The Proven Way to Fitness (and Performance) Resolutions for Business Pros and Other Workaholics

Forget Resolutions. Get a SystemTo put it bluntly, goals are for losers…use systems as opposed to goals” – Scott Adams, creator of Dilbert and author of “How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big”. Thinking of a New Year’s Resolution? It turns out only 8% successfully achieve their goals.

Energy and resilience are two of three essential features to career or work success according to Harvard Business Review. With energy in mind, I joined Strava last July, the virtual community of running and cycling athletes (I am a recreational runner). Nothing happened.

But everything changed when I signed up for Strava’s December challenge, 10 + 33 Miles. Strava challenged me to run 33 miles during the last 10 days of December to burn off my Christmas calories. Whoa, suddenly my motivation was on behavioural steroids. I increased my running output by a whopping 300% from the previous December. I ran through 6” inches of snow, ice roads, and bone chilling record breaking temperature, a cold (which ironically lasted only 3 days) and high winds. Out of 12,554 participants, I ended up 5314 on the leaderboard. Who cares. I finished.

Why did I outperform under Strava? Strava is similar to RunKeeper or Garmin Connect. To find out, I reverse engineered my motivations and discovered the highly addictive Strava system at work.

What makes a great system to for transformative excellence: 7 factors

1. Join an Exclusive Tribe

The need to belong is one heck of a powerful motivator. According to Matthew Syed, author of Bounce, Mozart, Federer, Picasso, Beckham and the Science of Success, “The need to belong, to associate, is among the most import human motives”.  The same psychology is at work with Strava. I am not an athlete but I sure want to hang out with this secret orange running / cycling society. Besides, I want the orange Strava “Proving It” tee-shirt.

2. Get a Deadline

The secret sauce of this 10 + 33 challenge was the deadline. I had to run 33 miles in 10 days. I could see the deadline from my running shoes. Daniel Ariely is a well known behavioural psychologist, an expert on habits and the author of Predictably Irrational, writes “Committing to a deadline is a powerful motivator because it puts your reputation on the line”.

 3. Commit Publically 

Daniel Ariely’ s writes: “Suppose that, rather than invoking the Ten Commandments, we got into the habit of signing our name to some secular statement – similar to a professional oath- that would remind us of our commitment to honesty. Would that make a difference?” The answer is a resounding, yes. When you make a public promise to do something and you tell your friends, colleagues and family, the odds of completing the task is “amazing”. When you sign up for a Strava Challenge as opposed to just signing up for Strava, you are invited to tell your friends. Do it. It works.

 4. Choose Simple Cues

Strava makes it so easy to track your runs. It also makes it simple to upload and compare with others. Download the app on your smartphone, sign up, press start and run outside. That’s it. The user experience is smooth and without distractions. According to web design experts, Conversion XL an app or product will quickly be adopted if it has the following features:

  • useful
  • usable
  • desirable
  • findable
  • credible
  • valuable

5. Find Flow 

Every endeavour pursued with passion produces a successful outcome regardless of the result” – Nick Bollettieri – famous tennis instructor (quote from the Bounce book). Moreover, “world class performance comes by striving for a target just out of reach, but with a vivid awareness of how the gap might be breached”.  But more importantly, learn the science behind “flow”. Flow is the concept popularized by University of Chicago’s psychologist, Mihaly Csikszentmihaly. Csikszentmihaly found happiness arises when skill and challenge intersect. “Physical activity, especially involving a challenge, is the surest way to release a combination of dopamine and cortisol in the brain. Running is one such challenge, and the growth in its popularity attests to the satisfaction that people realize from it.” – Satisfaction, The Science of Finding True Fulfillment by Gregaroy Berns, M.D..

6. Get Social

This is where Flow and Exclusive Tribe meet. The leaderboard effect. With RunKeeper, I have to go out and invite my “real” friends to join me on RunKeeper. I don’t like asking anything of my Facebook or Twitter friends. With Strava, I get to compete against the world without asking anyone to become a friend. I run in blizzard land Northern Ontario and have no chance of ever catching up with Brutus in South Africa. But hey, this hyper active leaderboard has over 15,000 participants. I can’t to win but surely I can squeeze in the top 30%.

