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How to Build Grit – Train Your Entrepreneurial Muscle

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. 

What I Am Going To Cover:

  • What is GRIT and why it matters to your success 
  • The BS we often get told and why it isn’t optimal
  • How my mindset around thinking about “time off” has shifted
  • How this now applies to my work schedule both for short and long-term goals
  • Summary and how you can apply this to your life

What is GRIT and Why Does It Matter For Your Success?

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. 

What I Used To Be Told About Rest & Recovery

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.. 

  • you are going to burnout 
  • it is not good for you to work all the time
  • balance in your life is important

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.

How I Now Think About Building Grit and Recovery:

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…

  • Work the system (muscle fibers, cardiovascular system, GRIT muscle) to near failure
  • Give it just enough time to recover
  • Work it to near failure again
  • Repeat, with the body adjusting to increase the total amount of work that can be done and shortening the amount of recovery needed

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 …

  • In order for athletes to increase or improve a certain skill, they plan structured and regimented workout routines. A hockey player doesn’t go into practise and randomly take shots on an empty net for an hour. Each training session is a deliberate practice meant to develop specific skills. You have to have a plan of attack and purpose when building your business or pursuing a passion. Schedule properly and work efficiently.  
  • Weightlifters don’t stay at the same weight to build strength. They gradually increase weight, exert maximal effort to failure, and tear the muscle so it can rebuild stronger than before. The same goes for our GRIT muscle: constantly moulding and pushing your GRIT muscle to its limits is the only way to grow it. 
  • While some people are naturally gifted at long-distance running, others are better suited for sprinting short distances, with speed being the main focus. Your unique set of skills and interests help define the speed at which you build your GRIT muscle.
  • When someone begins working out for the first time, they’re always told to find something they enjoy in order to make the workouts more enjoyable. This is applicable to finding something you enjoy in order to build your GRIT muscle and entrepreneurial drive … you will be more likely to follow your schedule if it is something you generate some satisfaction from. 

How to Build Grit: My Schedule

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.

Short-term Goals (daily and weekly schedule)

Daily: 

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

This strategy of short periods of systematic work allows me to push myself into the mindset of deep work/enter flow, making it easier to call on that max effort whenever it is needed. 

Weekly:

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. 

Longer Term (annual 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.

Build Phase: September – December 

  • This is usually when I launch new businesses
  • Typically I will have 2 “work all day” days/week and will work every night for a couple of hours in addition to my daytime work. 
    • Example work week:
    • Mon: 8am – 4pm + 8pm – 10pm
    • Tues: 8am – 10pm
    • Wed: 8am – 10pm
    • Thur: 8am – 4pm + 8pm – 10pm
    • Fri: 8am – 4pm + 8pm – 10pm
    • Sat & Sun: 10-20 hrs based on family schedule
  • Hours on my computer will hit 60-80hrs/week 
  • Typically the ski hill opening or holiday activities will wind this phase down
grit training schedule

A slightly larger than normal week with some very long days at the computer

Stabilize & Grow Phase: January – April

  • This is when I typically consolidate and focus on systematizing the projects that will be a focus for the year 
  • Usually I will have 1 “work all day” day/week 
  • I will still work most nights (except weekends) 
  • Hours on my computer will be 40-60
  • Typically summer activities starting or the cottage opening will be the transition

Recovery Phase: May – August 

  • This is when I wind down the most. Typically I will pick a physical goal and train for it (Crank the Shield last year) 
  • It will also be a time where I listen to the most books. Approximately 2 books/week (lots of time on the bike – see above!) 
  • Family time is the priority in this phase 
  • By the end, I will have new ideas and be itching for my “work all day” days. 

Summary: How To Develop True Grit

So what are the key points you should take away from this post?

