My True Superpower

I’m a professional mind reader, but that’s not my true superpower; it’s paying attention.

In high school my debate teacher asked us to try a simple experiment: think of something boring for 2 minutes. We picked a door knob. He started the timer and within 4 seconds it seemed like my mind had pinged from one thing to the next so fast I wasn’t thinking of anything even remotely resembling a door knob.

“Monkey mind,” he said when I asked him what the hell happened.

I’d wager you have a serious case of monkey mind, too.

Did You Drink the Kool-Aid?

See, there’s there’s cult of multitasking. People think they’re good at doing several things at the same time, but the research doesn’t back it up. It reminds me of a quote my sweetie shared with me when she said when she was going to train for a triathlon:

Why be good at one thing when you can be shitty at three?

She gets it.

Multitasking is a myth. You can’t do it. You think you can, buuuuuuut you’re actually awful at it. Not only are you awful at multitasking, it means you’re substantially worse at the two (or more) things you’re trying to do.

I say “trying to do” because you’re half assing two things instead of whole-assing one thing, as Ron Swanson says.

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3 Negative Results

1. Say Bye to Your Mental Reserves
You’re not actually doing two things at the same time. Instead, you’re rapidly switching from one task to the other. Every time you go from one to the other and back again, you’re wasting precious mental resources that are focused on the task of switching and not on executing.

This is a lot of energy expended with no tangible benefit.

2. More Time Wasted Equals Less Time Available
Since you’re spending all the time switching back and forth, you’re spending less time on the task at hand. This means that the task time you would normally spend on a single task is spread over more real clock time.

This is the complete opposite of efficient. Plus, if you’re looking for that “flow state” feeling where you’re in the groove, that takes (at minimum) about 20 minutes to get into. How long are you on task before you switch over to check text messages? I’d say every .5 minutes? Not nearly long enough to bring out your best work.

3. Your Thinking Is Bad, And You Should Feel Bad
Since you’re doing a lot of unnecessary work when you’re constantly switching back and forth, you fool yourself into thinking you’ve done more work than you have. Your brain says, “I’m super tired from all this work, and since feeling tired is the result of hard work I must have worked really hard on these two things! Yay me!”

And it’s lying to you! Your brain is conveniently editing out all the time between those tasks spent daydreaming, acclimating to the other task, or whatever other thing it’s doing that’s not productive focus.

OK Mr. Doom & Gloom. What Do I Do About It?

The good news is, like most human things, distractions exist on a spectrum. They range from barely there to BIG FRACKING DEAL.

At the BFD end of the spectrum is texting someone while you drive. Not good. Don’t do it.

At the Not A BFD end of the spectrum is just the awareness that you might get a text from someone. You’re not actually acting on anything, but that thought is occupying space in your brain meats.

Just the fact you could do something is on the slippery slope of eating away at your attention.

This is why so many people swear by browser plugins that limit the websites you can visit during the time you want to be productive. How often have you gotten tired of Facebook, close the tab, and then immediately open a new tab to check Facebook?

Install any number of browser extensions to break that automatic behavior loop to improve your focus.

Turn off your notifications on your cell phone when you want to be productive. And I’m not just talking about putting it on stun. Really, truly, turn off all forms of notifications. Or, better yet, put it on silent and then put it in another room.

Constraint vs Restraint

The more you engineer your environment to not even tempt you in the first place, the less you’re likely to engage in the tempting behavior.

This is the nature of constraint.

If, however, you’re relying solely on your willpower, you’re relying on restraint, and that sucks. Not doing the thing never feels as good as doing the thing.

There are only so many cupcakes I can say no to before my restraint wears off, and I give in. Compare that to not even having cupcakes around in the first place. First is restraint. No good. Second is an environmental constraint. More good.

Practice Makes Permanent

The more you practice focusing on one thing at a time, the better you get at controlling your attention. This is the way to tame the monkey mind.

One of the greatest compliments I got was a from a friend of mine who I met at a science conference. He told me a couple years afterward that he was impressed with how I was able to completely focus on our conversation instead of constantly looking over his shoulder for “more important” people to talk with. (You know the deal; the networker who is constantly on the prowl for the higher status person to glom onto.)

The fact that I was completely 100% attentive & present impressed him so much he booked me to speak at a science conference he organizes in California.

Takeaway

Not only will practicing your focus improve the quality of work at your job, but it will improve the quality of relationships you can build when people feel like you’re actually totally present.

You can’t do it. Stop trying. Start using your superpower of sustained, singular focus instead!

Need help? I can help you with that. Let’s chat!

4 Adventure Buddy Questions

I’ve traveled the world, been on incredible adventures, and lived a lot of life in my years.

Most of them were spent alone.

