If it is too hard—you are doing it wrong!

When obstacles are a sign that you need to change your approach

I feel it is too hard for me to achieve this

— You are so desperately focused on your road to success, that you stay blind for the shortcuts that come up all the time. Ignoring power-ups on the way makes every journey harder than it should be. Relax into meandering towards your goals instead of fiercely chasing them and everything will fall into place.

But it is still too hard!

— Aiming for the mountain summit you may have lost your way to the starting line — break down the target into smaller chunks that look achievable and easy. The ease of the steps will suck you through a funnel leading to your goal.

But it is still too damn hard with all the work that I have to do

— Do you really have to do it all? Do a 80/20 analysis until you get to the single most important task that needs to be done. Then do it. Discard the rest.

But it is impossible, when you don’t know/don’t have/can’t

— Don’t be paralysed by what seems to be a “lack of resources”. This “lack” is your advantage, because it can make you think. What can you do with the means already available to you?

But it is still hard for me to decide

— You are being irrational if you can’t choose between two or more alternatives. Making decisions is making progress. Don’t waste your time studying cognitive biases and irrationalities. Eradicate them from your decision making process by applying Goldratt’s evaporating cloud instead.

The law of reversed effort

“When you try to stay on the surface of the water, you sink; but when you try to sink, you float”

—Alan Watts

The “the law of reversed effort”, a.k.a. “backwards law” states the following:
“The harder we try with the conscious will to do something, the less we shall succeed”

In other words: your effort to “succeed” by making “everything right” may be have been the biggest obstacle to your success to date.

The law of reversed effort in action

Recently, a yet-to-become-client-of-ours complained from the terrible customer service provided by one of our competitors. The competing product that he was using, as every piece of software, had bugs. But the problems created by the bugs turned out to be critical for the client.

He contacted the developers and pointed out the flaws in their software. The sole reason for this was he was searching for solutions. The bugs in their software caused him a drop of 85% of his daily revenue. A week later he received an answer:

“Dear, we can fix the bugs that you pointed out, just for you. This will cost $70″

The missed opportunity

Instead of killing two birds with one stone — fixing the bugs and improving the product for all other users — the developers asked for money.

The most important reason, for you not to demand payment for bug fixing your own product, is that your product is your asset. Improving the product you improve the experience for all future clients of yours.

Trying to increase revenue, the before mentioned developers probably work on creating new products. This makes the work on the older ones seem less important. And because they don’t view their existing products as assets, and therefore an advantage, taking the time to fix a problem in their own code is deemed as a “waste of time”.

As a result of that kind of thinking, they demanded the work on improving their assets to be paid.

“The hourly mindset” towards work—”I do this and you pay mе $XX for the time I took me” just doesn’t work in the world of asset building. Instead, it makes sense for a developer, who is selling a product, to think like an investor: “I put my time in this and the investment grows and pays back over time”.

What happened with the client?

Desperate from the delay and the contents of the response, as many before, he left them. And switched to our product.

Instead of having “increase our revenue now” as a direct goal, we have prioritised the improvement of the asset higher. Because the asset/the product is what brings actual revenue in the long run. And product improvement requires improving the experience for its users — our clients.

Improving the product experience is not only product design and bug fixing alone. It means that we “waste our time” answering pre- and post-sale questions; we fix bugs in our software quickly and for free(this is valuable to the both parties after all). As a result our clients are not just users of our product. They become raving fans of our customer support service and they praise it as much as they praise the product itself.

What follows from the above?

Not only the goal, but the means through which you achieve it matter, too.

Follow your business goals, but don’t go after them so fiercely. This way one morning you will wake up in a place surpassing even your wildest dreams.

Обратен ефект

Старанието ви да направите всичко “както смятате, че трябва” и да “успеете”, може да е било най-голямата ви пречка към успеха до сега.

“Когато се опиташ да стоиш на повърхността на водата потъваш, но когато се опиташ да потънеш изплуваш.”

