Getting luck on your side

It is a fact of life that we have a limited amount of time available. Much less than we usually think. That's why it is very important to be careful about how we allocate it if we want to reach our top 3 outcomes. To reach our top 3 outcomes, whatever they are, we would love to have luck on our side. There is indeed a component of luck involved in reaching our top 3 outcomes. A lot of factors can sway our efforts in the wrong direction. Bad things happen. So, what's luck in the first place? As far as I concerned I define luck as "preparation meeting opportunity." Yep, that's it, preparation. You need to be prepared to jump right away on the opportunity as it presents itself to you. The unprepared will say "well, you know, I was unlucky and I was unable to seize the opportunity..." And the more you prepare, the more you'll be able to spot opportunities as well as you'll hone your skills. But beware, do not drown yourself in preparation. Make sure that you prepare on real cases, not just looking at books or discussing without purpose. That's the difference between knowledge and skill. Skill is what you are after. Skill is knowledge that has been applied to real world situations. You have been through the issues, you have a real solid learning. That's not fluff. That's not hot hair. As a side note, it is much better to have a grain of skill than 100 cubic meters of hot air on a given subject, no matter what the noise the hot air crew makes! But then the next problem occurs: which skills are going to help us meet the opportunity we want to seize? And what opportunity are we interested in in the first place? In the previous newsletter we looked at a bunch of questions to help you do just that. Identify your outcomes. At least the areas where you want them to be. There is no way to get away without this. You need to be clear on youroutcomes first. And with a kind of metric so that you know when you are there, or close enough to consider it reached successfully. Which leads us to the most difficult thing to do when you want to reach your top 3 outcomes: saying no to a lot of other stuff. You see, if you choose to pursue your top 3 outcomes, or even one of them, you'll need to stop chasing other things. And that means saying "no." It means that you have made a choice. And making a choice is saying no to what is not that choice. Say you want your firm to be well known in the marketplace so that it attracts customers for its very specific value proposition. All right. But if you want to get there, and get there fast, you'll need to focus on making it true. Learn how to do it, maybe staff for getting it done. Channel your resources to make it happen. No matter what, you'll have to say no to other things because nobody has infinite resource (not even Microsoft, Google or Apple: they all let go products that do not catch up). So, this month, let's reflect on what you'll say no to:
  • letting go of old habits that make no sense in the pursuit of youroutcomes (these are just time leeches)
  • letting go of people that do not contribute to your outcomes, or people who are sabotaging your effort (what a relief!)
  • letting go of projects that have been on the backburner for too long and have nothing to contribute to your outcomes (it will make more space available in your mind)
  • stop making commitments just to "look nice" and "because you have to." (2 minutes to say no, more satisfaction for hours by focusing on what matters instead of pleasing others)
Choosing is saying no. And if you do not choose, others will do it for you. Wouldn't it be better to act on your agenda rather than on theirs, by default?
Until next time, let's say no to crap and yes to luck!

Festival BD de Pont-à-Celles: 19/11/2011

Festival BD de Pont à Celles

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Focus on outcomes, not tasks

As you may have noticed on my website (http://philippeback.eu), I have changed my value proposition from "Helping you improve your way of working" to "I help you achieve your top 3 outcomes". Indeed, I've taken a good look at where one can get the greatest leverage when applying skills. And that led to that sharper focus on outcomes. Helping you improve your way of working is definitely positive and all, and it made me tick for several years. But it is time to move on because improvement of ways of working isn't in any way focused on outcomes. It is focused on efficiency (usage of means) instead than on efficacy (reaching outcomes). Hence the switch. My web presence will change name issue and morph into "Reaching your top 3 outcomes". What's in a name would you say. Well, a lot actually. Language is everything in communication. And communication ultimately directs the relationships and business. So, yes, the words we use and the way we see ourselves is a big deal. In fact, this is *the* deal. Something I came to realize after, well, 10+ years (So long already? Oh my!) in business. Never too late to learn, right? So, what does this bring to the table? What's the value for you, dear reader? Well, three things actually. Three I can think of, right out of the top of my hat that is:

One: Focus on top 3 outcomes will make you think about *your* top 3

What are your top 3 outcomes then? Can you list them? You can't have more than 3. 3 is already a hell of a lot of outcomes. Start by making a list of 10+ and then prune like a berserker because finding the top 3 is hard work. Don't think about how you'll make it true. Think about the outcome itself. Don't be shy. Think big. Some questions:
  • Is it personal our professional? (holistic choices allowed as well)
  • Can you write it down in a single line of less than 10 words? (and without commas all along the way, don't cheat!)
  • What difference will reaching that outcome bring to your life?
  • How badly do you need that to become true?
  • How painful is it for that not to become true?

