The following is a list of thought-processes and mental mindset shifts I’ve discovered, learned about, and implemented over the past several months. Topics covered include the need for systems, failing finance mindsets, creativity, daily and weekly planning, capturing and executing on ideas, working on the right things, minimalism, essentialism, and conquering anxiety.
1 || James Clear’s “Focus on Systems”
The famous writer and author of Atomic Habits is a great place to start in the world of mindset changes and thought shifts. In his book, Clear writes about how it’s important to make a distinction between your habits and your goals, but also to realize how closely they’re connected.
For example, one of my goals this year is to read 100 books. That’s great and all. I could even write that on a sticky note and put it on my desk, or type that out, screenshot it, and make it my phone’s lock screen. The issue is, that’s not really going to help all that much. I might read some, I might even get close to achieving that goal — but the fact that I haven’t implemented a system yet makes that highly unlikely.
Goals are wishes. Goals are hopes. Goals are aspirations for ourselves that will never be acted upon if we down implement a related system into our lives.
In his book, Clear recommends that you start implementing systems, and create an environment that caters to your habits. He tells us that we can start simple. If you struggle to floss every day, make sure your floss is visible on your kitchen counter. Goals are well-intentioned, written out wishes — they become results when we start habits related to them. If you’re not acting, you’ll never make progress.
2 || Grant Cardone’s “It’s Not Your Money”
Grant Cardone, real estate guru, and high-level marketing/sales coach, has a concept about making money that has recently intrigued me. He talks on his YouTube channel frequently about how when you pay the IRS, when you buy a new watch or pair of sunglasses, when you put money on the table for your family — you’re not paying for it with your money.
This thought process is especially helpful for entrepreneurs and people who are having to hustle other people to pay them for whatever they’re producing. The greatest driver behind this concept and why I believe it to be useful is because it helps you to process the abundance of what is out there for you.
“Average is a failing formula.” (GC)
When you transfer your recent PayPal earnings to your bank account, that’s not your money, that’s someone else’s money and you just convinced them to give it to you. Grant Cardone’s company is constantly firing people because they get comfortable. He, through his YouTube channel and other media, is constantly getting onto people for not being more far-reaching in how much money they’re trying to make.
3 || Greg McKeown’s “Live by Design”
Greg McKeown’s popular book is often boiled down to the simple and semi-actionable concept — Do less and say no. While that is all good and everything, it doesn’t really get at the heart of what McKeown was trying to say when he wrote his best-selling book, Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less.
What he was really getting at, something that can be revealed by a close look at his website, writings, and spoken words, is that we should be living our life on purpose — with design.
As I’ll talk about later, I use a sheet called my “commitments list”. I’m not the only one that does it, and that’s because it’s such a useful and practical idea. I take out a piece of paper, record my commitments, and decide what should stay and what should go. However, this still is yet to be designed.
I think what McKeown was getting at is a deeper side of the way we can and should look at our life. There is something important and valuable about looking at our life through both the lens of both the intuitive and the sensory. The sensory is what we write on our calendar, what we put on it, and the intuitive lens is how we explore what we’re considering putting on it and why.
“Essentialists see trade-offs as an inherent part of life, not as an inherently negative part of life. Instead of asking, “What do I have to give up?” they ask, “What do I want to go big on?” (GM)
Living by design is about using that intuitive lens first — think about what you want out of life, what you “want to go big on”, as McKeown says, and then — use the sensory lens to make that happen. Write a task list, add it to your calendar, under-schedule your life with that which is most important to you.
In essence, his point and the mindset shift he recommends is to see your life as a masterpiece that you have the pleasure of creating. Design it well, because you’re in charge and deserve to have only what you want to be apart of on that calendar/in that schedule that determines what you do in life.
4 || Thomas Frank’s “3-Tiered Planning System”
“I agree, and I’m acutely aware that when I don’t have a plan for the day, I flounder around, unable to decide what I should work on next. Conversely, armed with a detailed, specific plan, I’m a task-crushing machine — and I’m sure you can say the same of yourself!” (TF)
“What is this 3-tiered planning system”, you might ask? Here you are.
 Tier One: Idea capture
Frank, in his YouTube video on his planning practice, clarifies that this is more about just a task capturing. This important distinction is important to make, especially for me, considering that I’m a fairly creative person who constantly has a dozen ideas going through her head. (Technically that’s impossible, considering the reality of Miller’s law, which states that humans can only process up to seven simple concepts at a time, but let’s go with it.)
