That’s the theme I’ve been chewing on my lately in my own business and for my clients’ businesses.
Don’t just solve the problems that everyone is fighting to solve. Solve BIGGER problems. Solve the problems that keep them up at night. Solve the bigger problems they think can’t be solved.
Want more clients? … Solve bigger problems that more of them face. Want better clients? … Solve bigger problems that the right ones face. Want higher revenue? … Solve even bigger, costly problems. Want to expand your own business? … Solve bigger problems that hold you back. Want a highly productive team? … Solve bigger problems that hold them back.
It’s the secret path to growing your own business and helping more clients but many people avoid it because solving bigger problems is mind-bending; you have to stretch yourself in uncomfortable ways to solve the bigger problems for others; you have to take risks and put in the extra effort. That locks out the “same-as” business clones (who fight over the majority of clients) and allows only a very few to the next level who get to work with amazing clients and achieve amazing things.
If you run a business you’re solving a problem. If you want a stronger, better, faster, more profitable business—solve bigger problems.
What a month!!! It was a fun challenge but also pretty horrible. Definitely worth doing again!
(TL;DR – I did a bunch of burpees.)
Although I’m not very competitive against other people, I’m insanely competitive with myself. So, I like to set challenges for myself—physical/fitness challenges, work-related challenges, etc. ; moreover, these challenges often end up being a high point of memorable experience for me, and often a catalyst for growth.
There was the time that I did 100 new client proposals in 100 days (and had to stop part way into the challenge because I had gained so much more business that I couldn’t handle it all; that was a key turning point in my business, actually).
There was the time that I did 30 days of waking up at 5 in the morning. That, too, was a turning point in a weird biological switchover from being a night-owl to being a morning person. I now routinely wake up before my alarm at 4 or 5 in the morning.
Last year I did a time-tracking challenge on Facebook with a few other friends and we tracked how we used our time for the month. (Here’s a blog post about the practice of time-tracking—I highly recommend it if you ever feeling like doubling your income.)
There have been many other challenges, too (some are for a day or a week or a month, or whatever) but those give you an idea of what I like to do.
So, this past June, I was thinking about what I wanted to do for a challenge in July and I decided that a fitness challenge of 100 burpees in 10 minutes sounded fun. And extremely difficult, bordering on impossible (since I normally could do only 25-30 up until this point).
And, in my opinion, “fun and extremely difficult” is the perfect recipe for a challenge!
Of course I knew I couldn’t do a full month of burpees at that level—the challenge would need to be that I work toward it through the month.
But Wait. Before You Continue…
Before I go any further, let me just mention as a disclaimer that this challenge was right for my situation but may not be appropriate for everyone. I am neither a doctor nor a certified physical trainer; plus, I don’t know your situation at all. Therefore, you should totally ignore this blog post and NOT do this challenge at all without first consulting with a medical professional.
I’ll add another disclaimer here that the rest of this blog contains really sweaty pictures of me. That’s probably more horrifying than doing burpees without consulting a physician first.
/Disclaimers Done. Back To The Main Point…
If you’re still reading, let me tell you what worked for me to get to 100 burpees in 10 minutes…
Let’s start by talking about what a burpee is. There are a wide variety of definitions of what a burpee is and isn’t (and the sheer number of burp jokes that I endured this month were “hilarious”—quotes are used here to express irony—but have nothing to do with burpees; so allow me to dispell that notion before we go any further).
A burpee is a compound exercise created by a physiologist from the 1930’s with the almost impossible name of Royal H. Burpee; so, burpees have been around for nearly 90 years and are a measure of fitness as well as being an extremely challenging exercise. (Ref. Wikipedia)
There are many variations of a burpee, but I prefer the following, and consider it to be the purest form of a burpee:
#1. From a standing position, crouch into a squat with your hands flat on the floor in front of you
#2. Kick your legs back so you are in the plank position
#3. Do a push-up
#4. Kick your legs back to a crouch, then explosively jump up with your hands above your head
That’s one burpee.
At the end of the fourth step, you land back in the starting to do more.
(Again, there are many variations: if you want to do it a bit easier, some people don’t do the push-up and/or they walk out into a plank instead of kicking; if you want more of a challenge or to use different muscle groups, you might do a pull-up at the top of your jump, or some mountain climbers instead of a push-up.) I don’t care and I’m not here to judge. Do what works for you.
