Planning For The New Year

Let’s get real about our plans for the New Year.

First, let me take a moment to say Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, and / or Happy Holidays. I hope you and your family are well and safe.  

The New Year will always feel like a fresh start. It provides a natural end to one chapter and flips the page to the next. This is the time of year where many take stock of their past year, what went well, what could have gone better, and what they are going to do moving forward. 

Hopefully you have some plans for what you want to accomplish this upcoming year and I want to dedicate this article to helping you fortify your plan and get where you want to go.

Let’s first make sure our plans and intentions have some sticking power. Once you decide what your goals are, what is your plan to achieve them? What are you going to do differently than what you have already been doing?

There is a popular quote “If you keep doing what you’ve always done, you’re going to get what you’ve always got”. If you are doing the same things, with the same people, in the same places, your chances of changing are limited. You may come out of the gates strong, but the comforts of what you have always done will start to work against you. If those around you are not on board with supporting your goals, you will feel pressure to be the same old you. I don’t care how strong you are, that constant weight will work to slowly pull you back to where you have always been.

So whatever your plan is for stepping out of your comfort zone and making things happen – start executing now. Start up some momentum to carry into the new year. If you’re reading this when it goes live, you have under a week to get something going before the new year hits. Get after it.

From here, let’s go back over some of the past articles and break down some other things we should look at over the next few days to get ourselves set for serious gains in 2022.

The links throughout the sections below are all links to other articles posted here that focus in on different points.

Clarify your Vision

Is your vision vivid? Can you see where you are going from where you are currently standing? If you can’t see all the way to the end, can you see at least the next milestone from where you are? 

Ensure you have a clear path and can see the boundaries that you will operate between. Strengthen your strategies along that path and train your tactics to be strong and focused. 

Let’s check the plan

Goals without plans are dreams. You need a good, reasonable plan for how you’re going to approach your goals. You need to practice discipline in making the plan and in executing the plan. Don’t fool yourself into thinking that you are going to take on more tasks without shedding others. You need to know where you are going to find the time and resources to pursue your new goals. Make sure you are setting yourself up for success.

Strengthen your Foundation and Philosophy

Take a look at your Philosophy, Principles, and Values and recommit to them. Are your goals tied to your Values? How tightly tied are they? Can you make this bond stronger?

Take a look out to June, are you still as committed to your goals as you are now? Do you have enough weight to your goals to develop the discipline necessary to push on? Make sure your goals are not just things that are nice to hear yourself say. Make sure they are tied to something deep within you; something that has the driving power to push your feet along when you don’t want to continue down the path. 

Look Within for Motivation and Accountability

You have everything within you to make all of your goals happen. You need to believe that and build the discipline to match. Refrain from looking to external sources of motivation and accountability and instead look at yourself to push through your challenges. Hire coaches for their expertise and their ability to streamline hitting your goals, not for the accountability they provide.

If you are still not on-board with this, go back to looking at how tightly your goals are tied to your values. When you have tight ties there, accountability is not going to provide you anything beyond what you are already going to be willing to do to get it done.


With all of that, there is nothing left to do but execute. Hit the ground running harder than you have ever hit it before. Make this upcoming year your year. Build yourself into the juggernaut that you want to be. Whatever goals you have will be crushed in record time – you’ve got the tools to make it happen.


As for me, I will be focusing on how I am living the Initiated Tenets and building myself, too.

I will be strengthening my body and my mind with more study and training. I have goals to sign up for another powerlifting meet and perform well there.

I will be honing in on my schedule and my systems to accomplish my personal and professional goals. I will be growing the Initiated Lifestyle Coaching system and all of the media outlets I maintain. I want to reach everyone and anyone I can to give them the material and information they need to crush life. 

I will be fortifying my own ties to my Philosophy. I am not immune to the distractions and noise of the world myself and must also refocus myself to my goals, Values, and Philosophy.

