Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Staying Motivated

One advantage of blogging for a long time is people often send me blog topic idea. This makes it easier to blog after a while. The following blog post was forwarded to me by one of my friends. It was originally published on It is written by John Wesley. is a great Blog.


Staying motivated is a struggle — our drive is constantly assaulted by negative thoughts and anxiety about the future. Everyone faces doubt and depression. What separates the highly successful is the ability to keep moving forward.

There is no simple solution for a lack of motivation. Even after beating it, the problem reappears at the first sign of failure. The key is understanding your thoughts and how they drive your emotions. By learning how to nurture motivating thoughts, neutralize negative ones, and focus on the task at hand, you can pull yourself out of a slump before it gains momentum.

Reasons We Lose Motivation
There are 3 primary reasons we lose motivation.
Lack of confidence - If you don’t believe you can succeed, what’s the point in trying?
Lack of focus - If you don’t know what you want, do you really want anything?
Lack of direction - If you don’t know what to do, how can you be motivated to do it?

How to Boost Confidence

The first motivation killer is a lack of confidence. When this happens to me, it’s usually because I’m focusing entirely on what I want and neglecting what I already have. When you only think about what you want, your mind creates explanations for why you aren’t getting it. This creates negative thoughts. Past failures, bad breaks, and personal weaknesses dominate your mind. You become jealous of your competitors and start making excuses for why you can’t succeed. In this state, you tend to make a bad impression, assume the worst about others, and lose self confidence.

The way to get out of this thought pattern is to focus on gratitude. Set aside time to focus on everything positive in your life. Make a mental list of your strengths, past successes, and current advantages. We tend to take our strengths for granted and dwell on our failures. By making an effort to feel grateful, you’ll realize how competent and successful you already are. This will rejuvenate your confidence and get you motivated to build on your current success.
It might sound strange that repeating things you already know can improve your mindset, but it’s amazingly effective. The mind distorts reality to confirm what it wants to believe. The more negatively you think, the more examples your mind will discover to confirm that belief. When you truly believe that you deserve success, your mind will generate ways to achieve it. The best way to bring success to yourself is to genuinely desire to create value for the rest of the world.

Developing Tangible Focus

The second motivation killer is a lack of focus. How often do you focus on what you don’t want, rather than on a concrete goal? We normally think in terms of fear. I’m afraid of being poor. I’m afraid no one will respect me. I’m afraid of being alone. The problem with this type of thinking is that fear alone isn’t actionable. Instead of doing something about our fear, it feeds on itself and drains our motivation.

If you’re caught up in fear based thinking, the first step is focusing that energy on a well defined goal. By defining a goal, you automatically define a set of actions. If you have a fear of poverty, create a plan to increase your income. It could be going back to school, obtaining a higher paying job, or developing a profitable website. The key is moving from an intangible desire to concrete, measurable steps.

By focusing your mind on a positive goal instead of an ambiguous fear, you put your brain to work. It instantly begins devising a plan for success. Instead of worrying about the future you start to do something about it. This is the first step in motivating yourself to take action. When know what you want, you become motivated to take action.

Developing Direction

The final piece in the motivational puzzle is direction. If focus means having an ultimate goal, direction is having a day-to-day strategy to achieve it. A lack of direction kills motivation because without an obvious next action we succumb to procrastination. An example of this is a person who wants to have a popular blog, but who spends more time reading posts about blogging than actually writing articles.

The key to finding direction is identifying the activities that lead to success. For every goal, there are activities that pay off and those that don’t. Make a list of all your activities and arrange them based on results. Then make a make an action plan that focuses on the activities that lead to big returns. To continue the example from above, a blogger’s list would look something like this:

Write content
Research relevant topics
Network with other bloggers
Optimize design and ad placements
Answer comments and email
Read other blogs

Keeping track of your most important tasks will direct your energy towards success. Without a constant reminder, it’s easy to waste entire days on filler activities like reading RSS feeds, email, and random web surfing.

When my motivation starts to wane, I regain direction by creating a plan that contains two positive actions. The first one should be a small task you’ve been meaning to do, while the second should be a long-term goal. I immediately do the smaller task. This creates positive momentum. After that I take the first step towards achieving the long-term goal. Doing this periodically is great for getting out of a slump, creating positive reinforcement, and getting long-term plans moving.

It’s inevitable that you’ll encounter periods of low energy, bad luck, and even the occasional failure. If you don’t discipline your mind, these minor speed bumps can turn into mental monsters. By being on guard against the top 3 motivation killers you can preserve your motivation and propel yourself to success.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

The Strategy Paradox

I have been thinking about strategy a lot lately. I believe a leader needs to have vision and set the right strategy. The best strategy that is not implemented well will still not work. Often, I turn to books to try to learn and study. My strategy thoughts are no different.

