Why I Stopped Running (And Then Started Again)

In a previous post I wrote about holding the ground we have already won. I related my experience of losing 30 pounds (winning ground) and then gaining 25 of it back (losing the ground I had gained). Holding the ground we have won is tough, particularly when we forget (or even don’t realize) the major factors that helped us gain ground in the first place.


Running was a major catalyst for gaining ground in all areas of my life. When I starting training for a half marathon and eating better about four years ago, I lost weight and gained more mental clarity, motivation, and energy. This led to better performance and therefore more advancement in my career. More energy meant more quality time with my family. Better health meant almost no down time due to illness. Life was better overall.

Over time I forgot what got me to that place. By January 2014 I had gained some weight back, especially after letting go during Christmas. I embarked on a month of running 25-30 miles per week, no sugar, and no diet soda. At the end of that month my weight hadn't budged.

At the same time I had been listening to health podcasts and reading health books. I became convinced that “chronic cardio” (i.e. running) was bad for you. I was sold on the idea that a Paleo diet, combined with 10-15 minutes of high intensity strength training twice per week, would pack on muscle and melt away fat. I went to a holistic practitioner who recommended a large assortment of vitamins and supplements. I had to buy one of those Sunday through Saturday pill holders to keep it all straight (which made me feel very old)!

It all made perfect sense (and was appealing). I liked that I didn’t have to get up early on cold mornings and run for 4-5 hours per week. I liked that I could eat as much fruits, vegetables, meat, and even butter as I wanted. I liked that I could cheat on my diet once in a while (which became more often than once in a while).

It was great! Except that it didn’t work.

6 months later I had gained 10 pounds. I had a hard time getting going in the morning and lacked my usual motivation during the day. Instead of using the extra 4-5 hours per week (plus prep and cool-down time) to get more done, I slept more than I needed to.

It took me 12 months to replace the missing piece. I guess I’m a little slow. I guess I trusted the “experts” a little too much. And I can’t even take much credit for replacing that piece. Some of our friends had the crazy idea of running Ragnar this June, and my wife had the crazy idea of taking their idea seriously.

2 months ago, soon after starting to run several times per week, I realized running was the missing piece.

The results have been amazing.

I've lost 5 pounds, and I’m not even back to eating as well as I should be (those Easter treats are a little too appealing). More importantly, I have regained the mental clarity, motivation, and energy that I lost a year ago.

In the process I have learned a few things that apply to all areas of our life, including business:

  1. Don’t be afraid to experiment with new ideas, but don’t stray too far from what has worked well in the past.
  2. The "experts" aren't always right, or at least their advice doesn't always apply universally.
  3. Be skeptical of promised shortcuts. I’m a big fan of trying life hacks, and a few small hacks have dramatically improved my life. But there are very few effective shortcuts. Improvement in life generally comes with a lot of hard work and discipline.
  4. Listen to your body. Our bodies are incredible at giving us feedback. Feel great after a run? There’s a reason. Feel sick after eating a donut? There’s also a reason.

I stopped running because I forgot how I had gained ground in the first place. I started again because of my wife’s encouragement, but I have continued because it is helping me win that ground back.

Question: What have you stopped that is causing you to lose ground, and what can you do to start again? 

How to Boost your Career by Nailing the Job at Hand

I crave challenge and growth. I don’t like to stagnate. As a result, I'm constantly looking ahead to the next challenge. Growth and progression is a good thing, right? However, I heard some simple advice that has caused me to reconsider how I think about growth.

State Leadership: An Opportunity for Global Action: Michael Froman: Indra Nooyi

Indra Nooyi has been the CEO of Pepsico since 2006. She joined the company in 1994 and was promoted to President and CFO in 2001 before her promotion to CEO. She is rated among the top CEO’s in the world.

Her simple explanation for her career success is this: nail the job at hand.

She has given variations of similar advice in several venues, including Howard University and the UT Austin McCombs School of Business.

She’s saying focus on doing your very best in your current job or responsibility or circumstances. Don’t worry about your next job or the following one, which distracts you from nailing your current responsibility. If you nail the job at hand, the future will take care of itself.

As someone who likes to plan for the future, this advice hit me hard. I’ve been thinking about how I can do a better job of nailing the job at hand, and here are some ideas:

1. Stop the “I’ll be happy when” cycle

Sometimes we focus on the future because we are not content with the present, and we think each new step will make us happy. We’re all guilty of this. I’ll be happy when I’m out of high school and have more freedom. I’ll be happy when I’m done college and have a real job. I’ll be happy when I get married. I’ll be happy when I’m promoted. I’ll be happy when my business has more stability.

Eventually we should recognize that progression is good, but if we’re not content now, we won’t be content in the future. The way to be content with the present is to make the most of it.

Enjoy nailing the step at hand, and then enjoy nailing the next step of the journey.

2. Be grateful 

Gratitude has a powerful effect on your present state of mind.

Gratitude has a backward-looking component to it. We should take time once in a while to look back and realize how far we have come. We can be grateful for the people and circumstances that have helped us get there.

Looking back helps us be grateful for the stage we are at now.

3. Schedule time for future-focused thinking

I don’t think Nooyi is saying we should never think about the future. I believe she is saying we shouldn’t let future-focused thinking distract us from nailing the job at hand. We can limit our tendency to get distracted by the future by scheduling time to think about it.

Almost three years ago I read Michael Hyatt’s Life Plan ebook and spent a lot of time putting my life plan together. I identified the major areas of my life, and for each area I wrote down my purpose statement, envisioned future, supporting statements, current reality, habits, and goals.

Hyatt recommends setting aside time once per week to review your life plan. I schedule time every Sunday morning to review my goals and make sure I’m moving toward them. I give myself permission to think about the future and whether or not I need to make any course corrections. I need to do a better job of limiting my future-focused thinking to once per week while nailing the job day-to-day.

Nail the job at hand

As we nail the job at hand, our future will take care of itself. It worked for Indra Nooyi, and it can work for us.

Question: How do you nail the job at hand? 

"IndraNooyiDavos2010ver2" by Jeff Bedford from Arlington, Virginia, United States - posted to Flickr as Indra Nooyi, PepsiCo CEO, Speaking at the World Economic Forum 2010 Annual Meeting. Licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons -

4 Ways to Develop a Leader-Leader Culture

I recently finished the book, Turn the Ship Around by David Marquet. The author was appointed captain of the submarine USS Santa Fe. At the time, it was performing at the bottom of the fleet. He tells the story of  how he turned the submarine performance around with the leadership style he developed. The leadership methods he learned also apply to building and turning around companies. Startup founders in particular can benefit by using these principles from the beginning rather than trying to change the culture later on.


The main premise I got from the book is that leaders should treat those they lead as other leaders rather than followers. He calls it the leader-leader model rather than the traditional leader-follower model.

Here are four ways to implement a leader-leader model in our organizations:

1. Use empowering language 

Words have a strong impact on our culture. Every organization develops unique methods of communication, such as acronyms and common phrases.