I will be strengthening my Integrity and dumping everything that is not supporting my alignment with my Values. I will not be using emotion or sentiment to make these decisions; this will be done with discipline and leadership tactics to make sure that I am making the best choices for me and mine.

I will be studying and strengthening my leadership through remaining consistent and strong in my actions. 

I will be continuing to push myself and my business to learn and grow now that I have more experience under my belt. I intend to be in a very different spot with thebeardreport. by the time we do this again in a year.

I am amped for what is going to be coming for all of us and I hope you are also ready to grab 2022 by the horns and make it everything you want it to be.

I appreciate you all and hope that we all see each other at the top.

Yours in strength,

-Chris

There is a lot going on at thebeardreport. these days.

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The Proactive Leader

The leadership strategy to look ahead, get ahead, and stay ahead.

Here is the formula to be an effective, proactive leader – you need to look ahead, get ahead, and stay ahead. If you are able to put a strategy together that allows you to do all three of these things, you and your team will be in the best position for success.

I’m not going to do a long introduction for this one – let’s get right into it.

Look ahead.

This is the discovery phase of a new leadership campaign. As a leader, you are starting at the start and bringing your team through the journey through the finish line. In order to lead, you must know which direction you are headed and for that, you need a vision and a plan.

Start at a high level by identifying the start and end points and lay out some milestones along the way. This begins to segment the journey into more digestible steps that you can continue to break down further. The level of detail is dependent on the intricacy of the mission, the number of people on the team, and the experience level of the team. This plan follows your vision for the end goal and will equip you with your own North Star, keeping everything aligned in the right direction.

This is also the stage where you start to identify threats to your success. There are likely going to be some obvious challenges that you will need to account for and now is the time to begin building strategies and tactics for those instances. These are your first steps at steering your team away from problems to maximize their efficiency and minimize their frustration.

Infrastructure is another consideration in this phase – what personnel, training, material, workspace are needed to achieve this goal? How are you going to get it? Cost? Time? Consider all of the things that are potential road-blocks and get yourself and your team setup early so they can hit the ground running. 

Get Ahead

The next course of action as a leader is to get ahead of your team. The prep work going into the beginning of a new project or pursuit sets the tone for the rest of the mission. The leader needs to put in the work up front to get ahead, remove hurdles for the team, and give everyone the best chance of success, including themselves. 

You will be setting up responsibilities for the people on your team and building out the systems that your team will be using. Set this up early so that you can free yourself to do those other things that get you out a few strategic steps in front of the team. You can’t lead from the middle of the pack, strategically speaking – you need to be out of the weeds and keep your vision wide.

Stay Ahead

This is where the leader lives strategically – out ahead of the rest of the team. The leaders are the first thing that external conflict hits and they are the filter for what does and does not make its way to the team.

Leaders need to be aware that they are most effective when they are ahead of the team and can see oncoming problems as they materialize. When the leader gets buried in the weeds right next to his team, he is unable to effectively steer the ship away from the rocks. If he performs this part of his job well, his team should be none-the-wiser about all of the minor course corrections the leader implemented to avoid crashing on the rocks.

This step is also where a lack of discipline is going to show itself most to the leader. When a leader gets out ahead of the team and their deadlines, he needs to work to maintain this strategic advantage. This means that his deadlines are not going to be the same as the team’s deadlines. His actions are not going to be tied to any hard project deadlines that the team might be working to. 

With this, the leader needs to be able to set deadlines for himself and be disciplined to meet them, else, he will fall behind and lose that advantage that he had worked to give himself. Again, you cannot lead when you are at the same strategic level as everyone else – you must work to maintain a lead. 

As you are out in front of the team, you are scanning the horizon for any issues that are starting to form. This can be checking in with team leads, asking questions, or monitoring the industry. It is on you to keep your vision up and out just as it is your team’s responsibility to support the project schedule by contributing their parts. Don’t allow the lines to be blurred. A leader can and should help their team, but the divide between work responsibilities must be maintained in the leader’s head to ensure they have the ability to lead.

