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Mental Prowess Part 2: Joy is an Energy Pool

Joy in an image

Shenandoah Joy William Ward [CC BY 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)]

I am reading Tribe of Mentors. The concept for the book is quite simple. Well known life guru Tim Ferriss decided there are a large number of people he wants to get to know better. To do so, he made a unique proposition to highly successful folks within and slightly beyond his network.

I, Tim Ferriss, am publishing my next book and I want to include you in the book, all you have to do is answer these questions.

Being published in a book with a widely read author is a pretty valuable proposition for just about any one. Needless to say he elicited responses from incredible people.

There are a few themes that show up consistently throughout the dozens of responses from highly accomplished individuals: fitness and meditation.

It is not surprising to see these things prioritized for folks. But if you think about it, for many of the respondents neither is “billable” nor directly contributes to their work.

Why are they valuable; so much so, that one would taut them in writing in a very public way.

Fitness and meditation are spaces to think! This post and the following three; is my take on what makes mental liberation so valuable.

Joy
In mountain biking you often see sights that are only accessible by trail and therefore cut off to many viewers. Please keep this a secret, but the western edge of the Shenandoah Valley is gorgeous! There are hues of blues you can only imagine, a rainbow of wild flowers popping on the horizon, and expansive mountain vistas. My Shenandoah Mountain 100 ride this year also packaged some magic.
Hours of rain the night before created less desirable traction conditions but also produced fantastical atmosphere. As I gained elevation I literally began to float among the clouds. As I maintained a pedal cadence, I could feel the beat of my heart radiating through my body, and the air was hazy making my view of trees and other riders seem to be apparitions. The trance like state put me in new dimensions of euphoria!

Processing the experience allows me to hold onto this blissful moment. It will linger in my mind as a pool of beauty to tap into when I need to be reminded of what is wonderful in this world! I have expanded an internal source of energy that no one can remove from me and is available at any time. Space to think allows momentary happiness to turn into life-long joy.

Building your Business: Saying NO to Clients

Time is our most valuable resource. Unlike money, we will never be able to produce more of it.

We likely have to think differently about how to find ourselves with more time.

In the early stages of growing a business we particularly feel the limits of time. We are likely the sole employee of our enterprise which means all tasks fall upon us. We are the visionary, the salesmen, the manager and the labor. We also have to do all the admin that has no one to bill for the service other than ourselves when we do not do it. Time is furiously present when deadlines loom yet always absent when rest and play are needed for the entrepreneur.

So what can you do?

The answer is very simple to state, it is actually one word, we need to say NO. But what do you say no to, everything feels eminant. No visionary time no distinction. No sales no revenue. No management no efficiency. No labor no invoices. No admin, no foundation. It is not a matter of saying NO to any of the overarching hats on the whole, it is matter of saying NO to the circumstances encountered while taking on the role.

To win back time, one of the best places to consider saying no is in your SALES. Yes saying no to customers is one of the most important steps in building a flourishing company. Customers dictate not only the pipeline of revenue coming in, but also the time spent creating revenue. If the cost of serving a client exceeds the amount of revenue in, it is hurting your business.

You can be reasonably accurate in determining the revenue that a client might bring in, how many widgets will they buy or how many hours might you bill them determines your top line. The more challenging consideration is what will it cost you to do so.

Here are a few things to assess when consider the cost of serving a client:

Are they competent? Do they do what they say they will do well? If they are unable to add value because of thoughtless work efforts internally or externally they will not be in business long and will not be an account you will receive funds from. You will spend time and see no return.

Competence shows up early in building a relationship. There is a good chance that if someone can not manage their own schedule to show up prepared and on time they probably can not handle scheduling a rigorous project calendar let alone a company trajectory.

Are they able to communicate? There are very few things that are in our control. Circumstance will almost always create situations where things do not go as planned. Not to mention high achieving people will push limits of their ability and mistakes happen. An ability to articulate what will happen, what has happened, and what can be done saves everyone time and just as importantly saves on everyone’s stress account. Remember communication is not only about the words that are said, it is also about the timing and the manner in which they are said.

