What are some uncommon ways to work smarter instead of harder?

Originally posted on Quora, answering the question: What are some uncommon ways to work smarter instead of harder. Follow me on Quora.

I’m a CEO and founder and a productivity and work smarter geek. I subscribe to feeds, search articles and read about every hack out there. I’ll share with you my one silver bullet work smarter hack.

Starting, running and growing a business is enormously stressful work. Stress is negative feedback loop. The more you get stressed out, the less well you perform, the less efficient you become, the more stressed you become, the less well you sleep, etc.

After starting my business, I found myself in this vicious cycle. Every day I woke to a pit in my stomach and anxiety throughout the day. It’s an awful and at times paralyzing feeling. I was busy all day long with no time to think. This compounds itself when you’re running a company because it can lead to leaving your head buried in the sand instead of thinking, working and seeing strategically. I vowed this year to change these habits and take the steps to ease that pit in my stomach and my anxiety.

This is the result of years of confusing being busy with being productive.

A couple months ago, I heard Tim Ferriss’ podcast with Arnold Schwarzenegger where he talked about suffering from anxiety when he was younger. He resolved this by meditating every day for a year. Tim Ferriss Interviews Arnold Schwarzenegger on Psychological Warfare (And Much More)

I was stuck by two things. First, other successful people have these issues and suffer from this! And by other people, one has been the former Mr. Universe! And second, it’s fixable.

So I started meditating. Every day. I bought a year calendar, and I check a box off every day that I meditate. I’m up to over 60 consecutive days. Already, I’ve felt big differences. That pit in my stomach is no longer there. Most of my anxiety is gone. I’m much clearer minded, focused and productive at work. Instead of working in a fury, jumping from task to task and swimming in email all day, I’m much better able to single task which leads to much greater productivity.

It started out as a chore. And there often days I struggled to sit down to do it. Now, I look forward to it. To the peace and state of mind it brings, and to the huge beneficial affects it has in my day to day life.

What would people advise a (hypothetical) 22-year-old college graduate to do with his or her life?

Originally posted on Quora, answering the question: What would people advise a (hypothetical) 22-year-old college graduate to do with his or her life. Follow me on Quora.

  1. Read. Ferociously. Everything you can get your hands. Join a book club. Imbibe books about personal development, communication, achievement, biographies, leadership, success, marketing, sales, business, entrepreneurship. You’ll do many things you may regret, but you will never ever regret spending time reading. Good sources of reading lists are Quora, blogs (Google 10 best books for …), Amazon (look for recommendations in categories, popular books with high ratings).
  2. Accept uncertainty. This comes from The Seven Spiritual Laws of Success: A Practical Guide to the Fulfillment of Your Dreams: Deepak Chopra, a must read for getting started out. There’s uncertainty to everything, the sooner you can embrace that the sooner you’ll be able to leverage it. “You must give up the life you have planned in order to have the life that is waiting for you.” – Joseph Campbell
  3. Agree. With everything and everyone. Stop arguing, stop trying to control every scenario, stop trying to prove yourself right. You’ll never change anyone’s opinion through argument, and no one will remember if you’re right. Seek consensus. Groups, teams, life move much better when harmonized than with discord.
  4. Be curious. There’s a vast, fantastic world out there. Foster your curiosity, and it will lead you to amazing places.
  5. Be open minded. Your opinions will change drastically on many, many things. The opinions you hold with absolute conviction may be very different in a few years. Don’t let those opinions get in the way of meeting people and experiencing things.
  6. Learn from adversity. You’ll experience challenges and adversity you can’t imagine right now. You’ll have a choice when you have these experiences, either see it as an obstacle or focus on what you can learn and how you can grow from the experience. It won’t be easy, but choose the later relentlessly, and you’ll grow in ways you can never imagine.
  7. Foster the growth mindset. Watch this:
  1. Get out of your comfort zone. It sounds cliche, but it’s true. If you stay within your limits, you’ll never know what your capable of.
  2. Don’t hold onto the wrong things. Grudges, anger, opinions. Let them go, quickly.
  3. Travel. Get out and explore. Another thing you will never ever regret. Go to places you’d never think you’d go. Max out your vacation time every year. Take a few weeks off between jobs and travel. Save up for a year and take a few months off.
  4. Don’t wait for the right time or the right thing to say. For anything. Most of the time you wait for the right time, you’ll be too late. Those who win in the world are the ones who speak up and take immediate action. You might say a few things you later regret, but you’ll regret more not saying anything.
  5. Don’t look for the perfect scenarios, partner, job. Everyone sees success and wonders how Jobs and Wozniak found each other, the perfect partners. Well, it wasn’t the one in a billion odds they found each other, they made each other the perfect partners, pushed each other’s knowledge and expertise and built Apple on their collective knowledge and energy. The vision of your career might include a high profile company or opportunity (e.g. work at Google, live in San Francisco), don’t get hung up on these. Focus on the motivation behind that scenario rather than that goal.
  6. Provide value in the world. Money and success are common goals but so many people often don’t achieve these in spite of their being a nearly universal goal. Money and success are important, but focus on creating value in the world first. The biggest disrupters didn’t do it because it would lead to money or fame. They did it because they wanted to change things. They saw a different future and created that. Look at Facebook. Mark Zuckerberg built a tool for Harvard students originally. It now has over 1.4 billion users! Wake up and think about what you can do to create value in the world to your friends and family, your company, your coworkers, your country.

