On the Origin of Suffering

So I meditate a lot. Once a day. Every morning. I’ve been meditating for probably a couple of years with only some small breaks.  Its been an interesting (and beneficial) experience, but that is not what I wanted to write about today. Rather I want to share a not-so-original insight from my meditation sessions today.

What meditation (or “mindfulness”) allows you to do is to be AWARE, instead of being swept away with the stream of the mind.  It allows you to stand at the edge of the bank and be AWARE of the stream, to see the water flowing, but not to fall into the water of the mind’s incessant thoughts and to be swept away by them, losing awareness and becoming lost and intertwined in the stream.

During this morning’s sessions, I was aware of thoughts that were dragging me into the future.  And I was also aware of other thoughts, which were dragging me into past events.

These particular future events were attended by emotions of worry, what-ifs, potential and unrealised pain and disaster.

The past event were full of hurt and loss and regret.

The present – was only awareness.  Living in the moment as they say.

I’m sure what I’m saying is old hat to Buddhists, I think that was one of the Buddha’s big realizations that suffering is caused by these things (could be grossly wrong here, I’m not familiar with Buddhist philosophy).

Both the past and present are gone and we have no control over them, yet these “tenses” are I would say definitely cause the majority of our suffering.

Being fully PRESENT allows you to EXPERIENCE what is happening right now, being AWARE of emotions and thoughts, but not being swept away by them which can cause unnecessary suffering.

Meditation has a LOT of subtle but profound benefits (more on that later). It is something that needs to be EXPERIENCED.  Even if I describe it perfectly, I could never do the benefits of meditation justice unless you actually feel it for yourself.

As an action point and a great starting point – start with HeadSpace.

 

Do 10 minutes of meditation per day for 10 days using their app.

BTW I did a bit of browsing now on Buddhist related teachings on this topic and here are a couple of interesting quotes:

All that we are is the result of what we have thought. It is founded on our thoughts. It is made up of our thoughts. If one speaks or acts with an evil thought, pain follows one, as the wheel follows the foot of the ox that draws the wagon.

 

According to Buddha, there are four stages of deeper concentration called Dhyana: 1) The first stage of concentration is one in which mental hindrances and impure intentions disappear and a sense of bliss is achieved. 2) In the second stage, activities of the mind come to an end and only bliss remains. 3) In the third stage, bliss itself begins to disappear. 4) In the final stage, all sensations including bliss disappear and are replaced by a total peace of mind, which Buddha described as a deeper sense of happiness.

Note:  I am talking about religion at all.  Buddhist thought though has a lot to say on mindfulness and thousands of years of experience relating to it, so I believe there is a lot to learn from Buddhist views on this topic.

Further Reading:

 

 

Reading

Reading is one of the most important things that you can do.

Far too many people read too little.

You should be voracious in your quest for knowledge, always seeking to learn and improve yourself.

Forget fiction. I mean not completely.  You should read fiction its fun. And reading in general is good. But fiction is kind of like TV.

When I say “reading” I mean non-fiction.  Book that can help you improve in the core areas of your life:  work / business, relationships, health, wealth / investing.  Perhaps hobbies, if that gives you meaning.

Don’t hesitate to spend money on books.  They are investments in yourself, which is the highest form of ROI. Turn on that one-click ordering on Amazon.

If you get a recommendation from a trustworthy source – click – download.  It doesn’t matter if you don’t read it straight away.

Get a kindle reader perhaps.  I got one. I like it because there are no distractions. No internet, no email. Just reading. That’s good. It’s not mandatory (all smart phones have good Kindle apps).  But the lack of distraction is definitely a plus.

Again. Don’t fret about spending those 10 bucks.  The ROI on this could be thousands of times over.

A major fallacy that we all somehow were ingrained with is that you need to read a book from start to finish.  Naval Ravikant in his interview with Tim Ferriss opened my eyes to this.  Skip to the interesting bits.  Don’t feel like a slave to page order.  A lot of books (business books especially) are filled with fluff.  So skim quickly through some sections, skip others entirely, focus on the ones that give you the juicy bits of information.

And another fallacy is that we should read one book at a time.  Also, thanks to Mr Ravikant I’ve embraced the fact that I have multiple books on the go. At the moment I have about 5 or so books at various stages of digestion.  And its fine.  I don’t feel it detracts in any way.

Sometimes I read kindle books.  Its the instant hit that it gives me.  Some, especially if I have high hopes for them, I’ll order through Amazon (or more usually Book Depository, it works out cheaper for shipments to Israel usually).

