Starting the New Year Off Right

A new year is here, and many of us are re-energized to build a business and work on our personal independence.  I’m  part of that group too.

I have been lucky enough to help out some of you this past year.   But my own efforts were limited during the fall.  Just like most people, work and life get busy at that time of year.  But the newness and reinvigoration of a brand new year get us motivated to work harder and strive for success even more.

Here I am mid-morning on New Years Day and I have connected with old contacts, listened to some motivating podcasts, thanked people who have inspired me and helped me over the past year, and am writing a blog post.  This is a bit different in that I am not writing about anything specific to help you with building a product.  This is more my thoughts and letting my tigers capture the energy that the new year brings.


Where to start in the new year

It is very easy to have a ton of energy and motivation on new years day, resolve to start a business, get going with your head down wanting to succeed as quickly as possible, and get overwhelmed with the choice of what to do and in what order.  This happens to all of us at times when we have a new idea or fresh motivation.

But there is no set destination and it isn’t a full-out drag race to a finish line.

Today is not the day to blow your entire tank of trying to get going ASAP.  Today is all about building the foundation for a successful new year, and then adding a few small successes to your checklist.

Don’t resolve to change your diet, exercise habits, family connections, alcohol/coffee consumption, and start a business all in one day.  That’s a recipe for failure.

But do set goals.  Goals, not resolutions.  Set 14 goals for 2014 and DO NOT attempt them all at the same time.

There are 52 weeks in a year, and if you work one goal at a time, you still have over three weeks per goal.  And this is where I suggest you start, start a new goal every three weeks.


It’s all about continual improvement, not perfection

Another problem we all have when setting goals is that we are always striving for perfection.  Of course we all know that perfection is impossible and this only leads to disappointment.

We all know that person who starts a diet, one that’s a bit too strict, and fails within a few days.  The failure, they ate a piece of chocolate, had a small piece of bread, drank a glass of wine, or ate five chips.  As much as we all think “Big deal, move on” when looking at this at arms length, most people consider this to be a complete failure of the diet.  They quickly fall completely off the wagon and just eat whatever crap they are used to, instead of just carrying on where they had that minor lapse.  In addition, they vow to start the diet over again, and try to follow it perfectly.  But they don’t start it later that day, or the next.  No, a diet must start on a Monday and be followed 100% to be effective.  Anything else is a failure.  So here we are on a Wednesday and the diet doesn’t start until Monday.  Instead of doing it at 95% for the next five days, it’s pure garbage into the pie hole.

Thankfully I’ve gotten away from this perfection mindset; which can be very difficult for an engineer I must add.  How did I do it?  Through continual improvement, not perfection.

Two ways of looking at this are the Snowball Effect and the Pareto Principle.


The Snowball Effect

The snowball effect is covered well by Darren Hardy in his book the Compound Effect.  In stead of aiming for perfection, and being disappointed by every little deviation from that path, you simply think that every little bit of progress is exactly that: progress towards your goal.  Every pushup you do, every cookie you don’t eat, every email you write, and every cold call you make.

Essentially, every action you take or don’t take contributes directly to your success, failures, and sticking points in life.

Sure set your goals, but give them a buffer zone.  A day of perfect eating is not ruined if you eat that half bar of chocolate.  It’s still a perfect day eating, with a small indiscretion, not a failure.  The rest of your efforts put you further ahead than the setback.  To top it off, maybe you chose to eat 80% dark chocolate for its health benefits.

The analogy to keep in mind is the giant snowball you used to make in the school yard as a kid.  Sure some places had more snow than others, and some directions were easier to push that others, but your snowball was getting bigger if you were moving forward.  Every single bit of effort you put into pushing the snowball added to your success.


The Pareto Principle

This principle is also know as the 80/20 rule.  Most of what I learned about this came from Tim Ferriss and Brian Tracy.

In short, 80% for your success comes from 20% of your effort.  The remaining 80% of your effort accounts for only 20% of your success.  Now that’s a diminishing return if I ever saw one.

This typically means that the basics are what account for most of your progress, and the fancy techniques contribute relatively little, especially if you haven’t yet mastered the basics.

Once you think about it, it is obvious.  Fitness is achieved by walking and doing pushups & pull-ups; that ab roller and those resistance bands are only valuable if you have mastered the basics or have been doing them long enough to need a switch up of exercises.  Health is improved much more by removing wheat and eating more vegetables, than it is to have supplemental vitamins and expensive goji berries.

Finally, your product business will be much further along with a hand sketch of your idea and a couple of chats with potential users, than anything you can do with a detailed CAD model and a 3D printing.  The fancy stuff will come, just wait it out.


What to do now

You don’t need to complete your product design and business plan all in one day.  Forward momentum is key, and you need more than just bench pressing your ideas.

Yes brain storm product ideas and run through some of my previous posts on how to approach this.  But you should also do something for your motivation, health, fitness, and family life too.  All of these factors contribute to your success in life; actually much more than a single product idea.

So go on, get out that pad of paper and start working on your list of goals.

I would be flattered if you are open enough to sharing some of them on here.

Happy New Year!  Are you starting the new year off right?

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