Blinking In Business

If you’re a mentalist, like me, you’d instantly recognize the number 793.8. I’ve often thought of getting it tattooed somewhere on my body it’s that important.

What is it?

The Dewey Decimal number for the library’s Magic & Mentalism section.

First Mentors

The mountains of North Carolina isn’t well known for being a hotbed of magic, so the authors of the 5 or 6 books in the McDowell county library were my first mentors. Every day after school I’d spend 2 hours reading & re-reading every page of each magic book on the shelves.

If you’ve never read an instructional magic book, there’s a peculiar thing you’ve probably never thought about.

How do magicians practice without a volunteer?

The answer in all the magic books from the 50’s I grew up reading is to run through the routine while standing in front of a mirror. This gives you the best approximation of how a spectator would see your trick.

This helps you understand a volunteer’s sight lines, how to hold your hand to make sure nobody sees the card hidden there, and so on.

Mental Hiccup

There’s a peculiar thing that happens, though. When you’re practicing that secret move nobody is supposed to see, your brain “helps you out” by making sure you blink when you do it in the mirror.

It’s the weirdest thing.

To you, the trick looks perfect. Every time you do the “move,” there’s absolutely nothing to see. . . to you. In the mirror, it seems flawless.

You think you have all the moves down perfectly, but you’re completely unaware of your habit of blinking.

Until you try it out in real life, for a real person.

“I saw that.”

You’re more surprised it went wrong than they would be had it gone right.

“There’s no way they could have seen the move!” you think. But there’s no arguing they nailed you.

How?!

It’s a complete mystery to you.

The problem is, you’re completely unaware of your blinking habit. It’s completely subconscious.

Much like using verbal fillers like “uhhh,” “umm,” “like,” “ya know,” etc. They fly right under the radar.

Flash Forward 70 Years

Nowadays everybody has a whole production studio in their pocket; HD video cameras in every phone.

They see everything.

Now, you can record your routine, and replay it exactly as you performed it.

The camera doesn’t blink.

Now you can get an unbiased (and brutally honest) view of how you’re actually performing. No illusions.

You need an outside view of your performance to identify your weak areas. Improving is almost impossible without it. Otherwise your tendency to blink will keep you blind to what’s going wrong.

Blinking In Business

How many managers & CEOs have you seen who are driving their business into the ground, but they’d rate themselves as fantastic leaders?

Weird, right?

It’s the same mental hiccup that helps you protect the idea of who you are against the reality of who you are when they’re in conflict.

You don’t know what you don’t know.

Few people are capable of honestly & accurately evaluating themselves.

Fewer still are willing.

Better Than Video

As good as having an unblinking eye is for improving, there’s something that works even better: a real life mentor.

Having someone who is an expert at identifying where you’re “blinking” in business & life, and who can show you what to do instead, will help you improve the absolute fastest way possible.

It’s an unfortunate reality that those who would benefit the most from this kind of help are the least likely to seek it out.

If you, however, are interested in helping yourself get more out of life, let’s talk.

I’d love to help you stop fooling yourself.

4 Elements of My Daily Practice

When life is going sideways, it’s easy to get short-sighted. You get focused on the immediate things you need to get done to survive one more day, and you wind up reacting to what’s out there instead of taking control of the situation.

It’s also easy to feel like nothing you’re doing is working, and that no matter how hard you try, nothing changes. You’ve tried this thing, or that thing, and nothing works like its promised.

I’ve been there myself. For a long time, matter of fact.

Eventually I figured out there are 4 things I need to do every day if I want things to change. They have to do with the 4 areas of your life that you have to own if you’re going to make a lasting difference.

1. Body

You do not have a body. You are a body.

The more you ignore it, the more problems you’re going to have. That’s why I make time every single day to do something that challenges this big ol’ meat puppet I call “my body.”

My preferred method of getting exercise is practicing Kung Fu. As soon as I get out of bed, I go go through the forms of the system.

I’m also partial to body weight exercises. This is due to my crazy travel schedule; I want to be able to stay fit while on the move without relying on bulky equipment or finding the closest gym. Nope, I want to be able to do a complete workout in my hotel room.

