Category Archives: life hacks

Why It Pays To Be A Misfit

Photo: Amanda Jordan via Unsplash

About five years ago I attended a party that a friend was throwing in celebration of her new clothing store launch in downtown Los Angeles.

I spotted the host off to one side and walked over to say hello. As I approached, she looked around, then behind me.

“Did you come alone?” She asked in a high pitched voice, the end of the sentence curling up into an extra-squiggly question mark. “Yep,” I cheerfully replied, holding up a pair of neon-yellow drop crotch trousers to my waist. She grinned. “You’re such a lone wolf! I love it.” She touched my arm in a way that maybe she thought to be conspiratorial before turning to walk away.

I get it, I’m independent. I live alone and traverse social circles fluidly, dipping in and out of various groups while enjoying time spent alone immensely. Still, her comment stuck because the tenderest part of me felt like a misfit for being this way, an outsider even — as though by being independent I was somehow doing something wrong both socially and in life.

I began paying closer attention to those around me who I considered to be independent. I looked for cues and commonalities in both their actions and in the traits they expressed. I noticed that some of them are misfits in the most admirable (and even lovable) of ways, and that those traits can translate to big moves in business.

Misfits can be brutally honest, for example they say things like “Great story, thanks for sharing.” They yawn loudly at dinner. They are masters of the chat and cut.

What I discovered was a treasure trove of traits that make a certain type of independent person unique, uncompromising, and at times terrifically entertaining.

I also found that some highly productive and creative people — including many successful business founders and leaders —are all misfits in their own way and share some of the following traits.

1. They play big.

Misfits think beyond their perceived set of limitations. They take big risks because they understand that the long term reward outweighs any immediate risk. Some misfits live for the possibilities — they proactively seek opportunities and double down where they think they can win. This is sometimes effectuated to set an example, and other times pursued for personal gain.

2. They speak their mind.

I once met a very successful female entrepreneur in a line to board a bus at a wellness retreat. We got to talking and as we boarded, she casually said something to me about her business that I’ll never forget. “I’m not going to do that, it’ll hurt my soul.” In that moment I had laughed, but secretly I was also relieved. I respected her ability to unabashedly voice her concerns — it made her relatable and human, and gave me permission to think about adopting a similar philosophy to my own life.

3. They are relentless.

While their actions don’t always seem logical, over time they might become crystal clear. In business I’ve noticed that many misfits are often relentless in asking for what they want. They are also unafraid of rejection and will be persistent enough to keep asking — or find another way — until they get what they want. A friend of mine is a band manager. Every time we go somewhere together she manages to find a way to get in the door, behind the rope, onto the stage, and into the after party. When I asked her what her secret was she simply winked and said “You have to find a way to weave your web around them.”

4. They do whatever it takes.

Independent people tend to be focused on their own priorities. At work, they look for the end goal and do whatever it takes to get there. At one former job, my boss at the time knew that in order for us to land a critical new business partner our odds were greater if we met with the decision-makers in person. We scored a meeting, and before I knew it we were boarding a plane from San Francisco to New York where the winter storm season was at its worst. We pulled an all-nighter polishing up our presentation for a twenty minute meeting with someone who had zero vested interest in our company. There was no guarantee of a favorable outcome, but my boss had demonstrated the importance of doing whatever was necessary in order to take the opportunity as far as it could go.

5. They break the rules — and don’t look back.

For many misfits, there simply are no rules. Rules can be seen as a distraction and their actions often reflect this. I once had a colleague who came barreling into the office at seven in the morning each day and left at four in the afternoon. She knew that those were the hours in which she was most productive, so that’s when she showed up and left for work. It took someone boldly breaking the rules to demonstrate how efficiencies could be made.

6. They are quirky and memorable.

I once worked for a very successful entertainment executive who was a sought-after speaker. Often times he’d bring a squirt gun to an event with him and shoot water at speakers who started to sell their company rather than speak to the topic at hand. (He also had an electric cattle prod in his office that was given to him as a gift, and subsequently my desk was zapped a couple of times but that’s for another story.) I know many executives who surf, skateboard, or deep-sea scuba dive. Many have large personalities or distinctive character traits that aligns them on a level to any central character from a Wes Anderson film.

