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!
Finding online success is never easy! But what I am always amazed at is it is rare to find someone who has truly dedicated themselves to this craft over the long term and doesn’t achieve life changing success.
Today’s post is another great example of the fact that there are many paths that push us to achieving our financial freedom goals online!
The other day I was able to connect with Nathaniell from onemorecupof-coffee.com and we discussed his journey.
What fascinated me about the call is the impact a few seemingly insignificant at the time decisions had on his entrepreneurial journey!
Hope you are able to take something away from his story!
Nathaniell – Thanks for sharing with us!
Nathaniell is an internet marketer who started his first business back in 2010. Here we are, almost a decade later, and he is using his success to help others learn the same methods he used to make money online and gain the freedom and financial security he felt he couldn’t find with any other career choice.
Like many others, he had his fair share of jobs over the years. But he always kept going back to internet marketing, and it turned out to be the career that he loved and one that would start his entrepreneurial journey.
Nathaniell grew up in California and traveled to Europe after graduating. He grew bored of the United States and wanted to see more of the world. In the beginning, he stayed with a friend in Prague and did some freelancing as an English teacher when he needed money. He then began working as a kindergarten teacher.
But again, he wanted to travel more and further expand, so he moved to China. After spending some time in China, he felt it was time to start thinking about his future and his career.
As Nathaniell worked to find ways to make money on the internet while living in China, he made a few mistakes. Nathaniell says he wasted time taking surveys and even joined a pyramid scheme. Of course, these were dead ends and didn’t amount to anything.
After six months of trying and failing, Nathaniell began researching and came across Wealthy Affiliate. From there, he went on to learn about the industry and made his first sale through his website.
Unfortunately, at the same time, he was also working on another career venture that would ultimately fall through, so he decided to travel back to the United States to see if he missed being there.
After living in China for 5 years, he made the trip back to the United States. He was unsure of his next move and was fearful about putting all his effort into internet marketing because there was no safety net for him if this venture failed.
After visiting, he made the long trip back to China after his visit and realized that during that long flight, he managed to make $500, and that’s the moment he realized that if he tried, he really could make this work.
After seeing that he couldn’t make as much as he wanted with other jobs without putting in more hours, Nathaniell decided this was a lifestyle decision that had to be made. Why continue to work at a job when you can only ask for so many raises and work so many hours? How do you make more money?
With internet marketing, he found that direct relationship between the hours worked and the money he began to make. With this career choice and ultimate lifestyle decision, he realized there was much more choice involved than if he stayed with a more traditional job.
When he started, he was looking for the freedom that this career choice would allow, and now he is finding the work and life balance he needs within the hours he is working.
A typical day for Nathaniell starts by waking up between 5 and 6 and promptly getting to work by 7. He finds he is much more efficient in the morning, and this is when he can get all of his organization done while also completing some content editing.
After these tasks, he moves on to research and answering questions inside Wealthy Affiliate. He then breaks for lunch and some gym time before returning home to complete some writing-related tasks in the afternoon.
He has a full day of work and is motivated to reach his goals of making more money and becoming even more successful in the long term.
Currently, Nathaniell is focused on traffic. He says that you can have a great affiliate program in place, but without that traffic, it isn’t going to make you any money. Traffic is the foundation on which a successful affiliate program is built.
After gaining that traffic, the next focus is optimization and monetization. This involves completing keyword research, figuring out what it is people are on the internet searching for, and learning how to write articles that are going to rank. This is where on-page SEO and monetization come into play.
Nathaniell has found that writing articles in a series of ideas is a good way to go. Instead of paying too much attention to search volume, he is identifying groups of articles he can go into in even more depth.
For example, if you choose a niche in skincare, you can write a series of articles that cover every facet of that subject. When you are able to cover everything on a particular topic, you are essentially becoming an ultimate resource, and this can help you become an authority in your chosen niche.
He also says that SEMRush is a good tool to familiarize yourself with. It is an SEO tool that helps you with your keyword research, tracks the strategies your competition is using, and runs SEO audits on your blogs. It is something used by many internet marketers and other businesses.
By the time 2013 came around, Nathaniell owned his home, a new truck, and even a motorcycle because he started making money online. Now, in 2019, he is continuing to work online as a full-time internet marketer and is running his own online business.
His site, One More Cup of Coffee, is his passion and is how he chooses to help others travel the path to success. He wants to help you bypass the many scams and misleading offers that are all over the internet, and instead teach you how to focus on working hard and taking the time to turn your own website into a successful business.
When asked if he had any advice for himself almost a decade ago, he said that he wished he would have focused more on the long term and didn’t cut as many corners. Cutting corners is a waste of time.
There is a world of opportunities online, and if you have the drive to work hard and learn, then you too can find success as Nathaniell has by making money online.
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.
As Henry Ford once said: “Anyone who stops learning is old, whether at twenty or eighty. Anyone who keeps learning stays young.”
In this post, I go into detail about my continuous learning (lots of room for improvement!). Over the past 4.5 years I have listened to hundreds of audible books (have 300+ books in my audible). When a student at Nebraska State asked Bill Gates and Warren Buffet the superpower question, Gates answered, “Being able to read super fast.” And Buffett echoed him, adding, “I’ve probably wasted 10 years reading slowly. ” To help with this, I often listen to my audiobooks on 2x speed so that way I can use the time I have to read these books more efficiently. It takes some time to get used to that speed but once you do it really helps get through books quickly.
Each month I like to pick out 5 books to read for that month . Sometimes I don’t get to all 5 but it helps when I finish a book to have another one lined up as sometimes it can take a while to choose one to read.