Being a creator, especially a particularly creative one, can tend to be more of a curse than a blessing when it comes down to having to take action on those (probably) really good ideas. As of right now, I have 16 emails sitting in my inbox. Who are they from? Myself. Throughout the day, I’ve had dozens of ideas while listening to various podcasts and watching various videos. The best one makes it into my inbox for further action.
Often times we don’t write down ideas that we can’t take action on yet. This is kind of a sad fact, given how many good ideas might come out of the thousands we have every day.
Take time to capture ideas. Even if they’re not fully formed. Even if they’re still an abstract concept with no clear path moving forward, allow yourself to write it down for further review.
[Puno, whom we’ll talk about in just a minute, has a process she describes on her podcast episode with Matt D’Avella. After a creative breakthrough or an idea session, she’ll take the list of ideas that she’s written out and proceed to decide which ones to move forward with.]
I have a process I use for doing this. Oftentimes, if I’m lucky, I’ll want to proceed with every idea I’ve come up with. When that happens, I’ll add them all to my list of commitments, which is divided into two parts. The ideas and projects I’m working on now are what are regularly scheduled into my weeks and days. The ideas and projects I want to proceed with and work on are added to a waiting list for future execution.
Either way, this mindset shift from Thomas is great — start with ideas, and don’t burden yourself with having to take action on them immediately.
[Thomas uses Evernote as, what he calls, a “second brain”. It’s where he stores all of his ideas, brainstorm session results, notes, outlines, and more.]
How Working From Home Increased My Productivity | Data Driven Investor
Working from home really brought out the best in me, it made me more productive. Because working from home gave me the…
 Weekly planning
Frank likes to use a planning session at the beginning of the. I, alongside many other creators, happen to do the same. He divided a page in his planning notebook into the following three parts:
- Events — This is pretty straight forward. If it’s a scheduled event or activity, it goes here.
- Tasks — This is where he puts both his weekly tasks for his YouTube channel, blog, and podcast, as well as smaller and more remedial tasks that he finds himself needing to do every once and a while.
- Maybe — This is the space where Frank puts down potential wants, things that he’s considering but hasn’t decided to schedule into his life. I love the way he does this because it leaves room to decide that you don’t want to do something. Often times I’ll schedule “tinkering time” into my calendar to work on something random and fun. However, this scheduled time becomes useless and unhelpful if I, along the road, decide I no longer want to do it. That’s why having a “maybe” column in your weekly plan can be useful and beneficial for your mental state and amusing productivity that week.
 Daily planning
Finally, Frank uses yet another unique way to plan his day. As planning the day is an extremely individualized process, I won’t get into it here. If you’re interested, find his YouTube video on his 3-tiered planning system, along with his blog, here. What I appreciate most about his planning system is the way that it is remarkably organized and strategically arranged and planned, yet not burdensome in any way.
Planning out every minute in GoogleCalendarworks for some, but not for everyone.
By presenting this 3-tiered system, Frank opens up another door for entrepreneurs to walk through in their planning process.
By dividing his planning system/strategy life into three distinct but flowing parts, Frank is able to do things with incredible organization but also creativity. While his videos and blogs follow certain themes and goals, they are always so original and helpful — all while being produced on a schedule alongside his podcast.
5 || Puno’s “If You Don’t Like It, Don’t Do It”
Jennifer Puno is what people like to call a “serial entrepreneur”. She has made everything from cat calendars to velvet pants, to a social media network for creators, and more. She is one of those people that, if she finds something she’s interested in, she’s going to do it. Her latest podcast episode on The Ground Up Show was appropriately titled: EP. 087 The Fearless Creative.
Her biggest driving thought is that she doesn’t have to pursue or continue pursuing something that she is no longer passionate about.
While following that mindset can be dangerous and non-committal at times, not to mention damaging to traditional career paths and relationships with bosses of all types, it is an important consideration to make when working and committing your energy to something. There’s one piece of her thought than can be applied even when you are working for a boss and risk getting fired if you refuse to do a piece of work/complete an assignment. That is this:
Figure out a way to do it that will be enjoyable.
If you don’t like writing, find a friend to do it with. If you don’t want to work on something, see if you could delegate it to someone more qualified, pay someone to do it if you have to.
It’s all about figuring out what you’re good at and what you love to do and doing your best to get out of everything that doesn’t fit into that. Your best work comes when you are passionate about what you’re doing.
