The Blind Entrepreneur Podcast

Transcript for my conversation with Jonathan Grzybowski

Some highlights:

  • Selecting your own definition of success
  • Arbitraging your time
  • Bringing clarity to all of your daily decisions
  • Using courage to create positive optionality
  • The perfect morning routine
  • Creating focus through use of constraints
  • A simple rule to improve your diet over time
  • How to build a writing practice
  • Recognizing underutilized resources due to ego
  • How to make sales and marketing unnecessary
  • Creating the environment that ensures productivity

Sharing a transcript of our conversation below.

Jonathan Grzybowski: On today’s episode, we’re going to talk about being a byproduct of the environment that you live in and how to maximize time, energy, and focus.

Welcome ladies and gentlemen to another episode of The Blind Entrepreneur. I am your host, Jonathan Grzybowski, and today I have with me Chris Sparks. He’s a productivity coach for The Forcing Function. Chris is a coach for top performing entrepreneurs, helping them build the systems and habits to maximize their time, energy, and focus towards building their business and designing their personal lives. Chris, how is your day going?

Chris Sparks: Fantastic. It’s good to be here, Jonathan. Good to be talking to you guys.

Jonathan Grzybowski: Awesome. You have a fantastic view. You have a nice backdrop. The setting is just right, but we can’t begin asking the questions until we get to the icebreakers. So imagine you just had the absolute best day of your life. What is that one piece of food that will make your day complete?

Chris Sparks: I think the first answer is usually the best one. There’s this steak place where they have these 60 ounce thick steaks that are on the bone. You eat them, they’re done perfectly, and you just get filled with this caveman energy. I haven’t found a better steak. That would be my big reward for a day well done.

Jonathan Grzybowski: Great answer, but I have a followup question to that. How are you getting the steak done, and is there anything on it?

Chris Sparks: Medium rare.

Jonathan Grzybowski: Medium rare, okay. Anything on it?

Chris Sparks: Like a big big ball of goat butter. Let it melt and rub it in there, so it gets nice and juicy.

Jonathan Grzybowski: With your hands, rub it in.

Chris Sparks: With my hands.

Jonathan Grzybowski: And just eat the steak with your hands, too, because why the F not.

Chris Sparks: Oh you just pick it up by the bone.

Jonathan Grzybowski: There you go. The person you might be with at the restaurant might judge you, but you know what, it’s all worth it because you’re having a good steak.

Chris Sparks: It’s a good filter.

Jonathan Grzybowski: Chris, without further ado, tell us about yourself. Who are you and what is your story?

Chris Sparks: Like you said before, I spend my days working with entrepreneurs on their productivity. The way I look at it is helping entrepreneurs get clear on their top priorities and removing the obstacles towards achieving them, obstacles which usually fall under those three buckets you mentioned, time, focus, and energy. Our conversations focus on figuring out what those most important priorities are, zeroing in on those bottlenecks, and creating these self-contained experiments to try to remove them from view.

Probably the most interesting part of my story is I was a professional poker player for five years, so this idea of performing at peak is very close to heart for me. When I retired in 2011, I was actually ranked top 20 in the world for online play. Some of my current clients are either current or former high stakes poker players. I definitely appeal to that market a lot. I had my foray in entrepreneurship when I came to New York.

I stumbled upon this coaching model in that I looked these large hairy goals that I had with my life. Looking at my current trajectory, I realized I wasn’t on the path to get there. That’s what led me to start down this productivity rabbit hole. Before that, I learned a secret that the fastest way to learn something is by teaching it. A huge part of my poker success was I was a really active coach and investor in the poker space. After I decided to leave poker I looked to see — what are all the interesting smart people that I know doing, and it turned out they were starting companies.

I wanted to start a company, but I didn’t really have any of the tangible skills that I can start a business from the ground. I started doing marketing consulting for entrepreneurs and built the skillset to become an entrepreneur. Then from there, I went on to do marketing at a couple different startups. I’ve always had my eye on being my own boss and doing my own thing. I think working for someone else is a really awesome way to increase your learning curve. Teaching is a really good way to learn as well. I have always been geared to how can I make this work on my own.

