On Being Busy

One of the things that constantly amazes me is how busy people are. From fellow students at University to people who “work normal jobs”, small business owners and businessmen, everyone seems to be not only always too busy, but also take great pride in it. We have managed to create a society where being busy is one of the highest traits and even become a measure of success in itself.

I am not going to lie, I like being busy myself, but I also very much like to get “free time” to spend on doing things I like, relaxing (recharging is one of the biggest keys to success) and hanging out with friends.

Most people I meet aren’t that busy, they just think they are (there are as always exceptions to the rule). Even with running a successful business, studying full time economics on the side as a hobby, I still manage to find (a lot of) time to read, watch TV and hang out with friends. Don’t get me wrong, I am absolutely not trying to be patronizing to anyone here, or even saying that you need to be doing tons of things in order to be able to call yourself busy. I am merely observing the differences in a broad spectrum of professional roles. Compared to many what I do wouldn’t classify as busy by a long stretch.

The conclusion that I draw is that we are practically as busy as we consider ourselves being. In some remarkable way, our mental state of “I am busy I don’t have time for anything” turns into a self fulfilling prophecy where we instead end up so busy that we instead start to regret it—without actually doing more or less things! This regardless of how “busy” we really are.

I invite you to try and do what I did. Take a look at a few of your typical weeks and look at what you do. If you are really serious even time your activities (I never seem to be able to do this on non-client tasks). Do this critically and see how you spend your time and see if you really are as busy as you think you are or if you still can’t find that time to watch TV, read a book or hang out with friends that you in your stressed mind think you don’t have time for.

Afterwards, you’ll then be able to, hopefully, enjoy all the other good parts of life a little more.

Business / Productivity

On Doing Things that Motivate You

When I wrote a while back about clearing your mind and just focusing, finding things that inspire you so that you are able to work, I got a great comment from Anna who simply said: “You forgot the passion.”

Of course she was absolutely right. One of the biggest motivational factors for working hard and doing a lot of things is indeed your passion—doing things that you love.

You can theoretically go into any business but if you want to be truly successful, you need to be working on things that you truly care about. I am not alone in speaking about this. In the recent start-up course held by Y-Combinator, one of the first things they note is that you can really only be successful in a field that you are passionate about.

Of course this is not necessarily a secret. If your heart is in what you do, you will never mind the long hours, the painfully weary downs, chasing after business because deep down you fundamentally believe in what you do and know that what you are doing is going to turn out great and that it is truly useful.

Don’t underestimate your passions. They will, and should be, one of your primary motivators.

Productivity

On just giving things a go…what’s the worst that can happen?

Today I want to talk about something scary. At least, something that I find scary and I know that I am not alone. I want to talk about getting out of your comfort zone and just giving something a try.

Let me tell you a recent story. A few weeks back I sat and thought about places that I would like to speak at, and places that would benefit from having me speak there. I’m currently down in Frankfurt taking Economics classes at the Goethe-Universität and knew that they have a course in Entrepreneurship (which I am, by the way, not taking). Perfect. Lecturing at a University has long been a dream of mine.

Here I could have done any number of things, but I chose to look the professor up and write him an email, presenting myself, who I am and what I do and offered a guest lecture on any of my topics. I thought: What’s the worst that can happen?

What happened? Within five minutes I had a reply from the professor, asking for an appointment later that week, and later that week I had the lecture confirmed. Why did this happen? Because I took a gamble and asked.

Now, let me tell you, it isn’t always this simple and straight forward. I am however constantly surprised at how often it in fact is this simple. A quick, honest email or call to someone and you’ll find yourself getting what you wanted because it benefitted everyone. Instead of thinking about this person as unreachable—I have it a shot and this time succeeded.

The lesson to be learned here is the importance of just giving things a go. You never know what could happen. There is a 50% chance of succeeding if you try, but a 100% sure probability of failure if you don’t. Which gamble would you rather take?

Business

On Handling Failure

Another thing that successful people do constantly is accepting and embracing failures with a positive attitude. See, you can learn from a failure and as long as it isn’t fatal, you’re now better of thanks to it.

I know this to be true. I could count the number of times where this mindset would have made a great, positive difference for me. Yet, it doesn’t come easy to me. I wish it did. But I don’t think that I am alone in this.

For me personally, this has very deep roots. While something I don’t hide, it is also something I don’t talk about a lot: Being the victim of constant bullying from first through ninth grade. Age old story: You can’t be smart if you are in school… It would be naïve to believe that you just shrug this off lightly.

In essence this made me afraid of publicly admitting failure. Psychologically, very logically. As a businessman and public figure, who also happen to be a public speaker, this isn’t the most ideal quality. What’s good is however that you can work to improve it.

Would I say that I handle failure better now than I did before? Absolutely. Would I say that I handle it graciously? Not a chance. There is still a long way to go for me before I handle failure, and even harsh (but justified) criticism in the way in which I know makes you stronger. By accepting it, embracing it, and seeing it as ultimately something positive.

As the age-old saying goes: What doesn’t kill you make your stronger. And by being aware of it and actively working to improve and change, you are already halfway there.

Productivity

Guest Lecture on “Web Analytics in Entrepreneurship” at the Goethe-Universität in Frankfurt

goethe-uni-entrepreneurship-web-analytics

On Tuesday I had the pleasure of being a guest lecturer in the course Entrepreneurship at Goethe-Universität Frankfurt. To fit in with the topic of the day which was metrics and analaytics, I wanted to give a primer into web analytics as it relates to entrepreneurship.

Why is it important? Not only will most entrepreneurs be using the web and digital campaigns as primary marketing tools when starting their company, and thus be well-served by understanding the fundamentals. Web Analytics is built on the same foundation as any business analysis and also serves as a great practical and introductory example of using an analytical mindset and lean framework which can then be extended to other parts of running a company.

I want to thank Dr Schäfer for inviting me to give the lecture and of course thank the great class. No lecture is better than its audience. If you are interested, the slides are available publicly online though I wasn’t manage to get a recording done of the lecture itself. I would definitely hope to give more lectures as part of university courses and in the entrepreneurship area.

(Thanks to Nicki Eirfeldt for the photo.)

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