Breaking the Grip of Fear of Success: 3 Tools

I know that fear of success is real. I know it causes your heart to beat fast in your chest. I understand that the LAST thing you want to do is ask someone to buy whatever it is you’re selling. I know because it is the same for all of us. It is certainly the same for me.

Here are three tools that I have found that have helped me break the grip of fear of success in my life, and keep shrugging it off, everyday. 

1. The Coffee Challenge – This is the hardest gut check possible. You will learn a lot about yourself. But, ultimately, you will emerge in a new state. It seems easy to ask for a discount on a cup of coffee, but the lessons here are profound and lasting…

2. A Subscription to – yep, it’s expensive. That’s the price of commitment. Buy it. Listen. Do the exercises. You’re welcome. This restored some level of balance to my life and has talked me off the ledge more than once. To not share it with my readers would be a sin…. Seriously, this is the best way I know of to learn to meditate – and strips it of the woo woo often associated with it. You don’t  need to know how to do downward facing dog, a batch of incense or a desire to live on a mountain top. Just learn to listen and observe your self, separate from what you think of as your self…

3. The book – Choose Yourself by James Altucher – OK, he is odd and bluntly personal, but he is an amazing author and this is one of the best books about modern business life you can find. Read it… 

Now, to be sure, there are a lot of other materials and tools out there. But, for me, these 3 have been huge for me in the last year or so. Check them out, and let me know what you think via Twitter. I look forward to hearing from you! 

Posted in Entrepreneurship, Life Hacking, Personal Tagged with: , ,

Podcast: Digital Lizard Podcast Episode 1: Fear


Welcome to the first episode of the Digital Lizard Podcast. I thought I’d start the series off with a brief discussion of fear. You know, that thing that entrepreneurs and life hackers DON’T like to talk about. Hear a little bit about mine and how I attempt to conquer them.

More than just business, the DL Podcast will be about the life of doing business and the business of life.

Let me know what you think. Ping me on Twitter @lbhuston and tell me what you fear and how you beat it down. I can’t wait to hear your insights!

Thanks for listening! You can get the podcast by clicking here.

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Tiny Book Review: Do the Work

Read “Do the Work” on my Kindle. Good book. A few good insights. The 3 act model is good. Reverse thinking model is similar to GTD project model. Slaying the resistance dragon is a good visualization of the fear all makers face. All in all, it was a good casual read. If you are a project starter, but have trouble shipping (and what maker doesn’t?) – check it out.

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Guard Your Associations Well

This article from Entrepreneur magazine really hit home for me. I have lived through this scenario several times during the 20+ years of owning several businesses. Here is a summary for those who just want the meat:

“One of the most significant things you can control is association — your choices of who you permit into your world, who you give time to or invest time with, and who you look to for ideas, information and education.

…It’s not an easy thing to face facts about a friend, family member, long-time employee or long-time vendor when they are, in some way, interfering with or disapproving of your accomplishment. It’s important to face these facts and to act on them because the more time you spend with people who are unhelpful, unsupportive, disrespectful, envious, resentful, dysfunctional or outright damaging to you, the less value all your time has.

…Few people can so perfectly compartmentalize that they can lock every thought, assertion and act of a toxic person in a little mind box and without leakage into other mind boxes. Paraphrasing a Chinese proverb (I found in a fortune cookie), if you lie down with mongrel dogs, even for a short nap, you wake up with fleas — and they ride with you wherever you go.

…Even if you’re associating only occasionally or briefly with someone who is intellectually or emotionally toxic or someone who is feckless and inept, it’s enough time for the fleas to leap from them to you, burrow in and be carried away by you to subtly affect your performance and productivity.

…Many small businesses wind up with a ruthlessly defensive key person who goes into murder mode anytime an attempt is made to add a second person but is “otherwise” terrific.

…On the other hand, constructive association with creative, inspiring, encouraging people can do a great deal to bolster your performance, thus making your time more valuable. Each minute of your time is made more or less valuable by the condition of your mind, and it is constantly being conditioned by association.

…Playing this game in a compromised mental state, weakened or wounded by poor ideas and attitudes seeded into the mind by association, is extremely difficult.

