Do we all need to take time off to recharge? How do you build grit?
Today I want to share my thoughts on why a lot of the advice you have received from people who “mean well” is BS for a lot of people when it comes to the needs and benefits of “vacations”.
We are going to dive into what grit means, how to build grit, and finding out what a grit training schedule is. Based on my own experiences, I believe that how we define entrepreneurial grit and how we build it within ourselves are keys to success.
The analogies I share here helped me finally put a framework around my work schedule and the passion to continue to train and build grit.
As I write this, I am on a trip (aka vacation) with my kids and wife, who are all dead tired and asleep. Time for me to crush out some work.
I want to point out that we are all obviously different and the type of work we do varies based on personal preferences, talent, goals, and passions. However, understanding your goal in business is critical to what everyone needs to build mental toughness and also recover efficiently.
The structure I outline below are what I have found works for me, but I understand that my strategy won’t be optimal for everyone based on what your “optimal” is. The same way a training schedule for an Olympic rower is going to be different than an Olympic weightlifter – both have a talent that they need to build but do it in different ways (but more on that analogy later).
While reading this, be sure to keep in mind what your work and personal goals are and how they fit into my grit strategy.
Grit can be defined in many ways, especially as an entrepreneur. However, I like to think of it as the level of perseverance someone has along with their combined efforts and passions to reach a goal. Obviously there is no quantitative way to measure the amount of perseverance someone has. Instead, we look at our external efforts and achievements to determine our grit.
Grit matters. Why? It not only shows others our level of perseverance and resilience, but it defines our work ethic, helps build a growth mindset for our everyday lives, it develops our mental toughness. Most importantly, grit molds our passion and purpose in life. Having a purpose in the work you do will help avoid failure.
Grit is a growth mindset. People have created their own definitions and strategies on how to achieve grit, however along the way, strategies have become convoluted and confusing, especially when it comes to rest and recovery. Let’s jump into it and go over how my strategies for building your entrepreneurial muscle can help with your short-term and long-term goals.
We live in a time where efficiency is one of the most talked about and researched topics in business. However, the general consensus around rest and recovery is not optimal for success. Those of us who put in A LOT of hours on our business have always been told..
Granted, I used to hear this more when I was working much crazier hours: 12-14 hour day job + 3-4 hours/night on my online business, with absolutely no days off for 2-3 months at a time.
It was also a lot harder to respond to these points when the income reports where pretty brutal! Have a look at the original income reports! Needless to say, it was very hard to listen to the risks and warnings about burnout, work/life balance, etc when the data didn’t yet support it.
In many ways, the noise around this topic has gotten more confusing. For instance, discussions and research around mental health has, at times, blurred the lines between a very serious issue plaguing people in today’s society vs. strategies around optimal work/rest balance.
Of course, the two are related and while there is overlap, there needs to be better discussions differentiating both topics. Many articles/interviews discussing mental health is coming from the standpoint of reducing the risk of mental health, but seem to be biased towards recommending rest over work as the lone solution to reduce this risk.
While having a proper work/life balance is important, maximizing rest is, of course, not the end-all-be-all solution to mental health issues. This topic is much more complex than this, and obviously, I’m not qualified to comment further on these issues, nor will I. My intent here is to share my strategies for increasing mental toughness and perseverance as it pertains to achieving optimal work performance. I can only speak for my own situation, but we don’t live in a risk-free world.
One important thing to remember is that if you enjoy the work you do, the work isn’t necessarily a sacrifice. Clearly the amount the work drains you mentally will dictate your ability to be able to build your grit and execute the work.
I always find it helpful to have an analogy to reference on any topic … in this case, I like to think of it as a muscle: the GRIT muscle.
Many of the same principles of improving your physical fitness apply to your GRIT muscle. Whether it be setting a goal to claim a starva KOM (for the bike geeks) or hitting a new PB (Personal Best) at the gym, the basics for training any of the body’s systems remains basically the same…
If a sprinter trains their legs to achieve strength and explosive speed, think of training your mental toughness and resilience to be gritty. When I came to grips with this and realized that those periods where my schedule was insane were moulding and building my GRIT muscle, it was easier to continue pushing through and turn work into a passion.
The analogy works well with other comparisons …
Any athlete who is serious about building their skills and physical fitness would never leave their training to chance. This is the same approach we need to take when building our GRIT muscle and entrepreneurial drive. We should have a purpose to our “training” (aka work) schedule.
So how do I try and find balance of building my GRIT while balancing other things I want to enjoy in life?
