than my goal pace, and all of the overly optimistic feelings gave way to reality of the work ahead of me.

Each step was a chore. Pain from sore muscles shot through my hips and hamstrings. The feeling of defeat and unmet expectations consumed my brain. All I could think about now was how bad I felt, and how much I wanted to quit.

There are going to be days when you feel great. Your energy levels will be high. You will be excited to embrace the days challenges. There will also be days when you don’t feel like doing the work. You are tired, uninspired, or, if you are honest, scared.

The best piece of advice I have ever received about progressing towards a goal is this:

When it comes time to do the work, it does not matter how you feel. It only matters that you do.

Simple right? The greatest thing about this idea is it works on any goal, whether it’s finally mowing the lawn after your wife has been asking you for the last 2 weeks or earning $3 million in the 12 months.

Decide what needs to be done, and then once it’s decided, do it. Don’t worry if you feel like doing it or not. Just take action.

I promise you, take this advice and apply it right now. What’s the next thing you have to do? Do it. Then do the next thing, and the next thing.

It’s crazy to me how often we overestimate the impact our emotions have on our performance. I do this all the time. I did it this morning. I went out too fast because of how I felt.

I ended up finishing my run, but I only beat my goal pace by 7 seconds per mile. I had to slow down a ton to keep putting one foot in front of the other. I never felt better about doing it. I wasn’t even successful in beating a goal by huge margin.

But I finished which is what I originally set out to do.