Some years ago, I devoured the loads of information out there on how to handle email effectively. I’m a big fan of the ‘Inbox Zero’ approach and I like Tim Ferris’s article on ’Ten Steps to Become an Email Ninja’.
What I want to share with you today is NOT a technical hack.
What I want to share with you is a different way of thinking about email that will liberate you from email.
Up until last year, although I had integrated all kinds of hacks to get my email under control, there were still a lot of emails from people – important emails – that were waiting to be replied to and hanging over my head.
One day while walking down the street in London, I had an insight that instantly reduced this by about 90%.
What I realised is that of all the emails that are waiting for replies, only a very small percentage of them (less than 10%) were from people who I had an explicit AGREEMENT with to which I would respond to their emails.
In my case, this included pretty much just my clients and my small team of two people.
The rest of the emails that were waiting for replies were from people who DESIRED or EXPECTED a response.
I realized that even my mother and my wife don’t have agreements with me that I’ll respond to their email!
I choose not live my life at the mercy of other people’s expectations or desires.
I also choose to live in integrity with the agreements I make with people.
As an experiment, I thus created two folders:
2. Expectations / Desires
I then moved ALL outstanding emails into one of these two folders.
The change in my EXPERIENCE of email was immediate.
Suddenly, I was able to first reply to ALL of the emails in folder 1 in very little time (because there were a lot less of them). After doing this, I felt COMPLETE. I had fulfilled all of my agreements.
What remained was folder 2, which was full of emails from people who expected or desired a response from me. Many of these emails I WANTED to respond to, but that was not something that needed to hang over me. I could simply do what I wanted to do whenever I felt like doing it.
Very often I will open up folder 2, not because I have to, but because I want to. When I do, I don’t ask myself ‘who must I reply to’, because that would only apply if the email was in folder 1. Instead, I scan through and I choose to reply to the emails that I WANT to reply to. And I stop doing that when I don’t want to do it anymore.
As long as folder 1 emails have been responded to, then I am living in integrity with my agreements and I am NOT living my life at the mercy of other people’s expectations or desires.
I like the idea that a vision is not a place to get TO, but a place to come FROM.
In this short clip of a coaching conversation I had with Jude, she tells me how she wants to be doing more public talks. Certainly one could explore all the different strategies to creating such an outcome. What I typically find though is that ‘strategy’ and ‘how to’ are typically NOT the thing people are missing. What people are missing is a willingness to simply DO THE THING in their vision right now. With Jude, that meant that if she wanted to be doing more public talks, the thing to do was TALK…right now.
What to talk about?
Talk about doing talks.
Speak about speaking.
This seems obvious, but most people spend their time trying to do everything BUT the thing in their vision in order to get to their vision. To come FROM a vision, fill your days with that vision – fill every day with that vision.
If you want to be a speaker, then speak every day. Speak about speaking. Do it enough and you will end up on stages speaking to more and more people.
If you want to be a massage therapist, massage people.
If you want to be a coach, coach people.
If you want to run a business, then figure out what the thing you want to do in that business is and start doing it…right now.
Watch me create this insight with Jude here:
And then ask yourself: If my vision were a place I came FROM, what would I be doing?
When a hot piece of iron singes through the fur of a cow’s hide and then hisses as it boils off the moisture in its flesh, it leaves a permanent scar.
Putting aside for a moment the barbarism of it, the fact that the scar is permanent is OK. A cow doesn’t change. A cow is a cow until it becomes a steak or a jacket.
However, for a person, the moment a ‘personal brand’ is applied, it becomes a lie. This is because people are constantly evolving.
I am NOT suggesting that we don’t speak out about who we are and what we do.
What I am saying is that the idea of a brand carries with it an essence of static-ness. This essence is what causes conflict for many people when trying to figure out their ‘personal brand’.
People aren’t permanent and deep down we know it.
To make it easier, and to stay in integrity, what we ‘speak out’ about who we are and what we do should be free to always evolve.
Also interesting is that many people (unconsciously) reference their past when speaking out about who they are and what they do. Not only are they singeing hot iron into their own flesh, but they are doing so with the mark of who they were instead of who they are becoming.
Forget branding yourself.
Speak out about who and what you are becoming and do that differently every day.
What if instead of speaking out with the story of your remembered past, you spoke out with the story of your created future?
And if you allowed that story to evolve every day, what would that story be today?
Maybe a relationship partner, a passion or purpose, a business idea, a job?
Whenever someone tells me they are trying to ‘find’ something, I immediately see how and why the thing they want is evading them.
Trying to ‘find’ something is a very passive approach. It amounts to looking around, watching and maybe even listening too. You may in fact be all ears and all eyes in your ‘search’, but if so, you are still leaving out half of what you can do.
Listening and watching is all about input. If you are ‘searching’, then you’re probably forgetting the output.
By output, I mean the things you can do to impact and shake up the world. Your output oriented actions can change the environment you are looking and listening in.
People do this mildly in their search, but mostly they are just poking their heads around corners and peeking inside cupboards.
Instead of ‘searching’, ‘seeking’ or ‘finding’, I prefer the idea of ‘creating’ stuff in life.
When playing hide-and-go-seek with my nephew, I will NOT be a ‘creator’. I will be a ‘seeker’, because it takes me much longer to find him and this is fun for him. I’ll just walk around, allowing my eyes to glance in different directions.
When playing hide-and-go-seek with a particular person or opportunity, I WILL be a ‘creator’. I’ll talk often about what I am looking for. I’ll tell everyone. I ask questions. I’ll create things that might attract that person or opportunity. I’ll shake up the world like I’m shaking an apple tree and let that person or opportunity fall out and hit me on the head.
