The Simple Things Make Us More Money

Occam’s Razor says that given two possible answers to a problem, the simpler one is usually right. If we applied this ancient idea to business, we’d make a lot more money.

The Simple vs. The Complex

I find that business leaders who succeed know how to sift through the Complex things that make us busy, to find the Simple things that make us money.


We make money doing the Simple things—connecting with people, returning a phone call, scheduling a paying event, dialing ten numbers and saying hello. We waste time doing the Complex things that seem hard to do— creating fancy business plans, updating our address books or CRMs, and researching things to death. But rarely do the Complex things make us money, they just make us busy.

Succeeding vs. Hiding

The Complex things are where we look and feel productive, the Simple things are where we actually are productive.

The Simple things are where I succeed. The irony is that the Simple things more often than not are hard to do, and the Complex things are easy to do.

So instead of doing something simple and hard, I default to finding Complex, easy things to do. The Complex things are where I hide.
One favorite hiding place is developing fancy spreadsheets that show exactly how successful we would be if we ever did anything. Or any other kind of stalling that masquerades as planning. We “feel” productive, even though we’re not doing anything material to push our businesses or our lives forward.

Everyone around us is impressed with all the Complex things we did today. We even impress ourselves. But the fact is that most Complex things were only hard the first time we did them (and maybe never effective). Early on we learned how to play with spreadsheets, do projections, read and answer emails all day, schedule endless meetings, research ideas, update our marketing materials, etc. But now when we do those things, we’re just playing office.

Successful business owners do it differently. They know what the Simple things are that will push them forward, and they focus their time and attention there.

Managers and leaders are sometimes defined by the Simple vs. the Complex as well. Managers regularly focus on and are distracted by the Complex, leaders deal only with the Simple. If you want to lead your business instead of just managing it—stay focused on those very few simple things that will make you more money in less time.

The Simple vs. The Complex

The Simple things are hard to do. But we are effective and succeed here.

The Complex things are easy to do. We are at best efficient and hide here.

Be more effective. Focus on the Simple things, and walk away from Complex, easy things that won’t push you forward. Here’s a great question to regularly ask yourself that will help you focus on the Simple things:

“Am I hiding right now?”

You’ll be surprised how often you will be able to redirect your focus with this question from Complex things that don’t make a difference, to Simple things that will make you more successful.

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3 Major Workplace Shifts That You Need to Pay Attention To

We inherited a stifling top-down work world from the Industrial Age, but as it fades behind us, the emerging work world will look very different. Those who adapt will thrive. Those that don’t will be left behind.

For more than 150 years, workplaces have been dominated by heavy hierarchy, with systems designed by self-proclaimed geniuses to be run by people stripped of their ability to think and of their very humanity, who functioned as extensions of machines at work, not as human beings.


But the emerging work world will thankfully look quite different. In the Participation Age, which is already upon us, everybody is getting their brain back, and work once again is becoming a meaningful, integrated part of our lives, not something we put up with to make money.

As I shared in my TEDx talk, things are changing so rapidly that it’s possible in five to ten years, leadership structures and workplaces that look very radical today will be the norm, and this will all be a big “duh.” But for now, there is monumental resistance to the emerging work world, by those who stand to gain the most; management.

Managers fear loss of control even though companies that have already paved the way into the Participation Age are more profitable, more stable, and with exponentially lower employee turnover. The data is already in, but the late adapters are not yet convinced.

Here are three key attributes of the emerging work world.

1. Employees are becoming Stakeholders.

The Factory System needed people to leave their humanity at home and just bring the part to work that ran the machine. To accomplish this, companies (and school systems) taught people not to ask the most human of questions, “Why.” For the last 150 years, people who questioned things at work were considered insubordinate to authority, rebels who needed to be weeded out and replaced with people who weren’t asked to think.

In the Participation Age, companies are both inviting and requiring that people bring the whole, messy, creative person to work, because they have learned that when they invite everyone to participate in the building of a great company, and to share in the rewards, that both the company and the workers benefit more.