Jonathan Grzybowski: I’m curious because there’s got to be some correlation between poker and productivity. Let’s just get right into it because I’m really curious to hear your approach. I’m sure you talked to a ton of entrepreneurs that are busy. There’s probably no work-life balance. They’re working nine to nine, maybe even longer. What are common things that you see within entrepreneurs nowadays or the people that you at least talk to?

Chris Sparks: Yeah. I really cue in on that word, busy. Busy is a decision. When someone says they don’t have time, it means they haven’t made it a priority, which is fine. I think all decisions around productivity come down to what are the top priorities. It’s this notion of success, and that success is self-defined. You look at someone who everyone would say is successful, like Richard Branson. But what if Richard Branson’s definition of success is living a quiet life and reading books and not really having too much stress, and he just can’t help himself. He just has to keep starting companies.

Everyone looks at this universal definition of success and projects it onto other people and thus projects it onto themselves, as far as am I being successful, rather than coming from this inner scorecard. I think it all comes down to, as I said in the beginning, understanding what kind of life you want to design, what success means to you, and once you have that destination in mind, you can start to create a roadmap. That’s where I come in. It’s inherent in the business name The Forcing Function. I force entrepreneurs to make these hard choices up front, that one-time heavy lift that informs all of their future choices. It gives clarity to these decisions because trade-offs become very obvious once you have a hierarchy of priorities in mind.

Once these priorities have been set, I like to think about things in terms of 90 day experiments. I work with entrepreneurs usually for 90 day periods. Thinking about okay, let’s take 25 years, for example, you have these crazy goals. What’s one percent of the way there? How can we get one percent of the way there in 90 days? So creating a roadmap.

Where is your time really going? When you claim okay, I don’t have any time, your current spending of time is a reflection of your current priorities. How does this spend line up with where you’d like that to be? Essentially, you just look at the highest value activities you’re doing and the lowest value activities, and you just move from one bucket to the other. A lot of this comes down to just making small changes over time.

There’s going to be a lot of low hanging fruit in the beginning. Think of a power law. In a given day, when your most valuable hour is worth more than all the other hours combined, how can you really protect that important hour and how can you figure out what that most important activity is? Most likely doing that activity first. All the other things you could be doing at that hour, because of opportunity costs, come at the expense of that most important activity.

With productivity coming from constraints, how you can remove these other options so you can make the most value out of that hour. The summary there as far as the commonalities I always see, first be clear on priorities. Once you have your top priority, everything else gets built around that.

How can we frame a schedule where this always happens? Looking at these low-value activities that you don’t really need. Can they be eliminated completely, delegated, or systematized? Things that are worth say, $10 of the hour and come at the expense of your $1000/hr activities. That’s a really easy arbitrage. I would say question this idea of busy when you’re doing all these $10 an hour activities instead of these $1000 an hour activities. Just shift one bucket to the other.

Jonathan Grzybowski: I’m curious. What are some common $10 activities that you think that could be less priority, and then what are potential $1,000 activities for entrepreneurs?

Chris Sparks: I’d say there’s three buckets in this productivity game. I think when everyone thinks about productivity, they think about how I can work more hours, or they think about these productivity hacks, which is such a misnomer as far as how can I work smarter or more efficiently. Those are fine but you quickly reach those diminishing returns. You cap out on the amount of work you can do in a day without burning out, and you cap out on the returns from these productivity hacks where no tool is going to change your life.

The third dimension, that’s most often ignored is this idea of courage. The thing that’s scaring you most is probably the most important thing you need to be doing. Sending that email, trying to build the partnership, creating that new marketing channel, what are the things that have the opportunity to 10X your business, rather than looking at all these incremental things. I think because our ego is so intimately tied to our business where failing or appearing badly is a reflection of ourselves, we spend so much time on these trivial window dressing type things, making meaningless changes to a website or to our bio or replying to emails that aren’t going to move the business forward. All these managerial things that if you just didn’t do at all, no one would really notice except for yourself. Try to think about how can I break my business, how can I do something that just transforms it. Those generally are the things that are the most scary because they take us out of the comfort zone.

$1,000/hr activities generally have this positive optionality where it might not go anywhere, but if it works, it could have a massive impact, and everything changes. This idea, theory of constraints, applies to our work, showing us that there’s one thing that’s most limiting us at any given time. Once you solve for that constraint and the whole system is more streamlined, everything changes. You create this whole new paradigm where everything in your life is so different that focusing on that number two thing would have made no impact.