I read The Strategy Paradox – Why Committing to Success Leads to Failure (and what to do about it) by Michael E. Raynor. As the title suggests, this book is about paradox. One of my mantras is, fail often, fail fast, and fail cheap. So I do not view failure as permanent. I also think we have to fail in order to learn, grow and move forward.

I also believe that it is not necessary people that see where the market is going that thrive, it is those that adapt to it. The same would be true with strategy and implementation. Adapt to get through wrong assumptions. Change as required by circumstance.

From the book:

Success demands commitments to hard-to-copy, hard-to-reverse configurations of resources and capabilities that are aligned with the competitive conditions of a market. These commitments take time to bear fruit and so they must be based on beliefs about the future. These beliefs can turn out to be wrong. As a result, otherwise excellent strategies can fail simply because the conditions under which those commitments would have been appropriate did not materialize. Sony’s attempts to create new consumer electronics formats – Betamax in video and MiniDisc in audio – illustrate how brilliantly conceived, carefully planned, and flawlessly implemented strategies can come to grief because of the antinomy of commitment and uncertainty.

Requisite Uncertainty extends the definition of corporate context, demanding that corporate management not only set performance targets but also define the strategic uncertainty that the other layers of the organization must manage. It is therefore no great departure from established models or practice to suggest that top management does not make strategy; in reality, it rarely has. Instead, Requisite Uncertainty provides an explicit principle upon which to base the management of both sides of the strategy coin: commitment and uncertainty.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Juggling and Prioritization

Back from travel to the SYNNEX National Sales conference in Greenville SC. Great event. Good attendance and satisfied customers and vendors. Lots of opportunities also.

One of my friends wrote me an email that I thought I would respond to in my blog:

P. S. Thanks a lot for the Nine Ways to Beat Procrastination posting on your blog. Procrastination is the problem I am fighting right now myself, so I will take a look at your suggestions ;) I was also wondering if I can apply these Nine Ways when I work on several completely different projects at once, and do not know how to prioritize them, what to start first, what second, should I accomplish one project first, and then move to another, or do them in parallel etc.

Clearly my job involves many different priorities. I routinely juggle many different tasks. Every successful person does. The following article explains

1 - I am a big beleiver in TO DO lists. Without a list of everything I have to do, I would not be able to prioritize it. And of course, prioritization is key. I like to work on only my top 3 or 4. And of course, priorities change so sometimes I review and change them.

2 - One way to break through tasks is to set rules. If I can complete the task in 15 minutes or less - I just do it. If I am swamped and behind, I modify this to 10 or even 5 minutes and if I am on top of things, I lengthen it to 20 or 30 minutes. By doing this, I do not need to switch as often and I have less things to do.

3 - The power of focus. There is great power in focusing on just one task at once. Switching and flitting tends to not produce results. Every time you stop and start something, there is a short re-learning time. Avoid this by developing the discipline to do one thing at once.

4 - I read once that a change is as good as a rest. I use this. I can switch off an intense task and do another lower priority one for a while. Especially if it is quite different than the priority task. For example, perhaps my top priority task is finishing a proposal. This is solitary desk work. Switching to meeting with someone or even talking on the phone can be a good break from it. Of course, I do keep my true priorities in mind or this would be a great procrastination tool.

5 - Sometimes leaving a project produces better results. this is particularly true of creative work like writing. Of course this can also be an excuse to procrastinate. i am not suggesting not getting back to it. I am suggesting work intensely, then go away and while you are not working on it, ideas about it tend to flow. My rule is to leave a project when I feel I am being less than productive on it.

So to try to answer the question - best to finish or best to work on more than one at once?

My view - if it is short enough - just do it. If it will not get better if you leave it - just do it. If you do not need a break - just do it.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Goals versus Growth

On my flight today, I listened to a John Maxwell audiobook. He spoke about Goals versus Growth orietation. He said that sometime people who are goal focussed (like me) reach goals then stop. Of course when someone stops reaching, they start to decline. He spoke of the need to be Growth oriented because that way, you keep going.

I have lone been a proponent of setting goals and having action plans to achieve them. Interesting, as I reach or even get close to reaching my goals, I set new ones. This might be the step some people make. Always keep setting new goals.

This is the way I can be both Growth and Goal Oriented.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Nine Ways to Beat Procrastination

I have been in the warehouse since early today. Good that it is cooler out.

I recently published an article on procrastination. One reader suggested a 10th point so I added her feedback.

Nine Ways to Beat Procrastination

I am a student of Time Management and a big part of time management is beating procrastination. We all procrastinate, even those of us who pride ourselves in having good time management skills.

From my studies, I have come up with nine proven ways to beat procrastination.

