Matt Lauer, Savannah Guthrie, and The TODAY Show recently investigated the legitimacy of carnival games. I know this will shock you—the games are rigged.
Chances of landing a plastic ring on those glass bottles? 800:1. The basketball rims are oval, not round. That’s why you shoot more like Shaq than Steph. Even the dart throw is rigged. The dart tips are dulled and the balloons are so under-inflated Tom Brady would blush.
Your goal of winning that 5′ tall pink teddy bear for your honey is unlikely. But life has its own carnival games too. Sometimes achieving our own goals can be as unrealistic as beating those darn carnies at their own games.
A goal I set in January was to finish the first draft of my new book by April 15. Titled Good to Excelente, it details six specific steps LBM firms can take to improve their Hispanic cultural awareness to increase trust, loyalty, and sales to the fastest growing— and most entrepreneurial—demographic in the country.
Then life happened. April 15 whipped by. My goal disintegrated like centrifugal force-fed cotton candy. The stasis continued until I read a single quote of 10 words.
“Routine, in an intelligent person, is a sign of ambition.”
This sentence, by author W.H. Auden, dropped me like I was in a dunk tank. I had no routine. I was the guy at the carnival, half-heartedly hurling a round-tipped dart at a half-deflated balloon. I needed a new routine to achieve my goal. So I made one. It has four steps.
STEP 1: A.M. Arms Race. Clarity of thought leads to clarity of writing. This is impossible with my two boys present. They wake up between 6:30 and 7:00, so my alarm sounds at 5:30. This allows for 60 minutes of uninterrupted writing time. If they wake up at 6:15 a few days in a row, I adjust accordingly, waking up at 5:15. It’s an A.M. Arms Race to avoid my kids so I can write in peace.
STEP 2: Be here now. Be there later. Then I meditate. I know construction dudes don’t do that sort of thing. And if they do, they certainly don’t share it (or publish it!). But my mind is frequently a burlap sack filled with angry cats. Fifteen minutes of guided meditation helps me calm the feline fury in my frontal lobe. I use a smartphone app called Headspace. I can report no amazing transformation, but I’m more aware when competing thoughts distract me from the task at hand. It has also improved my patience at home.
STEP 3: DWYSYAGTD. In my last book, Behind Your Back, there’s a chapter titled, “DWYSYAGTD: Do What You Say You Are Going To Do.” My routine now holds me accountable to the same standard.
Following Headspace, the cats begin chugging Red Bull. A thousand thoughts bubble to the surface in quick succession. I grab a pen and write down my M.I.T.: my Most Important Task for the day. I’ll do this at 8 a.m., before I open email. (My cats looooove email.) I then jot down my goals for the day, week, month, quarter, and year. I quickly review my daily planner to ensure I’ve scheduled time to complete these goals. Do you ever write down things you plan to do and not schedule time to do them? Maybe it’s just me.
STEP 4: Put your a** where your heart wants to be. This is author Steven Pressfield’s mantra. Show up, sit down, and type. Don’t overthink it. Same principle applies to us. Want to lose weight? Quit drinking 150 ounces of Coke everyday. Want to improve that relationship? Then tell her how you feel. Want to earn that corporate sales trip to Hawaii? Then quit acting like a Customer Service rep and prospect your market with discipline. Put your a** where your heart wants to be.
That’s my routine. A few small changes with big results. My first draft is complete. So is the second and third. Good to Excelente will publish this year. Better yet, the excerpts I’ve released have helped my clients drive new revenue from their Hispanic markets.
Life is filled with carnival games, including fun house mirrors that distort who you are and what you can achieve. Focus on that balloon pinned on the wall. That is your goal. Your routine is what will ensure your dart is razor sharp.
Routine, in an intelligent person, is a sign of ambition.
It’s September. Is anyone on your team struggling to achieve a 2016 goal? Hand them a pen. Have them write down their daily routine designed to achieve that goal. You’ll both be able to generate ideas for immediate improvement.
We’re all busy. We’re all distracted. Your routine will help you win that five-foot tall pink teddy bear for your honey. Or, if nothing else, maybe a few quiet hours of cat-napping.