Miracle Morning, Time Blocking and Think and Grow Rich with Alexis Kingsbury, serial entrepreneur and business consultant.
Listen Below and Here’s What We Recommended:
Tools & Apps
- iThoughts app – a mind mapping application. “It’s probably the best app and most powerful app that I use, and it’s the one I’m asked about most often when I’m at conferences because I take all my notes into iThoughts.”
- My Fitness Pal app – fitness and food app for tracking data like meals, calories and exercise.
- WordPress app – for blogging straight into a blog from a phone or tablet.
- Intercom – a customer communication platform. “I have an application called ‘Intercom’, which is used by my software business for one of our support tech teams, so I can keep an eye on what conversations people are having.”
- Buffer – for scheduling tweets.
- Miracle Morning by Hal Elrod – essentially sets out six activities for you to do every morning.
- Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill
- Live It by Jairek Robbins – Alexis says “in the book it says to identify your perfect day, because the more you bring that to life in your head, the closer you’ll get to actually achieving it in your life”.
- How Will You Measure Your Life? – Clayton M. Christensen – one of the things he highlights is that he went to a very reputable university, and as he went to the reunions he saw that initially people were extremely successful. After about the fourth decade of reunions or whatever, suddenly some of them are on their own and lost their relationships, some are in prison, and some have lost it all, some have committed suicide, and so on. He just reflects on the fact that intelligence doesn’t prevent that. The problem is that we tend to get the goals wrong and we tend to prioritise a particular thing, so at the end of the rainbow, then the dreams will come true. I think actually you have to start living the dream now.
- Eat that Frog – Brian Tracy ie doing the worst thing you need to get done on a day in the morning so that it’s out of the way.
- “I’ve got it as part of my visioning in the morning that I make sure that I have gone to bed before eleven.”
- From Think and Grow Rich – “invent a council of people who you would almost like as coaches, alive or dead, that you know enough, perhaps by reading their autobiographies or knowing them through basically whatever, that you can almost give yourself advice through their lens.”
- “What could I meaningfully do today/this week/this month to achieve that?” Using this question on a short and long term basis to ensure that work is meaningful and taking you to wherever you plan to be, rather than just ‘being busy’.
- Relative prioritisation is really important; what is most important at any given time.
- Time blocking on your calendar to achieve tasks and reach goals
- Planning and ensuring that the right stuff gets done so that there is no ‘guilt’ of not achieving what needs to be done.
- Exercise “baking it into my life. It’s not trying to have it as this crazy add on and decide, “Oh, I’m going to run in the mornings even though I don’t want to. I’m going to go to the gym on Tuesdays and Thursdays, but then feel fed up that I’m not seeing my family. Instead, it’s built into my life that it’s just part of it now.”
- “If I realise I’ve had a really inefficient day, I’ve not eaten that frog, I’ve not done the exercise or whatever, if I catch it I will talk to myself out loud. I think it’s like a pattern break, which I believe comes from the world of NLP, and Derren Brown, and so on. ‘Alexis, you haven’t done anything productive this morning…’.”
To Contact Alexis
Jo Dodds: Today I'm interviewing Alexis Kingsbury of "Making Greatness." Hello Alexis. Thanks for joining me.
Alexis : Hi there Jo, my pleasure.
Jo Dodds: Good to have you here, and I don't know why I'm going to tell everybody this, but this is the first one we're doing where we can actually see each other as we're speaking, so it's a bit of a test, a little trial to see if it makes any difference, so it may or may not happen again. We'll see how we get on.
Start by telling me a bit about you, what you do, and where you do it.
Alexis : Sure, I run three different companies. One's a consultancy called Bridging Insight. Another is an online software tool, it's a 360 feedback tool called Spidergap. I have an online coaching/training business that you mentioned, which is "Making Greatness." For all those businesses there's a lot of work that I'm able to do remotely, and so I work from home most of the time, and occasionally from the coffee shop or the wine bar that recently opened in my hometown, which has now got fibre-optic broadband which is excellent.
Jo Dodds: Oh brilliant. I'm liking the sound of that. I must look out for my own wine bar.
Alexis : it's called People de Pinot, which is even more excellent. Occasionally I visit clients, or go and speak at conferences, or run training events on particular sites, but most of my work, the vast majority, is done remotely, so I work from home.
Jo Dodds: What's the sort of type of work that you're doing? Sometimes you are live and with people, and they are in offices, but when you're working from the coffee shop, or the wine bar, or your office, what sort of things are you doing?
