Post Status

10 years ago, my wife and I, along with our year old son, pulled up to a building just outside of Oklahoma City. My new friend, Cory Miller, had invited us to stop by the iThemes office.

As an entrepreneur falling in love with WordPress, I was impressed with what Cory and his team built together. BackupBuddy had become an essential part of my developer workflow and it kept getting better.

What impressed me more, though, was Cory as a person. From our first meeting, and through each interaction in the years that followed, Cory was the same – genuine, other-centered, giving. He shared insight and perspective freely, and stayed approachable.

When I left Automattic earlier this year, Andrea Middleton encouraged me to reconnect with Cory and explore opportunities together.

Cory is awesome. I love what he’s built over the years. I love the consistent value he delivers and his approach to working in collaboration. As we started talking, our aligned experiences and shared philosophies coalesced.

Cory shared his vision for Post Status. I loved it and I wanted in.

And now we’re working together! I’ve joined the team at Post Status, where I’ll be working on partnerships.

We’re also starting a consulting practice together, focused on helping WordPress businesses grow.

As Cory says, “Summiting isn’t a solo act. Great summits take a team.”

I’m excited to join the Post Status team and look forward to the magic we’ll make, together.

Not a member yet? Join us today!

Environment Design

In my reading of Willpower Doesn’t Work, the concept of “environment design” stood out especially and prompted me to take a fresh look at my work / life environments.

Environment design, for me, starts with the end in mind. What am I trying to accomplish? Where am I trying to go? What do I value?

Personal Values

In my recent reflections on the next few years of life, a few areas of personal value stand out:

  • Personal Growth – Continuing to get better, every day.
  • Creating Value – Creating exponential returns for the folks I serve.
  • Inspiring Options – Having choice and variety in what I do and how I do it. Choices that are motivating and interesting.

With those values in mind, I then set out to design an environment that aligns with and supports those values.

Environment design, in my experience so far, includes three key areas of focus:

  1. Physical Space – Where I work and live.
  2. Mindset – How I think, daily habits, and mental fitness.
  3. Relationships – Who I spend time with.

Physical Space

I’ve developed the ability to work (or even sleep) just about anywhere. I can tune out distractions and focus in. Sometimes I’ll listen to ocean waves to facilitate a sharper focus.

I noticed, though, that my office had recently gotten a bit crazy. Papers all over. Larger than normal piles of unread books. Stuff piled up on my desk.

And while I can focus on through it, there is a cost. Reading Willpower Doesn’t Work prompted a fresh look and I gave my office a good cleaning.

As I evaluate and improve my physical spaces, I keep two key ideas in mind:

  • Relative Cleanliness – Items in my space have a purpose, even if its sentimental, and are where they’re supposed to be – at least on on a fairly regular basis. The end result is a relatively clean space. Minimal clutter and I know where things are.
  • Mode Support – What do I use the space to do and do the items within the space support what I’m doing? I keep my top 5 books on a table by my reading chair with paper and a pen handy to jot down notes and ideas. I keep 3 other books by my bedside, for easy access in the morning. If items are no longer relevant, time to move out and keep the space focused on the mode it’s intended for.

Mindset

I find what’s going on in my head to be a key part of achieving what I want to achieve. Carol Dweck introduced the concept of a growth mindset and it’s stuck with me.

The way I think and process my surroundings contributes to the mental environment I occupy as I go about life.

I encourage a growth mindset in my mental environment through two areas of practice:

  • Tiny Habits – Today is day 1405 in a row in my experiment with tiny habits. I use a collection of daily habits (around 20 at the moment) to create tiny amounts of momentum in areas aligned with my personal values. I find that these contribute significantly to cultivating a growth mindset.
  • Positive Intelligence – Shirzard’s work on Positive Intelligence has inspired me to focus on mental fitness. When I find emotions taking over unhelpfully I’ve been learning to strengthen self-command muscles and switch to a positive focus, practicing empathy instead of judgment, curiosity instead of avoidance.

Relationships

We tend to reflect the people we spend the most time with. If I value personal growth, if I want to deliver exponential value to the folks I serve, and if I want to have more and more options available that inspire and motivate me, then I need to seek out and invest in relationships aligned with what I value.

My focus here is on proactive investment. Reaching out and staying connected to folks who share similar values.

If you’re wanting to grow, if you’re focused on creating value, then a relationship with you offers another point of inspiration and more options of things to learn and experiences to share. Reach out, I’d love to connect with you.

