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70% of New Businesses Fail…so what?

You may have heard the statistic that 70-80% of all new businesses fail within the first 5 years. This statistic is meant to act is a deterrent for you to venture out and experiment on your own.

The unstated fact remains that while 70% of new businesses may fail within the first five years, but do 70% of business owners fail? The answer is: no.

For most business owners, the failure of the business is not tied to their own personal failure. From my own personal experience running small experiments and a small start-up subscription box company a little over a year back, I can definitely say that while those business ideas failed to take off, I learned more about how business is done from those few experiments than I had from my 4 years of undergrad. It also cost me significantly less.

From talking with hundreds of entrepreneurs in my current role, I can confidently say that while many of them have had businesses that have failed, none of them have taken it personally. The lessons have been invaluable in growing their next venture.

Steve Pavlina puts it another way:

While a business or a job may cease to endure after a certain number of years, that doesn’t mean it wasn’t worth doing. You’re still going to learn and grow and create value along the way, regardless of the outcome. Just as a job can be a stepping stone, so can a business, and there’s no reason you can’t start a new business with the expectation that it’s only temporary. Jobs and businesses come and go. Your own personal growth is what endures. (source)

Do not let statistics deter your desire to experiment and try out new things. The failure of an idea or process is not the failure of the person. It is most likely a massive success in growth.

 

Building Momentum

movement

I’ve been experimenting with different success strategies and I’d like to share one that seems to have a great yield for me: Momentum.

In a nutshell, here it is: the best way to beat procrastination, get more out of life, etc is to build momentum by doing ANYTHING that is productive.

Pick just one super small productive thing you can do and do it. That’s it.

The fact is that action is the greatest buster of procrastination and lack of excellence out there. Sometimes the action in front of us can appear too big. Like moving a 3,000 lb car. If there’s no gas in the car, pushing it will get you no where fast. And then we usually beat ourselves up about it.

Instead, if we just started to walk instead, or get on our bikes, we can start building momentum. It won’t go far, but the feeling of movement is enough.

I often struggled with procrastination. I have tried many tactics to help me get out of it. I have tried to make lists, I have tried to discipline myself, I’ve even tried to make the task appear as small as it does.

That’s the reason why picking a super small productive task is often enough. Momentum builds and before you know it, you’ve moved from one productive task to another. The most important thing is to maintain the momentum. Don’t pause, don’t wait. Just keep moving.

If you finish the first task, and you wait to move onto the second task, the mind will start suggesting ideas such as “let’s just lie on the bed for a few moments” or “let me just take a quick peak at my phone.”

No, don’t.

Instead, just do something super small with the next task. And then something small again. Momentum.

Chances are you’ve done all the intellectual thinking and worrying about what you need to do. Chances are the only thing that needs to happen is to take action. Large tasks, projects, etc take too much out of us. We need a full tank of gas to move. Momentum built through taking action (no matter how small) becomes the fuel that can end up powering the heavy tasks we need to get done.

Confused? Found this useful? Found this half-baked? Found this helpful? Leave a comment below to share your insights/refinements/questions.

 

A look back at 2014 and A look ahead to 2015

2014 has been a good year and I wanted to review some progress I have made, some stumbling blocks, and discuss a few things I would like to accomplish in 2015.

Social Assertiveness
Perhaps the most significant change in 2014 has been a growth in my assertiveness. I have been perhaps my own harshest critic. I used to beat myself up (not literally) over my mistakes, my shortfalls, and every time I would fail at something such as resisting junk food, candy, etc. In many ways, it was like carrying a bat around with me and hitting myself over every thing I did wrong. However, I never expected the people around me to live up to a certain standard as well.

This last year changed that. I have gone from being a bit of a pushover, to the other side where I demand more from others as well. Perhaps a bit too much. I have had people tell me that I can come across as abrasive, rude, and offensive. I am fine with this, because the pendulum had swung too far in the other direction where I would stretch myself too thin for others and risk my own happiness. Asserting myself, leading from a place of honesty (even if it hurts), and asking for more from others have been ways to develop my internal power.

I shall now work towards striking a balance. However, going from one polar to another with this issue has been immensely helpful in my growth this past year. I am still going to approach from a place of honest and forthright intentions, especially when it comes to meeting women and relationships. It has been easier for me to move on if the compatibility is not there. This confidence and ability to weather rejected has undoubtedly been a positive thing.

Social Media
I quit Facebook in the fall of 2013, and I have been able to stay off it all this year. I have also quit Instagram, but have been struggling with Snapchat. I expect that I will continue down this path of removing “social” media type connections, and moving towards more actual social connections. This includes using my phone less, YouTube less, and less random internet browsing. Ironically, here is a sketch on YouTube that highlights how big of a problem this has become:

And here is a recent article in New York Magazine about our addiction to the validation wagon of social media. I have perhaps noticed this most when I have gone out with girls (one instance of that posted here). People are having a hard time being with another human being where they have to make an effort to be social, when the quick validation from a selfie (by say a pretty girl) is enough for them to feel they got their social fix.

