Good At Consulting: Chapter 2
Laws of the Mind
I am writing a new book. It should be done very soon.
As an experiment, I am going to be publishing chapters (as they are edited & ready for publishing) here on the site. When it is complete, you will have all chapters hosted online and I will likely leave it here for free consumption.
Some links may be inactive until the final chapter is written.
Chapter 2: Laws of the Mind
“All things which seem to make us happy are impermanent. As soon as we attain something which brings us joy, we become dependent upon it. And when the tides inevitably shift, we become vulnerable to the suffering which comes with loss.” — Ryan Blush
This might seem like a depressing way to start a chapter. “Hey guess what? Everything that makes you happy will eventually disappear.” But that’s not what the author is trying to convey (nor is it true). Science refers to this as something called the “Hedonic Treadmill.”
It’s the treadmill of life.
Humans get something, it becomes normal, then we don’t notice how awesome it is that we have the thing anymore. It’s one of the more dangerous parts of evolution. This treadmill has been responsible for most of our modern, technological advances. It is responsible for our growth as a species. It is also responsible for an inordinate amount of suffering, depression, anxiety, and insecurity.
Clients come to me because they want something they’re not getting, and they don’t know how to get it.
Early in my career, I would go to work as soon as they paid money and became a client. I always deliver, so people paid quickly. My reputation preceded me then, and still does now. We’d fix the issue, get the result, and like clockwork - they’d forget they ever had that issue to begin with. The mind immediately went to the next broken thing and created another problem to fix.
This gave me some great “job security,” but at the same time it bothered me.
After a few years of this (and tens of millions of dollars under my belt), I decided to figure it out. “Why,” I asked, “do people get the thing they were always after… then either burnout, become depresssed, or BURN IT ALL to the ground so they can ‘fix it’ again?”
While this isn’t a mindset book, per se, everything in your world started at some point in your mind. As a thought. And by the way, just because something is a thought doesn’t mean you are “aware” of it. Our minds have razor sharp defense mechanisms that protect us from anything we perceive “not important.”
This is why positive psychology reports that people who believe they are lucky, actually accrue more opportunity than people who think they’re unlucky. Those who believe that they are lucky, have a mind that is actively prioritizing anything that looks like it could be “lucky.” Those who believe they’re unlucky are filtering out anything they believe looks like luck, and only delivering the the conscious mind things that confirm, “See? We are unlucky. This happened and it is not good.”
It’s always better to begin the mental conditioning work early so you are actively attracting the types of things you want to have. Now this may sound like woo woo bullsh*t but I’ll remind you of something: this is science. The world of spirit and the world of science are actually much closer than you think they are. I’m not asking you to manifest and sit on a beach — I’m telling you that what you train your mind to participate in will impact what you ultimately achieve.
The word participate is very strategic. Notice I didn’t say “train the mind what to think.” Why? Because it’s going to be hard to tell your mind to think something, it won’t really listen to you. Your mind is hardwired to keep you alive and so it must prioritize whatever is right in front of you. If you drive a fast super car around a curve at 90 miles per house, your mind isn’t going to be thinking about anything else except keeping you alive.
This is why, when we want to control the mind, we control the activities and therefore, we control the thoughts. Going through exercises, asking yourself the right questions, and honoring the proper rituals, habits & routines — these things will help your mind ‘participate’ in activities that guide its thinking.
For you to truly have durable success, you are also going to need to develop what I call “3M” drive. People without 3M drive give up as soon as it’s hard. People with 3M drive, well they never quit. They just keep going. They may quit certain strategies, but going around certain roadblocks isn’t quitting, it’s just a deviation in strategy…
Here are the 3 Ms:
One day I was sitting in my home office, working on a marketing problem for one of my companies. I was in “story” mode, crafting a campaign that would help people identify who we were, what value we provided, and why we were doing the work we were doing. Notice the framework here, by the way, because we’ll dive deeper into that later. You’re probably using “Who,” and “What,” but I’d guess a pretty penny you’re not practicing “Why.”
Anyways, an email came across my notifications, “I think I’m going to sell.”
It was a consulting client that had been absolutely crushing it. We’d fixed the acquisition problems and monetized everything monetizable on the back end of the business. And now they were bored. I went to respond to the email but instead of responding, I thought, “Let me diagnose this and see WHY this is happening.”
And I got a download, a “blueprint” from heaven, if you will — that I’ve only shared twice in my entire life (because I am busy and just have not had the time to put it into a framework — you’re getting the framework here and now!).