Finding A Baseline
In general, I’ve only ever blasted out 25-30 burpees in a single session before, and usually those sessions lasted a minute or two until I felt like I had been hit by a truck.
So, my starting point for the month was to find my baseline: since 25-30 burpees in a single session was usually just a couple of minutes, I wanted to know how many I could in 10 minutes (even with breaks—just try do as many as possible in 10 minutes).
In the last couple days of June I did as many as I could in 10 minutes… and ended up doing 60 burpees in 10 minutes. Basically, I did about 25-30 burpees (my standard), rested for a bit and caught my breath, then squeezed out a bunch more in sets of 10, and then probably 5. And then probably 1 or 2. I don’t remember the exact cadence but I assure you: it wouldn’t have looked pretty. But I got 60 in 10.
But now I had a baseline number to start with. It meant I needed to add 40 more burpees in that 10-minute duration to reach my goal, and I had 31 days to do it. And it felt daunting because those 60 were rough!
But, in 31 days, I did indeed hit 100 burpees in 10 minutes.
Here’s How I Did It…
Days 1-3: More Of The Same
Days 1 through 3 was basically me doing the same thing but trying to do it slightly faster. That shows up in my numbers. Not bad but not spectacular growth.
Days 4-9: Injury And Discovery
On day 4 I tried to go even faster but by the end I was in a lot of pain—I’d tore open an old injury from many years ago. :( After reviewing what I was doing wrong, I realized two things:
I was rounding my back as soon as my hands touched the floor (that’s not a good thing)
My shoes were sticking to the floor, which was making it difficult to kick back and causing my back to round even worse
It was bad. I could barely sit or lay down. Burpees were out of the question. Fortunately, since my original injury (way back in 2004), I have a bunch of special workouts and stretches to do that are really good at putting my body back together again. So, between those rehab-style exercises and a bit of jogging, I got back into my burpee challenge on day 8.
By day 9, I beat my old score (shoelessly, this time, and with a straight back!)
At this point, I also had a significant realization that I’ve been chewing on ever since: whenever I did these burpees, I would feel clobbered part way through and I would have to stop for a moment to collect myself. It was right around that 25-35 burpee park.
Then I realized, after hitting 77 burpees on day 9, that the physical limit I thought I encountered was actually a mental limit disguised as a physical limit. When I think I’ve hit a wall, it’s actually my brain saying, “You didn’t listen to me when I said stop so now I’m making your whole body seem like you want to stop.”
You gotta push through that. It helped and I added another 10+ burpees almost immediately. (That’s not to say you won’t hit a physical limit at some point, which I did many times in this challenge, but it was just a realization that the first limit felt like a physical limit but was actually a mental limit.)
Day 10-19: A New Plateau
Day 10. I’d been thinking all day about the burpee challenge and was excited about doing it. And, I was going to try to go for 79 burpees, which I knew would be a real challenge. Then, just as my workout time was approaching, I was on a call with my friend and client Mike Agugliaro, and he asked how many burpees I was going to aim for this time.
In a moment of hubris I told Mike that I was going for 82.
Shortly after the call, I started my burpees. By 9 minutes and 30 seconds into the workout, I’d done 77 or so. I knew the last couple would be tough. But I also remembered that I’d (foolishly) told Mike that I was going to do 82. So I jammed out some very very very brutal final burpees in those last 30 seconds and hit #82 just as the timer clicked to zero. I was happy, as the photographic evidence shows.
For the next few days, I circled ’round that number—sometimes getting more, sometimes less: on day 12 I did 80; on day 14 I did 90; on day 17 I did 85; on day 19 I did 90.
Nothing spectacular. It was just a matter of maintaining the habit and enduring. I did notice an improvement on day 19: I felt like I could probably have done a few more if I hadn’t run out of time, so it was great to see that sliver of progress.
Day 20-26: Reinjured At The Worst Time
In an effort to break out of the plateau, I think I got sloppy, because I tore up my injury again.
On day 20, I only managed 83 burpees… and felt awful afterward. It was pretty clear that I had hurt myself even worse this time.
