3 Jaw-dropping Steps That Will Help You Accomplish Anything

 Image: Unsplash/Sergei Zolkin

Image: Unsplash/Sergei Zolkin

The motivation to brainstorm ideas comes easy. You grab a black Sharpie marker, a dozen Post-it Notes and scribble until there is no more room on the whiteboard. You step back in amazement at the rainbow of Post-it Notes on the board as a sense of accomplishment moves through your body, like a wave.

Good for you -- you are an idea generating machine! We now need to take one of these award-winning ideas and make it happen. But the motivation you had at the idea generation stage disappears when you realize that you now need to take action.

This is the struggle for many creative entrepreneurs you are dreamer-centric which is more often the greatest inhibitor to making ideas happen.

Your Approach To Making Ideas Happen Is All Wrong

My approach to every project was always the same:

  • Brainstorm
  • Execute
  • (re)Think

While I rarely struggled with motivation during the brainstorming stage. As I moved the project to the execution stage, my energy began to gradually fail me. As the action steps grew in number and complexity, the project became more burdensome.

Eventually, I would begin to question why was I working on this project. The project I gave birth to is taking twice as long to complete, is demanding for a skillset that I do not have and worse yet my community of supporters is lukewarm about my idea.

And then the unspeakable happens -- I begin to doubt myself, "Should I just shelve this project and pick another from the whiteboard?" And I do. And this is the dilemma that many creative professionals encounter.

But Seth Godin, author of the Purple Cow, explains that you are going about your project all wrong. Godin explains that many projects start off with 1 list which normally lists action items. Seth explains that you need 3 lists:

  1. A list of everything a project needs to be considered a good project
  2. A list of all the skill you don't have that are important to the project's success
  3. A list of everything you are afraid of and out of your control

I thought that this was overkill. I asked myself, "Why do you need 3 lists when 1 will do just fine?" But I decided to run an experiment and try Godin's 3 list system.

Implementing the 3 List System

My current idea is a New York City Black and White photography assignment. As I mentioned earlier for each of my projects I would:

  • Brainstorm
  • Execute
  • (re)Think

“An idea can only become a reality once it is broken down into organized, actionable elements.” ― Scott Belsky, Making Ideas Happen: Overcoming the Obstacles Between Vision and Reality

Now I am using Godin's approach:

1. List of everything a project needs to be considered a good project

  • Images need to be unique in perspective
  • Images need to be posted daily on my website and 500px
  • Images need a supportive community so they can share the images with their communities
  • Images need to be noticed by travel boards and public relations companies
  • Project will run for 365 days
  • Images need to get news coverage -- online
  • Images need to be placed in an art show or gallery show
  • I will need to make a shot list
  • I will need to dedicate time to travel throughout NYC
  • There are 5 boroughs in NYC should shoot in all of them
  • Create a Blurb book and sell it

2. A list of all the skill you don't have that are important to the project's success

  • Mastery of Adobe Lightroom
  • Mastery of Adobe Photoshop
  • Mastery of High Dynamic Range (HDR)
  • Mastery of my Nikon D700
  • Mastery of selective black and white
  • Mastery of long exposure

3. Everything you are afraid of and out of your control

  • Being harshly critiqued
  • No one likes any of the images
  • Travel boards and public relations companies don’t care about the project
  • People think the images suck
  • My wife complains I spend all my time on this project
  • My kids tell me I spend all my time on this project

As I reviewed the lists, I got an intimate understanding of the amount of energy the project required. My motivation was rejuvenated because I now have a blueprint for my project and how I need to manage my energy to accomplish it.

You need a mechanism that slows you down between the brainstorming stage and the execution stage. This period, if taken serious, will give you a good grasp on how your idea will develop. And allow you to intelligently plan out your action items and milestones so you can complete your project successfully.

Question: There is no "right" strategy on how to execute an idea. But in your experience what strategies have helped you make your ideas happen?

How Your Dumb Goals Will Help You Achieve Your Dreams

Yes, you have all of your goals written down, for the year, in your notebook. You have even gone as far as to make them S.M.A.R.T.

But your stuck.

You are perpetually updating your goals and making little to no progress on those goals. So you sit there at your desk staring at the monitor waiting for the perfect moment to be inspired.

I totally get it. I was in that situation not too long ago. I was stuck in the planning stages. I would tell myself that before I began attacking my goals, they had to be perfect.

Unfortunately, perfect is nothing more than fear dressed in designer clothing.

 Image Credit: Unsplash/Dominik Qn

Image Credit: Unsplash/Dominik Qn

Perfect is the story that you have fabricated to keep yourself from committing to the work that needs to be done. They are excuses for delaying your journey until... “the perfect moment or the perfect place or the perfect situation.“

The “experts” will tell you that setting goals and making them S.M.A.R.T. is the surest path to achieving your dreams. While there is truth to that statement, it’s incomplete.

In all honesty, it’s ass-backwards.

You write down your goals and then spend the next 365 days checking off what you have accomplished.

Example: By the end of Q3 2015 I will have written 18 blog posts on my site, that will be focused on leadership and making ideas happen. This content will showcase me as an authority.

Yes, there is the accomplishment but so what, you wrote a few articles to demonstrate your authority. But now what? Do you rinse and repeat for Q4?

If the answer is yes, then your strategy is not only boring, it’s short-sighted. Why? Because as entrepreneurs part of our job is to dream -- unrealistically.

Example: I want to build a multimillion-dollar online information business that: 1. can continue to generate revenue without my repeated involvement and 2. focuses on teaching hundreds of thousands of entrepreneurs how to make ideas happen through various mediums, such as -- podcasts, books, speaking, videos, online training, monthly workshops and yearly conferences.

This dream is huge. It’s scary. And this unrealistic dream will now inspire the how of making this vision come true.

But you just don’t start formulating some perfectly crafted plan that will bring you to your dream. It's a journey peppered with chaotic experiences.

Your dream is a trek where how you respond matters more than what happens to you.

But more importantly you should map out the tools necessary to obtain your dream. You will need to master new skills for this journey, perhaps:

  • Content Marketing
  • Public speaking
  • Personal Finance
  • Learning Spanish

So by creating your dream you are developing an ecosystem of goals that are exciting and motivational.

“We are here to put a dent in the universe.” -- Steve Jobs

Brendon Burchard, the author of The Millionaire Messenger, explains that the S.M.A.R.T. goal will not get you to your dream. Burchard recommends that if you want to achieve your dream then your goals must be D.U.M.B.:

Dream-driven. Let’s start with building a big dream. It's when you get to tap into what most adults have forgotten to use, their imagination. So be a child and dream without fear of self-oppression and doubt.

Uplifting. Your goals should have a prerequisite of being positive. Your goals should inspire you to not simply accomplish them, but they should produce an abundance of joy, as the goals are being worked on.

Method-friendly. In pursuing your goals, you need to build methods of obtaining them. Your focus should be on building habits or micro-habits that move you move closer to achieving your goals.

Behavior triggered. Behavior is one of the most important tools in achieving your goals. When you set a goal, you need to create triggers that remind you to keep chasing them.

In essence, by implementing D.U.M.B goals you are focusing on the dream first, and the goal second.

“You start with the dream. The how will come later.” -- Brendon Burchard

I love the story of Scott Harrison, founder, and CEO, of Charity: Water.

Harrison was an NYC club promoter who made a good living promoting nightclub and fashion events. But Harrison soon came to realize that he was desperately unhappy and was facing "spiritual bankruptcy."

So Scott left NYC and become a photojournalist for Mercy Ships and headed to West Africa. Harrison was devastated by the degree of poverty, human suffering and diseases born from poor water supply sanitation.

”I wanted to reinvent charity. I thought it had become stigmatized. The word means 'love,' and I truly believe that giving time, talent, money is wholly redemptive.” -- Scott Harrison

Scott became emotionally invested and decided to help fix the poor water supply issue. But he didn't just create a few goals, Scott had a dream of helping the 2.5 billion people with poor water sanitation -- get access to clean water.

Harrison had no clue how he was going to accomplish this unrealistic dream. But Scott never let the how define his vision. Today Charity: Water has funded more than 16,722 water projects in 24 countries.

You will never know what you are capable of until you remove fear and allow yourself to dream recklessly. You have a calling, someone that you are meant to be and something you are supposed to do for others, it will not be easy, but the journey will be amazing.

Question: How will you put a dent in the universe? Share your answers on Twitter.

Footnote: Orignally posted on Addicted2Success.

3 Amazing Strategies To Becoming Highly Successful

Becoming a highly successful person is not a reactive series of events. There is a purposeful strategy. There is a broader vision or a dream that you must be obsessed with and work towards every day.

Unfortunately, you spend the better part of your day managing other people's urgent needs. And while your efforts are appreciated, those accomplishments are doing little to get you closer to your dream.

So what can you do? Plan.

Highly successful people plan their finances, priorities and learning. And while the plan might change depending on their broader vision, they rely on it to keep them accountable.

There is no magic formula to make these plans happen. But you have to start so grab a pen and paper and start writing down your ideas.

With your plans written down you can now be more purposeful in becoming a highly successful person.

The Highly Successful Take Control of Their Personal Finances

Does the mention of personal finance give you a migraine? I don't blame you if it does. The personal finance conversation is one that many people ignore like the plague. Unfortunately, ignoring a nagging problem does not make the problem go away -- it only makes the issue worse.

You were never taught how to manage your personal finances. Sure, mom told you to save, and dad said get a good job. Maybe a friend told you about investing in the stock market.

But the reality of your financial situation is that there is more month than check. And you make up the delta by using a credit card, which is charging you a hefty 15% interest rate.

Once you start borrowing money, you start losing control of your most precious asset, time. How -- your poor financial health dictates what you can and cannot do with your time.

For example, you want to take that Caribbean vacation you deserve but you can’t afford it, again.

So what's the cure? Education. And Planning.

And no -- there is no easy solution like winning Lotto or waiting for your rich uncle to die. Becoming financially healthy requires, work. How much effort depends on both your financial circumstance and commitment.

“The thing I have discovered about working with personal finance is that the good news is that it is not rocket science. Personal finance is about 80 percent behavior. It is only about 20 percent head knowledge.” -- Dave Ramsey

So here are three steps to building financial freedom:

1. Schedule weekly, one hour, money dates.

According to Thomas Stanley, author of The Millionaire Next Door, he explains that millionaires spend on average 8.4 hours a month managing their finances.

Yes, if millionaires see the value in scheduling time to plan their finances -- then you must also model that strategy. The weekly money date is your opportunity to get a big picture view of your finances and craft a plan of action.

2. Commit 60 minutes a week to read about personal finance.

And don’t just read about personal finance, take the time to study it.

The more deep knowledge you have about finances, the better equipped you will be to manage your money. So pick a topic that interests you and go learn it.

Make it a homework assignment that is part of your weekly financial meeting. One book that I am re-reading is the Complete Guide to Money by Dave Ramsey. Another book that was recommended to me is I Will Teach You To be Rich by Ramit Sethi. While I have not read the book, yet, I hear it is a good read.

3. Hire a certified financial planner.

Managing your money is not difficult but you do want to seek the mentorship of a professional. In this case, you will want to find a certified financial planner -- especially when you are first beginning your money management journey.