Alexis : There's a real mix by virtue of being a business owner in the sense that you do have to do actual work with clients, so whether it's writing some presentation that I'm going to deliver or whether it's writing a script for a video I'm going to record. There's also the business activities as well, so whether it's creating a marketing campaign and identifying the copy that's going be for some advert, or as you know, planning a webinar that we did on engaging and developing millennial talent that you co-hosted with me back in August. There's a huge variety of things that I have to do on a day-to-day basis to help me achieve the goals. I do also have some lighting equipment here, and some cameras, and mount frames and so on. I can do some video recording, particularly of me in front of a white board trying to explain something as best I can. I even do that from home as well.
Jo Dodds: That's something I get put off with all the time. I keep thinking I need to do more video, but I'm too self-critical for video. Live is fine. If somebody else is recording me, it's fine. If I'm doing it myself, nightmare. Although, we have tried Periscope. Little Doddsy was desperate to try, so we gave it a go which was quite entertaining.
Alexis : It's very new and very exciting. I think I've seen a few examples where it looks like it might be a killer app, but there seems to be a lot of people going onto it and going, "What's all this about? This all seems pointless." I try and remind them that's what everyone said about Twitter. It then did evolve.
Jo Dodds: That's true. Of course, you saw the Engage for Success team doing Morris dancing this week on Periscope didn't you, which is quite exciting.
Alexis : Yeah, that's something that I can't un-watch. It was very insane. Everyone looked like they were having a lot of fun and indeed creating a great team spirit. It's lovely to be able to share that live with people on Periscope. That's really cool and I did enjoy that.
Jo Dodds: Tell us a bit about what you do to set your day up. Do you have a morning routine? Do you have some things that you do every day to get going? Or, is it a little bit haphazard, as mine is tending to be at the moment, I have to admit!
Alexis : I'm a bit of a geek. There's a book called "Miracle Morning", by Hal Elrod, which essentially sets out six activities for you to do every morning, getting up early and starting off with some silence, and possibly meditation, although that's not quite my style, a bit of affirmations, some visualisation, some scribing, including planning your day, a bit of physical exercise, and some personal development, listening to audio books or whatever. I do subscribe to that. I do use that as often as I can. I like the way that Hal describes it, which is that your life is essentially made up of days and you have the opportunity in the morning to set your rudder for that day, and therefore the rudder for your entire life. By taking that time in the morning to focus on what's most important, to remind you of your goals, to align your activities for the day against those, and to do something like physical exercise and personal development that help you expand your thinking a little bit more, that can have a positive impact on the rest of what you do.
I've certainly found that's benefited me. I haven't always done it in the form of Hal Elrod's miracle morning style, but I've always done it, or at least I've certainly done it in some form or another, in the last four years, but only recently picked up the "Miracle Morning" model. As a result, I do get up early as much as I can before my two-year-old son starts squawking and requires looking after.
Jo Dodds: I was going to say, what time does early mean to do that? I'm lucky, little Doddsy never got up early. 8:00
was early for her!
Alexis : Wow.
Jo Dodds: If you're talking 6:30 and you have to get up before that.
Alexis : Yeah, that is what ... This morning he woke up at 6:30, I got out of the bed at 5:30, so that gave me a good hour to do that routine in a proper way. It is possible to do a shorter version. Anyone listening that thinks, "Oh I know I couldn't do 5:30. I could dedicate 15 minutes," then I'd recommend at least starting with that. I find it really useful to do it properly, but then I've always been a bit of an early riser. As long as my son doesn't have a nightmarish night, I generally wake up actually about 5:30 anyway. I do have other people in my network who find it much harder to get up, but feel amazing having done so.
Jo Dodds: Two questions on that: How do you make that happen if you are going off to a client or whatever? Do you just have to get up even earlier or does it become the 15 minute version?
Alexis : That does make it harder, so both of those are options, either deciding that, "Right, 4:30 then," although that's technically not the preferred one than doing the shorter one often is. When I also do, particularly if I'm having to travel anyway, then that means that certainly in the car I'm able to listen to audio books to get personal development in there. I haven't yet started doing press ups on the train, but I can at least do the visualisation and scribing part. As long as I can get some of that physical exercise before I go.
Having said all of that, I do tend to avoid having to do the early mornings with a client, not because I shun early mornings, because as discussed, I actually quite like getting up early, it's more about the fact that the time wasted stuck in traffic or on packed tube trains, or on trains where you can't sit down and have a desk / table to work at, I just find completely wasted. As much as possible I arrange client workshops and so on to start at about 11, which gives plenty of time to get down at a time that isn't rush hour. I do avoid that where possible. If I can't, make it shorter, get up earlier, don't do it at all if I feel rubbish. Those are all options.
Jo Dodds: The second question is what do you do the night before? Do you have to make sure you're in bed by a certain time to enable you to get up? Do you have a certain routine to enable that to happen? From my own personal experience, I'm not a morning person anyway, so my tendency is to want to stay up late. To go to bed at a reasonable time is really hard, but if you're an early riser, that's normally not so much the case. Is that true or is that just me feeling inadequate?
