As part of my plan to simplify and eliminate the clutter in my life I decided to go on an info diet a few weeks ago. I dropped dozens of feeds from my reader, dropped almost all internet group memberships, and cancelled almost all internet newsletter subscriptions. By themselves these things made very little change in my day-to-day activities except for vastly reducing my e-mail load, which confirmed that I just didn’t need most of them in the first place.
The second part of the diet is I completely disengaged from the news. I mean completely. I previously just sort of ignored the news but would have the TV on in the background or would read the newspapers delivered to my door each day at the hotel. For some reason I thought I needed to do this to stay current. Well, I don’t. Now I studiously avoid newspapers, talk radio, and the TV with the exception of glancing at frontpage headlines as I walk by news stands (I don’t stop.) Turns out people I know and talk to on a daily basis also read and watch this stuff. And something interesting has happened to our conversations.
Now when they ask, “Did you see so-and-so in the paper/news/airport?” my response is “No, I didn’t. What happened?” They tell me and I get to listen. I actually listen. I’m not busy trying to express my own opinion because I don’t have one. Another nice thing – I can now have small talk, which has always been a problem for me. But now it’s really simple. I can sit down with someone I barely know and ask, “So what’s happening with the elections/industry/stock market/whatever?” And they actually enjoy telling me. Again, I get to listen.
People love it when you listen to them. It’s not like I didn’t know this, but giving myself the opportunity to practice it via my info diet has been really interesting. My ego no longer sits in the shadows going “Speak up! Speak up! You know that!” – competing with my desire to listen. And I don’t feel the least bit stupid because I have no idea where Britney Spears was last night. In fact, I feel better because I don’t know.
Outsourcing my burdensome tasks is very appealing, and I have already begun to make inquiries about a couple of specific tasks I want done. But even though the Indo-Asian outsource firms tend to have lower labor rates than comparable US firms, they still don’t work for free. So I need money to pay for them.
I don’t yet have products or services that generate regular, dependable income that can pay for these projects, and I don’t want a net add to my monthly expenses. The idea is to make things better, not worse. So what to do?
I started with a review of the monthly charges for business services I already use. There was plenty of fat in there. I immediately called Sprint and knocked $90 off my monthly cellular bill. I contacted my shopping cart service (for another site I run) and downgraded the service to a Basic package for a savings of $40 per month.
That $130 will get me a Basic-10 package at GetFriday.com, which includes 10 hours of labor per month for whatever tasks I need. I’ve identified another $99 monthly fee that I can probably eliminate outright, but I’m not sure just yet. And I think I can move a couple of small loans to one of those 0-interest-for-a-year credit card deals to free another $40-$50 per month,
With about an hour of effort I’ve freed $130 and identified another $140. That’s enough to get me 20-25 hours of labor per month for various projects. That’s a good start.
Tuesday night I rode my motorcycle down to Fayetteville, just south of Atlanta, to attend Lisa Haneberg’s “2 Weeks 2 a Breakthrough” talk And talk about your breakthrough ideas – Lisa is riding her motorcycle across the country to promote her new book. I feel safe in saying this is the first time a business book has been promoted in such a way. And I’m certain it’s the first time ever by a woman. Pretty cool.
So what did I think about the talk? Lisa’s premise for this talk (and the book) is that little things matter. She relates in terms of chaos theory and the Butterfly Effect — which is a little new-agey — but the analogies are for inspiration more than analysis. The main idea is that continual forward progress, even in tiny increments, builds velocity and forward velocity leads to breakthroughs. To illustrate Lisa uses the consulting mainstay — the 2×2 matrix:
I think many of us spend our lives either in Dreamer or Stuck modes. Those with adult ADD tend to be in the Victim quadrant — confusing motion with progress and paddling furiously but getting nowhere. But where we all want to be is in the Peak Performer quadrant.
Lisa offered two points that stood out for me:
- Breakthroughs happen in a social context: If you aren’t out actively promoting your goal or idea — discussing it regularly with friends, colleagues, and strangers and sharing your challenges, achievements, and objectives — you aren’t going to make any breakthroughs.
- Introverts, no matter how smart, rarely make breakthroughs: Breakthroughs do not happen in front of your face. They happen in the connections and gaps and networks that emerge from constant forward action and focus. [Editor’s note: Following a comment from Lisa the above bullet point should read “Introverts, no matter how smart, rarely make breakthroughs until they break out of introverted behavior patterns …”]
I am a natural introvert. I’m more comfortable sitting alone in my office than I am in a crowd. Over the years I’ve worked hard at developing my extrovert capacity and done a lot of public speaking and presentations. But at my core I’m always more comfortable alone. That makes it easy for me to slip into the Stuck or Dreamer states.
And that’s a dangerous thing. It’s like exercise, or eating habits, or any other behavior you want to modify. What’s required is constant forward progress, even in small steps. If you stop, even for a little bit, getting started again is difficult. The inertia that builds is deadly. This is really the underlying principle behind all behavior modification, from Alcoholics Anonymous to Weight Watchers.
And so it is with Lisa’s program — simple, proven principles packaged in an easy-to-read program and supplemented with specific plans to help you move forward. More important, Lisa is building her own network and cult following. She asked each attendee to contact her by the end of the week and let her know how it was going, and if she could help, she would. Her goal for this tour is to help as many people reach a breakthrough as possible. Lisa has quite a few cities still to visit as she heads back west. Check her travel itinerary and go see her if you get the chance.