The One Thing You Can Control

  My meditation teacher said something that I think is incredibly profound. He said:

The one thing you can control is where you put your attention. Control your attention and you can control your mind. 

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I love the idea that no matter what is happening around me, I can control where I put my attention.

I also know that in my business the things that get my attention will flourish. And since my attention is the most limited resource that I have, the decision of where to put my attention is pretty important – perhaps the most important decision I make for my business.

Every three months when I go away to reflect and to plan my next quarter, the key thing I’m doing is working out where I’m going to put my attention over the next 90 days.

And likewise in Thought Leaders Business School the key thing that the students do during the quarterly immersions is choose where their attention is going to go over the next 90 days.

And I reckon most of us, most of the time, let others decide where our attention goes, rather than allocating it strategically and on purpose.

I’d love to hear your thoughts – what do you do with your attention? You can leave them below.

Runways, burn rate, and what we can learn from Silicon Valley

In the world of start-ups there is this thing called runway burn. I know about this because I’ve been watching the HBO series Silicon Valley. My favourite line from the whole series is “f#%&ing billionaires!”. Not sure it translates with absolutely zero context, but trust me, it was very funny. But I digress.

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How it works is a start-up has a certain amount of money in order to take off (the runway), and the faster you spend that money (the burn), the less time you have in order to take off. For example if a start-up has raised a million dollars and is spending $100k a month, they have a 10-month runway – 10 months in which to get something to market and start making revenue. If they don’t start bringing in revenue it’s like a plane getting to the end of the runway without having taken off, not a good look.

So speed is everything. Speed to market, and speed to iterate if something doesn’t work.

I think a thought leaders practice is similar. If someone quits their job and decides to go out on their own running a practice, they might give themselves one year to replace their income – a one-year runway.

People make the mistake of thinking the key to being successful in that year is working out the perfect offering to take to market. It’s not.

The key is being fast enough to get a new offering to market every 90 days … and giving yourself 4 chances to get something working rather than one. Success is much more about speed, and giving yourself lots of chances, than it is about having a high success rate when you do go to market.

I’d love to hear your thoughts – how is your runway burn going? You can leave them below.

Monopoly, tears and three lessons

WFP_20141112 My ten-year old nephew was very upset because his little brother wouldn’t sell him Park Lane. Obviously he had Mayfair, and he was prepared to swap pretty much everything else he had to get the set, but his little brother wouldn’t play dice. And he couldn’t understand it … he wasn’t being fair.

I took him aside for a chat and asked if he wanted to know the two things that I thought were going on. He did.

I said that his little brother didn’t care that much about the actual game of Monopoly, but was very interested in him being upset. In weighing up the deal, between acquiring lots of properties or seeing his big brother get all wound up, the latter option was much more attractive.

The second thing to know was that it was completely up to his little brother whether he did the deal or not.

I also told him that both of these were true for any deals that I did (a sale being a type of deal). If someone isn’t doing the deal – buying what I’m selling – it’s always because in their world, with their motivations, not doing the deal is the better option. There isn’t enough value in it for them. And it’s always their choice – they don’t have to do the deal.

Reflecting on the whole thing later, I reckon the final lesson is to not be attached. Do whatever it takes to be fine either way with any sale or any deal.

I’d love to hear your thoughts – what’s the worst Monopoly catastrophe you’ve been part of? You can leave them below.

 

Why It’s So Hard To Throw Out a Book

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One of the great privileges of the work I do helping thought leaders is that lots of people send me their books. Often it’s students and clients that I have worked with directly. Sometimes it’s more distant connections – someone who has reached out on LinkedIn or met me briefly.

These books range from profound and life-changing to very average.

I was recently cleaning up my office, and trying to get rid of one of the latter – a badly-written, poorly-thought-through self-published book with amateur typesetting and low production values from someone I’d never met. Something that probably cost $5 to print. I didn't particularly want it on my bookshelf, and I also didn't want to take it to an op-shop and inflict it on someone else.

But at the thought of throwing it out I had a visceral reaction – I felt this resistance in my bones to putting a book in the bin. It ended up going back in a box to be dealt with later.

Yet I have no hesitation at all throwing away brochures or pamphlets that are much better written and produced, and cost a lot more to print.

There is still something magic about a book. Not that long ago wisdom was passed down the generations through oral storytelling. Then in last few thousand years books took the place of those verbal stories. Up until a heart beat ago books were each handwritten and copied individually. And while humanity’s knowledge is now encoded digitally, a book is still the artifact that represents society’s accumulated wisdom in our culture.

Given how powerful a book is, if you’re a thought leader you’re crazy if you don’t write a book in your domain of expertise. But when you do, please give the artifact due reverence and put the time and thought needed to make it great.

Like the air we breathe

I read the following paragraph and had an interesting reaction: If you had a brain tumor being cut out you would want it done by the brain surgeon who had the best reputation. If a particular surgeon was head of surgery at your city’s best hospital, highly experienced, and would give you the best chance of a positive outcome, she is who you would want doing the surgery. And if she charged a bit more than the competition, you would be happy to pay.

My reaction was a little jump of surprise when I realised that the head of surgery being referred to was a women.

That’s especially interesting for a couple of reasons. Firstly, my mum is a highly successful and celebrated doctor who has headed up a unit in a major hospital, so I’m not exactly foreign to the idea of a female doctor in a senior position.

But even more interesting I was reading my own writing! When I read that paragraph I was proofreading my own book, and reading something that I had written a couple of months earlier. And I was still surprised that the doctor in question was a woman.

I think my reaction is a reflection of cultural sexism that is almost like the air we breathe – we can’t see it. I’m not boorishly sexist. I don’t wolf whistle. I’m respectful and will actually go into battle when I see women being disrespected.

And yet sexism is so deeply ingrained in our society, and consequently in me, that even when it shows up in a paragraph that I wrote myself, I’m surprised to see a women in that role.

It’s something that I’ve become hypersensitive to having my own little girl.

I’d love to hear your thoughts– what do you think of this whole issue? You can leave them below.