Alexis : Perhaps when I was quite a bit younger I used be one of those people that would burn that candle at both ends and I had absolutely no problem doing so. Since starting our family that's changed a bit and I'm definitely impacted more by that. I am very fortunate in the fact that I have the opposite of an alarm clock. At about 9pm I get this gentle noise that says, "Right, I'm really tired. I think I'm going to go to bed darling." My wife goes to bed and I follow. The fact that my wife's pretty pregnant at the moment makes that even earlier, sometimes not past 8. I try partly because I know how good it is for me in the morning.
I've got better at thinking, "No, no, no, I will go to bed early or earlier," and I've got it as part of my visioning in the morning that I make sure that I have gone to bed before 11. Having said that, you probably know from seeing me at conference drinks and so on, I tend to be one of the last people standing. When I do get the opportunity to properly socialise and be out, I'm last one on the dance floor, and then you can just see it in my face the morning after.
Jo Dodds: Do you find it easy to switch off? My brain runs so fast at night that I have to read before I go to sleep, and little Doddsy has to do the same, otherwise I just can't sleep. Do you have that issue or does it all sort of naturally happen because you go off so early?
Alexis : Exactly, I just collapse. I'm generally not very good at switching off at all. That's the kind of thing that my wife might complain that most, 99%, of what I discuss, and I think about, and so on is my work, but it's because I'm passionate about it and I love it. I'm never moaning about it. I'm always talking about stuff that excites me. Naturally, I think that does have an impact if you're going to sleep and, "I wonder what would happen if I did this, and I've got this idea."
However, perhaps some of the activities that I’ve done in the afternoon and particularly what I do with my work day is I tend to properly finish when my wife and son return home at about 6pm. I don't tend to do the, "Oh, well I'll stop work, go and have dinner with them, and then go back to work, and then go to bed," kind of thing, which I think I have done previously. That does set my brain going. That is when my wife might moan that I seem to be lying in bed and ... You know when you've got someone right next to you and they're pretending to sleep, and they're so actively pretending to sleep that you can feel it? As a result, I tend to avoid that.
I think tiredness helps. A two-year-old definitely helps when you get to sleep as quickly as I can in the evenings. There are some other strategies that I use to try and get to sleep more quickly. Particularly, to the taking my thinking of the day-to-day rather than thinking about the day that I've just had and so on. I do this thing that's really geeky that I learned from, I think it's the last chapter of "Think and Grow Rich", by Napoleon Hill, which is a brilliant book. Highly recommend it to anyone. What's quite weird about it is it's basically 12 chapters of the same concept being discovered in different ways to get you to realize the secret and the message behind it.
The last chapter is him basically telling you something quite odd, which I started doing and quite like it, which is to invent a council of people who you would almost like as coaches, alive or dead, that you know enough, perhaps by reading their autobiographies or knowing them through basically whatever, that you can almost give yourself advice through their lens. What I do is I imagine being at essentially a meeting with those people and briefly attempting to describe my biggest challenge or a question that I've got, and then trying to think about how each of them would answer it. More often than not I'm asleep before two of them answers. I can't vouch for it yet as being an amazing tool like Napoleon Hill describes for helping you to overcome those answers, but as a way of getting to sleep it's amazing.
Jo Dodds: Go on, I've got to ask you, can you reveal one or two of those people?
Alexis : I can. Richard Branson tends to get to speak first. Robert Kiyosaki from "Rich Dad, Poor Dad" is also in there. There's a few others that people are less likely to know that are either people that already coach me or whatever. I tend to pick people who have a very strong lens on the world, and as a result I feel like I could accurately represent their thoughts. To be honest, I partly picked it up, because as a consultant and a coach, I'm regularly asked for my advice to various businesses and business leaders on what to do. I'm good at it. They use the advice, they get great results. I realised that often I wasn't taking my own advice and that sometimes I wasn't even giving myself an opportunity to think about what that advice should be. I found that this is an effective way of me essentially giving myself that perspective in a way that doesn't feel completely mental.
Jo Dodds: I like it as a concept!
Alexis : It's slightly mental. It feels slightly ... I'm concerned about sharing this publicly.
Jo Dodds: I was going to say you don't admit it to everybody. I'll make you feel much better because that sounds very intellectual and very helpful. When I'm really struggling to get to sleep I go back and try and remember all the store numbers at Staples when I used to be the HR manager there. When I started there were 7 stores and when I left there were 40. We opened a lot of stores in three years. I go through the list every night. Store one was whatever, store two was Swansea, store three was Cambridge, store four was ... Then I fall asleep. It’s like counting sheep, but it's retail stores. That makes you sound really intellectual and impressive now.