The greater point I’m trying to make here is one focus on your bottleneck and two, once you know where your time is most valuable, your other decisions become very easy because you just build your life and your routine around the $1000/hr activities.

Jonathan Grzybowski: Yeah. That’s interesting. I think you hit a really good point, which is courage and fear, or just sheer laziness that gets into this motion of I need to do this, I need to do that, and they’re such small activities. To somebody who may not be ready for an individual like yourself, a productivity coach, what are small steps I could take today if I’m an entrepreneur looking for funding or if I’m an entrepreneur looking to move one step, break that glass ceiling a little bit, what’s a few things I could do to prepare myself for tomorrow?

Chris Sparks: I look at every day as preparation for tomorrow. I think everything really comes down to habits. I’d be thinking about what are the things I can reliably do every day to get me closer to these goals. The example you gave, raising money, what are the steps that get me reliably to raising a round? Is it talking to investors? Is it building a marketing deck? Is it having my landing page … Build out a road map of how do you get there and set aside the time in your schedule so you reliably make progress on it every day.

I think it’s kind of a secret in this world that in order to improve something, all you need to do is measure it. If you want to improve your spending of time, measure where it’s going. At the end of the day, what were the low-value activities, and say okay, I’m just going to stop doing those. What were the valuable things I was doing, how can I do more of those? You want to improve your diet, then start tracking what you’re eating.

Everything naturally improves once you have these feedback loops in place. Always ask: what did I learn, how can I do that differently? The key to all of this is having this long-term orientation. Everyone wants to change overnight. The misnomer is that that’s even possible. It’s this idea of a heavy lift. Those changes are not sustainable. The perfect diet is the one you can stick to. The perfect productivity routine is the one you can stick to. It’s making these sustainable one percent changes that have massive compound effects in the long run.

I’d be looking at what are these daily habits you can reliably do to move forward to your goals and how can you create systems to ensure those happen every day.

Jonathan Grzybowski: Your bio mentions habits to maximize time, energy, and focus. Why are those three things so important?

Chris Sparks: I think those are the limiting factors to productivity. Time is the obvious one. Time is the ultimate equalizer. We all have the same amount. We can create leverage thereby increasing the average value of where our time goes.

Focus, I think, is the one that’s most often missed, where it is generally not the quantity of our work, the quality of our focus, the presence that we bring towards it. I think anyone who’s done a Pomodoro versus unstructured work understands the value of single-tasking. Multi-tasking is such a myth. It just means we’re rapidly switching back and forth. I think as our world becomes more interconnected, this ability to focus for longer periods of time on harder things is going to be the great differentiation. Building that focus muscle I think is super crucial. Focus a lot of times comes down to constraints, as we were talking about before with opportunity cost. Building constraints around all the things that could distract or interrupt you from the thing you’re trying to do, including your second priority if you’re working on your first priority at the time.

The third limiter is energy. This one’s near and dear to me in that I had a lot of trouble with my energy previously that I misattributed to a lack of motivation. Simple changes like morning stretching, getting away from my computer regularly, having a social life, having a hard cut off at the end of the day where I don’t touch work or even think about it, and then making sure I get a nice night of sleep. Morning routines, meditation. All these small activities that give me energy that put me in the peak state for that small amount of work that’s actually going to move the ball forward.

I look at it as if I make it through my two 90 minutes — 90 minutes of my morning routine, and my most important task for 90 minutes, everything else the rest of the day is a complete bonus. There are some days that I just stop work there, but I protect that 90 minutes like it’s sacred. I think that’s what maximizing energy comes down to. I want to do everything in my power to make sure when I’m working on the most important thing, I can bring everything I have towards it.

That’s why I really zero in on those three buckets. I think all the potential productivity improvements can fall as one of those three.

Jonathan Grzybowski: Yeah, so awesome. A lot of people are struggling with all three of those things and probably more, but I want to learn more about your techniques because I am very confident that you didn’t just learn this overnight. It’s been a lot of trial and error. When it comes to maximizing your own time, your own energy, your own focus, you previously hinted at energy and focus. Is there something that has worked really well for you for all three of those things.

Chris Sparks: Yeah. I think when I started this, I was trying to figure out are there human universals that apply across the board. Anyone that’s listening to this has probably read too much worthless productivity advice because most of it takes the form of “this works for me” but doesn’t really generalize.