The author gives examples of phrases that indicate disempowerment (said by those who are led to their leader), such as “I would like to…” or “could we…” or “what should I do about…” These are passive phrases that require the leader to dictate, or at least contribute to, the solution.

On the other hand, empowered phrases include, “I intend to…” or “we will…” These types of phrases encourage people to think and decide for themselves. If the action requires the leader’s permission, the leader can simply reply, “very well,” or ask questions if clarification is required.

We can empower those we lead to act and not be acted upon, and that empowerment can start with the words we use.

2. Have a servant mindset

Leaders should consider themselves servants to those they lead. As Jesus said in Matthew 23:11, "But he that is greatest among you shall be your servant."

My job as a leader is to make it easier for those I lead to do their jobs. I can help solve problems, provide coaching, and give advice from my training and experience.

3. Specify goals, not methods

I am guilty of not following this principle. I am system-oriented, and as a leader I think it’s my job to specify the step-by-step processes for others to follow. Sometimes I think I’m the best qualified to know the best way to do things.

Periodically I'm reminded that I’m not usually the best qualified to specify the how. As a leader, I do need to work with other leaders to define and communicate priorities and goals. However, I need to let those I lead develop the methods to achieve those goals.

A few years ago I was given responsibility for the operations of a factory. The team was struggling to load outgoing trucks within a reasonable time, and they often made mistakes by loading the wrong products. As a new leader, I thought I could save the day by dictating the methods for reaching the goal of loading quickly and accurately.

I worked out of a different city, but I would spent at least a full week every month for a few months on the ground, working side-by-side with the team, showing them what I thought was the best way to reach the goal.

Before leaving, I would document the process and encourage them to follow it. Invariably, the process would break down after I left, and I would go back the next month and try to fix it again. Frustrated, I couldn’t figure out why they couldn’t simply follow the process.

After a few months I gave up. I simply told them I didn’t care how they did it, but we needed trucks loaded quickly and accurately. Miraculously, within a few weeks trucks were being loaded quickly, and mistakes were rare. Several years later, I still oversee that factory, and I have no idea what the system is for loading trucks.

4. Don't be missed after you depart

Why do we want to lead? So we can be in a position of power? So we can have a secure job? So we can make more money?

Leaders who lead followers make sure their organization and people can’t function without them. If the leader leaves, the organize is worse off, at least until another leader steps in.

On the contrary, we should lead so we can leave our organization and those around us better than we found them.

It’s hard to think that way. As a leader, I like to think of myself as indispensable. They can’t do it without me! However, this attitude is self-serving.

By following the leader-leader model, we can build an organization full of leaders. Leaders who make good decisions when left on their own. Leaders who take good care of the customer when the supervisor isn’t watching. Leaders who identify and solve problems without being directed. Leaders who continue to build a great organization after you are gone.

Question: How do you build a leader-leader culture? 

Relationships Are More Important Than Accomplishments

While growing up I had what is probably a relatively unique experience. I had the same group of friends from elementary school through high school. We were all born in the same small town, and, with one exception, all of our parents still live there. Last weekend most of us got together for the first time in about 17 years. I was surprised by the deep fulfillment I felt from renewing these relationships. I thought we had all moved on, and since high school I haven’t made much effort to keep in touch. I didn’t realize what an enduring bond we had built during those formative years.

IMG_2570 (1)

I tend to be more task-oriented than people-oriented, but this experience reminded me how fulfilling relationships can be. I realized I haven't put that much time and effort into many relationships since then. I realized I have been missing out.

I've been thinking about how to build relationships while still satisfying my “need to achieve” personality. Here are some thoughts:

1. Don’t be afraid of imperfection 

My drive to maintain my habits and accomplish my goals can get in the way of relationships. Many of the experiences that build the meaningful relationships can’t be scheduled. Often they are spontaneous activities, such as late-night discussions or last-minute ice cream runs.

I often miss out on these opportunities because I want to maintain my habit of getting enough sleep before my structured morning routine. I want to stick to my healthy eating program. And so on.

I need to remember that I can still accomplish my goals if my normal habits get disrupted once in a while.

2. Look beyond instant gratification 

Accomplishing a task and checking the box provides instant gratification. While experiences along the way should be enjoyable, building the most fulfilling relationships usually takes a long time accompanied by sacrifice of our own needs.

3. Believe that relationships trump accomplishment

Building relationships can be hard for goal-oriented people because they tend to focus their efforts on measurable outcomes. It’s difficult to set goals to build relationships, and it’s even more difficult to measure progress.

However, goal-oriented people like me need to acknowledge that relationships trump any other accomplishment. This is especially true for family relationships. As David O. McKay said, "No other success can compensate for failure in the home."

4. Choose carefully 

Of course, we don’t have the time or emotional capacity to build deep relationships with a large number of people. Consequently, we can be selective with who we build relationships with.

Jim Rohn said, “You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.”

I’ve resolved to make it a priority to build relationships with those who will help me become the best person I can be.

Question: What tips do you have for making relationships a priority? 

5 Ways to Love What You Do

I began my career with a Big 4 accounting firm in its IT and financial audit departments. I loved the experience and people I worked with, but at the same time I wrestled with the direction I wanted to take my career. I’ve always had an entrepreneurial itch, but I wasn’t in a position to start my own company. Gradually I came to the conclusion that I would love to follow my passion for business, finance, and entrepreneurship by supporting startups in a CFO or similar role.

smile sign

Soon after coming to that conclusion, I took the opportunity to join a startup as their CFO. Since then, I have filled the CFO role for several startups. I have been very blessed to be able to make a good living while following my passion.

However, just because I’m doing what I love doesn’t mean I always love what I do. I have days and sometimes longer periods of time when I feel bored, stressed, and/or stuck. Sometimes I feel that I’m not advancing in my career quickly enough. Sometimes I feel like I’m in over my head.

On this journey of ups and downs I have realized that it’s first important to do what you love. Doing what you love starts you down a good path. But it’s even more important to love what you do. There’s a difference.

In this way, a career is like marriage. We marry who we fall in love with, but that event is only the beginning. We have to choose to stay in love by our thoughts and actions every day. We marry who we love, and then we need to love who we marry.

Here are 5 things to do when we find ourselves no longer passionate about our passion.

1. Create a vision 

Some days are more enjoyable than others. To consistently love what we do, we need to have a clear vision of where we want our daily activities to take us. According to Simon Sinek, we need to "Start with Why." We need a "why” that goes beyond today.

2. Set short-term goals

It’s important to have a vision for what we want to accomplish, but it’s easy to get sidetracked and frustrated if we don’t have a more concrete plan for getting from here to there. Setting short-term goals helps us focus on how our daily activities contribute to our grand vision.

3. Celebrate milestones

It helps to recognize the progress we have made, no matter how slow it seems to be. Levi King, CEO of Creditera, warns that there can be danger to celebrating too much, too early, such as celebrating a fundraising closing with a lavish party. However, celebrating milestones in simple, yet meaningful ways reminds us of the progress we are making.

