This is not a motivational piece. Please save it for when you have time to focus.
If you internalize this, your life and your business will get better…
We’ll start with this: most people and companies are stuck. They do what they know. They have countless reasons why it can’t be different. Then someone comes along and overturns the status quo. How do we react?
“Yeah, that change was overdue. It was obviously coming. I wish I had thought of it a little sooner.”
What changed is someone thought differently.
Can you change THE world by changing your mind? Dunno.
But you can certainly change YOUR world.
Your mind can be a barrier to change or a catalyst for it.
If you’ve ever felt like change is too hard, there are a lot of good reasons why.
Your senses are sending insane amounts of information to your brain all the time. Your brain’s job is to find the handful of things that matter. How does it do that?
It looks for what it’s expecting.
That’s right. You see what you want to see. And you interpret it based on how you’re used to interpreting it.
You never fully experience objective reality.
We prefer familiar problems over unfamiliar solutions.
We’ve got decades’ worth of neuro-wiring that automates how we handle input.
We’ve adpated to the negatives in our life by learning how to compartmentalize them, work around them, and recover from them.
Tolerating them is way easier than eliminating them.
Don’t believe me? Next time one of your friends wants to commiserate, offer a solution.
We have a set of associations that are critical to our well-being. We didn’t chose them on purpose. For the most part, they just happened.
That doesn’t make them great. It doesn’t make them useful or beneficial. In fact, some of them are toxic and destructive.
But we don’t have good tools for managing them, so we just tolerate them. Or we blow up and sever them abruptly.
We’ll swear it’s not true, but we do what we think is expected of us. Want to have your mind blown?
- Go watch the movie, “Experimenter” with Paul Sarsgaard.
- Then search YouTube for “asch conformity experiment” (4:11 version).
- Finally, search YouTube for “Social Conformity – Brain Games” (5:34 version).
Being different from the herd is hard for most people. But it’s also where all the good stuff happens.
Your brain isn’t a computer disk storing bits. There are no photograps or videos up there waiting for you to push “Play”.
It turns out that when you need to remember things, your brain provides the big stuff, then it fills in gaps however it can.
Believe it or not, up to 50% of your memories either didn’t happen the way you think they did, or they never happened at all!
What All That Means
All that means one of two things:
- Either you’re stuck and there’s nothing you can do about it.
- Or you’re free and you can do anything you want.
The difference lies in your willingness to change your own mind.
But here’s the rub:
Let’s call your life, your relationships, your good and bad times, your talents and your abilities, your weaknesses and shortcomings, the way you think and act, and your operating environment “YOUR DOMAIN”.
Your challenge is this: the tools you need to solve problems within your domain don’t exist inside your domain. Otherwise you would already have solved them.
You have to look outside your domain.
That’s why people to go motivational seminars. It feels like a flood of new information. It triggers dopamine and endorphines like crazy. Your opiate recepters get saturated and you feel super happy.
For about 2 weeks. Then nothing.
The seminar didn’t actually give you new tools. It gave you the illusion of a fresh start. Then you stepped back into your domain and slipped back into your old routines.
What To Do
Let’s focus on your business, although this applies equally to your life.
Perhaps the biggest constraint in your life is the people you associate with. They have no interest in your transformation. They want you to stay just like you are. You’re part of their domain, after all.
In order for you to pursue meaningful change, you need your cup filled with the right stuff each day. But you have the wrong people filling your cup:
- that one colleague who hasn’t achieved anything but loves handing out advice.
- that friend who is terrible at managing people but thinks he’s a leadership guru.
- that mentor who’s been doing things the same way for 30 years and will never go beyond where she is now.
- that customer who can never be satisfied no matter how miserable they make you and your team.
- the latest growth hack that everyone is just now jumping onto 5 years too late.
You can’t sever everyone from your life, but you can decide who will fill your cup. You can make your relationships deliberate by creating the appropriate amount of distance between you and them. You can still love them, and you can still fill their cups, but don’t let them fill yours.
Instead, find the right people to fill your cup.
My favorite way is to follow people on LinkedIn who have the information or insights that I need in order to level up. I do it like this:
- Subscribe to their profiles or newsletters so I see everything they write.
- Follow the people they admire most.
- Read the books they recommend.
- Start experimenting with their ideas.
- Interact with their communities and start sharing my ideas to see how they land.
- Prune my influencers often to manage my signal/noise ratio and to stay on target.
- If you do this, your domain will begin to expand almost immediately.
To decouple your mind from your status quo, you have to start challenging things.
You can start with silly ideas, such as, “Are we really sure the sun will come up tomorrow?”
That sounds absurd, but the most impactful changes seem to come from areas that seemed unquestionable.
- Are all these policies really helping my employees feel fulfilled and maximize their value to our customers?
- Is my sales and marketing approach, which happens to look like everyone else’s, really maximizing my growth?
- Am I focusing on the right customer segments in my book of business?
- Is my staffing strategy about minimizing costs or maximizing my Return on Talent?
- Do my calendar and my to-do list look like those of an innovative CEO who’s transforming a company?
- Am I delegating and outsourcing my least valuable activities?
If you’re going to drive serious change, you’ll need to do some things differently.
But you don’t know what those things are, nor how to do them, right? You’re going to have to try stuff.
Reading and having mentors is useful, but eventually you’ve got to do the hard work.
In my experience, the best way to get the ball rolling is to run lots of experiments. The more hooks you have in the water, the more likely you are to catch a fish.
Most experiments will fail. Not catastrophically—just unimpressively. Some will produce value. A few will hit home runs.
The trick is to do more of them. Have multiple experiments running continuously.
All. The. Time.
Experiments don’t have to be huge. You don’t need a ton of planning or measurement.
Just try stuff.
- What if I get rid of this rule for my employees for 3 months. What will happen?
- What if I cut 70% of the verbiage out of this sales script?
- What if I hire a virtual assistant?
- What if I reduce all meetings to 15 minutes?
- What if I read a book a week for the next 10 weeks?
- What if I delegate the bottom 20% of my decision-making and activities to someone on my team who will grow from them?
- What if I stop trying to cross-sell during customer visits and just focus on being fully present?
Here’s what’s magical about experiments: they give you feedback from objective reality.
Plus, succeed or fail, they give you a new baseline from which to devise the next experiment.
These experiments aren’t subject to the constraints of your domain. In fact, you can make them more potent by deliberately challenging your assumptions.
The more of them you run, the faster your you eliminate things that don’t work, and the sooner you arrive at new opportunities to expand your domain.
I’ve been doing this for about 15 years. (Guess what, 15 years was going to come and go either way.)
Now I have things that I never could have hoped for. I’m the happiest person I know. I love the impact my career and my life have had. My faith has grown. I’m fulfilled and satisfied.
And I’m excited about what every new day will bring.