Your Story (repost from Sept 2015)

Whats-Your-Story

I was listening to Tony Robbins the other day. For those unfamiliar with Tony, he has a 30 year career as a motivational speaker and high performance coach. His books and seminars are legendary and I highly recommend taking the time to listen to some of his work if you have never been exposed to him before.

 As I said, I was listening to one of Tony’s videos and he says, “There are two types of life stories – warnings and examples. We get to choose which one we want to live. Even if we have been living what we believe to be a life story of warning, we have the power to change it to a life story of example if we choose to.” 

I am a firm believer that we have the power to choose our path. But for some reason his statement gave me pause. Not because of the actual statement, but the accompanying thought that people tend to choose the story that best serves them. And sometimes, the story of warning serves us where we are and we want to hold on to that story. Maybe the story was necessary to bring us to a specific place in our life. Maybe the story was necessary to teach us something important. Or maybe, the story is necessary to justify why we feel insignificant, powerless, empty, or insecure. Maybe the story is necessary to justify why we can’t succeed and why we’ve stopped trying.  Simply, it has just become easier to believe or buy into the story than to do something about it. 

Personally, I want to live a story of example. But Tony’s statement made me realize that even though I desire to live a story of example, I keep slipping into a story of warning and then staying there to wallow. Then I have to fight my way back out of it, which is exhausting. Learning to understand why this happens and how the story of warning is serving me will help me learn to break that pattern. It’s up to me to change my story, permanently. 

So, what’s your story? Are you living a story of warning or example? 

If you aren’t satisfied or fulfilled with your current story and you are ready for it to change, I’d be happy to help. You can reach me at stacy@minerva.partners. Together we can rewrite your story, permanently.

Diagnosis: Shiny Object Syndrome

shiny object

Have you ever watched a cat chase one of those laser lights? We have cats and when they were younger we would spend countless hours watching them move from one laser dot to another. Their ability to completely forget one shiny object as soon as they see another is amazing.

You would think this susceptibility would be reserved for animals. Their little brains just not developed enough to allow them to focus on one thing for a period of time, regardless of distractions. You would think – but you would be wrong. Humans are even more prone to distraction by shiny objects than even cats. Especially entrepreneurs or those who consider themselves to be “creatives”.

Let me set the stage. You are an entrepreneur. You have no fewer than 1,000 brilliant ideas in your head at any point in time. As soon as you sit down to work on one idea, another pops into your head and you lose focus on Idea 1 to daydream about Idea 2. The next thing you know, you’ve “worked” on six projects this week but nothing was completed. Nothing ever seems to get completed because when you have too many projects at one time, nothing gets done.

You, my friend, have Shiny Object Syndrome. It’s one of the biggest enemies of entrepreneurs and creatives. And it’s a real thing.

Impossiblehq.com defines Shiny Object Syndrome as “the attraction to objects that exhibit a glossy, polished, gleaming, or otherwise shiny appearance. Something as simple as a reflection in your peripheral vision may easily distract your attention. Over time, you’ll find your attraction to said object is directly correlated to its shininess and your attention fades as the shininess wears off.”

So, how do you know if you suffer from Shiny Object Syndrome?

·       You have 10 new business ideas on paper but no new businesses

·       You have purchased 50 domain names but have no published websites

·       You have 15 product ideas but no workable prototypes

·       You have 6 great marketing strategies but none have been executed

·       You are always starting new things but never finish – books, diets, exercise programs, morning routines, etc.

If you relate to any of these, and this list is certainly not exhaustive, you have Shiny Object Syndrome. The good news is that you are not alone. And the really good news is that, while it is frustrating, it certainly is not fatal.

So, what can be done when you find yourself suffering from Shiny Object Syndrome? When I find myself or have a client stuck in Shiny Object land, I recommend taking the following three steps.

1.       Acknowledge the shiny object

If you are an entrepreneur or a creative it will be impossible to avoid new, brilliant ideas. It’s just who you are and its part of what makes you fantastic and unique. Trying to suppress new ideas and other shiny objects is just not going to work. The best way to deal with shiny objects is to acknowledge they are there but not allow yourself to become immediately distracted by them. Simply write them down and move on. I have a notebook dedicated to my shiny objects.

