Tag Archives: practice

Resources: How to Fail

Seth Godin recently posted a fantastic article on why and how to fail.

Favorite line: “There are some significant misunderstandings about failure. A common one, similar to one we seem to have about death, is that if you don’t plan for it, it won’t happen.”

If you’re going to fail, wouldn’t you like to fail correctly?

Do you solve problems or select them?

Problem solving is a very important and useful skill. We face a lot of problems on a daily basis, and if you weren’t able to cope and solve them, you wouldn’t last very long.

But there’s so much focus on problem solving — problem-solving techniques, problem-solving skills, problem-solving ideas — that we start to think that problem solving is the goal. That if we can just get good enough at it, we’ll be able to solve all of our problems, and then we’ll be happy.

And fascinatingly enough, there are actually two falsehoods in that belief: that we can solve all of our problems, and that we’d be happy if we did.

Everybody has problems. 64 of them

My very favorite Buddhist story is of a man who went to see a buddha (it’s unclear whether this was The Buddha or just a buddha — a very wise man — but that’s not important to the story).

    Anyway, the guy goes to see the buddha, and says “I want you to help me. I have a wife, and she’s a good wife, but sometimes she nags me. And I have kids, and they’re good kids, but sometimes they don’t listen to me. And I have a job, and it’s a good job, but sometimes my boss wants too much. And…” On and on, problem after problem, until the buddha interrupts, and says,

    “You’re saying you have problems. And you want me to get rid of them. But I can’t help you with that. Everyone has problems. 64 of them. If you get rid of one problem, another will rise to take its place. You will always have 64 problems.”

    The man explodes. “What do you mean you can’t help me get rid of my problems? What good are you anyway?”

    The buddha smiles and says, “I cannot help you with that. But I can help you with the 65th problem.”

    “The 65th problem? What are you talking about? You said I have sixty-four problems. What’s the 65th problem?”

    “You want to have no problems.”

Everybody has problems. Always. No matter how good your life gets, the most annoying thing in your life will always be your “problem”. And since the world isn’t a fixed, static, monotonous place, solving a problem today doesn’t guarantee that it won’t be back in a week, or a month, or a year. You can no more solve all your problems forever than you can point a car down the road and be done with all your steering forever. Adjustments have to happen, and when that occurs, we call it a problem.

You cannot solve all your problems.

Also, problems aren’t so bad

    “I hear the rich man holler
    ’bout the shrinking dollar,
    cry about a luxury tax.
    They won’t let him write off
    his little 80-foot yacht…
    I’d like to have a problem like that

    – Joe Diffie, “I’d like to have a problem like that”

Whatever it is that annoys you most — whatever your problem is — there’s almost certainly someone out there who would trade you places without hesitation.

  • Gaining weight? Millions of people are starving

  • Frustrated with homework? Millions get no formal education at all.
  • Sick of your job? Thousands are unemployed.
  • Lost a loved one? Hundreds are sitting at home lonely, with no family or friends to lose.

With every opportunity comes problems. In fact, if I could put you in an environment where you have no problems, you’d be clawing at the walls within weeks. You’d be bored. You’d be seeking out problems, not because you want problems per se, but because you want challenge and excitement and fun, and those things are worth the problems that come with them.

When it comes right down to it, we’re actually happier having problems.

Do you solve problems or select them?

Stephen Covey recognizes four levels of existence: survival, stability, success, and significance.

The first two are primarily focused on problem-solving: how can I get enough food? How can I pay the bills? How can I get the kids to soccer practice?

But the latter two are focused beyond problems into long-term results. They’re asking proactively, “What do we want to accomplish? What goals do we have? What difference can we make in the world?” Someone at that level certainly has problems (64 of them), but the focus is not on solving problems for their own sake, but rather on solving problems so that goals can be accomplished, success realized, and meaningful change created.

If you decide to become an entrepreneur, you will have problems. You may not have more problems than you do now, but you may very well have harder problems. More frightening problems.

But you’ll also have problems that matter. Problems that you chose because you want to solve them. Problems that, even if you don’t solve them entirely, you’ve made the world a better place for trying.

The question is not whether you’ll have problems. It’s which problems you want to have, and what you’ll get for having them.

    “Imagine life some other way:
    a cozy fishbowl on display,
    with no chance that we might drift astray….
    so they say
    ‘Vacation in Eden…
    bring an apple a day.'”

