Measure Backward to Move Forward (The Gap and The Gain)

Most of us have an ideal outcome. An imagantive experience set sometime in the future. Maybe it’s early retirement with a nice house or world travel full of adventure.

You might even create goals to get you to that ideal outcome and work towards them.

Unfortunately, that’s about as far as most of us get. When it comes to big goals, we tend to give up in frustation because even after a certain amount of effort, we’re not much closer to achieving our outcome.

For others who do accomplish their goal and reach their ideal outcome, they’re often left dissatisfied. They thought that an accomplishment would make them feel better or happier only to find not much really changed. They then create an even bigger goal and start the process all over again.

The Gap And The Gain

Dan Sullivan, at Strategic Coach (someone I’ll cite often) elqouently describes this process as The Gap and The Gain. He’s worked with thousands of entrepreneurs in the past couple decades and said there’s one major distincition between an entrepreneur feeling really great about their success vs. feeling negative or even depressed.

According to him, the ideal outcome is really something for your mind and not something that can ever be achieved. However, we get stuck setting goals and working toward the outcome and measuring everything against it. But, since it’s impossible to realize, we’re left feeling frustrated or depressed because we “missed the mark”, thus creating the gap.

Instead, although still setting goals toward an ideal outcome, he suggests measuring your progress of where you’re at now vs. where you started. In that way, you can see the huge gains you’ve made toward that ideal outcome.

Your goals should be forward. Your progress should be foward. But your measurement should be backwards.

Whenever you’re taking on a new venture, keep a daily, monthly and 90 day progress journal. That way, at the end, you can look back and see the progress you’ve made since you started. Even if you haven’t reached your ideal outcome, you’ll still feel motivated to keep closing the gap by focusing on the gain.

Quiet Your Lizard Brain

Your job is not to be creative. Your job is to ship. -Seth Godin

In Seth Godin’s speech at 99U, he implores creatives, entrepreneurs, writers, and anyone else trying to create something to ship first and improve later. This is a common theme among some of the most successful and brilliant minds. It’s easy for us to rationalize on why something can’t be launched, whether it’s a product, websites, service, or painting because we don’t see it as perfect. But the thing that nearly every successful entrepreneur has stated is that they’ve had more failures than successes; but in spite of that, they just kept trying, they kept shipping.

I came across the following quote the other day. I’m not sure who first wrote it but it’s definitely worth keeping in mind.

Learning doesn’t really start until you get customer feedback. And customer feedback doesn’t come until you ship. And companies that gather customer feedback the fastest win. So companies that ship the fastest win.

Don’t worry about being perfect. Just create your minimum viable product and get intersect your work with the market. Keep in mind, even if you think you have a perfect end product now, you’re almost certainly going to have to adjust it in the future. Your business isn’t about your product, it’s about the market and solving a need.

Just ship it.

The Difference Between You And Your Potential

I believe you have a nearly unlimited amount of potential. And that the bridge between you and your potential is risk. Calculated risk. And the biggest thing keeping you from taking the necessary risk is fear.

It’s difficult to take a risk, i.e. trying something new, uncomfortable, challenging or difficult. You might fail. People might laugh at you. Even worse, if you succeed, people might not notice or care.

Without risk, there is no progress.

Walk across the bridge. The lessons of failure are worth it. The thrills of effort are worth it. The satisfaction of success is worth it.

The Morning Journal Routine

Over the past 3 years, I’ve really worked to improve my morning routine and the way I approach each day. It’s easily been one of the most positive influences in my day-to-day life. Anytime anyone asks me what they can do to feel more energetic, productive or positive during the day, this is always where I tell them to start.

The Template

Month Day, 2016
Morning Pages
Five Minute Journal
2016 mission:
What I’m grateful for today:
Yesterday’s random act of kindness:
What did I accomplish yesterday?
What are my most important tasks today?
This template lives in a notebook in Evernote and each day I copy and paste it, then update the date.

Morning Pages

First of all, journaling is just a part of the overall routine but it’s extremely important. If you’re like me, then your mind is racing the second you wake up with all of the things you need to do or is replaying past conversations you wish would have gone better. The first section of my journaling template is great for that. I actually picked it up from Tim Ferriss, and it’s called Morning Pages. You simply write out everything on your mind, as it comes to your mind, unedited. I generally go for about 7-10 minutes each morning and it’s absolutely incredible the amount of clarity and insight you can get from this.

Five Minute Journal

Some of the following is taken from the Five Minute Journal, which was instrumental for me to adapt this habit into my daily life.

2016 Mission

This can be totally customized to fit your needs but I generally like to break it down over the following categories.

