This is a game I play with myself and with my clients.
This game had played out for me in my personal and business life many times. In fact, my family has been sick for the past week, so between taking care of them, managing my energy, and working, I’ve only had limited time in various areas of my life.
So, how does this game go?
It’s simple really. You pick an area of your life that’s important to you such as business, though this is an excellent exercise for relationships as well.
Then you ask yourself these two key questions:
If I only had 4 hours each day to work on my business, what would I do with that time?
You only get those 4 hours and no more. What do you do to maintain or grow your business? Write those answers down.
These are the items you get to focus on each day, and I recommend doing them first.
Now, the game I play is more intense. It goes like this: What would you do if you only had 4 hours each week to grow your business?
This is a tougher question to answer, but if you want to be a business owner rather than an operator, then this is a question you get to master.
These 4 hours are the things you want to do first thing in the day at the beginning of the week unless of course, they need to be done in timed intervals, but my guess is even those can be batched.
If you answer these questions and feel with confidence that your answers will help you grow your business, then the final question (I know I said there were only 2) is: Am I using the rest of my time effectively or is it using me?
I hope this brings you clarity. I’d love to hear your answers to these questions if you’re brave enough to share.
This is a game I play with myself and with my clients.
Coke and Hookers…
That’s how his weekend started.
He was coming to a retreat for business leaders and had flown half-way around the world to be there. He was not only a successful businessman, but he was also a father, a husband, and a leader in his community.
When he arrived in Boston, he met up with a few other men who had traveled from around the world to attend the event. They went to dinner, then off to karaoke, and that’s when most headed in for the night… but not him.
On the way back to the hotel he turned to the driver and said: “where can we get coke and hookers?”
There was one other man in the cab who told him it was a bad idea, but in the end, he went along anyway.
The night ended with regret and shame.
He had done exactly what he swore he would never do. He had become the man he had been trying so hard to escape from becoming.
He had hit his upper-limit and hit the self-destruct button.
When I met him, I had already heard the story; not from him, but from a few of the other attendees who were concerned. They weren’t concerned about the event or themselves; they were worried about him.
All the check marks were there:
He loved his wife wholeheartedly. He loved his children more than anything. He was successful in business and made good money. He was looked up to as a leader and icon in his community. He was the life of the party.
Why would he then go against what he stands for? Why would he then self-sabotage? Why would he then self-destruct?
It’s called upper-limiting. We all do it. Perhaps not with coke and hookers (or “dancers” as he referred to them when we talked), but we do it in our own ways.
In business, when things are going well and we’re growing, we tend to drop the ball on little things. We don’t show up as frequently to the office or perhaps we just don’t make that call we know needs to be made to take it to the next level.
In our relationships, when things are going better than usual, we start a fight with our loved ones. We start pushing their buttons.
In our body, when we’re looking good, feeling great, we start to eat those holiday cookies like it’s our last meal. One becomes two, which becomes six. We keep doing this until we feel sick… and then have another.
We do this because on some level we don’t feel we deserve what we’ve gotten. We’ve hit our “upper limit” to what we believe we deserve and are capable of having. This is all mindset. This is all a story. A story that we’ve created with the help of others along our journey and a story that doesn’t serve us.
This cycle leads to feeling guilt, shame, and anxiety as we put our backs up against the wall, hit rock bottom, and then once again strive to climb back to the top… only to find ourselves in the same pattern sometime later.
That is unless we successfully raise our limits.
One of the key things that separate successful people from the rest is that their upper limit is set higher. They believe that they deserve more. They believe, and know, that they deserve what they have and more. And, they work on raising the bar often.
You’ve heard the stories of the self-made millionaire that lost it all only to lose it again…make it up…lose it again. Or the lotto winners who are worse off years later when they see how they’re doing.
All these are upper limiting issues.
I work on my upper limits daily. It’s like working out. You don’t go to the gym once and expect to be in great shape the rest of your life. No, you go regularly and make improvements. You’ll have setbacks most likely, but you keep going, work with your trainer, fine-tune what you’re doing, and keep moving forward.
Personally, I’ve worked with shamans in the Amazon, worked with some of the best coaches in the world, read 100’s of books, and have traveled all over attending and teaching seminars and retreats.
So out of all that, what’s the best way to keep raising your limit?
All of them.
But if I were to pick one, one thing that I still do today, it’s getting the absolute best coaching you can’t afford. Yup, that’s not a typo. “Can’t” afford. The reason you want to do this is that it will push you outside your comfort zone. You’ll have skin in the game, and you’ll pay attention.
