Consistency, Consistency, Consistency

Practice, Practice, Practice.

Most business owners don’t practice their craft, they just perform it. It’s one of the biggest reasons their business never develops into something bigger than themselves.

Cal Ripken performed in a record 2,632 consecutive baseball games. But he didn’t just perform. He dissected the strike zone into a number of smaller zones and practiced hitting pitches in each micro-zone to figure out which ones he could hit and which ones he should just hope the ump called a ball instead. He practiced at levels most people don’t bother.

I chatted with Yo Yo Ma, the greatest cello player of our time, backstage a few years ago. I asked him in front of my daughter, an aspiring cello player, “How do you become a great cello player?” He replied without hesitation, “It’s not enough to practice. You have to learn to love to practice and to practice every day as if you were on stage at Carnegie Hall.” Yo Yo Ma loves to practice, not just perform.

Theo Bikel first played Tevye in Fiddler on the Roof in 1967. He is now 87 years old and still works full time in many roles. He has played Tevye now over 2,000 times in 45 years.

In the 30th anniversary Broadway tour revival of Fiddler I was playing clarinet/sax in the pit orchestra when they came through Denver. For a week I listened to Bikel’s incredible rendition of Tevye (couldn’t see from the pit, only hear). By the fifth or sixth performance I could nearly repeat his rhythmic interpretation of each line, the rising, falling, the long pause here and there. He became incredibly predictable.

Every performance was the same, but the amazing part was that every performance was magical. Theo Bikel was not winging it and was not just performing. He had practiced this part and dissected it over and over again to discover the highest interpretation, then he did something few business owners (or actors) would ever do – he stuck with what worked and never varied from it.

Practice, then be consistent
I’ve never heard a more consistently repeated performance, or a better one. Theo Bikel had learned two things:

1) Practice, and lots of it, is the only way to become better. Performing is not how you become better.
2) Stick with what works. Don’t mess with success.

Learn to love to practice
Most business owners will never have a chance to stick with what works. They’ve never practiced enough to find out what truly works and what truly puts them on top of their game. They’re too busy winging it.

And even when they find something that works, most business owners will abandon it long before it has stopped working. Why? Because THEY are bored!

Learn to love consistency
They hate practicing and get bored doing the same great performance over and over. They are willing to sacrifice the success of their business so they can keep performing with variety and never practicing to find the best way to do something. Remember, your customer, like each theater goer watching Theo Bikel, is experiencing you for the first time. They aren’t bored and you shouldn’t be either.

Practice to find your groove
A great golfer practices until they find the swing groove that works the best all the time, and they never vary from it. You could look at shadow figures of some of them and know who it is by their swing (like Jim Furyk). They practiced like crazy to find it, and then do it the same every time.

I went from a 20 handicap to a 1.9 by practicing like crazy. While I was doing that I played (performed) with a lot of golfers who had never been on a driving range or taken a lesson. They thought it was a nutty idea to practice a lot, almost beneath them, and prided themselves in hacking around, never practicing, always trying a new club, a different swing.

They’re still 20 handicaps and hide their incompetence by poking fun at people who practice. It’s not manly – real men don’t practice. They laughingly say, “Practice is a sign of insecurity.” Too many business owners feel the same way.

Want to be successful? Reach your tipping point? Have the business outgrow your own capabilities and become something that makes money while you’re on vacation? It won’t happen by performing.

The way to Carnegie Hall
The tourist leaned out his car window and asked the cop, “How do you get to Carnegie Hall?”

“Practice, practice, practice.”, was the answer the cop gave, as he waved they tourist through.

Repeatable, consistent performance is the key to a business outgrowing you and your own talents. And the only way to find what your business should do over time is to practice until you find it.

Variety is not the spice of business
Practice like crazy, learn the best way to do what you do, then do it that way every time. Variety is not the spice of life – it’s the road to mediocrity.

Silver bullet, anyone?
This blog post won’t likely get a lot of hits. There has to be a faster, easier silver bullet. The people who think that will still be 20 handicaps in their business 10 years from now, while those willing to practice hard will actually be enjoying themselves on the golf course while they’re business makes money without them.

Attitude actually ISN’T everything.

Close, but no cigar.

