Sunday, May 16, 2010

Working smarter, aka working outside of my comfort zone

I've been on a self-education quest for the last month or more. My lifelong M.O. for success has been to work myself to the bone, working longer and harder than ever, in order to achieve goals. Not getting the results I want? Then it's time to just add another few hours to my 10 or 12 hour day.

Of course, this isn't sustainable, as one (me!) keeps adding a few hours to their (my!) increasingly crazy long work day.

With an online business, I knew I had to carve out time to learn more about online marketing. I've had a nice stack of Seth Godin books on one of my shelves, but who has time to read anymore (sadly)?

But I finally got smart not long ago (it's a start) and invested in Godin's audiobooks, as well as several other much admired thought leaders.

I'm now in the habit of listening to audiobooks on my trusty classic ipod all day long while working. Knitting? Audiobook. Cutting/painting/baking/sanding/buffing/glazing buttons? Audiobook. Packing up orders? Sorting supplies/yarn/fiber? Working on a new prototype? You get the picture.

And - wow and DOH - I'm learning a lot. I've listened to my very favorite, Purple Cow, multiple times. I strongly believe this is required reading - or listening - to any business owner.

I also listened to The Dip this last week. It left such an impression on me, that I listened to it three days in a row (it's less than 1.5 hours long)!

With Purple Cow, I'm starting to understand the necessity of being remarkable in a cookie cutter world. Of having not just really great, but absolutely remarkable, knock out, over the top ideas. When I've talked about this with some people, the response is expected: "Yeah, but who has those kind of ideas? It's not realistic." I think it's not just possible, but even non-negotiable in order to not just survive, but succeed, in today's marketplace.

I'm still working on really understanding The Dip. Not that I'm not very smart ... it's just a very different way of thinking for me. This is about knowing when to quit ... and most of us quit the wrong things at the wrong time for the wrong reasons. Most of us quit when things get "too hard" and aren't that interesting anymore (sound familiar, anyone?), usually because they're no longer fresh or exciting. Success, argues Godin, comes when you quit the right things (those that don't add long term/lasting value), focusing on the right things (those that do add long term/lasting value), and instead of quitting the right things when they get hard - the dip - embrace the dip. Success comes from "leaning into" the dip - that's where you get smarter, with small tweaks, continual improvements, shedding the things that don't matter so that you can focus on the things that do matter.

On one hand, this probably doesn't sound that foreign to anyone. And yet ... most of us don't do these things. Why not? They're "hard." It's easier to do what we're (I'm) familiar with, even though it's not really working. Or it sort of works, but not consistently. Or year round.

With these and other great books I've been listening to (and now even want to carve out the time to read), I've been taking a long hard look at myself and how I do things. Anyone who knows me really well knows that I always have way more on my plate than I can actually handle. I don't say no. I work harder and longer. I somehow make it all work. I succeed through sheer sweat and labor.

So those folks will be shocked to hear that I'm in the process of shedding things. VERY hard for me to do! You'll hear more about this in the next week or two. It's a bit scary, while very liberating.

In the meantime, if you haven't read or listened to these two books, I highly highly recommend them (even if you're not a business owner - the ideas are applicable for anyone and everyone). And I should note that the links I've included are affiliate links.

Have you read these? If so, what are your thoughts? If not, what other business books/resources have affected you in a major way?


Anonymous said...

Wonderful article! I have not heard of these books so far. But indeed, I sound like you, you like me, we are both the same kind of person. I love reading and am so old skool, that I hardly think to listen to audio. This is a great idea. I will look in to the audio of this. I will say, working those long hours are definitely a gift. Not everyone can do it. Thanks for the enlightenment!

Okay as far as books. The Millionaire Mind Completely changed my life.

I also LOVE reading Businessweek. I just love the tone that it is written in.

Surprisingly history books are wonderful. I love reading about ancient times and their economies, past histories. As I am getting older (younger) I see that the world is so much the same, that the foundation of living and business is pretty much the same from generation to generation. We just have more to working with and modern technology to make things much easier for us.


Brenda said...

Those are great recommendations, Ren! And I totally agree about history - something I absolutely love - nothing really changes, only the players. :)

I became addicted to audiobooks when I had a 1.5 hr one way commute to work (oy). Now I love it to keep my brain busy while I'm going about my day (and it's an excellent way to NOT hear my loud neighbors)!

Thank you for stopping by and hope you're doing well!

Summer said...

I haven't read them...BUT...well said sister! These are things I've been thinking about more and more!

Brenda said...

There is definitely something to be said for simplification and focus, isn't there, Summer???


Fringe said...

Excellent post, B! I look forward to finding your recommended reading (listening :)) material. Thank you for the info.

I know it's a liberating experience to "shed" certain things in one's life. Not that I'm good at it, but I keep trying to improve myself by simplifying. It really is much harder than it sounds.

Can't wait to see how you've successfully applied the newfound skills you're learning...xo

abby said...

I'm trying to sharpen my business right now too. I'm probably blogging about your blog today. :) Thanks for the practical advice! Good luck working on working.

backhomeagain said...

I just started follow Seth Godin's blog and find him very interesting. I think the key is taking your creative mind and wrapping it around the business world... Like you, when the going gets tough I just work harder and harder not necessarily smarter. It's time to change that. Great post!

Brenda said...

Dennice, so so true! I'm such a creature of habit. Falling back into old habits, even though ineffective, is a bad bad habit for me!

I'll share anything new I come up with, Abby! You certainly have your hands full, so working smarter v. harder is a necessity! :D

LuAnn, thanks for visiting! Creative and business thinking don't always go hand in hand, do they? But if creativity in business is invaluable! (And vice versa!) I'm still working on it myself. :)