4. Get over ourselves

Sometimes our daily lives get mundane or difficult because we are too focused on ourselves. We are worried about what we are getting out of our careers and what other people are doing for us. We should instead focus on how we can make our customers, team members, vendors, owners, etc more successful. As we lose ourselves in serving others, our success and happiness will take care of itself.  Like Zig Ziglar says, "You can have everything in life you want, if you will just help enough other people get what they want."

5. Make a change

So far I have focused on how to maintain love for the path you are on. However, sometimes it’s simply time for a change. Sometimes the path we set out on is not the best one to continue on. Before making a change, we should carefully consider our motives. We should consider whether or not the previous four steps will get us back on track. The grass usually isn’t really greener on the other side, and any worthwhile pursuit will have periods of boredom and difficulty and seemingly impossible obstacles.

In summary, start by doing what you love, and then work to continue loving what you do. Loving what you do is a conscious choice.

Question: What helps you love what you do?

What Does It Mean To Think Big?

I recently read Zero to One by Peter Thiel and Blake Masters and Moonshot! by John Sculley. They are both inspiring books about identifying opportunities to solve world-changing problems (and building multi-billion dollar businesses in the process). Reading these books got me thinking about what it means to think big.

san fran

I grew up on a small farm outside of a small town in southern Alberta, Canada. Until I took my first plane ride when I was 19, the furthest I had been from home was a trip to Disneyland.

My parents love their quiet life, but they taught me that I can go anywhere and accomplish anything I want to. They taught me to think big.

While growing up, big was anything bigger than a town of 3500 people, and I looked forward to getting out into the big world.

I thought Brigham Young University was big with its 30,000 students in a county of 500,000 residents.

I saw that the world is big when I spent two years near Melbourne, Australia.

I didn’t think life got any bigger than California's Bay Area. While living there I was in constant awe of the many iconic company headquarters along the 101 between San Francisco and San Jose.

After living in California I moved back to that town of 3500. I had just joined a startup, and I planned to open an office in Utah after a brief orientation period. That brief stay turned into 6 years before I actually did move to Utah.

Going back to that small town helped me realize that big is not necessarily living in a big city working for a big company and traveling the big world. Big is stretching yourself beyond what you think you are capable of. Big is making the biggest impact you can on the people around you, even if that impact seems small in the grand scheme.

While living in that small town I helped 150 families through Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University as the lead facilitator. While living there I helped start a venture capital fund and built several startups with offices in the US and Canada. While there I turned my health around by losing 30 pounds and running a half marathon. While these are relatively small accomplishments, to me they were big.

So how do we think big if we’re not trying to cure cancer or build a billion-dollar business or become President of the United States?

What's big to you?

What’s big to you might be small for someone else, and vice versa, but that’s okay. You are you, not someone else.

What are your unique talents?

Chances are you have talents and skills that set you apart from most other people. Sometimes these are hard to identify and develop, but we all have them.

What mark do you want to make on the world? 

Think about what you are passionate about. Is it building a business? Is it helping underprivileged kids? Whatever it is, you can find a way to apply your unique talent to make a mark.

What's holding you back from taking the first step?

We often cite fear of failure as what holds us back, but what about fear of success? Do you like your comfortable life, and are you afraid success will take you out of that comfort zone? I like Eleanor Roosevelt’s famous quote: "Do one thing every day that scares you."

I believe thinking big means thinking BIGGER than we are now. It means forcing ourselves outside of our comfort zone. It means doing something that scares us. It means making our own small mark on the world.

Question: What does thinking big mean to you?

The Illusion of Balance

Do you strive for a balanced life? What does a balanced life look like to you? Zig Ziglar’s Wheel of Life is a good representation of a balanced life. It identifies seven areas of life we should pay attention to. Our wheel will be flat if we neglect any of these areas, giving us a bumpy ride.

zig ziglar wheel of life

I believe balance is important. The Wheel of Life has strongly influenced how I set my goals and prioritize my time.

However, I believe the way we look at balance can cause us to miss the mark. To me, the illusion of balance is not that balance isn’t important or possible. The illusion is that we have to be (or even can be) perfectly balanced every day.

Our ideal day may be to wake up early for exercise (physical) followed by prayer or meditation (spiritual). We go to work and make a valuable contribution (career) with a break to have lunch with a friend (social). On the way home we think about picking up dinner to go, but we first check our carefully-planned budget (financial). We eat dinner as a family, followed by games or talking (family). After the kids are in bed we read a good book (intellectual).

It’s a great day - we nailed all seven areas of life! Not a bad ideal to shoot for.

I don’t know about you, but most of my days don’t go like this. And I think that’s okay. We don’t have to be balanced every day or even every week to live a balanced life.

So what does a balanced life look like?

Balance over time

To me, it’s about balance over time. The acceptable time period will be different for everyone and for each area of life. Only you know how long you can neglect an area before the damage becomes difficult to repair.

Life has its seasons.

Having a new baby or caring for a sick family member may lead you to spend more time on family and less time on socializing, working, or exercising for a season.

A demanding work project might take you away from your family for a few weeks. Most families will be fine, knowing the project is temporary. However, the damage to your family may not be worth the career advancement if neglect turns into the norm.

To be balanced over time requires us to be intentional. Prioritizing and setting goals can help us find balance over time:


A leader in my church gave an address titled Good, Better, Best. He encourages us to consider what is good, better, and best in our lives and prioritize accordingly. Sometimes good is the enemy of best.

I wrote a post reviewing the book The ONE Thing by Gary Keller and Jay Papasan. The authors ask, “What’s the one thing I can do such that by doing it everything else I do will be easier or unnecessary?”

To me, physical health, including exercise and nutrition, is The ONE Thing that gives me the energy and clarity of mind I need to perform my best in other areas of my life.

Set Goals

I wrote about my goal-setting process here and how I work towards goals here.

We can decide what our priorities are, set goals that move us toward our priorities, and evaluate our progress.

Finding balance in our lives over time requires us to be intentional about our actions.

Question: How do you find balance in your life?

4 Ways to Prevent Personal Finance from Hurting Your Business

Successful entrepreneurs want to pour everything they have into their businesses, including time, attention, energy, and money. 100% commitment increases the odds of success in an area with high risk of failure. However, 100% commitment doesn’t necessarily mean giving everything you have. Giving too much in one area may prevent you from giving enough in more important areas. This principle applies to various aspects of life, but I will address the financial.


It’s obvious that your business performance impacts your personal financial situation. But it’s not as obvious that your personal financial situation also impacts the success of your business.

Sometimes pouring all of your money into a venture prevents you from giving something more valuable: your undivided attention. Personal financial struggles create stress, which distracts your attention from your business.

Here are four ways to avoid distracting personal financial struggles. Although I’m addressing entrepreneurs specifically, these principles apply to anyone.

1. Keep your overhead low

Keeping overhead low is a business principle that also applies to personal finance. Overhead is a company's fixed, ongoing expenses, which could include rent, utilities, travel, and debt payments.

