Less Success, More Successful

In 2011, I’ve made changes that are likely to cut my business income by 25%.  Why?

I made the changes to feel more successful.  Time will tell if I actually am more successful.

As I wrote last week, personal freedom is essential to me.  However, I’m searching for more than the freedom to do what I choose.  To create a sense of well-being, I’ve noticed that I need:

  • A couple hours of daily exercise;
  • Connection to a community; and
  • A sense that I am spending my time effectively.

Workingmerely to buy more stuff, being busy, multitasking… when I find myself caught up in those goals, I am stressed.  That said, creating space so that I can sit around in a coffee shop all day, doesn’t leave me satisfied.  I need a mission that I can do well.  It’s why I am suited to endurance athletics and project based consulting.

  • Have a mission
  • Experience social connection
  • Do it well

In my life, exercise is my meditation – it integrates my thoughts with my body; let’s me release stress/noise and stimulates my brain.  When I listen to others talk about prayer, it sounds a lot like how I feel about my training.  That’s a lot way of saying that exercise might not be for everyone but having a way to integrate/process thoughts seems essential.


I struggle with outside forces (family illness, financial problems, relationship struggles) getting in the way of my goals. I lose focus on my fitness, business, and financial objectives, I avoid my personal problems, and I disengage socially when I encounter too much personal stress. I can be incredibly focused, disciplined and logical when things are going well. So I can use some advice – how do you stay focused? I refuse to accept that this is just the way I am wired. I know I just need to approach life differently in a consistent manner.  I’d love to hear your thoughts.

The first tip that I’ll offer is a question I ask myself every-single-day. How would I live my life if I knew that I was going to die? As I think about that (trick) question, I remind myself:

Acceptance – I will not be able to get everything done in my life.  That’s OK, I’ve acknowledged that being busy works against my personal goals.

Choose – Because I won’t be able to get to everything, it is wise to make choices.  Given that “doing well” is important for my sense of well being, I’m going to identify the #1 goal that I can do well.  Given that setbacks are inevitable, I’m going to pick a defensive goal as well.  Some examples:

  • Learn Finance — Accumulate Capital 
  • Learn Athletics — Preserve Income/Expense Ratio 
  • Build Fitness — Create A Successful Marriage 

Priorities will change and shift over time.  What’s useful for me is: limiting focus; being clear about what I am seeking to achieve; and what’s requried to achieve it.

Say No — we are lousy at saying “no” – to ourselves and to our communities. That’s why the first two steps are so important – realize that you can’t (and don’t want to) do everything then choose what you want to do. Then create a habit of saying “no” to attractive opportunites that distract you from your mission. My main strategies are avoidance and routine. Around my wife, I build myself up as being able to make the tough decisions. The equivalent in my blogs is hammering on about the need to be fit for leadership. My public life is a game to put social pressure on myself to have backbone, when required.

Most of our friends, clients and competition, will not be able to pull off what I outlined and that is OK.  However, when you come across people that can pull it off then keep them in your life — they are valuable additions to your peer group. Likewise, when it’s clear that someone isn’t fully aligned with your mission then you’ll want to phase them out — with compassion, as we never know where life will take us.

Don’t try to be perfect, just keep chipping away towards your goals.  When I find myself stressed out, I back off, rest a bit and remember my mortality.


Marriage Material

Two weeks ago, I asked my wife why we get along so well.  From four hours of discussion, two things stood out:

  • You put me first
  • I trust you


I’ve been divorced, unemployed, overtrained, stressed out, and overweight — generally not at the same time, thankfully.  So my advice, is no guarantee of smooth sailing.  However, by applying these tips, I’ve become comfortable with my choices and successful in my most important relationship.

What do you want? I am driven by a desire to feel free. If you pay attention to your actions then you’ll be able to see what gives you this sense of freedom.  For me, it tends to involve nature and new experiences.  I’m not about winning, I’m about exploring.  

Highly stressed people can gravitate to intensity of experience to compensate for a lack of freedom.  Perhaps that’s why drugs are so popular in our culture?  It used to be a big part of the kick for my drinking.  In athletics the equivalent might be an athlete craving training load to the point of repeated self-injury.

Expectations can lead me to make decisions that inhibit my ability to explore (and feel free).

  • Desk jobs;
  • Long term commitments;
  • Marriage;
  • Kids;
  • Debt; and
  • Traditional corporate employment.