Energy comes from a sense of MISSION.
Very few people know what they are actually chasing in life. Even fewer know why. They have no mission. “Not being poor” is NOT a mission. It’s a default drive that is very transactional — meaning this: once you are no longer poor, that drive goes away.
Drive that is transactional is always temporary.
Durable, sustainable drive is always anchored in a MISSION. I’m sitting at my desk, writing this all down. Remember, this framework came from my work in trying to revitalize this client to NOT sell their business. You should realize that selling their business wasn’t a bad move or a bad outcome. They would’ve made plenty of money. Another point of distinction is to notice what happens when you get some of these foundations in place. All the sudden, there is no “bad” outcome. It’s a competition between best case scenarios.
My goal is to help every outcome in your life & business be a good one. Some might be better than others, but they’re all good.
“Do I sell the business and make $11M?”
“Do I NOT sell the business, and make $5M/year solving a world class problem?”
Hmmmmm… decisions, decision, decisions.
Anyways — back to the MISSION. The mission can broken down into two ingredients that all good missions have.
A great mission is always about two things: climbing the mountain (and usually, bringing people with you up the mountain), and fighting the monster(s) in your way to the top.
The bigger the monsters are, the stronger you will be at the top and the more impactful your mission will ultimately be. Usually, tall mountains require big monsters.
Yes, you read that correctly. You should ask yourself, “How big are the monsters I am fighting right now on my way up?” The reality is, if you’re not fighting some pretty big monsters, the mountain you’re climbing is probably not worthy of your effort.
Ditch the little monsters. Find some big ones… the climb will be longer but it will be far more worthy of climbing it.
Even athletes manufacture this trifecta. They make it up if they have to. The “mission” can be to become the best layer in the world. The mountain is the ring at the end of the championship series. The monster is everybody playing against them!
In business, Microsoft’s mission was “a computer for every home in the world.” The mountain was building parts cheap enough to become “affordable.” The monster, for a time, was suppliers. Then the monster was software. Notice how your mission stays relatively constant, while your mountain changes from big goal to big goal — and your monster can stay in flux for as long as you’re climbing that mountain.
Fighting monsters is ugly. Forget the mental image of some guy with a cape and a Rolex, masterfully dancing around a monster with a cute face. That’s not how winners go to war and climb the tall peaks.
Being ‘worthy’ and being ‘easy’ are very different. In fact, they’re almost opposite. Halfway up your mountain you’ll start running out of oxygen. You’ll barely kill the old monster, then another one will come out of no where. It’s normal to spend months, or years, stuck at one little plateau, in one little crevice of the mountain — matching swords day after day. Trying not to die.
The only way people keep going when the air gets cold, and the oxygen is sucked out of the lungs, and the snow starts to fall — is a strong mission and a mountain worthy of climbing.
You know you need a mission… but perhaps you can’t identity what that mission is. Let’s back up from that and instead think about this:
What are the monsters I find myself constantly fighting & defeating?
What is the “one big goal” that excites me and accelerates me to my next target?
Use these to extrapolate into what mission you can create or codify for yourself. The only way for you to become the “best” is by having a mission that is more motivating to you than the money.
In the rest of this chapter, I want to give you some of the laws that govern my thinking. We will get into some tactics & training next. But trust me, if you skip onto the tactics, without rewiring the mind, you’ll perpetually start over and it will not be fun.
DON’T WASTE TIME IF SOMEONE ELSE ALREADY LEARNED IT
I believe in the discipline of mastering the best that other people have ever figured out. I don’t believe in just sitting down and trying to dream it all up yourself. Nobody’s that smart. —Charlie Munger
Before solving a problem, I always look to a small circle of individuals to see if they’ve experienced the same thing. Usually, someone has experienced it and went on to fix it. It’s going to be much cheaper for me to ask them, pay them, or buy information off them to model their solution.
The only time this doesn’t work is if you have nobody in your orbit (meaning your physical environment or your online environment) worth looking up to. If everybody around you is a loser, don’t model their solutions because they don’t have any. If there are people you’re learning from, studying, or spending time with who are capable of building great things — see if they’ve solved the problem before going off on your own to fix it.