7. Reward Yourself

Visualize the reward. For example, if I complete the 100 KM Challenge this month, I get an exclusive invitation (reward) to buy a tee-shirt. Yes, I understand you are perplexed but the reward is an exclusive orange tee-shirt. According to Heidi Grant Halvorson, social psychologist and author of Nine Things Successful People Do Differently, there are two (2) types of motivational personalities: Promotion-focused and prevention-focused people. Learning where you are on this spectrum will serve you right in ensuring you have the proper reward system. If you are promotion-focused, you work quickly, you are an optimist and you seek positive feedback. If you are prevention-focused, you tend to be accurate, work slowly, stressed out by deadlines and are uncomfortable with praise.  The key is to find your type of reward in accordance with your motivational personality.

The one missing key ingredient

Habit. Goals are useless because they are not in themselves, transformational. If your system includes “purposeful practice”, you are on a path of excellence, according to Bounce’s Matthew Syed. Charles Duhigg, author of The Power of Habit, asserts the right human psychology is grounded in 2 basic rules: “First, find a simple and obvious cue. Second, clearly define the rewards”….”Particularly strong habits…produce addiction-like reactions so that wanting evolves into obsessive craving that can force our brains into autopilot”. For example, don’t run because you want to lose weight, run because you want to sleep well at night and have boundless energy in the morning.

In summary, I showed you an example of how systems (such as Strava) are a much better predictor of transformative performance than simple goals or resolutions. Still need a framework to nail your system down? Download Scott Adams’ How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big” and the Strava app (iTunes) or here for Google Play on your phone. A better resolution might be, “get a good habit”. But don’t go Strava crazy. Like this post, please share with your friends.





Future of your Work: 10 Steps to Your Digital Business Education Plan for Lawyers and Knowledge Pros

Future of Business EducationMany professionals are wondering about future skills needed to stay ahead of the game for the next 5 years. In my view, acquiring new skills are wasted on the professional unless they offer the promise of a better work lifestyle. The future of professional work is being transformed today and it’s a good thing (see James Altucher’s article on How to Become a [modern] Slave).

Think of it. In a March 2013 survey conducted by Forbes, one of the happiest jobs in North America is the senior sales professional. I gasped. The benefits of this happy profession includes “decent” freedom and compensation. The least happiest is the lawyer. Gasped and gasped. Somehow I knew that. Apparently, we all hate the corporate culture and the counterproductive billable hours. We also hate the dress code.

So, will digital business transform the way we feel about work? According to the recent McKinsey & Company study, the digital transformation will impact the service industry in a major and profound way. This study shows that digital channels to deliver advice, information and similar type services reduce costs by a whopping 35%. It is not hard to anticipate that major law firms will be facing a show down with niche players occupying digital office space and a nimble workforce. Yes, things in the firm are about to face a game changing reset by the likes of solo experts.Continue Reading

The New Retirement: 5 Reasons to Start a Side Business


New Side Business Workshop Series - for people on the move

New Side Business Workshop Series – for people on the move

People aged from 28 to 65 are retiring from traditional jobs and turning personal project into a business.  Welcome to the new retirement of the 21st century. According to StartUp Canada, over 1 million small businesses in Canada contribute 30% of our national GDP. Economic volatility is creating a new nation of entrepreneurs who are betting on work independence over economic turbulence.

This is not surprising. Most of us have a private ambition to succeed at our own thing. Think of it. The top best selling non fiction book of all times is Napoleon Hill’s business and personal development book Think and Grow Rich with 70 million copies sold. Do we have 70 million businesses in the world? No. Why? Some are not quite ready to give up the day job and start a new business. Others are not quite sure where to start.

Enter the Lean Start-up movement: “Why the Lean Start-up Changes Everything“. Basically, the Lean Start-Up is about quickly getting a business off the ground, testing it, getting feedback, adjusting and growing. No more 5 year business plans and guess work. In addition, the digital economy is now serving up inexpensive, powerful yet simple personal technology and apps.