…Simply put, you want to deliberately reduce and restrict the amount of your time left vulnerable to random thought or association, and deliberately, sharply reduce the amount of time given to association with people who won’t make any productive contribution and may do harm.” — Entrepreneur Magazine

I have especially had experience with the “one key person” as above. I have experienced this twice. Neither turned out very well, and in both cases it took significantly longer than it should have for me to figure out what was going on. In both cases, the business bottom line and the morale of the other team members suffered. I tend to really want to believe in, coach and help my team members. Sadly though, sometimes that dedication and kindness has been a shortcoming. This is something I still struggle with.

Employee relationships can also turn stale over time. Sometimes, certain people can become so caught up in how it is and how it has been that they can become overtly or subtly resistant to new ideas and evolutions. They allow their own fear of change to stifle their growth and often even the growth of team members or the company as a whole. They are afraid to push beyond their current skills, fearing failure or the appearance of it. So, they remain stagnant. They stifle ideas that could lead to change. They resist, refute and refuse to cooperate. They are negative when changes to the way things have been emerge, even when they are clearly needed. They can do immense damage to your business, since they can interfere with organic growth, maturity and market evolution. In the end, when you look back on it, it seems clear that they simply needed to move on, to find someplace where their fears of change or growth could be managed. If they won’t rise to the occasion to conquer their fears, you simply have to understand and try to assist them, but you CAN NOT let their fears impact the natural growth of the company or the evolution of your products and services as needed by your clients and customers. To do so is a lose/lose. Guard against this by careful and honest vigilance. Be willing to honestly see each person and identify if the current path is right for them and right for your company. If not, then it may be time for deeper teaching or a change of team members.

Personal association can also be an issue. I remember well, a close friend I had been hanging around with for several years. He was also a fellow entrepreneur and we would often trade pitch ideas and work together to help each other refine concepts and marketing and strengthen ideas for new products and services. We would meet for coffee a couple of times a month. But slowly, the relationship took a different turn. In hindsight, it soured, but I am still not sure why. Over time, I noticed he began to focus on the negatives of my ideas. He would dissuade me from working on this project or launching a new product. Time and time again, it was negative. Finally, in the end, when it became apparent, I began to trim back on our meetings and eventually, the relationship fell away quickly and dramatically. However, that negativity caused me to miss launching two products and be slow launching a new service offering. That did damage to my businesses and some of the impacts were fairly long term. The world is full of people who will crush your ideas. In fact, finding someone who will support them is a pretty rare thing. I always strive to be the latter and I try to associate with folks who will give honest feedback, but will be supportive of even a wacky idea or two if they find that they might have merit.

I am not a fan of trimming away relationships. I love people. I am often way too loyal, even to those who would not be loyal to me. I am over trusting, overly friendly, and many times, too slow to realize that I am being taken advantage of. Having a big heart can sometimes be a problem for entrepreneurs and I have seen it cause me pain many times in my career. However, I would not change it. I would not close my heart for all of the success in the world. To me, a balance must be possible and it is that balance that I am continually seeking. From the board room to the coffee house and from the tech labs to my dinner table, I am trying to find the balance between an open heart and vigilance. But that, my friends, thus far, has been a good problem to have.

As always, thanks for reading, and feel free to share your ideas, feedback or thoughts with me via the comments or via Twitter (@lbhuston).

Posted in Entrepreneurship, Personal, Productivity Tagged with: , ,

A Moment with the End in Mind

Yesterday, I spent around an hour or so at the spot where my ashes will be scattered when I pass on. I won’t tell you exactly where, but it is on the windward side of Aruba, where the waves crash and cascade against the rocks. There are hundreds of shades of blues and greens in the water. The foam and sea spray play themselves out as intricate dancers in a never ending performance of earth, wind and sky. It is captivating, musical and engaging in a way that I can not even begin to describe with mere words.

The sea calls to me there. It beckons me to spend the rest of eternity infinitely surfing and resting in the arms of the great mother ocean. There, I am at peace. I am rest. I am clear. And, so with my thanks for the respite, I climbed out of the location and left my ultimate destination behind for another time. Some day, it will be my day to reside there, but yesterday, and so far today, it’s not now. That is also something I am thankful for. 