Results

When a leader looks ahead, gets ahead, and stays ahead, the effects are felt throughout the team. Like mentioned earlier, the leader should be initiating small course corrections and/or interjecting occasionally to address the problems that they are identifying. 

When a leader fails to look ahead and make corrections, the team feels the jolt of meeting a challenge head-on. The abrupt change of direction disrupts the team and damages productivity and workflow. More foresight leads to less re-work, less frustration, and better product. 

The nuances of leadership are challenging, but this structure will set a leader to be effective and ready to lead their team.

Yours in strength,

-Chris

There is a lot going on at thebeardreport. these days.

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Act, Don’t React

A strategy to make better decisions under pressure.

Like a sniper that is pushed as he’s squeezing the trigger, what was a focused shot is now shanked, missing the mark. This is what a poor reaction can do for you. 

Let’s define reactions as actions that you take when you are already off balance. A problem has come to find you and you need to respond to it; so you react in an attempt to resolve the situation at hand. Reactions carry with them a hint of emotional response and lack the intent and focus that actions do. Reactions involve many dynamic influences. 

The value in making this distinction between actions and reactions is important to discuss the strategy we are going to look at here. 

When I talk about acting rather than reacting I am talking about removing impulse from our decisions and making intentional decisions when faced with a problem we weren’t expecting. These are the tactical situations in which we must take a new course of action based on new information or a conflict that has shown itself. 

We talk a lot about having a good plan, thinking through actions, Integrity, and other topics intended to make sure we are moving forward with the best and most complete plans possible, but we will never account for everything. It is impossible to plan ahead for what is hiding around each corner. Even the best laid plans need to consider that things are going to come up down the road that will need to be addressed. These situations are the reactions we are talking about here.

Why Do We React

Reactions are prompted by a number of things like surprise, pride, fear, ego, reputation, danger, etc. When we feel like there are eyes on us to make a decision, the pressure builds quickly. Maybe we don’t feel we have the time to take another course of action – we can be distracted with other things, have too much on our plate and fail to see where this new problem fits – and that is why we choose to react or push the problem off. There are a host of reasons we react but common amongst them is a feeling of being rushed or having to maintain some sort of image either to oneself or to others. 

Without these considerations, there would be little reason to react, unless of course there was a threat of imminent danger, but that’s a different conversation.

Limitations Of Our Reactions

Before we get to the strategies to overcome reactions, we must first understand the limitations we put on ourselves when we react, rather than act. 

First, we need to understand that by the time we are considering a reaction, we are already too close to the problem to see the larger picture. By the time we are forced to react the problem has come all the way up the sidewalk and is knocking on our front door. We can’t see around the problem nor our different options to address it. We are pressured to resolve this problem where it stands.

Had we seen this problem coming from further away, we could have changed course or put something in place to handle this issue before it got so close that we are now having to react; but in this case, we did not have the opportunity. We are found unprepared and now we are off balance because we are surprised and startled that this problem has come to find us.

Strategy To React Less And Act More

The strategy revolves around creating time and space to think, analyze, and act, rather than try to take actions when off-balance, as is the case when we react. 

When we are faced with that problem that has shown up on our doorstep, we need to make our first action to step back and create space – take a look around, understand what the real situation is, choose the best course of action, and move forward.

There are a few things to consider here:

Understanding what the real situation is:

The urgency that comes along with some of these problems we face is often fabricated either within ourselves or by the other people involved in the situation. We create urgency by feeling the pressure we discussed above; whether it is our pride and ego, or a fear of being wrong or bested, there are tricks our minds play on us that will make us feel more rushed than we actually need to be. If we feel that we don’t have enough time or resources to address an issue, we can also feel an urgency to slap a quick band-aid on the situation and hope that it goes away.

