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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.

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U.S. Frequent Flyers: New Opportunity to Earn Mega-Miles

*Update: Looking for more recent travel hacking posts? They're over here. Last Tuesday night, I returned home from Australia, via Hong Kong and San Francisco. I was as jet lagged as ever, but I had an important travel hacking task to complete: the next day, I paid a trip to my local Office Depot, where I purchased $2,000 worth of gift cards that would eventually be deposited in a bank account. This purchase was an experiment. If all goes well, I'll be carefully making a number of additional purchases over the next few months, and perhaps even longer.

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Powerful Words

The words we use matter. Here are some examples of words or phrases that are especially powerful.

Once upon a time. The most powerful words in storytelling. No matter how long the story goes, or how complex it becomes, every story has a beginning.

You. Because in business or in life, the more you can focus your efforts on other people, the more they will care about what you say.

“Yes and ...” The two words that keep improvisation going. Hint: they can also keep any conversation going.

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Small Things Can Keep Us from Big Things

Lately I've felt that I'm doing well at the small things, but failing to plan for more involved work. It's not that the small things are inconsequential—or so I tell myself. If you also struggle with doing small things well but neglecting the bigger picture, it's time to take action. The only way to break the pattern is to force ourselves to look ahead and answer the question:

What, exactly, am I trying to build here?

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What Is Freedom?

For me, everything began with the notion of freedom—the ability to determine the course of my daily schedule and overall life direction. I was very motivated by the opportunity to decide for myself. A normal job didn't fit into those parameters, so I did everything I could to create my own employment and well-being. But that was early on. Freedom is still extremely important to me. I'll walk away from any business deal or career option that restricts my choices or limits future decisions in a way that doesn't feel right ...

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In Search of a Few Great Stories (Can You Help?)

The best part of The $100 Startup was telling the stories of all kinds of people who started successful businesses without spending a lot of money. Happily, the book has been a big success, with more than 100,000 copies sold in the first few months and at least 15 foreign translations in progress. I'm now beginning the research process for my next book, which we expect to reach even more people. This book is about quests—a project of measurable challenge that you work toward over a long period of time.

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Chicago Marathon: Mission Complete

Yesterday I got up early ... and ran 26.2 miles through the streets of Chicago! This was my fourth marathon, but I haven't done one in several years and was somewhat worried. I had been apprehensive after not being able to train as much as I should have, and also after feeling some pain in my right leg on the longest run before the race. Thankfully, all was well yesterday. From start to finish, I felt comfortable. Even at the end, I was tired but not as exhausted as I've been for every other long race.

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Around Here: Notes from Thursday Afternoon

Whenever things are going well, it's always good to ask yourself “How could I improve? What could I do better?” Never rest on your laurels! Always be thinking: OK, great. What's next? Yesterday I woke up early and went for a quick run around the park. Then I went for a morning biscuit at Pine State, where I visit a couple of times a week whenever I'm home in Portland. Then I came back and got ready, and then we sold 1,000 WDS 2013 tickets to fun people all over the world. I looked back at the screen and thought, wow, that was exciting. Then I went for sushi.

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The Calling

Bob Dylan spoke to Rolling Stone recently. I liked these parts: You've described what you do not as a career but as a calling.

Everybody has a calling, don't they? Some have a high calling, some have a low calling. Everybody is called but few are chosen. There's a lot of distraction for people, so you might not never find the real you. A lot of people don't.

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Success as a Travel Blogger

Over the weekend I went to Girona, Spain to give the closing keynote at TBEX, a gathering of travel bloggers. After missing the only flight out of the Seychelles on the night I was supposed to travel, I almost didn't make it. I had to regroup and reroute the whole trip as quickly as possible, and ended up flying through the night the next day and then the morning of the day after that. Fortunately, I made it just in time. I wasn't able to sightsee in Girona itself, but it was fun to catch up with old friends and speak to an engaging group of enthusiastic people. The topic of my talk was on success, specifically how people can expand their platform in an authentic way. Here are a few points I touched on ...

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Self-Employment and Security (Once Again)

Let's do this one more time, because it's important. Micro-entrepreneurship is changing the world. The best opportunities in the new economy are centered on creating your own assets. It doesn't matter who wins the U.S. election this fall, at least not in terms of how the economy affects you. No matter what happens, the unemployment rolls will continue to be full. Perhaps even worse, many people will remain underemployed by working at jobs that offer few benefits and little opportunities for advancement.

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How to Ensure You’ll Do Anything

If there's something you need to do, but you keep putting it off—or if there's something you'd like to do but don't seem able to push through, there's at least one easy way to fix it. The solution begins with understanding why we procrastinate. The simple answer is: because we can. To solve the problem, therefore, we need to eliminate the ability to defer. If the task is short but dreaded (a phone call you don't want to make, for example), you can simply decide not to leave the room until it's complete.

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Travel Hacking Anywhere Without Credit Cards

Since posting the 2012 Frequent Flyer Challenge, I've fielded a ton of queries from people about how it works, which cards are best for their needs, and the occasional complaint from someone who feels like this information is too good to be shared. The short response is: it works very well. I'll be receiving more than 200,000 miles from my recent applications, in addition to several million miles over the past few years. These opportunities aren't going away anytime soon, so you might as well get in on them if you can.

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