These professionals can help you understand your options and guide you through the financial landscape.

Regardless of where you are in your financial journey, it's imperative that you educate yourself. And that there is a commitment to your continued financial education.

And by constantly educating yourself and placing those strategies into practice you will slowly regain control of your most important resource, time.

The Highly Successful Define Their Priorities.

There are only two arguments you should be concerned about when working with priorities. The first argument is about living proactively. The second argument is about living reactively.

If you have chosen to live your life proactively, then you are designing the life you want to live. But if you have chosen to live your life by reacting to what happens to you, then others are designing your life.

So which life are you going to live?

Yes, life is unpredictable and there are only 168 hours in the week. And everyone but you are laying claim to your limited resource — time. So you spend the day taking care of everyone else's urgent needs but not your own.

But that does not mean that you have to continue living a reactive life. The only way that you will begin to design a life that you want to live is by being proactive. And always looking at your life with the end in mind.

Michael Hyatt, author of Platform: Get Noticed in a Noisy World, uses a strategy called "My Ideal Week."

The concept is designed so you can create your ideal week. Take your time to think through how you will organize your time blocks, focus areas and themes for the day. The point is to make sure that you are working on what matters most to you -- not someone else.

You can further break down the ideal week by color coding your margins, goals, and priorities. The color schemes are subjective and mainly used as visual cues so you can quickly identify what you are doing during the week.

To start this exercise, Hyatt has an Excel template. You can download the template, or you can create one from scratch, I found it easier just to use Hyatt’s template.

Once you have created your ideal week, it becomes your template for planning every week. If you have team members or an assistant or a significant other -- share it with them. It's helps keep your week ideal if you are all on the same page.

The Highly Successful Learn Faster.

It's impossible to progress in life if you do not read. And when I say read -- I am referring to learning with a purpose.

And what is learning with a purpose? I mean, take your book, pen, and paper, and start jotting down action items, backburner items (things to focus on later) and reference notes.

You say you want to learn how to speak Spanish or be a writer or be a photographer, but that is where it ends -- at the Want To stage.

So in essence you are a bit of a phony when it comes to learning. Why -- because you talk about learning something someday but that someday never happens.

Learning does not happen because there is no broader vision of why you want to learn. Your learning goals (or dreams) are unfocused, and that is the reason learning tends to not materialize.

So what is the solution? You need to know what you want to get out of your life and what skills will help you get to that life.

The reason knowing what you want out of life is important is because as humans we have lots of interests, lots of things we want to learn. And it becomes too much, so we are paralyzed into learning nothing.

”You have to know what you want of your life before you become a master learner. -- Brendon Burchard."

You must master every skill necessary to achieve your dream life so ask yourself this question: What do I want out of life?

Once you have answered that question, you can begin to look at what things you can learn to achieve that life.

And the learning process takes a long time. You must make it a mission to master those skills and to practice it every single day.

And if you are telling me that you can't take every day to grow -- then you are mismanaging your life. And you will never achieve your dreams.

Question: What is the one thing you are going to do today to start becoming highly successful? Share your answers on Twitter.

Footnote: Article originally posted on The Good Men Project.

How To Write A Thank You Note And Make Someone Smile

When was the last time you wrote someone a hand written note?

Better yet when was the last time you wrote someone a handwritten thank-you note? Go ahead... I will give you a minute to think it through.

I am going to guess that the last time you wrote a thank-you note to someone was -- a very long time ago. It's been a long time for me too.

Yes, I give birthday cards to my mom, wife, and the kids. I will even write down that I need to thank someone for a job well done, which I will then email "thank-you."

What's The Point In Writing a Thank-you Note

Technology has revolutionized the way we communicate with others. Today, within microseconds after hitting the return key you are communicating with somebody, anybody in any part of the world.

So why bother sending a handwritten note through snail mail? I mean there is no immediacy in this form of communications. The entire process is painfully slow:

  • You have to write the note
  • You have to buy a stamp and envelope
  • You have to mail the note -- which could take up to a week to arrive
  • You have to wait until the recipient opens the letter and gets back to you

It's no wonder why very few people are sending thank-you notes.

Well, the inefficiency of this process is kind of the point. More importantly there is an organic experience of putting pen to paper -- that a keyboard cannot reproduce.

Yes, it's a hassle so very few people are doing it. But when someone does do it -- the recipient feels special.

How Do You Write the Thank-you Note

So when should you write a note? In all honesty, whenever you want. But more appropriately you want to reach out to someone when they have done something for you:

  • For being a good friend
  • For making a warm introduction to the CEO
  • For helping you on that project you feel behind on

Thank-you notes are short and to the point. They are not long narratives. But there are a few basics that every thank-you note should have.

  • Write it by hand. We are talking about being personal and a typed note is the furthest things from being personal. If you want to go that route then just send them a tweet and be done with it.
  • Be specific. You want to let the person know why you are thanking them. And what their gift or help meant to you.
  • Use writing paper and a nice pen. Make a trip to your local stationary store and pick up a heavyweight paper with matching envelopes. In as far as a pen use a nice fountain pen -- there is a degree of elegance not only of the pen but how it dances across the paper.
  • Before you start writing, write a first draft. Pull up your favorite word processor and type up the note. Use the grammar and spell check features -- once you're happy with the draft, put it to paper.

Here is an example of a note that I am sending to a close friend:

John, (not his real name)

Thank-you so much for inviting me and my family to your house for the weekend. The kids had a wonderful time and your wife is an amazing cook. But more importantly thank you for the business advice, I have a great deal to think about and do.

Ciao

Make a list of people you want to say thank-you to. And make this a project and give yourself a deadline. Better yet -- ritualize this process and make it a point to send out a note to 3 people each week.

At worst it will be received, appreciated and discarded. At best it will be received, appreciated and you would have made someone's day.

And isn't it better to make someone's day?

Question: No matter how busy your day is you should make it a habit to say thank-you to those that have helped you. Who do want to thank? So don't wait and send a note -- right now.

Foot Note: Orginally Appeared on The Good Men Project.

4 Surprising Ways That Can Get You Out Of The Dumps

Sometimes you just don’t feel like working or cooking or taking care of the kids or even making love. You simply want to lay in bed in the fetal position.

Yep, you are officially in the dumps and your life sucks. And because you are in the dumps you do not have the energy to do much of anything.

I have come to realize that there are two reasons why you get into this funky mood:

  • You have low energy -- most likely the cause of poor nutrition, lack of restorative sleep, little to no exercise, or (and) stress.
  • You get trapped into believing the negative comments -- most likely the cause of self-doubt, self-oppression or unsupportive friends and family.

Unfortunately, these two reasons work in tandem. Like tag team wrestling champions, they are masterfully relentless in their assault.

Almost immediately, the mind retaliates by acting like a child. It throws a cranky, selfish, grumpy fed tantrum. This is not your proudest moment but you are suffering, and you're looking for comfort.

I totally get, and you need to acknowledge the childlike-tantrum but give it very little power.

Instead, you must listen to its needs. Your inner child wants to sleep and to feel comforted. Here are four ways to get out of the dumps:

1. Fix your sleep. You need to give your body the sleep it requires so make it your top priority:

  • Get 8 hours of sleep
  • Avoid screens before bedtime
  • Have a caffeine curfew
  • Keep your bedroom cool
  • Meditate in bed
  • Use blackout curtains
  • Exercise in the morning

2. Talk to someone. It helps dramatically to talk to someone else, who can offer you guidance. Make sure the person you talk to will be supportive like a spouse, close friend, a parent -- don’t be ashamed to reach out for help.

3. Start doing some work. Only after you have taken care of your sleep and talked to someone -- it’s time to get some work done. But don’t go all Rambo, just yet.

It’s better to ease back into work. So create a to do list and work on getting some quick wins so you can re-launch your self-esteem. As you are getting back into your groove increase the workload.

4. It’s OK to be in the dumps. It happens to everyone -- from time to time. I like to think of the dumps as a layover after a long trip. Sometimes the body and mind just needs a moment to recharge after a prolonged period of poor sleep and constant negative thinking.

You are the expert of you. So if you notice that you hit the dumps after a long time between breaks you should schedule some downtime before it happens. The break does not have to be grand. But it should be something only for you -- like a run in the morning, tea at a local coffee shop, or even a barefoot stroll in the grass.

You are the most important person in your life. As such you should take great care of protecting your limited energy; because there are people who love you, and who are relying on you.

Question: The dumps will happen it’s the price we pay for being busy adults. But what will you do to make sure you minimize your time in the dumps? Share your answers on Twitter.

Image Credit: By Volkan Olmez / unsplash.com

4 Spectacular Mentors for High Achievers Committed to Creating A Lifestyle That Matters

One of the most important decisions you can make in your journey of building a lifestyle that matters is to surround yourself with mentors.

Not doing so will limit your success.

"You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with." -- Jim Rohn

This is a simple statement with a profound impact. By surrounding yourself with people who are average, then your standard of thinking will be -- average.

But if you take the initiative and surround yourself with people that are exceptional then your standard of thinking will be -- exceptional.

 Photo: Unsplash/ Matthew Clark

Photo: Unsplash/ Matthew Clark

This is an uncomplicated argument but one that many high achievers do not subscribe too.

It might be tough for you, at first, to find a mentor. But part of your growth is to venture outside of your comfort zone and connect with these high achievers.

You can just start small, a baby step, and seek out virtual mentors.

How do you begin your search? By answering this question:

  • What do you really want to get out of life?

This question will help guide you in finding those online personalities who can be added to your virtual mentoring team.

By connecting with these mentors, you will not only improve your standard of thinking but you will begin to accomplish your goals.

On being simple and grateful -- Leo Babauta.

I enjoy reading Leo Babauta's story. He was an everyday man with everyday problems.

Babauta was unhappy at his job, overweight, more month than check and married with kids. He was living the remarkably average life which Babauta was fine with, until he was not.

Babauta made a choice to live a better life. He did not make any epic changes he started small. Babauta slowly exchanged one bad habit for one good habit.

These small changes allowed Leo to not only improve his life but the lives of his family. Today, Leo is a published author, a vegan, has tripled his income and is the founder of zenhabits.net.

Babauta will be the first to tell you that he is no expert. His entire life is nothing more than an experiment in making tiny changes. Sometimes he succeeds but more times than not Babauta fails -- and he is OK with that.

Failure is a great teacher. And if you are listening you can leverage those failures and achieve your goals.

Your health is the main investment -- Manuel Villacorta.

Manuel Villacorta's is not your average health guru. Villacorta will not tell you to go on a diet that starves you. What he will tell you is that you can eat whatever you want -- but it must be healthy.

Our health is the foundation of our life. Poor health negatively affects everything we do. That includes your goals in living your life with purpose.

But if you have good health, then rising to the challenge of accomplishing your goals becomes easier.

Villacorta’s action plan is based on living a great life. He drives this point repeatedly through personal examples. If you take a look at his Instagram feed, it’s full of yummy images -- like sangria palm dessert style or avocado and cilantro chicken soup or prawns a la aji.

You can get lots of information from Villacorta’s blog but if you want a strategy you can subscribe to his Menu Plans.

For the high achiever eating healthy is a mandatory part of your life. If you want to see your business and lifestyle, improve then invest in yourself.