Stakeholders come to work as self-managed, self-motivated adults who want to Make Meaning at work, not just money, and are the hidden treasures of companies that want to innovate, grow and dominate in the emerging work world. Innovation won’t come from the top anymore, but from Stakeholders throughout the organization.

2. Managers are being replaced with Leaders—and a lot fewer of them.

Managers dominate with authority and control, and the more essential they are, the better they feel. They solve and decide because those two things make them irreplaceable.

Emerging companies, who believe in Stakeholders, are organizing with leaders, not managers. Leaders don’t dominate by authority and control, or focus on solving and deciding. Leaders serve others, make them successful through influence and encouragement, and most importantly train others to solve and decide. Then they get out of the way.

In the emerging work world, where people are self-managed, controlling managers are disappearing in favor of leaders who focus on making Stakeholders more successful than themselves.

3. Managed groups are being replaced with Self-Managed Teams.

These were all the rage in the 1990s, but failed miserably for two simple reasons; they weren’t encouraged to bond as human beings, and nobody got rid of the managers. “Self-managed” really just meant “I’m the manager, and I’ll give you a few more things to decide, but you still work for me.” It was a charade. Everyone was supposed to live on self-managed teams except for all the managers. The archaic top-down hierarchy was still firmly entrenched, and “self-managed teams” found it out very quickly.

In the emerging work world, where people are Stakeholders and managers are replaced with servant Leaders, truly self-managed teams are the best way to build a great, highly profitable, fast-growing company. CQIntel is one organization providing great training for teams.

Self-managed doesn’t mean anarchy or chaos. Participation Age leaders are providing vision, clarity, guidance, training, connections, resources and everything else self-managed teams need to be successful. Then they are getting out of the way and letting people make decisions that used to be made by managers, who don’t exist anymore in Participation Age companies (self-managed, remember?).

Why it matters to you.

None of us will escape the emerging work world. This is not a fad, nor is it isolated. Nor is it new (some companies have been organized this way since the 1950s). Going forward, joining the Participation Age will not be optional.

So if you like being told what to do, you won’t like the emerging work world, which is requiring that you become a Stakeholder and proactively design your own future. But Stakeholders will love it.

If you are a manager who thrives on authority and control, you will be replaced by servant Leaders who focus on making others successful and getting out of the way.

And if you don’t like being helpful to those around you, you will find self-managed teams voting you out of a job. But the majority will find work more meaningful because of the real human bond they are building with others.

Join the Participation Age.

The data is already in. Companies built around Stakeholders, Leaders, and self-managed teams are outperforming everyone around them. Soon, entrenched managers will be getting pressure from investors, high employee turnover, sagging profits, and lack of innovation to join those who are already enjoying the fruits of the Participation Age.

Come join us in the Participation Age.

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Why You Should Embrace the Call for a Disoriented Life

I have my stories. I believe my stories. I know exactly why my business or life is or isn’t working, regardless of the facts to the contrary. Maybe not.

What I know is usually my biggest problem.

Most of us know too much. The problem with knowing how our business is going is that what we know is almost always more of a problem than what we don’t know. Why? Because what we know is most likely what keeps us from finding out what we don’t.


The danger of being finish-minded.

It’s bigger than being close-minded. It’s more like being “finish-minded”: “I’ve got this all figured out. There’s not much more I need to know.”

When I first started taking golf lessons I “humbly” figured I knew about 20 percent of what I needed to know to be a good golfer. Two years later, after intensive lessons and dropping my handicap from 12 to 1.9, I figured I knew about 2 to 3 percent of what I needed to know to be a good golfer.

When I started riding bikes seriously, I thought I had had everything figured out since I was a kid. Thousands of miles later, I’m still trying to learn how to hit the apex of a corner correctly to keep my speed up. And my stroke is atrociously lopsided, especially when I’m tired. There are a dozen other things I haven’t even begun to figure out.

That happens to me all time. Just when I think I’ve got it down, I find out I’m flying blind again.