  • Physical Fitness
  • Professional
  • Creative
  • Relationship
  • Community
  • Creative
  • Mental

I generally have a few notes for each of these these categories which include the biggest things I’m currently working on. It’s just a great reminder each day to focus on the big picture of moving your life in an intential direction.

What I’m Grateful For Today

Yes, this one is simple but easily one of the most effective. At first you may just end up writing the same things over and over but eventually your mind will be trained to really pick out the highlights of each day. Sometimes I’ll get to the end of the day thinking it was either stressful or boring, but the next morning when I do this exercise I just get blown away by all the amazing things that happened once I take the time to pause and reflect. If you do nothing else, do this.

Yesterday’s Random Act of Kindness

This one has been huge. Although I always told myself I wanted to do something to help others each day, I found it really difficult to practice this as I got caught up in the demands of the world. Not having anything to write in this section for more than a day or two has really helped me to focus on finding opportunities to help others.

What Did I Accomplish Yesterday

Again, self-explanatory but a great way to just keep tabs on what you’re working on. I actually write this down in several different places throughout the day and it really helps to show tangible progress.

What Are My Most Important Tasks Today

This is a great way to set a proactive tone to your day. Instead of deciding this AFTER email, social media, etc., I write it down beforehand so I know what a successful day will look like before I even get started. For personal, I tend to write as much as I can think of and then put that into Asana and batch the work together. If it’s professional, I tend to stick to just the one or two bigs things I want to get done that day.


This is usually just a couple of quotes or anything on my mind I feel very strongly about. Again, a great way to set the tone for the day that you’re living with intention and purpose toward a specific end.


That’s it. Hopefully you’ll find this as helpful as I have and can start using some of these in your morning (or night) routine.


A New Perspective

This is going to be a really short post. In the past week, this article was going viral and it’s one of the most effective pieces at helping you view life from a different perspective. It’s sad, inspiring and worth a read, maybe two.

The Tail End – Wait But Why

A Reluctant Enthusiast

This following is from Edward Abbey, an American writer, and environmentalist. It was given as part of a speech to a group of environmentalists in Montana 1976.
Even thoough this was written 40 years ago, there’s perhaps no better critique of the modern workday in America. Enjoy.
“One final paragraph of advice: do not burn yourselves out.
Be as I am – a reluctant enthusiast….a part-time crusader, a half-hearted fanatic. Save the other half of yourselves and your lives for pleasure and adventure. It is not enough to fight for the land; it is even more important to enjoy it. While you can. While it’s still here. So get out there and hunt and fish and mess around with your friends, ramble out yonder and explore the forests, climb the mountains, bag the peaks, run the rivers, breathe deep of that yet sweet and lucid air, sit quietly for a while and contemplate the precious stillness, the lovely, mysterious, and awesome space. Enjoy yourselves, keep your brain in your head and your head firmly attached to the body, the body active and alive, and I promise you this much; I promise you this one sweet victory over our enemies, over those desk-bound men and women with their hearts in a safe deposit box, and their eyes hypnotized by desk calculators. I promise you this; You will outlive the bastards.”

Stumbling On Happiness

Today, I wanted to share a quote about “perpetual growth” as it relates to the global economy. It’s from the book “Stumbling On Happiness”, by Daniel Gilbert. Part of the quote is an excerpt written by Adam Smith, the famous Economist.

“If no one wants to be rich, then we have a significant economic problem, because flourishing economies require that people continually procure and consume one another’s goods and services. Market economies require that we all have an insatiable hunger for stuff, and if everyone were content with the stuff they had, then the economy would grind to a halt. But if this is a significant economic problem, it is not a significant personal problem. The chair of the Federal Reserve may wake up every morning with a desire to do what the economy wants, but most of us get up with a desire to do what we want, which is to say that the fundamental needs of a happy individual are not necessarily the same. So what motivates people to work hard every day to do things that will satisfy the economy’s needs but not their own? Like so many thinkers, Smith believed that people want just one thing – happiness – hence economies can blossom and grow only if people are deluded into believing that the production of wealth will make them happy. If and only if people hold this false belief will they do enough producing, procuring, and consuming to sustain their economies.
“The pleasures of wealth and greatness … strike the imagination as something grand and beautiful and noble, of which the attainment is well worth all the toil and anxiety which we are so apt to bestow upon it … It is this deception which rouses and keeps in continual motion the industry of mankind. It is this which first prompted them to cultivate the ground, to build houses, to found cities and commonwealths, and to invent and improve all sciences and arts, which ennoble and embellish human life; which have entirely changed the whole face of the globe, have turned the rude forests of nature into agreeable and fertile plains, and made the trackless and barren ocean a new fund of subsistence, and the great high road of communication to the different nations of the earth.”
In short, the production of wealth does not necessarily make individuals happy, but it does serve the needs of an economy, which serve the needs of a stable society, which serves as a network for the propagation of delusional beliefs about happiness and wealth.
Economies thrive when individuals strive, but because individuals will only strive for their own happiness, it is essential that they mistakenly believe that producing and consuming are routes to personal well-being.” 
Pg. 219-220, Stumbling On Happiness, Daniel Gilbert


The idea of perpetual growth in a world with finite resources is a broken system. Although there is no easy solution, I really like Bhutan’s idea of measuring Gross National Happiness (GNH) as opposed to just Gross National Product (GNP).