I try and break down my work in a somewhat fractal way where my day mirrors my week, which then mirrors my year. During the day/week/year timeline there are peak work periods and lighter rest periods.
Similar to how a well-rounded athlete needs to train both strength and endurance, the all-around entrepreneurial grit muscle needs to be trained for both the short and long-term efforts needed. If you have a highly specialized talent and at the point where you only need to be exceptional at a few things in your business, then your schedule should reflect that.
The best strategy I have found to both be productive and manage my effort throughout the day is the pomodoro technique. This method was first developed by Francesco Cirillo in the 1980s and has since been used as an excellent work hack to increase efficiency.
The concept is simple (and VERY effective). You use a timer to break down your work into intervals, usually 25 minutes long, separated by short breaks. The purpose is to reduce external interruptions from everyday life and work, by focusing hard for a short period of time, leading to effective intervals of work.
I used a couple of mini sand-filled hour glasses I got off Amazon until Kelley broke one! She says she wasn’t throwing it at me but all I saw was exploding glass and sand everywhere! Now I use a simple online timer like e.ggtimer.
Weekly I try to have a couple days that I push myself as hard as I can to be more gritty. I call these my “work all day” days and they are great for getting lots of work done and pushing myself to my limits, in turn helping grow the GRIT muscle.
The luxury of being able to sit down before 8am and know I won’t be stopping work until 9pm-11pm allows me to put things on my to-do list that I wouldn’t otherwise get to for months!
I realize there are many people with 12-14 hour days as their routine, however, this is how I choose to structure my week and it works very well, keeps my efficient, and allows me to balance my work/life schedule.
I wish I had 4 phases to my schedule so it lined up better with quarters, but the reality is I phase my year in 3 blocks: build, stabilize and recover.
A slightly larger than normal week with some very long days at the computer
So what are the key points you should take away from this post?
Hopefully after reading this, you don’t have a fixed mindset on how to achieve grit. This outline is simply my method, which I hope can help you create your own structure for growth. Remember, we all have different goals, passions, obstacles, and talents, so align your strategy to what works best for you. But make sure your pushing your limits and getting out of your comfort zone. Face adversity head on and don’t be afraid of failure – in the end it will help develop resilience and grit!
Have you always wanted to learn more about some of the things we do here or at any of the portfolio companies? Or maybe you are looking to develop your skill set for another company while working on your own project?
Now is your opportunity with the growth of MotionInvest and BrandBuilders and a refocus on other projects we are needing to bring on additional help!
If you are interested in fulfilling one of the jobs below to join our team, we would love to hear from you.
We are currently hiring for 2 positions to help us carry some of the load as we grow.
Job Description: We are looking for someone who is good with words and can create in depth posts specifically around digital marketing.
You need to live and breath this space working on your own sites, follow the usual blogs and play with lots of the tools!
You need to love data, spreadsheets and dedicated to creating useful content.
The approximate weekly output we are looking for is around 2,000 words with times where that will go up.
Job Description: We are looking for someone who is able to make connections in the online marketing / make money online space and line up affiliates for a few different projects.
People seem to obsess over them, making theirs unique, eco friendly, oversized, undersized, made of metal, made of plants, yoga mats etc
But… it doesn’t seem like the same focus has been placed on email signatures. For many of us who send a lot of email (50+/day) and hand out 1 business card rarely any focus on business cards vs your email signature is misplaced.
Today I am going to share a little test we ran at adbank with our email signatures that had some interesting results and how you can efficiently benefit from upgrading your email signature as well.
We wanted to have an email signature that communicated the unique value proposition of BLADE and made people pause so they took the 2 seconds needed to understand it.
The value proposition of blade is install our ad blocker and replacer and receive free crypto while you browse like you normally would!
It takes 60 seconds to do and once done you are setup forever with the ability to use referral links and share with others.
Tyler the adbank UX/UI designer came up with the following design and instructions…
Step 1 – Concept – What simple single GIF animation communicates your unique value proposition for your business?
Step 2 – Creative
Working with an in house designer is handy but UpWork or Fiverr could also be options for getting what you needed done.
Here was the creation Tyler came up with on round 1…
Step 3 – Implementation
Implementation is not as straightforward as you would think. Here are the step by instructions for getting everything setup…
Step 1: Download your signature from the google drive folder
Step 2: Go to your own GSuite accounts google drive and create a new folder titled “email signature”. NOTE: this needs to be its own folder at the top level of your drive.
Step 3: Upload your email signature to your new “email signature” folder.
Step 4: Turn on link sharing and then “sharing settings”
Step 5: in the sharings settings, click advanced in the bottom right corner.