And, it came at the worst possible time because I was going on a road trip shortly after.
It sucked. (Well, the trip was fine but the driving sucked.)
Hours on the road led to some pretty comical-looking shuffling-around-like-an-old-man hobbling every time we stopped. I spent a few days in the hotel doing some injury-rehab exercises to put myself back together again.
But, there was some good that came out of it: all that non-burpee time and driving time gave me time to think about what I’d learned so far and what I needed to do to reach my goal. I built a plan.
(And I did return on the 26th and “only” did 87 burpees that day but I was just getting back into it from being out of practice for a while.)
The Magic Of Science
I knew the fundamentals of what I was doing but I realized I was looking at the workout as a whole: 100 brutal burpees in 10 short minutes. So, while I was stuck in some non-burpee rehab, I realized what I needed to do was break things down so I could see what needed to change to reach my goal.
I realized that 100 burpees in 10 minutes is actually just 10 burpees a minute… or, one every 6 seconds. When you say it like that, it seems much more achievable.
But, there are a couple of limits happening here: time and my physical abilities—both were preventing me from achieving my goal. In fact, there are two physical limitations keeping me from success: one is cardio-vascular and the other is muscular.
On the cardio side, I’m not bad. I run and do High Impact Interval Training, so my cardio is alright. Of course I still get winded but that’s somewhat controllable.
On the strength side, well, I’m not Lou Ferrigno. So, when I reached a muscular limit, my ability to do a push-up sloooooowed way way way down (and ultimately stopped).
In case you need proof that I do not possess the upper-body strength of Lou Ferrigno…
I realized a few things from breaking my workout down…
First, since time was a constant, I needed to adjust the physical limitations on my side. No Delorean would help me here!
Second, I needed to reduce when I got winded to reduce the number of seconds I burn up catching my breath.
Third, I also needed to delay when I got winded to hopefully reduce the number of mini catch-my-breath breaks needed. I was getting winded at 30 or 40 burpees but that meant I was (potentially) getting winded a couple times later in the workout and all of those added up. (This was part of that mental limit disguised as a physical limit. I wasn’t really winded at 30 burpees; I just thought I was!)
Fourth, I needed to increase my upper body strength to do two things: to at least get to 100 push-ups and to do them faster. I felt I was really close to 100 possible push-ups (if I had enough time) but increasing my strength would not only ensure I could definitely hit 100, but that I could do it at a speed that would allow me to hit 100 in 10 minutes.
When broken down to that, it actually got very focused and much simpler. (Not easier but simpler.)
That’s when I made my next realization: I was leaving too much to the end. Doing 20 burpees at the beginning of the workout looks and feels very different than doing 20 at the end. Those last few burpees are brutal. And slow. Therefore, I needed to front-load as much work as I could in the early part of the workout because I slowed down (from windedness and from slower push-ups near the end)… but at the same time, I couldn’t simply smash out 30 or 40 burpees in the first couple minutes because that would wind me early.
There was a balance: I needed to do a few more burpees at the beginning to buy some time at the end, but not so many that I was overly winded.
I also realized something else: when I just try to do 100 burpees in 10 minutes, I leave it open for my brain to tell me when I need to catch my breath or how many burpees is too many. So, I built a chart—not because I needed to keep track of anything but because I wanted to pull the thinking from an intrinsic (and seriously flawed-in-the-moment) decision-making ability to an extrinsic one. I wanted to follow a prescribed formula rather than allow my tired brain to tell me what to do next.
So I built a chart that essentially did 4 things…
It front-loaded 12 burpees a minute for the first few minutes, to buy myself some time for the later burpees when I couldn’t do as many.
It prescribed when I could take a breather to catch my breath (because I suspected that I could probably wait longer than my brain was telling me I could). I put one rest at the just-past-half-way point and another at the just-past-three-quarters point, and I had enough time to actually slow things down after each one.
The breaks allowed me to not only catch my breath but also to catch up if I’d fallen behind.
Plus, the delayed rest periods and fewer burpees at the end were not only physically accommodating and catch-up moments, they were rewards for the effort at the beginning!