Live a disoriented life.

The problem is I’m not disoriented enough. I’ve realized that “adults don’t learn unless we’re disoriented.” I stop listening when I think I know, and only learn when I realize I don’t have it all figured out.

This jumps up and bites me most when something goes wrong in the business, and instead of being open to some new input, I jump to a conclusion based on the existing story in my head. And instead of working hard at finding a better solution, I default to old answers that keep me from moving forward. And too often, I run the story in my head that I’m just a victim—the world around me is the problem.

But the worst result of believing my existing and stagnant stories is that it can keep me from asking one of the best questions I know:

What am I pretending not to know?

Deep down inside, we all know a few simple things about what would make our business work, and we work hard to stuff them down deep. Because usually the thing that we know will make things work better has more to do with fixing me than fixing my business. I’d rather fix my business.

We can sleep walk through building a business as the same unchanged person who started it, and come out the other end on the treadmill. We can sleepwalk through life, too. Sadly, a lot of people do. Or we can regularly ask ourselves what we are pretending not to know, talk to a business mentor or friend to confirm our suspicions, and then go change the simple (but hard) thing that we need to address to move forward.

No magic seminars. Just a simple question.

There are a lot of “Three-inch binder/six CD” seminars out there that will fix your business. But you might save a lot of money and be more effective if you just regularly ask yourself:

What am I pretending not to know?

It’s amazing what we intuitively already know. Go with it.

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The Rugged Individualist Is Dead

“The rigorous practice of rugged individualism usually leads to poverty, ostracism and disgrace. The rugged individualist is too often mistaken for the misfit, the maverick, the spoilsport, the sore thumb.” –Lewis Lapham, Harper’s Magazine

Natalie King, PhD in Neuroscience with the Liautaud Institute in Chicago, did some groundbreaking research that confirms what many of us have learned the hard way, Rugged Individualism is a really bad idea. Laiutaud’s research shows that “We are biologically designed to be connected to others.”


Their research also shows the deeper our connection to the groups we work with, the greater our contribution. Finally there is data, not just assumptions; our brains change when we live in community at work. This is no longer woo-woo crap, it’s pure biology; we need each other.

The first Industrialists created an aura of swash-buckling individualism that was so pervasive that nonsense like “going it alone” almost became a pre-requisite for success in the Industrial Age. The rugged individualist has its strongest roots in the Industrialists of the 19th and early 20th century, and it is a business disease that is ripe for eradication.

What Is Your Greatest Fear?

I am a recovering John Wayne Rugged Individualist. It took a number of decades and five business startups for me to realize I didn’t have to pretend I had a handle on every aspect of the business, or even a lot of it. As I slowly found confidants, I learned everybody is making it up as they go along. A few years back I remember seeing a survey of Fortune 500 CEOs asking, “What is your greatest fear?” The biggest response was that they feared someone would find out they didn’t know what they were doing. Join the club.

Who Are Your Friends?

The need to have it all figured out and never admit you made a mistake is insidious. It’s worst in the world of big government (on both sides), but is also a staple of management. In the 21st century Industrialist’s view of the world, people who admit mistakes and that they don’t have everything figured out are considered weak, and should be easy prey for destruction on the way to world domination.

But history says differently. If you look at the great leaders in history, they always surround themselves with people who can call BS on their lives and their leadership, while those who fail or, in hindsight, are seen in a negative light, surround themselves with yes-men, and then go it alone.

Committed Community—A Safe Place

We are building 3to5 Clubs for business owners all around the world. They meet in groups of twenty-four, twice a month to work through the fundamentals of how to build a business that makes money when they’re not around. People love the monthly planned training, but the most valuable thing 3to5 Clubs have to offer is a place for business owners to go and say three magic words; “I don’t know.”

Where do you go to say, “I don’t know?” If you say it to your clients, they look for another supplier. If you say it to your Stakeholders, they put their resumes out. Say it to your bank or your vendors and they’ll all shorten your terms. And if you say it to your spouse, now there are two of you not sleeping well.

