#FinishWhatYouStart by learning to love adversity

I’m blogging about how to become better at finishing what you start.

One of the lessons I’ve learned lately is that finishing is difficult because adversity increases throughout the project. I blogged yesterday that you need to overcome adversity to finish what you start.

And since yesterday’s blog post, I’ve been thinking about how to overcome adversity. I suggested that you need to figure out what adversity your project faces and then work at solving it and overcoming it.

But maybe there’s more. Maybe a real finisher doesn’t just overcome adversity but they accept it — they learn to love it; to embrace it; to revel in it.

At first you might read that and think “why would anyone want to love adversity?” and that was my first reaction too.

But then I think about…

  • Diamonds. It’s just carbon but it has faced TONS of pressure to be turned into a precious stone.
  • Muscles. Muscles grow when they’ve been pushed to their limit and shredded during a workout and then have to rebuild.
  • Remarkable skills. Specifically how calm seas do not make skillful sailors.

I love to workout but it wasn’t always that way. When I first started working out, the brutal muscle burn was horrible. I hobbled around for days after each workout. Then I got fitter. And more importantly, I learned to love the burn I faced in my workout because I knew it was my muscles becoming stronger.

So can I learn to love other adversity in the same way? When I look at the list of projects I want to finish this year, I’ve identified 3 problems related to adversity…

  1. Clarity of purpose for the project (which isn’t necessarily adversity itself but allows adversity to side-track me).
  2. Time availability.
  3. Doing something I don’t like to do.

… so can I come to love the very things I don’t really love right now?

Can I love creating a purpose and sticking to it throughout a project? Can I love finding the time to work on projects even when I’m tired of it and want to do something else? Can I love doing a task that I haven’t previously enjoyed doing?

With my workout, I came to love the burn. Maybe I can do the same with my project adversity as well.

#FinishWhatYouStart is made easier when you see ongoing accomplishment

I’ve realized that one of the reasons why I struggle with finishing what I start is because I don’t get a sense of accomplishment as the project progresses.

Consider a really basic project such as starting up a brand. The starting activities might include:

  1. Identify a niche
  2. Create a brand
  3. Build a blog
  4. Monetize
  5. Add content
  6. (etc.)

And then the finishing activities might include:

  1. Keep adding content
  2. Grow the brand
  3. Add more products
  4. Innovate
  5. (etc.)

Notice a difference between the starting activities and the finishing ones? The starting activities are clearly something you can cross off right away once you’ve done them. The finishing activities are ongoing. So it’s easy to do the starting stuff and gain a sense of accomplishment from crossing it off but it’s harder to gain a sense of accomplishment when you can never really cross of “keep adding content” or “innovate”. These things never leave your to-do list.

You can resolve them a bit by creating clearer, short-term milestones. Rather than setting your finishing activity as “keep adding content”, it needs to be something like “publish 100 blog posts” and then “publish 250 blog posts” and then “publish 500 blog posts” and then “publish 1000 blog posts”… and so on.

But even this is a challenge because of another reason: As a project continues, the adversity tends to grow. Therefore, the effort required to complete 1 step in the early stages is easier than the effort required to complete 1 step in the later stages. I think that’s a huge but under-appreciated problem. So what happens is, you get that big hit of satisfaction by crossing off a bunch of things early in a project and then the crossing off becomes sparser and sparser as the project becomes harder and harder.

I’m noticing that with my list of #FinishWhatYouStart tasks that I’ve mentioned in previous blog posts: I’m working on some of them but it doesn’t SEEM like it because nothing is being crossed off. That lack of apparent accomplishment can be discouraging or, at the very least, demotivating.

I’m not sure how to fix this. An easy suggestion is to make your steps smaller as you get closer to the finish because that will still give you that sense of accomplishment, which might be enough to motivate you. That’s probably not the only thing to do but it seems like an easy fix.

Overcoming adversity so you can #FinishWhatYouStart

I was listening to a real estate investing podcast last week and the lesson from the episode really stood out to me.

In the podcast episode, a brand new real estate investor was just getting started and suddenly he started facing a lot of adversity. It got to the point where he thought he should just quit. But he didn’t he persisted. And I found myself deeply impacted by the episode.

It made me think about the projects that I started but stopped because I faced adversity. It made me realize that many of the projects that I have succeeded at were either situations where I was so motivated, I pushed through anyway (good!) or times when adversity just wasn’t really there (that sounds good but it’s not, because it means I didn’t push hard enough to challenge myself).