Writing is 10x better when you’re passionate and knowledgeable about the subject. A film is 10x better when you care about the content you’re creating. A website is 10x better when you care about what it’s going to look like at the end. So, in short, work on projects you care about — do what you love in the most realistic way possible. Stop pursuing projects that leave your tank empty and your heart longing for something better to do. In short…
If you don’t like it, don’t do it.
6 || Cal Newport’s “Fire On One Circuit At A Time”
Firing on one task, executing on one task at a time has two parts. 1) Eliminate the shallow and focus on the deep. 2) Only do one deep task at a time.
I hate to break it to you, but you can’t be writing a feature-length film in one-sitting and writing a book proposal at the same time.
As hard as you might try, it won’t work. Even if you have two computer monitors, you still cannot be firing on two cylinders/circuits at one time. You can be going from one circuit to another very quickly and firing on the two of them, but you can only be making distinct and purposeful progress on one project at a time.
Newport’s biggest concept in his book, Deep Work, is doing the deep and making it work. It’s about finding what is most important and doing it with the utmost intensity, maximizing efficiency, and effectiveness to get more done, but also to get the more important things done.
7 || Emilie Wapnick’s “How To Be Everything”
Wapnick’s ideas on how to switch careers in a strategic, fun, and profitable way are so great that she was able to write a book on them. She is also well known for her TED Talk, “Why some of us don’t have one true calling”, and her website, PuttyLike.com.
I first fell in love with the concepts in her book when I read the title: How To Be Everything — A Guide For Those Who (Still) Don’t Know What They Want To Be When They Grow Up.
I first saw that title and subtitle when I was a sophomore in high school, and I’ve been trying to live out the principles of the book ever since. In the book, in addition to her blog, Wapnick writes about four different ways you can “be everything”. They are as follows: [She refers to these as WORK MODELS]
- The Group Hug Approach — In this approach, an entrepreneur only owns one business or holds one title as a part of a greater business/company. However, they wear many hats. Maybe they are the boss and therefore get to dip their feet in the water of every category and division of the organization. Or perhaps they hold a job title that allows them to work and/or dabble in numerous areas, such as HR, creation, marketing, managing, you get the idea.
- The Slash Approach — In this approach, a creator/entrepreneur has numerous jobs or explorative projects at once. Whether that be working part-time at a restaurant they love and spending the rest of the time as a self-publishing author, or working three different part-time jobs they love, this is all about building a portfolio of different interests with income streams coming from each one of them. These people are writers/baristas/YouTubers/managers, etc.
- The Einstein Approach — In this approach, an individual has a full-time job. For instance, they work as an engineer at a government-contracted engineering firm. But when they get home from work every day, they play music. On the weekends, they play various gigs and get to do a little bit of traveling. The music doesn’t pay the bills, but it’s the person’s interest and they enjoy not having to do it full time or having to worry about how much money it’s bringing in. [Wapnick’s title for this system is based on Albert Einstein’s tendency to have a paying job while exploring many different projects and hobbies on the side.]
- The Phoenix Approach — In this approach, an individual goes into and rises up out of various careers over the course of their life. Recently I heard a story of a woman, the wife of a famous creator, who has given herself the “rule” that she has to completely change careers every ten years. This is what someone following “The Phoenix Approach” does. They are a social media marketing director for a little while, and when that ceases to be fulfilling to them when it stops being a passion, they shift to something like filmmaking, writing, directing, tech development, etc.
Defining how you prefer to work as an entrepreneur is a powerful mindset shift for any business owner or intro-level creator.
Understanding what your preferences are in terms of how, when, and how much you work, in addition to what you’re working with, is imperative to growing not only your income and the success rate of your business ventures, but also to your happiness as a person in addition to the creator.
Since I’ve discovered this concept and re-read this book numerous times, I’ve learned that it’s okay to be a “serial entrepreneur” and someone who never knows what she’s doing next — but I’ve also discovered how to do it, what the rules are for that type of life, and how to best use my natural tendencies to make money and fulfill my constant desire for adventure, novelty, and creativity.
8 || Tim Ferriss’ Fear-setting
Tim Ferris and I are kindred spirits. That being said, not only do we create and think in similar ways, but we both experience considerable anxiety and the inability to slow down. Being an intuitive and follow-your-gut type of person, I will often get myself into things before I’ve really thought them through. This is a good thing and a bad thing, depending on the situation — but at the end of the day…
I have to realize that I don’t always know how something is going to end up. The result of that thought process is, you guessed it, anxiety — otherwise known as a FEAR.