When other people are involved, their inability to look at the whole situation becomes urgency to them and then they, in turn, bring their sense of urgency to you. As a leader, you need to first understand the urgency of the situation for yourself but also be able to help this other person see what the real level of urgency is. You need to help them think through the situation and help them to see why the urgency they are associating with this issue is not how you’re seeing it. This must be done tactfully so that you are not seen as dismissive but instead as a leader who will help them resolve their issue.

By taking a step back from the problem and picking our heads up, we will very often see that the situation is not nearly as urgent as we thought it was. We can begin to recognize the reasons that we were feeling this urgency and begin addressing those feelings before we attack the problem at hand.

Choosing the best course of action:

Once we have created some space for us to work in and understand what factors are at play both within ourselves and within the situation, we need to choose our next move. 

We are already leaps ahead of where we would be if we had allowed ourselves to act while we were off-balance. Now that we have created space and re-centered ourselves, we have regained our balance and are ready to move forward with Strength and Integrity.

The correct path forward is the path that best serves our purpose. In choosing our next action we need to consider not only the issue we are addressing now, but any other issues we are either going to create or resolve by taking one path or another. We want to make sure we are thinking through problems as they arise and choosing the course of action that will prevent the next fire drill from coming up as best we can. 

This is the less obvious efficiency in acting rather than reacting. It’s a harder sell because in order to act, you need to put in the additional time up front to think through different solutions. You need to think out a few moves like a chess match; you want to see how probable the next steps are to play out a certain way and consider these next actions as you choose your course.

Reacting, on the other hand, is quick and “resolves” the situation you face immediately. This feels good and productive at the moment, but it likely sets up future fire drills that you will need to address. That thing you didn’t consider earlier is going to bite you in the ass down the road. 

From observation, it is seen that when a person reacts to the first issue, it is likely that they will react to the next one that comes up, and the one after that. They start a string of reactions and are losing vision with where they are wanting to go. By the time they finally realize they have dug themselves into a trench with their reactions, they pick their head up somewhat unsure of where they will find themselves. Reacting to problems leaves you flying blind – you are like a pinball bouncing around from issue to issue.

This speaks to the importance of strategies and plans and taking action toward those ends. The plan keeps actions focused, sure, but what we are talking about here is keeping our actions consistent rather than reacting and going off-script.

Wrap-Up

Taking action requires attention and intention. It requires us to be in control of ourselves in order to be able to recognize when our responses are reactions rather than actions. We need to hold ourselves back from reacting and taking the time to create the space we need to operate and make decisions about how we are going to act, not react. 

Know that for every reaction you stop, you are increasing opportunities to lead yourself and others down the path you intend rather than blurring everyone’s vision of what the path is.

Act. Don’t React.

Yours in strength,

-Chris

There is a lot going on at thebeardreport. these days.

Check out the Newsletter or The Initiated Lifestyle Podcast for more of this content.

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Automate Winning and Choosing to Fail

Strategies, tactics, and systems can set you up to win without having to make a decision.

There is no secret to winning. If you choose a direction and put in the work, you will see success. It doesn’t matter what that thing is; these statements are a universal truth. Success takes work – you have to put in the hours, build the systems; you’ve heard this all before. Instead of talking about the ways that systems will benefit you, let’s talk about how to automate your success using systems. 

Tools and systems will allow you to set up automated winning. This flips a lot of ideas on their head. What I’m saying is that there is a way to automate winning in such a way that you will need to choose to lose, rather than choose to win.

Making better choices is not bad advice, but what if we instead set ourselves up so that all we have to do is show up to win without having to make decisions. We can raise our baseline to the level that we want to operate at rather than having to decide to climb the hill to success. 

Think about the power in that idea. You don’t need to decide to work out, work on that side project, eat right – all of those things that you are trying to do to level up. You can get yourself to a place where all of that is a given and you have to choose to do those things that are hurting you. It is a powerful shift in perspective. Automating winning makes the choices you face far easier. Deciding not to do harmful things is easier than having to choose to do beneficial things.