I share this moment with you, dear readers, because I want you to understand that it is one of the things that drives me as an entrepreneur. I have one more day. One more trick up my sleeve. One more post. One more idea. One more conversation. One more introduction. One more compile. One more hug still left in me. But, even as I awaken each day with the question of “How can I make life better for others today?”, I am also keenly aware that I only have so many days. That thought, more than the freedom and rewards of entrepreneurship, keeps me going. It gives me the strength to push through the criticisms, the personal attacks, the slander, the jibes, the nay sayers, the dream stealers and those who are only short focused on money, success and status. It keeps me, not just alive, but actually striving to enjoy the life I am blessed to lead.

Whenever I am faced with the challenge of how to move forward, or how to handle what often feels like too heavy a weight to bear, I anchor back to the place by the sea. I recognize that today is not my day to rest and surf in the azure for eternity. Then, I pull up my big boy pants, plant my feet, try to find the love in my heart and look for the lesson in what I am faced with. I progress. I breathe. I give thanks for the opportunity to touch the lives of others and I try to find a way to create a win/win. Usually, I am successful. Sometimes, not so much. But, I work hard to forgive others for hurt and anger, both real and imagined. I also strive ever forward trying to forgive myself for transgressions, both real and imagined. I try and do my best, for myself, my loved ones, my customers, my partners, my employees and all of you, my tribe.

I don’t know what keeps other entrepreneurs going. I don’t know if everyone has a reminder that drives them forward. But, this is mine. Maybe, by sharing it, I can help you recognize yours. Maybe my shared moment by the sea will get you thinking. Maybe you will decide how you will spend the rest of the “only so many days” that you have in your account. Either way, thanks for reading and thanks for indulging me in telling my story. 🙂

Posted in Entrepreneurship, Personal Tagged with:

The Power of a Picture

The other day, I had an interesting experience. I was working with a client in my information security company, and we had been struggling for about an hour to discuss a group of technology sites that needed to be tested. The group was getting all caught up in tripping over the names which all contained .com, .net, built with .NET, java, etc. Some members of the group were getting more confused as we went. The meeting was going way over time and we were so stuck on misnomers that we couldn’t get anything done.

Then it dawned on me. Make a picture and abstract the components to objects so we could talk about them more easily!

We called a recess and that evening I threw together a diagram, replacing each of the sites with an easy name, apple, banana, pineapple, kiwi, etc. I put a legend at the top that linked to the real specific site and the technical details. I then diagrammed the relationships between the objects and published it out to the group.

Today, we did another meeting. We used the map of the objects and everyone easily got the discussion done. We all clearly understood what each fruit really was and the discussions flowed easily and without issue. In 30 minutes, we got done what would have taken hours without abstraction.

Diagrams, abstraction, simplification and common language – these are the keys to team understanding when the topic is too complex and causing collisions in the brains of your team mates. Keep this in mind the next time you hear “So, the .com is written in .NET or was that the .net? Which one is Java again?”

It might seem simple and almost child-like, but in this case, abstraction and a picture being worth a 1000 words saved the day, again. 🙂

Posted in Entrepreneurship, Productivity Tagged with: ,

When Are You Available? Breaking the Back of Meeting Request Loops

One of the things I hate most, as an entrepreneur and modern knowledge worker, is the never ending trouble of scheduling meetings. Meetings themselves are a death nail of productivity, to be sure, but that’s a whole other topic. Instead, the one I am talking about is the loop of “I have Tuesday open, so we’ll check with Mike, Sara and Lisa to get a meeting scheduled.” Then, there is a mountain of time robbing, soul stealing back and forth emails, calls and texts to get it all figured out. You know the process… Sara is busy when everyone else is free and Mike doesn’t work Tuesday afternoons and blah blah blah…. 

The next thing you know, you’ve spent more time scheduling the meeting than a meeting would take (and it still has to happen too.. grrrrr…..). As an entrepreneur and small business person, this is a real profit killer. (It is for large companies too, it’s just that the bleeding isn’t as apparent to them as it is to us…)

So, let’s talk about a couple of ways that I have found to deal with this problem, or at least keep it to a minimum as much as possible.

