Sleep Well = Perform Well

In recent years, we’ve heard a lot about sleep as an important factor in our performance. Until I saw the article I refer to here, everything I’ve seen related to quantity and quality of sleep.

Several years ago, as Chief Pilot for a small air freight company. I was often called upon to substitute for a pilot who was unavailable for his or her scheduled flight. This could mean anything from an all-night run to a mid-morning flight. Naturally, my sleep schedule varied greatly.

Comparing that time to now, I’m quite sure my mood is more settled now when I sleep on a very consistent schedule.

Here’s Inc. magazine’s Bill Murphy Jr. discussing a study which indicates that consistency of sleep schedule is important to effective rest. To the surprise of many, this study says you can’t “make up” for missing sleep with more sleep hours! I guess you could say, “Lost sleep is never found!”

For anyone who works “Swing shifts” – a different shift every week – it may be impossible to avoid this. That’s not as common now in the information age as it was a few years ago. If you’re one of the few so affected, you might want to encourage your employer to reconsider that policy.

I haven’t done a lot of research on this thought. It seems to me this issue is likely a root cause of the phenomenon known as “jet lag”. If you’ve traveled across multiple time zones you’re no doubt familiar with that. For many, it results in serious disorientation for up to a week after arriving in a new time zone.

So if you’re used to sleeping at different hours on different days, you may want to consider sleeping more regularly.

Spend Your Time More Effectively!

Not doing something not worth doing is a great way to spend your time.

David Heinemeier Hansson

Here’s a guy who’s succeeded in business by not doing more. But…he’s done important things. And…he’s enjoyed it. To learn about how he’s pulled this off, listen as Alex Sanfilippo interviews David Heinemeier Hansson.

David is a co-founder of Basecamp, and author of It Doesn’t Have to Be Crazy at Work. He’s also a race car driver and enjoyer of life. Links to David’s business, his book, and other resources are linked on the interview page.

With first-hand experience in the startup software business, David is unique. He and his partner eschewed the accepted features of that culture. They didn’t risk everything they owned, work 80 hours/week, or take no time off.

David has lived most of his life in Denmark. He learned a different work/life balance perspective than what’s common in the U.S.

David and his partner started Basecamp (then 37 Signals) as a side gig. The kept their established sources of income. They failed at an earlier venture and learned from the experience.

Calm vs. crazy is a concept that defines these guys’ approach to business. David discusses the quality of an hour vs. the quantity of hours he works. As people “fragment” their time, they never get into “flow”. Flow is what can make us intensely productive.

In today’s world, we’re bombarded by inputs that distract us:

  • Social media
  • Email
  • Phone calls
  • Meetings
  • Etc., etc. etc.

To be productive, we must never put our schedule at the mercy of others’ whims. His advice: Turn off all notifications.

“Enough” is another concept David and Alex discuss. Goals can put us in the mindset of never having enough. We’re always striving for “more” As Basecamp started to grow very well, they got a point of 50 employees. They had several other products and found they couldn’t do them all with 50 people. Did they hire more? No – they stopped doing some of the other things. Basecamp was rewarding, and it was enough! As Basecamp grew, they’ve expanded to about 60, no more.

David asks himself one of my favorite questions: Why am I Here? His answer has 3 parts:

  • He wants to make great software.
  • He wants to make it with awesome people.
  • He wants to treat customers right.

Nothing more, nothing less!

Here, I’ve hit on the high points of David’s ideas. I recommend you listen to the interview to get the depth of his ideas.

Marketing On A Budget!

Some people line up big investors and/or large savings accounts to start businesses.

The guy highlighted in this article did it without big money. Without a huge marketing budget.

The power of an idea that resonates in the market is huge. When people benefit from something they bought, they tell their friends about it. 

Mike Doehla, quite by accident, discovered the power in this human tendency. Leveraging it, he built Stronger U, a $ multi-million online nutrition coaching business.

As Doehla’new business was starting to get traction, he lacked the self-confidence to quit his corporate job. His then-girlfriend, whom he later married, convinced him to take the plunge.

Think about the last time you had something to eat you liked a lot. Or maybe you watched a movie you enjoyed.

When you talk with your family or friends, you can’t wait to share that experience. Right?

The same works when someone provides a service that helps you accomplish a desired goal. That’s exactly what Stronger U does for people who want to improve their health. Read about it here. If you’re interested in more information about how they can help you, go to the company’s website.