Writing a better story for better results -- Donald Miller.

Donald Miller is a best-selling author, speaker and founder of the Storyline Conference. As a writer, I am biased but I love Miller and his writing framework.

I find that most writers preach the same strategies:

  • Write every day
  • Read allot
  • Focus on a niche
  • Yadda, yadda, yadda...

But you are still left wondering -- “great strategies but how do I become a better writer?”

I get it -- you want your prose to resonate with the reader because it must.

Well, there is more. There is a framework that will allow you to become a better writer and it’s storytelling. But not the way your uncle tells stories -- the way Hollywood tells stories.

Miller has adapted Hollywood's storying telling strategy into a writing framework.

And it looks like this: There is a character who has a problem, then meets a guide, who gives them a plan, calls them to action, that action either results in a comedy or tragedy.

It’s the framework that I am using to write this article, which it the same structure that I have used to write articles for the past five months. It has helped me not only write better but frame my thoughts, coherently.

The structure is not a gimmick, and it does take practice, but the results are impressive.

Building an online business -- Pat Flynn.

Flynn claims to be the ”crash test dummy for online business.” And that philosophy has allowed him to achieve great success.

Unfortunately, Flynn’s success is not a happily ever after story, it comes on the back of multiple failures. But those failures have allowed Flynn to build an online business that generates over $100,000 a month.

How did Pat build a seven-future business? By being fired from his job.

The story goes that Flynn was fired from his architecture job and with a growing family to support, he had to do something drastic.

So with the support of his wife, mom and dad Flynn started his online business.

Flynn failed repeatedly and learned from each failure. Flynn’s success is a product of the Act. Learn. Build. Repeat Model which teaches:

  • Understand what services or products you want to make
  • Take a small step and then learn from that step
  • Build off that learning experience
  • Take another small step and then learn from that step
  • And repeat...

Building a business is a tough journey with no guarantees of success. But you should be more fearful of what will happen if you never tried.

Because living a lifestyle that matters is about the journey and not the destination.

Question: This list of virtual mentors is my personal list. So if you could put together a list of amazing mentors who would they be? Share your answers on Twitter.

Foot Note: Article originally appeared on The Good Men Project

How I Use The NeatConnect To Keep My Business Organized

Is the process of keeping yourself organized feel like a futile endeavor? Are you still staring at the growing pile of paper that has been on your desk for months?

The creative process is chaotic. And you can quickly become buried in documents, business cards, and proposals if you don't have a system to keep that pile of paper in check.

I understand this issue intimately. Until recently my desk looked like Armageddon and evil was winning.

I did have a system.

I would scan my documents into Evernote using my HTC One, but it was a painful process. So I rarely followed my system and the pile continued to grow -- ideas got lost, bills were not paid, "that" important contract was miss-placed, again.

If I wanted to capitalize on my growing opportunities I needed to get organized. So a friend recommended the NeatConnect. I’ve heard of the product but never really gave much thought to making digital copies of all my documents.

I mean we need paper -- don’t we?

So after considerable nagging by my friend I picked up a NeatConnect.

I was cautious at first. I didn't believe that the NeatConnect could help me. But I decided to place my cautions to the side and just start scanning.

Scanning from the NeatConnect is simple -- in all honesty I was impressed with the accuracy. I first started with business cards and slowly graduated to scanning in important documents, like contracts.

At first, I used the included software that I found to be not user-friendly, so I immediately stopped using it. I then connected the NeatConnect to Evernote and Google Drive, which improved my experience.

After a few days, I scanned every scrap of paper with the NeatConnect and used Evernote to store all the documents as a PDF. The process is not flawless I had a few issues with the paper orientation that can be fixed in the NeatConnect.

More importantly all my documents stored and organized in Evernote. And when I get any document, once processed, I scan it immediately so I won’t lose or misplace anything.

I had the pleasure of interviewing Neatologist (Neat contributor) and entrepreneur Andrew Argue as we discussed his experience as an entrepreneur, I asked Argue about the NeatConnect.

“Neat is an amazing machine for people that scan a lot. Keeping contracts organized was a huge pain point that Neat solved. And as a bonus, it makes saving and tracking receipts, effortless. ” -- Andrew Argue, founder The Bean Counter

Even if you don’t scan a lot, I think any entrepreneur would benefit from using the NeatConnect or a similar appliance.

Question: Do you have a system that works for you? If so let me know and share your answers on Twitter.

Andrew Argue, of Ten Key Heroes, Talks About The Agony Of Failure

Entrepreneurs fail repeatedly. In all honesty, they fail more than they succeed. So are you entering entrepreneurship so you can start a business and have a multi-million dollar exit?

If you are, then you will be epically disappointed. Nine out of every 10 startups will fail. That is the bleak truth behind the, not so glamorous, life of an entrepreneur.

The failure post-mortem pens the many reasons why the entrepreneur failed:

  • No market need for your product
  • You ran out of cash
  • You don't have the right team
  • You made a bad product

There is no strategy that will guarantee you success. And luck is not a plan of action.

Yes, having a product that the market needs is one ingredient to success but the entrepreneur needs something deeper to continue the fight for success.

These three attributes need to be part of your DNA:

Andrew Argue, the founder of Ten Key Heroes and the host of The Bean Counter, has failed many times before achieving success.

Argue's journey was not rosy -- he was busted for selling drugs, was nearly broke, and in debt. But Andrew refused to give up on his dream.

After hustling for two years and with the help of a business coach Argue's hustle has paid off.

So Andrew, what’s your story?

I'm originally from Oklahoma sadly but lived all over the US (NYC, New Jersey, San Diego, Tampa, and Costa Rica for two years in high school).

When I was about 14, I was sent to a troubled teen program for selling drugs (my first entrepreneurial stint) to kids in my neighborhood.

All small time stuff by my parents freaked!

I spent the next two years in Wilderness Program (Utah) and Boarding School (Costa Rica).

After that, I went to University at The University of Tampa where I got a Masters of Accounting and my CPA License before starting at PwC.

I loved PwC and did extremely well.

In my first year, I got a 1 rating on a 1-5 scale and a 10% raise that was big compared to the 3% I thought most people got.

My second year was even better, a 19% raise and another 1 rating and worked with a Fortune 100 client.

But in that second year I changed offices as my girlfriend (now wife took a job in Miami).

I didn't like the new office as much as the old and decided to quit.

In the 22 or so months since I quit PwC, I've done a lot.

I've started 4-5 companies, and all have stopped or failed except for The Bean Counter.

I have failed a lot.

And no I don't have this glamorous entrepreneurship story of selling my company for millions of dollars.

The truth is; I've mostly failed.

But, I have made more money each year than I would have at my job.

My wife and I have been able to pay off $55,000 of student loans in a 14-month period and saved on top of that.

I haven't let me pride kill me. I've started 4-5 companies but I've also worked contract accounting jobs, taken writing gigs, and other small freelance gigs to earn extra cash and keep things going.

I've learned a TON! It's like an actual MBA, not that crap most schools are selling.

I now know the basics of:

  • Sales
  • Internet marketing
  • Start-up funding
  • How to buy a company
  • How to sell a company
  • Fundraising
  • How to find/handle investors
  • How to write
  • and much more

While I haven't made crazy money, I've done okay and learned a lot.

I'm excited about my future. It's been a crazy adventure the last two years and I am only 25 years old!

Who is your role model, and why?

I'd have to say, George Carlin, the comedian.

He did an interview once where he said he didn't succeed early in his career because he wanted to be a mainstream comedian. Very middle America, a people pleaser, he had in mind a traditional job, a mainstream dream.

But in reality he is more of a rebel.

And once he accepted that he became wildly successful.

I think I have a similar problem that I hope to overcome.

Being too mainstream in terms of the business ideas I think I should start, vs. where my radical rebel brain takes me.

Tell me about a project or accomplishment that you consider to be the most significant in your career?

When I first started The Bean Counter, a site with career advice and information for young accountants and professionals, I knew I needed some reputable people to make the brand seem legit.

I mean, who was I? A 23-year-old nobody.

At the time, I emailed the #3 partner for PwC US, the largest accounting firm in the world at the time and asked to interview him for my podcast.

He responded and preferred a video interview, and he flew me to New York.

We did a full video interview on a set with a crew, and this launched The Bean Counter from nothing into something very special in the next few weeks!

I guess the reason this was so memorable wasn't because I got any monetary gain from it. But rather because I learned a simple lesson:

Anyone. And I mean anyone is reachable with a great fucking email.

What has been the biggest let down in your career so far?

There have been some tough times these last two years as an entrepreneur.

When I quit my job, I saved up about $20,000.

But I hadn't learned how to properly budget (weird for an accountant), and I got married a few months later.

One month after my wife and I got married. And five months after I quit my job I have no income at all, $55,000 in student loans, and only $1,500 cash to my wife and I's name.

I was scared.

In the depths of that fear though, I find that crazy motivation to dig us out. A little over a year and a half later we are debt free and have lots of savings!

While not directly related to one of the businesses I started, this was a huge part of my experience.

Being broke isn't a great way to start.

But sometimes that almost life or death fear can help you get crazy and get shit done.

How can entrepreneurs find success in a marketplace that always seems to change?

If things always stayed the same, then there wouldn't be any opportunity.

The only way we can find opportunity is with the market constantly changing/shifting.

"Chaos is a ladder" - Petyr Baelish, Game of Thrones

That's true for business.

The execution of a creative idea can be a chaotic experience. So how do you organize, prioritize, and manage your creative ideas?

I was "institutionalized" at the age of 15. I went to boarding school, then college, and then a big public accounting firm.

Institutions.

Institutions tell you what to do. They set everything up for you with rules, expectations, deadlines, etc.

The real world isn't like that.

You need self-discipline. I didn't have it, and I found that out after five months of being an entrepreneur. I had no income and no money.

So what did I do?

I hired a coach. A business coach.

She helped my transition from my institutionalized mind into an entrepreneurial, self-organized self. I can't give one answer for every person, you have to know yourself and find your way.

But, if you know you aren't organized, can't prioritize, and manage your ideas. Get a good coach.

The first five months after I quit I made less than $1,000. The 12 months after I got a coach I made over $100K.

It was WELL worth the $4,000 it costed me for the few months we worked together!

Question: Failure is a right of passage for every entrepreneur. It's not what happens to you that shapes the outcome; it's how you react. How do you react to failure? Share your answers on Twitter.


Charles Lee, co-Founder of Genee, Talks About His Biggest Letdown

The journey to becoming a successful entrepreneur is never clear.

In all honesty, the journey is more of an expedition, where failure, not success is the only guarantee. You must approach entrepreneurship with a few basic assumptions:

  • The marketplace is constantly changing, so it’s imperative that you are constantly scanning for those changes;
  • Technology is a tool that must be used to provide a unique solution to a problem, but at the right time; and
  • Building a team that is both passionate and smart is critical but if there is no cultural fit, then the team’s cohesion suffers.

So how can you work through these challenges and take advantage of the opportunities? You must focus on your mission and not the product.

The mission is the reason you are in business. The mission is the long-term plan that survives a fickle market, technology disasters and the replacement of a team member.

Charles Lee understands the importance of a long-term mission statement, especially if the company is to survive for 100 years.