Men are not immune to this of course. I have been with many buddies who are quick to reply to every single message they get on their phones, even during important one-on-one conversations. I am guilty of this as well, and I shall be working on this.

It is not enough to remove this habit of course. I have to fill it with something. I want to spend 2015 actively cultivating more rich in-person relationships with people. To meet new people again who I want to get to know. This is remarkably difficult after university where spontaneous meetings with new people are a lot easier. I will undoubtedly have to grow well past my comfort zone and actively go after social activities where I can do this. I am most looking forward to this area in my life.

Health & Fitness
This has been another area of positive growth. I started off the year being a raw vegan, eating a high carb low fat diet. I soon could not eat enough fruit to stay full during the day. I then transitioned to a cooked diet with very little fat (no oil at all) based in starches (still completely vegan). I came to this place after much reading. I am grateful I finally have a eating pattern that is easy to maintain, fills me with a lot of energy, and keeps me in shape. I started the journey by reading The China Study (the largest epidemiological study of nutrition), Forks Over Knives, The 80/10/10 Diet (which put me on the raw vegan path) and The Starch Solution by John McDougall (which finally helped me eat cooked foods again, while keeping the right macros). There are many other books/articles I am probably omitting, but this has been a good place of growth for me. I have experimented and failed at my approaches to diet and nutrition over the last 3-4 years, but the entire picture makes sense to me now.

In terms of fitness, I started the year doing crazy 6-day workouts in a week with programs like Insanity by Shaun T from 2013, but I have since transitioned towards more HIIT over fewer days in a week. I am currently working out 3 days/week, and I am satisfied there. I have finally come to the acceptance that exercise and fitness is something that will happen over my entire life. Programs such as Insanity, P90X, etc are 30/60/90 day programs, and I would always fall off the wagon with them. I was trying too hard to turn my fitness around in 30-90 days at a time. That sort of mindset was destructive as it made me think that fitness was a destination, not an on-going practice.

I experimented with going to the gym, but I have since found that working out at the home is the best option for me. I save a tremendous amount of time a week this way, and I have a lot more flexibility at when I can work out.

I expect to have the greatest gains in health and fitness during 2015 now that I have a sustainable and consistent path to follow. I would like to re-introduce yoga into the mix, because I really enjoy it tremendously.

Misc
I now only shave with a straight razor. James Bond style. It had a steeper learning curve, and there were many many cuts in the first few weeks, but I wouldn’t shave any other way.
There is a major life-altering goal I will start working on near the end of 2015, but I expect that to unravel in its own way.
I experimented a lot with side projects in 2013 such as the children’s education subscription box business The Travelling Monk (which got some great reviews and great customer traction). I did not pursue anything of that sort in 2014, but these side projects really added a lot of zest to life and really helped me grow. I expect 2015 to have more side projects to keep me busy.

How have you grown this last year and what are your areas of focus for the upcoming year? Any comments/criticism/questions about what I shared above? Share below! And don’t forget to subscribe to this website.

How to Deal with the Frustration of Not Getting Enough Done

I’ve tried it all. Timeboxing, GTD (this is fantastic!), Triaging, priority lists, to-do lists, the pomodoro technique, visualization, a list of only 2-3 things I want to get done, etc etc.

But sometimes, no matter what, I just can’t get into action. And then I stay up late into the night wondering why I can’t seem to get it done. What’s wrong with me. How much I am disappointing myself and others, etc etc. I just can’t seem to get things done. It’s not a good feeling. Maybe you can relate. Most people I know do. So here is something that has worked for me. Maybe it will help you as well.

The basic idea is this: Feel what you’re feeling when you’re feeling it, and to not feel what you’re not feeling when you’re not feeling it.

“Huh?”

Let me explain. I don’t mean to go all Eckhart Tolle on you, but whatever. If it helps, like it has for me, this can be a huge gain for you when it comes to productivity and getting things done.

Walk through this activity with me. It will help.

Think of something you absolutely need to be doing. A tangible action step that you need to take. I am assuming you’re stuck at the place where you’ve broken down what you need to get done into smaller do-able pieces. If not, then that’s the first thing you need to do. Can’t do it? Great! Use this process for the task of making a task list.

As you think about doing this task, keep sitting. Stay with me here.

A lot of things will start happening now. Maybe it will be a sensation in your stomach or chest. Maybe your mind will flood with opening a new tab and just checking in with something else. Reaching for your phone. Oh, and that other thing you need to get done. Yeah…all this and more. Just welcome it. Don’t fight it. Just let it be there.