With attention comes action and with the right action comes results.
A great coach, or coaching program, will help you fine-tune your direction and pull you out of your cycle much faster than you can do it alone. They will also help you raise your limit so you can expand in ways you didn’t know where possible and help eliminate that feeling of guilt, shame, and anxiety.
If you’re looking for a coach or a program, let me know, and I’m happy to serve as your guide and point you in the right direction.
Re-write your story and change your life!
Oh, by the way, that man I talked about in the first part of this story… it happened to him at the perfect time. The coaches worked with him he figured out why he was doing what he was doing. Changed not only his life, but the way he interacts with his wife, his kids, and his staff. He’s a different man. Truly amazing.
When you coach yourself, you get a different perspective.
I’m going through a bit of a business dilemma right now.
This has been compounded with the fact that my whole family has been sick for the past few days, which means no sleep for Daddy (or Mommy for that matter). Of course, things look a lot worse when you haven’t slept and start thinking about them at 3 AM lying on the couch listening for signs of a crying toddler.
I decided to do something different this morning though.
I decided to ask better questions.
With better questions comes better clarity.
Here are the questions I asked:
Can this work the way it is now?
How can this work?
Am I getting out of this what I want, or am I just being nice to make others happy?
Will this work if ___________? (fill in the option)
If I were to step out of the situation and were to serve as a coach, to someone else, what advice would I give?
In the end, the answers to these questions provided me with the insight I wouldn’t have had otherwise. The best part about it… it was easy.
You can apply this flow to your business, your relationships, or just about any other situation you’re in.
Birds of a feather flock together
So chose your friends wisely.
This was on the wall of my 6th-grade classroom and I feel it’s just as important today as it was then.
Who do you find yourself spending time with that you should let go of?
Where do you go to have conversations that matter?
Who do you want more of in your life?
What groups do you visit regularly online to provide you stimulus and growth?
These are important questions to ask yourself.
Looking for support, let me know and I’ll do my best to point you in the right direction.
I used to stay up late grinding it out for work…
I used to stay up late grinding it out to look good…
I used to stay up late to show that I was the best…
Now, I stay up late to hold my son when he’s sick.
I had my priorities out of whack.
I followed the wrong path.
Luckily I figured that out before my son came into this world.
What are your priorities?
Not sure? Then just look at your calendar. Every minute gets a vote.
What does your calendar say about your priorities?
“I get angry and pull away.”
“Go talk to Doug,” said one of the other coaches.
At this point, I was standing in front of a businessman, in his 30’s, who was filled with guilt and shame. You could see it on his face. He had a hard time telling me what was going on.
“You see Doug, I’m so embarrassed saying this because my wife is the most amazing woman in the world. I love her so much… but… when we don’t have sex for several days, I find myself getting angry and pulling away from her. She doesn’t deserve that. What’s wrong with me?”
This man commanded a very successful business, had three small children, and here he stood before me ashamed for the way he was feeling.
What he didn’t know was that this was very common. After working with thousands of people over the years, I’d even call this the norm, though the number of days can be different for each person.
“Let me guess – you haven’t been interment with your wife for several days, and with each day you feel that you’re less and less connected. You walk around your house feeling more like roommates than lovers. Small problems start to seem large and cause arguments or at least more distance. You still love each other, but there’s a void coming between you. Is that right?”
His face lit up, and he replied loudly “YES! Am I wrong? I feel terrible. I shouldn’t feel this way.”
I smiled. I smiled because it was awesome to see how much love he had for his wife. I smiled because he was about to get some freedom from his guilt by finding out that what he was feeling was merely the usual order of things…
…I smiled because we all do this in different ways in all areas of our lives.
When a feeling inside of us bubbles up to the surface, or just below the surface, and we feel shame around that feeling, we start to create a story. A false narrative usually. A story with a lot of “shoulds” and “should nots” in it.
That story grows bigger and bigger until it weighs us down like a warm wet wool blanket [as one of my client’s accurately described it].
When the word “should” comes up in your languaging, it’s a good time to realize that you’re judging. You’re either judging yourself, or someone else, and thus making them wrong.
“I should make more money.”
“I shouldn’t be this fat.”
“I should wake up at 4:30 AM to meditate.”
What you’re really saying in all the above is that you’re wrong and not good enough. This certainly won’t help you.
