Episode 122 - Zeros and Ones
The Thursday Thesis - 25/10/2018
Two years ago, today, I bought my first investment property – Happy Birthday to me!
As the completion date approached I was edgy and nervous: at that time I was terrified of taking money out of the bank to invest in a house I wasn’t going to live in. Deep down I sorta-kinda knew my limited knowledge of property investing increased my risks, but the stubborn part of me was seeing it through, no matter what.
The truth is that fear had me in its grip and I almost pulled out of the deal at the last moment.
And when the deal was done and my bank balance was emptied, fear rushed in to fill the hole. That fear got a lot of attention from me, so it should have been no surprise that it stayed around, stinking-up my thinking for weeks.
But something had changed: me.
Doing that first property deal moved me from Zero to One; flipped my mindset from “I want to...” to “I do...”
Your first guitar lesson willl be the very worst, ever - you'll never be that bad again, I promise.
And that's because the difference between zero and one is the biggest difference you can imagine.
It’s the difference between nothing and something.
From 1 to any other amount is just a difference of Quantity: zero to one is a difference of Quality - it is a fundamental change of nature.
Going from 1 to 2 to 3 is easy, because you’ve done it before and it will be easier next time.
Going from zero to one takes balls of steel, because it is virgin territory and you’ve never been there before.
The difference between zero and one is absolute: it is the shift from infinite nothingness to finite somethingness.
After that, it’s just a process of refinement.
That’s why Episode 1 is the hardest, why your first child is the toughest, why the first deal is the most fearful.
The first time for anything is usually terrifying – think of the first time you had sex!!
The fear didn’t stop you trying it though, did it?
Armed with the certainty that you were SO not a stud or a total sex-kitten, you still went for it, didn’t you?
And you’re worried about your first poem, book or deal?
If you’re looking to do a business deal, first reconcile yourself to the fact that your first deal will be abysmal, the second one will be a little less bad - just north of Shittsville – and your third deal so-so: the fourth might rise to the dizzy level of OK.
By the time you are 5 or 6 deals in, you’ll know what to do, based on experience and a trail of cock-ups and disasters. You’ll learn faster by doing it than by waiting, learn deeper from experience, and have light-bulb moments and flashes of inspiration along the way.
If you are learning to play guitar, your first chord or riff will be bloody awful, but you are a guitar player from the moment you pick up the guitar and play your first bum-note.
And what’s most important is that you’ve done it, for real. You cannot deny that you are the genuine article, since your first deal is incontrovertible proof. It’s that concrete, that simple – that easy.
The fundamental transition from Zero to One is the greatest possible change: after that, all that changes is the size of the numbers.
So trust me on this: whatever it is you want to do, whatever it is you want to become, learn or begin – begin it.
The first step, the first deal, the first chapter will be dreadful, but it will change you from a Wannabe to a Gonnabe, and the second step, the second deal and the second chapter will be better...
And you will have become the person you wanted to become.
Have a Fantastic Day!
The Thursday Thesis - 18/10/2018
The seminar was about to close and the delegates began to fidget, eager to gather up their folders and bags before heading out on the long drive home.
The speaker had been an absolute barnstormer – boundless energy and charisma from beginning to end: he had everyone fired-up and ready to bench-press the World.
“Remember to drop all your notes and folders in the bin on your way out!” he called, grinning, as we filed out.
I approached the stage and shook hands with him, thanked him for an inspiring experience and asked him what he’d meant by that comment about notebooks and bins.
"It’s kind of a joke, except it isn’t”, he said. “You see, most of the audience will never open their folders or notebooks ever again – they leave, and it’s over. Nothing happens for them because they don’t take action. As good as my stuff is, and as passionate as I am about helping people, most of them will do precisely nothing with what I’ve shared with them today: it’s really sad.”
The two-day finance seminar had been the easy part: the hard part lay ahead of us all.
What I’ve learned over the last two years is this: to really get maximum value from a course you must pay for it twice.
First there’s the easy part – the cash and time investment in the course. Whether you spend a few pounds on a book or tens of thousands to hire the best mentor you can find, there’s an investment of money involved. Then there’s the time – in the course or seminar and travelling to and from it..
Once you’ve paid your “Entry Fee” you have to get busy paying all over again.