Surf Dude And Life Lessons That Go With It

My good friend and fellow Estanciero David Galland recently published Surf DudeLike everything David writes, it’s a riveting story. As with much good writing, there’s a lot more here than an entertaining narrative.

The story is of a group of airliner crash survivors on a small island, struggling for survival. Two examples of extreme antisocial behavior emerge. What follows is the rest of the fascinating story.

This book brings to light the value of respect for others and their opinions and beliefs. And of course, the folly of prejudice and a closed mind.

If someone has different ideas than you have, what of it? If you both are open to discussing your differences, it can make an interesting conversation. If either of you doesn’t want to do that, it’s better left alone.

“Convince a man against his will, He’s of the same opinion still.”

– Dale Carnegie

Suppose they believe differently from you in some area, say religion or politics. They aren’t harming you with their different views. They could, of course, become a nuisance if they insist on proselytizing. You may, or may not, choose to include them in your circle of friends. I have several friends who are of opinions quite different from mine.

Naturally, if they believe in stealing, or harming other people, you want nothing to do with them. You may even need to take action to protect yourself and your assets from them.

The libertarian (notice that’s with a small “l” – it’s not a political party) view is:

  • Live and let live.
  • I’ll respect you and your opinions as long as you respect me and mine.
  • I’ll treat you fairly as long as you treat me fairly.

Solid sustainable businesses add wealth to the economy. They flourish by producing something of value to their customers. When a customer buys from them:

  • The customer sees more value in the product or service than the price he/she pays for it.
  • The company sees more value in the money paid to them than the product or service they delivered.

This is a win-win transaction. It’s how wealth is built in a healthy economy. People who do business this way are usually open to all comers without prejudice. It’s just the way they think. Rarely are they prejudiced in anything. David discusses the concept of trading at will in some of the interactions among the survivor group.

So… with this discussion, I’ve drifted a bit from the original topic, that of David’s book. If you look carefully at my flow of ruminations, you may (I hope) find a thread of related ideas.

Perhaps it will encourage you to pick up David’s book and let it stimulate your thinking. It’s a pretty quick read, and I think you’ll find it entertaining. (You might not if you believe in physical and psychological domination and/or religious fanaticism. These two, domination and forcing religious beliefs on others are really two forms of the same thing.)

A Bizarre 2020: The Good And The Bad

We prepare to close the books on what has been a most bizarre year. For most of us, probably the most bizarre year of our lives! For me, this seems a good time to reflect on 2020, and think about how to get 2021 off to the best possible start.

One of the best ways to improve results is to plan better. There’s more on that at the end of this message. Here, I will recommend primarily that you examine your personal habits. Make a conscious decision to develop more good ones and improve on those you have. You probably also have some habits that don’t serve you well. Decide to eliminate them!

This week I started this message by recommending a book that can be a great help in building new habits and ending the ones that aren’t serving you well. I’ll discuss that book in more detail next week. Here’s the link to its listing on Amazon.

Meanwhile, I want to take this week to remind us all of the value of reflection and planning to improve.

Whenever we’re faced with a challenge, it’s helpful to look for the benefits that come with it. As Napoleon Hill reminded us, within every adversity, there’s the seed of equal or greater opportunity. So look for that seed! Figure out how to make lemonade when lemons are delivered, even if by the truckload.

Let’s look at the particular example of COVID-19:

  • Can you find a way to react that improves your relative market position?
  • Was there an improvement that was in the back of your mind, and this has stimulated you to make it?
  • Have you been able to reduce costs with fewer in-person meetings, internally and with prospects/clients?
  • Will you be able to reduce office space as you continue with remote work for many?
  • Are your employees enjoying less commuting time and expense? Do you help them see and appreciate that benefit?

Of course no review would be complete without also reviewing the challenges we faced. While we’re looking at those, let’s also think about how, and how well, we met those challenges.

What happens is a fact. Remember that each of us is responsible. Responsible for recognizing the full truth of what happened. Responsible for how we react to it. Responsible for the outcome of the situation.

With that preface, how did you respond to:

  • The news of the COVID-19 pandemic?
  • The quarantine and shelter-in-place mandates?
  • Whatever disruption to your business resulted from all this?
  • The disruptions to your personal and family life?
  • The difficulty of travel?
  • Any other challenges you personally faced as a result, or not, of COVID-19?

Challenges On Your Team’s Performance!

