There’s always something to howl about

Changing Your Life – Behavior Based Changes For More Productivity

I’ve had a string of successes lately.  May will mark the end of the 7th month of growing income.  In a row.  For a salesperson that surfs the payables (thanks, Greg for that phrase), it’s a joy to be there.   I’m also cheating: October was the most brutally bad month I’ve had- it might have been $500.00 net, and it took till January or Feb to recover from that.

I’ve hardly “arrived,” during this time I’ve put on about 17 pounds (despite going to the gym pretty regularly – the battle at the dinner table has been met poorly by me, and that changes Wednesday with a physician supervised 90 day commitment with a variant of the Paleo diet.)   I’m on the cusp of paying the monster IRS debt that I acquired in my 20’s.  On the cusp means July to those scoring at home.

My wife has suffered from the madness of depression during this time (something I’ve struggled with, and it’s true madness), and there are the usual excuses and resistances that exist.  But I’ve done stuff to compensate for the Resistance.  And I’m sharing this with you.

I’m also gonna say that I’ve doubled my income and left about 25% of my “hours worked” behind.   I am working harder, when I’m working, and making a deliberate effort to refresh myself at the wellspring (more on that in a bit).

In any case,  let’s talk about the “how” behind this.  A series of simple change that, taken together, have made for profound growth.  This year will have a higher income than last year.    These habits- below- are why.  Each could get a bigger blog post or treatment.

Daily Read: Meditations by Marcus Aurelius. I read about 3-5 pages from this each day.  I’m a believer in Christ.  Still the way that this is laid out speaks to me, Scriptures for my thinking and has changed my behavior.  To the point: I don’t have prickly little testy spats with people because I leave them to most of their own bullshit.  I can ignore much, easily.  I don’t need to inform the world of my intent (and I have not, thanks to Derek Sivers).  I don’t need to have opinions on so many things.  There is so much there to think on.   Meditations is the present tool that helps me think about – and only about – what matters to me.

Blocking Everything that’s a distraction. I stopped watching the news.  Because the narrative is already written, we bomb brown people, bankers are greedy and need to be regulated, the housing crisis, oh GOD the housing crisis. I stopped watching sports.  Because it’s the same thing.

I want my passion and excitement to be reserved for my life, my achievements, not Kobe Bryant’s. My kids, not some reality show.

On my mac, I mapped about 250 sites to This idea was more important than I thought because distractions no longer just find me.  I don’t need to know what’s going on.  I have no idea, and it’s truly, truly great.  I see Fox News or CNN at the gym for a few seconds per day.  I’m well enough informed.  The Huffington Poste or Yahoo have nothing to say.  So we ignore them.

This also goes for the libertarian friends “masturbating to Armageddon.”  Doom will either come or it won’t. I’ve got a year’s worth of food for my family in the garage. I’ve got 1,200 rounds, and 40 pieces of silver.  More importantly I’ve got 1200 rolls of toilet paper.

End Poor Relationships: I had 4 people- all different- who I had near daily interaction with.  I ended them, cold turkey, one day.  No rancor, no explanation.  Just  “hid” them on Gtalk, and I don’t initiate or respond anymore.  Didn’t respond when asked about things that weren’t relevant to my customers.  Responded to the “what’s happening to us” email with a “been very busy – have to focus, can’t talk, probably won’t be able to respond to anything you write, talk later.”  Life is sweet without people to make you crazy.  I recommend it. (Note: we hear that we can keep ~225 people in our tribe.  If 10 of ’em are batty, then lose ’em.)

De-Face-Book Yourself I had about 2200 people on Facebook.  It was muddy and messy, and some marketers were connecting with friends of mine.  I just culled it down to a bare basic number, leaving about 40 “acquaintances” on FB.  Accumulating strangers isn’t a behavior I care to repeat.  The rest are friends I do business with, want to do business with or know some other way.   The volume on FB was turned down to people I legitimately care about.  My behavior is changed as well, and my attitude towards it is more sane.  (Note- this is something that I may change if I decide that FB needs to blossom into something else, this isn’t something I’m holding tightly to).

Spend through obstacles: In Feb, I was stuck.  So I paid a competitor to help clear out my queue.  Thanks, Rachael.  I spent more than I would have made but, for the most part, my reputation was upheld, and I got a problem solved fast.

Life for a standard – not chasing pleasures: Chasing a pleasure/scratching an itch is limited in its return.  Living to make stuff, to express ideas, or help others is a nice start.  Living with an indifference to anything but the work, to how you feel.  Decide with your mind, and come as close as you can to achieving the standard.

Focus on others, not Self: I’m here to help others, to be of comfort to others, to be kind to others, to offer myself to others.  I do this and it benefits me.  Abolishing thoughts of slights to my ego, abolishing stuff that’s happened is changing me.  If you focus on yourself, you become self absorbed.  That leads to self pity, which leads to depression.  I’ve been there, I know.  How can I help someone else is a more motivating question tan “why did so and so slight me.”  I’m happier at this moment than I’ve ever been.

Count your wins once, and only once:  Here’s what happens to sales people.  We win a lead, and say “oh, boy, got a lead.”  The lead becomes an “almost sale,” so we’re all “oh, boy got an almost sale.”  Then the lead turns into a listing, “Oh, boy, got a listing.”  Then it becomes a check. “Oh, boy, got a check.”  We count each win.  We lose a little intensity with each victory.  We take a listing, we get complacent.  We want to only count checks, and focus on driving each transaction to the ultimate goal.