Traveling by yourself is especially difficult. Imagine you’re in an airport and you need to go to the restroom. When you’re alone, you have to drag all your bags & crap with you in there (and those stalls are not what you’d call “spacious“).

If you’re traveling with a buddy, however, you can each take turns watching the stuff while you both go to the restroom, grab lunch, or do whatever needs doing.

Pick the right partner, and adventures become much easier (and more fun by extension). No wonder Einstein said relationships are the most powerful force in the universe.

Whether you’re talking about your personal life, or your business life, it stays the same: picking the right partner is one of the most important decisions you can ever make.

Easier Said Than Done

How do you know you’ve picked the right one? How do you know the problems you’ll invariably have are healthy issues, and not huge red flags that you can’t ignore?

No matter how healthy your relationship, the road will get bumpy. Problems creep up, and cracks start to form in the perfect veneer. Maybe things get really bad.

It can be tough to know whether you should stick it out, or cut your losses while you can. Confusion sets in, and making a good decision gets more and more difficult the longer you stay frozen in indecision.

In a healthy relationship, challenges help you grow as a person. They foster communication skills. You’re forced to face your own shortcomings & work on improving yourself in ways you’d never need to if you were by yourself.

In an unhealthy relationship, you spend so much time on fighting, avoiding conflict, pulling the weight of two people, and much of your energy on being anxious about what fresh hell you’re going to run into tomorrow.

The very real impact of both of these dynamics ripples out into every single area of your life. (I don’t care how good you think you are at compartmentalizing. All areas are affected.)

To help you cut through the weeds of mental doubt, use the following 4 questions. If you answer “yes” to them, you’re heading the right direction. If you answer “no” it might be time to start looking at exit strategies. . .

The 4 Essential Adventure Buddy Questions

1. Do You Both Have the Same Fundamental Principles?

I don’t care how much you love each other. I don’t care how much you respect each other. If you do not share the same core beliefs about the world, yourself, the nature of relationships, or what you want out of your time on this planet, things are not going to go smoothly.

I used to be married to an incredible woman. She’s one of the smartest, kindest, most wonderful people I’ve ever known; it’s no wonder I fell in love with her. We got along great, and we were madly in love, so we decided to get married.

One hiccup: we didn’t have the same fundamental beliefs. Our core structures were not in alignment, and over time those cracks widened into a canyon that became impossible to cross. Cue major issues.

I put this question first because it is absolutely the most important question. If you disagree on this single issue, you’re doomed from the start, no matter how much you want it to be otherwise. So make sure you can answer this one “yes” without hesitation before even worrying about the others.

2. Are You Each Pulling Your Weight?

I get it. People get tired. You might fall down, and need some help getting back on your feet. But, on a broad scale, are you both pulling your own weight? You don’t have to both do 50% of every activity. Maybe you do 100% of one thing, and they do 100% of another. Strengths and weaknesses can complement each other in a healthy relationship.

What is important, however, is that you’re both committed to the success of the relationship. You’re both willing to put in the hard work required for even the easiest relationships. The instant you go on auto-pilot is when your relationship starts dying.

So each person should contribute according to their ability, and put in effort to sustain the relationship.

If you’re the only one putting in effort, you’re putting in twice as much energy for half as many results. Not good.

3. Do You Feel Challenged to Be At Your Best?

People say they want to be with someone where they can “just be me,” but you know what? You’re a procrastinator. You don’t remember birthdays. You can eat 3 boxes of Girl Scout cookies in one sitting (and often do).

In short, you’re basically an awful person.

Turns out, being that version of ourselves is not what makes us happy.

What does make us happy, is being with someone who challenges us to be our ideal selves.

This is akin to “Be the person your dog thinks you are.” But instead of “dog,” substitute “partner.”

Living up to that ideal will encourage you to go after those big projects. You’ll put more effort into making things happen for yourself.

As a consequence, you’ll wind up winning more often, which will give you something to talk about other than this week’s Netflix binge session.

Plus, you’ll get better at celebrating other people’s success, too, which is a huge marker of emotional maturity & relationship strength.

Win-Win-Win

4. Does Spending Time With This Person Make You Feel Safe?

Are they more like a harbor (calm)? Or are they a whirlpool(drama llama)? Do they help you feel calm when you’re stressed out? Or does the thought of being in the same room have you looking for an exit?

This can happen in all sorts of relationships.

Some clients are a dream to work with. They value your expertise, they trust your decisions, and encourage you to innovate.

Some clients are a nightmare to work with. They constantly change direction, tell you “some person you’ve never heard of said they don’t like that color, so I’m going to change the whole website design,” and try to get discounts.

Same goes for business partners. Same goes for romantic partners. Same goes for movie date partners.

Same goes for everyone.