2020 has been a challenging year. No disputing that! Likely, it’s been more challenging for many of your team members than for you personally. Or maybe you’ve had your own major challenges. In any case, what’s important is limiting the impact of those challenges on your company’s performance.

Gary Vaynerchuk, Chairman of VaynerX, and CEO of VaynerMedia, has some thoughts on how to accomplish that. Marcel Schwantes discusses those thoughts here.

As in all things in life and business, taking responsibility for what happens is key. As a business owner, you’re probably well aware of the importance of that fact. Your employees may or may not be.

If you have team members underperforming, there’s a pretty good chance they’re distracted by personal challenges. Here are some thoughts on how that’s best handled.

One possibility, of course, is to replace the low performer. There are at least three good reasons to find other options:

  • It’s expensive! That could well add to the challenges to the company.
  • Who knows what challenges will be facing the new hire? You could be “jumping out of the frying pan into the fire!”
  • It will surely add to whatever difficulties the employee might be facing. I hope the employees’ welfare is important to you!

Assuming that last comment is true – that you care about your employees’ well-being – what’s important is finding ways to help your team member through whatever he or she is facing. That’s part of your responsibility! And it’s where Gary’s suggestions may help.

There’s one way you can help them that requires only coaching. You can help them see the value of taking individual responsibility. That will, under any circumstances, lay the groundwork for whatever their specific situation requires. I recently wrote an article that may assist with that effort.

Within every diversity is the seed of equal or greater opportunity.

– Napoleon Hill quote

This is a concept doubly important in the current times.

Make A Decision!

Several months ago, we heard (literally, if you listened to the interview) from Dr. Benjamin Hardy. Ben is a coach who has been a great help in my becoming a better version of myself.

In this issue, I’ll focus on one particular idea he mentioned in that interview. I recently made this the topic of my monthly message to the managers of La Estancia de Cafayate, my home in Argentina.

Will Power Doesn’t Work!

That’s the title of Ben’s recent book (also note his other books down the page), and one of his central themes.

Have you tried to: 

Quit smoking?

Get up one hour earlier every morning?

Exercise every day or 3 or 4 days per week?

Stop eating chocolate, or stop drinking coffee?

Has it worked? Many people find that they gradually slip back into old patterns after a few days or a few weeks. Is that you?

Old habits are hard to change. We live in patterns. It’s natural for humans to do that.

Here’s a way that works. Make a decision! Once you’ve made a firm decision, never deviate from it. If you’ve decided not to eat chocolate, you don’t ever eat chocolate – not on your birthday – not on someone else’s birthday – not on Christmas – never!. You live by the decision 100% of the time and never consider anything else.

The difficulty for most people is that they’re constantly plagued by “decision fatigue”. They have to decide at every turn if now is one of the times they eat the chocolate. You must close off all alternatives to your new way of being. The decision is made, and it’s final. You never look back. Will power has nothing to do with it! You never have to decide again.

Struggling to change a pattern in your life? I would love to hear how this suggestion helps you. It’s certainly relieved me of much decision fatigue. In recent months I’ve:

  • Taken a one-minute cold shower every morning.
  • Risen every morning at the time I decided on the night before. On every workday, unless something unusual happened the night before, it’s 5:00 AM.
  • Fasted for 24 hours each week.
  • Written in my journal every day. In the evening I review the day and plan the next day. In the morning I review my sleep pattern, the new day’s plan, my “future self” plan, and my gratitude.

These are all significant changes in my previous patterns. I was able to incorporate them with very little difficulty, simply by deciding to, with commitment. Eliminating in my mind any other alternative.

The “Elon Musk Leadership” Effect!

The business world, and its observers, have been awed by Elon Musk’s wild success in business. As you probably know, he recently rose to the rank of second wealthiest man in the world. This is largely due to the increase in market value of Tesla’s stock.

Of course, the meteoric rise in Tesla’s stock price has been, at least in part, due to Musk’s visionary leadership of his team. If we look deep enough in any high-performing company, we nearly always find good leadership.

Recently I came across an article showing an example of Musk’s leadership style. Here’s Minda Zetlin, one of my favorite Inc. contriubutors, describing his recent superb communication with his team.

At Tesla, Inc., every employee has the opportunity to share in the company ownership through stock options. This is important to note in seeing the value of the email Minda describes in her article.

