Like last year, Paul McCarthy and myself took some time to reflect on the year past and extract the most important and transformative lessons we learnt.
2015 was a year of fast growth for our company (Thrive Themes) and today's podcast episode is chock-full of tips you can apply to grow your own business, become a more focused and productive entrepreneur and much more...
To help you get the most out of this episode, I've put together a summary of the top 5 lessons:
Lesson 1: Systematize It!
Building a successful business is all about putting the right systems in place. That alone is probably no surprise to anyone. But in 2015, we went deeper into this topic than ever before and came away with some key lessons:
- From the outset, either delegate work to someone or plan to replace yourself (eventually) in everything you do.
- "I just do it" is not good enough. For everything you do in your business, find the most effective way to do it, then document or screencast it so that it's something that can be handed off to someone else.
- Don't try to find "the right solution". There is never a right solution. There is only constant improvement and slowly building better and better systems.
There's a huge, possibly overlooked opportunity in being a business systematizer: building systems is front-end heavy work and so most people are reluctant to do it.
What I mean is that to systematize, you need to make a large effort up front and the payoff comes with a significant delay. Since this isn't an attractive proposition, many of your competitors aren't doing it (or aren't doing it well).
The way I see it, optimizing systems and processes in your business is similar to optimizing every detail of your landing pages and signup flow: it's hard work that is well worth doing because it gives you a competitive edge.
Lesson 2: Seek Out Mentors
We couldn't have made as much progress in 2015 as we did without help from a mentor. Someone who is ahead of us in this game and was willing to help us get over some sticking points (for a considerable fee).
Good mentors are well worth investing in. There's just one problem: the best mentors generally don't advertise their services, because they're too busy getting shit done.
Take every opportunity you can find to put yourself in contact with people who are smarter and more experienced than you. Those connections are invaluable and as you progress, they become increasingly rare.
Lesson 3: Skill Hacking = Awesome Life
As frequent readers know, I'm all about The Grind as a process for developing new skills.
In 2015, I was more grateful than ever about the fact that I've built my life around skill acquisition. As a founder, one of the challenges you face is that your role will change frequently.
You may be a marketer one moment and a product strategist the next. The kind of high-priority work you need to be doing in your business will probably shift from boots-on-the-ground work to management and leadership as you scale.
If you don't have the ability to learn new things quickly, every role change will represent a huge roadblock and possibly even end your business entirely.
But skill building is about more than that. The skill of building skills is possibly the single most useful asset you can have if you want to have an awesome life.
2016 is the year to get serious about developing and honing your skills. Make sure you live every day in such a way that you are significantly better in at least one area, by the end of the year.
How do you do it? That's where the next two lessons come in:
Lesson 4: Be a 20 Mile Marcher
Consistent, every day effort is the key to almost everything we accomplished with our business in 2016.
Unfortunately, this goes against human nature. We generally tend to pick up a new thing, ride a short wave of enthusiasm and then drop it again. We underestimate the effectiveness of small, consistent effort and vastly overestimate the effectiveness of a short burst of action.
My favorite example of this is personal fitness: a typical pattern is that you decide to get into better shape, get a gym membership, start a strict diet and start working out really hard... for a few weeks.
Then, life gets in the way, you get too busy, the workouts are too hard to keep up and you just go back to your old habits.
This is something you can do over and over again, year in and year out and it won't make a difference at all. No matter how hard you work or how strict your diet is during those short bursts.
This isn't only a waste of time, it's also incredibly frustrating. All the while, some small but meaningful changes to how you eat and a simple routine of light exercise will make a world of difference over the months and years.
The same applies to your business. Too many entrepreneurs keep changing strategies, keep chasing after the latest traffic generation secret, keep riding that wave of enthusiasm for some new thing... and end up getting nowhere.
If you haven't already, make 2016 the year in which you get out of this vicious cycle. Set your sights on your goal and pursue it consistently and relentlessly (even if in small steps).
Lesson 5: Stop Falling for Your Own Bullshit
You're a hard working entrepreneur, right? You're not like those wage slaves, working some dull job and complaining about the 8 hours they have to put in each day.
Hah! 8 hours is a short day to you!
Like anyone has a clue about hard work and sacrifice until they've tried to start a business...
Does any of that resonate with you? It sure does with me.
But I've got bad news for both of us: that kind of thinking is just bullshit that we make up to make ourselves feel better.
Sure, building a business is no cake walk and unless you're willing to work hard, you won't get anywhere. But that's no reason to make a martyr of oneself.
Your job isn't to suffer for your business, it's to run your business effectively. And no one cares how many hours you work because all that matters is your output.
What you need is focus.
Make focus a priority in 2016. Make sure that when you work, you do focused, distraction-free work. Because doing 4 hours of that can be far more effective than doing 10 hours of some work-email-chat-reddit hybrid.
To help you get into a focused state, here's the 5-question morning exercise Paul mentions on the podcast:
- What kind of a person are you?
- Why are you doing what you do?
- How do you feel today?
- What's the emotionally easy option?
- What's the emotionally hard option?
Spend a few minutes writing answers to each of those 5 questions. It will help you focus on what's truly important in your life and it will make distractions look a lot less attractive.
Make Your 2016 Amazing
I hope this podcast episode and post have given you some inspiration and some good ideas for how to shape your business and life in 2016.
What's your main goal for the year? How do you plan to accomplish it? Let me know by leaving a comment below!