I’ll highlight stuff in kindle books or underline them and scribble notes on the margins of paperbacks.  Some lessons I’ll record in my journal.  Sometimes (and this is new) I’ll create a summary on this blog (this could be quite helpful on processing the info).  It would be good to write ONE action point that you will implement from each book (just thought of this now, but its a good one).

Summary

Buy lots of books. Invest in yourself. No hesitation.

Pick and choose section of books you read. Free yourself of the need to read a book cover to cover.

Read multiple books on the go.  Give yourself permission to read multiple books at the same time.

Get a kindle. Or at least the app on your phone. Read books instead of browsing the internet (and switch off that goddamn internet!)

Write down ONE action point from each book you read. Implement it (at least test it out).

 

With Winning In Mind by Lenny Bassham – Book Summary

From interviewing hundreds of Olympic winning athletes, they all answered that 90% of their game is MENTAL.

How much time do they spend on training mental part of the game?Usually answer is the same: very little or less than 10%.

What separates winners from others is mainly the way they THINK.

When athletes have mindset that they EXPECT to perform well, winning is automatically an option.  For others, hope is their mindset.

Desired outcome needs to be CONCRETE in your mind.

Process is primary.  Think about executing mental and physical processes, NOT about winning.  Thinking about winning can pull thoughts away from process. Need to think about PROCESS.

For business:  Think about how you improve your mental and business processes, rather than making a certain amount of money.

“One thing is certain however, your worth as a person is not equal to your score this day.”

For business:  Self worth not equal to net worth

“So, should we be concerned at all about winning? Certainly. And the best focus, in my view, is on a winning performance, not on finishing on top. I suggest that you goal set to have a winning performance on the day of competition instead of goal setting to win the competition. What is the difference you ask? If you goal set to have a winning performance you will always be process-oriented and not outcome-oriented. You will be much less likely to over-try in the competition because you are always focused on the next step and not counting your score.”

This is really critical for goal setting.  Focus on performance.

E.g.

producing x levels per week.

Producing x games per week.

Rather than making $x today.

Principles of Mental Management

#1 – Your conscious mind can only focus on one thing at a time.

At any point in time you are either picturing something that will help you or hurt you.

If you are focused on leaderboard (business: money) then your performance will suffer.  If you focus on performing well for the shot (business:  execution) then you maximize chance for success.

Take control of your thoughts so that they help you.

#2 – What you say is not important.  What you cause yourself or others to PICTURE is crucial. 

#3 – The subsconscious mind is the source of all mental power.

#4 – The self image moves you to do whatever the conscious mind is picturing.

“I realize that my self-image is moving me to perform what I am consciously picturing. I control what I picture and I only picture what I want to see happen”

#5 – Self image and performance are always equal.  To change your performance you must first change your self image.

The upper and lower limits of our comfort zone is defined by our self image.  If we perform below this zone, self-image will help us move back into the zone.  If we start performing above this zone, self-image will pull us down.  Change the zone to change performance.

If you believe that it is “like you” to earn $100,000 per year, you will trend towards that.

If your self-image is that it is “like you” to earn $10,000,000 per year, you will trend towards that.

#6 – You can replace the self image you have with the self image you want.

#7 – Principle of reinforcement.

The more we think about, talk about and write about something happening, we improve the probability of that thing happening.

We influence one another. All these principles are not just related to ourselves but also to our team mates.

Talk about your good shots. Will improve probability of good shots in future.

Write down goals.  Won’t guarantee outcome, but helps build self image needed to attain the goal.

Be careful not to complain! This is negative reinforcement.

Do not reinforce a bad shot by getting angry.

Don’t reinforce a bad day at the office by complaining to your spouse.

Instead, remember something that you did well during the day and focus on that instead.

Fill your thoughts only with the best performances.  This is like my journaling – “What went well and why”.  Focus on positive to reinforce those outcomes, build self-image.

“Positive Prediction” – Reinforcement in advance. Compliment given in advance of future action.

Praise – Reinforcement after the fact.  Praise good performances and the good performances will repeat.  If praising others becomes your habit, you will soon be surrounded by competent people who love to work with you.

Example:  Author called up teacher and asked for meeting. Teacher thought there was problem (that is why parents usually call).  Instead praised teacher with how good they were.  Then teacher performs better.

