I thought I’d share with you my own routine that helps me hit the ground running and stay pumped throughout the day.
I get up between 5:30 and 5:45am.
Fix a cappuccino (as a side note: I highly suggest you buy a fully automated espresso machine instead of going to Starbucks each day. You save time and money.)
Spend 15-20 minutes in meditation. It has been an incredible force for good in my life. Meditation helps me stay focused, humble, and be grateful for my blessings. With all the pressure of trying to become better each day, meditation helps me live in the present while still chasing the bigger dream of tomorrow.
Exercise by either running, working out, or swimming. I work to get 4-5 days in a week. Most of the time, I take my dog (a German Shepherd) running with me in San Diego’s famous Balboa Park.
I then come home, check the stock market (I am a stock investor), and check to see if there are any critical emails that need answered.
All this is done by 7:15am
By 7:45 I’m ready for breakfast, which consists of egg white omelet with vegetables and avocado. I normally put hummus on top and drink orange juice. This good balance of healthy food, body exercise, and mind exercise gets me ready for the work day between 8:15 and 8:30.
At work, I have a couple key concepts:
(1) I plan my day the night before. As I wrap up the prior day, I move all my unfinished tasks to another day (or get rid of them if they turn out not to be important). I also find the 2-3 most important things I need to do tomorrow, and block out time to do them.
(2) Prioritize Tasks. All my tasks are marked with either an A, B, or C priority. My simple rule is that I never work on a B if there are A’s, and I never look at the C priorities if there are A’s or B’s to do.
This routine helps me plan for success and focus on the most critical things needed to keep growing.
We’re all taught to set the bar high. Does that always work?
We’ve all heard these pep talks before…
“Expect more out of yourself!”
“Be all you can be!”
“Good enough is never good enough!”
“Set the bar HIGH!”
Your parents, your boss, your childhood soccer coach, and of course every self help book you’ve ever attempted to read has made these statements at one time or another.
These mantras are the melody of success for high achievers. We spend most of our days in a constant state of movement attempting to make ourselves better, richer, and smarter.
High achievers often beat themselves up about past mistakes and fret over the possibility of making new ones in the future. We’re so caught up in engaging in personal and professional growth that we miss the moment here and now. We read The Power of Now. We think we are enlightened. And, then we forget how it works by the very next day.
These mantras aim to push us to do more, be more, and learn more. They are ultimately what drives us to try what’s not been tried and do what’s not been done.
And, when we engage in these high-achiever tendencies, we do in fact get better. We lose the extra 5 pounds. We connect with our kids more. We make our spouses feel more satisfied.
Life is good. We’re happy.
But sometimes, despite our best efforts, life throws us a curve.
Our company downsizes. Our kids fail a class. We gain the 5 pounds back.
And, that happy, enlightened feeling you had just a day ago? Well, that has disappeared in just a matter of seconds.
And, all of a sudden, we’re not so pleasant to be around. We snap at the Starbucks barista who uses whole milk instead of non-fat. Our head feels cloudy. Our chest tightens up. The little things become harder to deal with.
We tell ourselves that when we get life back on track, we will definitely feel better.
But, in that moment, we are not happy. Things are not going our way.
For the most part, setting the bar high is an admirable and worthwhile way of thinking.
Except when it relates to our happiness.
When it comes to being happy. We need to change our way of thinking. Instead of requiring perfection before allowing ourselves to feel joy, we need to make it easier for us to actually experience happiness.
We need to set the bar LOW.
That’s right. I know. I know. It goes against everything we high achievers tell ourselves on a daily basis.
But, it’s true. We need to set the bar LOW. Hear me out and imagine this scene.
Let’s imagine Mike (name made up). Mike is on track for success. He has a beautiful wife and family. He is well educated, and he maintains a good job and a good living. Mike is moving in the right direction!
Mike should be happy, but he is not satisfied.
He thinks he needs to make more money. He wants his kids to do better in school. He knows he needs to drop some pounds. According to Mike, if all of this happens, then he will really be able to feel good about life.
So, Mike keeps on pushing the boulder up the hill, and most days, he feels pretty mediocre at best.