Ferriss also experiences fear. In his TED talk on the topic, “Why you should define your fears instead of your goals”, he describes a mindset change and habit that he describes as “Fear-setting”. Based on the concept of “Goal-setting”, he describes his process as starting with finding a piece of paper and dividing it into three columns. After you’ve done that, write the following in the three columns:
- Define — Write out exactly what you’re afraid of. Get as detailed, but as simple, as you can.
- Prevent — Write out all of the ways that you can prevent this fear from coming to full fruition. If you’re afraid of forgetting your keys, put your keys in a place you’ll remember, or set a reminder on your phone to get them, etc.
- Repair/Recover — Say all of your efforts are in vain and the very thing that you’re afraid of, happens. Write out how you’ll recover from this tragic event, whether it be missing a flight, delivering an awful speech, or forgetting your keys. Remind yourself that nothing is that big of a deal and that all things can be moved on from if you allow yourself to.
This technique has saved me hours, if not days, of worrying — and has allowed me to approach and conquer my goals with much less anxiety. It’s a shift that has reminded me that it’s okay to be afraid and to be anxious, but that it’s not okay to ignore what I’m afraid of and pretend like it doesn’t exist.
9 || Shonda Rhimes’ “If You Write, You’re A Writer”
Shonda Rhimes makes me feel powerful. After watching her TED Talk, “My year of saying yes to everything,” her Masterclass commercial, and reading her book The Year of Yes, I was ready to do anything. It didn’t help that I read her book near the end of the year.
I started 2018 ready to do anything. And while I didn’t do much in those first two months, given I had the flu for a week and a half and never really mentally recovered from my failed first week of January goals, the concepts she writes and talks about have stuck with me ever since. The mindset change she writes about is one that has helped me overcome the inevitable imposter syndrome, both as a writer, a coach, a business owner, and more.
If you do something — you are something.
Recently, I had someone come up to me at the coffee shop and ask if I was a professional photographer. Given that I am not a professional photographer, I said no. However, I told him that I was growing my business and that I was interested in considering him as a client.
While that didn’t go through and I ended up not being qualified for the job in any way, that experience did allow me to start seeing myself as a photographer. Am I a photographer that’s making money? Not yet. Am I a professional photographer? Not yet.
If you do something, you deserve the title for it.
“You can’t tell anybody that you want to be a writer, or you’re trying to be a writer. If you’re writing every day, then you’re a writer. You may not be a working writer, but you are a writer. And if you’re not writing every day, and you tell me that writing is your passion and is who you are and who you want to be, you have to examine why you’re not writing every day… maybe you just like the idea.” (SR)
10 || Malcolm Gladwell’s “Open Door Mindset”
In Tim Ferris’ book Tools of Titans, Ferris shares a thought from Malcolm Gladwell, one gleaned from their podcast episode together. The thought is the following — “…As long as you understand there is not just one good answer, it takes the pressure off.”
Keeping in open door while being creative is a struggle. It will always be a struggle — but deciding that you’re going to have the “open door mindset” is a good place to start.
Don’t be afraid to do something wrong. Don’t be afraid to be vulnerable with yourself. Don’t be afraid to start to the wrong place, or go down an unconventional path. Malcolm Gladwell’s podcast, Revisionist History, has had more downloads than any of us could ever dream of — and he does it producing content that is scattered and non-linear if anything. His content covers numerous range of topics, all in different fields and trains of thought, and people love it.
Gladwell’s quote from earlier continues as follows:
“…Typically, I try out several openings. It’s made easier by the fact that I don’t start at the beginning. Once you don’t start at the beginning, your life just gets so much simpler.”(MG)
If you look at his track record, he’s published quite a few books — all of which have become bestsellers and have changed the way we look at the world, not to mention ourselves. And he does it without starting at the beginning, and without worrying about where he’ll end up at the end.
What is even more important than the habits and tips and tricks of billionaires and successful creatives, is knowing how they thing — what the thought processes are that have gotten them to where they are today. Simple mental shifts, even the smallest of adjustments in the way you’re thinking, can have transformative results in your habits, your thoughts, your emotions, and your results in the world of business and personal development.
Stay tuned for more articles featuring the morning, evening, and daily habits of leaders of the past and of the present. Also, if you’re interested, click the link below to read my new Kindle book, On Purpose: Discovering Who You Are With The Enneagram.