Step 6: In the advanced sharing settings, under the “who has access” title, click the blue “change” button.
Step 7: Turn the settings radio button to “on – public on the web” and press “save”.
Step 8: Now go to your email and click the settings icon and select settings from the menu.
Step 9: Scroll down to the email signature text box and click the image icon. NOTE: make sure the checkbox that says “insert this signature before quoted text” is checked.
Step 10: In the image selector, navigate to the google drive tab
Step 11: Navigate to your signature gif and select it by pressing “select”.
Step 12: Scroll to the bottom of the settings page and click “save”
Step 13: Your email signature should now automatically be embedded every time you compose an email!
We didn’t have all the tracking we could have had setup (should have used link tracking) but the anecdotal evidence is overwhelming. In the first week several people shared with me…
As a result we are going to be implementing a similar approach across other businesses and setup better tracking to see what works and what doesn’t work.
If you have ever had a clever strategy with your email signature I would be interested in hearing about it!
Over the years I have had a lot of partnerships, some have worked out extremely well building friendships and achieving success for everyone… others have ended in failure and disappointment.
Many people say they like to avoid partnerships because they are always messy! This would be much less fulfilling for me since much of the satisfaction I get from the companies we run is winning together.
It is true partnerships are often messy, but here are some of the lessons that I have learned and structures that have seemed to work for me and some of my business partnerships. Hopefully if you’re putting a partnership together or adjusting one you already have- this might help you avoid these mistakes.
Most Importantly – There is no ONE system that is best for everyone. The key is to understand the motivations of people involved and find a solution that has everyone’s incentives aligned.
I have had my share of painful discussions, but fortunately- I haven’t had any disagreements that I haven’t been able to solve with people.
In the news in just the past 2 weeks and just in Canada there have been a couple examples of partnerships going off the rails publicly impacting in some cases thousands of people!
Here are 5 of the most common mistakes I have either made myself or seen others in the online world make…
Below are 3 of the structures that have worked most consistently for me.
Structures That have Worked:
Stewardship / Structure
No matter how good the partnership is setup there is a need for ongoing stewardship and management. The way this has worked well for me is the following…
This is a work in process and I try to follow the guidance from the book Traction.
Standardized Business Stack
Having some standardization across the different businesses when it comes to the business systems has been helpful
I have occasionally had posts on here over the years that reflect my evolving thinking on business and business strategy.
Today’s post I want to reflect on what I have learned over the last 2 years, as I shifted much of my focus to adbank and blade – then came back to do a deep assessment on the health of the other businesses.
This was a unique opportunity for me because I got to come back to some parts of the business with what felt like cold eyes- and really review what was working and what was not working. What businesses stood the test of time, what businesses improved and which ones got their asses kicked!
The only projects that survived/thrived were ones that had a manager in place or were boring/evergreen businesses (either SAAS or content).
What does this mean for the future of my online businesses. Here is how this review impacts my plans moving forward by business type…
The key takeaway is that boring is sexy when it comes to long term stable success!
This is not a unique insight and one that is supported by the most successful conglomerates for many decades.
Berkshire Hathaway does not need a lot of introduction. Many people know the basics of how Warren Buffet and Charlie Munger applying a relatively unchanged set of investing principales from Omaha have outperformed pretty much everyone over the last 50+ years and grown it into a monster with them becoming 2 of the wealthiest people alive.
I have long been a fan of everything Berkshire Hathaway and Warren Buffet, I highly recommend reading The Snowball, Warren Buffet and the Interpretation of Financial Statements and Berkshire Beyond Buffet along with his annual shareholder letters.
The key takeaways we can apply to online businesses is a focus on
Constellation Software is a relatively unknown Canadian company that doesn’t make a lot of noise but has achieved phenomenal results (over 1 decade of stable 30% annualized return on invested capital). They focus on boring low churn B2B SAAS businesses. To get a real sense of the business I recommend the 10 years of president letters (here). The CEO and CFO did a deep dive looking at the high performing conglomerates and shared the insights in the 2016 and 2017 letters which were very telling.
The 3G Way, Dream Big and True Power (tougher to get through) all provide a great insight into the management system and culture behind 3G Capital.
Another similar company to these above many haven’t heard of is ESW Capital (great story in Forbes here) who share many of the same traits but is arguably the most centralized out of the list.
What do all these high performing companies have in common…
Hopefully this honest assessment of what businesses struggled, which were able to stay stable and which ones thrived is useful. The similarity of the traits the businesses that thrived shared with the example companies is very telling.
I look forward to continued sharing on what is working and not working across all my projects.