And this is the hard part, because this time you are going to have to pay for it with a lot more of your time – the most precious of all your resources.
Within the Personal Development industry there’s a saying that goes “The people who take the courses take ALL the courses”, and there’s a lot of truth in that.
“Course junkies”, as they are known in the trade, stride purposefully from venue to venue rather than take meaningful action in the direction of their dreams.
All too often, Course Junkies delay action until they’ve finished the next course.
Inevitably, once that course is completed, there will be another course that is essential before they unleash themselves...
So, when I next bump into that guy from the ABC course at the XYZ conference, the chances are he’ll grimly tell me he’s no further down the road than he was at ABC, six months previously.
I’ll try not to look surprised.
He’ll doubtless marvel at the work I’ve put in and the small amount of progress I’ve managed in that same six months – possibly he’ll tell me I’m “lucky” that my hard work has paid off.
This “Lucky” business makes my teeth itch with rage, because luck has very little to do with success, as far as I’ve been able to discover from researching successful people, their live stories and business book.
“The harder I work, the luckier I get”, as the old saying goes. In other words, they work hard and prepare for when opportunity shows up. Luck is an opportunity wearing working clothes.
What I’ve noticed about the many courses and seminars I’ve attended, the webinars I’ve sat through, the Expos and Fairs I’ve spent precious time walking around is this: the vast majority of attendees do absolutely nothing as a consequence of taking the course or attending the event.
This is very good news for me, and it’s all a matter of simple math.
Only around 3% of the population voluntarily take part in personal development of any kind. Yep, less than 1 in 20 of the people around you and I will ever set foot in any kind of Personal Development or educational seminar.
And here’s the really amazing part of what I’ve been able to discover: of that tiny minority who actively do any kind of Personal Development training, only around 8% will take meaningful action based upon the course or seminar.
So, 3% show up, and 8% of them execute, which gives me a ball-park figure of 0.0024% of the population investing in themselves and then taking action on what they’ve learned.
That’s also why you and I shouldn’t worry too much about competition – because there’s not much of it around, when you stop to think about it.
© Neil Cowmeadow 2018
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Episode 120 - Do High Percentage Stuff
The Thursday Thesis - 11/10/2018
Every so often I like to find somewhere remote and quiet to just sit and think; to plan the next few months – what to do, when to do it, and make sure I was doing it for the right reasons.
I ask myself one of life’s great questions - which I got from Gary Keller’s book “The One Thing” (link at the bottom of this post), here it is...
What's the ONE Thing you can do such that by doing it everything else will be made easier or unnecessary?
My normal response is to scratch my head, adjust my headphones and make my pen start to move on the paper, brain-dumping all of my current and potential projects onto the page so that I could see them and objectively assess them.
There are easy and fast projects, challenging and slow projects, and overwhelming projects which could take the rest of my life to complete.
But now I have the buggers on paper I can begin to eliminate the low priority/low return projects, along with the ones that did not fit with my Vision of how I want the rest of my life to pan-out.
Last time I did this I found my One Thing – and it’s the same One Thing that I had twelve years ago.
Yep, 12 years on and I still haven’t finished version 1.0 of my project. I have three bulging lever arch files crammed with my notes, but nothing even close to a draft. What an arse!
So I started brain-dumping my key ideas onto my yellow pad, line after line of Deep Magenta ink filling 8 pages of bullet points and sketches. It’s a mess, but the mess is marking the places where the good stuff will go, and the few bits of good stuff are already done.
I am certain that speed is the key in these scenarios: you have to write fast enough to outrun your fear.
Over the next few weeks and months I’ll re-write and fettle those notes, expand those bullets and pay somebody else to draw the pictures so that another human being can make sense of them. I will complete my “Shitty First Draft”, my SFD 01.
Then the fun really starts!
By the time I’ve been through SFD 1 a few times, edited it, stripped out the clunky parts and sharpened things up in SFD 2, SFD 3, and probably SFD 4, it will be tidy, ready for formatting and the day when I finally get out of my own way and hit the big scary button which says “PUBLISH”.
Once that’s done I’ll ask that great question again: “What's the ONE Thing you can do such that by doing it everything else will be made easier or unnecessary?” and burn through another yellow notepad.