When everything the world tells you is to grow, grow, grow, Bhutan is sitting back and asking, “does this even make sense?”.

I found myself asking the same question.


The Power of Certainty

In an interview with Frank Kern and John Reese, Tony Robbins talks about an extremely simple and useful framework for determining why some people follow through and some don’t. And why certainity is the key.

It’s something I’ve had written down in my notes for a few years now and I often refer back to it when thinking about big projects I want to work on.

Let’s get into it.

The Virtuous Cycle Diagram
The Virtuous Cycle Diagram

As you can see, it’s four quadrants with Belief, Potential, Action, and Results, respectively.

The framework is that if you believe in your abilities and potential then you’re more likely to take action towards achieving a goal which means you’ll produce positive results which leads to even more belief.

The opposite is also true. If you don’t believe in yourself then you’re unlikely to think you have any potential and therefore won’t take any action which won’t provide positive results leading to even less belief.

Nobody can help you change your beliefs. It’s something you have to do on your own. How? You have to see yourself where you want to be before it actually happens. But not only that, you have to devleop a degree of absolute certainity that what you want is an inevitable outcome. In other words, you create the certainity with your thoughts about a specific event.

Before you start thinking this is some “out there” BS, consider athletes. The top athletes in the world mentally visualize themselves succeeding in very specific situations. Whether that’s a basketball player icing the game at the free throw line or a golfer sinking the winning putt on the 18th hole.

Yes, luck plays a role in success. But creating a very specific ideal outcome in your mind and then developing a certainty around that outcome will help you “find more luck”.

It will increase your belief in your potential which leads you to taking more action. That could mean reaching out to a potential mentor or business partner. It could be signing up for a class to learn the thing you’ve always wanted. It could be losing weight or feeling more healthy.

Think about it. If you don’t believe you could ever be a yoga instructor, your dream, because you’re just not flexible enough, are you ever going to take action? Probably not.

Tony talks about three different ways people create certainity in their life.

  1. Their backs are against the wall so they don’t have a choice.
  2. They get around people who are getting positive results based off their certainity in themselves.
  3. They consistently feed their mind with positive information like books, videos, podcasts, etc.

My advice, don’t wait until your back is against the wall. If it already is, then you know what you need to do. Find people you can model, whether that’s in person or following them online. Start living a proactive life and feeding your mind with the knowlege that will help you get to where you want to go.

Believe in yourself. Believe in others. Create absolute certainty and take action.





When It Comes to Failure, Stack the Deck In Your Favor

Failure is scary. Failure is inevitable. But not all failure is the same.

If, like me, you’ve experienced a lot of failure in your life, then you know how much it can hold you back. The fear of failure, more than anything else, keeps people from achieving their dreams. Even though virtually every successful person explains how they failed several times before “making it”, we’re still afraid,

So, knowing that it’s inevitable and knowing that we can’t change it, is doing nothing the answer? In a word, no.

Instead of trying to make it non-existent, which is impossible, try changing your approach to it.

Stack the Deck In Your Favor

When thinking of goals you want to accomplish, think about the activities you can do that will still provide some value to you even if you don’t hit your target.

For example, let’s say you’re an expert in your specific field and you want to get paid for giving presentations at conferences. Your goal is to make an extra $5,000 in speaking revenue by giving 10 talks over the next 12 months.

Think about all of the things you’re going to need to do to make that happen.

  • Define a topic and perform thorough research
  • Create your presentation and refine it
  • Practice your speech in front of the mirror, on video or in front of a group of friends
  • Build a network of connections in your field, specifically with people who organize events and who are well connected
  • Create a website or landing page where people can learn more about your topic and download your slides

This is far from an exhaustive list but you get the idea. Now, let’s say at the end of 12 months you booked 7 talks and made about $2,000. At first glance, that looks like a failure of your goal.

However, you’ve stacked the deck in your favor.

After a year and 7 talks, you now have a much greater idea of what your audience finds compelling and what questions they want answered. You’ve also built a wide network of connections in your industry who can help you get booked at new gigs the next year. Not to mention, getting invited back to the ones you already spoke at.