I’ve heard it all my life. Your attitude determines your altitude, attitude is everything, attitude is a choice, etc. Good luck with that. It sounds like a big fake “grind” to me. And I’m certain it won’t make you successful.

People aren’t successful because they have a good attitude. They have a good attitude because they have something much deeper figured out. Attitude is a RESULT of something much bigger. If we don’t have the bigger thing, ginning up a great attitude is like lipstick on a pig.

Emotionalism is Not a Good Attitude
People with great attitudes that aren’t backed by the bigger thing are usually pretty obvious. They’re convinced that attitude is everything, so they rely on emotionalism and “everything is GREAT!” “live is wonderful” statements on the outside while they’re dying on the inside. And they just hope that “fake it until you make it” will get them through. It won’t.

It impossible to have a good attitude by deciding to have a good attitude. It’s like squinting hard to make a wad of bills appear in front of you. At times I do have to “just decide” to have a good attitude, but I guarantee you I would have no motivation to make the decision if it wasn’t driven by something bigger.

The Fourth “S”
The Industrial Age taught us the “Three S’s” – Safety, Security and Stability. The problem with the three S’s is that they are at the bottom of Masloew’s hierarchy – they are just survival mechanisms. The Three S’s will not give us enough motivation to have a great attitude. The fourth S, the one the Industrial Age couldn’t afford for you to have – Significance – that is the driver of attitude.

Clarity on what you want out of your business and your life is what drives good attitude. If you know where you are going, what you want when you get there, and when you want to be there, it will have a transformational impact on your attitude.

The Big Why
In Crankset Group we talk a lot about “The Big Why.” The Big Why is that one big thing that gets you out of bed every morning that gives you the motivation to create a life of significance. If you have a Big Why, you will rarely have to work on getting your attitude straight, and when you do lose it, it will be much easier to get your good attitude back. It’s not about good attitude, but about having the motivation to have one.

Attitude is a Result, Not a Cause
Focus on Significance, not on attitude. Figure out what is really deeply important and run toward it with everything you’ve got. Use your business to get you there. You’re attitude will follow.

A day a week, a week a month, a month a year.

How to get a life.

Last February I wrote about our Business Maturity Date and how “You get what you intend, not what you hope for.”. It’s been almost a year – what did we get? We got a life.

I built five businesses where I never got a life. In some cases I got a lot of money, in others very little, but in none did I get a life. Why? Simple. I only asked our businesses to produce money, so that’s exactly what they did.

When I started this sixth business, Crankset Group, five years ago, I decided (intended) to do it differently. I decided I would demand that my business produce both time and money for me, not just money. Gee what a surprise, I got both.

Three Jeers for the Industrial Age
The Industrial Age taught us to assume a number of stupid things related to this idea of time:

1) Money is the path to a great lifestyle. If I have money, I will automatically have a great life (time). Wrong. I know a woman who makes nearly $1 million a month who feels trapped by her business and is there at least six days a week. Money buys you stuff, but it doesn’t buy you time.

2) To make more money, you must spend more time at work – you have to trade hours for money. Wrong. Read my blog post, Time is the new money. The game every business owner should play is, “How do I make MORE money in LESS time?”

3) Make money now. Get time later. Wrong. See #2 above – get both at the same time. Retirement is a really bad concept because it taught us to wait until “tomorrow” to get time. It also taught us that money would get us time – see #1 above, and read my blog post Retirement is a Bankrupt Industrial Age Idea .

So after five failed attempts at doing it the Industrial Age way (get money, time will naturally follow), we decided to do it differently and demand that our business give us both time and money at the same time.

What happened?

We started in 2007 and grew revenues every year. We grew 122% from Dec. 2009 to Dec. 2010, and 57% from Dec. 2010 to Dec. 2011, and expect to grow another 50% in 2012, which is harder to do the bigger you get.

We worked our tushes off to begin with. In 2007 I probably worked 6+ days a week, but ALWAYS with the mindset that I was front loading it to get a lot more time off later. In 2008 I probably got 2/3rds of my Saturdays off and took a couple very short weeks off. In 2009, I got most Saturdays, a few 3-day weekends and two weeks of real vacation. In 2010, I took eight to 10 three-day weekends, and a couple weeks of vacation.

In 2011 we broke through on the time front. I took a day a week (Fridays), a week a month (the 4th week of every month), and a month a year (half Feb, half March) off. How did the business do? We grew revenues by 57%.