Keller reckons that we must focus on, and do, only our high-percentage stuff – the things which matter most.
It’s commonplace for people to spend too long perfecting things which are low-percentage activities and pay the price in lost opportunities.
There’s not enough space on the internet for me to ‘fess-up to all of the low-percentage things I’ve wasted years on; for now I’ll just mention that I played nothing but “Smoke on the Water” for months when I began to learn to play guitar. That’s low, low, low percentage stuff, but I was just a kid then, and I honestly, sincerely, truly - cub’s honour - NEVER play that riff now.
As a guitar teacher, I always start with the highest-percentage stuff first. If the student gets that in place first, a great deal of what follows will be a smooth progression towards their goals: without it, every week will be tougher than it needs to be, every new skill will be slower and harder to acquire, remaining less secure for longer.
In every field of endeavour there are high-percentage and low-percentage activities. It doesn’t matter if you are young or old, employed in a job, working for yourself, or not working at all – figure out which activity is your most important, the one which – once completed – will make everything else easier or unnecessary.
Deep down, you probably already know what it is already, don’t you?
It’s the elephant in the room for most people; I know it was for me.
When things matter most, we tend to skirt around them, because they’re too big and scary to tackle, despite us knowing that they are vitally important - crucial to our hopes, dreams and goals.
Are you nodding, right now?
If so, you might want to grab a pen and paper and start jotting down all the “stuff” you would like to get around to one day.
Which one of them scares you most?
That’s probably the thing that matters most and which could make the most difference.
I don’t claim to know what your high-percentage stuff is, but you know what it is, don’t you?
Here's the link to Gary Keller's book:
© Neil Cowmeadow 2018
Episode 119 - More Horses?
The Thursday Thesis - 4/10/2018
My friend gushed about her upcoming podcast, about how awesome it was going to be, how good her guests were going to be, how crisp and clean her audio was going to be, and once she’d got that nailed-down...
Spot the pattern?
This lovely lady didn’t need a better microphone, she didn’t need a new recorder, the very best guest, just to get things started with a bang: she needed to let the handbrake off and start moving.
I see this all the time – people are afraid to start doing their Epic Shit because they:
Sometimes they’re just plain scared.
I see those people, because I’m one of them!
And all the time, we are feeling worse because we see people who are not as good, bright, insightful or talented as us making progress. How dare they do that – they’re nowhere near as good as we are, and we’ll show them, just as soon as...
It’s like we’re sitting at the traffic lights of life in a hot car, maybe it’s a Lambo or a Ferrari, the engine is purring, eager to respond to the slightest twitch of our right foot. In our mirrors we see a little old man on a clapped-out, 50-year old Honda Super Cub moped slowing down to wait for the light, too.
No problem, we’ll leave him eating our dust, won’t we?
When the lights change we dump the clutch and stall the car, having forgotten to release the handbrake. We watch in disbelief as that clapped-out Honda lurches past us and pootles off down the road.
And did we hear somebody shout “wanker!” as they passed our window?
This is the moment when we decide that a Bigger Engine is the answer. Our Bigger Engine might be a higher dergree, a course, an internship or a mentoring program – all of which will give us more knowledge and thus, more power to apply to our sticking-points. We're convinced that we need that extra horsepower before we can move an inch.
But more horses - more courses, more degrees, better mics and better guests - won’t move you or me a millimetre, unless we release the brakes. Nothing happens until we learn how to take that bloody handbrake off!! Until we do that we’ll remain stuck at the traffic lights in our Lambos - waiting, waiting...
We have “All the gear, no idea”, as the saying goes.
We are impatiently waiting to be perfect before we begin: wanting to perfect – right out of the box. And as we wait, our Lamborghini slowly rusts around us, the gas-tank runs dry and the engine falls silent.
Whilst waiting to be ready, the clock runs out.
We may die with our song still inside us, our greatest work a prisoner on our hard-drives or trapped in the labyrinth of our minds.
Imperfect action beats waiting to be perfect, every time. Rob Moore says “Start now, get Perfect Later”, and he’s right: I’ve used that phrase for decades: with guitar students, coaching clients and mentees, trainee croupiers and friends.
Do it badly, at first, but do it. I promise you that you’ll never be this bad at it, ever again. It will get better, you will improve.
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