Protest is a Poor Substitute for Living

You don’t have to be against something to be for something else.

You can like what you like without feeling oppressed by the fact that others do not share your preferences and proclivities.

Any felt need to combat those who don’t agree reveals a desire to gain their acceptance, which reveals a lack of self-acceptance.

You’ll never enjoy what you care about as much if you keep caring that others don’t.

Smart People Say Stuff About…Backup Plans

Are backup plans an absolute must, or can they actually do more harm than good? How can you think about and mitigate risk while not holding yourself back?

I asked seven smart, interesting people to give me their take on the concept of backup plans.

None of them heard each other’s take and I gave no further instructions, just whatever came to mind. It’s pretty cool to hear the results!

Responses from:
Cameron Sorsby
Levi Morehouse
TK Coleman
Jeff Till
Albert Lu
Derek Magill
Zak Slayback

There is a wide range of takes on the idea of backup plans, but some clear themes emerge. Enjoy!

This and all episodes are also available on SoundCloud, iTunes, YouTube, and Stitcher.

Ask Isaac: Goals – Hate ’em? Love ’em? Use ’em? Shove ’em?

I’m not big on goal setting, yet I think consistent structure is key to achieving what you want (even if what you want isn’t perfectly defined).

I discuss this and a few other items on this episode.

Check out the episode sponsor, The Foundation for Economic Education to apply for an amazing experience learning about economics!

This and all episodes are also available on SoundCloud, iTunes, YouTube, and Stitcher.

A New Approach Next Month

After daily blogging for over a year, I’m going to try mixing things up for February and March.  In part because I’ll be in Ecuador most of the time, in part because I want to make myself write longer stuff more often, in part because I’m curious and I like change. 

I’ll still be writing or creating something every day, but I’ll be posting to the blog less frequently. My current plan is:

  • Weekly podcasts on Mondays
  • Special/Ask Isaac episode a second day per week
  • Longish article once a week

I might add some shorter posts in between as well. We’ll see how it goes. Honestly I’m more scared of not blogging every day at this point than I was of doing it in the first place. I fear I’ll become an illiterate slob or forget how to live a normal day without blogging or stop trimming my fingernails or something.

Time will tell!

My Ceaseless Quest to Make Myself Useless

I’m on a ceaseless quest.  This quest it based on a belief about myself and the world:

For everything that I do there is someone somewhere who can do it better.

When I start doing something new my quest is always to find the person who can do it better and hand over the reins as soon as possible.

Where and when I’ve succeeded at that, I’ve succeeded.

I fully believe the maxim that you’ll be most successful when you find and do the things that no one else can do as well – the things that are uniquely you.  But if I always believe there is someone who can do everything I do better, and I’m always trying to find them and hand it off, what does that make me uniquely good at?

I don’t really know.  Here are two possible answers.  One is that at any given time I might be the best person for something.  So that’s what I’ll be doing.  But that time is limited.  In the long run, even though I might be uniquely perfect for something at first, someone else might be better.

The other possible answer is that my most unique and valuable skill is replacing myself.

Maybe I’m best at breaking new ground, getting the basics figured out, identifying nascent talent in someone else, and transitioning things to them so they can blossom in a way no one else – including me – ever could.

Whatever the answer I am totally confident that, given enough time, I can find someone who can do everything I do better.  This doesn’t threaten or bother me.  It fills me with excitement!  Where are they?  How can I find them?  How soon can I get them catapulted to heights I could never reach?  When can I replace myself with someone better?

If you share a similar disposition know you’re not alone.  If you know you’re a jack of many trades but master of none don’t fear.  That’s its own kind of mastery.  At least I hope so.  It’s worked pretty well for me so far and I’m having fun.

How to Get Ahead

Want to get ahead in your life and career?  Here’s a really simple way to think about and approach it:

Find something someone is currently doing that you can do better.  Convince them to hire you to do it for them.

That’s it.  That’s pretty much how every job and customer has ever been won.

So how do you do it?  First you need to observe.  Look around and see what people are doing.  Look within and discover what you do well.  Look for places where the quality gap between what you can do and how most people are doing it is large.

Then you need to convince.  This part seems pretty hard.  It’s actually fairly straightforward, though it takes a lot of grit and determination.  There are really only two ways to convince someone to give you a chance to do something for them:

  1. Demonstrate beyond a doubt that you can create value for them.
  2. Be so cheap they’re willing to take a chance on minimal evidence.

Many people get stuck on number one.  They think it’s a catch 22.  How can you prove your ability to create value if you need proven ability to get the chance?  That’s where number two comes in.  Make yourself so cheap – minimal to no money, minimal instruction and maintenance – that it’s hard to say no.

Once you get the chance to create value for someone for free, you’ve got a calling card.  You’ve got proven value creation.  Now you can go to the next opportunity and prove that you can do whatever they’re doing (or paying someone else to do) better.

Every one of the best people I’ve worked with began working for free.  I had a hunch they could create value for me, but it was a risk.  They mitigated the risk by offering to work free until they demonstrated how valuable they were.

This advice, if you take it to heart and really apply it, will get you further than any degree or credential you can buy.