Yes, even the feeling of push. What you resist persists. And if you’re feeling like resisting, then welcome that as well. Welcome more stuff. All the crappy stuff. I’m-not-good-enough. Why-can’t-I-get-this-done. The sensations, pictures, and sounds associated with it. Just sit with it. Welcome it. Don’t fight it. It hasn’t worked. A part of you still wants to fight, in which case welcome it.

Observe it all doing its thing. Any other discomfort. Squirming to get away from this. To do something, ANYTHING else but to experience this. Welcome that pain/unease.

Welcome it all.

And then, ask yourself if you could, would you be able to let it go? Lead with your gut. if the answer is yes or no, or nothing, or whatever, just be honest and say it. Then, ask yourself
Would you let it go then?
When?

Keep asking yourself the could you/would you/when until it’s out. To be honest, it’s taken be 4-5 minutes on really big issues before, and sometimes only 1-2 minutes on something simple I’ve been resisting.

Once you do this, you will feel such an incredible sense of lightness and space that it will be easy to get stuff done.

The most I’ve resisted the discomfort in starting something, the more it has persisted, and the more it has not made me move, the more it’s made me procrastinate, the more it’s made me frustrated. I hated myself in those moments. Now, I just let myself feel it all. Get it all out. Not fight. Welcome. This has been a mistake.

And then, when I pick up a book, or listen to some music, or watch something, my mind is still half in the task. This is an example of me breaking the rule of feeling something when I’m feeling it, and not feeling what I’m not feeling when I’m not feeling it. My mind is in two places. It scatters attention. It makes things tough. I don’t end up enjoying what I’m doing because of the guilt.

Now, I just let it dance out.

Despite how illogical this all sounds, it has helped me deal with the frustration of not getting enough done. Hopefully, it helps you as well.

Get into action!

Leave a comment if it helps you, or share a way that has helped you get into action.

The Solution to Boredom

I used to be hooked on Facebook. And Buzzfeed, and a whole bunch of other sites. At the slightest amount of boredom, my phone would pop right out and I would start reading something, checking something out (or someone out) on social media, etc.
I tried to quit Facebook many times. I was inspired by Steve Pavlina’s excellent post on this topic (click here), until one day it just clicked. I have been off Facebook since late August 2013, and don’t miss it.

I substituted it with other things. Quora, reddit, etc became the new things I would check out or read. After all, I believed, that I’m better than others because I’m doing more intellectual things. I’m increasing my knowledge. This must make me a better person.

Nope. Interestingly enough, consuming content still did nothing to get rid of the unsatisfied feeling. Kind of like eating a bag of chips and not having a real meal. I was just going through empty calories. And what did I do to make that increasingly unsatisfied feeling go away? I’d just go through more empty calories. I’d keep reading another site, I’d open another tab. And the feeling intensified. It was a downward spiral.

Now, this is nothing that big. This sort of downward spiral doesn’t put you on the streets as other addictions might. But this is definitely something worth thinking about a bit more.

Michael Crowley writes about this in (this somewhat dated) New Republic article (via Ben Casnocha “In Defense of Boredom”):

Turning off the BlackBerry and just looking out the window feels like an act of spiritual emancipation. And perhaps only one of Amtrak’s famous delays can help me achieve the “profound boredom” that Heidegger recommended for its clarifying power.

Granted, few of us are likely to have blinding existential insights just because we’re out of BlackBerry service range. For me, boredom tends to produce ruminations more along the lines of whether I should move to a new apartment. But it’s a start. In this moment of anti-boredom triumphalism, there’s something creepy about our constant flight from ourselves. Our fear of boredom suggests a kind of self-loathing. What are we so afraid of?

What are so we afraid of after all? A sort of dread enters when I get bored. But I also didn’t want to keep reading more things and not doing anything with it.

So here’s what I propose: Instead of using boredom as a means to start CONSUMING content (or food, or whatever), use it to CREATE content (or food, or whatever). Take the most exciting idea you have in your mind, and then take one tangible action in order to create it. You can certainly do it with your list of to-dos or shoot off some work/school email, but acting on your most exciting idea will yield a better return for you. The momentum of such action will be like an ice-bath to your puny boredom compared to the tepid waters of doing something from your to-do list. You’re actually MORE likely to effectively get things done even from your boring to-do list this way.

I have found this to be the most potent solution to boredom so far. Agree, disagree, share your comments below. And if you think this idea was valuable, considering sharing it.

2014 Focuses/2013 Review

This year, I have been fortunate enough to have a much more heightened awareness and clarity. I can’t tell you how good it feels to have that after floundering around.