Mike plays a continuous record in his head that says, “When I just get to the next level, I’ll be much happier”
Does that sound familiar?
Why isn’t Mike happy now? It’s not because his life sucks. It’s because he hasn’t given himself permission to be happy, to be joyful for the moment he is in right now.
Set the Happiness Bar low. Give yourself every chance to be happy.
His Happiness Bar is too high.
It’s a delusion for Mike to think that the ‘next level’ will be the answer to his happiness. It never is, because as soon as we climb the mountain, there’s another one right over the horizon. We never get there.
Fancy what would happen if Mike lowered the bar? What if he made it drop-dead easy to feel joy? What if he changed his perception about what needs to happen before he can feel happy?
Today, what if Mike just decided he needed to accomplish these two things in order to feel joy in his life:
1. He has to wake up
2. His wife and kids need to wake up, too.
That’s it. If those two things happen, Mike is allowed to feel happy.
What do you think Mike’s chance of success would be? It’s certainly not foolproof, but at least for this one day, his mindset would change, his attitude would change, and his level of happiness would change.
If Mike decides to make a more consistent effort to think differently, 99.9% of the time, he could choose to be happy. He could realize that happiness is a state of mind that can be altered.
Because he set the Happiness Bar LOW.
A couple tools to helping us set the Happiness Bar low is practicing positivity and prioritizing people. In a recent article on happiness on the FirstRound blog, Scott Crabtree, CEO of Happy Brain Science, says that these two factors are key to helping us build the necessary muscle to rewire our brain.
Practicing positivity helps because the brain only holds one thought at a time. The more positive thoughts we have, the less time and energy we spend on negative thoughts and emotion. When you focus on negative though, you’re phasing out your ability at that time to focus on what’s not going right.
The number one factor in happiness is the quality of our relationships, according to Crabtree:
“When you focus time and attention on your relationships, they improve, and that improves your happiness. You also improve your coping ability because you have more support. Bottom line: Warm relationships can fuel happiness more than any other single factor we have found.”
So, there’s more than just cliche behind practicing positivity, and the key to jumpstart your happiness is to make sure you’re sepending time building high-quality relationships.
How high is your Happiness Bar? Would you consider trying to lower it for couple weeks? You just might like all the joy and bliss that comes along with setting that bar closer to the floor instead of the ceiling.
A couple weeks ago, I grew another year wiser. It was the big 44!
I don’t know if you’ve experienced this where, one day, you kind of wake up and realize you’re in the mid-part of your life. It’s surreal. It’s surprising. It’s life.
Honestly, I really feel wonderful. Life just keeps getting better and I feel more centered, fortunate, blessed, and happy than I’ve ever been. I guess time has a way of making things better.
This morning, I woke up and wrote down 44 things I’ve learned over the past 44 years. Things about love, work, drive, direction, purpose, health, and curiosity. Things that have become beliefs. Things that have shaped my view of the world. Things I hold as important.
I’m writing these so when life takes a downward turn, I can go back and remind myself of what’s important. But, perhaps you might find something in here as well that you can apply to your life to make it a bit more fulfilling. If that turns out to be the case, then I’d be a happy man to know I’ve helped you out in a small way.
Enjoy! I’d love for you to comment below and let me know what your favorites are:
44 Things I’ve Learned in 44 Years.
The value of life is not in what is owned, but what we experience, who we experience it with, and the quality of love we give.
Live life in a way that makes a positive lasting difference on others and your environment.
The air I breathe is borrowed.
When considering happiness, set the bar low. Make it easy for you to find reasons to be happy.
Practice kindness daily.
We are allowed to make mistakes and still be awesome.
Our happiness depends greatly on what we choose to focus on.
We are all one.
Character is determined when no one is watching.
There is a difference between looking at someone, and truly seeing them. Focus on the latter.
If you randomly think of someone, stop for a moment and send them positive energy.
Give love freely, for, it is infinite. Receive love openly. You are worthy of love.
Instead of asking what your mate can do for you, ask if you have the character to be the man she needs you to be.
Never stop touching.