Creating is much more active than seeking.
What is it that you are currently trying to find?
What could you do differently if you transcended ‘seeking’ and began CREATING instead?
My father was a policeman. Once he went to a house where the owner hadn’t been heard from for days. He had to break in to check on him. Sadly he found the man passed away on the bathroom floor. He had given himself a heart attack from pushing too hard on the toilet.
Dad told me about this when in my youth I had gotten a haemorrhoid and didn’t know what caused it.
“Don’t push so hard. Be patient. It will come eventually,” I remember him saying.
His story certainly got me to relax in the loo. The burning pain of the haemorrhoid together with the imagined image of me dying on the toilet did the trick. I haven’t had a blowout since.
As a bonus, this insight from my Dad’s story seeped into other areas of my life as well.
Whenever I find myself pushing hard at anything – an unconscious tendency that I still have – I’m reminded to be careful and weigh the risk.
Success isn’t always worth pushing hard for.
Even more importantly, just like on the toilet, success can often be effortless when we relax and have some patience.
Don’t get me wrong – I get that there are times to push hard. For example, there are few greater blisses than collapsing in nauseated dizziness after an intense physical workout.
At the same time, when in my work and relationships I push hard to get something to happen, it usually becomes more difficult. Sometimes I’ll even blow a gasket and end up with a bigger problem than I started with!
It is in those instances of work and life, where noticing my over-zealousness, I suddenly picture myself laying dead on the bathroom floor and I ease off and just let things be.
I get patient. And I wait.
When I do this, the thing eventually happens all on its own.
What are you pushing too hard for?
What’s the risk of pushing so hard?
Is it worth it?
How could easing off actually help it to be more likely to happen?
For me…the only thing worse than being disciplined by other people is being disciplined by myself.
To achieve things in life, instead of using ‘self-discipline’, my focus is on removing the obstacles between myself and the things that I would love to create. These obstacles are sometimes things outside, but usually though they are my own thoughts.
What if I fail? What if I don’t have time to also do X? What if people don’t like me? What if my wife gets upset?
When I clear these obstructive thoughts out of the way, creating becomes effortless.
What is it that you would like to create?
How are you stopping that from happening?
If you do not know the answer to the first question, ask yourself every day until you do.
If you know the answer to the first but not the second question, then email me. Talk to me and I will show you how you are stopping yourself.
Once you know the answers to both these questions, you can then remove the obstacles and get on with creating.
One of the ways I’ve learned to create success in business is by actively helping people – to provide some product or service – before they ever pay anything or become a client/customer.
In countless industries, both in my own businesses and those of my clients, I’ve seen the willingness to ‘go first’ in giving be a beautifully effective strategy for creating clients, customers and prosperity.
The catch-22 to overcome however can be summed up like this: ‘How do I come from a place of pure giving, when really I know it is a strategy for getting business?’
Until recently, my answer has been to take it moment by moment and day by day. It was to ask yourself, “Am I willing, at least for this moment/today, to ONLY give?”
This works in that it snaps you out of the transactional reality and absolves you almost fully into the reality of giving.
Dependably though, this reality soon melts away and you return to a transactional way of being; I give to you so that you will give to me.
Recently I spent a day with a man who lives service more deeply than only one other man I’ve ever met before. The man’s name is Steve Hardison and he is a ‘coach’ in Phoenix, Arizona. (Calling him a coach is a bit of a misnomer, but that’s another story.)
I won’t go into all the details of how I experienced this now, but what I got from this man – someone with a client waiting list years long and whose clients pay him upwards of $1,000,000 to work with him – is that service is not his ‘strategy’ for creating clients.
Service is not his tactic. Service is not what he does BECAUSE he wants clients. Service is not what he does SO THAT people will become clients.
Service is simply what he does. Full stop.
In fact – service is WHO HE IS.
By being service, he DOES serve people. And by being this way, clients DO happen.
However, these two occurrences are as separate as the sky and the ocean.
This distinction of ‘Service as Strategy’ vs ‘Service as Being’is important because it changes the inner story that has attachment to an outcome keep sneaking back in.
When you move from ‘Service as Strategy’ to ‘Service as Being’, you automatically stop keeping score.
A weight rises from your shoulders and no longer must you qualify, filter or concern yourself with the likeliness that something will come back to you.
When you simply BE SERVICE, life works itself out.
I got this during my hot yoga class, standing in a warrior position and staring out the window. Sweat dripping down my face, breathing in and out, I watched the tree outside just sit there. The oxygen I sucked into my lungs came from that tree. It didn’t ask me to give it carbon dioxide first. It just gave me oxygen. Not because it was transacting oxygen for carbon dioxide, but because creating and giving oxygen is just what it does. It just serves.
My new story is to be like Steve and to be like the tree outside my yoga class.
I am Service.
Are you with me?
How are you using service as a strategy to create business?
How would what you are doing change if service instead became something you ARE?
In Richard Branson’s autobiography “Losing my Virginity” I noticed a few times how he uses the word “decided” in places many people usually wouldn’t. Like in this passage…
This particular passage exemplifies the kind of worldview that leaders like Branson hold. At this meeting, he didn’t ‘realise’ they were right, nor did he ‘understand’ they were right…he ‘decided’ that they were right. This may seem like a subtle difference, but it’s not.
Think of the power contained in the ability to ‘decide’ for yourself and your business when something is right or wrong. A decision does not necessarily make something true, but it certainly makes something happen.
If you want to make things happen, then instead of waiting to ‘know’ what to do, simply decide.