Misfits are important to business and society because they’re unafraid to carve their own path, which is necessary in business for making considerable progress and change. It can be lonely at times to be an independent person, but in other ways can be extremely beneficial. When we march to the beat of our own drum, we follow the paths available only to us. This leads towards alignment with our goals and personal definition of success — even if at times we need to show up alone.

This post has been syndicated from Thrive Global

The Introvert’s Guide to the Workplace

Photo: Unsplash

I’ve been working in digital media for most of my career – building websites, doing marketing, graphic design, and even photography. But there came a time that if I wanted to advance in my career, I had to get out from behind my tantalizingly-oversized Apple monitor and lead actual meetings. It became critical for me to be present in the workplace not only as a project manager, but as someone who was able to successfully lead client meetings as well.

Flash forward to now: I’m a freelance marketer in charge of all aspects of the business from project management to finance, production to sales.

The road wasn’t easy. As an introvert, small talk is not my strong suit — I don’t harbor the gift of gab, and until I get to know someone I tend to be an energetic but typically quiet person. In the past, I had always defaulted to playing the supportive role in the workplace—the cheerleader operating behind the scenes, the lone wolf focused squarely on getting the work done while working with others on a strictly one-on-one basis whenever possible.

Until I started working for myself, I had that choice.

But when I went freelance, I had to do everything on my own.

I devoured books about leadership and doing sales. I tapped into my networks to see what worked well for others. I scheduled lots of meetings and began to practice. Over time, it’s gotten easier. Here’s what I’ve learned.

1. Books are good, but practice is better.

I’ve noticed that outside of what I’ve read, I tend to clam up on calls and forget any tried-and-true tactics anyway! Still, by repeating a similar meeting flow you’ll begin to see patterns emerge that will make the process more familiar and increase your confidence levels overall. For an introverted person like me who is pretty awkward over the phone, this was painful at first but I’ve improved over time — simply with practice.

2. Stick to an agenda.

Inform the participants right away about the flow of the meeting. With limited time in the workday and an endless list of things to do, people appreciate having a roadmap.

3. Ask Questions

This is huge, especially for an introvert. Ask questions to help surface challenges and clarify key points—you will help move the meeting along and contribute to its overall productivity without having to say a whole lot. Take notes for generating strong follow up later.

4. Be unafraid to contradict

I struggle with this one all the time. I tend to be an agreeable person but sometimes need to ask a potential client if they’ve thought about taking another approach if something seems off in their strategy. This can definitely be done in a polite way and can even position you as being extra-knowledgable in your field.

6. Don’t be afraid to talk money

This is another one I’m terrible at. Don’t be afraid to ask someone what the budget is upfront, or what they’ve spent on a similar service in the past.

7. Have strong follow up

Per #3, above. This is a big opportunity for an introvert to truly shine. Take lots of notes – in a notebook, on a laptop, wherever you have the most speed. After the meeting, distill and translate them into your proposal or follow up bullet points along with actionable next steps.

8. Practice Self-Care

Let’s face it, meetings can be draining for some of us introverts. Take a walk outside when you need a break, bring a cup of herbal tea with you into the meeting, and focus on your breath, posture, and even a calming keyword to keep you poised. It is more than okay to take a break from social activities when you have a lot going on at work, and know that the more you practice, the more energy you will have and the less drained you’ll feel over time. Be patient, go one step at a time, and give yourself what you need to clearly demonstrate your value while always making sure to honor who you are.

This post has been syndicated from Thrive Global

Goal Setting – Designing A Life Plan In 2017

Photo: David Schap via Unsplash

One year ago I hired the talented Harper Spero to help me find the time to complete a creative project. My life was action-packed and I needed to figure out how to make quality time and space for my craft in order to ultimately reach my writing goals for the year.

What Harper helped me to understand was that it was everything around the project that needed to shift first. This shift was necessary to bring my best self to the table as a creative professional and burgeoning business owner.

Let me explain.

The process began by optimizing first for health. Getting the proper nutrition, the right amount of sleep, and regular exercise were key to functioning at a high level.

After that, I needed a support system in place. It was critical to surround myself with a steady stream of quality individuals and communities.

After that, I needed to make sure that all of my work — creative and otherwise — had meaning.