  • Use it or lose it: we all have a GRIT muscle, which we can build and develop through a proper work ethic in order to achieve our goals and improve skills. 
  • Evaluate your long-term goals vs. short-term goals: everyone has different goals and objectives, so be sure to figure out what those are before you create a plan of attack for yourself. Once you understand your goal, align your days, weeks and year around how you can achieve as efficiently as possible. 
  • Deliberate practice: in order to build and strengthen your grit you have to push yourself past your limits in a strategic and structured way. Do this by scheduling your work day/week around other personal needs, using the pomodoro technique to achieve deep work, and finding something you enjoy working on. 

How Can I Be More Gritty?

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!

We Are Growing – Content Marketer and Affiliate Manager Job Description

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.

Internet Marketing Content Writer Job Description

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. 

Required:

  • Have deep knowledge in the industry with experience (websites built, blogs in the space)
  • Examples of content you have taken from concept to publishing in this space
  • Capable of producing image concepts to go with the posts

Perks:

  • Get access to tool data to execute the work (20k/yr worth)
  • Get access to training courses
  • Opportunity to be included in the team pages of the sites you work on with a link back to your project(s)
  • Opportunity to collaborate with us and have us help you with whatever your projects are

Ideal Candidate:

  • Running your own portfolio or SEO/internet marketing/website building blog and looking to take it to the next levels! 

Compensation:

  • Although you will receive more in terms of value than most internet marketing internships or “coaching” this will be a paid position! Apply Here – https://forms.gle/ssnpqWhogYDdWp627

Affiliate Manager Job Description

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. 

Skills Needed:

  • Have experience with affiliate management
  • Build and maintain positive relationships with affiliates
  • Line up promotions by working with us and the affiliate
  • Develop strategies to improve affiliate outreach

Ideal Candidate:

  • Existing rolodex of people who have an audience that would benefit from the services within our portfolio. 

Compensation:

Your email signature sucks and how to fix it

People seem to obsess over them, making theirs unique, eco friendly, oversized, undersized, made of metal, made of plants, yoga mats etc 

via GIPHY

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. 

The Idea:

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. 

Checkout BLADE here

Execution:

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…

(enter normal email signature stuff underneath)

Step 3 – Implementation

Implementation is not as straightforward as you would think. Here are the step by instructions for getting everything setup…

EMAIL SIGNATURE INSTRUCTIONS:

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!

Results:

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…

  • “Saw your signature and finally signed up”
  • “That was the coolest email signature I have ever seen”
  • “I thought what you guys were doing was complicated but that email signature explained a lot of it” 

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!

Business Partnerships – Top 5 Mistakes Often Made and 3 Structures That Work

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…

  • Mistake – Not separating capital and management. This is one I see often! Two people come together and say to each other Person 1 “I have an idea” Person 2 “I have money”… boom a business is born. Person 1 is going to run the business and person 2 is going to provide the capital they each get approximately 50% of the business. The result is if the business is successful Person 1 without a management agreement and compensation structure in place will struggle to justify why he will continue working on the business he only has a partial ownership of vs deploying his efforts and now his money into another project. The solution is the person “managing” should be compensated primarily based on results.
  • Mistake – Misalignment on goals – Most commonly this shows up as a cashflow vs growth discussion. If one partner has cashflow from another venture while another is relying on that cashflow to pay the bills this can create a lot of stress. Similarly if the goals for the exit of the business are not aligned it can cause problems. 
  • Mistake – Simple Structure Everyone Understands – Over-relying on lawyers to layout the plan and then no-one except the lawyers fully understands is too common. Rarely does it come down to the words on the agreement as often things get sorted out from everyone’s understanding. The best way I have found is the partners layout the partnership structure (typically in a spreadsheet) and then get the lawyers to make it official. 
  • Mistake – Not updating the agreement as the years move on. Things change in people’s lives and there is always a need to check in on some frequency and make sure the incentives are correctly aligned. 
  • Mistake – Communication and Stewardship Execution Not Disciplined – This is one that is easy to slip! There needs to be a consistent execution discipline to managing partnerships involving communication and stewardship. 

Below are 3 of the structures that have worked most consistently for me.