Each relationship has the potential to be a net calming effect in your life, or a net stressor in your life.

If they’re an energy vampire, time to invest in some relationship garlic. #ForcedMetaphor

Relationship Audit

So how do the relationships in your life stack up? How many people can you honestly say are whole-hearted YESES on all counts?

I’ve worked very hard to make sure that I live my life in a way where I only spend time with people who are like that. Everyone in my life is a 10/10 on the awesome scale for each one of these four questions.

If they aren’t, I never see them again.

It takes a lot of courage, time, & energy to live like this, but the alternative is slow suicide.

Need help figuring out how to build your life like that? Let’s talk.

3 Things to Invest In

If I were interested in making a quick buck, I might be telling you 3 “hot stocks you absolutely must invest in.” I could tell you to buy a product that gives me a commission.

Instead, I’m going to tell you the three things I’ve invested my time, money, & effort into that’s responsible for all of my success.

They might not be what you think of first.

Knowledge

“First you do the best you can. Then when you know better, do better.” -David Hira

Knowledge really is power. Everything I’ve done boils down to having the right information on how to do it.

Or spend years with trial & error to figure it out for myself. Either way, your choices are only as good as the information you use to make them.

In a time where information is freely available online, it’s difficult to sift the golden nuggets from all the useless crap. When you find something valuable, however, there’s nobody who can take it from you.

Whatever treasures you hoard in your mind are yours, and yours forever.

Knowledge is the best return on the investment you can possibly hope for.

Assets

There are things / ideas / strategies / tools that will help you get where you want to go.

Then there’s everything else.

The secret to lasting success is owning what you build. I don’t care how many followers you have on Twitter. I don’t care how many likes you have on Facebook. Any platform you build on can change their rules tomorrow and everything you’ve worked so hard to build can disappear instantly.

Unless you own your platform.

Coaches

The quote about knowing better so you can do better was told to me by one of my favorite coaches & personal mentors. He’s an incredible person with an even more incredible story. His insights, suggestions, and advice come from a lifetime of experience, and every single nugget he shares is pure gold.

When I listen to what he tells me, it saves me years of learning it myself. That’s the power of coaches.

Great advice is worth exactly what you pay for it, too. Coaching ain’t cheap. It’s not easy to put their knowledge into action, either.

But it’s so worth it.

Coaching helps catapult you forward. It instantly establishes momentum. Momentum creates wealth.

Takeaways

  • Put in effort to gain things that can’t be taken away
  • Quality relationships with quality people are priceless & worth everything you can spend to maintain them
  • Knowledge is power (when put into action)

Strategic Hurdles

How often have you seen someone get famous “overnight” only to crash & burn a year or two later? Sometimes a slow success is a blessing; not a curse.

Mainly it happens because they haven’t had time to adjust to the new challenges, demands, and problems of managing their time & demands for their attention.

Seems like the moment you get a little bit of exposure, people start contacting you out of nowhere, expecting you to give them value in exchange for no effort on their part. If you don’t have a way to protect yourself from those requests, you’re going to crash and burn hard.

Personal Example

In 2013 I had the honor of performing at the world famous Magic Castle in LA. It’s an exclusive members only club. If you’re not a member, you have to know one to get in.

No exceptions.

I can’t tell you how fast my Facebook “Other Messages” folder filled up with people who were asking me to put them on my list of comps.

No thanks.

Now, how do you deal with those kinds of demands on your time & resources from people who are only interested in what you can do for them?

Strategic hurdles!

Use low stake, trivial demands on their time to earn the request.

“Hey Frank! Thanks for your interest in being my guest at the world famous Magic Castle! Take a picture of yourself in front of a palm tree, holding a sign that says ‘I love Jonny!’ and tag me on Facebook. I’ll see the alert on my feed, and add you and a guest to the comp list. Looking forward to seeing you Friday!”

This is a club where actors, directors, designers, and those in the know are regularly in attendance. This is an incredible opportunity to rub elbows with movers and shakers if you play your cards right (pardon the pun). People go to incredible lengths just to get in.

Know how many strangers took me up on the offer?

zero.

Strategic hurdles make a difference.

They save you time. They save face. They help weed out the takers.

How can you apply this in your own business?

Next time you’re looking to partner up with someone, or hire the best candidate, put a small hurdle in their way.

The motivated people (who recognize the value in the opportunity you’re offering & are willing to put in effort to get it) will clear it with no problem.

For the people who aren’t willing to put in the least effort possible with trip over it and fall.

It can be something as simple as asking for a review of your site in the form of a haiku. Tagging your company in a fun photo on Instagram. Sending you an email with your followup thoughts after an interview. It can be anything.

Save yourself the headache of wasting your time on energy vampires who only want to take, so you have something to give the winners!