Do the worst task first: I have used this technique for years and I have even created more than one first thing. There is first thing in the morning, there is first thing in the after lunch, and there is first thing in the evening. I take a look at the items on my To Do List and figure out which one I am dreading the most and spend a limited time on it at least moving it forward. This is known as, swallowing the frog first thing and the rest of the day looks good.

Break it down: Often the reason that we procrastinate is because the task ahead of us is too big. Often there are small parts of the task that can be done. How do you climb a mountain? One step at a time.

Use a friend: I wasn't actually referring to delegation (but of course I don't mind that either), I was referring to tell a friend what you want to do and get them to help you start the task. Often it is the act of starting a task that is enough to get the task done.

Do the pleasant part of the task: Often many distasteful and large jobs have some parts to it that are not particular distasteful. Do them so at least you are moving forward on your most important items.

Fifteen (15) minutes: Just spend 15 minutes on a task. I have the attitude that I can spend 15 minutes doing virtually anything and I can certainly survive spending 15 minutes on something. Often by spending the 15 minutes on a task, I either complete it or I will get it moved forward enough that it has momentum to finish.

Track it: The simple act of tracking process on a goal is often enough to keep the goal moving forward. It seems odd but simply knowing that you are going to write down whether or not you have done something is often enough to make you move forward.

Reward or punish: The reason we do something is because it is more painful than not doing something, so if we can make a task more rewarding or more painful, then we tend to move forward on things so tying successful completion of a task to a reward is often a successful technique.

Use matras, One of my favourite is "successful people do tough things". I want to be a success so this drives me to get started.

Develop success habits. If something is a habit, it happens naturally. Deliberately plan systems to support successful habits. Decide what habits you want and do them.

Remember that even successful people occasionally procrastinate. It is not a permanent condition. Just do it - it is usually not as bad as you think.

And the reader point:

10. Know yourself, know the team:
Sometimes, the procrastination is caused by the overcommitted schedule. Thus, the reasonable timeline is very important. To make out the reasonable timetable, we need to "know ourself and know the team". That is to say, know the productivity. Also, when a unreasonable milestone is expected by the boss or the customers, we should have the braveness(also the evidences) to say "No, it can not be" - maybe in a moderate expression but the attitude should be clear. Also, it was suggested that throwing out your alternative plan when saying No. Reasonable schedule is the base of avoiding procrastination, also of avoiding frustrating the yourself/customer/team/boss. It benefits all the stakeholders finally.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007


Today, I went to one of my best friend's Steve Spicer's funeral. There was a story in the Record about him. Tough day.

Last week I met with a couple of YPO friends from Zimbabwe. They own a food distribution business. The government has seized their warehouse and is forcing them to sell at half their cost (see story) in an attempt to curb the rampant inflation. They have also jailed their senior executives. Of course, this results in losses that will likely force them out of business causing Zimbabwe to lose valuable entrepreneurs.

So what do these 2 things have in common? Possibly they give me perspective. I have challenges but they are small compared to what others face.

Sunday, July 08, 2007

Steve Spicer

I was saddened by the death of my good friend, Steve Spicer. He was the founder of Spicer Corporation and Printeron. He was 46. Very tragic.

From the KW Record:

(Jul 7, 2007) -- SPICER, Steven - Suddenly, at his residence in Kitchener, Ontario, on Thursday, July 5, 2007 at age 46. Beloved son of Louise Spicer and the late Dalton Spicer (2005). Loving brother of Lynn Hammett and her husband Richard. Loved uncle of Ellen, Claire, Marion and Jack. Dear nephew of Katrina MacAloney, Verna Hatfield (Glendon), Isabelle Doyle (Robert) and Marvis McNair. Also predeceased by his uncle, John Parkes (2006). Mr. Spicer was President and C.E.O. of Spicer Corporation and Printeron. He was an avid hunter and was a member of Y.P.O the Young Presidents Organization. Mr. Spicer was a driving force in the technology community for the past 25 years. His innovation and drive will be sadly missed. Friends are invited to visit the family at the H.L. Cudney Funeral Home , 241 West Main Street, Welland, on Monday, July 9, 2007 from 7 - 9 p.m. and Tuesday, July 10, 2007 from 1 p.m. until the time of the funeral service at 3 p.m. in the Cudney Chapel conducted by Reverend Graham Thorpe. Interment will follow in Pleasantview Memorial Gardens. As expressions of sympathy, memorial donations to the Alzheimer Society or the charity of your choice would be greatly appreciated by the family.

Steve was very serious (like me). His fastidious nature caused him a lot of stress in life. He so much wanted his business to succeed and was stressed when things were not perfect. Although he was serious, he did often do adventure trips. His adventures were mostly hunting trips.

Things like this make me realize how mortal we are.

Live in the present.