As I go around the world taking to people, advising entrepreneurs and listening to their stories, there ia a common line that always get to me: their difficulties in getting things done. Most of them try everything, from techniques to enhance productivity, to to-do lists, to bootcamps. Everything. Still, after so much time invested and so much energy and money spent, they are still in the same situation. They turn to me - when I announce a new project, book or action - and ask how I find time to get everything on track.
Well, today I am sharing what I tell them:
From all the entrepreneurs and ambitious career-people I met, there is one fear that permeates all of them: Failure.
Everybody in business is afraid of failing. Failing and losing the job, failing and losing the account, failing and losing prestige, a house, a wife.
Usually, as well, the most ambitious entrepreneurs come from a place of immense rejection (when they were younger, by their peers, families etcetera. See Jack Ma, Steve Jobs, Mark Zuckerberg), so their brain reacts to the rejection by creating a fierce ambition, the desire to prove all those people wrong and to prove to themselves that their vision of the world had value. By consequence, they fear not getting there, to that moment.
In small or grand scale, everyone wants to prove something to someone and is afraid of failing at this task.
Ambition of succeeding then, is in direct connection to the fear of failing.
Every person in the path to success, however, understands that failing is an important part of the process of growth and evolution. The fear of failure is then treated with the understanding of constant and agile production of outcome.
The old saying that states, do it ordinarily often enough, and you will achieve the extra-ordinary.
This means that to achieve the goals of the ambitious drive, one must have a constant and intense productive routine, which gets to the point that causes anxiety, frustrations and stress: How to become that productive?
In my understanding, we’re living in an age of too much information. There is no way to avoid it, and can be very helpful to boost our intellects and repertoires in ways our ancestors could not. However, as the input part of the brain becomes over-stimulated, I am certain that the other part of the brain, the one that synthesis the information into something new, is shut down, almost receiving a wedgie from the former. I’ve seen it often enough, incredibly smart people frozen, without being able to get things done, out there to the world.
There is a way though, that I use myself: I treat procrastination like an addiction.
By doing that, I put my mind in alert of all the problems of procrastinating in a drastic way. I use the commandments from AA and keep meditating the ‘’one day more’’ technique.
I blocked 30 minutes of my morning and 30 minutes of my evening in which I oblige myself to follow some rituals. Basic ones like making my bed, exercising and reading. But these are just the two pillars of the day, the productive trick lies in the middle. Do not spend a day without doing basic three things related to work. For some people might be 1) answer and clean e-mail box, 2) Work on a personal project 3) Learn to code.
These three pillars need to be performed regardless if you’re day was a highly active and productive one or if you haven’t done a thing. By performing a set of tasks on daily basis, you force your mind to keep moving towards production. Not always the results will be the best, but there will always be results to appreciated and everyday will feel like a checklist in which something was accomplished.
In the Netflix original series House of Cards, one of the main characters is Doug Stamper, the ruthless Chief of Staff of Frank Underwood. Doug is a recovering alcoholic and in one scene, he describes his relation with the situation:
''But the most important count I do has nothing to do with work. It's the number of days since April 4, 1999. As of this morning, that's 5,185. The bigger that number gets, the more it frightens me, because I know all it takes is one drink to go back to zero. Most people see fear as a weakness. It can be. Sometimes for my job, I have to put fear in other people. I know that's not right. But if I'm honest, like the fourth step asks us to be, I have to be ruthless, because failure is not an option. The same goes for my sobriety. I have to be ruthless with myself. I have to use my fear. It makes me stronger. Like everyone in this room, I can't control who I am. But I can control the zero. Fuck the zero.’'
Failure is not an option, to keep on productive fix your attention to get the three main elements of your day done one day at a time. Control the zero, fuck the zero!