The ugly chart above would keep me on track. My goal was to do about 6 burpees every 30 seconds. (If I got more, that was fine, but I also didn’t want to get winded so I would aim to maintain this approximately-6-in-30-second cadence.) It was a bit slower than I usually do my early sets of burpees but it also allowed me a bit of space if I needed to catch up. You can also see that a couple of breaks were built in (30 seconds each, pictured above although they never lasted that long because I used them to catch up). Then, the burpees slowed down a bit more, to just 3 every 15 seconds and then 2 every 15 seconds.
You’ll note that the rests were strategically placed just past the halfway point and just past the three-quarters point to force me to keep going and delay when I’d take a break due to windedness.
Day 27: Success
That was it. The very day I put that chart into use, Saturday July 27th, I did 100 burpees in 10 minutes (actually in 9 minutes and 50 seconds).
It felt sooooooooo good to achieve it, and even better to do so with a few days to spare in the month.
Day 28-31: Finish Strong (And Also Weak)
That success on the 27th really took the pressure off. It felt great. I was flying for the last few days. I went for a run on the 28th, tried again (but only hit 92) on Monday, and took a much-needed rest on Tuesday. (It was a long day of calls plus I was feeling pretty beat-up!)
Then, on the very last day of the month, I did it again, hitting 100 burpees in 10 minutes. It was by no means easier! In fact, with 30 seconds to go I saw that I still had 10(ish) burpees left and I thought I might not get my goal again… then I decided that I would HATE it if it failed on the last day of the month so I pushed through. It was awful. But I squeezed 10 truly horrible burpees in, with the 100th burpee done with milliseconds to spare.
Here are a few lessons I’ve learned along the way:
Lesson #1. Good form has the potential to slow you down slightly (but not much), but it keeps you in the game (versus injuring yourself and not being able to workout for a while). So, take the extra milliseconds to maintain good form. Be intentional and stay focused.
Lesson #2. You will hit a physical limit at some point, but you will first hit a mental limit that is disguised as a physical limit. Push through that one.
Lesson #3. Get scientific. Break this challenge into distinct parts to figure out how each of the pieces work together in the whole system, and where you’re strong and weak. Work on your weaknesses without ignoring your strengths.
Lesson #4. There is some muscle work happening here, too, so breaks are necessary. Take a day or two; that’s okay. Not gonna lie: I’m very happy with my triceps at the end of the month! ;)
Lesson #5. Warm-up before you start—warm-up your body with some light exercise and warm-up your mind by focusing. The days I wasn’t 100% focused were the days I struggled to achieve my new baselines.
Lesson #6. Involve other people. If I wasn’t posting regularly about this and getting a ton of feedback (both positive as well as the so so so many burping jokes) then I could have easily quit and no one would have been the wiser. Plus, there was that day when I could have easily stopped at 78 or 79 and been happy with it but I’d told a friend that I was going to do 82 so I did.)
Lesson #7. You will be shocked at how much you sweat in 10 minutes. And how awful it is in the moment. But how good you feel after. And especially how good you feel when you reach your goal.
Not sure what my next challenge will be. I’ve been a little bogged down lately between work and my trip so I haven’t had a chance to think about it, and my schedule looks pretty booked up anyway, so my next goal is just to get back into my regular workouts (a mix of High Intensity Interval Training and running), but include this burpee challenge 1 day each week as a test of my fitness and a continuation of this challenge.
If you’re thinking about doing this challenge, good luck! Have fun! And let me know how it goes.
Or just avoid it altogether because it is pretty rough!
Big deals are won and lost in the stock market, the dealer floors, and in the bedrooms of London… but will the main character fly too close to the sun in his pursuit of the next big deal?
OVERVIEW: Greg Schneider is an American securities dealer who works at a mid-tier investment bank in London. Blacklisted on Wall Street, he fled to London and aspires for a bigger opportunity at an internationally-renowned firm.
To get that next big opportunity he has to carve out a name for himself as as a big deal deal-maker. The story starts as he pursues his latest opportunity… but things are not always as they seem.
Although he’s thought to have a Midas’ touch, it turns out that he relies heavily on secret recordings made by a proprietor of a high-end fetish service who specializes in working with bankers from The City (who ultimately confess their buisness dealings on secret tapes that tip off Greg to the latest opportunities).