I also believe books are a great way to provide training for team members. I often recommend for them to read a book and then discuss at our weekly 1:1 on the key takeaways from it.
Since I tend to listen to quite a few audible books, I have a VA create and update a spreadsheet each month of my favour books with a link to cheat sheets to go with them so I can remember what I have learned from each book.
The practice of going back and looking at the cheat sheet for a critical book has been an efficient method of increasing retention on key books.
Here are a few of the books I like along with their synopsis.
Here is the spreadsheet I use to keep track of my favourite books and a the summary of each for me to brush up on… here.
START WITH WHY shows that the leaders who’ve had the greatest influence in the world all think, act, and communicate the same way — and it’s the opposite of what everyone else does. Sinek calls this powerful idea The Golden Circle, and it provides a framework upon which organizations can be built, movements can be led, and people can be inspired. And it all starts with WHY.
Never Split the Difference takes you inside the world of high-stakes negotiations and into Voss’s head, revealing the skills that helped him and his colleagues succeed where it mattered most: saving lives. In this practical guide, he shares the nine effective principles—counterintuitive tactics and strategies—you too can use to become more persuasive in both your professional and personal life. I think of this as the hand-hand self defense for negotiation… best to set things up so these skills are not needed
Napoleon Hill, America’s most beloved motivational author, devoted 25 years to finding out how the wealthy became that way. After interviewing over 500 of the most affluent men and women of his time, he uncovered the secret to great wealth. By understanding and applying the thirteen simple steps that constitute Hill’s formula, you can achieve your goals, change your life and join the ranks of the rich and successful.
My recent new favourite is Traction! It feels like a combination of EMyth Revisited plus Scaling Up. Great for smaller companies looking to achieve high performance!
Continuous learning through books is about expanding your ability to learn by regularly upgrading your skills and increasing your knowledge. I never really have time to sit down and read so I solved this problem by listening to my books when I am in the car (without the family) or on long bike rides. There have been many great lessons that I have learned from these books that I have applied to my companies from the way the organization is made up to simple strategies we use when executing projects.
If you are a big reader/consumer of knowledge do you have any hacks for increasing retention?
We don’t do much of the “fill out this form”, “how did we do today?”, or “rate our services online” stuff for my businesses. We usually go for more of a personal touch. When we ask for feedback, it’s more direct through emails or phone calls with clients. So, how do you gather that feedback as data to assess client needs and the future of your business?
Today I want to talk about those changing needs and determining direction.
Track your expenses and income. Hire an accountant if you’re not great with numbers and/or don’t have the time yourself. And don’t forget about that bottom line. If you’re spending too much on a service or offering, and people aren’t paying enough for it (or not enough people are interested in it), then you know something’s wrong. Maybe you can cut some of your expenses and rebuild that offering in a way that makes sense financially. Or, hey, maybe that offering is done and it’s time to move on to something else. I know I’m painting this as very black and white, but it really does help to take a step back, look at the numbers, and determine whether an offering is worth it based on the revenue (or lack of revenue) that it’s bringing in.
One of the tricky parts here is timing. I’d love to hear your experiences and thoughts on this in the comments as well. Personally, we track and review numbers across all teams weekly. If something is outside of the safe zone, we talk about it in our weekly business meeting. If that continues for a few weeks, we talk more seriously about it. If a few months go by and we’re clearly wasting our time and resources, it’s time to make a drastic change.
Obviously I can’t share our spreadsheets here, but you’ll need to create a document with your own financial goals in mind that can be updated on a weekly basis. Include sales and analytics as needed for your business.
So that’s one objective way to see whether your service/offering or product is working for your clients. But how do we see it coming before wasting that time and those resources?
I can use Content Refined as an example here. Content Refined is primarily a content marketing company that works on a monthly subscription-based content creation cycle. Madeleine, our Co-Founder and Business Manager, was finding that she was getting a lot of “custom” requests for upgrades to existing content on clients’ websites. These clients had content already on their site that they needed someone to go through, clean up, and ‘refresh’ to help it rank higher. So, that request came in enough times that Maddie thought, “Hey, we need to make this a real offering, not just a special custom thing we do when people ask for it.”
We figured out our pricing needs and built the system around ‘content upgrades’. Now it’s front and centre on the home page of Content Refined’s site.
Word of warning: you do have to take all requests with a grain of salt. There’s a fine line between being flexible and bending over backwards. Custom requests only work if the numbers work. So you have to be careful at how far you bend your standards to meet client needs.
Which brings me to my next point.
It’s extremely difficult to expand out to new service offerings when you’re still working on mastering the original one. Until you’ve got a great system worked out for your business and you’re handling everything on your plate really well, don’t try to start something new. Pretty reasonable, right?
To be a master in your field, you’ve gotta stay on top of the trends and news in your industry, and really do your research. Especially in the digital world, things are moving so quickly that it’s hard to stay relevant. Check out what’s going on in conferences, and get in the networks with the top players in your field. This way you can figure out what you should be offering before your clients are even looking for it.
To continue with our example of Content Refined, we constantly look at trends in the content marketing world. With anything SEO related, you really have to look at the data and figure out which tools and methods are the most effective. Last year around this time we did all kinds of data analysis on all the content that we had created for clients. Then we had a statistician go through everything to confirm our findings. Right now we’re in the process of going through everything again to renew those findings and update any strategies as necessary based on the results. By continuing to evaluate our business with the actual data, we’re able to stay focused in our field while maintaining great results for our clients.
Assessing client needs is super important to keeping your business relevant and growing. It can take your business in new directions that you may have never foreseen. Have you had experience with something like that? Leave me your stories in the comments!