His email says, in essence, “We must not rest on our laurels and get loose with our wealth. We got where we are by producing and selling good electric cars cost-effectively. Our stockholders are betting on our ability to improve that capability. We must not disappoint them.”

He continues, “To maintain and increase our value to investors, including you, we must find ways to improve our cost-effectiveness while maintaining quality. Saving $0.20 or 0.50 per car is significant. Saving $5.00 per car is a home run”.

It mystifies me why so many companies fail to cut their employees in on a piece of the action. They can do that by means of an ownership stake, or a meaningful profit-sharing scheme. What better way to incent them to operate efficiently, and cooperate with their colleagues in that effort?

Businesses succeed long term by producing more value in their customers’ eyes than the prices they charge. They do that through the efforts of team members who produce more value than their wages. That’s how everyone wins in business!

Choose Your Reactions!

As the quarantine wears on, it’s important to remind ourselves that we can always choose our reactions.

Whatever is happening around us, our mindset is a choice we can make:

  • Positive, or negative
  • Happy, or unhappy
  • Productive, or idle
  • Taking charge, or worrying.

I first wrote about this in March when none of us had any idea how long the quarantine would go on. We still don’t. Argentina, where I live, has recently started to loosen some of the rules.

This week Jim Smith, “The Executive Happiness Coach“, sent me an excellent article on maintaining positivity. in the midst of all this.

Is it the quarantine, the election, the weather, or something in your personal life that’s troubling you? Shake it off! Put it aside, once you’ve done all you can do about it! Decide to be happy. Enjoy life. You have a fixed amount of time in your mortal coil. You can enjoy it, or you can make yourself miserable.

Remember though, that if you decide to make yourself miserable, that’s all on you. If you decide to enjoy life, regardless of your circumstances, that’s your doing as well.

Many people think more money, real estate, or whatever will make them happy. If you’re happy now, yes – you’ll likely be even happier when you achieve a sought-after goal. If you’re miserable now, you’ll be a miserable millionaire or real estate mogul – unless you change your mindset.

Happiness comes from inside you, never from anything you gain or achieve.

Which will you decide? I hope Jim Smith’s article helps you with that decision as the holiday season approaches.

Practicing gratitude every day is an effective means of bringing positivity into your life. For my U.S. readers, we get a poignant reminder of being grateful in our Thanksgiving this week. Hope you all enjoy it. Gratitude has a wonderful effect on you and those you thank. This is a great week to really focus on it.

I leave you with these brief comments so you can get on with holiday planning. Enjoy!

What Is Emotional Intelligence?

“Emotional intelligence”, or EQ, has become a popular buzzword in business recently.

What does emotional intelligence mean? I guess you could call it a fancy term for what we used to know as “soft skills”.

Buzzwords seem to turn up in every pursuit employing a unique skill set. People love to throw them around, because it makes them sound smart or hip. Business leadership qualifies as one of those pursuits, for sure.

As a great believer in clarity in communication, I recently found this article by David Finkel. He adds some meaning to “emotional intelligence” by describing important aspects of it possessed by effective leaders.

David lists these traits as consideration for inviting someone to your executive team:

  • Team-building skills
  • Ability to motivate and inspire
  • Self-awareness and self-management
  • Social intelligence
  • Communication skills
  • Skill in navigating differences

A few comments of mine here, to add to David’s more thorough descriptions of these traits:

These skills are all important and they are all linked.

Teamwork happens only in an environment of communication and motivation/inspiration. Is your organization is of a size such that you’re considering an executive team? If so, great teamwork is vital to your success. (It is in every organization, and even more so as you scale up.)

Communication is vital to everything else. Here’s an extreme example of the importance of communication:

Think of a left-brained expert with many technical skills. That person must be able to communicate the value of his/her skills. Otherwise, those skills aren’t very valuable.

In order to have social intelligence (why people behave as they do), you must be self-aware. Why do you behave as you do?

Self-management is about controlling your own tendencies which may be inappropriate in certain situations. This too is an important skill.

Navigating differences (gender, culture, opinions, etc) is vital to the health of any organization. David suggests that exhibition of these traits should be prerequisite to inviting anyone to your executive team. Alternatively, more coaching may get someone qualified and I agree.

If you’re building an executive team, or coaching someone who is, Finkel’s list is a great guide. Of course, there probably are other things to consider in your particular situation. However, this list provides a great basis for any executive group. Add to it to meet your unique needs.