Category Archives for "Uncategorized"

1 You Stink at Goal Setting


How are your New Year’s resolutions coming along? Still going strong? If you’re like most people, the answer is a sheepish “No”. How does that make you feel? Disappointed? Frustrated? Embarrassed?

All too often, I think we try to “reach for the stars” and “aim high” when in reality our goals should be more along the lines of “reach for the ceiling” and “aim slightly above the horizon”. This causes us to fail. And if we fail too often, we run the risk of becoming demotivated.

The Solution

Last summer I had the opportunity to participate in a training program led by BJ Fogg. BJ founded the Persuasive Technology Lab at Stanford where he conducts research into how technology can help us to modify our behavior. He has developed a Behavior Model that shows how each type of behavioral change should be addressed.

What I learned was that we need to use different behavior modification techniques based on the type of change we’re trying to make. Are you trying to stop a behavior? Start a new behavior? Resume a familiar behavior? Increase an existing behavior? Do you have a short-term goal you’re trying to achieve or is your intention to make a more permanent change? You’ll need to take a slightly different approach for each situation.

Here’s an example. Saying something like, “I’m going to exercise three times a week” is likely to be a failure from the start. Have you ever exercised three times per week before and you just need to get back on track, or is this a new behavior for you? Do you intend to do this for the rest of your life, or just for the next 90 days? Unless you know this, you probably won’t put the right strategy in place in order to be successful.

The “Tiny Habits” Technique

I can’t go into all the details of BJ’s research here, but I’ll share one simple technique that you can implement today to begin the process of reaching your goals, so grab a piece of paper and a pencil.

First, think of three goals that you’ve had on your mind (e.g., “I want to start exercising”, or “I want to learn to play the guitar”). Now, you need to convert this goal into a tiny, realistic habit that you can implement today with minimum effort. BJ calls these “tiny habits”. In order for something to qualify as a “tiny habit” you need to be able to do it in less than 30 seconds with zero pain, so saying “I’m going to do 50 pushups” doesn’t qualify as a “tiny habit”.

Next, you’ll need to tie your new tiny habit to a trigger, a habit you already have such as eating, sleeping, getting dressed, etc. Here are some examples of good connections:

As soon as I finish brushing my teeth, I will floss one tooth.
As soon as I finish eating dinner, I will play one chord on my guitar.
As soon as I get out of the shower, I will do one pushup.

Try to follow the format of, “As soon as I finish [current habit], then I will [tiny habit].”

Finally, celebrate. As soon as you complete your tiny habit, put your hands in the air and cheer for reaching your goal. When you finish playing that one guitar chord after dinner, say, “I’m awesome!” When you’re sitting in a meeting at work and you recall that you flossed one tooth that morning, smile to yourself and think about how you’re that much closer to reaching your big goal. It sounds silly, but this final step is important. Your body needs to physically feel the satisfaction that comes with having this tiny habit in place. It improves your motivation and helps to solidify the habit.

Implementing these tiny habits has been hugely valuable as I’ve tried to make important changes in my own life, and I think it could be valuable to you too. Once the habits are in place, then you simply need to modify them over time. Now, instead of starting a new behavior, you’re simply extending an existing behavior, which is much less burdensome. (BJ has built an interactive Behavior Wizard if you want to dig a bit deeper.)

What do you think of the concept? Have you tried something similar? I’d love to hear about your experiences putting some tiny habits in place.

Capitalism’s Achilles Heel

A few years back I read an article on Forbes that significantly altered my perspective in relation to how we measure business success. I can’t do the article justice here, (you really need to read it, it will change your perspective,) but suffice it to say that we’ve gotten ourselves into a dangerous habit.

In the United States (and many other countries) we’ve begun measuring business performance through the ability to maximize shareholder returns. This is absolutely the wrong metric. Focusing too much on quarterly growth and meeting analyst projections causes companies to think in terms of short-term gains, which often come at the expense of long-term real growth. In fact, Jack Welch himself said: 

On the face of it, shareholder value is the dumbest idea in the world. Shareholder value is a result, not a strategy… your main constituencies are your employees, your customers and your products. Managers and investors should not set share price increases as their overarching goal. […] Short-term profits should be allied with an increase in the long-term value of a company.

Instead, companies should be focusing on improving the lives of everyone they touch. One company that is doing a fantastic job of this is Johnson & Johnson. Their Credo (PDF) clearly states that they serve their customers, their employees, their communities, and their shareholders (in that order).

As companies focus their efforts on providing delightful experiences to their customers, their employees benefit through improved compensation and job satisfaction, their communities benefit through the improved quality of life of their citizens, and finally their shareholders benefit through fair, sustainable growth. 

Capitalism is the most effective weapon we have available to fight the ills of society (e.g., poverty, hunger, lack of education, etc.), but that weapon is currently being misused. 

What are your thoughts? 

P.S. I would love to see the development of a new “Net Stakeholder Contribution” metric that would allow companies to justify serving all stakeholders rather than just their investors. Any suggestions as to how that could be calculated?

Living in the Future

How much more innovation can there be? 

Sometimes it feels like we’ve already broken down most of the technological hurdles. If you can imagine something, you can probably build it. 

Looking back through history, organizations were hampered by very limited transportation and communication options. Those barriers have largely been demolished. If I need to transport something from one place to another, I can send it by truck, train, airplane, or ship. I might even be able to fax or email it to its intended destination instantaneously.

