November 5, 2012

Continuous improvement: An Abbreviated List (And Yours?)

I said recently that I felt frustrated with myself due to poor focus and lack of attention to “big things.”

Of course, whining doesn’t get us anywhere—action is much better. Complete with built-in accountability, this post outlines a few things I’m working on. It’s also a public commitment to correct my shortcomings through the process of continuous improvement.

***

Actually creating the new biz project.

The number #1 request I get at book events for The $100 Startup always goes like this: “The book is great and I’ve been working on my own project, but can you create something that helps us implement the lessons? Maybe a workshop or course?”

Well, it’s only taken us seven months, but we are indeed doing so.

The course I’m creating will be called ADVENTURE CAPITAL. It will be twelve months long, it won’t be cheap, and therefore it won’t be for everyone.

I’m essentially writing another book for it, and a small team and I are creating an all-new method of delivering information. Our goal is to greatly improve the way that online courses are experienced.

The course itself is about increasing income and creating long-term success in a micro-business by a) making more of the things that people want to buy, and b) finding more of the right people to do so.

I’ll share a sneak preview at some point soon with those on the pre-list, but please join that list only if you’re really interested in the project. (It already has 4,000 people on it, which is far more than we’ll be able to serve with the actual project.)

As I say often, you don’t need to buy any course, product, or method from me or anyone else. I do believe that each of us has the ability to learn on our own, and while I value many of the resources I’ve paid for myself, I also don’t want to ever pressure anyone to buy something.

Therefore, this course will be for those who want it. And it WILL go out to the world in January—one way or another. Really, it will.

Actually getting some help.

Aside from WDS, which now has a full team of overseers who are themselves joined by 50+ volunteers every summer, we keep a fairly lean operation here at World Domination HQ. I have no assistant and I do no outsourcing, and for the most part I’m happy with this model.

However. Research has shown that there are limits to what one person can do, and if one person is doing everything, some things won’t be done well.

Therefore, I’m slowly beginning to work with a few other people on specific projects.

Starting in mid-January, for example, I’ll be back on the road to meet readers on the long $100 Startup tour. This time, we’re doing it differently: instead of attempting to coordinate between my publisher, myself, and various helpful people all over the planet, we’re now relying primarily on local co-hosts to lead the events. What a concept!

It’s actually what I’ve said I’ve been doing for a long time, but upon close inspection I realized that I was the holdup in many of the events we did. People would write me with grand ideas for an event in Kalamazoo, and I’d think “That sounds great!”

But they’d also have a few simple questions, and I’d lose them in my Inbox, which was frustrating for those nice people in Kalamazoo. Short version: I now have someone working with me and the co-hosts, and I expect much greater results.

If you’re curious, tour dates and locations are always here. Following a tour of India that begins in late November, in January I’ll be visiting Santa Cruz, Santa Barbara, Pittsburgh, Detroit, Nashville, Columbia (Missouri), and Dallas.

Tickets to most of these events are free, and if you represent a group, organization, or bookstore you can also suggest a city for a future tour stop.

Actually thinking about long-term structure.

When something is a success, it’s always good to ask yourself: “Where are we going with this?” AONC and all things related is now a successful business on many levels, yet its growth is hindered by my own flightiness and inattention to detail.

Years ago I wrote a manifesto called 279 Days to Overnight Success that detailed the beginnings of this project, including how it became a full-time living in a short period of time. For a long time I said that small is beautiful, and it is. There’s nothing wrong with staying small by design.

But I think that staying small can also be an excuse for poor management. If you have the chance to grow, why not grow?

The bottom line is that there are seasons. For years I’ve been focused on my travel goal, which is now drawing to an end with only four countries left. (WTF! Four countries! I know.)

I’ve also been focused on my author career, which I’m still excited about and looking forward to writing the next real book, all about quests. But with other things, I’m admittedly scattered, perhaps too much so, and these next few months are an attempt at sorting myself out.

This is the season to get serious about some things and move forward.

***

When I spoke in Melbourne at Darren’s event, I shared what I called “Problogger Confessional”—an abridged list of all the things I do poorly. As I said at the time, this is not false modesty; there really is a long list of things I do a terrible job at, and it’s not just installing light bulbs.