A year ago, I knew that I wanted to branch out on my own at some point. I also wanted to help more people and dedicate more time towards creative projects.

Of course, there were other things too. I also wanted to get in better shape, start a regular meditation practice, and all of the things we aspire to be and do when the new year rolls around.

It was a lot. So with Harper’s help, I began measuring how I spent my time.

This enabled me to generate balance and see where I was (or was not) focusing the most.

First, I created five core areas of focus.

One year ago today, they were:

1. Health/Wellness/Fitness

2. Friendships

3. Community

4. Career Transition

5. Writing Projects

I had target units to hit each week per category. This gave me something to work for each week. For example, 2 units of community, 10 of health/wellness/fitness.

Every night I marked off the units that had been achieved for the day. One unit of meditation. One community event.

We put a running tally in place to see how I was performing week-over-week, month-over-month.

I am proud to say that after 12 months, I now meditate almost every evening and have successfully transitioned to take on freelance marketing work full-time, bringing in on other partners to work with in the process.

I am also close to completing a creative writing project that I’m eager to announce later in the year.

I have made some great friendships, been part of a happy romantic relationship, and have dipped in and out of several communities where I have found incredible camaraderie and support in my journey.

This in mind, my goals for 2017 have been slightly edited to the following:

1. Wellness/Fitness

2. Business Building

3. Craft/Writing

4. Relationships

5. Community

6.  Learning

7. Experiencing Joy

 

I wanted to make my goals productive and also enjoyable, keeping in mind the holistic model of incorporating all aspects of life into the plan.

The biggest challenge I noticed from last year have been showing up consistently for the units I have the most fear and/or apprehension about. For example, I’m not the best at sales, so I already know that business building will be a challenge.

I also get nervous about attending new community events for the first time — just another thing to be aware of.

I am willing to tackle these challenges head-on because 1.) each unit is driven by my core values and beliefs, and 2.) through other exercises undertaken in 2016 I have become increasingly risk-hungry (and therefore am willing to get uncomfortable).

With those goals in mind, alongside my core values and principles, I use this methodology as a means for taking action on my goals.

Some good working templates and resources for making this your best year ever can be found at the following:

Bullet Journaling

Hive Leaders – resources 

Technori – The Most Effective Goal-Setting Plan You’ll Ever Find

The 2017 Volt Planner

Becoming Antifragile – How To Gain From Disorder

 

Image Credit: Andre Faria Gomes

Image Credit: Andre Faria Gomes via Slideshare: Antifragile: Lessons Learned

“Wind extinguishes a candle and energizes fire. Likewise with randomness, uncertainty, chaos – you want to use them, not hide from them. You want to be the fire and wish for the wind.”

-Nassim Taleb

Last week I gave a talk at the monthly Catalysts Collective event here in San Francisco on the topic of antifragility. The following points are highlights from my talk.

To understand the premise of Antifragile – Things That Gain From Disorder there are three key areas to consider.

We know what it means to be fragile – to be easily broken. Another way to interpret it is to be damaged by disorder. The world’s banking system is a good example – something left vulnerable to chaos, randomness, and uncertainty.

After the state of fragility comes resiliency. Things that are resilient have the ability withstand disorder. Imagine a structure built to withstand earthquakes. When an actual earthquake occurs, the building (hopefully) remains standing. It does not change.

A great story of being resilient is the phoenix. The phoenix may rise from the ashes, but he rises only to become what he once was before. 

The final state Taleb focuses on is the state of being antifragile.

Antifragility is when something benefits from disorder. While startups are known to harbor an improbability of success, when viewed in increments success happens as a result of randomness, chance, volatility and instability. 

When viewed from the macro level, the startup economy benefits society as a whole. It creates room for opportunity and innovation. Things like volatility and instability are required in order for them to achieve the point of contribution at scale. This concept can be applied to the contribution of individuals too – organic things, like muscle mass, require some level of instability or challenge in order to grow.

I believe that being antifragile is essential for personal revolution.

Some benefits of being antifragile include:

  • Increased confidence
  • Welcomeness to change
  • The allowance of discomfort
  • Possessing a growth mindset versus a fixed one.

Here are  ways to become antifragile:

  • Think of perceived failure as opportunity
  • Lean into fear
  • Embrace community
  • Listen to yourself and to others
  • Seek opportunities
  • Build a strong baseline
  • Use the barbell strategy.