    — David Wilcox, “Apple A Day”

Hollywood and New Skills

It’s been about 4 months since I started my new business, and about 4 weeks since I quit my job to pursue my business full-time.

At first there were a lot of tears, fears, and uncertainty. It’s pretty overwhelming to not know where the rent is going to come from. I wasn’t very good at sales, but I had to sell if I wanted to eat, so I had to get up each day and try again.

Fast-forward 4 weeks

There are still a lot of tears, fears, and uncertainty. I still have to sell if I want to eat, and I’m still not very good at it. The doubt and overwhelming pressure still make me cry at least once a day.

See, in Hollywood, there’s a lot of doubt leading up to The Big Decision. But once you’ve decided, then actually implementing the decision takes only as long as one inspirational pop song. You try, and you try, and you get better, and better, and soon you’re ready for the Final Showdown.

It’s harder to live through it

We all know that that’s a technique Hollywood uses to compress the boring parts. But in your real life, alas, you don’t get to do that. Acquiring skills is more like the “Toepick” scene in The Cutting Edge: you’re going to fall down many times, people will laugh at you, and it doesn’t seem to make any difference at all.

I promise you are getting better. But I promise that it won’t feel like it for a while.

Resources for Further Reading
Mastery and the Average Factory Worker (PG 13: language).

Never Eat Alone Metrics

In my last post, I reviewed Never Eat Alone, a book about making connections with other people and its relationship to success.

As you may know, my new year’s resolution is to improve my networking skill, since I will never get ahead in life if I remain the shy introvert that I currently am. But how do I do that?

Never Eat Alone is a great start: it’s got a lot of good information, and is very helpful when I’m wondering how-to or should-I. But a good portion of the book — half of the chapters — are about things you should always do when you meet people. How do I keep all of them in mind while I meet with my three-new-people-per-week?

Networking Metrics Sheet

This sheet is for people who’ve read Never Eat Alone, and want to see how well they live up to its instructions. If you haven’t read the book, some of the terminology may be a bit odd, but you should be able to figure out most of it.

At the top is some basic information: who are you meeting, when and where, and who is your point of contact (mutual friend, networking group, class you’re taking together, etc. How did you find out about this person in order to want to meet them?). And finally, why did you want to meet with this person in the first place?

Then a space for questions you want to ask them (letting them talk about themselves is a great way to impress them), and notes you take when you ask.

And finally, a scorecard (whose first point, ironically, is “Don’t Keep Score”. But that pertains to the relationship between you and the other person; this scorecard is to measure yourself.) For the skills or attitudes that Mr. Ferrazzi thinks are critical, how did you do? Rate yourself on a scale from 1-5, and fill in the appropriate number of bubbles. (Or answer the question posed, obviously. You’re smart — you can figure this out.)

Awesome Links

Get your Never Eat Alone free download.

Buy Never Eat Alone while simultaneously helping African children get an education. (Learn more).

You can’t risk XP

I talked a couple weeks ago about the RPG metaphor for improving your abilities: the more you practice, the more XP you spend.

But if spending XP is identical to “practice”, why don’t I just say “practice?”

Because practice is a verb — it’s something you can choose to do or choose not to do. But experience point is a noun — it’s a resource that you have and want to use wisely. It was for that reason that I treat it as a thing, and asked you to track where you spend your XP: I want a poor use of XP to feel as painful as a poor use of money.

The difference between XP and money

There’s an important distinction, though, that sometimes gets overlooked, and that’s that you can lose money. You can lose it gambling, or on a bad investment, or on a good investment that had bad luck, or simply falling out of your pocket.

But you can’t lose XP

You, like everyone else, get 24 hours a day; 960 waking minutes to do with as you see fit. Whatever you spend that time doing, that’s what you’ll get better at. Your XP always turns into greater skill at something.

You can take more chances with XP

That means that you can spend XP on ventures with much greater uncertainty, without worrying about actual risk. You can start a blog with no idea what you’re doing, and the worst possible outcome is that you learn something about blogging. You can start a freelance business by setting up a profile on elance and pick.im, and the worst possible outcome is that you’ve learned something about freelancing and online marketing.

You can risk money; you can risk pride; you can risk relationships. But you cannot risk XP. Practice is the only investment with a guaranteed return.

Resources for Further Reading
Homework: Where are you spending your XP?
The best place to invest your money

Reminder: If you like to run your life on the calendar year, it’s time to schedule a time for your annual planning retreat.