I’d share it here, but the whole list depresses me. I think the trick is to turn the disappointment into motivation: “OK, I suck at this, but I will get better. I will improve.”

We march on! We shall overcome.

But first, a nap.

What would you like to improve? Feel free to share your own list of upcoming improvements with other readers.

###

*Travel hackers, the Chase Bold card mentioned in last week’s mega-mileage post had a glitch for two days—but it’s now available again.

Image: Bala

Comment on this article

25 Responses to “Continuous improvement: An Abbreviated List (And Yours?)”

  1. I too need to sharpen my focus. I need to quit checking email and facebook every 2 hours. I need to spend the first 30 minutes of my morning clarifying my intention and mapping out my day. I know what I need to do, now I need to start doing it.

    Dan @ ZenPresence

  2. Amazing your adventures and trip. Just 4 countries left, impressive flying in business and sleeping on the floor :O

  3. I need to start pursuing more speaking opportunities. I need to better track my finances. And I need to get back outta dodge. Being stuck back in the US for elections has made me antsy to get on the road again.

  4. I like to make lists, but then can’t find the lists! Organization is key for me. I just finished cleaning out two cabinets and I feel better already. Once the small things are in order, I can see the large issues in front of me.

  5. I actually went overboard on self improvement and became so perfect others felt uncomfortable around me. So, I spent a night watching sitcoms and drinking beer. It worked perfectly and brought me back to the venn diagram of normal society.

  6. Im going to learn how to drive. It is the only one of my big fears left to face and its about time I did it because I dream of road trips and outings with my new puppy – I cant do that on public transport!!! Giving myself 2 weeks to get my learners permit so that hopefully Ill be ready to try for my licence by my 25th birthday in feb!

  7. I’m improving on:

    - Starting my first draft quicker.
    - Making friends with the ‘right’ people… not just the people who reach out to me.
    - Not doing things that aren’t getting results

  8. I need to manage my time better and focus. I know what needs to be worked on, I just need to buckle down and get it done.

    I’m most creative after a run. But I run at night, which them means I’m up all night and not nearly as productive in the mornings. I’d like to change that. So I went to bed at 8:30pm last night (that’s way early for me). Still, I was up at 6:40am. I didn’t go for a run, but I did manage to make breakfast, write a blog post, and now working on an ebook.

    Feeling super productive!

    I need to focus on doing more of this and less of the scatterbrained stuff that has me feeling, well, scatterbrained.

  9. Chris

    It sounds like you are shedding one skin and growing into a new, exciting one.

    Good luck my friend with all your projects. Sometimes the grains of sand (and not the big rocks) can turn out to be triumphs.

    best wishes
    Julian.

  10. What I learned recently about self-improvement is that there is actually nothing wrong with us. Nothing actually needs improvement. What we need is self-attunement, not self-improvement. After spending about half my life reading self-help books to try to make myself a better person, my heart sang when I read that. It turns out that we already have within us everything we were born to be. We “simply” need to let it emerge from us. Emergence is my quest now, not self-improvement and things are beginning to shift in me and in my life like never before.

  11. Thanks Chris, I always appreciate the thought you put into what you write.

    For the last 14 months I have been on a kind of inner retreat with the intention of more fully awakening to my highest nature. I feel at this point in my life I need to now figure out how to go back into the world.

    I want to invite more people to open their hearts and minds and to express their love and light. My blog moves slowly forward but I need human contact and the opportunity to share my love and light with the world.

    I am working on being more outgoing and exploring how to invite others to join the dance of awakening.

    Peace, love and light to all

  12. Based on your growth, it sounds like reading ‘The E-Myth’ by Micheal Gerber is appropriate.

    I imagine you already have read it, but if not, it’s targeted for people right in your space.

    Greetings from Portland as well.

  13. I like Kate’s comment, much as I love Pema Chodron’s observation that the impulse toward self-improvement is “a subtle form of aggression against who we really are.” The emergence metaphor is a lovely one, but often a tricky one, like trying to be one’s own midwife. (Beware getting a crick in your neck!) Alchemy is another metaphorical touchstone for me, and one that comes to mind when you’re talking about your weaknesses, Chris. That flightiness that sometimes frustrates you is also clearly a great source of power. (WTF! Four countries! ;-) ) Being scattered has been golden for you – maybe it’s just time to indulge other “weaknesses,” like a rising hunger for quiet, order, and rest.