The barbell strategy is a method presented by Taleb. Consider the image of a barbell. The maximum amount of risk you’re willing to take goes on one side. It’s balanced by Maslov’s basic needs (food, water, safety) on the opposing end.

This is a very basic introduction to the basic concepts of Antifragility. If you’d like to learn more, I recommend checking out the book itself or visit the following blogs that present nice summaries and applicable tips for becoming antifragile.

Taylor Pearson – Antifragile Book Notes

StartupBros – How You Can Profit From The Unknown: Becoming Antifragile

Buy – Antifragile: Things That Gain From Disorder (Amazon)

Getting To Inbox Zero In 3 Hours Or Less

Photo Credit: Liane Metzler via Unsplash

Photo Credit: Liane Metzler via Unsplash

I always thought “inbox zero” was an urban myth. How is it possible that one’s inbox could have literally no emails in it whatsoever?

The last time I checked there were around twenty-thousand messages. Incoming ones starred for later, bookmarked newsletters going back to the beginning of time begging for acknowledgement — the dutiful read, watch, response, purchase or listen that may or may not make our lives slightly more whole.

I don’t know about you, but I’m a hoarder of information. I’m pretty much obsessed with emailing myself several times daily — links to recipes, lengthy thought pieces, cute shoes — never to be opened at the fabled moment for where there’s actually time. Let’s face it, emails generate more work than pleasure. And if the case was in fact pleasure, my pocketbook surely wouldn’t be pleased.

I also have a terrible habit of staring at my inbox for moments on end. I sit unblinking and motionless, eyeballs glossing over the never ending list. Whether starred, marked as “important and unread,” or falling within the categorical everything else, without moving a muscle the meter on my forehead goes from full to hovering near bone dry.

One Friday evening I decided to take matters into my own hands. It was time to part with these missives from the past. They were slogging things down, preventing crystal-clear clarity in order to have a more fulfilling, energized, and productive day.

Here’s how I finally reached the ever-so-elusive Inbox Zero in less than three hours.

1. I took to e-mail management tools.

Basically, if there’s a way to cheat through technology I’m going to do it. In this case the enablers were Sanebox and Boomerang.

I implemented Sanebox to filter out everything that wasn’t urgent. Most emails were automatically delivered to a new inbox called “SaneLater.” Urgent e-mails, as defined in this case, arrive directly in my main inbox from the fingertips of human beings I actually know. Anything and everything else goes to SaneLater.

I made use of Boomerang, which I’ve had installed for years and never actually noticed. I scheduled starred emails to return on the day an action item was due. The original message was then archived.

2. I took the plunge.

The great thing about Gmail is that all your archived emails are still searchable (via the nav bar at the top). They live in a far-off place you don’t need to visit unless absolutely necessary, far away from your actual inbox.

Sanebox offers a simple and useful methodology for e-mail management: Delegate, Defer, Delete, Respond, and Do.

After responding to, rescheduling, or filing away everything timely I could find, I did the unimaginable. I selected everything in my inbox — I mean everything — and *gulp* clicked Archive.

Sanebox has a tiny learning curve when it comes to additional features. Part of the fun is leveraging them for specific needs.

For example, I don’t always need a message to return if I don’t hear back from the recipient. I do, however, need constant reminders in order to follow up with people within a reasonably courteous timeframe and/or get things done by a specific date. Having the message go away then reappear when the timing is relevant is a hack that’s been working massively well for me so far.

After it was all said and done, my inbox looked like this!

IMG_4517

Day one went flawlessly. By removing the clutter I felt immeasurably energized and ready to do the deep work instead of staring at the screen in an overwhelmed stupor. I didn’t miss anything about the old e-mail workspace. I found myself attacking the “to dos” — the major bullseyes of the day that mattered most.

Email became secondary to workflow. Actual work came first. By using chunks of time specifically set aside for e-mail I now manage inbound communications tactically (while attempting to avoid becoming obsessed with the notion of persistent zero!). This week was noticeably more productive — my headspace has been clearer and I found that my mood was actually better.

All in all, the tedious effort was worth it in the end.  Inbox Zero for the win!

Now, does anyone have any tips for keeping it this way?!