1) Shared calendars for my staff – we use Google calendars and mail, so we have a shared calendar set for everyone in the company to see. This allows them to make time selections without needing the back and forth. This is available in Exchange and many other “corporate” platforms as well. But, if you are a small business and haven’t gotten around to building shared calendars, DO IT. DO IT NOW. It took care of about 80% of the immediate pain from this issue in one fell swoop.

That handles folks inside the organization, but what about prospects, customers, clients and partners?

2) Get a Virtual Personal Assistant (VPA) – I use Fancy Hands for this very reason, in addition to the other awesome stuff they do for me. They handle scheduling of complex issues for FREE. So, you can simply bring them into an email string or have them call folks to schedule a meeting and they will handle the lifting, the back and forth and the negotiations for you. You get a confirmation of the process and the event ends up on your calendar, so you get the normal alerts or other functions to bring it to your attention. For me, this is FANTASTIC! I use them for booking most meetings and they have only failed me once in almost a year of testing, and that was a complex meeting with 9 attendees and several time zones! Give them a try. (You can learn more about my use of them here.)

3) Introduce Doodle into your workflow –  You can think of Doodle as a self serve VPA or an anonymous sanitized calendar for online event scheduling. You create a personal page for your calendar and link your stuff to it. Then, a person can go to the site and request an appointment with you. They can see when you are free and when you are booked, without any of the details of the time slots. You get an email about their request and can either accept, decline or propose another time slot. This works very well, and is quick and easy for them and you. In simple one-on-one meetings, this is a fantastic solution. It even scales to about 3-4 people very well. Beyond about 4-5 people, the process gets cumbersome, so I usually punt back to Fancy Hands. But, this adds the final piece to the puzzle and makes it friendly and easy to schedule time with me. Check out my schedule page here. I simply added it to my email signature, so now every email contains contact info and a link to schedule appointments! 

If you would like to try Fancy Hands, you will find a referral code at the bottom of this page about me trying it. I do get a small compensation for the use of the codes, so please use them if you want to explore the service.

Between these three tools, I have eliminated about 99% of all of the pain of scheduling meetings and appointments. Give it a shot, and let me know how it works for you! 

Posted in Entrepreneurship, Productivity Tagged with: ,

Reflections on a Pitch Session

I attended an entrepreneur lunch session today, and I was struck by how many folks are full of great ideas. Ideas that could turn into powerful products and services, EXCEPT that the people who seemed to be discussing them appeared to lack enough will power to actually DO anything to make them come to life.

Ideas flowed around the table with fluidity and grace. Some of the ideas were mashups, some recycled and some brilliantly meaningful in their newness. But, whenever the seasoned entrepreneurs at the table dug in and asked the idea owner about how to make it come to life, there seemed to be quite a bit lacking on the side of doing. They talked about raising money, about marketing, about the logistics of making the idea work. But whenever we turned to getting started, finding the first 3 steps and defining them clearly, breaking their dreams down to a minimum viable product, the conversation lagged. 

Clearly, not everyone is cut out to be an entrepreneur. It’s hard work. It’s risky. It’s rewarding, yes, but it’s also tough, scary and a roller coaster ride. As with many of these idea pitch round tables, the dreams are big but the will to make them come true is often lacking. Clearly, we need more do in our society. We need more people willing to engage, to strive, to build, to make and to grow. They need to push their boundaries, help break our expectations and generate a whole new concept of what it means to succeed. I want them to. I want YOU to. The question is, do YOU want to DO it bad enough to actually DO it? Until you pass the gut check of going from IDEA to DOING IT, we won’t know. 

Take those steps. 

I can’t wait to see what you make, what your dreams coming to life begins to  resemble and what kind of passion it awakens in your heart. Join me on the seasoned entrepreneur side of the table. It’s worth it! 

Posted in Entrepreneurship, Life Hacking, Personal Tagged with: ,

Guest Post: 80/20 Marketing

Profits and the Pareto Principle

By Perry Marshall


How to Earn Disproportionate Profits from High-End Customers

     Young people will be excused if they can only think of coffee in terms of decadent delights, indie folk music, and décor meant to satisfy the hipster’s eye.  The rest of us might recall an altogether different sort of caffeine related experience: that antiquated greasy spoon on a nearby highway, where those who hauled truck for a living could be found every morning, and where noting that the java on a given day was “good” was really something to marvel at.  