EVERYTHING SHOULD BE FORCED TO ITS SIMPLEST FORM
Intelligent people are easily seduced by complexity while underestimating the importance of simple ideas that carry tremendous weight. —William Green
The older I get the more I value simplicity. Our minds LOVE to make things complex. Sometimes, you have to allow some complexity in at a micro level. That’s okay. If you have to do this, just force some extra simplicity at the macro. If the macro is a bit more complex, make the micro very simple and first principle.
For example, I have taken everything I learned from my last three consultancies, and am now building the simplest consulting business I can possibly imagine. The “ah ha” moment, for me and, hopefully, for you, is this: the simpler it gets, the more robust it gets. We think we need to make things complicated to accommodate many things — when in reality, we need to focus on fewer things so that they actually work.
YOUR MISTAKES ARE MORE IMPORTANT THAN YOUR SUCCESSES
What I fear is not the enemy’s strategy but our own mistakes.” —Pericles
It’s amazing how much money you can make if you just avoid being dumb. 99% of Warren Buffet’s net worth was made after his 50th birthday. If he would’ve stoped at the age of 65 like most people, nobody would’ve ever heard of Warren Buffett. Nobody would study him.
The thing is, his “decisions” didn’t change all that much from the age of 40 to the age of 65. Not much change from 65 to 75, either. The key ingredient? Time. Good decisions, repeated for long enough time horizons, become god-like in their implications.
CREATE YOUR VALUES WHEN YOU DO NOT NEED THEM, SO YOU HAVE THEM WHEN YOU NEED THEM MOST.
Living the way you want to live is a conscious choice that is tested when things go poorly. It’s sometimes easy to adhere to principles when there are no extreme threats or extreme rewards, when life is steady and boring. When you are presented with extreme obstacles (can create fear) or massive opportunities (can create greed) you need to have a personal rulebook that tells you how you make decisions.
Sometime at the end of 2021, heading into 2022, my values shifted. I had to rewrite them because I didn’t like who I was becoming. This is not abnormal, but unfortunately most people never stop to redo their values when they realize they don’t like the current ones.
It’s important you take the time to sit down and write out, “Who am I? Who do I want to become? What things do I want to matter to me?”
For reference, here are my current values now:
I am who I am. Who I am in public matches who I am in private, vice versa, no matter who I’m with. No playing chameleon, no matter how uncomfortable, I speak plainly.
I invest 100% passion into my projects; if I can’t do that for any reason, I remove myself from the commitment to prevent drag & obligation.
God’s way is the opposite way. I live and move in the spirit and my actions will reflect Jesus at all times, **not my flesh** and not the world.
I go all in on people/friends — not because of what they can give me. I don’t climb the social ladder, I pick my allies and stick with them.
My family is my greatest and most important responsibility AND ASSET. There is no “balance” with my family — when they need me, they get me. I don’t miss, ever. Everyone else can have 2nd place.
I optimize for net life, not just net worth. The “good life” is a puzzle to figure out while honoring a set of commitments. I don’t compromise my values for ambition.
“OBLIGATION” IS AN ENERGY AND USUALLY COMES FROM PEOPLE NOT THINGS.
When you feel like you “have” to do something but do not really want to, pay attention to WHO is behind it. In my life, it’s often tied to people, not situations. A situation only has power over me when some part of my identity or happiness is dependent on a person involved in the situation.
Have you ever felt completely “free” and unrestrained? When was that? Particularly, who was around you when you felt that way? This is a question not enough people ask and it hurts our ability to produce. Humans are spiritual first and foremost, and as such we tend to be impressionable to the energy of those around us.
This might seem a bit deep to be covering in a book about consulting. Remember that my goal is not just to help you grow a consulting business. My ultimate goal is to help you master & maneuver this life in a way that is limitless. Money is a large, foundational element — consulting is a way to make more money (a LOT of money, actually) while making a positive dent on the world. But it is going to be won and fortified in the mind.
No amount of marketing or sales expertise will protect an unraveling mindset, filled with fear, anxiety & obligation. It’s important that as you begin to experience growth, you stay on high alert for the people that tether you and make you feel small. These are people that should likely not be in your future.
WE LOSE MORE BY HANGING ONTO OLD OPPORTUNITIES THAN WE DO BY NOT SEEING NEW OPPORTUNITY.
Opportunity is all around us. If you can’t see it, perhaps you’re obsessed with reviving an old opportunity that you are not supposed to keep reviving. There’s no shortage of moves to make, only shortage of energy.