What has been the biggest letdown in your career so far?

In 1999, I was the fifth employee at a startup, Backflip. The founders had a vision of creating a personalized Yahoo search through online bookmarking of web pages. I believed in the founders and they were charismatic in their long-term vision. From an engineering perspective, we were working at the forefront of some truly interesting technologies, such as search indexing, natural language processing, automatic categorization, content sharing, and authorization models.

The company grew quickly, and the level of talent was top notch. However, a year later in the face of missed expectations, the founders pivoted quickly to something completely unrelated to the original goal.

I left the company with misgivings about the founders having given up too early on a vision that they spoke so passionately about and that I believed in. However, the letdown truly materialized later as other companies in search, social networking, content aggregation, crowdsourcing, adwords, data analysis, and machine learning emerged.

In hindsight, I believe that timing was not right from both a technology and user perspective. I learned a lesson about having a long-term mission statement to believe in, and providing a solution and technology to a current problem that users can find immediate value from.

Entrepreneurial Tip: Think long-term and have a mission statement that can get you through the messy middle. But more importantly, you must understand when it's the right time to marry the current problem and technology so you can offer immediate value to customer.

Can you tell me about a time when you almost gave up, how you felt about that and what you did instead of giving up?

As an entrepreneur, you’re constantly faced with putting in a lot of hard work and not seeing a reward immediately. This is especially stressful when you have risked your livelihood and the financial picture of the company is bleak.

I co-founded a company named Hyperic with four other founders in 2004. It had been a year since we started the company and sales had been uneven and unsteady. My wife became pregnant with twins and another co-founder’s wife was also pregnant. When things looked particularly dire, the other co-founders and I sat down to discuss the future openly.

As I looked around the room, I saw that I was not just among a group of co-workers. They were also my friends, whose talents I respected and company I enjoyed. It was clear to me that beyond the financial gains, we were already successful in building a company that I looked forward to working for everyday. I believed that this group of smart, talented individuals could achieve something great together.

So we pressed on and looked at other ways to evolve the business so that sales numbers were not the only measure of success. That led to a commercial open source model for Hyperic, and we built a community of contributors and IT professionals that really broadened our reach.

Entrepreneurial Tip: The journey of an entrepreneur is hard; sometimes lonely. But when you surround yourself with people who are smart, talented and driven -- you have a formula for achievement.

Tell me about a recent project or problem that you made better, faster, smarter, more efficient, or less expensive?

We started Genee specifically to tackle the problem of time, effort, and stress being wasted on coordinating and optimizing our schedules. This is a common problem, and the only solution thus far has been to hire an executive assistant that can understand your requests, knows your preferences, communicates with others on your behalf, and makes intelligent scheduling decisions.

Clearly, that is not an option for most people, and yet, we all juggle our schedules just as much as any executive.

We feel that with the advancements in natural language processing, artificial intelligence, cloud services, and mobile devices, the time is ripe to bring a technology-based solution for this age-old problem. Genee provides the same level of functionality and care as a human assistant but surpasses them in certain respects like cost, response time, and data and systems integration.

Entrepreneurial Tip: If you want to put a ding in the universe, find a pain point then engineer a unique solution that will provide immediate relief.

How do you see the company changing in two years, and how do you see yourself creating that change?

One constant you can count on for a startup company is that it is continuously evolving and changing. Complacency is the leading indicator of imminent failure for a startup. As a startup co-founder, I am mindful of both internal and external forces of change.

As a company, we are guided by our mission, but we need to be aware of market trends and environments to continuously update our solutions that deliver on the promise to help coordinate and optimize people’s times and schedules.

As an example, the most popular interface for our hardcore Genee users is to interact through email. However, in a couple of years, as messaging becomes the platform (like Facebook Messenger), users will want to coordinate and schedule directly during their chat sessions without leaving the platform. We have to ensure that we build our technology so that we can go where the users and markets are to continue growth and stay relevant.

The internal change will likely be the organization’s size. Company leadership, roles, organization structure, and processes are different when you have five employees, 50 employees, or 500 employees. While we don’t yet have a forecast of where we will be in two years, I have to be the driver of those changes as the company scales. I have to understand how the magnitude of growth translates into success and exercise good judgment along the way.

Entrepreneurial Tip: You must be a student of market trends and the environment -- this strategy will allow you to guide your company through its evolution.

How do you design a company that will be around for 100 years?

It’s an extremely high bar for a technology company to be designed to last 100 years, considering how quickly the world has changed before and after the popularity of the Internet.

Good examples of technology companies that have been able to endure and stay relevant are IBM and Apple. I believe, aside from having created a company culture that fosters continuous innovation and reinvention, that those companies adhere to their mission and core strengths.

It’s not necessarily about Mission Statements, as they often evolve and take on different words or meaning as products and markets evolve. It’s their internal compasses that are timeless and drive decisions and execution.

IBM, for example, is about building great client relationships and ensuring client successes. That has taken them through a wide gamut of product categories from hardware to software. IBM is truly a 100-year-old company that is a mainstay in technology.

Apple was founded with a mission “To make a contribution to the world by making tools for the mind that advance humankind.” That mission has taken them from a computer kit for PC enthusiasts to the largest company in the world delivering products ranging from computers, phones, and music.

We like to think that we are following in the footsteps of giants and focused on building a company that delivers virtual assistant technology that is personal and delightful. Hopefully, that mission will be as true today as it is 100 years from now, and as a company we will have delivered on a wide range of amazing products in those 100 years.

Entrepreneurial Tip: If your company is to last the test of time then you need to focus on your mission statement and a culture of innovation.

How can entrepreneurs find success in a marketplace that always seems to change?

It’s precisely the constant changes in the marketplace that creates ample opportunities for entrepreneurs. Otherwise, existing players would prevent anyone from entering their market given their financial clout and footprint.

As entrepreneurs, I think success depends on our ability to detect market changes early and use them to our advantage, because these market shifts have the potential to change the game and put new entrants in a better competitive position against established companies.

For Genee, we saw a number of changes that made it possible to offer a free scheduling assistant for everyone:

  • Smartphones got everyone to manage their calendars electronically and made their calendars accessible from the Internet
  • Artificial Intelligence (A.I.) is mature enough to allow machines to understand the nuances of sentences (not just words) in natural language
  • Large amounts of data can be analyzed and processed results can be delivered in real time

By leveraging these advancements in technology, we can deliver solutions for existing problems in new and innovative ways.

Entrepreneurial Tip: Be a student of the market but keep in mind that markets will change. It's your responsibility to deliver solutions in new and innovative ways.

Question: Clarity of purpose is important to an entrepreneurs success. What does your company’s mission statement read-like? Share your answer on Twitter.


Diego Saez-Gil, CEO at Bluesmart, Talks About Building A 100 Year Business

Fear is good. It's a friend. It's a primal emotion that is engineered to keep you safe. Unfortunately, fear has a dark side which also prevents you from pursuing your dream of...

  • writing that book
  • starting that business
  • traveling to that foreign country

Why, because fear is an unpleasant emotion caused by the belief that something is dangerous. So you live your life avoiding everything that appears to be dangerous. As a result, you have given into living an average life that is plagued with resentment.

But you don't want to live an average life. You have a dream of living an extraordinary life. So how do you overcome those fears so you can start living a remarkable life? You don't.

You don't overcome your fears. Instead, you have to be more fearful of not living a remarkable life. You have to be horrified of what your life will be like if you never attempted to write that book or start that business or, travel to that foreign country.

This is, in part, what has driven Diego Saez-Gil to live out his life's mission...

  • traveling throughout Europe
  • traveling to NYC
  • building 2 companies
  • creating the world's first smart luggage

Saez-Gil did not allow fear to govern his life. He used it to become a world traveler and successful entrepreneur.

The Interview

How do you choose your team? The most important criteria for me is shared values and belief in the mission that we are working towards. Of course skills and experience are important and I seek to work with very talented people. But I've learned over the years that talent and skills without passion and a sense of mission, are not enough to overcome the big obstacles that you face when you are building a new company or project.

Entrepreneurial Tip: While skills and talent are crucial attributes, they become worthless if the team-member no passion for the work.

What about co-founders? How do you know who will be a good partner? I think for co-founders shared values and mission are even more important. Additionally, I look for partners who are honest, humble and ambitious. People with whom we can speak openly about everything, giving each other constant feedback, so that we can all grow, and pushing each other always to not settle, to go for more ambitious goals. I have been fortunate enough to find partners like that in my entrepreneurial journey.

Entrepreneurial Tip: co-Founders are the backbone of a successful business. More importantly, co-founders must drive the business forward through ambitious goal setting.

How do you design a company that will be around for 100 years? I think it must start with a purpose, a mission. Then products can change, markets can change, industries can change. But if you have a larger purpose the company will be resilient to those changes and will adapt to continue fulfilling its purpose. Additionally you have to think long term on everything you do and build a culture of long term thinking. We live in a time in which this is rare, but it's so important.

Entrepreneurial Tip: If you want to build a 100-year-old business, then focus on the long-term mission, not the product.

The execution of a creative idea can be a chaotic experience. So how do you organize, prioritize, and manage your creative ideas? Yes, I think that a certain level of chaos is actually necessary in a creative process. That's why I think startups have a better chance at creating new breakthrough products and technologies than larger companies. Still, you do need to be able to organize and prioritize your ideas as focus is key. We try to prioritize our ideas and projects based on whatever is better and more important for our customers, the travelers.

Entrepreneurial Tip: A little chaos injected into the creative process is healthy, but it must be tempered with organization and prioritization.

Can you tell me about a time when you almost gave up, how you felt about that, and what you did instead of giving up? Once with one of my first entrepreneurial endeavors we were trying to raise investment and got rejected by every single investor we pitched. It was disheartening and it made me doubt what we were working on. I thought of quitting and maybe going back to look for a job or doing something else. But there was something inside of me telling me I shouldn't quit. I realized that while the "what" we were doing could be off or improved, the "why" we were doing it was right and worth persisting for.

Entrepreneurial Tip: Failure is part of the entrepreneurial journey. This is why focusing on the mission is more important than the product.

What Are Your 3 Biggest Accomplishments? I try to stay humble and not get too proud of past accomplishments. That being said, I feel proud of a few things:

  • Firstly, of moving to a new country where I didn't know anybody and barely spoke the language and still "making my way".
  • Second, I feel proud of building my first company which I started having no idea how to start a company and being able to make it arrive to a good port (it was acquired by StudentUniverse).
  • Finally, I feel proud of helping create the world's first smart suitcase, which brings significant innovation to an important industry and will empower a lot of people to travel the world better.

Entrepreneurial Tip: If allowed fear will derail your dreams. So accept your fears, surround yourself with mentors and have a bias toward action.

Question: What's your life's mission and what's keeping you from accomplishing it?


The Power of Doing Something Meaningful with Vivek Sharma, CEO of Movable Ink

Being an entrepreneur has little to do with running a business and more to do with a mindset.

The world is peppered with insanely large problems. And while many try to address those problems with conventional remedies, the entrepreneur will reframe the problem.

Vivek Sharma has spent a lifetime reframing problems. Sharma asks questions in different and unexpected ways. This mindset changes how he sees and responds to the problem.

