Making Progress When You’re Stuck

Have you ever read a Sherlock Holmes mystery?  It starts with a case presented to Sherlock and Dr. Watson with quirky circumstances and odd details.  As you read things become even less clear with increasingly bizarre events and nonsensical information.  At the end though, the great detective explains all with brilliant deductive reasoning that puts each element into its place in a logical series of events.

New endeavors have a lot in common with Sherlock’s cases.

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Beginnings as Leverage Points

Study the hard while it’s easy.
Do big things while they’re small.
The hardest jobs in the world start out easy,
the great affairs of the world start small.
So the wise soul,
by never dealing with great things,
gets great things done.

– Tao Te Ching, Ursala Le Guin Translation

I took a personality profile called Strengths Finder six years ago and I’ve found the results of it to be accurate and useful. One of the recommendations that stuck in my mind was for “Strategic”, one of my signature themes.

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Goal Setting With Winnable Games

List of failed goals.

A round month of failures, part of a quarter of failures.

I think about big questions for years at a time.  One of the questions that I’ve chewed on since my twenties is about goals.   What’s a better kind of goal: a process goal or a results oriented goal?

Process goals you can control. You set a target focused on the process of achieving a goal. You say, “My goal is to go the gym 20 times this month.” These kinds of goals are focused on the journey, not on the results.

But focusing on the journey is a huge problem, because you should care about the results. The reason you set a goal is to achieve a result. Another problem with process goals is that by focusing on controllable actions you inherently limit your capacity to grow. You don’t need to reach beyond who you are today to achieve a process goal. Going to the gym 20 times is simply a replication of your current thinking with a certain consistency. To achieve your underlying goal of being thinner, you may need to change your workout, change your diet, your eating schedule, or your environment. Continue reading

Thinking is the 80/20 of Doing

Kurt von Hammerstein-Equord

Our general is the one on the left with his foot forward.

I divide my officers into four groups. There are clever, diligent, stupid, and lazy officers. Usually two characteristics are combined. Some are clever and diligent — their place is the General Staff. The next lot are stupid and lazy — they make up 90 percent of every army and are suited to routine duties. Anyone who is both clever and lazy is qualified for the highest leadership duties, because he possesses the intellectual clarity and the composure necessary for difficult decisions. One must beware of anyone who is stupid and diligent — he must not be entrusted with any responsibility because he will always cause only mischief.

– Kurt von Hammerstein-Equord, German Commanding General

I came across this quote when I was in the Marines. The point about avoiding people who are stupid and diligent is funny, but the reason this always stuck with me is because of the observation that clever and lazy people make good leaders. It runs counter to the Puritan work ethic that permeates American culture and much advice on success.

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Is Self-Reliance Holding You Back?

Blurry Lights

Self-reliance is something that I’ve always valued and equate with personal strength. It’s a magical mixture of initiative, imagination, and tenacity. It’s one of the reasons that self-funding a business is so attractive.  However, lately I’ve began to question its utility for entrepreneurs.

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The Problem With Solutions

Neon Blue Pyramid

The most common approach to starting a new business or developing a new product is to start with an idea. This approach is inherently wasteful and has built-in obstacles.  It’s a symptom of a solution oriented focus.

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A Productized Service Story

This is the story of SiteRescue.  It is the second productized service that I launched.  My goal was to achieve $7,000 – 10,000 a month in sales within six months of launching.

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2 Key Hurdles to Qualify Freelance Leads

As a freelancer, your time is in short supply. There isn’t much that is more aggravating than wasting hours talking to someone about their project, scoping it, and writing a proposal only to get pushback on the price or have the lead disappear.

Sometimes, you discover too late that the lead doesn’t have a realistic budget for what they need done. Other times, the entire exercise seems like a free planning session where they basically get expert advice at no charge.

It wouldn’t be so annoying if there wasn’t a cost to talk to these people. Even if you have an excellent system for responding to inquiries for work you can still easily throw away a half a day you could’ve spent doing something useful.

Ugh! Tire kickers.

Is this just the cost of doing business? Knowing that you’re going to have to put out lots of proposals and talk with lots of people that aren’t qualified to work with you? Continue reading

Invoicing Shouldn’t Be a Chore

Have you ever been in a position where you were “rich on paper,” but had a bank account that was starving for cash? It’s odd how you can have the pressure of debts and bills to be paid while still having several invoices you haven’t sent simply because you’re too busy to collect what is owed you.  It doesn’t make sense, but when you’re hard at work it’s easy to let these tasks slide.

I know there have been many times where I’ve had a stack of checks sitting in my inbox and I just can’t seem to find the time to make it to the bank.  Having even the small hurdle of opening Excel to record what has been invoiced and what’s been paid can help delay this task much longer than is helpful and create urgent situations which shouldn’t exist.

It’s a bit ironic considering how magical those first few invoices you sent out as a new freelancer were.

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Overcoming a String of Bad Clients

Everyone has a bad client sooner or later. It’s a part of building experience as a freelancer. However, it’s easy to get into a pattern where every client can seem like bad client early on in your career. I remember my first couple of years in business. I had clients who:

  • Never paid.
  • Paid late.
  • Pretended like they didn’t understand something we had agreed on in order to try and weasel out of paying me for work I had done.
  • Wanted to negotiate an already low rate on my part.
  • Agreed to my rate and then tried to continually devalue it through negotiation.
  • Had me agree to a flat fee and then expanded the scope through ongoing clarification of what they wanted.
  • Tried to manipulate me with praise to get more work done or lower my estimates.

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