The long term key to success... Building persistence

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There is one thing in life that seems to ensure that you are able to continue stumbling forward along your journey until one day you realise you have arrived. This key is needed to open the door that has stopped so many people from reaching their goals, turning them away unsatisfied and looking for another path without a door.

This key will help you achieve your goals in life, and this key is persistence.

Persistence essentially is the ability to see things through to completion. While persistence is difficult to master, obtaining this key and adding it to your tool belt will greatly improve your chances of success.

Have you ever faced a situation where there is pain associated with going forward? People tend to lose their ability to persist when the pain of going forward is more than the pain of staying the same or going backwards. How beneficial is it to push through the pain barrier with the power of persistence? Without it, chances of success are greatly reduced, if not totally diminished.

What can you do to increase your level of persistence? I offer the following five suggestions to building persistence and in the process, long term success:
  1. Continue to look at the long term goal: While you might feel like giving up today, is this what you want in the long run? For example: Are you finding your study/work hard at the moment and feel like giving up? If your long term goal is to gain a degree or a promotion then giving up is not an option! Looking at the long term goal can help you to push through the temporary setbacks and pain.
  2. Take small steps: You can break through any adversity and struggle with continual small steps taken daily towards accomplishing your goals.
  3. Change the directions, not the destination: Sometimes giving up on a certain option is best if what you are doing is not in your area of expertise. For example: Your goal might be to get a degree, so you start in an arts degree. Later you realise that your passion is in management so you decide to leave your arts degree and move into a management degree. You are still achieving your long term goal, just the approach for doing so has changed to an area where your strengths will be maximised.
  4. Find a mentor: Someone who has achieved what you want to do can guide you through periods of struggle to come out successful, as quite often they will have faced similar circumstances and can provide you with insights from experience.
  5. Turbocharge your output: If you implement the above four steps and still find yourself struggling to get through the barrier and want to persist to see the job done, then turbocharge your results. This can be done by reading more on the subject your are struggling with, by devoting more time to apply yourself to pushing through the pain barrier or a multitude of other options. Find what will help you through and then implement it to receive a boost in your results.
If you are struggling with persistence, don't stress. Just plod along and do the best you can each day. Over a period of weeks or months, you will find that you have not only pushed through the pain barrier, but that the persistence key has opened the resistance door you were facing and allowed you to enter the next step in your journey.

Building your personal network

The old saying goes along the lines of 'It's not what you do/have, but who you know'. Ensuring you are highly networked can only be a benefit to your long term success.

How can networking be of a benefit to you? Here are some of my thoughts:

  • Increase your reaches: You promote yourself better.
  • Increase your employment: Job opportunities are mostly found through networks, and by networking you increase your chances of finding employment as required.
  • Better support and assistance: Should you require help in some aspect of your life, a network can support you and provide help.
  • Better promotion and branding: If you are in a business of your own, networking is a vital key to building your brand and reputation.
There are many more but that is just a start. So the question then becomes; 'What can we do to build a larger network?'
  • Join a networking group (or a group and then network)
  • Start a group
  • Give presentations and seminars at universities or businesses
  • Volunteer time and help in a charity, etc.
  • Develop a business card, and hand it out to people you meet
  • Set up on social networking sites online
  • Start a blog
  • Continue to learn about networking, and act on what you learn.
Whether you network or not is up to you, but what are the potential benefits in your life from increasing your network?

How to trick out a Mokeskine

The good old Moleskine notebook. Of all the notebooks I have had this is by far my favorite. I actually feel as though my thoughts have more value going into a higher value notebook, and there is a sense of pride regarding my ideas when I write them into this little book.

While a Moleskine is a great little note book (having lined pages, being able to lay flat, having that cool little back pocket, etc) there are several things that can be done to enhance the experience capturing ideas, thoughts and tasks (either in a Moleskine or any other notebook).