The 6 movements I focus on are push-ups, pull-ups (often times I can find a stairwell that works), sit-ups, back bridges, squats, & handstands. There are variations for each that are as easy or difficult as you need (all without the need for a gym membership).

These exercises & changing my eating habits is how I dropped 45 pounds (and kept it off for a couple years now).

So no matter what shape your exercise takes, your body requires daily attention & movement. Ignore it at your own peril, and pay the price later.

2. Mind

Just like you gotta flex your muscles, you gotta flex your mind. Do something fun. Learn something. Work on your creativity.

Creativity is a skill, not an in-born gift.

If you’re used to turning your brain off and watching TV as soon as you get home, your creativity will atrophy. You’ll be less likely to come up with that idea that will get you out of the 9 to 5 prison.

Creating > Consuming

When was the last time you created something? Performed something? Made something that never existed before?

Make the act of creation a daily habit, and you’ll discover it becomes easier and easier to have better and better ideas.

Personally I try to write often (like this post!), learn a new language (been learning Mandarin), work on new show material, write new presentations for speaking engagements, reach out to people who could use my services, create speaking opportunities, and so on.

Every day.

People look at all the incredible things I do, and think “Boy, he sure is lucky.” Luck has nothing to do with it. It’s a daily practice of getting creative about what opportunities I can create for myself.

3. Feel

Emotions are a fantastic barometer for how well your needs are being met. Most of us, however, can rarely even tell what emotion we’re currently feeling.

Our daily lives are spent distracting ourselves in order to numb ourselves against how unhappy we are. Our work lacks emotional content.

This excerpt from Bruce Lee’s “Enter the Dragon” is a glimpse into what that means.

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The more you tune into your emotional environment, the better you get at understanding how the situations, people, and thoughts you have affect how you feel about yourself & your ability to accomplish what you want to achieve.

Is your friend making you feel awful about the new hobby you want to work on? Reduce the amount of time you spend with them.

You are under no obligation to sacrifice your happiness on the altar of friendship, family, or work. It’s entirely possible to live a life where the people & things in it are a source of support and encouragement; not a constant drain of your emotional well being.

4. Appreciate

Gratitude has recently enjoyed an increase of research showing how it can increase happiness, reduce depression, and improve self-esteem.

I think the benefits have been misattributed.

Gratitude is outwardly focused. Thanking someone else for what you have. Being thankful for the scraps you manage to scrounge together.

You should be grateful for what you have.

No. It’s ok to want more. It’s ok to improve your situation. It’s ok to want something other than what you have.

What you’re looking for, instead, is an appreciation for where you are.

You don’t have to like it.

Appreciation does not automatically equate with happiness or complacency.

Appreciation is taking the time to consider your situation. Consider the resources available to you. Consider the options you have at any given moment.

Most unhappiness and lack of effectiveness in life comes from a lack of appreciation.

That’s why it’s so important to take time, every day, to appreciate what you do have so you can put it to use most effectively.

So don’t be grateful for your scraps. Appreciate your resources, so you can make the best use of them as you can.

Everyday

I try to start everyday with a mind to develop each of these 4 areas in my life. Ignore any of them, and my life falls apart.

And just like with any practice, the longer you do it, the sooner you notice the impact when I miss a day.

Also remember: It’s called “practice” for a reason. It’s not called the “daily already perfect state of being.” It requires daily effort. No coasting allowed, but also be forgiving towards yourself when you stumble along the way.

Doing Slowly > Not Trying At All

So how about you? What are the elements that make up the best days for you? Do you intentionally put them into practice everyday? What are your physical, mental, emotional, and reflective practices?

I’d love to know what’s worked for you in the past. Leave a comment, or drop me a line; I’d love to hear from you.

Excellent Habits

We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, therefore, is not an act, but a habit. ~Aristotle

Are you one of the millions of people gearing up to make New Year’s resolutions? This article is for you.

Not planning on making any big changes in the new year? This article is for you, too.

No Difference

People like to think somehow things are going to be different just because it’s January 1st. In reality, however, how you stick to your resolutions is exactly how you stick to any decision you make in your life in the other 11 months of the year.

Your life is the product of the choices you make. The choices you make without thinking are called habits.

Your habits will either save you, or kill you.