Each decision point you leave yourself is an opportunity for failure – it is a weak point. Every decision is prone to influences like stress level, energy levels, surroundings, and any number of other factors. The idea here is to remove as many of those decisions as you can and leave the decisions that you do have to make as easy and obvious as possible. 

Humans are pulled to the path of least resistance; it’s attractive and comfortable. We have to choose to do hard things. So, make winning the path of least resistance and make losing difficult. Let “do hard things” be about pushing yourself out of your comfort zone in training or new experiences rather than trying to stay on track with your goals. 

Alright, that’s likely enough build-up. Let’s get into the meat of this article – the strategies and tactics.

Routines

The first stop is creating routines for ourselves. Most common among routines are morning and nighttime routines, sure, but you can make anything repetitive a routine. Think about a lunchtime routine, for instance, or a “start of workday” routine. 

A routine is anything that has a set timeframe and a set of tasks. The advantages of having routines is that it removes decisions. 

Think about it – if you’re morning routine takes an hour and includes:

  • Wake up
  • Shower
  • Get dressed
  • Breakfast
  • Journal

…those are the things you do for the first hour of the day. There is no thinking involved – as long as you shuffle your feet from the bedroom to the bathroom to the kitchen, you’re starting your day off on a good foot and setting yourself up for success. 

Then, maybe you have an hour-long nighttime routine and a one-hour lunchtime routine. 

With only those three routines, you have automated three hours of your day. Assuming you include important and productive activities within your routine, that’s three hours of automatic wins. This is basic, but explains the concept.

You can create more routines for whatever you do daily – how and when you check your email and social media alerts, how you do work activities, how you work out, the possibilities are endless and each routine has the same effect of automating a chunk of your day with wins.

Project this out to starting that new side hustle or business, getting that promotion…

Calendar / Schedule

Using a calendar or a planner is a powerful tool to organize your routines. If you look at routines at the micro scale,, your calendar will organize your routines into sequences that make sense and move you through your day on a more macro scale. I am not breaking new  ground here, just setting it up.

I like using Google Calendars, but any electronic calendar works because they all generally allow you to do a few things:

  • Color code activities
  • Maintain different calendars
  • Schedule recurring activities

I am not going to belabor calendars, but instead give you some ideas to begin to look at macro scale systems.

Auditing

It is difficult to audit from memory. Auditing your calendar will quickly show you where you have inefficiencies, where you are over or under-estimating the time it takes to do different things, and it keeps you honest – you can’t argue with what is written down.

Build a Day With Intention

When you lay a day out ahead of time, you can build it in a meaningful way. I use this idea for content creation for this blog, the Initiated Lifestyle Podcast, and social media content. An example I use for content creation stacks out similar to this. 

  1. Outline and idea for content
  2. Write blog post (further think through and organize my thoughts)
  3. Outline then record the corresponding podcast episode
  4. Write corresponding newsletter
  5. Write social media content around the same idea.

You can see how I build a day from a rough content idea, into a blog post to do most of the heavy lifting in organizing and fleshing out how I present concepts, into a podcast, and then moving down into shorter-form but more specific content to highlight some of the finer points of the content. I am using the tasks that came earlier in the day to expedite the activities I am performing later in the day. This gives me a week of content across 4-5 platforms in a day, which is pretty good.

Timing and Flow

Laying out a day will bound the time frames in which you work on different tasks and shows you how you’re going to flow from one activity to the next. You will take the guesswork out of “what am I supposed to work on next” and “how long is this going to take”.

You answer both of those questions when you plan out your day. You will increase focus and decrease distractions when you give yourself a limit on how long something is going to take. This also requires you to put some thought into how you are going to organize your day and also forces you to think about how you are stacking your activities in a meaningful way.