GOAL SETTING

Most goal setting systems are flawed, because focus on outcome.  The focus is often on score or winning competition.  Should set goals on the process of getting a score that can win the competition.  When you focus on improving performance you are dealing with something in your control.  Outcome is not in your control.

E.g. you can control how many days per week you train. Can control the competitions you enter. Can choose how you train.

ONLY SET GOALS ON THINGS THAT YOU CAN CONTROL!  Keep your focus on YOU not on your competitors.

Pitfalls.  People equate worth as a person on whether they reach goal or not.

Step 1. Determine a goal worth trading your life for.

Step 2. Decide when you want it.

Putting a time limit help formulate plan to achieve goals.

Step 3.  List the pay value. WHY do you want the goal?

Step 4.  Evaluate obstacles in your way. What habits and attitudes do you need to change in order to achieve your goals?

Step 5.  What is the plan to get your goal?

Prepare a written plan to overcome each obstacle.

Step 6. Evaluate Plan.

Step 7.  Schedule Plan.

Step 8. Start now.

Step 9. Prior to reaching goal, always set a new one to take its place.

The day he received Olympic medal was amazing but also traumatic. What do I do now? What meaning do I have in life?

Write goals in first person, present tense. “I am the 1984 olympic gold medalist in ladies match pistol” WRITE IT OUT IN YOUR JOURNAL EVERY NIGHT.  Helps build needed self-image.

REHEARSAL

Principle of Mental Management #8 – The self-image cannot tell the difference between what is real and what is vividly imagined.

Rehearsal relates to seeing and feeling desired results in the mind.

There is no one perfect way to do it. It is individual. For some blurry, for some vivid.  Can do it in seconds or minutes.  No one right way.  But doing mental rehearsal can improve performance.  Can rehearse performance beyond what can currently achieve.

“In the 1976 olympics I was very calm, because I had rehearsed over and over every possible that could happen in the match and how I would respond. I was confident that I had planned for every possible contingency, which reduced my stress and allowed me to perform well”

Using rehearsal to improve attitude.

#1 – Define situations in which your attitude needs to be maximized

#2 – Decide what attitudes you need in these situations

#3 – Rehearse that you are in these situations and feeling the way you desire to feel.

Using “rehearsal” and not visualization as terminology. It is about how you FEEL also, not just visual. You should FEEL it.  What does it feel like to move properly?

Phases of performance

1 – Anticipation

2 – Action

3 – Reinforcement: This phase is often overlooked.  Too many athletes reinforce bad performances by thinking and talking about them.

Great players are not created – they create themselves.

Passion for the process. Willing to train 10 hours a day, enjoy it. Passion for training.

Training guidelines

#1 – Catch yourself doing something right.

If you study failure, you become an expert on how to fail.

Business: Perhaps retrospectives should focus on what went WELL.

If poor performance, rather than “Why do I always do that?!”; better:

“What do I need to do to make that shot good?”

And if a good shot “That’s a good shot! What did I do right?”

#2 – Train 4 or 5 days a week.

This is optimal to move up the mastery curve.

#3 – Wherever you are, be all there.

Be 100% present and focused, leave your day to day issues behind.

#4 – Rehearse match day within the training session

#5 – When you are playing well, play a lot.

Don’t stop! If you’re having a good day, keep going. Helps reinforce good experience and makes it more likely to occur in future.

If you are having a bad training day, stop training. Do not practice losing.

#6 – We raise ourselves to the standard we are around.

Train with people who are better than you.  Veteran players are often helpful to the young ones coming into the sport.

This can be akin to going to a high level mastermind in the business world.

Self-image can benefit from seeing technique of better players.

#7 – Plan your year.

PERFORMANCE ANALYSIS

Must keep a PERFORMANCE JOURNAL. (Same advice as is given to entrepreneurs!)

You cannot manage what you don’t measure.

Write down what you wish to have happen. Will help change self image.

DON’T write out things that you don’t want to happen.

In performance journal NO reference to bad shots or performance.

For BJJ training I should keep a performance journal.

General. Date and Event (i.e. Training / Competition), Hours. What did you learn? What did you accomplish? How did you spend your time in training? Results / Score?

Solution Analysis.  Write solutions to challenges discovered during training day. If can’t find a solution, write “I’m looking for a solution to…”

Success Analysis.  Write down everything you did well during the training day. Forces you to be positive about your performance.

Goal Statement. E.g. “I often shoot above 390/400”; “I am on the US Olympics team”

DIRECTIVE AFFIRMATION

Paragraph written in first person.  Paragraph that describes goal, pay value (the “why”), plan and habits and attitudes that affect goal.