Your life isn’t going to magically get better with a single resolution. It takes making little changes done again & again & again & again, every day, all day long.

What’s Holding You Back?

“[To create a beautiful sculpture] all you have to do is to take a big chunk of marble and a hammer and chisel, make up your mind what you are about to create and then chip off all the marble you don’t want.”

Too often people are searching for something new. Something to add to their life. Some new tool, system, technique, or insight.

But none of that gets results. The only question that matters is, what are you doing?

You need a system that’s a simple as possible so it can spend more time focused on doing the things that will get you the results you want.

Some people love the Get Things Done framework, or Bullet Journals, but for me they’re too complex. Too many new changes to make before I even get to the good stuff; the doing.

Simplify

Here is my list of simple habits that have helped get me results all year long, every year, for years at a time. These are habits that introduce enough structure for me to be effective, without being too rigid or complex.

Don’t try to put all of them into practice at once. No multitasking allowed. Go slowly. Focus on implementing one habit fully, and once it becomes ingrained in your daily practice, you’ll be prepared to integrate another. Use 30 days as a guideline.

Doing one thing fully, and then the next is what I like to call “Sequential Habit Stacking.” Each new habit will multiply the effectiveness of the one before it. Contrarily, attempt two or more in parallel will only sabotage your results. Think “slow and steady.” This is not a race to the finish. Ironically, the harder you work at this, the slower your progress will be.

The order these are presented are a loose suggestion. Feel free to jump around if you already do one of these in your daily life, or if you feel one calls to you.

1. Gather your thoughts. You have a lot going on inside your head. There’s a lot to worry about. You’re the posterchild for the term “scatterbrained.” The best way I’ve found to get a handle on all the mental chatter is to write it down. I always have a mini notebook in my pocket, or a stack of 3×5 notecards held together with a binder clip. Don’t think of it as a journal; it’s simply a place where all your thoughts go. The physical act of writing them down allows your mind to move on to the next idea. If you find yourself stuck in mental loops, this will break them. Plus, you’ll be amazed at how many good ideas you have; when you tell yourself “I’ll remember this later” your mind assumes it’s not important, and it will never bring it up again. That’s why you can’t remember those brilliant thoughts anymore. Write them down as soon as you have them, and you’ll have it where you can reread it.

2. Deal with it. In martial arts there’s a lot of talk about timing. If you wait too long to deal with an attack, you’re less likely to defend against it. Same goes with your relationships. Bills. Chores. You name it, you gotta deal with it. The longer you wait to do something important, the more likely it is to head south on you. So whatever needs doing most, do it first and do it right away. Letting things pile up is only going to make it more difficult in the long run. As Tony Robbins says, “Kill the monster while its small.” Don’t let it grow up to destroy your life. Deal with it before it’s a problem. Work from most to least important. Not most to least urgent. (Things of low importance often feel very urgent. Don’t prioritize based on urgency. You’ll never make it to the important thing. That’s how days, weeks, and years will slip away from you without doing anything important.)

3. Plan for it. Failure to plan is planning to fail. No plan survives contact with the enemy. A good plan executed ruthlessly now is better than a perfect plan executed next week. You’ve heard all these quotes before, but how much planning have you actually done? Or do you let the problem of the day dictate where you focus your attention? With a failure to plan you’re letting life be the magician who directs your attention from secret of the magic trick. Creating a list of the 1-3 most important things you need to accomplish will help keep you on track, and minimize the amount of time you spend being distracted from what’s important.

4. Execute. Once you have your plan of action, you absolutely must put it into motion.  Without doing it, the plan is worthless. I’ve found doing the important things first in my day means there are fewer opportunities for me to get derailed. I focus on doing one thing at a time. No checking email while I chat with a friend. If I’m talking to someone, I’m talking to them. That’s it. Complete focus on what I’m doing without diluting my attention (and ultimately my ability to do my best work). The first thing I do every morning is roll out of bed, do body weight exercises, read, write, and then reach out to a friend via phone, email, Facebook Messenger (or however they like to be contacted). These are the four most important things I do for myself, so I do them first.