It’s OK to cry.
A short, hand-written note is more meaningful than a text or email.
Make a photo book of your friends, family, and events every year.
Friendships must be cultivated, watered, and grown.
At the next party you go to, make it a point to ask questions, be interested, and listen three times more than you talk.
Travel Often. Let curiosity be your guide.
Trade your time only for WOW!
Dress up on Halloween
Go see live theatre
Every so often, only listen to new music for a week. It could be a new station, a new band, or a new genre that you normally woudn’t listen to. Get out of your routine.
Take time to play.
Discover the artist within you without judging him or her.
Risk more than is comfortable. Take a step. Even when you’re unsure, step anyway.
Exercise your body and mind 5 days a week.
Your health matters more than your bank account.
Every so often, do fruit, veggie, raw diets for a few days, and don’t drink during that time.
Buy fewer things of higher value.
Commit to taking full responsibility in every area of your life.
People aren’t watching and talking about you as much as you think they are.
Our greatest challenges yield the most beautiful memories.
Money is a wonderful servant, but a terrible master.
When you feel arrogance in yourself, ask what you’re afraid of.
Surround yourself with people who play at things you have to work at
Set stretch goals. The greatest value is not in what you accomplish, but the type of person you become while working on it
Strive for excellence over perfection
Many times, the race is won by those who keep running.
You are not your work. It is a part of what you do, but it is not who you are.
We never have another day to make this day meaningful, so spend more time working on things worth dying for.
My good friend, Adam Hudson, just finished putting on an incredible event called Radius, for entrepreneurs. The whole concept is that by elevating your thinking, your radius widens and you can see things from a different point of view. Pretty cool, right?
I attended last year and he asked me to say a few words at the event this year for the group. So, I gave an update of what our business was able to accomplish, and shared how I feel I’ve just become a better human being – more grounded, and able to work through my own shit.
I also wrote a poem called Point of View for them to take away and think about. I presented it to them as a gift.
I’ll also present it to you as my gift. Hope you enjoy…
Success… we give our best.
Move to the right, then to the left,
Chasing, racing, facing our dest-iny.
We seek, to see our dreams, more clearly,
So ready, for what could be.
We want the dollar, the cash, the money.
We want to feel love from our family.
We want these blinded eyes to see,
And be, who we were meant to be.
To believe, for once, without internal doubt.
We vow, to live, to grow, and discover how.
But it’s not about, the doubt, that comes our way.
It’s not about, what we face each day,
But rather, if we make life fun, and play.
Is it a black night, or just a little gray?
It’s in what we do, and what we say, every day.
So, don’t dismay, because it’s up to you, to,
Turn the gray, into blue, to turn the old, into new,
To change your point of view.
You can change your point of view.
Success… No time to rest, we pound our chest.
We put our mind and body, to the test,
But if we’re real, we’d confess, sometimes
It feels like life is just a guess,
Of which way’s right, tonight, and which way’s wrong,
Which road do we walk, and which road’s already gone,
Which words fit into our song, of life.
It cuts like a knife. We try and try, to fly so high
Only to be shot out of the sky. Bye-bye.
And inside, it messes with our mind, we find
No release. Our doubting demons never cease.
We need, and need, before we let ourselves be at peace.
We tell ourselves, that when we reach that elusive place,
When we become more than just a face, in the crowd,
Somehow, when we feel we can keep up this frantic pace,
Then we’ll let ourselves be in a happy place.
Challenge that thought.
Make an about face.
Now is the time to be content, free from resentment.
Free to float more, and steer less. Free to love more and fear less.
Free to be the brightest star.
Free to love ourselves just as we are.
When we get real, and truth be told,
We don’t, have tomorrow, we don’t know, if we’ll grow old.
We’ve told, ourselves that we have to wait
Before we’re enough, before we let ourselves be great.
It’s today! Today is our date, there’s no debate.
Our truth is, we don’t have to wait.
That’s not how it has to be.
Right now, we can live simply, beautifully, perfectly.
You see, when we change how we decide to steer,
We can be fulfilled, right now, right here.
We can choose love instead of fear.