When we apply this level of judgment to ourselves, it seems to snowball and grow. More than that, it spills over to other areas of our lives.
It might start with the way we look, then roll over into not feeling good enough in business, then perhaps at home… or in bed.
This is an all too common occurrence and catching it early is the key.
Here are three things you can do today:
- Catch Yourself. Catch yourself when you use the word “should” and replace it with “get to,” “could,” or “possibly.” This small shift will have a large impact on you, and those around you, over time.
- Make a list of your “shoulds.” Where did they come from? Where did you get that belief?
- Take a look at your above list of “shoulds” and highlight those that serve you – that make you a better person by positively pulling you towards your dreams with flow and ease. Take the others and get rid of them. They’re just made up stories anyway, so you might as well delete them. If you don’t find that easy, let me know, and I’ll help you or point you in the direction of a coach that can.
You should smile now because you’re doing a fantastic job… or don’t smile. The choice is yours. 😎
Shipping off to war.
I’ve never done it, but after talking to friends of mine that have, they’ve told me what I’ve suspected – they get their affairs in order before departing.
They don’t know if they’re coming back or not.
They take the time to tell each family member that they love them – not casually, but from the heart.
They make sure to tie up any loose ends in their life and those that have businesses of their own, they make sure that their staff knows what to do without them. They make sure they’re not the stopping block in the process.
What if we lived each day in this manner? Not with the fear of dying, but with the sense of urgency to make sure each day our affairs are in order?
What would life look like?
How would you talk to your loved ones?
How would you prepare your employees to run the business without you?
If you weren’t sure you’d be back tomorrow, would you let petty issues and comments get to you? Or, would you just let things roll off your back?
Take a moment to write down how you’d live today if you weren’t sure or not if/when you were coming back.
This process will help you get clarity around your priorities.
The next step is to put that clarity into action.
Let those around you know how much you love and appreciate them.
Don’t sweat the small stuff… and remember, it’s all small stuff.
Live your own story.
What do you stand for?
As the saying goes, if you don’t stand for anything, then you’ll fall for everything.
It’s 5:30 AM as I write this down… everyone in the house is asleep.
I’m not in my home; I’m in someone else’s.
For the next several days, I’ll be staying at an estate in the lakes region of New Hampshire where I’ll be co-leading a conference for business leaders who have traveled from all over the world to be here.
When my fellow coaches arrived, we were excited to see each other. We shared laughs, told stories, and cracked a few beers. The energy was amazing, and the temptation to stay up, have some more drinks and laughs was certainly in the air.
Like a wave washing over me, I got up from my comfortable chair and started prepping for my morning routine. I prepped for bed. It was 9 PM.
I knew that others might judge me for turning in early when the night had just begun, but I also knew what I stood for – and I needed to be fully ready and present in the morning. It was a commitment I had made… to myself.
It wasn’t long ago that I would have stayed up, had a few more drinks with rest of the crew, slept in, and felt like crap the next day until the third cup of coffee kicked in and I would start to feel normal again.
That was then…
… this is now.
Today I stand for something greater than myself. I have a set of values that I allow to guide my choices in my life. I have a family to protect and honor.
This is no longer just about me, though in serving myself to the highest level, it somehow works out for the everyone’s best interest.
These values are written down, and the more I revisit them, the more I live them.
I’m far from perfect – I need to do the reps, but the more I do them, the easier the “work” becomes. It’s reflexive rather than retrospective.
Here are 3 things you can do today to make sure you’re standing for what’s best for you and not “falling for everything.”
- Write Them Down. Grab your journal, or a notebook, and go to a place where you won’t be bothered. Write down what you stand for in this format: I stand for…
Keep writing until you can’t think of anything more. I also encourage you to write what you stand for (in the positive) rather than what you stand against. So, instead of saying, I stand against racism, you can write, I stand for treating each person with love and integrity regardless of race, religion, or gender.
- Boil Them Down. Take your list and chunk like items together. Can you boil those statements down into 1-3 key statements? We’re aiming for a list of roughly 10 things, or less, that you stand firmly for. We’re sorting out your values. I find that 10 items are easy to remember and recite.
- Do Your Reps. Read your list each day. I recommend reading the list at least 3 times each day: first thing in the morning, in the afternoon (I like after lunch), and right before bed. I use to post mine in my bathroom near the mirror – made it hard to miss since I brush my teeth at least twice a day.