Alexis : If I didn't fall asleep during halfway through Robert Kiyosaki's explanation of what I should be doing, then yes!
Jo Dodds: It would be more impressive. Good point. Excellent. It sounds like, with three business to run, that managing your time is really key, as it is for lots of us who work from home. How do you do that? Have you got particular strategies? I'm sure you have. You're going to say, "It's a bit geeky but ..." I'm sure that's going to come out again in the answer.
Alexis : That's almost going to be the theme of this particular interview isn't it? It's a bit geeky but ... It is. Part of it comes out through my morning ritual of identifying one of my goals, reminding myself of what I'm trying to achieve. For example, for Making Greatness specifically, and I have different goals for different business, for that business it's about helping people to love their work, and specifically I want to help 1 million people to help their work through various avenues. That helps me to then identify, "What could I meaningfully do today/this week/this month to achieve that?" This isn't something I just plan on a daily basis. This is something that is obviously more long term, and then I'm reviewing it in the morning and working, "Okay, what does that mean for today?"
Then, I relentlessly prioritise my time. I'm a big believer in the power of relative prioritisation. I've used a lot of time management techniques, urgent, important, not important, not urgent models, and found that the only one that really works for me is, essentially a to-do list, but a prioritised list of, "If I do nothing else today, this is the thing that must happen," and then what's number two, what's number three, what's number four. I tend to mind map that out on my iPad in the morning. I'll probably then look at my calendar, work out what I've got arranged from previous days, and then block out time to do the things that are on my list. I'll say, "That's probably a quick job, it's 15 minutes, pop that in. 45 minutes on that. An hour and a half on that." I'll block out the days so I know exactly what I should be doing throughout the day, and then as much as possible keep to that.
That helps me manage my time because it means that the activities I'm doing are based on a prioritisation, but it also helps me because it reduces my stress because I know that I've already decided what I should be doing, so therefore I don't get that guilt feeling when you feel like you could probably be better using your time. Right now you're doing this, and you start to feel guilty, and then you get to the end of the day and you're like, "Well now I feel even more guilty because the one thing I did plan on doing, even if I didn't think that was then the most important, I've still not done that one." I find that that's most effective. I don't have every day all perfect and it all lines up like that, but it allows me to let myself off the hook. It also allows me to identify if there are things that drop off the bottom of the list and don't get done, I can then make a decision as to if they should happen tomorrow, or not at all, or whatever. That's probably how I really go about my time management.
Jo Dodds: I think the time blocking is really interesting. It's not something I'm very good at and I always plan in far too much to do. When you talk about the guilt thing, this week on Monday, randomly, instead of thinking of a better way of doing it, I decided that in between working I was going to do lots of cooking, so that at the end of the day even if I was frustrated about things I hadn't done I'd have lots of food to show for it. It worked! Monday felt like a really good day.
Alexis : I've got no work done, but 1,000 sausage rolls!
Jo Dodds: Exactly. Now, I did get some work done as well, but I sort of felt that I had something to show for it at the end. It's not often that I get to the end, and I can't really see what I've done, but I know I’ve done lots of stuff that's been needed. On this occasion we could actually eat dinner with lots of nice stuff as well.
Alexis : I'll have to try that because I believe in not knocking it until you try it. It sounds like it's probably not going to help my diet, but it sounds fun. I should also ... I just thought of one of the techniques that I highly recommend to people. It's something that Brian Tracy advocates, which is a concept he calls "eat that frog". The concept comes from the idea of if you were to eat a whole live frog in the morning, it's the worst thing that you will have to do that day, and the rest of the day feels comparatively easy, and so on. Actually, the best time, if you're going to eat a frog, the best time is to do it first thing in the morning rather than think about it all day.
The way that time's right is just when you're coming up with your prioritisation list, identify the thing that is the most important, that would have the most impact on achieving your goal, that you've probably put it off because it feels so scary or it's not something you enjoy or whatever, and try and put that at the top of your list so that ... When you do that, the rest of the day will feel a lot easier. Secondly, when you do get to the end of the day and you're surrounded by 1,000 sausage rolls, at least you would have done that other major task that was at the top of the list as well, rather than I've updated my social media profile, I've tweeted a few people, I've answered my emails, I've done this. What a productive day. I just wish any of that progressed my life.
Jo Dodds: Exactly.
Alexis : Doing at least one task that genuinely will do that right at the beginning of the day has an amazing impact on the rest of the day, never mind the impact of having done the job.
Jo Dodds: Definitely. I wonder why he came up with a frog. There could have been a whole host of other things you could have eaten that would have been horrible.
Alexis : I can only assume that he's eaten a frog and knows it's awful.