Implementing a new system

While I used to just write my ideas anywhere in notebooks, this became a bit of a problem when trying to find the material at a later date. As such I have now implemented the following steps:
  • Numbered every right hand page (the left hand page is just page 'A' of the page before it eg: page 1A).
  • Divided my notebook into five sections: Inbox/To do, Projects, Blog Posts, Notes, and Billable Working Hours.
  • Added both an index and an abbreviations page on the first pages.
  • Used the last two pages to list recommended reading material.
  • Used the back pocket to carry a free movie ticket (so I can go with friends if the idea suddenly occurs, as it has done before.).
Breaking down the system

I have found this system to be very beneficial for finding my thoughts. The tabs on the sections are really useful for finding something specific in a hurry, and I use the bookmark for the to do list page I am up to. Here is how each of my sections works:
  1. Inbox: All to do list type tasks I create for myself or from work go in here
  2. Projects: Major university, business and work projects (longer term) go in here
  3. Blog posts: Ideas for this and my other blog go in here
  4. Notes: Thoughts, ideas, sketches, etc. go in here
  5. Billable working hours: I keep track of the hours I do for work, as I work remotely and need to report them to earn my income. Also is a good discipline to get into for longer term business concepts (which will require client invoicing).
By implementing this system you will greatly improve your ability to find notes, to track what you need to do, how much you have worked, and more. Students and executives alike will be able to track their projects and actions for each project/assessment they are undertaking in their chosen field/s.

Always write your thoughts down. They might not look that way now but some of your ideas and thoughts could be worth a fortune in years to come... and you won't have to worry about remembering them as you will have a hard copy documented.

An emergency fund: Do I really need one?

First and foremost, I am not an accountant, nor do I provide specific financial advice. I am merely discussing my thoughts and opinions based on my own personal experiences.

Financial planners quite regularly suggest to build up an emergency fund to people who are trying to eliminate their debt. The idea is to build up an emergency fund to have extra money available in case some emergency comes up and you need to spend some money (I.e.: Car engine blows up, family member breaks an arm, etc.). While this idea has great merit, there is a lot of debate surrounding the subject as to whether it is really a viable idea or not. I think it is time to separate facts from opinions and come to a real conclusion surrounding the issue.

An emergency fund: the facts.

Here is a list of the observations I have made about creating an emergency fund based on the material I have read over the years:

The Pros:

  • Allows you to build up savings and to get into the habit of regularly contributing an amount of money to your future.
  • Is an emergency 'slush' fund to prevent you from going further into debt.
  • Can help an individual whose finances are out of control to gain confidence and build momentum.
  • Can provide a 'safety' barrier in event of extended periods of unemployment.
  • Should be built up to 3-6 months worth of wages, but should begin with a minimum of $1,000.
The Cons:
  • Money could be used to re-pay existing debt, which will reduce interest payments.
  • Money is sitting idle when it could be achieving a higher return on investment outside of a regular transaction or savings account.
  • Individuals with a tendency to spend money will be more inclined to spend the money as the amount grows within their bank account.
While there are more pros and cons, these seems to be the major points for and against. The question you need to ask yourself is "how disciplined am I?". If you are really a disciplined individual in relation to your finances then you might consider using the money you save to pay down your debt, and then redraw if necessary in an emergency. The amount on interest you save in the interim can be applied to the principle of your debt. Alternatively, you might find ways to increase the returns on your emergency fund by investing.

If you are not very disciplined, I would suggest setting up an automatic debit from your normal account into a savings account that you can only access online or with notice. This will prevent you from spending at the ATM and make it a hassle to withdraw to your transaction account to spend the money that you save. When you have the minimum amount in your savings account, you can then withdraw in the event of a real emergency. The money that you were contributing to this fund in the meantime can then be applied to repaying debt.

Personally, I don't have any debt (other than a HECS-debt) but I do have a savings account that I contribute to regularly. While the money is currently not accumulating much of a return, I am looking at options to increase my return, but in the meantime it is nice to see an account accumulating money and keeping on target with my savings goal for the year.

Tools of the trade

I am continually revising the way that I complete my work tasks and other projects. I am always trying to do more with less, so as to ensure maximum results for the amount of time and resources invested.

There are a number of things that I currently use to ensure I get my work done, while being able to travel between working locations with minimum effort. As most of the work I undertake is either online or using a computer, much of my work revolves around technology.