I intended to get a day week, a week a month and a month a year, but I also ended up with half days two Mondays a month. So I regularly have a three to three and a half day week, with the 4th week off. All this while expecting to grow at least 50% in 2012. I expect the people working with us to take more time off in 2012, too.

Is what I did special? Am I lucky, unique or uber-talented? No. I’m not any smarter or any different than I was in the first five businesses where I never got a life.

Make New Rules
The difference was simply that I made new rules (He who makes the rules wins), and required that my business play by my business, not the other way around.

You get what you intend not what you hope for.

Not smart. Relentless.
It’s about chasing something you decide is important enough to finally catch. I decided time was important enough to catch. It turns out relentless is much more important than smart.

I’m not smart. I’m just relentless.

Be relentless about demanding that your business produce both time and money for you. You probably already did a spreadsheet on how to increase your revenue. That’s only half the objective. Get a spreadsheet this year for how you plan to reduce your work time – and be relentless about making it happen.

New Year’s Resolutions Don’t Work

But quiet resolve will.

The last New Year’s resolution I made was 20+ years ago, and it was to never make another New Year’s resolution. It’s the only one I’ve ever kept.

We do it every year. “I hereby resolve”… blah, blah, blah. A kept resolution is harder to find than a moose in Miami.

97% of people who decide to lose weight actually weigh more 12 months later. All other New Years “resolutions” have just about as much resolve behind them. Let’s change that.

How to actually change something.

1) Don’t “get motivated”. Don’t make resolutions at the end of a weekend motivational seminar.* Most of this stuff is emotion-based and has no lasting power. You’re either committed or you aren’t. I don’t get motivated to brush my teeth. I either do it or I don’t.

2) Run toward something, not away from something. People who want to lose weight rarely lose any. “I want to stop being fat.” That’s running away from being fat.

People who want to live a healthy long life are much more likely to not be fat. “I want to be able to…” That is running toward something.

The gravitational pull of what you are running away from will always suck you back in. Likewise, the gravitational pull of something you are running toward will release you from the pull behind you. You will get where you are going because you are actually going TO something, not AWAY from something. See my post “Get a Second Planet”:

3) Make decisions through the new lens. See yourself and/or your business the way you want it to be when you get there, not where it is, and make decisions AS IF YOU WERE ALREADY THERE.

In the book Shift by Peter Arnell, he tells how he went from being 406 lbs to a maintenance weight of 150 lbs. As soon as he decided to lose the weight, he began to see himself from that moment on as a 150lb. man, and EVERY DECISION HE MADE was as a 150lb. man. He even went out that week and fired some of his clients who he felt were the clients of a 406lb. man.

Don’t “hope” to get there. Peter didn’t wait until he was 150lbs. to begin to make decisions like a 150lb. man. That would be “hoping” to get there, and running away from being fat. The minute he made the decision he was already 150lbs. on the inside.

Be there already inside, and just bring the rest of your external world into alignment with the way you already view the world from inside. Sound like woo-woo crap? It’s not – it’s hard core success strategy, and it’s how every highly successful business person becomes so. They see something they want to make happen, they believe in their core that it is doable, and then they set about making every decision as if it has already happened.

The above three steps are all about intentionality vs. hope. Intention is the key because:

You get what you intend, not what you hope for.

New Year’s Resolutions are almost always too full of “hope”, which is emotion-based and needs a special day to get itself motivated to do anything. Real decisions are usually full of intention and don’t need a special day or audience to be walked out into the open.

BUT – I will say that whatever decision you make, on whatever day you make it, you should indeed declare it to the world and ask everyone around you to support you, not in getting there, but in already being there (please don’t feed me donuts if I’ve declared I’m 150lbs., and don’t entice me with 2 weeks in Cabo the day after I start my new business.)

Don’t get there. Be there. Then bring the outside world into alignment with that clear intention. Hoping, wishing, dreaming, and believing don’t add up to doing.

Go ahead. Make a decision ANY day of the year (including New Year’s Day). But much more importantly, see yourself, your business, and the world around you through the new lens, and make every decision going forward as if you were already there.

Where do you want to be in 2012? Tell the world here, be there inside today, and then let’s go do it on the outside the next 364 days.