July 26, 2011

Forecasting the future

Based on historical evidence and current trends, economists can predict future economic conditions. Using models based on historic measurements and vast amounts of real-time data, meteorologists tell us it is probably a better choice to find activities indoors.

So we hear the prognosis for what might happen and we change our plans.

We don't buy the home we have been saving for because future economic conditions don't look favorable. We postpone starting the business we have always dreamed of owning because it's just too scary right now and analysts indicate the outlook is not so good. We fail to go on vacation or take a hike with the family because it is going to rain.

Ultimately, these forecasts are at best scientific guesses and hunches about future events. Yet, we treat them as though they are guaranteed to occur. We consider these assumptions to be fact, when even the fine print on some investments indicate that "past performance is not indicative of future results."

Ironically, due to public reaction to the latest analyst news from Wall Street, people often make these predictions a reality.

The truth is, all of the models and forecasts, all of the number crunching and spin that goes into these stories and predictions fail to account for one incredibly dangerous and powerful variable. You.

You have the choice to retreat, back off and play it safe, and live with regret. At the same time, you have the choice to press forward despite the challenges, creatively overcoming obstacles as they are presented and make something happen.

You have the influence to change the models. You have the power to make a difference, and to leave the analysts dumbfounded.

The conditions will never be perfect, so it's best to keep moving forward and take grasp of the opportunities that are available to you today. It's not raining yet, and there is still plenty of time to get out there and play.

Passion, persistence, perseverance, and heart will change everything. And because of this truth, I forecast that you will change everything, if you are willing.

July 21, 2011

What you take out is most important

When I remove entire blocks of prose after reading something that I have drafted, I find the point I am trying to make is better articulated. When designing new functionality for a web application, I find the best solutions are those where all but the most necessary features are removed.

The practice of trimming back to only what is essential is vastly important for getting remarkable work done.

If you truly want to create a major work, it is going to cost you something. It may mean getting up an hour earlier or an hour later, but focusing on you mission for an hour a day will pay dividends in the long run.

However, if you are already getting up an hour early and staying up an hour late, and still find you need more time, there is a different issue that must be dealt with.

You simply have too much going on. Look at where you are spending your time, and then trim back all but the essential. Chances are, as you start reviewing where you time is spent, you will find there are a lot of activities that are simply wasting time.

If you are going to get up an hour early every day with the goal to publish a book by the end of the year, then spend an hour writing, not reading blogs and checking email. If you want to run a 5k in less than 20 minutes, then spend an hour every day training and working toward the goal.

There is nothing impressive about someone that gets up early and goes to bed late and still can't get important work done. If you are trying to wear the fact that you rise early and stay up late as a badge of honor, claiming that you have more work to do than you have time for, but still aren't shipping anything, the truth is you are simply a poor manager of time.

Being busy is not synonymous with being productive, and a little bit of thought, planning, and focusing on the essential will lead to success.

July 19, 2011

Shipping costs

In the book Linchpin, Seth Godin recommends in order to ship a major project every year, you should set aside one hour every day to complete three tasks aligned with completing the project. Leo Babauta, the author of Zen Habits, calls these tasks your Most Important Tasks (MITs).

It may not seem like much, but you can create remarkable art that is most important to you with only one hour of focused energy every day.

The question then becomes, is it worth it to you? What are you willing to give in order to achieve your dreams and to ship something that changes everything?

If shipping meant getting up an hour earlier every day, would you do it? Would you stay up an hour later? Are you willing to spend the time focused on completing (not just doing) tasks that move you closer to achieving what you set out to accomplish?

This might mean shutting off the television, putting down the novel, and avoiding the temptation to browse the internet. It could also include not doing the things which at first glance appear to be related to shipping something remarkable, like checking email, analyzing the usage of your site, or invoicing customers.

The extra hour is all about completing tasks directly aligned with shipping great art every year, not about the things you are already doing every day. They are small steps in the right direction.

If you aren't willing to give up an hour a day to create your art, then find something worthy of giving an hour a day to. Or, perhaps you are afraid if you give an hour a day to completing something monumental, you might actually succeed?

Be conscious about what it is you want to achieve, be focused, and be selective about how you spend your time.

July 13, 2011

Make your own

A recent post on the Signal vs. Noise blog talked about how when Batist Leman was dissatissfied with the options available to him when it came to buying a notebook, he used a bit of creativity to solve his problem.

Instead of complaining that there were not any notebooks available that met his specifications, he simply thought about what he wanted in a notebook, and then made it himself.

Some of the most successful and interesting companies today were born from someone scratching an itch they had. Instead of complaining that there was not a product that met their need, they built something remarkable, realizing there was a niche in the marketplace that was not being served.

The next time you are buying a product to meet a need you have, take a few extra seconds to think through why you need the product in the first place, and ask yourself if the item you are about to buy is really going to help you achieve the goals you need to accomplish. If it isn't, what would it take to make it yourself?

You may find that you discover something the rest of us have been looking for as well.

As a side note, if you do build something of your own and decide to put it into the marketplace for others, you will be faced with the temptation to make it appeal to the masses. However, I think you will find by just keeping the product simple and easy to use, focused on meeting the needs you originally sought to address, you will attract more customers than if you try to appeal to the masses.

More features don't always equate to greater revenue, and rough edges make a product remarkable too.

July 06, 2011

Nothing less than all of you

Think for a moment of the most powerful speeches that have ever been delivered. Think about the art that has changed conversations, or of the music that has evoked some call to action deep within. Think for a second about the poetry that stirred your soul, or about the words etched into existence that will never leave you feeling quite the same again.

Chances are there is a common theme in all of these. An artist physically throwing themselves fully into the work they are doing. Not out of obligation, but in response to a call from deep within. They have to, because it is where they feel most alive and full of life.

Powerful, game changing art requires everything. This kind of work requires heart, soul, and passion. It requires physically throwing yourself behind the work, because it is that important.

Real art requires everything you have to give.

Nothing less.