Helps self image to change.

e.g. “21/11/2017.  I am the best free-throw shooter on my team.  I start each game and I enjoy the chance to help my team win by making free-throws.  I always run a mental program before each shot and reinforce each successful basket by saying “That’s like me!”.  Then I focus on the next shot or play. Also I record my performance analysis and read and visualize my Directive Affirmation daily. I am the best free-throw shooter on my team.”

Place this in at least 5 prominent places where you will see this throughout day. Each time you come across the Directive Affirmation, read and VISUALIZE it.

Run it for 21 days, then remove and rest for 9 days.

The either modify it, replace it or repeat it.

Very important to set the correct goal.

Bad goal: lost 10 pounds (this can cause yo yo, because once lost it, can regain).

Better goal: weight 160 lbs and maintain it.

E.g. Smoking

Bad goal: stop smoking (can stop and then re-start).

Better goal:  to be a non-smoker.

Do not wait until you feel totally prepared for competing.  Perfection is the purest form of procrastination.

Praise in public, correct in private.   Public praise raises self image. Praise twice as much as you correct.  By praising you are building.

Mistakes

Focus should be on learning from failure, not thinking about it.

Action Items

I can apply the lessons from this book to directly to my Brazilian Jiu Jitsu training (or any other skill acquisition) and also in general to my own self improvement in business and other spheres of my life.

BJJ

  • Aim to go in a competition for the learning experience.
  • Train 4 days per week.
  • Keep a Performance Journal
    • Record each training: 1) what went well 2) what did I learn 3) what challenges do i need solutions for? 4) state my goals as far as BJJ is concerned.

Self Improvement

  • Use much more praise – build up team mates.  2x praise vs correction.  Praise in public, correct only in private.
  • In business retrospectives – try using focus just on what went well?
  • “Train with people who are better than you” – join high level mastermind.
  • In journal write down my goals every day for business, social, relationships and any other critical areas of my life.
  • Determine a key focus in my life.   Use mental rehearsal. Devote regular time per day (5 minutes) for this.
  • Write down this key focus (directive affirmation) and put in prominent areas around work / home.  Read and visualize multiple times per day.

Masterminds Groups for Entrepreneurs

From listening to loads of podcasts with super successful people, there are probably 3 things that they have in common:

The meditate.

They keep a journal.

They participate in a mastermind group.

I’ve been involved myself in some “mastermind groups”, but I find that mostly the ones that I’ve been involved with have not been effective.

In one skype group that I joined we had a couple of calls and then it faded out.  We would consult each other on skype from time to time, but then later that faded out to.

Another mastermind I joined was a pre-existing one, but I found the group very big, seemingly secretive / not willing to share and that it lacked focus.  Also I think the goals and stages that we were at were very disparate.

Probably the most successful “mastermind” that I’ve been a part of is with just one other friend who I met through a conference.  We’ve been totally open with each other and are vested in each others success and that conversation is one that I cherish and is mutually beneficial.

I think though there is probably more room for me to benefit from a mastermind group.

Benefits of mastermind groups

The benefits of masterminds are potentially many.

Probably top of the list is friendship.  Entrepreneurship can be a lonely path and it is great to share the journey with a close group of friends.

Also another key aspect is sharing of knowledge and different perspectives.  Sometimes we become trapped in our own cognitive biases and it takes someone from outside to help guide us to a different view point and discover things we weren’t previously aware of.

It also is great for accountability and motivation.

Lets create the ideal mastermind group

So here are my thoughts for the ideal mastermind group for myself…

Frequency

One week is way too frequent and intensive. Two months is far too infrequent.

For my personally I think the sweet spot would be either once per month or one per fortnight.

This wouldn’t be too onerous a commitment and would allow time in between to see progress.

Number of Attendees

From my negative experience being in a massive group, I think it is better to have a small and intimate group, which still benefits from a wide variety of perspective.

I would say that the ideal number of attendees of my mastermind group would be between 3 to 5 people (at a stretch).

Level of Members

The level of members should be judged by income, just because that is an easy marker of business success.

I would want to be in a group with people at least at my level or more successful.

Characteristics of Members

I would say that the most critical characteristic would be openness and a willingness to help others.  This is a super important mindset.  We should all be in the group to benefit ourselves, but even more so to help others.

In my case I think it would be better that most of the attendees be in the same type of business (apps / games) because the advice would be much more targeted and relevant, although it could be very interesting to have someone involved from a different industry to bring in a different perspective.