Communication skills show up early in building a relationship. You certainly have to set up a time to meet. You can recognize when a client abuses a medium. 6 three word emails to schedule a lunch likely means there will be waste when launching a new marketing campaign.

Are they a nice person? You would think that in a rational business the ability of someone to extend empathy to humanity is not important. It is. Humans are not only rational, they are also emotional. This means energy and effort are consumed when emotional experiences are encountered. An email that is egotistically crafted likely causes a mental pause for the recipient that is far longer than the thought required to step down off the pedestal. Mean people cost a business a lot of time and also tax the emotional accounts of others who have to work with them. Besides do you really want your day to be spent with people you do not like.

It takes time for underlying colors of a client to come out. However small interactions say a lot about the character of someone. Thank you is very cheap to say but incredibly costly to forget. Recognizing the dignity in all humans does or does not happen as someone walks down the street. If lunch focuses entirely on the work and life of your table opposite, what might a meeting talking about the collaborative project look like?

Being selective of your customers early on in building your business will serve your accounts well. Saying no to people that will cost your business more than what they bring in will grow your receivables faster than your payables. This is true for your money, your time, and your emotional well being. And all of them will need to grow if you are going to build a flourishing business that you love.

Tracking Resources: Time

I am getting organized. I decided to start tracking my time in 2017. If time is my most valuable resource it is surely important to understand where it is going. It will also be incredibly helpful for determining the value of what I am doing.

In a year of tracking time there have been a few things that gave me pause.

First: There are plenty of hours in a day.

I am only allowing myself to track productive hours and I am being honest about the actual time spent. It is very difficult to exceed 7 hours of meaningful work in a day yet. (This is billable or truly productive hours) I may be too strict with my definition or I may be unrealistic in time spent but I think there is more I could be doing on a daily basis. I need to keep working on completing my three most important tasks everyday. (This will be a future post about priorities.)

Second: Productivity is not always billable, should it be?

In 2017 I had limited hours that are truly billable. I have had even sparser hours that I will recover what I think my billable rate should be. So what is the deal with those hours? I still consider them productive as they are leading to a meaningful payoff in the future.

This is particularly true when it comes to sales. My work in 2016 at a tech startup doing business development further heighten my understand of how relationship is what drives sales. If people do not trust you, what you say is possible is irrelevant. The personal relationship is often what determines trust. There are certainly ways to improve the pace of building trust and I need to focus on that in 2018. I need to be attentive to tracking my “time to close” along with my “closing ratio”, knowing both will help my sales cycle.

The other area I understand as productive but not necessarily paying is infrastructure building or rather working on the operations side of business. I am presently not paid to manage my finances, nor am I paid to develop a time tracking system. However, my work on those operational aspects will pay in the future. I assume efficiency will result which enables me to invest more time in billable hours. I also assume that analysis of these hours relative to my billable hours will determine when it is appropriate to hire staff and what amount of payment they should receive for their work.

Third: Tracking time allows for transparency with clients

Having a record of my time will assist in defining value for clients. As someone who has not tracked time in the past I can attest to how oblivious I am to how long things take.  This is particularly true early on in my own career. I thought a city wide mural project with my skill set and access to resources would take a year, it took five! Unfortunately, I only paid myself for part time work for a year. Yikes! Needless to say folks who do not track their time do not know the real value of their time, nor the value of others.

Fourth: Tracking time allows for better definition of expectations.

Heighten awareness of any data about past events allows for better hypothesies about future events. Knowing how long things take me will enable me to more accurately define my own value in the market place. If I am slower to do something is there more value delivered elsewhere? If I am more efficient does my price reflect that?

Resource tracking is vital to successful business. And although an unseen resource, time is the most valuable resource to a service business. Just as I account for money, it is time to start understanding my time.

A side note on “hustling”

I cringe when someone refers to spending their time “hustling”. For a while I had an aversion to people who describe themselves as overly busy. They are one in the same thing. Hustling and busy are the result of a lack of plan and awareness of what is truly productive. I find when I am “busy” I am working on many things because I do not know what I  want. I have not decided what my goals are and without a destination I am trying to get everywhere, which is physically, emotionally, and relationally not possible. It is not human to be able to do it all, it is just arrogance to even try!