Successful businesses keep their overhead as low as possible. The lower the overhead, the faster a startup can get to the critical breakeven milestone. The lower the overhead, the more prepared a profitable business can respond to fluctuations in revenue or investment opportunities.

Similarly, low personal overhead means you don’t need to generate much personal income to cover your basic expenses. You know you can quickly adapt to changing circumstances, such business cash flow struggles. The resulting peace of mind allows you to focus on your business.

One way to keep overhead low is to avoid debt, especially when used to purchase depreciating assets. Getting a loan to buy a vehicle, RV, or furniture set commits you to paying for it over time, no matter what happens to your finances. These types of purchases usually drop in value faster than the loan is paid down, which means you can’t simply sell the asset to pay off the loan if you don’t want the payments anymore.

Besides, debt payments get in the way of savings money for emergencies and investing, which are covered in the next two points.

2. Set aside at least six months of expenses (and don’t touch it even in an emergency)

Having at least six months of expenses in savings, while also having low personal overhead, provides even greater peace of mind. You will make better decisions for your business knowing that you don’t have to consistently take money out of the business to live on.

Consider this stash sacred. I’m being facetious when I say not to touch it even in an emergency, but something close to that should be your mindset. It’s not vacation or nicer car or home renovation money. It’s there to help you weather the ups and downs of your business.

Most startups hit rough patches, and being able to go a few months without taking money out might make the difference between success and failure. You will also be less dependent on outside capital. Taking on debt increases your business risk, and the payments add to overhead (see point 1). Giving up equity dilutes your ownership and control.

3. Develop an investment strategy separate from your business 

Entrepreneurs, by nature and necessity, are eternal optimists about their business. You know you will succeed and want to pour everything you have into it. You wonder why you should invest anywhere else when you can invest in your own business.

But what if your business doesn’t succeed? What are you left with?

No matter how confident you are in your business, you must diversify. We all know we shouldn't have all of our eggs in one basket. No matter how attractive that basket looks right now, unforeseen circumstances can quickly crush all of the eggs.

I suggest consistently investing 10-20% of your personal income somewhere other than your business. If you take just enough out of your business to live on, take out 10-20% more to invest.

You’re likely spending every waking hour building your business, so you’re not going to have much time to research other investment opportunities. The good news is you don’t need to. For most people, investing in low-cost index funds is the way to go.

If you can break away from your business to read, I recommend Tony Robbins new book, MONEY Master the Game: 7 Simple Steps to Financial Freedom. I just finished reading it, and it provides unbiased advice for minimizing fees and risk while maximizing returns, all while spending very little time.

4. Take money off the table when given the chance

At some point you may have the opportunity to sell all or part of your business. What to do in this situation is an intensely personal decision with numerous factors.

I can’t suggest what to do in every situation, but it’s often a good idea to take money off the table when given the chance. This is especially true if you’re not well diversified in other investments.

Taking money off the table doesn’t necessarily mean giving up your business. You could sell shares to a trusted partner or spin off part of your business.

In another post I wrote about creating value vs capturing value. Entrepreneurs like to create value, but there comes a time when that value should be captured.

Hold back for success 

You will be most successful by putting almost everything you have into your business. By carefully choosing what to hold back, you increase the likelihood of achieving your goals.

Making smart personal financial decisions will give you peace of mind, which will allow you to give undivided attention to your business.

Question: What personal financial strategies have allowed you to focus on your business?

4 Ways to Make Steady Progress Toward Goals

Jim Rohn said, "Success is steady progress towards one's personal goals.” I find the most happiness and fulfillment as I make progress to my goals. I find that making progress toward a goal is even more rewarding than achieving the goal. It’s the journey, not the destination, that matters. In my last post I wrote about how to set goals. In this post I’ll describe 4 practices for working toward goals.


1. Be consistent

Another Jim Rohn quote is, “discipline is the bridge between goals and accomplishment."

Achieving worthy goals takes disciplined, consistent effort over a long period of time.

Darren Hardy teaches this principle in his book, The Compound Effect (see my post on the topic here). The main premise is that small efforts, compounded over a long period of time, can yield amazing results.

2. Review goals regularly 

A common New Years resolution practice is to think of some goals, go to the gym a few times, and then slip back into old habits.

One way to avoid that pattern is to write down goals and review them regularly. I review my goals at least weekly.

Every Sunday morning I set aside some time for a review of the past week. I review each of my main goals, evaluate my progress, and make plans to improve. I always review my top goals, and most weeks I also read through my entire life plan to make sure I’m not deviating significantly from my ideal in any area of my life.

3. Don’t give up

It’s easy to get excited about a goal when first setting it, and at the end we get to bask in the glory of accomplishing something great. But the middle can get pretty messy. It can be long, boring, and difficult.

Steven Pressfield describes a force he calls the Resistance. Michael Hyatt also talks about it in one of his podcasts.

The Resistance basically describes feelings like opposition, discouragement, and self-loathing as we work toward challenging goals. We all experience this force, but the difference between the successful and mediocre is how we react to this force.

Having a clear purpose, or why, helps sustain motivation through Resistance in the messy middle. How many of us have quit something because we asked ourselves, "why am I doing this?” and couldn’t think of a good answer?

As I’ve written about before, one of my goals 3 years ago was to run a half marathon. I set the goal because I wanted to lose weight, but I soon found that weight loss alone is not a strong motivator. Any given run only burns a small fraction of a pound of fat. That is hardly motivation to get out of my warm bed on a cold morning.

However, after struggling to get started I discovered an even stronger why. I found that running boosted my mood, energy, and brain function. The “runner’s high" sometimes lasted an entire day after a good run. It was those benefits that kept me going through the training. I happened to reach my weight loss goal in the process, but the weight loss was a side benefit, and not my primary motivator.

4. Give up

Wait, what? I just said don’t give up. But quitting doesn’t always make us a quitter. Sometimes our refusal to quit halts our progress. Sometimes we need to give up on one pursuit to free our time, energy, and money to pursue something better.

It’s not easy to know whether or not to quit. It can be hard to distinguish Resistance against a worthy goal from legitimate realization that we would be better off focusing on something else.

This dilemma is common with startup companies. The history of any successful company that I’m aware of includes many ups and downs and even near-death experiences.

Most of us know the basics of Apple’s history. Michael Dell famously said in 1997, when asked what he would do to fix the struggling company, that he would shut it down and give the money back to shareholders. If Steve Jobs hadn’t stepped in and saved the company against significant Resistance, we probably wouldn’t have the Mac, iPod, iPhone, and iPad as we know them today.

On the other hand, in many cases founders and investors need to stop throwing good money and time after bad. It’s never easy to distinguish the best path, but sometimes giving up is the noble one.

Having a yearly goal-setting process doesn’t mean waiting for the end of the year before making changes. Don’t be afraid to adjust your priorities throughout the year.

