4 Ways to Increase Your Mental Toughness

I just listened to a great podcast today by James Altucher with Jesse Itzler. Jesse had a Navy Seal come and live and train with him for a month.

Navy Seals are the epitome of mental toughness. The Seals have a “40% Rule” that states “When your brain is telling you that you are done you are really only 40% done.”

Think you are done? defeated? The 40% rule states you still have over half of your reserves left!

I believe this rule applies to the mental challenges of business as well as physical challenges.

In business mental toughness means staying calm and present in tense situations allowing you to tap into your creativity and intuition to help guide your decisions.

So how do you cultivate mental toughness. Here are 4 ways that I found to do that.

  1. Get present – focus is extremely important. Don’t get wrapped up in the negative chatter that will inevitably arise when the going gets tough.  In business this means doing one task at a time and focusing on that one thing without distraction
  2. Don’t think about the future and be aware of any story you are telling yourself about the situation. When things look bad it is easy for your mind to project into the future and tell you it will only get worse. But guess what if you are focused on those thoughts you are having pain and misery in the present moment! In business this shows up as fear of rejection and what that will mean if someone tells us no.
  3. Use positive self talk. Have a mantra or something positive that you repeat over and over to yourself. This helps to shut up that voice of Negative Ned or Nelly in your head that is telling you that you can’t do it.
  4. Break the challenge up into small attainable pieces. If the challenge looks to big or daunting your belief that you can actually accomplish the task will diminish or disappear. Instead break up the task into small bite sized pieces. You can also make this into a game. For instance when I used to cold call in sales I would make a game out of how many calls I could make in 30 minutes. Once I had that number I would try to beat it in the next half hour. This kept me motivated and focused even in the face of constant “rejection”.

Give these tactics a try the next time you are facing a mental challenge and let me know how they work for you.


How to Attain Greatness – Wooden on Leadership

One of my heroes has always been John Wooden. He was the head coach of UCLA basketball from 1948 to 1975 where he amassed a set of records that has never been touched and created a sports dynasty in the process. Over a 12 year period he won a record 10 NCAA championships including 7 in a row. No other team has ever won more than two in a row.

All this from a coach who never mentioned the word “win” to his team.

How is that possible? At first glance it seems counterintuitive. The common wisdom around attaining success states that you must focus on what you want. I believe that to be true but Wooden’s teams never focused on winning. He wouldn’t stand for it. Instead he had his own definition of success which stated:

“Success is peace of mind which is a direct result of self-satisfaction in knowing you made the effort to become the best of which you are capable.”

Winning to Coach Wooden was just a byproduct of each player doing their very best in service to the team. Effort was his yardstick for success not the scoreboard not wins and losses.

I recently had the pleasure of reading Wooden on Leadership by John Wooden and Steve Jamison. It is one of the best books on leadership that I have read.

Some of my favorite nuggets from the book include:

  • The star of every successful team is the team.
  • I believe one of the most crucial concepts you can convey to those within the organization is a love for the hard battle, and the test it provides against a worthy opponent. The hard struggle is to be welcomed, never feared. In fact, when you define success this way, the only thing to fear is your own unwillingness to make the full, 100 percent effort to prepare and perform at the highest level of your ability. A leader who is a Great Competitor teaches the organization the same thing.
  • Assume improvement is always possible and force yourself—and others—to find out how.
  • You can stumble and fall, make errors and mistakes, but you are not a failure until you start blaming others, including fate, for your results. Always believe there is a positive to be found in the negative.
  • Wooden’s Pyramid of Success – The building blocks of which will allow you to “be at your best when your best is needed” http://www.coachwooden.com/pyramid-of-success

This book is valuable for leaders at all levels and those with no aspirations of formal leadership. It’s for anyone who is looking for “competitive greatness” in the game of life.

Do you have a favorite book on leadership? Let me know in the comments below.

MicroConf 2016 The Conference for Self-Funded Startups

I am heading out to Las Vegas today to attend MicroConf 2016. It is a yearly conference organized by Mike Tabor and Rob Walling for self-funded startups in the technology space. This is a conference for those who are building profitable tech businesses using nothing but their own savings. No investors in this crowd.  Being part of a self-funded business for so long myself I love being involved with this community.

The presenters at this conference are all very high quality and have a wealth of expertise. You can view past presentations on the website at http://www.microconf.com/past-videos/

To give you an idea of the topics presented I will mention three that stick out to me as being very valuable for entrepreneurs especially if you are in the Software as a Service business.

How to Grow Your Self-Funded Business Faster, Hiten Shah

Hiten spoke about the 3 phases self-funded companies go through and how to make them grow. He uses his own company, Crazy Egg as an example and describes what to focus on in each stage: Start, Scale and Grow.

My biggest takeaway: “Obsessively focusing on customers always pays dividends”.

Business Hacks and Epic Wins, Mike Tabor

Mike shared 5 of his favorite business hacks and personal wins over the last year which included how to build an audience on Twitter through automation, Automating your business finances, Using internal data for SEO, The secret to working less and getting more done and finally how focusing on his personal growth and health made him more productive.