100% of the time is the cornerstone of any productivity practice is regular reviews. That’s a daily review as far as what happened today, what went well, what didn’t go well, what did I learn type questions, tracking whether you did the things that you’re supposed to as far as your daily tasks, your daily habits. Then stepping out a little bit on a weekly planning. How did the week go, what did I learn, what does next week look like? Given the limited amount of time, what should I do? What would a successful week look like?

That dual cycle, the kind of yin and yang of planning and reflection, that’s what all this comes down to. He who iterates fastest wins. If you’re creating hey, this just happened, what can I learn from it, what can I not do again, what can I build upon, okay, what’s coming up, how can I ensure this is successful? I think people spend literally years of work trying to avoid one hour of introspection. I find these little periods of reflection and planning make all the difference, and that’s what really applies universally because no matter what you want to do, adding that habit to your life will have massive effects. That’s really the cornerstone.

The other thing I would say is maybe not as controversial, but is really worth emphasizing is having a morning routine. I’ve spent a lot of effort crafting my morning routine. I’ve learned if I win the morning, I win the day. Thinking about what can I do reliably to move myself forward and doing it first and treating my mornings as sacred where I don’t look at anything inbound until noon. I’m doing my morning exercise, I’m meditating, I’m journaling. I’m working 90 minutes on my most important task, and then I open myself up to the world. If the entire world’s on fire, it can wait until noon. Nothing is that important.

I think everyone jumps into working on everyone else’s priorities rather than moving their own forward. Whatever those activities are for you that reliably put you in a good state and reliably move your business forward, prioritize those and do those in the morning. If you’re waking up at noon, do it from noon to three. If you work best in the evenings, do it in the evening, but having that start of the day that is a very intentional stance towards moving your own priorities forward, that’s a universal win.

Entropy increases over the day, so as the day goes on, you get to the afternoon, you get to the evening, your attention’s going to be spread. The number of things that are landing on your plate is going to increase. But that first period of the day where you have full control, that’s where you really move things forward.

Jonathan Grzybowski: I’m curious, what time are you actually waking up every morning?

Chris Sparks: Nine.

Jonathan Grzybowski: Nine, okay. So then the first thing you get up, are you grabbing a bite to eat, I’m just generally curious about inside your internal mind. Are you eating? Are you meditating? Are you working out? So as soon as you get out of bed, nine a.m., boom, go, and then what?

Chris Sparks: I immediately get outside. I go through some stretches. I do a light body weight workout. I write in my journal for a half hour about whatever I want, meditate for 20 minutes. I’ll get a small snack. I’m a huge peanut butter fiend, so it’s usually apples and peanut butter these days. Then I set a timer. I have a physical Pomodoro timer, and I set it for the first 30 minutes. I’d already planned my day out the night before, so I already know what my most important task is, and I start with three Pomodoros on my most important task for 90 minutes total. That takes me to noon right there. I don’t schedule any calls before noon. Those first three hours are consistent, at least Monday through Friday every day, and then noon through six is where I switch my posture to urgent tasks and other people’s priorities.

If those three hours happens as planned, the rest of the day is a complete bonus. That’s taking it from an eight out of 10 to a potential 10 out of 10.

Johnathan: Do you think food and energy and eating somewhat healthy, do you think that affects energy and productivity?

Chris Sparks: Absolutely. As I said, energy, I had massive issues with it, and I think it comes down to diet and sleep. People talk about physique is 90% diet and rest, I think the same thing can be said about energy levels. I really wanted to ramp up in this area, so I actually hired a nutritionist about a year and a half ago to look at everything I was eating. I was food logging for a while and creating these recipes of things I could cook and make very quickly that reliably hit all my macronutrient levels but didn’t drain my energy.

I come back to this all the time with these feedback loops, the easiest way to improve your diet over time, pay attention to how you feel after you eat it. If you don’t feel good after you eat — you’re spending time in the bathroom, or you feel fatigued, pay attention to that, and just don’t eat that thing again. You improve your diet by eliminating, by slowly cutting out the things that you don’t feel good because everyone is different. No diet advice generalizes across the population. You can slowly get towards the foods that work for you.

If you figure out things that you can cook really easily that are tasty to you, you solved the game essentially.