All goes well until one banker dies… then all hell breaks loose as the fetish proprietor deals with the body of the banker. Meanwhile, Greg tries to keep his deals together even though he is pursued by London’s equivalent of the Securities Exchange Commission.
REVIEW: This is Paul Kilduff’s second novel, published in 2000. I haven’t read his other book “Square Mile,” which I believe also is a financial fiction book. What was interesting about this book is: there are no real heroes. At first you’re rooting for the main character but he turns out to be unethical in several ways (not a beloved rogue like the Oceans Eleven characters are, but rather much more despicable). Two other characters you spend a lot of time with are the fetish proprietor and the securities investigator, both of whom are tragic characters at best. So, I enjoyed the book but it was hard to feel like I was in the book and cheering for anyone specifically; rather, I was watching action unfold in front of me and mostly feeling negative about every character. That said, the book was enjoyable and engaging from start to finish, even though you don’t finish with a great sense of satisfaction.
FINANCIAL FICTION QUOTIENT: Paul Kilduff spent several years in an investment company himself so he knows what he is talking about and the financial fiction quotient is evident. Kilduff writes well without necessarily dumbing down for his audience, so readers will generally follow along but there are times when you may not. He’s not as technical as Paul E. Eerdman, but he’s more advanced than Christopher Reich. And, even though the book was written in 2000, it doesn’t feel as other books written in that time (sure, there are times when you notice that it’s been nearly 20 years since the book was written but for the most part it’s pretty timeless).
SUMMARY: Paul Kilduff’s book The Dealer is a solid financial fiction read and I would read it again. As long as you’re not looking for a hero to cheer for, this is an enjoyable and engaging read.
It seems like I can’t go a day without seeing someone in a Facebook post or group saying, “I really want to get into real estate investing. Can someone tell me the best way?”
Most often, this popularity comes from television where regular people seemingly make big money in only half an hour of work. (Of course you and I know that those shows are heavily edited to get them into the right duration but people still think that real estate is easy money.)
Those new-to-investing entrepreneurs are usually looking at flipping/rehabbing as their investing model of choice, since it makes for good TV.
But beyond rehabbing, there are many other types of real estate investing models; a quick list of these choices includes…
… just to name a few.
And even within these types of investing strategies there are sub-categories (landlording single-family homes; landlording multi-family homes; wholesaling versus turnkey wholesaling; and the list goes on and on.)
I’ve worked with investors who do all of these things (and more) and each one swears by their model.
So which one is best? And, with so many real estate investors out there, how do you grow your real estate investing business in a way that helps you stand out from the crowd (and maybe be more profitable)?
To start, consider this almost-always-true rule of thumb I’ve observed over the years of investing and working with investors:
The newbies who struggle are those who jump in based on the perceived ability to make easy money in their spare time.
The newbies who end up doing well, approach it like a business (they create a plan, the execute the plan, they spend their day focused on investing as a business).
The experienced investors who end up doing really well are those who find what works for them and who scale.
The experienced investors who do REALLY well are those who innovate the business model, adding an angle or tweak to a well-known process.
The first group just try to fit an investing model into their life without making any other changes to their life; they will invariably struggle because investing takes capital and time and energy and creativity, and a ton of resources and assets that the “fast-buck newbies” are completely unprepared for.
The second group will do better because they’re approaching investing with more available assets and appreciate that investing should be approached like a business.
The third and fourth group are the ones who do well because they have learned to innovate the model—the third group innovates intrinsically by moving beyond the one-person style of investing to build an organization where they can do real estate deals at a faster rate; while the fourth group innovates by changing the approach or by adding some level of systems or technology to one or more of the steps.
If you are in the first or second group and want to get to the third or fourth group (where the real money is being made) then start here: identify the model and find ways to innovate inside that model.
The Starting Point: The Investing Model
Nearly all real estate investing can be summed up in a very simple model…
Control the property
Profit from the property
Many different kinds of real estate investing fit into this model.
Controlling the property: The term “property” can be defined as any empty lot, residential structure, multi-family dwelling, commercial building, industrial building, recreational building, storage units, etc.