My biggest take away from Mike’s talk was how forcing yourself to work less will actually make you more productive. He points out that the volume of our work will always expand to fill the amount of time that we allot for it. So by reducing the amount of time you have to focus on work you can actually be more productive and free up your time for other pursuits.

Designing the Ideal Bootstrapped Business, Jason Cohen

This was my favorite of the three videos. Jason is a gifted entrepreneur with a passion for business. Jason defines the perfect bootstrapped business as one that is a “cash machine”. This is a business that with minimal involvement from the owner creates profitable income. His benchmark for this is one that generates at least $10K per month per founder. He then outlines how he has created his own cash machine in his businesses.

I had a ton of take-aways from his talk. A few of my favorites:

  • Predictable acquisition of recurring revenue with annual prepay in a good market creates a cash machine.
  • He defined what good markets are for self-funded businesses. These are all markets that don’t require a lot of time and money to generate revenue which will be in short supply with a self-funded business. He mentions several examples in the video.
  • How to charge what you are worth using the “boutique” approach.

Time to go finish packing for my trip. Stay tuned for updates from this years conference.

Think Small, Work Hard, Get Good

It is through the little things that big things happen. ~John Wooden

The journey of 1000 miles begins with a single step. ~Lao Tzu

These quotes remind me of the power of thinking small. Doing the little things right over and over and over allows them to add up to big things.

Have you thought small today?

Easy To Implement Technique For Improving Company Performance

I attended a talk this week by the CFO of SendGrid, Yancy Spruill.  SendGrid is one of the most successful Colorado startups that delivers over 22 billion emails a month to 1.5 billion people through their service. Yea that is billion with a B. Lots of email…

Yancy spoke about some of the challenges they have been facing due to their rapid growth and one he spoke about was culture. How do you take a great high performance company culture and scale it? This is a question a lot of growing companies have to deal with at some point.

There is no magic bullet when it comes to creating a culture of high performance in your business but there is one thing that all businesses can do to improve their performance no matter what the size.

Make sure that each person knows and is reminded how their work contributes to the success of the business.

As the business grows it is usually harder for people to see how the work they are doing contributes to another’s success. So unless the organizations leaders are aware of just how important it is for people to know how they are contributing to the organization’s success the culture will begin to erode.  Each employee will become more disconnected from the results of their efforts on others.

I will also say this is just as true when it comes to your organizations star performers and top producers. Your star performers rely on the entire team for the results produced

To illustrate this think about a race car driver. It is the driver who will get all the credit for winning the race while there are others on his team filling the “lesser” roles. However the driver speeding around the track at 200 miles per hour would be helpless if not for the others on his team doing their duties. The drivers success and even his life depends on each member of the team doing their job to the best of their abilities.

It’s the same in business. Each person in the organization has a vital role to play for the success of the business. If not then you have to ask why they are there in the first place.

Things you can do to help people see their contributions

  1. Anytime someone is recognized in the company for outstanding performance make sure they share some credit with those who assisted them either directly or indirectly.
  2. Ask your employees if they understand how the work they do affects (directly or indirectly) others in the organization, customers or partners.
  3. Find ways to share how the work your partners do helps your organization and share this information with them
  4. Share customer success stories with your team
  5. Go out of your way to praise the “quiet” performers who make things happen


The Most Powerful Communication Secret

What makes persuasive communication?

Is it a clear message? A powerful argument? The ability to speak or write well? The ability to present your ideas in a compelling way?

Persuasive communication requires all those things but there is something else that is so simple and basic that it is often overlooked.

I would even call it a secret.

The secret is listening.

By truly listening before we communicate our message we allow people to feel heard. When people feel heard they are much more likely to listen to our message and accept or even adopt our point of view. It builds connection.

This is simple and even seems intuitive when you think about it but that doesn’t mean it is easy.

Listening is a skill and requires a true desire to understand what we are hearing without judging it or planning what we are going to say next even when we feel anxious, pressured, or that we already have all the answers.

True listening can be scary and can make us feel vulnerable. It feels like we are giving up our power by temporarily not speaking, declaring, or giving advice. This however is precisely why listening can be so powerful. Real listening opens up space where trust can be built, new perspectives created and relationships formed. This is the power of listening and why it is so persuasive.

When was the last time you deeply listened to someone purely to understand their point of view? When was the last time you were really listened to?

ListenIf You Want to Be Heard

Leadership and Solutions

I just picked up Making the Impossible Possible off Amazon. Loved the title.

It’s a story about leadership, radioactive waste and focusing on solutions rather than problems to accomplish what seemed impossible.

It got me thinking about problems and solutions. Focusing on eliminating problems in the hopes that by doing so that you will get what you want is never going to get us where we want to go. It is like playing not to lose in sports. Playing not to lose means you are never playing your best because you are focusing your effort on the other team and what they are doing. You are REACTING. That is the same with focusing on problems. You are REACTING to what is happening and trying to eliminate something (the problem) rather than ACTING to creating what you want.  Acting and creating will yield much more fruit than trying to solve problems all day.

Are you acting and focusing on solutions or reacting and focusing on problems?