Jonathan Grzybowski: It’s funny you say that because the first thing that popped into my head is I actually changed my diet, I used to eat eggs every single day, and then I switched to oatmeal, and I’m seeing a completely different energy level increase because of that switch, and it does have peanut butter. I know you’re a peanut butter guy.

Chris Sparks: It’s treating your life as an experiment. Like you said, you’re holding variables constant, and you’re having a genuine curiosity about yourself. If I change this thing, what happens? It allows you to take the outside view and step outside of yourself. No decision you make is a failure. It’s only a lesson. I say okay, I made this change and things got worse, good to know. I’m still glad I tried it.

Jonathan Grzybowski: And you mentioned subtly that you journal every single day for 30 minutes. I guess my question to that is what are you using to journal, why do you journal, and if you don’t mind, what are you writing in the journal?

Chris Sparks: Yeah. I write because one of my large goals is improving my self-expression, getting my ideas onto a medium of some form. I wrote a book this March, which I’ve started publishing on my Medium blog (Chris Sparks) one chapter at a time if you guys want to check that out. Basically, I hadn’t written anything since college, and that all sprouted from my daily journaling practice. Once I created that space that I’m going to be writing every day, that became writing down all these things I’ve been learning in this productivity coaching. I tried to distill them down to the essentials and before I knew it, I had a rough draft of a book.

It was just sitting down to write a half hour a day. Some days, I sit down, and I spend the whole time writing about how much I hate writing, or how great things are going or about something that went wrong and how I can improve from that. The important thing isn’t what you’re writing about, but you create the space to put your butt in the chair and sit down and write, and things will take care of themselves. You’ll generally write about what you need to on the given day. The important thing is to not judge yourself. Don’t go back and read about it for a little bit of time afterwards. But just write about whatever you feel. The important thing is you build the habit of doing it.

As far as tools, a lot of people are surprised by this, but I’m very skeptical when it comes to tools in general, particularly tools that are based on a computer and particularly the internet. I’m pretty old school, and I just write in a moleskin journal because it’s something I can bring with me everywhere. I become antifragile in that I’m not reliant on any tool. I can always have it in my pocket and I avoid the rabbit hole that is the computer and the internet. I found it very hard to sit down and write for 30 minutes, but the trick I use now is I just sit here in this room with no electronics and just a paper in front of me, and I either stare at the wall for 30 minutes, or I write.

Whenever you give yourself a menu of options, you’re going to choose the most desirable option. So to get yourself to do the thing you want, just make sure the other options are not as desirable. When the other option is staring at the wall, I’ll literally do anything.

Jonathan Grzybowski: Interesting. That’s pretty cool. I’m curious how many moleskins do you have? I guess is moleskin the noun here?

Chris Sparks: Yeah, I think there’s a couple dozen sitting in my closet. I’ll pull them out whenever I’ve hit a macro down cycle and I’m feeling down on myself and it’s good to review. I’ll say oh these things I thought were a big deal at the time really were trivial, all these feelings pass. That’s a good firebreak, a way to limit the damage. To stop a fire, you dig a hole around the fire to contain it. Whenever I’m feeling down, I’ll review past instances of feeling down and get out of my own head. But otherwise, they just sit in the closet.

Jonathan Grzybowski: You briefly mentioned about your poker experience. In the very beginning, you also mentioned a lot of your clients are actually those individuals that you once played against or played with. How important is it to leverage your existing network, and what are some ways you’ve been able to do that successfully in order to get clients?

Chris Sparks: It’s funny you asked that. I know you ask many of your guests about a past failure. I’ve had many. But one that really stood out to me was this reluctance to leverage my own experience and expertise. For a long time after poker, I wouldn’t mention it in conversation because I was trying to move on from that part of my life. I didn’t want to be associated with that world. Essentially, it was like shooting myself in the foot and then going and running a marathon. I have this experience that unilaterally shows my capabilities. I did something that millions of people have attempted to do and I was extremely good at it. All of the skills that are encompassed within success in that pursuit are displayed there.

When I first started this coaching business I would go on interviews, and I wouldn’t talk about poker, I was only talking about my entrepreneurial experience. Then I realized, hey, I have this big audience of people who follow and respect me, we’ve got a common language, and I know exactly what these guys are going through. Why aren’t I helping the people I know how to help, or why aren’t I talking about the things I know how to talk about? Some of these mental models transfer over really well to entrepreneurship.