The participants would also need to be super ambitious.  We should all be there to see how we can 10x to 100x our existing businesses.

Paid or not?

Thats a dilemma.  I think having members pay to join the mastermind can be good, because it significantly increases the skin in the game and will help ensure attendance and dedication to the group.

But, I think that main point is that the group has to be dedicated.  If that can be achieved without payment, that can be totally fine.

Having a paid mastermind could potentially be part of a coaching type offering on a blog.

How to run the sessions

The sessions should have structured agendas so that they are most effective.

Chris Ducker recommends that mastermind attendees go through the following key points:

  • One thing that is currently working really well in their business activities.
  • One thing they needed help on, were struggling with, or wanted to brainstorm on.
  • One resource, such as a blog, podcast, service, product that they believed others in the group would appreciate knowing about.

An alternative way to run the sessions, advocated by Pat Flynn:

  • Beginning: Each person, one-by-one, talks briefly about their goals from the previous meeting.
  • Middle: A predetermined person in the “hot seat” shares, in detail, any number of issues, complications, questions and concerns about his or her own situation. The rest of the members then respond and contribute to the discussion by offering suggestions or comments based on their expert knowledge and/or experience.
  • End: Each person, one-by-one, talks briefly about the goals that they want to accomplish by the next meeting. Also, the next “hot seat” person is determined so he or she can be ready with questions for the group.

I think that it can be potentially good to alternate the agenda and add in different exercises.

For example, a lean coffee type method can be used for determining the agenda on the fly, or a members could take turns presenting about areas that they are strong in.

Keeping in touch

In addition to the meetings, it would be good to have a way to communicate between meetings, ask questions and help out.

Some groups I’m in have used skype – but I find this very distracting. Also in my mastermind group there should be a “no spam” policy, keeping conversation only on topic and not bombarding the group with inane messages.

I find that Facebook groups can be quite good for this, so that is definitely a good option.

How to find people to join the mastermind

Building up an audience, whether through a blog, podcast or other means, is a great way to connect with like-minded people (in fact, that’s one of my main reasons for trying out blogging).

Going to conferences and business events and their parties can also be a great way to find people who are on the same path and see who you connect with.

Also by joining online groups such as Facebook groups or forums you can also get to know people and see whether there can be a good fit.

Whatever the case, I think before someone joins my mastermind, I would want to get to know them, to have had several one-on-one conversations and see that I connect to them.  That is really important for me.

High Level Paid Business Masterminds

I’ve tried to collate here a list of several high-level business masterminds. These can by very pricey (25k per year is pretty standard) but they can expose you to a whole group of high achievers who you might not get to meet otherwise.

James Schramko’s Silver Circle

James Schramko’s high end offering is the “Silver Circle”.  The cost is about $1,200 per month I think and involves weekly group calls.  Like most of these types of masterminds it also includes access to a live event held in Sydney around March, “SuperFastBusiness Live“. BTW – don’t quote me on specifics, these details may be a bit off.

Joe Polish’s Genius Network

Joe Polish is a master marketer and runs a high end mastermind (one of those 25K per year ones…).

I particularly like this sentence that probably sums it up:

Have you advanced beyond your network and circle of friends?

You’re already successful, but are you always the smartest person in nearly every room you walk into.

If so, it’s time for you to join other like-minded experts.

John Carlton’s Platinum Mastermind Group

John Carlton is a household name amongst copywriters.

According to his sales page, the group meets 4 times per year and the cost is a measly 15K for the year.

Ryan Deiss’s War Room Mastermind

Ryan Deiss also runs a 25K mastermind and like most of these types of groups they meet 4 times per year with each meet up going for 2 days.

He also offers 5 “emergency” 30 minute calls with the big honchos who run the mastermind (Ryan Deiss, Frank Kern, Perry Belcher or Roland Frasier).

There are also a host of other benefits from joining, including access to all of Digital Marketers products and access to their live events for no extra cost.

There are up to 100 “companies” present in the meet ups, but they split up into smaller discussion groups.

At least from the sales page, this seems like the most organized and structured of these high level mastermind groups.

How much do you need to be making to be eligible?  On the FAQ it states: As a general rule, your company must at least be run-rating $1,000,000 in revenues to be eligible for membership.

Dan Sullivan’s Workshops

Dan Sullivan is one of the biggest names in copywriting and online marketing.