—Алън Уотс

“Обратният закон”, още познат като “законът за противопосочните усилия” гласи следното:

“Колкото повече съзнателно се опитваме да постигнем нещо, толкова по-трудно ще успеем.”

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Procrastination Sans

How your feelings and habits fuel your procrastination

Why do we procrastinate on doing things? We think that “it is not the right moment to do this” or “I am not ready for this”. These are all manifestations of the high quality standard that we impose on ourselves.

The desired result from completing a task becomes our identity. We have become attached to the outcome because we want only the best for ourselves, hence we want the best result. A painful sign of perfectionism.

Facing a task with high quality standards we may never get to complete it. How often are “the planets in perfect alignment”? Having high requirements may never get us to the ideal time when the task can happen. After all the chance of having all the ideal circumstances, especially if we have defined them in great detail as requirements, is next to none.

It gets even worse when we put our feelings in, as a pre-requisite: “I have to be motivated in order to do this, but I don’t feel motivated now”.

Motivation

Motivation is a feeling. Like such, it is not under our control.

We believe that we always have to feel a certain way in order to complete a certain task. This belief only adds an unrealistic item to the list of requirements for starting and further lessens the chance of even beginning to work on the job.

If we ditch the belief, that we need a certain feeling for a certain type of job that needs to be done, we give the task a chance to happen in spite of us as a factor. To do this we must change the habits associated with execution. The cue that leads us to execute, to be precise.

Anatomy of a habit

A habit consists of 4 parts: cue, action, reward and desire for the reward. The first three are essential, but the fourth is what gets you moving trough the chain.

The desire for the reward is what makes us, upon receiving a certain cue to perform a certain action. For example:

“It is sunny outside(cue) so I will take a walk in the park(action) because walks in the park make me feel good(reward) and I want to feel good(desire for the reward).”

Can you guess where we are heading with this?

The habit, that you have formed, for achieving the task that you are postponing relies on a variable that you have no control of, yet you want it to happen in a certain moment. What if the time has come but the incontrollable variable signals “it is not the time”?

Lets assume that you have the task of “cleaning the living room”. This is the routine action that will lead you to the reward that you actually desire—”to live in a clean living room, because it makes you feel better”. If the requirement for cleaning the room is “I have to feel motivated to do it” then motivation, among others is now part of your cue. Now, cleaning, when relies on feeling to be started, is a lot less likely to happen. If you are not a housewife who gets insane when she sees dust(“dust” is her cue), which of these two has the bigger chance of happening:

  • I have the desire to clean the living room -> I clean the living room -> I feel good in a clean living room

or

  • I clean the living room every Sunday. Today is Sunday -> I clean the living room -> I feel good in a clean living room

Procrastination – Motivation = Results

Feelings are transient, but for most of our goals to happen we need consistent results. To achieve them we need to regularly put in effort. That’s the reason why many great writers have set daily quantitive goals (“3 hours of writing before work”, “2 pages of shitty drafts before breakfast”) instead of quality related ones. This way they have turned their goals in routine actions so as to remove the dependancy on feelings. There is no place for feelings when something has to happen regularly. “I don’t feel like the sun will set today” sounds absurd, doesn’t it?

This, of course, does not imply that to fight procrastination you have do the thing you postpone every day. In fact braking down a big goal into a small daily habit can be an useful approach, but that is not the point here.

To get over procrastination you just have to accept that you don’t need the feeling of “motivation” as a cue for action. Change the requirements instead. Find a time when this task has to be done and do it. Accept your lack of motivation or lack of the desire as the trigger for starting. “When I am not in the mood for cleaning the living room(I am not motivated) I will do it, so that I can enjoy the cleanliness after that”.

Still having trouble starting? Begin with just 5 minutes of work or use the famous (10+2)*5 productivity hack, which focuses you on working, not on feeling.

Further reading: “The Power of Habit” and “The Antidote”