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In my post The 5 Factors of Success (My Success Equation), I presented the 5 factors that I found critical to success. Rather than just present these factors as a list, I put them together in an equation to help me visualize how much weight each factor has in achieving my goal. The equation follows:
( ( A ( PT + MA ) ) F ) P = S
- A = Accountability [link to anchor],
- PT = Power Thoughts [link to anchor],
- MA = Meaningful Action [link to anchor],
- F = Flow [link to anchor], and
- P = Persistence.
After I presented my 5 success factors, I provided a brief explanation of each. In this post, I’m going to break-down how each factor contributed to my goal of bringing Strength and Reason online.
Putting the 5 Factors Together
Here is an example of how my 5 factors came together in launching Strength and Reason. Honestly, I miscalculated the time and effort to get the blog launched.
Some tasks, like selecting and customizing a WordPress theme, took a lot longer than I thought because I made the task more complicated than necessary. In the end, I went with a simple theme that gave me almost everything I needed and went from there. Fancy is unnecessary.
Thanks to my success framework, I got Strength and Reason online for the world to see.
So, here we go.
For accountability, I took two courses. First, I told my GF that I was going to start a blog. Second, I committed to work on Strength and Reason for at least two hours every day. One hour to writing and one hour to getting the website set up.
To incentivize myself to work on the blog for two hours every day, I used Jerry Seinfeld’s Don’t Break the Chain method. This is a simple productivity trick where you just commit to do a little work on a project every day. As the days go by, you end up building a chain of days where you completed the task. The goal is to keep going so you don’t break the chain.
Most people recommend using a physical calendar where you cross off the days to provide a visual representation of the chain. Since, I use Org Mode for GNU Emacs for my TODO lists and project planning, I decided to incorporate the method into my already existing set up. I simply created two daily recurring tasks to write for one hour and work on building the blog for one hour and made sure to check them off every day.
Sure, my writing isn’t great right now. There was a time, however, when people complimented my writing. Rather than focus on the difficulty of writing those early blog posts, I focused on the fact that I was a half-way decent writer and would be again with practice.
Like T. Harv Eker recommended in Secrets of the Millionaire Mind[affiliate link]. I monitored my thoughts and banished anything unsupportive to negative thought hell. The only stories that I allowed to run through my head where those that focused on the incredible blog I was creating.
For example, when you look at all the blogs and all the published content on the Internet, negative thoughts can easily creep into your head. Why would anyone want to read my blog? How am I going to inform people I even have a blog? What if my content is terrible? All those questions snuck into my head at some point, not to mention having to deal with the ever-present imposter syndrome.
I undertook a lot of projects when I was a kid.1 The great thing about being a kid is that you aren’t so aware of failure. I dove into everything with the expectation that it would be a success. It wasn’t until I my indoctrination into the public-school system and later life as a cubicle zombie that the notion of failing even became something to me.
While working on Strength and Reason, I kept pushing my thoughts to that time when failure didn’t exist. Anytime a doubt crept into my head, I identified it and pushed it out.
When I started, I wrote down the list of tasks I thought were essential to getting Strength and Reason going. But I didn’t stop there. Every time I was ready to start a new task, I asked myself if Strength and Reason could exist without completing that task. If I answered “No, Strength and Reason cannot exist without my completing this task,” I started on it. If Strength and Reason could exist without my completing the task, I moved it to my later pile.
For example, I plan to put a resource page on the site where I list my favorite books and podcasts. Early on, making that page was on my list of essential tasks, When I got to that item, however, I realized that Strength and Reason could go live without it. So, I removed that task from my essential tasks list and moved on to another task.2
Meaningful action isn’t only refining your TODO list. We all know that the Internet is a fiery pit of evil and distraction. During those moments of weakness when the mental gremlins convinced me to check the hockey scores, I fought them off by again asking myself if reading about the Avalanche3 contributed to my goal. Invariably, it didn’t, so I got back to work.
Flow is where I had the hardest time. It’s a nasty little bugger. I rarely found flow in my cubicle zombie years so, I had almost forgotten what it feels like. Unfortunately, I don’t have a flow state faucet that I can just turn on at will. So, I experimented.
First, as I started writing, I visualized past flow states where I effortlessly churned out quality work.
Second, I listened to binaural beats. I’m not an expert on the science behind binaural beats, but they are auditory beats of different frequencies sent to the left and right ears through headphones. The idea is that as we listen to these beats, the brain produces certain brainwaves, each with a specific purpose. For example, delta waves lead to deep sleep and beta waves produce a state of focused attention.4
I don’t know if my brain ever produced any specific brainwaves, but listening to the binaural beats did help me drown out distractions. I found a great app in the Apple App Store called Brain Wave 35 Binaural Series. You can also find binaural beats on YouTube.
Finally, I changed my schedule. I used to lift weights first thing in the morning thinking that I would get the physically demanding part of my day done first, then spend the rest of the day working. I found, however, that lifting in the morning made it harder for me to focus on mentally intensive tasks later in the day.
As a result, I changed my schedule so that now I get up, grab a cup of coffee then get to work. The result is that I can get in a solid three to four hours of deep work, and drop into a flow state, in the morning. My productivity jumped ridiculously with this small change.
If you’re interested in the idea of deep work should check out Cal Newport’s book Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World[affiliate link].
As I mentioned above, when I started the Strength and Reason project, I committed to work on it at least 2 hours every day. And I did that. No matter how bad my writing, I stuck with it. Some days, I didn’t write one stinking word that found its way into the blog. Other days, I spent hours fiddling around with a WordPress theme that I ended up scrapping.
That’s OK. Doing the work, even work that ultimately ended up in the trash bin, was good practice and I learned a lot. Just more stones set down in the path to success.
In the End, I Have a Blog
Weeks of focusing on the 5 success factors led to three things:
- I got the Strength and Reason website online,
- I produced some actual content, and
- Writing is starting to get much easier.
My success formula isn’t a magical tool that will do the work for me, but it helped me get the blog you’re now reading onto the Internet.
1 I was that kid; the one that always seemed to have projects in various stages of progress.
2 FYI, I hope to have my Best of the Best page published in the next 2 weeks.
3 he National Hockey League team in Denver.
4 See https://www.binauralbeatsmeditation.com/the-science/ and https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/320019.php#how-do-binaural-beats-work