Two: What makes something an outcome worthy of making it to your top 3 list?

What's an outcome? Well, everything is an outcome. Even failure is an outcome. You may want to call it a learning experience. Or a stellar success. Who am I to tell you what an outcome is for you? But what makes something worthy of your top 3 list, that I can help you with. Consider this:
  • Is this outcome something you are ready to invest massive energy in?
  • Are you fed up beyond all limits by not having this outcome coming true?
  • Are you feeling energized, just because of considering that outcome?
  • Is this merely a 'nice to have'? It has to be of the 'must have this or else' variety!
  • Is that outcome a required step to get to your ultimate dream?
  • Will it be a stepstone to your wildest dreams?
  • Don't you even dare to think about what this will bring if it becomes true?
What fits with those elements is worthy of your top 3.

Three: No need to kill yourself for this. Start small, build some muscle.

"Thinking big, wildest dreams, massive energy investment... Wait a minute, you crazy. I do have the mortage to pay, the family to attend to. I am chained to my work desk all day long. Do you think I even have the time to think about my top 3 outcomes?" Hell, yes you have time. Time is there for everyone. It is named "The Great Equalizer". I do not want to light a fire under your chair but realize that a year is 365 days (don't get me started on the .25, you don't have time for that). And that makes 10 years 3650 days. I am about to hit 42. In 10 years, I'll be 52. And 10 years later, 62. And by then, I'll have sailed through 7300 days (if you checked the calculation, you have more time on your hands than you think!). Life is short. Too short to not do something about our dreams. So, you for sure have the time to even work on a small dream, to allow yourself to get it. A lot of people do not even dare to dream small. Start there, dream small, and make your small dream come true light up your day. And then move from there. Build that dream achiever status of yours. No need to go public about it, just let it warm your heart, warm your soul, make you feel that your life matters in a big way. It does. Yes, it does. I grant you the right to make it true, should you need it. Stop seeking for validation. You have the right to your dream. Are you ready for a change? I am. I'd like to have you around for that journey!

Nobody can predict the future. So: roll up your sleeves and make your own!

Seems you fear failing.

I read somewhere: FEAR (False Evidence Appearing Real). Set aside this part of your mind, and get the ball rolling. Overcoming inertia is the #1 ability. Once the ball rolls, everything gets easier. Once you have invested enough, you'll not stop. And your brain will rewire so that this will become a new habit. What is *the* thing that you are focusing on right here, right now? What did you manifest to the world this week? I'd love to this thing happen and become manifest. It's your duty to enable others to work and buy from you! Why are you preventing them to do so for so long? I've someone in the family who acts in that procrastination-heavy way. She is ever preparing, switching domains, etc. Basically, it is about 10 years she does it without getting anywhere. If she would have done one thing in practice for all the time she procrastinated, she would be a millionaire. To be frank, I have stopped listening when she starts explaining by now.

Don't fall victim of the same trap.

I mean: damn, would she ever stop and try things out for real? Check this out:http://philippeback.be/2009/09/youtube-video-failure-the-key-to-success/ And also: http://www.whomovedmycheese.com/ Huh, no, actually, don't do that. Tell us that you've booked the dates, the venue, and started getting bookings for that workshop and teleconference of yours! Or whatever you had in mind since I am no mind reader. I would love to see you succeed!

How to stay focused on what matters

One fact is sure in our lives: there is apparently way too many things to do compared to the time we do have available.
There is so much to do both at the workplace and at home that we think that we "have to deal with compromise."
In fact, there are many subjects we'd love to turn our thoughts to but have to recognize that we just don't have time.
Some of you may beat themselves up by telling themselves that "they should concentrate on the job in hand!"
On one side of the spectrum, labels come in. As in "procrastinator." Or "ADD" (for Attention Deficit Disorder). Or "victims."
On the other side, I know of people who try to keep up with all by behaving like superman or superwoman, only to discover that they are human persons with human limits. This can go very far, and become very destructive.

So, what to do to escape that deadly trap?

It is all in your mental attitude. Let's have a look.