Here are my 5 reasons why you should start a side business now:

1. Digital Revolution: It has never been easier to start your own small business using the web and personal technology.

2. Tax advantages: Deduct expenses related to your side business. For example, deduct your new iPad if you are using it in your side business. How about that cell phone? What about that trip? Any chance you can mix business with pleasure?

3. Work from anywhere: In the past, setting up a new business was complicated by commercial rental space. Today, you can work out of your garage or dining room under a professional digital space where your prospective clients can check you out, for less than the cost of one month’s rent (of course, this is not applicable if you run a small manufacturing plant).

4. No more office politics: Have you heard how “Narcissists, psychopaths dominate office politics”? You can’t compete with that.

5. The economic outlook for 2013 looks uncertain: Don’t trust the company store for your future pay checks.

The # 1 reason why the majority fail to convert know-how or passion into a side business is because we don’t know where to start. In the next few weeks, I will be launching a Side Business Saturday Workshop in many locations across Ontario. This Saturday Workshop series is for people who have this desire to launch a side business and work differently. Stay tuned and sign up at the end of this post if you want to be to be notified of dates and locations.

One of the best ways to start your own side business is to learn in a live workshop. In a workshop, you can learn by doing, by listening to others, and asking all your questions. Most importantly, you have a mentor and coach to guide you along the way.

In the last few years, I learned the modern principles of doing business in this digital economy. I build my own firm with virtual offices in Canada. I avoided expensive rents, and executive MBA tuition fees. I spent time building real businesses with people like you. I could have never learned the new principles of modern business for the 21st century without my digital business resources like David Risley at Blog Marketing Academy and the Fizzle community. I saved $75,000 of executive MBA fees by learning from Generation Millennium.

If you want to build a minimum viable business and launch a “lean start-up”, you actually have to do it, with small incremental steps. Thinking about it will never be enough. The future of work is about adapting to change and succeeding. The future of your work could be your side business of today. Now go and start something. The new wealth is about having options.

Sign up below to get the updates on the next dates and locations of my Side Business Workshop Series

Digitize and organize your business cards & contacts with Evernote & Shoeboxed

and never leave work (or your job) without them…..

My friend was fired from her employment last week. After 18 years, severance package in hand, she is skipping all the way to Hong Kong to reflect on her life:). Sensing her imminent dismissal, she printed all her 800 + contacts in Outlook. When she realized she had to manually re-enter all of her contacts to a new system, she gave up. Don’t let that happen to you. From now on, when you get a new business card, here is an easy 1-2-3 system to move your contact management to Evernote via Shoeboxed.

Step 1: Scan your business cards with using your iPhone/iPad

I created my workflow system in Evernote with the help of Shoeboxed. Shoeboxed is an online service which helps digitize bills, receipts for your accounting and tax system. However, they have a free service to digitize business cards. You can download the app on your iPad/iPhone for free. All you do is take a picture of your business card and then upload it for scanning and human review. You get a digitized version of the business card along with a photo of the card the very next day via email.

Step 2: Get Evernote

If you don’t have Evernote, you don’t have an online anchor system (video). Remember when you first discovered Google? No one does. It just entered our lives, seemlessly. It is the same for Evernote. All my research, my ideas, my marketing materials, pictures of favorites wines, recipes, are all there. But the power feature is my contact management system. When I moved contact management to my Mac, the synchronization between my computer and my iPhone went crazy.  I got stuck with 3 or 4 versions of duplicate contacts. I refuse to move my contacts to Gmail because Google knows too much about me. Moreover, being a lawyer, I still have major issues about privacy and Google. I needed a “safe haven” for my contacts where I can easily upload, access, email and call. Evernote is the easiest, most powerful online contact management system out there.

Step 3: Create a Contact notebook in Evernote

All your contacts will be located in this easy file in Evernote. When Shoeboxed emails you your digitized card, upload it in your Evernote’s contact notebook. From there, search keywords (maybe name, business, context) in Evernote to access your contact. Done. Easy.

Watch the workflow in this video below: