I often go through periods of contraction and expansion.
In the last few weeks, I chose expansion.
Admittedly, it was an odd time to choose expansion. My plate, if I’d looked at it as objectively as humanly possible, I would have decided that it was already full. Or, at the very least, I would have recognized that my energy levels were starting to wane, and that expanding at this time was sure to invite trouble.
Now, there could be a rather obvious lesson here, that expansion is bad, and contraction is good.
But that’s not the way I see it. Good or bad can apply to specific situations – games, business metrics, legal matters – situations where measurements are precise, and they mean something.
There are plenty of situations in life that aren’t subject to the simplistic logic of good or bad.
Publishing daily, for example, is not good or bad. It could be tied to business metrics, but every strategy has its pros and cons.
What I’m seeing for myself is that while I want to continue to expand as a leader, I want to contract my project load. Simplify. Create more focus.
Starting another podcast is the perfect example. I originally got into it to create more variety in my daily blogging efforts. But I’m already starting to see that it’s not keeping my life easy or streamlined at all. It’s taking up a lot of time and energy.
There are times to expand. Times to contract. And there are different areas of life to look at – different levers to adjust.
Since moving to BC, I have enjoyed the beautiful views, temperate climate, and even the near constant rain from about October to March (which doesn’t mean you get off scot-free from April to September).
Rarely do we experience true Canadian winter conditions on the west side, save for maybe a week or two of cold and a day or two of snow and dangerous driving conditions.
This year has been a little different, though. In the last couple of weeks, not only has there been quite a bit of snowfall (which has only started melting in the last couple of days), temperatures have also remained well below freezing for at least a week.
Early last week, as I was parking my car, I felt the front tires descend into icy tire grooves. Having just returned from a gathering, I had no immediate need for my car, but in the back of my mind, I knew the car was stuck.
I was about to take a week off, and had some food in the fridge and cupboards, and so with no pressing need for my car, I didn’t panic. I checked the weather and confirmed that the cold conditions wouldn’t last for long (but the meteorologists were wrong – it stayed for the entire week).
The next day, I went out to start my car, so it had an opportunity to charge. And I confirmed that it was indeed stuck. And that pattern continued for the rest of the week.
Last night, at a small gathering, I shared my predicament with friends, and one of them suggested I take some boiling water out to the car to pour it on the ice. So, this morning, I did exactly that.
After about six rounds of warming water in my electric kettle, loading it up in my saucepan, taking it out to my car and pouring it on the ice, I started up my car and prayed for freedom.
I put the car in reverse, and at first, it wouldn’t budge.
So, I put it into the drive gear, and finally, there was a bit of give. So, I put the car in reverse again, gave it some gas, and at long last, was released from the clutches of the slippery ice.
The whole time, I was puzzled as to why and how my car go stuck. I drove out to Drumheller in March 2020 in winter conditions, on snow and everything, and there were no hiccups on that trip.
So, I went to examine the icy tire grooves that had held my car hostage and confirmed that there were fully four to five inches of ice on either side of each tire – probably more before I doused it in boiling water. Curious how the solution to frozen water is more water, only boiling water.
If this hadn’t worked, of course I would have tried other channels like BCAA.
Either way, it’s nice to have my wheels back. Now I can restock my empty fridge and cupboards.
Late December / early January is one of my favorite times of the year. I love spending time thinking and reflecting on the last 365 days, as well as what I seek to accomplish in the next. And as I’m going through my year-end routines, I’m usually consuming quite a bit of content as well, because I find myself able to see it with new eyes and hear it with fresh ears.
Here I will share some of the golden nuggets I picked up in the last couple of weeks.
1. Do More of What Works & Tap into Trends
For me, this is not a new realization. It is a revisitation, though, of a critical productivity and business-building principle.
Success leaves clues, and content is the trail. If you’ve been publishing for any length of time, you should be able to identify the unicorns among your donkeys.
2. Successful People Move Multiple Projects Forward with Great Urgency
When I heard these words exit from the mouth of author Dan Kennedy, I felt as though I was being given permission to embrace this behavior. It’s exactly what I needed to hear.
See, most of us try to do everything step by step, one step at a time, just as school taught us to do. Kennedy contends, though, that successful people categorically don’t exhibit this behavior. They move multiple projects forward with great urgency.
This reflection is already changing my mindset and conduct. I am now more grateful for the work I have, and I’m more intentional about making progress in the areas that matter.
Whether you’re a freelancer or entrepreneur, if your compensation relies on making things, when and where possible, take the same work, and repurpose or repackage it. If any part of you thinks this disingenuous, you should know that bloggers like Darren Rowse have had great success with bundling up free content and turning it into products.
A blog post can become a series of blog posts. A series of blog posts can turn into an eBook. An eBook can turn into a series of eBooks. A series of eBooks can become a book, and then a course, and so on.
And it doesn’t just work in linear but also in parallel dimensions. For instance, a blog post could form the foundation of multiple tweets, ad copy, a newsletter, a podcast episode, a video, and more.
What you’re reading now will go on my blog, on Medium, and in a future book, at minimum. When and where possible, look for multiple ways to get compensated for the same work.
5. Don’t Make What You Can Never be Compensated for
I’d heard this before, but this time, it really hit me between the eyes.
I’ve had a few failed launches in my time, especially in the last couple of years. And what I’m seeing now is that a) you need to know your audience, what they will pay for, and how they like to be talked to (direct, indirect, urgent, etc.,) b) even when you have the right product, desperation still stinks, and c) sometimes your hard-gotten email list is made up of a bunch of freeloaders.
If you’re creating for fun, that’s a whole other thing. But entrepreneurial endeavors aren’t a walk in the park, and you need to be thinking ahead. If you can’t foresee being paid for it, don’t make it, and if in doubt, take pre-orders to validate its viability.
People like to work with those they perceive as successful, and it doesn’t matter much whether that perception was created or imagined. if you can create it, prospects and customers will be more amenable to throwing bigger sums of money your way.
7. Build Personal Satisfaction into Everything You do
Dan Kennedy says the idea that you need to set up your business around things you don’t want to do is erroneous. When and where possible, he says, build personal satisfaction into your business, and put it ahead of profit.
Home court advantage is a real thing, and if you can get people to come to you instead of you having to go to them, it automatically puts you in a position of power, and the psychological effect is a client who is more likely to heed your advice and get results from your guidance.
In every area of business, it’s worth exploring opportunities to create more satisfaction in your work.
8. The Less Flexible Time You Have, the More You Accomplish
Some would certainly argue against scheduling to the hilt, but I tend to resonate more with Dan Kennedy’s methodology of scripting one’s day.
There’s a finite amount of time to do everything, and every activity should have a start and end time. And where most people get stuck is in establishing a proper end time for all their activities. When you schedule activity with an end time in mind, you necessarily put more restrictions on yourself and others. You start to say things like, “it will be done by 2:30 PM, because it needs to be done by 2:30 PM.” And you make it so.
Constraints lead to increased productivity when you treat time blocks as a matter of do or die, life or death.
There’s a longer, harder way of doing everything. You can start a book from scratch. Or you can draw upon content already created. You can make a new course. Or you can update an old course and make it better. You can seek out inspiration. Or you can create everything from scratch.
But just because you spent more time on something, put more effort into it, thought more about it, doesn’t mean it’s going to pay more. Identify the direct path to achievement before blazing a new trail, especially if your income depends on volume.
10. Do Something Daily to Bring Fresh Blood into the Business
Dan Kennedy says you don’t ever want to rely on one channel to bring in new business, even if it is effective. He says he’d rather have you focus on 10 channels that “sort of” work versus one that’s amazing. What I get from this is that one is the most dangerous number in business, and single-source dependency is setting yourself up for disappointment.
11. You Can’t Make Money Doing Anything Other Than Marketing
You aren’t in the business of writing, making music, coaching, infoproducts, or dentistry. You are in the business of marketing. This paradigm shift is a challenging but ultimately rewarding one. Businesses rely on cash, and cash is only generated with marketing.
Specialists tend to command greater income and more respect from their clients. Entrepreneurship is challenging enough without inevitable dream stealers and time wasters, and you are better served creating strong positioning in the marketplace, such that people respect you and your advice from first contact (which, by the way, is a commodity if people don’t pay for it).
Feng Shui expert Marie Diamond explains that many successful people reach a point of impasse on the way to the top. They work on their mentality, their spirituality, even their talents and gifts, but they get to a point where there’s no moving forward, and they’re missing just one thing – their environment is not consistent with their commitment.
To create a life harmonious with your goals and dreams, it is necessary to create an environment where you do your best work. An environment that reminds you of the success you’re creating, not the failures you’ve endured. Everything in your environment affects your subconscious. If you’ve been hitting a wall, it’s time to transform your life by transforming your home. Eye-opening.
To remain efficient, I have often opted for fast and easy ways of creating content. Set up a couple of spaces for writing, podcasting, and making videos or going live, and share a timely message.
What I learned listening to copywriter Jim Edwards is the importance of keeping things fresh and interesting. There are so many ways to relay a message – rants, lists, reviews, critiques, how-to guides, and more. Not to mention, if you’re making video content, you can vary up your background (filming location), wardrobe, and more. With every piece of content you create, there are hundreds of variables you can control to drive up engagement.
It’s easy to sacrifice creativity and forethought for efficiency. But is it worth it? If you want to keep things interesting for your audience, you want to keep your content fresh.
Say what you will about Joel Osteen. I’m not here to discuss whether he is a “Godly” man or if his doctrine is right. But there is something valuable I learned from him, especially from his book, Your Best Life Now.
And that is this – delays are often blessings in disguise. Delays can lead to getting something better than you expected.
Let’s say you’re waiting on a promotion, and you end up getting passed up in favor of another employee.
The natural thing to do would be to get angry and frustrated. Maybe even confront your boss or rage quit your job.
But maybe, just maybe, there’s a new position being created by the higher-ups, and not only would it be a better fit for you, but it would also pay more!
Now, this is not always how things play out. Sometimes delays truly are little more than delays. But it’s a heck of a lot more fun to be in anticipation of a coming blessing than to be annoyed at a delayed flight, a hotel booking gone awry, or a date that stood you up.
Tonight, on the way home from a birthday celebration and a retreat into nature, I was forced on a detour due to a road closure.
I didn’t know my way around the city and ended up going down two or three roads before I finally found one that took me around the closure.
When I finally found my way back to the main drag, I still wasn’t sure of my surrounding, and ended up taking some roads up the hills and back into nature.
When I finally found my way back to the highway, I found I was not very far from home at all.
But there was still an impact.
The whole time, I was contemplating…
“I wonder what blessing I can expect from this delay?”