Conclusion

Environment design is an ongoing process. I’m happy with my designs today and looking forward to experimenting and improving them tomorrow. I’ll keep what sticks, folding it into my daily habits, and move out what doesn’t. And along the way I’ll keep investing in relationships to learn more, to gather different insights and perspectives, to enjoy the best of what life offers.

What have you learned about environment design in your own experience? What works for you to align your environment with your values?

Seeking Discomfort

I felt sick to my stomach. I’d been thinking about it throughout the weekend and now I had an hour to go. I was about as ready as I could be, with my head full of questions about what to expect and how it would go. I thought about backing out, they’d understand.

Then I reminded myself, “You want this.” And I remembered a time I did back out a few years ago. Not this time. I chose to accept the discomfort.

An hour later, there I was. I pulled up to the Liberty Lake Theater and went inside. I still had no idea what to expect. A gentleman was singing the end of his piece and my escort guided me to a seat in the audience. He finished and we clapped.

“Who’s next?” I was fairly certain it was me and I made a noise of sorts. They called me up. The woman at the piano asked me if I had the music on my iPhone. I let her know I planned to sing a cappella.

I stood on the stage looking down at the table in front of me. The director sat in the middle, with her associate on one side. A gentleman on the other side stood up and took my picture.

Reality sank in. This was only my second audition (the first being with a friend in their home for an Easter drama) and the talking points I’d prepared giving background and explaining why I was doing this lost their relevance.

“You want me to go?” I asked. The director nodded. “What are you going to sing?”

“Celine Dion’s, My Heart Will Go On.” She nodded again and motioned for me to start.

I stalled for a few more seconds. I had mentally prepared for a cold open, I just thought I’d have a chance to talk first.

A few weeks earlier, I’d noticed the theater while out driving. I stopped in, curious. I looked at their website and noticed they had auditions for Into the Woods coming up soon. I remember looking at the audition form. The description said all were welcome. I’ve had an interest in acting for awhile. I had concluded that theater was probably the place to start and this seemed like a great opportunity. Why not? I filled out the form and added the auditions and the rehearsals and performances to my calendar.

I’ve learned that growth happens through discomfort, through investing time outside of my comfort zones. I’ve seen that proven over and over in my life. I’ve anchored that belief through my daily cold showers practice and I’ve learned to embrace the discomfort through practicing Positive Intelligence.

I still felt the nervousness, though, the butterflies that come from stepping into the discomfort of the unknown.

And I chose to do it again.

My inspiration for singing My Heart Will Go On was a video on TikTok my wife had sent my way. I don’t sound like that. I gave it my best, though. I decided that I would demonstrate my willingness to do hard things, to take a risk, and to be uncomfortable.

I finished, they thanked me, and a few minutes later I was back in my car heading home.

I was at peace. Inspired by my recent readings of Seth Godin’s The Practice, I reminded myself of my commitment to the process and not the outcome. I had done my best and I was OK with whatever happened next.

An hour later, they called me back and asked if I’d come in to sing for a specific part later in the week. I said yes and am heading over in a few hours.

I’m excited about this specific opportunity and will give it my best. More, though, I’m encouraged in my commitment to continue to seek discomfort, to stretch outside of what I know, and to commit to the process of doing so, for the sake of personal growth, regardless of the outcome.

High Performance Habits

I just finished a multi-year read-through of High Performance Habits by Brendon Burchard. It’s an excellent book and focuses on the concept of achieving high performance through the consistent practice of six key habits.

The Six Habits

The first habit is to seek clarity. The heart of the idea is to be clear on where you’re going and why you’re going there. Brendon advises that you gain clarity by asking yourself questions in four key categories:

  1. Self – Who do you want to be?
  2. Social – How do you want to interact with others?
  3. Skills – What skills do you need to develop to win in the future?
  4. Service – How do you want to make a difference?

This works beautifully with the practices I’ve picked up from Dan Sullivan’s Strategic Coach, including the R Factor Question and my own variation of the Impact Filter.

The second habit is to generate energy. The idea here is to make sure you’ve got what you need to get to where you want to go. This has inspired me to invest more in my health, both physical and mental.

On the physical side, Brendon advises that you focus on sleep, exercise, and nutrition as you work to optimize health. I’m in early stages here, practicing a tiny habit of cultivating awareness of what I eat by taking pictures. I also recently started going to the gym once a week. Baby steps.