Jo Dodds: Yeah maybe so! It's funny you mention him. I was listening to a podcast with him on only yesterday where he was talking about eating the frog, so that was interesting. Just to be clear with everybody, I wasn't making sausage rolls on Monday. I was making very healthy food including boiling eggs and what was the other thing that was in for snacks? Cooking sausages and boiling eggs so that we had healthy snacks instead of, and these are gluten free sausages, rather than rubbish. Anyway.
Alexis : That's entirely the opposite approach to how I imagined it to be.
Jo Dodds: You thought it'd be cakes and things. I did make a cake actually, but it was a non-sugar one. It was very nice, non-gluten and all that sort of stuff. I'm a bit frightened to ask the next question as we mentioned ‘geek’ a few times, but what about apps or tools that you would recommend? This is where we're going to get really technical isn't it?
Alexis : Surprisingly, probably not. I am a geek and I started my first online business when I was 13. I've always loved technology. I've always loved learning about software, apps, and websites, and whatever, but I'm a big believer in not using technology for the sake of it. As a result, my actual use of apps tends to reduce down quite quickly as I either find them useful or not. I have an iPhone 6, I have an iPad Air, I have a MacBook Pro, so I'm clearly an Apple geek. Partly I find that it helps that I'm integrated across all those devices with very little switch over time. I like to use and embrace other ways.
iThoughts is probably the best app and most powerful app that I use, and it's the one I'm asked about most often when I'm at conferences because I take all my notes into iThoughts, which is a mind mapping application. I put all my notes into there, all my actions, etc. It helps that I also have my goals, and my annual priorities, and my daily plan, and my daily Miracle Morning stuff all in there as well, so if I come up with an idea I can just switch, map, and pop it in. A lot of people look over my shoulder and say, "Oh, what's that?" I literally ended up having to draft a ten page email in Google so that I could ... Literally in one conference I got asked ten times. iThoughts, highly recommended. It's about $7.99, but it's definitely worth it. I've tried loads of applications, it's the best.
For my fitness, I track using My Fitness Pal, which I use for tracking all my meals, for tracking calories. Also, I tend to put in what exercise I've done as well so I can keep track on if I'm doing the stuff I plan to do. I then have specific apps on my iPhone and iPad relating to my businesses. For example, I have a WordPress app, which I use for recording blog ideas, and actually sometimes writing full blogs straight in. I have an application called "Intercom", which is used by my software business for one of our support tech teams, so I can keep an eye on what conversations people are having. My accounting solution, I have an app for that as well. All my bank accounts, I have apps for. It's rare that there isn't an application that I'm not using for those. Big user of social media as well, particularly Twitter, so I'll use that. I just used Buffer to schedule to try and separate my thoughts out throughout the day by Twitter. Quite a few applications. Does that cover-
Jo Dodds: Yes. It didn't sound too geeky. It was fun. We got away with it there. You talked about My Fitness Pal and exercise. What do you do to keep healthy? We talked about sausage rolls.
Alexis : It's probably only two or three months before now that I made a proper decision that I was going to get myself fit because my weight has always been an issue for me. It's always something that I've struggled to control. It's not like it's ballooned all the time, but it's just got slightly more, and slightly more, and slightly more, particularly when I got busy.
Jo Dodds: It's baby weight.
Alexis : Yeah, it's just old baby weight. I've struggled a bit with that. It's not like I'm crazy obese or anything like that, it's just that I want to feel fitter. I've tended to put it off and say, "Oh well, I'm an entrepreneur, I'm really busy, I've got loads of work projects and whatever, so I'll do it afterwards when they're successful," and I've started to realise that it doesn't work that way. You have to balance across all of them and find a balance that doesn't feel like you're sacrificing. Find a balance that actually feels like you've designed it, you've designed your day. ‘Miracle Morning’ is a great example where I've designed that time into my day. It allows me to feel like I've been really productive before I then have breakfast with my son and feed him while my wife gets ready for work. That's a designed part of my day that allows me to have really good family time.
In the same way, parts of my ‘miracle morning’ includes some sit ups and leg raises and all this kind of stuff. Also, I made a decision to get a personal trainer. I've signed up with some gyms before and just found it pointless because the only thing it was reducing was my bank balance, whereas when I got a personal trainer in an hour's session I get worked so hard that on at least one occasion I've pretty much fainted. I would never work myself that hard in a gym, and yet it feels brilliant. At the end of it I'm like, "Yeah, that was really, really, really good and really powerful," and I can feel the difference a couple of days afterwards. It supports it along with tracking calories and doing the exercising in the morning. I have been losing a pound a week. Different people have different goals. People sometimes ask me, "What's the weight you want to get to?" That's not the way my goal's set up. My goal is to lose a pound a week until I go, "Yup, that's probably where I want to keep it," and struggle my way to do that.