  14. I’m similarly flight and scattered, so I feel you there. I think it’s natural to reach a point where you need to take a step back after things grow and grow, and often, that stepping back is hard. It’s uncomfortable to confront the things you aren’t so good at, and it’s mighty brave to look at them honestly. Good on you.

    As for me:

    - I suck at communicating efficiently, as I quickly drown in a deluge of email.
    - I take on WAY more than I can handle, because I’m superhuman. Er, yeah.
    - I often put my health second, which slows me down in the end more than anything else.
    - I collect an overwhelming number of resources, which makes me *feel* like I’m accomplishing something, but there are too many to read and I get depressed that I’m not doing anything *real*. I need to get better and figuring out who will help me most and stick to working with only those people.
    - When people tell me that I’ve accomplished more than the average person, I think they’re full of it because the inner struggle is often difficult and they don’t see that.
    - I need to accept the reality of shitty first drafts. That’s what editing is for.
    - Downtime? What’s that?

  15. I need to arrange my long-term goals into habitual, progressive actions so I won’t give up, and will know what needs to happen next.

    After eliminating 9/10ths of my belongings and options for creative distraction, I’m already seeing significant improvement in time spent on painting and writing. But I also need to start scheduling specific times to connect with people so I’m not suspended on social media throughout the day. <– That alone will make me much more productive, I think.

  16. Currently working on keeping the negative voices in my head quiet and shipping! Watching you over the last 3-4 years, I’ve realized that “overnight” success comes from consistent action.

  17. I’m a public school teacher, and every school in my district has a Continuous School Improvement Plan. We call the committee our “CSI”. But bad jokes aside, improvement must be continuous. If growth is perpetual, so is improvement.

  18. such a timely post.. im currently writing about 31 Days of Weakness… an entire list of 31 of my weaknesses. i think i found a way to turn something depressing into inspirational ?! ;)

  19. I finally started reading The $100 Startup and realized that I drastically need to improve my product launches. I haven’t been consistent with spreading the word and getting my products out there. Thanks so much for bringing my attention to the parts of my business that I overlook – both through your blog and your books.

  20. Look into “kaizen” – a Japanese improvement principle that suggests you do a lot of small things just a little bit better. You might also consider this just inside a single area of your life – for me, I teach at a university, but I’m working on my research skills and photography skills. If I do 1000 small things 1% better in each of those areas, and keep trying, my skills should improve nicely over time.

    You could also apply the Pareto principle to this – improve the one area which has the highest results-to-effort ratio, or the best/most important results. E.g. if you are a writer, forget focusing on improving email handling since it has a limited effect on your results, and instead focus on writing and sending book proposals, or even writing skills or actual book writing.

  21. Like you, I’ve been shifting around to different projects. My life has required that. But soon — perhaps next month but definitely January — the focus will happen. It will be one writing project and one other project at a time. I have two projects just because I need think time for the writing projects. And I can add some ancestry research before my subscription expires.

  22. I can definitely relate to this post! At the moment I feel like I’m not doing my best when it comes to launching a passion project of mine.

    I’m trying to launch a apparel line focused on social good. However my life obligations have limited my time on getting it off the ground.

    I guess it’s time to start lining things up and tackling this project head one, if not, it will never see the light of day (which I cannot accept)

  23. More love, less email.
    More bad decisions, less safe choices.
    Make life more like an episode of Battlestar Galactica and less like a rerun of Ally McBeal.

    High hopes that your $100Startup tour will come to Toronto.

  24. - I need to work on executing ideas in a much more organized manner. Scott Belsky’s book is definitely helping.

    - I need to continually deplete my willpower so that it will grow and get stronger.

    - I need to work on introducing one habit into my life at a time. (Right now it’s reading 30 minutes every morning.)

  25. Pingback: Continuous Improvement, My Abbreviated List | David Ly Khim

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