The entrepreneur must seek out the unconventional questions:

  • How can I break the big problem into 6 smaller ones?
  • What limiting beliefs do I have that are stopping me from solving this problem?
  • What if I am the problem?
  • What am I actually trying to achieve by solving this issue?

Sharma has a long career of solving problems while failing to solve others. But what Sharma has done better than most is to intimately understand how to reframe the problem so he can find the exact answers needed.

The interview

Who is your role model, and why?

I really look up to inventors who challenge conventional notions and attempt to solve insanely large problems. Three such individuals come to mind: Elon Musk, Ray Kurzweil, and Nikola Tesla. I could write at length about any one of them, but I’ll focus on Kurzweil.

It was the late ‘90s and I had been a recent computer science grad and working at a fast-growing Silicon Valley startup. One of the engineers on the data mining team clued me in to Ray Kurzweil and his book, The Age of Spiritual Machines.

Kurzweil was a child prodigy and by his 20s had invented several technologies including the music synthesizer, the print-to-speech reading machine, and optical character recognition.

In 1999, his book laid a compelling argument on why pattern recognition is core to human intelligence. A child can quickly learn how to catch a baseball, identify objects in photos, learn a new language, and reason.

Pattern recognition is a skill that the best computers struggle with. Kurzweil went on to make many predictions about technologies we could expect to see in the coming decades and many of those predictions have been borne out.

What was so inspiring about his ideas was that they were world changing but none of them conflicted with physical laws. He went on to make the case that the exponential progress in different technologies would converge into some mind-blowing products at a reasonable timescale.

Kurzweil doesn’t come without his critics but his ideas have inspired many computer scientists as a blueprint for the future. If you can’t imagine the future, then you can’t create it.

Entrepreneurial Tip: Choose role models that attempt to solve insanely difficult issues because they will change your standard of thinking.

What do you value most about your company's culture and vision?

Movable Ink is working on helping marketers create highly personal experiences and prioritize context over channel. The balance of power has shifted to consumers who choose when, where, and how to engage with a brand, and we get to build the tools that make this possible.

I’ll highlight one of our core values: “Outcomes over Activities”.

We constantly think about this one. It’s very easy to grow a company and spend your time on things that don’t really matter. When you’re running a five-person company, teams naturally pick the most valuable things to work on because of a lack of time and a visceral feel for how the entire business is doing.

This gets tougher as a company gets large and we are hyper-focused on defining the few things that matter in any quarter for every employee. The great thing is that every employee gets to be CEO of their piece of the business and have that visceral feel of how they contribute to our mission.

Entrepreneurial Tip: Whether your company is small or growing rapidly the most important thing to keep in mind is that each team member plays a large role in your companies success.

If we're sitting here a year from now celebrating what a great 12 months it's been for you in this role, what would that day look like?

Companies go through some very distinct phases:

  • Idea
  • Product-Market Fit
  • Growth
  • Empire Building

Movable Ink sits squarely in a fast-growth phase and we’re constantly thinking about how to do everything at scale. This could mean building a predictable leads engine, a consistent way of interviewing, and setting objectives throughout the company.

We’ve also built out an all-star management team, many of whom have joined in the last six months.

Looking back in 12 months from now, our biggest success will be building out a consistent way of recruiting stars and providing the support and training they need to do the best work in their career.

Entrepreneurial Tip: Each distinct phase your company will require that type of rock-star. It's important to build systems that allow you to attract those rock-stars, at the right time.

Tell me about your last project. Who was involved and what was the biggest challenge?

One of our big projects this year has been objective-setting and getting the company aligned on common goals. We are implementing a performance management system called OKRs (Objectives & Key Results) that were invented at Intel and popularized by Google.

OKRs force you to be disciplined at defining your company’s top-level priorities and breaking them down into small parts.

We are believers in the long term values of OKRs, but the challenges have included: educating the company on why we are using them, making the process as light-weight as possible, and choosing the right software platform to track them.

We are beta-testing the program with the management team but it will make its way to every employee at the company. The biggest challenge has been in making the program lightweight because people won’t buy into and stick with a framework if it isn’t easy to do and helps them do their job better.

Entrepreneurial Tip: Setting clear objectives is crucial to accomplishing company goals. More importantly, the system used to implement and track those objectives must be easy to use and designed to empower your team.

What has been the biggest let down in your career so far?

Back in 2003, I started a company to build a mobile social network, a “Friendster for the phone”, in a time when few startups were exploring mobile.

This was about 4 years before the iPhone launched and the state-of-the-art were Palm and Nokia phones because they had SDKs. We started building a product, fueled by a giant vision to connect people through their mobile devices.

It was a 3-year grind with no salary and we built a lot of product without validating the market and moving the business along the way. We were also too early to the market and it took the iPhone launch to unlock what is possible with mobile apps.

When we finally closed shop after 3.5 long years it was the biggest failure of my life. In retrospect I recognize the great lessons I learned and the importance of frequent and honest feedback.

Entrepreneurial Tip: Intelligent risk taking is part of the entrepreneurial-brand. And using a framework that exploits intelligent risks is crucial not only to the company success but learning from each failure.

Tell me about the time you realized you had the power to do something meaningful?

The first time I programmed in BASIC on an IBM PC (in middle school) I realized this was fundamentally different.

It was incredible to realize that a computer could do exactly what you told it to do and even take input you provided to come back with an answer. Early projects involved solving simple math problems. Later I would program a tiny Pacman sprite that would run around the screen.

It wasn’t until high school that I programmed something called the “Game of Life”, which is an example of an evolutionary algorithm. In the “Game of Life” the programmer sets some simple rules of nature and lets the program run over many generations.

The outcomes can be very unpredictable, and I realized that computers could do far more than people think. I entered college as an aerospace engineer but switched into computer science when I realized I could build things that weren’t bound by the physical laws.

When Marc Andreessen says, “software is eating the world”, I fully believe it and there is nothing more exciting than working in this new frontier.

Entrepreneurial Tip: We all have many passions. But I believe that we only have one calling. Search for your calling and then pursuit it without fear.

Conclusion

Question: As an entrepreneur what problems are you solving? And what does your unconventional process look like?


Todoist Founder, Amir Salihefendic, Talks About Never Giving Up

I have to admit that I am a productivity junkie. And I have been on a journey to find the best tool to help me be more productive. I have gone from pen and paper to applications, back to pen and paper.

But all of these tools always fell short of helping me be more productive. Fortunately, I came to understand that the tool was not the problem -- I was the problem.

I was...

  • unfocused
  • distracted
  • saying yes to every request

It was only after following Michael Hyatt that I actually began to understand what it meant to be productive.

Once I started modeling Hyatt, I began to realize that no tool can help you be productive until you start...

  • focusing on what matters
  • discarding distractions
  • saying no to requests

Once I was focused, I returned to my search of finding a tool that would help me get things done -- Todoist is the application I found.

I manage many writing projects and sometimes it gets stressful and Todoist helps me stay on task. In part because of its simple design.

Todoist has been an invaluable tool. So I wanted to reach out to Amir Salihefendic, founder of Todoist and talk to him about his story.

The Interview

So Amir, what’s your story?

The truth is, I never seen myself as an entrepreneur. And I didn’t initially start Todoist with a big company or big service in mind. The step of creating a company just came naturally. That said, I do come from a family of entrepreneurs, so my background probably influenced me.

Todoist was actually a tool I made for myself. I was still a student, studying computer science in Aarhus (Denmark) and I had two programming jobs on the side. I had a lot of projects going on and I needed to effectively manage my work and my productivity. I looked at the other tools on the market and none worked the way I wanted them to work.

When I started Todoist, I never imagined it would become anything significant – it’s only later that I released its true potential.

Tell me about a project or accomplishment that you consider to be the most significant in your career.

Todoist is by far my most successful accomplishment. It means a lot to me to know it has helped millions of people accomplish their goals.

That said, Todoist isn’t only an accomplishment by myself, but also by an amazing team of people who are working very hard on making Todoist even bigger every day.

Discuss a specific accomplishment of yours in a previous position that indicates you will thrive in this position.

I think one of the most important things in life and especially in business is evolving and learning. When you start a company it's just you or just a few people and you face the enormous challenge of building a minimal product that people want.

After you have some success, you add more people and things become more complex. After more success, you have teams, multiple products and maybe even entire departments you need to manage. Every step has new challenges and requires new skills.

I am doing everything I can to thrive in my position and to thrive as a leader. I do it by reading books, reading articles, following Coursera courses – anything that can help me prepare for the next steps of Todoist’s lifecycle.

How do you see the company changing in two years, and how do you see yourself creating that change?

I am very motivated by solving hard problems and having a positive impact on the world, and I am very inspired by people who are creating something of significant value (e.g. Steve Jobs, Elon Musk, etc.).

Today, what we’re doing with Todoist is helping people and teams get more done and become more organized, in less time with less effort. In the next two years, my role will be to steer Doist towards becoming something of true significant value for people around the world.

What do you value most about your company’s culture and vision?

I think Doist has a very unique culture. We have hired people from almost all the continents in the world. We also work remotely, something that was not even possible a few years back.

Collaborating with people who come from very different cultures is awesome, since everyone has a very different perspective. I think this multicultural and multiracial aspect will enable us to create products that truly target the world - instead of just a specific demographic.

Can you tell me about a time when you almost gave up, how you felt about that, and what you did instead of giving up?

I never felt like giving up. I think the reason is simple: I never put myself in a position where Todoist/Doist was the only thing that paid my bills. In fact, I worked on Todoist for over five years before it could even pay my salary!

When you start something, I don’t think you necessarily need to commit everything to it. You can start it on the side and see how it evolves. That’s at least how I started Todoist. This way I was never forced to give up or to try something else.

On Making Your Choice To Fail

The journey of an entrepreneur is peppered with failure. Those failures can either push you to progress or to give up.

But it all comes down to one thing -- making a choice.

And when you are at that crossroad the choice to either progress or give up is suffocating. Because the wrong decision could be devastating.

In the case of Salihefendic, he took a slightly different path. His choice to progress was fed by the fact that if Amir failed -- he had other things to fall back on.

Salihefendic always made sure that he had other projects on the side. And when you have options the choice doesn't seem as daunting. Moreover, those options allow you to be more tolerant of failure.

Amir's strategy worked -- even though it took 5 years before he could take a salary from Todoist. And what he created has allowed the Todoist team to help millions of people get things done.

Question: What tool do you use to keep you getting things done?

Interview Links


Mike McDerment, CEO of FreshBooks, Talks About Almost Giving Up


So why do you build a product? Do you do it for money, fame, bragging rights?

In the case of Mike McDerment, CEO of [FreshBooks][0], you do it because you see there is a problem with the current convention.

When McDerment led a four-person design agency, in 2003, invoicing was a painful process. Instead, of pulling his hair out, Mike decided to find a better solution.

So [McDerment, Joe and Levi][1] decided to build an invoicing system.

The two-year side project was upgraded to Mike's parents basement and for the next 3.5 years the co-founders worked and built FreshBooks.

Building a product is a long journey. It's marred by failure, financial ruin and in most cases massive competition.

So why would anyone ever take on such odds? In Mike's case, it was not only a passion for serving others, but he loved working with his team.