Structures That have Worked:

  1. Base Salary with Revenue Share & No Equity
    1. This one is the simplest and the one I have often started with. If there is a business idea that a manager/partner needs to run with this structure is clean. Typically a below market base salary followed by a solid % of revenue. The benefit is it is simple, has one number to focus on and the emphasis is on fast growth early on. The downside is that the long term enterprise value is not the priority due to neither profit or equity being tied into the compensation. 
  2. Profit Share + Vesting Equity
    1. This has been a fit when I want incentives to be aligned with a longer (ie 5yr+) time horizon and the business is already validated. Profit sharing without any understanding on the expected profit can be tough as people may end up disappointed so this has been a better fit for either acquired businesses or growing internal ones. The benefit is this optimizes for value creation, the downside is it adds significant complexity. 
  3. Base Salary below market to Validate Idea with Equity Attached to KPIs
    1. When there is no initial revenue and it will be a number of months to build the business before potential revenue shows up how do you align incentives with a partner? The solution that has seemed to work in a couple cases has been a below market salary building up a “sweat debt” to bring salary in line with market and then an equity kicker attached to KPIs that will be triggered once the business hits break even. The up side is it has incentives nicely aligned if the business hits its goals… the downsides are it is both complex and the $ risk is squarely on the capital partners shoulders. The decision to reinvest/continue etc can be a challenge. 

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…

  • Weekly meeting with the manager/partner to review business KPIs
  • Monthly – PnL done monthly and reviewed in detail Monthly and then discussed at the weekly
  • Quarterly – review laying out the major tasks for the next 3 months
  • Annual strategic review 

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 

  • Quickbooks Online 
  • Same bookkeeper, lawyer, accountant, bank/banker
  • Google Suite (gmail, google docs etc) 
  • Not 100% Consistent but Software – Jira, GitHub, Trello, Slack, MailShake, Grashopper, ActiveCampaign, WordPress, ThriveThemes Suite of tools, Zaxaa or Chargify, Stripe/PayPal

Boring is Sexy – Business Model Analysis

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!

What businesses Struggled, which were Stable & which Thrived?

Struggled

  • Portfolio of sites – minimal/no management and most struggled
  • My personal site (AuthorityWebsiteIncome) – Not posting for 6 months doesn’t help!
  • FBA Business without a manager

Stable

  • Boring SAAS business – listingeagle.com has continued to be stable with 0 effort in years
  • Some very evergreen hyper niche content sites were stable
  • Evergreen ecommerce business with minimal management
  • LightningRank.com – Kelley was able to keep this business stable

Thrived

  • Content Refined – With Madeleine as the manager in place and properly incentivized -Content Refined continued to thrive
  • BrandBuilders – Manager in place properly incentivized to grow the business
  • FBA Business with a Manager

What is the key Takeaway – Boring is Sexy!

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…

  • Content Sites – Boring evergreen niches or divest other sites that require more active management
  • SAAS Portfolio – Focus area for growth with proper management in place from the start
  • Productized Services – If the manager is well aligned and the customer acquisition channels are diversified this model can be very stable.
  • AuthorityWebsiteIncome – There is a need for my increased involvement – which is great as I really enjoy it!

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.

For example…

Berkshire Hathaway

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

  • Decentralized great management with minimal overhead at main office
  • Focus on the very long term
  • Don’t be afraid to go against the crowd

Constellation Software

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.

Key Traits:

  • Decentralized management
  • Focus on cost and a few key metrics for operating units (CEO is 6’4” and flies coach)
  • Capital allocation rigor bordering on fanaticism – not being afraid to walk away from deals that don’t meet their hurdles and not bending those hurdles for years!

3G Capital

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.

Key Traits:

  • Fanatical focus on costs (CEO is on the road 200+ days a year and flies coach)
  • More centralized than constellation or Berkshire
  • Meritocracy with A LOT of responsibility placed on managers

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…

  • Fanatical focus on controlling/cutting costs but with above market compensation to top performers
  • Disciplined focus on a set of key metrics, the metrics are not always the same
  • Mostly decentralized with much responsibility to the business managers

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.