One time I was at a conference and an attendee asked me how I manage my time, considering “time is my greatest asset.” In that moment I had a realization: time is not my greatest asset. It’s not yours, either. What is time without the energy to savor it? It’s worthless.
Therefore, energy is your greatest opportunity. Time may be the vehicle, but energy is what powers it for productive purposes. Looking back on my life, I can see a few “black holes” where I went into protection mode, and I missed great opportunities because I was worried about protecting old ones.
Mark my words: the biggest moments of growth and fulfillment for you, will happen right after you leave something comfortable and “common,” and head into something uncomfortable and “uncommon.” Sometimes this means a new city, a new set of friends, a new mentor, or even just a new morning routine. Don’t hang on for too long.
YOU CANNOT PURCHASE A CHUNK OF TIME YOU DID NOT ENJOY BACK FROM YESTERDAY. IT’S GONE.
This is the great balancing act: time is worthless without energy; energy cannot overpower the slow drip, drip, drip of time gone by.
Refuse to let situations rob you of your moments. At the end of your life, if you were given the option to go back and live it all again, make choices now so that you will have no reason to go back and mess it up. This requires living appropriately the first time.
A few great questions to help you stay centered in this:
“If I repeated today 1,000 days in a row, what would happen?”
“What would need to happen today for the previous question to have a favorable answer?”
“If my 80 year old self were looking at this memory that I’m living real time right now, what would they be proud to see?”
“If my life was limited to the end of this year — would I be doing this right now?”
THE ENERGY OF LONGEVITY IS ORDERLY & METHODICAL.
Once designed, move as fast as you want. But take plenty of time to design. Things that last a long time are usually built slowly. Mentally prepare yourself in every way possible, then once you are certain there are not weaknesses in your thinking, move like the wind.
Most people can figure out, eventually, how to “build” whatever they need to. The problem is, they don’t design very well to begin with and so, they end up having to rebuild. Over and over again. Chronic cycling. Like a merry-go-round.
This is the worst place you could possibly end up: constantly wasting time in little short spurts forward, only to realize once you get there that you never really wanted it to feel the way it feels. Back up, slow down, DESIGN.
IT’S GOING TO BE OKAY. AND IF IT’S NOT, THERE’S LIKELY NOT MUCH YOU CAN DO ABOUT IT ANYWAYS.
Humans over-assume the collateral damage of short-term situations. Our biology and evolution is built for survival, so it’s safer to make us feel like we are going to “literally die” if something does not work out than to assume it will all be okay. Imagine being in the wilderness, civilization dependent upon you having enough food to make it through winter. Your instincts are to “assume” you are going to starve so you have enough. This no longer serves us in the modern age.
The impact fear has on the central nervous system is not to be understated. Most of our ‘worst case scenarios’ don’t exist (except for in our minds). The ones that do, often cannot really be prevented they must be lived through.
THE FIRST TIME IS HARDER THAN THE SECOND TIME, BUT THE SECOND TIME IS MORE IMPORTANT.
The first time you build something important, it is fun but you will likely waste it. And then, once the error is realized, you’ll wonder if it was all luck and doubt your ability to do it again. That’s when you become who you were born to be… the second, the third, the fourth time. All are important — but only when you know how to steward the MOMENT (i.e. realizing you may never get this moment back and enjoy it while it’s there) can you be at your best.
GO ALL IN ON PEOPLE, NOT JUST OPPORTUNITIES.
Opportunists develop a reputation and it’s not a reputation that you want. If you are to become known for something, become known as an advocate of people. There is a difference between caring about someone and caring about what that someone can do for you. Slow down and pick your people well; by this I mean partners, friends, employees, colleagues, and connections.
IF YOU CAN’T GO “ALL IN,” GET THE HELL OUT.
One of the most dangerous seductions in business (and in life) is the belief that we can be partially in. This is usually rooted in transactional thinking where we become addicted to an outcome but do not feel connected to the purpose or the process. If you can’t be “100%” then every ounce of energy you put into it will fractionalize and steal from the things you want to be 100% into. Not worth it.
HOLDING IT IS BUYING IT.
This is a phrase from private equity & investing: everyday you don’t sell something you are choosing to buy it again. This applies equally to seasons, projects, and people. Take stock every 6 to 12 months and ensure that “what you’re buying” is what you want.
These are worth reviewing frequently, as they will keep you grounded on the straight and narrow.
In the next chapter, we’re going into the weeds. Prepare yourself, it’ll get dicey.
Durable Business Practices