In response to their own research, the Liautaud Institute is now offering Process-Designed Training (PDT) for work teams through CQintel. They find that CEOs and leaders who go through their program increase their emotional and social competence by 23% over the norm (control group).

The Greats All Had Outside Eyes

Harvey McKay, one of the best known business leaders in the world, made sure he was always in a group of other business owners who would meet regularly and provide what we call Outside Eyes for each other. Benjamin Franklin started his Leather Apron Society with a few apprentices like himself who were trying to figure out how to make it in the world. He credited it for a great deal of his success. A lot of very smart business leaders are deeply committed to great business advisory groups with long-standing records of success like Entrepreneurs Organization, Vistage, Young President’s Organization (YPO), and others. Both EO and YPO have adopted the Liautaud Institute’s team training methodologies.

The Wisdom of Crowds
I’ve started nine businesses and while I may have had a good grasp on the “craft” of each one of them (call center, fulfillment, printing, direct mail, database development, importing, etc.), the actual implementation was always a crap-shoot. As soon as my idea hit the real world, all bets were off and we were in a regular evolutionary cycle we call, “Implement now. Perfect as you go.” You can manage the ongoing chaos of a growing business all by yourself, or you can admit “I don’t know”, get with others who also don’t know, and figure it out together.

We believe in The Wisdom of Crowds which says that there is almost always a better answer in a diverse groups of individuals than any one expert could come up with on their own. It makes no sense to go it alone when you can get together with a bunch of others who also “don’t know”, and who can all find out together. I hear regularly from 3to5 Club members, Vistage, YPO and EO members around the world who say being in those groups has transformed both their lives and their businesses.

The Rugged Individualist, Isn’t

The rugged individualist is a blustering, silly, insecure, transparent position to try to hold in the Participation Age. As the Industrial Age fades behind us, great leaders-in-the-making will gladly say “I don’t know”, and then will doggedly pursue figuring it out, in the context of Committed Community with others who also don’t know.

Time To Move On Together

The legendary John Wayne is dead. Let’s bury the rugged individualist in his honor. The “heroic activist” who goes it alone has no place in business. You’ll be a lot more successful if you get into community.

“If you want to travel fast, go alone. If you want to travel far, go together.” Chinese Proverb

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Being Disciplined, Organized and Scheduled May Not Help You Be Successful

There is a lot of noise about how to manage our lives. And all of it tells us the key is to be disciplined, organized and scheduled. But none of those three are the least bit attractive to most of us, for good reason. It’s the wrong emphasis.

Adding to the guilt trip, various experts tell us to manage time, manage ourselves, or manage tasks. But the clock won’t be managed, managing myself is too abstract, and if I only knew which tasks to manage, I would do it. Which leads me to the only thing I think we really can manage—priorities. And when we do it right, we don’t need to focus so much on discipline, organization, or scheduling.


Just Priorities

My mother once responded to me whining about how busy I was with, “Chuck, there is no such thing as excuses, there’s not even reasons, there are only priorities.” Annoying, but irrefutable. It was years later that I made peace with the fact that I couldn’t manage time, myself, or my tasks, but that I could only manage my priorities.

Once that fell into place, I realized why I had so little interest in being disciplined, organized, or scheduled. Those are just tools, or means to an end. They focus us on a process, when only the result matters. But for decades, highly disciplined and organized people had sent me on guilt trip after guilt trip chasing those tools as if they would magically make me productive. They never did. They just made me busy.

Too many highly organized people mistake activity for productivity, and look very impressive in the process. I have gradually learned not to be impressed with endless activity, discipline, organization, schedules or any other process-oriented focus. Only the results matter anymore.

We Have It Backwards—Big Rocks First

We’re all taught to focus on these means to an end (process), instead of the end itself (result). But the only reason to have any discipline or organization at all is to get the important stuff done. And the only way to do that is to know your priorities and focus on them alone.