I also suggest keeping the same recurring activities at the same times of day if possible. If you go to the gym at the same times on the same days, that helps you in a lot of ways. For example, you can eat at the right times to support the workout and you are taking more decisions away from yourself.

Combine this with auditing your schedule to find out how long activities actually take you to do so you are not short-changing yourself or giving yourself too much wiggle room to get distracted. This optimization takes a few iterations to get right, so go in with the mindset that this will be a work in progress and let it get better over the course of a few weeks.

Note Taking and Journaling

The biggest productivity killers are those little fires that pop up and distract you. These are the insignificant tasks that are quick to address, so you decide to address them to get them off your mind. The problem is that these tasks break focus on what you’re currently doing and you then need to get back into the frame of thought to continue working. As a one off, it may not be a huge deal, but stack a small handful of these throughout a day and the inefficiencies add up. 

Get a system together where you can write down these things as they come up, jot down a few notes to remind yourself, and then keep focus on the work item you are currently on. 

I like to use Evernote for its scratch pad feature, note tags, notebooks, and use across multiple devices. Keeping my notes somewhat organized on the go kept them at hand and easy to find once I developed my system. 

The most important thing to mention here is to plan time into your day to review the notes you took. The notes are great, but if you aren’t reviewing them regularly to remind yourself of the thoughts you wrote down, you may as well have not written them down at all. If you have too many scribbled notes to yourself, they quickly become disorganized and the thoughts are lost, anyway. 

Meal Prep

Meals are another potential time killer and decision point that can be optimized. You can either prepare a bunch of meals at once so all you have to do is heat them up and eat when it’s time, or, if you prefer and have the ability to make fresh food, have one or two staple meals that you can make quickly and that have easy ingredients. The idea here is that when it’s lunchtime, you go and eat lunch. You are not spending time deciding on what you want, where you’re going, do you even have those ingredients – none of that. When it’s lunch time you eat lunch.

Planning

Setting time to plan all of this out is the mission-critical step. Talking about using a calendar to plan out work is great just like having all of those one-off thoughts written down is going to help you remember them. Attempting to do any of this without leaving yourself the time to create your plans and review your notes is fruitless. 

You need to set aside time daily, weekly, monthly, and yearly to look at the different levels of your systems and your larger plans for where you want to go. 

The common trap is that people don’t see this as a productive use of time and forgo it in favor of physical work. What people fail to realize is that the efficiencies gained by setting aside this planning time gives them returns exceeding the time they spent putting the plan together. 

Wrap Up

If I haven’t made it clear how powerful automation is – it’s really powerful. By enacting the ideas presented here, you are removing the potential to make unproductive decisions and you are setting yourself up for the best chance at consistent successes. All you have to do is show up to each of your “appointments” that you create for yourself, and you win. To decide to deviate from your plan is deciding to fail. 

If you start to think about things from this perspective, winning is easy. When winning is the expectation, it is difficult to lose. 

Nothing above happens overnight – it is important to understand that it will be frustrating at the beginning. Going from an unstructured day to having something with this level of structure is not going to be smooth until you learn how long to assign different things and which order you work in best. This is fine. Just like I mentioned in the planning section that the time spent creating the plan returns larger dividends, the same goes for these systems we are discussing here. 

If you stick with it and strengthen your systems, you will automate success. The more time you automate, the less time you have to make unproductive decisions.

If this all sounds mechanical or robotic, well, it is. There is a reason factories moved to robots rather than having people work the machines. Robots are efficient at doing the same things repeatedly. They do it with high precision and consistent results. Why not use those same principles when we talk about our successes? Build mechanical and robotic systems for doing those things that need to be done repeatedly to get us to our goals. 

Save the spontaneity for your fun times. When it’s time to work, get to work.

Yours in strength,

-Chris

There is a lot going on at thebeardreport. these days.

Check out the Newsletter or The Initiated Lifestyle Podcast for more of this content.

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