Practicing Practice

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Mel Brookes’ The Producers is what got me into a yoga studio for the first time. The story line really had nothing to do with the venture, but my friend Brandon’s casting as part of the ensemble did. He asked if I might join him on his adventure to professional “form” by purchasing a Groupon for 10 Yoga sessions. Thus began my journey to practicing a better me.

The decision was rather unexpected. It had been nearly 15 years since I worked out inside. Do not get me wrong, I love fitness. I had spent many weekends and probably too many weekdays riding through the woods of Patapsco State Park and navigating the roads of Baltimore County on two wheels. Why spend time inside suffering when you can do so while exploring majestic vistas?

Little did I know the new ground I discover on a stationary mat.

Yoga takes place in a studio. I always found this peculiar and my reservations were only exacerbated by the overly pleasant feeling of M power’s space in east Baltimore. The renovated building was thoughtfully appointed with muted tones, exposed brick, hardwood, and mild lighting. There was even a mural that exuded a sense of calm while reaching. The space was not one that I thought conducive to my understanding of physical growth.

Yoga has teachers. I knew the stereotypes of the smooth, soft and near tantric voice of a Yogi when I started my pursuit of wellness. Nearly all of my teachers have fit that vision with pleasant demeanor and kind spirits. Early on I did not appreciate the role. Developing endurance, muscle, and refining motion did not in my mind match calm, collective and gentle invitations. I thought my guide to strength would need to be the essence of brute and judgement.

Yoga relies on being still. I had knowledge of the poses prior to my engagement with Brandon. And I have now done many crow stands, lizards, cobra’s and a zoo worth of other positions in my training. How could the body benefit from stacis? And why would any athletic endeavour start by finding your breath and setting an intention? Did we need weights? Should we be running to get our heart rate up? I thought athleticism was defined by mobility, agility, and speed.

Yoga is a practice!

  • The space is called a studio because it is where you go to refine your craft. There is no audience, it is all about you and your work. As such that space needs to inspire and provide freedom of mind to explore what is possible.
  • It is lead by teachers. Learning is about enabling the student to try. We only try when we know we are safe and judgement does not impinge. A great yogi is one who reveals the guide that resides within the student.
  • There is great strength in stillness. No wisdom is required to build a system that can be toppled. It takes fortitude to create something that will endure. The static structures of the universe endure the test of time.
  • Our breath is a reminder of our humanity, our starting point. It is a fundamental principle that we can acknowledge and utilize as a compass. We must quiet our being to find the most important things in life.
  • A journey without a destination is a challenge. Setting a goal is the first small step towards prolific achievement.

My practice of yoga has been incredible for my whole being. I am more flexible. I am stronger. I am more open. Most importantly the spirit of the experience has allowed me to reach more. I try things personally and professional I would not have done so prior. I am practicing more and performing far better in all facets of my life. Practicing practice changes our life by changing our future selves.

Turning Pro

There is a distinct feeling that comes when it happens. You will be different. This is strange because it has been small things that have lead up to the leap.

The best I can describe it is how I feel just about every morning when I head to the crossfit gym. The coaches post our workouts the night before, however I do not look at them. I just do not want to know. It is hard enough to roll out of bed pre-dawn, it would only be worse if I had some inclination of beating my body was about to take.

There is always a tinge of fear.

I am over two years into the experience of crossfit, yet every day the anxiety is real. I know what I am about to do will change me. I desire the change, yet the mind makes it hard to pursue the work.

So then I wonder what is it that keeps me going?

The gym is the place where I know I have agency. I decide to wake up early. I decide to embrace the weather during the walk. I decide to enter the sweatbox in the summer. I decide to look at the looming pain prescription on the board. I decide to warm up my body. I decide to work through the strain. I decide how far i will push my body. I decide how great I will be. I decide my future.

The same thing happens in our careers.

Turning Pro is deciding what you will do instead of letting anyone or anything decide for you.

Turning Pro is YOU finding agency over YOUR vocation!