The 10x Program costs $25K Canadian and is aimed at entrepreneurs who have a minimum net personal income of US/CA$500K in the last tax year.  There is one meeting each quarter (one day only).

Other notable events

There are some other events and masterminds worth mentioning.

Two are invite-only – Yanik Silver’s Maverick1000 and the Summit Series. The Summit Series especially is one I would be very interested to attend. These events involve a combination of travelling around somewhere interesting in the world and rubbing shoulders with incredibly interesting and successful people from different walks in life.

Ryan Daniel Moran from FreedomFastLane runs a mastermind which I believe is relatively new – no pricing advertised on the sales page.

There is one event that I was just recently at which Carter Thomas from BlueCloudSolutions ran for the first time and I can say was ABSOLUTELY PHENOMENAL!  If you are an app entrepreneur (or even not just apps – we had people from other fields there), Carter’s BlueCloud Hawaii event is one that I can personally vouch for as being a great way to meet amazing entrepreneurs.

Do you know of other high level mastermind groups that I’ve left off this list?

Please add it in the comments below or share your experiences!

9 Strategies to Cure Internet & Phone Addiction, Stop Distraction & Be More Mindful

Distraction is something that plagues me and I’m sure you as well.

These days we are bombarded by constant advertising & messages, vying for our attention, trying to suck us in.

I know that this is a constant struggle for me.

To the point that I have become addicted to the internet. Addicted to my phone.  When I’m not plugged into the net I feel irritated and irritable – classic withdrawal symptoms.

And I bet that most of you reading this also feel something similar. Maybe you’re not aware of it, but if not – then you should be.

What are the things that distract me most?

Apps

Apps and games on my phone are big culprits.

Facebook is particularly bad.  When I enter it I find myself scrolling for a long time. It is highly addictive.

Instagram is similarly bad.

Notifications from games often send me over to play them and I can lose an hour easily.

Going over to Google Now and reading the news.  Or heading over to news websites.

Getting notifications from my work related apps – email, slack.

Web

On the web, I often find myself doing useless tasks – such as checking analytics, checking revenue reports for our apps.  (It’s OK to find a scheduled time to do this, but I find it generally is a bad habit).

Facebook on the web, like mobile, can suddenly waste unintended time.

I can also spend quite a bit of time watching TV series online.  I start with one. Then another. Then another.  And then hours have gone.  Not that watching TV series is totally bad, but spending a whole evening binge watching doesn’t leave me feeling better.

Curing Modern Day Distraction

So, here are some solutions for our modern day distractions.

1) Delete apps that you have no use for from your phone

I deleted Instagram – it was purely voyeuristic, so that is out.

2) Nuke the internet on your phone

I just started doing this today – this is a great one.  Turn off wifi and mobile data and voila! Suddenly your phone is a phone once again and not a high end pocket sized computer.  No more distractions.  Instead only turn on the internet only if you really need to – and then turn it back off!

This allows me to check in to work related stuff when I’m mobile, but not to get distracted by all the notifications coming in.

3) Leave your phone at home

This is also great.  If you go out with friends or with your spouse, then consider leaving your phone at home.

My girlfriend and I have started doing this from time to time and it feels SO freeing to be out without the safety blanket that we mindlessly reach for in our pockets.

I need to do this more!

4) Turn off notifications from apps

I switched off notifications from all the apps that I found distracting.

Facebook I didn’t delete – because I need this for my work testing FB login to our apps and competitor apps and I’m in some business related groups which are important for me.  But I shut off all notifications from FB so that I would only go into the app on my own accord and not because I got some silly notification.

5) Get a feature phone?

I have a friend who still carries around an old Nokia that can only make calls and SMSs! No internet!

Personally I find it too useful and important for my business to be able to respond to my team when I’m mobile, but this is a brave and possibly sensible step for some.

6) Don’t put your phone next to your bed at night

I’ve been doing this for a while and this is great.

If the phone is next to me in my bedroom then I will automatically reach to it before I go to sleep to check stuff. And when I wake up I’ll automatically reach for phone and get sucked into its endless labyrinth, ruining the mindfulness that I’m trying to cultivate.

So when I go to sleep I leave my phone in the family room, set the alarm and head off to bed… phoneless!

Highly recommended.

7) Schedule Screen-free time

I’ve been trying to institute screen-free time before I go to sleep.

I’ve set an alarm for 21:30 at night which is supposed to remind me to shut off all screens (phone, computer – I don’t have a TV at home!).

… and 2230 I have an alarm which is supposed to remind me to get into bed.