Shoot High

As a final thought: don’t be afraid of failure. It sounds counterintuitive, but I don’t feel like a success if I achieve all of my goals. If I reach all my goals, I probably wasn’t shooting high enough. Even if I don’t completely achieve a goal, intentionally working toward it will put me in a better place than if I hadn’t set it in the first place.

So shoot high, consistently work toward your goals, review them regularly, don’t give up just because it’s difficult, but don’t be afraid to give up if your priorities change. Make this a great 2015!

Question: How do you make progress toward your goals?

4 Elements of My Goal-Setting Process

Near the end of each year I review my goals for past year and set goals for the coming year. As I think about what I want to accomplish in 2015, I thought it would be helpful to write about my goal-setting process. 2014 has been a good year. I achieved some goals and made good progress toward others. At this time last year I decided that my primary focus for 2014 would be to improve my communication skills.


Specifically, to improve my written communication I set a goal to create a blog and write a post every week. I launched my blog in May and haven’t missed a week. It was good timing because later in the year LinkedIn launched their publishing platform, which has given me a wider audience.

To improve my verbal communication, I set a goal to join Toastmasters, attend every meeting possible, and do a major speech at least once per month. I didn't miss a meeting without a good excuse, I earned my Competent Communicator certificate, and I only missed one month of speaking while transitioning between manuals.

I’m far from being a great writer or speaker. My audience can be my judge, but I’m happy with the progress I’ve made.

With that introduction, here are four elements of my goal-setting process:

1. Think about goals in the context of a life plan

In late 2012 I read an ebook written by Michael Hyatt called Creating Your Personal Life Plan.

The book is available for free here.  As I read this book, I took a full day to create a life plan in the format he recommends.

Here’s a quick summary. First, list the major areas of your life, such as family, health, spiritual, finances, etc. (I have eight). For each area, write a purpose statement, an envisioned future, supporting statements (such as quotes), your current reality, and goals to move your current reality to your envisioned future.

I have been goal-oriented for as long I can remember, but creating a life plan provided context and purpose that took my goal-setting to a higher level.

2. Recognize that all areas of life are connected

In mid-2011 I learned in a powerful way that all areas of life are connected. I set a goal to run a half marathon and lose 30 lbs, which I wrote about in a previous post. I thought I was just trying to improve my health, but I didn’t realize accomplishing that goal would lead to progress in other areas of my life.

In general, my family and social life was better because I had more energy to spend on my wife, kids, and others. Specifically, within a week of running the half marathon, I joined a venture capital fund, which gave me the biggest career and income boost of my life. During that time I was also given a demanding assignment in my church, which I don’t look at as an accomplishment, but rather a significant opportunity to grow personally and spiritually.

Reading The ONE Thing by Gary Keller recently (see my book review here) showed me more clearly how I can intentionally integrate all areas of my life (rather than just letting it happen like in 2011).

Keller asks, "what is the one thing I can do, such that by doing it, everything else will become easier or unnecessary?"

This year I only want to have one goal for each major area of my life. To choose these goals I will think carefully about how that one thing in each area will make other things in my life easier or unnecessary.

3. Limit the number of goals at one time

This is related to the last point, but I have learned over time that I can’t focus on too many things at one time. In past years I have tried to accomplish too much, and as a consequence my attention was scattered.

I try to have one goal in each area of my life plan, and even then I prioritize these eight or so goals. As I mentioned, 2014 was my year of of improving communication skills. I haven’t finalized what my main focus will be for 2015. I have a lot to work on, so I need to narrow down my list!

4. Distinguish habits from goals

Each year I start focusing on new things, but I don’t drop what I worked on in previous years. Most goals in one year become habits in future years.

For example, I don’t need to set a new goal in 2015 to post to my blog every week. Writing is now a habit ingrained into my weekly routine that I plan to continue indefinitely.

It’s the Journey, Not the Destination 

Establishing a regular routine of setting, working toward, and reviewing goals is a powerful way to make progress in our lives. I find the most happiness and fulfillment in my life when I’m making progress toward my worthwhile goals. I find that making progress toward a goal is even more rewarding than achieving the goal. It’s the journey, not the destination, that matters.

Question: What is your process for setting goals?

5 Tips for Making the Most of Podcasts

I love podcasts. They allow me to consume a huge amount of educational and entertaining content during times my brain would otherwise be underutilized, such as while driving or cleaning out the garage. Podcasting is a form of audio broadcasting on the Internet. Think of it as on-demand and free radio programs. Podcasts also come in video format, but this post is focused on audio-only podcasts.


I first started listening to podcasts in 2005, soon after they became available in the iTunes store. I discovered the Dave Ramsey Show and diligently synced my iPod with my laptop every day via cable to get the newest episode for my commute.

Podcasting has exploded in popularity since then, and new technology has made listening to podcasts a much easier and more enjoyable experience. Instead of syncing with my laptop daily, I use the Downcast app, which automatically downloads new episodes of the 25-30 podcasts I listen to regularly.

Here are 5 tips for making the most of podcasts:

1. Turn up the speed

Most podcast players allow you to change the playback speed. Downcast has 0.5, 1, 1.25, 1.5, 2, and 3x speeds. I listen to most podcasts at 2x, which allows me to consume twice as much content as regular speaking speed.

If you haven’t listened to sped-up content, it may sound too fast at first, but it doesn’t take long to get used to. Our brains can listen a lot faster than we can speak. I’d like to listen at 3x speed, but I find that content often gets skipped.

2. Use playlists to keep track

I listen to so many different podcasts that I need a way to track and prioritize, which is where playlists come in.

I make sure I listen to every episode of a few of my favorite podcasts, such as Michael Hyatt, Andy Andrews, and Entreleadership. I have a Favorites playlists that all new episodes automatically appear in, and an episode disappears once I listen to it.

I enjoy some podcasts that are too long and frequent to listen to all episodes. For example, the Dave Ramsey Show and Entrepreneur on Fire have daily 30-45 minute episodes. I have separate playlists for these podcasts, and I listen to them when I’m done with my Favorites playlist.

Playlists can also have customized settings. I want some podcast episodes to disappear after I listen to them, and others I listen to more than once. I listen to most at 2x, but I prefer some at 1.5x. For example, I listen to LDS General Conference talks/episodes more than once during the 6 months in between sessions, and I prefer to listen at 1.5x.

3. Listen whenever possible

It’s important to give our minds down time. We need time to think, sometimes about nothing. But we also have a lot of time we can educate ourselves while doing other things. I use my Bose bluetooth to listen to podcasts and audiobooks whenever my brain doesn’t have to be fully utilized.

For example, I listen while getting ready in the morning, driving (unless I’m with someone and want to be good company), running, biking, and cleaning the house, garage, or yard.

4. Look for recommendations

Thousands of podcasts are available, so it’s tough to narrow it down to the best ones for you. Many websites and blogs in your areas of interest will provide recommendations for the best podcasts.

Click here to see all of the podcasts I regularly listen to.