I think that would be a failure I’ve learned from — use the resources that you have. Don’t artificially handicap yourself, because of your ego is trying to tell a different story. Look at it from the outside view like you are a character in your own story you’re reading and say why isn’t that guy doing this? In my case, hey, this is one of the former best poker players in the world, why isn’t he talking about his poker experience, instead of his small business he started that no one’s heard of.

Very obvious things from the outside. Take your own obvious advice. Look at your life and say wow, why aren’t I doing that? How is my ego getting in the way? Why don’t I try it?

Jonathan Grzybowski: That’s very cool. I mean it’s a real-life experience here, and that makes it that much more real. Was it difficult to leverage your network to have them become clients? I understand it was a failure for you at one point, but was it difficult to leverage that and say hey, I used to be X, now I’m this, you know, I have an awesome product, I have an awesome service, do you want to be a part of it?

Chris Sparks: So hard for me. So hard. I hate sales, and especially …

Jonathan Grzybowski: Everyone does.

Chris Sparks: Everyone does. It’s especially hard when you’re the product, and I think I had a lot of these limiting beliefs and fears about how people would interpret what I’m doing. Let’s be honest, the vast majority of coaches should not be coaching and are probably not worth the amount they’re charging. I had this huge stigma around myself around labeling myself a coach.

What right did I have for people to be paying me for advice, all of this imposter syndrome type stuff. I think that was another failure that I look at very closely is a failure to launch. I had all of these untested assumptions such as all of my friends are not going to talk to me anymore, or I’m going to be a laughing stock, or no one’s going to sign up because I have nothing to offer. What do I know about productivity, I’m so unproductive. All these things that popped up. Where having one client and making one post on social media, this disappeared and changed to everyone’s really supportive, and I can add a lot of value. It’s funny, as soon as you cast some light on some of these unvalidated assumptions, they all go away.

Chris Sparks: Every client that I have now comes from referral. Every single client that I have. I’m super choosy of who I work with because I’m essentially taking on their own problems and challenges onto my back and making them my own. Are they working on something interesting and impactful? Are these things I can help with? If not, I’m going to refer them to something else because my goal isn’t to make money. My goal is to help.

I think once those interests are aligned, everything comes into focus. The way I look at it is I was trying so hard for so long to market and sell myself and build a brand. Not that my efforts weren’t successful, but I was failing to make efforts because it was really untasteful to me.

I realized my product is the marketing. If I legitimately help the people that I work with, if they become way more productive and successful, they won’t be able to help but tell their friends. Their friends are going to ask them, hey, you’ve been crushing it lately, what’s going on, what’s changed. That’s when the coaching will come up. I never have to sell anyone. Any time someone comes to me, they’ve already talked to their friend who shared all the incredible results they got. It’s when I stopped worrying about how can I sell myself, how can I build a brand or an audience, and just focused on how can I add value to my clients where everything started to take off.

I think it also comes down to framing in terms of being referable, making yourself easy to refer. Having the quick blurb, here’s the two sentences how I can help people, here’s the basic PDF you can send to your friends. They can click a link on this Calendly to set up a free call. Making it very easy to be referable but also the framing where after I’ve helped somebody, and they say oh my god, I was at the least productive in my life, and now I’m at the most productive. I’ll say: That’s awesome, man. Hey, do you know anyone else that could use this help?

That’s the only question you need. It’s just framing with the right question and saying hey, if you’ve been helped so much is there anyone else you’d like to help?

Jonathan Grzybowski: If out of all the things you used, you mentioned sending over a Calendly link, having a blurb, having a PDF, do any of them work better than the others when it comes to getting a client?

Chris Sparks: I think they’re all nice to have. Calendly’s great for my own convenience and avoiding that back and forth and making it so people can set up a call without having to talk to me, which doesn’t seem like it should be a barrier, but it is.

I think it just comes down to doing a good job for the clients. When I first started off, I don’t know if I mentioned, I was just spinning my wheels on starting this business because of those limiting beliefs we were talking about before. I actually was just talking to a good friend of mine about potentially starting this business and he said, awesome, I’ll become your first client. I wasn’t even selling him. He just bought, and then he asked, how much does it cost? I had no idea. I typed up a simple Google Doc in Times New Roman, one page of this is how I’m going to help you, and this is how much it’s going to cost.