Rescue Time was another place that I went to.  I love that site.  I don’t need to spend more than a few moments on sites, and I want to be able to make it so that the time I spend on my Mac – away from my kids-  to be productive.  I needn’t watch many things (and a challenge for me is that I have to interact with Youtube, a place that burns your life in 2-3 minute chunks.)

Ignore your creditors: I have had some tax issues with Ohio, an angry idiot customer and other things that I had to deal with.  I ignored them.  If they needed my attention, they’ll sue me.  When they call to complain, I can just hang up.   Getting sucked into dramaland is the worst place to be.  Ignore creditors, run a business that can afford to pay them.  Napoleon said, “Space we can recover, lost time never.”  Money is space to an independent business owner.  People that call to harrass you can be blocked simply and easily.   And they should be.

Read – Daily Do the work by Stephen Pressfield.|  Willie Jackson suggested that I return to the wellspring here, so in one of my unused hipsterrific moleskines, I’ve done started copying this, by hand word for word.  2 or so paragraphs per day, clears my mind and gets me doing something simple and rote.  I’m free to think, and to be renewed.  I do this around 2pm most days when hit the wall where I can no longer think. When the copy is made, I’ll move on to something else, or I’ll continue with this.  I’m not sure yet, and i can put off the decision for few weeks.  A few minute reset works wonders.

Write – Daily I write more, notes, evernote, Molskine stuff.  I write a lot more now.  Works for me.  Less as a percentage of my stuff shows up on line than ever before.  Fine.  It’s important that we finish things.

Your lists are your life: I have lists – 3 of ’em – that I mind.  One is the GTD style To Do list.  The other is my customer list. The third is my aweber list.  I pay attention to these as much as I can.

Time Blocking: I am a maker and a manager. I need to time block both fucntions so I have enough time to do this.  This means that I need to say no to things, even things that are important because keeping the schedule is going to drive my life.  I said no to an introduction to one of my heros because I was trying to get 21 days in without quitting.

The things I now time block – and again this is sacrosanct:

  • Reading (morning & afternoon ~ 80 pages a day)
  • Writing (morning)
  • Prayer, Meditation, Cleansing: (morning) I pray for others.  Maybe even you.  I think it’s the most mentally refreshing thing I do.
  • Hustling (calling and emailing strangers) 3x weekly for 90 minutes/session.  This is almost certainly more than you do.
  • Exercise (morning): I go with my wife.  This helps us both.
  • Family Time Fridays 2pm on, I knock off, and then dinnertime, we get that going.
  • Artist’s date: I schedule this on Sundays by finding something I can do by myself.  I don’t let anything interfere.

The rest of the stuff competes for what’s left of my time.  I have to make stuff sometimes, and then do the books.  But I put off everything I can that doesn’t fit into those boxes.

I have plans for the near future.  I’m not necessarily sharing with you precisely what they are, of course.    I’ll be around here occasionally in the future, but probably once or twice a year when I have something like this to add.  Nothing’s perfect, of course, and so away we go.

Bless you all, we’ll talk soon.


11 Comments so far

  1. Dan Connolly May 22nd, 2011 3:04 pm

    Inspirational post, thanks for sharing.

  2. Joe May 22nd, 2011 4:50 pm

    “mapped about 250 sites to”

    The link here is broken (there were also two others I think). I know because I just spent a lot of time following your links. I think I will be spending some time watch Derek Sivers videos. I watched the one you provided then a few others.

    Amazing post Chris. Resonates with where I am at in many ways.

  3. Chris Johnson May 22nd, 2011 7:50 pm

    Fixed, Joe.

  4. Broker Bryant May 23rd, 2011 4:17 pm

    Good for you Chris. I started meditating, working out and shut off all media about 3 years ago when my business crashed. In 2008 I sold 17 properties down from close to 60 a year and almost lost my wife to health issues. I re- arranged my entire life around the things that matter. Here I am 3 years later and things couldn’t be better.

    It’s amazing what we can accomplish if we focus on the right things. God willing.

  5. Dan Boyle May 23rd, 2011 4:19 pm

    Thanks for a great post. I stopped watching TV about six months ago and the effect has been amazing. Now, when I do see the CNN or Fox somewhere, the manufactured drama and negativity repulse me. For anyone considering quitting TV, you won’t miss it in about 7 days. I guarantee you’ll be happier. You might even start to lose that gut.

  6. Kevin Hughes May 29th, 2011 1:07 pm

    I’m on the same page- TV and newspapers are a complete waste of time. That time is better spent- focused with family and friends. Increasing productivity on the job ultimately means more quality time away from the office. It has not been easy to accomplish these past few years, but you can increase sales without living at the office if you consistently pursue efficiencies.

  7. Marcus May 29th, 2011 9:19 pm

    Thanks for this. It truly inspired me. I’m celebrating your victories.

  8. Barry Lynn Miller May 31st, 2011 11:18 am

    Very good article I will not go to the extremes on somethings but it was a great post in the fact that I will be looking for ways to simplify my life. You had some great ideas and it made me think of a few others that will work for me.

  9. Jo Amick June 1st, 2011 5:49 pm

    This is an excellent post.It makes me think of all the changes I’ve made to simplify my life. I think that most people would agree Less news and distractions add significantly to your peace of mind. Thanks for the share.

  10. Alice Houstons June 5th, 2011 8:04 pm

    Although this post is written by a real estate specialist, it applies to every small business owner. I appreciate that you didn’t play it safe with soft recommendations. To suggest that you should ignore creditors and scale back Facebook is daring and much appreciated.

  11. Greg Dallaire June 15th, 2011 9:52 pm

    Chris I’ve always been impressed by your writing. This dedication and focus is something I’m working diligently on refining in my life. This post is on my weekly must-reads on evernote.