5. Periodically review the top podcasts lists

iTunes has top 100 podcast lists in several different categories. I often review the business, health, and technology categories to see what’s new and popular.

As you can tell, I’m a huge fan of podcasts. They are a great way consume educational or entertaining content while doing other things that don’t fully occupy your brain.

Question: What are your favorite podcasts and podcast players? 

5 Lessons About Building a Business from a Disneyland Trip

I spent the last week at Disneyland with my family. I tried to unplug from work as much as possible, but I couldn’t help but notice aspects of my experience that I could apply to the businesses I am helping to build. Disney gets a lot of attention from business writers for good reason. At the risk of tackling a cliche topic, here are five lessons I learned about building a business from my Disneyland experience:


1. Stand out from the competition Traditionally, my wife and daughters spend five days in Disneyland, and my son and I take one of those days to do something else. Last time we went to Legoland, and this time we went to Universal Studios.

Those would be incredible parks when experienced on their own, but they don’t measure up when experienced during the same week as Disneyland. Even though we had fun, we wondered if we would have preferred an extra day at Disneyland.

Businesses have to stand out from their competition in a significant way to attract loyal customers.

2. Be present with people Disney characters are masters at being fully present with the one child at a time. Meeting their favorite characters creates much of the Disney magic that kids experience, and the characters make sure each interaction is memorable.

Meeting Elsa and Anna from Frozen is one of the most popular attractions. It requires waiting in line to get an assigned time to wait in line again later in the day. Only one family at a time is allowed in the small room with Elsa and Anna. The interaction only lasts for a few minutes, but the characters are fully present. They make kids feel like they are the only people in the world at that moment.

3. Enforce the rules In most cases, Disney “cast members” are extremely friendly, kind, and accommodating. However, they are not afraid to enforce the rules when a guest’s behavior infringes on the experience of others. We watched as someone cut to the front of the Disneyland Railroad line and jumped on the train. The conductor loudly called him out as a line cutter and ordered him off the train. The one man was probably offended, but it enhanced the experience for the many people watching.

To build a high-performance business, some rules need to be strictly enforced. Of course, unethical or illegal behavior can’t be tolerated. Lackluster performance by one member can also bring down an entire team. It’s often better to deal firmly and swiftly with one person that let an entire team suffer.

4. Bend the rules On the flip side, rules should be bent when they don’t infringe on others experience.

At the Haunted Mansion a person appeared to be cutting in line before approaching the nearest cast member. At the first the cast member good-naturedly called her a line cutter, but he let her through as she explained that she had been separated from her family who were now further ahead in line.

5. Get out of the comfortable routine This last point is not directly related to Disney, but it’s something I learned on the trip.

My family’s default is to find a hotel when we travel. There are many options, we know what to expect with the brand we choose, and it’s easy to book and cancel as needed.

We had a hotel booked for this trip, but someone mentioned they found a vacation rental through VRBO for their last Disneyland trip. My wife and I settled on a townhouse that is over 50% bigger and 60% cheaper than the hotel we had booked. It was immaculately clean and nicely decorated with Disneyland themes.

I also tried Uber for the first time. Our townhouse was about 1.5 miles from the Disneyland gates. I would drop them off every morning and pick them up every evening, which added 3 miles to my daily walking distance.

After one particularly tiring day, I wasn’t looking forward to walking back. I could have tried to figure out the bus routes or paid for an expensive taxi. Instead, I decided to try Uber. The app showed a few drivers in the area, so I requested a pickup. Within a few seconds a driver called me from across the street. I was back to our townhouse within 5 minutes, and the app automatically charged me $4 so I didn’t have to worry about payment or tip.

We often get stuck in our comfortable routine. There are many ways to rethink conventional wisdom. Consider virtual assistants instead of full-time employees for some roles. Build a virtual team to save on office space and find the best talent regardless of location. Use VRBO or Airbnb instead of a hotel. Take Uber or Lyft instead of a taxi or bus.


It’s important to take time off and unplug from work. During these times our minds can be freed from the usual distractions, making us more open to lessons we can apply to our careers and other areas of our lives.

3 Ways We Need to Pay the Rent Every Day

I like to leave as much margin as I can in my life to prepare for the unexpected. If the personal finance experts say we should have 3-6 months of expenses saved for emergencies, I want 6-12 months just to be safe. I schedule a blog post every Friday, and I’d like to have several weeks of posts saved up just to make sure I can keep my commitment. Zig-Ziglar-People-often-say-motivation-doesn’t-last.-Neither-does-bathing-that’s-why-we-recommend-it-daily


I’m the opposite of a procrastinator. I err on the side of getting things done too early. Sometimes I waste time because I do things that would have taken care of themselves if I had procrastinated a little longer.

I prefer to be a homeowner over a renter. I can’t wait until I pay off my mortgage so I can truly be an owner without that monthly payment hanging over my head.

However, in many areas of life we can’t build much margin. We have to be more like renters than owners. In these areas the rent comes due daily rather than monthly, and we are limited in the amount we can save.

Here are 3 areas in which we need to show up and pay the rent every day:

1. Physical Health There’s no way to truly own our physical health, and we can only save up to a limited extent.

We can spend a lot of time and effort building muscle, getting in great cardiovascular shape, and losing all excess fat. However, if we stop paying the rent, if we stop exercising and eating healthy, we will immediately begin to lose the ground we have won (as I wrote about in my last post).

Our savings may allow us to remain reasonably healthy for a period of time, but eventually we need to start paying the rent again. It is better to show up and pay the rent every day.

2. Accomplishment I was my high school class Valedictorian and Athlete of the Year. But like Uncle Rico in Napoleon Dynamite who is stuck in 1984, no one cares anymore.

The only way past accomplishments mean anything is if we take the things we learn and continue paying the rent on future accomplishments. Past accomplishment may open doors to more opportunities, but if we don’t continue paying the rent those doors will mercilessly slam shut.

We will not continue going to a restaurant where we get bad service, even if we’ve received great service in the past. We may give the benefit of the doubt a few times, but eventually the great service in the past will mean nothing to us.

Past accomplishment does not guarantee future success. We have to show up and pay the rent every day.

3. Motivation  Zig Ziglar said, “People often say that motivation doesn't last. Well, neither does bathing - that's why we recommend it daily.”

There’s no way for us to save motivation. We need to continue paying the rent by doing things that motivate us daily.

Everyone is motivated differently. Reading or listening to stories about great people and great accomplishments (as I wrote in a previous post) motivates me to reach higher and be better. I wear my Bose bluetooth earpiece every day while driving, cleaning, etc so I can listen to inspiring books or podcasts.

Once you figure out what motivates you, go out and pay the rent every day!

Gather Our Daily Bread

In a previous post, I wrote about an address by D. Todd Christofferson called, "Give Us This Day Our Daily Bread.” This is another way to look at the principle of showing up to pay the rent every day.

He relates the experience of the Children of Israel in the wilderness. They were able to survive because the Lord gave them manna daily. They weren’t able to gather extra for the future. They had to live for today and trust that more manna would appear tomorrow.