5. Track it. That which gets measured gets managed. You have to have a system to manage your projects, tasks, & to-dos. Having programs with all the bells and whistles are nice, but with the increased capabilities comes more complexity. The complex a system, the more time you’re going to spend on the details instead of spending time on the doing. I suggest having a separate mini notebook for to-dos. Using a handwritten system will force you to be more effective instead of allowing yourself to feel like you’re doing work when you’re really playing with your program’s features. If you’re a nerd like me and enjoy turning successful habits into a game, then you might like to try a wonderful online task management platform called Habitica. It has the added benefit of built-in accountability. If you wind up signing up for it, let me know and I’ll invite you to be a part of my group!

6. Organize it. By now you have a pretty good idea of what kind of information, obligations, and details you’re handling on a regular basis. Create a place for everything, and then put everything in its place. Have a single place where all incoming requests for your time are placed so you can then choose to sort them when it’s appropriate to deal with them. Don’t allow them to pull your attention away from the important work. The only way to do this is to have control of your time. If you feel resistance to the idea of organizing your space & time management, understand that you already have an ad-hoc system in place; this is just to make it official outside just your mind.

7. Review everything. How well is your system working for you? How effective have my actions been this week? What tactics are working? What isn’t working? What progress have I made towards my yearly, quarterly, and monthly goals? Reviewing everything through the lens of “How is this helping me make better use of my actions?” will dramatically reorient your priorities and where you choose to focus your attention. Do this monthly at the very least.

8. Remove more marble. If something isn’t working for you, take it out. If there are tasks that aren’t getting you closer to where you want to be, take it off your list of to-dos. Only by removing that which isn’t serving us can we have the time, energy, and willingness to do the things that do serve our purpose. This involves saying no to what’s not important, and that can be difficult. Think of it like you’re removing marble from the beautiful sculpture that is your life. Or barnacles from your hull. Whatever the analogy, realize that all the excess weight (mentally, emotionally, and physically) is holding you back. Every time you simplify, you’re multiplying your effectiveness.

9. Implement routine. A routine is nothing but a series of habits. I have a morning routine. It involves doing the most important things I need to do that day, and those things never change. I need to exercise my body, mind, creative abilities, & social bonds. If I left it to chance, I’d never do those things. Instead I’ve chunked the most valuable habits into a single routine so I don’t have to think about each one. I don’t have to choose anything. I know exactly what I’m going to do, and in what order. I’m not starting my day with decisions. This delays choice fatigue, and the erosion of my willpower. My evening routine involves me prioritizing what to deal with tomorrow, writing down any anxieties or problems my mind comes up with (allowing me to rest easier because my mind isn’t constantly looping them as I try to sleep), and prepping anything I need ready for tomorrow. Build a routine out of your habits of excellence.

10. Follow your curiosity. This one is more abstract, but it could easily be the most important one. So many gurus will tell you to find your passion, and there’s not much else that could be more condescending. If you don’t know what your passion is, how the hell are you supposed to follow it? Following that advice will send you in circles. So, what should you follow instead? Your curiosity. What are you curious about? It doesn’t have to be something society deems worthy. You don’t need a social stamp of approval. You don’t have to be curious about something you think is a viable business proposition. No. What are you already curious about? Allow yourself to explore thatIf you never allow yourself to follow your curiosity, you’ll never find that thing that gets you fired up. Once you find it, you may never make a living off it, and that’s ok. It’s ok to have something just for you. You can keep it sacred. But, whatever it is, once you find it, you’ll realize you’ve found an inexhaustible source of energy, excitement, creativity, and enthusiasm.

Wrap It Up

With these 10 habits, you will finally have the space in your life to be passionate about something. You won’t be saying yes to everything and filling your life with useless distractions that are keeping you from the life you truly want.

Spend the energy over the next year to make these habits so deeply ingrained that they become second nature, and you’ll find yourself with better health, friendships, and whatever you really want in your life.

If you’ve found something valuable in these ideas, chances are someone else would, too. Take 5 seconds to share it with your network, and you’ll be doing something good for everyone! You’ll help your friend discover something useful, you’ll help me help more people, and you’ll help yourself by helping others. It’s a win-win-win!

And if you find success with this approach, I’d love to hear about it. Tell me on Facebook, or contact me privately. Either way, I want to know what you’ve done.