On the mental side, the focus on generating energy aligns beautifully with what I’ve been learning from Positive Intelligence and developing mental fitness. If you’re not familiar with Shirzard’s work I highly recommend it, starting with the Saboteur Assessment.

The third habit is to raise necessity. For much of my life, I’ve been successfully motivated by a sense of urgency to achieve in order to work through obstacles, particularly financial. My circumstances have improved and revisiting this has given me the opportunity to re-assess what motivates me. Where do I draw the sense of necessity from?

Brendon advises that you cultivate a sense of necessity that drives performance by asking “who needs me on my A game the most, right now?” That aligns beautifully with what I learned reading The Go-Giver and letting service and impact for others influence your motivation.

Another aspect of raising necessity what Brendon describes as leveling up your squad. The idea here is that we become like those that we spend time around. Positive emotions and decisions are contagious and Brendon encourages you seek out the best people to work with for the projects you have coming up. This aligns with what I’ve been learning from Willpower Doesn’t Work and the idea of creating an environment, which includes the people you spend time with, aligned with who you want to be.

The fourth habit is to increase productivity. The heart of the idea here is to figure out what output you can create that most contributes to the likelihood of your success, whatever you’re trying to do.

Brendon goes on to introduce what he calls PQO, or Prolific Quality Output and shares that high performers have high PQO. The idea is that most of your time should be focused on PQO.

A few years back, I listened to an interview Tim conducted with Jim Collins. Jim introduced the concept of a daily tracker, which I adopted. In my tracker, I record hours slept, my own confidence in how the day went, etc., and, now, the number of PQOs for the day.

Brendon also introduces the concept of identifying your “Five Big Moves.” If there were only five major moves you could make to accomplish a given objective, what would those be? I’ve found this a helpful way of breaking down initiatives, both short-term and long term, and have adapted this into how I approach 3 year and 1 year planning.

The fifth habit is to develop influence. The idea here is that influence is a key ingredient to high performance and, accordingly, influence is something you want to strengthen and grow.

Brendon advises you strengthen influence by focusing on teaching those you serve “how to think” and then challenging those you interact with to ask questions and grow. These practices combined are designed to increase your influence.

The sixth habit is to demonstrate courage. My takeaway here is that the best things in life often require you to invest time outside of your comfort zone and that doing that well, with your whole heart, requires vulnerability, which requires courage.

Brendon advises us to view struggle, the obstacles in our way, as a necessary, important, and even positive part of your journey. This aligns with the message from Ryan Holiday’s The Obstacle is the Way, which I found to be an encouraging reminder to embrace what comes at you, accept it as it is, and focus on how you choose to react.

Conclusion

I listened to High Performance Habits on Audible and found it to be inspiring and empowering. I started it over a year ago and as I finished it today it was great to see the habits and practices I started in my first read through still integrated into my personal operating system.

A thread that stood out as I finished the book today was the role that confidence plays in high performance. In my own experience, I’ve found confidence to a consistent key to my best outputs and the positive outcomes that often attend.

Brendon suggests that increasing confidence starts with intention, then builds through consistent action over time. I like that and it aligns with thoughts I’ve been cultivating about how to teach confidence. More on that another time.

Reading Collections

On a small white table beside my favorite reading chair I have five books. (Previously, I had thirty or so books there and decided that was too much). It was hard to pick those five! And it was easy.

Hard because I have over a hundred unread books to choose from in my office. Easy because I go through and ask myself, “What’s most interesting right now? What’s most relevant?”

Here are the five I have today:

  • The Practice, by Seth Godin
  • Willpower Doesn’t Work, by Benjamin Hardy
  • The Self-Managing Company, by Dan Sullivan
  • How To Get A Meeting With Anyone, by Stu Heinecke
  • The ABC Model Breakthrough, by Dan Sullivan

I read them throughout the week, a chapter or two in one, then putting the book down to take action and apply what I’ve read.

I focus on the idea of clearing them, rather than finishing. I used to think I had to read every little word in a book for it to “count”.

If I like the book and it’s staying consistently useful, I’ll read all of it. If not, I’ll scan my way through sections that seem less relevant.

This works well for me and I tend to find beautiful, unexpected complements from one book to the next that strengthen a concept I’m learning or contrasting ideas that sit in tension and help me find new questions to ask, new ideas to consider.

How do you approach reading? What works for you?