It’s always up to you, to,
Change the gray into blue.
To turn the old into new.
To Change… to change your point of view.
Success… we are blessed,
with the chance to give our best,
With our ability, to see, more than what is,
But what can be.
We have, within our power, in this hour
A new way to see.
From when we were born, until we turn back to dust
Til all our materialism turns back to rust,
When the rains of life fall, and the wind’s gust,
Trust, because you are on a cusp…
Of something new, of turning gray into blue; don’t dismay
You were made, made to lead, made to build, made for love,
Made to fill,
up your cup, and others, too,
So that they might see, from another point of view.
Made in you, it’s made in me,
and made in us.
We make the world a better place, when we raise,
When we elevate, our own, Radius.
* The line, “float more, and steer less. Free to love more and fear less.” was borrowed from my friend, John Styn. Thank you for the inspiration John!
Here are five things I’ve learned about life, love, and business. What’s great about these guidelines is that they can apply in every area of your life. They are timeless, and just as relevant for relationships as they are for startups.
Last week, I had an email exchange with Merrick Lozano of PRLeap.com. I’ve known Merrick for many years and enjoyed watching him grow his company while also building a family.
I asked him about how he was enjoying his new baby girl. I don’t have kids now and often wondered just how some entrepreneurs manage the balance of a growing company – which takes and extraordinary amount of time – and balancing family. Here’s the email thread:
Steven: Hey Merrick – thanks for the advice. Hope all is well. How’s the family?
Merrick: It’s awesome! Just enjoying the new baby, she’s almost 3 months now.
Sent from my iPhone
Steven: Unbelievable! Congrats my brother! I’m FINALLY thinking about what it would be like to have one…
Merrick: Thank you. 3 girls is a handful! 🙂
Babies are amazing, my first one gave new meaning to my life. They are rewarding and a ton of work. I am blessed to have a wife who wants to stay home so that makes it a lot easier. I think there’s a big valley from bachelor to papa, and a wonderful woman makes it easy to get to the other side… Honestly, I don’t think anyone is actually prepared to be a first time parent. But, much like a first time founder, you just become incredibly motivated to succeed. Nothing goes as planned, but in the end, it’s worth it.
Steven: Wise words, my friend. Certainly gives me something to chew on.
I guess having children is similar to doing a startup in that you’re never quite all the way ready, nothing goes as planned, you need a strong team to succeed, and, in the end, it’s worth the sacrifice.
Thanks Merrick. I needed that.
Comment below: what’s been your experience with balancing home and work?
Each week at TakeLessons.com, I ask my employees a question. This activity gives us time together as a group and helps us all get to know each other better. We always ask questions that are structured around developing community within the company. Last week, I asked “What’s the best advice you’ve ever heard?” Here were some of their responses:
“Back in elementary and middle school, I used to compete a lot in speech and poetry reading contests. My dad, who was my speech coach, always advised me not to fixate on my competitors and instead focus on myself. For this reason, during the competition, once someone completed an excellent performance, my mantra before taking the stage was: ‘while they are good, I’m better.’ As an adult, I cherish his advice more than ever as it is easy to get distracted by your surroundings”
“Aside from the common ‘invest and diversify’ (I think over the next 10 to 20 years Quantum dots and MRAM are going to become very important technologies), an insightful friend of mine once said (and I hope I don’t misrepresent this) that he believes that everyone always makes the best decisions based on what they know at the time.
He was describing some of the stupid decisions I’ve made in the past, but I still think it’s an important message of understanding and forgiveness.”
“Don’t take things too seriously.”
“Don’t try to get every single person you meet to like you. Just like you don’t naturally like everyone you meet, everyone won’t necessarily like you. Save time and energy by just being yourself. (Of course, rules of civility still apply).”
“To quote Conan O’Brien..”
“Sometimes you have to be small to be BIG.”
“Todo a su tiempo, meaning everything at it’s time.”
“Start saving your money early.”
Personally, some of the best advice I have ever received were the following:
“Thoughts ARE things. What you think about, you manifest.”
“The past and the future don’t exist..only the present matters.”