I think what's worked best there is baking it into my life. It's not trying to have it as this crazy add on and decide, "Oh, I'm going to run in the mornings even though I don't want to. I'm going to go to the gym on Tuesdays and Thursdays, but then feel fed up that I'm not seeing my family. Instead, it's built into my life that it's just part of it now. For example, this afternoon I've got a personal training session. It's an hour, I've got about half an hour of travel either side of that. I'll listen to personal development while I'm traveling. I've accepted that time is coming out of my work time, out of my day, rather than out my evenings or out my mornings.
Jo Dodds: That's one of the things that quite often I talk to people who have their own businesses and work from home that it's actually quite a transition to realise you can do stuff in the day. You're sort of hard wired that it's a working day, especially if you've got a partner who's working as well, that you feel like you're living it up a bit going and doing something that doesn't involve work. Actually, if you say one of the reasons we do what we do is to give us that flexibility to make those things all fit together in the right way for our lives, and we don't always start in that way do we? We think that we've got to do 9 to 5 work, have a lunch break.
Alexis : I actually think ... In retrospect, I think you have to start off that way, because otherwise if you put having a work/life balance as being the goal of the end of successful business/entrepreneurship or whatever, you'd be surprised that you'll never get there partly because, it might be Keith Cunningham, where it's certainly mentioned in Hal Elrod's book, one of the things that you often need for business success is go for a run or have a bit of exercise because it clears your head and so on. It's actually part of a healthy process of achieving success.
The other thing is it takes the pressure off because if you're already having a good work/life balance, and seeing your kids, and spending time with your partner, and you're treating your health effectively, and so on, it nearly doesn't matter whether your business ends up being successful rather than if you're planning on doing that after getting your business successful, everything is pinned on that, not just financial security, everything. Your life, your happiness, and indeed there are plenty, we all know people, that are currently sacrificing that. There's a guy that's in my coaching group, his girls are now 13 and 15 and basically he spent their entire life up until now working really hard on the businesses so that he could get to a point where he could spend time with them. Now he wants to and they don't.
Jo Dodds: They don't want to.
Alexis : They're like, "Hmm." They call him by his first name. He doesn't really see them during the week, and then he sees them at the weekends, even at the weekends he only sees them Sundays. That's an extreme example, but we probably also know examples of people, including in our families, who have worked so much it's been a factor in the breakdown of their relationship. There's a brilliant book by Clayton M. Christensen called "How Will You Measure Your Life?", and one of the things he highlights is that he went to, must have been Harvard or at least a very reputable university, and as he went to the reunions he saw that initially people were extremely successful, and they've got these beautiful wives or husbands, and they've got these amazing jobs and they're moving up the career ladder and so on.
After about the fourth decade of reunions or whatever, suddenly some of them are on their own and lost their relationships, some are in prison, and some have lost it all, some have committed suicide, and so on, or some are just so unhealthy that their bodies have given up. He just reflects on the fact that intelligence doesn't prevent that. These are incredibly intelligent, as he highlights, not just academically intelligent, but well rounded people. You don't get into these universities just by being intelligent. The problem is that we tend to get the goals wrong and we tend to prioritize a particular thing, so at the end of the rainbow, then the dreams will come true. I think actually you have to start living the dream now.
Jo Dodds: Absolutely. The whole society is built around creating this success, and we're only starting, I think, in recent years to start talking about what you want and how you build that in now as you say. There's so many people who in the last, say, ten years since I've had my own business that were talking about business stuff. They had certain products. They had certain things that they were doing. In the last year they've been a bit like I am. They've been coming out with how to simplify your life, how to be mindful, how to really take time to appreciate what you've got, rather than these constantly trying to get something in the future as you say.
I think it's a bit of the sign of the times for sure. It will become even more a popular topic. It's just whether people can let themselves really, truly appreciate where they are, rather than as you say. It's one thing to have goals and wanting to be doing something different in the future, but to not stop and actually realize how good things are now. As you say, it's just putting it all off and then finding out it wasn't quite what you expected it to be anyway sort of thing.
Alexis : Absolutely. Absolutely. I think that's something that I reflect on every day as part of my visualisation exercise because one thing about visualisation is it's meant to be, "Thinking ahead, imagine your perfect day, and imagine your perfect life." The book by Tony Robbins' son Jairek Robbins called "Live It", and in that it describes, "Identify your perfect day," because the more you bring that to life in your head, the closer you'll get to actually achieving it in your life. That's something that's definitely occurred to me is when I was starting to visualize it, I realized that 80% of it is achievable just by doing it.