I thought I would share with you what I use when doing my work.

  1. Targus Laptop Bag: This bag is good for holding a few things work related. It does note leave room for excess, which is beneficial as it requires me to ensure that everything I take with me is worth the additional weight and space it consumes.
  2. Toshiba 1GB Flash stick: I will be upgrading to a 2GB flash stick soon. While not used much when using my laptop, it is convenient for taking files to other computers or for being able to work without a laptop present.
  3. Parker Pen: I was given this pen as a 21st birthday present, and carry it along with two others. My plan is to eventually have another Parker Pen. The benefit of these is that they are better quality, they tend to be placed more carefully (which prevents losing them), and they tend to work more properly (unlike the cheaper pens which have the ink either leak or fail to work). They also don't need to be replaced, as you can buy additional cartridges, saving money in replacement pens every few weeks.
  4. Business compendium: This compendium originally had an additional section in it with a business card holder, a calendar and a calculator, but I never used any of these features and pulled them out. Good for taking notes and acting on them so as not to build up lots of unnecessary papers.
  5. Moleskine notebook: This notebook is ace. It has a cool little pocket in the back and I have broken it down using tabs to make different useful sections (I'll go into this in more detail in a future post). While they are more expensive than other notebooks, I feel as though my thoughts that I write down are more valuable, and it is less likely to get lost of damaged due to my appreciation of it.
  6. BenQ Joybook S41: After my last laptop blew up, I obtained a non-interest student loan to buy a new laptop. These were retailing for $1,200, but I managed to get one through a mate at a computer shop for a wholesale price of $900. Not the best laptop in the world, but certainly is serving a useful purpose. I eventually would like to own an Apple Macbook or a Sony VAIO, but whatever I purchase next must have a long battery life (just over 3 hours is not cutting it for me).
My personal concept is to use the most vital and effective tools to get the job done as easily as possible. These tools seem to work best for me. What tools you use is up to you, but I would advise continually revising your selection to simplify your input while maximising your output.

How to manage your computer.

How clean is your computer screen? Do have multiple items to search through to find what you are trying to do? Is your computer filing out of control? I personally have struggled with this for a long time and have begun to make some changes.

In my last post, I explained that one of the websites I regularly review is, which has been created by Leo Babauta. After reading a number of Leo's posts, I have made a number of changes in my lifestyle, and am continuing to make changes constantly.

One of the recommendation's that Leo made in regards to computer filing was to rearrange the way your My Documents folder is organised, using the following system:
  1. Inbox (New things entering the system, new tasks, files, folders, etc.)
  2. Actions (to do list, and work for completion)
  3. Incubate (Items to be read or reviewed at a later date)
  4. Current Projects (Projects currently being undertaken)
  5. Archive (Everything else that is needed for reference but not actively being used).
Having been a big fan of the simplicity of Gmail and it's archive folder, I have rearranged the My Documents folder on my computer to have the similar setup to the above, but under two categories:
  • Personal
  • Work
Eventually these categories will be eliminated, after I finish setting up Jungle Disk for the work files for the company. Until then, I have the two listed separately to be able to keep track of things appropriately.

I have so far revised and updated the archive folder of my work folder, and will continue to review and update my personal folder as time goes on. Some of the benefits so far are as follows:
  • There are no longer work folders and files clogging up my personal content
  • My work is all organised effectively and can be managed with more ease
  • The My Documents Folder is clean and looks much less stressful when opened
  • I have been able to appropriately store all folders that were piling up on my desktop
  • I have eliminated the unnecessary files and folders on my computer, allowing it to work more efficiently.
I also am reviewing my email account (I use Gmail) and eliminating unnecessary items in my archive. This allows for faster response time and less time searching for previous material.

I highly recommend individuals who want to improve their time efficiency on their computer and their PC space spend the time to undertake a similar system and then de-frag your hard-drive. This will improve both your computer's and your own performance over the long term!

Have you been ripped off?