Also, from giving and practicing your speech so often you’ve now become exponentially more competent at delivering your material and can do so with much less preparation. You’ve also started to build an email list of people intereted in downloading your slide deck and people who may be interested in whatever you’re doing in the future.

An added benefit is that you’re now seen as an authority at your work and you can communicate ideas much more effectively. You’ve also gathered a lot of outside ideas from converstions and from listening to other presenters. Ideas you can bring back to your company, making them more money or reducing costs, leading to a promotion.

Do you see what happened there? Sure, you didn’t reach your goal but you created a no-lose scenario. You’ve ammased a valuable skillset. You have way more connections in your industy. You’re seen as authority.

Assuming your talks provided a lot of value.

The 6 C’s Framework

A great framework for thinking about how to set up a no-lose scenario is the 6 C’s Framework from Dan Sullivan at Strategic Coach. Dan says to expand your notion of how you get paid. Basically, there are more ways to get “paid” than just cash, although over time they will all likely lead to more money. The 6 C’s are:

  1. Credibility
  2. Connections
  3. Capability
  4. Confidence
  5. Creativity
  6. Cash

Let’s review some of the benefits we received from our example:

  • Define a topic and perform thorough research – Capability
  • Create your presentation and refine it – Capability
  • Practice your speech in front of the mirror, on video and a group of friends – Confidence, Capability
  • Build a network of connections in your field, specifically with people who organize events and are well connected – Connections, Credibility
  • Create a website or landing page where people can learn more about your topic and download your slides – Creativity, Connections

So, you can see that there are more ways to get paid than just cash. Taking this approach where your goals inevitably allow you to build new skillsets, connections or any of the other “C’s” is a way to create no-lose scenarios. 

Failure doesn’t look nearly as scary from this perspective. In fact, this just made me want to go get started “failing” on some of my goals I’ve been putting off.

Hope it helps you as well.

The Leverage of Knowledge

Knowledge, by itself, isn’t very helpful. Knowledge applied, that’s what you want.
There are two major things holding people back from doing the things they want to do, whether that’s starting a business or taking up a new hobby.
  1. Too much information that it causes analysis paralysis so no action is taken
  2. Action taken without enough knowledge which causes slowdowns, frustrations and ultimately, failures.
Too Much Information
Let’s say you want to learn to play guitar. You do a quick search in Google to find there are thousands of ways to learn guitar whether it’s through an online course, a book, an online instructor, a video, or an instructor at your local music shop. On top of that, they all swear their method is the quickest and easiest way to learn. There are so many options at so many different prices that you soon get frustrated and give up looking.
Not Enough Information
You resolve to learn how to play guitar so you go to your local music store and buy one. You can’t wait to get home and get started becoming the rock star you knew you were born to be. You enthusiastically start jamming on the strings, it doesn’t sound great but you’re having fun. On day two, you swear you’re getting better and you’re feeling great. You do the same thing the next day. On day four, your fingers start to get really sore and all of the sudden it doesn’t quite as good. You’ve been practicing for three days now and you should be a lot better by now but nothing seems to be changing. Eventually, you get frustrated and put the guitar in the corner where it collects dust for the next several years.
I was the person in both scenarios above. At first, I got frustrated from having too many options. After several months, I decided to start playing anyway and soon got frustrated with a lack of progress.
The two ends of the information spectrum cause a lot of pain in our lives.
There is an abundance of information but it takes practice to learn how to use it effectively. You could read every single business book, sign up for multiple online courses or join several different mailing lists but that doesn’t make you an entrepreneur.
Likewise, you could have a business idea on Sunday and launch the next Wednesday. Before you know it, your lack of knowledge, skills, and research causes you to move very slowly and make a lot of costly mistakes. Soon, you’re out of extra money and decide it wasn’t a good idea anyway.
Leveraging Knowledge
Instead of continuing this cycle, try this simple approach that I’ve refined over the years.
  1. Read 1-3 of the best books on the topic. Find the highest-rated, most popular books on Amazon and read them. Books are much more focused than blogs and are often times a lot higher quality. This will give you contextual knowledge of the entire process of whatever it is you’re trying to learn.
  2. Read 1-3 articles on the first steps a beginner should take. Now that you have context and a basic understanding of the entire process, start digging deeper into the very first steps you’ll need to take.
  3. Find specific, detailed instructions for the first step. Go even further and find detailed instructions on how to get started.
  4. Start taking action on the first steps. Follow along with the detailed instructions to create a tangible outcome.
Now, this isn’t going to make you a rockstar or millionaire overnight. But it protects you from analysis paralysis and unfocused learning. Ultimately, you’re only learning relevant information for the stage you’re in and then applying that information to achieve a tangle outcome.
This has been an extremely powerful framework that’s helped me learn a bunch of new skills in the past several years.