And then I looked at the projects that I’ve identified as my #FinishWhatYouStart projects that I’m focusing on for the rest of the year. I realized that a lot of projects started and then stalled because I hit adversity. (Not all of them, though. Some of them are new projects that haven’t faced adversity yet). I’ve listed my projects and the adversity that I am facing in each one…

  1. I will have developed a strategy for one of my brands: I first started this project a year and a half ago and it went well for a month. Unfortunately, the vendor changed their program and I could no longer deliver. I tried a couple of other things but nothing has come of it.
  2. I will have published 100 articles: The adversity here is that this is a time-consuming project and I am busy with other things.
  3. I will be doing 3-set high-intensity circuit-training workouts 6 times a week with 30 pound weights: This is tough! I’m at 2 sets of 20 pound weights, 5 times a week. That level wears me out and my knees don’t feel like they will like the increase. Also, it requires a greater time commitment, which I’ve found difficult to commit to.
  4. I will have finished putting together my US corporation: This is plugging along and has required me to improve my management-by-email skills.
  5. I will have completed a copywriting course: This is another time-constrained project.
  6. I will have published my Sales Funnel Bible book: The truth is, I don’t love editing all that much. I write a lot but don’t like to edit. The bigger the work, the harder it is to edit.
  7. I will have finished the first draft of a book I’m co-writing with a friend of mine: This one isn’t at risk yet but it is getting close. In other words, the adversity hasn’t appeared but it will shortly!
  8. I will be marketing each week to a joint venture list and earning a minimum amount of weekly income from that effort: Consistency is key here. No adversity yet but I am not being consistent. I need to remind myself to do it and then do it.
  9. I will finish deploying a new brand that I’ve just started: This one has just started so no adversity yet.
  10. I will develop a plan for an internet television brand I put together a couple of years ago: The adversity here is that I have no adversity because I have no plan! I just do whatever, whenever, and there are no results.
  11. I will drywall and paint the recroom in my basement and install a bar: The adversity here is that I don’t love doing this stuff. It’s not fun and I’m very critical of my work so it basically becomes an exercise in failure.
  12. I will have finished a client’s book: This is a time-constrained one again. I’m busy doing other things so this gets pushed back over and over and over.
  13. I will finish a year’s worth of newsletters for a real estate investor: Waiting for some feedback and resources from my client. And some more adversity I’m thinking about: I get into a rhythm when I write these but if I leave it too long, I break that rhythm.
  14. I will finish a book for a real estate investor: This is a new project so I wish I could say that there is no adversity but there are a few struggles. The last round of feedback revealed that there are several gaps that need a fair amount of work to be filled.
  15. I will have a plan in place to start marketing one of my brands: The adversity here is two-fold — how much time and energy I want to put into the effort, and, where I want this brand to grow. I think I’m lacking clarity around that second part.
  16. I will have a plan in place to take one of my brands to a new level (which has done well but I want to take it in a new direction): Actually, I’m facing exactly the same adversity here as above. Need to figure out what I want and then how much I can do.
  17. Proprietary project #1: This one is going okay. It’s easy to become distracted, though!
  18. Proprietary project #2: Again, this one is going okay but it’s easy to become distracted.
  19. Proprietary project #3: I’m about 1/6th of the way through but I’m feeling time-constrained.
  20. Proprietary project #4: This one was doing well until a recent change in schedule brought about a change in habits. Planning is needed to reincorporate into my workday!

As I look at these projects, I see that I’m facing adversity around three key things:

  1. Clarity of purpose for the project (which isn’t necessarily adversity itself but allows adversity to side-track me).
  2. Time availability.
  3. Doing something I don’t like to do.

So here’s my homework: I’m going to focus on fixing these three things for the next 7 days. By next Monday, I will report back on how I’m doing with these three problem areas. Hopefully by overcoming them, I can get the wheels rolling again on my projects!

Passing the baton from start to finish when you want to #FinishWhatYouStart

People love to start things but they fail to finish well. I know because I have the same problem. I start a lot of things and I don’t finish them.

But I want that to change so I’ve been blogging lately about finishing what you start — which combines some thinking as well as my own journey to overcome this problem.

When we think of a project (whatever that project may be), it’s not just one project filled with the same activities. Rather, there is usually a starting sequence and a finishing sequence.

The starting sequence is creative and there is a lot of up-front effort to build something. The finishing sequence is a different skill-set entirely. Many people (me included) start stuff a lot and therefore become fairly good at the starting sequence. But we fail to finish because the finishing sequence is hard and full of different activities that we aren’t as used to (because we don’t practice them enough).

This led me to wonder if there’s another problem as well: Do we struggle during the “hand-off”?