All of the above have played an important role in my life – commitments themselves are not a problem. The problem arises when I try to do too much at one time.  So, I phase my commitments based on my near, medium and long term goals.


Today, I’m going to focus on marriage and the choices I make to give us the best chance of making our 50th wedding anniversary together.

What are the areas where you can have potential friction?

Travel – We’ve found that having me on the road for a week a month works best.  Once a year, I do a two-week trip.  That puts a strain on the home so I use it sparingly.  My travel is mainly for work but my work enables me to feel free.  This sense of freedom has endured from investing in Asia to riding my bike in Arizona.  So I don’t think it’s what I’m doing — rather it’s doing something outside the box.

Finances – If you want freedom then make sure that you keep your personal expenses as low as possible.  Consuming a lot of the family’s resources, while away, is a recipe for friction.  Be visible with your financial choices – the way I live my life financially is visible to my spouse’s peer group.  Quick Tip: make sure your spouse is rolling in a superior ride to you.

Be Reliable on Little Things – turn up on time; always beat your budget; do it right the first time.  In order to pull this off I need systems.  I’m constantly asking my family to write it down; make a list; send me a note… This lets me plan my schedule and batch process their needs. I focus on big ticket items but what truly matters is consistently taking care of the little things.  For the explorers reading, this is the essential path to creating the trust required to be granted freedom.  Take care of the little things when you’re home.

Upgrade Your Peer Group – The devil is probably a fun wingman for a weekend in Vegas.  However… if you want a quality spouse in your life, and personal freedom, then you’ll need to upgrade your associates.  It’s not a case of right/wrong.  We need friends that mirror the values that we want to live. Choose your business, and training, partners very carefully.

I resist being pushed so it’s best that I make the choices to do all of the above.  That brings me to the biggest tip of all – be the change you want to see in your life.

  • If you want a fit spouse then be a fit spouse.
  • If you want support then be supportive.
  • If you want to be in charge then make yourself fit for leadership.

The above start with the little things in our day to day living.  We can’t fool the people that we live with – so best to be open, consistent and true to the mission.

Don’t confuse your desire for freedom with a desire to be served.  When I am feeling overburdened, I want the world to cater to me. The freedom we seek will not arrive by oppressing those around us.  The solution (for me) is to simplify my life so I can focus on the fundamentals of my marriage and get back out on my bike.  Creating an enjoyable private life requires a willingness to be less “successful” publicly.

It took me 25+ years to make myself marriage material and I’m still working on it.

Pushing My Buttons

Knowing others is intelligence; knowing one’s self is wisdom

– the Tao Te Ching

Last week, I went to sea level and absolutely blasted myself for four days.  Most days had moments of true-max training, which is something I usually avoid.

Most athletes expect a physical payoff from extreme overload.  However, the physical differences between top athletes are marginal.  The performance benefit comes from capacity to persist and the ability to think clearly under duress.  Emotional maturity, mental conditioning, performance psychology… whatever the name you give it… you can’t become spiritually resilient in a textbook.  It happens in the field under progressive duress.

At a training camp, I can keep myself together in public. So the opportunity for self-discovery comes through my internal dialogue.  When I put myself back in my normal routine, I’m tired and my guard is down.  It’s probably why a lot of us are tougher on our families than we are with our co-workers!

When the noise of my life returns it’s interesting to listen to my response.

  • I need to get away more.
  • I need to cut obligations.
  • They need to change.

Cutting obligations tends to be a good idea for performance enhancement but I can’t escape myself and control is an illusion.  So the value comes from understanding the emotional triggers that are driving my internal dialogue:

  • Criticism from people I respect – triggers more work
  • Under performance within my team – triggers a desire to withdraw

Those are my own versions of fight/flight – consider your own.  My habits have served me well but our automatic responses can be self-limiting in high-performance situations.  Specifically, I need to work smart, not more.  As well, I need to remain engaged with my personal mission.

When I realize that I am auto-responding there are three questions that I ask myself:

  • Am I sure? I ask this because stress fogs my perception.
  • What is my desired outcome?  Be willing to trade “being right” for “being effective.”
  • Is this response what I need to get my outcome?  When pushed, I default to being right, rather than being effective.

As a coach, I ask athletes these questions a lot.  To be fit for leadership, I must live my own answers.

When you feel hurt, or angry, pay attention.  There’s information there for you.