     We all know it was Starbucks that flipped that paradigm on its head, making assorted caffeinated beverages a luxurious (and hugely profitable) commodity.  So how do we follow suit and earn disproportionate profits from high-end customers?

Earn Money Exponentially with the Pareto Principle

     The answer is, quite plainly, in the math.  The Pareto Principle—more commonly known in business circles as 80/20—states that 80% of a company’s profits come from but 20% of its total customers.  The 80% are the casual consumers who could take or leave your product, and can’t really be relied upon for repeat business.  The other 20% are a different matter entirely; passionate about your wares, they can’t imagine living without them, and are willing to part with decent sums of money to keep the good stuff coming.  

     What’s more, this all-pervasive law of 80/20 is exponential.  That is to say, within that core 20% of faithful customers, 20% of those are absolute fanatics.  They are your brand’s most zealous grass-roots advocates, and might well jump through rings of fire for you.

     Let’s again use Starbuck as an example, as they are, in this regard, quite exemplary.  For those still in search of a plain, no-frills cup of Joe, that old greasy spoon is still just a short drive away.  In other words, by offering a gourmet experience at a slightly higher price, Starbucks has already eliminated the least profitable segment—roughly 80%–of potential customers before they’ve even entered the door.  

     Again, this clever marketing strategy, like the math upon which it’s based, works exponentially.  We can be certain that those who frequent Starbuck have both an appetite for pumpkin lattes, as well as the money to pay for it.  20% of those reliable customers are quite likely to be spellbound by high-end coffee beverages, and have a great deal more money to spend on their obsession.

     Like any keen business, Starbucks is entirely prepared to cater to these fervent few.  What true caffeine junkie with holes burning in his pockets wouldn’t love to bring the experience home with an espresso maker?  Starbucks has got that and then some.  For just under $300—think of that as one hundred customers each buying a single $3 drink—the genuinely dedicated can bring Saeco’s Aroma Espresso Machine.  

     But that’s all kid’s stuff to coffee aficionados, and chump change compared to the whale of espresso makers.  Starbucks has at the ready Nuova Simonelli’s Musica Lux, the highest of the high-end.  At a bit under $3,000, the Musica Lux can move as much in one shot as one thousand customers each buying one beverage.  And yes, within that 20% of 20%, you can count on yet another 20% segment of hugely wealthy consumers who would just about lie down and die for a premium espresso.

Become the Next Starbucks with 80/20

     How does your business stack up?  Are you content to plug away selling endless amounts of relatively inexpensive items, or is there an upper tier of consumers you could be catering to?  The law of 80/20 assures us that there is indeed a high-end bracket of customers that can help you earn a disproportionate amount of profits.  Zero in on your company’s most faithful buyers, and offer them something a bit higher on the shelf.  Rather than perpetual toiling for a relative pittance, you can make a small fortune with one brief, big kill.


Get Perry’s new book “80/20 Sales & Marketing” at a very very special price:

Posted in Entrepreneurship, Guest Post, Learning Tagged with: , ,

Give Yourself The Permission to Face Your Fears

Give yourself permission to do something out of the box. 

Today, technology has made having your own radio or TV show so simple that it’s a shame not to do it. Sure, you might not get it on broadcast radio or TV, but a podcast or video posted to youtube, might even get you a global audience instead. The problem is – it starts with you. You have to have the courage to do it, to face your fears, to create a message and put it out there. You have to give yourself permission to fail or succeed, but either way, it all starts with giving yourself the permission to try. 

Want your business to grow? Make something happen. Put together an event for potential clients. Start a forum, or pull together a summit. Create a way for folks to connect and exchange ideas. Build clubs, user groups or just have a coordinated lunch with anyone in your community. Putting people together is a great start, assuming you can give yourself permission to make it happen. 

What are you waiting for? What else has to be right for you to get started? Just step out. Raise your voice. Make it happen. Give yourself permission to face your fears.

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