2.       Dedicate time to evaluate the shiny object

Set aside a block of time once per week, once per month, or whatever frequency makes the most sense for you to dedicate to reviewing and evaluating your list of shiny objects. If you are clear on your goals for your business then you know what direction you are headed. If you know what direction you are headed, you can easily evaluate each shiny object to determine if that idea or action gets you closer to the achievement of your desired goals. Keep in mind that an idea or action is not bad if it doesn’t move you closer, it just isn’t right for moving you forward. Therefore, it doesn’t warrant your time, energy, or focus.

3.       Refocus and complete

When I say that Shiny Object Syndrome is an enemy of entrepreneurs it is not because ideas are bad. Quite opposite, ideas are necessary and critical to your success. What I mean is that often times we fall in love with the idea of bright shiny objects simply because they are bright and shiny, not because they help our business. While mastering the fundamentals may not be very exciting, it’s that mastery that allows us to excel. So, in order to really crush your business, you need to resist the urge to fall in love with the idea of bright, shiny objects and instead fall in love with mastering those things that make the biggest impact.

Once you’ve evaluated your current list of shiny objects and have determined if they advance your business, you must prioritize. Those that make the cut need to be worked into your action plan. NOTE: The only way a new shiny object should postpone the completion of a current shiny object is if there is an immediate and impactful return on that investment. If it doesn’t trump your current activities in terms of ROI then assign it to your work plan to be started AFTER you complete what you are currently working on.

It’s really hard not to get distracted by great ideas. Especially when you are the boss and you have no one to answer to but yourself. But while Shiny Object Syndrome is not fatal, it can cause you to go hungry. Confucius once said, “The man who chases two rabbits catches neither.”

What I Learned from Unplugging

two-pitons

I recently returned from my first real vacation in five years. And what I mean by real is that it wasn’t a “staycation” peppered with home improvement projects and trying to keep our teenager from getting too bored. And it wasn’t work related where we just added on a few days to make it feel like a vacation. This was a real vacation to a tropical location for an entire week. It was long over-due and well-deserved by each family member.

Before we left, all three of us took an oath to really make this count. We were going to do everything in our power to be as present as possible. To really appreciate and enjoy the opportunity presented to us through this break from reality. So, with a lot of discussion, hesitation, and a bit of anxiety, we agreed that this trip would be 100% tech-free. No phones, no computers for the entire week.

We spent time leading up to the trip setting expectations with others. We communicated with coworkers, clients, and family members that we would be unavailable via text, email, or phone for the duration. We distributed the phone number for the resort and instructed people to call the hotel should an emergency arise.

And guess what? Nothing bad happened. The world didn’t stop spinning. Work didn’t come crashing to a halt. There were no emergencies that couldn’t be handled by others. It was all fine. As a matter of fact, it was all better than fine.

The first 48 hours were a little challenging. I was a little anxious about not being available should someone need something. My husband felt like he had forgotten something (which he had because he was actually brave enough to leave his phone and computer at home). And our daughter had to learn to walk with her head and eyes up instead of staring down at her phone. We were a little off balance for a while.

But then we started to get the hang of it.

We read – a lot! We engaged in lively conversation. Not just among ourselves but (gasp) with other people around us. We met Billy from Hilton Head and a really fun group from Virginia Beach (one of which was originally from the neck of the woods where I grew up). We met a young couple from Charlotte and an older couple from Delaware. We met Archie from Australia and a lovely family from London.

We did yoga – and didn’t feel guilty about it. I almost took a nap one afternoon – and didn’t feel guilty about it!

I started to be more aware of my surroundings. I could hear waves crash, I could hear birds sing, I heard the highest-pitched grasshoppers I’ve ever heard before. I felt sun on my face and could taste the salt air. With more awareness came appreciation. And with more appreciation came less stress and guilt over not being accessible to anyone but my husband and daughter.

As the week came to a close, the typical grieving began. But then it stopped. I was sad to get back to reality, but I honestly felt refreshed and grateful and appreciative and happy. While I was sad it was over, it did not feel like the time flew by like it normally does. I fully enjoyed every minute of our time away and feel we reaped full benefits because of our intention to be present throughout.

So, what did a learn from unplugging?