Interpersonal Interaction: What is the quickest way to get people to trust you?

Originally posted on Quora, answering the question: Interpersonal Interaction: What is the quickest way to get people to trust you. Follow me on Quora.

I sell for a living.

A better way to describe that is to say: I get people to trust me for a living.

Regardless of what industry, sales is about approaching complete strangers and shortly after meeting them, ask them for money. There may be not better test of whether people trust you. Sales skills are people skills.

After over 10 years of sales, I had an experience that I never dreamed of could happen when I started working in sales.

I started a routine sales call with a potential client (whom I reached out to with a cold email just the week before). He was head of marketing at a hot consumer start up.

After the routine pleasantries, he announced that he talked to dozens of marketing companies, and they had passed on them since the internal marketing team were doing a great job growing the brand . He said he didn’t really think that we had much unique to offer and that it was pretty unlikely they try us out, but he’d give us a few minutes of time. It’s not uncommon for sales calls to start out with a healthy degree of skepticism, but what happened next is uncommon.

I agreed with him. I told him that I read about his brand in the press and that whatever they were doing was working very well because they’d just been covered by a major news outlet. Then I asked him how in a crowded and competitive space and against huge established competitors, they were able to so well distinguish themselves.

He talked for the next 40 minutes. I asked him a couple questions here and there, but he did 99% of the talking.

He said he didn’t need to see a proposal and asked for us to send over the contract. Authorizing a contract without even seeing a proposal has never happened before.

I had spoken for in total less than 1-2 minutes.

How did this happen?

Sales is often misunderstood. It often doesn’t have a great reputation and is rarely a sought after career. People often believe sales people are fast talkers, that they talk people into deals and  that they are untrustworthy. In fact, it’s just the opposite. Any entrepreneur knows that selling is one the most critical skills to success, and many of the best entrepreneurs are exceptional sales people. Great sales people are exceptional listeners and have a high degree of integrity and trustworthiness.

Sales is predicated on getting people to trust you, quickly. How else would they give you their money? What works in sales translates to life as well.

It starts with great questions. In a 30 minute call the client does almost all of the talking. That’s the best type of sales call. I just guide them by asking insightful questions, and listening intently. By asking insightful questions, you can steer the conversation, identifying the clients needs and then eventually showing them how what you offer is a fit for their needs.

More importantly though when people feel listened to, they feel understood and validated. When they feel understood and validated, they like you. When they like you,they trust you. And when they trust you, they’re willing to do a deal.

When you meet anyone they are subconsciously evaluating you for your trustworthiness. I don’t know the exact psychology of it, but I would suggest that it’s the primary criteria people are assessing (mostly subconsciously).  When they walk away after meeting someone new and say “I liked them,” they’re really saying “that person seemed trustworthy.”

With lessons from sales, here’s how to  get people to trust you quickly:

  1. Greet them warmly – greet people as if you were greeting an old friend you hadn’t seen in a while. Smile deeply. A great smile is remembered. When you smile deeply, you positively affect your mood and physiology and you exude warmth. A colleague told me at his first job doing sales for a brokerage, he’d have to do a minimum of 200 cold calls a day. His boss put a mirror on everyone’s desk. They were supposed to look in the mirror before the call and smile. Before every sales call, I take a quick break, breath deeply and then smile.
  2. Talk slowly – being a fast talker has negative connotations. In fact you don’t have to communicate much at all, so say it slowly.  People respond better to someone who talks slowly and deliberately. Be conscious of this because many people who are nervous and in new situations tend to talk faster and people subconsciously react to this. Exude calmness and be measure in your speech. Don’t talk or feel rushed.
  3. Validate yourself – people are looking for external validation. Mentally, they’re looking to check a box that they can make some sort of affiliation with you, however distant. It’s why people play the name game (I believe this has evolutionary roots harkening back to when humanity was a series of disparate tribes and when encountering someone new or strange, they needed to validate who the stranger was and whether they were trustworthy). Before sales calls, I research on LinkedIn and social networks to find any sort of commonality, shared interests and common connection. I bring this up early in the conversation. For example, “I see you went to school in …,” “you also know …,” etc. It’s usually a quick confirmation. “Yes, Tom’s a great guy, I went to school with him. How do you know him?” But it goes a long ways in terms of building trust.
  4. Listen intently – listen as if they were the only person in the room and make them feel that way. Look them in the eyes. Show them that you’re listening by focusing on what they’re saying. Sounds intuitive, but you’d be shocked how many people drift off, check their phone, let their eyes wander, etc. There’s no quicker way to show disinterest in someone. Don’t interrupt them or finish their sentences. When they finish saying something, wait a second before responding. This gives the perception you’ve really listened, and you’re taking it in.
  5. Ask great questions – most greetings start out with typical small talk, “How’s your day?,” “Where are you from?” There’s nothing wrong with these, but take them a step further and ask questions like “What was it like growing up there?,” “Tell me about what you do,” instead of “What do you do?” When you ask a question, act as if they’re about to tell you an incredible story. You’ll probably need to fake this at first, but as you do it more and ask better questions, you’ll start finding more interesting aspects of people and it will start becoming a self fulfilling prophecy. Great questions, lead to great answers. My old boss used to tell me how he would meet the most interesting people on airplanes, which was the complete opposite of my experience of flying. I eventually realized that this happened because he’d talk to them and get them to share the most interesting parts of their lives, not because he happened to always sit next to interesting people. Everyone has an amazing story to share, find that story.
  6. Validate them – this most often comes in the form of agreeing with them. With the example sales call, the potential client started out declaring that it wasn’t likely he was going to need our services because they were doing such a great job on their own. The first thing I did was to say that I’d heard about them through an article in a top publication so they must be doing a great job. I could have instead launched into my sales pitch and tried to argue for why they needed us. That’s what everyone else typically does. However, he was geared to tell us why he didn’t need us, and instead I agree with him. If I’d tried to pitch ourselves, I would have been disagreeing with him and when people sense disagreement they put up barriers, reinforce their reasoning and create distance – all really bad things to happen in sales calls. In improv, this principal is called “Yes, and…” It’s how you build on a story and create spontaneity and consensus. In a conversation, similar phrases are “that’s incredible, I love that. Tell me more…” In sales, this is part of the process, but really one of the most important aspects. You can’t just skip all this and ask people for their money. The worst sales calls come from sales people just jumping into their pitch, telling you why you should buy their product and then trying to “close” you on a deal. Trust is never established or built.

Think of the times you’ve met someone new and walked away with a good impression. Look back on the encounter and think of what made you feel that way. Chances are what you really felt was validated and listened to.

I am in my late 20s and feel I have wasted a lot of time. Is it too late for me to achieve something worthwhile?

Originally posted on Quora, answering the question: I am in my late 20s and feel I have wasted a lot of time. Is it too late for me to achieve something worthwhile. Follow me on Quora.

I was 26 when I graduated college.

I postponed medical school for a few years and ended up in sales in Biotech instead.

I got fired in 2007 when I was 33, and decided to take some time off to start a business.

Then 2008 hit. I was 34 years old, broke, $250K in debt, had been without a job for over a year, and had to borrow money to pay rent. Creditors called me all day long. I had to stop answering my phone.

I couldn’t go back to my old industry because LA, where I had moved to, didn’t have much in Biotech. I had pretty much zero experience in my new industry (online media and Internet), but I persisted, networked and applied to every job I saw. I can’t count the number of jobs I applied for. I had to liquidate anything of value to pay the rent (camera, stereo, etc). Eventually, at the absolute end of finances, I landed a job in online media. I had been without a job for over a year during the worst recession since the great depression.

Fast forward five years. I started and now run one of the leading businesses in my industry. I started the company with $100 after nearly being fired from my last job (I quit before they could fire me). My company has twelve employees, and we’re continuing to grow.

Follow your interests and don’t compare yourself to others or create expectations of where you’re supposed to be. Drop any comparisons altogether. Cultivate a practice of gratitude. Practicing gratitude will help you appreciate what you have, not what you don’t have or haven’t achieved.

Realize you’re young, and it’s not a race. Focus on growth and learning and providing value to the world. You will always be rewarded and paid for providing value. When you provide enough value, you have a business.