I’ve been a bit ‘naughty’ with these rules, so I’ll need to try and push these habits a bit harder.

8) Use web apps that block sites and internet

I’ve been using StayFocusd which is a web app for Chrome which can let you easily block certain sites or limit the amount of time you spend on those sites (and even sites linked to from those sites!)

It also has a “nuclear” option to block all problematic sites or even switch off the internet completely for a certain amount of time…

Theres another app that seems quite popular, Freedom, which I have yet to try – works on iPhone, iPad, and Mac and Windows.

For android devices there are apps like ClearLock which might do the trick… downloading that one right now!

And this one seems REALLY cool! Forest dubs itself “the best cure for phone addiction”!

9) Find more productive things to do when you are disconnected

Now that you’ve freed up a lot of your spare time, you should fill it in with something more useful and productive.

Some things that I do or would like to do (or do more of):

Go for a phone-free walk with your spouse.

Meditate.

Write a blog post.

Journal.

Exercise (I like Brazilian Jiu Jitsu), running.

Read.

Meet up with friends.

Speak to friends.

Summary

I hope this helps you.  In these modern times I think way too many of us are internet and phone addicts.  I know I am and by taking these steps above I hope you and I can become less distracted & more mindful in our every day lives!

Investing the new way?

We’ve all been told that we should buy index funds, invest in the stock market, diversify our portfolio, buy real estate.

Is this REALLY what we should be doing?

At most these vehicles get you around 5-8% per year on average. Real estate often leaves you highly leveraged and in debt.

And worst of all with all these investment vehicles, you have very little control…

So, I’m just thinking out loud here and kinda shooting from the hip… what I’d really like to invest in are my own businesses.

The thing is though, to succeed in business you need to FOCUS (at least that’s one of the major lessons that I’ve learnt).

For example, at the moment my sole focus is building up our new social casino brand MegaRama. I can’t and don’t want to devote attention to other business ventures.

The thing is I’m an entrepreneur (God Darn It!) and there are lots of cool ideas and things I’d like to get off the ground. I LOVE building software products, because these often solve a pressing need and business wise they are great (build it once, keep getting paid). And I love this creative process…

So, lets say that I spy a nice little opportunity in my market.  Let’s say that this is something that might even be able to aid my core business (for example, see the post I wrote about tools which post app store reviews to slack).

I can do the initial validation, hire someone on Upwork to build a prototype and get the ball rolling.  The issue is that the marketing and upkeep seem like a lot of work… which is where I need an able bodied soul to take up the mantle and get the project running.

I could provide some relatively minimal funds to get the business ignited until it starts paying for itself (better be quick!) and then my new-found business partner could continue building up the business.

And with some thumb in the air calculations:

Lets say I invest about $500 to build the initial prototype and provide lets say $1,000 per month budget for a limit of 10k (i.e. 10 months runway).

And lets say that the tool then brings in a steady $2k per month with relatively minimal upkeep, $1k expenses per month including marketing… So I invested about 11k and the company gets about 12k in profit pre-tax, 6k after-tax. And let’s say that we split this 50-50 (3k each), taking it out as a dividend (another 30% or so tax, depending where you are, so each gets about 2k net of tax per year).

So that’s a pretty crappy and dismal business situation, I admit. No one is drawing a salary or anything and no one would hear about us on Techcrunch, but still I would be getting a 2k profit on 11k invested, which is over 18% return AFTER TAX (I’m awful at maths so if I made a mistake let me know…)

It has the added advantage that I control it and have some power to influence the success or failure of the investment.

Now this would only be worthwhile if on my end I had to spend very little time on the project (so that I will not be distracted from my focus on the main business). My partner would foot the sweat equity.

Of course the situation could be different. I might lose everything that I invested. Or the business could take off and make a lot more money.

But… interesting and fun and potentially worth trying out…

So what would I need to make this happen?

I’ve got quite a few ideas, no lack there.

Main issue is having people that I can rely on to execute on my vision…

Ideally this person would be a developer who can execute the project, but not necessarily, since it is quite easy to find good web developers online.

Partnership isn’t easy, I would need to have some sort of ongoing relationship with the person beforehand to know that we would be able to work together…

So anyway, those are my random thoughts on the subject.

If you think you’d be suitable to partner with me on some projects, then reach out to me and lets talk.

 

 

Tips for Hiring Freelancers Effectively on Upwork

Upwork (formerly oDesk and Elance, companies have merged) is by far the best site online I know to find freelance workers.