Identify what matters to you

You can't be good in something if there is no passion. If you see no sense in what you do, ask yourself why you do it. What do you contribute to that makes you feel good? What's the meaning?
Look deeply. Do you want to be a good little soldier? That's not going to make you fly.
Being oneself is not that easy for most of us. It takes courage. It takes guts.
Make a list of the 20 "must do" things. And look at it deeply. Are these really "musts?" What is more like a "I do it because I don't want to upset someone?" or "I do it because that's always been the way I have done it?"

Look where you are strong and build from there

You aren't going to become more effective by leveraging your limitations. You'll become more effective by leveraging your strengths.
This may mean letting go of tasks you hate doing and outsourcing them. What about leveraging your business strengths to make more money and pay for the lawnmower man? Same for ironing, cleaning the floor and so on.
This may not come from day one but if you put your mind on that, it may happen faster than you think. Until you really trust your skills to deliver the extra means, there is no way out.

Take care of yourself first

How someone could be achieving stellar results while at the same time treating him or herself like crap is beyond me.
Do you believe you are special for yourself? Do you give you little gifts regularly? Like a massage, a walk in the park you like, or sharing time with people you enjoy being with? And I mean without guilt.
You can't genuinely help other people if you do not know how it is to help yourself.

Thank yourself when you achieve

Give you a little gift when you achieve a goal. And do it, don't forget, don't pass. It is a little habit that will help you lift mountains. It sure does for me!

Squash your limiting beliefs

Make a list of what you think you aren't allowed to do. I mean things that stay within ethical and lawful boundaries. Like in "I am not allowed to let the grass grow wild on weekends," or in  "I am not allowed to focus on the future because the present screams at me," or "I am not allowed to work less than 8 hours a day," or "I am not allowed to rest even if I am tired to death."
Do you have beliefs like that? Throw them out of window, they do you no good. Seek the reasons why you have those. Are they really yours? Have you been brainwashed in thinking that way?

Invest in your growth

One sure way to keep the motivation high and stand up to adversity is to invest in your own growth.
Did you read a skill-growth centered book or picked up a skill and followed through last month?
For example, I invested some time on how to use InkScape, a piece of software for drawing vector graphics. This gave me more confidence with such graphic work, and generally making me much more educated on graphical matters. So that I can express my thoughts and points with more impact.
Did you attended a workshop (even an on-line workshop) to understand something that can help you become a better you?
A continuous, growth centered investment regimen will do marvels for your self esteem. And better self esteem sure helps in focusing on what matters like a laser beam.

Optimize the chores and throw the crap out

Let's face it, there will also be a ton of chores to be attended to in life. We can either let them linger or let them take over our lives.
Isn't there another path? Yes: getting good at them so that they take much less time to do. Standardization to the rescue. For example I bought two dishwashers. When there is way too much to clean, these are a huge help.
Another thing is to get rid of broken things right away and not let them accumulate. A broken cup? Out to the trash. A pen that does not work anymore: trash! Objects are either in working condition or they are out. This may lead you to buy only high quality goods. More expensive, granted. But they help in staying focused. In the war "objects" vs "us", I am sure of one thing: "objects" aren't going to win!
I am not going to tell you here how I run my chores in detail but know that I've been quite harsh on reducing the burden. Outsourcing them is great as long as you can specify clearly what you want.
And stop brining in new "stuff." Do we really need yet another set of glasses, dishes, and the like? Do we really need yet another computer, peripheral, printer? More often than not, the answer is a resounding NO. Part of stopping crap mounting up is to stop it from coming in.

Don't overbook yourself and make your estimates twice the size

A big item in being able to focus on what matters is to stop thinking that overbooking yourself is the key to productivity. It is not.
So, stop planning time slices back to back. It doesn't work, will not work, and will never work no matter what.
Instead, pick three key objectives for your day and work on those. You'll feel good about having achieved them. There may be hundred things that scream for your attention. Well, you know what?
They will not all win.
Only three will. The three you selected. The three you find important. The three that give you back control on your life. And by "only" doing three, you'll be much better off than trying to do 100. "Doing 3" trumps "trying to do 100."
Also, makes your estimates twice the size. Especially if you are "trying to do 100." (In which case, you may want to make your estimate x5 or x10).
Estimates are usually done in "perfect days" without disruptions, attention drifts, and general mood swings. Make it twice the time and book your schedule accordingly.