So go out there and gather your daily bread, pay your rent, and look forward to a bright future!

Question: In what ways do you pay the rent every day? 

3 Ways to Hold the Ground You Have Already Won

I ran my first half marathon almost exactly three years ago, 5 months after some co-workers challenged each other to run the race together. half marathonkodiak team

Gaining Ground and then Giving it Up It was perfect timing. My New Year’s resolution every year for the previous 10 years had been to lose the 30 pounds I gained early in college. I stayed fairly active, but I didn’t make any progress because I wasn’t eating as well as I should have.

I had been learning through books, podcasts, and blogs about how to improve my diet, and by the time the half marathon challenge came along, I was ready to implement what I had learned.

The combination of a change in diet with intense exercise worked beautifully. I hit my 30-pound weight loss goal right after the half marathon. I felt amazing and resolved to never go back to excess weight again.

However, as happens in a high percentage of cases, I have now given up 25 of the 30-pound ground that I won 3 years ago.

Why We Give up Ground

The frustration I’m feeling right now has got me thinking about why we give up ground we have won. Part of the answer is that losing ground is much easier and faster than holding or gaining ground.

Jeffrey R. Holland said, "In moments of fear or doubt or troubling times, hold the ground you have already won, even if that ground is limited.”(1)

He is speaking about holding spiritual ground. I didn’t hold the ground I won with weight and physical fitness, which most of us can relate to. But giving up ground happens in all areas of our lives.

A teenager who builds the trust of a parent from childhood can lose that trust in one late night. It takes a lifetime to build a career and reputation. Too often we see promising careers quickly destroyed by botched execution or even fraud. A lifetime of savings can disappear in a weekend of gambling or with a bad investment.

Losing ground isn’t always as dramatic as these examples. In my case, I didn’t gain back 30 pounds in one weekend of gluttony. I held ground until Christmas, during which I gained 5 pounds. I held that ground until summer, when I gained another 5 on a vacation.  I held that ground for another year until I moved from a small town to a city with more places to eat out. Within 6 months I gained another 5 pounds.

I was still down 15, but the frustration was starting to build. I resolved to lose those 15, and I thought I found an easy answer. I explain how I gained another 10 under point #2 below.

Companies often put more focus on acquiring new customers than retaining existing customers. This is a classic example of failing to hold the ground you have already won.

How do we hold onto the ground we have already won? Here are 3 tips:

1. Focus first on holding ground before trying to gain ground We all want to progress, but sometimes we get so scattered in our pursuit of progress that we lose ground we have worked so hard to win. Before embarking on an ambitious plan to gain ground in one area, we can ask ourselves if the new direction will cause us to lose ground we have already won in other areas.

Before taking on heavier responsibilities in your career, first ask if it will risk losing ground you have won with your family or health. Before pursuing a new line of business, first ask if that pursuit will risk losing ground in your other lines.

Only move forward if you’re confident you can hold the ground you have already won.

2. Don’t think you have a free pass Holding ground is tough. Gaining ground is even tougher. Yes, sometimes people get lucky, but this is the exception.

I gained my last 10 pounds because I thought I found a free pass. I discovered the paleo/primal way of eating, and I read testimonials about fat melting away when following this plan. I didn’t need to starve myself to lose weight, and I could even cheat up to 20% of the time!

At about the same time, I found that my thyroid wasn’t working properly, which can prevent weight loss. The doctor was confident it could be corrected quickly, and given my diet and usual physical activity, I should see my weight go down quickly.

Well, I realized I had lost ground again because I let my guard down, thinking I had a free pass. The 20% of cheating became more than 50%, and my thyroid overcorrected from hyperthyroidism to hypothyroidism, which is even worse for weight loss (as I understand it).

There’s no such thing as standing still. We have to keep fighting to hold our ground, or we will quickly lose it.

3. Know yourself To hold the ground we have won, it’s important to understand our strengths and weaknesses and adjust accordingly.

Last year I read a blog post by Brad Feld called Abstainer vs Moderator (2) that helped me understand myself better. He shared how he doesn’t know how to moderate in any area - eating, working, etc. It’s much better for him to abstain.

I am the same way. I have to abstain from activities that I know will cause me to lose ground because I know I have a hard time moderating.

If I see a plate of cookies on the counter, it’s normally not hard for me to abstain. But if I take one bite, before I know it I’ve eaten the entire plate. Unless I have pressing deadlines, it’s not hard for me to keep my laptop closed after dinner. But if I open it for just a couple of emails, I’ll work late into the night. Conclusion

I learned the hard way how difficult it is to hold the ground we have won. However, we can overcome the tendency to lose ground by staying focused, working hard, and knowing ourselves.

Question: How do you hold onto the ground you have won? 

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How to Apply The Compound Effect

One of my favorite books is The Compound Effect by Darren Hardy, Publisher of Success magazine. It profoundly affected my thinking about how to make improvements in my life. I’m impatient by nature. If I decide I want something, I want it now. If I want to be a better speaker, I want to be world-class now. If I want to lose weight, I want to see the pounds melting off. The Compound Effect helped me make peace with the fact that change takes time. It also helped me realize that change can be dramatic if I put in place habits and apply them consistently over a long period of time. Small efforts, compounded over a long period of time, can yield amazing results.


We recognize the compound effect in personal finance. Small amounts invested consistently can compound to a large amount over time. For example, investing $500 per month for 30 years at a 10% return becomes over $1.1 million.

The Compound Effect applies to all areas of our lives. I’ll first discuss 3 principles mentioned in The Compound Effect and then 3 steps for getting started.

1. There’s no such thing as standing still The Compound Effect can apply positively or negatively, and there’s no in between. Either we actively apply positive habits that compound toward positive results, or our negative habits, or even lack of action, will compound in a negative way.

Our lives are like a down escalator. If we're standing still on a down escalator, we are going down. To go up, we have to fight against the downward motion.

2. Take personal responsibility  Before we can change or improve, we first have to take personal responsibility. Improvement is up to us and no one else. We will have setbacks and obstacles, but we can’t make excuses. We have to take full responsibility for our actions and their consequences

We can think of personal responsibility in terms of percentages. If you’re married, to what extent are you responsible for a successful marriage? 50%? What about the success of your company? It may depend on the size of the company and your role, but maybe 1% or 10 or 30%?

In The Compound Effect, Hardy argues that this kind of thinking is wrong. We need to take 100% responsibility for the success of anything we’re involved in. We need to act act like it’s completely up to us.

3. Obstacles are inevitable  As we take responsibility and move in a positive direction towards our goals, we will face obstacles.

I recently went to a speech by Chad Hymas. In 2001 he jumped on a tractor to feed the elk on his farm. He was in a hurry and ignored the tractor’s warning that the hydraulics were low. As he lifted a 2000-pound bale of hay with the front of his tractor, the hydraulics failed. The bale toppled on top of him, leaving him a quadriplegic.