I learned that no one will die on the table if I’m not there. People are capable of taking care of themselves if I’m not there to do it and problems will get solved even if I’m not there to solve them. I learned that quiet can be glorious. I learned that I can be okay with myself by myself. I learned that my family has a lot of conversation material. I learned that I can kick my daughter’s butt at ping pong and my husband can kick my butt at pool. I received a deeper appreciation of just how wonderful of a life and family I truly have. And I learned that unplugging is one of the best ways to recharge.

I challenge you to find time to cut out the noise. Whether you have a vacation coming up or just a few days at home. Make the intention to unplug so that you can recharge. The benefits are endless.

“Action Drives Out Thought” – Richard Koch

Action Drives Out Thought

I’ve recently started following Perry Marshall. Perry is a numbers and analysis geek, like I am, and has written a fascinating book on applying the Pareto Principle to sales and marketing called 80/20 Sales and Marketing. I’m already on my second read of the book and am sure I will read it 5 more times. I’m so excited about the information he shares, I can’t wait to start implementing the principles with my clients and their businesses.

While there are a million ideas that are floating around in my head from reading his book, one particular topic seemed critical to share this week. The month of June is typically an evaluation and potential reset opportunity for most businesses. We are now half way through the year and usually spend a little bit of time reflecting on how things have gone thus far.

If you are like most business owners, the first 6 months have flown by. Most will create a plan at the beginning of the year, put their heads down, and start working as fast as they possibly can toward their goals.

While action is great at driving out fear and self-doubt, action can also drive out thought (as stated by Richard Koch, the author of The 80/20 Principle and The 80/20 Manager). See, if you spend all of your time doing and not enough time thinking then all you do is create more work for yourself. And creating more work leaves less time to think.

According to Perry Marshall, most of us think that if we work hard enough and fast enough and get all of our tasks completed, then we’ll have time left over to think and plan and create and generate ideas. But in fact, it doesn’t happen that way. If we don’t intentionally carve out time for these types of activities, it will NEVER happen.

So, before you get into the month of July, officially reserve some time on your calendar for thinking and planning and creating. Stop what you are doing right now and get it on your calendar and then protect that time with your life. Then, when you sit down to think, ask yourself these questions:

  1. What are the biggest levers I can pull to catapult my business forward?

Maybe your biggest levers are to eliminate something that is a big time or energy sucker. Maybe it’s having a better understanding of how you are personally wired so that you can leverage those strengths instead of getting mired down in the areas you struggle. Maybe its understanding that you are spending your time trying to convince customers who aren’t ready instead of disqualifying them to focus on those who are ready.

Whatever they are, are there 2 – 3 things you can stop doing or start doing that will make a big difference in the growth of your company. And sometimes, stopping some activities have even more impact than adding activities – so be mindful of that.

  1. As I review what I’ve been doing, what are my biggest AHAs?

What are your biggest AHAs from the past 6 months? Again, this may have to do with gaining a better understanding of how you are wired which may change how you deliver your products or services. For instance, some people are editors, not creators – meaning they fix things not build things. For me, I understand that I am highly methodical, so I prefer a plan to doing things spontaneously or off the cuff. Therefore, my best client matches are with those who also like methodical approaches.

Another big AHA could be the understanding that there is more than one way to accomplish your business objectives. Sometimes we become so married to a single way of doing things that we miss opportunities that will ultimately get us there faster.

  1. What are the biggest results I can generate from these levers and AHAs?

Once you’ve identified your biggest levers and biggest AHAs, how can you translate those into big results? This is where you take what you’ve learned and adjust your plan moving forward with this new information.

When you stop letting action drive out thought, your movements and decisions become more intentional, ideas come to you more easily, and you stop wasting time on activities that don’t propel you forward. Ah, there’s another 80/20 in there…more on that later.

Do You Know What You Were Put On This Earth To Do?

Purpose

Each of us was born with a life purpose. One of the most important things that you can do to guarantee success is to understand, acknowledge, and honor your purpose.
Brian Tracy once said, “Decide upon your major definite purpose in life and then organize all of your activities around it.” Once you understand what you are here to do, you can inject passion and determination into every action that you take. When you have purpose, things just seem to fall into place. According to Jack Canfield, “When you are truly and passionately on purpose, the people, resources, and opportunities you need naturally gravitate toward you.”

So, if everything you do should be an expression of your purpose, what if you don’t know what your purpose is?