For example, part of my visualisation is my perfect day does actually start off with getting up early and doing my ‘miracle morning’, then it's about having breakfast with my son. This morning, like most mornings I sit in our living room and feed my son. I cooked three boiled eggs. He's not even two yet, he ate two and a quarter of them. I cooked them for us to share. The first time I gave it to him he ate half an egg, then one egg, and it's just gone up and up. I'm literally having no breakfast now. That's part of my perfect day. Part of my perfect day is getting to spend that time while ... My wife wants to get ready for work and so on, and I don't need to do that much. A quick shower and getting changed is enough for me. As a result, I get that really good quality time baked into my life through visualising it and saying, "That's what I want," and then creating it in reality.
Jo Dodds: It's about appreciating that isn't it? The fact that you're spending that time to think about those things is giving you that chance to appreciate it. I think quite often we have these experiences and we don't realise, and we don't think, and we don't reflect on the fact that ... I'm not naturally a reflector, but I think it's so important to do that, to firstly be in the moment, but also to think back about those moments that you've had so that you can see that you're doing the things that you want to do.
That really leads us to the last question which is about when you end the day, knowing you've had the chance to live more, and I talk about that being doing the stuff you really want to do, not the things you need to do or feel like you should do, I'm really interested to find out what would you have done. I guess in some ways that's because when you talk sometimes about rituals and things like ‘Miracle Morning’ and so on, in some ways you could argue that's a ‘should’ because you've planned it in, but it sounds to me that's it isn't a ‘should’ to you, it's a ‘want’ and it is part of that thing that you want to do. What would that day look like and does it include all those things that you're doing from a success point of view as well if you like?
Alexis : Definitely, I think, as you say, it isn't a ‘should’ for me. It isn't. I never look at things like reading books, I'm a big listener of audio books, I listen to probably two audio books a week, I'm getting through over 100 a year, but I never look at those as things I should do. They are things I want to do. They're things I enjoy doing. Time spent on those is valuable and I really enjoy it. I think for me a super successful day where I really feel like, "Oh, that was just amazing!", is where I've got the balance quite nicely right, and I don't mean, again, I don't mean that as a struggle, I mean that I've just managed I've made sure I've had that time in the morning, done some physical exercise, had some really good quality time with my son and with my wife, and that I've thought strategically about what I want to do with my businesses, and cleared off some of my annoying actions that might not excite me very much, but they make me feel good because it's ‘eating the frog’ stuff.
Then, beyond that it's the epiphany moments and it's the moments in the day where you're able to take a step back and look, in my case, at a particular business and say, "What were the biggest thing I could do or what would have the biggest impact on the success of my customers or the ability of my business to succeed in the long term?" or whatever, and coming up with an idea or just the start of an idea that could be effective. Yesterday's a really good example where I had essentially a half day session with my business partner Paddy, where we met with on Spidergap, where we were planning, "Okay, we've just done a major release. Customers are actually loving it. What's the difficult second album? What's the next thing that we wow them with? What do we do?"
Taking the time to do that and come up with some really good answers meant that at the end of the day I was buzzing. My wife comes through the door and I'm working really hard to ask her about her day, and find out about what happened at the nursery for my son, and do all of that, but I'm absolutely itching to say, "I've got to tell you this. This is what happened. This customer is doing this and I'm helping ..." For me, that's an amazing day. That's when I feel I've been ...
The other thing is that I think some people have a big desire to do adrenaline, or exciting things, or visit interesting places, or whatever. They want to jump out of a plane. They want to go to Chile. They want to go and run with a tribe or whatever. If that's your goal, if that's what you want to do, brilliant, absolutely. I think in many ways my tastes and my goals are more simple; so for me an amazing day might just be that I've managed to clear off a task list, think about how I can be more successful, and at the same time as all that go for a walk where I then go and have lunch, and do some of my work at the wine bar. It's like, “That is living the dream for me”. I wouldn't be able to do that if I wasn't working on my own and owning my own businesses. Obviously I wouldn't be able to do that if I wasn't successful and in control of my life. I would see that as ... I would be racked with guilt. I would feel like I need to be chained to my desk. It's in those moments that I realise that I'm properly achieving freedom.
Jo Dodds: It's interesting, I was at the train station coming home from a meeting in London about half one in the afternoon a couple of days ago, and I just looked around the train station and thought, "This is living the dream," which was just so rubbish because I'm in a train station! I just really appreciated the fact that I was going home and actually got home and didn't do any more work for the day. It didn't matter. Nobody was going to pick me up on it. I'd done something useful already that day and it was the middle of the day and I was doing what I was determining to do rather than what somebody else was determining for me sort of thing.
Alexis : I see. I'm glad you explained that because for me and pretty much everyone listening, we're all wondering why a train station was ‘living the dream’! I can definitely identify with that feeling of, "Yes, I'm going home early and no one else cares."
Jo Dodds: Nobody knows where I am and nobody cares, exactly.
Alexis : It's brilliant.