Episode 46: Counseling the Counselors, with Joe Sanok of Practice of the Practice

Joe Sanok is one of the most enterprising people I know.  We are old friends who started a band and a nonprofit together a decade and a half ago.  We both went our way and haven’t regularly kept up.  But Joe hasn’t stopped finding creative ways to build things and provide and capture value.

He started a counseling practice of his own on the side, grew it into a full-time gig, then started hiring people to help, and now he’s launched a podcast, website, conference and series of products aimed at helping other counselors do the same.

This episode is not just about counseling practices.  It’s a great exploration of mindsets for success.  We talked about his beginnings in Kirby sales, starting his own counseling service, keeping his finances in control and how to look beyond the zero-sum-game view.

Joe also states what he sees as the biggest obstacle people face when they want to launch something of their own into the world and shares his E-Course with listeners:

Moving From Being Paralyzed by Perfection to Getting Things Done

This episode sponsored by FEE, where 14-16 year-olds can check out amazing conferences and apply here. Tell them you heard about it here.

We’re also sponsored by Praxis, where you can get off the conveyor belt and build an entrepreneurial career today, no debt, no waiting, and no credentials required.  Apply today.

This and all episodes are available on SoundCloud, iTunes, YouTube, and Stitcher.

What the Heck Are ‘PDP’s’ and Why Are They So Awesome?

I’ve written before about the power of daily challenges, about how simply eliminating unwanted elements from your life is often better than trying to achieve some lofty goal, and about how identifying and overcoming obstacles one at a time can be better than plotting a perfect long-term path.

All of this, as well as concepts like deschooling yourself and creating your own structure are wrapped into a very tangible tool we at Praxis call a Personal (or Professional) Development Project (PDP).

My colleague Cameron Sorsby writes about PDP’s:

“A Praxis Personal Development Project (PDP) is a short-term set of challenges with the goal of gaining self-knowledge, overcoming obstacles to success, and gaining mastery in areas of value to the individual and the marketplace.

For the majority of a young person’s life they are told where to be, what knowledge they need to gain, and what skills they need to develop in order to be successful. Their day-to-day structure is designed for them, which makes it an incredible challenge to transition to professional life successfully.

Creating and completing a PDP helps you instill creativity as an everyday habit, develop marketable skills, and provide tangible evidence that you can create value for others. It helps you overcome those unproductive habits you developed in over-structured institutions like school and start deciding for yourself what knowledge and skills you value.  Ultimately, the purpose of a PDP is to become a superior version of yourself within a short-time frame.

Praxis participants complete a series of 12 PDP’s throughout their program experience. With the help of their program advisor and access to resources like the Praxis Curriculum Library, each month they create a PDP and follow through with completing it.”

Check out a few recent Praxis participant PDP’s here.

Check out the Praxis Teen Entrepreneurship Course, which includes a 30-day PDP built into the program.  If you can successfully complete it (harder than it sounds), you get a free coaching session with Education Director T.K. Coleman.

The Power of Broke

Yesterday I listened to an episode of the James Altucher Podcast with FUBU founder and Shark Tank star Daymond John.  It was awesome.

John talked about his new book, “The Power of Broke”.  What a great title.  The subtitle is, “How empty pockets, a tight budget, and a hunger for success can become your greatest competitive advantage.”  The concept is as straightforward as it sounds.  Being broke is an advantage in many ways.  The power of broke is the power you harness because you have to.  It’s the creativity you employ when you can’t buy your way to the next step.

I’ve written before about the advantages of being broke (with a much lamer title, “Your Lack of Income Can Be An Asset“).  While I focused on the freedom and flexibility to experiment and the low cost of failure, John talked in the podcast more about the clearer decision making and enhanced hustle when options are constrained.

One particularly poignant example was when he was selling hats on the streets of Queens.  LL Cool J would come to the neighborhood frequently, and John would stalk and harass and beg him to wear his hats.  He finally did, and it resulted in an explosion in demand.  John said if he had $500,000 to spend at that time he would have spent it all…on getting LL Cool J to wear his hats.  Because he didn’t have the money, he found a way to do it without.

One of my all-time favorite TED talks is called “Embrace the Shake“.  It’s about how creativity can often be unleashed if you give yourself constraints.  An artist who lost his ability to do his favorite technique was forced to find other ways.  He eventually began a series of experiments in creating art with ridiculously tight constraints.  He could only use paper cups and ink, for example.  The results were as much about what it did to his mindset as about the art he produced.

If you launch a startup with no money, you’ll figure out how to move forward with no money.  If you raise $1 million in venture capital, you’ll figure out how to move forward spending $1 million.  The activities you engage in may even be the same.  Or worse, the money blinds you to problems with your model or assumptions and creates a lag in the feedback loop.  Test small and quick, fail small and quick.  Money often makes that harder.

This is obviously not about any kind of moral superiority to poverty.  It’s not about pretending fewer resources always provide an advantage over more.  It’s about a powerful mindset shift that occurs when incentives and desires are tightly connected.  When you don’t have a backup plan or the ability to give up after the first setback or buy your way into the next step, you have something most of your larger, better funded competitors don’t.  You have the power of broke.

Since it’s a mindset, you can employ it even if you are rich, but it’s definitely harder.  Take advantage of the time you have now as a young upstart and get every drop out of the power of broke.

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