The Goldilocks Rule: How to Stay Motivated in Life and Business

It was 1955 and Disneyland had just opened in Anaheim, California when a ten-year-old boy walked in and asked for a job. Labor laws were loose back then and the boy managed to land a position selling guidebooks to visitors for $0.50 a piece.

Within a year, he had transitioned to Disney’s magic shop where he learned tricks from the older employees. He experimented with jokes and tried out simple magic routines on the visitors. Soon, he discovered that what he loved was not performing magic, but performing in general. The young boy set his sights on becoming a comedian.

Once he entered high school, he started performing in small clubs around Los Angeles. The crowds were small and his act was short. He was rarely on stage for more than five minutes. In one case, he literally delivered his standup routine to an empty club.

It wasn’t glamorous work, but there was no doubt he was getting better. His first magic routines would only last one or two minutes. By high school his material had expanded to include a five minute skit and then a ten minute show. At the age of 19, he was performing weekly at clubs for twenty minutes at a time. Of course, he had to read three poems during the act just to make the routine long enough, but still. He was improving.

He spent another decade experimenting, adjusting, and practicing his act. He took a job as a television writer and, gradually, he was able to land his own appearances on television shows. By the mid-1970s, he had worked his way into being a regular guest on The Tonight Show and Saturday Night Live.

After nearly 15 years of work, he broke through to wild success. He toured 60 cities in 63 days. Then 72 cities in 80 days. Then 85 cities in 90 days. 18,695 people attended one show in Ohio. 45,000 tickets were sold for his 3-day show in New York. He catapulted to the top of his genre and became one of the most important comedians of his time.

His name was Steve Martin. Click to continue reading »

My 2016 Integrity Report

Today I am publishing my 2016 Integrity Report.

This is an exercise I do each year because these reports provide a reason for me to revisit my core values and consider if I have been living in a sincere way. Basically, my Integrity Reports help me answer the question, “Am I actually living like the type of person I claim to be?”

There are 3 main questions that I will answer in this Integrity Report.

  1. What are the core values that drive my life and work?
  2. How am I living and working with integrity right now?
  3. How can I set a higher standard in the future?

As always, you are welcome to use this format to conduct your own Integrity Report (if you are into that kind of thing). Click to continue reading »

The Four Burners Theory: The Downside of Work-Life Balance

One way to think about work-life balance issues is with a concept known as The Four Burners Theory. Here’s how it was first explained to me:

Imagine that your life is represented by a stove with four burners on it. Each burner symbolizes one major quadrant of your life.

  1. The first burner represents your family.
  2. The second burner is your friends.
  3. The third burner is your health.
  4. The fourth burner is your work.

The Four Burners Theory says that “in order to be successful you have to cut off one of your burners. And in order to be really successful you have to cut off two.” 1
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Footnotes
  1. I first heard about The Four Burners Theory from Chris Guillebeau, who heard about it from Jocelyn Glei, who read about it in this New Yorker article by David Sedaris, who was told about it by an Australian woman named Pat, who heard about it at a management seminar she attended. If you’re keeping score at home and trying to figure out where The Four Burners Theory originated from, well, good luck. The above quote comes from the New Yorker article by Sedaris.

The 3 Stages of Failure in Life and Work (And How to Fix Them)

One of the hardest things in life is to know when to keep going and when to move on.

On the one hand, perseverance and grit are key to achieving success in any field. Anyone who masters their craft will face moments of doubt and somehow find the inner resolve to keep going. If you want to build a successful business or create a great marriage or learn a new skill then “sticking with it” is perhaps the most critical trait to possess.

On the other hand, telling someone to never give up is terrible advice. Successful people give up all the time. If something is not working, smart people don’t repeat it endlessly. They revise. They adjust. They pivot. They quit. As the saying goes, “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” 1

Life requires both strategies. Sometimes you need to display unwavering confidence and double down on your efforts. Sometimes you need to abandon the things that aren’t working and try something new. The key question is: how do you know when to give up and when to stick with it?

One way to answer this question is to use a framework I call the 3 Stages of Failure. Click to continue reading »

Footnotes
  1. This quote is typically attributed to Albert Einstein, but there is no evidence that Einstein actually said it. For now, the original source remains unknown.

The Evolution of Anxiety: Why We Worry and What to Do About It

Let’s pretend for a moment that you are a giraffe.

You live on the grasslands of the African savannah. You have a neck that is 7 feet long (2.1 meters). Every now and then, you spot a group of humans driving around on a safari taking pictures of you.

But it’s not just your neck and their cameras that separates you from the humans. Perhaps the biggest difference between you and your giraffe friends and the humans taking your picture is that nearly every decision you make provides an immediate benefit to your life.

  • When you are hungry, you walk over and munch on a tree.
  • When a storm rolls across the plains, you take shelter under the brush.
  • When you spot a lion stalking you and your friends, you run away.

On any given day, most of your choices as a giraffe—like what to eat or where to sleep or when to avoid a predator—make an immediate impact on your life. You live in what researchers call an Immediate Return Environment because your actions deliver immediate benefits. Your life is strongly oriented toward the present moment.

Free Bonus: I’ve put together an interactive guide that will help you apply these techniques to any worry. Click here to get it, free.

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Make Your Life Better by Saying Thank You in These 7 Situations

I don’t say “Thank You” as often as I should and I doubt I’m the only one.

In fact, I’m starting to believe that “Thank You” is the most under-appreciated and under-used phrase on the planet. It is appropriate in nearly any situation and it is a better response than most of the things we say. Let’s cover 7 common situations when we say all sorts of things, but should say “Thank You” instead. Click to continue reading »

Upgrade Your Brain: How to Spot a Common Mental Error That Leads to Misguided Thinking

Human beings have been blaming strange behavior on the full moon for centuries. In the Middle Ages, for example, people claimed that a full moon could turn humans into werewolves. In the 1700s, it was common to believe that a full moon could cause epilepsy or feverish temperatures. We even changed our language to match our beliefs. The word lunatic comes from the Latin root luna, which means moon. Click to continue reading »

The Akrasia Effect: Why We Don’t Follow Through on What We Set Out to Do and What to Do About It

By the summer of 1830, Victor Hugo was facing an impossible deadline. Twelve months earlier, the famous French author had made an agreement with his publisher that he would write a new book titled, The Hunchback of Notre Dame.

Instead of writing the book, Hugo spent the next year pursuing other projects, entertaining guests, and delaying his work on the text. Hugo’s publisher had become frustrated by his repeated procrastination and responded by setting a formidable deadline. The publisher demanded that Hugo finish the book by February of 1831—less than 6 months away.
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