The cool part of the story from last night that I didn’t share was that instead of judging me for going to be early, the coaches wished me a good night and they themselves chose to turn in early as well.
Like attracts like. When you know what you stand for, there’s a better chance of drawing like people into your life. If you look around today at the people in your life and you don’t like what you see, then perhaps it’s time to make a change yourself.
If I had a gun to your head and your life depended on getting to 48k by the end of January, what would you be doing differently?
“What’s the fastest and easiest way for us to get to our goal of 48k take-home each by January 31st?”
Said another way…
“If I had a gun to your head and your life depended on us getting to 48k by the end of January, what would we as a company be doing differently?”
This was the question I posed to him.
I waited for his response…
“I don’t like this, Doug.,” he said with a tone of disgust.
He then went on to list out the things that would need to happen in order to hit the mark. One by one, the answers appeared before my eyes on a Google doc he had shared with me.
I could see why he was upset…
…he now had clarity and didn’t like what he saw.
What needed to be done were the things that he was avoiding.
He was focusing on systems, training the team, and visioning… and he was spending a lot of time on all of these. To his credit, he was doing a great job… but they weren’t the right things and he was burning himself out doing them – hoping for a better tomorrow. Hoping that these would help him hit his goals.
When he mapped out what it would take to hit the goal, although important, none of what he was working on made the list. Not one of them.
This is the power of clarity.
We tend to have a habit of doing those things we enjoy…
…even to the detriment of those things we want.
Take my workouts for example. I love to lift weights, so when I go to the gym, that’s my focus. What my body could really use is some mobility work… and I do it… sometimes. I never miss the weights. Never.
When I write down my workouts and take a consultative approach (ie. if I hired me to write my own workout), then mobility work is on that list multiple times. I follow it. I get the results I want.
This level of clarity is the power of a good coach or mentor. They don’t tell you what to do – they ask empowering questions so you can get clear on the next steps.
I have no doubt that my friend will hit his 48k mark by the end of January if he sticks to his plan. In fact, I think he’ll hit it much sooner than that…
… as long as he retains the clarity.
What can you do to get more clear?
1. Hire a coach, mentor, or join a mastermind group. A good one will allow you to see the forest from the trees. A great one will give you the power of optics so you can see the playing field unfold before the game begins. It’s the best investment I’ve made, and I continue to invest more in this area myself every year.
2. Pick a goal. I like business goals for this, but you can pick another goal that seems like a stretch goal. Often, I’ll ask people to give me their 1-year goal.
3. Ask yourself the questions on the first few lines. What would you do if your life depended on achieving that goal in just two months?
4. Is the work worth the reward? When setting any stretch goal, I believe it’s important to assess whether the risk is worth the reward. For example, when I built my first marketing firm, I did so while owning two other companies. This required me to sacrifice my free time, friend time, and miss out on a lot of fun. But, when I built my consulting business, I chose to allow it to take longer so I wouldn’t miss out on any of those. Both were right. The choice is yours.
What will you achieve? I’d love to know. Drop me a note.
I’m afraid of failing…
I’m afraid what others will think of me…
I’m afraid what my wife will think of me…
I’m afraid what my son will think of his father who didn’t do all he set out to do…
What kind of example will I be to others if I fail?
I’m afraid of failing…
Most of us are, but we don’t talk about it because that would be taboo.
Our fears can control our thoughts, our actions, and our behaviors – consciously and unconsciously.
Yet, if we don’t identify those fears and accept them in order to let them go, then we’re simply walking through life like a drone – giving up our power to unconscious thoughts and ways of being… because we’re scared to face them.
Yup, I’m afraid of failing…
… but I know that, and it allows me to take risks in a big way and gives me power where it once drained me.
What are you afraid of?
Take control of your power and embrace your fears.
The good stuff in life tends to happen right outside our comfort zone… in the fear… and when we get there, we realize it was all made up in our heads anyway.
Here are 3 things you can do today:
1. Identify a fear that charges you up. A fear that you don’t want to mention out loud to a co-worker.
2. Do a fear inventory. This is step #4 in the 12-Step program in AA. It works. I do it differently as I’ve never been to AA and one of my coaches showed it to me. I’ll write up a more extended description if you want to see it (just let me know).
3. Share your fear. Once it’s out there, it can’t control you as much. This doesn’t mean it goes away, but you can flip the script and stop letting fear run the show. Stop being a victim to your fear and start writing your own story. You’re the author of your own story, so you might as well write a good one.