Start by asking yourself to identify a job you would love so much that you would do it for free. Think back on all of the things you have done in your life that bring you the most joy. See, the things that bring you the most joy are typically most aligned with your purpose. Joy almost becomes your inner compass because it will tell you when you are off course simply through your recognition of the amount of joy you are experiencing when doing something.

After looking at the times you’ve experienced joy, search for a common element among those experiences. Can you figure out how to make a living doing these things?
Some people find it helpful to construct a life’s purpose statement. You can follow a simple formula to create your own:

1. List two of your unique qualities.
2. List one or two ways you enjoy expressing those qualities when interacting with others.
3. What does a perfect world look like because of the way you express these qualities when interacting with others (written as a statement)?
4. Combine all three of these sections into one statement.

Once you write your life’s purpose statement, post it somewhere you can see it every day. This will keep your daily actions focused on your purpose.

Every couple of months, evaluate your life’s purpose statement and rate your typical actions on a 1 – 10 scale as to how closely they support your life’s purpose statement. If you are below a 5, consciously lean into your purpose a little more each day. It may take time before it becomes second nature. But don’t get frustrated if you aren’t a perfect 10 right out of the gate. Think of it as developing muscle memory or any other worthwhile habit/practice. Keep at it and it will become second nature over time.

Purpose allows for an organized life. One in which everything you do supports your purpose and the joy you want in your life. If an activity doesn’t align with your purpose you shouldn’t work on it. With purpose as your guide, your goals and plans will provide fulfillment. They can’t not!

 

2 Simple Ways to Overcome Temptation

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Temptations and bad habits derail success and happiness. They instill a sense of lack of control and lead to us beating ourselves up over and over again because we can’t seem to keep them in check.

All of us have at least one bad habit we would benefit from overcoming. If you are tired of having temptations and bad habits negatively impact your success and happiness and are ready to fix them for good, here are 2 simple ways to get the upper hand.

Dr. Vanessa Patrick, a marketing professor at the University of Houston, has written papers on her research about temptation and the power of self-talk. Through this research she has discovered two techniques to nip this problem in the bud.

1.       Postponement

Usually, we try to manage temptation through sheer will power, abstinence, and denial. Sometimes this works but most of the time we cave to the temptation because life is too short to go without, right? Dr. Patrick’s research suggests there may be a better way to manage temptation by simply postponing a temptation until an unspecified time in the future.

Let’s say you want to purchase a really cute, but really expensive handbag to add to the collection of 20 other handbags you have at home. You muster up all your will power to walk away but then you feel deprived and sad. Switching the response to something like, “Sure I can get this handbag, but maybe later” will allow you to walk away without feeling deprived.

“If we postpone consumption at peak desire, in the heat of the moment, we are less likely to want to consume later,’’ Patrick says of the research. That goes for handbags, ice cream, etc.

2.       “I don’t”

Sometimes a change in language can make all the difference in the world. In multiple studies, Dr. Patrick and her colleagues looked at the difference between framing a refusal with the words “I don’t” vs. “I can’t.” What their research found is that using “I can’t” immediately moves us into a place of deprivation and disempowerment. It’s as if there is an outside force that is not allowing us to have something.

However, using “I don’t” signals a sense of empowerment and determination which makes this refusal strategy so much more effective. Plus, it allows us to identify with the group who has already mastered this positive habit. For instance, I want to live a healthier life and if (in my mind) healthy people don’t eat processed food, then saying, “I don’t eat processed food” allows me to demonstrate the attributes of the group I want to be a part of.

“I don’t” is so much stronger than “I can’t”. As a matter of fact, the research shows that “I don’t is three times more effective than just saying “no” and eight times more effective than saying “I can’t”. And it works for everything!

Both postponement and “I don’t” give you a better chance to make a better choice. What’s one temptation or bad habit that seems to derail your success and happiness the most right now. Please leave it in the comments below and rescript it using “I don’t.” I’m eager to hear how you are no longer going to allow it to disempower you.

The #1 Myth of Work/Life Balance

scale

Work/life balance is a frequently sought after (and when I say sought after, I mean lace up those sneakers and chase this thing as hard and fast as we can at all times) concept that we desperately want to apply in our lives. And while it often feels just out of reach, I find it interesting that it means different things to different people.