I used that document for like six months. It was never an issue of I need a polished website or I need these documents to be really high design. It’s just hey, when they show up for a call, when they send me a message, am I helpful? I think that’s really what it comes down to.

Jonathan Grzybowski: Very true. Well said. I have one major question. The Blind Entrepreneur was created as an individual to help people who may be temporarily blind in business, can’t see the obvious, they may be stuck in a particular place, and they just can’t get out of it. If you could give three pieces of advice to an entrepreneur, what would you say to them?

Chris Sparks: Yeah, I really like this idea of being blind, taking the red pill, and that it’s impossible to be objective about ourselves. I won’t count this as one of my three, but as I hinted at before, feedback is, this is a terrible metaphor, feedback is the LASIK for entrepreneurship, making sure you’re getting feedback constantly from your customers, and if you don’t have customers, or from your friends who know and respect what you’re doing, you are effectively blind.

Don’t rely on yourself to be objective about what you need to do. It’s impossible to be objective about ourselves. I’ll count that as an appendix.

First advice, as I hinted at before, I believe very firmly that life is a single player game, and we are the only ones who can define success for ourselves. Don’t move towards somebody else’s goals. Decide what’s important and then design your life around that. If you really value freedom and autonomy, maybe you shouldn’t be trying to build a venture-backed business. If you want to do something that’s world scaled, why are you living on a beach in Thailand? So think about what’s important in your life and align everything around that and things will tend to fall in place.

Second, I mentioned before that productivity comes from constraints. A lot of productivity comes from knowing your priorities and sculpting your schedule around them. Opportunity cost is so costly. Think about it. You literally could be doing anything in the world, you could be doing anything, and you’re watching this podcast. Life has this massive buffet of options, but did you really think about your decision to watch this, is this the best thing you could be doing right now? If it’s not, feel free to turn this off, I won’t mind.

At all times, what you’re doing comes at the expense of what you cannot be doing. There’s simply not enough time in your life to half-ass things or to hold back because you’re scared. No one’s really paying attention. Once you’ve really come to terms with those priorities, just go after them, and treat the other things like a distraction.

The final piece is if you want to do something, make it more natural to do in the future. I think we can treat ourselves as deterministic creatures, that we can perfectly predict our future behavior if we know the context we’re going to be in. If you think of water flowing downhill, you can sculpt that hill into your control where the water is going. If you create an environment for yourself to be successful, you will be successful.

Some examples from my own life, back in my poker days, when I went from living alone to living in a house with four poker players, my play volume doubled. I didn’t change anything else but just oh, everyone else is playing and working hard, maybe I should be playing and working hard as well. I felt like I was not being social enough. Okay, I move in with roommates who are planning social events and hosting all the time. Now the most natural thing for me to do is to have a really active social life.

Think about what your goals are and how can you create an environment that makes it more natural to pursue those. Essentially create your own defaults.

Jonathan Grzybowski: Being self-aware of that too, and that’s so key. The advice you’ve given today has been incredible, so thank you so much, Chris, for everything you’ve said thus far. A great great interview with a lot of insight from a true professional. Again, thank you.

Right now, the podcast is officially completed. You’ve successfully done it, so congratulations to you, Chris. The next 30 seconds is all yours. Feel free to go ahead, look into the camera, give us a quick pitch. How can people follow your journey? How they can be a part and learn more about your services and also you as a professional?

Chris Sparks: Probably the easiest way to find me if you’re curious to learn more is my website which is You can also find me on all the usual suspects in terms of social media channels — Facebook, Twitter, and Medium, my handle on all of them is SparksRemarks.

I love talking about productivity and personal development, so if anything that I said today struck a cord, please reach out. I’d love to hear your feedback or answer any questions.

Jonathan: All of your information is going to be in the show notes. Everybody else who is still watching and listening to the podcast, thank you guys for always liking, commenting, and subscribing. Until next time, my friend, Chris, have a great rest of your day.

Chris Sparks: Thanks.

Jonathan Grzybowski: Thank you so much for watching this video. Don’t forget to follow me on any and all social media platforms, using the long last name above, followed by the letter J. If you want to get lost into the dark abyss of YouTube, click either left or right for another video, and finally don’t forget to hit the subscribe button. No seriously. Don’t forget.