That passion and love have turned FreshBooks from a piece of software built in a basement to a cloud service that helps over 5 million customers get paid.

The Interview

What do you value most about your company’s culture and vision?

We’ve invested a lot over the years into creating a culture of supportiveness and collaboration. It’s in the DNA of FreshBookers to go to great lengths to execute extraordinary experiences every day for our customers and for each other.

Without a doubt, the most important thing we’ve done to build the foundation is to hire for cultural fit, hiring only people who share our core values.

And from there, it’s not something we just talk about; it’s something we live. Every single FreshBooker spends their first month on customer support -- no exceptions. Everyone gets the opportunity to have close contact with our customers, learn their stories, and help them solve problems.

And that connection to the customer keeps us going and keeps us on the right track.

Entrepreneurial Tip: Hiring smart people is important but don't sacrifice the companies culture for one smart guy.

Can you tell me about a time when you almost gave up, how you felt about that, and what you did instead of giving up?

In the first 18 months of the company’s life, we were making maybe $100 a month and working out of my parents’ basement. Every indication was that we were failing miserably, and being patient was hard for me.

Being an entrepreneur is in my blood, and unless there’s a lot going on, I’ll create problems to solve. I remember thinking that we should just pull the plug and start working on another idea I had, and then I looked over at my co-founder Levi, who was busy programming and bobbing his head to some tunes, totally loving what we were doing.

This is a guy who’s 10 times as smart as me. I knew if I were to ask him how things were going, he’d say, “Mike, we signed up 23 people today, that’s awesome, right?” That kind of positivity kept me going.

I’ve said it a thousand times before and I’m sure I’ll say it again, but I wouldn’t have made it through without my co-founders Joe and Levi. I think their positivity and encouragement helped me through the tough patches.

Entrepreneurial Tip: Change your standard by surrounding yourself with people that not only inspire but are smarter than you.

How long are you willing to fail at a job before you succeed?

Failure is a funny thing to define, and there is certainly no black and white with what success and failure look like. I can tell you that over the years, we’ve done a lot of things that conventional wisdom says you shouldn’t.

We took the business to the internet when most accounting software was being bought off the retail shelf, taking on the big, entrenched players in the market who everyone thought would crush us.

We didn’t take on venture capital for more than 10 years because we wanted to establish our way of doing things, and not be influenced unduly till we were ready. We were early believers in customer service -- we spent a lot of time and energy and money on it -- which made no sense to folks back then, looking at things only through the lens of a spreadsheet.

These were all things that could have indicated failure to some, but we didn’t ascribe to external measures of progress -- we stuck to our guns and were persistent with how we wanted to build the business. I’m a big believer in persistence and focus, and if you’re prepared to push hard when others won’t, you’ll make it through to the other side.

So in my opinion, failure is when you stop evolving and growing, and you’re closed -- otherwise, it’s all learning and no failing.

Entrepreneurial Tip: Failure is never the end of the story -- it's a course correction. And for those that understand that; progress is all but guaranteed.

Tell me about your last project. Who was involved and what was the biggest challenge?

I’m not an armchair leader. I want and need to be in the game with my team, getting my hands dirty with challenges. This means I spend time with different teams at critical turns in the road, in whatever capacity needed.

Presently, I’m our interim CFO, helping the finance team dig deeper. I’ve also been working closely with a recently restructured PR team trying to redefine what communications should look like for FreshBooks.

The big challenges for the team being that they were facing a lot of unknowns and the way was not clear. This is the kind of opportunity I thrive on and I get my energy from the sense of adventure that comes finding a path through the dark, and helping others evolve through the process so they become leaders and better problem solvers.

Entrepreneurial Tip: The boss commands you to do what needs to be done. A leader jumps into the pit with you and asks, "how can I help?"

Tell me about a project or accomplishment that you consider to be the most significant in your career.

As a founder turned CEO, my ability to grow personally directly affects the company’s ability to grow, so I’ve spent a lot of time learning about leadership, learning to be a leader.

I’ve really come to grasp the importance of leadership that builds other leaders. I’m nowhere near done, not even close, but I think I’ve broken through a few walls in the last couple years and this feels significant in a personal way.

It’s not easy and it’s never ending, but I think I’m slowing inching my way in the direction I want to go.

Entrepreneurial Tip: The most important asset in your company is you. Always keep in mind that your journey is not done.

Tell me about a time you realized you had the power to do something meaningful.

This has been a bit of an evolution. The first realization in the early days that we were on to something was seeing the impact we were having on customers.

I remember, years back, being on the phone with a customer, and he told me that FreshBooks had changed his behavior. It was so simple and easy to use that he was now invoicing his clients faster and more often, and in turn, getting paid faster.

This was positively impacting his business’ cash flow. This actually became one of the core value propositions for the company -- helping customers get paid faster -- and we’ve been fortunate enough to help millions of people with this.

The second realization came out of building a company from my hometown, Toronto -- recognizing that we will build a world-class technology company headquartered here and that that is a great way to give back to the community that has given me so much. It’s something to be proud of.

Entrepreneurial Tip: To really make a dent in the universe you need to give back more than what you take.

One of the most important lessons from this interview is the importance of company culture.

I have worked at many companies and even help start a few. While smart, savvy and driven people are, lynch pins. The progress of a company sits deeply within its culture.

I am not sure if Mike knew it at the time but those seeds of a good company culture where being planted in his parents basement. McDerment, Joe and Levi not only enjoyed working together but worked as a team to push through many walls.

As the company progressed, Mike never forgot how good culture allowed him to overcome many failures. And stopped him from nearly giving up on FreshBooks.

McDerment continues that philosophy today by making certain that each person hired is a cultural fit.

I would sacrifice smarts for company culture.

A company with good culture can have many benefits -- financial, moral and more importantly being able to manage better the quality of the customer experience.


Touch Lab's Jeff Namnum Talks About His 3 Biggest Accomplishments

I have not spoken with Jeff for over a year so when I found out he was VP of Sales & Marketing at Touch Lab, I had to drop him an email, to congratulate him.

I am proud of Jeff. I have watched Namnum hustle since Social Media Camp Long Island. And that hustle has allowed him to become part of the Touch Lab team.

Jeff will be the first to tell you that being an entrepreneur is an amazing journey. But that journey is neither a straight line or without its failures -- which tempt you just to quit.

But Jeff has been blessed with incredible advisors. He has a supportive family, the encouragement of friends and team members that keep Namnum humble.

A supportive community is a critical lifeline for the success of any entrepreneur. You come to rely on this group of advisors to help you with difficult decisions or to simply have as mentors on retainer.

It's been a long journey from Social Media Camp Long Island. But Jeff's persistence and clear vision have been invaluable tools on his entrepreneurial trek.

Namnum continues to use those tools to grow Touch Lab's business 40% year on year and increase the company's brand awareness, dramatically.

Simply put he is crushing it!

What are your 3 biggest accomplishments?

First is being lucky enough to get my wife to stick around for the past 20 years or so. I'm a pain in the ass, but luckily she's really patient and extremely loving.

Second is the three kids God blessed us with. I count it as a major accomplishment that we've grown up with our kids, learned alongside them and continue to have a close, open, honest relationship with each of them.

Lastly, at least so far, growing our business 40% in our first full year of partnership & increasing our brand awareness drastically is also a pretty big deal in my life.

What motivates you to get out of bed in the morning

Gratitude.

The first thing I say every morning, in my head or out loud, is thank you God for another day. In between talking myself into getting on the treadmill in the basement and trying not to forget anything on the way out the door, I try hard to give thanks for all the amazingness in my life.

Like breathing and walking and great opportunities.

What do you value most about your company's culture and vision

Take a bunch of remarkably talented professionals in the prime of their career, add in a ton of irreverent jokes (with just a bit of sarcasm) and toss in the animated gif / film clip / meme of the day and you may get a fair idea of what our crew is like.

What I really love is that in the midst of all of this is an undercurrent of respect. Respect for talent & work of course, but more importantly just a basic respect for each other as human beings.

I joined this team as a marketing guy in the middle of a bunch of amazing Android engineers.

No one gave me crap for being the muggle; everyone was encouraging and eager for my success. We've had the occasional bad seed come through but they never last long.

I love working somewhere where the baseline for success isn't just talent & hard work but also respect for your teammates.

How long are you willing to fail at this job before you succeed

I gave this one some thought but I really don't know. For better or worse, it's not something I think about much.

I have the chance to grow the IDEO of Android with an amazing team; I just plan on continuing until we're done.

Discuss a specific accomplishment of yours in a previous position that indicates you will thrive in this position

It's funny but it's not a job or business that comes to mind at all. What comes to mind is Social Media Camp Long Island. It was a 400+ person unconference in 2010 about Social Media that attracted some amazing and wonderful professionals and amateurs.

That event would have been impossible without the team of incredible people who came together as the organizing committee. These were very successful people who committed to meet at crazy hours for a ridiculous amount of time and put in more then their fair share of work.

In the end, my job was to identify their talents, skills and connections and ask them to use them in a directed way. I was the coordinator of talent, nothing more, even though I got a lot of credit for SMCampLI.

For Touch Lab to truly become what we envision, I have to be a coordinator of remarkable talents

Tell me about the time you realized you had the power to do something meaningful

7 or 8 years ago, I got the chance to volunteer with a teen group at my church. Eventually I got the opportunity to run it with a great partner.

During that time (I no longer volunteer there as of a year ago) I had amazing young people share things with me, experiences terrible and wonderful, that blew my mind.

Some that they'd never shared with anyone.

Those young people taught me that if I can shut up and listen and if I can avoid judging, then I can effect real change where it matters most: on the level of the human heart & soul.

Question: Being an entrepreneur has very little to do with running a business. It's more of a mindset; an understanding that with each problem encountered is an opportunity to adjust and overcome. What recent issue have you encountered and how did you resolve, it?

Interview Links

What is the best small business resource you have used

What is the best business book you have read


About Ramon B. Nuez Jr.

I am a contributing writer for the Huffington Post, Business 2 Community and the Goodman Project. I also run an online business coaching entrepreneurs. Every week, I send out an email newsletter with my latest articles, and free tips.

An Interview With Qwilr co-Founder Dylan Baskind

What does it take to be a co-founder of a startup?

Is it some complicated formula of skills, self-awareness and pedigree? Or is it something a bit more fundamental like creating solutions for pain points?

For Dylan Baskind, it is the latter.

Baskind is the co-founder of Qwilr. The startup takes static documents and transforms them into websites that are data rich and interactive.

"Qwilr started out as a disobedient idea. One that simply wouldn’t go away."
– Dylan Baskind

So Baskind went to work brainstorming ideas, concepts and workflows.

But the idea was ambitious perhaps too ambitious so Baskind shelved Qwilr until later.

But as Baskind finally got around to building Qwilr he realized this would not only solve a pain point, it would be a long-term sustainable business.

What do you value most about your company’s culture and vision?

One of the unique strengths of Qwilr’s company culture and vision is the co-leadership of design and engineering. Many tech companies, by nature of their talent profile or incumbent culture, lean towards being mostly engineering led, or mostly design led. As a consequence this tends to produce either Left-Brain solutions (careful and detailed UX, but lacking in functional power) or Right-Brain solutions (powerful functionality with mystifying interfaces).