I have become fascinating listening to the I Love Marketing podcasts with Joe Polish and Dean Jackson. I used to love the subject of marketing back in high school and university. Through some negative experiences with certain teachers, and working in roles that were very rigid (and not lending itself to an experimental approach to acquiring, and developing relationships with customers), I was really put off by marketing. And when I transitioned to a new role after my NC13 experience (past post about this here) in the summer of 2013, I got good at it, but I felt a certain disconnect.

The selling process felt less than honest. The process was less about education and more about salesmanship. It’s strange to say this, but I’ve felt a greater sense of belonging and purpose about what I want to get extremely good at from one podcast than I did from many years at university, where I tried hard to chase prestige and status with the work I was doing. I feel home with the work I want to do now. I don’t feel two faced, I don’t feel like I’m struggling against an unbearable force of chasing success. I feel at play when I learn and study and try to implement the ideas of marketing that these guys teach. And so, for that, I want to thank them (I’m written a thank you note to them).

I’m using this idea on The Travelling Monk. This will be the one big focus area for this year. I truly believe that in this busy age, children and parents don’t get a chance to come together enough and share meaningful experiences that brings them closer to one another. That’s the gap that The Travelling Monk closes. We sent a prospecting email out the day before American Thanksgiving, and we were overwhelmed with the response. There is clearly a deep need for this out there, and I look forward to working with Shubh to help families, as well as using ethical marketing to share what we have to more people.

We’re redesigning the site and we have a much higher quality product in the pipeline. My goal is to reach 200 customers for our premium box priced at $100/month by end of March 2014. I think we can make it happen.

At the same time, I want to work with cool entrepreneurs and help them with the projects they’re working on. I’m reaching out to them and offering to do free work for them. I’d love to work with the entrepreneurs at Moon Express: a company that’s working to help take things out of the Earth’s orbit for things like mining and other space exploration. As a child, I wanted to be an astronaut. I might not make it out of the earth, but I can certainly help play a role in that.

I’m sure my career goals will change. But I think I have finally found the right talent that I want to develop: properly creating and maintaining relationships with customers through ethical marketing/selling/CRM speaks to me. I’m working on another idea as well for a business, but that will come later.

On a health level, I am going to continue with my transition to a fully raw vegan diet following the 80/10/10 principles (80% carbohydrates, 10% fat, 10% protein) as advocated by Dr. Doug Graham. I’m not perfect at it, and I still manage to eat one cooked meal/day, but cooked foods are having less and less of appeal for me. At the same time, I am debating to start the Insanity workout again, or stick with Matt Furey’s Combat Conditioning. I love doing just the 3 exercises that Matt Furey talks about, and I feel great about it, but I miss the intense sweating from Insanity. But one thing is for sure: in the past, I have struggled and forced to get myself to exercise. This years seems to be pretty effortless so far. Definitely a big gain from last year.

So that’s it: two big focuses for this year: growing my business(es) and working with interesting people doing interesting work, and improving my health.

What are your focuses going to be?

People will not help me

Most of us wish for a better life. We write down our goals, read books on how to make them happen, FORCE ourselves to take action and are basically cheerleading ourselves on. And we find ourselves stuck. As I think about reaching out and remaking my world, or at least getting some good direction and advice, I run ideas like: “But I have nothing to offer them. Why would they help me? I’m really lame and I won’t be worthy of their time.” Sound familiar?

But let’s dig in a little deeper.

This argument assumes two things:

1. You have nothing to offer these people in return (or you have offered nothing to them in the past)

2. People are intrinsically looking at this interaction as a cost-benefit calculation. That networking, schmoozing, etc is a zero sum game. A tab is kept somewhere.

From a mindset of scarcity, every single interaction needs to be adjusted for. Every debit must have a credit. However, that is not how the world works. You might have a lot to offer someone in currencies that you did not think about. If not financial, then maybe in terms of friendship, or some advice in an unrelated topic, or just a simple thanks and giving the person the satisfaction that they helped someone worthwhile. I think the latter is a great currency for people like me (young people) that don’t have much to offer back. The ability to show that you are a worthwhile person who will take the time and advice seriously of the other party is richly rewarding.

I know I have loved it when younger people in high school and middle school reach out to me asking me for advice or guidance. They do not always have something to give me, but it feels really rewarding to help them when they are sincere in their questions.

In a world of abundance (and this is a mindset we must adopt, I will post more about why later on), the idea that “people will not help me” just will not do. Once we transcend that, we realize that people are eager to help us move forward in our lives. And that in some way or another, we may give back as well, not from a place of obligation, but from a place of gratitude. We may not even need to give back to that person. The universe has a way of showing us another incident or another person that needs similar help to remind us to pay it forward.

So, banish this invisible script! Go out into the world with an abundance mindset. And give back from a place of gratitude and accept from a place of worthiness.