Stephen Covey often told the story of the convention speaker who would fill a vase with large rocks, then pour in smaller pebbles, followed by sand and finally water. The lesson was that if you put the small stuff in your schedule first (water and sand), there would never be any room for the big stuff. But when you put the big rocks in your schedule first, there is always room for the inconsequential maintenance things that never really improve our lives.

When I started focusing on the big rocks, I finally found a reason to use the tools of discipline, organization and scheduling to get them done. In the process I learned that I didn’t need to live like those guys who make long, tidy lists, fill every week with pre-scheduled activity and never forget their wallet. The only discipline I needed was to not sweat the small stuff, and that the only organization and scheduling I needed was to focus on the few big things each day, week and month that would move my life and my business forward.

The Magic of File 13

I learned the value of File 13 thirty-five years ago in the army. The company admin would open the mail, log it in, then throw it in the waste basket (File 13). When I asked why, he said he threw almost everything away because he had learned most of it pretended to be important, but wasn’t. I asked how he knew something truly was important. He laughed and replied, “That’s why I log all the mail in. If it comes back, it must be important. If not, I didn’t waste my time messing with it.”

An awful lot of our To Do list is File 13-able. People who are highly effective learn to ignore the water, the sand and even most of the pebbles, and focus on the few big rocks that really matter. One of the most effective people I ever met was a guy who left me with the enduring image of him with his feet on his desk and his hands behind his head. Years later I realized the secret of his success—File 13. He focused on the very few big things each month and let the rest of it go.

Start With The End in Mind

Stephen Covey was right. We should always start with the end in mind. How do you recognize the one or two big priorities every day, week or month? First, figure out the two or three big things you want to accomplish this year (any more than that and you’ll lose focus). Then use every day, every week, and every month to get those few things done.

If you focus on being disciplined, organized and scheduled, you may not actually get the important things done. If you figure out your two to three big rocks every year and use every week to pick away at them, you’ll get where you want to go.

Focus on a very few priorities. And along the way, make liberal use of File 13.

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Death By Golf: Why Retirement Is a Bankrupt Industrial Age Idea

Retirement was invented by Otto von Bismarck in 1889 to get old people off the machines and out of the way. But exhaustive research now shows it’s not what it’s cracked up to be.

A 90-year study of 1,528 Americans called The Longevity Project shoots holes in the retirement dream. Turns out goofing off for the last thirty years of our lives is a really bad idea. The idea that work is leading you to an early grave is a myth. This massive study proved what some of us have been saying for years now.


Know where you’re going.

People with the most focused long-term paths in the study were the least likely to die young. Looking at the participants in the study who were in their 70s, those that had not retired were looking at much longer lives than their golfing counterparts: “The continually productive men and women lived much longer than their laid-back comrades.”

Also, those who moved from job to job without a clear progression were less likely to have long lives than those who went deep and long in a focused direction with their business lives. We call this commitment to the long term, “conation”.

Conate, You’ll Live Longer.

Conation is the most important business word you’ve never heard, but is central to a long life. We define conation as, “Committed Movement in a Purposeful Direction.”

=“It wasn’t the happiest or the most relaxed older participants who lived the longest,”= the authors write, =“It was those who were most engaged in pursuing their goals.”=

Knowing where you’re going, and being committed and focused to get there (conation), is going to make you live longer.

Conation—Committed Movement in a Purposeful Direction.

Live With Purpose, Not Just to Play.

This study doesn’t mean you need to go to work for 90 years. It means you need to rethink going out to pasture at 65 to play golf. Amusement isn’t the goal. Think of the Latin roots of that word—“a” means “without”, and “muse” means “to think”.

Amusement—something you do without your brain.

Make Meaning

A commitment to a life of retirement leisure is a great way to die sooner. You don’t have to go to work; you just need to figure out how to continue to Make Meaning, even if you’re done making money.
Retirement is a bankrupt Industrial Age idea. Live a life of significance your whole life, not just the first two thirds of it.

Conate. You’ll live longer.

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