Our vision for Qwilr, is to walk the gauntlet between these two, sometimes antagonistic, mind-sets. Ideally we want to enable powerful functionality, delivered through an intuitive and easy to use interface.

Looking specifically at our culture, a few key phrases spring to mind - stay curious, solve real problems, search for simplicity. Qwilr addresses all of these factors from a product standpoint, and I’m confident that we will totally disrupt how the business world views archaic approaches to documents as long as we continue to instill this culture as our business grows.

We’re constantly making things better, faster, smarter, or less expensive. We leverage technology or improve processes. In other words, we strive to do more—with less. Tell me about a recent project or solution to a problem that you made better, faster, smarter, more efficient, or less expensive.

We’re always on the hunt for tools which improve internal communications. The decision to incorporate group chat tool Slack into our team organisation has had a profound impact.

Communication within a collaborative team is one of the primary factors influencing its success. The more fluid the transmission of ideas, the quicker the iteration cycles, the more efficiently a team can arrive at an optimal solution or conclusion.

Admittedly, when I first read about Slack, I thought to myself: “Yawn, another chat client - really?” - but once we tried it out, we were hooked. These days, I couldn’t imagine running our organisation without it. We literally never email each other. Anything we say (non-verbally), we say over Slack, which means it is then instantly searchable for later reference. We have saved a significant amount of time by not digging through email chains to find information. The integration piece is wonderful. We’ve got our Twitter, customer service communications, payment information, metrics, and error logging notifications all wired into Slack. It’s both our information epicenter and “town square”.

My hat goes off to the team behind Slack. Getting one interaction design decision just right is really tricky. Somehow Slack has managed to get hundreds of these decisions just right, all at once.

Tell me about an accomplishment that shaped your career.

Oddly enough, one experience that has had a profound impact in shaping my career was playing in a band and being its ring-leader. Contrary to what your granddad might say, it can actually teach you a lot of useful skills for the CEO role of an early stage tech company.

We were serious about the band. We rehearsed twice a week, every week. We signed a record deal, a management deal, got our album mixed by some big names, toured all across Australia and the US. It was a real enterprise for us.

The environment of the band room is in many ways a microcosm of the modern tech company. You’ve got a group of talented individuals, in a very collaborative, structurally flat environment, all looking to make a creative contribution and impact on a final product. As the leader of such a group there are many conflicting forces at play. You’ve got to make each member feel validated, so they feel their contributions are heard and valued. As the final arbiter, it’s your duty to veto a contribution or direction that is not going to make the cut (E.G. “We should, like, add a cowbell here right?!”).

Morale and motivation are also key. Rehearsing until midnight can be a real grind. Just like bug-fixing until 2am, or writing 100s of customer emails can be. It’s essential to the success of a company or band that the emotional chemistry of the room is carefully monitored. Happy people to do good work and get more done.

It’s also quite easy to draw many economic parallels between the music and tech industries. Within both worlds, to produce quality collateral (whether it be music or websites) in such a resource-scarce environment means you have to be creative about your means of production and embrace a general ethos of self-sufficiency.

Finally, there is a huge amount of negotiation and contractual issues in music. There are sync deals, management deals, record deals and more. These deals are predicated on similar notions of value as with early stage tech companies. It’s about the quality of the band and their capacity to execute (in this case, to execute art, not a business), the “vision” of the band and what they are looking to grow into and that vital ingredient, the size and composition of the addressable market, i.e. “How many people will want to listen to these songs?”.

How long are you willing to fail at this job before you succeed?

I think “failure” as a concept has an interesting place in the startup culture’s psyche and one in which I think the emphasis is sometimes misplaced. I’d argue that failure in isolation is not something to be enshrined.

What makes failure valuable to the entrepreneur is the forensic analysis. Failure without retrospect is nothing more than…failure! Dealing with that gnawing question of “Why didn’t it work out?” is where much higher-order learning and growth happens.

If you try to start a business and it fails, and at the end of that process you don’t have clear ideas about why it failed, and what you might do differently next time - then that’s the real failure. Alternatively, if you come away from that experience with a laundry list of concrete learning about what you did wrong and how to improve and adapt - that’s a hugely valuable experience.

As Bob Dylan says: “There’s no success like failure. And failure’s no success at all.”

What motivates you to get out of bed in the morning?

I feel very thankful that in my day-to-day existence I get to tackle such a broad and engaging range of problems. I was a Lego kid growing up. I love building things and I love problem solving.

Building a company like Qwilr means there are fascinating problems to work with every single day, whether they be software engineering problems, human-cultural challenges (like deciding who to hire), business and strategic problems or language problems like how to express a new or paradigm shifting idea.

The real fun for me is the mental cross-pollination of working across these problem spaces every day.

Tell me about the time you realized you had the power to do something meaningful.

I was a design and engineering consultant for many years, and while I loved the work, I loathed creating proposals. I was like a school-kid with a geography essay to write. It was just so mechanical. Lots of copy and pasting, searching around for some old document, and fiddling with Excel pricing tables. It was absolutely the least enjoyable part of my job. And what made matters worse, the outcome was a static PDF! I was a web guy, why was I producing PDFs to communicate the value of my services?

Qwilr was conceived as a dream solution for my own pain point. Remove all the copy-pasting, fiddling and drudge work - and replacing it with a fluid and visual experience, that produced something engaging, interactive, web based and re-usable.

Using the early versions of Qwilr made me genuinely happier in my work, because I’d removed that last piece of drudgery (besides doing my taxes!). It felt good to produce these self-hosted websites in a couple of minutes, for what used to take me half a day.

What has been really meaningful for me is seeing this same positive experience now being shared by thousands of Qwilr users. Hearing feedback from customers about how much time they’ve saved, how much better their collateral looks and how much they enjoy the Qwilr experience gives me a lot of satisfaction.

Question: What do you think is most important in building a company – culture or product?


About Ramon B. Nuez Jr.

I am a contributing writer for the Huffington Post. I also run an online business teaching high achievers to live a life of purpose. Every week, I send out an email newsletter with my latest articles, free tips on writing and creativity.

12 Simple Tools That Will Turn Your Smartphone Into a Virtual Assistant

As an entrepreneur, there is an endless list of things that need to get done. Unfortunately, the list never gets shorter it only gets longer and more time sensitive. 

You could hire an actual virtual assistant who would manage your day-to-day, but there is a cost associated, not to mention the learning curve. And many entrepreneurs are looking to save money with little time to train a virtual assistant. 

But there is an alternative.  It's a solution that is always with you and will, for the most part, help you for free. Your smartphone.

Now by itself the smartphone is rather useless but if you install the right combination of applications -- you could have a rather useful assistant. 

Now the list of applications that can help you manage your day can vary a great deal, so this list is in no way inclusive. But my hope is that you find at least one application that will help you manage your day more effectively.

The (electronic) Personal Assistant Advantage

Google Voice is your phone and voicemail management service by Google. The service helps solve the issue of everyone calling you on your cell phone. Instead of giving out your cell number, you would give them your Google Voice number. This allows you to send unimportant phone calls to voicemail while taking those important phone calls.

Slack is your team communications platform. Slack aims to solve the struggles that some teams have with clear communications, by having all team communications in one place. Just image how much more effective your team will be when everyone is on the same page?

Google Drive is your cloud storage service. You are not always at the "office", but you always need your documents with you. Drive allows you to store your documents, videos, and photos online. It also serves as a Microsoft Office alternative. So the next time you need that "very important" client document it will be waiting for you on your phone.

Gmail is your free email service. You need a simple and quick method to manage your email, but nothing so far works well enough. Gmail is a Google service that allows you quickly and simply access to your email.

The Web Developer Will See You Now

Squarespace is your content management system (CMS). A blog is a requirement in today's social economy and the last thing you need is to worry about your blog. The CMS manages all the technical aspects of your blog so you can focus on what you do best. Squarespace consists of a website builder, hosting service and blogging platform. So it can easily and quickly handle your most pressing CMS needs.

Google Analytics is your analytics service that tracks and reports website traffic. If you don't understand why you're receiving traffic or from and where, then you can't make informed decisions. Google Analytics can help you understand the why and where. All you need to do is grab the analytics code and add it to your website. Once you understand how your visitors are interacting with your site, you are better equipped to help them.

The Accountant Is In

PayPal is your online payments system. You're too busy for traditional paper methods like checks and money orders. PayPal makes that issue disappear by becoming your electronic alternative. All you need to do is sign up, setup your account and PayPal will help you make your financial life a little simpler.

FreshBooks is your a cloud-based accounting service. Your business is growing, but you're having a hard time keeping track of who owes you money. Freshbooks is designed to you get paid for your time and expertise. Once you are all setup with an account, you will have the peace of mind that Freshbooks is helping you out.

Who Needs A Proofreader

Grammarly is your a writing-enhancement platform. Writing for the web is a major part of your content strategy so your articles must be grammatically correct. Grammarly adheres to more than 250 grammar rules and will proofread your articles. All you need to do is upload your article to Grammarly and the service will make sure that your content is error free.

The Notetaker Will Get Things Done

Evernote is your notetaking service. You use pieces of scrap paper to take notes so it's no wonder you can't find "that" note. Evernote replaces traditional paper. You can capture any piece of formatted text and save it to Evernote. The "note" is then synchronized with your Evernote account so you will never again lose that "piece of scrap paper."

Todoist is your cloud-based method for getting things done. You have a ton of stuff that needs to get done, but your to-do list is disorganized. Todoist can help you manage your tasks and can act as your project manager. Once you are all set up, Todoist will help you stay on task.

Where Is You Social Media Expert

Hootsuite is your social media management system. You are on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Google+, Foursquare, MySpace, WordPress, TrendSpottr, and Mixi, and you can't keep up. Hootsuite takes all those social networks and supports them in one dashboard. Once you have installed Hootsuite, the management system will easily keep your social media life in order.

The life of an entrepreneur requires a great deal of work and sacrifice. It's difficult to keep a handle on everything that goes on in your life. But with a smartphone and a handful of applications you better manage your busy day.

Question: What application can you not live without? I would love to read your comments here.

Infographic: How Does A Miracle Morning Help You Conquer Your Day

What if I told you that your success was dependent on what you did every morning?

 

I feel that waking up early sets the tone of making a choice for my day. If I leave it to fate as to when I roll out of bed, then I feel like that’s the outlook I’m taking in general. On the other hand, if I choose to get up early and do amazing things in those quiet hours, that’s when I feel like I’m grabbing hold of my life and controlling where I go. That’s the choice I want to make.
— Joel Gascoigne, CEO Buffer

Unfortunately, for most people their morning looks like rush hour in New York City. You know what I am talking about:

  • You're racing to take a shower.
  • You're racing to make breakfast.
  • You're racing to get the kids dressed.
  • You're racing to get to work on time.

By adopting this type of morning routine, you become a slave to every urgency, emergency, and last minute issue, that comes up. So nothing you "planned" to get done -- gets done.

But what if I told you that small changes in your morning routine could help you have a more productive morning? Something as simple as waking up before 5AM to meditate or exercise or work on that eBook allows you to make an active choice to be more productive.