Think of a relay race. There’s the runner at the start of the relay race who leaps off of the starting line and sprints around the track. Part way along the track they meet the next person who grabs the baton and continues (or perhaps finishes) the race. That next person has a different skill set because they need to start at a pace that matches the first runner and then (hopefully) pick up speed toward the finish line to outpace the competitors.

The race is not just won or lost based on the speed of the runners but also in how well the baton is passed off. A good hand-off can help to keep the runners on pace. A bad hand-off can cause the team to lose the race.

In a project, when your starting skills give way to your finishing skills, a good hand-off is needed. It’s not a simple case of continuing what you were doing when you started. Rather, it’s about transitioning from your starting skills to your finishing skills.

HOW TO TRANSITION FROM STARTING TO FINISHING

Starting skills like brainstorming, “big picture” building, creating, envisioning, and “ideation” must give way to persistence, consistency, detail-oriented building, editing, reviewing, and trouble-shooting.

How do you make that hand-off? How do you do it well?

Here are some ideas that I’m going to put into practice to help me:

  • Scheduling right from the start will help — but with a recognition of the two sets of skills required. In other words, assume that you will need to hand-off at some point and plan those finishing-stage skills earlier.
  • Don’t think of each part of the project as binary. Don’t think of the start as being creative and the finish as being uncreative. (I’m VERY guilty of this). The finish requires creativity, it just requires it to be applied in a different way — around problem-solving instead of envisioning.
  • Build your starting habits around your finishing habits. Rather than waiting until you are finishing mode to be consistent and persistent, incorporate those habits at the beginning.
  • Learn to love the finish. I keep coming back to this idea. If you want to finish well, you need to learn to love it; to look forward to it; to become addicted to the finish.
  • Keep your big goal always front and center. This is another huge reason why I start but don’t finish. I set my goals around starting something instead of around the end-result that I’ll see after I finish something.
  • There’s one more that I’m adding here just before I publish this post. It’s one that I’m not even sure I can articulate adequately yet but I think it’s an important one: Prepare for adversity and when it comes in the middle of the project, learn to rise to the occasion rather than to fold and run off to start something else.

This is what I’m going to work on this week.

Are there other aspects of the start-to-finish “hand-off” that I should be incorporating? I’m curious what you think.

Aaron Hoos’ weekly reading list: ‘Productivity, empire building, and sales’ edition

Aaron Hoos: Weekly reading list

I call this a “weekly reading list” but missed last week. Actually, I missed blogging a lot last week. :( Busy times around here. Really focusing on my whole Finish What You Start initiative.

But I love to blog and I’ve carved out a few minutes so here’s what I’m reading right now.

  • I don’t have time. Okay, I just posted that I missed last week’s blog posts because I am busy. But how busy am I really? This article by Christopher S. Penn hits me right between the eyeballs because it’s so true. It reminds me of a a blog post I wrote back in May, The one sentence that will make you more productive immediately, in which I said that you will make time for what’s truly important to you. This is a truth that we need to revisit every single hour of every single day. If you say you want to start growing your business but you’re out with our friends every night, your friends are more important than your business. If you say you want to start investing in real estate but you find yourself watching TV every evening after work then television is more important to you. If I said I wanted to post on my blog regularly but I’m doing other things instead then those other things are more important too me. Bah! It’s a mirror that doesn’t hide the blemishes.
  • Vision and innovation: How to see past the map. In this blog post, Chris Brogan talks about rising above your narrow vision (“the map”) to break free from what you think is real and to instead see the larger opportunities (“the territory”). He draws from the example of hiphop artists like Jay-Z who really aren’t artists but business people who build empires. He then goes on to explore how maps exist everywhere and he challenges readers to break the map. I have two takeaways from this article: First, I need to always push out of the map to view the territory. Second, I want to learn from those empire builders who understand that opportunity exists outside of their own skill-set.
  • Infographic: The Miami Heat’s formula for NBA domination. The previous article was about a hiphop artist. This one is about basketball. These are things I don’t normally talk about so you might be wondering if someone else is writing this post… but I swear it’s me! This post was interesting to me because it shows a “heat map”-style pattern of where the basketball team scores points when they face different types of defense. When defense is bad, they score a lot of points near the net. When defense is good, they’re scoring points from farther away. Okay, that’s not a huge revelation, I guess, but the takeaway for me is this: These patterns aren’t the result of luck. They’re the result of a bit of skill and a lot of hard work and practice and awareness. Think of your business in this way. With your marketing and sales efforts as the throwing dot and the line toward the basket, and your ability to close as the basket itself. When you do you sink the ball? How often? From farther away or closer to the basket? Build your own imaginary heat map based on what your customer base is like and how they respond to you.