How I trick myself into doing stuff

I like setting goals. I like making lists of goals, I like prioritizing goals, and I especially like accomplishing goals — sometimes it’s big goals like starting a company or getting married. But just as important are mundane everyday life goals… like working out on a regular schedule or or learning a new skill.

The thing about goals is that they’re usually not easy to accomplish. Especially if we’re talking about changing your life, or making a modification to your daily lifestyle. Actually accomplishing things requires work. It would be so easy to sleep in and not go to the gym… or fall back into old habits like programming new features when you should be blogging. (Yes I’m making fun of myself here.)

The way that I’ve had the most success accomplishing goals is to trick myself into working on them. When I put myself into do-or-die scenarios, where I have no option but to achieve the goal, I tend to have a much easier time getting it done. Here are some of the tricks I’ve used to get over the hump and actually get things done — like starting a new company. But you can use these techniques to pursue any goals you set for yourself.

1. Tell everyone what you’re doing

If you want to start a company, you need to tell everyone you know, everyone you meet, and the general public (AKA the Internet) what you’re doing. Telling people about your idea gives you the opportunity to practice and refine your pitch. If friends get pumped when you tell them what you’re doing, it’s a good sign. But if they seem ho-hum or tell you that it’s already been done, then that’s something you need to know as soon as possible.

Telling people about your company is the first part of the sales process. If you ever want someone to give you a dollar for a product, you need them to know about it and get excited about it. And you can’t possibly personally tell everyone in the world yourself, so you need other people to know and be excited about what you’re doing. If people know what you’re doing, and what you’re trying to achieve, then when they come across a potential opportunity that aligns with your goals, they have the opportunity to rope you in. But if people don’t know what you’re doing, they won’t know to open those doors for you.

Spreading the word is good for you, but also good for everyone you tell! Telling people lets them be involved as much or little as they want. They have the opportunity to offer help, or just root for you from the sidelines and offer emotional support. You’ll need lots of help along the way, often in ways you can’t imagine. And it’s much easier to ask a friend to borrow their truck to move a bunch of furniture when they’re excited about the company you’re starting, then when they have no idea why you need a truck and just imagine you’re going to use it to move a body.

Another big benefit of telling everyone what you’re doing is that there’s no backing out. If I tell friends, colleagues, or press that I’m starting something new, and it doesn’t materialize, then I look like a flake and feel embarrassed. And man oh man I hate feeling embarrassed. So if I tell people that I’m going to do something, that puts additional pressure on me to make it happen. Failure (here in the form of embarrassment) is not an option. So once I start telling people that I’m going to do something (and especially when I start telling the Internet), you better believe it’s going to happen.

2. Have zero shame

Once you’re committed to starting a company, you can’t have any shame about the fact that you’re starting up. You can’t be embarrassed that you’re striving and hustling for something. You have to be able to tell your friends and family. Because you’ll eventually have to ask them to borrow that truck — or money. You have to be able to pitch anyone your idea, because you want them to come work for you, or invest money in what you’re doing. You need to be able to walk up to a complete stranger and strike up a conversation with them because you spent $1,000 to attend a conference halfway across the world where you don’t know a single person.

This is hard to do. Sometimes I’d rather be binge-watching The Wire in my hotel room instead of mingling with strangers at a conference. But you have to fight through that notion. I find that having a friend or coworker with me really helps in raw ice-breaking situations, but you won’t always have that luxury. Being social and ready to pitch on a dime is a skill that not only requires practice, but upkeep. When I’m on the verge of something new, I have to psyche myself up for it, and sometimes it takes pushups and jumping-jacks to get ready.

3. No cheat days

When you’re starting a company, you don’t get days off. Not in the traditional sense. I’m not advocating working seven days a week, that’s dumb, dangerous, and should only be done when there’s a genuine emergency. But there’s a fundamental difference between owning a company and being an employee. When shit breaks over the weekend, it’s the owners that have to deal with it. Whether it’s a bounced check, a downed server, or an overflowing toilet, it’s the owners who are on the hook for it.

This also applies to your ability to pitch your company. While I generally won’t force my business agenda on people when we’re in a purely social context, I have to be ready to be surprised and turn my business brain back on at a moment’s notice. It’s a small world, and you never know when you’re going to run into someone, or get a call out of the blue, so you have to be ready to respond with an enthusiastic pitch or dive deep into a discussion of possibilities.

Eventually you’ll run into a fellow studio founder at the park while you’re playing with your kids. Your mom might be friends with the mom of a genius programmer that you really want to hire. Or you might find yourself in an elevator with your professional hero. I’ve had these situations pop up more than once. You never know when opportunity will knock, so you can’t afford to have an “off-switch” when it comes to entrepreneurship. Sure, you can have a “pause button”, when you let yourself focus on other things. But you can’t have a cheat day where you completely disregard your business. Doing so is a good way to miss out on life’s many happy coincidences.

More to come…

Ok it turns out that I have another three techniques to talk about, but this blog post is already pretty dang long. Tune in next week for three more ways for motivating, driving, and tricking yourself into accomplishing your goals and taking care of biznass.

See you next week!

P.S. Just so this article gets a nice social media preview, here’s a picture of me!