Currently, our biggest challenges seem to relate to medicine and education, but hordes of brilliant people are working feverishly to solve those problems as well. We’ve already mapped human DNA (and that of several animals). We’ve got powerful computers processing tremendous amounts of data looking for correlations that humans could never perceive, and determining unique treatments that people would never invent independently. And new startups and MOOCs (?) are revolutionizing the education process. We’ve pretty much wrapped up those problems. 

Of course I hope you can tell that I’m being a bit facetious. We’re clearly a long way from having solved all of these problems, but how far are we really? 

John Adams, in a 1780 letter to his wife, stated that:

The science of government it is my duty to study, more than all other sciences; the arts of legislation and administration and negotiation ought to take the place of, indeed exclude, in a manner, all other arts. I must study politics and war, that our sons may have liberty to study mathematics and philosophy. Our sons ought to study mathematics and philosophy, geography, natural history and naval architecture, navigation, commerce and agriculture in order to give their children a right to study painting, poetry, music, architecture, statuary, tapestry and porcelain.

It feels to me like we’ve spent the past several decades studying mathematics, geography, natural history, agriculture, and commerce (at least in the United States). And if you believe Seth Godin, we’re moving in to a period of time where the people that really create value will be the artists, the architects, the poets and painters and musicians. Is this the next natural step as we become bored with technology and science? 

The Social Value of Capitalism

I’m very interested in the idea of free markets and whether or not capitalism is the best process for improving the world around us. 

As humans, we hate to feel pain or discomfort. Any time we’re not happy with something, we seek relief. It’s human nature. Cultures are the same. As soon as discomfort enters the picture, someone gets to work looking for a solution. 

When men lived in caves, our primary concern was finding food. Whoever killed an animal had bargaining power and could obtain other things they needed in exchange for some meat. As soon as finding food ceased to be the biggest problem, people began looking for solutions to the biggest remainingproblem. You know, Maslow and all that.

Capitalism is nothing more than a continuation of this same progression. Your biggest problem in life is that you can’t get a good job, so you pay someone to teach you. Now you’re educated, so that pain is behind you but you need a way to get to your new job, so you buy a car. And so forth. It’s a fair exchange. You want the car more than you want to keep your money, and the car dealer wants your money more than he needs that particular car. Everyone is happy. 

Is capitalism perfect? Absolutely not. But I think it’s the best option we have for accomplishing social goals. 

I really want to hear your thoughts on this one. What part do you disagree with?

CRM Encompasses Everything

I’m currently studying Customer Relationship Management (CRM) and it has significantly altered my perspective on business operations. Marketing is no longer a silo, it’s simply one branch of CRM. Engineering is another branch. Accounting another. 

It’s critical to keep in mind that every single thing a business does should revolve around the customer (or, stated more accurately, everything revolves around the direct & indirect beneficiaries, including vendors, partners, shareholders, etc.). 

If you keep this perspective, then the strategic decisions evolve much more organically and you don’t have to pay as much attention to what your competitors are doing because you’re focused on serving your customers. 

Stop and think, “What value does accounting add to the customer experience? What value do the programmers add? What value do the salespeople add?”

Buy Good Things

This really resonates with me. I think our culture has become so accustomed to running to Walmart and stocking up on cheaply made junk, that we forget there’s another way. What do you think?

Productivity Via Discomfort

I’ve been learning two very important skills for the last few months, and I’d like to share them. Hopefully you’ll find them useful. 

#1: Be a Perpetual Learner

Don’t get caught up trying to look like you’re an expert. People love to be recognized for their expertise, and for the most part, people like helping others. Don’t be afraid to ask someone to share their expertise. 

#2: Just Get on the Phone

There is tremendous value in just picking up the phone and getting things done. Sometimes it’s awkward, but the discomfort fades quickly, replaced by the satisfaction that I’ve accomplished something important.

As I’ve worked to get my startup off the ground, I’ve implemented these principles countless times. I’ve found that one of the most productive and motivating things I can do in a day is to pick up the phone, call someone I hardly know, and say: 

Hey, I hear you’re an expert with [topic] and I’m just starting to learn about it. Mind if I pick your brain for a few minutes? I’ll take you to lunch if you’d like.

What have you been getting better at lately?

Renting Culture

Will we actually own anything in the future.

We don’t buy movies any more, we just stream them through Netflix. 

We don’t buy music any more. We just rent access to our favorite tracks through iTunes or Google Play or we stream them through Spotify/Rdio/Grooveshark. 

We don’t buy books any more, we just pay to access Kindle versions.

We don’t buy hard drives anymore, all our data is stored in “the cloud” (e.g., Google Docs, Dropbox, Bitcasa, etc.).

Don’t feel like dropping hundreds or thousands of dollars on your next laptop? Just rent a Chromebook. 

Don’t feel like buying razors, just subscribe to the Dollar Shave Club. 

Don’t want to buy underwear? Subscribe to Manpacks. 

I believe that this trend will continue. Renting gives us most of the benefits of ownership (e.g., access on demand) without the downsides (i.e., management, maintenance, effort, etc.). 

More and more we’ll rent our homes so we don’t have to worry about maintenance. Instead of purchasing clothes that will just wear out and go out of style, we’ll have them shipped to us, wear them a couple of times, and ship them back. We’ll subscribe to food delivery services instead of buying groceries. 

We’re quickly becoming a culture that doesn’t need value ownership. Maybe it’s because our tastes change too quickly. Maybe it’s because we no longer rely on owning things for self validation. I’m not sure whether that’s a good or bad thing, but I do think it’s a thing. 

What are your thoughts? Am I wrong?