In the most recent episode of the Future Squared podcast, I sat down with James Nguyen, co-founder of Anti-Hero Capital, Forbes contributor, thinker and all-round good guy to ponder life, our motivations, rituals and routines and the psychology that underpins moving close to personal and professional goals.
One thing we discussed was how oftentimes when we first embark upon something, be it a new romantic relationship, or a new business, our dopamine receptors are super-active. However, over time, they get blunted and require a higher frequency or intensity of exposure to ‘X’; X being an activity, venture, drug, person, achievement — whatever ails you.
So many entrepreneurs get excited when they start something but their investment and energy tapers off once that initial buzz wears off.
So we pondered the following question:
"How might you maintain the enthusiasm and energy required to maintain your investment and effort in X?"
During our conversation, I said that novelty is important, which you’ll find in the list below, but after the conversation, I spent some time reflecting. This reflection lead me to develop a Jordan Peterson inspired 10 rules for (not 12) keeping that fire burning long after the initial “aha” moment or first date has come and gone.
1. A worthwhile ‘why’ underpinning what you do
Happiness is fleeting. Like a flowing river, just as soon as it comes into vision, it goes.
When meaning underpins what you do, you’ll be far more likely to ride the highs and more importantly, the lows associated with pursuits of any persuasion and keep moving forward. If you don’t believe in the underlying why then you’ll give up or slow down at the first sign of difficulty.
Exploring new things, great or small. From a business perspective, it could be something as small as an experiment with a new AI sales tool or something as fundamental as taking what you do and putting it ‘on the blockchain’.
Jeff Bezos says “be firm on vision and flexible on the details”.
Consider adding variety on the details. Variety keeps things interesting and ensures that two days are rarely the same. I currently spend time between hosting a podcast, writing a book, blogging, facilitating workshops, keynoting, traveling, performing business development, strategising, doing market research and overseeing the development of an online platform. It’s all geared towards the same vision and overarching ‘why’ but the variety keeps things fresh.
4. Use Parkinson’s Law
Engineer shorter term goals into your work year to ramp up focus and flow, rather than focus on annual goals alone. For more on this topic check out this post.
5. Constant Learning
Learning more about what will move you closer to your vision — for example, getting better or more informed at sales, marketing, emerging tech, leadership, philosophy if you're a business leader. As the business grows your role and responsibilities will evolve with it — from a doer to a leader and this requires constant learning and adaptation.
6. Make time to flow
Find several hours of uninterrupted time to focus on tasks that require critical thinking or creativity, tasks that make the rest of the world slip away and make 3 hours seem like 30 minutes. Such work leaves you feeling fulfilled and avoids the mindsuck that comes with constantly chopping and changing between many small, menial tasks that might make you feel busy, but ultimately have you feeling like shit come the end of the day.
7. Smell the roses
Celebrate and share small wins and the value you’re creating in line with your ‘why’. That way you don’t lose sight of ‘why’ you’re doing what you do to begin with and start calling what you do ‘work’ or a ‘job’.
8. Develop your team
If you have a team, taking an active interest in and celebrating the development of your team can be immensely rewarding.
9. Immerse yourself
It’s funny. When I watch a UFC fight card, I’m so much more motivated in the gym that week. Similarly, when I listen to an entrepreneurship podcast or talk to some friends who are building startups, I’m also more motivated to invest the time and energy on my business. Immerse yourself in podcasts, with people, at meetups and conferences, by reading books; whatever you can do to feel part of something bigger and stay motivated.
10. Aim to be better than who you were yesterday
It’s not about comparing yourself to the next person — such thinking is a recipe for feeling down in the dumps because we’ll naturally overestimate their positive qualities and underestimate our own. Instead, focus on what you can control - being better than you were yesterday.
This supports the development of virtual prototypes and minimum viable products to rapidly test assumptions, increase the speed of learning and iterate towards product market fit.