Jo Dodds: It was just a moment in time. I think the train station was irrelevant to the story really, but it's where I was at the time.
Alexis : Exactly. It was the journey, not the situation.
Jo Dodds: Excellent.
Alexis : I do sometimes get that. This is me showing off now.
Jo Dodds: Go on.
Alexis : I rarely do say, so I'll take the opportunity. I was running a workshop with a senior marketing team for a big company, and for part of this workshop it was off site, and they're running it on the 34th floor of the Shard. That was awesome. Running a workshop there with a view, when you're standing at a flip chart looking over a few people and then all of London, that felt pretty good. That's another example of feeling like I'm living the dream.
Jo Dodds: Absolutely, brilliant. Excellent. Alexis, I think I want to call you Alex. Alexis! I've known you so long now. Why do I do that? I think-
Alexis : That's all right. My mother calls me Alex.
Jo Dodds: Does she? She gave you the name presumably.
Alexis : That's a whole different podcast we could get into the four different reasons that my mother gives for calling me Alexis, four completely separate reasons.
Jo Dodds: Nothing to do with ‘Dynasty’.
Alexis : Had nothing to do with ‘Dynasty’, had one to do with a Russian prince, one to do with Noah, one to do with the meaning. A different order and different entity.
Jo Dodds: Okay. I'm glad to hear that at the end of all of that she still doesn't call you it. Funny. Alexis, how can people find out more about you and connect with you?
Alexis : Probably one of the easiest ways is to jump on Twitter and find me. I'm @AlexisKingsbury. The other way to perhaps have a look at the stuff I'm writing is http://www.makinggreatness.com where you can find my blog and my ideas around, and suggestions of case studies, around how to create 8 player teams and create really good, happy teams within your organizations. Also you can feel free to email me. I'm mailto:Alexis@makinggreatness.com . I'm happy to hear from anyone and willing to share war stories when the ‘miracle morning’ stops working or whatever, happy to discuss those too.
Jo Dodds: That's great. Actually, that's one question I didn't ask you. I shouldn't throw them in at the end, but what about if things don't go right in your day? Go on. A few lines on that. It all sounded so wonderful you see that I just thought, "Oh you can't have days where it all goes wrong."
Alexis : I definitely do. I've got two options for the answer for this, one that makes me sound ridiculously weird and geeky, a bit like earlier on. I'm in for a penny in for a pound! If I catch it, if it's 10:00 or 11:00 or 1pm or whatever and I realise I've had a really inefficient day, I've not eaten that frog, I've not done the exercise or whatever, if I catch it I will talk to myself out loud.
Jo Dodds: Okay.
Alexis : It's a little bit like the coaching thing. I think it's like a pattern break, which I believe comes from the world of NLP, and Derren Brown, and so on. It's something that I would normally never do, and I just did it once where I was like, "Alexis, you haven't done anything productive this morning," then just a brief conversation that just helps me to remind myself-
Jo Dodds: Then you respond to yourself as well. That is the mad bit!
Alexis : It's less conversational than that. It's more of a reminder of getting me back to the goal and getting me back to the why do I do anything. Why don't I just go and sit outside? If I've been sitting at my desk basically doing nothing, then that means ... I suppose it's almost like I'm replacing my employer. It's like as an employee, if that got spotted by an employer, and they're like, "Come on, John what have you done," they'd talk about it, but they'd coach you back into it. They'd remind you of why you're doing what you're doing and hopefully help you to break down the tasks, and therefore commit to it. That helps me and I recommit to do it, a little bit by being your own boss.
If I don't catch it and I get to the end of the day and it sucks, then it's my wife. My wife and my son, when they turn up I realise that it doesn't really matter and that I can spend time with them. If it's a really bad day, then I probably just need to watch comedy and not think about anything and talk about anything for a bit, but otherwise just spending time with them, talking to them, overcomes most of that. I think that's probably the key take away from this is probably rather than try and focus on a particular part of your life to succeed in, like business, or fitness, or whatever at a time, you do need to paint that visualisation of what you'd like your day to be, and then try and live it as closely as you can, and try and remember that there are some things that are really important to you, and as long as they happen nothing else matters. Time with family is probably top of the list. I think that helps.
Jo Dodds: Brilliant. Thank you. I'm glad I did ask that. I don't know why I didn't before, but we've got a different order for this podcast. There we go. Thank you Alexis, really appreciate it. So many resources in that interview, so I've got my work cut out now trying to find links to them all. Really appreciate you sharing all that geekiness, which I don't think is geekiness. I think it will sound brilliant.
Alexis : Well good. I'll go and compile a reading list of those books plus a couple of others that I perhaps alluded to but didn't mention by name and get those over to you as well.
Jo Dodds: That will be brilliant, thank you. Really helpful.
Alexis : You're welcome.