Get help if you are in a medical condition because no amount of advice can cure that

All of the above advice is not applicable if you are suffering from a medical condition like depression.
Burnout also counts as medical condition.
In that case, the top priority is to call your health professional to get help and treatment.
There are sure signs of depression (latent or manifest) and that needs proper help.

Summary

So, let's now summarize the points to stay focused on what matters:
Identify what matters to you, look where you are strong and build from there, take care of yourself first, thank yourself when you achieve, squash your limiting beliefs, invest in your growth, optimize the chores and throw the crap out, don't overbook yourself and make your estimates twice the size, and get help if you are in a medical condition because no amount of advice can cure that.
So, to increase your focus on what matters for you, just pick one area in the list above and make something happen there for a week.
And then, repeat.
You'll be astonished by how much better you'll end up in three months.

Why forming the Belgian government is such a mess. #BeGov

Belgium is without a federal government since ... well, longer than anybody would dare to say it. It is insane. It starts looking like Israel and Palestine when it comes to coming to agreements. One is to wonder why they can't agree on how to sort out issues for such a small place. Belgium is smaller and much less complex than, say, larger San Francisco. Or New York. Being living here, and my core business being helping organizations and individuals to improve their performance, I am appalled by the current state of affairs. Isn't there anyone there having read things like "Getting to Yes" of Fischer for example? There is no long term view, everyone looks like it painted itself in a corner and can't exit by fear of either ego bruises or depleasing its constituency of voters. That's not what statemen do, that's not what a society is to be in the first place. A society is there so that it brings more benefits than trouble by working together. It seems to be the contrary now. Established perks abound, an entitlement mentality is encroached. And with the debt burden, we are heading more and more to the status of a "tax base" instead of citizens with a brain. You don't get anywhere with views like that. Or more precisely you end up in hell. We are in times of turmoil financially speaking, capital flows are rushing around the planet (look at the CHF of late, who ended up pegged with the EUR at around EUR 0.83 because it became a safe haven for a while). So, we need someone at the helm. In Rome in cases like that, they put a dictator to end the cacophony. We aren't in Rome anymore but we may end up their way, with massive devaluations and bad vibes. On a country as small as Belgium, do we ever think of being meaningful in any way on the financial checkerboard? We are going to be tossed around. People in the know do not even list Belgium in the list of countries that could make it. Get someone at the helm and fast. Again, this is a typical case of looking at one's own navel and gazing into it to death when the house is burning. A state of collective political denial that must be escaped. With friends like that, who needs enemies? So, to get out of this mess, there are priorities. And so far, what is discussed in the proposals is not about priorities, it is about minor points that render everyone sick. This is akin to a dysfunctional family full of severe narcissic pathological cases. You can't get anywhere until you have sane people aboard. But you can't because they locked the door from the inside, put the house on fire, and started looking to their own navels while chanting their own gospel. So, let they burn down to the ground and start anew. There are tons of sane people around. Get some of them in charge. Get leaders of socio economic areas in charge, get leaders in social and cultural affairs in charge. The education on financial matters looks like abysmal to me. I am quite unsure if politicians can make sense of a balance sheet and an ROI statement. Is there any case of statement of objectives for all this? Currently, I do see none. I see lots of proposals, actions, and other gestures that are all hiding the truth: that there are no agreed upon objectives. It is fire fire fire without any aim, not to mention Think! And measurements on how we do progress on objectives. Again: nothing, for heaven's sake. No a single measurement. Maybe there are things from each constituency, but no externally visible thing for the citizens. Who do they think they are going to fool? They are sliding into irrelevancy. Soon enough, we'll see a takeover by FX-loaded countries. Why not seeing China buying all debt and imposing a smarter policy centered on growth. They could do it. It would rig the game into another direction for once. Maybe will it be a wakeup call. On the added value for us, the people: well, inflationary measures, an image down the drain, and a mood that isn't that positive isn't going to propel us to the pinnacle of bliss for  sure. Even if we do have very competitive assets in form of brainware, will to get things done and general smarts. The best are escaping to other countries who are decided to fight. We are bleeding talent. That's a disaster. So, we need to get these objectives, measurements, and added value items listed and acted upon. Is it so hard to see what is the common good? We want peace, we want prosperity, we want decent security, we want to be doing business in a supporting ecosystem, we want to behave like humans do, helping the poor and the unlucky. And we want to reduce stupidity levels around. That last bit isn't going to be easy. But it is not because a fight can't be won right away that one's must refrain from trying. You never know, you may get lucky.