Our whole company is based on Upwork, so thank God for them!

Here is a bunch for short tips for how to hire freelancers effectively on Upwork for those who are new to the site…

1. Don’t just post one job…

There are so many jobs being posted on Upwork, that if you don’t “refresh” your posting by posting new jobs your original post will get swept away with the tide.

Posting new job postings DAILY is fine! Do it.

Also, when posting multiple jobs for the same role, try different things: for example different job posting names, different (but still relevant) categories, etc…

Try different things so that you give yourself the best chance to find top talent.

2. Make the name of the job post attractive and relevant

example-upwork-job-posts

Above is an example of some of our own jobs that we have created.

I’ve included here in the job titles the experience needed (e.g. entry level / junior), what type of position this is for (e.g. Full Time / Part Time, etc…) and the job role (Graphic Designer, Virtual Assistant…).

There is no one way to do this, but remember that your job needs to stand out against all the competition!

So think copywriting when you create the job title and description – you are trying to SELL your company actually.

3.  Include screening questions in the job description

Having good screening questions will save you a HUGE headache in sorting out applicants. This is a MASSIVE HACK that I recommend that you use.

Don’t just include bullshit nonsense questions, make them actually useful.

There are two major types of questions that I use.

One type of question is related to requirements that are necessary for the job.

Examples for these types of questions:

What type of computer do you use?

(If I need a mac user, anyone who doesn’t have a mac is automatically disqualified.)

What devices do you have for testing?

(If I need a QA tester who has certain android and iOS devices, if he doesn’t have them he is out.)

The other type are actual queries that I’m uncertain about and want clarification on.

For example, lets say I want to make a cross platform app and I actually really need to know what is the best language / framework to use for this, then I will include that as a screening question.

Our app needs to be cross platform, working on both iOS and Android devices.  Which framework or language do you recommend to use to achieve this and please explain why…

So in this example, this is a truly important question that I need to know. Applicants who are spammy and don’t take the time to properly read and answer job postings either won’t write anything or will write a copy and paste bullshit answer – all those guys are automatically out.

Then from the guys who actually take the time to respond, you can compare their answers and usually several things will occur:

1 – You will find that lots of applicants point to the same solution, so you just got smarter about your project, which is a good thing in itself and you cleared up some doubt.

2 – You’ll find that its pretty easy to tell who has a clue and who doesn’t from how they write their responses and you’ll also get a pretty good inkling of how their written English is.  2-in-1.

job-screening-questions-upworkI will almost always include a question about salary expectations. 

This is an important part of the screening.  If your salary expectations don’t meet then they aren’t a candidate.

Personally I will rarely / never let the candidates know the salary we are willing to pay because frankly it is not relevant.

Either the price they WANT to be paid is within our budget or it is not. I don’t believe in haggling, I want everyone who works with us to be happy with their salary.

Oh and BTW – don’t trust the official hourly rate listed on peoples’ profiles. These are usually thumb in the air numbers that the freelancers are hoping to get, best to totally ignore this figure especially if the numbers don’t make sense.

upwork-profile-hourly-rate

Personally I include the questions BOTH in the job posting AND in the dedicated section Upwork provides for screening questions (its a bit hidden…)

Scroll down to the bottom of the Job Posting page and click on the “Freelancer Preferences” section, which will open up a whole host of options, including the section for screening questions.

Because I just know that you’re going to ask, what I normally do in this section is the following:

  • Anyone can find and apply to this job.
  • I usually leave the “Preferred Qualifications” section untouched (sometimes I might try English Level – Conversational, but usually if I need good English I will add this as a screening questions instead.)
  • And I request that a cover letter be included.

4. Don’t get tempted to jump on a skype conversation too early

A lot (most) freelancers will try and suck the unwary into skype conversations and then try to make the “sale”.

Don’t do it (unless you’re really new and its a novelty) because it is just a massive time suck.

Use the screening questions in the posting to filter candidates and then selectively contact ONLY the ones who you think could be great candidates after you have messaged back and forth and got a sense of them.

5. Test different things to see what works best

I kind of wrote about this above, but just put out lots of job posts and see what works best.

Is there a day of the week that brings in the most freelancers?

Are there certain categories that work better for this specific role?

Try adding different required skills in the skills section and see if that has any effect.

 

Lastly, if you have questions leave comments below so that I can improve this post.

The idea is that these are some “hacks” to get better applicants on Upwork and ultimately for you to be able to hire the best freelancers for your project.

Good Luck!