Before I go into the details of this article, now might be a good time to mention a few of the sites that I regularly follow for information relating to entrepreneurship, business and investing:
  • This is the blog of Timothy Ferriss, author of The Four Hour Work Week and a man who had accomplished more in 30 years than most people achieve in a lifetime. Highly recommended as is his book!
  • Leo Babauta lists a lot of useful information relating to simple productivity and living with a long list of accomplishments in his personal life (ie: quitting smoking, doubling his income, losing 40 pounds, etc.).
  • Useful for finding articles relevant to entrepreneurship and certain aspects of small business.
  • One of my university lecturers who is a start up and commercialisation consultant. Has a lot of useful information in relation to business in both his blogs, his newsletters, his programs and his site. Check it out.
Apart from these sites I regularly use Google and Wikipedia to find out additional information about topics, and otherwise I just use the contacts I have on several social networking sites to find the information I am looking for.

Earlier this morning I was looking an article on the message board of one of the above sites, when I came across a common worry for entrepreneurs being realised: someone ripping off an idea. This does not occur nearly as much as it is believed to, and can be a bit of a shock when it first happens.

Most people with a business idea fear telling others about their idea in case it is stolen. In my personal experience I have found that most people are honestly too wrapped up in their own lives and ideas, and are more inclined to pick faults in your idea than to try and mimic it. This is a good thing as it allows you to receive corrective insight from others who generally would not buy from you anyway.

What happens however, when someone else take your idea and runs with it? I offer the following suggestions:

  • Keep going: If your idea/business has been so good as to be copied by someone else, then you are obviously onto something worthwhile. By focusing on your strengths you can spend more time building a competitive advantage over your competitors and be seen as a 'first mover' or the 'most reliable' or the 'smartest' in the industry. If you are focusing on building your strengths rapidly it will take your competition quite some time to keep up with you, especially if they have to wait for changes to copy you.
  • Price high: If you are already offering a product at a lower price and people are beginning to mimic it for the same or lower costing, find a way to establish your product at a higher price bracket. If you are competing on price you will eventually be eliminated, so find a way to increase value to your customers that outweighs the additional price tag on your item.
  • Use them to your advantage: Get involved in promoting the industry as a whole and your brand, rather than just your specific product. If you are seen as the industry/category leader, people will be more inclined to buy from you than the competition.
  • Continue to learn: Are your competitors stealing away potential clients? find out what it is they are doing that is causing this loss. For example, if they are offering additional products for the same price but of a lower quality, you might want to emphasise your distinction as a better quality manufacturer. Competitors can be used to find out what it is that clients are interested in, and what they would like to see that isn't being offered currently.
At the end of the day, if someone is dramatically copying you and causing your business dramatic loss, you can seek legal advice and progress in this direction. However I would argue that if you spend the same time and money investing into your business you could develop your business so much so to the point where the competition becomes irrelevant.

Business Plans 4: Market Research Tools

While conducting market research for your business concept, there are two tools that can dramatically assist you in finding your results. These are known as the 'S.W.O.T. Analysis' and 'Porter's Five Forces' model.

The S.W.O.T. Analysis
The S.W.O.T. Analysis assists a business/business concept by analysing four areas:
  1. Strengths
  2. Weaknesses
  3. Opportunities
  4. Threats

The objective is to find out aspects of your business with the view to doing the following:

  • Maximise the strengths
  • Turn weaknesses into opportunities
  • Turn opportunities into strengths
  • Minimise threats.
There are two environments that will affect your business, these are the internal and the external environments. Strengths and Weaknesses deal with the internal operations of your business, and how you are in relation to the market. Opportunities and threats deal with the market environment, while allowing you to spot potential aspects to capitalise on while also being cautious of various issues that may arise. Complete a S.W.O.T. analysis on your business opportunity and the market it is involved in.

Porter's Five Forces Model

Porter's Five Forces is a useful model for analysing the business environment that your business is entering into. It analyses several areas of business, including:

  • New Entrants to Market.
  • Market Competitors.
  • Market Suppliers.
  • Market Buyers.
  • Market Substitutes.
The objective is to get a better outline of the industry you are planning to go into by analysing five major areas. By analysing what currently exists in the market, you are better able to position yourself with a competitive advantage (or a unique selling distinction) within the industry.

Study further into these tools and practice implementing them in your business plan.