And the property can be controlled by either purchasing the property or by tying up the property with a contract or by acquiring empty land with a plan to build. This might be part of a foreclosure or probate scenario, an all-cash discount to a distressed homebuyer, or just purchasing the property on the open market. The point here is to position yourself as the one person who will be in control of the property to ultimately profit from it.
Adding value: There are many ways that you can add value to the property. You can add value by building the property (as in new development or preconstruction investing), by fixing up the property (as in rehabbing); you can add value by owning the property and making it available for a renter (as in landlording); you can add value by negotiating with the seller for a low price so you can sell the contract to another investor (as in wholesaling).
Profiting from the property: And again, there are many ways that you can profit from the property. You can sell the property itself (perhaps after a rehab) and make money on the capital gains. Or you can rent the property and earn rental income. Or you can sell the contract to an investor and make money from your fee.
Real estate investing takes many forms but it really has one business model, which I’ve broadly described above. The actual activities you take at each step of that model will depend on the subtleties of each type of investing.
For Those Who Want To Start Investing, Here’s The Question You Should Be Asking
While many people get into investing by asking “How can I make fast money?”, the question they should be asking is: “What strengths do I have and how can I use those inside the investing model?”
For example, maybe you’ve thought of flipping but simply don’t have the credit score to acquire a house or the cash to upgrade the property. In that case, a different kind of real estate investing – one that doesn’t require a credit score or cash – might be better for you.
Or another example, maybe you need money this month instead of waiting 6-12 months for a payout. In that case, maybe wholesaling to generate a small(er) fee is a better choice than flipping, which can take a while.
Or maybe you have some other role to play. You don’t have to actually run through the entire model yourself in order to profit from real estate investing: birddogging, for example, makes money by helping other real estate investors do their deal. Or maybe you build apps and can create an app for investors. Or maybe you’re a general contractor who can help investors add value.
Once You Start, Find Ways To Innovate
As you gain experience in the investing model, then you’ll start to find ways to innovate in that model. By examining each step, you can create new ways to do business:
Mix and match steps. Ask yourself what happens if a building is acquired like in one type of real estate investing, value added to it like another type of real estate investing, and then profited like in a third type of real estate investing.
Choose a technology and brainstorm how it can be used in the business model. A simple example might be: Trying to figure out how Twitter can be used in step 1 or step 3 of the model.
Describe how most real estate investors are doing one of the steps and then change up the elements within that step by adding/removing/increasing/decreasing elements.
Within the broader business model, there are sub-steps that are unique to each type of real estate investing. List out those sub-steps in detail and see what you can do differently (with technology or outsourcing) to change up or even eliminate that step.
Use strategic tools like the sales funnel, Blue Ocean Strategy, or the Business Model Canvas to gain a deeper understanding of your real estate investing business model.
I’m keeping it high level here but of course it goes deeper. There are opportunities in each stage of the business model to innovate.
I think some of the biggest opportunities right now are in sourcing deals, funding deals, marketing deals, and networking—both for brand new investors as well as doing that at scale for more experienced investors. Nailing down how to one of these really well, with new technologies or approaches, can turn a small-time investor into a big-time investor quickly.
When I encounter the newbies who are jumping into investing for its perceived “get-rich-quick” opportunity, I worry. That approach hurts them and their families and the people they do deals with and the industry as a whole.
But the investors who figure it out, and then grow to scale and innovate are the ones who interest me most—they’re entering a higher level of investing where there is still a massive greenfield of untapped opportunity just waiting for someone to innovate.
Who are you competing against? Chances are, you might think of your direct competitors, and that’s who you might refer to in your copy. However, you’re leaving money on the table by not addressing the other types of competitors that influence whether your prospects buy from you.
There are 4 types of competitors and your copy needs to position you as a superior choice against each of the 4.
Lack of interest in the copy—before you can address any of the other competitors, your reader’s wavering interest is the very first one to address!
Direct competitors—this is the obvious one; it’s the competitors who sell a similar product or service to what you sell.
Indirect competitors—this is the competitors who sell an alternate way to solve the problem. (A car dealership is a direct competitor to another car dealership; a bus ticket is an indirect competitor.)
Inaction—the last type of competitor is that of no choice at all! Your reader may choose not to act, and simply to live with the problem as it is.
If you want to sell anything in your copy, you must sell against each of these 4 types of competitors.