This is what my morning routine looks like:

  • Wake up at 4-ish
  • Make a cup of coffee
  • Yoga -- 20 minutes
  • Journal - Five Minute Journal
  • Meditate -- 7 minutes
  • Shave, shower, and get dressed
  • Make breakfast for the boys, oatmeal with fresh fruits; for me 
  • Get my son ready for school
  • Leave the house to drop off my son at school
  • Spend the next 4 hours doing creative work

Following this morning schedule allows me to focus on work that is most important. In essence allowing me to be very productive in the morning.

In this infographic by Entrepreneur Magazine, they give you a guide to building a morning ritual. I suggest that you adopt one task at a time, until it becomes a habit before picking up another task.



About Ramon B. Nuez Jr.

I am a contributing writer for the Huffington Post. I also run an online business teaching high achievers to live a life of purpose. Every week, I send out an email newsletter with my latest articles, free tips on writing and creativity.

How To Magically Transform Your Average Life Into a Calling


What did you expect -- for it to be handed to you on a silver platter? I mean let's be honest what are you doing to live a life of purpose:

  • Are you listening to what your life wants to do with you
  • Are you obsessively pursuing your passions
  • Are you making opportunities so mentors can find you

No?!

So why do keep saying that your life sucks? Have you ever thought that life does not suck, maybe it's you that sucks?

Yep, I said it and I am not going to apologize for it.

I am kicking you in the ass because your life can be lived with purpose. So when you are on your deathbed and you look back on your life, there are no regrets, just gratitude.

The journey will not be easy. Your success will be dependent on your mindset and from the help of other people. Let me show you how.

Your Life's Purpose Just Called You A No Good Coward

Finding your life's purpose is a painful journey and one where failure becomes an intimate friend. So it's not surprising that the average person never finds their calling.

Instead, the average person is satisfied with existing. Why -- because existing is easy and safe.

But your calling won't be dismissed so easily. It’s a nagging voice in the back of your head that keeps telling you, "This is not what you were born to do." There will be some, a remarkable few, that will listen to that nagging voice and begin their journey.

But where exactly is the journey taking you? Without a map or final destination, this journey is looking more like a random outing.

Unfortunately, finding your calling is supposed to be a difficult journey infused with failure. Yes, you read that right. You must fail and repeatedly fail before you succeed.

Why, because failure is your best mentor. From it, you will learn not only the right way of doing something but the best way of doing it.

Failure will force you to learn new skills and to master those new skills through repeated practice.

In other words, no one finds their calling based on their talents. Finding your calling is an exercise in failure and deliberate practice, which is fueled by the right type of mindset.

And that mindset must be prepared to accept failure as a teacher. This is the mindset that Psychology professor Carol Dweck calls the growth mindset -- where people believe their potential is unlimited.

And with a belief in unlimited potential you are well positioned to create a life of purpose.

Tip: Do you have a passion? Then investigate it, this is how your life begins to call you to your purpose. And don't worry if you fail at achieving any type of excellence in that passion -- simply learn from the failure and apply those lessons to the next leg of your journey.

A Mentor's Job Is To Sucker Punch You In The Face

Even though you know, you are on the right path. You will still need a reassuring voice to let you know what you already know to be true.

Thankfully, life will and has placed mentors in your way. These are people who will help you on your journey -- like your parents and teachers.

But as we get older these mentors get harder to spot. Unfortunately, mentors won't announce themselves. In all honesty, they will move in and out of your life unexpectedly.

So how do you find a mentor? You don't. They will find you.

You should spend your time pursuing your calling and motivated to doing the work that matters. Once you have placed yourself in that mindset, the mentor will enter your life for the sole purpose to teach you what you must learn.

The caveat? You must be ready to learn. And if you are ready you can make amazing things happen.

Tip: Mentors will weave their way in and out of your life. So you need to listen carefully to each person that enters your life -- especially when you need the advice most.

Question: Your calling is what you were born to do but on this journey we need mentors to guide us to the next leg of our journey. Who has been your most influential mentor?

3 Ways High Achievers Can Develop Better Habits


You are failing at being a successful entrepreneur and it has nothing to do with your ability to effectively run your business. But it does have everything to do with your poor habits.

So it's not surprising that you struggle each day to build your business. Your day is peppered with habits that are not helping you but hurting you:

  • Bad eating habits
  • A misguided morning ritual
  • No clue what a habit is

At this rate, you will burn out before your company does. But there is hope -- the solution is to replace those bad habits with good ones. Are you ready?

Developing A Good Habit Is a Nightmare

Have you ever wondered why you have so many bad habits? Why do you do the bad things you know are bad for you like overeating and smoking?

Wikipedia explains that a habit is, "the process by which behavior, through repetition, becomes automatic or habitual."

So for the most part your habits have been nurtured by you over a period of time. But how do you stop nurturing bad habits and start building good habits?

It's not easy, but the two most important items are: commitment and baby steps:

  • Commit to doing something small, like Yoga for 10 minutes Monday - Friday.
  • Commit to eating a healthy breakfast on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday.
  • Commit to doing your most creative work between 6 - 7 AM Monday and Tuesday.

As these habits begin to become easier and more automatic, you can increase the frequency. You can either increase the time you dedicate or you can increase the number of days.

The Morning Ritual Is Just Plain Stupid

So what is this thing called the Morning Ritual? We all have one it's basically a set of habits that you do every morning.

Now, what you do in a morning ritual will set up your day for success or failure.

A stressful morning ritual might look like this -- rush to take a shower, yell at the kids to get dressed for school and swallow a few gulps of coffee while you run out the door.

This is the morning ritual that I had for years and it brought me nothing but stress, fatigue and an upset stomach.

But after reading Hal Elrod's book the Morning Miracle I realized that my mornings should fuel me not rob me of energy.

So I committed to a new morning ritual that would not only fuel me but allow me to power through my busy day:

  • Get up at 4:00 - ish using the Sleep Cycle app
  • Drink a hot cup of water with lemon and honey
  • Yoga for 20 minutes
  • Write in my Five Minute Journal
  • Meditate for 7 minutes
  • Shower and get dressed
  • Make the family breakfast and I eat oatmeal with nuts and fruits

By building this new morning ritual, I have the energy and clarity to better manage my hectic day.

Why The Foods You Eat Will Destroy You

It's no secreted that your diet is critical to your success.

But your day is full of meetings and project deadlines so you grab what's available -- your 4th cup of coffee, a donut from 5 hours ago, and a bag of chips.

While these foods may satisfy your initial craving, it does very little for your energy levels. In fact, these foods rob your body of its energy.

Neil Patel, of Nutritional Resource, explains "...there are a great number of foods that give you just what you need to be healthy and fit."

Patel lists 15 foods that are designed to keep your energy levels up:

  1. Chicken breasts
  2. Eggs
  3. Salmon
  4. Dairy milk
  5. Greek yogurt
  6. Shrimp
  7. Almond milk
  8. Almonds
  9. Oats
  10. Potatoes
  11. Kale
  12. Blueberries
  13. Garlic
  14. Cinnamon
  15. Dark chocolate

Yes, these foods are amazing but at the end of the day it's just not about these 15 foods. It's about making small changes that will lead to a healthier diet. One that give you the energy to power through your day.

Question: We all have bad habits it's part of being human but in order to grow we need good habits. What habits do you want to change today?

3 Surprising Life Lessons To Cultivate Your Calling

image credit: author's own

Shhhh! Did you hear that? There it goes again. It’s a faint whisper. I can barely make it out, but I think it’s your calling!

What's a calling you ask -- it's the reason why you were born.

It’s been there your entire life desperately trying to get your attention. But your calling has been drowned out by the voice of fear.

This issue is further compounded by your regrets. You spend your days looking at the past and imagining, what if?

  • What if I would have married her?
  • What if I would have taken that job?
  • What if I would have managed my money better?

The regret becomes your prison and you begin to lose faith in a better life. Hopeless, you sit and wait for the right opportunity that will miraculously change your life.

But the opportunity never comes and your life does not get better. And now you lay on your deathbed wondering, "Did I make a difference?"

And your frightening answer "no."

1. The Scary Truth Of Lying On Your Deathbed

But I am not letting you off that easy. I am not going to allow you to sit in your prison and wait for a better life.

I refuse to watch you lay on your deathbed regretting all the things you did not accomplish, only to ask me "what if..."

  • What if I would have listened to my calling?
  • What if I embraced fear as a friend and allowed it to fuel my perseverance.
  • What if I let go of my regrets and embraced the now?

I need you to forget about the what if and change your mindset. I need to you focus on the now and begin to see your difficulties as opportunities.

Finding your calling is not an elusive goal but it does requires your commitment and perseverance. I have come to understand that while setting goals and having a plan are important aspects of living a life of purpose, finding your purpose is more of a journey.

And like any journey there is a degree of unpredictability. There are twists and turns and unscheduled pit stops, which may lead you on another journey. But what is most important is not the journey but how we react to each experience, which determines how we continue to grow.

2. Fear Will Terrify You Into Believing Its Dangerous

For you work is a sentence. A punishment assigned to you by some dark-overlord.

When we are stuck at a job instead of pursuing a passion, we become disconnected with that work. According to a research report by the Society for Human Resources Management -- only 43 percent of U.S. workers are "somewhat satisfied" with their current jobs.

This is the reason why so many people switch from job to job. But how do you stop switching jobs and find your calling? In large part, it has to do with leveraging your fear.

Merriam-Webster defines fear as -- an unpleasant emotion caused by the belief that someone or something is dangerous, likely to cause pain or a threat.

And this is the fear that most of us are familiar with. It's the definition that you use to avoid risk in hopes that you will never experience failure.

But Leanne Kallal, co-founder of Juicy Geniuses, does not agree with that definition. Kallal believes that fear is...

An opportunity for self-discovery and self-growth; a well of untapped personal power and strength; the gateway from wishing and wanting to doing and being.

So we have two definitions of fear, but which one do you listen to? The trick is to understand when to listen to your fears and when not too.

Allowing fear to control you is simple, continue being a bystander. But leveraging fear to tap into your personal power requires a different mindset that is always preceded by a feeling that there must be more to your life.

3. Your Actions will Give You Staggering Results

I know what you are saying, "but I don't feel that there is something more to my life."

That is fear influencing your words. You do have a feeling that there is something more to your life -- you just want someone to guarantee that you won't fail.

Unfortunately, there is no guarantee that you will not fail. In all honesty, I will guarantee that you will fail and you will fail — often.

But don't let the failures become your obstacle they are the building blocks for long-term rewards. Instead, focus on this question, "What do you really want to get out of your life?"

Give yourself some time to answer this question. A good starting place is to write down all the major events in your life. Write them all down even if you think they are silly or irrelevant.

As you are getting to the end of your list begin to look for a common theme.

Next image yourself on your deathbed:

  • What do you regret not doing?
  • What do you wish you had more time to do?
  • What do you fear losing?

This exercise will give you a good understanding of what is most important in your life. Once you have that awareness, it's time to commit an action.

Any action. As long as you are doing something.

Don’t fear failure. Leverage fear to feed your perseverance. It’s in the failure that you will learn the lessons necessary to prepare you for what comes next.

And now you lay on your deathbed wondering, “Did I make a difference?” Your fearless answer will be “Yes!”

Question: If you could hit the reset button on life what would you change? What would you do differently? How would you live?