He doesn’t let being a quadriplegic stop him from achieving his goals. By consistently applying daily habits, over time he has learned to function mostly on his own. He learned to speak so he could share his experiences and lessons learned, and he is now one of the most popular speakers in the world.

As we face challenges, we can continue on by sticking with our habits one day at a time. In the book Lone Survivor, the author quotes a senior officer speaking during the intense Navy SEAL training.

“First of all, I do not want you to give in to the pressure of the moment. Whenever you’re hurting bad, just hang in there. Finish the day. Then, if you’re still feeling bad, think about it long and hard before you decide to quit. Second, take it one day at a time. “Don’t let your thoughts run away with you, don’t start planning to bail out because you’re worried about the future and how much you can take. Don’t look ahead to the pain. Just get through the day, and there’s a wonderful career ahead of you.”

If we want to make positive changes, how do we get started?

First, we need to decide where we want to go To illustrate this point, Hardy quotes the exchange between Alice and the cat in Alice in Wonderland. "Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?" "That depends a good deal on where you want to get to," said the Cat. "I don’t much care where--" said Alice. "Then it doesn’t matter which way you go," said the Cat. "--so long as I get SOMEWHERE," Alice added as an explanation. "Oh, you’re sure to do that," said the Cat, "if you only walk long enough."

Where do you want to go? Do you want to lose weight or become a better speaker, spouse, parent, leader, or employee?

Second, establish habits  Once you decide where you want to go, establish habits that will get you there over time.  Jim Rohn said, “Motivation is what gets you started. Habit is what keeps you going."

If you want to lose weight, maybe your habit could be going without sugar 6 days per week while exercising 30 minutes per day. If you want to become a better speaker, join and actively participate in Toastmasters. If you want to improve your marriage, tell your spouse something you appreciate about him or her every day.

Our bodies and minds are structured for consistency over time. If you have a project that will take 20 hours, will you get a better result by working on it in one 20-hour stretch or 2 hours per day for 10 days?

Our bodies need 2000 calories per day, give or take. We can't eat 14,000 calories once per week or 700,000 calories once per year. Our bodies need to absorb the nourishment nourishment consistently over time.

I’ve applied the compound effect by setting habits in areas I want to improve in. I want to be a better writer and thinker, so I write a blog post once per week, which takes me just over an hour per week.

I want to be a better speaker and communicator, so I attend a local Toastmasters club every week and give a formal speech at least once per month, which takes about two hours per week.

I want to learn as much as I can, so I have a habit of listening to books or podcasts any time I don’t have to be focused on something else (while driving, while getting ready in the morning, etc). Over the last week I’ve listened to 3 books that are a total of 25 hours long (on double time so it only took me 12.5 hours).

The changes are frustratingly slow, even imperceptible day-to-day. Speaking has been particularly frustrating for me over the last few months as I’ve been involved in Toastmasters. Focusing on speaking has made me painfully aware of what a weak speaker I am. I wish I had started working on it earlier in my life, and I wish my efforts now were yielding quicker results. But it’s only been a few months. I know the effect over years will be dramatic and well worth the small amount of time that I’m spending on it now.

Third, stick to it.  The Compound Effect only works if applied constantly over a long period of time. Sometimes we think we can keep going on sheer willpower. However, Hardy argues that we don’t need willpower. We need “why-power.” We need a strong “why,” or reason for doing what we’re doing, that will keep us going through the obstacles and mundane routines.

Why do you want to lose weight? Is it enough to want to look better, or is it more powerful to want more energy to spend time with your kids or to avoid the early-age heart attacks that run in your family.

As we stick to it we will build momentum. Think of a merry-go-round loaded with kids. It’s hard to get started, but once it’s going it only takes a light push to keep it going. The momentum also makes it hard to stop

So go out there and build positive momentum in your life. Figure out what you want to accomplish, develop daily habits that will lead you towards your goals, and see the dramatic effects of your efforts compound over time.

Question: How has The Compound Effect helped you in your life?  

5 Ways to Level the Roller Coaster

Building a company is a roller coaster ride. It’s not unusual for those responsible to frequently go from exhilaration to sheer terror and back again, possibly several times a day. 870549_95249127

Regular ups and down have become normal for me as I’ve worked with new ventures. We close a large order (this is fun!), we lose a large customer (we’re doomed!), we close a round of financing (we’re invincible!), financing gets delayed (how are we going to make payroll?!), a customer provides a glowing review (everybody loves us!), a customer publicly criticizes us (everybody hates us!).

The past couple of months have been particularly volatile, which has led me to reflect on the strategies I use in an attempt smooth out those ups and downs.

1. Recognize human emotions. I try to remember that life is never as bad as I feel during down moments and never as good as I feel during high moments. Our emotions are coded for survival. The fight or flight response is meant to keep us alive in life or death moments. In our day we rarely face such moments, but our ingrained emotional response can make tough situations feel like life and death. This is a good thing if it motivates us to do all we can to get out of the situation, but we shouldn’t let fear become debilitating.

I don’t know why we tend to be overoptimistic in the good moments. Maybe a psychologist can explain that for us. Understanding the why isn’t as important as recognizing our emotions for what they are - just emotions. I try to acknowledge my emotions and then step back and view the situation for what it really is.

2. Accept the price of success. If building a successful company was easy, everyone would do it. Recognize that success has to be challenging or, by definition, it wouldn’t be success. The history of any successful company that I’m aware of includes many ups and downs and even near-death experiences.

Most of us know the basics of Apple’s history. Michael Dell famously said in 1997, when asked what he would do to fix the struggling company, that he would shut it down and give the money back to shareholders.

In its early years, Google executives bet the company on an ad deal with AOL. If the deal had gone wrong, the company could have gone down with it. Instead, the deal became the foundation of its core business: search advertising.

3. Appreciate the Load. I recently heard a story about a guy who took his new 4x4 truck into the mountains to gather firewood. Despite his confidence in the new truck, he got stuck in the snow near the firewood. When he realized he couldn’t get out, he thought he may as well cut and load the wood while figuring out what to do. With a full load of firewood in the back, he tried again to get out of the snow. Sure enough, he was now able to get out. The heavy load gave him the traction he needed. (

We can appreciate the loads we carry because they give us traction in our lives and in our business.

4. Box up challenges. An entrepreneur I work with taught me a valuable lesson. When he has a challenge that he can’t deal with at the moment, he mentally puts it in a box, closes the box, puts it on a shelf, and forgets about it. Only when he’s ready to address the challenge does he intentionally take down the box and open it.

5. Know thyself. It is important to understand our unique emotional thresholds. Not all of us have Amazon founder Jeff Bezo’s nerves of steel. But not all of us can handle the monotony of a factory assembly line. Most of us are somewhere in between. We should take into account our emotional threshold and the other priorities we have in life as we decide where to take our companies and careers.

I’m still on a roller coaster, but these strategies help level it out. Business is not nearly as terrifying or as exhilarating as it used to be, which I think is a good thing.

Question: What strategies do you use to level out your roller coaster?