This is the Wikipedia definition of work/life balance.

Work/life balance is a concept including proper prioritization between “work” (career and ambition) and “lifestyle” (health, pleasure, leisure, family, spiritual development/meditation). This is related to the idea of “lifestyle choice.”

I’ve underlined two words in this definition. Prioritization and choice. The concept of work/life balance may be universally understood the specifics of how it appears in our individual lives varies upon priorities and choices.

To ensure we all have the same chance to experience work/life balance, even if our expressions of the concept are all different, I want to cover the #1 myth associated with the concept of work/life balance.

#1 Myth: That there is such a thing as work/life balance.

What? I know you are sitting there going “what you talking about Stacy?” What do you mean there is no such thing as work/life balance?

Here’s the deal. Work/life balance is a myth. That myth asks us to view an ideal life as a set of perfectly level scales. On the tray on one side is your personal life. On the other side is your work life. The myth makes us believe that with super-human efforts, it’s possible to keep both trays exactly level all the time. If one starts to tip too far, we just make some quick adjustment that balances them again.

In reality, that perfect balance almost never occurs, except for those rare moments when the trays pass each other on the way up or down – and typically we’re too frazzled by trying to achieve perfect balance to even notice that brief moment.

So, if that’s the myth, what’s the truth?

The truth is, what we really want is better and more control. We need and desire better ways to manage our work/life boundaries. But to make that happen, we have to understand that not everything is in our control. In reality both work and life – ebb and flow in their demands. The more we assume leadership and responsibility of our own lives – based upon our priorities, instead of waiting for someone else to do it for us, the better able we are to deal with juggling it all.

So, it’s not really about achieving balance. It’s really about achieving optimal integration of the two. What are some examples of that? A basic example is understanding that sometimes work is going to take more than its fair share of your time and sometimes life is going to take more than its fair share. For instance, let’s say you have a project that is requiring extra time at the office. So to offset that time you have some vacation time scheduled. So, it’s not perfectly balanced but the scale tips one way and then tips back the other way. The danger comes when we allow it to tip to one side for too long. That’s when the stress, the anxiety, and the burnout occurs.

So, if it’s really about control. How do we go about gaining more control in this area? Here are two tricks to maintain those things that are in your control when it comes to the integration of work and life.

First – take ownership. A great way to take ownership is to set boundaries. No one is going to do that for you. But in order to be successful at setting boundaries, you have to be aware of those things in your control and those things out of your control. Deciding whether or not to attend a mandatory off-site management meeting on a Saturday vs. hanging out with your kids is not in your control (unless of course you are looking for a way to get fired). However, deciding to take an afternoon off to spend with your kids to make up for the Saturday you missed is in your control. And believe it or not, no one is going to encourage you or make that suggestion for you. It’s something you have to take ownership of. And then on top of that, you have to honor that time by resisting the urge to pick the phone or answer an email from the office if they try to get in contact with you. You must set and stick to those boundaries to see benefit.

Second – Control your mind. Wait that sounds weird. Controlling my mind will allow me to acquire more work/life balance? Yes. How many of you say this on a regular basis – “I don’t have enough time” or “there just isn’t enough time in the day”. We all say it. But saying there isn’t enough time comes from a place of lack. Lack says there isn’t enough. Abundance says there is just enough. Saying I have just enough time to get those things that are priorities for me accomplished because I have control over my time (to a certain degree, right) allows you to claim the power and control over the balance. Going back to the Wikipedia definition of work/life balance you have control over the priorities and therefore can choose what things to dedicate your time to. Sometimes that means saying no to non-mission critical things. Sometimes that means asking for help. But knowing you have control in this way creates ease, relaxation, and balance.

Another way to control your mind is to be present. If you spend all day at work thinking about your responsibilities at home and then spend all day at home thinking about your responsibilities at work, you will never be in balance. The best you can give yourself and others is to be fully present in whatever you choose to do at any moment in time.

Accepting that life doesn’t look like a perfectly level set of scales but more like a see-saw that tips one way then the other and acknowledging that you can take control of how long the seat rests on the ground on each side, will give you the power to achieve that perfect balance that works best in your life. And you define that balance by the priorities you set and the choices you make to support those priorities. Don’t wait on someone to do it for you. Do it for yourself. Do it now.